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  • Writer's pictureFatjax

16 || Sanctuary

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

Wednesday 18th March Guadeloupe - BVIs - US VIs

We left the anchorage at 06:30 for my first overnight passage since leaving Europe and our first double handed sail in at least twenty years. I think we were both a little nervous, but we soon settled into the day and all was well. We had a perfect wind angle and we passed many islands which distracted us. We saw dolphins for the first time in months, and flying fish were abundant. All was well with the world. We were making our way to safety and we felt safe.

Approaching Montserrat
Soufrière Hills Volcano on Montserrat still smouldering

Night watches had been agreed. I only had one. From 10:00 - 02:00. It was decided Iain should rest as much as possible during the day in case I couldn’t manage the night and he may have to sail single handedly. He was happy to go below and rest with his plotter, auto pilot alarm systems, depth instruments, CCTV cameras all staining to keep an eye on proceedings on deck.

I am so pleased to report, the sea sickness tablets which our good friends, Julia from Cassiopeia at Haven Ports Marina, posted to us worked a treat and all was more than fine on board. I didn’t feel ill at all. I completed my first night watch, albeit only one. The most incredible sight. Alone with the night sky, the ocean and four weeks of Steve Wrights Love Songs on download. Perfect. I sang along to all the familiar tunes marvelling at the beauty in the world around me and the time soon passed. I missed my children very much that night, but thank God they are safe and well.

I know my achievement does not compare to the fabulous feats my family, and our extended crew-family have achieved on our previous two boats and our present FatJax, but I hope this one night is the turning point in my sailing endeavours.

The following day when I woke we were approaching the BVIs! The sun was rising. Iain was grinning, looking very pleased with himself, and so he should be. He got us to safety. The British Virgin Islands. Such a wonderful sight.

The Customs office was not open, so we picked up a mooring buoy and waited. Iain got all our papers ready and I had been briefed on what to say when prompted. We made ourselves look presentable. We were first across the harbour to the customs office to make sure we were there when they opened but ...... only to be told we were too late, the boarders were closed. We were told they had closed the boarders at Midnight.

The staff were most unhelpful, rude and almost aggressive. “We are British citizens” we told them, but our pleas fell on deaf ears. The boarder control suggested we could try the US Virgin Islands as their boarders were still open, but only if we had visas. A polite way of saying .U.K off? We had sailed to Barbados and back to get visas - suddenly that trip seemed to the best decision we had ever made.

We made a high speed dash under motor from Sopers Hole in the BVI's to Cruz Bay in St John’s, USVIs., and anchored off. We were not sure if the US were about to close their boarders too which would cause us a serious problem. We telephoned the customs office (a US formality before you come ashore) and were welcomed with a relaxed 'come on over'.

Mr Trump was still denying there was a serious problem. All the amenities were open and life was continuing. We were happy to be accepted by the US Customs Officers who made the whole process extremely simple and quick.

They did not ask for any papers. They were polite and happy to help. They seemed pleased to see us requiring only visas and fingerprints. A real breath of fresh air after such a harrowing 48 hours.

We left and motored slowly on. In the few hours it had taken the world to close down, causing total chaos and displacement to so many, we found ourselves in the most wonderful Maho Bay on a mooring buoy watching the turtles and fish wondering what was in store for us all.

After a days rest and sleep and catching up on world affairs it was apparent there was no end to the world lockdown and no way of know where it would lead. So with this in mind we decided to source fuel and supplies while we could.

We also needed to find a Notary. I have been trying to purchase my family home from my brothers. In this modern age of technology, we assumed all the paperwork could be conducted via the internet and DHL. Nothing could be further from the truth. I had been sent some documents just as the French Islands went into lockdown. We had no choice but to try at our next port of call.

We left the idilic Maho Bay and headed for the USVI's capital Charlotte Amalie and into the SuperYacht Marina 'Yacht haven Grande' to refuel and then onwards to anchor in the Bay.

During the weekend, Iain found a number of solicitor’s offices in the main town who would be able to provide such a service. He investigated the route by dinghy before hand to find the quickest route to the town centre which would save us an hours walk on Monday.

By Monday morning, the US Virgin Islands had also gone into lockdown and all public places were closed. We walked all day knocking on doors and phoning people who were less than helpful. All we needed was someone official to verify by passport. My Parish Priest in Costessey has obliged in the past, so we went to the church. This Priest was unwilling to help. Perhaps because he did not know us. Iain had the idea of trying the only vaguely official institution which was open, the post office. One of the clerks confirmed this was not a service they provided. I bought stamps from another window and this lady asked us to meet her at the side door. Which we did. She was a Notary. That morning she had volunteered to help in the post office. The lady just happened to have her official record books and stamps with her. She authorised my passport and when we offered to pay, she said it was a blessing from God and would not accept anything. I include this kind lady in my prayers and trust she and her family are safe and well.

Iain was convinced this lockdown situation was going to intensify. Although he was never a boy scout, he is always prepared. Spreadsheets, schedules, procedures and of course The List play a prominent part in our daily lives.

I had almost lost the will to live when preparing for this journey. Iain sent Dugald shopping in Ipswich with a very long list of emergency supplies. Enough for two months at sea he told Dugald. I was flabbergasted by Iain’s thought process. Did he really think we were ever going to be in a place where we could not buy toilet tissue? Did we really need so many canned goods? Tinned carrots have never been on my shopping list. Ye Olde Oak Ham however, was a must! It was taken around the world by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in 1969, it was carried to the summit of Mount Everest by Sir Chris Bonington in 1975, and consumed by Jack Nicolson in the film The Shinning in 1980. Iain would not think of leaving our shores without these supplies. I voiced my opinion, Dugald hid.

Now, I am not only eating my words and the canned goods, but daily I am thankful for Iain’s meticulous attention to detail and planning and our very good family friends, The Smiths who’s forefathers founded Ye Olde Oak Ham company.

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