Sailing to the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean 1500

Arriving At Tortola

This is the gray and gloomy view that greeted us as we motored through the British Virgin Islands.   The cruise ship Norwegian Pearl hurries past us - gotta get those T-shirts and souvenirs!

Greta looks shoreward as we slowly motorsail through the islands. Click on the picture to see a bigger version; use your browser's "back" command to return here.  

Because of damaged sails and adverse winds, we wound up motoring a lot, which raised the prospect of running out of fuel. But luckily our fuel held out and finally we were able to motor into the collection of islands that make up the British Virgin Islands.

Monday, November 19, 2007 (Day 16 of the Passage)

I was off watch and asleep in the early morning when we reached our arrival waypoint and motored past the low island of Anegada. Later in the morning, I watched numerous other hilly islands come into view, although the sight was impeded by gray overcast skies and numerous rain showers. These weren't vicious squalls, but instead transient tropical showers with enough wind to raise choppy seas.

As we approached Tortola, a giant gaudily-painted cruise ship hurried in from the sea and headed towards Road Harbour. As we got closer to the harbor ourselves, we could see two huge cruise ships docked at Road Town. We also saw lots of sailboats traveling around the protected waters of Sir Francis Drake Channel, but conditions this morning weren't particularly pleasant. If you were bareboat chartering, this would be one of the days that you don't write home about.

We had adjusted our rate of progress so we would arrive at the harbor during daylight, but the Caribbean 1500 organizers had procedures in-place in case a boat arrived during darkness, or even sans engine. In those cases, a radio call would bring out one or more fellow cruisers in their dinghies to assist the arriving boat. As it was, we didn't need any assistance.

Once we reached Road Harbour, Jeff called Village Cay Marina on the VHF and received a slip assignment. Because our satellite transmitter had been regularly reporting our position, the marina had been expecting us. Just as we headed in, a tropical downpour passed overhead, and the marina asked us to wait until the rain stopped. So after traveling for more than 15 days, Jeff now had to motor in circles to kill time. Once the shower ended, he slowly motored into the marina basin, turned into the proper fairway, then carefully but deftly backed the big boat into its slip. We had arrived, at last!

First things first: After tying up the boat, we all jumped ashore and scurried somewhat unsteadily to the bathhouse where we each enjoyed a hot shower followed by clean clothes. Once we were cleaned up and presentable, we had to go through the arrival formalities with customs and immigration. The usual procedure for arriving cruisers is to anchor out and dinghy ashore to check-in. For the Caribbean 1500, the organizers had obtained special permission that allowed boats to first settle in at the marina, then the crew could walk over to clear in. We all walked the short distance to the government office at the ferry terminal, where we each filled out a form. Jeff had to do additional paperwork, which he did inside an office while the crew waited outside, so I don't know the details. When he came out, he said that everything was very reasonable and he had no problems.

A couple of pictures of other boats sailing around the British Virgin Islands—it's a very popular cruising ground. In the left-hand picture, you can see a rain shower in the background.

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