June 2015 Log
Sunday, October 18, 2015, Newburyport, Massachusetts
It is said that all good things must come to an end. So it is with our sailing adventure. Our circumnavigation is now complete. We left Grenada on our final leg in early April and hopped, skipped and jumped our way home to Newburyport, Massachusetts by June 22nd. We had departed from Singapore in July 2014 making it a marathon year for Shango and her crew. Almost half of our circumnavigation's westing was accomplished in this last year. We jokingly refer to this year and its challenges as our post doctoral work in cruising. On some days it felt like we were taking a test.
A few sample test questions…
Q) You are in Indonesia anchored at the mouth of the Sunda Strait preparing to begin the first leg of your crossing of the Indian Ocean which will likely be the most challenging ocean crossing of the circumnavigation. Your first stop will be Cocos Keeling, 600 miles away. Your house batteries have suddenly died. What do you do? (Please note that you were in Indonesia illegally because you were unable to check in due to the ten day celebration of Idul Fitri, when all government offices were closed.) Do you; A) Return to Indonesia to find replacement batteries and face the immigration music or B) Set sail and figure it out on the way.
A) Most definitely B.
Q) You are in Durban, South Africa with a lower shroud that has several broken wires (thank you Indian Ocean.). Weather windows to get around the Cape of Good Hope are as common as unicorns. All riggers are shut for the Christmas holidays. Do you; A) Wait for the Christmas holidays to be over and get the rig fixed or B) buy a pile of Dyneema, go aloft to reinforce the rig then take the next precious weather window.
A) Get out your boson’s chair. You’re taking the window.
Q) You are at Shroud Cay in the Bahamas. Your electric windlass packs it in and all efforts at repair and/or jury rigging have come to naught. You are using 3/8” all-chain rode and a 65 lb. anchor. Do you; A) Head to the closest place where the windlass can be removed and sent to the States for repair, or B) Set a course for home, availing yourself of shallow anchorages, docks or moorings along the way.
A) B, without a backwards glance.
The questions were answered and the passages were successfully completed. Would we have handled them the same way five years ago at the start of this journey? It’s hard to say. What we CAN tell you is that the whole five year adventure was a wonderful, wonderful learning experience.
During our trip we sailed to twenty-five different countries and visited a variety of others by land. We met and enjoyed the company of people from places we had previously only read about in books or heard about on the news. The world is now a much smaller place for us.
In those same twenty-five countries we met the Customs, Immigration, Agriculture, Health and Harbor Control officials, as well as a variety of other officials we never realized existed. Can you spell “triplicate”?! Thank goodness for boat-sized printers.
Our fellow sailors provided a constant source of entertainment, support and information. Those we crossed into the Pacific with in 2011 felt like our “class.” Like any class, some members made linear progress while others headed off into the hinterlands. A number found that, for one reason or another, the cruising life did not suit them and they dropped out along the way. Spending time with sailors from so many countries, cultures and age groups was a joy. We already miss the camaraderie.
It goes without saying (so naturally I feel compelled to say it) that the cruising sailor’s ability to thrive is directly related to the trust they have in their boat and their fellow crew members. In our case Shango proved to be ideal. She felt like a capsule of safety in even the worst conditions. We never had a moment when we felt she wasn’t up to anything we asked of her. That we think she’s beautiful is just icing on the cake.
Of course the crew was excellent in almost every respect. On occasion the first mate was accused of serving green beans too frequently but on the whole discord was minimal. The Captain was faultless. He sacrificed vast quantities of blood to boat maintenance and repair. Ascending the mast mid-ocean with the bean-vending first mate at the winch was not unheard of. Exploratory trips to the propeller in water miles deep seem to feature prominently in his memory as well. High on the list of what you really need from your crew though is someone you trust enough to turn over the watch to when you’re on passage and the weather is crappy and you need to go to sleep. Neither of us had any issues sleeping on passage.
Several weeks ago I found myself in the attic of our house. I was beginning the task of unearthing the things we had chosen to leave behind when we sailed away five years ago. Amongst the boxed books I was surprised to find How to Sail Around the World by Hal Roth and World Cruising Essentials by Jimmy Cornell. I puzzled about why they had remained behind, high and dry. I cast my mind back to our thought processes as we packed up so long ago and it occurred to me that even then we had an inkling that the questions we would have along the way and the answers we would find would not be supplied in books. It turns out we were sooo right about that.
Neither Hal nor Jimmy could have provided the answers to our daily dilemmas but fortunately after almost five years of confronting the “operational” side of cruising we have learned a thing or two. As for the fundamental reasons we went cruising, no book was required to tell us to follow our hearts and to take whatever path reached out to us at each new crossroad.
Thanks for sailing with us!