CURRENT LOCATION: Anchored in Ensenada Honda, near town on Culebra
18 18.326' N, 065 17.979' W
I worry too much. There are many parts of this lifestyle which I fully embrace and truly believe that I am ideally suited for; however, for some reason the carefree aspect of cruising has always eluded me. I can recall our very first 'cruising' experience on our own. We had taken Ashiya out to Ocracoke for Thanksgiving (CLICK HERE to review that journey) and despite the thrills of exploration and the joys of meeting new people, I distinctly recall being worried about the weather and our engine. It was windy during our stay at Ocracoke, much more wind than we novice sailors wanted to experience under sail. Our hope was to take advantage of the forecast 1-day break in the weather to make it back to Whortonsville (where post-Thanksgiving job responsibilities would be waiting). It was also cold, and we did not know well how our engine on that boat (which did not have glow plugs) would start in these low temperatures. Consequently, I wrote in our blog, "I slept fitfully thinking about the next day's crossing." Personally, I wondered whether I could ever go cruising again.
My spirits were bolstered with the hope that the removal of concerns about job responsibilities as well as more miles under the keel would take away my worries or at least allow them to diminish in intensity. Unfortunately, they have not. As we sit here in the middle of the action during the peak of hurricane season, those around us seem remarkably unphased by the proximity of system after system. Some have come barreling at us from Africa (like hurricanes Bertha and Ike, Cat 2 and Cat 3 respectively) with wind strengths and uncertainty cones that set my hands to trembling. Tropical storms like Hanna, although less ferocious upon their approach are always poised to explode into something more threatening without a moment's advance notice. And then you must consider that these storms are not defined as a point of latitude and longitude. Instead they are a circle of destruction with a radius of up to 200 nautical miles or more. Finally, there are the systems which pass over us in the pre-tropical cyclone stages: Gustav (Invest 94L as it passed south of us), Fay (Invest 92L which spun directly over us and brought a memorable night of winds and rain), and most recently Kyle (Invest 93L which stalled to our west and brought three solid days of rain). Already we have had six named storms within a 500 nautical mile (nm) radius of our position, and there are still over two months until the end of hurricane season.
Will that bring an end to my worries? I am afraid not, dear Reader. Unfortunately, I can already feel the stress involved in the potential of moving on. My biggest worry for the future is critical equipment failure of a magnitude which I am incapable of fixing, namely our old engine. With nearly 200 nm of easting still to accomplish before we can truly begin to take advantage of these tradewinds for reliable sailing as a means to get from island to island, the old girl still has a substantial test yet before her. Not only that, but further south we begin to enter a world where language barriers become more of an issue and the distances between places where we can seek assistance and services will increase.
In addition, pointing our bow further south only increases the distance from 'home.' There is a certain feeling of security I take from being in US waters. Of course, there are services like Sea Tow and the Coast Guard to assist in the event of everything from an inconvenience to an emergency; but there are also the niceties of having a NOAA office in San Juan. This provides us with weather radar on the internet and radio weather on the VHF. Although the value of these services here pale somewhat in comparison to the safety blanket we became accustomed to in the continental US, they will still be sorely missed. And, speaking of the contiguous 48 states, we are beginning to realize that our true home is somewhere up north, and eventually we will have to return. The day will likely come where we will turn our bow to the north and head to some destination like Annapolis, where Prudence can be put up for sale. Believe it or not, we already talk about it and we feel that it will not be a sad day for us, just a transition to something else.
I suppose that the key for us at this point is to determine what we want to experience between now and that eventual day of transition, without causing the ever-fretfull Doug too much anxiety and anguish. It is a challenge which provides unlimited fuel for daily conversations among the crew of Prudence. Please wish us luck in both our ongoing deliberations and my personal battle against these largely unwarranted sources of distress.