08 July 2014

BVI Bareboating

A bareboat sail in the British Virgin Islands ranks among the world’s best adventure vacations. Bareboating means you do it all yourself, no outside crew, no guide. Of our two holidaying couples, only one was a real sailor. Our good friend N had certification papers, thus the creds to rent the boat and automatically claim the captaincy ... and our loyal admiration over months of advance expectations. The crew was completed with one semi-experienced sailor and two female dogsbodies, who almost knew what a jib is.
Virgin Gorda, BVI
 We took possession of the 43' boat on Virgin Gorda and loaded up with grub and refreshments from the island’s limited provisions shop. Captain N, familiar with the surroundings, directed the shopping. The Captain signed all the paperwork including instructions from the charter company where and when NOT to sail in the BVI on pain of death or massive insurance claims, whichever came first.

Good, they supplied a charcoal barbecue for the deck. There was only one Captain and he expected barbecue. We were about to learn the Power of Captain. No action photographs exist because each of us only had two hands that were constantly clenching something other than a camera.

All went well for a couple of days as Captain N's firm hand ruled our waking hours. The first mate learned the ropes, literally, and the two galley slaves wrestled with the barbecue. But rewards came: some dinners ashore at fine island resorts in the middle of nowhere. Although for some reason each experience involved wading through the sea shallows from the boat to the beach to enter an exclusive club with dripping dresses.

Feeling his oats, the Captain (we thought was our friend) forced us to sail to Anegada, the biggest do not go there on our instruction list. No discussion. Never, ever, question the Captain.

Thank you, Wikipedia
Anegada is out in the real-time Atlantic ocean, surrounded by shallow wreckedy reefs not to be navigated by dumbass tourists. Close in, three of us had to spot by hanging over the gunwales. A barrage of contradictory bellows and nervous shrieks were aimed at the Captain who barked back shut the f*ck up. The unprofessional shouting match was observed by an astonished lone fisherman on the beach. We anchored close enough to swim to shore where he invited us to join him in his fresh seafood cookout over an old oil drum.

By the end of the week, the evil Captain Bligh decided to run Sir Francis Drake Channel. Naturally, he chose a day when the wind and the waves were higher than the do not sail on our instructions. Overpowering wind. Raging wind. Huge swells. Two rebellious voices went unheard — by now the first mate was truly onboard the power train ship. The superheroes commenced tacking our suicide course full tilt down (or up?) the channel with the spinnaker taut as a drum.

Dogsbodies clutched each other on the rolling back deck screaming their brains out. Body parts sprouted bruises like black plague boils.

Teeth-gritting between howls
Or perhaps relief in the form of rum at the end

There were compensations. One of them was Peter Island, I think, where we anchored peacefully one evening, feeling more or less stable underfoot. The spirit of truce had descended between labour and leadership factions. Wrinkled from sensational snorkelling in the transparent waters, we awaited our barbecued steaks. On the clear air came drifting the harmonious, softly-thrilling tones of the pipes. Over there, the sole yacht anchored in the distance. A solitary piper on deck saluting the sunset. Bliss. Doesn’t get any better. 

Seems to me we did it again with four couples and two boats and two shipshape captains.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

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