Sint Maarten

How do you write a blog update when you haven’t updated the blog in almost two months? Trying to answer that question is one of the reasons that I haven't written in so long. A few weeks became a month, which became two months. So much has happened. Fortunately, Guillemette and Seth have already shared some of the details. I’ll try to fill in a bit more here.

So what have we been up to? In a word… life. At this point we’ve fully embraced the cruising life. We’ve been on our own on board since our last visitors departed in late January. We hang out in an interesting place until we have a reason to move, which can be any of our sense of growing boredom with a place, coming changes in weather or a need for us to be somewhere to do something boat work-related. We’ve tried to spend time with other family boats and have grown close to a few families, but there is a certain transience to our life and we frequently find ourselves saying goodby to great people, not knowing if or when we will see them again.

Life has both good times and bad. On the not so fun side of life, we spent the first few weeks of March battling a pantry moth infestation. It started with a few random moths spotted somewhere in the boat but over time those spottings became more and more frequent. Eventually we realized that we had an infestation when we also started seeing the caterpillars and their cocoons. It became an instant biology lesson for Seth as he did the research for us as to how to eliminate them. We double bagged all of our dry goods and had daily cocoon-hunts. We even discovered a new use for our microwave oven – microwaving linens and dry packaged food to kill larvae and weevils! And we became quite adept at using the handheld vacuum to suck up moths mid-air. After a peak daily moth count of well over 30, with persistent bagging of food and cleaning of containers we were happy to find our daily count falling and we’ve been moth-free now for more than a week.

I am feeling grateful for the wonderful people that we’ve been able to spend time with and the interesting places and fun experiences that we’ve had along the way. Thank you to Valent and Epiphany, two other family boats. And when I think back about the past few months, some of my highlights were Dominica, Iles des Saintes in Guadeloupe, the Memorial ACTe (Museum of Enslaved Peoples) in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, Antigua’s English Harbor and Pigeon Island, and Saint Barths.

Boat work has been a continuing theme for us and has unfortunately driven much of our schedule. In February Saltair was hauled again by Hallberg-Rassy, this time in Martinique, for yet another attempt at repairing the seals on our rudder bearings. While the HR team was here, they also tackled a list of smaller warranty-related and even some non-warranty issues for us. The HR guys are boat-builders, not riggers, so unfortunately they weren’t able to tackle our rigging-related problems. To address those, we started speaking in early January with Stan Pearson, the legendary founder of Antigua Rigging and he spent several hours on the phone with us trying to diagnose the source of our mast noises. We had booked an early March date with him in Antigua, but when we arrived for this appointment we were shocked to learn that he had sadly passed away the week before. His team was in shock, as was much of the Caribbean sailing community. Given the complexity of our projects, we opted to move on and booked in with FKG Rigging in Sint Maarten for early April.

We were otherwise enjoying our time in Antigua but a coming change in the weather ended our time there. A cold front was forecast to pass north of the islands, causing a several day period of westerly and northwesterly winds. This was to make our 75 mile scheduled trip to Sint Maarten an upwind passage so rather than risk being late to our rigging appointment, we opted to head to Sint Maarten early and moved to a marina inside the Simpson Bay Lagoon. We’ll be in the Lagoon for about two weeks in total and are making good use of the dockside time, getting a lot of cleaning and other maintenance work done.

Our other continuing theme has been boat schooling with Seth. For us, schooling is a 3-4 hour block of time in the morning broken into roughly 45 minute sections taught by either me or Guillemette. We have school most days that we are stationary without off-boat plans, which practically means roughly 20 days per month, about the same as a regular school. We have been iterating on our teaching techniques since embarking on this adventure last June and seem to have recently found a reasonable approach, although we certainly have gained a more comprehensive appreciation for professional teachers.

I have been using the Khan Academy tools to teach English math and have recently started using their tools for physics and English. Guillemette uses a variety of tools to teach French, French math and a range of other topics. On the English math curriculum, Seth (a sixth grader) completed the 6th grade math curriculum in December and he is now roughly halfway through the 7th grade curriculum.

As I write this, it is my birthday today and I have been using the opportunity to reconnect with many friends and family that have been wishing me well throughout the day. This is a bittersweet birthday for me as it is the first without a greeting from my father, who passed away in December at the age of 94. My father was a huge part of my life and he had an outsized influence on me. He had a calm, steady demeanor and was the model of resilience, never complaining and always finding the opportunity to laugh and enjoy life, even in the face of increasing physical discomfort as he got older. He was a self-made man, finding professional and financial success as a menswear executive, a career that started in his early 30’s. Not bad for a guy who dropped out of college at nineteen. I was incredibly proud of him. He was an awesome father to my brother and I and a wonderful grandfather to Seth. I think of him often and miss him dearly.

We’ll be in Sint Maarten for the next few weeks, hoping to get our outstanding warranty work list reduced somewhat. Then we’re off to the BVIs for a bit, before returning to Sint Maarten in mid May, when we will take on two new sailing friends for our trip to Newport. We’ll spend the summer in New England — hopefully lots of time in Maine — before we work our way down to Annapolis in September and then back to the Caribbean in November. We’re still planning on crossing the Pacific next year, picking up from our plans from last year.

We take so many photos… here are a few of my favorites from the past few months.

Fun day exploring Marie-Galant, a small island off of Guadaloupe, by rental car.  

Bouillante and Pigeon Island, Guadaloupe.

Iles des Saintes, with Guadaloupe on the horizon in the background.  From Fort Josephine.

Fun hike up to the old watch tower with the Valent and Epiphany crew!

Game night!

Hike to Pompierre Beach

Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadaloupe.  Memorial ACTe with Saltair at anchor out in front. 

Guillemette working her vegetable-buying magic in the Pointe-a-Pitre market.

Beautiful botanical garden in Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

Saltair sitting pretty off the beach north of Deshaies.

For those sailing geeks... we think we've found a good solution to our downwind sail challanges (see our January blog post).  We've spliced a low friction ring into our pole foreguy which allows us to effectively sheet our genoa when sailing wing-on-wing.  We had a good test sail on the downwind run from Antigua to Sint Maarten.

One of our pantry moth friends...

Warming up on a hot teak deck after a swim!

Even after you bring the boy to the beach, he tries to bring the beach to the boat!

Nonsuch Bay, Antigua

Lots of beautiful hardware in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

Jolly Harbor, Antigua

A fond farewell from the crew of Valent as we left them in Jolly Harbor, Antigua

We miss you dad!