Caribbean Sailing, I Could Get Used to This…
“We’re about to hit another patch of wind” Emmy, our crew-mate with two Atlantic sailing passages and years of sailing instruction under her belt, announces matter of-factly.
“What, how can you possibly tell that?” I say, scanning the instruments for clues.
“Oh, you can see the wind” she responds casually, channeling her inner Yoda.
She was right, you can see the wind. It appears as a distinct band of water with a hue slightly different from the surrounding blue.
Sensory Experience of Sailing
The wind and being able to interpret it is everything in sailing. Feeling the wind on your face, hearing its strength or its quieting makes using your instruments—an expensive and relatively recent technological addition to sailing—unnecessary and even delayed. Makes sense, sailing has been around for centuries after all.
Sailing, especially on a small yacht, is a full-on sensory experience. As you travel through the environment, you feel the sun beating down hot on your skin, your bare feet grip the rough deck surface, you hear the water displace beneath the boat and lap against the hull. It’s a far cry from the usual experience of travel by car; AC blasting, radio turned up, scenery whizzing by. There you have created your own mini environment, separate from the world outside your window.
Our Sailing Route
You know that saying, “It’s not about the destination, but the journey.” Well, for this trip at least, it was both. The journey itself was novel, challenging, and utterly gorgeous. We began our trip in the southern tip of Grenada. We traveled northeast up to Carriacou and then Union Island, and our final most northern point of Tobago Cays—then back. A seven day journey in total on Copernic—the 42 ft yacht we chartered. Our crew comprised me (duh), Jeff, Greg (Jeff’s dad), and Emmy.
We are mountain people. Every trip planned centers around hiking, climbing, or mountain biking. I can count the ocean-focused trips we have taken with…two fingers. Being on the ocean, living on the water, blew my mind. Add to that the complete newness of sailing and the seemingly endless things to learn and absorb. Watching for surf among the deeper waters for unsuspecting shallows, scanning the water for signs of dreaded fish pots to warn the helms-person to steer clear, scurrying along the bow grabbing lifelines to avoid being tossed overboard.
The novelty of it is like taking an espresso shot of life. There is actually neuroscience to back that up— the brain must be provided with something that is has never before processed to force it out of predictable perceptions. Check out the Mr. Money Mustache article on how exposing yourself to novel experiences actually slows your life down too—routine is the enemy of time!
A New Technical Challenge
Sailing is also challenging. It’s extremely technical. Knots to remember, lines with different purposes, systems and processes for raising. You are constantly adjusting the sails to match the wind and your course, anchoring and mooring the boat. You are using charts to navigate all the while avoiding hazards like reefs, underwater volcanoes (yes, seriously) or rocks.
Then there is the physiological challenge of avoiding seasickness! Our first day of rough seas left me nearly incapacitated, eventually tossing that morning’s breakfast. Meanwhile, Emmy was showing off her iron stomach, making sandwiches in the cabin while the boat heeled at 40 degrees. Once I learned her secret—consume nothing acidic such as coffee, and eat more carbs and less protein, I was good to go the rest of the trip.
A Different, Spectacular Nature
The islands we traveled to and between were absolutely stunning; mountainous, lush and vibrant green, dotted with steep rock cliffs, and overall dramatic topography with hills jutting up at impossible angles.
The destinations were not to be missed either—Tobago Cays and Sandy Island are places I would return to again and again. Tobago Cays, a national park of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, spans a 2 sq mile radius that is entirely swimmable and absolutely bursting with sea life. Coral reefs and shallow sand floor waters are home to sea turtles, manta rays, small sharks, and a million different colored fish. While snorkeling, we would constantly encounter sea turtles, their shells three feet in diameter, gracefully soaring up and down the water’s depths. We spent a day and a half there, exploring all the nooks of the reef and the islands that encircled us.
The human presence in the Cay added to the vibrancy. Other small yachts were anchored all around, with visitors from all over the world snorkeling, kite surfing, paddle boarding, or jetting around in dinghies. It was not overly crowded, but rather felt like a small community. At night, the dozens of anchor lights atop the masts dotted the seascape, creating a sort of gentle bobbing and swaying light show.
Sandy Island also had incredible snorkeling, but the beach bbq we had there was the big highlight. Every night, Tim, a local, hosts a very small beach bbq of fresh caught fish and lobster. At 6pm, with the sun setting in the background, we loaded up in our dinghy and motored onto the nearby beach of Sandy Island—the entire length of which you could walk in five minutes. When getting to dinner involves gunning your dinghy through the surf to heave it onto the beach and then quickly hopping out into the ocean water and spray to drag it ashore…well it makes for a fun arrival. You then walk 50 yards to the “restaurant”, which really consists of a few picnic tables set among the trees with torch fire for light and a lone grill as the source of the amazing feast. Unforgettable.
All Good Things Come to an End
Now we are headed back to Colorado and #vanlife to begin our climbing road trip. We are going to make our way over to Red Rocks in Las Vegas. During the trip, we plan to stop at climbing areas along the way. Shelf Road, Unaweep Canyon, and Moab are top of the list pending weather!