The dream, my husband Robert’s dream, is to travel the high seas with me, his wife, Toni, on our own sailboat. The dream has been there for his lifetime. To fill in any newcomers to our blog, here is a brief update to our story for SV (sailing vessel) “Our Time”.
Robert and I have shared a professional career and marriage for over thirty years. Within our first year of marriage we camped for a week in a cinderblock hut in the national park, Cinnamon Bay, St. John’s US Virgin Islands (USVI). Robert saw the sailing community all around us and commented that he dreamed of one day returning to charter a sailboat.
In celebration of our tenth Anniversary we took our three young boys for a three-day intensive sailing course in Miami and there began our family sailing experience. Robert has been boating all his life but credentials are required which allowed us to charter a catamaran sailboat in the Virgin Islands. Our first sailboat charter was a magical experience, a time that truly impressed all of us. Over the pursuing years we chartered various sailing boats, both monohaul and catamarans. Serious evaluation of the potential of owning a boat that we could live aboard for extended periods of time only began two years ago; and, the possibility took shape into a workable plan and the plan was executed with surprising speed AND here we are on the cusp of living “the dream”; or, are we?
We are so close, only three months away from actually moving aboard SV “Our Time”. And the news channels began to alert us Floridians to Irma. It was unrelenting coverage especially following hurricane Harvey’s destruction in Texas. This singular event, named Irma, threatened to douse our plan at worst and /or seriously change the vision.
Robert and I worked Monday and Wednesday of the week while Irma brewed in the Caribbean. Our boat’s present home base is on the Caribbean island of Antigua right in the forecasted path of a historic category 5 hurricane; this tormented Robert. He is so invested in his dream; emotionally, mentally and financially. That is what I love about this man, he envisions an idea in his head and makes it our shared reality. We own SV “Our Time” yet have placed it with a charter company for a year while we finish our work commitments. By Wednesday evening when we came home from work I knew what HAD to happen. There would be no peace for Robert nor me. He is like living with a sonic boom, his emotions emanate from him without spoken work; his energy told me – he had to go.
Robert is my soldier, my fireman. Where the battle rages, where the fire exists he runs to the problem. I have never known Robert to skirt the problems of life, he simply figures out what to do and then, does it. Within one day, by Thursday, Robert worked out a plan with our oldest son to head to Antigua to move the boat out of the path of the storm or to secure her for the onslaught. The final course of action would be decided once they were on the ground in Antigua. Both my guys had less than a day to pack and get safety equipment together for whatever they would face once aboard “Our Time”. By very early Friday morning they were on their way, and I was left alone at home wondering, waiting, tracking Irma and praying. Believe me, it was a very long six days.
[Now, from the husband’s and boat owner perspective I will share some of my feelings.]
For me it was an intense watching of the NOAA’s (National Hurricane Center) forecasts and evaluating the very real possibility of losing the boat. I also had a work responsibility to both my patients and the office. I was torn but knew the boat had to be protected as it is a big investment. So after hours of discussion among the family I needed to get ready for going to Antigua if it came to that. I knew communication systems after a major hurricane may be disrupted, so satellite tracking, email and texting capability was purchased: A Garmin Inreach device. Toni would at least be able to see our location and text no matter what. Food could be an issue in a storm so suitcases were filled with canned and boxed food in case we had to stay for a long haul. Safety equipment such as self inflating life jackets with harnesses to keep you on the boat if you slip, flashlights and knifes and other small items were packed.
Thursday night with the 11:00pm NOAA update it was clear we had to go. Thirty minutes later plane tickets were purchased for a plane leaving in six hours to Antigua for my son Robert and I. We did not get hardly any sleep that night and had to fly down under emotional stress, which is tiring in itself. We got down there to the boat and started preparations as if we would leave to sail away. We went to the grocery store and we were a bit surprised to find it all normal; no empty shelves or lack of basics like we have seen in Florida. There was no panic by the Antiguans; they were relaxed. The stressed people were the guys managing a group of boats at the marina and us.
We looked at the latest forecast and saw a definite prediction of the storm heading more to the north. We decided to sit tight as we still felt we had some time, a window of opportunity to leave, if needed. As we monitored the storm we worked on the plan of how to best secure the boat in the marina area. There are giant concrete submerged blocks in the harbor, three of them, that were available to us. We would use three lines to the front of the boat using all the blocks and multiple lines to concrete poles on shore. We bought 150 feet of sturdy line, and borrowed as much from the charter company at the base. We set it up and were mighty proud of what we configured. We REALLY believed that our efforts would work for the expected wind forecast for that harbor.
