Tag Archives: Caribbean

The Next Cruising Phase – Monohulls to Catamarans

In 2006, shortly after our beloved and impeccably restored Sabre, Jerawyn, had broken her mooring and gone adrift during the big “NoName” storm, my husband Richard and I started looking at catamarans. For a year or so, broker-par-excellence Phil Berman from The MultiHull Company educated us about the varieties and brands of these new-to-us sailing vessels and showed us yachts in various places in the Caribbean and the U.S. During that time we came to three conclusions: 1. Our next boat would definitely be a cat, 2. After maintaining our lovely Sabres for some twenty-five years, the respite from the chores, maintenance expenses and worry was a surprisingly welcome relief, and 3. The “Round the World” boat that had always been in our game plan was simply not going to happen. The world was a different place in 2006 than ten years earlier. There were serious security issues and our lives had changed as well – busy family and professional lives made clear that we wouldn’t be ready for long-term cruising for at least five more years.

One cat that had caught our eye during the Annapolis Boat Show was the then brand new “Boat of the Year” Robertson and Caine Leopard 40 – 3 or 4 cabins, two heads, only a 56 ft. air draft and a little over 20 ft beam (perfect for the ICW, one of our favorite trips). It was small enough for just the two of us but big enough for our now grown family with spouses. But it was a brand new model, so there were no gently-used, fully equipped versions around – and the US distributor for the new boats was The Moorings out of Clearwater (the largest charter operator in the world) so we couldn’t buy it through Phil.

Out of the blue, we started looking harder at the Moorings Owners Program. Hmmm. Maybe this could be the answer: 1. It’s a cat. 2. There would no chores, maintenance expenses or worry. And 3. maybe we could do the “round-the-world” a little differently – sailing the arias instead of the whole opera. At the time, The Moorings had bases in four Caribbean ports, two in the South Pacific, one in Australia, nine in the Med, one in the Abacos, Baja Mexico and Belize. Part of our deal would be nine weeks a year on either a sistership or comparable cat at any of these bases (with lots of caveats, of course). And so we bought the next iteration of S/V Jerawyn and signed The Moorings standard long-term (5 years, extendable) chartering and maintenance agreement in March, 2006.

Since then, we have cruised a good part of the world out of every possible Moorings base, sometimes with family and sometimes with many of our sailing friends along so it was always a bit of a house party. With guidance from the unflappable Moorings owners’ booking agent John Keyes, we learned that we had to book pretty far in advance to get the location, boat and dates that we would work for us and keep him apprised of our preferences in case of cancellations. To us, this was the same as buying our season subscription to the Metropolitan Opera – if you aren’t “forced” to schedule and book, you somehow never go. So we scheduled, we booked and we went: Turkey, Croatia, three remarkably different cruising grounds in Greece, circumnavigation of Corsica, Whitsundays in Australia, the Society Islands (Raiatea to Bora Bora), The Baja, Belize, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Maarten, Anguilla and St. Barts, and, many times, the Virgin Islands out of our/Jerawyn’s home base in Road Town, Tortola, BVI. It was a fun ride…..

And now, perfect timing for us, our “subscription” is over and we are ready to go cruising on our own. S/V Jerawyn has just been through a thorough “phase out” under the watchful eye of the Moorings’ Robert Ansell – supported by multiple reviews by our surveyor Geoff Williams at West Indies Surveyors, also in Road Town. After this overhaul, Richard sailed her to Sint Maarten for more sprucing up with new electronics, an inverter, electric heads, radar, new sails and stack pack along with some cosmetic and comfort additions – with more to come when she is laid up for six months in Grenada during hurricane season.

Cruising the Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles – The Plan

The goal was to spend at least two months sailing the Lesser Antilles – first the Leewards and then the Windwards – from Sint Maarten to Grenada.  We were to have left SXM the first of February, then March  – the time kept getting pushed further and further out until, we finally said – we are going in mid-April and work and home will just have to take care of themselves.  Thankfully, we had two non-negotiable deadline—  we had to make Grenada to have the boat hauled before the beginning of hurricane season and  our two grown children and their spouses had scheduled a week sailing with us to celebrate Richard’s birthday – their carefully scheduled vacations could not be moved. So, we had to get to SXM at least a week before to get the boat organized and be ready to greet them. Part of the deal was that we would have fairly good communication and that we would fly home for six days in the middle to make decisions on an on-going renovation and attend business meetings.

I had planned to write and shoot every day, post on my two blogs, and on FaceBook Pinterest and Twitter.  After all this was going to be a sublime cruise –  trade winds blowing a steady 15 knots out of the east, blue skies streaked with white clouds, turquoise water and calm seas.  We would cruise from island to island stopping at white sand beaches shaded by rows of palms, exquisite reefs teeming with fish and fauna, interspersed with charming laid-back villages and energetic history-rich small cities.

It didn’t turn out quite that way. The winds were unseasonably high (regularly hitting the mid twenties), which wasn’t such a problem since our boat likes strong winds and delivers 8 or 9 knots in exchange, but the seas were often seven or eight feet – sometimes more. And that kind of roll was, for me, a problem – even in a cat which rolls less than a monohull. For the overwhelming majority of the trip we were double-handing (or maybe one and a half handing) because, frankly, at times I was more than a bit uncomfortable although I got more and more used to the large seas as I learned to trust the boat. Still it’s no fun.

Weather changed our itinerary somewhat.  We generally have had good wi-fi in harbors, so we checked in with Wind Guru and Buoy Weather twice a day and with the local cruiser nets and weather stations. We often stayed in a port longer than anticipated to wait out the weather – or skipped some ports when we had a clear run or because they were too rolly to be tenable. But sometimes we had to go even if the conditions were not ideal.