At 11pm Tuesday, Tropical depression #4 strengthened into Tropical Storm
Today local weather in the BVI is hot. Summer is here. I am
not one to complain about the heat, I love being warm and anything below 70
degrees makes my teeth chatter. However, Summer is here and we be feeling
the heat at 86 degrees with gentle trade winds.
Life is slower this week, folks move slower, take more time to cool
off, to linger over a bottle of water, to loiter inside air conditioned
I remember when the only air conditioned places on Tortola were the
banks and fancy trust company buildings. Now everyone seems to be adding it on,
and frankly, I prefer the fresh air, and the natural breezes. I don't like
to be in A/C for very long, I am of the proven belief that dirty air filters,
commonly found in most A/C units cause illnesses and allergies.
Give me a strong fan any day, over air conditioning.
Maybe it's the sailor in me, the wind in my face, while slowly going
nowhere at great expense, ah the life of a sailor. The 15 or so years I spent
sailing were the best waste of time in my life.
I was a real nut too, used to maintain my little 30 foot sailboat like
she was some sort of yacht. Her stainless was polished, her teak was gleaming,
her comforts were many, a place for everything and everything in its place.
Everyday, I made sure my little boat was ready to sail on a ten minute
notice or less. Not that I sailed everyday, but if the urge struck me (as it
often did!) I could be ready to hoist the sails, in under ten minutes.
One hot summer day in Cruz Bay, St John, I woke up to a
glorious day and the noisy prospect of rumbling ferries passing by every 20-30
minutes. I had just come home from weeks of chartering on large yachts, working
16 hour days, for 7 days a week for 6 weeks in a row as a charter chef and mate.
I had slept for two days aboard my 30 foot floating home, and now felt totally
refreshed (as did my piggy bank). I had two whole weeks off work to do whatever
I wanted to and it was a great feeling of freedom, that life was grand and I was
lucky to be alive.
I had a friend in West
End, Tortola, I wanted to see, and this was before cell phones and she
rarely as in never, monitored radio VHF 16. So the only way to reach her, was to
sail over, hop in the dinghy and go bang on her hull and talk to her.
I checked my provisions which consisted of coffee and milk and decided
I needed more than that to sustain life for a few days. I went ashore, bought
two bags of groceries and was headed down the street to the dinghy dock when I
ran into the guy who painted my boat with awl grip a few months back.
"What cha up to?" he asked.
"Well, I thought I would sail over to West End to see my
"Really? Can I go? There is a friend of mine over there I
need to talk to."
"Well, um, yes, but I am leaving like NOW."
"Give me 5 minutes, let me get my friend Tom. Tom can go too
"Um, well yes, but I'm not coming back for a few days, but I have spare
bunks on board, or you can take the ferry back. "
While fetching Tom, we discovered he had made a new friend with a bloke
from Australia, who was dressed in a suit and cowboy boots. Tom wanted to bring
him along too.
So that is how, ten minutes later, I found myself tossing off the
mooring, and hoisting sails with 3 men on board.
We found a T shirt for the suit dressed Aussie and implored him to
remove his cowboy boots. Turns out he had flown from Australia to London on
business and they told him he was transferred to Miami, he went to Miami and
something went wrong and he told them to take this job and shove it.
While waiting for his flight back to London, he heard that the flight
to St Thomas, was delayed. St Thomas sounded a helluva lot nicer than London,
and he had quit his job anyhow, so he had impulsively cashed in his London
ticket and bought a ticket to St Thomas. (this was back in the days when
airlines let you do such things!)
Arriving in St Thomas, he spent one night, and didn't like the crowds
so the next morning he hopped a ferry to St John. He
met Tom in the bar at breakfast, who was the painter's friend who was my friend
and now we were all sailing on my little boat to West End.
The Aussie asked to borrow some scissors and neatly turned his long
pants into shorts. We made fun of his pasty white legs and handed him some
sunscreen. This was his first time ever on a sailboat.
Upon reaching West End, I told the guys to put their shirts and shoes
back on, we were clearing customs and immigration. The only shoes the Aussie had
were the cowboy boots. He couldn't fit into any of my size 6 1/2 flip flops, and
none of the guys had any spares with them.
He was quite the sight, arriving at immigration in his cut off shorts,
in a borrowed T Shirt, with his heavy leather custom cowboy boots. The
immigration officer was taken aback, when I , the sole female aboard, stepped
forward to offer up the clearance papers. I had to answer him three times, "Yes,
I am the captain, yes it is my boat, yes these are my guests, no it's not a
Back in those days, female captains and or female owners were a rare
breed and this immigration officer was incredulous and took no effort to hide
Three dollars and 22 cents later, we had cleared in for 3 nights and 4
days and had an elaborate certificate, suitable for framing that we had indeed
paid to sail these lovely waters.
