Where i left off… Still in Antigua, we had been half-expecting our friend Val to show up for at least one of the races. Unbeknown to us, her down-island delivery had been delayed, and she couldn’t make it. She had asked if i could be available for a northbound delivery after Classic, and i had agreed, but the dates were a little shakey. Another Tortolan on the scene (who had shown up mid-week) seemed certain that the delivery had been changed or cancelled, and upon finding out that i might be a free agent, the offers came rolling in… Would i like to crew to Venezeula? Dominica? Bermuda? However, last-minute email from Val confirmed the delivery, and i hopped a plane back to Tortola.
i managed to get half a day of rest and a single night in my own bed before leaving again. i met Val down in Village Cay the next morning, and got started stowing the boat for sea. The yacht was a Swan 57, Boonatsa. We were joined by a later-minute addition to the crew, volunteer Judy from Georgia. We motored out of Road Harbour and turned west, and 20 minutes later, Kevin ran out from Nanny Cay in his workboat to drop off the other paid crew, Becky. The three women lost no time dubbing me “Cinderfella”. We soon fell into the rhythm of watches; 3 hours on, 9 hours off (which is really pretty luxurious).
There we were, bound for Annapolis, losing sight of the islands at sunset, not to see land again for another 8 days. The trip was reasonably uneventful. We seemed to draw either too little wind, or too much (and from the wrong direction). As such, we alternated between motorsailing through fairly calm seas (or leftover slop) and sailing double-reefed in 35-40 knots. My watch was 12-3 (am & pm); i’d sleep as much as i could in the morning, and then read or watch a DVD in the afternoon,s, with a nap in the evening before watch. It was really quite civilized, with Val’s famously great provisioning letting us run wild in the galley; roast lamb, port in red wine reduction, fresh pizzas, chicken curries, and loads of smelly cheeses, humus & pitas, etc.
The plan was to curve along north, 150-200 miles east of the Bahamas, and stay out of the Gulf Stream until nearer the mouth of the Cheasapeake. However, Herb in Toronto was forecasting gales off Cape Hatteras, right on our track, and advised via shortwave radio that we cut across the Stream early and seek shelter. On that advice, we truncated our northward path and headed into Beaufort, NC.
Arriving on a Friday night, Val was informed that we’d be unable to clear customs over the weekend, so we were essentially stuck there until Monday afternoon! i did a little shopping, caught up on some emails, and wandered around, trying to discover some local southern culture. Well, besides a touristy strip of shops, 1800’s houses, a decent maritime museum, and a couple neat Revolutionary War-era cemetaries, there was nothing much to see. Still, it was great to be surrounded by spring air with the blossoms, birds, and energies that a change of seasons brings. On Tortola, the seasonal changes are beautiful as well, but so much more subtle, without the riotous awakenings of a temperate spring.
Boonatsa‘s owner had Val take us all out for dinner on the expense account, so we did enjoy one great meal in Beaufort, at The Spouter Inn; excellent local seafood, and we sampled every bit of it! Another night, i fell in with a group of university students out wrapping up a camping trip to the Outer Banks, and enjoyed another great meal “out on the town”.
i met another delivery crew forced in by the weather; Kurt Sova aboard the brand-spankin’ new J-133 Exile (still had that “new boat smell”). In recent races, the owner had abused the boat a little, it seemed, and a luff cringle had pulled out just above the first reef point on the main. Kurt came over wondering if we had a sewing kit aboard. We did, and i ended up going ahead and making the repair; it’s frightful how little these modern sailors know about sewing! We all exchanged cards, and i got meself a nice new Exile hat, along with an invite to look them up anytime in Newport.
Well, we did get out Monday, hoping the thunderstorms we’d felt in port on Saturday night was the worst of the weather. On account of the delay, Judy had been forced to leave us early (hadn’t booked enough time off work), so we three continued, on 4/8 watches. Now inside the Stream, we again experienced much the same conditions; sailing (and motoring when the SOG fell below 5 knots), and dealing with nasty little NE squalls. Ever see a windspeed indicator jump from a twitchy 20-25 to a steady 45? Reminds you what’s important in life! Had a few calls of “All Hands!” that night. The next sunset i saw was just as we negotiated the traffic entering Chesapeake Bay, where we were to spend another day and a half motoring north through still air and flat water. A few tug boats “asleep at the switch” kept us busy by night, and the multitudes of sportfishermen made for an amusing obstacle course by day.
