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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.