28 January 2011

Returning Home, BVI Day 10

 This has been a fantastic vacation, and we're all anxious to plan a return trip next year.  A few lessons learned and thoughts for our next trip, which may be of interest to readers:

1) We'd like to try a catamaran on our next trip.  Particularly if we end up bringing more friends along, a catamaran could easily accommodate 4 couples in its staterooms, with plenty of privacy and lots of room to lounge around on deck, in the saloon, and in the cockpit.  

2) We need two full days at Bitter End Yacht Club.  There's so much to see and do here, each time I come I feel like I am missing out on a lot of great sites and activities.

3) Although we are developing some favorite places to visit down here (The Baths, Fallen Jerusalem, Bitter End, etc) we need to make sure and try several new places with each trip.  I've still never snorkeled the Dogs, Monkey Point, the Caves, and a dozen other places that are on the top of my To See list.

4) The two best cruising guides are still these.  I refer to others, but if I only had two books down here, these would be the two.  You can pick them both up from Amazon with these links:  Cruising the Virgin Islands and this book which contains excellent aerial photographs of every anchorage Virgin Anchorages

5) I've tried summer and winter cruising here, and love them both.  We're planning to return again this summer with the whole family (8 of us!) plus Grandpa.  Short of sailing in the hurricane season, we should have a pretty good idea of what the various seasons offer.  So far, I don't have a favorite.

6) Conch Charters is a great charter company in the BVI.  We've sailed twice with them now and had great experiences both times, I highly recommend them.  We've actually booked our next trip with them already.  Check them out, and let them know you found them on Unsinkable 2's blog.  Click here to visit Conch Charters.

And in conclusion, I thought you might appreciate the irony of where I spent my first weekend back on the mainland.  Winter camping with one of my sons at the Beach.

Back to reality, sleeping bag in the snow, -4 Fahrenheit that night and waiting for spring to come...

27 January 2011

Road Town Harbor, BVI Day 9/10

We started slow this morning, no one wanting the trip to end.  By late morning we had run out of excuses for delay, so we reluctantly set sail for Road Town Harbor on Tortola.  "Road Town" is named for the large harbor area around which the town is situated. Nautically, it is a "roadsted', which is an area not as sheltered as a harbor, but which provides moderate protection for boats riding at anchor.  Road Town citizens actually built an inner harbor area by filling in harbor walls with debris.

It's a beautiful day for sailing, with typical perfect wind, warm sun, and that caribbean blue water.  I imagine a ship full of pirates sailing under these same conditions 250 years ago.  Speaking of pirates, I'm sure they would have been proud of our wives, who went and had skull and crossbones painted on their toes before the trip.

We debated staying out in the Gangway to sail all day, but decided to head in to Conch Charters to pick up a mooring and spend a couple hours looking around the shops in Road Town.  There are two large cruise ships in the roadsted, so all the shops and vendor stalls along the shore were full of merchants.  We found that the cheapest prices were at the stores away from shore, although it was fun to walk around the merchant tents along the docks.

Our best Pirate Faces
My favorite restaurant to wrap up a sailing trip in the British Virgin Islands is the Drake Restaurant, in the Fort Burt Hotel.  The restaurant overlooks Road Town harbor, and its easy to spend several hours here enjoying the lights across the harbor and stars in the sky.

26 January 2011

Sailing to Peter Island, BVI Day 8/10 Continued

With large swells rolling down the Gangway, we relaxed on board and enjoyed surfing down each wave en route to Peter Island.  Surfing a 50 foot Beneteau sailboat is a great feeling, it makes you realize just how big the ocean is.

Winds were light, and it became difficult to keep the jib full.  Charter boats usually have heavier-duty sails on board designed to stand up to lots of wear and tear.  Heavier duty means heavier weight, so in the rare moments when the wind is light down here, the jib can be difficult to fill.

So we rolled up the jib and sailed under main alone.  Even under one sail, we still made 7 or 8 knots down the channel, thanks in part to the swells rolling gently past.

