Friday, February 2, 2018

Here We Go Again: Off To the Caribbean

Sailing in the islands: it conjures up images of paradise, right? Broad sandy beaches, palm trees, blue skies and clear turquoise water. Heaven on earth. But those of you who followed my blog during our 2013-2014 cruise to the Bahamas and back know that the beautiful beaches and occasional breaks for swimming and snorkeling were overwhelmingly offset by hard work, tussles with shallow water, breakdowns, leaks, insects, and a fair dose of anxiety. Remember the buckets and towels?
We turned around and tried it again, in 2016. Self-torture? Seemed so. With a somewhat lamentable outcome: we gave up and turned around in Georgia, after a bridge closure, snapped dock line, and grueling month on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Last summer, we took a different tack. Literally. We spun 180 degrees and steered Echo II northward, to New England’s clear summer skies and deep water. All the way to Martha's Vineyard.
In my view, this cruise was more successful and lots more fun. Sailing under the Verrazano Bridge, visiting friends on the coast of Connecticut, spotting giant sea turtles, connecting with musicians and dancers at Rhode Island’s Rhythm & Roots Festival. No major breakdowns. No weeks of waiting for weather. Very few bugs.
Yeah, we still endured the occasional leak. With the occasional bucket.
But overall, I enjoyed myself. Even the sailing. (I know Pope has been waiting for years to hear me say that. Pope, here is your gift: I enjoyed myself! Even the sailing!)
This winter, hoping to build on our growing record of positive experiences, we ventured even further from form. Echo II, with her troublesome creaks and groans and loosely patched deck seam, stayed safely tucked into her slip in the Bay. We returned to the islands, but this time we hired not just a boat, but a boat with a captain! Someone else’s boat! Someone else in charge! Yikes! A radical departure for Captain Runaground and his first mate.
This time, we also ventured farther--hundreds of miles beyond the Bahamian and Caribbean islands we have visited since we adopted this hobby more than a decade ago. To the Windward Islands: Martinique, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Names that slide glibly off the tongues of slick travel agents.
The travel agents send tourists to remotely situated, luxury resorts with linen napkins, private beaches and air conditioning. Not us. As always, we sought the unfinished, unvarnished Caribbean.

Look again at the photo at the top of this blog. That is what the real Caribbean looks like. Broad sandy beaches, palm trees, blues skies and clear turquoise water--savored by a mix of two-star-hotel guests, backpackers, cruisers, and residents. Small villages with fishermen and friendly bartenders and boat tenders. Outdoor markets with fish caught that morning and fruit fresh off the tree. An absence of biting insects. We found paradise!!
Yes, the water really is that blue. Mick Jagger’s Caribbean retreat is on the island pictured above. Prince William has spent holidays there with the Duchess. But that’s another chapter of the story. The important point is that, in the winter of 2018, after 12 years of testing the waters, Pope succeeded in convincing me that maybe this cruising lifestyle could so bad.

Watch this space for a fuller accounting of our Windwards cruise.

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