Its official.. We are having our one year boataversary.
I have decided the best way to look back is to create a post full of pictures I can narrate. However I there are few things I would like to share outside of that narration.
First…. Going down this path has been WAY WAY harder than I ever expected. Of course I wouldn’t be out here if it wasn’t a challenge. However I wasn’t prepared for the asskicking I received in the beginning. It seemed like the universe had conspired against me as shit broke faster than I could fix it. My chore list only got longer and longer, with no end in sight. As I write this, I proud to say that all those original jobs are now off my list!
Second… I did indeed find what I came looking for. At first I thought it was beauty, beaches, weather and adventure. I quickly realized that those things were a commodity as every new location brought all of them in spades. Nope what I came searching for is much harder to find. Relationships and friendships. This experience has not only made our relationships within our family better, but it has taught me the meaning of true friendship. The kind of friendship where life, work and culture have no influence! I’m %100 sure that is a lesson I could not have learned back in land life.
Third…… I would change absolutely nothing! …… Ok, maybe I would change the lightening strike. However, even that terrible event changed our path but lead to some fantastic experiences. There are things you can control and many you can’t, but you always have control over your attitude.
Ok, enough sappy bullshit.. Here are some stats for your nerdy types!!
Countries Visited = 17 (includes territories like Puerto Rico, USVI and the French Islands)
Nights at Anchor = 275 ish (We paid for a ball in Grenada, we should have anchored)
Nights in a Marina = 30 ish (please don’t math out what that cost and post it, I don’t want to know)
Fuel expenses = A pure guess as I didn’t keep track. About $800 in diesel. About $400 in gasoline (dinghy and water making).
Cheapest place = St. Martin (easily)
Most expensive place = British Virgin Islands, followed by Antigua.
Cheapest Check-In = St. Martin ($2usd for donation)
Most expensive check-in = Bahamas ($150usd for 90 days)
Alright on to the pictures!
This is the first time I laid eyes on what would be Party of Five. Now I look at this picture and can’t help but thinking “What a piece of shit”! Cubans may be good at some things, however they are the worlds shittiest mechanics!
Rhonda lays eyes on Party of Five for the first time. I’m pretty sure she thought the same thing I thought above.
We take her out on the actual open ocean for the first time. We motor across Cienfuegos bay and down the channel, then out to the open ocean. It’s the first time Rhonda and I have ever seen the open ocean from the deck of a boat! In only a couple of days we will need to make a 320 mile trip to Mexico.
Shortly after our first trip on the open ocean, our purchase deal completes. We checked out of Cuba and head for the open ocean. The Cienfuegos marina fades in the background. There is only 320 nauticle miles to Cancun. I have left the crew picture out as I put it in the last blog post. Again I appreciated the help from Donna, Daryl and Randy.
The very first fish ever landed on Party of Five. This starts my wife’s love affair with Mahi-Mahi. I feel inadequate that I haven’t caught one since Bahamas!
After 3 1/2 days at sea Cancun comes into sight over the horizon. Still not knowing how to sail well enough we pretty much motored the whole way. The last day we motor sailed, but at no time were we completely under sail.
We tied her up to a dock at Oscars pizza restaurant and headed back to Canada to learn how to sail and figure out how to close down our land life! I made a couple of trips back to work on her and ensure she hadn’t sank. Actually, a fantastic couple called Tim and Reba (Tropical Fun) watched over her for us.
Eventually I came back with a different crew to sail her up to Key West. This is one of the rare moments where we had some down time and got to just relax and play cards. Thanks Bob and Ritchie!
Our very first buddy boat. Barb and Stew on La Luna said we could follow them up to Key West. I think stew almost had a heart attack when I brought out a sail configuration chart. He probably had visions of rescuing us at sea!
Chris Parker predicts a small window, then the weather will turn to shit. We talk it over and decide to jump on it even though it means a night departure. Cancun fades in the sunset as we make our way into the Yucatan current.
With much relief for Stew, we actually make landfall in Key West, despite blowing out our jib sail. Here Ritchie enjoys a sweet sunset over the gulf of Mexico.
Our fist dinghy.. I can’t help but laughing looking at this picture.. Damn was that boat in rough shape! Crazy though, we still use that hand pump in our current dinghy!
Stew helps me bring the boat over to Robbies boat yard. She is lifted out and I get to look at the bottom for the first time.. Oh I didn’t mention that before. No we didn’t have her hauled before purchase and Yes we bought her without a survey! Shortly after this photo, Quincy and I fly back to Canada so I can finish preparing for the adventure and quite my job!
