Friday, February 7, 2014

Sail BVI 2014

Tom: Captain; Summerville, SC; patriarch; retired chemical engineer
Chris: First Mate; Fredericksburg, TX; son-in-law; former college football player
Tommy: Navigator; Hollywood, MD; son; wiseass
Tony: Anchoring/Mooring; Hong Kong, China; son-in-law; strategic humor
Jamie: Cook; Bend, OR; son-in-law; doodle
Jerry: Engineer; Knoxville, TN; son-in-law; shameless
David: Chronicler/Radio; London, England; stepson; gullible 

January 3rd: Travel to St. Thomas

The flights down went as expected. Tommy was behind me on the first flight and proceeded to kick the back of my chair, laughing maniacally, for the seventy-five minute duration. 

I traded seats with Jamie for the second flight. He prefers the front of the plane; I have no preference. I wound up with three of the most obnoxious groups of tourists I’ve ever experienced. Yes, I said groups. One group asked me to change seats. Five minutes later, another group asked me to change seats. And then, right before the cabin door closed, the third group asked the lady in front of me to change her seat. All three hollered at each other for the three and a half hour flight, reading excerpts about where they’d be staying from the complimentary magazine in the airplane seatbacks.

Tommy had it worse; he got stuck across the aisle from some drunken woman incapable of being quiet. He said she boarded the plane drunk and proceeded to consume duty-free liquor during the entire flight. She took a shine to him, telling him her entire life story as we flew toward warmer weather.

The airport at St. Thomas is essentially entirely outdoors. We shared a “taxi” with five strangers, the eleven of us headed in similar directions. The van would comfortably fit seven.

Our original hotel was overbooked. Luckily, we had an asset in the area. Tony arrived two days prior and had secured us rooms in the Galleon House. We dropped our bags in the rooms and returned to the porch for cocktail hour. Gale, the innkeeper, was quite nice to us, making us a dinner reservation at the Tavern Waterfront as well as giving us walking directions to Betsy’s Bar.

We established the first and only rule at the Tavern Waterfront: eat your food as soon as it’s ready. There’s no women here, so you don’t have to wait on everyone to be served before you can begin. We stuck to this rule until the final meal.

Tony's favorite: some absurd rum concoction.

Tom wore his twelve year-old Betsy’s Bar tie-dye shirt just like a lot rat following some band around the country wears the previous year’s tour shirt. When Betsy saw us, she pointed to the captain, “You’ve had that shirt for years! We don’t sell those any more.”

Betsy hopped in a picture with us.

January 4th: St. Thomas to Tortola

The next morning, Kevin and Gale made us breakfast and shared with us the stories of how they wound up working at a sleepy inn on St. Thomas. 

We stopped for lunch on our way to the ferry, had one last chance to connect to Wifi, and then rushed off to make the boat.

Upon arrival at The Moorings, we split up:
Tom and Chris went to the captain’s meeting.
Tommy stayed back, on call in case the boat became available
The rest of us went shopping for provisions. We spent $661 and had to get shipping boxes to transport the food.

That evening, we ate dinner at the restaurant located right on property. I can’t speak for everyone, so I’ll stick to my own perception: Am I about to go on a weeklong sailing trip with this crew? This is really happening. Like, really happening. I’m sleeping on a boat tonight.

You see, despite the fact that we’re all family, we haven’t really spent time time together. Yes, we’ve all been present at events like weddings, but that’s not the same. That’s not seven days on a thirty-eight foot boat. That’s not seven days of every meal together. That’s not seven days of an unknown blend of alcohol, testosterone, and farts. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure everyone was looking forward to this trip. I’m just not sure we all believed it was going to be without it’s own series of…opportunities. At the very least, we’d all leave with a bit more character.

