The Last Leg Sail

cap’n alex rust

22 July 2012

We had good wind on the morning we set sail to complete the 90 mile last leg (from St. Martin to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands) of Bubble’s circumnavigation. With a full boat, I was on deck explaining some navigational markers to some of the more virgin crew when Trevor at the helm yelled that another sailboat looked to be crossing our path up ahead. I gave a quick glance at the other boat to see they were on a port tack and knowing we were on a starboard tack, I told Trevor to maintain course (a sailing vessel on a starboard tack has the right of way). However, the other vessel kept coming and upon seeing a frantic elderly women at the helm of the larger charter boat turn towards us on approach, a collision seemed imminent. With Trevor still holding course I yelled out and motioned my arms for the lady, who was in turn yelling below deck for who was probably her husband, to turn upwind which she finally started to do at the last second, with her bow missing our stern by a few short feet. All I could think was of the 30,000 miles we had made so far and with less than 100 to go anything could still happen and I needed to stay alert (hard to do with 20 of my best friends around, some of which I hadn’t seen in years, all in party mode).

Of course Bubbles wouldn’t sail from one port to the next without a little exploration and so we diverted course to the uninhabited Dog Island of Anguilla. On the way I showed Drew Royalty how to judge how distant land is based on our eye height above sea level and in no time at all he was accurately estimating island distances on our horizon. When we arrived at Dog Island there were a few moans as to where the bars would be found on the deserted white sand beach, but within an hour’s time those moans were turned to excited laughter as the crew began collecting seashells and sharing with one another each of their newly found treasures. A small group of us went exploring further to find the island wasn’t so deserted after all with a resident feral goat population, land lizards, ginormous hermit crabs and hundreds of nesting seabirds among the island’s interior scrub and cacti.

Back to our two ship fleet (Bubbles and her shadow, the Ghost ship) we set sail again, pointing our bows into the setting sun as we had done so often on our westward circumnavigation. Being the last sunset at sea we celebrated aboard Bubbles with a bottle of wine that had sailed with us around the world. We toasted the sun for the beautiful day it had given us. Panu broke out the guitar while Marta lead us is some Spanish singing. That night bodies littered the boat as we sailed towards the British Virgin Islands. Those awake practiced finding constellations with our laser pointer in the star filled night sky that only the open ocean can provide. We took shifts on watch, but with many navigational novices on board I woke every couple hours to check our position and rightly so, as on one check I found us heading directly for reef that would have surely sunk the ship had we collided. By sunrise we found ourselves sailing past Necker Island (home of Sir Richard Branson) with no sight of the Ghost ship. Then, just as any good ghost ship would, they appeared suddenly on our stern quarter slowly gaining on us until reaching by our side as we sailed quietly into the islands we had departed from nearly three years before. I shed tears as I looked upon the recognizable islands that surrounded us. We were actually going to make it…

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