Sailing the Caribbean – A journey update

Can you imagine one day enjoying quiet sundowners with your fellow buddy boats, in a secluded calm harbor, and then the next day sailing the Caribbean through massive Atlantic swells, turbulent frothy white waves and at least one dark gusty squall?

Contrast beautiful green lush mountainous rainforests, brown and black volcanic beaches and the deep blues of a safe anchorage with sporadic passages filled with bumps, crashes, banging in addition to salt and fresh rain water dousing’s.

The term whirlwind most aptly describes life on Britican for the past month.

We’ve travelled nine islands in less than 30 days.

Sailing The Caribbean

We left the British Virgin Islands on May 10th (American Mother’s Day) and since then have MOTORED (not sailed) to Saba, St Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and Antigua. After Antigua we have been able to finally SAIL, heading south instead of east, making life much better. We’ve sailed to Guadalupe, Dominica, Martinique and I’m currently sitting on our boat in St Lucia.

Motoring east from the Dominican Republic to Antigua was fairly horrible.

Even though we picked days when the trade winds where blowing the least and the swell was as small is possible the passage was still terrible. Yes – terrible. If it wasn’t for the promise of yet another incredibly amazing island and more special memories to make with our several boat buddies, I’m not sure how I’d last.

Heading east along the Caribbean is not fun. I often think that new sailors have no idea what they’re getting themselves into.

Winds are always on the nose, the bow is always crashing into the waves and the roll of the boat is nonstop. Water almost always finds a way into the boat. We have had to wait days and even weeks for the weather and sea state to be acceptable to make a passage. And ‘acceptable’ is nowhere near the right word. I’m not even sure that ‘tolerable’ makes the grade.

Thankfully, however, the passages are relatively short. There’s only one overnight passage necessary from Puerto Rico down to the bottom of the Caribbean. Most passages are three to eight hours at most.

Sailing The Caribbean

And like I mentioned, the destination is always incredible. Always.

So, we’re heading through the Caribbean rather quickly right now. Hurricane season has started so we need to be in a position to get out of dangers way if a storm starts to form. We usually have five to ten days notice. Every day we check the National Hurricane Center – so far, we’ve seen, ‘there is no threat of a hurricane for the next five days.’ I like seeing that message.

Grenada used to be the safe haven where cruisers would ride out a hurricane season but since the 2018 hurricane season many insurance providers won’t fully cover boats anywhere in the Caribbean – Grenada included.

Our plan is to head to Trinidad if and when a storm threatens to head our way.

Sailing The Caribbean

Otherwise, we’ll hang in Grenada as much as possible. So far, Trinidad has not been subject to a hurricanes path. Looking at the the map, however, one might be concerned about the proximation of Trinidad to Venezuela. Venezuela is not a place sailors or any visitors want to visit. A few years ago there were pirates or water criminals in the area but nothing has been reported recently. Let’s hope it stays that way.

After living through one tropical storm and two major hurricanes last year I’ll do almost anything to ensure my family, boat and I are out of harms way. Never did I consider the emotional, mental and even physical drain a hurricane can take out of you. My husband and I would spend three days getting the boat ready and move Britican to the safest location (out of a marina and anchored up an inland river). We’d then leave the boat, wait for the hurricane to pass all the time wondering if she’d be there upon our return. More on that, read Sailboat Hurrican Plan – Anchoring up a river.

I never ever ever want to seen the sight of another hurricane.

Sailing The Caribbean

Monsterrat

The most magical season yet!

Bad motoring conditions and hurricane aside, I have to say that this fifth sailing season of ours, however, has been the most magical season yet. In the Bahamas we met several cruisers and since then we’ve been buddy boating with at least two other boats and sometimes up to ten other boats at a time.

At every anchorage we have a group of friends. We’ve enjoyed volcano tours, mountain hikes, historical walks, waterfalls, incredibly tasty Spanish/Caribbean/French/Danish/WestIndian foods, potluck dinners, group provisioning stops, zip lines, snorkeling, taco Tuesdays, sharing our fresh catch and loads and loads of laughs.

There are two other boats with us that are kid boats.

Sailing the Caribbean

Sailing vessels Pura Vida and Rondo

Since the Bahamas our daughter has had at least four other children to play with and at other times there have been loads more.

Being able to buddy boat with other kid boats has truly made our season outstanding. In the past we’d buddy boat with kid boats for a week, month or two but inevitably one of us had to go a different way.

This year there are so many kid boats heading to Grenada that we’ve been blessed with loads of kids.

The children get their homeschooling done in the morning and then afterwards they swim, snorkel, drag the parents to an ice cream shop or simply sit around and chat kid stuff. The great majority of the time they’re outside on the floating mat, swimming or off on some sort of excursion but from time to time, especially on passages, you’ll also find them creating a network to play Minecraft.