My friends never bothered to take the ferry back. Instead while
searching for my female friend and her boat, we met up with a lone sailor named
Ken, who knew the painter and Tom. Ken lived on a large
decrepit yacht, complete with a non-functioning jacuzzi in the aft
cabin, of hand carved teak. He invited us over for this mountain of
spaghetti laced with copious amounts of garlic and served up with a half
case of French wine. His dining table was not available, as his
broken diesel engine was sitting on it. So we sat in the cockpit holding
steaming bowls of spaghetti as the sun set.
The next morning, I announced, over breakfast, I wanted to sail
to Jost Van Dyke and see Foxy. Ken was visiting
with us, having coffee from my little espresso pot (which he coveted and asked
me repeatedly to buy him one just like it if I ever ran into one again) and he
asked if he could go along too, as there was someone in Jost he wanted to
So that is how Miss Mermaid now had 4 men on board as we set sail for
Jost and spent a day and night with Foxy and the crowd at Jost Van Dyke.
After a night of revelry there, the next morning, amid hangovers and
protests, I suggested we all go to Sandy Spit for a swim then onwards to Cane
Garden Bay for dinner.
Ashore, we went to buy some of Christine's famous homemade wheat bread
and we ran into a friend of mine who lived on Jost and wanted a ride to West
End. I told him we were going to Cane Garden Bay by way of Sandy Spit and
he said "That will do!" I guess you could say hitch hikers ain't very
So now, Miss Mermaid and FIVE men are sailing to Sandy Spit and Cane
Garden Bay. (My boat slept 6 below and 2 in the cockpit, so we hadn't run out of
By now, the guys had promoted me to Admiral, and all I did was laze
about in my bikini top and sarong tied into a mini skirt, and issue orders such
as "trim the job, pass me a drink, and hand over the chart" (which was a
laminated placemat that clearly read "Not for Navigational Purposes". But
I had hundreds of charters under my sarong knots, so I knew the BVI in my head,
I just used the placemat, to explain to the Aussie where we were, where we were
going and why we were tacking back and fourth between Tortola and Little Jost as
we made our way towards Sandy Spit.
Sandy Spit was a rolly anchorage, but we headed for shore in my dinghy,
with a ziplock full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (made on
Christine's homemade wheat bread from Jost) and a few jugs of icy water.
We hiked the entire island trail, had our picnic, went swimming and then
sailed for Cane Garden Bay.
We were able to anchor in front of Quito's, about where
the dinghy dock now is, my boat didn't draw much water, so anchoring close to
shore was something I could get away with. Ashore, I sent the guys to dump the
garbage and scrounge up more provisions, as we were now back to just coffee and
milk. I lounged around the bar, having a conversation with Quito while my
new crew did the dirty work *tee hee hee*. Now I felt like a guest,
instead of crew! It was such a great feeling and I remember feeling
very lucky and very spoiled.
After awhile, the guys came back with a frozen whole chicken, a
bag of rice,a can of beans, two coconuts, one papaya, a bunch of bananas,
five limes, three and half six-packs, and a bag of ice. I found out
later that the store was meager but my opportunistic friends had chatted up a
local and managed to scavenge their garden for the coconuts,
papaya, bananas and limes. They had started out with 5 six-packs of drinks, but
had traded off one six-pack to the farmer and drank 1/2 a six-pack, so their
cargo had now been reduced somewhat.
We deposited all that back on board, tossed the chicken in a bucket of
water to thaw, put the drinks on ice to cool, found some empty water
bottles and went back ashore and hiked down to the Arundel Rum Distillery where
for $1 we were allowed to fill the water bottles with dark rum aged
in oak barrels. It seemed our party was now complete.
That evening, back on board after an afternoon at the beach and bars, I
started for the galley and announced I was going to cook. My painter friend said
"You shouldn't have to cook, it is your boat, and we are along for the ride, you
take it easy." Then he barked "Tom! You go down there and make us
Tom looked a bit startled, but then shrugged his shoulders and headed
for the galley.
So I sat back down and sipped my rum drink as I watched the sunset.
Life just couldn't get any better. About the time dinner was served, Quito
began playing and singing, and we could hear him clearly, as we dined in the
cockpit, elbow to elbow, chomping down chicken with beans and rice, with a side
fruit salad and tossing the chicken bones overboard, as fish bats dive
bombed them for morsels.
Those were the days my friend...