We took up a mooring in Great Harbour, just off shore of the Oceans 7 Beach Club.  After picking up a mooring, we noticed several turtles swimming just off the shore.  We hurried to grab our snorkeling gear, and headed into one of the small beaches along the cliffs where we tied up the dinghy and spend an hour snorkeling.  There are lots of fish here, and zippers - the plant-like flowers that grow out of the coral.  When you approach a zipper, it suddenly retracts into the coral, completely disappearing from view.  The Beach Club would be a great place to spend half a day, with water trampolines and floating climbing walls anchored off its sandy shore.

After snorkeling, we dinghied over to the far side of Great Harbour and then walked around the corner of the island to Peter Island Yacht Club, an upscale club with beautiful scenery.  We continued around to Dead Mans Bay, which surprisingly is one of the most romantic beaches in the world, according to some travel magazine somewhere.  Although the name doesn't inspire amour, the name does have some significance.  The beach has a view of Dead Mans Chest Island, where Blackbeard marooned several crew.

The guys had planned this evening several days before while we were at Bitter End Yacht Club.  We had purchased necklaces at the gift shop and managed to keep them hidden until we got to this beach.
We made our way back around the island and across Great Harbour to the Oceans 7 Beach Club where we ate dinner then returned to the boat for the night.

Sailing to Fallen Jerusalem, BVI Day 8/10

Today we set sail for the tiny, uninhabited island of Fallen Jerusalem. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite stops in the British Virgin Islands. Underway, we pass a 390 foot long mega yacht with a giant letter "A" on its stern. We call this boat the "S.S. Hester Prynne" or simply the "Big A Boat". Its anchored off the Baths, and launches one of its three onboard 30 foot tenders to go exploring. Turns out it belongs to Russian billionaire Andrey Milinchenko.
We reach North Lee Bay on Fallen Jerusalem and pick up one of the two moorings. Then we take the dinghy in to shore to explore and take pictures of this beautiful anchorage.
I'd heard that one of the coves along this island has a large number of conch shells, and planned to spend several hours exploring all the way around the shore of the island.  
My first stop was to climb above the enormous boulders along the beach and shoot pictures. I'd hoped to be able to climb to the top of the island, but the foliage is so thick it would be impossible.
The crew spread out along the beach, everyone enjoying the sun and solitude on this remote stretch of Caribbean sand. The weather is absolutely perfect, gentle trade winds, 85 F air, sunny with a few beautiful clouds drifting past.
As the girls were relaxing on the beach, I noticed a slight change in the waves along the beach. The swells were starting to build out of the north again today, and I could see that soon it would be difficult to get back to the boat.
 By the time we got everyone back to the dinghy and I got my camera gear stowed, the waves were coming into the beach about 2-3 feet high, which was a challenge for the dinghy.  Fortunately the period was about 8 seconds, so we would have barely enough time to get the dinghy pushed out on an outgoing wave before the next one crested.
Unfortunately with the waves breaking on the beach, there was a lot of sand in the water along the shore, so we couldn't start the dinghy motor until we were about 15-20 feet out from shore, otherwise the impeller would suck in sand.  Randall volunteered to push us all out in the dinghy, where it would be my job to hurry and start the motor, then circle around just outside the breaking waves while he swam out.  We waited for a break between sets, then hurried to push the dinghy out and jump on board.  As soon as we were in clear water, I started the motor.  The plan worked perfectly, and a few minutes later we were pulling up behind the sailboat, preparing for an afternoon sail to Great Harbour on Peter Island.

25 January 2011

Trellis Bay, BVI Day 7/10 Continued

After a great morning at the Baths, the sail to Trellis Bay was relaxing. The crew was ready for a quiet anchorage and some swimming. Underway I treated the crew to this brilliant display of marlinspike seamanship, tying such exotic knots as The Pretzel Knot. I know, I probably should have held off a little with a green crew, but you never know when they're going to be in a jam and need to tie such a useful knot.

I think most of them were napping behind their sunglasses anyway.

We snorkeled a little in Trellis Bay, testing out the underwater housings for our Flip Video Cameras. I've used this underwater housing now for 2 years, and its never failed me. And the best part is, it actually floats so you can't lose your video camera.

