This one is difficult to write. I don’t wish to replace your regular blog with an account of my struggles to string sentences together, but, as I’ve let a few months slide since the previous post, I feel an explanation is in order. When we were cruising, the blog posts came relatively easily: we did this, then we did that, then that, farewell until next time. When we were stationary, as in our 2016 summer in St. Thomas, the posts skewed toward the long view: what we learned, what we loved, what we spent. Now, so many events have occurred as our cruise comes to a close that I’ve had a difficult time finding a way in to tell the end of this story. Of course, the more I put it off, the more stuff happens, only making the story harder to tell.
I think the best place to start is with a call for help for the people of the islands affected by hurricanes Maria and Irma. It’s been a little over a month since these two ripped across the Caribbean, scything through the islands of Barbuda, Dominica, St. Barts, St. Martin/St. Maarten, Anguilla, the Virgins, Puerto Rico, Turks & Caicos, and the Out Islands of the Bahamas. Places that hosted some of the favorite memories from our cruise have been wiped clean out. In Marigot, St. Martin, the town quay where we daily tied up our dinghy was completely submerged, with flood waters extending deep into town. In the British Virgin Islands, the hillside bungalows of the Bitter End Yacht Club look like dolls houses with their missing facades and roofs. In St. Thomas, one of our employers lost three exterior walls and the roof of his condo. Another had a neighbor’s roof land square on their pickup truck. Many cruising friends and friends-of-friends have lost their boats. When we visited Rum Cay in the Bahamas in early 2016, the tiny island was still recovering from Hurricane Joaquim, which struck a year earlier. I can’t imagine how they’re dealing with this now.
And yet they do deal. St. Maarten’s famous airport is back in business. The power is close to coming back on in St. John. Our favorite restaurant in St. Thomas is rebuilding their roof and plans to be open for business soon. The tenor of information we get from social media has slowly shifted from devastation to frustration to small sparks of joy at each incremental return to normality (Coffee! A shower!). This being the Caribbean, the landscape, so stripped and brown a month ago, is quickly returning to its lush self.
Of course, all this we observe form the comfort of our folks’ places in Virginia and New Jersey. More than once, friends have suggested how happy we must be to not be living in St. Thomas at this moment. We respond that, while we know we are very lucky to have (however inadvertently) escaped the destruction, we kind of wish we were still living there to be part of the rebuilding.
Short of, and probably more useful than, moving back to St. Thomas, we can donate. I had been haphazardly collecting a list of charities and funding sites until I came across somebody who did it much better than me. Chrissann Nickle, who created and curates the excellent blog Women Who Live on Rocks, assembled a comprehensive clearinghouse, organized by island/country, of groups accepting donations. If you’re in any position to give, please do. If you’ve enjoyed this blog, maybe select a particularly favorite entry and give to one of the groups located wherever we were at the time.
Now to catch you up on our travels. I closed our last update, posted on the 4th of July in Deltaville, Virginia, by writing that we’d soon bounce our way up the Chesapeake to the Annapolis area where we’d spend the summer visiting family and friends before continuing on to New York and home. I’m proud to say that some of this definitely went off according to plan. In early August, we hooked onto a mooring in Hartge Yacht Harbor in Galesville, Maryland, located about 10 minutes south of Annapolis.
This location, indeed this very mooring, was not selected by accident as we were immediately adjacent to the mooring occupied by S/V Kittiwake, owned by old friends Yvonne and Onat. Regular readers of this blog may remember them from their visits to S/V Delancey in Florida, The Bahamas, and the British Virgin Islands. Yvonne and Onat recently moved to the area, so we were excited to catch up and discover Chesapeake sailing together.
We spent much of August and September playing with our pals and visiting with our folks, while also updating resumes and portfolios in advance of the inevitable job search.
Finally, it was time to stop dawdling and hit the road. Our final leg would take us to the top of Chesapeake Bay, through the Chesapeake and Delaware canal, down the Delaware Bay to Cape May, New Jersey, then up the NJ coast back to New York City. Once there, we planned to stay in our old marina while we looked for work and waited for our tenants to clear out of our apartment. It was around then that we discovered that our old marina, where we’d lived since 1999, had abruptly shut down in our absence. Oh well, we’d figure something out.
Filled with water and fuel, we cast off our Hartge mooring one last time and headed north. Not long after, we noticed a new noise that seemed to be coming from somewhere outside the hull, like the propeller. We turned around and anchored near our mooring field. The sound had stopped before we dropped anchor, but Deb donned a mask and fins to check the undercarriage anyway. With zero visibility in the muddy water, Deb felt around the prop to confirm that nothing was attached. We decided we must have shaken off whatever we hooked on and elected to start fresh in the morning.
We woke, checked weather and boat systems over coffee, and set off again, bright eyed and optimistic. After a mile or so, we saw the temperature gauge running hotter than usual. Again, we ducked into an inlet and anchored. We checked coolant and raw water flow and found nothing amiss, so we guessed that we had excessive growth on the hull, adding drag and causing the engine to work harder than usual. We contacted the excellent Robert and Sally of Blue Planet Dive Services and in a few hours had a smooth hull and prop. After dinghying Rob back to shore, we decided to call it a day and start fresh in the morning.
After two blissfully uneventful days of windward motoring, we were safely anchored in the Sassafras River, staged for our entrance into the C&D canal. Just as we were entering the shipping channel, Delancey’s engine came to an abrupt and unwelcome stop and refused to turnover to restart. I immediately raised the sails and Deb got control of the helm. There was no way we were going to transit the narrow canal under sail (in fact, it is illegal to do so), so we again pointed the bow south. I climbed into the engine room with a big wrench to discover that I couldn’t manually turn the crankshaft, suggesting something very bad had happened within the engine. Up at the helm, Deb was zig-zagging across the thankfully untrafficked shipping channel, dodging crab pots littering the waters on either side. Although tacking on a southern course, the light winds, rarely reaching five knots, against the two knot northern current meant that, at best, we were simply keeping station without making any progress. After an hour of this back and forth, we called for a tow.
An hour and a half later we were greeted by the pleasant young captain of a Tow Boat US workboat (keep up with those membership dues folks!), who agreed to drag us the eight-hour trip back to Galesville. It was at this point that we threw in the towel. We’d travelled 7,000 miles to Grenada and (almost) back. The last 300 were going to be by car.
Delancey is now wintering comfortably on the hard at the friendly and professional Hartge Yacht Harbor, a full service boatyard that we have every confidence will be able to repair (or replace) her engine. I’ll keep you posted.
And that, until next spring at least, is that. We’re now experimenting in land life, returning to the apartment we purchased 15 years ago and only lived in for about five minutes. We were both lucky to find jobs relatively quickly. Since moving in we’ve been catching up with friends, exploring our changing neighborhood, and assembling Ikea furniture.
October 17 will be the two-year anniversary of the day we cast off the dock for this cruise. In those two years, we experienced so many amazing places, made so many friends, and learned much about ourselves. With our marina closing, Delancey’s engine failure, and the goddamn hurricanes, it sometimes feels like the cosmos is trying to erase any evidence of our life afloat. But then, I only have to look at the blog posts to go back there and remind myself that it was real.
Thanks so much for joining us.