Oh no! the path has now been revised and it is now back south aimed to hit the north coast of Antigua. It is now also too late to run south with the boat. Very bad news. Previously, the marina manager okayed our boat securing plan; however, now he says that the boat can not stay on the dock area as he feels a storm surge will break the lines or rip the cleats off the boat. It would be dangerous to the other boats in close proximity if our boat broke free. “Move it!” was his direct uncompromising order. But to where, as the best spots in the mangroves had been taken already?
We jumped into the dingy to quickly scan for a new spot. After analyzing the expected wind direction and what we had available we needed to quickly pick and hold our spot in the dirty, slimly, smelly, mosquito-infested mangroves. We tied some lines outlining our patch of safety. Now we needed to go get the boat, more lines and anchors. We had to undo all that we had just finished setting up. We debated defying the marina manager as we liked what we did. We decided to listen and defer to his advice as he has been here for hurricanes in the past and we must rely on his experience.
We moved the boat to our newly chosen haven and dingyed out, one at a time, three very heavy anchors with long lines and tied them to the stern (back) of the boat. Whew, are we done yet? Not even close. Next, I climbed about ten feet into the mangrove monkey style, one rope at a time and secured each line to thickest portions of mangrove roots that I could find. I had all feet and arms busy holding on trying to minimize how submerged I got in the water. All I could think about was the movie the African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and how he literally got out of his boat and physically dragged the boat up the waterway and was then covered in leaches. I did not want the leaches. I did not know or even now I do not know if there were leaches and I did not want to find out. I did have to contend with a large mosquito attack having no free hands to swat them away. Zika virus? I hope not.
Eleven ropes later and many hours of vigorous work completed the pitch dark descended upon us; we were almost done. We were exhausted. Before the path changed and caused us to relocate the boat to the mangroves, we were going to stay on the boat and weather the storm. Now, in light of the new forecasts, the locals said do not as it could could kill you. Now what? Where should we go?
Meanwhile, at home Toni was continuing to track the storm. We called her periodically in the evening and she was extremely concerned because she knew that we did not have return flight tickets. Would we get a plane out tomorrow? The first bands of the hurricane would be here in less then 24 hrs. From the boat our internet connections did not show any flights off the island available. We called back to the states and Toni immediately went about trying to get us on a plane out. Toni got online and could find only one direct flight out of Antigua Tuesday afternoon leaving Antigua at 3pm. We got two tickets! Toni fully foresaw the seriousness of the problem. The storm track, if it did not accelerate would bring the worst of the weather over Antigua by Tuesday afternoon between 5pm and 8pm. If the storm sped up at all our window of opportunity to leave Antigua would be gone. The stress was intense for all of us. Was the flight actually going to be able to take off, would the plane even leave Miami to come to Antigua as scheduled as it was so tight to the arrival of the storm. Many flights were already cancelled by other carriers.
A night ahead of worrying about the boat and us. Will the plane go? Were we going to be here for the storm? Where will the storm ultimately go? Did we do a good enough job? Robert and I felt that we still needed at least 3 more hours of work to secure the boat before leaving for the airport. We planned to get up early to do more rope rigging and such before we were satisfied. We got up early with the sunrise, worked some more and finished. We showered off the yuck and took a cab to the airport with the winds picking up. It was still a few hours before the plane was to land and I worried could the incoming plane land with the increasing winds. We were aware when the plane did leave Miami on its way here so American Airlines thought that the flight was a go. Who would even be on a plane coming here as so many hotels shut down?
We got to the airport and found that the majority of flights were canceled for the day. Not all, as ours was a go and we found out that it was literally the LAST flight out. At the airport checking in, we overheard a couple who said that they were booked on no less than three flights that got cancelled over the last 2 days and now were pleading to get onto our flight. Did not look likely. We proceeded through security and waited at the gate for the plane to land. Let’s put it this way, we believed that if the plane lands it surely has to leave as it can not stay during the hurricane to get blown away. The plane landed despite the very apparent increase in winds; so, I knew we were going. Thankfully, we did make it back home and to back to work as scheduled.
Hurricane Irma ended up directly hitting the island of Barbuda 25 miles north totally destroying it. At it’s peak, Irma hit Barbuda at 185 mph. They have nothing now. For Antigua, even though it was so close. the winds did relatively little damage. But how did the boats in English Harbor do where my boat remained battened down in the mangroves? I did not get word for an agonizingly long week. I returned back to work on Wednesday suppressing my concern and anxiety over whether the boat made it through the storm. I was worried that the plan, my dream was destroyed. I must put it in perspective as so many lost it all. Barbuda, St. Martin and Tortola were devastated. I have been to all of these places many times and when I see the pictures after the storm of the pile up pf boats, it is incredible. I am grateful and feel so bad for the other people.