We went in to shore to look around at the shops, and then back to the boat to watch the sun set. I decided the view would be best from over on the shore, so I took the dinghy and motored over. Much to my surprise, I discovered a few sunken motorboats along the shore, which made navigation a little difficult.

Once on shore I was surprised by how beautiful the sunset was. In some areas it seems that the golden glow of sunset lasts for an hour or more. Down here in the BVI you have only a few minutes to capture it on film. I suppose thats due to the clean, unpolluted air.

While walking along the beach I found several conch shells and enough coral to fill an ocean.

After sunset, we took the dinghy in to The Last Stand Resort, a tiny island in the middle of Trellis Bay. This restaurant had the best appetizers of the entire trip. In fact, we didn't bother ordering entrees! We each ordered a couple of appetizers and enjoyed them while the stars came out.

I'd recommend a flip video camera, they're great, and don't forget the underwater housing, which is really cheap as far as underwater housings go!

The Baths, BVI Day 7/10

Today we're heading to the Baths on Virgin Gorda. Because this is one of the more popular sites in the British Virgin Islands, we decide to head over early to ensure we get a mooring without having to hover around the other sailboats waiting for someone to leave. Randall and I get up an hour before sunrise to sail across while the girls sleep, planning to arrive at sunrise. Sailing into the sunrise is beautiful this morning, the sun is crawling over the distant Atlantic horizon, sending brilliant rays of light through the Caribbean clouds.

We have our choice of moorings, with only one or two sailboats ahead of us. There are sizable swells out of the north this morning, and we're aware of the surf crashing into the rocks and onto the beach. I'm a little concerned about going to shore in the dinghy because my crew is not experienced with swimming in big waves on a beach. There's no way to land the dinghy in these waves, so the girls will have to swim the last 25 yards to shore. The swim is not a problem, but the waves will make getting onto the beach challenging and a little dangerous. I watch as two dinghies head into shore. The first is full of a younger, crew and they all make it to shore without much incident. The second is another story. Watching them fight the waves and drag each other out of the surf onto the shore, I decide we're going to need another plan.

Just then someone raises a red flag on the beach, warning sailors not to try dinghy landings. And off to the west, a VISAR boat approaches.

So we decide to sail up to Spanish Town where we can pick up a mooring and then catch a taxi down to the Baths. 20 minutes later we are moored outside Spanish Town and begin the dinghy trip in to shore. The big north swells look even bigger from a dinghy, but we manage to make it into the harbor. A taxi to the Baths only costs $4 per person round trip. The taxi has no doors and no seatbelts, but you really don't see those kind of features until you start paying about $5 per person. The taxi ride provides an interesting look at life on Virgin Gorda beyond the beach, and in about 10 minutes we arrive at the Top of the Baths.

Of course, I didn't think to bring our BVI National Parks Pass with us, so we end up paying for entrance to the park. When you charter down here, your charter company usually issues you a parks pass which no one ever asks to see, probably because they know you are coming from a sailboat. But arriving by land, we looked like lousy tourists, so we had to pay to get in.

The views from the Top of the Baths is gorgeous, looking out over the lush green foliage and palm trees to the fantastic blue water and sailboats. The view is broken up by the large boulders that are the result of fantastic geologic actions many years ago. We walk down through the boulders to the beach, and begin exploring our way through the giant boulders, dark crevasses, watery pools, and rickety wooden staircases.

With the surf up, the waves are thundering loudly onto Devils Bay at the far end of the Baths. Although too dangerous for a swim, the show of force is mesmerizing, and we stand watching it for some time. There's a large boulder sticking out of the sand on the edge of the water. At 7 feet high and 14 feet wide, it's an imposing structure and we watch wave after monstrous wave slam into the boulder, sending powerful spray high into the air, deafening us with the roaring of angry water.

