On Wednesday February 10th 2016, Bob hauled in her anchor and set sail from Marigot Bay, St. Martin, bound for Cartagena, Colombia. A little under 3 1/2 years later, on the afternoon of June 10th 2019, the same anchor found purchase on the same sand, and Bob found herself once again clustered amongst the yachts beneath Fort St. Luis with the smell of earth and croissants in the air. Thus, Bob has officially sailed around the world, or as sailors often say, “closed the loop”.
How does it feel, to have completed this feat? To have realised a dream that was first hatched in 2003 in the mind of a teenager standing on a dock in Rarotonga and watching his ship sail away? A bit ….. meh, to be honest. It feels good to be back in ‘home’ territory after so long, though also a little odd. It feels exciting to be moving on to the next thing, whatever that may be, in the very near future. And it does feel like an achievement to have made it, but not a particularly emotional one. If you’d asked me three years ago what I thought my chances were of us making it all the way around the world I might have said “50:50”. If you’d asked me the same question two years prior to that I’d have said even less. Maybe 30%. Or 20%. But we’ve done it, and that’s…………. nice.
In fact, about six weeks ago we realised that, kind of by mistake, we’d already done it. We were sitting in a bar in Martinique and realised that we’d been there before, in the spring of 2009. So technically, at that time, we completed a ten-year circumnavigation. Kind of takes the fanfare out of it, don’t you think?
I think maybe the reasons for this feeling of …….meh……. are two-fold. Sarah was stuck in the U.K. for the beginning of the voyage and wasn’t able to join me until Cartagena. She tells me that she feels like a bit of a fraud because she’s missing those last few miles. We considered going to the Bahamas prior to coming back to Bermuda because then we’d have crossed the same line of longitude as Cartagena and thus closed her loop separately. But the seasons are wearing on, we are pressed for time once again and the Bahamas are a large place that really deserve to be explored, not just visited for a few days to satisfy a technicality. So we have decided not to go there on this voyage. Besides, it’s only 24,000 miles around the world and we have done well over 30,000, so I think she’s got a few miles in lieu.
For my own part, I think I might find more of a sense of accomplishment once we arrive back in Bermuda and the voyage is officially over. In fact, I am wary of allowing myself to think otherwise. I once drove an old ambulance from England to Mongolia. I got all the way there, some 12,000 miles, without hitting anything. I ‘crossed the finish line’ and promptly hit a van. Then I backed into a pile of wood. So although the 1000 or so miles that are left seem inconsequential at times, I have to remind myself that those miles are some of the more dangerous ones we will sail over the whole voyage, and that things can go wrong at any time. The worst weather I have ever experienced to this day was between Bermuda and the Caribbean in 2008, and the most unpleasant passage I have ever had, period, was when I left Bermuda single-handed at the beginning of this voyage in December 2015. If I think I might be becoming complacent, I need only remind myself of those experiences to bump things right back to where they need to be!
Our re-immersion into Western Civilisation was more akin to a drowning than anything else. We did get one week in Martinique as a buffer, but after that we were propelled right to the heights of Western idealised luxury and socialisation when we turned up in Nevis for my friend’s wedding. We moved off Bob for a few days and transferred ourselves to a luxury cottage, on the grounds of an old colonial plantation, where coconut trees get medical treatment and the breakfast buffet could feed the 5,000.
We went from this accommodation in Vanuatu:
To this in Nevis:
Our days consisted largely of lounging by a swimming pool, sipping cocktails and occasionally ordering gourmet food to be delivered to our loungers. A far cry from catching wild chickens in the Gambier Islands, or foraging pumpkins from the bushes by the side of the road. But of course, the highlight of our time there was the people. It had been several years since either of us had seen any of them. Sarah already had quite a few friends among the guests from her visits to Bermuda, and for me it was a feast of friends. I walked around slightly dazed for a whole week, with a permanent smile plastered to my face.
Then, suddenly it seemed, everyone left. Sarah and I were once again left to our own devices. We returned to our old, slower pace of doing things and sailed up to St. Kitts and then Saba in comfortable and enjoyable 40-mile, day-sail hops. And now here we are in St. Martin. We were graced by a visit from my mother and as usual she spoiled us with restaurant meals and an atmosphere of general ease. We got a lot of jobs done too, like re-certifying the life raft and scuba tanks, fixing a couple of minor odds and ends and stocking up on the most economical food we’re likely to find for the foreseeable future. This evening we’ll set sail for the British Virgin Islands, arriving tomorrow morning with luck, and we’ll spend a week or two there seeing a few sights and looking for an opportunity to make the passage North to Bermuda. Fingers crossed things work out nicely. It’s now late June. By July the risk of hurricanes threatening the Caribbean increases considerably. If that happens we might have to revise the plan, but we’re not too worried. From here it’s possible to sail just two or three days South and be out of the hurricane belt entirely. Of course, South is the wrong way to get to Bermuda, but what’s a few hundred miles in the grand scheme of things?
Thanks for the visit Mum! It was wonderful to have you, and we’ll see you soon!