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So where have we been? It’s been a while since we shared any significant news (besides some Instagram + Facebook updates).  We just decided to take a little time off, and then things got hectic. Now that things are settling down again, we’re excited to catch you up on everything that’s happened! Right now, we’re sitting at anchor in BVI (British Virgin Islands), but it’s been raining most of the day so we’re enjoying a little downtime, and the rain is my signal that it’s time to get blogging! But let’s go back to where we left off, St. Vincent.

Our arrival in St. Vincent was such a happy day! I think all six of us on board were ecstatic to be back on land and to get some space from one another.  Two weeks with no escape; no work to go to all day; no bar down the street; literally no privacy. About 10 steps maximum in any one direction was all the space we had for two weeks.  To say our nerves were shot was a bit of an understatement. But being on land, and reuniting with other ARC sailors was awesome! We all shared this bond now, this camaraderie; we did this thing together that most people just don’t do. Most of the remaining boats had arrived by the time we left St. Vincent, but we had to miss some of the social events and the final celebration with prizegiving since we had to head north.  Mass boat cleaning ensued – it needed a serious de-salting and we cleaned and put away all the plastic surround panels for permanent storage! Yay!!

Part of the deal we made when going on this epic adventure was that I (Megan) really, really wanted to go home for Christmas and New Years.  Being less well traveled than Bob, and being more of a homebody and introvert, this whole experience was WAY outside my comfort zone, so I knew I was going to want to recalibrate and get lots of hugs and friend time to balance me out. Plus, then we could grab anything else we needed from home, or Target, or wherever.  It seemed perfect to me, but Bob wasn’t as convinced. From his perspective, we had just accomplished this major, stressful, yet super cool thing, and were finally going to be able to sail on our own, and I wanted to take a break. We had agreed that if we could find reasonable flights that we’d head home for a week or two. In the meantime, he’d been coordinating warranty work with Lagoon dealers and other repair work that the boat needed after the crossing. One of the better places to go for all of this is St. Maarten, which was about 500 miles from our location in St. Vincent. In a plane, that’s a couple hours; in a car maybe 7 hours; on a boat, that’s about 5 days. When sailing or under engine, 6.5 – 8.0 knots is a pretty solid and comfortable speed. A knot is about 1.15 miles per hour so that’s about 7.5-9.25 miles per hour. This is why sailing takes so long!  Since our boat maintenance was scheduled for St. Maarten, we had to make travel the 500-ish miles, get situated in a marina, and figure out flights. The best flights home were on 12/20, so that gave us exactly 10 days to get everything done. We had to get going ASAP!

Our crew of six changed over with three leaving us, and then we picked up two strays from other boats to become a crew of five.  Arturo had a flight out of St. Vincent in a few days, so he prepared to vacate our boat and move to another, as we’d be leaving a day or two prior to his flights. Pietro would stay with us up to St. Maarten and continue to coach us along the way, taking more of a backseat/advisory role as we practiced sailing by ourselves. Unfortunately, some of the awkwardness and unpleasantness with the other original two crew from the crossing  didn’t subside once we made landfall.  We asked them to leave the boat a day or two before leaving St. Vincent so we could prepare the boat for our next journey more easily. Planning our route to St. Maarten was pretty simple – there are lots of places to stop along the way, we just had to coordinate stopping in St. Lucia to drop off one new crew member and Martinique to drop off the other.  We were the first boat to leave the ARC group heading north and when people found out we had so many requests to transport other sailing crew. We didn’t want a jam packed boat again, but one or two days was really no big deal. What we didn’t realize was that every time we added or dropped off a crew member, we would have to check into and out of the country with immigration, and pay customs fees.  All this checking in takes precious time, and we didn’t have much to spare.  Naturally a few extra shenanigans ensued when one extra crew left our boat as soon as we were situated on a mooring ball and forgot his passport!  {Smack head!!!} We tried to leave his passport at the customs & immigration office, but they told us no way – apparently in St. Lucia, it’s a fine of up to $5,000 and seizure of all passports if a captain allows anyone off the boat before checking into the country officially.  Bob said “what was I supposed to do, knock him out?”  We had no idea how complicated this could be. MIA guy said a taxi back to the boat was too expensive (he’d already skipped town), so we had to sail out of our marina and into a new one on the way north to meet him.  At least it was north, and we were able to fuel up during our stop, so it wasn’t all wasted time or miles. The other crew member we took on was amazing, super helpful, and fun to be around.  We dropped him in Martinique in time for his flight home to Europe.  We hope you come visit us with your family Arne!!

