It’s 0530. It’s the last day of our excellent adventure with the Chews. This is the final chapter of this story.
The breeze is funneling through the valley located at the head of the bay, Great Harbor, that we have spent our final night moored in. Everyone else is still in bed and I am getting my usual early morning alone time.
This is my time, it is a chance for me to reflect on the events of yesterday and the course of my life that has lead me to this beautiful setting. It is a time for me to get my thoughts together regarding my plans for today. And now, as it has been for the recent past, it is my time to put to paper my thoughts for On the Water…With Captain Frank. In short, I love this time.
It seems that no matter how long or short a journey is I always smell the barn during the last part of the trip. It makes no difference whether the trip is an evening sunset or 1,000-mile passage. Today is no different. Todays plan includes dropping the mooring at 0730 for the one hour motor across the famous Sir Francis Drake Channel to the port of entry and in this case departure of Road Town. Then a short walk to the international ferry terminal where we will catch our high speed ferry back to Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas to check back into the US. Next step, a taxi ride from that ferry/customs terminal to the airport, several long lines for check in and security, and finally the three to four hour plane ride back to Charlotte, North Carolina.
We have dropped our mooring right on time and Ed, Scott’s dad, is at the helm pointing Nimble at our destination. Indy, Scott’s son is in the galley doing the dishes from breakfast. While you can tell this is not his favorite chore on board he is doing a good job pleasantly because he knows that is what good crew do. As Nimble clears the headland of Great Harbor Scott and Nikki are on deck readying dock lines that will be employed once we arrive in Road Town. Nimble is starting to rock in the now present swell rolling down the channel. CRASH!! The dish strainer (you know that plastic basket that you rest the dishes you just washed in to dry) has just attempted to become a bird and fly. It has failed and now lies on the sole of the galley with a large pile of broken plates and bowls, but at least they are clean.
I suggest to Ed that he turn to starboard about 30 degrees so that Nimble’s razor sharp bows can cut through the swells, affording us a better ride, rather than her riding beam to the swell. He thinks that’s a swell idea (get it?) and as he does he sees the Cruise ship. The ship has entered the Channel about 3 miles to the east and its destination is clear to me. He’s going to the same place we are and we are both on a schedule. Ed maintains his course and is not rattled. He has also increased the throttles a little. He recognizes that the ship is moving much faster than we are and that although it has a much further distance to travel we will encounter our destination at about the same time. With the galley mess cleaned up and the dock line prep complete Ed turns the boat directly for Road Town and keeps a close eye on the ship. Fifteen minutes later it is clear that we will arrive at the harbor just ahead of the gigantic party barge but there is a new situation building. On our port side there is a small island freighter, maybe 125-150 feet long that is steaming to round the same green navigation aid we are. Ed nervously watches the freighter now as it closes on us from port and behind. I ask Ed what the deal with that boat is and he immediately states that we are the boat to starboard and he is overtaking us so on all accounts we are the stand on vessel. Awesome, apparently he has been paying attention to what I’ve taught him over the last couple of years. He continues to monitor the situation and finally with some relief in his voice announces that she, the freighter, has shown her colors, will pass behind us, and follow us in. Yeah for the freighter captain and yeah for Ed.
Upon entry to the harbor Scott calls directional commands to Ed as Nikki confirms the location of the small marina where Ed will maneuver Nimble to our temporary slip down a narrow fairway. This is where Lisa and I will depart and the Chew crew will do a little provisioning and take on water. As Ed approaches the slip I stand by his side giving him guidance on engine controls so we will make a perfect landing (Damn I’m good).
Lisa and I say our goodbyes and as we walk down the dock, baggage in tow, we take one final look back at the powerful boat that was our home and the powerful family that are rapidly becoming experienced sailors. Thank you Chews you will be fine, just remember to plan conservatively and always look for what’s wrong. Oh yeah, always get the boat ready for the night before the night arrives.
Lisa and I have only got a vague idea where the ferry terminal is in Road Town and we have schedule to keep. As we are walking down the dock I spot a fellow about 50 yards ahead of us and call out to him. “My friend, can you point us in the direction of the ferry terminal?” His response, “Which one?” I was not expecting that and replied, “We’re going back to St Thomas.” He said, “To bad for you, but I’m going right past it so how bout I give you a lift?” I eagerly exclaim, “Awesome, that would be great.” So, we throw our bags into the back of his disheveled van and climb in. He explains that he is not a taxi, but rather a landscaper, and asks us to forgive the condition of his van.