Is that a Daewoo Lanos. It sure is. Not only did it carry me all the way to Key West, but it carried my parents all the way back. It was then sold (for what I paid) and the new owner is still driving it. Look at how low the back is riding (she was loaded with boat gear).
This is what I traded to live on a boat. At 2500sq/ft it wasn’t huge by todays standards but a hell of lot bigger than our boat. (yes those are Canadian geese on the roof).
The refit. SONOFABITCH it was a lot of work. Somewhere I have a document of all the work that was done. Its like 60 items long and they are all pretty major. In this picture alone you can see, 1. Hull crack fix 2. Rigging 3. Bottom paint 4. Thru Hulls 5. Buffing 6. Bimini… Damn I could keep going.
It was a herculean effort, but I was able to get her splashed before the family showed up! (Barely as they showed up hours later)
The very first time they set foot on Party of Five. They ran around like maniacs looking/opening everything. However it seems so timid now. These days they can run a complete lap of the boat in about 8 seconds (perfectly avoiding all the tripping hazards).
Shake down time. We leave Key West and head towards Marquises Cay. Even in this picture I see all the work that still needs to be done. Damn there is duct tape covering holes in the helm!
I had to put this picture in here as I’m sure there are people that don’t believe I actually flew my spinnaker. We did indeed fly her and she pulled us most of the way to Dry Tortugas! (yes I should have had a reefed main up)
We make our first family landfall in Dry Tortugas. (I miss those sunglasses, no idea where they are).
We take the kids on a “Field Trip” to Fort Jefferson. Rhonda and I decide they will write about things they see. We are still trying to figure out this homeschooling stuff, but it seemed like a good idea. (P.S. The last picture in this post is a picture of Quincy’s handwriting today).
Ken and Mary of Moon River join us in Dry Tortugas and make the trip back to Key West with us. Yes that is the same boat as ours. Its crazy since we have only seen 2 others in the year we have been out here.
Back in Key West we take advantage of a mooring that a very nice lady offered us. We settle into boat life and continue working on projects. In this picture you can see the instrument clusters laying on the back bench. Daph is learning how to do laundry (bucket laundry sucks for 5 people).
Once our work was done in Key West, we head north to Marathon. It’s the first time we see a BIG mooring field. So many boats, so tightly packed.
We only spent a few days in Marathon before heading north to Miami. We followed Moon River on the “inside” up the ICW.
Who knew kids were like cats.. LOL.. Actually I love this picture as it shows one of the changes I hoped to see in our kids.
Like almost all cruisers that head south, we stopped at “No Name Harbor” in Miami. It was surreal to be in a place I had read about for 15 years. Now here we were anchored there about to embark on our own adventure.
We waited in No Name for a good window and then motored across to Bimini. I would have loved to sail, but was just happy to get a window with flat seas. We arrived in the Bahamas and were struck by how beautiful it really was.
We make our first landfall where we have to check-in. We were still noobs and opted for a marina.
From Bimini we move south to Honeymoon Harbor. Honeymoon is where we staged for our jump across the Great Bahamas bank. The kids make some new friends. The next day I will learn a valuable lesson as I pick a bad weather window to cross the bank and we get our ass handed to us!
We arrive in Chub Cay and promptly trash up the neighborhood. I get another lesson here as I anchor in water that shows about 2 feet beneath our keel (I was all smug at anchoring so close to the beach). As you can guess, I didn’t look at the tides and later at low tide our depth meter read 0ft. We didn’t bump, but I think we left swirl marks in the sand below.
We make it to Nassau. Again we are still noobs and opt for a marina as a storm is predicted. For those wondering, marinas run between $1-$3/foot/night (our cat is 39ft).
We left Nassau and headed down the Exuma chain. This picture is particularly poignant as we had just spent 2 days dodging storms and being scared shitless alone in anchorages with big wind and waves. Here we make landfall in Warderick Wells Land and Sea park. We had found a true paradise and even today this remains one of the most beautiful places I have ever laid eyes on!
Another view of Warderick Wells. The picture does NOT do the colors justice. That whitish area between our boat and the near shore becomes and island at low tide! On another note, this is the location where we meet Kendra and Darin on Sea Frog.
