Land ho! The British Virgin Islands
11 December 2015
Sailors say there are three parts of a passage. The first two or three days are exciting, you are finally underway- the voyage has started. The boat is clean, you are clean, there’s a mix of excitement, anxiety, and sadness over leaving in the air- and you’re just getting into the watch schedule. After two or three days you’ve got your sea legs (hopefully!), sleeping in 2-3 hour increments is easier and you settle into a rhythm. The last two days, when you know the end is in sight, figuratively and literally, you are ready to get off the boat and stretch your legs, meet up with friends who arrived before you (speed is not our forte), share sea stories and enjoy a cold celebratory beverage.
One of these days we’re hoping to make a daytime landfall, but it’s yet to happen….Knowing that we’d be arriving in the wee hours of the morning, sleep was out of the question for both of us that night so we brewed a large pot of highly caffeinated coffee and drank freely. We started looking for land around 11 pm on November 19 but we didn’t see the lights of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands until around midnight. We crossed the finish line for the Caribbean 1500 at 2:15 a.m. and continued down Sir Francis Drake Channel amid the smattering of lights on the hills of Tortola. We were last in the British Virgin Islands when we chartered a sailboat with our then middle school aged children in 2007. Seeing it again, eight years later, in our own boat, was purely magical!
We pulled into Nanny Cay Marina at 4:30 a.m. and were enthusiastically greeted by Andy Schell, one of the coordinators of the race who helped tie our dock lines and more importantly, gave us each a large rum punch. Steve savored our arrival with an adult beverage or two while I celebrated the landfall in a horizontal position with my eyes closed. It was a short night of sleep as the Caribbean 1500 staff had kindly arranged a van for those needing to clear into customs- which left at 10 a.m. so off to Her Majesties Customs and Immigration Office Kate went in the West End of Tortola while Steve set about repairing some minor breakages during the passage.
The Captain of the vessel is to clear customs. Nowhere is it specified that the Captain must have a “Y” chromosome but this office clearly hadn’t had many women come in to clear because when our van arrived (and the office was suddenly quite full) the lead officer said “only the Captain may clear, no one is to be in here.” About two minutes later he looked at me (the only woman in the group) and asked what I was doing there. Duhhhhh. “Are you the Captain?” he asked with more than a touch of sarcasm. It is generally a bad idea to trifle with Customs officials so I simply said “yes, I am” and proceeded to fill out the requisite paperwork. Perhaps because I only had to complete entry forms for Steve and myself (all the other boats had multiple crew members) and he was feeling chivalrous, I cleared first and was done in less than ten minutes. Just call me Captain Kate. Oh that it will always be that easy and quick to clear in the future, but that is highly unlikely….
Friday, Saturday and Sunday were spent cleaning up ourselves and the boat, doing laundry, and catching up with Caribbean 1500 friends. We did take a fabulous tour of the island with about 20 sailing friends in an open air bus, complete with a robust sound system and several coolers of beer. We put the bus’s transmission to work snaking up inclines that my little Prius could not make, learned a lot about the history of the islands, and enjoyed a rum tasting at a distillery that has been making local rum for over 350 years. A fabulous afternoon!