We woke early on the 2nd August before light and our friend Lane was there on the dock to see us. Frantically we rushed around, basically loaded up the last of the items from the dock and cleaned up our mess. Did one last quick weather check jumping on Lanes 3G hotspot and then said our goodbyes and released the dock lines. Just like that we left, we were on our way. It was a real surreal moment and I am forever grateful to Lane for coming out at such a hour to see us of. It made it feel like we were really leaving, it was for real.
For days before I kept saying to Morgan are we really going to do this?? We weren’t ready and realistically Nomadica wasn’t quite ready either. Half of her interior is still in a mess, there was minimum plumbing, minimum electric’s connected and a ton of material packed chucked in the boat. But what choice did we have. Morgan’s 2 month visa was due to expire the following day on the 3rd of August. We have always been people that stuck by the rules and although realistically we could probably have stayed a few extra days, the thought of being controlled leaving later outweighed our readiness. We had done everything in our power to make Nomadica safe, the rest was up to us and the weather a head. We were also tired of working against the clock.
As we motored down the channel, I thought back to 4 years ago when we watched our friends on ‘Silver Shoes’ motor down the channel out of sight and thought ‘Wow this is happening, its our turn’. We exited the breakwater and continue slowly out of the channel. We didn’t look back. We tried to do some auto pilot calibrations, but it just wasn’t working, so we hoisted the sails and started slowly sailing east. There was a gentle 10-11 knots of wind from the north and we sailed slowly away from shore. It was quite a liberating feeling.
Originally we had toyed with the idea of heading south along the coast, and then hang a right towards Mexico and Belize. This would have been the quicker 1000 mile trip. However the days leading up to our departure there was a tropical depression forming in the Gulf of Mexico and we had to delay our departure as it was by a day to wait on the weather to pass up the East Coast. The long range forecast showed more disturbance in the area for the days to come to. Not wanting to risk it, we just thought East. Head East.
It was a great first day. We even had a pod of dolphins play of Nomadica’s bow. Something that hasn’t happened in years. It was beautiful. With no auto pilot we found that if we trimmed the sails right and tied the wheel in place, she held a steady course. As the day turned into night the wind slowly dropped of. By Midnight that same wind came from the East and we were plowing into a light breeze and building sea. We were being tossed around under low RPM’s. The night turned dark and squally. It wasn’t at all what we imagined our first night out would be like. With each squall the wind would intensify and we would have to take over the steering. We were soaked more times than I wished to remember. Winds often reached 30-35 knots in these squalls. As dawn came in the skies around us stayed dark and heavy and the day carried on relentless and squally. By the end of the day we were both a little exhausted. As we prepared ourselves for another long dark night a head I really wondered if it was really the right direction to be going. Luckily the second night was better and the squalls became less and less and the skies slowed cleared and the winds once again shifted back in our favour. Friday we were back to sailing slowly east with a beautiful sunny day.
The next few days the winds dropped completely and the ocean became like a milk pond. The only thing with no wind was that we had to hand steer which in the heat of the day became pretty intense. At one point whilst I was at the helm I saw a whale heading straight for us. I clicked the engine in neutral and watched in awe as this magnificent creature approached within twenty meters of us, it was a Sperm Whale. It hovered on the surface for a few seconds before diving into the depths. We stayed drifting for a few minutes more and watched as she surfaced again. Its moments like these that will stick with us forever. A few days when we both got tired or jobs aboard became over whelming we just switched of the engine and drifted. This allowed us both to fix, clean and sleep. At this point we also took the time to put out the fishing lines and caught two small Mahi Mahi’s. It was nice to have fresh fish again and something we both have missed about life on the sea.
The forecast that first weekend showed a possible depression building in the Atlantic with a possible trajectory of the northern Islands of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. Well there went our second possible destination. No way were we able to head south at that point as the winds around the system would be against us. So we continued East until it had passed and in fact by that following Wednesday it had dissipated. By this point we had headed East for a whole week and had covered nearly 1000 nautical miles.
The next day on Thursday we had our window to point south. There’s something about Thursday’s as this was another black and squally day. As we altered course we found ourselves in a stiff breeze and another 24 hours of squall after squall.
Conditions pointing South was completely different to the week before. As we continued the easterly trades really kicked in. Luckily Nomadica held a good course in a stronger breeze. Anything from 7-25 knots and we could get a hour or two of not touching the wheel before having to untie and re-adjust.
Originally we wanted to go as far east to allow a course outside of the Island chain. However conditions didn’t allow us to point that far. Once again looking at the long range forecast for the week a head we could see yet again another system forming in the Atlantic and once again heading towards the Island chain later in the week. This gave us only a short week to get pass the depressions trajectory. Not wanting to waste anymore time struggling against the winds, we decided on a course to cut directly through the Island chain.
As Sunday became Monday we entered the Caribbean Sea and with it conditions stiffened. As we observed the the glow of Anguilla and St Maarten in the distance we were reaching along in 25-30 knots of breeze. With waves breaking over the side of the boat. It was a wet and windy ride. The days weren’t a lot better and as we pushed on through the Island chain the conditions persisted. We saw very little of the Islands themselves as there was a thick haze all around. Making a bee line south we pushed on during the day with as much sail as we felt safe and then at night was vigilant with our sail choice based on the nights skies. A few nights Morgan slept in the pilot house so that he could assist me quicker when the winds picked up out of no where. The last few days was pretty tiring, it felt like we did sail changes with every passing cloud, and they rolled through quickly. Finally on Wednesday, exactly two weeks after we had departed we broke through the barrier of weather with a good 40 knot blow and driving rain. Luckily we had rolled up both head sails and reefed the main significantly. We saw the grey thickness approaching and the force in which it hit was impressive. The rain stung our skin and we had to turn our backs against it to function. Nomadica heeled over and stood her ground. And then just like that it was gone and conditions lifted. At this point we were running parallel with the Island chain but 40 miles of shore from them.
Land was sighted just before lunch on Thursday. In the distance the silhouette of the Island came into view. The winds had dropped at this point and we were being headed so progress was slow. It was a wonderful sight to see the grayness of the distant Island turn to colour. The sun started to set behind us as we pushed the last few miles and the pinks and oranges lit up the sky a head. As the last of the day faded we slowly made our way into the crowded anchorage. The lights ashore started to light up the coast line and the smell of lush vegetation was a welcoming change. After exactly 15 days and 12 hours here we were for the first time with Nomadica dropping anchor in the shallow waters of the Caribbean.
We couldn’t have been more happier. We keep grinning at one another in disbelief. We did it, the hardest part is over. Most of all we couldn’t be more please with Nomadica. She performed brilliantly and proved to be strong and steady. We kept saying she felt a live. Who would have thought she had spent the last 12 years in a ship yard and 4 years ago prior to us buying her she was destined for the scrap yard.
After a 2 hour motor trial and a 2 hour sail trial back in Charleston here we are having just completed a 2000 nautical mile maiden voyage. Sitting in the cockpit gently rocking on anchor and looking up at the stars….this is what we have been dreaming of.
Grenada couldn’t look any prettier.