Reflecting on Retirement

While it’s true I have been “retired” for a whole year now, it is finally starting to look and feel like the real thing.


As Matthew mentioned in his post “Being Here”, we have been working on this big project called “sailing off to the Caribbean” for several years, and this past year was an especially busy one with all the preparations. The stress of that took its toll on me, and by the time we were done with the rally, I was pretty much “done” myself. So we took some much-needed R&R, tucked away in a secluded little bay in the North Sound off Virgin Gorda. Surrounded by forested hills on three sides, and nothing but the ocean all the way to Africa on the open end, we had this lovely piece of tropical paradise to ourselves, the only boat in the bay. We slept, ate, swam and read – just what was needed to re-charge our batteries.

I am finally feeling retired now, and am ready to start reaping the rewards of all that hard work.

Peaceful evening in Deep Bay

Peaceful evening in Deep Bay

A short dinghy-ride to stretch our legs on the beach revealed that there used to be a resort here, but it is now closed. Interesting to go for a walk and poke around in the abandoned beach bar. Falling down umbrellas and palm-frond littered the beach. The beach toys are all still there, volleyball net, boules and a surprisingly intact chess set – very odd indeed. 


Chess on the beach, anyone?

Being here and our first hike


The dream to live on a boat and cruise the Caribbean is a big dream and like most big dreams takes a bit of organizing.  The last 2 years have been a whirlwind, work, boat, family, house and boat again to prepare for this trip.  It is all to easy to forget that the goal is to slow down and live a simple life in the warmth of a Caribbean winter.  

First time marathoners often have the post marathon blues, their goal achieved by dedicating their life to the required training, they feel lost and deflated when the glow of finishing the marathon is gone. Once the ability to go down a flight of stairs has returned there is a sense of deflation and listlessness that is hard to explain.  The passage to Tortola was our marathon and I have been having some difficulty with slowing down and getting into cruising mode.  We have spent the last 10 days in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda.  The North Sound is a happening place, superyachts, cruisers and lots of charter boats flock here. Luckily we had a recommendation of a nice quiet spot – Deep Bay (don’t tell anyone!) just past Saba Rock.  We spent a few days adapting to the heat and the pace and we are now relaxed and not overheated.

We decided to try a hike to the top of Virgin Gorda – Gorda Peak.  We moved the boat to the an anchorage off Prickly Pear Island, we happened to drop the hook next to Caffe Latte.  We had a catch up with Jean and Yolène, they were hosting friends from Montreal.  This was a gentle reintroduction to a more social life we expect for the rest of the trip.  

The next morning we took the dinghy across the sound to the village of Gun Creek, the closest part of the sound to Virgin Peak.

As we left the village and started the steep climb up North Sound Road we found ourselves in the company of another couple. Dan and Sarah from Calypso introduced themselves to us.  Cruisers from Oregon, Dan and Sarah are like us starting on their cruising life and we had lots to talk about on the hot climb.


We eventual reached the trail head at the edge of the Gorda Peak National Park, the trail was a bit muddy from recent rain but it was shady and quite a contrast from the road on the approach.

We climbed through the trees and Kathleen had a Rocks and Trees and Water moment as we could have almost been in Canada, but the lovely smell of the flowers gave it away as a tropical island.

The top of the climb is a lookout tower, tall enough to see over the forest with views of the entire island and the Francis Drake Channel.




The way down was easier and the views were better


On the way back to Gun Creek we stopped at Hog Heaven where the photo at the top of the page was taken.  The views are amazing, Hog Heaven is above Leverick Bay with views over the North Sound to Anegada and Richard Branson’s Bond Villain lair, Necker Island.  For somewhere with “Hog” in its name, they had a couple of good Veg options, Dan and Sarah had the ribs which were good.

Our first hike was a total success, we met new people, had a great walk with great views and the reward of a nice lunch.  We are adapting, being here is a long way from getting here. 

Passage to the BVIs – Ocean Sailing


The Caribbean 1500 left harbour a day early, why?  This was due to the passing of a cold front.  This gives favourable conditions to cross the gulf stream.  If we did not leave on Saturday, we would have to wait for the next front to pass 4-6 days later.  

From Portsmouth, the gulf stream is close to the coast and we headed south to cross the stream east of Cape Hatteras.  This path gave us about 48 hours to reach and cross the stream.  With the cold front we had north winds to speed our passage south, or at least we should have had, we ended up motoring shortly after the start as the wind dropped to 2-5 knots.  Eventually the winds filled in and we were able to sail across the stream.  The next 3 days we had downwind sailing in quite big seas and winds in the 20-30 knots range.  There were a couple of gales in the area of Bermuda that sent large swells south during most of the passage.

The first 2-3 days on the passage were all about finding a rhythm, sleep and watch hours become the major focus.  With the boat moving about on the large seas and plenty of wind, it took time for us all to settle in.  With Kathleen the only one of us happy to work below deck, at least for the first few days, she took on the lions share of the galley and SSB work, providing us with great food to keep hunger and sea sickness at bay and giving us information about the fleet from the SSB nets.  Although she was out of the watch rotation  she also took an early morning relieve watch that enabled Paul, Lisa and I to get an extra few hours of sleep every 3 days.  This worked really well with the 3 on, 6 off watch pattern.

From day 3 on we had mixed conditions, never over 25 knots, but often low enough to have us motor.  On a passage the hours pass slowly, but the days pass quickly, by day 4 we had a good rhythm and the boat ran smoothly with no issues.  We had a couple of calm days where personal hygiene was the focus and we all felt better for a shower and some clean clothes.  The visit from the Whale and the flying fish mystery kept us entertained and the days really did pass quickly. 

We arrived at the finish with another boat, Yarona and ended up motoring with them just ahead to the finish line.


 Here we are celebrating the finish with the traditional ginger ale.  

For the record we came DFL on handicap, but I am fine with that, we had a much smoother ride and an easier passage than the boats that stayed east of the rhumb line.

We arrived close to sunset and we had a great run down Tortola to Nanny Cay with the full moon raising behind us.

We arrived at about 7:30pm, greeted by the Caribbean 1500 staff with rum punch all round.

c1500-dock I don’t remember feeling as tired as we all look, but the camera does not lie!

The next few days we spent relaxing at Nanny Cay, catching up with crews on the other boats, a bit of swimming, a bit of happy hour and a few boat jobs.  The marina is very well sheltered, but that meant it was tough to work on the boat due to the temperatures, so more happy hours, less jobs was the order of the day.

After a few days, we bid our crew, Paul and Lisa farewell as they headed out to look for a catamaran to buy, they are spending a week or two in the Caribbean as they get serious about buying a boat.  We could not have done this trip without them, thanks Paul and Lisa!

img_20161117_100243 Kathleen’s efforts were rewarded at the prize giving, Andy and the team felt that she was the “Best  Galley Slave of the Rally” She got a great gift certificate from one of the local supermarkets that came on board as a sponsor.


After the prize giving we had a dinner with all the crews. The Canadian boats were all at the same table, here are the crews of Kinship, RC Wings from Ontario and Caffe Latte and Ambition from Quebec. 

c1500-tableWe are looking forward to meeting up with the all of the Caribbean 1500 boats over the winter, but especially the Canadian boats.