Viento Azul: Sailing Home After the Long Summer

Friday, August 21; Christmas Cove, Greater St James, USVI

This is it. This is goodbye, I thought at 5:30 am. The sun hadn’t come up yet, but it was light out. The waters at Christmas Cove had quieted down overnight and I wanted to jump in and look for my octopus under the ugly rock near Fish Cay. Instead, I started the engines. The rumbling woke Liz and Carla who came up, excited to get underway. Steve let go of the port mooring line, I held on to the other one to allow the boat to turn. As we swung around, I surveyed my summer playground and thought about the little green sea turtle that roamed the seagrass behind the exposed rocks along the shore, the pair of eagle rays that had passed us one last time the night before, and all the stingrays, huffing and puffing and blowing onto the sandy bottom…

“What are you doing? Let go already!” Steve yelled at me from the cockpit. I was in a trance. This had been my home for the last three months and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else and was reluctant to go anywhere else.

Finally, I let go and watched the black mooring line slide through my fingers. The bitter end slid over the cross beam, fell into the water, then made its way through the pennant and back, following us as we steered away. I dragged the freed line onto the net and coiled it, then I joined Steve in the cockpit. We unfurled the jib and motor-sailed west toward Culebra. The boats in Christmas Cove got smaller and smaller and slowly St James and St John faded from view, as I watched unhappily.

I hadn’t really said goodbye to my new friend Doug McLain who lives on his Freedom 38 in the Cove. I sent him a text, asking for some pics. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see him again and it left me feeling sad. Doug sent the following pics, my favorite being the one of him as a four-year-old with his parents sailing on their Hinckley off the coast of Massachusetts. Little Dougie is wearing a tiny life jacket and looking ahead through a monocular. I love that picture.

Doug McLain
Doug McLain. (Image credits: Doug McLain)

 

Image of Little Doug with his parents.
Little Doug with his parents.

Somewhere south of St Thomas, a bird landed on the bimini. Liz offered stale Cheerios which the bird rejected. We weren’t sure what it was looking for or where it hoped we’d take it, but it stayed with us for quite a while before taking off again.

We got distracted the first time Carla nearly caught a fish. A couple of hours later she did. We had a Cero Mackerel on the hook.

Four hours after leaving Christmas Cove we furled the jib and I steered past the first channel marker into Ensenada Honda. At 11:45 am, we anchored in the swamp, and Steve and Carla set out with the dinghy to explore our options in the mangroves. Meanwhile, I checked us in with Customs and Border Protection who wanted a COVID test, which we didn’t have. I promised we wouldn’t attempt to go to shore and only stick around until the storm had passed. Once we were cleared, we motored into the mangroves where other boats were already tied up. Carla followed in the dinghy to make sure we weren’t getting stuck. Finally, we anchored at the identical spot we’d weathered Hurricane Isaias in, and started the tedious task of stringing our lines between the boat and the mangroves.

Liz seasoned the mackerel and Steve grilled it to perfection. We had fish tacos and corn for dinner. Not too shabby!


Saturday, August 22; Culebra, Puerto Rico

Graphics of TS Laura over Culebra
TS Laura over Culebra: Cone of uncertainty, moisture radar, forecast models. (Image credits: MaxTracker.app)

We spent the day tied up in our hurricane hole in Culebra. Everyone stayed in their cabins, wiling the day away in a variety of pursuits. Liz was knitting and journaling, Carla read a fat book, and Steve and I watched scary movies while the winds whipped the mangroves and the rains pelted the canal outside.

Elisabeth and Carla
Elisabeth and Carla

At 5 pm, everything calmed down. The worst had passed with occasional 30-knot gusts which barely registered in our hidey-hole. Laura is projected to travel over the Greater Antilles, where she’s expected to lose steam in the mountains before entering the Gulf of Mexico.

Satellite images of TS Laura
Satellite images of TS Laura. The storm didn’t really get bigger, I just zoomed in more. Got a little excited–sorry about that.  (Image credit: MaxTracker.app)

Liz prepped burgers for dinner, which Steve grilled. We still have potato salad and one last beer. Yum! The wind has died down and stars are popping up as the sky clears.

Saturday, August 22; Culebra, Puerto Rico

No rush getting up today. We can’t leave until the monohulls and powerboats have cleared the mangroves or at least have taken down their lines.

 

Sunday, August 30; Islamorada, Florida

We’re home!! I’ll update this over the next few days but I need some time to settle in.

 

This post is developing and will continue to be updated.

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About the author

Hi, I’m Carmen “Mica” Alex and this is my blog about science, traveling, life and anything else that’s interesting or useful.

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