Dinner taught us a little lesson about Tom’s favorite phrase, “island time”. Most of us ordered pizzas and then we dove into regular “eve of the trip” conversation. It was hard to hear in that restaurant – the table beside us was raucous with nine people – so we wound up half shouting at each other, often asking, what? two or three times. After an hour, we began to wonder where dinner was. Pizza couldn’t take that long, and the other entrees weren’t abnormal. We tried to signal a server, but no one made eye contact with us. Stomachs grumbling, the mood began to dissipate. A half an hour after that, we were served.

Apparently the brick oven broke. They called the repairman, but his car was broken down. So, the bartender went and picked the guy up. No one thought tell us. We were there for just over two hours.

I was a bit concerned it might be an omen.

That night, Chris, unable to sleep in the cabin, tried the couch. He wound up playing musical beds throughout the week. He “slept” on every surface of the boat except a bed.

Jerry displays the height of the cabin doorway.

Tommy and I slept in the children's nooks (aka the sarcophagus aka the casket aka the cockpit)

January 5th: Sail from Road Town to Cane Garden Bay

We woke in time to eat breakfast before our training session. Julian was the Sunsail employee responsible for making sure we knew what we were doing. Luckily Tom had already designated responsibilities to everyone, so each of us knew when to really pay attention. Even still, it felt like drinking water from a fire hose. The more I learned, the less I knew. My responsibility was the radio and the weather. Nervous about using the radio, I crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t be needed and paid better attention to how to get the weather report.

Our sailing vessel, the Third Day.

Learning instruments

Learning how to raise the main sail.

Learning how to drop the anchor.

The dinghy captain learning how to start the engine. 

The weather report was the same each day: Scattered showers; small craft advisory. Wind out of the east, 15-20 mph. 80 Degrees Fahrenheit, 69% humidity. Despite that, however, Tom would ask each morning, David, what’s the weather for the day? I could never figure out if he was pulling my leg or genuinely interested.

We learned that, when out of dock, we would have no air conditioning and no electrical sockets. My phone and camera were nearly dead already – this was going to be a long week.

Alas, sailing waits for no man’s phone to charge. We pulled out of the Moorings due west to wrap around the southwest edge of Tortola toward Cane Garden Bay. Our spirits lifted as we raised the main sail for the first time, cutting off the engines. We’d done it! We were finally under sail! Nothing could stop us!

After about half an hour, however, there was a dispute between the navigator and the captain. The captain, along with first mate and engineer, thought we should begin heading north between what looked like two separate islands. No, no, no, said Tommy, that’s not the way to go. We need to keep heading west. After some more back and forth, Tommy even claimed that he could see land straight ahead – that’s just more of Tortola.

Chris and Jerry consulted the map. Turned out that our “navigator” would’ve had us sail about four hours out of our way. We blamed it on “first day” jitters. Later on, those first day jitters would attack another crewmember as well.

Once around the west side of Tortola, we began heading into the wind and soon learned just how slow a catamaran is while headed into the wind. Very slow. Like, comically slow. We tacked about six times in two hours yet travelled half a mile closer to our destination. Just before dropping the sails, however, we got the chance to do something very few sailors will ever get to experience:

Boats under sail have the right of way when crossing paths with boats under power. The Venus, commissioned but never seen by the late Steve Jobs, was on course to cross our path. The captain tried to bully us into changing our course, but we stood strong and caused the super yacht to come to a full stop…as we took pictures of it. The captain came out onto the deck, arms crossed, to give us a scowl. We smiled and waved while Jimmy Buffett played Cheesburger in Paradise on the stereo. Chris guessed how much money it cost just to get that boat going again while I thought about Captain Ron.

As we were pulling into the bay, I began to reflect on our first day of sailing. In five hours, we’d travelled about three miles, Jamie and I flirted with vomiting, Tommy fell down on his navigating job, everyone fumbled their tacks, and we very nearly got rammed by a $100 million yacht. Surely this is the least efficient way to travel, I said. Tommy, equal parts wiseass and smart, responded, Depends on how you look at it; we may not be going fast, but we’re not using any energy. I wasn’t impressed. I was starting to understand why MOMA has since stopped going on sailing trips with Tom. Seems like a lot of work for very little travel. I didn’t, yet, understand that the point of the trip isn’t necessarily to make good time while sailing but to think of it more as a camping trip with some sailing, snorkeling, and bar hopping in between. It took me four days to learn the lesson.

