Saturday, January 28, 2017

My First Caribbean Sailing Experience


"It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind, that determines which way we will go." - Jim Rohn 

Sunday, January 15, 2017 -
For my 50th birthday, Ken blessed me with a seven-day catamaran sailing trip! Not only was this a special trip for me, but also a very exciting one for Ken as he was not only relaxing on this trip, but also taking instructions to be certified to sail his own sailboat or catamaran someday. 

I was so excited, but nervous, about this trip. I had to wonder what was in store for this woman who can get motion sickness watching somebody rock in a rocking chair too fast. After we landed in St. Thomas and got to the marina, I decided I should definitely be able to handle the motion sickness if I could handle the taxi ride from the airport to the marina! If I was going to get sick, it would have been then.

Captain Steve met us at the marina, helped with our luggage, and gave us a tour of his catamaran which was equipped with all the necessities one could hope for. A small, but very workable kitchen (galley) with just enough counter space for us to utilize one at a time. I volunteered to do all of the cooking so for a week, I laid claim to the galley. 

After welcoming us with a fruit and cheese tray along with champagne, the captain took us, by dinghy, to shore so we could buy provisions for the week. Located very near the marina was a small grocery store that had everything we needed and more. The difficult part was determining how much to buy for seven days that would also fit into a very compact refrigerator. 

Being on the catamaran that first night at the marina was so smooth, very comfortable with breathtaking views. I think I'm going to be just fine... at least until we set sail tomorrow!

Monday, January 16, 2017 -
There's just something about waking up on a boat in the Caribbean to the smell of coffee. Even better is having that coffee while staring at the most beautiful turquoise water you've ever seen. My birthday week is starting out beautifully! 

We pulled anchor and took a short sail over to Christmas Cove, off of St. Thomas. The gentle breeze kept me comfortable and content. 

While this was vacation for me, it was only part vacation for Ken as it was also an opportunity for him to complete additional American Sailing Association certifications. Over the past six months, he has passed their Basic Keelboat, Coastal Cruising, Bareboat Cruising, and Cruising Catamaran courses. Love listening to my husband answering as a student. That is something I'm not used to since this whole family goes to "Dad" for instruction and solutions to most all of our problems. 

After anchoring in Christmas Cove, I decided it was time to jump in and see what I could find. Low and behold, I FINALLY saw my first sea turtle!!  Those of you who know me well know my love for sea turtles. You also know that regardless of how many times I've been to the Caribbean, snorkeling, and specifically going on sea turtle excursions, I had NOT ever seen a sea turtle before. Yes... my birthday week is starting out quite lovely.

Pulling anchor tomorrow to see where the wind takes us. 

Tuesday, January 17 -
I jinxed myself! Today we ventured from Christmas Cove to Jost Van Dyke. I think we were supposed to sail farther but two nice men took pity on me. A little more wind today had the boat full speed ahead; but unlike a car, even though I was sitting still, my body was moving up and down, side to side. Mistake #1 was trying to journal through feeling like this. Put my pen down and tried focussing on the horizon all the while practicing my deep breathing. I brought some oil called Motion Eaze that you put behind your ears but since the first few days were a breeze, I didn't bother getting it out of my bag. When I started feeling a little sea sick, I went below to my cabin to search for the oil. Mistake #2. Don't go below when you're already feeling sick. Not only do you get tossed about, but you do so without any breeze to refresh you. Quickly and unsteadily, I came back up and remembering the instructions of the captain, grabbed an apple, went up to the helm to sit by Ken where the breeze was very welcoming. I made it to Jost Van Dyke without getting sick! It's amazing how much better you feel after you're done sailing and anchor for the night. Feeling refreshed, we left the boat and took the dinghy to dinner at a quaint little spot on Jost Van Dyke called Corsairs.

Now it's time to crawl into bed and get my beauty sleep, which is harder to achieve with no make-up, hair dryer, or straightener. Thank goodness for head bands and ball caps! :)

Wednesday, January 18 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!
The big 5-0! Not only is it wonderful waking up to the smell of coffee the captain made every morning, but also to the smell of freshly made brownies! Our captain was busy baking before I got out of bed. So awesome to walk out in the galley to see Ken and Captain Steve, waiting for me with birthday greetings, birthday brownies, and a birthday gift (beautiful necklace from Ken). This is going to be a GREAT DAY! 

Pulled anchor from Jost Van Dyke and set sail for Cooper's Island. The new, 50-year old me, was wise enough to use my Motion Eaze oil before we set sail! And did it work? YESSS! It made for a truly pleasant 5-hour sailing trip while watching Ken take instructions, raise the sails, take the helm etc. He's passed one test already, two more to go!

For dinner, Ken and I set off in the dinghy by ourselves for a little birthday dinner celebration at the Cooper Island Beach Club restaurant. It was fantastic! As an added birthday bonus, we were very exited to learn that one of our sweet friends, Meron, who used to work in Virgin Gorda, but started working on Cooper's Island 4 years go, was working that night. What a sweet reunion we had with her, catching up and sharing the good news of me seeing my first sea turtle. It's been about 10 years since I went on an excursion to specifically see a sea turtle and Meron was the lovely tour guide who guaranteed me I would see a one on that excursion. By the end of the day, she called me a jinx. ha! She was overjoyed my dream finally came true and even helped us celebrate my birthday by sending us back to the catamaran with a bottle of champagne. xo

Where will we go tomorrow I wonder?  Wherever it is, I hope to be greeted by another sea turtle surfacing to say hello. 

Thursday, January 19 -
You wake up with a gentle swaying of the boat, climb out of bed and look out your little porthole to see other sail boats waking up to the same gentle rocking. A sea turtle comes up for air and sticks his head out of the water as if he's telling me good morning. 

