Since my last post, a lot has happened. All good, or at least, mostly good. We have toured old forts, found great provisioning, had some boat work done, almost lost the dinghy to the sea, checked out some iguanas, swam with a few totally breezy sea turtles, ate some delightful cuisine and watched the Dallas Cowboys implode at their first playoff game (they lost bigtime). Oh, and we visited four islands and three countries. Yeesh, I need a nap.
Yes, all of that happened but, still, the most important was what happened earlier this week, on Tuesday to be specific. At least it was important to us.
You see, Tuesday was a weird one. We had an appointment for Ocean at Critters, Cats & Canines Vet Hospital in St. Thomas. Ocean is fine but we needed to see a Vet to get a new International Health Certificate for her. Getting dog health certificates is just a regular task in our life nowadays but what was important was how the day unfolded. If anyone is out there that wants to know what cruising down here is like, well, this might be the “Coles notes” version for you.
First, this is our experience. It isn’t “the” experience. That is lesson one. Cruising is about being a snowflake. How it is for us will certainly not be exactly how it is for you.
Second, weather is king but we all pretend, once in awhile, that we carry the crown. We started the day with a secure and safe (and free) mooring at Christmas Cove. The easterly tradewinds were sporty (up to 28 knots) and, rightly so, the waves and swell were equally animated, although more southeasterly. The kicker? We needed to be a mere 2 nautical miles to our west in Brenner Bay in order to have a short dinghy ride into shore for Ocean’s appointment. Sorry, did you hear that? Yes, we had a schedule. Never good. Ever. In this particular instance we were moving our precious Wild Horses to a lee shore in shallow waters with almost 30 knots of wind, and worse, 7 feet of swell banging at our boat’s hull. Getting ready to set our anchor, we fell steeply from being “uncomfortable” into dangerous territory with our lee shore so close behind us. We knew it and spent an extra 45 minutes ensuring that our anchor was set (it was set – thank you double oversized Rocna!).
Third, cruising is precarious. At that anchorage, Mike, Ocean and I had to board our severely bouncing dinghy. It was a feat that had me yelling “move people, this is not a drill!” as both Mike and then Ocean had to manage around swells that horribly slapped the dinghy against our stern, alternatively creating violent waterspouts and dangerous boarding gaps. We then tolerated a salty (meaning we got soaked) 5 minute ride to protected waters. Returning back, we were faced with the same problem. A misguided step and someone could have been injured or in the drink. Not good.
Weighing anchor wasn’t much better. We were struggling against the wind and swell. I was at the bow (untethered, sorry, not my finest decision-making moment) holding on like it was a bucking bronco. Okay, a little poetic license here, but it was pretty bouncy and unsettling! The key for me was that at the moment that our anchor was released, Mike needed to be in control at the helm. We were that close to shore. Yuck.
Spoiler alert: We are fine. We bounced our way back to Christmas Cove, picked up our favourite mooring and got two beers stat. Then we chatted about what went wrong. A schedule, mistaking “close by” with “easy”, and swells that were worse than forecasted.
The precariousness of sailing is real. From one moment to the next, you are not entirely sure that something won’t break down, that your sail will go smoothly or that you will find the tools/parts/provisions that you need when you next land your boat. But that uncertainty is worth it to us to have long walks on unspoiled beaches, to explore different cultures, to meet so many wonderful people, to enjoy beautiful sunsets and to be rocked gently to sleep with the waves lapping against the shoreline. Yes, the delightfulness of this lifestyle is just as real and, thankfully, more moments of our days are filled with that.
Today we arrived in Puerto Rico, after spending the last seven days in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI). We plan to spend a few weeks here while we await a good weather window to transit the Mona Passage on our way to the Dominican Republic.
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.