The Final Push
December 20, 2001
We are most definitely near land this morning. I can hear the cocks crowing, and a couple goats in the distance making whatever onomonopiatic noise goats make. The wind rustles through the palm trees and people in the pink and white houses that dot the green cliffs surrounding us are just starting to rouse themselves from bed, hopefully to feed the barking dogs.
We are anchored in Sopers Hole at the West End of Tortola. Tortolla is the main island in the BVI chain. Sopers Hole is a crowded spot with plenty of boats moored in the bay and many more docked at the marina just ashore.
But, again let me backtrack and fill you in on our last week at sea and our arrival.
When I last wrote we had just turned south after having taken advantage of some wonderful southwest winds to make our easting. We actually went quite far west almost making it over to Bermuda, at about 65 degrees west, before we headed south. This was to our advantage because the winds we would run into for the rest of the voyage would be easterly, and that meant going south, or maybe a little southeast. We knew that this wind change would occur because of Herb, our fantastic weather man, with whom we talked every day.
On the 7th day out we encountered the front that would bring us our wind shift. Unfortunately we had not gotten far enough south to be clear of the squalls and convection that were associated with the front. We thought that meant we would have a day of rain and squalls at most. But it quickly turned into two days, as the front seemed to just stall overhead. The conditions were not dangerous in the least, but the increased wind and wet conditions were certainly uncomfortable.
We eventually did get far enough south to escape the front, and were very glad when we did so. On the south side of the front we encountered the trade winds, and they were really blowing. They would be for the next few days, Herb informed us, so we reefed the main again, put up the small jib and trucked on south making a good 140 miles a day. It was still a wet and bumpy ride, but we were finally counting down the miles to our destination.
The last few days lasted for a long time, but we did get closer and close. Four days turned into three, into two, and then one last day. However, we were going to be arriving at night on that last day which was no good. We would have to hove to (basically drift with the sails up) until morning just off shore of the islands.
At around 4:15pm on the 15th, we sighted land on the horizon. It was Virgin Gorda: a little gray hump sticking up from the sea. We were thankful that we had spotted the land before sunset in order to confirm our position. GPS is fantastic, but it was certainly nice to verify it with our own eyes. We headed on towards Virgin Gorda, being careful to round the west end of Anagada, a reef bounded island that has claimed many a ship. We heaved to just between Anagada and Virgin Gorda and commenced our wait for morning. It was a long night. Squall after rain squall passed during the night, so we all stayed below and let the boat drift along. I couldn't sleep as I was very excited, but I was desperately tired.
Finally day broke and the green hills of the islands loomed out of the sea, much closer than any of us had anticipated. We opted to head for the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor, so we could tie up at a dock for a night. We sailed around to the West Side of Virgin Gorda, dropped the sails and motored into the harbor. Tying up at the fuel dock we all stepped ashore and tested our wobbly land legs.
We were all exhausted, but excited to be ashore and we revved into action cleaning up the boat, doing our laundry, doing some shopping, and checking into the country. Come happy hour we had accomplished a good deal, and the boat was looking livable again. We sat in the cockpit and toasted our accomplishments with champagne . That night we treated ourselves to an extravagant dinner at a restaurant built between boulders on a hillside. We sipped our daiquiris and ate our entree as water streamed down the rocks behind us. We walked back to the boat and all fell into a deep sleep in dry motionless beds!