Saturday, July 26, 2014

The adventure is over...Back to reality

Dana gives Eventyr a well-deserved final hug
It's been quite a ride for Dana and me since we left our slip at the Philadelphia Marine Center in mid October 2013. Our grand plan of sailing back into our marina after circumnavigating the entire Caribbean within a year was not to be. However, we made it to within a few miles of South America, which I think is pretty good. We accomplished more than many people thought was possible. We even doubted ourselves at times. But here we sit, at Dana's father's villa in Costa Rica mere days before flying back to Philadelphia.

Our last week in Grenada was bittersweet. We did as many Caribbean Island specific activities as we could manage and said goodbye to all our cruiser friends. We spent our final night at the Tiki Bar in Prickly Bay toasting with Coral of Cowes' Richard and Katie. We promised we'd be back to the Caribbean at some point, though probably not anytime soon.

Yet another beach bar…sigh
Hog Island anchorage in Grenada
Our final day on Eventyr, we took all our possessions from our home and did our last sail a couple bays across Grenada's south coast to St. David's Bay. We took our time to savor every moment during that final time on the water. We even tried to enjoy the rough sea state and occasional salt water spray splashing in our faces. We picked up a mooring once in the bay and had one last dive and swim off the boat. Eventyr was then hauled out of the water, her bottom scrubbed, and placed in a back corner of a dirt lot amongst countless other boats. There she'll sit until someone buys her or the hurricane season ends and we have her moved to another location to sell. Either way, we'll likely never see her again.

Trying to enjoy our final sail
One final dive 
One final float
Out of the water for the first time in over a year
Little Eventyr hidden away in the back
What exactly did we accomplish on Eventyr during our adventure? Here's a run down by the numbers:

Total nautical miles travelled under Eventyr's keel since Philadelphia:                                        
Total number of islands visited:                                                                                                    
Total number of Countries visited (excluding Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands):                    
Total number of currencies used aside from the US Dollar:                                                        
Total number of languages spoken aside from English (and local creole dialects):                      

Our route
My passport
The adventure was far more than a checklist of accomplishments. We realize how privileged we are to have such an experience, especially at our relatively young age. We tried our best not to take any of it fore granted. We were mindful to savor and be fully present to the best of our abilities. We were open to new experiences everywhere we went. We met wonderful people, both locals and other cruisers/travelers. We ate unfamiliar and delicious foods and drinks. We learned new games and practiced speaking other languages. We had close encounters with numerous aquatic and terrestrial animals. We became accustomed to living with less and treasuring the few things we had. We became more resourceful, fixing problems as they arose. We became better sailors. We learned to value and trust each other and our relationship in a way we never had before.

We learned a few surprising things about ourselves as well. We realized that living on a beautiful, secluded island is not for us. We need social interaction. Within one day of being away from other people, we were excited to be back at a beach bar or visiting with another cruiser in his or her cockpit. We especially missed our friends and family from home. It was a real treat having Hanna and Chris, Shanley and Patrick, Jon, Otis, and Beth, the whole Old City Philadelphia crew, Rebecca and Jarred, and my mom aboard Eventyr. We also realized that we value our careers. We felt somewhat adrift, at times, without the meaning and purpose provided by our jobs. I guess we didn't spend years in school studying psychology just to retire at the drop of a hat. We also realized how lucky we are to have employers who allowed us to take this time to pursue our dreams and come back to the positions we love.

Last week, we mailed five boxes of our belongings back to Philadelphia. We loaded the remainder of our things into checked luggage. I readied my surfboard bag with Dad's board for travel. We boarded a plane and flew to Costa Rica, where we originally hoped to sail. We're at a reunion, of sorts. Dana's brother, Jason, and two cousins, Kelsey and April are all here with us visiting Dana's dad Brent, his wife Victoria, and son Carlos. This vacation has been the perfect transition from boat life back to real life. We've sat by Brent's pool, relaxing. We visited the rainforest, where we hiked to waterfalls, held toucans, snakes, and butterflies, hand-fed hummingbirds, fished for rainbow trout in a stocked pond, and watched monkeys and jaguars in their enclosures. We went to Guiones beach on the Pacific Ocean, where we surfed and chilled on the beach. It's been so much fun, giving Dana and I a chance to put everything in perspective.

