Endings and new beginnings

Weekly Updates

Endings and new beginnings

This week, I broke the 500-mile mark upon arriving in Grenada. Though this distance is tiny compared to the 10,000-mile voyage across the Pacific, it has served as both a learning experience, and an opportunity to discover a new mission for the Adventures of Tarka.

Tarka arriving in Grenada and completing her 500-mile voyage south

Sailing tandem with buddy boat Tanagra from Union Island, we arrived in Carriacou with about an hour of daylight remaining. Tanagra experienced engine trouble in the anchorage and nearly bumped into another boat. Meanwhile, I did a circumnavigation of the entire anchorage looking for a place to park – the place was packed. Eventually I found a spot to throw the anchor overboard, and settled in for the night. It was July 28th, and I wasn’t booked to fly back to the states until the 16th of August. In the pink-orange light of the setting sun, I looked around at the tiny island and crowded anchorage and began to wonder if I could really sit here for two weeks.

Carriacou has a tiny boat yard that I have heard generally good things about, and certainly better things than I had heard about the Grenada yards. Upon arriving though, I began to see flaws with my plan to haul out here. For one, two months of island hopping had made me uneasy about settling down in one spot, far from my friends, in a crowded anchorage, and without access to general provisioning. Second, I wasn’t sure I had everything I needed onboard to complete the boat work I wanted to do while out of the water, and the island had little to offer in this regard. Finally, if a hurricane were to barrel through, I think I’d rather be on the much larger island of Grenada. Thus, I made the decision to head to Grenada after all.

Tanagra left a day ahead of me, while I spent another day on the island, mostly making plans to haul out in Grenada and attempting to find insurance for Tarka (the marinas require it). Back aboard Tarka, I glanced over at my toilet with a feeling of contempt; the holding tank was still clogged, and still full. As a consequence, one of my buckets had unwillingly earned itself a new job. However, it became important to time my own… movements… with those of the ocean and of the Sun. In the darkness of the night, with an outgoing tide, I switched off my deck light, and, shamefully, got down to business. The good news is that I later resolved the problem with the toilet, but only after a very unpleasant four-hour experience below deck. I will spare the few readers that remain the details, but suffice it to say, it was a dirty job.

You don’t want me to put a picture here.

The next morning I set off toward Grenada in typical Tarka fashion: sipping coffee in the twilight of the rising sun — which made me a bit queasy after my most recent brown-water experience. I began the sail with only my headsail out, but eventually got tired of slugging along at 3-4 kts and decided to pull the main up. With both sails out and on a beam reach, Tarka rocketed along at a steady 5-6 kts for the remainder of our passage. Bet NASA is regretting its decision to pass me up, now. It was great sailing, and a perfect way to end my 2-month trip from St. Martin.

Somewhere along the way – probably close to the submerged active volcano Kick ‘em Jenny – I sat on deck and looked west out into the Caribbean Sea. I considered how easy it would be to turn down wind, and sail straight there – skipping my layover in Grenada. Panama is a thousand miles away, double the combined distance of all the sailing I had done to-date, but a non-stop downwind sail in the trades would get me there in just over a week. I had plenty of food and water, and Tarka was up for the task, but it would be foolish if not reckless. That trip would have to wait until after hurricane season.

Celebrating the last sail in formal attire

Tarka and I finished our final passage by catching our first fish. It was a simple Bar Jack caught just off the reef as we entered the bay. On our first sail together, a dolphin welcomed us to the sea, and it seemed fitting that in this last sail – for now – that the sea would reward us in this simple way. Frankly, I felt a bit bad about killing the fish. But if you kill a fish, you better eat it, and we sure did. Mike (aboard Tanagra) grilled the fish and prepared an amazing dinner that night. The bounty fed 4 people with leftovers.

The Bar Jack that I caught just off the reef while entering Greanda

Here in Grenada, the days have been marked by the return of routine. In some ways this is welcomed. I have been able to catch up with friends I made back in St. Martin and explore the nightlife the island has to offer. I have also been able to catch up on world affairs as there is now less to do, and more internets to be had. There are also hot showers at the marina, which, more than anything else, signals a return to normalcy. Unfortunately though, such normalcy does not lend itself well to adventure, and without adventure, “The Adventures of Tarka” just becomes “The Tarka”. In fact, over the next few months, the story will likely become “The Refit of Tarka”, as I prepare her for the bigger passages that still await.

I had mixed feelings about that last sail to Grenada. On the one hand, it marked a tremendous personal accomplishment. With very little sailing experience, I single-handed a small sailboat across 500 miles of ocean, making landfalls in 10 different countries and 15 different islands along the way. Moreover, the only casualties had been an untwisted forestay, a clogged toilet, and a battered ego. On the other hand, it also marks a turning point. Tarka and I must wait out hurricane season here, and in that time, decisions need to be made about our future together.

My complete journey from St. Martin to Grenada

I set out on this adventure in part to do something exciting with my life, but also to see the ecosystems impacted by climate change before they’re gone – for good. Our coral reefs are dying as ocean temperatures increase. In just 30 years, 50% of world’s coral has died, and in 2016 alone, more than a quarter of the Great Barrier Reef died in one massive bleaching event. Were we, as a species, to stop emitting greenhouse gasses today, there would still enough thermal inertia to bring about a 2-degree rise in ocean temperature in the next 25 years. Entire families of coral may become extinct, and that’s the best-case scenario.

An example of healthy brain coral in the Tobago Cays.

As depressing as the data are, I do believe it is still worth saving what can be saved. Do we need our reefs to survive? Probably not. Do we really want the loss of the beauty and diversity they provide to be on our watch? I don’t. In this regard, I would like to have a role in fighting for their survival. Towards this end, I hope to give The Adventures of Tarka further purpose: raising awareness and funds to help save these ecosystems. How this will manifest remains to be seen, but expect announcements as I draw up new plans for Tarka and I.

The beautiful healthy reefs of the Tobago Cays