Island of the Blue Dolphins
Scott O’Dell (1960)
A Native American girl lives for years as the only inhabitant on a small dolphin-shaped island off the coast of California. Based on the true story of Juana Maria, the last of her Channel Island tribe, who survived alone for nearly two decades before she was discovered in 1853. O’Dell imagines how the girl came to be stranded and how she survived, found food, built shelter, and defended herself against a pack of wild dogs, forever looking to the horizon for her people to return.
I loved Island of the Blue Dolphins when first introduced to it in elementary school and revisiting it now, I was entranced all over again. This was the book that sparked my love of island fiction, a genre that continues to capture my imagination to this day.
(Past island book reviews include The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, and San Miguel by T.C. Boyle, also set on a remote Channel Island.)
Sunday, 12 April 2009
Sail to Peter Island, Overnight in Great Harbour
- A few brief periods of rain showers throughout the night. Nothing gets you up faster than rain falling on your face through the open hatch overhead. Usually the storm was finished by the time we’d gotten all the portholes and hatches closed and we’d go around opening them all up again.
- Grabbed some coffee before our 7:30 boat briefing. A Sunsail staff member gave us the onboard rundown of (hopefully) everything we’ll need to know to take command of the boat (charging batteries, using the toilets, radio frequencies to monitor, how to call for help, etc.) We impressed him by having not one but two note-takers on board. I try to absorb as much information as I can.
- Our captain, Rick, and first mate, Jenny, head off to the “Captain’s Briefing,” a mandatory meeting where Sunsail gives them a status update of weather and conditions in the area, as well as tips for where to go and what to avoid.
- Promptly at 9 am, our delivery of provisions from Bobby’s Market arrives. Two cart loads of supplies include a case of wine and two cases of local beer, Red Stripe, which just happens to be this Chicago crew’s on-board summertime beverage of choice.
- A flurry of of groceries ensues. Think of it as unloading four shopping carts full of stuff (dry goods, fruit, veggies, frozen meat, snacks, paper products, and lots of bottled water.) It’s a little like a big puzzle figuring out where to stash everything in every nook and cranny of the boat.
- A final quick run to the nearby market to stock up on SPF800 sunscreen.
- Repairs on the fridge/freezer are complete and the batteries fully charged; the mechanic gives us the thumbs up and we’re good to go.
Then the real fun begins, shoving off and figuring out where the heck we were headed.
- Our destination was Great Harbour, but a domino effect of confusion results when conflicting GPS readings, old maps and guide books (only two years old, mind you) with out-dated land marker info and no mooring balls where we were told they would be have us zig-zagging back and forth between coves of unknown name.
- Finally, trusting one photo clue from the chart book and the hand-held GPS, we head into our destination point on Peter Island and drop anchor in the SE corner of the bay.
- There are a handful of boats at anchor in this quiet, relaxing overnight spot. Napping and book reading commence.
- The first swim! Everybody’s in the water. Though it’s a bit chilly to dip your toe into, once in, it’s wonderfully refreshing. The water is very salty. Swam a 360 around the boat then hosed off with the shower on deck.
- Dinners will be split between restaurants and meals we cook on board in the galley with an emphasis on the BBQ grill hanging off the deck. Our first night “at sea,” Karen and I have KP duty. We grill steak, onions and peppers for fajitas while the rest of the gang enjoy cocktails on deck. After a full day out on the water, everyone has a good appetite and the meal is a success, with plenty of leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.
- The sun sets by 6:30 and we dine by the deck lights.
- Stargazing before bed. Once again, our sleep is interrupted a few times during the night by brief rain showers.
This weekend, I have my first big planning meeting for our sailcation in the British Virgin Islands. In doing research to plan our route through the islands in April, I thought it would be a good time to revisit last year’s trip. Installments of my 2009 trip journal and photos to follow in the days to come.
Saturday, 11 April 2009
- We fly from Chicago to Puerto Rico and then on to Tortola where we will claim our boat in Road Harbour. Passports required, since we’ll be in the British Virgin Islands. Biggest challenge (next to figuring out just how much food to provision a 48-foot sailboat with a crew of six for a week) was fitting all my gear into a duffel bag big enough to hold everything but small enough to stow (not check) on the plane. (No one wants to be held up at the marina, waiting for a luggage delivery.)
- First hurdle cleared when all our luggage fits in the overhead bin. (The medium adventure duffel bag from L.L. Bean turned out to be a great buy. You can stuff a lot in it (especially when combined with packing cubes) and it stows away easily in the plane and on the boat, where storage is at a premium.)
- After a short layover in San Juan, we board an island hopper for the 40-minute flight to Beef Island, Tortola.
- Other than a helicopter ride in Hawaii, this is the smallest aircraft (eight passengers) I’ve ever flown in. The flight was smooth and gave us a nice overview of the Virgin Islands.
- Clearing customs is a snap, especially if you don’t use green pen to fill out the form.
- Sunsail (the charter company) picks us up at the airport for the 10-minute ($9) shuttle ride to the marina.
- We’ve arrived! Our boat (The Wandering Eye) is almost ready. They’re tinkering with some technical problems, having to do with the refrigerator.
- The crew explores the boat and hangs out on deck, enjoying the warm breeze. (Though it’s April, for us midwesterners, spring is a good month off, so we’re just thrilled to be in the sunny warmth, free from bulky winter coats.)
- The sun begins to set and we all note that it’s setting earlier than it does in Chicago. (It’s not until a few days into the vacation that it dawns on me why–we’re near the equator, where no matter what time of year it is, you have 12 hours of sunlight. Duh.)
- Technical problems with the boat persist and they’ll have to continue looking at it in the morning. (Boats chartered by the week are turned around quickly, kind of like floating hotel rooms; guests return their boat in the morning, unload their stuff, and check out. Cleaning and maintenance crews tidy up, restock the boat with the basics, and attend to any repairs before the next crew boards the boat that evening.)
- We don’t unpack too much, since we may have to switch to another boat, depending on the outcome of the fridge problem. Luckily our provisions (purchased on-line from a local grocery) won’t be delivered until tomorrow.
- There aren’t any dining options within walking distance and it’s getting late, so we opt to have dinner at the restaurant overlooking the marina. The food is decent, nothing spectacular and overpriced. We all enjoy our first (of what would be many) painkillers, the local specialty drink, a frothy mixture of rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and cream of coconut, dusted with nutmeg.