I never dreamed that I would get this far around the world. I didn’t even know where the British Virgin Islands were until I was told that that was where we were going on the boat. But here I am. Stuck. But what a place to be stuck.
My VISA credit card has arrived thankfully – I had to get a replacement sent to me because I lost the old one. So now begins the search for a ride up to Florida on a yacht. The only catch is that this is “the wrong time of year” for boats going up to the US from the BVIs. So it looks as though I might be here for a little while. Which as I said, is no bad thing.
I hope to visit a few schools while I’m here, and look, I’m already in the news:
The highlight so far of being in the BVIs was the Virgin’s Cup Sailing Regatta. After hearing that some boats may be looking for crew for the race, I headed down to the Royal BVI Yacht Club and let people know that I wanted to be on a racing yacht. The sailing community here is very welcoming, and in the end Bill Bailey, a well known tactician and expert skipper agreed to take me on board. The Virgin’s Cup is a race where the person at the wheel of the boat – the helmsperson – has to be a woman.
The race was from Tortola to Norman Island, and took about 2 hours. I was a winch tailer for the race, which meant that it was my job to pull in the loose ropes from the front sail each time we tacked to change direction. It can be a tough job pulling in rope when the boat is suddenly pitching from one side to the other. Unlike three years ago, when Bill Bailey’s boat won the regatta, we didn’t manage to get a podium finish. I enjoyed it thorougly however, and I hope there is another race I can take part in before I head up to the US.
I do not know where the last few days have gone, but I know that they have been filled with many new developments…
We arrived in Sopers Hole bay in Tortola, the British Virgin Islands, very very early on the 5th of October. It was dark, of course, and we inched our way into the bay, and dropped anchor for the night. This is not where we were to drop the boat off, however it was the only close place to do our immigration matters come daylight.
Bright and early at 7am we were up and headed over to the immigration dock to go through the formalities. Steve and Ellie asked for three days on their stamp, and I got the 30 days I asked for. As usual, the immigration official was taken aback that I was ‘skateboarding half way around the world’. She asked the usual question I get asked in this part of the world. “How do you skate across the water?”. I still haven’t thought of a silly enough answer to such a silly question. Perhaps something along the line of “I had to sail because I couldn’t find the right sized inflatable wheels.”
Once checked into the country, we headed around to Nanny Cay marina – a short three miles. We were all very glad to arrive and be tied up to the dock. Time for sleep!
But not too much sleep. I had on my mind my replacement visa card which was supposed to have been sent from NZ. I had on my mind working out a way of getting the rest of the way up to the Bahamas to get my US visa to get to Florida. I had on my mind my distinct lack of funds at this present time due to the lack of said visa card. I have US$100 to my name right at this present time. This needs to last me about two weeks. I figure that’s how long it will take to get my visa card.
I am sure things will sort themselves out in the end.
And indeed they do seem to be sorting themselves out. Today (the 7th of October), I was introduced to Steve and Ellie’s good friends who live on Tortola, Lesley and Sara. We visited a few bars on the island, and consequently met people who know people who know people who need crew. The yachting network is a tight one here in the BVIs. It looks as though it will work to my advantage, and just tonight I have stumbled upon a lead that may end up in me having an opportunity to assist with a couple sailing up to the Bahamas later this month. Nothing certain yet, but things are looking positive, whatever the outcome of this lead.
Total distance sailed: 1060 NM
Midnight GPS position: N 18.05 W065.30
Wind: Variable Light
Sea state: Flat
Click the image above for a video of the latest trip;
The Bahmas to The British Virgin Islands by sailboat.
At long last, the sea has flattened off, and we are able to sail without the bone jarring motion of the last week and a half.
One day melds into the next as we sail past the Dominican Republic and then on to Puerto Rico.
Total distance sailed: 768 NM
Midnight GPS position: N 19.31 W069.30
Wind: Variable and light
Sea state: Calm
I walked briskly towards the marina office, hopeful that everything would be sorted out concerning my visa card. Without it, not only would we have no money for extra fuel to get to Tortola, but I will have no way of withdrawing funds from my visa account – my only means of getting cash in my hand – or purchasing food.
The news was not good. “I talked to my friend at the bank just before you arrived, Sir. Unfortunately the ATM automatically destroys the card if it is left in the machine.”
My mind went into problem solving mode. No point in worrying about it. Something will come up to get us out of this pickle.
The pickle is that Steve lost his credit card before we even left Tenerife, on the other side of the Atlantic before we set out on out original trans-Atlantic delivery. Since then, we have been using my credit card to withdraw cash and make payments. All the cash I originally had on me (500 Euros) I also lent to Steve. Silly me, I hadn’t replaced the cash once we arrived in Tortola, even though Steve had regularly returned the lent money via direct bank transfer using internet banking.
So during this Caribbean devilery, we have also been using my credit card for cash advances and payments. Now that it is gone, we have bit of an issue. The first and foremost is how are we going to pay our customs fee in Tortola. Second, how and I going to survive once in Tortola?!
I wandered back to the boat slowly, mulling over my options. The first thing on the agenda is to contact my bank and arrange a new card to be sent to me in the British Virgin Islands…
The look on Steve and Ellie’s faces when I told them the bad news wasn’t very encouraging. A sudden quiet.