After Warderick wells, we head to Staniel Cay to see the swimming pigs. Not only did we find the pigs, but we found old friends we had left in Cancun. I never expected to see them again as they were headed off around the world. Plans change!
After Staniel Cay we make it to Georgetown (also called “Chicken Harbor” as its where most people turn around and head back to the USA). We go for dinner with new friends.. Oh ya, the fella sitting beside me owned Fortuna (the builder of my boat) and basically designed our boat. I know I peppered the hell out of him with questions, but I didn’t think I would ever get that opportunity again. The couple on the left are from a boat called Shiloh. They had just been struck by lightening, FOR THE SECOND TIME in 9 months.
We have some motor problems in Georgetown, but I get them sorted with the help of Darin on Sea Frog. Once they are sorted we decide to buddy boat with them down to Grenada (it seemed like such an easy thing then). Oh ya, buy this time we are having a serious beer shortage. There was no way we could afford to buy beer in the Bahamas as its $5usd/beer AT THE SUPERMARKET!
Yup Sea Frog and yup a water spout as we head towards Long Cay.
We jump from Long Cay to Rum Cay and although the island is devastated from a hurricane the year before the people are still happy. This is one of the most genuine and fantastic experiences we have. They insist we join them for a “celebration of life” and do everything they can to make us feel welcome (funeral, if you are wondering what a celebration of life is).
After Rum Cay, Sea Frog and Party of Five embark on the 32 hour passage to Turks and Caicos. Upon arrival we again opt for a marina, but its fortuitous as we meet up with Smitty (red kayak on deck).
Just like the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos is a giant bank on the open ocean. However this one is a little more challenging as the coral on the bank is more active. Here Smitty is coming into the anchorage after we spent the day crossing the bank! We spent a few days on the east side of Turks and Caicos in Cockburn Harbour (I know you giggled), before jumping on a window to Lupron Dominican Republic.
A sight for sore eyes. It was a brutal run to DR that included a Mayday call, terrifying lightening storms and big seas.
Yup the mooring balls are actually that close in Lupron. Lets just say I now know all of Jesse’s “pet” names now! Hey they only cost $2 a night, but lets hope we don’t drag the old tractor engine they are tied to!
We spent a few weeks in Lupron before jumping on a window to Samana. Again we choose to stay at a marina (I shake my head typing this). However this was a fantastic experience as the staff at the resort basically gave us the run of the place. Here they set out tables and umbrellas for our pot luck dinner.
We leave Samana, DR bound for Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. There was lots of trepidation about this leg as it had us crossing the Mona Passage. The Mona is one of the more nasty stretches of ocean in the Caribbean. We got lucky and she was tame as a lamb when we crossed. This rock is the first piece of US soil you see coming into Puerto Rico!
God Damn It… I figured it out.. The universe decided to strike us with lightening as we had too much money (here we are in another Marina). We did use our time here in Puerto Real to get a bunch of boat jobs out of the way. Here Kendra (Sea Frog) is pulled up the mast to install some new lights.
Sigh.. 1 in 100,000 my ass. Hey, on the upside, nobody got dead! (Total cost of strike 1 year later $18,000USD)
Ok ok this time I had no choice. I needed to go to a marina to put our boat back together. 2 days after arriving most of the electronic gear is replaced (see the big pile of boxes). We are still working through the strange stuff but are %85 fixed!
After the gear was replaced I decided to take apart some of the dead stuff. Here is our antenna splitter (it splits our antenna between the VHF and AIS). This device was connected directly to the antenna (that was vaporized). The destruction was complete. Actual copper tracks were vaporized off the circuit board.
The girls decide to go out on a “girls night” while us boys stay home and work our asses off! She did look damn hot though.
After a short shakedown we leave Ponce and head to Salinas. I get some much needed downtime! Here we are fortunate enough to meet Jonso, the owner of the local cruiser bar. He was a pillar of the cruising community and a fantastic man. Unfortunately he passed away a few months after we left. He will be sorely missed!
From Salinas we head to Culebra. This is our first taste of the Caribbean. The architecture and people take on a completely different feel from here on down.
Its here that we realize the “Buddy Boat Pack” will be breaking up. Smitty and Sea Frog will remain in Culebra for a few weeks while Last Tango and Party of Five forge on towards Grenada. In the picture the kids are playing with Jesse in the water. They knew this might be the last time they got to do this so they dogged him all day. He was a good sport!
The next day we pulled anchor and began our motor towards St. Thomas, USVI (getting tired of motoring, will the wind please blow in the right direction). You can guess how happy the kids were to leave by the looks on their face.