As we pulled into Cane Garden Bay, Tony had a chance to catch the first day jitters. Mooring a boat is a dance between the captain, the man responsible for picking up the mooring line, the mooring ball, and the current. The tempo of the song is different each day and it requires jazz-like improvisation. That first day, we were more like Benny Hill than Miles Davis. After four or five passes, Tony finally caught the mooring line with his pole…and then proceeded to drop the pole in the water.

There was a quick moment of panic with me yelling, I’ll jump in. Can I jump in? Tom didn’t hear me, but I was scared to break some unspoken rule against jumping in the water before the captain says it’s ok. Tommy ripped his shirt off and prepared to jump. No, I got it, I yelled, and dove in. It felt like bathwater. I wound up sitting on the mooring ball and handing the rope (and pole) up to Tony.

My first impression was that Cane Garden Bay is like a postcard. I didn’t know, that first day, that each place we were going to be staying for the night is as beautiful as the last. The British Virgin Islands look like someone lopped the top quarter of the Appalachian Mountains off and set them down in warm, clear water.

It didn’t take long for everyone to jump in the water, snorkel, pull out some snacks, beverages, cigars, etc. After a while, a young man pulled up to our boat and asked for a mooring fee. We paid him and then wondered whether or not he was an actual employee or just some enterprising young man with a dinghy. We then turned our attention to what would become a pastime for us: boatwatching. We’d simply sit on the deck and carry on conversation while, every now and again, getting interrupted by curiosity as a new boat would pull in to moor. No one got very close to us, which became something of a pattern for the rest of the week. Our first mate suggested that it was probably because we were the only boat in the BVI with seven men and no women.

I made a bet with Tommy and Chris that I could swim ashore once it was time for dinner. They said I couldn’t do it in ten minutes. I did it in less than four. We wound up at Tony’s Welcome Bar (Tony picked it). Of the five other bars on the beach, there were only two with a single patron; Tony’s had about thirty people.

Jamie, still seasick at dinner, wondered whether or not he was going to make it the entire week.

Upon returning to the boat, tired, anxious as to how the rest of the trip was going to go, we took solace in a round of poker for dollar bills. Chris won our money.

January 6th: Circumnavigate Jost Van Dyke, lunch at White Bay, moor at Great Bay

Jamie, fully recovered from the previous day, followed through with his crew responsibility: bacon, eggs, coffee, and watermelon breakfast. Despite being one of the first boats up, we were the last one to leave.

The north side of Jost Van Dyke was the roughest water we’d experience. There’s nothing north of the island, so we were essentially in open water. Poor Jamie – on his second day – got seasick again and became worried this would be the case every day. And then it got worse:

We moored in White Bay about twice as far from the beach than we did the previous night. As everyone was loading into the dinghy for their trip to the Soggy Dollar bar, I decided to swim again. This time, Jamie said he’d join me for some exercise. We hopped in and started fighting the current toward the shore. By the time we’d reached the exact halfway mark – equidistant from both the shore and the boat – Jamie started feeling his age. I wasn’t fully aware of what was going on, so I gave him a nod and kept swimming. And then it hit me. I turned around told him I could help bring him in. He grabbed my swim trunks at the waist and hitched a ride.

Everyone else had already arrived at the dock and began wondering why Jamie and I were swimming so close together. Once they figured out the situation, Tommy ripped his shirt off and started running down the beach like David Hasselhoff. He came out to meet us by the time we could walk in the sand. A little shaken up, we walked into the Soggy Dollar for lunch.

