|s/y Space rocking on the Caribbean waves.|
For purchasing own boat, Tortola was the best choice of location, because of the broader market there. A tiny propeller plane took off from Sint Maartin, just the same airport where I stood the day before, holding on to the fence behind the starting strip again, and was high-pressure-blastered by hot sand and stones from under the wings of a Miami-going jet, so strong that my sunglasses lifted from my head (I am surprised my head was not lifted with them... oh my eternal lust for extreme sensations, it just never ceases). Anyway, I sat in the small plane, just behind the pilots, in a shakey plane - it felt just like sitting in the cockpit since there was no door and I could follow all the instruments during the trip. Saw a lot of beautiful beaches and lagoons that were waiting to be visited, and very shortly, I landed on the British Virgin Islands - the BVI.
I already liked it better than St Maartin - cleaner, more exotic, better food, larger and more diverse, and no slimy boat brokers like back in St Maartin, on the contrary - the guy seems to listen to me, cooperate, and give reliable service and tips. I found a great boat that I liked, I was finally making progress - the Caribbean is waiting to be explored.
I was very happy dealing with BVI Yacht Sales, and especially with Clive Allen, the broker, who was a great and trustable guy. The money transfer took some time, it’s far from easy to get money sent to the BVI, but at the end it worked, and I was a boat owner and a skipper. The boat was also partly owned by the crew member who was going to sail along with me during one year.
The yacht broker agency has been very helpful, giving me a ride to the grocery stores or to the chandleries (marine supplies and spare parts for the boat), and fishing store (I found a local fish gear store which was about ten times cheaper than Caribbean or Swedish stores, it was a complete Christmas eve for me). It was a pleasant and much appreciated service.
The boat I bought was a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey, 37 ft (that's just below 12 meters long, and just under 4 meters wide if you wonder), from 1995, called Space. It has all new rigging, a new bottom paint job, newly serviced Yanmar engine, a lot of new extras like new bilge pump, autopilot, sails, bimini, etc. It still needs a bit of equipping but it made a good base to start with.
To start with, I purchased a hand-held GPS, some engine spare parts, fenders, a bit of safety gear and so on. On BVI, chandleries are more expensive, and have a smaller choice. I decided to get the basic stuff first, like fixing the reef in the main, getting basic navigation and VHF gear etc, and then sail back to Sint Maarten, where gear is cheaper and the choice is plentiful.
As soon as the boat papers were done, I set off to a maiden voyage to the somewhat nearby Trellis Bay to visit the monthly happening there - the Full Moon Party. Now it's not like one of those full moon parties on Goa or similar - it's a family event, with lots of people getting together on the beach, with live music, bar, Caribbean buffet and a few shows. For example, it's tradition to have big bonfires on the water, like a burning man and his full moon and some other symbols. The beach shack there looks very local and exotic, with hammocks and small wooden benches among the mangrove and the palms. It was the perfect maiden voyage with a local flaavour. And the moon was amazing – unbelievably big! As I still had no dinghy, both me and crew swam back to the boat. It's really good to bring a drybag along anywhere you go!
The day after, I weighed anchor from Trellis Bay and set off to Peter Island, as the wind was straight in my back, and the sky was blue. I saw a turtle in the water on the way out from the bay, and there were dolphins in the area. I arrived to the little lagoon at Peter Island in the afternoon. It's a small island just across Sir Francis Drake Channel (a couple of nautical miles) from Tortola, overlooking Road Town. After some problems mooring to the rocks (the coral reefs are deadly for the rope material) the boat finally sat in the sheltered turquoise water, and I was ready to go snorkeling and swimming. The underwater life is amazing here - it's like swimming in an aquarium, with all kinds of fishers in happy colors and amazing shapes. Best thing is that they all let you come close and observe, without shying away. The water was warm, I swam a lot around the boat to take photos.
Dinner was had at dawn, some larger fish splashing around in the water, and then I was sitting in the dark, listening to the waves hitting the coral beach, and the crickets in the mangrove on the shore. The evening breeze was cooling; it's been over 30 degrees that day and I was a bit sunburned. It had been a day full of small situations and challenges; anchor winch gone bad, close encounter with another sailing boat with partying youth, swimming ashore with the mooring rope (I still have no dinghy), small casualties like sea urchin stings and similar... But the day was over now and a new beautiful day would come tomorrow, bringing new adventures. It's amazing how beautiful life can be sometimes. Especially with your own boat.
Here's more about equipping it, and everything about my continuation of the circumnavigation and adventures across the seas after that!