How Do You Know When A Cruiser Is Having Fun?
24 March 2015 | Puerto del Rey Marina, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
They stop blogging! Seriously, I don't know where the time has gone. I guess that is what happens when you are having so much fun, the time just whizzes by. Originally, my intent for this blog was to follow our adventures in chronological order, but I have come to realize that is not as important as I once thought. I will always have time to fill in the gaps and writing about what moves me as I live this life is more important that detailing everything in the order in which they happen.
Since my last post we have covered some serious sea miles, 824 nautical miles to be exact. We have traveled most of the length of the Eastern Caribbean from Grenada to Puerto Rico, stopping where our hearts and the wind blew us and sometimes stopping where the wind would not blow us. In the process we visited 19 islands and made lots and lots of new friends (both of the cruiser and local persuasion). We have spent the last few months buddy boating up the island chain with David, Donna and their cat Cocoa on s/v Merlin and (most recently) sailing in PR, the USVI and BVI with friends and family.
What a big year (well really, season) it has been for us. It has been a lot of fun to look back over my past blogs and see how far we have come and how much we have learned - not to mention how much more self-sufficient we have become. In this time, we have passed some big cruising milestones (at least for us) and I thought it would be fun and interesting (hopefully) to list them. So, here they are in no particular order:
Sailing in over 30-35 knots of sustained winds and pretty big seas. I wouldn't say we enjoyed it, but we got the boat balanced and endured on more than one occasion. The bonus was not man nor woman nor cat got seasick!
Retrieving a sail that has gone overboard. The loop holding our 600+ square foot 140% genoa (head) sail to it's halyard failed and the entire sail slid gracefully into the Caribbean Sea 100-miles offshore. The big learning curve here was about the best way to bring a sail back on board! Flake, flake, flake ... We will do it differently, if it happens again - over 600 square feet is a lot of fabric to have in a haphazard jumble!
Staying calm when part of the running rigging snaps in 30 knots of wind and in rough seas. This is not an easy thing to do when your mainsail is flapping furiously and whipping around over your head after the outhaul line snaps - we learned the calm part when the genoa went overboard. We got the sail down and secured as best we could in the conditions without any drama (on our parts). There is not doubt that Smart Move wasn't looking pretty when she motored into the anchorage in Deshaies on Guadeloupe, but the main sail was no worse for the wear and we had a great story to tell over sundowners that evening with friends.
Trimming sails and balancing boat when suddenly beset by a squall with 8+ knot enhanced winds. You know, looking back, I don't know what we were thinking. We could see the squall when we hoisted the sails leaving Great Harbor on Jost Van Dyke in the BVIs. We had the second reef in the main due to 25+ knot winds that day and set the genoa with it's first reef in. I was even heard to say "well here comes the 8+ enhanced wind" just before it hit. It didn't take long for me to get the main trimmed (flattened) and the boat balanced. The mistake I made was in asking Barry to take in the genoa sail down because we were quickly overtaking a sailboat in front of us in what (I perceived) a narrow channel. With extra hands on board (guests) I thought we could easily have pulled it in. Yeah, not so much, what a fiasco! If I had taken the time to look at the chartplotter and AIS (and I had the time) I would have seen we had plenty of room on the leeward side to pass the boat. Note to self, don't say "Shit Barry" when sailing with guests are on board, it makes them really uncomfortable.
Learning how to say no to guests when sailing conditions threaten their perfect sailing vacation. I have to say in all honesty, all of our guests were great about it - it was just hard to say "Gee, we can't go to all of those wonderful places we told you about". Unfortunately the sailing was about as crappy as it ever gets here and it lasted the entire time we had guests on board.
This one was a missed opportunity. We had a chance to practice a man overboard drill when a light-weight throw pillow went overboard. While I hope we never have to do one of these for real, realizing that we missed an opportunity for practice was a huge milestone - showing us how much more aware of safety we are. We are committed to this drill the next time something (that floats) goes overboard or maybe gets thrown overboard. Unfortunately my TWO pair of PRESCRIPTION sunglasses that have fallen overboard do not fall in this category, maybe that would be for a search and recovery drill!