The Soggy Dollar has a roll of construction paper on the side of the bar wherein you can buy a drink for someone who will be arriving in the future. You can write them a message on the paper along with the drink order. Tommy met a landscaper from northern Virginia who comes to Jost Van Dyke each winter. He stays in a shack for a month, reading books and drinking beers, happy that he doesn’t have any snow removal equipment for his business – otherwise he’d have to stay home and work. He said they’re reliable to bring booze to the island but not food; sometimes he has to buy unwanted food from the restaurants on island. He works his way back home slowly, staying with friends in Florida and South Carolina, acclimating to the cold.

The guy's friend apparently found a friend of his own.

We all took the dinghy back to the boat.

Great Bay is so close to White Bay that we stayed under power to get there. After another botched mooring attempt, it was cocktail hour (which includes swimming, snorkeling, jumping off the boat, eating a snack and, of course, boatwatching). Dinner was at Foxy’s – my favorite restaurant on the entire tour. There’s no floor or walls. Folks staple t-shirts, fags, handkerchiefs, dollars, and various other items to the ceiling. Chris persuaded a local to charge his phone on their computer.

January 7th: Lunch at Brewer’s Bay, sail to Great Camanoe, anchor at Cam Bay 

Up early for a long day of sailing was the plan. But, we were headed into the wind so long is a measure of time not distance. Our first three hours saw us cover one mile. One mile in three hours. As we passed a little beach called Sandy Key, Tom hollered out, Be sure to swing in close; I hear it’s a nude beach this time of year. Everyone laughed, but I’m not sure he was joking.

We eventually stopped for lunch at Brewer’s Bay (about two miles short of where we’d planned on lunch what with all the tacking and not moving forward), which turned out to be a great decision. We were the only boat. After half an hour of snorkeling, we ate turkey baguette sandwiches. A few crewmembers took what would become their regular fifteen-minute post-lunch nap while the rest of us relaxed, in silence, and watched the pelicans hunt. I could’ve stayed there all day.

After lunch, we stuck to diesel and powered through the Camanoe Straight to Great Camanoe. Chris had been reading the book on BVI that Tom brought, and had found Cam Bay as a potential spot for us to anchor for the night. When we arrived, however, we saw just how perilous the entrance was. With a reef & break to starboard, a cliff to port, and only eight to ten feet of depth, Tommy and Tony said screw it, we’ll find some other place. But first mate Chris held strong, reading from the book, it says the water is calm behind the reef. We’ll be fine.

Jerry and I lied on our bellies up in the front of the boat, ready to signal a STOP order as we passed over the reef. I wondered if my depth perception could be trusted. I wondered if it would even matter. I wondered how badly the boat would be damaged when we hit something. I wondered why Tom had opted out of the insurance program back at the dock. I mean, c’mon, looking underneath a boat as the boat is passing over the reef is the equivalent keeping your hand on the mattress tied to the top of your car.

As soon as we anchored, we exhaled, looked around, and realized we were all alone in one of the most beautiful bays in all the BVI. Half the boat went to the beach and the rest of us went snorkeling. I saw a sea turtle, fish, conchs, and some rays. In fact, the biggest sea ray I’d ever seen in my life jumped up from his sandy hiding spot as I was directly over him. I may or may not have shrieked into my snorkel.

This boat was empty.

As the sun began descending into the saddle of land behind us, we settled into dinner. Jamie cooked rice, beans, steak, and salad. It was measurably better than any other meal we’d had on shore.

Apparently four days is the limit for most of us. Whereas Tom and Chris had been doing their usual “swipe and swerp,” wherein they jump in the ocean, sit on the deck and lather, jump in again, and finish by rinsing with the deck hose – the rest of us hadn’t showered. We did that night. I had planned on going the entire week sans soap, but I was happy to have bathed (and I’m sure everyone else was grateful I’d done so as well).

Later that evening, Tom gave us some sage advice: Don’t pee directly into the wind off the bow of the boat.

