A question that often comes up among the “newbie cruisers” we meet (and some friends ashore) is “don’t you get bored seeing the same places all the time”? I can understand the newbies concern. After all, they are out cruising to see new destinations every day. It a big world and there is not enough time to see it all. I’m amused about the question from friends ashore. These people lived in the same house or neighborhood almost their entire life and never complained about being bored with that.
I bring this up as, yes, we did go cruising to see new lands (or islands). Its 12 years in and we certainly only “scratched the surface” of the earth seeking new lands (or islands). But a funny thing happens while cruising, you get to really like certain areas and no one gives you a gold star for the number of places you stepped foot on. In our case, the neighborhood is almost 500 mile long, contains over 10 different countries, various cultures, food cuisines, languages and personalities. And no snow.
So, after 12 years island hopping our neighborhoods, we came to like them all. We just traveled up to St Maarten/St Martin for 3 weeks after a 5 year hiatus. It felt like visiting an old friend. The shawarma vendor, Little Jerusalem is still there, although a new place seems to offer better fare. Lagoonies is still the hangout for cruisers although the Naked Pirate is eager to offer some competition. The same Dutch priest still says the 5PM Sunday mass with a musical track provided by the keyboard player. Other locals are still around, both on the French and Dutch side of the island. Some things did change. The old carousel ice cream place (with a real Carousel) no longer has a Carousel. Some French restaurants haven’t recover from the hurricane a few years ago but Thursday nights at the French town of Gran Cas is resuming after the hurricane/pandemic interruption.
But the point is that far from being bored with the island, it was hard to leave after only 3 weeks. We do call ourselves cruisers but living in a neighborhood nearly 500 miles long is not boring. And did I mention that there is no snow?
The cruising part is the sailing between islands. These sails can last 6 to 12 hours and can entail ocean type seas and weather. Jumping over islands can be overnight sails or a few days. That brings me to our sail from St Martin to Antigua. The winds were again forecast from the North East, but like the sail to St Martin, the wind was more like East North East. This meant we were sailing more directly into the wind and seas. Not terrible, but not a walk in the park. With these winds, sailing further west to the U.S.V.I. is not attractive. As much as we like the U.S.V.I, we will forgo them at this time and decided to head south.
We again stopped in St. Barts overnight to cut down on sailing at night. After we left St. Barts heading to Antigua, Otto (Otto, the Dark Lord of Direction, Ray, the Guiding Hand of the Helm and the Lady of Perpetual Steering, that I wrote about previously) kept tripping the circuit breaker. Remember we had trouble with the breaker after leaving St. Anne, Martinique. This time I couldn’t switch it out for another as I was not sure that was the problem. It only tripped when it was steering, not on standby. In any case, we faced sailing for at least 10 hours hand steering in lumpy seas with head winds.
This was the first time we faced a long passage without the auto pilot (ok, 10 hours is not really that long – unless you have to steer constantly). But I was pleasantly surprised when Kalunamoo decided to steer herself. Balancing the sail trim, Kalunamoo can stay on course indefinitely with only minor tweaks on the wheel. One of the benefits of hydraulic steering is that the rudder is constantly “locked” by the position of the helm. No break or securing the helm is needed to lock the rudder. Turning the wheel can easily tweak a degree or two of rudder angle and keep the boat on course. Actually, our track was much better steering this way than with Otto in control. And it was not tiring at all.
Before arriving in Antigua, I noticed a small diesel fuel leak by the injector pump (we did some motor sailing in and out of port). Our intended over night stay in Antigua and then a sail to Guadeloupe became a formal check-in and two-night stay in Antigua. Both issues were resolved. Gordon on COHO had a spare circuit breaker which was the problem (I hope, as a real test is when we sail “out there”) and the fuel leak was fixed by new copper washers at one of the fuel lines. We are now ready to continue to sail south and meet up with other cruisers and revisit our other neighborhoods. The Salty Dawgs have plans for gatherings in Dominica and then Martinique. Well, welcome to the neighborhood.