First Half 2019 –
Greetings from Bonaire… again! It’s been eons since our last update — this being our first of 2019 — and it is not for a lack of adventures to report back on or because we have experienced some seismic shift in how with think about this unorthodox cruising life that we embarked on two plus years ago. Contigo remains steady, as she goes 🙂
At some point — like everything in life we reckon — we normalized the day-to-day, island-to-island flow of our aquatic existence that once felt quite novel, different, and at times a bit terrifying. Now we are just taking it all in one breezy day at a time.
We know fellow cruisers who have called it a day at this point, and others who continue to plow on: having lived this briny life for long enough, we find merit in both decisions. Our complicated algorithm — continue as long as the good outweighs the bad — continues to register green with dashes of yellow!
Since our last update (long, long, long ago) in the Leeward Caribbean islands, we have continued on to sunny shores East and South, covering most islands down to Grenada at the bottom of the Windward Island chain. In early June, we made the crossing back West to Bonaire, where we expect to remain before storing Contigo in Curaçao for the balance of the 2019 hurricane season.
Capping off the Leewards (Antigua, Guadeloupe)
We greeted 2019 in Antigua with Karl’s parents, who booked a quaint cottage half way between St John’s, the island’s capital, and Jolly Harbor, home to Contigo for the duration of their stay. We explored this former British naval stronghold by car, taking in the island’s history in the mornings and settling into long, leisurely lunches in the afternoons, including two at French-inspired Catherine’s Salt Plage — which felt eerily familiar to the Hamptons, down to the pricey onsite boutique, “farm stand” selling baguettes and confiture, and white linen-draped crowd. On a hunch, the Anchovies came prepared, showered/shaved and generally doing our best to look (and smell) like land people. Ordering that third basket of bread before our appetizers had a chance to arrive probably still gave us away..
The picture below is a sweet photo of Karl’s parents… and many others trying to get their well-framed selfies in before the sun went down atop Shirley Heights, a restored British Navy lookout and gun battery station. It was one of the last sunsets of the year, so the revelry was in full swing and the atmosphere was pleasantly festive… so much so that one girl nearly tumbled down the hill, cold drink vigorously clutched in hand.
While out sailing on a day of baby squalls, Karl’s Mom was treated to one of the many scene-piercing rainbows that graced Jolly Harbour during our stay.
Bidding Karl’s parents farewell, Contigo next skipped over to Guadeloupe, the last of the Leewards and our penultimate stop on French soil. The Département of Guadeloupe, like Martinique to follow, falls in the category of d’outre-mer French territories with closest administrative affiliation to France. Predictably, French dairy, bread and sweet pastry crept itself onboard in dangerous quantities, replacing the traditional rice & lentils “hardtack” that is our spartan mainstay.
Deshaies on the northwest coast proved a well-situated town from which to explore the island, with a lush Botanical Garden within walking distance and a car rental joint an easy dinghy ride away. Or so we thought: when we motored over to the wave-strewn beach — Europcar lot temptingly in sight — there was no way to safely beach our dinghy amid the breaking waves. Karl had to jump in with credit card and Florida driver’s license firmly gritted in teeth for the swim ashore, while Conner took the dinghy back to Deshaies. He drew a few stares from resort patrons, but the rental agent was pleasantly unfazed.
We quickly put the rental car to good use, making for the island’s highest point atop a stunning volcano.
Îles des Saintes, or The Saints, were the next stop. These are a collection of small islands that form the southern boundary of Guadeloupe’s territorial waters. The very best way to make the crossing from the mainland, we assure you, is on a calm day with a warm bag of croissants in hand. That’s not to say there isn’t a perfectly delicious boulangerie once you get there.
We loved the Saints! It was quaint, quiet, had good swimming, and was cruiser friendly, providing a handful of grocery stores and laundry services (aka happy cruiser essentials). We grabbed a mooring ball at nearby Îlet à Cabrit for a little over a week, and could have easily stayed longer. It was a quick dinghy ride to the “main town” at Terre-de-Haut. The island was just large enough to circle on foot and we enjoyed a few hikes up to the Fort Napoléon museum and other trails that offered up 360 degree views.
Windward Islands (Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, SVG, Grenada)
South of Les Saintes lies the beautiful, lush, and (unfortunately) Hurricane-Maria ravaged island of Dominica. The island has an enterprising cooperative of “boat boys” that caters to passing cruisers known as PAYS, or Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services. They help you tie up, arrange for provisions to be delivered to your boat, and organize sightseeing tours — all at a price, but done with a genuine smile, which is what counts. As soon as we rounded the corner to Prince Rupert’s Bay, our concierge-to-be Alexis met us in his dinghy to lead us to one of his many PAYS mooring.
