Caribbean adventures of the Namastes, Part II — Norfolk to Virgin Islands

This is part II of a multipart series about our adventures aboard S.V. Namaste, our 46 foot (length on deck) cutter rigged sloop. Couples aboard a boat are often referred to by their boat’s name. Hence, we became “the Namastes.”

Soon after our arrival in Norfolk, Virginia, Jeanie and I, plus Fiester and Fritz who joined us there, departed soon after a large collection of other cruisers for Road Town on the island of Tortola in the British Virgins. This is an account of our trip. 

Caribbean 1500 members inspected their own and each others’ boats to find any probable glitches. The principal Namaste glitch was that our single side band radio, needed for long range transmissions, was not functioning properly because our 12 volt batteries had not charged sufficiently. Although we did not then have a generator, the fix was simple and obvious: run the diesel propulsion engine more often, even with the propeller disengaged.

We were slightly delayed when the race began because two members of our intended crew did not understand that we had fixed the radio problem or how. When they knew that all was well, we departed without incident. Out in the Atlantic, we soon caught up with boats that had preceded us and entered the Gulf Stream shortly before nightfall. It was obvious that we had entered the Gulf Stream because the water temperatures were higher and the water was clearer. We removed our cumbersome but warm foul weather gear which had been great when we left Annapolis in late October and Norfolk in early November. The plan was to cross the Gulf Stream as quickly as we could, which meant using our diesel engine because the winds, out of the East, were on Namaste’s nose.

Once through the Gulf Stream, we headed South on a direct course to Tortola. There were at least twice-daily radio communications with others in the race, to report positions and also to discuss any problems and mull over solutions. We had no problems that we could not solve without bothering others. Nothing broke and our radio functioned properly. A few others did have problems, and the suggestions were helpful and appreciated.

Here’s a slightly damaged photo of Namaste under sail in light winds. I don’t know who took it, but obviously is was someone on another boat. Nor do I know where it was taken, but it’s fairly representative. In stronger winds, 25 -30 knots from abeam, Namaste heels at 20 – 25 degrees.

Under sail in light winds

At night we stood four hour watches in the cockpit. I wanted two people on watch during hours of darkness. To make that as easy as possible, the first watch began about two hours before darkness. When it was half over, a second watch stander joined the first, who then left at the end of his watch and was replaced by a fresh watch stander. The process repeated itself until a couple of hours after daybreak each day.

Various instruments down below — particularly the GPS and radar screen — could be seen from the cockpit. Beyond monitoring them and the instruments in the cockpit, there was little to do, aside from watching for the lights of other boats, steering Namaste and making sure that our Siamese cat, Cappy, didn’t get into mischief and fall overboard. Although he didn’t, he got into plenty of mischief later. That’s for later posts, but here’s a photo of Cappy relaxing in, for him, happier times ashore:

Nov25005 The boats participating in the race soon became widely separated and, with rare exceptions, we were not in visual contact with any of them except at the beginning and end.

Here’s a photo of Fritz bracing himself on the foredeck. I telephoned him on New Years Day and he reported that, at the age of ninety, he still enjoys sailing and does it fairly often.


The entrance to Road Town would have been quite easy during the daytime, but we approached and entered well after dark. It’s a narrow passage and we had steep cliffs to our starboard and, as I recall, low land to port. Consistently, as I recall, our charts showed shallow water to port. I steered Namaste while keeping an eye on the GPS map, the radar screen and depth sounder. Fritz stood at the bow, watching the cliff to warn if he thought we were getting too close for comfort and, if so, to suggest that we deviate a bit to port. The radar, GPS and depth sounder were happy with our course and so was I.

We got through the entry passage safely, found the marina where we were to dock, and did so with assistance from other recently arrived sailors to whom we threw dock lines which they secured to bollards. Cappy was the first to jump ship. He rolled around joyfully on the dock. Once we got Cappy back on board, we all had a good sleep.

The next morning, I took our boat papers (U.S. documentation) and passports to the local customs and immigration officials, as has to be done at every port of entry. We were promptly cleared into Tortola and all, except for Cappy, were permitted to leave Namaste. Since the British Virgin Islands have animal quarantine rules intended to prevent the entry of rabies, pets are not allowed to disembark. Cappy did not appreciate such rules and almost came to a bad end later soon after we had docked in St. Lucia, a former British colony, by jumping ship and boarding a boat belonging to a customs official. More about Cappy in later episodes.

Here we are ashore in Road Town. From left to right, Fiester, Jeanie, Fritz and me.

Ashore in Road Town

There were Caribbean 1500 parties and an award ceremony, at which Namaste got a certificate for coming in 5th in her class. Fritz got busy making sure that our outboard dingy motor functioned properly, checking our diesel engine and exploring the town. We all tried to get Namaste shipshape and ready to depart.

Several days after our arrival, Fritz and Fiester left to return home. Jeanie and I then left Tortola to explore, briefly, other British Virgin Islands. Then we made a brief excursion to St. John, largely a nature preserve. Sailing was great, with generally easterly winds abeam permitting the  fastest and most comfortable point of sail. Here’s a copy of one of Jeanie’s watercolor paintings showing the entrance to the ruins of an old rum factory in St. John:

Paint026 copyNext, we headed to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgins where, after completing the entry formalities, we spent several days exploring the island while a few minor repairs were made at the boatyard. Here’s a map of the Virgin Islands:


Here, for general reference, is a map of the entire Caribbean:


Our path took us to most of the islands, then to Trinidad, Venezuela, the Netherlands Antilles, Colombia and eventually Panama. Our first destination after St. Croix was  Antigua, to the south east, permitting a pleasant beam reach. St. Martin was closer but almost due east, which would have required us to head almost directly into the wind, not a good point of sail.

Part III will deal with our trips to Antigua and the island of Nevis, to the west.

About danmillerinpanama

I was graduated from Yale University in 1963 with a B.A. in economics and from the University of Virginia School of law, where I was the notes editor of the Virginia Law Review in 1966. Following four years of active duty with the Army JAG Corps, with two tours in Korea, I entered private practice in Washington, D.C. specializing in communications law. I retired in 1996 to sail with my wife, Jeanie, on our sailboat Namaste to and in the Caribbean. In 2002, we settled in the Republic of Panama and live in a very rural area up in the mountains. I have contributed to Pajamas Media and Pajamas Tatler. In addition to my own blog, Dan Miller in Panama, I an an editor of Warsclerotic and contribute to China Daily Mail when I have something to write about North Korea.
This entry was posted in British Virgin Islands, Caribbean, Namaste, Sailing, U.S. Virgin Islands and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Caribbean adventures of the Namastes, Part II — Norfolk to Virgin Islands

  1. Tom Carter says:

    Dan, you should write a book about your travels on Namaste and sailing in the Caribbean.

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