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Sailing into the Sunset

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The expression held quite true last night when we sailed into the sunset from the shores of Prickly Pear Island off of Anguilla and made passage back north to the BVI.  We arrived to Virgin Gorda this morning around 6:00am.  We ran downwind the entire trip towards our destination.  At the start of our approximately 12 hour journey, the seas were calm, the clouds lit beautifully by the setting sun, and the stars shone bright as the sun set.  The sky was full of millions of sparkling dust particles.  It was gorgeous and dreamlike.  However, as we sailed further into the deep blue, the seas started getting choppy.  When you run downwind, the boat tends to sway from right to left.  So real sleep is not likely, though I did try.  The men dealt with the wind and the waves while I snuck down below holding on for dear life.

My thoughts turn to putting “Babe” away and returning home after our Caribbean adventure.  We are leaving her in Tortola at Nanny Cay, which we hear is an excellent dry dock spot and well protected from hurricanes.  We will have to take her apart and organize all of her bits and parts, and inevitably, say goodbye.  For now.

Take it Easy

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I recently took up learning guitar.  It’s much harder than it looks.  Thinking my love for music and past experience playing the cello would make it a snap, I began taking lessons in NYC about 2 months ago.  The first song I learned was “Take it Easy.”  Supposedly an easier compilation, it certainly has taken me a while to switch seamlessly from one chord to another.  I brought my guitar along with me on this voyage, knowing that time would be available to practice.  And practice I certainly have done.  Not only playing guitar, but also taking it easy in a general sense.

Being on a boat forces one to take life as it comes.  We can’t control the weather, the wind, or the tides.  So we make a general plan, but flexibility is key to maintaining sanity.  If we can’t go somewhere one day due to weather conditions, or travel in a certain direction because the wind is not favorable, we change course.  No need to get upset, just move on to the next activity and destination.

Caribbean time also teaches one to slow down and relax.  Coming from NYC, that is a wild notion indeed.  Service at restaurants will take a little longer, people will greet you with pleasantries before getting down to business, and generally no one is in a rush to do anything.  So we can either fight this philosophy, or we can go with it.  While sailing, you have no choice but to go with it.  We sailed back north from Nevis to St. Barth with some friends last week and spent a few lovely days on St. Barth.  This time it was quiet and peaceful, as we did not have to contend with the crowds surrounding the Bucket Race.  The sail was excellent, but somewhat choppy for our friends, as one of them got sick.  Shit happens.  He survived and subsequently enjoyed the next sail we did from St. Barth to Anguilla.  That sail was quite slow and steady, with average 15 knot winds on a beam reach, a comfortable point of sail.  It took a lot longer than we had anticipated, but we reached Anguilla relaxed and happy.

Luxury in the Caribbean

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We were joined by good friends during our stay in Nevis last week.  To celebrate one of their birthdays and just because the Four Seasons happened to be across the  bay from where we were moored, we decided to treat ourselves to a fabulous spa afternoon with dinner afterwards on their beach verandah.  We took advantage of their pools, sauna, and steam room areas as well, not to mention their tasty snacks provided in the locker rooms.  It felt wonderful to have a nice long shower without having to ever turn the water off.  I shampooed and used conditioner!  The maternity massage I had felt good and the therapist was very professional.  Everyone else enjoyed their treatments too, and our dinner that evening was excellent.  Other than the outrageous cost, it was an excellent afternoon.

Nevis is a diamond in the rough.  Her sister island, St. Kitts, next door is a backwater dump in comparison.  On Nevis, we spent a day hiking up it’s steep hill into her lush rainforest, walking around her old town and shopping, visiting her hot springs, eating delicious food, and enjoying her white sandy beaches, which are filled with tiny cute crabs running amok.  We also visited the island’s Botanical Gardens, with a Thai theme, and also some gorgeous local flora.  Pictures are included here.

Tourism

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Not all islands of the Caribbean are created equal.  Some are uber-structured for tourism.  They have loads of restaurants and shopping, typically open most of the day for your convenience, they serve you with charm and attention, and generally they are happy you have come for a visit.  Saint Eustatius, a Dutch island about 20 miles from Saba, is not that kind of island.  It is a tiny place with a population of less than 2,000, no agriculture, and very few restaurants and hotels.  It does have a bay in which we anchored for several nights and a dinghy dock next to their industrial port.  “Island time” is taken seriously and lunchtime ends at 2pm, so don’t bother going out after then.

Eustatius does have an amazing volcano on shore called The Quill, which we climbed up to the rim to get a fantastic view.  We were joined by some friendly chickens up there as well.  It was very green and lush and quite steep at times, but a lovely hike.  We also saw some small hermit crabs and lizards on the way, which are included in photos here.  And this time, my boyfriend bought me a legitimate walking stick, so I was trekking like a pro.

