Adventure on the High Seas

A lot can happen when one leaves the quiet serenity of St. John — but most people don’t expect a time as adventurous as Mixology Warehouse owner Gary Moses’ recent trip.

It all started simply enough when Hillary Arwen and Sharon Vrla purchased a 31-foot 1969 Off-shore Choi Lee ketch sailboat, Windsong, in North Carolina and commissioned Moses to deliver it to St. John. Moses flew to North Carolina on October 28 and was expected to sail into Love City waters along with his first mate in the early part of November.

When making boat deliveries, however, things don’t always go as planned — as Moses was about to find out.

Moses and his first mate sailed the Intracoastal Waterway from Columbia, North Carolina, to Wilmington, North Carolina where they made a few repairs and prepared to set out to sea.

Second First Mate Needed
Before weighing the anchor, however, the original first mate decided not to make the voyage and a second first mate was called in for duty.

Buddy Stone, a St. John charter boat captain, took over as first mate on Windsong. Stone flew into Wilmington to meet up with Moses and set off for St. John in the beginning of November.

The two made a few repairs and set sail for Love City. All seemed to be going according to plan, until Windsong failed to sail into port after a few weeks and there was no word from Moses or Stone.

At this point Arwen and Vrla began to worry.

On Friday, November 24, Arwen received a phone call from sailors aboard a Russian tanker who said Windsong was afloat and Moses and Stone were safe.

News from Russian Tanker

The two had been caught in a severe storm with 25- to 30-foot waves for five days where Windsong suffered damage to her rudder, which made steering the vessel impossible.

“Gary (Moses) was dragging a bucket behind the boat to keep them on course and ran the engine until they ran out of fuel,” said Arwen. “A Russian tanker came by and lowered two men on deck with 10 gallons of fuel which gave them time to do some fixing.”

Both captain and first mate on Windsong performed a few daring feats and used a bit of ingenuity to keep the vessel afloat, Arwen explained.

Rigging Rudder
“Buddy (Stone) jumped into the ocean with a pair of vice grips and kept trying to tighten the rudder,” said Arwen. “They had to sacrifice the mizzen mast to use the brackets for rigging up a pulley system to get the rudder working somewhat. Then they used the spinnaker pole as a makeshift mizzen mast.”

Moses and Stone, who now had Windsong tied along side the Russian tanker, were eventually able to rig the rudder and steer the vessel. Captain and first mate untied from the tanker and set off for the nearest landfall with the tanker following behind.

Land Fall In Bahamas
After quite an ordeal, Moses and Stone finally anchored in San Salvador, a small island in the Bahamas. Stone needed to return to St. John for work and flew out from the Bahamas and Vrla took his place as fist mate — the third to take that position during the adventurous delivery.

Vrla and Moses planned to repaire the rudder and mizzen mast correctly and once again hit the open seas heading for Love City. With any luck, the two are expected in port sometime in early December.

The way that Moses handled the crisis proves Windsong had the perfect captain for her voyage south, according to Arwen.

“We have such faith in Gary (Moses) it’s unbelievable,” Arwen said. “We know that we definitely picked the right captain.”

Despite the difficult journey, Moses is in good spirits, explained Jeff Rocha, Moses’ accountant and friend.

“Hillary (Arwen), Sharon (Vrla) and I said ‘sure, we’ll cover the store for a two weeks or so, no problem,’” Rocha said. “But you do what you have to do. Gary (Moses) is really getting lots of support and best wishes.”

Staying In High Spirits
“And, you know, from when I spoke to him, he’s really in high spirits and, in a strange way, having a great time,” continued Rocha.

At least one thing seems sure — Moses will have some great stories to share.