…A Tale of a Fateful Trip

The sails were up & we were flying through the Sir Francis Drake Channel (supposedly the most shark infested waters of the Caribbean). Our destination was a bay called “The Bight” off of Norman Island. It only took an hour or two to get there and we were ready to attempt our first mooring.

A mooring is basically a buoy anchored into the sand below and you can tie up your boat to it for the night for a small fee. Being the amateurs we were, we picked the first mooring we could find that looked relatively easy to grab. Jonathan & Madelyn were in charge of hooking the mooring with a pole, grabbing it, and quickly roping it through our lines. My dad was steering and in charge of changing from forward power to reverse power when we got right up to the mooring to make sure we didn’t miss it. They had hand signals and everything. I was in charge of making sure our dinghy line didn’t get caught in the motor. Apparently this had been a common problem for the charter boat company and had wrecked several motors. After about three or four attempts, they finally were able to secure us on the mooring. We must have looked so silly passing it up, turning around, and then once again turning around to make the approach over and over. We saw other boats face the same problem later in our trip and by then our crew had basically mastered the technique; we were proud.

Once we moored, we were so excited to jump into the cool blue Caribbean! Out the boat we hopped, taking in the scenery of the sailboats to our bow and the hills of Tortola to our stern.

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After a quick dip, the plan was to take our dinghy over to the Caves to snorkel. We piled into the tiny boat with all of our snorkel gear and motored over to the line designated for dinghy’s to tie up. There were several caves in this area, some of them did not go very far back and others were pretty deep. All around the outskirts of the caves were colorful fish of all shapes and sizes. Sea urchins and coral decorated the rocks below.

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I’m not sure what possessed us to snorkel inside of one of the caves, but it was an interesting experience. When we got deep enough in, there was virtually no light except for our flashlight. I got claustrophobic and nervous that I’d brush up against an urchin so as quickly as I went in, I went out. Madelyn and my dad tried to look for eels and sea creatures, but there was really nothing to see back there.

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We snorkeled for a while and then decided to break out the kayak to see a bit more of the area.

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The weaker ones of the group (read: my mom, myself, and Marina) all had trouble hoisting ourselves back into the dinghy. Jonathan & my dad would grab us to pull us in and we’d plop in and land on top of all of our stuff. I was determined to get into the dinghy by myself and am happy to say that after many unsuccessful and embarrassing tries, I was finally able to do it! The sun was getting lower in the sky and our bellies were starting to rumble. We headed back to the Santa Maria to get ready for dinner ashore.

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Now, the showers in our boat were very small (basically on top of the toilet) and did not smell very nice. We decided that the most efficient and least gross way to clean up would be to stand on the back of the boat in our swimsuits and hose off with our soap and shampoo. It was a refreshing feeling and after the first time showering like that, I couldn’t imagine showering in that tiny stinky bathroom.

After we all cleaned up and donned our crew shirts for our first real meal, my mom made us a batch of Painkillers. (Painkillers are a yummy Caribbean drink made of coconut, pineapple, orange juice, rum, and nutmeg.) Sipping our drinks, we watched the sun go down on our first day in the BVI. There were boats all around us and yet it still felt so peaceful.

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After  the sun went down, we headed ashore in our dinghy to the “nicer” of the two restaurants at this location. The food was, of course, super expensive but so delicious. I don’t think there was a crumb left on any of our plates. What blew my mind was all of the children running around in the sand just outside of the restaurant. They were obviously with a large group of people who were from the U.S., dressed up in their best sundresses or khaki shorts. I can’t imagine taking so many children on a boat trip! I’d be a nervous wreck trying to watch them all the time and not to mention it seems like such a lavish trip (I later saw them on one of the big fancy catamarans) to take a small child on. But anyway, I digress…

After dinner and several more Painkillers, we jumped back in our dinghy to head back to the boat. Looking out into the darkness, I wondered how we’d ever find our boat! We had a flashlight, but there was no other light source (save for the tiny light on the tip of each mast) and it was difficult to make out exactly where our boat was. After weaving in and out of many dark silhouettes, we spotted her. We climbed on in and prepared ourselves for the first night sleeping outside of the marina.

The wind started to pick up and we could tell a storm was rolling in. The boat was slowly swinging back and forth on the mooring and my dad went to check up on our mooring lines before heading to bed. What he noticed was that each time we swung from side to side the mooring line would rub up against our anchor. It caused a kind of creaking and eerie noise each time the boat moved. When we picked our mooring, we didn’t take into account that we were in the middle of the bay and not very far inland, which left us very exposed to the elements. The weather got worse and we started swinging quicker. Everyone went to bed, but my dad got up many times during the night to check the mooring lines. At one point, I went out on the bow and he was just sitting there with a flashlight pointed at our lines, watching them scrape against the anchor. Back and forth. I could tell he was worried, which made me worried.

By this point, the wind had picked up even more and the once calm looking bay now looked frightening with storm clouds moving in over the stars. Since we had never done anything like this trip before, we really didn’t know what to expect. How strong were the mooring lines? Would we break free in the night? How would we secure the mooring again in the dark?

My mind was racing.

What were we thinking attempting a trip like this? Would every night be this scary? What other hazards would we face on this journey?

Only time could tell.

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