February is the coldest month of the year in the northern hemisphere –somewhat surprising really since the winter solstice passes some five weeks prior to February 1st. In the Caribbean, February is the middle of the high season when thousands of shivering folk from high latitudes head south to warmer climes. Who can blame them? Trudging around in the snow and the sleet with traffic jams and dark, short days versus sailing in the sunshine on turquoise seas with brisk trade wind breezes would seem to be a no brainer.
Strangely, though, there are some Caribbean masochists who long to go north to experience freezing cold weather, to go sliding down slippery slopes on flat boards, dodging trees and avoiding ravines – only to exclaim to each other, later in the bar, how brave they were and how fast they went. Your average skier also risks life and limb by sitting over perilous snowy cliffs in a swinging chair on a greased wire getting hauled up to the top, only to disembark and then slide down to the bottom again.
It was only recently that Charlie sailed on a nice Jeanneau, named by the owners: Sea and Ski. Was it water skiing they were referring to? The fact is that a Caribbean sailing adventure/vacation is one of the most exhilarating experiences on the planet. Charlie usually starts a charter (weather cooperating) with a windward beat, rail under, spray flying. He looks for white knuckles and a shriek or two to ensure an adrenaline rush and post-sail lively chatter. The conversation at the first night’s happy hour gives Charlie a direction on how he should continue the island adventure. If it was all too tame then diving with sharks off Anegada might liven things up. Alternatively, if that first sail was too exciting then gentle reaching with tropical cocktails in hand could be the answer (Charlie has a say in measuring the tipple). The point is that the Caribbean cruise must be memorable. Kite boarding, wake riding on a tube, flying a hull on a Hobie are all exhilarating pastimes. Now, with GoPro mounted drones all the action can be recorded for memorable movies back home (including that accidental shot of those hot, topless babes sunbathing on the cat’ at the far side of the anchorage).
Exciting memories sometimes come in unforeseen ways. Charlie recalls a recent incident while at the helm of an aging 50 foot catamaran maneuvering through the mooring field at the Baths, a popular BVI beauty spot.
“As I approached the mooring I put the port engine in reverse to swing the boat to port. To my surprise the boat leapt forward – so I gave it a bit more throttle to see if it would engage reverse but the boat simply charged forward even more. I glanced off a nice little mono with only minor scratches and almost hit a shiny mini mega yacht. By this time the guests were wondering what the hell I was doing, while others on neighboring boats were pointing and shouting. By sheer good fortune I came up alongside another mooring ball and a guest, Bob, managed to grab it with the boat hook and make the pennant fast. Pphheww! What a relief! Well you may have guessed it! The port engine transmission cable had snapped whilst still in forward but the throttle still worked.”
It was an unexpected event, but never-the-less an eventful one. By the end of happy hour that evening Bob was the hero and Charlie gave him a ‘Big Up’.
Could skiing really be this much fun?
Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.