His van is like so many of the vehicles that I have seen in the islands. A generous description of it might be, a little worn. The seats are tattered and half the dashboard is dismantled or missing (I’m not quite sure which). His ignition is hanging down and he has installed the latest technology to start his chariot, a screwdriver.
That aside, it springs right to life on his command and he starts to back out of the parking lot. It does not seem to bother him that the hole that leads to the street is seven feet wide and his van is six feet elven inches. He asks me to pull in my mirror and as I do he guns the van backwards and through he gap without a scratch. I have never driven in Tortola and don’t think that I want to start anytime soon.
One thing that I found interesting was the lack of scooters around. It struck me as odd. When in the Bahamas you see scooters everywhere. They are like mosquitos weaving in and out of traffic haphazardly carrying their owners to and fro. I queried our new friend, the landscaper turned taxi driver, about this and he said that the police have worked hard at picking them up and sweeping them off the streets. It seems that the haphazard maneuvering is just what the government doesn’t want and that they, the scooter operators, cause, just as they do here in Florida, many accidents and injuries. Like the wave runners on the water, it is the operators that have ruined it for themselves.
Ten minutes later he pulls into the terminal and hops out to assist us with our bags. I slip him ten dollars and we thank him for his generous offering of time and effort.
We step up to the counter in preparation for our return ferry ride we show the clerk our round-trip ferry ticket, pay our exit tax, take three steps to the customs departure station, and officially check out of the BVI. We’re first in line and the procedure was a non-event. A short time later we find ourselves back on the high speed Road Town Ferry aboard the Provincetown III. We learned on our arrival trip that we definitely wanted to be at the head of the line when the boat docks at the other end. We plan that strategy now as the boat leaves Road Town.
There are several different ferry companies that run between the islands, both within each respective country as well as internationally (USVI to BVI). This trip is my first experience on the Road Town High Speed Ferry. It is very nice. The boat is roomy and clean and the staff is very friendly. The boat is a large steel catamaran and her size and weight make the 12-15 knot ride smooth. There is an upper observation deck as well as an enclosed air-conditioned lower deck. Weather permitting, riders are welcome to leave the conditioned space on the lower deck and find their way to the bow area where they can enjoy the breeze and relax while sitting on the built-in seats. The snack bar serves snack bar food, cold drinks, and beer! The rest rooms are clean and spacious. I love this ride and I love this boat. In my mind I toy with the idea of running her for a living and decide that there would be worst things to do in life.
Our exit strategy works great and we are the first US citizens in line for the customs scrutiny. Through we go and bingo we are back in the USA. Now we have some time before we have to be at the airport for the final paragraph of our final chapter. I said to Lisa that I knew a nice restaurant that we could walk to for some much needed lunch and she readily agreed that we should go.
The Greenhouse sits on the main waterfront street about a half-mile from the ferry terminal. It has a fun party atmosphere with garage door type windows that open fully allowing for an outdoor feel anytime the weather is nice. Today the weather is awesome and so we sit at a table right in the middle of one of the openings.
Lunch was comprised of sandwiches and fries with Painkillers to wash it all down. There were three cruise ships at dock with the one that chased us in sitting on anchor waiting for its turn. The streets were bustling and we had front row seats to watch it all unfold. With lunch finished there was nothing left for us to put in front of the inevitable.
It was time for us to leave and with a bit of sadness in our hearts we stepped back out into the brightness and hailed a taxi to the airport. Airports are airports and with the exception of one time at Key West airport there is nothing to look forward to when having to deal with them. This trip was no different and about the best thing I can say was that it was a non-event.
In just a short time we were aboard the 767 and blasting through the sky leaving the sights we had seen and the experiences we enjoyed to our mind’s eye to store for our future use as memories. What memories they will be!
For those that have not ever been to the BVI it really must be on your bucket list. The scenery is magnificent, the sailing superb, the people are welcoming, the Painkillers exceptional. It is a “MUST DO” for sailors of all skill levels.
Thanks are due. Thank you Chew family for your invitation to share your dream.
Thank you Catana Yachts for building such an excellent platform.
Thank you to Sailing Florida Yacht Charters for allowing me a flexible schedule so I can take trips like this.
Super important is thank you to my lovely bride Lisa, without her continued support and sacrifice I might have to work a regular job and my passion would only be a passion and not my life.
But, the biggest thanks goes to you folks, the readers, thanks to you for reading my words each day. It’s one thing to write your thoughts and ideas down, it’s quite another to have those thoughts possibly make a difference in someone else’s life. Thank you for reading and thank you for sailing.
Once again we depart company but only till tomorrow when once again you will see me On the Water…With Captain Frank