As we hit June — the so-called “sailing season” is past and the “hurricane season” hasn’t yet commenced — the crews of four different boats look back at their favorite memories of winter 2013-14, and share their plans for the coming summer.
Tor Pinney, Silverheels
My best 2013 Caribbean cruising memory is befriending sailing legend Paul Johnson in Carriacou. Our boats, Cherub and Silverheels, were anchorage neighbors in Tyrell Bay for most of the five months I was hanging out there. During that time we shared many a sea story in his cockpit or in mine. Well, mostly he shared and I listened. Paul had better stories, and lots more of them.
Frankly, I’m surprised we hadn’t met sooner. We’ve likely been in the same harbor more than once over the years, and we have several friends in common. In fact, I first heard of Paul Johnson from two of them, Bermudian sailors, in Coconut Grove in the early 1970s. They were raving about his Venus sailboat designs: strong, fast double-enders that I then began to notice more and more. People have always tended to mention Paul with a kind of awe, usually in connection with his brazen sailing exploits: an Atlantic crossing in an 18-foot lapstrake gaffer when he was 16, his 30-something transatlantics since then, his celebrity-strewn boatbuilding shop in St. Barths, the seemingly endless stream of beautiful women and the passel of children scattered around the world. Then there was his famous shipwreck in the South Pacific and countless adventures and misadventures before and since. Those in the know also praise Paul's rich, tropical paintings and prints, one of which now brightens Silverheels’ salon.
I suppose I appreciate Paul Johnson most for his indomitable good nature, his open friendliness, and his endlessly entertaining stories. Oh, the stories! I’m still laughing!
Here’s hoping we cross paths again before too long.
For the summer, I have sailed Silverheels back to Green Cove Springs Marina, my home port boatyard on the St. Johns River in northeast Florida, four months and 1,800 nautical miles since leaving Carriacou the day after New Year’s. It’s time for the other side of cruising: some months of refreshing, renewing, refitting and re-provisioning this good old 42-foot ketch so we can get on back to the Caribbean again right after hurricane season.
Kevin and Christine Gooch, Sweet Sensation
Our best cruising experience of this season was a trip with Cutty’s Taxis & Tours to Levera Beach in the far northeast of Grenada, the third largest turtle-nesting site in the Caribbean. It’s well organized, with a visitor centre where a volunteer gave us a very informative talk about leatherbacks and some rules about turtle watching so we wouldn’t disturb any that came ashore to lay eggs. At the nesting site itself, researchers are on hand to answer questions, count the number of eggs and mark the nesting site.
The moon was already high when we arrived at the nesting site, illuminating the low white surf breaking on the long sandy beach. We stood on the sand for an hour, straining our eyes to look for a turtle emerging from the surf, hugging our arms across our chests against the slightly chilly onshore breeze. We were beginning to think that we would be unlucky and no turtles would come ashore that night when Cutty spotted a large black mound moving very slowly up the beach and what looked like caterpillar tracks in the sand behind her where she was dragging herself along.
Using her flippers she dug a large hollow in the sand and then a deeper well behind herself to lay the eggs in. While turtles are laying their eggs they go into a kind of trance and at this point our guide said we could touch her if we wanted to. I didn’t (I was afraid I would over-balance at the edge of the depression and fall on top of the turtle!) but one of the other ladies said the shell felt surprisingly smooth and satiny — not as hard and leathery as their name would suggest. Once the turtle had finished laying, she used her back flippers to fill in the hole and then flicked sand with her front ones to disguise the hollow in the sand before heaving herself back down the beach and into the ocean. Watching her was an emotional experience, especially when we considered that this has been happening since the time of the dinosaurs.
We are now back in the UK visiting family and friends and working to top up the cruising fund. Sweet Sensation is laid up ashore in Trinidad waiting for us to return in November and set off north to the USA and Canada, where we plan to become “Loopers”, travelling the whole of the Great Circle Route via the Intracoastal Waterway from Florida to New York, through the Great Lakes, back down the Mississippi and the Tenn-Tom Canal to Mobile, Alabama before heading back to Florida to complete the loop and then back south through the Caribbean to Tobago, arriving approximately 8,000 miles and 18 months later.