We arrived in Honeymoon Bay where Keith (another Island Spirit owner s/v Kookaburra ) found us a mooring ball to “borrow”. The kids loved the clear warm waters and swam every day. We also met our first “kid boat” since leaving Aphrodite in Lupron (s/v Invincible)
While sitting in St. Thomas I had the opportunity to clean our bottom for the first time (remember we were in Lupron). Again I learn a lesson. If you look close at my hands you will see cuts, scrapes and even bottom paint (blue). Every one of those cuts and scrapes became infected and swelled up in a way I have never seen (hard white bumps). Those infections did not completely heal until we were leaving Grenada (yup like 3 months). Later I was told that is called “Fish Handlers Disease”.
Here Keith (Kookaburra) is gracious enough to take my family on a tour of St. Thomas. (Crazy as it may seem, we are currently anchored in one of those islands in the background as I write this).
Holy crap.. $3.. Really… $3… Unfortunately its no longer true. USVI instituted a “SIN TAX” this year and its now up to $7.
Shit comes full circle! Keith gives us a wake board that La Luna (yes that La Luna) gave them in Panama. 100s of miles away and 6 months on, we receive a gift from our first buddy boat. (Barb if you read this, the kids love that thing and use it all the time. So much that we bought a second one)
We embark on a direct 850km run from St. Thomas to Grenada. It should take around 60-65 hours. We start the trip with our traditional hair cuts.
It never goes to plan. About 20 hours in we get a call from Last Tango that they are having Autopilot issues. We try a bunch of things to resolve it, all to no avail. Faced with them hand steering for days we opt instead to duck into Deshaies, Guadeloupe. We make a 2am landfall and its not only a miracle that we missed all the fish traps, but actually found 2 free mooring balls.
We determine the issue with Last Tango’s autopilot, but there are no parts in Guadeloupe. We head on a mad dash to Martinique where we have confirmed the part is in stock. We Q Flag through Dominica and shoot to Martinique (our worst passage ever). The good news is we fix Last Tango’s autopilot. The bad news is one of our saildrives starts acting up and we can no longer get it to go into gear. SONOFABITCH.. However, in another fortuitous turn of luck, the best Volvo dealer in the Caribbean is located a few miles away in Case Pilote Martinique. Here we have pulled up to his dock an await repairs.
$2200 euro lighter and with a new cockroach infestation we leave Case Pilote and head to Grande Anse, Martinique. We take a few days to recoup and enjoy the stunning anchorage. A weather window appears and we plan a run to St. Lucia in the morning.
Screw St. Lucia.. We wake up and check the weather again. The window is predicted to hold for 3 days. Sails are raised and a course to Grenada is plotted. We depart at 10am and plan a 2pm arrival in Grenada (28 hours later). The winds are excellent and we arrive in under 24 hours (at 11am). Last Tango rolls in at about 1pm and is seen here tying up to a ball. WE MADE IT!
The next day we check-in and then catch a bus to St. Georges. Its Carnival don’t ya know!
We quickly settled into life in Grenada. I cannot describe the relief it was to actually stop and know we didn’t have to keep moving to avoid the hurricanes. Of course we watched the weather but reveled in being in a relatively safe location. We had beach parties, sundowners and were even part of a marriage vow renewal!
Now that we were stopped, the boat jobs became first priority. Here I pulled Lucille (every sewing machine needs a name) out of here hole and began making much needed sun shades.
Homeschool and kid socialization was also top priority. Our kids were dying to play with other kids and have some “normal” time. We took every opportunity we could to give them that time. Here we walk back from Kids club with Avanti (who we had just been reunited with).
There were also social activities for the big kids. A weekly trivia night was hosted at the Tiki bar. The designers of the Tiki bar had done a fantastic job as our kids could plug in all their devices and surf the Internet while we played trivia.
We met new friends and had more beach parties. 2 people (on different boats) in this picture are actually anchored just yards from us as I write this. Grenada is not only invaluable for hiding from hurricanes but its also a social meeting ground.
After months of our separation, Sea Frog arrived in Grenada. Kendra and Darin sailed her in like pros!
A fantastic lady donated her time to kids club and hosted a “Public Speaking” course for the kids. She taught them about public speaking and had them make a routine. She then organized an audience and ensured that every kid got the chance to stand up and do their routine. Daphanie went first and I have never been prouder. Here are the kids the participated!
