Date: March 3, 2017, noon Position: 18 23.26 N, 64 42.08 W

We enjoyed our last passage sunset and sailed through the windy night with our storm sails set, for the final 100 NM approach. Timing worked out perfectly, and as we neared the shelf of the Virgin Islands the first morning light began to light up the eastern sky. Dawn arrivals are a passage-maker’s best hope!

The small islands rose up before us like a miniature dramatic version of Prince William Sound, swells smashing onto the jagged cliffs. As we entered Sir Francis Drake Passage I was pleased to spy Peter Island, Dead Chest Island (of Pirate fame) and Privateer Point, all off the port bow. And just for Privateer, a vibrant rainbow arced down out of the sky ending at exactly the sea cave where real lost pirate treasure was found on Dead Chest. This was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” which I had just re-read on this passage.

In the lee of Dead Chest the swells died away as we gained the protection of the channel. A heavy band of rain swept in from the ocean and hammered hard down on the boat. Again, this was perfect timing–Privateer and her sails got an ideal and very badly needed freshwater bath on arrival–score! Boat freshly car-washed, the wind funneled down the channel and we coasted along under Yankee alone, after dropping and stowing our storm sails. The good wind carried us all the way down to the west end of Tortola to our destination. Even after we rolled up the Yankee we were making 3.9 knots under bare poles and the Monitor steered a perfect course. Unbelievable. It’s like she didn’t want to stop!

All passages come to an end, though, and we busily made the transition from open-ocean sailing to preparing for harbor. Lines coiled, gear stowed, downwind pole lowered, etc. We finally fired up the engine for all of about 10 minutes as we cut up into Soper’s Hole harbor, which is chock-a-block full of boats on moorings. We threaded our way defensively through the boats, and witnessed some very alarming seamanship. Since we’re in the “charter boat capitol” of the Caribbean, sailing among the other boats here is basically like trying to survive crossing a racetrack infested with 16-year-old drivers trying to impress their girlfriends. We carefully edged over to the far side of the harbor and picked up a mooring buoy well away from the action.

At 0917 hrs, 29 days and 4,150 NM sailed after leaving St Helena, we did it!!!! Way to go Privateer! The long passage…and now we were tethered to the harbor, the helm abandoned. Nep and I looked at each other, stunned, because at that moment we suddenly experienced a complete physical stillness. Roosters crowed lazily into the morning as we both noted that for the past month, our bodies have been in constant, rigorous motion. The stillness was shocking, unexpected.

After a few minutes of bewilderment and congratulations, we got right to work pumping up the dinghy so I could get to shore to meet Customs and Immigration before the heat of the day set in. As I drifted away from Privateer with the boat papers & passports in hand, I got my first glimpse of Privateer from the outside. Her port-side quarter and rudder are covered with a thick mat of goose-neck barnacles and scum well above the waterline, almost halfway up the side to the rail. This is because we spent almost all of our time on starboard tack, with the port side hull underwater for most of the passage. It brought back memories of arrival to the Marquesas, where we discovered them on starboard side after being on port tack–all the other boats arriving from long passages had them too. To me, the green scum line and goose-neck barnacles are the proud tattoos of a long sea voyage.

The Customs and Immigration office was crowded with condescending rich white people and frustrating surly officers who went out of their way to return the attitude. Also, the juxtaposition of rapid transition from the open ocean freedom to office jockeys with badges, combined with sleep deprivation and post-passage adrenaline wearing off usually makes me feel sick and dizzy while clearing in to a new country. The clearing-in procedure cost $10.20 USD. Despite being the BRITISH Virgin Islands, British pounds are not accepted here (only USD) and all I had were pounds from St. Helena. Things were looking a bit hopeless as the officials shrugged and offered no help, and seemed overly-satisfied to tell me that there was no ATM anywhere nearby, no idea, blank stares. Fortunately, a kind American stranger in the line behind me handed me a $10 bill with a smile and insisted that I not pay him back. I will put this in the karma bank and look forward to the day I can return to favor to another stranger! By then, I had become a bit of a curiosity in the office with my unkempt beard and long fingernails (bad luck to clip nails and cut hair on the boat). The Immigration officer asked where we were sailing to from here. When I said “Florida” he said “NO, that is too far. Where are you sailing to next?” By this point I kind of lost my patience and just wanted to get my papers and get out of there ASAP. “We just sailed here from ALASKA so I think we can attempt the sail to FLORIDA, sir.” I got the hairy eyeball as he filled in the box: [Florida]. Jesus Christ.

Passports stamped, I rowed back out to the boat and got Nep, and we went about the more important business of walking around on land and finding our way to Pusser’s bar for celebratory (and strong!) Margaritas! The Caribbean afternoon heat is oppressive and our legs and bodies were sore from the short walk to the bar. We lazed around until the sun got a bit lower to walk back around the harbor.

Our beards were really bothering us in the prickly heat and I had packed the razors in our shore bag, and we stopped at the marina bathrooms to shave (remember-bad luck to cut hair on the boat!) Well, about 7/8 of the way through shaving, a very unfortunate lady barged in to the men’s bathroom, in what I can only describe as a “Privateer” experience.

“NOOO–you cannot do that here! Get out!” She yelled. “WHat?” we said. “You go pee-pee, then go. Pee-pee, then go! Not for that–you cannot DO that here! Get out! Go AWAY! You go pee-pee then go!” “Okay, okay, we will just finish up h–” I tried. “NOOOOO. Pee-pee, wash hands, then go!!” She was very animated at this point, gesticulating at the toilets, the sink, and the door. Her pitch raised into an elongated repetative monologue. There was sharp transition where polite reasoning ended and open hostility went both ways. “Okay, we got it–pee-pee, then go!” Nep shouted. This lady was actually not going to let us finish shaving our beards! “Yes, you go pee-pee! Only for pee-pee, not shave! Pee-pee, rinse hands, go!” “Can we go poo-pee?” I asked.

She stared us down as we rowed away, and like true Privateers we pretended to get out onto another boat. Sheesh! Not a good first impression of the country. The blatant & garish display of wealth, the open contempt from the service industry, and the heat seem to ignite a nasty vibe in paradise. We laughed all the way back to the boat, however, because the pee-pee lady caused one very funny thing to happen: Moustaches! Nep and I had been saving the ‘staches for last, so that we could take a funny picture in the bathroom & send it back to the family before shaving them off. It was precisely at this point in time that the fateful pee-pee lady intervened! So, we have resolved that for our duration in the Caribbean, our moustaches will remain, for better or worse! 😉

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