Tortola, British Virgin Islands, was the first stop after our crossing of the Caribbean Sea. We had written an e-mail to a marina in Road Harbour, but received no reply. When we arrived there, the employee was not friendly. When he heard that we still had to clear in, he was quite annoyed. We were supposed to go back out, anchor in an area in the harbour and come back with the dinghy to go ashore to the clearance point. Mathias asked if the SAN couldn’t count as a dinghy and he could just leave from the jetty now. That is possible in most other countries. The only condition usually is that the crew is not allowed to disembark until the captain has registered everyone. The marina employee had no sense of humour and there would also had been a fine if we proceeded in this way. So we cast off again. There is not much space in front of the marina entrance, so you can’t pay out as much chain as you like. This meant that I stayed on board and Mathias went back ashore alone. Finding the right place for clearing in was not so easy. The little house is somewhat hidden at a ferry dock. Since 2019, registration is only possible online via a portal that many of the Caribbean islands now use (SailClear). Since we were one of the first to do so in 2019 (process number 1538), we already had an account but didn’t have the password. Resending the password didn’t work and the official wasn’t helpful either, because it would have interrupted his mobile phone games. In the end, Mathias had to get back into the dinghy, look up the password on his computer on the SAN, do the online registration (process number 54,554) and then go back to the authority to get the passports stamped. Mathias was quite stressed by this, especially because he had been on watch half the night and needed to get some sleep. Finally we were able to moor at the jetty. This jetty was at the edge of the marina and otherwise only served boats that were being repaired. Opposite us was a wharf and in front of it were half-sunken boats, probably waiting to be pulled out of the water. One did not feel comfortable. Mathias was hyperactive and we marched to the local supermarket. Afterwards, Mathias thought about more activities, but I lay down on the couch and he followed my lead. I slept for 2 hours without moving a tick. At our age, you don’t easily put away the irregular sleeping of a longer cruise and this rest was what we needed.
The guidebook and our blog reader Helmut recommended Pusser’s Pub as a good place to eat. So we had to try that. The pub was easy to get to on foot, you just had to watch out for left-hand traffic. You can sit downstairs in the pub, outside with way too loud music, or on the first floor in a large room that is comfortably furnished like a living/dining room. We sat upstairs. The food itself was of varying quality. We went twice, the first day I had salmon which tasted great, Mathias had a burger which he didn’t like at all, the second day Mathias had Shepherds Pie which was good, I had the fish and chips which didn’t taste very good. The starters are good and plentiful. Chicken wings were so tasty that we got them as a take away on the third day and cooked broccoli and mashed potatoes to go with them on the SAN. This was also much cheaper, because eating in the pub always cost around US$100. The cocktails, however, tasted good in the bar.
The guidebook promised good sailing supply shops. There are three of them, but they are small and expensive. We bought a few small things and a new jib sheet (red with yellow stripes). Because the marina was not good (even for the shower water you had to pay extra) and also expensive ($140 a night), we soon left again.
Essential food items in handy sizes were available for purchase in Road Town. 😉
Here you can find great Caribbean and British or Indian spices.
On Sunday we went to the next bay to anchor, on Monday we returned briefly to clear out and continued to the north-eastern tip of Virgin Gorda. Another night at anchor before we left for St. Martin. Unfortunately there was a calm and it was more motor sailing, but the crossing was quiet, we watched two films on DVD out of sheer boredom. We arrived in St. Martin shortly after midnight. Since we already knew the bay, anchoring in the dark was quite easy, although our depth gauge still didn’t work. First of all we slept. Clearing in in St. Martin is quite easy in the French part. It is done from computer terminals via direct input of the data. One of these terminals is in a sailing equipment shop, very practical. But we didn’t think about opening hours. We arrived just before the lunch break and the station was already closed. The French love their lunch break, so it lasts 2.5 hours. Back to the SAN? Or have lunch ourselves? The shop is on a canal and directly opposite is a restaurant, Dock 46, with its own dinghy dock. We went there. This restaurant turned out to be a stroke of luck. The food was super tasty, you can tell that the French value good food. But maybe it was just closer to our taste again after a long time, no matter, it tasted good to us and was ok in price.