Kelsey, Carlos, Jason, April, me, Dana, Victoria, and Brent at La Paz waterfalls
Jason, Kelsey, April and me heading out
Me on an epic Costa Rican wave!
This is my final post for now. Many people recently asked us questions like, "what was your favorite island?" or "what's your greatest memory from the adventure?" We've had a hard time answering them. I think only time will tell. It's not until you've really had some distance from an experience that you truly grasp its significance. I think I have to wait a few months or so before I write again about what the adventure meant to us. Besides, we have a ton of amazing pictures I didn't have space to post already. Until then, I'd like to encourage everyone to pursue whatever big hairy audacious goal they have in life. Although adventures don't always turn out as expected, they will inevitably change you.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

One week left of the adventure

Sunset over Prickly Bay, Grenada
Dana and I are in the final stages preparing ourselves, and Eventyr, for the end of our sailing adventure together. We’re anchored in Prickly Bay, Grenada, where we’ve been since our arrival from Trinidad almost two weeks ago. Tomorrow, we raise the anchor and motor a couple bays over to Le Phare Bleu Marina, where we’ve stayed before. After a couple days of cleaning, packing, and engine work, we’ll motor a couple more bays over to Grenada Marine, where Eventyr will be hauled out of the water and placed on jack stands for hurricane season. She’s for sale, so when we leave her next Wednesday, it will probably be our final goodbye.

In my last blog, I mentioned that we were about to sail from Trinidad to Grenada, and the weather didn’t look great, but was only worsening in the days to come. We had to leave. Well, as is the case with adventures, we got more than we bargained for. It was as if Mother Nature was giving us a clear message that we’re done with this sailing trip. After rounding the coast of Trinidad, with Venezuela looming to the west, we unfurled our jib, killed the engine and commenced sailing. Although the seas were quite choppy and we were heeled far over, we felt alright and settled in for our 82-mile, overnight trip. We even had a current in our favor and were cruising along at over 7 knots.

Leaving Chaguaramas, Trinidad under cloudy skies
Our fair sailing was not to last. After about 3 hours and 16 miles off the coast of Trinidad, our jib started flapping wildly. Upon examination, we realized that the metal ring at the clew of the sail, which holds the line (jib sheet), had ripped clean off the sail. The treads had worn over time and sun exposure, and finally gave up the ghost. There was no fix we could do underway. After a brief conference, we decided to turn on the engine, roll up the jib and motor sail the remaining 65 miles with just our mainsail. Motor sailing was what we’re used to, anyway, since we’ve had to motor sail all our previous long, overnight trips. We had plenty of diesel and the engine had been running well, so we weren’t concerned. I was able to get the jib mostly rolled in and secured, but a couple wraps were too high for me to reach and destined to flap the entire rest of the sail. Oh well, I knew I could secure it once we got to a calm anchorage in Grenada.

Losing the jib was bad enough, but about an hour later, our autopilot malfunctioned and we could not get it working again. The autopilot steers for us and keeps us on course, so the person on watch just has to make occasional checks. Without an autopilot, we had to hand steer the entire night, vigilantly watching the compass and chartplotter to stay on course. It was getting dark and we were in for 15 more hours of this.

And then came the squalls. About every half hour during the pitch-black night, the rain would start and the shrieking winds would follow. The seas grew in size and we felt like we were in a washing machine. Neither of us went down below, except for quick trips for the rest of the trip. When not at the helm, we tried our best to rest in the pitching and rolling cockpit, covering ourselves in a soaking wet beach towel in a vain attempt to stay warm. The rester was also at the ready to loosen the mainsail every time the wind really kicked up and heeled us over.

For the first time during the entire adventure, I felt scared. Not terrified, but generally unsettled. If the engine were to fail while 40 miles out to sea with only a mainsail, in pitch black rough seas, we would be in real trouble. Lucky for us, the engine motored strongly along the rest of the trip, and as dawn broke and I could see the ocean around us, I felt much better.  By that point, our speed had slowed to less than 4 knots and the final leg of the trip felt like forever. We couldn’t see sweet Grenada until we were within 6 or 7 miles of her shores due to haze. What a welcome sight! Upon anchoring at 9:30 am we fell asleep and slept until dark.

