The Great Turn!

As many of you know, cruising is all about weather. While local short range weather dictates our cruising plans in the short term, long term weather is what forces our hand. Of course down here in the Eastern Caribbean, that long term weather is hurricane season. If we want to have the highest probability of not encountering a hurricane, then we need to head south at some point before the hurricane season. Historically, the more northern islands (St. Martin, Antigua, Guadeloupe) have a much higher chance of a direct hurricane strike or a “side swipe”. As you get to the middle islands (Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent), the chances of direct strike fall off rapidly, yet the risk of a “side swipe” still remains high. Nowadays, with “Super Storms” like Irma and Maria, a “side swipe” can still mean over 100 knots of wind. That is a whole shitton of wind, so most prudent cruisers choose the lower islands (Carriacou, Grenada, Trinidad) to hide for the season.

These facts mean that cruising here in the Eastern Caribbean always follows a pattern. Cruisers work their way up the island chain, picking good weather windows and trying to avoid the “sticky anchor” to try and get as high as we can. Most cruisers shoot for St. Martin, but ambitious cruisers shoot for USVI or even Puerto Rico. However, at some point, we all must decide when to make “The Great Turn” and start heading back south (or leave the Caribbean if that is your plan). Of course this decision is highly personal and different for every cruiser. However, I’m pretty sure the emotional part of this decision is similar on all boats.

No matter where you actually get, there is something emotional about turning around. The season is over and not only do you need to change direction, but the ignored questions become reality.

1. What are the actual plans for the hurricane season?

     – Which southern island will we choose for the season?

     – What does our insurance policy say (usually a 40 page document that needs to be parsed)?

     – Are we comfortable with the risk staying higher up in the chain (usually no insurance for a named storm)?

     – How fast should we go?

     – What things did we skip on the way up we need to see on the way down?

     – Do we stay on the boat, or put her to sleep and go somewhere else (Its hot AF down here DONTCHAKNOW).

     – When are we going to fix all those small jobs we have been ignoring ALL SEASON?

     – ect, ect, ect

2. What are the plans for next season?

     – #1.. Are we still having fun? EVERYONE?

     – #2.. Do we still have some money in the pile?

     – #3.. Are things in the home country “OK” to keep cruising? (family health, investments, ect.)

Now, if you have actually met a  cruiser you would know that we avoid tough questions like these until the last minute. Well, the last minute is here for Party of Five, and now we need to ask those questions! However, I don’t need to answer them today so I’m going through some of our photos of this season and thought I might share! Enjoy the pictures and helping me procrastinate!

Prickly Bay, Grenada. Our starting point.

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However, before we left, we needed a new tap in the galley. Sigh, I injured my left rotator cuff installing this stupid thing. 6 months later, it still bothers me. Getting old sucks.

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Daph preparing for one of our jumps across a channel. She wanted to do a message in a bottle.

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Jonah gets a new haircut!

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Quincy doing school.

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Our first big stop. Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Even though we have been here many times, it still remains one of our favorites. Its a place that most people would imagine if you told them to think of a Caribbean paradise.

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We also catch a lot of fish in Bequia. Here is a nice little mutton snapper! This is one of my favorite eating fish.

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One of the locals was cleaning a filefish on shore. I asked about it and he said its one of the tastiest fish in the sea. Since this one was hanging out right behind our sugar scoop, I decided to invite him aboard and see for myself.

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However, I got a little nervous when I seen the color they turn after death. I actually took a picture and went into town to ask the local if this was normal. He just laughed and said “ya mon”. I’m happy to report that they are delicious. However, they don’t have a lot of meat and I feel like you would need a bunch to make a good meal for a family of five. Since I don’t think that is sustainable fishing, I will just leave them in the sea!

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There was more than 1 get together while we were there. John-Michael and Katie have introduced us to a new game (Codenames) here. After playing, we asked them to pick us up our own copy the next time they went back to the USA!

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After Bequia, we made the mad dash up to Martinique (we did a single overnight in St. Lucia). As I have said before, our family calls Martinique “Our home in the Caribbean”. We were super excited to get there. Here, we have just rounded the bottom of Martinique and St. Anne just came into view.

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This is the best thing about the French Islands. They have a very simple check in/out system for yachts. You use a computer terminal at a small local shop. Here in St. Anne, its a local sandwich shop. After check in, we celebrated with a beer!

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It wasn’t all fun and games though. We began to tackle one of the BIG jobs on our boat. Replacing all the acrylic windows. We decided to start with the salon window as a test. Then wait a month or so before doing the long side windows.

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Of course Christmas came and went.

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LOL, Jonah mohawk is coming in nicely!

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As is usual, Rhonda knew what she was getting before she opened it.