There were multiple birthday parties hosted. Here Sage from Sea Schells has a birthday party and almost all the boats showed up. I’m going to try and list all the boats represented here (I know I won’t get them all or spell them right).
Syrena (called Warvorg at this time)
Drat.. A big bad hurricane is threatening.. Hurricane Mathew is predicted to possibly strike Grenada. We don’t have the option to run as we are booked for a haulout (I would rather be on the hard anyway). Instead we fill up on water, fuel and food in the event the island is struck and the infrastructure is damaged.
Hurricane Mathew misses Grenada so we get to work on the boat. So many jobs were done. I got to paint the bottom again in less than a year. Although the Sherwin Williams paint worked well on the inside of the boat, the bottom paint didn’t stand up. If you plan to cruise the Caribbean, don’t use Sherwin Williams bottom paint!
Again, for the second time I get to watch her splash (within a one year period). At this point I’m more confident in her than I have ever been. Here the mainsail is still at the sail loft getting repairs!
While we were on the hard Nicki and Jamie were making a birthday song for Daph. We just tied up to a ball and they are performing it for her! (No that is not Richard Gere)
We hung out for a few more weeks before the itch became too much. In early October we decided we needed to pull the rip cord and leave Grenada. The original plan was to head for Carricou and then turn back south towards Trinidad. Ahhh best laid plans. We never turned back south. As we left Grenada hilarity ensued as we forgot how to sail. Eventually we got our shit together and here we are chasing Grateful (Nicki and Jamie from the photo above). Avanti blasted past both of us! (Carricou is in the distance).
After arriving in Carricou we spent a week or so there. Here is Bob and Cheryl enjoying a beer after our island adventure!
Oh man.. Petit St. Vincent.. Oh man.. A paradise. What can I say.. I loved it here.. Technically we left Grenada (however we didn’t check out yet). Petit Martinique (Part of Grenada ) is just to the right of this picture.. Just out of shot. For those who follow our blog, you will remember we saw a smuggling operation here..
Another item off the checklist. I had been looking for this from the moment we started cruising. We have heard this called a Coconut Apple, or a Coconut Heart or a Kings Apple. In any case, this is what happens when a coconut begins to sprout but is picked before it can set roots. The ball is the start of the tree ball. Its considered a delicacy and tastes almost exactly like angel food cake! They are damn rare and hard to find.
Alright.. We have officially checked into Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Here we are in Salt Whistle bay enjoying some beach time! You can really tell this is off season. During high season this bay would have over 50 boats!
Yup, still in Salt Whistle.. One of our starter motors failed and we are trying to get it repaired. I can’t complain as we got to spend more time with Syrena here. We had a “fab” time! I did eventually fix our starter with brushes out of a starter from a Chinese lawn tractor. We are still using that starter today even though we have 2 brand new ones in our storage compartments! I just can’t help it, I NEED to know how long it will last like that!
With Trinidad forgotten we keep moving north. Syrena and Party of Five head up to Bequia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Here is Bequia about 3 miles in the distance! (The hills beyond is the actual island of St. Vincent)
We had so much fun in Bequia. Fun times, drunken debauchery and new friends.. However, winter kicked in here. It started raining one day and didn’t quit for 2 1/2 weeks.. Seriously. It rained and rained and rained and rained.. Initially it rained so hard that I thought something was wrong. Nope, it just rains that hard down here during “rainy season”. Yup 2 people died in Bequia during the rains (it really rains that hard).
We left Bequia headed for Marigot Bay, St. Lucia. Syrena had told us that you could get a mooring ball here for $25 and get access to all the facilities. It was absolutely true and we felt like kings as we dinghied under the small bridge and enjoyed a 5 star facility. Unfortunately our budget wouldn’t allow us to purchase much of anything (beers were $10 USD). Instead we brought “cruiser beers”. We bought one draft beer and kept refilling the glass from the beers in our backpack
After Marigot Bay, we headed the very short motor (about an hour) up to Rodney Bay. We really didn’t like Rodney Bay as it just felt to touristy and to much like the USA. However we might try it again if we get the opportunity. The cool thing about Rodney Bay is I have a shot of our boat coming into that bay in 2006 after crossing the Atlantic. It was cool to bring her back to the same place 10 years later.
A few days after Avanti we headed up to Martinique. Since we loved our stop in Martinique on the way down, I was excited to get back. We are about 10 miles out in this picture. The small rock on the left is basically where we left from when we made the jump to Grenada!