Securing the jib once in the calm of Prickly Bay
But don’t get me wrong. The sail from Trinidad to Grenada was not all bad. At points during the night when the rains had temporarily passed, while lying on the cockpit bench staring upward around the bimini, the stars were amazing. I could see the southern cross, the big dipper, and the swirl of galaxies. I also saw the little phosphorescent creatures in our wake one last time. When the sun rose, I caught glimpses of the familiar sight of flying fish shooting out of the water. Unfortunately, it was too rough for them and every flight smacked them directly in the face of a steep wave after only a couple feet. I’ll miss these experiences.

We had another positive experience during the passage. We crossed paths with one other sailboat during the 19-hour sail. It was before dark soon after we lost our jib but before we lost our autopilot. The crazy captain was flying full sails (not reefed at all), and the boat looked fast. After breaking out the binoculars, we gleaned that it was Jaguar. That’s the boat on which Hanna crewed at the Bequia Regatta when their rudder fell off back in April. We radioed, and captain Peter was happy to talk to us. He inquired about our flapping jib and we assured him we were ok. They were coming from Grenada, where their rudder was replaced and were nearing the end of the crossing. We were just getting started and in for quite a night.

Back in Grenada, things have been great. Being on Eventyr at a calm anchorage, you almost forget about those grueling crossings. Between boat chores, we’ve been engaging in as many activities as we can. We watched world cup with other cruisers from all over the world.  We went to cooking classes, learning to make local dishes. We spent a day at the beautiful Grand Anse beach. We went to a fourth of July beach party, attended by more Europeans than Americans. We did a hash in the jungle. We attended a concert on a barge in the middle of a bay where dinghies rafted up to listen to the music. It’s been a blast.

Beach day at Grand Anse Beach
Fourth of July Party with more Europeans than Americans
Dinghy Concert
Dana passing out beers to the rafted-up dinghies
And even more importantly, we ran into friends, both old and new. We met Will, Cheryl, and Bentley (their Jack Russell Terrier) on Varua in Turks and Caicos in January, and we later crossed paths with them in the Bahamas. Will sold us our outboard after we lost our first to the ocean. He was a real lifesaver. Varua is currently on a mooring ball just a few hundred yards from us, having arrived in Grenada several days before us. We’ve gotten to spend a lot of time together over the past week. Cheryl had to fly back to the states for a while, but Will and Bentley have been keeping Dana and I company.

Bentley on Eventyr
In a much more unlikely meeting, we ran into a sailing friend from 11 years ago. As I mentioned in a previous blog, Dana, our friend Chris, and I chartered a boat in the Mediterranean called Emily Morgan in 2003. The boat was since sold, and we coincidentally saw Emily Morgan up in St. Martin several months ago. Well, the other day at yoga, Dana was shocked to see the Emily Morgan’s former captain, Richard behind her doing downward dog. Richard was the greatest charter captain ever, and we had such a wonderful time with him back then. He had even joked that he could take Dana and I out into international waters and marry us, under maritime law. We had only been dating a few months at that point and didn’t take him up on the offer. We attempted to book the Emily Morgan for our Honeymoon in the British Virgin Islands back in 2008, but Richard was in England with the boat at that time.

Richard, Sam (first mate), me, and Chris in Balearic Islands of Spain, 2003
Richard is now chartering the 112-year-old, 80-foot, wooden schooner Coral of Cowes. You can even charter it yourself if you want! After catching up, he invited us for afternoon tea. With a good friend of his (and former cook on Emily Morgan) who lives in Grenada, a cool newlywed couple from England on their honeymoon, and one of his crew Katie, we sat down for a lovely time with fine china, cucumber sandwiches, cakes, and of course, rum. It was great spending time with Richard again, and we sincerely hope our paths cross again.

Tea time on Coral of Cowes
Coral of Cowes in Prickly Bay
Richard and Dana 
Richard bought our folding bikes!

Tonight, we're invited for dinner and sundowner drinks on a neighbor’s sailboat, and tomorrow we’re off to the marina. After leaving Grenada, we’ll spend ten days in Costa Rica with Dana’s dad to ease our transition back to the real world. Our apartment in Old City is lined up and Dana’s already been busy ordering furniture and scheduling internet instillation. In no time, we’ll be back to our former selves, although I think some aspects of our selves will have changed forever after this adventure.