A story of firsts through Jess’ eyes
Well we are two months into this adventure and I’ve yet to write a blog post. Therefore I thought it’s time I share my perspective and feelings about this experience. Yes, it’s been amazing! We’ve seen incredible things above and below the crazy blue Caribbean coloured water (dolphins, sharks, stingrays, turtles, mountains, mega yachts, fruit and vegetables markets, colourful homes and buildings, as well as the distruction left by hurricane Irma). We’ve had both exhilarating sails and quiet peaceful ones. We’ve met a ton of wonderful people including Disco (as Chris mentioned in one of his posts), George and Stacy (a Newfy couple who have been living in Antigua for some 25 years), Heather, Clint, their son Ty and sailing instructor George from Winnipeg (another couple of newbie cruisers) and perhaps our closest friends we’ve met, John and Susie (a lovely Welsh couple with whom we’ve shared self caught fish). Both Chris and John are handy with the rods, drinks, and stories. As well, they have shared their knowledge of the islands and boat projects with us. We will miss them as we move on in our journey.
I am grateful for all of the above but despite it I have had some difficulties adjusting too. Living on a boat does not come with out its struggles. I was reflecting back in my journal (which I have also been neglecting to write in on a regular basis) and it made me smile to see how far we’ve come and how comfortable I am now compared to when we first started. I thought I’d share an entry to give you some perspective into living on a boat.
October 21, 2017
The past week has been a number of firsts for Chris, Sitka and myself.
1. First time living on the hard
- climbing a ladder 10x/day to get in and out of the boat
- Peeing in soda bottles at night so that I don’t have to climb down the ladder and walk to the outhouse in the yard in the dark
- Despite having netting, battling mosquitos each night and losing at “don’t scratch, don’t scratch!” Easier said than done
- Sorting through the contents of the boat and pitching or giving away the things we don’t think we need. Kept 10 towels and gave away the rest, kept 4 sets of sheets and gave away the rest. Hopefully we don’t regret this but the previous owners just had sooooo many [side note: so far so good :)]
- Working through the nerves: will the boat tip over off the chocks due to the howling winds. The wind generators are so loud they make the wind seem so much worse then it is. There are many new noises to get used to living on a boat.
- Learning to read the weather, and that it’s better to close the windows and hatches before leaving the boat just in case it rains. Twice now Chris and I have had to race back to the boat to close them up and then spent the next 15 minutes wiping up the water and the next day drying cushion covers.
- Chris climbing up to the top of the mast with me belaying him using the winch. I had a few tears before and after this one. I don’t quite know which thought was scarier; me climbing up there or me being in control of Chris while he’s up there. This is something I’m going to have to get over as it’s going to happen again, no question. Hopefully I can work up the courage to go up myself.
- Meeting some of the locals: security guards Williams and Simpson. Disco, man what a stand up guy. He helped us out big time while preparing the boat for the water. He’d even check in on us when he wasn’t working on the boat next to us just to see how things were coming along, check out our work and give us tips about things we could do next.
2. First time Sitka was splashed in the water.
- Holding my breath as I watched them move Sitka both on a tractor and in the slings. It’s an incredible thing to see.
- Once in the water, bilges were dry. “She floats!!”
- First motor out of the harbour as the sun is starting to go down. Chris is out of the gates running. I’m saying “ I think we should just anchor” while Chris is saying “I want to explore”, “jumping fish, did you see that?”. In my mind it all sounds like “Squirrel!”. My senses were very overwhelmed. Knowledge that the waters are very shallow and shading that I was not used to (does darker water mean deeper or coral?!) I just didn’t want to run aground in our first time out. Turns out we did anyway, kinda... While anchoring I thought we’d found our holding until Chris pointed out that the chain was slack-our keel was stuck in the muddy bottom. In my mind I’m think “okay well I guess we’ll have to use the vhf and radio for help”. But Chris, always as cool as a cucumber, skillful and lucky managed to get us off the muddy bottom and free.
- Again getting used to the new sounds. Not just the wind generators and slapping lines on the mast, but creaking and sloshing of water and grinding of the chain (this noise has since stopped as we now use a snubber).
- Are we sliding? I think I woke up at least ever hour to check the GPS on my iPad to make sure we were still holding. Chris joked and called it my boyfriend but I knew he was getting annoyed.
- First time using the dinghy and leaving Sitka at anchor while we went to town. She remained where we left her, thank God!
- Second night at anchor was much more pleasant. Had an outdoor shower on the transom. It feels so good to be clean and wash off the layers of sweat and sunscreen. Listening to reggae while cooking together, pasta dinner in the cockpit plus snuggle time and now I’m writing this while Chris does dishes. Way less stressful tonight; if Sitka didn’t move all day while we were in town then chances are that she’ll stay put tonight.
Change is hard and this has been more mentally challenging than I anticipated. My worse case scenario mentality does not serve me well. But Chris is always positive and confident that we can do anything together - he’s right. He tries his best to support me and walk me through my fears but this is also something I’m always actively working on myself. I know there will be many more firsts to come. I want to be excited by them and enjoy them with new eyes like Chris and not be scared of them...
Since writing this journal entry I’m much more at ease with a lot of the things mentioned (the exception of climbing the mast) but it is something I work on every day. In my next post I’ll share our most recent adventure - our first overnight passage. Spoiler alert: things break down as they do on boats, we experience the two extremes in sailing 0 knots of wind and 30 knots of wind, but we manage to come out on top.