My wife (not her in the pic. This is a random pic to protect the innocent) and I were in the Caribbean for the first time and at the end of a Learn-to-bareboat course with Steve Colgate's Offshore Sailing School (Offcourse as my wife calls it). It was an excellent week under the supervision of central casting charter skipper, Capt Tom. Tom was a gruff divorcee from Florida who looked a bit like a pint-sized Magnum PI with a beer gut fueled on Mount Gay and Ginger
There were two boats in the course: My wife and I on one boat with a jolly single lady from Connecticut. The other boat was a mixed bag: A couple who looked like Meg Ryan and Harrison Ford but were dull as crap and spent most of the time locked in their V-berth; a Canadian nurse and a plonker who thought he knew more than the instructors. We named him Captain Giblet Bag as he spent most of the day in a Speedo swim suit that looked like..well pull the giblet bag out of a roast chicken and ...er the name fit.
On our last day and night we were cut loose from the skipper and sent off sans-instructor from Roadtwon to Norman Island. It's a relatively short simple sail to the Bight. It's a big easy anchorage with the prospect of snorkelling the famous caves (apparently the inspiration for treasure island) and last but not least fun at the Willie T's.
Our boat got to a nice anchorage early and we smugly watched the other course boat come in and get tangled up for an hour as Captain Gibblet Bag managed to get the anchor chain wrapped around the keel. Plonker! God knows how he managed it. We barbecued onboard and decided to hit the Willie T at about 8:30 as things were starting to liven up.
The folks from the other boat went to bed early. My wife and our crewmate stayed on and boy am I glad we did. What a party! The best drinks, the best music and best dancing I can remember.
By about 12 things were getting interesting. Not-unattractive naked young ladies were leaping off the top deck into the water. A guy who looked like a pirate was doing tequila shots (lick the salt, drink the shot and bite the lemon) off a naked girl lying on the bar as his somewhat peeved wife looked on.
By about 2 we were fading and so I went in search of our dinghy (Easy Tman - motor not sailing kind). When we arrived at 8:30 there were 6-8 dinghies. By now there were about 50 and about half were identical white fiberglass dinghies like ours all belonging to the Moorings. Suffice to say I couldn't single out mine and I couldn't remember at which end of the dock I had tied it off. I was very tired and emotional you see. After about 15 minutes of looking I figured that our dinghy had quite obviously been stolen.
I went back to the bar, always the sensible solution, and got chatting to a local charter skipper from the Moorings:
"Don't worry Mon", he advised me. "This happens a lot. Take any of the Moorings dinghies. No one can tell the difference and they all end up back at the Mooorings base eventually".
At 2 in the morning and in my state of inebriation this all made perfect sense. And he was wearing a captain's hat so he must have known what he was talking about.
The problem was how to pull something like this off discreetly. Obviously just strolling over and taking a dinghy wasn't the way you did this. No, the way you did this was pirate style!
I jumped off the top deck on the opposite side from the dock about as subtly as a brick. I then swam all the way round the Willie T to dinghy dock. By this time most of the bar was watching me if only out of curiosity. There were bets on whether the fat barracuda that lived under the Wille T was going to get me.
I hauled myself into the first available Moorings dinghy from the stern and got the engine going. I got my wife and crew mate into the dinghy and told them to cast off. Two problems:
Problem #1: the owners of the dinghy clearly knew the drill better than we did and had tied a knot that I couldn't have untied sober let alone in my current state. It was some kind of double sheepshaggger with an overhead latte cam twist.
Problem #2; the owners showed up.
I looked up to see a very kindly 65+ year old American lady, her husband and four other cotton-topped friends staring pityingly at us from the dock.
We shuffled off back to the bar trying to ignore the howls of laughter pointed at us and persuaded the Moorings Captain to give us a lift back to our boat.
The next morning I woke none too sprightly. Tongue like the bottom of a parrot's cage; bloodshot eyes and a very sore head. I looked blearily across the Bight towards the Willie T. Low and behold was one lone white fiberglass Moorings dinghy tied up to the dock.
Wasn't it nice of someone to bring it back?