Word finally came the following Tuesday that SV “Our Time” made it through hurricane Irma with only scratches and gouges and little else. I sincerely thanked God and breathed a big sigh of relief with tears in my eyes and mixed emotions in my heart, for Hurricane Maria was brewing not far behind.
The toll of hurricane Irma was immense on the boating yachting communities of St. Martin and Tortola. Our friends sent us this picture below from Tortola with their boat circled. The charter company that rents out our boat has bases in all these Caribbean locations and the harsh reality is probably millions of dollars of loss. Irma was a tough situation and now with Maria bearing down upon the Caribbean there was no discussion or wavering; my boat had to be moved and was moved south to the island of Martinique, where, I will cut to the chase, it did well. The island of Dominica was sacrificed to Maria. Hurricane Maria ran right up the middle of the island and hit it hard. I heard from people that even well built houses on the island were destroyed or greatly damaged. The vegetation on this very green tropical island was stripped bare.
I have once again lived this hurricane season being reminded that in life there will be bumps in the road and some will be big ones that will require time and patience, but pushing forward and being persistent are key to survival and recovery. There are a lot of capable people in the world but the winners are the ones who are persistent and do not give up. I also believe that my dream will look a little different in the coming year. Although “Our Time” has made it through the storms, hurricanes Irma and Maria have affected the beautiful areas I hope to visit and it will take time for these communities to fully recover. Already pleas are coming forth asking cruisers to please come back, visit and help the businesses that depend upon the cruising community for their well being. All in all, it has been a difficult season for all of us in the hurricane belt. I pray you and yours have remained safe. God Bless, Robert and Toni Erdman
To All My Patients:
I know many of you knew, and it was just a matter of exactly when, I would be leaving the office and dentistry. The date is set: just before Christmas this year, Dec. 21st, 2017.
Those of you that may want to see me for your dental care before I leave, please call the office well in advance of my final departure. I will be out-of-the-office for most of October so I am sharing this news now in hopes of allowing you plenty of time to make decisions for your dental health needs.
I will miss my patients that I have had the privilege to serve over the years. For many of you this has been fifteen to twenty years that I have taken care of you. I thank you all most sincerely. I will miss you. My decision is both sad and hard.
The sweet side is that I will step slightly out of the conventional box and live much of the year traveling on my boat with my wife. A dream turned into a new reality; something that I believe is best done when you are young and healthy enough to manage the numerous daily physical challenges. It guarantees to be quite the adventure. I believe people on their death bed regret more the opportunities they let slip by then some things they did. I have had that point cemented into my mind by many of my patient’s life stories. I thank you for sharing your words of wisdom.
I leave the office in the very capable hands of Dr. Soule. We will have worked together for two years, learning each other’s ways and have found that we share many of the same core beliefs and core principles. He is not fresh out of school but has ten years experience, which is a big plus. He is here to listen to what your needs are and help you. I hope and expect the transition to be easy for all our patients.
I thank you for your past support. I hope to see you in the office or around town.
Dr. Robert Erdman
ANTIGUA SAILING ON “OUR TIME”
APRIL 19TH - APRIL 26TH, 2017
Crew: Robert, Toni, Robert Anthony, Dad, and Leonard
First Day - WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19TH, 2017
ENGLISH HARBOR (ANTIGUA SLIPWAY)
“Our Time” ready for us to begin our eight-day adventure.
Arrival to the island went smoothly. We settled in on the boat, assigned cabins, and proceeded to stow all our belongings. Leonard and Robert A. made a run across the harbor to Nelson Dockyard to the small marina food store (50% of the store shelves contain some form of alcohol) for a few grocery supplies to tide us over until we were able to make it to the supermarket the next day in Jolly Harbor.
Paparazzi, the Italian restaurant along our side of the harbor walkway, was our first night meal. Perfect.
It is always fun to see all the wonderful and varied yachts in English Harbor. We were pleased that our week began with the Antigua Classic boat races. Some of the yachts were very impressive, and even more impressive and a bit scary was witnessing these exquisite boats maneuver the confines of the Harbor.
Second Day - THURSDAY, APRIL 20TH, 2017
EXPLORED NELSON DOCKYARD, FORT BERKLEY AND OVERNIGHTED IN LIGNUMVIATAE BAY
Before we took off up the hill to Fort Berkley, we stopped into the Nelson Dockyard bakery, located in the detached former kitchen to the Admiral’s house, for a quick to go snack of empanadas and cinnamon rolls. The Admiral’s house is now a museum downstairs detailing the history of Antigua and specifically the rich past of English Harbor with a number of business offices located upstairs.
