Still with me? Here’s the final post in this three-part blog-tome on the cruising lifestyle. Again, these are my opinions, and comments, discussions, disagreements, and corrections are welcome. For the purposes of this simple post, the lifestyle questions can be broken down into five categories:
1. Night watches. What if I’m terrified to stand watch alone? I get that. Standing watch at night is pretty cool actually -- tiring until you get used to it, but cool. Just so you know, we started out in 2010 with a three on/three off schedule. At the suggestion of Marita and Ted from s/v Aurora, we now have six hour watches at night. I’m not sure I would have started out like that, but like it now. Night watches are 6:00 PM to Midnight, and from Midnight to 6:00 AM. During the day we have three four-hour watches, so each day one of us has an extra four hours off for “projects” – like cooking hot meals. We get more sleep – especially if we have to be roused during a night watch for a sail change or something. It’s much easier to go back to sleep if you know you’ve got two and a half hours left to slumber and not just thirty minutes.
Now then, back to the question. We had done overnight sailing along the coast of Maine in our 26-foot boat – and that was with paper charts and a Loran for navigation. Now we have radar, an electronic chart plotter, GPS, and (soon) AIS. For long trips I like to prepare a number of meals, freeze them in vacuum bags, and boil them up in a pot of water. Easy-peasy. Use the water to wash the dishes, no muss, no fuss, and more sleep for me. As mentioned in Part One, many cruisers take “crew”, whether a parent, brother, friend, or paid captain, for long passages. Friends of ours from Maine sailed to the Med alone, but had EW join them in the Canary Islands when they returned to the Caribbean. We be-bopped down the US coast from Maine to Florida, generally in 2-4 day hops, and then sailed across to Bimini in under 12 hours on Christmas Day 2010. One can mostly day-hop in the Bahamas and Caribbean, though some 2-3 day passages may arise. As much as I hate his tone, we did get a lot of good information on heading east from Bruce Van Sant's The Thornless Path. One of you should read it, if you’re sailing from the Bahamas to the Dominican Republic and east to the Caribbean.
2. Boat Maintenance. What do you do if things break? You fix them. Fix early and fix often. It’s really true that being a cruising sailor allows you to fix your boat in all the beautiful anchorages of the world. We’ve heard and said that so much that it’s a cliché, but it’s still true. As I write this, EW is working in the shower, a project that has lasted for 5-6 weeks. Oh joy. There will be a blog post about this one, but here is a photo of EW taping prior to caulking. Note the newly fiber-glassed shower stall. A teak grate sits on top of this. He “only” has to install the drain and sump pump. Someday, I’ll have a shower. This brings up a sub-category in this topic: Parts. Dora mentioned in a comment for the first post, that you can’t have too many tools. I’ll state that you can’t have too many parts, either. I wandered into the master stateroom the other day and saw a new box with a brand new shower sump. “Where’d you get this?” I asked. EW replied, “I’ve had that since before we left Maine.” Two and a half years later, we need it and he’s installing it. I love EW.
And one more sub-category under Maintenance: Labor. If you don’t want to spend huge amounts of money on hired labor; waste days, weeks, or months waiting for someone who can work on said part; or rely on the kindness of sailing strangers for help – at least one of you must be able to fix, or at least trouble-shoot, most things on the boat. There is no waffling on this. One of you has to be able to tackle boat stuff. If not, stick to well-populated locations with nearby marinas. Cruising is about travel, views and vistas, anchoring in secluded harbors, sunsets, making new friends, drinking rum, and fixing things. Not necessarily in that order.