Look at the SIZE of the incoming wave!
And then we get this brilliant idea. Wouldn't it be fun to stand in front of the boulder? Of course, Randall will have to try it first, since I'm holding the camera and all. It's a thrill unlike any other. We each venture cautiously out to the rock between wave sets, and anchor our legs to the ankles in sand so we won't get washed away when the waves come. And then you stand there, fear welling in your throat as you feel the water at your feet sucked into the oncoming wave. On shore, someone yells, "Here it comes!!" and everyone scrambles for higher ground, turning as they run as if hoping to catch one last glimpse of you before you are swept away to Davey Jones' locker.

Girls at the Baths

When the wave finally slams its full fury into the rock at your back, you actually let out an uncontrollable cry of terror. A cry which no one could possibly hear over the water explosion taking place all around you. The water bursts forward, completely immersing you as it explodes over the boulder and flies, airborne, toward the well-wishers on the beach.

After a great morning at the Baths, we stopped for lunch at the Top of The Baths Cafe before making our way back to Spanish Town, and then out to the boat. We sailed for Trellis Bay.

24 January 2011

Marina Cay, BVI Day 6/10 Continued

We reached Marina Cay by late afternoon and dinghied over to the dinghy dock to look around the Pussers store.  I really like Pussers multi pocket poplin pants, but at $100 a pair, I just couldn't bring myself to buy them.  I'm sure I would be a much better sailor if I had a pair.  There are a lot of great items at Pussers, and they have a lot of affordable items too.

From Pussers, we walked over to the Marina Cay beachside restaurant to look over the menu, and then explored the small island a little.

Marina Cay has a romantic history, having been purchased by Robb and Rosalie "Rodie" White in 1937.    The little 8 acre island was uninhabited then, and they were seeking escape from nearby Tortola so they moved onto the island.  For water, they dug a large atop the little island, which is still visible today.  They carved out a life for themselves, with a little subsistence farming and a lot of fishing.  The Whites weathered a hurricane, fought off a nazi captain, aided Jewish refugees, and had many other adventures.  Eventually, Robb was drawn into World War II as a soldier.  He and Rodie lost Marina Cay to the British Government.  The story is contained in Robb White's own memoirs (some of these are collector's items): In Privateer's bay (1939), Our Virgin Island (1953), and  Two on the Isle: A Memory of Marina Cay (1985).  The story has also been made into a motion picture Virgin Island (1958).  

Looking through the palm trees on Marina Cay
A musician was playing on Marina Cay, so we spent some time listening and taking in the views atop the island.  Marina Cay has several services for cruisers, including a fuel dock, water, ice, and laundry.  We decided to run some laundry through while we went to dinner, the laundromat being not far from the restaurant.  (Actually, nothing is very far on this tiny island.)  With the laundry going, we walked around the corner of the island to the restaurant which overlooks a small beach and snorkeling reef.  The view of the sunset is terrific here, complete with thatched beachside umbrellas and silhouetted sailboats.

This restaurant had our favorite food of the whole trip, and is definitely worth visiting.  The Marina Cay restaurant had a wider selection than most other restaurants, and the quality was fantastic.  Our favorite was dessert, a dish called the "Crazy Coconut".  A chocolate bowl, shaped like a coconut and encrusted with toasted coconut, then filled with a premium vanilla ice cream.

There are water shuttles available to run back and forth between Marina Cay and nearby Trellis Bay.  One note of caution though, be sure and check the shuttle schedules carefully as they have certain limitations and are planned to keep visitors on the islands through the dinner hours and happy hour music or comedy shows.

The mooring field on Marina Cay is a little more exposed than Trellis Bay, but is also a little breezier (Trellis Bay can be a little warm as it is somewhat less windy than Marina Cay.)