Leonard was totally enjoying the cute goats. The view from the fort was beautiful, 360 degree views of the harbor and sea. From our vantage point, we viewed yachts leaving English Harbor and many others out at sea practicing for the regatta. A splendid sight.
After our hike we headed off for our first group sail on “Our Time” to provision in Jolly Harbor. The sail was magical. Upon reaching the harbor, we knew yachts are only allowed one (1) free hour of dockage to visit the Epicurean Supermarket, and with a quarter mile hike one way, it was controlled chaos. With minutes to spare while the dock master hovered nearby, we pulled the lines and the two Roberts headed towards one of our favorite bays, Lignumviatae Bay. Best sand anywhere!
Leonard taking a dip and simply chilling, literally in the cool breezes we had on this trip. The temperatures stayed in a comfortable mid-80’s.
Third Day - FRIDAY, APRIL 21ST, 2107
SAIL TO BARBUDA, AND OVERNIGHT
We were planning to walk the beautiful crescent beach at Lignumviatae Bay in the morning, however, the weather conditions were ripe for a sail over to Antigua’s sister Island of Barbuda. We have never seen such comfortable seas, so, off we went at exactly 7AM. The seas and sun were lovely for a 4 to 5-hour sail. The hope for this almost month trip on “Our Time” for Toni and Robert is to hone Toni’s boating skills and become more familiar with “Our Time” and the ocean.
The feeling of nervousness, uncertainty, and insecurity stems anxiety that can sometimes be paralyzing in new situations, and even familiar ones. Some refer to this as being outside your “comfort zone.” However, to be able to grow and experience our full potential, it is important to recognize, understand, and conquer the root of this uneasiness and realize it is the lack of knowledge we do not posses that frightens us. Knowledge is only gained, by definition, with time and experience. Self admittedly, Toni needs a lot more experience at the helm, especially when it comes to pointing the boat into the wind when raising the main sail, pulling anchor, and sailing in rough conditions; practice AND patience from all is highly appreciated. Spoiler, by the end of the month long trip, Toni has become far more knowledgeable in all aspects of boating and thus more comfortable with a sailing lifestyle. While there is still much to learn, progress can only be achieved by taking that first step.
The best sound to listen to on a sailboat is the lack of engine noise and the rush of water over the hull of the boat. When under sail you become attuned to the wind and waves, you can feel the boat being pulled forward by increased wind and hear the flutter of the jib or main when the angle of the wind changes and sail trimming is needed. Sailing is about the experience of the journey, a proactive endeavor where enjoyment comes in the doing and the participating.
Well, sometimes the enjoyment comes from simply relaxing. Dad Erdman falling asleep on the passage to Barbuda.
Our first view of Barbuda - B E A U T I F U L !
The miles of beach stretching along the Southwest area of Barbuda are a dream Caribbean destination.
The sunset that night in Barbuda was stunning.
Fourth Day - SATURDAY, APRIL 22ND, 2017
Dad never went ashore or in the dinghy without his trusty life vest. Dad does NOT swim so that qualifies him for the super brave award for all the boating he has done, and does, and will continue to do. Of all of the boating, a dinghy ride could be the most challenging. Getting in and out of a dinghy can be tricky, especially the “Our Time” dinghy which has a “V” shaped floor base opposed to a flatter bottom.
Dickenson Bay has the Sandals Resort among a number of establishments like Sneaky Pete’s bar. Dad Erdman and Toni joined the guys for a drink at Sneaky Pete’s once they finished exploring the beach scene and a little grocery store for rice and a few additional necessary supplies- chips!
Our bartender was a Rastafarian guru who preached to us the “God at the river” and “honesty and judgment.” As Leonard commented, “He must have just smoked a big fatty” before our arrival. He was a true Caribbean character from Dominica trying to earn enough money to get back home and start a business.
Over a couple of sailing trips we have come across native Dominicans who could not make a living in their home country and where on different Islands. Dominica is definitely an Island Robert and Toni hope to explore. It is known for it’s many rivers, forests, and mountains and only a few beaches. Dominica, from what we read, still is not a very tourist driven island, not a lot of taxis or services.
Dickenson Bay is also a lovely place to float and have an evening beverage.
Packing floats (with drink holders) is ALWAYS a brilliant idea. Although they can be cumbersome to stow during passage (they usually end up stowed in the main cabin shower) and difficult to inflate, it is well worth the effort for such wonderful “floaty” moments.
