Unfortunately, I spent most of this week holed up in my boat under a fan fighting one of the least pleasant illnesses I’ve experienced in my life. Trying to ride out a high fever in a boat where the ambient temperature inside is 96 degrees doesn’t make it much better. After a number of sleepless nights, and no relenting of the fever, I decided it was probably an infection and went to see a doctor. The antibiotics he prescribed seemed to have done the trick, and I now, obviously, feel well enough to write a new update. Here on the hard, I could afford to lie in one spot all day, but what would I do if I got sick at sea, with responsibilities that demanded my attention?
It’s the little things this week that have reminded me both how difficult living on a boat can be, but also how rewarding. On a day-to-day basis, things have been pretty low-key. The days have been spent sanding, the evenings reading, and the nights sleeping – mostly. But we’ll get back to that.
I’m back! After five wonderful weeks in the states, I have finally been re-united with Tarka. The past week has been one of adjustment, hard work, and excitement. Before I get into the joys and struggles of returning to boat-life, I want to formally announce the most exciting new development for Tarka.
This week, the second most powerful hurricane (by sustained wind speed) ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin hit Barbuda, St. Martin, and Anguilla. St. Martin is close to my heart, as it’s where Tarka and I started our voyage. I know the place well, and unfortunately, know many people there. Most of these people live on boats and had already, or were able to sail out of the path before Irma arrived. However, I still have friends that I have not heard from, but I have heard second hand that they are OK. But after seeing videos of the destruction, I’m unsure if the island will ever truly recover. In addition to 90% of buildings being destroyed, entire forests have been removed from the island, and there’s little doubt that the reefs have been decimated.
“Captain!” I heard a voice call from behind. I reflexively turned around, only to see a man in black slacks, a white shirt with fancy shoulder epaulets, and shiny metal wings. The barista at the airport café was of course shouting to the airline pilot, and not this dirty-looking sailor in desperate need of a haircut. I had become so accustomed to taxi drivers, food vendors, and others shouting, “captain” at me – deservingly or not – that I couldn’t help but laugh at myself when I turned around.
The time had come: Tarka was coming out the water. The sails had already been brought down, lines coiled and hung, and the forever-drying laundry stowed below. With the help of Michael, Meagan and Michelle to handle lines, I maneuvered Tarka over to the marina dock. From there, the dock crew took over pulling Tarka onto a very large trailer while two divers made sure she was secured on the hydraulic cradle. The tractor then pulled Tarka effortlessly out of the water, and out of her element.
This week’s blog, and the ones to follow in the coming weeks, are likely to be shorter than previous ones. The adventure has slowed as Tarka and I wait out hurricane season and do work on the boat in preparation for the upcoming trip to Panama and from there, the crossing of the South Pacific. Though there will still be much to share, the day-to-day activities are becoming more of a social nature, and when I’m being responsible, more of a boat-maintenance nature.
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.
This week, Tarka and I experienced our most trying sail to-date, but were dully rewarded with an island paradise unlike anything we have seen so far.
At three in the morning, and without a working masthead light, I untied the mooring lines that secured me between the dramatic Pitons, and set out into the darkness of the Caribbean Sea. The moonless night didn’t afford much visibility, but I trusted my charts. I had jury-rigged a temporary navigation light to my bow and left my anchor light lit, positioned high on my backstay. I was hoping this would be sufficient for other boats to see and avoid me if necessary.
It has been a wild ride this past week. I said goodbye to good friends as their journey came to an end, and I continued mine alone, straight toward the path of a tropical storm.
After an unforgettable stay in Dominica, it came time to put the clothes back on and leave the waterfalls of that tropical treasure astern. In stillness of the morning twilight, I readied Tarka and myself for departure. In almost ritualistic fashion, I prepared my morning coffee, and sipped it on deck, reflecting on my time on the island. I glanced over at King of Bongo, its crew happily still asleep, and wondered how I’d manage without them. Those thoughts would have to wait though, as it was time to lift anchor and set sail.