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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

VHF Radio Drama on New Year's Eve 2003 in the Virgins
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.
Wednesday, New Year's Eve, 2003: Lameshur Bay, St. John
    A couple of days ago, we decided to sail around to Newfound Bay to stay out of the swells predicted to arrive from a big storm in the North Atlantic. We'd heard there are lots of legal size Conch in Newfound Bay. Catching them is easy but our informant described the process of getting it out of the shell which requires a small chisel, hammer, slim knife and a lot of experience. As we rounded St. John, we had to admit, we don't have the tools, or the inclination to gather, remove from shell, clean and cook them. Sounded like actual work. As we sailed by the bay, we were having such a great sail, that we just kept on going. We came into Lameshur and made contact with our friends on Kia Orana. They invited us to drive into town and have dinner and listen to a live band at Skinny Legs with their family. Good trio: acoustic bass, mandolin/violin and guitar. They were able to compete with the rather dramatic clouds of mosquitos hanging around the heads of the listeners. Kia Orana is temporarily responsible for the camp while the manager is on vacation for the holidays. They had a guest who wanted to go sailing, but had just figured out that one daughter's cough had become Pneumonia, so they weren't really available. We told them we would be happy to take up to six people sailing, and the deal was set.
    Lance met our passengers on the dock, and dinghied them back to the boat. Over the course of a beautiful sail and snorkel, we all learned more about each other. They are mostly from New England area, one currently living in Denver, and one missing family member who had a deadline and couldn't join the vacation lives, wait for it, in Berkeley, on Channing Way, probably about 10 blocks from us. Great fun was had by all. It was a glorious day of lively winds and not too lively seas. We sailed past Coral Bay and on to the Indians where the snorkeling is particularly good and giving them the right to claim they sailed from America to Britain. Monitoring VHF channel 16 while underway, we were treated to the drama of a may day call from a charter boat gone on the rocks at Virgin Gorda. For reasons entirely unclear, the boats relaying the mayday were contacting the USCG who is located in Puerto Rico. They seemed to be very interested in gathering the statistics but not of much use. When we returned in the afternoon, one squall after another rolled through, so we felt pretty lucky to have picked exactly the right time to go. Our guests had a great time.
     For entertainment, we sat in our cozy salon listening to more VHF radio. The north swells had come in and the squalls and basic trades were wrecking havoc on the charterers. The winds and seas on the north side seem to
have really increased dramatically and gusts in the squallsClick for a journal entry list were recorded at up to 45 kts. We are sitting tucked into the lee of St. John and have calm seas but pretty substantial gusts from time to time. The rigging sings but we don't have any chop. One drama was a 39 ft catamaran (that is BIG for a cat) who has gone on the reef near Red Hook on St. Thomas. Mama, who has a strong French accent, is worried about her two small children 1 and 2 years old and wants to get off the boat now please. They have a hole on one of the hulls and they had to swim ashore (with help) and abandon their ship. We get the whole drama in bits and pieces as the rescue boats, the swimmers and the rescuees try to talk to each other. Several boats responded to mama's cries for help and Virgin Islands Radio co-ordinated the effort. Because of the reef and the descending darkness, the rescue boats could not come right up to the catamaran, so they put a swimmer in the water who escorted the family off. They walk up the beach and present themselves at the resort there for a dry nights sleep. Strangely enough we never hear a peep from papa, the presumptive captain. Beats TV every day.
     On shore, such weather has no impact except that the breeze keeps things cool. Our new sailing friends offered us a ride into town in exchange for the sail so we could provision without having to carry all the stuff around town. It is a great ride over the mountain with really beautiful views. The roads are scary and I'm glad not to be driving. Not only are you driving on the wrong side of the road, but the roads are narrow, steep and sharply curved. The last part of the road by the camp is deeply pitted muddy roads, with big puddles. We had a good shopping trip, and they took us out to lunch at a restaurant with local food — we had curried goat, and mahi mahi in creole sauce. Both came with rice and peas, vegetables, potatoes, fungi and fried plantains. Fungi is a cornmeal dish. It was delicious. They were curious about how the Virgin Gorda drama came out. Fortunately, the boat relaying the messages was known to us, and I had contacted him for the denouement. It seems the mayday was sent in by another vessel, that the vessel aground was unmanned. Apparently, the group had gone in to walk or snorkel among the giant rocks at the Baths and their boat had either slipped or dragged its mooring and gone on the rocks. They were unable to pull it off as the bow was badly holed and the boat was too heavy with all the water to be towed. It definitely ruined someone's holiday.
    Best boat name heard on the VHF: "Two Salted Nuts". We've got comedy, we've got drama. Who needs the movies?
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