Sailing to Marina Cay, BVI Day 6/10

As of last night, our plan was to spend another day here at Saba Rock and Bitter End Yacht Club. But the morning is going to be overcast with a few cloud systems and a little rain marching across the eastern horizon.  I enjoy rain in these latitudes, its warm and refreshing, and as long as there isn't a big pressure change the wind isn't too much of a concern.
We decide to postpone the days activities til our next trip, and spend the morning sailing to our next destination, Marina Cay. I wanted to spend more time hiking up on Biras Hill, out to Jack and Burns Point, and then go spend a few hours snorkeling in Eustatia Sound.
With the $25 mooring fee at Saba Rock, sailors get a free water refill and bag of ice. After stowing everything securely below, we leave the mooring and motor over to the dock. Saba Rock's staff comes to meet us and helps tie us off.
This Beneteau 50 is well equipped for its 4 cabins, and with just two couple on board, we've only emptied one of the three water tanks. Clearly, this calls for longer showers from here on out.
One of the dock hands offered to snap a picture of us on the boat. In the photo of the four of us on deck, you can see the red main halyard has been pulled down and temporarily hitched to the boom vang. This was done during the night to help quiet the main halyard, but unbeknownst to us, the halyard had developed a little too much slack in it. As we headed out into North Sound, I discovered that the main halyard had wrapped around the upper spreader and steaming light. This is an undesirable situation on a 50 foot tall rigged boat. And its the kind of quandary a skipper would prefer to discover before leaving the mooring.
Fortunately, and much to the delight of passing yachtsmen, I was able to perform a series of carefully choreographed aerobatics up on the boom which eventually, though arguably ungracefully, freed the halyard.

Mainsail raised, we sailed around Moskito Rock and into Sir Francis Drake Channel, following in the footsteps - er - wake, of so many famous pirates. (Though technically, Sir Francis Drake was a privateer, not a pirate.)  

Our dinghy deserves special mention here. We named her Herbie, after the Disney movie car with a mind of its own. Before we sailed each day we tipped the outboard up so the propeller wouldn't drag. However when we arrived at Saba Rock and things quieted down near the mooring, the outboard had tipped back during our sail, and we could hear the outboard sputtering along as if the dinghy, with a mind of her own, had started her own outboard. It turned out that the slight current near Saba Rock was spinning the propeller just enough to turn the engine over, a lot like push-starting a car. So we named her Herbie. This explanation calmed the conspiracy theorists on board. Still, I kept a close eye on Herbie all the same. Last thing I needed was for Herbie the Dinghy to take off on her own.

23 January 2011

Bitter End Yacht Club, BVI Day 5/10

Walking along the beach at Bitter End Yacht Club
A slow morning, everyone is relaxed and reading out on deck, content to lazily watch the sun rise.  I'd like to try and hike to the top of Biras Hill to take pictures of Eustatia Sound and Gorda Sound.  History records that pirates used to hide their ships in the nearby coves.  The pirates and privateers would climb the hill and watch for treasure-laden merchant ships to run aground on Anegada's deceptive reefs to the north.  Most of the sailors would then drown, and the lucky pirates would simply sail out and salvage the cargo.  Columbus named Anegada, which is spanish for "drowned".

In all my studying of early explorers, privateers, and sailors, I am repeatedly amazed to learn that most of them did not know how to swim.  I suppose it was a skill not taught in the recreation centers and municipal pools during the 1400-1700's.

A few searches on the internet help me find what I am looking for, a trail over the top of the island.  A Bitter End Yacht Club photographer cut this trail, which connects to National Park trails at the summit.  The trail is accessible near the east end of the resort.

I expect the views will be breathtaking for a couple of reasons.  Although the water here is incredibly clear and blue, we always view it from the deck of the boat. From higher up, I should be able to view miles and miles of water from a steeper angle, which would reveal all the coral reefs and sandy stretches in the entire sound, instead of those just near the boat.  Also, with the angle of the morning sun directly behind and above me, there will be less glimmer on the water for more striking photographs.  
So I announce that I'd like to go on a hike, and to my surprise, everyone wants to hike too.  Somehow I thought they'd prefer to relax on the beach, but this is a fun group, and we have all day.

It's a fairly steep trail, but the abundance of oxygen at this altitude makes for easy hiking.  I can feel my quads working hard, but no shortness of breath or pain in spite of the fact that I haven't exercised in several days now. As we climb steadily through the trees, I'm impressed with how hard it must have been to create this trail.  The brush is thick and the ground very rocky.  But with each step, we are rewarded with increasingly more breathtaking views. So much so as to nearly cancel what I noted earlier about having no shortness of breath on this trail.

