Day 1 - Saturday November 3 - Getting to Tortola
We are up at the ungodly hour of 3:30 a.m. to get ready for our limo pick up at 4 a.m., so that we can make it to Dulles the required number of hours in advance. Because of the change in plans, we are flying out of Dulles instead of much-closer BWI; we are still going to Miami (my Number 1 Most Hated Airport in America), but we are now flying to St. Thomas instead of Marsh Harbour. I haven't slept at all with this sinus infection and nervous anticipation. The car picks us up right on time, and at this hour, it only takes about 45 minutes to get to Dulles. Soon we are standing in the long lines at the American ticket counter. We get through ticketing and baggage check in 45 minutes (checking in PLUS changing our Abaco tickets over to next June), with another 20 minutes to get through security. They have wisely installed ropes to control the crowds here. The process here seems more efficient than reports at BWI, and everyone is in good spirits; for that reason, I'm almost glad to be leaving from Dulles rather than BWI. We get to our gate in plenty of time, and amuse ourselves with trashy novels and the handheld electronic solitaire and Yahtzee games I got at Target for just this purpose.
Our flight to Miami takes off on time and we managed to land early at MIA. My doctor would have a fit if he knew I was flying in this condition (with my ears unable to pop), but he's a sailor like us and might understand the imperative. The last time I flew like this, there was an equivalent imperative: Jazz Fest in New Orleans. I never let sickness get in the way of a good time; that's why they invented anti-histamines! Because our connection was tight, the early arrival was key, and even enabled us to grab a "lunch" of an ice cream bar. This is the best we can do, because the lines for the other excuses-for-food in this terminal are too long, and we won't otherwise get a chance to eat for hours because there is no meal service in steerage on this flight.
We arrive in St. Thomas early as well, just about 2:30 p.m., and retrieve our bags in record time. They are purple and turquoise easy to spot. I had called Smith's Ferry Service yesterday, and they said they would try to send a driver (with our name on a placard), but I see no one like that, so we take a regular taxi-van instead. Too bad we didn't get the designated driver, because the driver we drew apparently had other plans for us, insisting there is no ferry from Charlotte Amalie (5 minutes from the airport) to Tortola and that we must go to Red Hook, much further away, for the ferry. Because we knew the facts, it was clear to us that the driver was either seriously mistaken or hoping to take advantage of us by getting a big fare to Red Hook. We extricated ourselves and our bags from the taxi near the St. John ferry dock, found another taxi, and made it to the BVI ferry dock in time to catch the 3:30 ferry the Bomba Charger - to West End.
En route, in those seats (complete with tray tables) so obviously acquired at an American Airlines rummage sale, we make the acquaintance of two couples who will be sailing with the Moorings the same week. We don't actually find out their names until much later. This is standard operating procedure in the sailing world; people know each other by their boat names. (Lots of sailing guides caution you to name your boat accordingly. Do you really want to be known as Mr. and Mrs. Poof! Begone? Of course, judging by some of the names people give their boats, including the one just referenced, its obvious they never gave this concept any consideration.) In any event, these couples are Jubilee, and we will be Cocoon.
Immigration and customs at West End is much easier than at the airport, one of the few advantages of getting to Tortola by way of St. Thomas. The BVI immigration officers are so very serious and dour-faced that I always make a special point of being EXTRA-polite to them. This time, I remarked about Rick's virgin (just-renewed) passport, and the agent really liked the symmetry of the stamp which de-flowers the virgin passport being the one of the British VIRGIN Islands; I do believe we got a chuckle out of him. At the ferry terminal, we are met by the Moorings van. Some people take the ferry all the way to Roadtown, but it takes about the same amount of time to get to the Moorings base if you get off at West End and taxi over from there, or wait to get off at Roadtown and take a taxi. Indeed, the Moorings van stops at the Roadtown ferry dock to pick up the passengers on the same ferry who took the trip all the way through; they exited the terminal just as we arrived. We finally reach the base at 5:30.
It is only at this point that it dawns on me what a house of cards all of our inter-locking travel arrangements have been. If one card had slipped out of position, the whole thing could have fallen apart. We managed to get all the way through to the Moorings base til we encountered our only glitch: the reception desk at the Mariner Inn had no record of us. At this point I was so tired and cranky that my tone became a little insistent; usually I am endlessly patient, even amused, with the ins and outs of island life. Luckily, I had brought with me my fax confirmation of all of our arrangements, and it was not long before the lady at the reception desk offered us a choice between one of back rooms or waiting for one of the harbour rooms to be made up. I mellowed, apologized for being a little testy, and agree to take a back room (this is where we were stuck before a Footloose charter a few years ago). All I want to do is drop my bags and get some dinner. We dump our stuff, grab a Painkiller at the bar (the Jubilee gang are there too) and catch a glimpse of the Weather Channel. Hurricane Michelle is strengthening and heading for the Keys and the Bahamas, convincing us that we made the right choice.
A few minutes before dinner, we grab a taxi to C&F for dinner, which we share with Conrad and Desiree from San Diego who are ending their charter today. They've been dreaming about C&F's ribs all week; I haven't been dreaming about them because I didn't even know I was going to be in the BVI til 36 hours ago, and I haven't slept since I made the arrangements anyway. We invite them to join us for dinner and de-brief them about their charter and swap sailing stories. I am too sick and tired to enjoy my dinner fully, though what I did eat of my triggerfish was delicious, and I always get a kick of playing with those TEETH on the whole fish. Now that I'm in paradise, things are looking better.