I am writing this on the boat because if I wait until I get home, I may not be able to capture the sense of tranquil pleasure that reigns here. There's been no rain, but at the moment, a rainbow hovers just out of reach, ribboned over the sea. It looks so solid you'd expect it to cast a shadow. We're anchored in a small bay at Great Dog Island, across the channel from Virgin Gorda, and it's easy to imagine that we are the only people in the world. No one lives on Great Dog Island; it's all sandy beach and banks of wind-stunted trees. The only way to reach it is by boat, and no one else seems to have thought of coming today. This is bliss.
We set out from the harbor early this morning because the first light was so beautiful that none of us wanted to miss it. A good wind came up, and we stayed under full sail until we arrived here. The sea is calm now, with little patches of froth at the tops of the gentle waves. Ocean Kestrel, the ship, sits deep and moves through the ocean as though the water were thick, like a spoon going through butter. I like the mild noises of this boat: the stiff sound of wind in the four sails, the hiss that the prow makes as it cuts through the sea. There is a motor, but unlike many sailing yachts, the Kestrel resorts to it only when the wind has gone flat, or when it blows across the narrow entrance to a harbor. It's a good-size vessel; at 72 feet, it's a graceful craft, long and sleek. The skipper, Geoff Parsons, built it himself, every piece of it, a project that he calculates took him 27,000 hours between 1984 and 1990. You can sense the love and care that have gone into every detail--no shipyard boat could ever feel quite like this.
Ocean Kestrel, a charter boat with a crew of three, sleeps as many as eight paying passengers, though six is the ideal number. Above, there is a vast deck with cushions for sunbathing and a lovely aft dining area. Below, the fittings are elegant, but the space is constrained, as is usual on sailing yachts (you would not want to be on board during a long spell of rain). We're in the Virgin Islands for a week, but the boat plies its way from Puerto Rico down to the Grenadines. If you have a month to spare, you can do the whole archipelago; the Kestrel will go anywhere in the Caribbean, for any number of days.