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How NOT to end a Charter

A thorny dilemma concludes a cruise

One afternoon while docked at Village Cay Marina at Roadtown, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, we became acquainted with Ben Spock (the doctor of baby book fame) and his wife Mary. We hit it off right away and, since we had some doctors aboard with their wives on charter, we thought they might enjoy meeting the Spocks. We invited the Spocks for some Pina Coladas at cocktail time.

It became evident, as it came close to dinnertime, that the Spocks didn’t know what Pina Coladas really were and assumed that it was some kind of fancy dinner. We gladly included them for dinner and eventually became good friends.

Although the Spocks did not charter, they invited couples down to sail with them from time to time in Carapace, their little sloop. It was tight since Ben was well over six feet but one makes do, of course, for one’s friends. The Spocks liked to be by themselves and we seldom saw them in the popular anchorages such as Leinster Bay on St. John or the Bight at Norman Island. Since their sloop only drew four feet, they could sneak into some wee places.

One of their favorites was a tiny anchorage on the windward side of an island just south of Round Rock in the British Virgins. To get into this tiny anchorage, one had to carefully slide through a narrow opening to the reef which protected the anchorage from most weather conditions. It was in this anchorage that they found themselves embayed during some very heavy winter weather. Although this little nook was usually calm and swell-free, the outer reef was awash with unusual, heavy waves and it was impossible for the boat to move.

They were stuck there for nearly a week. Came time for their guests to leave, and they couldn’t get them out. No boat of any sort could ride through the passage in those waves to rescue them. The only way to get out was to climb the high mountain behind them, which was heavily peppered with Turk’s Cap cactus and other killer cacti, big boulders and thorny scrub. You name it, and that steep-sided hill had it.

But it had to be done. So the two guests, with only small, light bags containing their passports and other necessary items, braved the hill. It took them at least four hours, but they made it over the top. Then they had to go down it to an iffy pickup point, which took even longer and was more treacherous. They made it just at dark when a fisherman, who had waited all afternoon for them in his boat, got them aboard and sped them off to Beef Island, where they boarded their plane for home.

They were horribly scratched, bruised by rocks, torn by bushes,  sunburned and dehydrated, besides being very anxious and out of shape. Yet they managed it. Did they ever forgive the Spocks for getting them into that mess? Heck, no!  After getting cleaned up, fed and watered, and on the plane homeward, they toasted the Spocks. Their grandchildren will be in awe of them forever.

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