It is official, we’ve made a U-turn. While just days ago we were on a path floating down the string of Caribbean Islands and planning to spend the Hurricane season in Grenada before working our way across the South and Central American coast towards the jeweled and remote islands of the San Blas (Panama) from which we would slowly work our way back to the start, today we have our bow pointed West.
What happened in the past few weeks to totally derail decades worth of planning and dreaming?!? I don’t know for sure. Maybe it started when we left the Dominican Republic and knew we hadn’t even begun to see all it had to offer. We were only in one harbor after all. Or, on that logic, maybe it started when we sailed right past Rum and Conception in the Bahamas- they were both on my wanna-go-there list. It’s like we built up so much momentum then crashed and burned. Really, it probably started with the comparison of what we had read and seen about the San Blas islands in our preparation phase (years and years ago) to what we heard from people who have been there recently. Seems we did our research once and didn’t revisit it again. To shorten it down to a sentence or two: It is no longer a place that is only reached by the rare cruising boat, it is a place now easily reachable by plane, charter boat, cruise ship excursion tours and probably even jet skis too. We are listening to reports of overcrowded anchorages with fees to anchor and even come ashore. This is a far cry from what we are in search of. Not all the islands have been corrupted by the taste of tourism, but it seems many have. Some cruisers loved the San Blas, some hated it, some people said it is now a lost destination- the window to truly experience it unmolested has already closed. However, everyone does seem to be in agreement that if what you are looking for is free diving, spearfishing, clear water, unlimited white beautiful beaches, and the freedom to travel among them we won’t find any better than the Ragged and Jumento Islands of the Bahamas. In all of our time in the Bahamas we never made it there. Normally we take it all in and just go see for our selves but all of a sudden 1600 miles (plus the return trip) seemed like a really, really long way to sail for a destination that we now had some doubts about how much we would like. From this doubt it snowballed and we’ve been a lost, spinning mess since. If time (money) were not the limiting factor we would still just go and see for our selves then come back and hit the parts of the Bahamas we missed and/or loved again. We don’t have that many seasons left. It is an either or situation. Decisions had to be made, priorities sorted.
Once San Blas was in question the entire Eastern Caribbean quickly came under review. Did we want to still go to Grenada for the summer? The Eastern Caribbean was never our interest, they were just islands along our path we hoped to enjoy on our way to our primary destination. We’ve been in the USVI for almost three weeks now for weather, and while we know we can’t compare these charter clogged islands to the entire chain, we think we have seen enough to make a decision. Though the process has been a doozey!! We’ve flip-flopped on an almost hourly basis for days now! I even made a color-coded spreadsheet with our possible routes to help sort out all our options. It just added to the mess. Anyone who has come in contact with us as we were working out this whole morphing-of-a-dream thing has probably felt our sting. Sorry. We never forgot that we are in a the most privileged of positions, but, still, transitions can be exhausting.
We finally were able to work it through to this: With our remaining cruising seasons, was it more important WHERE and how FAR we went (and completing what we set out to do)-or-HOW we experienced these remaining seasons. Until now the where and the how meshed. We were someplace we thought was terrific and doing all the things we love. So Simple. We don’t feel that way now. Where do I begin without sounding sour and bratty? I suppose I can’t, but we are not enjoying the crowded harbors, we don’t like being told we have to use a mooring ball, and we really don’t like having to pay $26.00 a night to use it. We don’t like the hunt to find the exclusions to these rules. The beaches are beautiful, sure, but are littered with bars, and beach-floaty rental shacks, and, the kicker for me, they come with roped-off swimming areas that I am supposed to stay in. I, apparently, do not like being told where I can swim! Throw on top that you have to pay just to access many of the beaches and we are done. Done, done. What all of that boils down to is that we feel we are someplace we could just as easily visit and experience just as wholly by plane and we are worried it will likely be the same for the majority of the way down the islands. The freedoms we have by traveling on our own little boat are all gone here. Are our concerns for the remaining islands valid? I think so. Would we see beautiful things, have amazing experiences, and meet wonderful people if we kept going? Absolutely. Will we regret not venturing on? That is the real question. We hope not. We won’t have this opportunity again.
Instead of continuing on we have chosen to spend our precious remaining seasons living a life that cannot be reached by plane. We are going back to where we eat from the water more meals than not, have the freedom to chose where to drop the anchor and make home for the night- perhaps a beautiful beach with not another soul in sight, and live a more self-sufficient and free life in a part of the world that is still unblemished by crowds (before it is). Where we want to do that happens to be in the direction we just came from. The current plan (it has been unwavering for a whole 30 hours- a record for the past few weeks) is to finish waiting on some mail here in St. Thomas, then slowly work our way back through Puerto Rico seeing what we missed on our speedy sail East, revisit Dominican Republic, and then head back to our beloved Bahamas. We won’t miss the Raggeds this time! Plans for Cuba are actively being researched to help satisfy the “see new places” desire. Yesterday we committed and made arrangement for hurricane storage if needed on Stocking Island. It is not the plan of world-travelers or of adventurous sailors. It is just our little happy-happy plan.
^^ Despite our overall feelings, our introduction to St. Thomas could not have been sweeter. A few miles out we hailed our friends on Smitty– we haven’t seen them since sailing with them in the Bahamas about a year ago and were excited to see them again. We didn’t really expect an answer on the radio, they were not expecting us for a few more weeks, but we got one! Before we even made it all the way in the harbor they had a mooring ball arranged for us and a plan to get us in the water immediately! Best. Welcome. Ever. They gave us the tours and the lowdown’s on where to get stuff like groceries and laundry, and more, it has been fun catching back up.
^^We moved out of the mooring field and into Brewers Bay anchorage to give ourselves some more room and hang on our own equipment for the days and days of weather we got. We knew it was coming, that is why we had been traveling so fast.
^^ We participated in a community clean-up day with the crew on Blabber. The ladies liked Keith’s dreadlock painting skills!!!
^^ We sailed over to St. John to get away from the city for a night. It was pretty. We enjoyed seeing the mountains green and not covered with square buildings. We tied the boat off to the required mooring, secured the dinghy off to the designated dinghy area and swam in the buoyed swim zone. Everything was nice. The experience did little to sway us from turning around.
^^While at St. Johns we went in search of a beach that Kai was allowed on. The main one was off limits and the one behind us was to rocky to land on so we went to the next little one we saw. It was perfect and no one was around. Kai ran from one end to the other over and over. When we got back to the boat we realized that that cute little beach had been in the BVI’s. Ooopppps!! We were not allowed there and Kai REALLY wasn’t allowed there. (So, technically the farthest East we got was the BVI’s!)
^^ Our favorite little spot on St. Thomas ended up being Brewers Bay. (The previous three photos) It sets under the pretty little University of the Virgin Islands Campus. The University has opened the beach to the public for free and many locals come and enjoy it daily. Two food trucks park up on the road. The other side of the anchorage is the airport runway so it provided us entertainment to watch the little planes landing and taking off when we were getting gusts in the 30’s and 40’s! It is filled with sea turtles, so that is nice too.
^^We took a walk on Megan’s Bay Beach just because it was listed as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Of course we went after 5pm because we just don’t pay to walk on a beach. It was pretty, and long. We left feeling very lucky….we could list a bunch of beaches that we enjoyed more. I think our judging criteria was just different.
^^ Lost in thought….