St Kitts and Nevis,  St. Martin

Closing the Loop

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.

From countries where 90% of the population have severely limited access to healthcare and people die every day from preventable diseases, to one where even the trees get specialist treatment, for the sake of aesthetics.

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!

14 Comments

  • Jimheays

    Congratulations guys. What an adventure, what an achievement. RESPECT!!
    You wont remember me, i was living on Pitcairn when you had your two visits there, (Social Worker) have been following your posts ever since and enjoying the trip vicariously ever since. Thanks for the journey both of you and good luck with the next chapter, Its beeen zo much fun. Jim

  • Peter Sellar

    You both have packed a lifetime of travel into a few years. “good luck and fair winds on your homeward leg”. By the way I was given a book to read last month about two youngsters who decided to put some spice into their life so they decided to build a yacht. Thing is they lived in Rhodesia nowhere near the ocean and had to truck it half finished to the ocean. The amazing thing was they were both paraplegics and had to do everything on their bum. They finished her off then sailed her across the ocean Perhaps you have already read it. It’s called ‘An Ocean to Cross’ by Liz Fordred. “Unbelievable story of human endeavour”. If you have not read it, suggest you get a copy.

  • Mother

    Fab Blog. Certainly hope you don’t have to sail South, but whatever is safest. Bermuda awaits Bob sailing along the South Shore towards land and Bermuda again. xoxo

  • Brooksie Snr

    Hurrah and Huzzah! for closing the loop! The next adventure beckons – whatever that may be!.

    A most thought provoking entry – but I will not dwell on a convoluted response here – better over a glass (or two!) of Leapfrog upon your arrival.

    Fair winds

    Dad!

  • Geoffrey Frith

    You may feel meh Alex but I am mighty impressed with your accomplishment and have thoroughly enjoyed vicariously sharing your adventures through your blog. Good on you and Sarah.

  • Cat Melvin

    Congrats guys! So glad you went all the way west and closed the loop! Amazing achievement and makes the Mongol Rally look like a walk in the park! Can’t wait to see more of you both once you’re back to dry land… well most of the time at least! Xx

  • Vicky Hamshere

    Another WOW blog! Can’t wait to hear lots of tales first hand. But the Voyages of Bob have definitely earned A top spot, if not THE top spot in our family history!

    Love to you both,
    xx Vicky

  • Jim Amos

    Hearty congratulations to you both. We are so very proud and happy for you. Bob has proved to be a good ship and to think there are several sister ships in Bermuda too. I fear none of which will achieve your endeavor. I recall the day you joined me on Spindrift to have a look around . It was well before you set out on your quest. It really is “Everest Horizontal”…..……not an original thought. It is the name of one of the single handlers ’round the world when Alan Paris succeeded in 2003. You will have seen her in Bermuda at some point probably……Enjoy your sail North. See you soon. Cheers , jimmie

  • Nadia

    Finally did what you set out to do. Why hold back on feeling that you’ve accomplished something?
    Alex and Sarah…since you sailed away from Niue I couldn’t be more happy to have met and gotten to know you,even for a few days. As I read your blogs it’s like I was actually there with you guys….It was amazing…thank you noth for doing this…not only for yourselves but unknowingly doing it for the sake of those like me. God bless yous and safe sailing.

  • Pippet

    Congratulations. Great reading and what a journey!!! One thing I know for sure is if I ever go sailing I want you there! Xxxx Pippet

  • Joy Jones

    A wonderful read, all the better for it being live – somehow it has been even more exciting being able to picture you setting off on the next leg of your journey straight after reading about the most recent experiences. Thanks for sharing both thoughts and narrative. And well done for doing what you set out to do. And hooray for sailing!

  • Local Talent

    Congrats from Dean and Gail on Local Talent!
    Vanuatu misses you! We are currently anchored in the mangroves under blue sky’s. Hard for me to imagine you are – Where you are? And we are still slowly wandering the South Pacific… Nice here, so I’m not sure when we will ever leave? Long live our great shark memories together in Minerva Reef!

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