3. What do you DO all day? See above. Many of the captains and first mates also take up a hobby or craft, or enjoy one they did back home. Vicky on s/v Fox Sea quilts on board. Diana on One White Tree brought her knitting with her. She’s since turned to basket making and beading, as Ross isn't wearing wool socks down here. Go figure. A number of cruising first mates create art and items they can sell, jewelry, carvings, paintings, stained glass, and other things. EW plays music, and I write. We both read. We swim, snorkel, hike, learn local foods and customs, meet local folks and sailors, exercise, play cards and dominoes, clean, tackle boat projects, correspond with folks back home on Facebook and email, shop for groceries, do laundry, clean, tackle boat projects, read, watch movies, cook, clean, tackle boat projects. You get the idea.
OH! And we do sail. Of course we sail -- but not as much as you might think.
4. So, you two must really get on to live on a boat and be together all the time. How’s that work? Just fine, although it was a bit rough at times the first year. That’s what my book, Harts at Sea -- Sailing to Windward is about, the learning curve for this lifestyle and our forced togetherness. A sense of humor helps. We’ve worked through some issues and simply let others go. We’ve been married for 27 years, so you know there are issues. Still, I love getting into our bed and curling up next to his right side, falling asleep all wrapped up together. It was too hot for that in Grenada and Trinidad, so I’m enjoying the cooler temperatures in St. Thomas very much, thank you. I love listening to EW practice his guitar, and am delighted that he’s found friends and mentors for his music. His enjoyment performing and playing in music jams tickles me, and I'm proud to be is Band-Aide. EW is very proud of my writing, brags about me, and edits each blog post. He cheerfully poses for photos, informing me when it’s time to take a new photo showing the progress of the current project, and he smiles in resignation when I find humor in his daily life – and share that with the world. I love EW.
5. Travel. What is your favorite island? For me, Guadeloupe. I love Guadeloupe. I speak no French, and we had some communication challenges, but I simply love Guadeloupe. In 2011, we left Antigua and sailed down to Deshaies, arriving well before dark. We pulled in to this harbor with it’s brightly painted town, and my heart stilled. This is what I imagined a Caribbean harbor town to look like. “This is it,” I said. We’re leaving the Caribbean for a while, but we’ll be back, and I plan to spend a number of weeks in Guadeloupe, visiting the places we love and spending time visiting other harbors there, as well. Having said that, we love spending hurricane season in Grenada. The people there make it for us – both the cruising sailors and the locals. We love the hikes, the activities, the fishing, snorkeling, and anchorages – and the people, always the people. By the way, EW says that Grenada is his favorite island.
This post hasn’t touched on provisioning, cooking and recipes, getting parts, parties and dinners aboard, shipping parts to our location, getting mail, water, fuel, and more parts. All of those things were both easier and more difficult than we thought they’d be – but we knew they were part of this lifestyle, and I wasn’t really surprised by any of it. If someone were to ask me what surprised me most about cruising in the Caribbean – I’d have to say Facebook.
I didn’t do much with Facebook while in Maine, but it’s a vital form of communication in the Caribbean Cruising Community. There are Facebook Users Groups for Grenada, Trinidad, St. Thomas, the Coconut Telegraph, and others. We share weather, information about harbors and parts, let friends know we’re heading their way, announce get-togethers and potlucks, and our eminent arrivals or departures to and from our home countries. In addition, it’s been invaluable to me as a way to keep current with family and close friends back home. Once again, I am in awe of all of those cruisers who set sail 20 to 50 years ago, without all of the communication and safety gear we have – not to mention refrigeration. They are my heroes. I’ll take this lifestyle now, thank you – with AIS, SSB Radios, Weather Faxes, Radar, and -- in port, the Internet, Facebook, and SKYPE. Join me on Twitter @BarbatSea – and on Facebook – see above.
PHOTOS, top to bottom: 1.La Luna on the mooring in Harpswell, Maine, May 2010. 2. Dawn after my night watch, somewhere in the Bahamas. 3. EW and the Shower Job. 4. EW and Tony from s/v Ragin’ Cajun, at Tickles on Open Mic night. 5. Deshaies, Guadeloupe. 6. My Facebook Page – obviously. 7. La Luna on the hook in St. Thomas.