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If there’s one constant I’ve learned from five years of cruising, it’s that there are no constants. Plans are a rough draft at best, made on an Etch-a-Sketch that gets erased at the smallest bump. Weather and health are the two primary factors contributing to this fluid environment.
- My initial plans to sail around South America were nixed when a close family member started a fight with lung cancer.
- My 2016 trip was canceled when I unexpectedly had a rib removed following a scary blood clot.
- And now my 2017 plans to explore Dominica have been erased along with the island of Dominica following Hurricane Maria.
Dominica will always be a beautiful island with some amazing citizens – I wish I was there longer last time to get to know them better. I know they’ll rebuild and I look forward to returning some day.
But I won’t be sailing there this year. There have been stories of pirates intercepting supply ships, and I firmly believe that people who just “show up” to help actually get in the way more if they’re not part of some kind of organized effort. There is no infrastructure for tourists right now and I won’t be going with any relief groups. Like Ahnold says, I’ll be back.
So I think it’s time to say goodbye to the eastern Caribbean and continue on my voyage. I will stop by St. Croix on my way out of town to deliver some supplies and help some friends on that island. They too are without power and running water for the rest of the year. The curfew has been extended to 8pm. I’ll work with friends, stay out of the way, and document some of the cleanup efforts.
Where to next? Panama is calling and I’ll be there sooner than I originally thought. That’ll give me more time to explore my landfall area, Bocas del Toro!
I’ll have a few challenges this time around
- Because I spent a full year longer away from Saoirse than I had planned, I don’t know the state of my batteries. I kept them on a trickle solar charger but I didn’t have anyone check on them because I figured they’d be okay for a few months. St. Kitts is having a difficult time getting supplies from marine chandleries due to hurricane damage on other islands, so I’ll have to hunt around the island of St. Kitts for a replacement, which may be difficult. Fingers crossed the batteries are good.
- Speaking of which, I can’t get supplies before leaving St. Kitts. My boatyard on St. Kitts only gets supplies from Budget Marine on St. Martin, and that island was heavily damaged. So I’m just taking the bare essentials in my checked luggage. What are the bare essentials? A new jib and dinghy. Not small items. Still cheaper to fly with those than to have them shipped…
- I may not have refrigeration for my passage to Panama. Again, the thing with the batteries and inability to get new solar panels shipped to St. Kitts. Refrigeration shmefrigeration. I can go a few weeks without it.
- I’ll probably have to wait until I get to Panama to find a new outboard motor for the dinghy I’m bringing in my checked luggage. If you remember, or didn’t know, the wind took my dinghy in Dominica last year when someone (not me!) didn’t tie it up properly. So I’ll be rowing in the meantime. Rowing an inflatable dinghy is…not fun. But I don’t have room on the ship for a rigid dinghy of any kind.
- This ~1,100ish miles will be my longest offshore passage yet, taking 7-8 days, but it’s all downwind. And I’ve had plenty of time to figure shit out to make passages more comfortable. I’m feeling good about it.
Why am I leaving the eastern Caribbean?
It’s not the cruising I remember from my first time bareboating in the BVI in 1996.
The bays that we had to ourselves at anchor back then are now all full of occupied moorings and bars and restaurants. For some people, that’s their thing. Not me. Development is spreading quickly. Even Mt. Hartman Bay, an idyllic anchorage in Grenada, will soon have its mangroves covered to build a Chinese eco-resort. How hypocritical is that?
Yes, I realize that cruisers like myself are spurring all of this development, but I’m not asking for it. I sail to get away from it. Catch-22.
Saint Vincent & The Grenadines and Grenada had quite a few brutal crimes & murders while I was there last time. Yeah I know it’s everywhere, but I want to take my chances elsewhere now.
Keeping with my overall philosophy
And, story of my life, I just get restless being in one place for too long. I bought this boat and named her after the Gaelic word for freedom so I could travel, not stay in one small corner of the world! I just got back from Costa Rica and that made me want to get to Central America even more.
See you in Panama!