The group is patient as we make several stops along the trail to set up the tripod and shoot photos.  Not knowing if we'll come back down this same trail or continue down some other trail, I can't afford to pass up the various rock outcroppings for fear each might have been the best.

Finally, near the top of Biras Hill, the trail exits the low trees and passes through more open, grassy areas.  It's hot now, and I am sensing that we have hiked as far as was pleasurable for a crew on vacation.  While they rest for a moment, I run ahead a few hundred yards to make sure we aren't missing some stunning view.  Nope, we've seen the best there is for today's hike.  The views now are more to the west, and with the sun starting its trek past our zenith, the water is picking up more shimmer than my polarizing filter can handle.  So we hike back down, very ready for a day of swimming and relaxing on the beach.

We take up residence in some relaxing beach chairs under a thatched-roof sun shade, dropping our backpacks to stroll out on the swimming dock.  The warm, weathered texture of the dock feels therapeutic under our feet, melting away the years, making us feel like kids again.  The water is calling to us now as it did when we were 10 years old on a hot summer day.  Randall and I execute these perfect swan dives, entering the water with nary a ripple in its shimmering, caribbean-blue surface.  (The reader will be surprised to learn, at this point, that we were not actually members of any collegiate diving teams.)
Next up, couples diving. Michelle and Randall are first next. Concerned that there might be insufficient oxygen in the available air above the water, Michelle wisely chooses to plug her nose before she even leaves the dock.
Completing our regression to childhood, Noel and I determine to perform a synchronized aerial acrobatics show for the growing crowds along the shore.  Oh, we can't see the crowds, but we know they're there, throngs of paparazzii hiding behind the palms and empty beach chairs on this empty sun-kissed stretch of caribbean heaven.

For lunch, we decide to dinghy over to the Fat Virgin Cafe, near Biras Creek Resort.  It's a low-key, less-expensive place that is reportedly a favorite among cruisers. It is very casual, today one person is hostess, waitress, chef, and cleanup. On the menu is flying fish sandwich, which I've never tried before. Unfortunately, no fish are flying today so I try the Caribbean Rueben. The food is good, the prices are less than typical in the BVI, and the atmosphere is relaxed.

We spend the afternoon reading on a small dock covered with a grass roof. Occasionally sailboats slip silently past into Eustacia Sound, momentarily crossing this stage of unobstructed blue horizon. This is likely the most relaxing place to read in the entire world. In such a tranquil setting, one could open the darkest canon of sturm und drang without experiencing the slightest rise in blood pressure.

22 January 2011

Saba Rock, BVI Day 4/10 Cont'd

 Sailing up the north side of Tortola one glimpses hundreds of miles of open blue ocean, a horizon uncluttered by that dirty substance we call earth.  With 2/3 of its surface covered by water, surely our planet should have been called "Ocean", not "Earth".   

Pointing over the horizon, someone asks, "What's out there?"  "England," was my answer, "and if I squint, it looks like Big Ben is running a minute fast this morning."  I was about to comment on seeing the Eiffel Tower too, but that's clear across the Channel, I don't think I could see that far.

Sailing along, we saw a pod of dolphins playing in the water a hundred yards off to port.  We hoped they'd come swim along the bow, but they apparently had other appointments today.  I did get to see one jump clear out of the water though.

We sailed all the way to Rogue Point without so much as a thought of trimming sails.  Passing Lee Bay the winds shifted slightly foreward, so we swung north towards Anegada, beginning a series of long tacks that would take most of the afternoon as we zig-zagged toward Virgin Gorda.

Crossing above the Dogs, a series of small uninhabited Islands renowned for their snorkeling and diving, the wind picked up and we frequently crossed 10 knots, bounding along in the waves.  Occasionally waves would crash into the hull, sending water spraying up and over the boat's deck.

It was around this time that something funny happened, funny to everyone but my wife.  The women had been sitting in the cockpit reading all day as we sailed along, and now in the warm afternoon sun my wife dozed off.  A moment later the breeze suddenly freshened, heeling the boat over at a fairly steep angle.  Before she could wake up enough to grab something, she slid right off the bench onto the cockpit floor.  She wasn't hurt, and we all couldn't stop laughing about it.

