Originally published on http://www.claesnycander.eu/wordpress, February 2015.
With the knowledge that it had been raining and cold in my home town, back in England, for five days in a row, I was feeling even more glad then ever that I was in Barbados instead, basking in some Winter sun. Really, what could be better than sailing in the Caribbean in January?
And our destination: Grenada, the famed ‘Spice Isle’, home to an abundance of the world’s most exotic spices, including nutmeg, cloves and mace.
As day broke on the 17th January, all we were waiting for was to pick up a few extra crew.
Grant and I had just boarded the Joshua, a 38 ft Ketch, the day before ourselves. In fact, the previous night was my first experience of sleeping on a boat. Despite feeling a bit queasy during my first couple of hours after boarding, I slept much more comfortably than I expected on our little bunks.
But with no prior experience, my expectations of what was to come varied wildly. Was it going to be smooth sailing with dolphins and whales jumping out of calm waters, or were storms and rough seas going to force me make an embarrassment of my self as I weakly heaved over the side of our poor Captain’s boat?…Lucky I’ve always been optimistic!
Besides, I had a lot of intentives to think the best. The sun was out, the water a perfect, bright aquamarine, and I’d gotten my hopes up that we were going to have a great adventure, island hopping in this beautiful part of the world.
Meet the crew
At the beginning of the year, Grant and I flew in on a one way flight to Barbados. The tentative master plan was to spend the next couple of months trying to hitch onto different boats between as many islands as possible, winding our way through the arc of the Caribbean, North and West towards the U.S.
The slight catch was that neither of us had ever ‘boat-hitched’ before and that we weren’t sure how feasible it would be.
But fortunately for us, on a rainy day in Bridgetown, Grant had spotted our Swedish captain Claes about to climb down into his dinghy at the side of the marina, so off I set after him, running up and accosting him, asking if he would be interested in taking us. And here we are!
And then it was time to return back to the same marina and pick up Barbara from Austria, who’s trip on the Joshua was going to be her fourth time successfully boat hitching since October, when she left the South of Spain, and her co trans-Atlantic sailors, Jonhnattan, from Columbia and his girlfriend Eleonora, from Italy.
Can We Leave Yet?
Before we got too excited though, we had to clear the tedium of customs and immigration. So off we trudged to the Port. As there were only seven of us (our crew plus the previous Captain of Barbara, Jonhnattan and Eleonora, who needed to sign them off his crew list) I assumed that it shouldn’t take that long.
That was silly of me.
It seems one of the consequences of almost perpetually relaxing, great weather, is that time can move a little slower here.
But despite us sitting through unexplained delays, actually, it could have been much worse, because our captain got an unexpected surprise when we first arrived at the port.
He’d just been explaining how frustrating clearing customs had been when he had arrived in Barbados in December, of how one customs official seemed hell bent on tripping him up in unnecessary rules and regulations, and how they’d ended up having a bit of a sweary shout at each other, when…
“Oh it’s you! Yes, I remember you… ”
Claes, grimaced. It was the same man.
This time however, he had a smile on his face. We were in luck! We’d caught him in a good mood. He and Claes even had a reconciliatory hug! So a couple of hours later, with no shouting or swearing needed, we were free to head back to the Joshua and embark on our journey.
Next Stop, Grenada
And we were off. It was the late afternoon and we had over 30 hours of sailing ahead of us to Grenada, and along the way, we would also see the Grenadines, plus Carriacou and Petite Martinique, smaller island dependencies of Grenada.
Though it would be hours until we saw anything other than the retreating form of Barbados behind us, not five minutes after embarking, we were treated to a massive schooner that sailed right past us, and helpfully right into shot of my camera.
Claes in particular seemed impressed:
“Now that’s what I call a m!therf@#ker!”
Wildlife In The Deep
I however, was more happy that my earlier optimistic vision of what sailing in the Caribbean would be like was coming true.
