Thursday, June 6, 2013


FIRST SAIL TO CULEBRA - Cat's Out of the Bag

The morning we sailed out of St Thomas, I couldn't believe that we were actually leaving Sapphire Marina bound for a secret island in the Spanish Virgin Islands. For the last two weeks plans had formed, shifted and fallen away. We had to planned to sail to the British Virgin Islands and then we didn't  We were going to sail to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and maybe Cuba and then we weren't  I began to lose faith that we were going to go anywhere at all. And then we were gone. Each wave that surged under Carpe Diem’s hull washed away my feelings of frustration and uncertainty and replaced them with that feeling of setting out on a journey, that feeling of openness, of infinite possibility.

The two weeks in St Thomas weren't wasted. We watched for a weather window, worked on projects to prepare the boat, and waited for the stars to align for a date to leave. Every morning we listened to Chris Parker at Marine Weather Center give updates about a low pressure trough combining with a tropical wave, a weather system that crossed the Atlantic from Africa, that brought windy, wet, squally weather around St Thomas. While George recovered from his illness, we waited out the squalls.

With a little new grease, the winches work like a dream.
Meanwhile, I got cozy with our guide books for the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas. Using the guide books and Active Captain, an anchorage wiki, I put together a rough route for us to sail north with possible anchorages to explore or just rest for the night. My mind spent a lot of time out of the marina if not my body and I felt useful. George and I also did a multitude of boat projects from greasing the four cockpit winches to resealing the aft lazarettes.

I don't know it yet, but I'm gonna win this hand!
We did break from working for a beach barbecue at beautiful Lindquist beach to eat delicious pelau (a huge pot of rice and chicken also called a “cook-up”), swim in warm water, and play dominoes like some real Caribs. Terence was VERY serious about his dominoes, slamming down good plays on the table with a, “Ha!” After I won a hand everyone at the table gave me a hard time for pretending to be a green horn, which I delighted in, but it really was beginners luck.

Our day sail over to the Spanish Virgin Islands was a beautiful and disorienting. In a matter of minutes, the time it took to cast off the dock lines and motor out of Sapphire Marina, Carpe Diem transformed from a stationary, floating house to a nimble vessel flying over the water. The sight of her sails up and her hull galloping over the waves restored any faith that had faltered.

Still, I’d spent two weeks living on Carpe Diem at the dock, but hadn't sailed her. I needed to learn the ropes – literally. Along with learning the intricacies of any new boat, Carpe Diem has an in-mast furling system for the main sail I've never used before. One day was not enough to learn the boat; it will be an on-going process.