Steaming into Annapolis in the afternoon, Val spotted a familiar boat; the M/Y Enticer, (these photos predate a recent 1.4 million dollar restoration; she’s even better now!) being run by her friend Bret Todd. We hadn’t been tied up for long before she’d called him up and he’d driven around from the otherside of the inlet to meet us. Bret is a great guy, a real character. He drove us all to a rental place, to drop off Val and Becky (the later needed to get to the airport ASAP for a work commitment on Tortola), then we continued on to a mall for for some much-needed off-island shopping. Shoes, shorts, music. After awhile of that, we went back to Enticer for a tour over a few beers. Val called us up, and had dinner ready on Boonatsa when we got there. Great fun!
The next morning, Val and i moved the boat around to the haul-out dock, cleaned up, and unloaded our bags. i shouldn’t have been surprised to see the car “Mustang Val” had rented; a brand new bright red Mustang convertable. We grabbed some lunch in Annapolis, and Val send some luggage and gifts home from the post office, then we hit the road for Washington DC. Every minute that passed seemed to find us five minutes later for our flight, and although i had hoped to be a bit of a tourist in DC for the afternoon, it was “pedal to the metal”. We got into National with no time to spare (they were calling to board our flight as we passed through security).
From there, it was a flight to Ft. Lauderdale, and another to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Val’s friend Terry met us at the airport, and then it was nearly an hour’s drive out of San Juan to just south of Fajardo, on the east coast of Peurto Rico. There, i met Rosemary, the owner of the boat Val would be taking up to New York in another day. A quick shower and a crash on the couch followed. The next morning, we checked flights, and found that i’d missed the morning Fajardo-St. Thomas flight, and that the later one would get me into the USVI too late to catch a ferry to Tortola. Rather than spend a night in St. Thomas (uhg!), or hopscotch around on several flights (Fajardo-Vieques-Culebra-St. Thomas??), i elected to stay in Fajardo another day. We all got to work prepping the boat, Wild Hearts, for the delivery north. The boat spends summers on the great lakes, and winters in Puerto Rico. Rosemary proved a relentlessly accomodating hostess, and Terry a great fellow sailor; part of me wanted to join them for another delivery, but i wnted to get home too. At any rate, Wild Hearts, being a pretty bare-bones party boat, was going to be a far less luxurious ride than the Swan! Val was certianly psyching herself up for delivery. i’ve seen now that the weather has been pretty bad, and i’m hoping they don’t have to rough a go of it.
i caught the morning flight from Fajardo the next day. The flight was $65, and the ferry from St. Thomas to Tortola was &22, so the total was actually less than a direct flight on Cape Air or American Eagle from San Juan. The stopover in St. Thomas was brief, but long enough for lunch and a little walk around town.
Into West End that afternoon (just the day before yesterday!), i was happy to be home. i checked my email at the yard, and got a laugh to see an email from Scott, asking when i was going to be back so they could “schedule some work”. All in all, i was gone from April 10th to May 7th; almost a month! Between Antigua and shopping Stateside, i spent 3/4 of my savings, but then the delivery job replaced them and more. Essentially, i went sailing and shopping for month for free! Not bad, if i say so m’self.
As expected, work has piled up a bit here at the yard, which is a good thing! i gave my notice at Kelly’s on Sunday; i’m moving to Carrot Bay at the end of the month to house-sit for the summer. i’ve got all that rigging hardware for my dinghy, which i bought in St. Maarten, so i’m stoked to get back into that project. There’s been a little rain while i was gone, and the hills are green again. However subtley, sping is springing, with new birds and blossoms about, new geckos in my apartment, and a fresh wind. Or… maybe it’s just a dose of “off-island energy” that’s got ahold of me…