Day 1 (May 4) – St Lucia
Although I have been here a few days, I consider today the first real day of my sailing trip. The fourth member off our crew arrived last night and this morning we headed out to the anchorage to prepare to sail tomorrow.
Before anchoring, we decided to top off our fuel as we will likely have several bits of calm where we will have to motor. The whole experience was a bit of a debacle. First, we had to motor around in circles because the station was full. The trouble really started when the captain attached the fuel hose to the water tank instead of the fuel tank. Thankfully, he discovered this before too much diesel had been added, but that meant one of our water tanks was fouled and we had to drain and clean it. It still isn’t ready to use but we are going to do a real clean while we are in the marina in St. Martin.
Once we actually got the fuel into the fuel tank we had to fight to get out of the station as the wind was hitting us from the side and we didn’t have the power to get away. When we finally made a break for it, another boat cut us off and almost caused a multi-boat pile-up. We figured this should be the trouble for the trip so the rest should be smooth sailing.
Once we reached the anchorage, we spent the afternoon scrubbing the Caribbean flora from the bottom of the boat so we wouldn’t have as much drag to cause us to go slower and burn more fuel. There is something creepy about diving under a boat and seeing what’s going on under there. It was exhausting work, constantly fighting the waves and current, but after we were done I tacked on 5 laps around the boat to make up for some of the sitting on my ass I have been doing – and will be doing over the coming weeks.
A relaxing afternoon followed by a good meal, good music and good convo and now, at 8:45, I am off to bed in anticipation of an early start.
Day 2 (May 5) – at sea
We weighed anchor at just after sunrise and started our first day of ‘sailing’. I use the term sailing loosely as we have had virtually no wind so have been running the engines all day. The sound and vibration of the engine paired with the diesel smell have given me a headache. Though, I suspect if I focused on drinking more water, it would help.
The weather is abnormally hot, so without a breeze – and even in the middle of the sea – we baked today. Each day, a different part of me here burned by the sun. Today it was my ears. Hopefully by the end of the trip I will have become proficient at applying sunscreen.
We had some dolphins join us for a while as we passed the gap between Martinique and Dominica. Apparently they’re very common to see in the Atlantic and I have to say, I am looking forward to that. We also saw a large flock of birds hunting a school of fish just off the coast and that was kind of cool.
I haven’t felt any real sea sickness – yet. Occasionally when I am inside preparing food I will get a bit dizzy but poking my head above deck takes care of that. Hoping that continues to be the case though I do have sea sickness tablets just in case.
I cooked again today. Getting used to cooking on a moving target while I am swaying will definitely take some getting used to but there have been no major mishaps yet.
Tonight I have the 3am-6am watch. I am actually really looking forward to it. Being on a dark boat in a pitch black sea is something I have always wanted to experience.
Day 3 (May 6) – Guadalupe
My first early morning watch was great. We were still under power because of lack of wind and there were almost no waves. It was still, peaceful, and full of stars. Being pretty much alone in the middle of a black sea is pretty awe inspiring. I got a nice bit of writing done and a family of porpoises joined me to greet the rising sun.
The wind stayed away so in mid-afternoon we decided to head to Guadalupe and anchor for the night. The hope was that the wind would pick up the next day and we could actually get some sailing in vs. motoring all the way to St. Martin.
The anchorage was in a little bay and crowded with catamarans who were trying to avoid the rain we went through to arrive. After several days of hot and humid, I was quite happy to enjoy some cold rain.
Since the rain stopped and we were in an anchorage close to town, we decided to have dinner ashore. Guadalupe is a French island and priced accordingly, but the rack of lamb I split with nik was good. The shrimp cocktail on the other hand was a not-so-nice surprise. I never realized that European shrimp cocktail is actually shrimp salad.
The temps are down after the rain so I might have my first comfortable night sleep since I started this adventure.
Day 4 (May 7) – at sea
I woke in the middle of the night because I was cold. It was glorious! I had to dig out my sleep sack and cover myself with my sarong to get back to sleep. I was happy as a clam until I woke at 6 am sweating to death as the heat and humidity set back in.
We finally got to sail today! Woo boo! The wind hasn’t been very strong, or steady, but it has allowed us to put sails up all day. It is a much more peaceful experience than motoring all day.
I spent most of the day below as I am still avoiding the sun until I recover from my current burn but they called me up in the afternoon at various times to see various sights and when we had to change the sails.
We had another large family of porpoises join us today as we passed Montserrat and we hooked a huge marlin on the lure we were trailing. He was big enough to snap the 150 lb line we were using and make off with the lure and about 150 meters of line. We could see him jumping for the next several minutes.
The fish would have made a good dinner but I am getting the hang of cooking on a boat and turned out a nice teriyaki port tenderloin with the fixings. By the end of the trip I will be a pro, but as of now I am still adjusting to cooking while both I and my stove top are rocking and rolling.
We passed lots of islands today. Montserrat was the largest and I was hoping to see the volcano but it was covered in clouds. Close to sunset though, the clouds cleared and we could see the smoke in the distance. We also passed Nevis and I believe the lights of St. Kitts are currently off to the left.
It is 10:45 pm and I am mid-watch. The winds dropped a bit so we have been under sail for the last 2 hours though we still have the Genoa up. The winds are picking back up though so I think I will cut the engine soon. According to GPS, we should reach St. Martin in approximately 13 hours.
Days 5 – 9 (May 8 – 12) – St. Martin
The original plan was to stay in St. Martin for just two days but had to extend due to bad winds. Bad winds seem to be a trend, and those crossing the Atlantic aren’t looking any better, which is a bit worrying.
We stayed in a marina this time which is nice for the convenience factor, but hard on the budget – even split four ways. The marina is in a small town called Marigot which is cute, but without much going on.
I decided to go out for a drink on a Saturday night and my only two real options were a restaurant with karaoke or a restaurant with a tolerable acoustic guitarist. It is a good thing I chose the guitarist, because I met the love of my life in the form of a 70 year old waiter who assured me that I was the most beautiful woman in the world and that he would wait the rest of his life to see my lovely face again. Apparently you can take the man out of France but you can’t take France out of the man.
It was exceedingly hot which made us less inclined to want to do anything, but one afternoon we headed to Maho Beach on the dutch side of the island. This beach is famous for being at the end of the airport runway and you can sit and get a tan or have a few drinks while watching the planes come in…very low…right over your head. It is not so impressive with the small regional planes, but them the big jumbo liners come in, people have been known to be blown across the beach by the force of the blast it causes.
If I had known we were going to be in St. Martin for so long, I’d have arranged a diving excursion. As it is, we leave tomorrow. We have given up on winds to Bermuda for now so we are going to head west a bit to the British Virgin Islands. Woo hoo! More islands!