Mark Denebeim, Sanctuary
I used to cruise the Caribbean full time but soon was back on land on the beautiful island of Dominica. In less than a year, I completed building a treetop, all wood-and-stone house in the rainforest (and opened The Peanut Farm Bar & Grill), and improved access by land for visitors to Syndicate Falls — all while establishing a busy catamaran day-sailing charter business aboard Sanctuary.
In order to satisfy my yearning for longer-range cruising, however, I annually embark on two Caribbean Walkabouts offering weekly charters and “cruiseabout” the Caribbean: south to the Grenadines in September/October and north to St. Barths in March/April. Each voyage is about 400 miles or more roundtrip.
My Winter 2013-14 Exceptional Memory was this year’s trip north, which continued in full force upon my return to Dominica. See if you can keep up with five straight weeks of sailing action from St. Martin to Martinique:
March 19th to 23rd: Solo sail from Dominica to Deshaies, Guadeloupe; to Falmouth Harbor, Antigua; to Barbuda; to St. Barths.
March 23rd to 31st: Sail from St. Barths to St. Maarten and back twice, picking up and dropping off six females from Florida who lived aboard while we enjoyed the Bucket Regatta festivities. Anchored at Baie St. Jean and Gustavia and in the Simpson Bay Lagoon, having memorable party times in St. Maarten at La Bamba and in St. Barths, including a risqué evening at Le Ti.
April 1st to 7th: Sail with three male friends from St. Maarten to Dominica, stopping at St. Barths and Montserrat, then opting for a night sail to Deshaies. In Deshaies, a trip to the Botanical Gardens was a must, as was day in Les Saintes, if only to load up on French cookies and red wine.
April 7th to 9th: Sail to Portsmouth; the boys stay at The Peanut Farm Bungalows and visit Syndicate Falls and Red Rock, and we hike a nearby trail to a hot spring.
April 9th: Day sail with Canadian Yachting journalists to Toucari Bay for a snorkel.
April 10th and 11th: Motor down coast to Roseau and have dinner at DaBoardwalk in Wall House with a girlfriend.
April 12th and 13th: Pick up a German couple and their three teenage boys in St. Pierre, Martinique; sail back the next day. Buy two bottles of my favorite Clement Limited Edition Vieux rhum!
April 13th to 18th: Visit Titou Gorge (so cool) and Trafalgar Falls (so beautiful) east of Roseau. Germans hike to Boiling Lake in record time and visit Red Rock Dunes while I move the boat to Portsmouth and replace a fan belt. We sail to Les Saintes for two nights, fast passages, smooth seas, where the Germans enjoy the beach, Au Bon Vivre and Coconuts Bar.
April 18th: Return to Portsmouth from Les Saintes; the Germans move to The Peanut Farm until April 22nd, enjoying a reggae festival in Mero. I stay aboard Sanctuary, take in the laundry.
April 20: Take SAIL magazine and newspaper journalists, and Cobra Tours, on Sanctuary to Toucari Bay for article on sailing in Dominica. Get crazy at the PAYS barbecue!
April 26: Day charter with Secret Bay Resort guests to Toucari Bay; sold two cases of my book, Captain Mark’s Way, to Shipwreck Shops in St. Martin.
And so it goes here in Dominica. I guess the whole year and a half since moving here has been an Exceptional Memory!
Sanctuary is located in Portsmouth, one of only two sailboats based in the bay during the summer. Looking forward to my Grenadines cruise in September!
Rosie Burr and Sim Hoggarth, Wandering Star
The highlight these last winter months for us has been family visiting St. Maarten, a fun place to entertain, with great beaches and affordable eating out — plus, of course, a short, easy daysail to St Barths or Anguilla for a change of scene.
And the British and US Virgin Islands — what a fabulous cruising ground they offer! And one that we had never taken the time to explore before.
Now our plans for the summer are to head up to the United States via the Bahamas, to wear some clothes for a while before returning back to our Caribbean bikini lifestyle.
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