On one of the buddy boats there’s a lovely 13-year-old boy named Michael.

He started off the season making cookies and selling them to other boats. His technique was incredible – he offered the cookies for free for a while making all the boaters addicted. Once we all craved the cookies, he started putting a price on them. We surely didn’t mind paying for them!

In the Virgin Islands, Michael sold his cookie business to his 10-year-old sister, Katelyn. She’s been doing a great job keeping the business going. Our daughter puts in an order often! And for birthday’s Katelyn gives a free dozen to the birthday girl or boy. Katelyn is almost always smiling and eager to chat. She’s full of light!

Michael has now transitioned into operating a fishing lurer business. Cruisers from far and wide visit his boat to put an order in. Once again, if you’re lucky to have a birthday and Mike is around you might just get a lurer too! Both of the kids on Rondo are beautiful – inside and out. A testament to the amazing parents they have.

Saba

On another boat there’s a boy named Heyward and he is quite special.

It seems that Hayward and Sienna are quite smitten – both eight years old. When they’re together they’re always very close. It’s an innocent closeness but no on can deny that they have some sort of beautiful bond with each other. And the recent rumor going around is that a dare was made for Sienna to kiss Heyward. Needless to say, Simon is keeping his eye on Heyward now.

Making things even more special is the friendship Sienna has with Heyward’s older sister, Katie Grace (KG) – nine years old. KG is beautiful, kind, chatty and eager to talk about anything and everything. Whether the three of them are together or just Sienna and Heyward or Sienna and KG they are so loving to each other. (Again – testament to the great parents they have.)

In fact, all the children seem to play together as if they’re a family. Sure, there are fights from time to time but the love they have for each other is truly remarkable. I often overhear compliments about how great a drawing is or one of the kids telling another kid, ‘Don’t say that – you are amazing. You’re perfect just the way you are.’

There’s no bullying. There’s no leaving anyone out.

Sailing The Caribbean

Katelyn, Sienna, Katie Grace and Heyward

When problems arise and the kids can’t work it out the parents help out.

We often talk as a group letting the children know that it’s normal to get angry. It’s normal to get irritable. It’s okay to argue or stand your ground but it’s not okay to hurt someone or lash out. And when new kid boats are in the anchorage or mooring field the kids go over and introduce themselves. Instantly all the kids seem to act as if they’ve known each other for a long time. Boat kids seem to be tolerant, inclusive and eager to have a good time. They’re amazing.

And while the kids are doing business, playing in the water or having a tickle fight, the adults are enjoying each other’s company. Most nights we eat together. One boat will host with a main meal and the others bring appetizers and side dishes. If we’re not eating on the boat, we’ll grab a lovely meal on shore.

We share car rentals to go get provisions or see the sights.

And when we’re sailing we keep each other up to date with changing conditions, crab pot sightings and ask for help if something breaks or goes wrong.

Sailing the Caribbean

Cane Garden, BVI – Rondo, Cool Change, Vela, Savanah

Not everything is all rosy though. We all have our down times. We receive the news of a death in the family or problems back home. We get homesick and question our future. We wake up on the wrong side of the bed. But for some reason our down days are few and far between. I’m not sure how the other boaters feel but I feel so comforted by the fact that I have a network of dear friends around me. They provide me with a sense of stability – something that is hard to find in our lifestyle.

Surely we’re just like gypsies. I always frowned upon their way of life but now that I’m one of them I can certainly see the benefits.

When listening to people tell me about the ‘good ole days,’ I often think to myself…’I never want to reflect back to the good ole days.’ I want all my days to be good – indefinitely. In other words, I don’t want to get stuck in a time period of my life thinking it was the best time of my life.

That being said…if I do get stuck I’m almost positive I will be stuck focusing on the incredible times I’ve had with my dear boat buddies on Pura Vida and Rondo. And those that we bump into every other harbor – Carpe Ventum, Sea Yawl, Vela, Savanah, Temerity, Dauntless, Cool Change, Serena 1 and Love & Luck.

It sure had been a whirlwind but WOW…what a trip we’re on 🙂

Sailing the Caribbean

Montserrat

That said, what’s next?

As long as a hurricane doesn’t head this way anytime soon we’ll sail St Vincent and the Grenadines down to Grenada and hang out in this area for the next several months. We might head over to Bonaire or just hang in Grenada. I suppose it all depends on where the kids are and what our boat buddies want to do.

Our lives are not predictable at all but over time there is a sense of routine in our unplanned way of life.

There are lows and there are highs but as I’ve said time and time again I can’t think of a more fulfilling life than the one’s we have. I’m ever so grateful that I took an absolutely scary leap of faith, quit my job and moved aboard Britican.

Sailing The Caribbean

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