Dominica was hit hard by Hurricane Maria in late 2017, but eighteen months later, in a testament to the regenerative power of Mother Nature, we were met with lush, verdant landscapes in full recovery mode. We rented an AirBnB and stayed on land a couple of nights, basking in our well-ventilated room, reading, taking fresh water showers, and getting sleep in an unmoving bed. As we were leaving, we chatted with the house’s owner and mentioned we were heading back to our boat. A former sailboat cruiser, she understood our immediate priorities and graciously filled our arms with fresh organic veggies from her garden and hot out of the oven rolls she makes daily for a local restaurant.
Dominica was packed with raw nature, reminding us often of Karl’s Costa Rican homeland. We took a little “farm trip” where we hiked to a waterfall and our local guide showed us different herbs and fruits that grow untended trail-side. We have since successfully employed the knowledge he imparted regarding various trees and plants used for teas and tinctures without poisoning ourselves. Yet.
Late Winter, we made for Martinique, our final French island, and where our bread intake hit its inevitable, thundering crescendo. Conner’s parents joined us for a wonderful ten days. Our long breakfasts meant we were never hungry for lunch during French restaurant hours (lots of “désolés” to be had when trying to sit down for lunch at 3PM), so Karl cooked up a storm in our apartment’s full sized kitchen.
When not kicking back in the apartment, we explored Martinque, visiting Trois Ilets (great ice cream), the botanical garden, and the St. Clement rum distillery.
After a month in Martinique, we departed Le Marin and sailed south to St. Lucia, where we treated ourselves to a slip at the dock in Marigot Bay for a few nights. Just so you don’t think we’ve gotten too soft, we also took advantage of our easy dock access to give Contigo some much needed love: Karl got some help waxing the hull from our new friend Francis, while Conner rubbed the stainless steel until it sparkled. Overall, it was a great set up, everyone was very nice, but we’ll be the first to admit that we didn’t really get to know the island.
In a beautiful coincidence, we happened to run into our friend Marien, whom we first met in India when we did our Kundalini Yoga course in 2017. Makes you wonder how many people you unknowingly cross paths with a second (or third) time in life without ever being the wiser!
Our next stop was St Vincent & Grenadines. The main island of St Vincent is considered a bit dodgy in cruising circles, so many pass it up, but we enjoyed our three night stop in Cumberland Bay. A local boat delivered the best fruit we’ve had on the trip yet, and we briefly explored nearby Wallilabou Bay, mostly to check in with customs, but also to see the set from one (or a few?) of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
A few Grenadine anchorages later, we finally arrived south enough to visit islands last seen when we were completing our ASA sailing course in late 2016 (completed out of Grenada). The clear waters and white sandy beaches of PSV remain a trip favorite. There is a swanky hotel on shore for those so-inclined, but it’s priced accordingly.
Grenada! The “loop” started in 2016 with our sailing instructor has been completed! We happily reunited with Shaun, who we can’t thank enough for providing a perfect week of curated instruction and insight (both on the boat and in life) to two clueless landlubbers. We reconnected in Grand Anse for an evening and met some of his lovely friends, some of whom had us laughing hysterically.
Off-Boat Travel (NYC and Costa Rica)
Mid-Spring, we left Contigo on a mooring in Grenada’s Mount Hartman Bay and flew ourselves north to New York City (en-route to Costa Rica, to visit Karl’s family), where we saw dear friends and traipsed through the city mid-week like a couple of tourists. Thank you to our gracious hosts Jamie and Jen, and Rachel and Andres, for letting us stay with you for several nights each, the hot showers, laundry, and good food and company, made us feel right at home!
A week or so later, we flew to Costa Rica to spend time with Karl’s parents and his sister’s family, who traveled from London for the Easter holiday. Subject to Mrs. Gerchow’s iron will, Karl’s older brother even made a flash-visit: for 24 hours, all of the Gerchow children were in one place!
We have a tradition of watching the Masters and were happy to be in a place with satellite TV (no streaming needed!) where we could indulge and cheer on Tiger’s big win.
We also celebrated Conner’s 35th Birthday!
Bonaire and Onward
As we mentioned above, the crossing from Grenada to Bonaire was a gentle one, and our time spent here since has been equally mellow. We are coming up on our second month on Bonaire, with three amazing waves of friends and family visits, to be detailed in our next post. Otherwise, the life here is one of daily connection with underwater life through either scuba or freediving, hours of daily reading (we are working through a comprehensive 2019 reading list), and addressing our day-to-day needs.
On the latter point, Conner recently mentioned to her mother in a phone call that we had spent the lionshare of the day doing laundry, walking to the grocery store, and procuring water for the boat — all of which sounded to Helen Esworthy like we were living the life of her own grandparents (Conner’s great-grandparents, that is). As the pace of our life continues to slow, we may very well be cave dwellers by the time of our next long-overdue update 🙂
Lots of love,
Conner and Karl