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It wasn’t all happy times though. This heavy steel boat drug down on us one day. Long story short, our anchors got tangled up and we narrowly averted disaster. The owner was no where to be found and after getting free, we discovered the bonehead only had 30ft of chain in 25ft of water. For those who don’t know, you try to have 5 to 1 scope (i.e. 25ft of water, 125ft of chain). We shoot for 7 to 1 if we have the space.  Once the chain is out, we pull back with 1800RPM on both motors to set the anchor and test if it drags. This dude put out just enough chain to hit the bottom, then jumped in his dink and went on an island tour. He actually had the French Gendarmerie waiting for him when he returned as he endangered a bunch of boats!

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Back to more boat projects. We have discovered that standard white sewer hose only lasts about a year with a family of five before it starts to stink. We had guests coming and didn’t want to be embarrassed by stinky hose. So out with the old, in with the new. Although this is a fairly unpleasant job, I’m pretty fast at it now. Takes me about 1.5 hours to replace all the hose!

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Lowell and Theresa arrived in Martinique, but got to experience a channel crossing as we sailed them to St. Lucia.

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Once in St. Lucia, we rented a vehicle for a tour the island.

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No trip around St. Lucia would be complete without going to the “drive in” volcano. Although its pretty gimicky, its still very cool to be in the crater of a volcano!

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Sorry, terrible lighting on this picture. However, no visit to the volcano would be complete without a trip to the mud baths. The water is not artificially heated and comes right from the crater. Tourists slather the mud all over themselves and then sit in the baths.

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Looking at these pictures reminds me of how much this job sucked.. It super sucked. We sanded, primed and painted all the wood on the boat, with the exception of the salon table. Before painting I had to repair all the nicks, gouges, scapes and dry rot. It took over 100 hours of work to complete! We are saving the salon table for a later date (we needed somewhere to live)!

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However, at least we got to do the work in one of the prettiest places!

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Superyachts are always a thing. We see tons of them during the season. At the end of the season HUGE ships arrive in multiple locations to take these boats over to the Mediterranean. Its pretty awesome to watch these huge ships sink and then the superyachts float aboard. After its loaded, the ship is refloated and steams off over the horizon loaded with quite literally a billion dollars in boats.  As to this superyacht… Yes that is a swimming pool between the stairs (drained for passage).

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Ahh, the bottle makes a reappearance. This is literally months later. Maybe someone in Mexico will find it!

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Back in Martinique it was time for another BIG job. Replacing the long side windows. I had done a ton or research about this and was now confident we had the right tools and consumables for the job. Out with the old (yes it was threatening to rain).

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In with the new. Ooooo shiny and pretty. Looks like she just rolled out of the factory.

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Our friends James, Jenna, Leo and Hazel on Sophie arrived and brought us a gift from the USA. Oh baby this made us happy!

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Once the windows were done, we pulled anchor and began pointing north again. We passed Mount Pelee again! For those who don’t know, this volcano erupted in 1902 and killed over 30,000 people. In those days, this city (St. Pierre) used to be called “The Paris of the Caribbean”. Although it was mostly dug back out, it never fully recovered its glory.

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Of course we can’t forget our buddy boat this year.. Space Between. We spent a ton of time with them this year and made most of the run north together. Here we have stopped in Pigeon Island, Guadeloupe after spending just one night in Dominica.

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After a very short stay in Guadeloupe, we headed up to Antigua. We love Antigua and could call it our “Winter Home in the Caribbean”. It was someone’s birthday shortly after we arrived.

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How could I argue.. It printed right there on the balloon! We had an amazing dinner that Space Between gifted us. It was a fantastic night.

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After the birthday, it was on to Barbuda. A completely new island for Party of Five. Its an absolutely stunning place! A secluded paradise.

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It was calm and lovely. The kids took advantage of the great weather to do some opti sailing.

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Then on our way back to Antigua we came across this baby. SV1, the largest sail boat in the world. It seems people either love it or hate it. I loved it and passed as close as I dared! I didn’t want to mess with a sailboat that actually has its own submarine aboard.

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See, she is not dead and does appear in some of our pictures. Sigh, Carib beer… I’m SOOOO tired of Carib!

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Yay.. Its time for another birthday again. It was a little hectic with 16 kids on Party of Five, but Quincy had a great time!

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We were also invited fishing with our friends on Sandstar. Cathy caught this absolutely fantastic bull mahi.

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Of course we can’t forget the fantastic pig roast in Jolly harbour. It was probably one of the best cruiser parties we have been to.

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There was one last job to complete. The salon table painting. Yes this sucked as bad as we thought it would. It took me about 3 days to clean, sand, prep, prime and paint…. but the paint needs 7 – 10 days to fully cure before you can use the table. We have a pretty small boat and not have a salon table for 13 days was a pretty big deal. However, its done and it looks amazing!

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Now, its time to make the great turn and begin heading back south. We made it as high as Barbuda. Of course the season isn’t really over as we will have more adventures on the way south. I’m hoping to do another blog post with those photos. It will give me a chance to procrastinate more!

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