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When Rogue Waves Happen to Good People (BVI, Part I)

“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest–
…Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest–
…Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”

Roughly three hundred years ago, a group of pirates under Blackbeard’s command decided that they’d had enough of working long hours in cramped conditions with their stinking brethren, and petitioned their captain for better pay. Blackbeard, with the understanding and compassion for which he was internationally known, stranded all of them on barren Dead Chest Island, where they had ample time to think about whether they wanted to a.) starve to death, or b.) get liquored up on the storied bottle of rum and try their luck swimming across the shark-filled channel to nearby Peter Island.

They chose b.), and their drowned-and-masticated bodies washed up on Peter Island’s northern shore, nowadays referred to by the cheerful moniker ‘Dead Man’s Beach.’

It’s hard to let that thought ruin your trip, though, when you’re sailing past both islands aboard a 45-foot catamaran, deciding whether you want to spend the afternoon snorkeling or just lying in the mesh trampoline suspended between the front hulls. It’s the morning after the BVI boat tour, a four-day period in November when dozens of charter yachts drift down to the Eastern Caribbean so rental brokers can poke at them like show animals, and our craft is slicing for Virgin Gorda at the speed of wind.

The sail is raised, flapping, along the mast, and its loosening folds disgorge a shower of rainwater onto the deck. The Captain spins the wheel and boat until the latter faces North, waves thumping the hull to the beat of the ‘70s Soul hit tinkling from the main cabin’s Bose speakers.

“As the sounds of Roberta Flack echoed off the sail, I settled back and wondered, ‘Just how much wine can I drink before noon?’”

My sailing companion, another reporter on the trip, has taken a seat cross-legged in the trampoline, and started providing her own commentary to the trip notes I’m jotting in my notepad.

“Fortunately, my arms were tanned and toned from a day of snorkeling and sea kayaking. What could possibly go wrong?”

A wave takes that most excellent moment to splash itself through the trampoline and into her drink, adding a devastating taste-note of salt to that Merlot.

Current Music: Cat Power, “Lived in Bars”
Current Movie: “The Hard Word” (2002)
Current Book: ‘The Master and Margarita,” by Mikhail Bulgakov

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