Dad E. and Toni thoroughly enjoyed their wine at sunsets.
Fifth Day - SUNDAY, APRIL 23RD, 2017
DEEP BAY Visit, climbed to fort, overnight in LIGNUMVIATAE
One of the most protected Bays on the North Western side of Antigua is Deep Bay. The fun challenge for this anchorage is the old fort on the north coast. To hike the steep rocky path or not to hike the steep rocky path was the question for Dad E. Pictures can never really do justice to the steepness, height, and slipperiness of this particular cliff.
And by golly he made it all the way up and out of necessity, back down the rocky, pebbly path. Our trip up was a bit more rushed than we would have liked as there was a giant grey and ominous rain storm dumping water just to the east and heading our direction. Luckily for us, the storm passed just to our north and we only received a minor drizzle. However, it was enough to make the ground that much more slick for the trip down. Those scared of heights (hum, Leonard) also faced their own personal challenges. Those of us balance challenged (hum, Toni) always seem to find a way to slide part of the way down. Toni blamed it on her shoes.
Dad E. preparing for the arduous hike to the fort on top of the steep hill.
View from the top. “Our Time” is the furthest boat to the left.
View looking East. In the center of the picture is the open cut to allow salt water into the salt pond.
These are definitely times to remember and cherish. Yet, we still had to get down the hillside.
Top of the fort. Flag pole to the left.
After returning to the boat, each of us thought it was well worth the effort. The views from the top and the fort ruins were very rewarding. Later in the day we saw a cruise ship leaving the neighboring bay from the main port in St. John’s.
Sixth Day - MONDAY, APRIL 24TH, 2017
Saildown the coast to Cades Reef, cross the path of the Antigua Classic Sail race and overnight in mAMORA BAY; St. James Club for drinks, dinner, and a dance
Cades Reef requires full attention at the helm. The shallows go on for miles. Navigation is tricky in general and especially if you try to find the “cut-though” used by those with local boating knowledge. On blustery days it is best to stick with known routes as the reef is quite exposed to the Atlantic swell and the easterly trade winds.
Robert Anthony was the dinghy driver for Robert and Leonard’s snorkeling excursion of Cades Reef. This amazing location is best handled with a one-way drift/swim along part of the long barrier reef. Although most reefs on Antigua show signs of deterioration, there are still sights to behold. The guys came back telling us about a large grouper, leopard rays, and schools of fish. It is always refreshing to get in the water and Robert’s new swim skin provides comfort and most importantly skin protection from the suns UV rays.
After a nice snorkel we motored east, into the wind, and came across the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in process. This was a spectacular sight! One hundred (100) or so boats of all sizes each with full sails up zigzagging across the ocean. Robert was at the helm as we approached the course. Sandwiched by the jagged, shallow rocks on the port side and approaching regatta racers on starboard, Robert was spurred on by Robert Anthony, “Dad, keep going.” The racers would maximize every bit of their line as they would tack (change course by turning a boat's bow into and through the wind) back and forth beating into the wind trying to maximize their eastward movement to the next mark they needed to round. This meant boats would come as close to shore as they dared before changing directions, and ultimately placed them, or rather us, in their path. Robert exercised proper etiquette by pausing and holding position as the grand boats and their smaller competitors prepared to tact in front of us multiple times during our passage to the east side of the island. Eventually five (5) other boats with our same intentions formed behind us as we made our way. We figuratively had front row seats to this event. So close, it was as if we were apart of the excitement. We were all glad Robert Anthony insisted that we motor through the race area as this was an amazing opportunity for Leo as he snapped great pictures of the classic beauties in action.
Leonard and Robert enjoying drinks at St. James Club pool bar.
We made our way past the race and into Mamora Bay, welcomed as we entered the bay by a dolphin that swam up in front of our boat and literally looked us in the eye.
Later that evening we enjoyed the water-side all you can eat Italian buffet and entertainment by a local singer. Dad E. and Toni shared a dance. It was a lovely evening.
Seventh Day - TUESDAY, APRIL 25TH, 2017
GREEN ISLAND, NONSUCH BAY OVERNIGHT
We were able to pick up a mooring (A buoy device that boaters may tie to instead of anchoring) at Green Island for the first time this trip. It was the perfect spot to enjoy Green Island and view the wind surfers and cruise-ship-day-trippers.
Same beach, different time of day. The beach seems to disappears at high tide.
The shallow, calm beach allowed dad his first dip in the water. Dad did not want to get wet and only agreed to dip down to his waist when he realized that his bathing suit looked two-toned, one part deep wet gray and the upper half light dry gray. It is surprising how the wind cools your body off making it less inviting in April to go for a swim. Leonard likes his sea at least 85 degrees; at 84 degrees he was debating at times whether to go in or not.
