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Cruising Tales: Don’t Anger the Sea Gods

No matter how hard you try to make a charter the best experience your guests have ever had, sometimes things happen that you just can’t control. Such as when that big leak in the bow suddenly got much bigger? Or when the heads all stopped up because everybody aboard got sick – except you? Nope. This time it was because of unusual weather.

The two Canadian couples who came aboard Avenir II for two weeks on May 8, 1968 were Flying Dutchman sailors and because we had sailed Flying Dutchmen in Texas, we had common interests. From Yacht Haven we motored to Christmas Cove for lunch. The sea was asleep. Not a tickle of a breeze. The weather forecast called for very calm conditions until a frontal trough moved in a little later.

Since these folks wanted to sail a lot, we certainly didn’t want to motor everywhere, so we suggested that we spend the next day exploring St. John by jeep. If there still wasn’t any wind later, we’d motor around St. John by boat. That was fine with them.

Our first stop from Cruz Bay was the beautiful gardens of Caneel Bay Resort created by philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller around 1956. A short hop northward took us to the Calypso Christ of the Caribbean, a huge cement sculpture commissioned by Colonel Julius Wadsworth who owned Peace Hill upon which it stood. The statue gradually lost its arms and in 1995 was destroyed by Hurricane Marilyn.

At Trunk Bay we snorkeled the underwater trail, trying not to giggle too much at the plaques stating that such and such was coral and this and that was a fish. No, really, everything was properly identified, but it just seemed strange having “road signs” in coral gardens.

A visit to the ruins of the Annaberg Sugar Mill built in 1718 at Leinster Bay helped us visualize how horrible a life the slaves had. After a long drive past Coral Bay, the first town built by the Danes, to Round Bay where the dirt road ended, we returned to the boat.

The next day snorkeling was superb at Leinster Bay and after exploring the mangrove anchorages of the Hurricane Hole area east of Coral Bay, we anchored at Reef Bay on the south shore to see the unique Reef Bay Sugar Factory which was powered by a steam engine built in Glasgow, Scotland in 1861. A short trek from the beach took us to the famous petroglyphs carved on the rocks forming a freshwater pool in the Living Gut. The petroglyphs were made by the Taino Indians who arrived about 1000 A.D.

The third day of the charter our sailors were bored and whiny.  Whadda we gonna do now besides more motoring? Maybe we could hang out at West End on Tortola if it had a funky little night spot with a band? It didn’t. Maybe do some exploring by car to Cane Garden Bay where there were a couple of good bars? Yeah, why not, so we started motoring to West End to clear customs.

Two things happened before we went a mile. First, right off the bow two large humpback whales leaped up and bashed the dead water over and over, making a stupendous display! It was also a warning from the sea gods to curb our impatience and peevishness.

The second was the change in the weather. The air was heavy, the sky flinty. There was an oppressive-looking dark band in the northwest and approaching long swells. The weather forecast was bad. Batten down, boys, it said.

We headed for Leinster Bay again, the closest protected anchorage. With two anchors down and plenty of space, we were ready. The storm assaulted us all night and it rained bathtubs so that Mike had to bail our Finn sailboat dinghy numerous times.

Our sailors, much subdued and grateful to see the bright sunshine and strong breeze in the morning, vowed never again to complain to the sea gods.

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