Finally Steve spoke. “Don’t worry Rob, it’s nothing that hasn’t happened before on a trip. We always work something out.”
Steve and Ellie’s minds turned to Ellie’s parents in the UK. If somehow we could get them to transfer some money to us. Western Union! “That is instant, isn’t it?” Steve asked out loud.
Thank goodness for Wi-Fi and Skype. In minutes we were connected to the dockside Wi-Fi signal, and Steve was explaining the situation to Ellie’s parents on Skype. He asked them to go down to the post office in Chingford (a suburb of London) and transfer 400 GPB via a Moneygram. Both Ellie’s parents got on board the situation and went together to the post office that instant. Half an hour later we got a call back from them telling us that the money had been transfered.
Now, the moment of truth. Time to go into Puerto Plato, find Western Union, and hope that the money has gone through properly.
The marina office arranged a van to pick us up for the 15 minute ride into town.
When the van arrived, we piled in and left the marina compound for the first time since we arrived last night. The security guard waved a friendly wave to the van driver as he lifted the barrier to let us through. The driver nodded in return. It was cool inside the van, the air vents balsting out cooled air from the airconditioning.
Every two hundred metres or so the van slowed to almost a stop as the driver courteously inched over the judder bars, as if he were carrying a load of fragile eggs. The Dominican Republic is quite a wealthy place, I thought as we drove past upmarket condos and resort-looking hotels. The odd sunburnt Western tourist appreared now and then through the palm trees.
And then the driver turned onto the main road.
The change was dramatic. The crooked yellow line apparently indicating the center of the road and dividing the two opposing traffic lanes didn’t seem to be doing anything. Or perhaps it was. If a driver wanted to overtake another, it appeared the accepted thing to do was to drive on the yellow line and overtake – regardless of whether there was oncoming traffic or not.
Motorcycles were everywhere. They were no doubt popular for their superior ability to dodge the potholes, of which there were many.
People selling all manner of things from belts to bananas were milling about to the sides of the roads, doing their selling thing with anyone who would care to glance in their direction.
Puerto Plato town center is a maze of gridded streets, most only wide enough for one car to drive down. Our driver carefully navigated his way to the Western Union office. A rush of moist hot air hit us as we jumped out of the van and headed into the Western Union office. First thing I notice are the two security officers. Both weilding pump-action shotguns. The officer to the right of the door has his finger on the trigger. I hope that he has the safety on.
The office is not airconditioned. On the wall facing the swinging wooden entrance doors is a bright red number dispenser. A large sign above the dispenser indicates that customers are to take number and wait. There are pictures on the sign. The rest is in Spanish. I notice the words Per Favour.
Thank you. That’s all I understand. We are number 56. The large digital readout behind the dark wooden counter shows number 45. We are in for a long wait.
An attractive young woman I guess to be about seventeen or eighteen saunters through the entrance behind her parents. She sits down for a few minutes before wandering outside to smoke. I can see her through the streaked glass in the swinging entrance door. Unknown stranger pulls up in a panel van. Looks like a salesman Motions to the young woman and says something out the window. He smiles. A look of disgust crosses her face. Drops her slim cigarette and stomps back into the office.
Rough town I think.
Number 56 shows on the digital readout. Steve jumps up and goes in for his money.
“Sorry Sir, you are in the wrong place,” the helpful female clerk says.
We have been waiting in line for about 30 minutes. Our driver has been waiting for 30 minutes. Our patience is wearing thin.
No matter, we are directed to the right bank, and after another 45 minutes in the line, Steve finally has his money. We drop by a supermarket on the way home, and by 4:30pm we are finally away from the marina, heading in the direction of Puerto Rico.
The situation with my credit card is that I have arranged for a new one to be couriered to me in the British Virgin Islands. It will take between seven and ten working days to get to me. Until then I will have to just hang around. Not quite sure how I will feed myself, but I’m sure something will come up…
I forgot about my credit card, and now the ATM has swallowed it.
“I’m sorry sir,” the phone said. “We cannot retrieve your card, because the machine automatically destroys it.”
We officially have no money. We handed over our very last Peso and dollars to the marina office to clear our bill, and now we have nothing.
There is one glimmer of hope however. According to one of the marina staff, there have been times when guests at the Ocean World Casino have had their credit cards swallowed. In these cases, a bank official has come out to the casino and retrieved the card from the casino ATM for them. The helpful marina staff have offered to give me a ride into town tomorrow morning to speak to the bank to see if they can help out. Fingers crossed!
Distance sailed today: 113 NM
Total distance sailed: 691 NM
Midnight GPS position: N 19.49 W070.44
Wind: ESE Wind Force 2-3
Sea state: Calm to slight
Patience is required in the game of delivering yachts. Well, at least when you have a thumping great big headwind and a strong swell to go with it, you need patience.
Our patience was at last rewarded last night however. We have arrived in Ocean World Marina in the Dominican Republic. If you’re ever entering the marina in the middle of the night (we arrived at 11:30pm), just look out for the gaudy neon lights of the marina-side casino. They are so bright, it’s hard to see red and green navigation lights!
And you even get yourself a bright yellow wrist band to let you into all the exciting Ocean World attractions. Will have to check those out tomorrow.
In other news, I got a haircut the other day. Number one all the way!