Marigot, St. Maarten to Virgin Gorda, BVIs - 80 miles
Leg 1 of 600-mile northwest voyage to Turks and Caicos
Thursday, November 30, 2013
Within the first two hours of Mystique's voyage from St. Maarten, Mike, wearing one of his right green preppy golfing shirts, was already aqua-green with seasickness and basically incapacitated in the prone position under Mystique's hardtop afterdeck. The wind had gained strength to 25 knots and our following seas churned 5-6 feet after we escaped the northern island covers of Anguilla, Dog and Prickly Pear. Suddenly, a strong gust and a following wave combined forces and caused our hoisted dinghy to begin to sway and teeter. We immediately urged Mike to drag himself over to the helm and steer closer to the wind while Clint and I attempted to secure what appeared to be loosened lines.
But we struggled to do that seemingly simple task because of our precarious position leaning over the stern. So we rolled the jib and headed into the wind when the dinghy all of a sudden flipped on its hoist (davits). Donning life jackets, we soon righted it with Clint and me rescuing most of the dinghy's items. It was a harrying few minutes. But it was obvious that we had to remove the outboard from the dinghy's stern and place it on the rail board on the stern railing. Our combined Herculean effort lifted and secured the outboard. And soon after our dinghy was retied and steadied. Then we reefed the mainsail and jib, reduced our sail area to its smallest and were on our way. We had spent close to 30 minutes fixing everything and had sailed about a mile upwind.
So, I decided to head Mystique for Virgin Gorda which was a further destination, but with our sailing angle of 120 degrees to the easterly winds, we were moving well, broad-reaching at 7-9 knots. This change would make for a smoother sail, make it easier on boat and crew and get us to the BVIs faster. Any lower a course would be almost dead downwind and our speed would dip to below 6 knots.
During this 80 nautical mile leg, our visibility was excellent. Our charts had indicated a 12-14 mile range for a BVI's light to be seen, and for 2hours we scanned for a flashing three second light every 15 seconds at the eastern reef point of Virgin Gorda, but we never saw it. We did, however, see shore lights as we approached within 10 miles of the Bitter End island. During the whole day no sails appeared on the horizon; only one distant freighter passed us just before sunset...at about the same time the breeze took a break and abated for about an hour.
As soon as nightfall descended around us, it darkens fast in the Caribbean, so we were sailing totally by GPS and the stars. Venus was bright in the sky off to the northwest and gave us a good reference point, but we had yet to discover how to turn down the GPS's brightness so we had to cover it occasionally to view our sky and stars.
Nearing the Bitter End, we could have snuck in between two islands if it had been daylight, but even though the starlit night made visibility fairly clear, the wind was still 25 knots and there were no buoys or markers for our eyes or flashlights to get a bead on. So we opted to sail around the outermost island and then gype, douse sails, and motor into the calm, protected confines of the inland bay of the Virgin Gorda. When we arrived, we discovered 10-12 other cats already at anchor and a gathering of 4 well-lit-up 3 and 4 masted mega yachts all in the 100-200 foot range at the far end of the harbor. It was 9:00 pm we had slipped into a calm anchoring spot in depth of 12 feet about 30 yards off the shore and not too close to any other boat and settled down for a well-deserved sleep.
We had sailed for almost 12 hours on Thanksgiving without a nibble of turkey or stuffing, without a hint of cranberry or gravy and without a sip of any Pinot, Merlot or after-dinner liquor. After a granola breakfast, Mike had prepared some ham, tomato, and avocado sandwiches to sustain us through the day. Unfortunately, Mike never tasted them in his condition. By midday, they tasted like a meal fit for a holiday. And a banana and a few glasses of water rounded out my day's festive feasting. Much of our sail we had used the automatic pilot so steering wasn't too burdensome for the helmsman. Clint and I took turns at the wheel while Mike slept. Despite all the action on deck, I had plenty of time to give thanks for what matters most to me over the last year....health, love, family, friends, home, new opportunities to explore life to its fullest...and good fortunes. I also thanked Mystique for being a sturdy and comfortable cat.
Even though we had started our voyage by cutting a deck line at the gas dock, almost losing our new dinghy and Mike's becoming sick a couple of hours into our sail, the day had been a typical Caribbean sail, constant warm breezes, intermittent sun, low flying, billowy clouds, bright blue sky, occasional showers and accompanying rainbows, white caps and rolling waves waking omnipresent flying fish. It was gloriously and inspirational beautiful.