Not long after lunch, I heard a shout from one of the others. I couldn’t tell what they were saying but I didn’t need to, because just then, on our port side, a pilot whale (like a smaller killer whale) reared it’s head out of the water and curved back downwards into the sea.
And so it followed us as we sailed, sometimes to our side, and sometimes beneath the bowsprit, so we were able to look directly down and see it swimming right beneath us.
As I’d never seen a whale or dolphin in the wild before, I loved it! It was so graceful, and looking behind us, I was excited to see even more of them jumping out of the water at a distance.
I wish I’d been fast enough with my camera to capture a picture of them, but my excuse is that at that point, my seasickness wasn’t making running fast from one point of the yacht to another, to catch the whale surfacing, very easy.
If I had been fast enough, or if I’d just given the camera to someone else, here’s what you would see.
And hours later, as the sun set beneath a watery horizon, flying fish threw themselves out of the water to either side of us, silvery and lightening fast.
So yes, I felt rough, and probably looked it, but at least I was having a brilliant experience, seeing new and beautiful things.
(Plus, at least nobody was subjected to hearing or seeing me unable to keep my food down. Bonus!)
The Night Watchmen
As darkness fell, Claes then split us into pairs to take two watches of two hours each throughout the night.
First up, it was me and Grant.
But though us not inadvertently crashing into another boat was our responsibility, most of stayed up together for a while. And it was a lovely way to get to know each other, under the stars.
And so peaceful. Even at three in the morning, rather than feeling very tired, I mainly felt relaxed, watching the bioluminescent sparkles from tiny phytoplankton in the water, which was being displaced by the boat, and heavy set clouds drift across a gleaming moon.
In the morning I felt refreshed.
The Final Stretch
However, that feeling didn’t last for long unfortunately. By lunch time I was having to steadfastly glue my eyes to the horizon and give chopping instructions to the others: I’d promised to make a chicken and pumpkin curry.
As everyone else did pitch in though, thankfully, I was able to finish the recipe eventually, stirring every now and then between bouts of having to run back upstairs onto deck. Still, it turned out quite well, if I do say so myself.
And with a bit of food, suddenly I felt great again, in time to enjoy our last afternoon and evening sailing together.
Not long before our second sunset, the grey silhouettes of the Grenadines moved up out of the sea: our first sighting of land.
However, it was several hours before we were finally in sight of Grenada itself, and even then, we were just able to make out the glowing orbs of house and harbour lights through the binoculars.
Coming into land at night did make it harder to get our bearings. But, eventually, after a lot of map double-checking, we closed in on the harbour outside St George’s, Grenada’s capital.
Claes also radioed ahead to Olle, the Captain of Claes’s other boat, the Goma-Rota, who had already arrived days earlier.
And out of the darkness we heard the buzz of a dinghy engine as he came up beside us. After talking about what our options were for spending the night, he led us to the anchorage and to a spot right next to the Goma-Rota.
It was just before midnight and we had finally arrived.
Want To Sail? Do It.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve taken from this trip, is that I really enjoy sailing! Even with the lack of experience, nausea and occasional feeling of being a bit cramped, I loved it. And I’m looking forward to having several other trips as Grant and I continue travelling through the Caribbean.
So if you’ve never sailed before and have doubts, do yourself a favour and overlook them – get involved. And if you’re lucky enough to do so in the Caribbean, I’ll bet you’ll love the setting of sun, sea and sand as much as I have.
But I do have one regret, that as I was adjusting to feeling seasick, I wasn’t able to have a beer like everyone else. It’s a shame because I imagine having a cold drink, whilst sitting in the sun on a yacht sailing in the Caribbean would have been just perfect. Here’s to next time!
We sailed with Claes Nycander of PP Yachting, from Barbados to Grenada. This post was sponsored to highlight PP Yachting’s sailing opportunities in the Caribbean. However, all my opinions are my own. If you’re interested, you can visit PP Yachting to find out more.
-Nima Sherpa Green