Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sailing the Spanish Virgin Islands, Part 1

Captain John smiling from the helm as we depart St. ThomasCaptain John Kretschmer's original plan called for picking Nan and me up at the St. Thomas airport in his inflatable dinghy. Honestly. He was going to anchor in Lindberg Bay, which is right next to the airport terminal, so all we would need to do is lug our heavy baggage across the parking lot and down the rocks to the water. In the dark. With no predetermined meeting place. Fortunately, we received an email message from John's wife Tadji the day before we left indicating that we should meet John at Crown Bay Marina instead.

I called John from the airport to find out that he and the rest of the crew were waiting for us at the marina's restaurant. Crown Bay is just two bays east of Lindberg Bay, so the taxi ride was a quick one. As we passed the parking lot for the beach at Lindberg Bay, I told the driver that we were originally supposed to meet our captain in that vicinity. He looked over his shoulder at me and said in a serious tone that it was not a safe place to be at night. A look at the broken glass and empty beer cans littering the parking lot confirmed it. After a short drive through a marine industrial area, we came to Crown Bay. The driver pointed down a walkway bordering the water as he unloaded our bags and said that the restaurant was on the left at the end.

From a waterfront table, John stood up to give us both big hugs and then introduced us to Dallas Murphy and Genie Leftwich, who would be joining us on the five-day sail to Ponce, Puerto Rico. The three of them were nice enough to hold off on ordering dinner until we arrived even though it was almost 9:30 when we arrived. We ordered cold drinks and seafood dinners, and settled into conversation about our upcoming trip, sailing and writing. Dallas is an accomplished author of both fiction and non-fiction works, most recently of To Follow the Water: Exploring the Ocean to Discover Climate. His girlfriend Genie is the managing editor of Fitness Magazine. They live in Manhattan, on the Upper West Side. John, too, is a writer, the author of At the Mercy of the Sea and a columnist for Sailing Magazine. Nan mentioned that I was writing a book about Charlie, our golden retriever who died of cancer last April, and that turned the talk to dogs. Dallas and Genie were considering getting a dog again after having owned two dogs together in the past, but they weren't sure if they could handle the eventual loss of another one. It was clear that six years later, they were still mourning their beloved Pippa.

Dallas showing Nan how to coil and hank a dock line on the first day outQuetzal, John's 47-foot Kaufman cutter, was conveniently slipped at the next dock over from the restaurant. She looked good with her stout new Selden mast, replacing the one that was lost in a tornado over in Grado, Italy late last summer. Nan and I tossed our bags in the starboard aft berth and unpacked a couple of gifts, a couple of sets of heavy-duty plastic drinking glasses for the boat and a loaf of Nan's home-made pumpkin bread to share later. With bedtime approaching, we thought of the sleeping bags we had packed, reasoning that it would still be cool in mid-April, but it was so warm that night and all week that we never needed them.

We were up early the next morning, excited to get underway. After cups of coffee in the cockpit, it was time to grab a quick marina shower, the last one until we reached Ponce since there is no hot water on the boat due to a persistent problem with the heat exchanger. While the rest of us wandered around the marina, window shopping and checking email, John went to get some final provisions and check us out of St. Thomas with the customs office. When everyone was back onboard, we cast off the lines and motored out into West Gregerie Channel. After reaching open water, we rounded up, raised the mainsail and unfurled the jib, and steered westward with the Trade Winds in a nice broad reach. We were off and sailing to our first destination, Culebra.


aarone said...

now that's more like it. I look forward to hearing more about your trip with John Kretschmer.

John Lichty said...

It was a good trip, as you will see when I get it all posted. Part 2 should be in there by the end of this coming weekend.