Cocktail hour on the front of the boat and late night star gazing were evening favorites all along the trip. We saw Jupiter, Neptune, and of course the Big Dipper and the North Star. It is always amazing to see the density of stars in the night sky when there is an absence of city lights.
Eighth Day - WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26TH, 2017
BACK TO ENGLISH HARBOR
We pulled off the mooring and took a leisurely cruise around the large Nonsuch Bay.
This is NOT Harmony Hall. Just a pretty structure.
Toni was eager to find Harmony Hall art gallery and restaurant to see if it was open. Unfortunately, Robert Anthony found their Google listing which said the facility is permanently closed. We located what we believe was the location from a map we had and there was not any visible activity. However, we did find a house that had an awesome slide.
Off we sailed up the west coast heading back to English Harbor with the wind behind us. The sailing with the waves at our back would seem to be more comfortable than beating into the wind that we have been doing most of the trip. However, Toni found the lack of wind in her face and the roll of the seas more nauseating. Ginger candies and ginger cookies are definitely the way to help alleviate potential sea sickness. In our experience, being proactive is vital. Ginger, very good hydration (water), and staying cooler, seem to be key factors in feeling well on the boat. Also, simply relaxing and not allowing fear to take a grip contributes to overall well being.
In English Harbor we once again get to be up close and personal with the big classic boats. And I mean up close. One yacht dropped their anchor feet away from our bow with their bowsprit towering over “Our Time.” Much like a classic car show, it is a rare opportunity to have so many yachts of this caliber in one spot side-by-side, med-moored (a technique for mooring a vessel to a pier at a perpendicular angle) into the docks, nestled together in some instances with only fenders separating one to another.
We used our time in harbor for getting “Our Time’s” inverter swapped out and having the frayed bridle replaced. Robert Anthony, Leonard, and Dad E. were departing the next day.
Dad LOVES going out for drinks and dinner. He really enjoys dining, which is distinguished from a quick dinner. As he puts it, dining is a process that involves pre dinner drinks, then appetizers, your meal, after dinner drinks, desert, and some entertainment. Tonight was our last night together so we planned a celebratory dinner at the Pillars Restaurant in English Harbor. What a beautiful, magical, “movie set” evening. The facility, staff (Reggie, our bartender man-about-the-restaurant), and Karen the hostess, plus the gentle breeze and light comfortable temperature made for a perfect farewell dinner.
Dad had his lobster and one very weak, maybe virgin frozen drink due an oversight by the waiter, and then a makeup second drink that as he told Reggie, “Put me in reverse.” It must have been a strong second drink because Dad encountered sneaky steps into the restrooms. After we knew he was okay, we all had a good giggle, even Dad E., as Dad’s balance was tested by the hidden steps twice throughout the night.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Perhaps the best of many enjoyable moments was on our return to our dinghy to cross back over the bay. With Toni and Dad E. trailing behind the rest of the group and Dad E. escorting Toni to the dock, arm in arm, the dock security guard commented, in a non sarcastic manner, that it was nice dad was taking his wife (Toni) out for a lovely evening. Sometimes, it is just best to let some comments ride and we all had a nice chuckle.
Ninth Day - THURSDAY, APRIL 27th, 2017
TIME TO LEAVE ANTIGUA FOR HOME
Dad, Leonard, and Robert Anthony leave Antigua. This is a mixed emotion day…. our family separates, and yet Robert and Toni will have their first week plus on “Our Time.” A long anticipated dream coming true.
Where in the world is Dr. Erdman-Our First Night on “OUR TIME”
Finally, I made it to Antigua and into English Harbor the morning of December 29, 2016. I stopped blogging for awhile because we had major issues with the boat and the manufacture was giving us a hard time covering the sail drives under warranty. It is a long story that goes over a number of months and we were advised not to discuss. Happily, the boat was restored to working order and many of you have seen me working in the office January through mid-April. I thought it might be fun for Toni to give you her perspective of her first experience with the boat. This is from my wife’s perspective.
I am not a sailor-yet. However, I am in love with a man who loves sailing, so, I go with him- sailing. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my time on the boat. At first I typed, “thoroughly enjoy my time on the boat”, and then thought better about it and took “thoroughly” out. There is the nagging issue of sea sickness. My, oh my, as I literally expel a heavy sigh; only if blogs came with sound effects. My life holds great promise of adventures filled with both people and places to get to know. There are future sunrises and sunsets to inspire and and stories yet to be written. All this lovely hopefulness is cast with worry over being able to handle the seas.
