We began our journey in mid-November with our departure from North Carolina, and a seven-day sail to St. Martin. We started moving south towards Grenada within a week with stops along some of our favorite islands of the Caribbean island chain. As we approached the holidays in St. Lucia, we had seen many charter boats, but few cruisers – people who live on their boats and travel extensively. One thing that increased their visibility was the arrival of the ARC – Atlantic Rally for Cruisers: about 300 boats left to cross the Atlantic from Europe and arrived in St. Lucia – mostly arriving in the middle of December. We started seeing several boats flying the banner of the ARC meaning they had made the crossing. But, we weren’t meeting many of the cruisers.
Admittedly, we were traveling through the islands more quickly than normal for that time of year. And, the economic conditions have resulted in fewer cruisers plying these waters. But, our previous experiences had caused us to expect we would have met and made friends with more cruisers by the beginning of the new year. We met a couple of boats – like Northfork and Bamboo. And had some good times with them. But, not as many meetings as we expected. Maybe we just weren’t sociable enough.
Well, we now are almost overwhelmed with a positive taste of the cruising community. Here in Prickly Bay, Grenada we have met up with at least a dozen boats. And, we really feel like we’ve finally joined the cruising community. Yesterday was a particularly moving day for us. We found out our furling hardware was completely ready to go first thing in the morning. By noon, we had taken Tahina back to the boatyard and loaded the re-assembled furler and forestay onto the deck. Thanks to help again from the cruising skippers on Djarrka and Ascension, we anchored in the small bay near the boatyard and re-installed the equipment. It was a great feeling having our boat back together (except for the sail which we should get back by mid-day today after its minor repair).
Later in the afternoon, a cruising boat with kids on board was expected to arrive. This boat, called Grace, has 3 kids on board and the owners are from Australia. Like most kid boats, they are very popular with the other cruisers. There was a happy hour scheduled at De Big Fish, the main bar/restaurant with the dinghy dock near the boat yard. So, a number of the cruisers decided to converge there. Karen and I offered to go help take Grace over with our larger dinghy – so they wouldn’t have to take down their dinghy after their full day of sailing (they had come down from Bequia and left at 3:30 AM).
Karen and I had a wonderful time immersed amongst these friendly people. And, their helpfulness has been fantastic! Many of these cruisers have traveled thousands of miles together, or met in dozens of ports. Others may have only met once or twice. But, you would never know as it seems just once or twice is enough to form lifelong friendships. In fact, last night it felt very similar to being at a family gathering. The kids from Grace were bright, energetic, and friendly as could be. You should have seen the hugs they gave to the other boaters. Half the evening they were sitting in the laps of their parents or other cruisers. The other half they were running around playing inside and outside the restaurant.
It turns out Grace is headed west also. With about the same schedule as us (at least up to Tahiti). So, we will probably get the chance to spend more time with this family from Australia. Based on first impressions, we are really looking forward to it. And, at the mention of the Wii we have on board, we’re likely to be quite popular with the kids.
After only a week here in Prickly Bay, we’ve made many new friends. Originally we hoped to finish as quickly as possible because of our deadline to meet up with friends who are flying into Aruba. Plus, leaving west from Grenada means we will be sailing in new waters and visiting islands we’ve never been to before. But, now we almost feel reluctant to depart because we will have to say “Au Revoir” to so many of our new cruising friends. Fortunately, with the arrival of Grace last night, we at least feel we’ll have a part of this community coming along with us. And, we certainly will remain in touch with the others via the Internet.
The cruising community is a big part of the wonder and excitement of traveling the world by sailboat. It’s really great to feel we are now truly a part of it. Here are some pictures of the last few days – mostly showing the removal and installation of our furling unit and forestay. But, also showing a few shots of the dinner on Tahina (with Djarrka and Ascension visiting), and of the cruisers get-together last night (it really looks like a family outing doesn’t it?).