We have come upon the land of the French islands. They are magnifique! We sailed from St. Maarten to St. Barth yesterday, the long way around, again beating against the wind. But eventually, we anchored in the harbor of Gustavia. We are here, not only for the lovely ambience, excellent food, and fabulous shopping, but to watch the infamous Bucket Race. Our captain is one of the organizers of the race. He has promised us VIP tickets for several events throughout the week. One of which invites other boat owners onto the mega yachts for a quick glass of champers and a look around. And these yachts are certainly MEGA! 100 feet and over are di riguor around here. And they are considered tiny in comparison with some of the other larger ones. We’ll see how they perform in the water during the race starting tomorrow.
I have noticed that the baby inside of me seems to enjoy the movement of the boat while underway. As soon as we begin sailing, she starts moving about. Well, that could mean she doesn’t enjoy it as well. I guess we’ll find out when she comes out eventually. A born sailor. Either that – or someone who hates the water. Time will tell. I must confess, the heat is starting to slow me down. Swimming is the ideal activity for a pregnant chick. The water’s buoyancy is your best friend. But walking on concrete, up stairs, across lines on the boat, up and down through the hatch – not so fun. And sleeping in tight quarters in the heat, also not the best. My wedge pillow, which helps support my belly at night, has not failed me yet. But my belly continues to grow, so hopefully it won’t squish the wedge out of shape.
When sailing around the Caribbean, you want to make sure that you have much companionship during your trip. A good captain helps, a loving and wonderful partner is always essential, and possibly most importantly; you must have a good dinghy. The dinghy is the small (or sometimes large) inflatable boat which normally trails your sailboat underway during the shorter journeys from island to island. It has an outboard, or motor, attached to the back, which allows you to power through the water. When we motor sailed from Virgin Gorda, BVI to St. Maarten several days ago, we put the dinghy back up on the bow of the ship, so she wouldn’t get lost in the rough seas. That was a 12 hour trip, which we did mostly overnight. Our fearless captain stayed up most of the night and powered through. Good thing he is full of endless energy! Sleeping was rough that evening, but I made up for it later on that day.
Yesterday, my boyfriend and I perused the bay of St. Louis in St. Maarten and checked out some super yachts. Of course, we went in our dinghy. She may not be the fastest in all the land or sea, but she certainly gets us places. We crossed to the Dutch side of the island from the St. Louis bay, under a drawbridge, into another bay, under another bridge, into another bay, and eventually came upon the infamous and enormous Maltese Falcon. Not that I’m saying it I have it rough, but damn – some people really know how to live it up. The problem with seeing so many enormous super yachts next to each other, is that eventually, they all seem commonplace. And believe me, a 150 foot sailboat is no common object!
Sailing around the Caribbean affords me on one of my favorite past times, snorkeling. Yesterday, we moored in a small inlet of Norman Bay close to famous caves where treasure was once found. Although the treasure is no longer, there are plenty of fish to behold. We saw barracuda, parrot fish, trumpet fish, corral, jelly fish and plenty of other nicely colored specimens. The water was crystal clear, which allowed for excellent viewing of all their spectacular colors and shapes. Apparently some of the fish are used to being fed, as they became increasingly friendly towards us while we swam next to them. The locals ask that you don’t feed the fish, as they tend to get aggressive. Snorkeling is a shallow window into the world under the sea. As I swam along happily, voyeur that I am, I couldn’t help but wonder what these fish are thinking, how they live, how they communicate. Is one pissed off at another because he flirted with his girlfriend? Well, it’s all the same to me, as long as they don’t mind me watching from above.
Later on, after some excellent sailing from Norman Island to Cooper Island, about 3 miles away, we came about a nice mooring ball in the popular bay. Unfortunately, as we motored up to the mooring ball, my boyfriend quickly realized there was no small buoy attached to the mooring line to keep it afloat. This made catching the line from the boat to the water impossible. So he dropped the boat stick into the water. Good thing our trusty captain leapt into the dinghy quickly to retrieve the sinking line to attach “Babe” on. It may seem that this would be a shame and a massive pain in the ass. But, good always comes out of bad. My boyfriend fetched some diving gear and heroically dove to the bottom close to “Babe.” What he came up with was certainly fortuitous. The first boat hook he found nearby was actually an imposter! Someone else apparently did the exact same thing and dropped their boat hook. So he found ours as well and surfaced with 2 boat hooks, score!