After 30 years of owning and running a small business we sold. It made great business sense to turn our profit (and save on taxes) over into a new business adventure. So we bought a brand new 45-foot catamaran and plan on living our dream before our bodies tell us it has to remain only a dream. Yes, Robert agreed to purchase a catamaran for stability. The new cats are terrific, roomy and steady. We have decided to put the new boat in charter until we can fully finalize our work commitments. So, in the meantime, someone else is enjoying my sunrises, sunsets and people and places. We expect to get to sail our boat a couple of months per year.
My husband, Robert, was part of the three-person crew who sailed her from her birthing port of Les Sables d’Olonne, France. He arrived in France November 5th, 2017 and finally took off from port on Thanksgiving Day, November 28th. After very rough seas, weeks of delays and sail drive issues the crew and boat arrived into English Harbor, Antigua on December 29th, 2017. It was a joyful sight to see my husband at the helm and cry out “Ahoy” as he approached the dock. Our lingering hug was memorable. We gave him two nights of land rest before our family of five jumped aboard for our short acquaintance sail.
Our dream of sharing two weeks with family aboard “Our Time” was cut short by the multiple weather delays. We were so happy to at least have seven days and six nights together to get to know our boat. But that does not qualify me as a sailor nor instill the confidence I need to be a worthy sailing mate. I have three twenty-something young men for children and they are all doers. I have to remind them and myself that mom needs to learn the water maker, the bilge alarm, the navigation system… I have to learn to trust the boat and myself on the boat. I still fret every time we drop anchor questioning, “Will we hold.”
I have had a whole six nights on our boat, “OUR TIME”. The very first night aboard was December 31st. This very first night out represented years of dreams, hopes and anticipation. We were happy, excited and exhausted. Imagine getting your first brand new car. It still smells so good, is clean and you feel so free. You can go anywhere! Until you simply get tired. Whenever we are out on the water we tend to rise and set with the sun. And soon after leaving English Harbor we went a very short way, and tucked into the lovely Carlisle Bay with a hotel on the beach. Truthfully, I cannot even remember what we did that first night. Did we cook a fancy meal? Pop a bottle of wine?
What I do remember in going to bed soon after sundown and worrying if the anchor would hold. Darn that big rock on the downwind side of the bay. I kept dreaming we would drift towards it at night. I even began to imagine what boat against the rock banging would sound like if we did hit. As I dozed off to a restless sleep I got up once to peek out the cabins windows to get my bearings. Were we dragging? Are the hotel lights in the same general direction? And there snored my man oblivious to my cares and concerns. Heck, he just finished a two month crossing in horrible weather, this bay peacefully calm to him. I went back to bed, rolled over numerous time, said my prayers again and knew I would have to learn to relax. I did fall back to sleep. Until I wasn’t asleep any longer.
I was startled awake by that banging noise I dreamed up in my head. Only, I was not dreaming. I literally fell out of bed in a rush yelling out to my sound asleep husband, “Rob, Rob what is it?” I laugh now because I clearly remember that just a bit of light from the hotel or moon reflected off his bare bottom as he stumbled out on deck. Thank God neither one of us broke a leg in our haste. What day did I mention was our first night out? December 31st. Apparently, on the island of Antigua, in this Carlisle Bay, the hotel was shooting off fireworks along with two other celebratory showings north and south of us. At least I can honestly say that I will never forget my first night aboard our new boat.
We were both so shaken up and tired that we barely watched the beautiful show. It was loud. We assessed the potential harm from firework shells launching out over the water in our general direction and simply went back to bed. We just wanted quite. I carried another concern to bed. I was wondering if my brand new boat was going to show scars in the morning light from firework debris. In hindsight this would have been a great photo opportunity for a future blog. That thought never entered my worrisome brain. All I could think about was what would it really sound like to hit that big rock and how would I even know it with all this noise.
Toni, is a trooper and is keeping an open mind, heart and attitude with my dream of sailing. She has never done a long sail that extended also through the whole night and I plan to push, I mean, encourage her to do longer and longer sails as we take a month off this Spring to “test-drive” a new lifestyle. Our next trip we will continue sailing around Antigua and head over to the Island of Barbuda which is about a five hour sail. I hope to bring my ninety-year-old father along for a week. He inspired my love of boating and I with trips to the Bahamas. I look forward to sharing time with him out on the water, again. Stay posted for our next update. And please, if you see Toni, tell her how lucky she is to go sailing, I could use the help.
