Saturday, March 23, 2013

0830, March 23, Conch Charters base, Road Town, Tortola

We made it! The sun is up, the wind is blowing, and everyone is enjoying a much deserved sleep in – except Katie, who got up and mopped the deck this a.m. She has decided that is her job, and she is taking it very seriously. We woke to the sounds of scrubbing the deck at 0630. Fortunately, after she got that done, she decided to snuggle in with Sara, and they are both now snoring soundly in our bunk.

Backing up to the last post, the rest of the trip here went without a hitch. In fact, the whole two days of travelling couldn't have gone much more smoothly. We got in to St. Thomas a bit ahead of schedule. It was wonderful to see the kids experience the feeling of stepping off the plane in a tropical climate – they couldn't get over how warm and humid it was. It was such a huge contrast to where we had left.

Anyway, our bags were all there pretty quickly, and it was easy to get a cab at the airport (15 passenger van, so they made sure they filled it right up before we went anywhere). For anyone who might be planning a similar trip, the cab prices seem like they are set by the government, so there was no haggling or anything, and it was pretty reasonable ($6.00 per person, $5.00 for a big bag, $2.00 for a small bag). Then, we drove about 15 minutes to the Charlotte Amalie ferry; we were given a choice of getting on a ferry in ½ an hour that would take us to West End on Tortola, where we would need to catch another cab, or wait until 4:00 p.m. to catch a ferry straight to Road Town. We took the earlier one, reasoning that we would probably need to get a cab even if we came straight to Road Town, as the Conch base is a bit south of the ferry landing.

So, we got on the well used looking ferry, and headed off along St. Thomas. We stopped briefly in Red Hook, to pick up what seemed to be lots of locals commuting to Tortola, then headed across to the British side. The whole ride took about an hour. Once on the British side, the ferry guys threw all our bags onshore (literally), and we cleared customs. Despite the remarkably long line, the process was pretty efficient, and we were through in about 20 minutes. It was kind of fun finding our bags. The unloaders just piled them all up in a big pile in front of the customs workers, and you had to dig through and sort out where yours were.

Anyway, once that was done, it was on to another open air taxi, and we drove along the Tortola coast line until we got to Conch charters. The charter base is a bit run down, but the staff were still here even though it was after working hours, and everything was exactly as expected. We got on our boat, which is older, but clean, and will be great for a charter. We have been comparing it to the Lagoon 380, which is what we have always chartered before, and my first impression is that it will be good for 10 days, but if I was living aboard, I think the 380 would be better. I'll post more about the boat later.

After that, we had a quick dinner at the pub, which was expensive, and pretty underwhelming, but we really hadn't eaten much all day, so we were starving. It was interesting to see the look on the kids face when someone a few tables away from us lit up a cigarette, and the smoke blew onto our table. It was not a smell they were used to, and it took them a minute to figure out what it was. Then they couldn't get over the fact someone would smoke at a restaurant. Our first bias was that it was probably a local, and it was just a different culture here, which we needed to get used to. We quickly had to swallow that prejudice when we realized it was one of the British girls who works for the charter company. I guess they have a different culture too.

We decided to try and get our shopping done (I know, provisioning, whatever), so Sara and Alexander took off in a cab to the local Riteway, while Katie, Christopher and I came back to the boat. The kids really needed a good run around after all the flying, so they did that while I looked at the charts and cruising guide to plan out our day today. We have some ideas, but will keep things flexible and see what happens.

We were all exhausted after all the travelling, so slept pretty well. We have the A/C on since we are still on shore power, but it will be interesting to see how hot it gets once we are in the islands. The marina is small, with just a few docks, and not really protected from the bay, so things get pretty bouncy when a fast ferry goes by. Didn't keep us awake though.

We are off to the chart briefing in a few minutes to get the lowdown on what rocks they want us to miss, and then we should be out of here about mid morning.

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