November 25 – December 29th, 2022
December was both busy and fun on Renegade. My sister Amy visited us in Bequia, and then the next week, our friend Donna flew down from the Chesapeake Bay to see us in Martinique. Amy gets seasick very easily, so hers was mostly a land based visit. We had fun exploring Bequia, and showing Amy our unusual life style. We visited the turtle sanctuary, hiked up a mountain for a view over an organic farm, and stopped off at a Sea Salt factory. The sea salt factory was way more scenic than it sounds, and Amy and I both love to over salt our food. We felt lucky because we hadn’t even planned to go there. We also enjoyed trying the best restaurants in town. Yum! The next week our friend Donna joined us in Fort de France, Martinique. Not liking that anchorage, we left immediately and headed to St. Anne. A hiking trail from St. Anne to Les Salines is both beautiful and well marked. We wound our way along the coast, up bluffs, through groves of palms and skirting a salt marsh to find a beautiful deserted beach with big rollers coming in from sea. I finally found a hiking partner that wanted to go further than I did. No whining about “being flogged up another hill”! Also, the wind filled back in as the reliably sporty easterlies we are used to.
Playtime ended when we dropped Donna off at the dock in Fort de France, to taxi to an early flight to the airport (Donna had a tough trip, to Guadaloupe, then Miami, and finally Southwest back to Baltimore. It was pretty much a miracle she made all her flights and even got home earlier than expected! The infamous “Southwest Meltdown” happened just 3 days later.) We spent a day checking out and sailing around to Anse d’Arlet to position ourselves for the trip to St Lucia on the 21st. We were scheduled for a haul out to get our bottom painted. We had come to realize that after 6 months in a marina, our bottom paint was not what it needed to be to start the 15 month circumnavigation. The Galapagos were a particular worry, because we’ve heard horror stories of people being turned around after a long sail from down from Panama, having to pay thousands of dollars in fines and sail a 100 miles away with a pro local diver to decontaminate the hull before staying in their protected waters. This sounds crazy unless you’ve recently scrubbed the hull of a sailboat that’s sat in a marina for too long (hello!) and learned that there is a whole ecosystem living under and on the bottom of your boat. At the time of our haul out decision, we had been scraping off a recurring mustache of long green algae (which had relocated 6 inches above the waterline with all the rolling in the westerlies in Bequia). The algae provided a nice cozy, homey environment for barnacles, mussels, tiny shrimp and crabs (no, too small to eat), etc. etc. Long story short, Jacques Cousteau would have loved it.
Hauling out is one of the most stressful things in boat life. Out at sea, the boat is where she likes to be, in nice floaty water with no sharp edge, no rocks, no incompetent yard workers. Safe. Renegade is not at all concerned about storms. She was designed for them. She could float around for months, long after her human crew had had too much. They call it being on the hard for a reason. We you see almost 60,000 pounds of boat dangling from two straps, swaying in the breeze and with the motion of the travel lift, you begin to develop a unique understanding of the density of dirt, especially when the dangling behemoth is both your baby and your only home. I got a few more grey hairs even typing that. All that said, I am ecstatic to say, Rodney Bay Boat Yard did a spectacular job. They completed a bottom job between December 22 and December 28. You may note that there is a holiday in there. Umm, Christmas, they call it. Wow. I mean there are some yards that could have said they’d be done on the 28th, and it would turn into January 28th before you knew it. So anyway, we are back in the water where we belong and super happy about it. Thanks to the professional, friendly helpful yard staff, especially Pirate, the hardest working bottom painter ever. He said what he would do, and did exactly that, on time. I guess I should emphasize how rare that is in the marine industry. Phew!
A quick note on where we stayed while the boat was unavailable for civilized living. I picked the closest VRBO listing to the marina that I could find, all very last minute. We got to the apartment, not thrilled by the fact that it was a mile away from the little dot showing it on the map from VRBO. More than a third of this mile was straight up a mountain. When the owner showed to let us in, we mentioned our concern, and he suggested we sit on the balcony to discuss it. He has obviously had this conversation before, and was prepared for it. He just had to keep us calm, and on the balcony for a few minutes, so we could be seduced by the view. It was truly a view to die for. It really distracted from the long sweaty walk up the hill, and the fact that the water pressure was a drip. Except, weirdly, on Christmas night, when we had our own little Xmas miracle of water pressure. Yay! There was air conditioning and a comfy bed in the bedroom, so we were fine. There was also a nice kitchen with that view, so we were happy making our dish for a Christmas potluck our friends on White Pearl (from the Bahamas in 2020) where throwing. A couple days before, we talked to our daughter Claire, who was in Germany for Christmas with a good chunk of our family. She mentioned my brother in law made a delicious curry-wurst to welcome them to his home. This sounded like something we could make using the one pot that was provided in the kitchen, and would also not be a duplication of anything the other 20 guests might make. It worked out great. The wurst disappeared, and we saved a bunch of the sauce that was left for a unique burger topper the next night. Double yum.
Today is the 29th. That means we have just 8 more days until departure day! The fridge decided being on the hard scared it too, so it is currently on the fritz in protest. Jeff is working on it now, so I can start provisioning. Just typing that gave me a few butterflies in my stomach. Stuff is getting real! I think I liked this circumnavigation idea more when it was a theoretical and distant concept of adventure. Buying the food I plan to eat at sea is bringing the whole thing into much sharper, more anxiety provoking, focus.
Tropical sunsets, they said. Champagne sailing, they said. Why didn’t anyone mention picking tiny shrimp out of your ears after scraping barnacles off the bottom??
Stay tuned to find out more about how this adventure turns out! Is the fun to suck ratio acceptable? Is the refrigerator fixed? Does Jeff survive multiple trips up the mast? Can we safely unfurl the jib with our aft to the wind in the marina because the riggers didn’t get the forestay length quite right and we have to remove the sail to fix it? Does our crew Peter bail on us is a brief moment of sanity? Does Julie have too much fun at the sail away party and miss the boat the next day in a land based alcoholic stupor*? Seriously, this is sailing people. Anything can happen!
Same sailing time, same sailing channel.
*I learned during the World Cup final at Pirates Beach, “Drinking Rum before 10AM doesn’t make you an alcoholic, it makes you a pirate”! In a post factual era, bars are the new center of higher education.