Sunday, May 4, 2014

Day 10--May 1, 2014 Thursday

Today is our last full day in the British Virgin Islands. Our plan was to snorkel on the Wreck of the Royal Mail Steamer Rhone located in about 30 feet of water just a couple of islands east of where we were on Norman Island.  Of course, the wind was coming right out of east so it took a lot of tacking back and forth across Sir Francis Drake Channel to get to the outcrop of rocks on Salt Island.

Just before noon, we made it to Salt Island and the very nice park service mooring balls for the big boat.  We took the dinghy over to a smaller mooring line and jumped overboard.  Gooooolllly!  The wreck was impressive to view.  Our underwater camera is a old one, but we did get some shots.  The water was clearer than the pictures and the date stamp on these pictures is wrong:  it really was 5/01/2014 not 4/25/2014!

Here is the huge propeller resting on the rocks about 30 feet below.

You can see what must be the drive shaft long the bottom and the ribs of the ship.

The R.M.S. Rhone got caught in a hurricane on October 29, 1867.  She survived the first half of the hurricane, but in the lull in the middle of the storm, the captain tried to steam over to the shelter of Road Town, Tortola.  As they weighed anchor a shackle broke and dropped the 3,000 pound anchor and some 300 feet of chain.  So the only thing to do was to steam out to get sea room to weather the second onslaught.  She almost made it past the rocks when a big blast of wind forced her on the rocks at Salt Island.  There the R.M.S. Rhone heeled over, broke in two, and sank instantly, taking most of her company with her.

As impressive as the Wreck was, we didn't stay long.  We jumped back on board and headed north to the harbor at Road Town.  It was a nice snorkel, but if you got to go, you got to go!

Our last sail was most pleasant--a broad reach for a couple of hours.  John sailed and I made sandwiches.  Then we lunched and enjoyed the last of this fantastic sailing experience.

We had called ahead to let Conch Charter know that we were bringing the boat.  The normal checkout would have been noon on Friday (May 2), but we needed to catch a taxi to Beef Island Airport by 9:30 am to get our 11:30 am flight home on Friday.  Conch said that was fine, just get to their harbor by 4pm Thursday. 

We were there by 3:30pm Thursday and called Conch for their boat captain to come out and maneuver us into the docks (pretty tricky as you have to back in between a bunch of boats).  Conch must have learned years ago that it was better to send one of their captains out to your boat via dinghy rather that have the boat renters try to do all that backing--yikes.  So as instructed, we hooked up to one of their moorings and waited for a captain to be dinghied out.  First we used the waiting time to tidy the boat.  We coiled lines, secured things, etc.  Then we started washing down the cockpit (food and wine stains, ya know).  Still no captain, so be began tidying ourselves!  We still had plenty of warm fresh water on board so we showered and changed clothes.  Finally it was getting near closing time for Conch Charters, so John called again. They seemed to think we wanted to spend the night on the mooring since we didn't have to check the boat in until noon tomorrow.  Noooooooo indeed, John cleared that up and right after that a very nice captain was brought out to our boat.  He checked things out, rearranged where the dinghy was tied up and off we went to the docks.

After that, we hiked into Road Town proper to visit an ATM and have supper at Pusser's Pub.  Here's John with his Island Hoppin' IPA at Pusser's.

And here are some flowers and signs we saw along the road to Road Town.

We got back to our docked boat before dark and turned in early.  Tomorrow will be an air travel day flying from Beef Island to San Juan to Newark, NJ, and finally into Raleigh/Durham around midnight.  The hardest part of a sailing adventure, may be the flights getting to and from the boat!

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