Fair Winds and Following Seas

Published: June 10th 2017
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Geo: 12, -61.7667

The sweetest sentiment one can wish a sailor is "fair winds and following seas." When the winds are fair, all is good and a sailboat will fly gently over the water; following seas means the current is pushing the boat along from behind, easily increasing speed of travel and making for a fast, mostly silent sail. We've experienced these conditions a few times so far; it is what I imagined sailing would be. But the winds are rarely still, the current is probably at odds, and the sea is perpetually changing. A good sailor has to know the boat well, plus how to read the water, the wind, the current, and to make adjustments quickly. Otherwise, even a stable catamaran could be capsized in high seas, and life on the ocean would become precarious or ultimately perilous. All boats have lifejackets, but I think the best precautions would be to sail with an experienced, calm sailor, and to learn how to swim, or at least to learn how to drown-proof oneself. But even then there are no guarantees.

Since I first learned to swim at age 9, and realized that if you can't touch the bottom, then it doesn't matter if the depth of the water is five feet or 10,994 meters. This realization, along with increasing proficiency through lessons at school, made me totally fearless in water. Given the chance, I'll swim almost anywhere (except in chlorine filled pools). I've swum in chilly lakes and ponds, in rivers, and in many oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, the Caribbean, the South China Sea, the Bay of Thailand, the Gulf of Thailand (Cambodia), the Mediterranean. I don't think I'll reach my goal of swimming across the Bering Strait, but recently I've become comfortable with letting that go. Only once, other than at age 5 when, while sitting on the edge of the local high school's pool, patiently watching my mother swim laps, someone came along and pushed me into the 6 foot deep water. In childlike acceptance I don't remember being afraid then, just looking at all the water around and over me, seeing swimmers' legs under water, a totally new perspective. Someone pulled me out very quickly, so that little unexpected adventure began and ended very abruptly. But only one other time did I ever get in trouble while in water. We were at a beach on outer Cape Cod; there was a strong riptide that day, but many of us foolishly went in anyway. A wave knocked me down; I was kept underwater, rolling and rolling with the current, unable to stand up or even get a breath. Some good samaritan saw I was in trouble and managed to pull me to shore. What a humbling surprise that experience was! The lifeguards were extra busy that day. And so we are sent reminders to be very respectful of the ocean's power.

Yesterday's sailing back to the Moorings Marina was excellent. We needed to fill the water tanks, get the radio fixed, switch out some towels, and check emails. We didn't go snorkeling before we left because it was cloudy (such wasted opportunities!), but as soon as we committed to sailing, the sun started to come out, but, alas, we were on our way. Once we were at the marina I couldn't wait to leave and be back out sailing on the ocean. We had sailed south and moored at True Blue, but as we turned from south to east and were on the Atlantic Ocean, the seas became quite rough. It felt as if the boat was jumping at times, but once I got used to it I enjoyed the tossing very much. One quickly learns to find handholds when walking on a boat in those unruly seas, or simply sit in one place until the waters calm. True Blue is very beautiful, and it was delightfully hot. Of course, swimming was the perfect response to that situation. One of my recurring dreams had been to dive right off the side of a boat and swim from there, and here I finally did that. Joy! I swam under the boat too, between the pontoons; it was wonderfully exciting.

As the days languidly passed by, we visited several small towns along our journey's way: True Blue, Prickly Bay, Hog Island, stopping at many to explore little shops along the beaches or simply to walk around on land for awhile. One day we took the jitney bus (cost= $1 each way) to Grand Anse beach, the 2 mile long enormously popular gorgeous beach near St. George in southwestern Grenada. Many of the crew wanted to see the beach from the beach, especially after seeing it from out on the water. Although most of it is crowded with tourists, it is still a beautiful beach, and yet the farthest part, away from the hotels, is almost empty. Riding the jitney bus reminded me of similar bus rides in Ecuador, Belize, and Mexico. In all four countries two people are needed to make this bus venture work, a driver and the guy who collects money; the collector also tells the driver where to stop to let people off. In Grenada the collector pounds on the side of the roof to let the driver know a stop is requested; they will pick you up pretty much anywhere, and drop you off wherever you want along their route. I'm not sure if they actually have routes, or just go where riders want to go. These buses are usually crammed quite full, although somehow they can always squeeze in another person or two. Once I was squished between two women and their babies; once as I got in I felt the collector pushing me over; we were to share one seat. It worked. If a person is in the far back corner and requests a stop, everyone else has to get out to let them pass by, and then everyone crams back in. It's a good way to meet locals. On my last bus ride I sat beside an older gentleman who was also a teacher; he had been born in Cuba but was happy teaching at a high school in Grenada. We discussed many things on our all-too-short ride; when I got off I felt we both had received more than a bit of understanding about each other's lives in just a few minutes. This rarely happens riding public transportation in New York or Barcelona or Rome or other big cities around the world! I enjoy these serendipitous interpersonal encounters very much.

Back to the boat. St. Nicholas' Day, Sunday, December 6, turned out to be one of my favorite days. We left the marina to go sailing, just for the day. The weather was perfect, the sailing was fine, the snorkeling was absolutely stunning, and then, after throwing my flippers, mask and snorkel (and socks) into the dinghy, I swam back to the boat, maybe 1/4 mile away. Snorkeling and swimming on the same day, plus sailing in the warm sunshine meant perfection to me. What more could anyone possibly desire? (Yes, having my family and other loved ones nearby, and, of course, I have not forgotten world peace and understanding, acceptance, and love among all peoples, and ending hunger and hatred wherever they raise their deadly heads.) We are in the West Indies, on a sailing vacation in paradise, meeting interesting people, swimming in the warm turquoise ocean, seeing stunningly beautiful sights every day. How very lucky we are.


27th December 2015

Thanks for the info Laura. Very interesting. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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