This trip was a good test of the crew - and the makers of their scopalomine patches. We were all tired by the time we passed Moskito Rock and dropped sails outside Colquohoon Reef late in the afternoon.  Sails encrusted with salty scurf and decks glistening in the warm afternoon sun, we entered the quiet waters of Gorda Sound.

We planned to pick up a mooring at Saba Rock, which includes a free water refill and bag of ice with mooring fee.  I should probably skip telling this anecdote, it will no doubt bruise my ego every time its read.  If the reader has any respect for the writer at all, the reader will skip the next 6 paragraphs.

Clearly, you have no respect for me.  However, in the interest of humor, and since my version will certainly be more respectful of the Captain than the versions by my Wife, Randall, and Michelle, I'll include it.  As a precursor, and in my defense, I point out that in my BVI travels to date, I'd only ever missed a mooring twice, and each time we picked it up on the second pass.  However, as we rounded the corner to Saba Rock today, things were going to change.

As we approached the mooring ball the first time, the wind was increasing, perhaps as a result of being funnelled between the islands.  In a 50 foot long sailboat with as much freeboard as this, there was very little room for course correction when moving slow enough to grab the mooring ball.  So long story short, we missed on the first try.  My ego was bruised slightly at this point.  

I swung the boat around and approached again, and this time we picked it up.  Once Randall signalled we were secured on one line, I ran forward to help him with the second.  As he was passing the line over the anchor roller, I noticed that the bow line was a little short, so I decided to loosen the line and let it out a little.  This was a bad idea.  As soon as I loosened the line, it started slipping fast.  Although the line was wet and slippery, I didn't think there should be much pull against the mooring as the boat was just being pushed by the wind.  I quickly tried to throw another wrap around the cleat but it was too late.  We (meaning I) lost the mooring.  I ran back to the idling engine (I always leave the engine idling until we're completely tied off) and circled around again.  My ego proceeded from "slightly bruised" to having a headache now.

At this point, the crew of a neighboring liveaboard had come on deck to watch the charterers' circus.  As we passed their boat I called out, "We're doing our darndest to entertain you all, but third time's the charm."  They laughed.  At this point, my ego felt sharp pains in its arm and chest.

So we swung up into the wind again, and wouldn't you know it, missed hooking the pendant.  My ego rolled over and died.  I though about simply careening the boat on the beach at Bitter End as pirates of yore had done.  The hull probably needed a good cleaning anyway.

Finally, on the fourth time, we secured the boat.  My ego needed a few minutes to stop being mad at the boat's captain.  It was while sitting there that I noticed the current rushing past the boat.  With the wind out of Eustacia Sound, there was quite a current being pushed through Saba Rock.  That would explain some of the difficulty we'd had.  But mostly, it was that fool Captain's fault.

We dinghied in to Saba Rock to pay for the mooring and look at the menu, then took the dinghy over to Bitter End Yacht Club to look around the shore, check the restaurants, and see the shops.  It was getting dark and we were all hungry.  We decided to eat over at Saba Rock, mostly for the atmosphere of a dockside table looking out over the mooring field and nearby islands.

Saba Rock is my favorite restaurant location in the entire world, and once you eat there you will likely agree.  After sunset, you dinghy through a forest of masts in the mooring field, with all their anchor lights swaying gently amidst the deep blue night sky's millions of stars.  The warm lights of Saba Rock reflect across the water, with distant music from Bitter End Yacht Club's beach band drifting through air.  As you approach the dinghy dock, you pass over large spotlights on the seafloor just 4 feet below.  Dozens of large fish cruise back and forth, exploring the lights in a dark sea.  Once tied off at the dock, you step onto the dock, just 5 feet from your table. The view is mesmerizing, sitting at a candlelit table in comfortable wicker chairs, looking out over the sound.

I haven't been able to take a picture yet that really does this view justice.  Every little detail adds to the ambience, the swaying anchor lights, the breeze in the palms, warm lights from the beach across the water, the living aquarium at your feet, the deep browns of the woodwork in the restaurant behind you.  You have to experience it.