Storm!

Trip Start Jun 01, 2010
1
49
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Trip End Mar 11, 2011


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Flag of Virgin Islands British  ,
Saturday, July 17, 2010

As I am writing this we are high above the Atlantic ocean on our flight back to New York, from here we catch the BA flight to London where we connect to Amsterdam. Why via London? Well, we had one leg of our round the world ticket left to use, so we used that one for the trans Atlantic flight. Unfortunately the Oneworld Alliance only flies direct to Madrid, London or Paris as those are their main hubs.

Anyhow, today we set sail off to the islands of the BVI. At first we had the idea to rent a bare-boat (a sailboat you operate yourself). But as we both have never sailed in the 'open' sea, and sailing yourself sounded like a whole lot of work, we decided to rent a charter for a couple of days. We picked the Crystal Clear, as this boat does combination packages with Biras Creek. So we stayed at Biras for a few days, and then sail off. Captain Charly Zahr, the Argentinean Captain of the boat, was very helpful getting us a good rate at the resort and helping us with the wedding planning. You would expect the wedding planner of the resort to help out with necessities around the wedding, but her service level ended up to be pretty disappointing. We were lucky to have booked through Charly as he ended up to be very helpful.

After a late breakfast and checkout we boarded the ship. We were welcomed by our hosts; Charly, his wife and first mate Carolina and their 2 year old son, Valentin. Honestly, we did not expect a 2 year old kid to join us on our Honeymoon, but it turned out to be alright. The boy is very cute and its nice to see how Charley and Carolina raise him as a fearless captain. He is a very happy kid, laughing a lot and playing around with the boat ropes and lines. The boy is not even two years old, but walks around the ship seemingly knowing where to go and what to do. During the trip Valentin behaves as good as a two year old can do and is of little to no annoyance. Whenever the engine is started or the boat is sailing he almost instantly falls asleep, and the moment the boat stops, he wakes up.

It was the last charter of the season for the Crystal Clear. And the last charter has to be the best according to Charly. For us it ended up to be an adventure of a lifetime, and we will certainly come back to the BVI to do more sailing, and probably stay with Charly and Carolina at their Bed and Breakfast to catch up.

After showing us around the boat, a beautiful Taiwanese made Ketch, around 65 foot long, and decorated with fine wood work. My father would have loved this, as all of the woodwork is handcrafted and of immaculate quality, just as he does himself in his own boats. We were instructed with the ship rules, no sun screen on the plastic or the wood, no shoes on board, be very careful with the head (toilet), don't put any foreign objects in it. Your basic sailboat one-o-one.

We boarded just in time, as a big rainstorm passed over. Luckily we had our luggage on board and we were safe and dry, enjoying a glass of Champagne, and chatting with Charly and Carolina. The weather cleared up as quick as the sky turned black, and we headed out to the open sea. At first there was little to no wind, only 4 knots (about 8 KM/h), so we had to use the engine to get into more open waters. In the meantime lunch was served and we had some nice quiche made by Carolina. We passed the Branson's Mosquito Island (Branson is the eccentric owner of Virgin). We learned that it was Branson's birthday the next day, so his resort on Necker Island was packed with guests. The winds picked up to a nice 10 knots, so we raised all sails and cut the engine. Sailings were smooth as we headed out to Tortola, through the channel between the main island and the smaller ones. This channel is the one of the best sailing locations in the world, the trade winds provide a steady sailing wind from the Easterly directions, and the reefs and islands around the channel protect it from big Atlantic swells.

But not today, the wind was from the South, which was quite unusual, We picked up some more rain, and the winds increased to around 40 Knots (this is around 80 KM/h, or similar to a small tropical storm). The ship did a stunning 9 Knots, almost as fast as it could go. The waves were 6 foot or more, and we had to do whatever we could to keep her in line. We had to lower the back sail, and tried to tack as we were pushed close to the Tortola shore. The rain was so thick that we could hardly see more than 100 feet in front of us. Luckily we managed and in a 'quiet' moment we pointed the nose into the wind and lowered all sails. We headed for a safe harbor on engine, crashing into the waves that were splashing over the front deck.

We reached the protected bay of Norman Island, where we found a mooring ball and moored the ship. Time to catch our breath and relax with a nice cocktail. As the bananas were thrown around the cabin by the storm, we had to use these. Carolina made us a nice banana, orange, rum cocktail, and we enjoyed the quiet waters of the bay.

It was about time for dinner, and we covered quite a distance as we spend a total of 5 hours sailing. Charly is both the Captain as well as the Cook. The original plan was to make an Argentinian BBQ outside, but as the weather was still unpredictable, and it rained occasionally we decided to eat inside. We were presented with a very nice pasta with a cold tomato, basil sauce with goat cheese. Normally I am not a big pasta fan, but this one was very nice. We enjoyed our dinner with some champagne and white wine and were quite tired from our fight with the ocean. After some nice mango flambee, we all caught an early night sleep as tomorrow another adventure lies ahead..

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