My wife Marie and I were hired to operate a charter boat in the Virgin Islands. The boat Water Lily, a fifty-three-foot ketch-rigged motor sailer, was berthed at Yacht Haven, a marina in St. Thomas.
On this particular day, we left the marina with a doctor and his wife aboard. They had chartered the boat for a week. This was their first visit to the islands and they came aboard as excited as kids on Christmas morning.
Marie cast off our dock lines and climbed aboard. We powered out into the harbor, where we set the main, mizzen, and jib. We then headed for the fabulous cruising waters of the nearby British Virgin Islands. As with all of our charter parties, this couple couldn’t get over the crystal clear atmosphere and the incredibly blue waters of the Caribbean. These conditions, coupled with dependable trade winds, make for superb sailing.
That afternoon, after a lovely sail past St. John, Great and Little Thatch, we stopped at West End, Tortola, a port of entry for the B.V.I. At the Customs and Immigration Office, we filled out the proper forms and were officially entered into British territory.
With the formalities over, we set sail for an uninhabited island with a dazzling, white-sand beach.
We anchored in gin-clear water. Our guests stood with me at the bow, taking in everything, as I lowered the anchor. Though the water was about twelve feet deep, the anchor was clearly visible as it settled on the bottom.
A few feet from where I dropped the hook, a starfish, annoyed because I interrupted his siesta, inched away from the disturbance. It seemed almost as if a Hollywood film crew had placed him there beforehand. Our guests were enthralled.
Following my hand signals, Marie backed the boat down with a little reverse power on the engine. The guests and I watched the big flukes of the Danforth burrow into the sand. We were now well anchored for the night
This was in the sixties, and there weren’t nearly as many charter yachts cruising in these waters then as there are today. Consequently, we had the placid anchorage all to ourselves.
Marie planned to serve chicken, baked potatoes, and tossed salad for dinner that evening. She suggested a cookout ashore. Our enthusiastic couple thought that sounded great.
Marie consulted her check-off list to make sure we didn’t forget anything. We loaded the dinghy with all of her goodies, plus four of our folding beach chairs. Then the three of them swam ashore. I rowed in.
On our first visit to this particular anchorage we had built a charcoal fire enclosure from rocks we found back in the bushes. Our little fireplace, under the palms, was still intact and could be used again; we carried our own stainless steel grate.
After getting the charcoal going, Marie then placed the foil-wrapped potatoes on the hot coals.
While the potatoes were cooking, we enjoyed a bit of libation from the cooler. When it was time for the chicken to go on, the doctor said, “Marie, if you don’t mind, I would love to do the grilling.” “By all means,” she said, smiling. “I don’t mind at all.” She placed the grate over the coals, and then set out the pieces of chicken, marinade, brush, and tongs.
“Okay, Doctor,” she said, “you can take over now”
I watched our happy chef as he expertly basted and flipped the chicken and commented on his dexterity.
“Well, handling something like these tongs is second nature to me, George, you see, I’m a surgeon and good with my hands.”
Now, how ‘bout that?
The chicken sizzled, and the dripping fat sputtered on the hot coals. The ensuing smoke, drifting up from the grill, gave off a tantalizing, mouth-watering aroma that could knock your socks off.
“Gee, this smells mighty good, Marie,” the doctor said. “What’s in this marinade?”
(Continued on my next post)