BVI Day 1: Meetup

I know we just were on a trip, but here we go again! We had a pretty big gap of travel over the last year because of my work. The project I just finished, Call of Duty Infinite Warfare, had required a lot of work in the final year of development with frequent 70+ hour work weeks and limited vacation opportunities. But as a result of all of the weekends I worked we were given a block of 15 “rest days” to use by the end of March. Thus the rush to take 3 weeks of vacation between the Winter Holidays and the end of March.

Sailing has been part of my life since the day I was born. Some of my earliest memories are being in the marina with my parents working on a boat, sailing to Catalina Island, or being babysat at a yacht club while they raced their Snipe dinghy. When I was 9 we set sail for the South Pacific finishing in Australia two years later. I learned to sail in an Opti in New Zealand, and raced Naples Sabots when we came back to California for a year. It’s been a long time since I stopped sailing Sabots, but in the last few years my interest in sailing has started to come back in leaps and bounds. A few years ago I started watching some racing on youtube. And then I started racing myself in the Laser class. Around the same time, I met Jana Lydon, the wife of Jennifer’s head veterinary doctor Rob. I had no idea, but they had been talking about going cruising and had even gone to a major boat show. This sparked a bit of desire to go cruising myself, helped along by watching youtube channels by Sailing La Vagabonde and SV Delos.

Then at a family party, we got to talking with the Lydons about doing a bareboat charter in the British Virgin Islands, and we made a pact. I’d find us a boat and arrange the thing, and Rob would get the qualifications necessary to take a boat out without a skipper. And away we go!

This trip and the sailing trip in Myanmar aren’t accidents, I wanted to see if Jenn could enjoy cruising and sailing as a thing perhaps 10-15 years down the line we could do together. Incidentally my parents have gotten back more into sailing and have recently purchased a boat to go cruising with.

Both the Lydons and myself had been drawn to catamarans as cruising boats, there are a lot of them out cruising these days, though some are much more seaworthy than others. Catamarans have the benefits of a large living space at roughly the same level as the cockpit, and experience much less rolling which makes them pleasant spaces to be in, and on a reach or run they generally outperform monohulls. Catana was a brand that seemed to stick out to me. The daggerboards allow for better upwind performance than most cats, and some safety because in rough weather you can pull them up and slide down big waves instead of potentially rolling.

So when we started looking, I found a charter company with a Catana 42 for rent and I set things up. Along the way Jenn’s mother Pam and family friends the Kimlers joined us as well.

Today we leave for the British Virgin Islands and tomorrow we take possession of a Catana 42 named Einstein for the next week of sailing. Jenn and I are both working all day and then catching a red eye to New York where we’ll link up with Pam and continue on to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands before taking a ferry across to Tortola in the BVI where we will meet up with Rob and Jana Lydon, and Greg and Tammy Kimler.

I’m done with my work a bit early, and it doesn’t make much sense to start on a new project for just a couple of hours before leaving, and I’m not feeling 100% so I leave work a couple of hours early. I really don’t want another trip ruined by being exhausted and catching a cold right at the start. The house is a mess and my friend and coworker Athena is going to be house/dog sitting for us, so I want it to be pleasant even if it can’t be spotless. Plus Jenn isn’t packed and I need to pack the provisions we’re bringing with us on the trip.

Jenn is quite late because of some especially bad traffic, and we rush off to the Van Nuys Flyaway to catch the bus down to LAX. Luckily we get there with the bus sitting there loaded up just about to leave and we’re nearly the last passengers on a full bus down to LAX. Of course the traffic is bad at LAX too, and we continue to be late and rush through to security with our luggage as carry on. Delta charges $20 per luggage per flight which would add up to $160, and it’d be nice to not have to do the whole checked luggage thing. Our packs are marginally within the size limits, and with the food bag, of course I get a thorough search through security, but we make it just in time for boarding of our group. We splurged this time for premium economy, so we board first, and there is plenty of room for our bags. Our flight though is delayed over an hour because of technical problems getting a cargo hatch to latch. They’ve already given up the skyway, so we’re no longer hooked up to electricity and the temperature in the cabin keeps going up. Jenn sleeps a bit though restlessly waiting for the flight to take off and I’m VERY tired but can’t sleep until we’re moving.

Once we take off Premium Economy turns out to be well worth the extra money with better leg room and further reclining seats. I actually sleep most of the flight which is a first for me. All in all I think it cost us about $120 per person extra. I also splurged and bought us tickets that should get us home at 9:15 instead of 11:30pm.

Our gate though at JFK Airport is in a different terminal a long way from the one we landed at, combined with our behind schedule flight it turns into a mad rush to make our flight yet again, and we run right past Pam not able to see her as our flight boards. This time they make us check our bags though as the plane is bit smaller. This one is still more comfortable but not as awesome as the cross country flight we just had. Jenn sleeps, but I’m unable to get much shut eye. I’m not as worried about being rested this direction as we lose 4 hours it’s perhaps not a bad thing to be sleepy early.

Getting off the plane I’m struck by the lack of smell of burning trash in the tropics! Pam is apparently at the very back of the plane so we wait for quite a while for her. From the airport it’s a short bus/taxi ride to the ferry terminal and we’re just in time to catch a ride with Native Son’s ferry. They’re not the fastest or the nicest, but they’re going now, and that counts for a lot. An hour later we’ve caught Pam up on the latest and are standing in line for immigration to the BVI. I declared that I had food goods but they didn’t look at the back really and just let me through without a search.

Our hotel is in walking distance, just a third of a mile down the road, but Pam wants to taxi so we taxi. The hotel isn’t really that nice, but we booked our rooms kind of late and didn’t have a ton of options. We’re not far from town at least which will help with provisioning. As we check in the Lydons and Kimlers meet us. I’ve actually not met Tammy or Greg before, so I’m a little anxious, we all want this to be a pleasant week. Jenn and I put down our bags and after a little catching up, I google up a restaurant and we walk the mile to it.

I’ve picked Sharkey’s Cantina which is a little Mexican restaurant inside a yacht club at a small private marina nearby. So much of the local economy seems to revolve around sailing and sailing holidays. We look at the different large catamarans dubbed “party barges” because they eschew sailing performance for space and luxury. Many have these things call flybridges that give a great view, but mean the mainsail is much smaller. For an example of one of these just google Fountaine Pajot. The food at the restaurant is actually pretty good, but it’s right over mangroves, and we get eaten alive by mosquitos. I wish I’d brought bug spray with me. Our first dinner started to really help the group gel.

Back at the hotel over some beers we sat down with my laptop and our list of food items we need for our planned meals, check off the things we brought successfully, and are left with a list of things we don’t have. Then we chat a bit about snacks, breakfasts, and other would be nice things making a final list for tomorrow’s provisioning run.

At this point I just can’t even anymore. So I head to bed.

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