With no one else around, we finished the night with an absurdly loud round of poker. My phone finally ran out of battery; crewmembers took to lightly humming or whistling their own versions of Buffett songs.

Tom's face.

January 8th: Lunch at the Dog Isles, moor at Saba Rock overnight.

After a perilous exit from Cam Bay, we powered one mile over to the Dog Isles for, again, snorkeling, napping, and lunch. The Dog Isles are a small collection of islands that had apparently looked like sleeping dogs to early sailors. I didn’t see the resemblance. However, I did see some goats negotiating the cliff sides.

That afternoon, Jamie and I learned how to sail (the last of the crew to do so) as we wrapped around Mosquito Island toward Virgin Gorda. Sailing the boat gave me a better appreciation of what we’d been doing all week. It’s much more challenging than I expected to keep the wind in the sails and negotiate all the instruments staring you in the face (with a crew of six just waiting for you to make a mistake). Our intrepid navigator, at some point that afternoon, asked, Where are we going? Gomorrah?, because he couldn’t remember the name of our destination.

About an hour before we arrived at Saba Rock, Jerry realized the car charger in his backpack would plug into the electrical panel on our boat. Nevermind the fact that we’d discussed the 12-volt socket each day since leaving the dock. Nevermind the fact that Tony had searched for his car charger the night before. Nevermind the fact that every mobile device had gone dead the previous afternoon. Apparently Jerry was busy orbiting the rings of Saturn during that time, because he hadn’t a clue when he pulled out his charger. After giving him the requisite grief, we each took turns charging our phones; “proper” music had returned to the boat. No more of that whistling nonsense.

Saba Rock is just that – a rock. It holds a restaurant, nothing more. Beside the rock is the Bitter End resort, which is an overdeveloped section of Virgin Gorda, containing a homogenous collection of restaurants, gift shops, and rental stores. Moored in the bay is the largest collection of multimillion dollar super yachts I’ve ever seen. I felt underdressed as we went ashore to find Wifi.


That night, while dining at Saba Rock, we came across a table of 16 grown men from Buffalo, NY. Chris took it upon himself to ask how big their boat was. He was astonished to find another group of men down here, touring together. They were on two 48-foot boats, Yea, we did a 38 our first year; never again. The Buffalo group was entirely friends – no family. It was good to know there was at least one more testosterboat down here. Tom wore his Virgin Gorda shirt – just as old as the Betsy’s Bar shirt – to dinner, because that’s how Tom rolls.

I ordered that for myself and was teased mercilessly. 

This late in the week, Chris had also taken to expressing his critiques of the boat. That afternoon, he’d gone on a soliloquy about the ladder on the back of the boat: I mean, c’mon, you’re spending over 200K to build a boat and you got this ladder? That just sucks! His delivery is the best part about it – a mixture of contempt and disbelief with a sprinkle of Texas charm. It’s hard not to laugh just remembering it. As for the toilets, I don’t want to have to stare that in the face as I pump it down. Why can’t electric toilets just be standard? Is that so hard?

It was possibly with this in mind that Chris asked to spell the word curmudgeon. He was texting Kelly his concern that he was growing into one. After we’d established that no one on the boat could, in fact, spell the word correctly, Tommy asserted that Chris was nowhere near a curmudgeon. This, of course, led to a debate about what a curmudgeon is. Which led to a discussion about what a semantic domain is. Which lead to a debate about dictionary definitions. Which led to a debate about the competing linguistic ideologies behind the construction of a dictionary. Which led to a debate about prescriptivism vs. descriptivism. Which led to a debate about “word of the year” awards. Which led to a debate about countries that have language standards. Which led to a debate about proper use of government money. All because Chris reluctantly asked how to spell curmudgeon.

After an hour, Chris, exhausted, spoke up for only the second time: I bet we’re the only boat down here that’s debating this.

You see, with this group, it doesn’t really matter what the topic is. We’re allergic to agreement – we break out in debate.

January 9th: Lunch at the Baths, moor at Cooper Island.

