Right now I am exhausted. Bone tired. I haven’t done much during this passage from St. Lucia to Bonaire. Not much except worry. The sailing is great, easy even. A large following sea gives us a nice push in the exact direction we want to go. The wind is directly behind us pushing on the jib and genaker giving us an average of over 6 knots towards our goal that was originally 450 miles away. We now have about 150 to go after sailing for the last 48 hours. Yep, the sailing is going great.
The crew is doing well. Our newest member, Worm (or Gunner or Damian depending on which ski patrol you know him from), has been a real asset. Lindsey Worm and I take 3-hour watches, which gives us six hours off. Well, it could. An hour before my shift started last night Worm woke me up about a ship that was close and not moving. We couldn’t tell if it was a tanker or two separate fishing ships. An hour after it was first sighted, all of a sudden it took of fast and did a semicircle around the boat at 12 miles perfectly. I wouldn’t know this if I couldn’t track him on radar. It is a weird track, but he’s probably just fishing. Later, after my shift was over Lindsey woke me from a deep sleep to say another ship was coming right at us. It was coming fast, but the worry made it seem to take forever. It was just another fishing boat. All sleep had to be abandoned for the day. Time to wrestle with the kids and read books together.
Why am I so worried? Pirates. Not the ones my kids are pretending to be right now. I can handle the foam swords just fine, even when I get that full smack across the face. It’s the AK-47 wielding pirates that would board, kill me, rape my wife and sell my kids that has me worried. I would gladly take the killing if the other two wouldn’t happen. But really, I’d rather none of this to take place.
The Venezuelan coast has become too notorious that our insurance company won’t allow us to travel to the country. Too bad, when I was there to bicycle south to Chile in 1994 it was a fantastic country with some really friendly and giving people. Drug runners now control the coasts and hijackings and murders are a real possibility. The AIS (automatic information system) is turned off. We don’t want the pirates to see a 41-foot by 24-foot private sailing vessel out here, unprotected and easy picking. There is certainly no need to give them a road map to where we are. Our navigation lights are still on at night, so if they get close, they could find us. This is why I worry.
I worry at watch. I worry while I’m “sleeping”. I worry constantly. I don’t talk about it to anyone. Why would I? If they aren’t worried, then I should let them enjoy this really nice passage. And anyway, the captain is always the first to be tossed overboard.
As I was checking out of St. Lucia the immigration officer questioned me about Ella. “She’s crew?” she asked dubiously. “Well, yes she is,” I replied. I had almost written that she was more than crew and actually first mate. That would have caused some trouble so I’m glad I just put crew. She is actually crew, with responsibilities. She helps run this ship. “Yes maam, she’s six and does a great job aboard Rivers2Seas.” When the woman next looked at Chase’s passport with “crew” marked, she just looked up at me with these eyes of disbelief. I was ready to list his responsibilities like the anchor light, navigation lights, steaming light, repairman’s assistant and monitor of the fishing lines. She didn’t ask. Bummer. I wanted to impress her with what a 4-year-old can do if given the opportunity. It seems most kids these days have absolutely no responsibilities. Ours do and it has made them far better people.
We had some people aboard who left the transom shower on all night. It has one main on/off handle and another one on the showerhead to use so that water is conserved while moving the head around. The head doesn’t really shut off. Well, I told these adults about it and explained how to use it and they left it on. We lost 70 gallons of water. Some of the water went into the hull, but most just overboard. I had to use the wet vac in all three bilges down the port hull to get it all out. I was very nice when I mentioned that it was really important to turn things off. The reply is what will stay with me forever. “If it’s that important to you Brad, then maybe you should have checked it yourself.” My 4-year-old can handle it, but not these 40-year-olds. I just replied that I agreed. If you don’t invite people with marital difficulties onboard life is better too. Are Chase and Ella crew on Rivers2Seas – you bet? Certainly better behaved and more fun than people who on paper appear that they could be sailors.
The spare halyard just broke and sent the genakker flying into the sea. The three adults managed to wrestle it back onboard without much issue. I always wondered what would happen if one of the halyards broke. Now I know. I’m just glad it happened in light winds and during the day after my coffee. The hard part will be winding a spare line through the mast when we hit port.
We make the 470-mile passage (a little more than the direct path from tacking) in 77 ½ hours. Not bad, considering the wind was directly behind us, which is a poor point of sail and only at 15 knots. A Mahi Mahi made for a nice fresh dinner en route. A school of 400-pound tuna got us excited, but we didn’t catch any. Watching the hundreds of fish leap out of the water covering a several hundred-yard space was truly amazing.
Bonaire is described on all their literature as a diving paradise. It is. After tying up to a mooring ball, because you can’t anchor and damage reefs that way, we do a dive right off the back of Rivers2Seas. Down 40 feet to the bottom and the reef cliff then plunges down to 114 feet. I know the depth because I just had to go to see the bottom. Two dives a day for two tanks adds up pretty fast, so we opted to get a package fill of our tanks – 21 fills for $107US. Compared to the $100 per dive price, we have congratulated ourselves on the nice gear we purchased. Nice, as in it works. Most of it is falling apart, but the essential components work if just a little leaky.
SCUBA diving brings us to another world. Every creature is simply weird. Hundreds of fish from tiny yellow angelfish no bigger than the end of my pinky to large 6-foot tarpon patrol the water. Odd shaped fish like flutes and puffer fish and boxfish swarm all around the tube coral. Sharp-tongued eels slither around the bottom poking their heads into holes looking for food. Shrimp and other spider looking guys run around the coral heads. It’s simply amazing to witness.
