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Sailing Free

Apr 8, 2011


Location: Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda, BVI
Author: Lander Ver Hoef
When I woke up this morning, I thought it was going to be a normal day: a short passage, then activities in the afternoon. When I wandered back to the cockpit to talk to Captain Steve, though, I got a surprise. He was decked out in hearing protection and dark sunglasses and refused to respond to inquiries. I checked the charthouse, and discovered that every other staff member was missing, as well as our rescue dinghy, Nopadone. A paper hung on the disabled GPS explaining everything: Argo had been struck by a freak electrical storm, all the staff were ar the hospital, and Captain Steve had been left deaf and blind on board. We were to sail the boat to Gorda Sound, a trip of about six nautical miles, by ourselves without the use of our GPSs, which had also been fried by the freak electrical storm. Surprisingly enough, there was no freak-out onboard about having no staff to help us. Everyone stayed completely calm, and we went through our morning breakfast routine just like every other time weve done it. We were confident that we would be able to handle whatever we came across on our own. We stowed all the gear on the lifelines in record time, plotted a passage plan, and weighed anchor. The sail went well, with low waves but quite a bit of wind. Captain Steve threw an Igloo water cooler over the side as a man overboard drill, which led to the extremely entertaining procedure of having to completely empty out our spare storage dinghy, because our primary rescue dinghy had disappeared with the staff. Brooms, towels, the ladder, and all the other miscellanea that live in that dinghy went flying as we rushed to get it in the water. We saved our man, though, and continued on our way. The best moment of my day came after we had made it into Gorda Sound a good two hours early, dropped anchor, and Steve made a miraculous recovery and started talking again. As he was debriefing us, he told us that wed anchored within yards of the coordinates we were given to anchor at. The feeling of accomplishment that I think everybody on board shared was stupendous, the knowledge that as a crew, we have the capability to sail without supervision this incredible, beautiful ship we call home. At noon, a few staff arrived back on board with the announcement that they had rented us small Rhodes 19 and Hobie Cat sailboats that we would be using for the small boat handling section of our MTE Basic Sailing class. There were complications getting all the boats we wanted, but we ended up having a great time doing Hobie Cat relay races from the beach out to a floating mark and back, where we had to switch off crews. After a series of races that were half racing, half screwing around, we switched off with the group that was out sailing in the monohull Rhodes 19s. There, we practiced points of sail and man overboard drills under sail before finishing up with a race upwind between two marks, then back downwind around Argo and back to the mark. Spending the whole afternoon sailing around in small boats was fantastic fun. Today was a day for opening new horizons. From taking on Argo by ourselves, to letting every single person have a chance to skipper a Rhodes 19 during a man overboard drill, today we sailed free.