Jun 28, 2012, 5:23 PM
Post #1 of 6
YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS SH#T UP
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands - You can't make this shit up
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By Justin Long
On a warm Thursday afternoon this past spring, the Captain and I set on our way out of Miami, hindered only slightly by the releasing of a Marlins game. We were off to race his boat in St. Thomas' Carnival Regatta.
The US Virgin Islands greets us with free rum and an island Jeep equipped with a dog. The Jeep, rich with character, is owned by the other partner in the boat. Complete with a 2x4 keeping the front seats from folding back, rust holes in all floors, and an overwhelming stench of gasoline wafting up from beneath, she is our chariot for the weekend.
The Captain throws caution to the wind, lights a smoke as we proceed down the road. Arriving at a bar in Red Hook, I am confronted with more rum choices than I have ever had before. No ginger beer leads to a Rum and Ting, followed by many more of similar consistency. On a bumpy Jeep ride home to our bungalow, we discuss the condition of the boat where the status was claimed to be it "looks good".
Two days until the regatta...
After half an hour of dinghy repairs, I get to see what "looks good" means to Captain. Two hundred plus gallons of water slosh in the bilge from eight months of accumulated rain. The floorboards had sequestered into mud, emitting the stench of low tide, with both the 3DL jib and spinnakers immersed in this brine. A friendly passer-by joked they had cut the anchor line weeks ago, but the bottom growth had held her in place.
We assess the situation and decide to head to shore for supplies. After a trip to Kmart we return with the essentials: gallon of bleach, brillo pads, paint scraper, 6 pack, bucket, and an extra helper. The distressed J/29 known as Matador got her interior bleach bathed and bailed dry. The bottom got scraped clean. The sails got tied to the life line and thrown overboard to let the tide work some of the grime off. By 5pm we were ready for a drink. We had her looking and smelling substantially better, and had our list of chores set for the following day.
One day until the regatta...
After a late night 420 SKA party, we set out early with a mission to fit a new boom on the boat in order to take full advantage of the 3DL J/100 main onboard. Using the dinghy to hip tow Matador to a close by cove on Hassel Island, we set out to find the infamous German sailmaker Manfred Dittrich.
A new boom had been commissioned a year prior but was never delivered. We find said boom unfinished and amidst a pile of scrap metal. Our plan of action is set, the necessary pieces are found, and misuse of dilapidated power tools is in excess. Six hours and a few dinghy rides to the hardware store later and the boom is in.
The jib is hoisted, with mud settling between the once pristine foil layers, we sail to Honeymoon Beach on Water Island. While drinking some Cruzan and Peppers, and without the proper hardware at our disposal, the outhaul is set in a fixed position and the main sheet blocks are lashed to the boom in the fashion of a carbon model. The vang is also lashed with some spare spectra and the tail of the outhaul is used to keep it from sliding towards the mast.
With all systems seemingly in go mode, we give her a shakedown sail as the sun sets the night before the race. All is well, the rigging holds and, the giant main fills the new boom. We sail Matador back to her place in the harbor, with our last words to her being to stay put as we head to shore to finish the bottle of Cruzan.
Now dinner and drinks lead us to a spot in French town where the dark and storms are flowing as I meet the owner of a J/27 with an impressive record known as Magnificent 7. We share our tales of the last two days and he tells us he won't be racing us the following day. The Captain is disappointed because we should be a little faster than Mag 7 and it would have been a good race.
A 6:30am wake up, followed by a drop off at the safari stop in the pouring rain. The skipper's meeting is at 9am, and we have a two hour sail ahead of us to get to the yacht club. As we board the dinghy, the rain subsides for a moment, we bounce out of the harbor joking about not having enough gas to get back in. As we round the corner from the cruise ship docks, the tall mast of Matador is nowhere in sight. Stolen? Sunk? Abducted by aliens?
No wait, there she is, a few hundred yards away on the rocks. We pull up ...it's not as bad as it could have been. The boat is still upright, with the keel gently bouncing on the bottom nestled between two huge coral heads. The Captain boards, I remain in the dinghy, he rocks and leans as I pull in reverse from every angle possible. Slowly we back her out of dangers way.
With fifteen knots of breeze and dinghy in tow, we set off for the yacht club, neither of us with phones but my watch shows we won't make the skipper's meeting. Our hangovers worsen as the sea state increases, lurching past Buck Island. Around quarter past ten, the yacht club is in sight, but with the lack of any action going on.
We take a mooring on the outer edge of the field and proceed in past Mag 7 and a slew of IC 24's resting with no one in sight. Once ashore, we see the race director sitting at his computer, and he quickly informs us that the race has been cancelled that morning due to lack of interest.
As seen on a bumper sticker: "St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands - You can't make this shit up".