Prologue: Winter Cruise to the Caribbean

For wanderers, the seeds of the next adventure are often planted during a travel experience.  During our return to the Chesapeake Bay in the spring of 2012, discussion frequently focused on where we will position Cutter Loose during the winter of 2013.  Should we return to the Bahamas to further our exploration of this enchanted archipelago?  Or should we select a different warm weather destination?

Cutter Loose was designed and built to carry its crew comfortably across oceans to distant destinations.  The boat is not a limiting factor.  But, what about the crew?  Because we both continue to be blessed with good health and a desire to see what is beyond the next bend, the time seems right to select a new destination that will challenge our skills and reward us with memories. 

In May, 2012, we reached the decision to participate in the Caribbean 1500 sailing rally sponsored by the World Cruising Club headquartered in the UK.  In November, Cutter Loose will be one of some 40 yachts that will sail offshore from Hampton, VA to the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.  As the saying goes, there is safety in numbers.  Although the boats will be scattered across the North Atlantic and out of sight of one another during this 11 day offshore passage, we will participate in daily rally communications using the high frequency single sideband receiver on Cutter Loose.

Registering for the Caribbean 1500 was the easy part.  The summer of 2012 has been dominated by voyage planning and preparation.  The number of boat tasks aimed at preparing Cutter Loose for ocean sailing and for cruising in the Caribbean is seemingly endless.  Along with routine maintenance requirements, we decided to purchase a wind generator in order to take advantage of the constant trade winds in the Caribbean as an additional means to keep our battery bank charged.  Of course, setting sail to a new destination requires the purchase of new charts and cruising guides.   Another major category of voyage planning involves the acquisition of specialized gear to meet the World Cruising Club’s rigid safety requirements.  Securing boat insurance for multi-year coverage in the Caribbean is a major task unto itself. 

Then there is the issue of securing two competent and compatible crew members to help us keep the boat moving 24/7 for 11 days in the open ocean.  After considerable research and screening, we narrowed our search to two gentlemen that are veterans of the Caribbean 1500.  Once underway, the crew needs to be nourished while at sea under conditions that will not be conducive to preparing meals from scratch.  This means planning, preparing and freezing home-cooked meals for a crew of four for 11 days. 

Last but not least, there are the normal preparatory measures involved in being away from home for six months.  One major category of responsibility involves cramming 12 months of preventive health care measures into a 5 month period, including dental checkups, dermatological body scans, colonoscopies, eye exams and our annual physical exams.  Anyone who has navigated the health care landscape can appreciate the commitment of time devoted to scheduling and following up on appointments and the invariable need to interpret the language and complexities of the health care insurance industry. 

Fortunately, the summer involved some play as well as work.  We enjoyed spending time in Duck, NC with family.  Back in Pittsburgh, it was fun to catch up with friends and former colleagues, revisiting many of our favorite restaurants in the process.  There was also time for tennis, bicycling, enjoying the company of guests and appreciating the comforts and conveniences of living at home with access to a vehicle.  Just being able to wash and dry clothes without trekking to a laundromat is a convenience that we will never again take for granted. 

Pittsburgh friends Chuck and Jeanne Berrington

Just a few days ago, we fulfilled our final landside responsibility by casting absentee ballots in the Presidential election.  Pittsburgh friends Chuck and Jeanne Berrington delivered us to Rock Hall with our final load of provisions to be stored aboard Cutter Loose.  We are grateful for their willingness to return our vehicle to our garage for the winter.  We are officially liveaboards once again. 

These last few days have been devoted to stowage of gear and provisions.  Our final pre-departure checklists are vastly diminished in scope and content.  Soon we will be casting off our lines here at Osprey Point Marina to begin our winter cruise.

There is a certain amount of apprehension that is a normal part of commencing a six month voyage of this magnitude.  Have we equipped Cutter Loose adequately?  Is the boat provisioned with everything that we will need?  Are we prepared for the rigors of this cruise?  Along with this apprehension is the growing excitement of commencing a voyage to one of the world’s most picturesque cruising grounds.  From experience, we know that every voyage is completed one day at a time.  And that is precisely how this cruise will be accomplished.

In a few days, Cutter Loose will be headed south in the Chesapeake Bay.  Our interim destination is Hampton, VA where we will spend a week staging for the Caribbean 1500 rally.  We invite you to follow along with us this winter as we travel to and through the islands of the Caribbean.

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