The kids have been having fun snorkeling but wanted to try the SCUBA. Ella is now hooked and asks to go every day. Thankfully, I can appease her and take her diving for a few minutes after my dive. Hey, if I have to go diving to make my kids happy, that is what I will do. Chase enjoys it too but would rather do cannonballs off the boat.
We arrived in Bonaire during the Queen’s day celebration and saw a brightly colored if super short parade. The kids loved the dancing and colorful costumes. The town has a slow pace and clean atmosphere. The Dutch islands are the best taken care of in the Caribbean. We will return to dive here and to Saba for sure.
The weather forecast for the difficult run to Cartagena, Columbia is looking really good. Low winds mean small seas in this notorious spot. Tomorrow we will leave for Curacao and then head off to the South American mainland the next day. Woo Hoo.
Santa Marta, Colombia
We have made it to South America under sail of more that 3250 miles. It seems so far and yet not so much too. That distance is like driving across the USA. But, so much has happened. 20 Countries, countless officials, a million worries, 34 friends sailing with us, at least 60 friends joining us for a beer in our home – Rivers2Seas. We have lived aboard for 10 months now. Much of it seems like a dream, a great long dream with a couple scary parts thrown in to keep it real. Adventure is out there.
We have already accomplished so much. Cruising is difficult. Hard. It’s like travelling back in time where everything takes more time. Washing dishes, clothes, cooking, getting cooking fuel, showering and taking a dump are all more difficult. Grocery shopping is an all day affair, usually with a two-mile walk on either end with heavy sacks on the way home in blistering heat. Most of the people out cruising are couples or single men. They often express amazement that we are doing all this with two young kids (or foolishness for making it so hard on ourselves). Having to do all this with them in tow, certainly increases the workload. It’s hard enough to watch after yourself, but to do it while being focused on a youngster increases everything. Lindsey has done more than the Lion’s share of managing the kids. I get to do more of the fun stuff like reading books, playing pirate or conducting art class with them.
My jobs are the smelly, dirty jobs of engine maintenance and repair, sewer management, electrical engineering and power, water production, and on good days wind transference into propulsion. So far, we have been able to keep costs down by being able to fix every issue onboard by ourselves. In the Bahamas, John aboard Bikini helped many times in either turning wrenches or more often with advice. Other than that is has been me with my library of fix-it manuals, product informational manuals and the internet teaching me how to find and fix the problems. Finding the problems is usually the hard part. But then, rusted on bolts and the wrong or no spares are difficult too. One of my favorite fixes onboard is still the dinghy throttle where I had to manufacture a part and make a round peg fit and not slip in a square hole. Accomplishment comes in many forms.
While this is difficult, the rewards are enormous. Memories like sailing across the Mona Passage, catching lobster for dinner, reeling in a Mahi Mahi, numerous waterfalls, breaching humpback whales, swimming with turtles, SUPing around islands, meeting locals and hanging out with other cruisers especially Bikini has made all the hassles and difficulties worthwhile. This adventure is difficult, but FUN.
Sadly our journey is changing. We chose to do this trip while continuing our rafting business back in Colorado. Working from the boat has been a little bit of a struggle at times, but overall has worked beautifully. Technology has made all this possible. I can work on advertisements here and send them to people like nothing has changed. I can send documents to insurers and government agencies with the same speed and accuracy as if I was in Fort Collins. Email especially has kept me in constant contact with my business ventures. Our costs have been kept low by always trying to do fix things ourselves instead of calling an expert. It’s rare that we spend money on a mooring or a marina. The anchor is usually free and often more secure than anything else.
What hasn’t gone well are the things we have no control over. The weather last year with a 300% snowpack gave us a less than average rafting season. This years’ 23% snowpack looks to be the worst season ever. How I have wished for an average snowpack. But, average is only the sums of lows and highs. Our renters trashing our house with a puppy mill and $26,000 in damages depleted our budget instead of adding needed revenue. That’s life. Things change. So must we. We were already financially overextended and hoping for some good revenue from Mountain Whitewater Descents. We don’t want to sell our rafting business or our land home, so that leaves Rivers2Seas. Don’t want to sell her either. With no money in the bank account something must give. Our dream to sail around the world is the most prudent answer.
I’m glad that we didn’t know all the bad financial woes that would happen. We never would have cast the dock lines. We never would have purchased the boat in the first place. Our accomplishment and fun and adventure and teachings would never have happened. I’m glad we didn’t know.
We must look at reality of our financial situation and change our path. Heading back to Colorado to salvage our rafting season while living in our pop-up camper on the property makes sense. We will return to Rivers2Seas in early August and then make our way up the Eastern Caribbean and back to Florida. Sadly, we will have to sell our home and move back to Colorado next year. A two-year adventure with our kids is still something to be proud of certainly.
This is the second time I have tried to circumnavigate our earth. I failed the first time when I ran out of will and resources after 2400 miles by canoe, 10,000 by bike and 2500 by sail. My $3000 took me halfway. A year of effort but the goal still unattained. This effort has been bigger and will last two years but only about 6000 miles by sail. My progress at circumnavigation seems to be getting worse. Failure sure. But the only true failure is that of someone who never tries. I try. I pour my heart into it and what happens happens. We have spent well over $3000 on this journey. Yet, it is still worth it. Our successes so far greatly outweigh any failure.
"What constitute the pleasures of the traveler are obstacles, fatigue or even danger. What charm can there be in a journey when one is always sure to arrive and find his horses ready, a downy bed, an excellent supper and all the comfort one enjoys at home? One of the great misfortunes of modern life is the absence of the unexpected, the lack of adventure. Everything is so well regulated, so well fitted into its place and ticketed, that chance is no longer possible; another century of improvements, and everybody will be able to foresee from the very day of his birth all that will happen to him up to the day of his death."
Monsieur Theophile Gautier, 1840.
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