I was put to work today helping Ken unhook from the mooring ball while Captain Steve got the french press ready for our coffee. Life is good. 

I have enjoyed playing "chef" on this trip, keeping these men's bellies satisfied and full. After breakfast we set sail for Virgin Gorda. Arrived at the Bitter End Yacht Club around 3:00 p.m. and anchored for the night. Took the dinghy to shore and enjoyed a nice refreshing lemon crush on this hot humid day. 

Dinner tonight at Saba Rock, one of my favorite restaurants. I remember bringing the kids to this same restaurant over 10 years ago. Time sure does fly. But many things stay the same... like the tarpon swimming around Saba Rock waiting to be fed. 

Ken passed Test #2 with flying colors! One more to go!!

Friday, January 20 - Inauguration Day! Welcome to the White House President Trump!

Staying anchored at the Bitter End Yacht Club! Took the day off from sailing (well, I took the day off from relaxing while we sailed) and spent it learning how to paddle board. Ken grabbed the camera, eager to capture me wiping out. I showed him! I was very proud of myself for staying upright on my first time doing this! A little later, Ken and I later took the dinghy over to Prickly Pear Island for a few hours of snorkel time. Beautiful day that ended with a fantastic dinner at the Bitter End Yacht Club. (It's easy to be a chef on a boat when you take the dinghy to a restaurant every night.) HA! Those times Ken and I did enjoy going out to eat, the Captain would sometimes accompany us and if not, I always made sure he had something to enjoy as well. 

Call him Captain Ken! He has passed his 3rd and final test! Woo Hoo!

Saturday, January 21 -
Good bye Saba Rock. Good bye Bitter End Yacht Club. Good bye Virgin Gorda! We are off for a full day of sailing. Well, since there was hardly any wind, we had to use both sails and engines to get where we're going. Headed back to Christmas Cove, the first place we anchored on our trip. Sad this will be our last night on the boat but happy the vacation isn't over. Staying at the Marriott in St. Thomas for 3 days, relaxing, getting our land legs back. But first... pizza for dinner from Pizza Pi! An adorable young couple turned their sailboat into their business. Order your pizza, jump in the dinghy, and motor over to their restaurant to pick up your pizza from their drive-through window. What a fun experience! 

Sunday, January 22 -
"Permission to hug the captain good bye?" Captain Steve has been sailing for over 40 years. Kind, patient, down to earth, generous, and very intelligent. Ken couldn't have asked for a better instructor. Because of Steve's knowledge and great teaching skills, Ken can now captain his own boat! Our future vacations just got more exciting!

This whole experience was truly amazing and I am told the more you sail you get used to the motion and stop having problems in that area. I am banking on that, because we are looking so forward to this spring/summer when we not only can go relax on the Chesapeake Bay but now have the option of renting a sailboat for the day and/or weekend. 


Laura's advice, tips, and tidbits of information (mainly for women) if you are going to sail:

Hair - The best way to pack all of your hair products you use at home is not to!!! Leave them at home. The first day on a sailboat you will try to look semi-stylish. By the 2nd day, it's out of bed and throw a ball cap on. Brought my blow dryer, and used it once (before going out for my birthday dinner) but the captain had to turn on the generator for me to do so. After that, I decided it just wasn't worth it. 

Showers and shaving - Your daily showers will turn into daily dips... in the ocean. And since a bunch of salt water isn't good for "inside" the boat, the captain had a fresh water hose ready for you when you are done with your dip or snorkeling adventures. He also had shampoo and soap (all in one) at the end of the boat (stern). The boat does have a tiny shower in the bathroom where the "head" is (toilet). I used the shower twice in 7 days, using the nozzle from the sink that pulls out and barely reaches you. It's a constant on and off with the water so you don't waste a drop. Forget shaving until you get back home (unless you're living on the boat, then I would suggest you find a way to do this once every few weeks). Rinsing off at the stern sitting on the transom (steps) just tends to be easier. 

Cooking - Although it depends on the size of the boat, if you have a nice size cutting board, envision that as your work space. Bonus space if you have a small table in the kitchen (galley). On this boat the captain has a nice little gas stove/oven and a very small refrigerator. We bought all of our provisions before setting sail, so calculating what you need for a week is tricky. Luckily, we anchored at several awesome islands that had great restaurants, so this enabled us to stretch our provisions. You don't want to plan or prepare meals that have you in the kitchen for a very long time unless you can cook while swaying. The catamaran is so much more stable than a monohull, thankfully. You learn what is precious and worth saving such as paper towels or water. Since this captain has sailed for 40 years, and is a man, he can use one towel and one wash cloth for the week. And so that's what we got. One towel, one wash cloth, for the week. I'm sure I could have requested another set during the week but decided if I wanted the experience what living on a boat would be like, I would deal with it. But I gotta tell ya... this is another reason you prefer dips off the boat and rinsing with hose by week's end. You can just air dry and you're good as new. I had to wonder if all of this would have been different if we had a woman captain. Maybe not. I follow an all women's sailing group on Facebook and some of those women sailors are hard core. Stopped shaving permanently, did not have hardly any fresh water, had row boats instead of dinghy's with motors, and one of the women I met through that sailing site is 38 weeks pregnant and climbs in her row boat to head to shore for provisions. 

Sleeping quarters - If you're looking for a king-sized bed you can walk around on all sides, equipped with bed-side tables, you need to have a lot of money. The bedrooms are truly for sleeping. No other room to do much else; and as I can attest, you don't want to go down below, where the air is a lot thicker, when you start getting sea sick. Trust me.

Someday, maybe we will set a course for a lot longer sail, but if you're interested in seeing our route, see below:

The captain and his first mate wish you fair winds and following seas!

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