The word, bliss, has been coming to mind lately. It came to my mind last night while motoring slowly along the bay from Jost van Dyke, a British Virgin Island. We had just eaten a delicious meal of local fish and pig on picnic tables next to the beach. Watching the twinkling lights of the other boats moored in the bay as we motored in the dinghy gently towards “Babe,” I couldn’t help but feel bliss. The kind you can’t really describe with words. It’s that feeling of utter perfection and contentment.
Like today, as we motored “Babe” across the US Virgin Islands chain to get back to St. John to moor for the night, I sat on the bow (front) of the boat while underway. The spray of the ocean felt cool, small spasms of tingles on my skin each time we hit a large wave. The taste of the sea salty on my lips. I think we rocked the baby inside of me to sleep, as the waves lulled us from side to side. My ears kept the howling wind in the background, echoing constantly across the sea. My sight was filled with the deep blue crashing and cresting in many directions, small white caps floating as waves crashed over each other. My mind blank and still. Calm and blissful.
Not only do we have an excellent captain to help us sail “Babe” and navigate around the Caribbean islands, but he knows some locals in these parts too! Alex Ewald owns and operates an incredible restaurant in St. John called “La Tapa Restaurant.” http://www.latapastjohn.com. It’s a gorgeous little spot right in town on Cruz Bay – somewhere between a small French villa and a charming, rustic sea chalet. We took our trusty dinghy there several nights ago and ate a wonderful meal. And we even got to say hello to Alex. She was cooking that evening.
Today, my boyfriend went off scuba diving on the local reefs close to our mooring and the Captain and I went into town to see Alex. She showed us the parts of the island which tourists don’t normally see. Mainly because the bay she lives on is a dead end, not a pass where tourists would normally drive through. By the way, the islanders on St. Thomas and St. John are slightly confused about driving. They drive American cars, with the wheel on the left of the car, yet on British roads, driving on the left hand side. So passing on the right is not recommended. Driving generally, is not recommended.
For those not aware, sailing encompasses a vast array of verbiage. A new vocabulary, really. Today we set sail from the marina in St. Thomas and sailed for about an hour to her close neighbor, St. John. We had excellent wind – close to 20 knots at some points. Because the wind was ahead of us and not pushing from behind, we had to sail into the wind on a close hauled course. That means that the boat is angled about 30 degrees to the wind and the sails are set quite taut on the boat, so you have less sail area. This helps you maintain control of the boat while “beating” into the wind. You heal towards one side of the boat and feel like if you let go, you would slide into the water. You’ll also feel the ocean’s spray on your body and face, as the boat rocks over the waves. Thankfully, none of this action produces any nausea for me, and is actually quite pleasant. Makes me feel sleepy, actually.
Due to my rather enlarged size, pregnant belly and new-found cankles, I am no longer the stealth leopard I once was on a boat. I am not really able to run around on deck, pull lines, or heave my body through small openings between lines all over the place. So I sit at the steering station and help out a bit where I can. Thank goodness our captain is a bundle of energy and my boyfriend is highly adept at sailing. Otherwise, we wouldn’t go far.
If you’ve ever been camping before (in a tent), you know that sleeping with your partner in close quarters is an entirely new experience. At home, we share a king size bed and sleep on a super soft temprapaedic (sp?) mattress. On “Babe” it’s more like fitting into a small box with very little head room. I am relatively small (5’4″), but growing in size, being 4.5 months pregnant. My boyfriend, however, is rather large at 6’1″. Sleeping is like tossing sauce in a pan – I turn one way, he turns that way. He turns the other way, I follow suit. It’s harmonious. The shoe box will take some getting used to. At least cuddling during the night is that much easier.
Sometimes life just clicks. You meet a great new friend, you finally get that promotion you’ve been working for tirelessly, your old jeans fit again. For me, it involved finding Mr. Right. It wasn’t easy, nor did it come quickly. But when he came along, there was finally a click, and we fit. Our journey together in NYC this past year has been filled with some tears, but mostly laughs and lots of plans. This year we decided to jump off the deep end, into the deep blue sea. By “jump” I mean we got pregnant and bought a boat (“Babe”, our new Nautor Swan 46 ft Mark 1) in order to learn the art of sailing. My boyfriend, along with his crew and expert captain, sailed from Rhode Island offshore into the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean. In his words, “in conclusion the sail was very similar to how Neil Armstrong described space flight. ’23 hours of complete and utter boredom punctuated by 1 hour of complete and utter terror.’ ” So essentially: hectic. But an adventure nonetheless.
While in paradise, we will island hop, and explore new territory, take photographs, write, work, and enjoy the simple things in life. All this while my belly continues to grow with our seemingly perfect unborn child.
The Action Lifestyle awaits.
Our Caribbean adventure launches from St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands in March 2013.