Sailing the Caribbean

I clip my safety harness onto the line and step into Mira’s cockpit, waiting a second as my eyes adjust to the full moon overhead before grabbing the line and wobbling my way to the AIS chart plotter to check for boat traffic, as I do every 20 minutes while I’m on watch. Spotting a cruise ship 4 miles away I hone in the screen to get the information about the vessel- 850 feet long, 6.1 knots, closest point of approach is 1.4 nautical miles, destination is Great Stirrup Cay in the Barry Islands, same as us. He will pass us at some point in roughly an hour. “Maybe he can toss us some ice”, Patricia jokes as we begin our watch. It’s 1 AM and I just woke up for our 2nd to last watch on Mira’s last leg before Fort Lauderdale. Mira is a 49 foot catamaran I have lovingly called home as of late.

I lay on my back next to Otto, our trusty autopilot and put my headphones on low so I can still hear the gentle hum of the waves that are nudging us along and stare up at the stars reflecting on the last 5 weeks.

We spent 6 days in the essentially uninhabited harbor of Royal Island in the Bahamas. Besides a day of diving where we got picked up from the catamaran and a small workload getting Mira ready for our last stretch we didn’t bring the dinghy down once. We relaxed, read, snorkeled, swam at sunset, got up early to watch the sunrise, wrote and talked. I laid in the sun, meditated, studied Spanish and put my headphones in every night after dinner to watch the sun go down. The days drifted by seamlessly as I watched tropical storms approach and fizzle out to be replaced with humidity, sun and a new batch of house flies, or in our case boat flies. It was slowly becoming time to get Mira back to Florida before hurricane season officially starts.

In 5 weeks I have yet to feel ansy or bored. I wake with the sun and sleep with the moon. Life is simple and my days are governed by the wind and weather. I have been so lucky to make two new friends and am blessed I can gain some experience on Mira. I snorkeled one day to discover a small Bar Jack had followed me off the reef. He kept swimming between my fingers, under and around me and didn’t seem to go anywhere else. I would free dive down and he would follow me, uninhibited. He came out into deeper water and back to the catamaran with me a half an hour later. I tried to bring him back to the reef but he insisted on returning to the boat a second time. I decided to name him Jasper. The next day I climbed back in the water in my snorkeling gear and there was Jasper, hanging out and waiting. We said hi to him every day and threw flies overboard laughing and calling his name whenever we did. As we pulled out of the harbor we all yelled our goodbyes and wished our new friend a good life.

I have read 12 books so far on this trip, greatly improved my Spanish skills, started a new journal and finished an old one, reconnected with my meditation practice, swam every day, gawked at the clouds, stars and the moon, and laughed a lot. My skin is tanned from the sun and my sea legs are fully established; I think I even look calmer. I love being on the ocean and as our time gets closer to the end and we get closer to Port Everglades I can feel myself starting to get anxious about it being over. I love the sound of the wind when the motors are off and we are under sail rushing along at 7 knots. I’ve learned to love the hum of the motor on overnight passages when I collapse into my cabin at 5 AM, exhausted after watch as the waves rock me to sleep. I can already tell this experience has changed me and I worry about forgetting the simplicity and being sucked back in to the real world again. I keep reminding myself about balance.

I’m going to miss cooking, inside jokes, drinking sundowners on the nets, popcorn and movie nights where we discovered you can put Frank’s Hot Sauce on literally everything, and eat it with a side of canned beets, just because. Laughing until I cry when I find Patricia a little tipsy in the galley singing “let the beets rock” and giggling to herself. I’ll miss our mangrove children that we named Glippy, Stormy, Herby and Manny who have been zip tied to the flag pole in a retired Fiji water bottle since the BVI. I will miss the fact that Vic probably loves olives and feta cheese more than anyone I have ever met and how it somehow got worked into every meal. I will miss the abundance of wildlife we have encountered along the way- from swimming pigs, to nurse sharks, remoras, eagle rays and sting rays, flying fish landing on the nets under way and dolphins playing alongside the bow of the boat, bioluminescence lighting up our way some nights. But as it comes to a close its still not over, we are having T-shirts made that encompass all our inside jokes and quirks and we are all jumping out of a perfectly good airplane on Tuesday, you know, just because.

Oh yea, it’s been 20 minutes, back to watch.


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