My wife Susan and I chartered Moondance, a 44' yacht in the British Virgin Islands. I am in the fishing industry in the United Kingdom and have had a few boats catching escallops, lobster and fish for export, but I was used to trawlers and power boats. Since sailing was new to me, we had hired a local skipper. Once we were on the mooring bouy, he had gone home for the day.
After spending the day sailing from one small Island to another, we decided to head for Sopers Hole Harbour for a safe haven for the night. Upon entering the harbour, I looked for a buoy where I could tie up. After finding one and making the yacht secure, we began to tidy up the boat for the night. We were starting prepartions for our evening meal when a small motor boat pulled up along side and showed me a 15lb Tuna he had caught just outside the harbour. I could see the pride in his eyes as he held it up in front of me. "This is going on the BBQ tonight," he said. I was jealous; and not to be out done, decided there and then to make ready for sea and fish for a tuna myself. "No, lets stay here." said Susan. "NO NO NO, I want to fish for an hour." I said.
We slipped the bouy and headed out. After an hour I had no luck and reluctantly decided to make our way back into harbour. Since there are so many boats in the harbour, bouys are hard to get so we had left our little dingy on the bouy so no one else would take it. As I entered the harbour, I discovered another yacht had tied up on the bouy we had already paid for for the evening. I pulled up along side and said to the Captain that he was tied up on my bouy. The Captain, along with his wife, were frantically working on his steering gear. He apologied and said he had steering problems and had to tie up here to fix the rudder. He was German and in broken English asked "Please I pay you for the bouy tonight if I can't fix it." he said.
I started to hunt for another bouy, but had no luck as they were all taken. I decided to tie up against the harbour wall and wait until one became vacant. After a short while, the harbour master wandered over with some of his men and said that a large motor boat was coming in shortly and she would need to tie up in my place as it was the only area big enough for her. They'd already paid their fees for the night, so I needed to move. I explained that the German yacht had taken my bouy and my dingy was still on the bouy. The dockmaster, complete with long dreadlocks said, "No problem man, we will get your dingy." Off they went and recovered my little dingy. They tied the little boat to the bow rather than off the stern where it should have been tied. After 30 minutes a bouy became free. "Quick man, there is a free bouy. Let's get going before someone else takes it." I stated. Ropes were slipped and I went on to the motor. Susan was at the bow and I was steering way back in the cockpit with the engine thumping away. The bouy was about 200 meters away and I was in a race to get to it before someone else took it. I had completely forgotten about the dingy tied at the bow.
As I made my way toward the bouy, I spied another boat headed for the same bouy so I increased power to get there first. Susan started shouting "the boat, the boat." I could not hear clearly with the engine noise and being a distance from the bow with no clear line of site. Furthermore, a little rowing boat with a local onboard was rowing across the harbour. I took it she was trying to get me to see the local and his rowing boat that was ahead of me about 100 meters. I was not concerned, I could easily avoid him. Still Susan kept shouting "the boat, the boat." "What in hell is she going on about?" I thought.
It was as if everyone had seen this empty bouy at one time and the race was on to take the prize 43qa afor the night!
Louder and louder Susan shouts from the bow "the boat, the boat." Yes I nod my head in agreement as I see the gap between us all getting closer. Suddenly I hear a nasty sound like I had hit something under water. You can guess...it was the small dingy that the harbour boys had tied to the bow. It had made its way under the bow and with the water pressure snapped the rope right over the top of it. I heard it scrape itís way along the bottom and saw it pop up at the stern upside down. This was of no matter to me as I was headed for that bouy no matter what the cost.
By this time the local in his rowing boat had rowed right in front of me and I was on my way to mowing him down as well. I swear his eyes were the size of saucers as the bow of Moondance bore down upon him and I'm sure he was praying to his Rastafarian God Jah to save him. He made a desperate attempt to row out of the way but knew it was a fruitless action. The realisation that a madman was at the wheel of a large yacht suddenly dawned on him and as a last resort dove into the water and swam at Olympic speed away from the impending ramming.
I had run over one dingy and was about to smash another in half! At the last moment, Susan ran back to me to and shouted what was happening. I pulled back on the throttles and came to a stop. One man in the water, a dingy run over and all hell let loose as the Germans, who had taken my bouy, were shouting at me to watch out as they had a birds eye view of the whole situation. I got to the bouy and made fast. It was mine at the cost of a half drowned man swimming away at full-speed, a sunken dingy with engine, and damage to the bow and underneath of Moondance. I turned off the engine and now had time to access the situation. It was like some thing out of a comedy film. I glanced at my old bouy. The Captain of the German yacht was just standing there with his mouth wide open in amazement at the sight he had just witnessed. His wife was goose-stepping up and down the boat in laughter.
Slowly I took in the mess as people in yachts and motor boats were all claiming the spare bouy to be theirs and people in the harbour were laughing at the site they had witnessed. I started to sink down below deck to hide my shame. After awhile I picked up enough courage to go up top again and face the onlookers. I glanced over at my old bouy and the German yacht. Eva, the Captain's wife, was still goose-stepping and laughing and her husband was now laughing as well. All of a sudden, with one almighty splash, the Captain fell overboard backwards from the stern with his tools in hand. He started splashing around Eva was shouting to me that he can't swim at the top of her voice. I could do nothing; I had no dingy. It was being recovered by the harbour men in their little boat after they had requested the guy out the water. Suddenly I felt a little better, I wasn't the only one the onlookers were all laughing at. Thanks to the German captain, my misdemeanours where quickly forgotten.
Yes another day in paradise, and fools with boats.
Bailing out the dinghy.