The morning we woke up in St. Lucia we had a special surprise waiting for us.  We were anchored in Marigot Bay, which has a lot of trees, and therefore a fair amount of bugs. The bloodsuckers always find and attack me, while Bob, right next to me, is mercifully left alone. Covered in bug bites and exhausted from itching all night, I wake up to Bob trying to warn me about something. He knows I’m not much of a morning person, and bad news in the morning is extra traumatic.  Basically, he says I’m not going to want to come outside, or at least be prepared. All the bugs flying around in the marina last night were the perfect hunting ground for bats. We’d seen a few flying around the deck before bedtime but they hadn’t bothered us. Unfortunately, bats like bananas, or bugs like bananas and bats like bugs. Because the brand new, perfect, amazing bananas that we’d just picked up in St. Vincent before we left, the ones we hadn’t even tried yet, were annihilated. Torn apart and blackened in the fruit net, with a 360 degree spattering of bat shit EVERYWHERE. On the teak deck, on the cushions, all over the sliding glass door. A solid half hour of scrubbing removed most of the unpleasantness, but we never got to try our beautiful St. Vincent bananas.

Once we were done dropping off crew, it was just Bob, Pietro, and I all the way from Martinique to St. Maarten.  Basically, the next few days went like this: wake before dawn (around 4:30 a.m.), raise anchor, sail about 12 hours, hope you arrive at next anchorage in daylight, anchor, dinner, sleep.  Not super fun, and no time to explore any islands or do anything exciting. But, we had to get north ASAP. When not on watch, most of the day looked like this.

Mid-afternoon on day three, we approached Antigua and decided to stop in Deep Bay. We had about 100 miles to go, which would hopefully take us about 14 hours, so we decided to make one last overnight stretch rather than waste another beautiful day. Since we only intended to anchor a few hours, we threw up our Q flag – essentially it’s a quarantine flag, indicating we have not checked into the country and have not left the boat.  Technically, when you arrive in a country, you are not supposed to leave the boat until you’ve checked in, and you’re required to do that within 24 hours. We relaxed in Antigua a couple hours, swimming, making dinner, etc. Antigua and some neighboring islands share a Coast Guard, and because we had our Q flag up they decided to stop and check us out.  They boarded our boat to ask questions and fill out paperwork and inspect.  We have never been boarded before and it felt a little bit like an invasion of privacy, even though they were fairly polite about the whole thing. They walked through all the cabins and opened a lot of drawers and cabinets.  We surmised that they were “officially” searching for drugs or stowaways, but that they were likely bored and wanted a tour of the boat. Thankfully, and a bit surprisingly, we didn’t have to pay them any money for their inspection and approval.

The last overnight passage was pretty easy, even with only three of us. By now, both Bob and I had gained so much more experience since last time, which would have been Portugal. It’s crazy to think how much we’ve done in such a short period of time. As we arrived in Marigot Bay, St. Marten (yep, apparently every island has a Marigot), we were greeted by our good friends Paul + Tracy! Yay!! As soon as we were anchored, Paul dinghied over (I think dinghied is a word…lol) and picked us up for celebratory beers on their boat. It was so good to reunite with them after our long journey. And they had crossed the Atlantic without crew, just the two of them! And that is how we arrived in St. Marten, the French side. You’ll notice that earlier I was spelling it St. Maarten, that’s for the Dutch side. More on our adventures there in our next post!