The Baths are a popular spot in the BVI. We learned that lesson upon arrival when we couldn’t find a mooring ball and had to coast down to the next spot, Devil’s Bay.

The two may as well be one, because Jerry and I wound up snorkeling the entire perimeter between the two within an hour and a half. I say perimeter – the shoreline is littered with tiny beaches in between massive collections of hugagous boulders. The two of us pulled some stupid stunts swimming in between these boulders, fighting and thrashing against the incoming waves to see if we could squeeze between various openings. I felt like a kid looking for secret passageways, only halfway paying attention to the ecosystem of coral, seaweed, and fish living underneath the rocks. I finally got sunburnt.

Tommy, Chris, and Tom decided to walk the trail between the two locations, as per the book’s suggestion. Tommy considered a letter to the editors, saying, That book isn’t too specific on some things. It said there was a trail from Devil’s Bay to the Baths, but I didn’t know we’d be spelunking. Apparently they had to do some rock climbing in between.

We had to compete for mooring balls again at Cooper Island, which only increased our boatwatching pleasure later in the evening as we stared at boats coming in, hunting for a ball, and having to leave as we sat, comfortably, tied up to the last one in the bay.

That night, we ate at the nicest restaurant of the trip. The seven of us shared a “Chocolate Extravaganza” for dessert as we listened to Tom reminisce on the 16 towns he has lived in since graduating college…and how nice it had been to have a crew do all the work for him.

Jerry's disbelief explains it all.

After dinner, the seven of us sat on the deck of the 3rd Day, staring up at the stars, enjoying the 75 degree weather, cool breeze, doing the same thing we’d done each night: talk bowel movements, talk about other boats in the bay, talk politics, talk about tomorrow, talk about other boats in the bay, and talk bowel movements.

But this night, we also sat in silence. There was a peaceful calm both on the water and on the deck. I don’t know if it was the fact that we knew we only had one more night or the fact that we’d all finally relaxed into the trip, but something felt a bit different. We didn’t have to fill the space with idle chatter. We simply sat there, looking above, with no light pollution to get in the way of our visibility into the night’s sky. I think whatever anxieties we’d had about the trip had melted into the Chocolate Extravaganza and we were left sitting there, thinking we might could just keep sailing south and enter our little 38-foot cat in the Grenada Regatta. We finally had the sailing thing down, but time was running out.

January 10th: Stay at Cooper Island through lunch, moor at the Bite of Norman

Tom, Jerry, Tommy, and Tony headed out after breakfast for a diving trip. They’d be gone from 8am until 1pm. Chris, Jamie, and I prepped the boat for the final day, napped, and snorkeled.

Lunch was a hodgepodge of leftovers: eggs, beans, rice, lettuce, deli meats, and tostitos. We debated about whether or not Tom should shave his beard. The consensus was that he should keep it for the return flight, let MOMA get all pissy about it, and then shave it – ultimately resulting in a “win” wherein he lets her think it was her convincing him to shave it. She hates beards.

We set sail for the Bite of Norman. It was a beautiful day of sailing. We hit a “record” speed of 9 knots while going with the wind. Strong winds, good sun, and the promise of Willie Pete’s later that night had everyone in high spirits. The fact that we hadn’t had a major catastrophe on the trip was beginning to enter everyone’s mind as well. Here we were – on our last full day – thinking we’re flirting with pro status. Certainly we’re not amateur sailors anymore. Jerry had begun considering ways to get his own captain’s license. Discussions about where next year’s trip was going to be began to emerge.

And then it happened.

While approaching Pelican Island, right next to the Bite of Norman, we decided to drop the main sail and power the final half-mile into the Bite. But the sail wouldn’t drop. We tugged. We jumped. We grabbed and yanked. We winched. Nothing worked. Chris climbed up onto the boom and tried to yank, very nearly going overboard in the process. Tom tried to keep the boat into the wind as swells, passing boats, and the current fought against him. Nothing. Nothing worked. After half an hour of crisis management, we humbled ourselves and called the Sunsail office.

