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Cruising Tales: Yikes! What to Do with Second-Time Charter Guests

Having charter guests return for the second time may put you into a dilemma. Where do you take them so that the second charter is not only different from the first but even better?

If their first charter was in the American and British Virgin Islands, then the next excellent and closest islands to the east for a good charter are St. Martin, Anguilla and St. Bartholomey. The advantage there is that each island is quite different from the other. St. Martin-St. Maarten, being half French, half Dutch, has a large airport and is busy; Anguilla is British and a sleepy, laidback place, and St. Barths, as it is usually called, is a more sophisticated but tiny French island.

Between St. Martin and St. Barths are a scattering of very small islands, but only one boasts a decent anchorage: Ile Fourche. The name means “fork” in French due to its four peaks (although some people count more). It is hilly, with many rough, loose boulders, and very dry so that the only green vegetation is mostly the cacti. It is rough going to hike on it but the views are great. The French think that Ile Fourche belongs to them, but they’re wrong. The wild goats own it.

Our second-time charterers, Fletcher and Betty Brothers, were a delightful couple and brought along their friends. Naturally they wanted to do something different so we told them it might be fun to climb Ile Fourche and take pictures of the goats. Fletcher, who had been a butcher, volunteered to dress a goat to barbeque for dinner.

First, you have to catch the goat. The goats are skittish and can easily out-climb humans. They do not trust us for a variety of reasons. Although Ile Fourche is not too steep, the biggest problem is the cacti. The Turk’s Cap cacti are prolific and have fierce spines which point every which way. They are nearly round, sit right on the ground and tend to tilt towards the equator.

There are also the small, sneaky fingers of Bull Suckers which nestle on the ground and can do painful damage to unprotected feet. But who brings boots on a Caribbean charter? We had to make do with boat shoes or tennis shoes.

Mike had a rifle with ammo but, other than foot gear, the most important piece of equipment was a pair of pliers. After just a few steps, we had to pull out the thorns. This made for slow going—but that was necessary anyway, because we had to try to sneak up on the goats. Ha! Fat chance! With all the heavy huffin’ and puffin’, the hunters were about as quiet as a train!

Finally their chance came. After a couple of hours or more trying to coral a small group of those wily creatures, a baby goat got too far away from its momma. Oh! It was such a cute little guy! Light grey and white splotches everywhere, a perky little nose and ears, dainty little feet, tail held high. Mike raised his rifle and aimed. He put his finger on the trigger and held his breath.

Just at that moment the little critter raised his head, looked Mike in the eye and bleated plaintively. Oh no! The “great white hunter” just couldn’t shoot it. Mike shook his head and lowered the gun. The baby leaped for momma and the hunters carefully came home after many stops with the pliers.

So ended the great goat gallop. The hunters relaxed, tended their wounds and had steak for dinner instead.

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