Gypsy Life - alone at anchor

Phil Pascoe
Thu 9 Apr 2009 19:32

17:04.47N 61:53.5W
Gypsy Life – alone at anchor, Jolly Harbour
Following Robin and John’s departure I had a night in the marina and the prospect of two weeks on my own – the first time since I spent 3 days alone in La Coruna.  Peace reigned, and in many respects it was good to think that I didn’t really have to go anywhere or meet any deadlines for quite a while.  In the morning I checked out of the marina, paid for the water (we’d used 100 gallons filling the tanks and washing the boat, at a cost of 10 cents US a gallon) and prepared to go out and anchor in the Bay.  Although it would be convenient to stay in the marina, at $US 38 a night it was a bit steep for a lone retired Sea gypsy.  Anchoring was a bit tricky on my own, mainly because it was so shallow.  The holding I knew was good, but in order to ensure I was outside of the Channel, I only had 0.5m below the keel which I hoped would be OK – it was low water and there isn’t much of a tidal range here.
I spent a week there at anchor and had a fairly busy but comfortable time cleaning the inside of the boat, catching up with paperwork, ticking off some of the maintenance issues and doing the daily run into the marina to send and receive e-mails and check various websites, and of course visit the supermarket at Jolly Harbour, which I think is one of the best we’ve seen in the Caribbean. 

Strange as it might seem to some people, I actually enjoyed being on my own on the boat.  I settled into a routine of sorts and began to see the attraction of single-handed sailing (although, as yet I hadn’t actually done any sailing).  Here’s a flavour of a typical Sea Gypsy day in Antigua:
The only thing that disturbs a good night’s sleep is either the chain rattling (if it’s windy, which it wasn’t), or mosquitoes (which only bothered me once), so usually I woke at 05.30h to answer the call of nature (the old bladder’s not what it used to be) and then rose soon after the sun at 06.30h.  It’s brilliant to be able to sit in the cockpit, with next to nothing on, at 6.30 in the morning and watch the sun rise and down a couple of mugs of coffee.  The weather has been great here – not as hot as farther South, and I have been able to live comfortably in a pair of Speedos from dawn ‘til beyond dusk.  It would be more comfortable without the Speedos but I might frighten the neighbours (if they had binoculars).  Talking of neighbours, there’s a right old mixture of nationalities – Brits, French, Germans, Americans, Canadians, Finns, Swiss, and a few locals (Caribbean Islands), apart from that I share the anchorage with sploshing fish, diving Pelicans, and wheeling Frigate Birds.  The only annoying things are passing speedboats or mini gin palaces that kick up a lot of wash – sometimes enough to spill the gin, or coffee (bastards).
So then some breakfast – cereals, bread and very expensive jam, perhaps eggs if I’m feeling energetic, and one day I tried porridge.  The mornings were usually spent making some notes on previous day’s activities (otherwise I forget), updating the blog, writing some e-mails or reading a couple of chapters of ‘Dreaming of Jupiter’.  This a book that, I think Ben or one of the girls gave me for Christmas – it’s a sequel to Jupiter’s Travels which I read about 30 years ago and both books relate to the same guy (Ted Simon) travelling around the world on a motorbike, first in the 70s when he was 40 odd, then again in the noughties (30 years later) at the age of 70+.  He’s a bit of philosopher and it’s quite easy to read, and in some ways it’s not too dissimilar to the crazy things I’ve done and am doing.  Anyway, it’s thought-provoking.  Why do we do it?  What is the long-term traveller searching for or trying to achieve?  The mission statement on my blog is – still searching for the M of L.  Does anyone out there know the answer?
A couple of weeks back, I was at a bit of a low ebb, not just ‘half-empty’ but almost dry.  St. Lucia had been frustrating and expensive, then more things kept going wrong, and we had deadlines to meet, and the weather wasn’t too helpful and I’d probably been on the boat too long, without exercise and not much to stimulate good brain chemistry (endorphins).  In fact, I said in some e-mails that I was pissed off with it all and I was ready to come home, be a recluse and take up gardening.  However, a few days here on my own, with some walking and relaxing has re-charged the batteries.  This part of the Caribbean, I think, is better and has a more agreeable climate – the sailing is good, the people on the whole are friendly, and I could almost think about doing another season here.  (Don’t panic, only a thought).
I digress, I was relating a day in the life of a Sea Gypsy – where was I?  Oh yes, a bit of reading.  Then I might take the dinghy to the beach and take a walk and /or head for the marina and plug into the free Wifi and see what the e-mail exchanges throw up, or phone a few people via Skype, that seems to work quite well here.  Whether all this technology and communication is a good thing or an added frustration is debatable, but it’s great to be able to make contact when you need to.  The mobile is there as a last, or next to last resort as they are still pretty expensive.  I am now using Ben’s with my SIM card in it, but I’m pretty careful with it as I have already drowned 2 phones on this trip.
So then I may visit the supermarket, it’s open from 8 ‘til 8 every day, to top up the fridge or drinks cabinet and purchase some meat and veg, and then back to the boat – it’s about a mile back to the anchorage.  Then I sit with a beer or a Rum and watch the sun go down (about 18.30h), that’s the one disadvantage of the Caribbean, the days are pretty short, but after 12 hours of sunshine most people have had enough.  Then I prepare an evening meal.  Not very thrilling cooking for one, but I’ve been trying to keep the morale up by eating pretty well.  One night I had steak on a bed of stir-fried veg, with a bottle of Chilean Merlot, and the following night I had stir-fried veg on a bed of steak.  Odd food prices here – beef, chicken and pork are probably cheaper than at home, or about the same, but some of the vegetables or dairy products are 2 or 3 times the price.  Jams, sauces, and most other things are expensive.  A packet of Kelloggs cornflakes (marked £2) actually sells (or in my case doesn’t sell) for about a fiver.  Fruit (apart from bananas) is extortioate.  Fortunately wine is not too bad, if you like Chilean or Argentinian, and the Rum is the best value of all – about EC$21 for 1,75 litres that’s about £5.50.  Kept us going for a night or two. 
I’m rambling now – more tomorrow – I usually finish the day with a DVD, although I do fall asleep sometimes and have to watch it again the next night – nothing new there.  I bought some DVDs in St. John for about £2 each, pirated obviously but OK.

Tomorrow I plan to move to see a few other anchorages North of here.

Pics:  The anchorage at Jolly Harbour from Reeds Point; WM second from right.  She still looks good.

A Gypsy's lunch: Beer, philosophy and travel, and food of course.  Beach scenery up close.