So Christmas dinner was good. The chicken was cooked perfectly and the roasted potatoes brushed with duck fat, a French thing, was also very good. My peach cobbler was fine but not great as we are low on sugar and butter so I used less then I would have liked. The microwave that also can be used as an oven worked but cooks slower so more time is needed when using it. We tried using the microwave for the veggies after the chicken but the microwave portion of the oven no longer works. Shame as it looks so nice. (It Will probably be replaced with a straight forward more reliable microwave.) The boat has a gas oven which does not do a good job and the captain does not allow us to use it on this delivery voyage.
The day after Christmas we washed the boat down and cleaned the salt off the chrome. It does not take long for the salt to try and pit the metal. This will be a chore to be done every time I see the boat along with many other boat duties.
So I have been asking the captain if it is normal for the waves to be this big all the time since we started all the way back in France. He says it will get better in a few days or he simply ignores me. At this point in the trip, we have put in a lot of miles and we are less then 400 miles to our final destination and now he admits that this has been a rough trip. He says he has never had a trip that did not have breaks of nice calm water. This one has never been calm. He said that the last crossing he was on just before he came on my boat, he considered their roughest day as being still calmer then this trips best day. Read that twice. And say "yuck". So, ah-hah, I knew I smelled a rat. He did not want me to get discouraged so he kept saying in a few days it will be calmer as he thought it has to get better. It just never did.
So let's talk about what the constant hour after hour tossing does to you mentally. I am trying to wash dishes bracing my body against the cabinet, dealing with sloshing water and setting the dishes so that they do not slide off the counter to the floor. After doing this simple task, that is now not as simple,day after day some four letter words that you normally do not use start flowing freely. Everything is difficult. Walking must be done with a free hand or two holding on with every step. If you do not hold on tightly you will fall.
The captain fell today when he was up high working on the boom. The waves knocked him and he'll fell a couple of elevation changes of the boat down. I saw it happen and gasped as I saw the fall but was busy holding on tight myself. He was fine but that was close as he was heading in the direction of overboard. So the constant movement would be fine for a day or two but over many days it is draining and it starts making you mad that it will not give you a break. Not complaining but giving you reality.
Tonight it is clear and the stars are out and Venus is so bright in this pitch black ocean. It is so wonderful without the light pollution. I do not see half the number of stars when I am on land with all the lights.
Tonight at dinner we discussed the remaining food what we would/ could like to make or eat. For me it was opening the can of corn, draining it, adding some chopped onion and tomato and sprinkling some balsamic vinegar on it. The captain is eyeing the frozen sausage and Christine, she will make the frozen meatballs. We agreed to have everybody try something and maybe share. The captain hates corn and will stay far from it; so, yet another dish he will not eat of mine.
Today was also a big laundry day. Clothes were hanging up wet on the outside of the boat. That is my big excitement, to have a clean shirt to put on. Hence, laundry is done a lot by me. I have the time! So with my time I can read, write, watch a movie, do dishes, do laundry or throw the dead flying fish overboard and clean up the big mess they make.
Tonight on my regularly scheduled watch, I am writing this and the captain was down below. He noticed on the navigation system a ship going in the opposite direction, and going to pass close to us. My job is to know this when I am on watch. I am to view our surroundings, at minimum, every 8- 10 minutes. He did not tell me and wanted to see how long it would take before I noticed. Well to my amazement a half an hour went by and the ship went past and my face is glued to writing this story. Oops!
He made me aware of the situation and asked me how much time went by before my last get up and check and I said about 10 or 15 minutes. He said no it has been 30. He said that he sees this all the time. People on watch think they can be on the computer or iPad and they easily loose track of time. Danger is that in that time a ship can close in on you. He wanted me to learn that lesson very clearly and that I did. So he is now on watch and I am now practicing safe typing off my watch.
So the crossing is nearly done. I flew to France at the very beginning of November and will be done with it at the end of December. Weather and mechanical delays have really made the whole thing go a lot longer and slightly delayed my return to the office. I will squeeze in some family time on the boat at the end which I am enormously grateful. I will find quiet bays with beautiful beaches to make sure the time with family is the best it can be.
During my time away I lost a mother. I always knew the importance of family and this time away was very reflective and reinforcing of many of my guiding life principles. So was it worth it? I was out of the office for a long time and that makes things more difficult for many people. I thank them all for putting up with it. I learned more about what it takes to go further then just the next island on the horizon. I do want to sail further than I felt comfortable in the past so that experience is vital. When I add up what I learned against the cost and the challenges it created then, yes, it was worth it. If possible, I encourage you to take extended time for yourself as a retreat to sort things out. We all need that. If you can and choose to take a break for your norm, go ahead and add to it, make it interesting too!
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