So how was 2015? Did it measure up to expectations? At first glance I’d have to say, “Hell yeah!” It surpassed them in many respects. Now I don’t have a pocket full of money, in fact I was literally counting peso coins the last few days of the year. I don’t have a closet full of nice clothes or shoes. Most of my shoes need repair, and all of my clothes are from Goodwill and could stand replacing. Ah, but what I do have is another year filled with great friends, awesome adventures and memories.
We started the year celebrating New Year’s Eve in St. Augustine, Florida with our good friends aboard Rollic - Andrea, Bernie and their delightful little girls. We celebrated Glass Slipper style with a homemade meal and homemade confetti. Coleen even rigged something so the confetti fell at midnight – or 9 p.m. which is cruisers midnight. I was sweeping up confetti months later and every time I found some it brought a smile.
We were fresh from 6 weeks in the Green Cove Springs boat yard, where we’d worked our tails off getting the Glass Slipper ready for her biggest adventure yet. We were headed to Grenada via the thorny path!
By early January we’d made our way down Florida’s east coast and were positioned in No Name Harbor, just outside Miami, to make our crossing to the Bahamas. It would be our fifth time crossing the Gulf Stream but we were still apprehensive. We would still be sitting there today waiting for a weather window, if not for our good friend Bernie. He was all systems go on a day, I would never of picked as we were surrounded by nasty looking clouds. His timing was spot on though, and we had a great crossing surrounded by bad weather but never in it. We made good time to Bimini where we checked into the Bahamas, stayed one night and left early morning for an overnight trip to Nassau.
Despite it being our third trip to the Bahamas it was our first time in Nassau. We had a tough time setting anchor, until my friend Andrea (who is part fish) set the anchor by hand. We stayed long enough to get set up with a phone, tried unsuccessfully to by a new outboard for our dinghy, and soon were sailing to Allan’s Cay. It was a full day’s sail and Coleen spent much of the day standing on the upturned dinghy on the foredeck looking out for scattered coral heads. We were being chased by a nasty looking storm, and it caught up with us just as we were setting anchor.
My carefully laid plan had us staying in the Bahamas for a couple of weeks, but then we arrived in Georgetown, met up with lots of old friends, made a few new friends, waited for weather and all of a sudden it was March! We needed to be in Grenada by July. Time was running out.
As it turned out that delay was one of the best things that happened all year! Groups of other sailors headed south began to have meetings on the beach discussing strategies and looking at charts. The sail from the Bahamas to the Caribbean is known as the “thorny path” as the wind is against you almost all the way. There were treacherous places ahead, like the north coast of the Dominican Republic, the dreaded Mona Passage (between the DR and Puerto Rico) and the south coast of Puerto Rico, just to name a few. So we had a few meetings, exchanged e-mail addresses, and before you knew it we had formed the Chat n Chill Rat Pack, a group of more than a dozen boats headed to Grenada. Now that’s not to say we sailed together the whole time, some boats would be an island or two ahead, there would be stragglers , like us at times, but we all stayed in touch and had great reunions along the way. Our friends on S’Bella, were always leading the pack and would send back e-mails telling us what to expect, where to check in, and the best anchorages. It was rare we showed up in a country where we didn’t already have friends and we almost always sailed in company of other yachts. Well at least at the start of a passage. Ours was the smallest boat in the fleet and therefore also the slowest. Our motto is “leave first, arrive last” and we were always able to live up to that!
So starting in mid-March we embarked on the thorny path to make our way to Grenada. Along the way we made stops in the Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Spanish, U.S. and British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, Nevis, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, and Bequia. Each country was awesome in its own way.
