Sailing in the BVIs – Day 1: New Friends

Our crew of 6 arrived to Tortola via St Thomas aboard the last “fast ferry” of the day. The transfer from the airport to the ferry was fast, thanks to not having any checked baggage to wait around for.  We took a taxi right outside the airport ($10 per person) and got to the ferry terminal in less than 10 minutes (about 45min after landing at the airport).  We waited about an hour for the ferry to depart. Yolanda got to catch up with our friends and crew while Nestor played with the overly complicated camera gear that he still is trying to figure out. More on this gem later.

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Above: The crew getting excited about free rum tasting at the St Thomas Airport

After a beautiful, fast trip to Road Town we arrived at the dock a few minutes before 5pm. TMM, the charter company we used, had a taxi waiting for us at the ferry terminal, and since the TMM marina is within a mile of the Ferry station (we could actually see the masts of the boats in the distance), we thought we would be at the marina in just a few minutes. Those few minutes turned into a 2-hour process. We have no idea why, but this was the slowest immigration line we have seen. It took over one hour to clear just one small ferry of passengers.  They had 2 officers working and they seem to be working at a relaxed but not overly “island time” way.  I guess immigration is just a slow process that takes much longer than you think. So Lesson #1, clearing immigration in Road Town takes an hour or more, so plan accordingly.

We finally arrived to the Marina just before 7pm. Our boat, a beautiful Helia 44 called Ohana was waiting for us in all her glory. This is one beautiful yet quirky boat that was 80% perfect and 20% WTF. Seriously. How else do you describe the fact that they forgot to link the port forward head to a holding tank. That’s right. This means that you either flush your poop into the anchorage (which we didn’t do) or simply accept the fact that this 3 head boat is truly a 2 head boat except when in areas where you can open the tanks.  More on this later.

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Above: Nestor next to our hotel for the week: a beautiful Helia 44.

Soon after we arrived to the boat and put our stuff down, a van from RiteWay pulled up with our provisions (groceries). We ordered provisions online to save us the trip to the grocery store, a decision we would soon regret. The provisions came in eight or so large boxes fully packed. We signed the papers, put the stuff that needed to be refrigerated away and went to eat at the amazing Sharky’s Cantina across the street from the TMM marina. This place was just perfect. Great drinks, awesome ocean-inspired Mexican food, and a great atmosphere full of cruisers.  We highly recommend them as your pre-charter dinner.

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Above: The entire crew at Sharky’s enjoying some pre-charter drinks

Back to the provisions. Don’t assume the stuff you order online is the same stuff that will be delivered.  Throughout the week we kept realizing how wrong our order was. There were several items on the original list that did not make it to the boat, and there were items they changed assuming it didn’t matter if we ordered version X but we got version Y. In most cases they were right – it didn’t matter much, but for others it was a problem. For example, we purposely ordered a few vegan items (i.e., vegan burgers, etc) but these were replaced with vegetarian ones, which unfortunately meant that the vegan crew (Yolanda) could not eat (fortunately she found Morningstar vegan Riblets at Riteway and all was well for the week). We later realized that the final receipt was for $60 less than the original, so at least we didn’t get charged for the missing stuff.  But the consequence of this was several trips to the store, which negated the entire purpose of having things delivered to the boat. So Lesson #2: check your groceries while at the Marina to make sure you don’t need to run to the store to get missing items. Or better yet, just send two crew members to the store to get all provisioning using a pre-planned meal list. This second option is likely what we will do in the future. There is nothing like being at the store to pick up exactly the cookies (or vegan Riblets!) you want!

We came back from eating dinner at the Cantina and simply crashed. We would be doing the boat checkout the next morning bright and early at 8am and had already been awake since 3am.  We laid down on our aft berth and fell asleep to that unmistakable gentle and captivating motion of a boat (and soothing sounds of the water pump).

Then we heard a knock on the window. “Is Nestor there?” What the heck? Who could be calling us by name at some random marina in Tortola?

Nestor came out and saw Frank, the owner of Let It Be, another Helia 44 that was anchored at the same marina. Frank had heard from our online friends David and Amy from Starry Horizons, that Nestor might be interested in one day buying a Helia 44 and putting it into Charter with a company like TMM. So he was glad to share his thoughts on the Helia and being a charter owner.

“Come have a beer with us,” he said.

So Nestor spent a couple of hours drinking beers aboard Let it Be, chatting about everything from cycling, to boats, to the ins and outs of being a charter owner. This is one of the things that we love about sailing. Sailors are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Thank you Frank and Mary for that wonderful welcome to the TMM marina!

Coming up on Day 2: The stuff they don’t tell you during check out. Poop. And Willy Ts. Or lack thereof.

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