In darkness, Cutter Loose crosses 18 degrees, 28 minutes north, the official finish line of the Caribbean 1500. The time is 1:45 AM. Street lights on the hills of Tortola are visible now. From here, we creep along slowly, threading the needle through a group of small islands known as the Dogs. There are no aids to navigation to guide our way, lighted or otherwise. We rely on radar to keep us off of the rocks. Once past the Dogs, the outline of the mountains against the night sky confirms that we have arrived in paradise.
Now in the deeper waters of Sir Francis Drake Channel, we navigate past Beef Island Airport and the lights of the capital city, Road Harbor. Nanny Cay Marina is just a few more miles to the southwest. The VHF comes alive with the voice of Mia, our Caribbean 1500 support hostess, welcoming Team Cutter Loose to Tortola and guiding us to our slip, At 5:30AM, we raise our yellow Q flag and glasses of champagne, giving thanks for a safe passage and congratulating ourselves on the accomplishment of our objective. The roosters join in the celebration with their early morning cacophony. The morning work shift at Nanny Cay Marina has begun to arrive. For them, the day has just begun. For the crew of Cutter Loose, we barely muster the energy to collapse into our bunks, thankful that the boat is finally flat in the water and motionless.
By noon, we are up and about, exploring our new environs. We are surrounded by steep green mountains, lush with vegetation. But something is not quite right here in paradise. I am having difficulty adapting to my new surroundings. Alone on night watch at sea, my mission is clear. Decisions come easy. Here on land, I weave aimlessly along the docks, incapable of walking in a straight line. Everything seems complicated. I am indecisive, lacking focus and purpose. Somehow, I manage to complete the paperwork to clear Customs. Afterwards, I am in a daze, my mental acuity impaired. The psychological adjustment of landfall is taking its toll.
Later in the evening at a beach barbeque, other Caribbean 1500 sailors confess similar post-landfall traumatic shock symptoms. While this is reassuring, it does little to ease my disorientation. Perhaps things will seem clearer tomorrow.