We saw whales breaching in South Caicos and rode our bikes among the salt plains looking for flamingos. We slid down the 27 waterfalls of Rio Damajagua, toured an amazing tree house, and spent several lovely days in a boutique hotel in historic Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Coleen camped on the beach with friends on a tiny island in the Spanish Virgins. We hiked steep trails in St. John, spent delightful days anchored in Cinnamon Bay, the most beautiful beach in the Caribbean. We explored the Baths in the BVI’’s, and spent a day at the Bitter End Yacht Club. In St. Martin we delighted in being a short walk from the famous Sarafina’s bakery, and enjoyed shopping for great cheeses and pates. We toured gardens filled with tropical flowers in Nevis and got our feet messy in our first black sand beach. We toured the creepy, sad, volcanic ruins in Montserrat, and enjoyed a couple of days relaxing on a lovely beach. In Guadeloupe we hiked to a volcano through a lush rain forest, toured a tropical zoo, snorkeled in the Jacque Cousteau Underwater Sea Park, and climbed boulders hiking through a river that emptied into the sea.
We spent a couple of weeks in St. Lucia where we hiked the super steep 2600 ft. Gros Piton that had me close to crawling the last mile. We spent an amazing day moored under the Pitons enjoying the amenities of a luxurious six star resort.
We finally made it to Grenada in early July. We had met our most ambitious goal ever! We spent four months enjoying what is affectionately known as Camp Grenada, as it is a place where a couple of hundred cruising sailboats hang out for hurricane season. We had a great reunion with our Rat Pack friends. Days were filled with cards, volley ball, games, yoga, hiking, swimming, chess, dinghy sailing, and of course boat projects. Nights had music, Latin dancing, bingo, movies, games and just hanging with friends. It was pretty much endless fun (expect for the boat projects part). Oh, and we learned to scuba dive! Best of all, my son and his girlfriend joined us for a fun-filled week.
We flew back to see friends and family in Oklahoma for three weeks in the summer. It was awesome to see old friends, attend services at our church, and especially to spend time just hanging out with my Mom.
We spent weeks debating our next move. Would we spend another season in the eastern Caribbean or would we go west and possibly cross through the Panama Canal. Finally, we gave away our eastern Caribbean charts and guidebooks. There would be no going back, only onward. As Coleen succinctly put it, “Mom, the Caribbean is only a tiny part of the world. I only have a few more years before college. If we don’t start making serious progress, I’m going to ask for a refund!”
So we set sail in mid-November, on our longest ever passage -four nights, and headed west to the scuba diving paradise of Bonaire. Sadly we had only a week there, when I had hoped for a month, but we filled every moment with fun. We made a brief stop in Curacao, and then finally sailed past Aruba and on to Colombia!
We’ve had glorious sailing days. On our passage from Grenada to Bonaire we had two days where we never touched the sails. Our sail from Bequia to Grenada stands out as the best day ever, with 15 knot wind and 3 foot seas on the rear quarter and the excitement building as we neared our goal.
We had a few terrible sailing days, the kind where you reef and shake out reefs several times a day and crank in the jib sheet a hundred times, until you are yelling at the sea, “I can’t do this one more time!” I’ve stood at the mast shivering in a heavy downpour while putting a reef in the main. We bashed our way to windward in rough seas, with waves splashing all the way from the bow to the stern, arriving at our destination encrusted in salt, becoming truly salty sailors. We sailed downwind in 8 foot seas, with the Glass Slipper rolling heavily from one side to the other, a sickening motion. Our most terrible day was our aborted passage from Guadeloupe to Dominica with 8 foot short period seas on the beam. I was truly scared that day when the Glass Slipper was thrown down on her beam ends three times.
Overall we spent 23 nights in marinas, 90 nights on a mooring, and 252 nights swinging on our trusty Rocna anchor and we sailed about 3,000 miles. For all of this adventure and fun we spent about $1500 a month, excluding our trip to OK and boat repairs.
In all I’d say we’ve been blessed beyond my wildest dreams. We have a sturdy little boat that has proven she can safely take us where we want to go. We make our own power via the sun, water from the sea, have ice for a cold drink most of the time, and our lockers are filled with food from various countries. We’ve made incredible friends and had some great crew along the way. Abundant adventures, memories and great friends make 2015 the BEST YEAR EVER!
So what’s up for 2106? Stay tuned....