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.
This week I put the adventure back into The Adventures of Tarka after what had been a relatively relaxing time on the islands of Guadeloupe and Les Saintes. Tarka and I had arrived in the much-hyped Dominica, and to my surprise, it blew away all expectations.
Tarka and I have continued our march south. From the volcanic island of Montserrat, we have made landfall on the French island of Guadeloupe, Iles des Saintes, and now lie on anchor off Dominica’s north coast.
Tarka’s journey from Montserrat to Guadeloupe to Dominica, totaling over 100 miles.
The passage from Montserrat to Guadeloupe was a rough 45 miles beating into the wind and waves. It was wet, loud, and slow. I let the windvane steer the boat, and spent the majority of the passage below deck reading books or watching episodes of Friends. The will-they/won’t-they of Ross and Rachel really takes a bite out of the sometimes violent and alien world of ocean sailing.
In the last week, Tarka and I have sailed over 150 nautical miles working our way down from St Barts to Montserrat and to where we now lie on anchor in Guadeloupe.
Our stay on St. Barts was short. Compared to the other islands of the West Indies, it is polished in appearance, and adorned with boutique shopping, clean streets, and beautiful buildings. That also implies that it is more expensive than other places, as it caters largely to visiting mega/super yachts. However, St. Barts proved to be a perfect place to buy a few parts for my overheating engine, and, being home to one of the most challenging runways in the world, stirred up my inner pilot. Best of all, we had access to moderately-warm showers every day.
Tarka and I have finally left St Martin after final preparations and the arrival of favorable wind and sea conditions. St Martin had become familiar: I knew where the best and most affordable groceries could be found, where I could stock up on fuel and water, and which bars had the best happy hour. I also grew to know the community. If I needed help fixing something, or a part for my engine, help was just a radio call away. In what is perhaps a fault of my own character, I become bored with familiarity and thirst for change. It was time for a change.
It’s finally time to leave. Tarka has been repaired and a weather window is opening, so it’s about damn time that we head south. Interestingly enough though, there is a tropical wave heading toward the Windward Islands, that has a small chance of developing into a tropical storm. Most likely though, it’ll brush through with nothing more than an increase in thunderstorm activity, and we should be well North when it does so.
It’s technically hurricane season down here in the Caribbean, but a series of setbacks and a lack of the right wind have kept me from departing. This is my first real encounter with the whole “draw your plans with a stick in the sand at low tide” phenomena – harkening back to my very first blog.
The setbacks have been a mixed bag. On the lighter side, my US vessel documentation eventually went through, but it took longer than I expected because of a mistake (yours truly) made on a form. The very moment I awoke to see the e-mail from the US Coast Guard that Tarka was now officially a US vessel, I went outside and swapped out the St. Martin flag for an American one. I’m now legal and free to travel!
Read more “Boulevard of Broken Rigging”
Okay, it’s rainbows, but it’s definitely not butterflies. In fact, it’s roaches. It turns out that surrounding oneself with a moat of ocean is insufficient protection from mankind’s most hated pest. I discovered my unwanted crew mate crawling on my arm while trying to get some sleep during an already restless night. I threw him off my arm and leapt to the companionway. I contemplated sending out a mayday call, or perhaps firing a flare. In the end, I just stood watch, and slept with the lights on. That said, I have heard stories of people intentionally sinking their boats to get rid of a rat, and then re-floating the boat once the bugger was surely dead. I think I’ll keep Tarka afloat for now, and maybe get a cat.