Getting through, what I call the 'Sophomore Blues'. It is that time, when you realize that, everyday for the rest of your cruising life, you will be fixing something. So many things that were working when we left the boat last May were not working when we returned to the boat in November. None of them were big problems, just more things to fix. The day the chain broke off of the galley sink plug was my undoing - I just sat down and cried. It is also that time, where the push/pull of family and land life come front and center in your conscienceness, they honeymoon period is over and you are seeing the cruising lifestyle clearly now. I believe this part is not as big a deal for men as it is for women. When we left almost all of my male peers, colleagues and clients told me "Oh, my wife would never leave the children and grandchildren". I did have grown children but didn't have grandchildren when we left. I do have grandchildren now and had a child that was struggling last summer, so I get that sentiment now. I had a huge struggle with where was the right place for me to be - here or there. Life is, and always has been, a balancing act. I learned that there are many ways to 'be there' for your kids and grandkids without physically being there and that living my life in a way that enriches it is important too - so here I am.
Multi-day passages, our longest yet 3-1/2 days. They are not for everyone and many cruisers we have met in the Caribbean don't do them (at all) and they think we are crazy when we do. We really want to circumnavigate and see these passages as good training experiences. It is around the third day that you finally start adjusting to the rhythm of a multi-day passage and Barry and I have worked out a watch routine that works for us based on our habits and our individual circadian rhythms - no set times on this schedule. The way we work it both of us get 6-7 hours of uninterrupted sleep and at least one nap. Do not let me, however, romanticize this - passages are boring as hell! However, there are also wonderful moments too that will never be experienced except on a multi-day passage. It seems as though Barry and I have the temperament for it and look to be good candidates for a circumnavigation. However, the push/pull of the family thing again comes into play here. Then there is also the part about eating weird/different/disgusting food along the way - hmmm.
And then there are the things we have learned:
The best pic ops are when shit happens, yet we never seem to have the camera ready or even think about getting it!
Don't trust a rigger, maybe that is a bit harsh but there are so many things (even little things) in the rigging that when the 'shit hits the fan' could put your life at jeopardy. We were lucky to have, mostly, decent conditions to deal with our problems. However, in addressing the outhaul line that snapped we learned why our single-line reefing system was so hard to operate and discovered many things that needed attention because they were done wrong or needed repair. These were things we trusted the rigger to take care of or bring to our attention. Except for the standing rigging and major sail repair we will take care of all of our rigging from now on. It is very empowering to know you have a little bit more control of your universe - then again it could be very humbling too.
Don't let a rolly anchorage put you off. There were so many rolly achorages we were ready to be quit of and Saba Island was one. I really wanted to visit Saba (not many do because of the anchorage), but after having a trying passage from Nevis and a sleepless night I was ready to move on rather than spend another night there. Fortunately, Barry was insistent that we should go ashore and see the island - and oh, oh, oh what at gem! We will definitely visit this island again, but we will probably take the ferry from St. Martin, lol. The full story and pictures to follow.
Dolphins can brighten even the worst day and they always show up at exactly the right time. No more explanation needed. Actually all of the wildlife enhances an already wonderful life; whether it is the curious barracuda intent on following you around while you snorkel, the voracious remoras that frantically devour the beef scrapes thrown overboard while you strenuously insist they are not sharks to your guests, or watching the seabirds fish - my favorites are the pelicans.
Our friend Ann on s/v Spice of Life said nothing goes to windward like Liat (airlines) and I have discovered she is right. Good grief, this last month we have had friends and family visiting and all wanting to visit islands to windward of Puerto Rico and the USVI - this was not impossible but not realistic with sustained winds 25+ knots and seas 8-9+ feet, no one wants their family and friends to be seasick or have the shit scared out of them! It is truly shocking how much trust your friends and family will put into you just because you appear calm - oops, did I say that?!? NOT TO WORRY FRIENDS AND FAMILY, WE KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING ;)
Since November 30 we have sailed 1,276 nautical miles. To date, we have sailed over 3,000 nautical miles on Smart Move - we are taking baby steps compared to some, but we are loving life and very proud of our accomplishments!