Chivalry is not dead

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We sailed to Saba two days ago, with a friend from NYC  aboard.  It was slightly choppy, but we made it in record time with excellent wind conditions.  Saba is a 3,000 foot high small rock jutting out of the ocean in the Caribbean close to St. Maarten and St. Kitts.  It doesn’t feature on some maps.  Because it is not wildly sought after by tourists, the island has been largely left alone.  Its rocks and sheer cliff faces are magnificent.    Yesterday we decided to dinghy over  from our mooring ball in somewhat rough seas to the shore of Saba to check it out.  The thing to do at Saba is to climb all the way up to the highest point of the island, which is shrouded in clouds, for a fantastic view.  Well, if you can see anything.  We took a somewhat shorter route up, though no less steep.  We climbed many stairs up through dense green brush surrounded by gorgeous trees and many types of leaves.  We were also joined by heavy downpours and much mist along the way.  Going up was hard on the ass, but not as slippery as going down.  Being the pregnant chick in the group, I was embraced by many caring and chivalrous men.  Lots of holding back up the hill, hand holding over more difficult rocks, and a gift of a large walking stick.  Though I was quite wet and out of breath at times, I always felt safe with such caring and kind men looking after me.  My boyfriend was particularly sweet and attentive.  We should hike more often.

Another stunning part of staying at an island with very few boating tourists moored in a quiet bay is the opportunity to stargaze.  At night, the sky is filled with thousands of tiny twinkling lights covering you from above.  The lack of light pollution from other islands or boats makes the stars pop.  Sitting out on deck, it’s just you and your thoughts, the sound of the waves lapping up against the boat, the whizzing wind in your hair, and darkness spotted by tiny flickers of gas millions of miles away.  Paradise.

Rain Day

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It’s been raining for the past 2 days in St. Barth.  Rain days on a boat are kind of like rain days at summer camp.  You have to pretty much stay indoors.  The patter or shatter, depending on the strength of the rain, on the wood deck above your head has a special echo.  The light rain sounds like pleasant pitter patter on a tin roof, as if you were whiling away the hours in a hammock swinging to and fro.  The heavy showers sound like pieces of hail crashing down from thousands of feet above onto a steel drum.  It’s heavy and eery and the boat sways methodically from side to side aiding those lovely feelings of sea sickness down below.  But hey, we’re still on a boat in the Caribbean so life is good!

The Bucket Race has been pretty cool to watch.  We went out in our dinghy to see the first race of the J boats.  Pictures are attached here for some reference as to their enormity.  Perhaps the pictures don’t quite do them justice.  The best part so far has been the evening we were given special VIP bracelets by our generous captain to board all of the fancy yachts.  My boyfriend spent his time photographing enormous winches on deck, while I peaked down below to check out how these owners style it up.  Most of them are very streamlined and oddly white or beige with dark wood.  Strange if you think about going on a boat from the water or the beach.  Where do they keep all of the sand from their feet?  These boats’ massive sizes really make you think about the other half – or in this sector, the other 0.00000001%.  And most of these owners don’t even spend that much time on their vessels!  Their crew certainly enjoy the ride on board.  But man, those guys have a lot of work to accomplish day and night.  And the maintenance never ends.

Nationalities

Staying at a marina is a totally different experience than hooking up to a mooring ball out in a bay or putting down your anchor.  A marina is a small housing complex for boats.  Usually, you can fill up your boat with water, petrol, and electricity and step onto a dock easily for easy access to provisioning for your boat.  These are all good things.  As in any housing complex, you live among neighbors.  In the Caribbean, marinas are housed by a variety of nationalities.  People from all over the world travel on their boats.  We had the good fortune to meet an Italian captain and his skipper from Scotland in their monohull who was docked next to us.  We also met an older couple who have circumnavigated the globe in the exact same boat as ours, a 46′ swan.  The lovely French woman who works in the shop at the marina helped me make an appointment with a French gynecologist while in St. Maarten and she also helped my boyfriend with numerous boat-related activities such as purchasing new batteries for “Babe.”

Sometimes, however, neighbors can be annoying.  For instance, I wrote the script as performed by the Mexican boys docked next door to us in their 113 foot uber fancy power boat.  These boys are probably no older than 25 and look like they are 15.  One evening after getting dolled up in their tightest jeans and button down shirts, with the first 4 buttons undone neck down, their conversation went like this.  “Hey ladies, you want to come on board my yacht?”  A group of women casually walking by replied, “Hello.  Who’s boat is that, yours?  Where are you from?”  “It’s my father’s boat, we are from Mexico.  Come have a drink on board.  We are going to the disco later.”  The women look at each other and say, sure, what the hell.  They were on their way to the disco too.  On they went up the plank.  The evening continued with loud chatter and exceptionally ear piercing banging techno music for the entire marina to hear.  At around 11pm, the music stopped, and I assume they were off for their big night out.  I’m sure they all had lots to talk about together.  The women were from Switzerland – so much in common!

My experience at the French gynecologist at St. Maarten was surprisingly pleasant.  He took an appointment with a perfect American stranger who promised to pay him cash.  I just needed a regular monthly check up and to check the baby’s corpus collosum, since the last sonogram I had couldn’t see it well.  The doctor was professional and sweet

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and his English was very good.  He did a sonogram and took many photos, one of which showed her perfectly constructed corpus collosum (the bridge in the brain connecting the left and right hemispheres), her head, and her vagina.  He wanted to make sure I knew it was a girl.  He also told me her length and size and informed me that for an American baby, she was normal, but for a French baby, she was very large.  I wanted to argue that French people eat croissants too, but why bother.