Again we met old friends (Sea Schells) and had some fantastic times. We had been given recommendations to do a hike along a trail to one of the Atlantic facing beaches. It was a fantastic hike and we were rewarded with one of the most beautiful beaches. Here we have a picnic with food we brought and oysters we found!
We stayed longer than expected and eventually it was Thanks Giving (US). Avanti and Sea Schells came to Party of Five for a potluck. This was just a small portion of the meal. We introduced them to proper home made perogies!
Holy shit has Renault come a LONG WAY since the days of Le Car (remember that POS)! In fact this car actually made me realize that European cars are better than North American. Ok maybe better is a strong word, however they are more refined. Anyway we rented this little turbo diesel and I got to pretend I was a race car driver whipping around the hills of Martinique. It made me sad to realize that when this ends I probably won’t be able to buy a standard transmission car in North America!
Don’t’ say I never buy my wife anything. Yup it’s a washing machine that looks like it should be in Barbie’s house. Don’t let the looks fool you! This is one of the best purchases we have EVER made. Although its not automated (you need to manually fill and drain it for every cycle) it does a kickass job cleaning our clothes. It also saves my wife’s back from pumping the plunger!
Sea Schells and Avanti left us in Sainte Anne and headed up to the top of Martinique. A couple of days later we pulled anchor bound for Roseau, Dominica. As we were passing Sainte Pierre Sea Schells caught us on the radio (we put out a general call for wind and sea state). They let us know they were in Sainte Pierre with Avanti still. We decided to abort the channel crossing and instead stop in Saint Pierre. Here is Quincy looking at the volcano that exploded in the early 1900s and killed 30,000 people. The only survivor was an inmate in the jail. He was later pardoned and actually had things in Martinique named after him.
Heading to Portsmouth, Dominica. I don’t have many pictures of Dominica as we really didn’t enjoy it. It just wasn’t our type of place and we were glad to move on. At this point we knew that family was going to visit us in Antigua so we were determined to get there. Our plan was to get to Antigua and then do some cruising around there, depending on the weather.
After Portsmouth, Dominica we did a straight shot to Deshaies, Guadeloupe. It was strange to be sailing the opposite way. Unfortunately just like our way down, we didn’t spend much time in Guadeloupe (1 night). Its on our list of places we need to come back to.
“I’m in a race and I’m loooosing” (picture Mr. Bean from the movie Rat Race)! We left an hour earlier than Avanti and he caught us. He pulled a 1/2 boat length off our port side, took some pictures, then pointed off and pounded away (yes we were both fully sailing, no motors). In this picture he has just pointed off and begun to pull away. We were already moving at 8.75-9 knots which is about all I’m confortable with on our boat. There was no way I could catch him. In the end, we left and hour earlier and arrived 2 hours later in a 48 mile trip. Pretty sure Avanti’s average was over 10 knots/hour as ours was over 8.5. Notice he is down to 1 reef, I was fully reefed as it was blowing pretty hard. Shortly after this picture the wind abated a little and I went to one reef, Avanti shook it all out! (For you none sailors, this picture shows exactly what reefing is. Notice that neither of his sails goes all the way up. That small reduction in sail is what allows us to keep going in big wind. No its not automated and you must go up to the mast and physically pull the main sail down to reef on both Avanti and Party of Five. When you read about us “clipping in” it means we actually have a line that ties us to the boat when we go forward to reef. Going overboard would mean about %95 chance of death, especially in seas bigger than 3ft. Look closely at the picture and you can see Cheryl’s head. Imagine trying to spot that in the waves!)
A couple of days after arriving in Antigua I decided to try some fishing. I used a trick Ken from Moonriver planned. I caught a small grunt and hooked it through the tail and let it swim around. Imagine my surprise when an hour later I heard the cuban yo-yo banging against the rails. It took both Rhonda and I to pull this bugger in. An epic mutton snapper. This turned out to be one of my favorite eating fish. So yummy!
Shortly after arriving in Antigua the “Christmas Winds” started to blow and our local cruising plans were dashed. Damn did it blow. At one point it was gusting in the 40s and blew so hard it actually broke our bridle (the rope that attaches our chain to our boat). We were pinned down so long that Jonah’s birthday snuck up on us!
Then it was a couple of days till Christmas and Santa came to visit. (“Dad, why is Santa black down here”)!
