2021 Recap: Highest Highs and Lowest Lows

2021 was a mixed bag, and I didn’t blog much about it.  No excuses, but here’s a wrap-up. I promise to do better in 2022.

We hauled our boat at Spice Island in January 2021 for routine maintenance, and once that was done, we spent a couple of months hanging out on a mooring ball in Prickly Bay.  At the time, COVID was really raging, and sailing to St. Vincent or neighboring countries was an expensive and intensely complicated endeavor.

We were itching to sail, though, so we posted our availability on several crewing websites.  We met with an owner, an Australian, who was single-handing because his wife was trapped in Australia due to COVID restrictions.  In one of those “meant to be” moments, we agreed to deliver his Lagoon 42 catamaran from Grenada to Horta, Azores (an island in an archipeligo off of Portugal).  His catamaran was berthed at Port Louis Marina, so we brought Kestrel back “home” and set her up with a guardianage company, Island Dreams, to watch over her while we were gone.

The boat we delivered is a 42 foot Lagoon catamaran. While we had sailed on catamarans before, this would be our longest trip on one by far.

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean is an experience we will never, ever forget.  The vastness of the ocean and the sky drives home how truly inconsequential we are.  When you are out there, you are on your own.  There is no help.  If something breaks that you can’t fix, if you run out of water or fuel or food or medicine, or if you can’t determine where you are or how to safely get to your destination, you can die.  It’s serious business, and it changes you.

We had all kinds of wind: too much, not enough, and just right. We usually sailed with the mail and jib, but for a number of days we were able to use a Parasailor sail as shown here.

The crossing sometimes challenged us with difficult weather, big winds and seas, and gear failures.  It soothed us with daily repetition and the stripping away of extraneous, pointless stimuli.  It made small excitements large:  squid stranded on the swim platform, thousands of Man O’Wars bobbing as far as we could see, pods of dolphins, schools of tuna, (incredibly rare) ship sightings.  My love affair with night sailing only intensified; the pitch black water with sky only one shade lighter, thousands of stars littering the sky, silence other than the sound of the water, trailing bioluminescence in our wake.

This was one of the “no wind” motoring days. They were few and far between.

We left St. George’s, Grenada, on May 27 and reached Horta, Azores, on June 17.  The journey was 2962.2 nm, and it took us 20 days, 4 hours, 25 minutes (but who’s counting?).

Once we made landfall in Horta, the Captain and I took eight days to enjoy the island of Faial. 

The Horta anchorage is surprisingly small given how many boats come through it every year. Horta is the first landfall for almost every boat sailing across the Atlantic from west to east. The entrance is to the left of the breakwater in the background of this photo.
After seeing nothing but blue and white for 20 days, seeing the lush, terraced countryside was intoxicating. Many dairy cows roam free, and Faial is known for its cheese, which it proudly advertises as coming from “happy cows.”
Horta is a working port, full of fishing boats and commercial vessels in addition to pleasure craft. There are no dinghy docks; instead, tenders tie off to large rings set in the seawall ringing the harbor, and you take the steps up to the street.

We splurged and stayed in an incredible hotel, the Hotel Do Canal.  We hung out at the famous mariners’ watering hole, Peter Café Sport, and traded stories and laughs with fellow members of the Ocean Cruising Club, an organization catering to blue water sailors who have made a continuous passage of at least 1000 nm.  We made fast friends with N.C., a French OCC member who has one million nautical miles under his keel. 

Peter Cafe Sport has a storied history for assisting and celebrating mariners, and it was our first stop once we were released from quarantine. Walking in after an Atlantic Crossing, having earned the right to be part of the long-distance blue water sailing tribe, was one of the highlights of our time cruising.

We ate rich and flavorful meals, drank gallons of café cappuccinos, and listened raptly to an intimate fado performance in a local restaurant.  We absolutely adored Horta and would go back in a heartbeat.

Faial is lush but unforgiving. For years it relied on whaling, and the whale processing station (the white building) is now an interactive museum.
Coming from a country as young as the United States, it’s always fascinating to be somewhere old. Horta was established as a settlement in the 1400s, and seeing its graceful architecture is a treat.

After Horta, we flew to the US to visit my mom for three weeks.  It was a huge culture shock to be back in the US after so long away and in such different cultures, but it was wonderful to see her.

Finally on July 18 we flew back to Grenada, travel-weary and happy to be back on Kestrel.  We stayed in St. George’s until November 1, when we sailed to Carriacou.

We spent ten days in Carriacou before we got a terrible phone call: my mom died unexpectedly.  We had to go back to the US immediately.  The closest airport was back in Grenada, so we scrambled to get the boat and ourselves ready to head back south, arrange for a berth and guardianship, and get airline tickets.  We left Carriacou in weather we would normally avoid, but we had no real choice.  We got Kestrel back to Port Louis Marina and decommissioned her for an unknown period of time.  Fortunately we didn’t have to drop our sails or do any other of our usual storm prep as hurricane season was over.  Our good friends B&C took care of us, driving us to the airport, taking our refrigerated food off our hands, promising to watch over the boat, and giving me hugs.

We spent two and a half months in the US, handling my mom’s affairs.  We balanced the grief with the joy of a Christmas visit with my aunt and uncle as well as my father, stepmother, sister, and brother-in-law.  It had been way too long, and it was pure delight to spend uninterrupted time with them.

On February 2, 2022, we got back to Kestrel.  We hope to leave on Monday, back to Carriacou and to a return to a little bit of simplicity and quiet.

My mom and Pyper, both of whom left before we were ready.