Monday, Jan 14 --
On our first night aboard last night none of the six of us had a really sound, solid sleep. The boat was moving unnaturally due to the way it was tied to the dock and there were so many unfamiliar noises. Added to that was the way the berths in each cabin slightly "V-ed" where they were tucked along the outer hull. Nevertheless we were all up by 7:00, had finished eating breakfast and were waiting for the Conch office to open at 8:30 to start our briefing and checkout.
They were still preparing our paperwork so we scattered to run a few errands until 9:30. By that time Bobby's had delivered the food and drinking water we had pre-ordered based on our pre-agreed daily menu plan. Conch office staff was giving us advice about good snorkeling spots along our proposed route, in light of the large swells forecasted on the north sides of the islands and the marina staff was filling up the fuel and wash water tanks. Finally we had the food stowed as best we could in every cubbyhole we could find and we were into the ship checkout. The checkout not only required Conch and us to find and check important boat functions, like pump switches and gas valves, but it ensured that we were familiar with mooring rules, anchor operation and general boat safety.
By noon a Conch pilot was negotiating the Firefly out of Fort Burt Marina and into the Francis Drake Channel, using the engines. After the pilot returned to Conch in his dinghy our first challenge came when we tried to raise the main sail. Its halyard line was tangled around the mast light housing. Using a spare rope to extend the length of the halyard line and turning the boat so the wind was blowing from the proper direction hubby (one of the three engineers on board) was able to flick the halyard away from the mast such that the wind blew it off the light. We raised the main sail then unfurled the jib. After 1 hour of motoring we were glad to turn off the noisy engines and enjoy our first sail of the trip heading toward Peter Island.
Because of the forecast we expected mooring balls in Great Harbour to be taken early in the day so we went there first to pick up tonight's mooring. On the way we sailed through a short rain squall. It was only 13:30 and we got one of the last balls. While the men tied the boat to the mooring ball using the double-line "Y" configuration recommended during our checkout, the three women prepared a grazer's lunch with veggies, hummus, lettuce boats, cheese, sausage and grapes. We topped off the meal with chocolate.
For our first snorkel we decided to run the dinghy around the small isthmus to Deadchest Bay where we were told we might see spotted rays in the turtle grass area. It took about 20 minutes into the wind and waves for the dinghy to carry the six of us there. The water was surprisingly warm and quite deep with a rough current near the rocks at the point. The usual fish were there but no rays. Hubby saw a small eel almost as soon as he went over the side of the dinghy. I looked along the rocks first but as the water became deeper I turned back to look for turtle grass. The others found it at the same time. A sea turtle swam beneath us with a remora fish stuck to its back. Hubby pointed out a group of hermit crabs in conch shells feeding on something dead and I saw two cushion starfish.
It was time to dinghy back before the sun dipped behind the hills. The ride back, going with the wind and waves, was smoother and faster. After the standard fresh water rinsing/showering we started dinner preparations -- grilled chicken, peppers, potatoes, zucchini, garlic and pineapple slices. It paired well with the complimentary bottle of champagne from Conch to celebrate their 25th anniversary. It was late by the time the food was grilled and the dishes were washed. I am the last one awake at 23:00. Everyone else was in bed an hour ago.