Saturday, June 4, 2016

The hurricane plan 2016 OR Winging It

Yes, Professor.  I know that's a double negative.

I hesitate to post this, because it sounds a little depressing and whiney.  It's not.  I promised to share the good, bad and ugly.  This is a little of all of those.  We're excited about our decision to head back north from Nevis to Puerto Rico.  People are asking why we turned around.  The Captain calls it a tactical retreat.  Perhaps if we'd known Puerto Rico was an option to begin with, it would have been our destination for the year (looking back on it, I'm pretty sure Orion & Summertime Rolls did try to tell us this, but we didn't listen). Here's what happened:

When we left Annapolis, we answered "Where are you headed to?" with "We're winging it.  South".  As we departed Brunswick, GA we replied, "We're winging it.  Hopefully, the Bahamas."  When we reached the Exumas, we updated our insurance and promised the insurance company we'd be in Trinidad (safely out of the hurricane "box") by July 15th, but still mostly answering with "We're winging it.  South".  We're still winging it, we just overshot a little bit.

Mostly weather.  Way back in the Bahamas, we were continually told by more experienced, fellow cruisers that it was a "weird weather year".  Instead of being calm on the banks side, it was rough.  A weather system rolling through every week or so was more like every 5 days and many times we were pinned down for 4 days or more.  And then there was the derecho (jan-6-2015-black-point.html).  "Maybe it's el Nino?"  We moved quickly through the Bahamas because we had to.  The farther south we go, the less these weather systems off the east coast of the US should affect us, technically.

  • We ended up spending more time in the Turks than we expected 
  • More time in the Dominican
  • More time in Puerto Rico waiting for the trade winds to die down so we could move along the south coast--no one warned us about that!
  • Blew through the Virgins to catch a weather window across the Anageda 
  • Sat in Sint Maarten for longer than we planned.  
Are you tired of hearing about weather windows?  We live and breath 'em.  Surprisingly, we were still on schedule, with lots of cruiser friends still behind us.  However, when left to our own devices, we historically like to move every 3-4 days.  We don't mind waiting on weather but it was becoming discouraging.  The SE trade winds and WAVES weren't letting up.  Instead of Chris Parker weather windows coming weekly, they were coming every two weeks.  Instead of a 4 day weather window:  1 day for the waves to lay down, 2 days to sail, and settled with a day to spare (in case we needed to reposition or the window closed), the forecast was for a 2-day window, that suddenly turning "salty" or disappeared all together.  

  • Sint Maarten to Statia.  Forecast didn't materialize--winds never shifted E.  Should have gone to St. Barts.
  • Statia to Nevis.  Got hammered!
  • We left Nevis for Guadeloupe (skipping Montserrat because of shortened window) and for the first time, turned around.
  • Boats ahead of us are saying things like "sporty", "salty", or "washing machine" as far down as St Lucia/St Vincent.  One catamaran from Australia said it was a "little rough", which translates to "Holy Crap, Batman!"  Not cool.
"Everyone" told us, it will get easier as we got further south.  Expectations.  Guidebooks, blogs, fellow cruisers.  As we left Puerto Rico, our general route became south, so "the islands are closer together, when the winds back from SE to E, it's a beam reach"---blah, blah, blah.  They lied.  It wasn't getting easier.  It was getting more difficult.  "After Sint Maarten it gets easier..."  Still, nope.  Who are these people, anyway?  Are these the same people that yell "almost there" 2 miles from the finish line of the marathon?  Do they getting a kick back from the tourism bureau of Grenada/Trinidad?  When I find you, I'm going to kick you in the shin.

Because we could:  If there hadn't been an opening in Puerto del Rey or if our insurance company hadn't accepted our alternate hurricane plan, we may be bashing our way south with our friends in that Tues-Thurs window that was already not looking great.  Instead we're sailing north--downwind!  Of course we prefer a reach, but Odin prefers downwind over close-hauled!  We ride WITH the wind and waves.  It's quieter.  The engines can be shut off.  We're doing 6-7 kts instead of 3 kts!  We're a sailboat again instead of a powerboat.  It's {gasp} fun!  At shift change, we're smiling instead of "So, how bad is it?"  We giggle & point when boats pass us going southbound.  (Spoiler alert:  We'll sail THE WHOLE WAY from Nevis to St. Croix!)

It's time for a visit home.  We have a grandbaby and a daughter-in-law we've never met.  It's time to visit friends and family.  Catch up on Dr's appointments.  Clean out our storage unit.  We'll return in November excited about doing bottom paint(?!) and with lots of time to explore the Leewards & Windwards (Destination #1 Sint Maarten after a pass through Culebra, PR for Zacos Tacos).  It's 400 miles to Trinidad.  200 miles back to Puerto Rico.  We gain a month stateside.  Easy peasy.

The RV:  Once we made the decision to haul out and airline home instead of living on the boat for hurricane season, we got excited about THAT.  Yes, a little distracting but we love learning something new and it's time for a little detour.  As if living on a boat isn't challenging enough...yeah, we're weird.

Living on a boat is hard work.  Don't get me wrong.  We love it.  But it's not all rum punches and beaches.  Just when we find the dumpster, the water spigot, the laundromat, a favorite restaurant and the grocery store it's time to move on.  And it's not admitting defeat to say you need a vacation from your life in the Caribbean.  The Captain is looking forward to some Netflix and air conditioning.  I'm going to gorge on vegetables until I turn into one.  Take a long shower.  Maybe park the RV outside a Mexican restaurant.  

Schedule:  Rule number one of cruising is don't have a schedule.  You're not in charge of the schedule.  Mother Nature is.  Yet we all departed the Bahamas enroute to Grenada/Trinidad with the insurance company telling us to be there by June/July (depending on your insurance company).  Shame on us for thinking we could stick to a schedule.  And WE'RE RETIRED!  We aren't supposed to have a schedule.  

We're not salty.  Maybe it's us.  Maybe it's our boat.  It's supposed to be fun.  Doing 3 kts into wind and waves, burning twice as much gas, it's so loud down below we can't sleep and having to drug the cat is not fun.  We didn't mind the overnights necessary to get this far, but now they're just exhausting. I also dislike skipping over islands and saying we'll "see them on the way back", because we're still winging it.  Who knows where we'll end up next season?  

Summary:  We didn't purchase airline tickets or pay a deposit in Trinidad so we have no commitments.  Airline tickets are $175 one-way with 6 flights a day out of San Juan and it's one stop back to Miami (Amelia the Cat doesn't even need a health certificate to travel in the cabin!). We have cruising friends still north of us we may get to meet up with.  We can stop at St Croix and Vieques, two islands we missed on the way down.  We've covered over 1300 miles this season.  Not bad.  Now the pressure is off.  We'll leave Puerto Rico next November with a whole new group of friends {ahem, hem.  Summertime Rolls.  Sint Maarten.}  We're winging it.


  1. Hey it gets easier once you get to Guadeloupe.
    Muahahahaha :)

    Shin guards.

    1. So you drink the kool-aid in Guadeloupe. Good to know. Must have been in the pink beer :-0