Sometimes you just have to go with what your gut tells you. Such was the case recently when we were at Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands. We had spent the day there, walking on the beach, enjoying the bar and grill…one of the crew even rented a wind surfer for an hour of pure fun! (story continues below, following photos from the day spent at Peter Island)
Late in the afternoon, all the boats in Deadman Bay started to clear out. Jon picked up on this, and felt there was a good reason. We were “on the hook” because there aren’t any moorings in this particular bay, and the holding is pretty good there due to a sandy bottom. If the weather turned bad, we would have spent a night of anxious anchor watches, to ensure we didn’t drag anchor and run aground on the shoal between us and Dead Chest Island. While the rest of the crew was reveling in the wonderful time spent ashore, Jon tried to get a weather forecast on the marine radio. Although the weather channel wasn’t reporting anything, and the skies looked pretty good, Jon relied on instincts gained from years of experience.
It’s not a good idea to sail into a harbor at night in the BVIs, because almost every one of them has a tricky entrance or a coral reef that needs to be seen in daylight in order to be avoided. We had to get out of Deadman Bay and sail on to another location right then so we could be moored before sundown. Jon told the crew that he felt it was time to move; that he had heard bad weather was on its way and he didn’t want to spend a night in a rolly anchorage.
We raised anchor and quickly headed back to Cooper Island (where we had been earlier in the week) because it was close and we could get there before dark. We picked up one of the few remaining moorings just as the sun started to set. Jon and I opted to stay on the boat while everyone else went ashore to make plans for dinner. Their reservations were for 8 pm, so they came back to the boat to have “sundowners” with us before heading back to shore for dinner. Around 7:30 the group went to dinner, and Jon and I fell asleep.
Around 8:30, I awoke to water dripping on me from the hatch over my head. Drips became streams, and once fully awake I ran around the boat, checking on hatches and portholes. Then I called the crew on our marine band radio to find out if they were okay. They were hunkered down at the Cooper Island Beach Club with other sailors, waiting out the thunderstorm. It was anything but safe for them to climb into a dinghy and get out on the water while lightning was all around us.
I fell back asleep but was awakened by a voice on the radio telling us they were on their way. The rain was still coming down heavily but there was a break in the lightning. Three or four minutes later, the radio crackled again. “Flash some lights so we know which boat!” I flicked the deck lights on and off a few times until they said, “Okay! We’re here!” I went out in the rain to grab the dinghy painter when they arrived. The swells were crazy. The boat went up and the dinghy went down, making it very difficult to climb aboard. The timing had to be just right or someone would get hurt.
After a lot of directions were yelled out in the howling wind and rain, the crew made it on board the Mary Morgan III safely and everyone was glad to be on a mooring in Manchioneel Bay rather than at anchor in Deadman Bay—because now we could all get a good night’s rest once the wet sheets were removed from our berths! (Remember the hatches I closed after the downpour began?)