When we checked in after lunch, we couldn’t find the country of our last port in the drop-down menu. Direct entry was not possible, for the abbreviation BVI nothing turned up and under the keyword “British” we found Great Britain, but no Virgin Islands. So we had to go through all the countries and guess. Starting with A, we finally found what we were looking for under V. Something with “Vierges” and an addition that looked like British, the French name in the French spelling. The arrangement of the keys on the (French) keyboard also made typing difficult; we constantly had to correct the letters because we had assumed they were in a different place and our fingers just started typing. So it took a little while to clear in at that computer terminal. 🙂
Saint Martin and especially the Dutch part of Sint Maarten has many sailing supply shops and shipyards. Here we could let off steam. The new genoa pods are red with black stripes, the new dirk is white with red stripes. 🙂
To get to the shops in the Dutch part, you have to cover a long distance by dinghy. To do this, we needed our petrol engine, which had been lying on its side on deck since December 2021 after its maintenance. With a queasy feeling we mounted it on the dinghy. We didn’t have great expectations that it would start up again without any trouble. Of course, it didn’t work right away, but it made noises. Mathias tried many times, took breaks and tried again and …. it worked! Great, finally something that surprised us in a positive way! At high speed, we zoomed through the lagoon to the sailors’ shopping paradise.
We filled the days until our suitcase with spare parts was due to arrive from Germany together with Lukas with repairs (hole in the trampoline) and shopping. It turned out that there is a dinghy pier right next to the ferry pier. This is closer to the supermarket than the marina jetty. However, there is a market right next to the dinghy jetty, which turned out to be unfavorable for our wallet. A short walk and four shawls plus a little dress were purchased. I struck up a conversation with the vendor of the cloth stall. She lives in a shared flat with few frills because she lost everything in Hurricane Maria 2017 when the roof of her studio blew off. But it gave the impression that she has been limiting herself since that event for psychological rather than financial reasons.
Repair work: The ceiling panels get more fixing points. Mathias had built a special tool for this. This time there are hardly any little white plastic connectors left, of which we had a whole bag given to us in La Rochelle.
On the arrival day of our suitcase plus carrier, we went shopping again, there had to be enough food on board and we also had to get T-shirts and shorts for Lukas, because these items did not fit into the suitcase with all our parts.
Lukas came by taxi to the Dinghy jetty and as soon as he reached the SAN, the contents of the suitcase were inspected. He even had a Christmas tree for us. 🙂
The next day we set about sewing the jib, which had already been taken down, and we had to go ashore, go to the supermarket and buy summer shoes for Lukas. We also wanted to refuel, but we had a visit from another sailor and so everything was postponed a little. Mathias had already cleared us out in the morning, we went out for dinner again in the evening and then set off in the dark.
We had not lifted anchor in the dark before (only in emergencies). According to the weather report, it was supposed to be a calm trip. But for most of the way it was tacking upwind again, gusts up to 24 knots and about 2 m waves. We had tried to pull up the jib again in the early evening. But the slider that connects the jib halyard to the jib was stuck somewhere. There was already too much wind to go up the mast, so we left it down. This meant we had to resort to reefing the genoa for the first time. That means sailing with it half furled. This is not so good for the fabric, but relatively easy to do from the helm. The third reef of the mainsail was also used. When repairing the second reef, Mathias had forgotten to pull it through the pulley beforehand, so that still needs to be improved.
The trip to Dominica took two nights and one day. We passed a number of islands whose lee was hardly sheltered from the waves, so cooking was a bit difficult. Only Guadeloupe offered so much lee that the wind disappeared completely, but by then it was the middle of the night. Lukas and I had watch and had to sail under engine for a bit, then give way to another sailor, and I already suspected that Mathias would not be thrilled with our sailing performance, as he had to make up the lost height during the second part of the night. I only woke up again when we motored the rest of the way into Prince Ruprecht Bay in Dominica.
We had already arranged to meet one of the tour guides by email and WhatsApp. The guides also help with clearing in. It’s quite quick here and you can clear in and out at the same time for a stay of less than two weeks. There are many yachts in the bay, there are buoys and it is easy to anchor. There is no marina, but that doesn’t bother us. On one side next to us is a three-master, on the other side of the bay a motor yacht with its own slightly offset helicopter landing platform. Looks like the place to be for Christmas. 🙂
We put up our tree in time for Christmas:
Dominica is a very beautiful and very green island. The guidebook says it’s the only island Columbus would recognise if he came to the Caribbean today. We had only passed by in 2019 because at the time we were wary of only having moorings and having to check out and in and out and in again between Martinique and Guadeloupe. Instead, we visited Guadeloupe then, which is also very beautiful. And so now we had another nice destination to visit with Lukas. Who knows how long the island will look like this, because after Hurricane Maria in 2017, frogs and a species of lizard were brought in with the aid shipments, which are giving the native species a hard time. We have collected many beautiful impressions, which I now just have to write down….
Sneak Preview Dominica