The first 100 days

Cruising the Virgin Islands has been one of those infrequent instances in life in which the actual realization of a goal has been far better than the anticipation.  The months leading up to our departure were filled with voyage preparation, checklists, boat maintenance, new projects, spare parts, selecting crew and provisioning Cutter Loose for 10 days at sea and a two year tour of the Caribbean.  Those months were filled with anxiety and an overwhelming feeling of being rushed and unprepared.  In the final days before our departure from Hampton, VA, Hurricane Sandy (our second hurricane encounter in as many years) further tested our resolve.  As the saying goes, the most difficult part of every journey is the preparation and the first step.

One hundred days have passed since our departure from Osprey Point Marina in Rock Hall, MD on October 23, 2012.  During this period of time, 2100 nautical miles have slipped beneath the keel of Cutter Loose, including a 1500 mile bouncy ocean passage from Hampton, VA to the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.  The satisfaction and elation of having safely completed this passage was one of the most gratifying cruising experiences of our lives.  Our confidence level in Cutter Loose and in our own seamanship has never been higher.  Yet we continue to learn new things every day about the boat, ourselves and our surroundings.  The continual learning process is one of the things we enjoy most about life afloat.

The reward for our 9 day ocean passage has been well worth the effort.  During the past 10 weeks, we have become thoroughly familiar with the nooks and crannies of the Virgin Islands, one of the most magnificent cruising areas in the world.   Since our arrival, the pace aboard Cutter Loose has slowed dramatically, providing an opportunity for relaxation, reflection and ample time to gaze at the scenic grandeur of these volcanic mountains that rise sharply from the crystal clear turquoise water of the Caribbean.   Our days have been filled with lazy mornings, sailing short distances to new destinations, reading, swimming, snorkeling, strolling the beaches and admiring dramatic sunsets. 

Repairs to navigation equipment on board Cutter Loose have extended our stay in the Virgin Islands, allowing sufficient time for a thorough exploration of this tropical paradise.  In the process, we have learned important practical survival skills such as where to find the most protected anchorages, how to hide from northerly swells, the location of the best grocery stores, Laundromats and restaurants, the most convivial  and affordable happy hours and the most secluded bays and beaches.  Our time here has also rewarded us with ample opportunities to interact with local residents and spend quality time with new and old friends.  Perhaps best of all, there are still plenty of unexplored places to investigate when we return to the Virgins next year.

With a little more than three months remaining, we have reached the midpoint of our winter cruise.  There is no specific itinerary, other than to arrive in the island nation of Grenada by early May in order to lay up Cutter Loose for hurricane season.  Up until this point, our entire lives have revolved around a rigid calendar determined largely by others.  The absence of a fixed schedule is what makes cruising both relaxing and rewarding at the same time.  The spontaneity of deciding whether to pause for another day in a favorite place or move on to another destination is the ultimate in personal freedom.  Other than limiting factors such as weather, we are in substantial control of our destiny.  Ultimately, it is the stimulation of being continually immersed in new surroundings that makes the cruising experience worthwhile.

Each night before retiring for the evening, we observe the moon and stars.  Will it remain clear?  Or can we expect rain overnight?  Each morning, we take in our surroundings, wondering whether we are still in a state of dream-induced sleep or whether we are really in this incredible place.

Soon we will begin the next phase of our winter cruise…a tour of the Leeward Islands.  Stay tuned for the exciting details.

Shells sink

Dreams float

Life’s good

On our boat

 

Jimmy Buffet

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