Deflated, defeated, we headed back – under power – to the Sunsail dock. Luckily, it was only two miles from our current spot. And then it hit me: I was going to have to use the radio. Unfortunately, I’d absentmindedly mentioned to Tommy that I was somewhat nervous about using the radio. That was a mistake; Tommy will exploit any weakness for personal amusement.

He, laughing, told me that I would have to address the dock master three times and then identify myself. Sunsail dock master, Sunsail dock master, Sunsail dock master, this is sailing vessel 3rd Day. The problem was that I couldn’t tell if he was bullshitting me or not. After a week with Tommy, you’re never really sure whether or not he’s pulling your leg. Of course, that’s his goal, but you never want him to know that. I waited until I could hear someone else address the dock master before I spoke up. Turned out he was right.

We eventually pulled into The Moorings. Two Sunsail employees whipped up behind us in a dinghy and – just as quickly – one is on board. He hops up to the helm and begins jogging the throttle as we head toward the dock. We’re all standing there, staring at him, staring at the dock, wincing because he’s definitely going too fast and there’s definitely not enough room for him to park this boat where we’re headed. Within two minutes of boarding us – and on his first try – the man parallel parked our 38-foot boat in a 40-foot slip. Each of us shook that man’s hand, saying it was the most impressive thing we’d seen all week.

We stood on land, mouths agape, as a different employee was raised to the top of the mast in order to fix the problem. It was revealed to be a faulty locking mechanism on the main halyard – not our fault. 

Whereas we’d just witnessed two fantastic feats of skill and courage and the problem wasn’t our fault, it was disappointing that our trip had come to an early end. By the time the boat was fixed, it was too late in the day to head out for the Bite. We’d be spending our last night in the same place we’d spent our first.

Tommy had an “audience” with the Sunsail manager and “negotiated” a $350 credit at the local restaurant by “threatening” a campaign of poor reviews on some select travel websites (despite having no intention of doing so). Chris got a hotel room immediately. Everyone else went hunting for Wifi.

That night, we returned to the broken pizza oven restaurant. In the middle of the meal, I was reminded of our first dinner in this establishment – namely the raucous table of nine sitting behind us. During that arduously long meal, we could hardly hear each other because of the noise – laughter – coming from that table. Well, this night, we were that table. Everyone’s spirits seemed a bit lighter. It wasn’t just the free food that sparked the mood. It was also the fact that everyone was “in” for the night. Tony wouldn’t miss his early ferry; Chris could sleep in a real bed; Jerry had air conditioning; I had electricity. But, more than that was the fact that we’d successfully navigated this seemingly-impossible-to-schedule-and-not-sure-how-it’ll-work trip. We’d done it. I came to the conclusion that the amount of volume was in proportion to the amount of bonding that takes place on a weeklong boat trip. That table we heard our first night must have been finishing their trip; we were that table tonight. We’d just spent seven days in close proximity to each other – on the high seas! – and lived to tell the tale.

It was a loud, fun dinner, encapsulating the week’s experience.

We finished the night with “real” showers on shore followed by poker and one last session of boatwatching.

The loudest boat in the dock.

January 11th: Returning

Tired crew

Tony left at 8am to catch the 9am ferry. Seven became six. The rest of us hung around, ate breakfast, packed up, and left at 11am. The six of us played poker on the ferry ride back to St. Johns (to the envy of every other passenger). After lunch, we said goodbye to Chris who would be spending one last night at the Galleon House before flying back to Texas. Six became five. Yet, then five became six when we ran into Tony at the airport. His flight had been delayed so much that he left half an hour after us.

We met him again for dinner in the Charlotte airport before we all, finally, went our separate ways. Tom, Jamie, and I finally landed in Charleston at 11pm busted, dirty, and tired. But happy.

Our taxi

Reunited with Tony


Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.