June 2018 –
Friends, we made it to the hurricane-safe(r) waters of Bonaire! After weeks of motoring east into the wind (more on that below), it was a gratifying change to steer Contigo on a southwesterly course and get help – not hindrance – from the incessant easterly trade winds. We completed a 4-day / 3-night sail across the Caribbean Sea from St Croix (US VIs), with the wind anywhere between our port beam and quarter, winds ranging from 15-30 knots and seas reported at 5-7 feet (which we still have no real way of judging other than, yikes here comes a big one!). Luckily the few squalls we encountered brought only excitement (and no big scares), coupled with buckets of fresh water that provided the best showers we got over our four day crossing!
In full disclosure, the second day was a bit of a grind and we were both giving each other somewhat disheartened looks as we changed watches, the off-watch person usually trudging into the cabin to collapse into a salty hallucinogenic sleep while the newly on-watch person either tangled with an autopilot that frequently refused to hold course or hand steered Contigo. The toilet seat breaking (while funny in hindsight) was a surprisingly effective jab at onboard morale! The tide did turn, and on the third and fourth days, we fell into a nice cadence and our spirits lifted. We are now sitting in an Illy Café along Kralendijk, Bonaire’s boardwalk, enjoying free wifi (which Conner is using to study for her PADI dive certification) and basking in the marvels of air conditioned European ambiance.
Puerto Rico (Mainland)
Our last update had us in Ponce PR, from where we sailed over to Salinas on the southern coast of the island. The calm anchorage in Salinas is reportedly the ideal stop for exploring Puerto Rico (protected, central, and free), so off to the car rental agency we went. Or rather, the local autobody repair shop, which rents dented cars, payment in cash, no insurance required or provided, thank you very much. We sped off to San Juan for the day, where in a fugue state, we lounged our way though Wal-Mart for well over two hours. Personal grooming ranks low on the boat these days (unless you fall into the hands of kind Dominican women), so Conner decided to treat herself and get her ears (re)pierced.
We also made a mandatory West Marine stop – where after being bled dry – we spent the standard two head-scratching minutes in the parking lot reviewing the eye-watering receipt. For our NYC non-boating friends, think Dean and Delucca for boat parts. Shopping done, we took a walk through Old San Juan and saw the old Spanish Fort.
Back in Salinas, we readied Contigo for the next march east, bound for the Spanish Virgin Islands. A two-hop journey took us around the southern and eastern coasts of PR, just in time to meet a very special guest!
Culebra & Culebrita, SVIs
Karl’s Mom joined us for a week-long retreat on Contigo. Her energy levels are to be admired, as she had just returned from a month-long visit to Spain when she decided to book a last-minute ocean-view berth aboard Contigo. We introduced her to the unique (read: spartan) Contigo way of life, which provided an apt detox from Don Jamón y Doña Rioja. Culebrita’s rock and roll anchorage (courtesy of an ever so slight northerly swell) also inspired our guest to spontaneously fast one night! On subsequently calmer nights spent in nearby Bahia de Almodovar, white wine was served with the fish we caught crossing la Sonda de Vieques to Culebra; we’re not animals! We’d like to think she returned home enlivened by her time spent aboard, even if she did regrettably miss the Royal Wedding. Meghan could have left Harry at the altar and we wouldn’t have known it for a full three days, such is boat life.
US Virgin Islands
After bidding Mrs. Gerchow adieu, we left for Christiansted on the island of St Croix, and in doing so completed the last of our hops east and into the wind. The 500 some odd miles spent beating east from Luperón DR to St Croix do not rank highly in the (brief) annals of our careers as liveaboard sailors. However, many of the stops along the way (particularly in DR) were among our favorites so far, so the record here is mixed.
We arrived in Christiansted, USVI and while waiting for a suitable weather window to Bonaire, found ourselves pleasantly surprised by the winning combination of ample space for anchorage, easy access to a friendly town, and a great juice bar and yoga studio at The Courtyard.
On the Friday before Memorial Day, we sat on a sunny lawn by the old French fort and listened to a quintet of island jazz musicians play classic jazz standards, peppered with what they described as more reggae-inspired jazz. On Memorial Day we caught our weather window and offshore we went!
One Year In!
We celebrated our one-year aboard Contigo in mid-May, so perhaps a bit of self-reflection is due. For all that we read beforehand – in online blogs and books – about how to ramp up our sailing and liveaboard skills, our lives are still awash in unexpected variability (and sometimes challenge). Not too long ago, we heard someone say that routine can be a worthy adversary to time: fall into one, and the days/months/years start to fly by. We sometimes lament that we don’t have a set routine; the moment we tell ourselves that we are going to start eating, exercising, or meditating at a certain time every day, the realities of living on a sailboat throw all such plans out the hatch (window)! Accordingly, as remarked in previous posts, we have learned to go with the flow a bit more. The consequence of all this has been a shift in our perception of time. Has it really only been a year since we set out? It feels like two or three – and we may have accidentally stumbled into a way to swindle our sunburned brains into thinking that we are living longer lives.
Another observation: after a year aboard, we have a better appreciation of how quickly it can all go belly up. We have now heard plenty of stories involving sailboats that have sunk or run aground (fortunately no serious injuries or deaths that we know of) just this past year. At least one was a boat that we frequently saw at anchorage in the Bahamian Exumas. More recently, while in Culebra awaiting Karl’s mother, we retired for the evening while on a mooring in Ensenada Dakity, which faces the reef-strewn entrance to Culebra’s main harbor. The next morning, we woke up to a beautiful classic sailboat on its side, accidentally brought to rest overnight by an older gentleman while we counted sheep not 500 yards away. An inoperative motor forced him to sail through the channel in the dark, he missed by a good amount, and there ended that.
Although we have come a long way since our first morning untying Contigo’s docklines at Bert Jabin’s boat yard (and losing a fender along the way), little wood on our boat goes unknocked these days. We have an oceanliner’s weight in gratitude for our little Contigo, who has managed to safely take these greenhands this far.
Lots of love,
Conner & Karl
PS – Contigo shown at her current mooring in Kralendijk.
While Conner toils away at PADI dive theory, Karl is dabbling in online YouTube videos to sharpen his writing skills.