Our departure from St. Thomas was delayed by a fire in the marina. One of the large motor yachts which was docked right next to the fuel dock went up in flames. The yacht, Positive Energy, which appeared to be perhaps 85-90 feet long, started smoldering just before we were to clear out of the USVIs. We had an appointment at 2 p.m. with Customs and Border Patrol. As we awaited our designated time, smoke increasingly billowed from the yacht. All marina personnel were scrambling to assist in dealing with the emergency. This meant it wasn’t the most opportune time to check out of the marina. Soon there was an explosion and darker smoke began to ascend from the conflagration. It wasn’t long until the visible flames appeared. All the while, a sizable number of marina staff and fire department folks stood by, seemingly having no idea what to do.
With the fire obviously out of control, in a vessel parked by the fuel dock, the Coast Guard wisely ordered the vessel to be moved. It was towed over to the west end of Yacht Haven Grande. There was only one problem with that. Beatitude was the westernmost boat on the westernmost dock in the marina! In the middle of clearing customs, we heard a frenzied call on the radio that the boat in slip D-13 needed to be moved immediately and that they could find no one on board. Of course, that was because the crew of Beatitude was in the customs office! The office staff arranged for an emergency golf cart ride down to the west end of the marina, where we found Positive Energy to be totally engulfed in flames not too far away from our vessel. The heat was intense as we made our way to our slip. Once we were aboard, the dock hands hurriedly released our lines and we made our way from our slip over to the fuel dock to tie up. Whew! We then returned to Customs and Border Patrol to complete our clearance from the USVIs. Once that was finished, all we needed was fuel since we didn’t have enough to make it all the way to Anguilla. Unfortunately, the marina was pumping no fuel until they were given clearance to do so because the vessel had been burning at the fuel dock. We had wanted to leave Yacht Haven Grande by about 2:30 so as to make it to our planned anchorage in St. John before dark. That was not to be. A little after 4 p.m., the go-ahead was given to pump fuel. We filled our tanks and finally pointed Beatitude’s bow toward the harbor exit.
Here is a video shot by a bystander on land of the vessel burning. You can see Beatitude to the left of the picture behind the inferno:
The late hour of our departure assured a nighttime arrival in Round Bay, St. John. We were okay with this because we had anchored here before after a long day’s passage from Fajardo, PR. We were basically the only boat in the anchorage on that day. And, the anchorage was fairly wide open. We expected to be one of the only, if not the only vessel, this time as well. Boy, were we mistaken. When we arrived, there were seven other sailing vessels and two megayachts already there. We eased past the two luxury yachts and dropped our hook directly in the middle of all the other boats in 40 feet of water. We put out 135’ of rode, turned off the engines, and put steak on the grill for dinner. All was serene in the calm and protected anchorage. I felt pretty comfortable that we were anchored fine, but Cindy was a little anxious about it and got up a couple of times during the night to check on things. Her concern on this night was unwarranted. We awoke the next morning with the sun shining gloriously upon us all and all boats in their place.
Our plans were to leave for Anguilla around noon. Until then, we enjoyed the last U.S. cellular service we would have for some time. We were pleasantly surprised to be visited by Rick and Sherry, from the sailing vessel, Sheric. They and their friend, Cathy, dinghied over to see us from their boat which was nearby. We had first met them in Culebra and immediately struck up a friendship at The Dinghy Dock Restaurant. We sat in the cockpit catching up for a bit before they left us. Then, just after noon, we weighed anchor and departed the United States Virgin Islands for the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. Our first intended landfall in the Leewards was the British Island of Anguilla. She lay about one hundred miles ESE of St. John. If we made 5 knots of speed motoring into 2-4’ seas and 10-15 knot winds, we would arrive sometime the next morning. It’s never fun heading directly into the waves and wind, but conditions were tolerable. This would be the last leg of the “Thorny Path” for us. The route from S. Florida to the Caribbean has been given this moniker because of its difficulty. It is uncomfortably upwind and into weather the entire way. We’ve been pretty fortunate in that we’ve only had a couple of days of really bad conditions, the 21 hour passage to the Turks and Caicos being the most memorable. But, with this final passage, extended upwind sailing would be a thing of the past for the crew of Beatitude, at least for the foreseeable future.
The conditions were gorgeous as we made our way slowly eastward. The sun set and the stars emerged as we plodded along. The gibbous moon was with us most of the night, setting behind us a few hours before sunrise. Our shifts on watch came and went without a hitch. As we neared the shores of Anguilla, we slowed down a bit since we didn’t want to arrive before sunrise. The sun rose at 6:21, and we dropped our anchor in 11 feet of water around 6:50. The harbour was much more crowded than I had imagined, but we found a small spot amidst the other vessels and claimed it for Beatitude. After making sure we were secure, we went down to nap for a couple of hours before we went ashore to clear into customs.