Now that we bought the boat, the next big step was to get it from Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands to Annapolis, MD on the Chesapeake. Since Annapolis is only one hour from our home, it made more sense to finish the boat preparations and start the family voyage from there.
We determined that early May was the best time to make delivery happen in our schedule, with me (Doug) doing the delivery and Kristin single-parenting at home since the kids are in school through late June. Going in, I estimated that I would need around a week to get the boat launched, prepared and provisioned for the trip and then around 11 days for the actual offshore passage from BVI to Annapolis.
I had two great crewmembers join me on the voyage: Frederic and Casey. Frederic from St. Martin served as a captain for the previous owners for many years and had done much of the maintenance on the boat. So he transferred a huge wealth of knowledge to me about my new boat – important considering I had only sailed her for 15 minutes before this!
Casey was referred to me by our friend Larry as a great person with solid offshore sailing experience. What I also learned, it that she is living a jealousy-inducing life of spending her winters working on boats in St. Thomas, USVI and her summers working music festivals in Telluride, CO.
The trip started with me flying to Virgin Gorda on a Tuesday to get the boat ready for launch. We had left it hauled out on dry land after the purchase survey in February since the in-water slips at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor are so expensive. Upon my arrival to the yard on Wednesday, Geoff the rigger was finishing up our new cutter sail furler installation. I installed a new depth sounder and then we put the boat in the water the next day. Frederic arrived just after launch and we immediately started assessing what else needed to be done pre-voyage.
The next step was to do a test sail to make sure things were in generally working order underway – and to re-calibrate the autopilot which had gotten reset somehow. So on Saturday, Frederic and I had a leisurely downwind sail over to Nanny Cay marina on Tortola. Nanny Cay has many more services, boat stores, and grocery markets nearby.
Nanny Cay is a large, beautiful marina, with multiple restaurants, a pool/beach, a well-stocked boat store – and pretty much every kind of marine service vendor you could ever want. In spite of lots of talk about going to the pool, we ended up working on boat projects the entire time. Next time…
Between Virgin Gorda and Nanny Cay, I completed a long list of repairs, improvements, and equipment checks with the help of Frederic and a series of great BVI vendors. I have learned that in the islands, getting something done often involves sending materials on the ferry to or from another island – and various vendors partnering together to get things done. So the liferaft got sent from Virgin Gorda to St. Thomas for re-packing and was waiting for us when we arrived on Tortola. The ferry brought our staysail from Virgin Gorda to Tortola for modifications. Our new air conditioning pump came by ferry from Tortola to Virgin Gorda (twice actually since the first one was wrong). All the vendors I worked with were great, which is not always the case in marine services. After all of those projects, along with Frederic doing a detailed inspection of all of the boat’s systems and condition, I felt confident that the boat was ready.
On Sunday, Casey arrived and immediately started planning what food we would need for our ~11 day passage, arguably the most important task of our preparation. It takes a lot of careful analysis to get enough, but not too much food – and the right mix of things that you can realistically prepare while underway in the ocean.
On Monday, Casey and I set off to Roadtown for customs and provisioning while Frederic stayed aboard to continue projects. Customs in the islands is always an adventure, with agents displaying extreme bureaucratic indifference – and sometimes a shakedown. In general, you are allowed to check-out of customs the day before your actual departure. So the agent asked what time we would be leaving in the morning and I responded “we should be out by 10am at the latest”. “Sorry too late — you’ll need to come back here again in the morning” (and pay for another $25 cab ride). Putting my problem-solving cap on, I asked “well we could leave earlier – what time do we need to be out for me to be able to check-out today?”. “But you already said you were leaving at 10am”, she said. Just as I was about to launch into a lecture about being a useless bureaucrat, Casey jumped in and charmed her way into getting our check-out completed. It is going to take me some time to transition from urban life to island life…
Casey and I then acquired a massive amount of groceries as well as bottled drinking water for the entire voyage. While not eco-friendly, we went with bottled water since we were not 100% confident in the health of the on-board water tanks – and as backup to the boat’s reverse osmosis watermaker.
On Tuesday, we filled the fuel tanks and finally headed out to sea!
More to follow in Part 2…