An unexpected adventure in the British Virgin Islands.
We set sail from St Martin around midday on Friday for an overnight sail to the British Virgin Islands to collect our new officer Sam.
As we sailed out of harbour the weather turned as a squall powered through.
We were soaked to the skin within seconds as we hauled up our sails.
As quick as the weather arrived it disappeared again. We were then treated to the spectacle of a whale splashing about 200 metres to our port side a rear fin followed a flash of pectoral fins.
As we were 1 person short for the 3 person watch system we split into 2 teams of 4 for watches of 6 hour duration. I was in the second team so on watch at 6pm. The SatPhone (InMarSat IsatPhone Pro) on board was still not operating so I set to work testing various settings and reinstalling the drivers, ports and software. Still no joy. Thoroughly frustrating! The number of hours that various crew have spent on this device to no avail doesn’t bear calculating. Our verdict? It’s a piece of S**T. If you want to full details of why then email me.
I was on watch with Mike, Laurance and Jamie. There was a good wind and we were making 7-8kts under a starlight sky. We arrived in the British Virgin Islands and anchored just of the famous Baths of Virgin Gorda.
The Baths are formed from massive boulders and form the basis of incredible coral formations and networks of caves and crevices.
We anchored off Virgin Gorda after collecting Sam from Tortola. While lowering the main sail I accidently let slip the main gaff halyard burning my hands in the process. The main sail fell down the final 3rd of the mast with a thwack to the deck narrowly missing Jamie’s head. The halyard had been replaced in St Martin with new polypropylene rope to prevent fraying and was far more slippery then I was used to. As the gaff fell the halyard whipped through the blocks at the top of the mast. I was promptly hauled to the top of the mast to rectify my mistake and re-thread the lines. At the top of the mast I had an incredible 360 vista of the islands with the sun setting over Tortola. Magical.
On the sail over we found out that the problem identified in St Martin with the tiller and rudder was much worse then we thought. The stock where the tiller attaches to the rudder was starting to shear off. The officers sent us ashore to swim and bask on the beach while they set to work establishing the extent of the damage and what steps could be taken to get us sailing again.
The following day the captain brief all the crew on the extent of the damage to the tiller. At this point Laurance was unsure whether we would be able to continue the voyage. There was a possibility that the ship would have to return to Trinidad to be lifted from the water and the rudder removed for repairs.
We were all completely crest fallen. We all went ashore and the Captain set about exploring options. I immediately set to work seeing if their were any boats sailing back to Europe. I was determined not to fly… That evening supper was quiet as we all mulled over our options.
The following day we worked on the ship in the morning getting on with the usual maintenance tasks and touching up of paint work followed by an afternoon of exploring the underwater world around the ship. The water was crystal clear and swimming off the ship we spotted barracudas, rays and turtles. Explorations further afield amongst the rocks and reefs revealed an array of beautiful fish and corals. Enormous gold brain corals and purple pink sea fans. Schools of blue fish that radiating ultra violet and rainbow coloured parrot fish nibbling on the coral encrusted rocks. While at anchor a Barracuda made its home under the ship. We also spotted a pair of playful dolphins off the ship which Mantoine was fortunate to swim with!
Later in the day the Captain came back with some tentative good news. He had found a shipwright able to cast a bracket to reinforce the rudder. The officers set to work preparing the joint with liberal amounts of epoxy to strengthen the wood.
And the rest of us crossed our fingers and toes for a successful repair while continuing to explore the island. In the evening we made a BBQ on the beach on the beach to cautiously celebrate and dosed on the shore watching fireflies dance in the palms.
The British Virgin Islands are described as Natures Secret and they are extraordinarily beautiful. Originally we were only going to pass through and spend 24 hours. In the end we had 5 amazing if a little anxious days.
A repair was made and we set sail once more on Wednesday. The Captain was clear that we wouldn’t know the extent to which the repair had been successful until we were sailing again. There would be a chance that the steering could fail completely on the next leg. However we were all decided that it was worth staying with the ship and testing the waters.
I’m relieved to post this from Bermuda after a successful passage. No breakages. No drama. Just 6 days of plain sailing.
Many thanks to Olivia and Roland Henry, Sarah Mace and Kama Glover for sponsoring my vitals over the past week. You guys rock and I can’t wait to see you back in Blighty soon. xx