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DEPTHS of Splendor
Geoffrey Norman
February 12, 1990
The best way to dive and snorkel in the Leeward and Windward Islands is to charter a sailboat, find the richest reefs and take the plunge
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February 12, 1990

Depths Of Splendor

The best way to dive and snorkel in the Leeward and Windward Islands is to charter a sailboat, find the richest reefs and take the plunge

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Chartering the boat was easy. A woman named Linda Owen, who runs a brokerage called Port O'Call (out of Kansas City, for some reason), had us set up after two or three phone calls. Because of the dates we wanted, however, we would be obliged to meet the boat in Antigua, in the Leeward Islands north of St. Lucia, since every boat available for charter in those parts would be at a show there. We made our reservations and were given the name of the bar in English Harbour, Antigua, where we could meet our captain, Rolf Lehner.

He was not there when we arrived, a little before midnight. Nor had any of the only marginally helpful bartenders and waitresses heard of his boat, the Azzo. Would we like a drink or a room? We were carrying a couple of hundred pounds of dive gear and were ready to get aboard. English Harbour was teeming with sailing types wandering the narrow streets carrying half-full glasses in their hands, shouting and waving to each other in five or six languages. I noticed that the men were ordinary looking and most of the women were young and tanned and beautiful. When I mentioned this to my wife, she said, "It's always like that around these boats." Well, sure, I thought, she had crewed on one of them.

"Let's take a look around," she said.

I followed as she walked past three bars crowded with people who could have been our crew. She walked straight into a fourth bar, which was relatively quiet, and asked the bartender. "Do you know the boat Azzo?"

The man next to her turned around and said, "I am from the Azzo. Are you the Normans?"

When I asked Marsha how she did it, she shrugged.

We got the gear in the dinghy and motored out to where the boat was anchored. After we had changed, in the relatively large aft cabins of the 57-foot ketch, we went topside and drank champagne that Owen had provided for us. At that moment, the trip seemed graced.

But there was one, ah, slight deviation from the plan, Rolf told us.

Oh, said I. What was that?

This particular boat did not have a compressor on board.

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