Christmas evening. The kids had a fantastic first Christmas on the boat even though they only got about 2 presents each. In fact, Jonah declared it the “Best day of his life” and cried at the end of the day. After Christmas, New Years came and went. Old and new friends came and went (Higgins, Sea Schells, MacBeth, Avanti) and we just hung out. Eventually the winds abated some and we cruised some of the other bays in Antigua.
Then the day came… Our family visitors arrived.
The cousins wasted no time. It was like no time had passed. Everyone got along and played, fished, swam and enjoyed the time together.
We even took the entire crew out sailing. A funny story about that. I didn’t consider the extra weight when leaving the anchorage and we actually ran aground for the first time ever. Since it was just soft sand, we motored through it and all was well. Since no one was in a hurry I put up just a fully reefed main and slowly sailed.
We had a fantastic time at Deep Bay. We hiked up to the fort and enjoyed swimming the beautiful water. Of course there was some interesting moments. My dad asked me “What do you guys do all day?”, My Answer “Pretty much this!” (as I lay in the beach under the shade of a palm), he just shook his head and said “I would go insane. We have been here 4 hours and I’ve had enough”! I understood as it took me about 6 months to do nothing and be totally OK with that!
Then, just as fast as they arrived the family was gone (more Jonah tears). Here is Ted waiting for the taxi to take them to the airport.
A couple of days after the family left, our friends on Grateful arrived. They spent a couple of days doing a mini cruise with us. They then convinced me it was time to leave. Due to a time error on my phone Grateful got a 1 hour head start on us. Here we watch Antigua fade in the background as we try to catch Grateful. We were all sad to see Antigua disappear. Officially we were in Antigua only 10 days less than we were in Grenada. It felt a little like home.
To make me feel a little better about leaving Antigua I had a fantastic fishing day. We had 12 hits and landed 10 on the boat. Here is a nice Blackfin Tuna we caught early in the day! (notice the blood all over my shirt)
Margiot Bay, St. Martin. The water was fantastically clear but damn rough, even on our cat. Since we had come to do some work on the boat, we moved into the lagoon shortly to avoid the nasty swell and roll.
Rhonda kept asking me for a pole. I don’t think she meant this one, however she seemed pretty happy with it. The neighbors seem to enjoy the show as well, there were a few dollars taped to the boat later (kidding).
Guess who was in the lagoon as well.. Yup Higgins… We whooped them at dominos!
Just like everywhere we go, we stayed a long time in St. Martin. We stayed so long that Rhonda was able to organize a home school field trip to the St. Martin zoo. There was a mixture of cruising kids and liveaboard kids from St. Martin.
Yay, Carnival in St. Martin. We got to reunite with old friends on Aphrodite. Aphrodite spent hurricane season in Lupron. It was fantastic to see them again. Jonah and Paul (sitting side by side) acted like they had been playing together for the last 6 months. Old friends and new enjoyed the parade.
Of course you can’t come to St. Martin and not go to Maho beach. It’s the famous beach at the end of a runway. Planes land right over your head. Seriously one little jet came in so low I actually ducked. The jets also take off with their blast pointed towards the beach. I was gobsmacked at the actual force of the blast. The local expert there said its not the size of the plane that makes a big blast, but the pilots. Some pilots are easier on the throttle than others. All the jets (even the little ones) have enough power to actually flip cars into the sea from that distance.
Our days in St. Martin needed to end. After our work was finished, we waited on a good weather window and planned a midnight departure. I was disappointed in my sailing that day. We had wind speeds all over the map, but the direction remained dead downwind for almost the whole day. I wasn’t comfortable with running the spinnaker as the wind was bouncing from 8 knots (apparent) to 20 knots. Instead I ran a single reefed main with no headsail and gybed back and forth the whole way. In hindsight it was such a poor choice. I should have ran a fully reefed main and reefed headsail. I would have made better time and the boat would have been more balanced. The other option would have been to rig a preventer (should have anyway) and run wing on wing. Oh well we made it to the BVI even though we only averaged about 5.5 knots (I was proof reading this and laughed at this sentence, 5.5 is what we used to plan at. I used to be ecstatic if we averaged that).
So here we are in the British Virgin Islands 1 year after casting off the lines and heading south. I have been surprised by so many things and learned so much…. What will the next year bring? Who knows, the winds are always changing!
Hhmm it seems my wife isn’t doing so bad as a homeschool teacher. Considering Quincy just started writing cursive about a week ago.