|Boats moored at the entrance to the Rio Dulce, Livingston, Guatemala.|
Anyway, I am already at the stage of reminiscing about our time aboard Monashee. While we were on the boat, we sailed in 9 different countries: the U.S., Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico.
We specifically chose to limit our cruising to the Western Caribbean. Most people, when they talk about sailing in the Caribbean, mean the Eastern islands. The west is much less populated with cruisers, and more “off the beaten track”. For us, this fit the bill perfectly, and was exactly what we were looking for.
Here then, in no particular order, are some of our fondest memories of our time on the boat.
|Empty beach in the Berry Islands, Bahamas.|
|Nobody around for miles.|
|Learning to conch.|
|The blue hole at Hoffman's Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas.|
|Our Halloween party. The first of many great parties on Monashee.|
Best SailingWe had some really great sailing while we were out. We also had a lot of not very good sailing, some really crappy sailing, and a fair bit of motoring, too.
When you are just out sailing for the weekend, you end up going in all directions, and trying your boat out on every tack, all in the same day. When you are sailing long distances, though, you sail the same direction for days and weeks on end. Since the wind in the Caribbean is pretty consistently from the east, that meant as we were heading south, we were mostly on a port tack. We never really sailed on a starboard tack until after we left Guatemala, months into our trip. Which was funny, because the boat did a few things on a starboard tack that were unusual, and we didn’t even know about them for months.
Some of the best sailing we had was in Belize, when we finally did get on a starboard tack. With the barrier reef blocking the waves, and a steady 15 to 20 knots on our beam, we flew along, as if we were on a lake. Monashee loved being on a beam reach, and would happily kite along at 7 or 8 knots in the calm water.
But I think our favourite sailing of the whole trip was along the north coast of Jamaica. This was the only place that we were consistently pointed downwind during the trip, heading straight west in the prevailing easterlies. Despite some big following waves, we had a wonderful smooth ride, and we really got to use our spinnaker to fly along. It was magnificent, and provided us with days we will never forget.
Best MarinaAs a rule, we tried to anchor out as much as possible. Marinas are kind of like RV parks for boats. You are usually right up against your neighbour, paying an exorbitant amount to tie your boat up to a decrepit dock, and are often using pretty grotty, shared bathrooms, and dealing with the wakes of other boats constantly going by.
On the upside, though, you can get right off the boat and go for a walk. Getting a little space away from each other was sometimes worth any price. Also, you have electricity and water close at hand, so if you want, you can run the air conditioning and shower to your heart’s content.
The runner up best marina we stayed in was Tortugal, on the Rio Dulce. It wasn’t the fanciest place we stayed, but it was clean, the showers were great, the staff were pleasant, and we met some of the nicest people on our trip there. In fact, if we had to go back to one marina, it would probably be Tortugal.
|Enjoying the empty infinity pool at Resorts World Bimini, Bahamas.|
|The weather wasn't great, but we enjoyed the modern floating docks, new(ish) facilities, and water and power. With no one else around. Resorts World Biminis, Bahamas.|
Best SnorkellingWithout a doubt, our best snorkelling was in the Bahamas. Probably the single best experience we had was in Warderick Wells, where the reefs and fish are protected, and grow to amazing sizes. But pretty much any of the islands in the Exumas chain provided great snorkelling experiences.
|Lionfish at Warderick Wells, Exumas, Bahamas.|
Best BeachOur favourite beach was on the ope Atlantic side of Stocking Island, just off Georgetown in the Bahamas. We ended up staying for about six weeks in Georgetown, what with a trip home to work, a visit from my parents, and Christmas and New Year’s holding us in once place.
|Waves. Fun. Stocking Island, Bahamas.|
|Walking on the empty beach with Grandma, Stocking Island, Bahamas.|
Best DivingWe only went diving in a couple of places. For some reason, Alexander and I seemed prone to ear infections after diving, which put a damper on the experience.
We did our PADI course in the Caymans, and enjoyed diving there right off the beach. But the best diving we had was in Honduras. This ranks as number one for a couple of reasons. It was remarkably cheap, especially compared to the cost of diving in the Caymans. It was the first dive we went on without an instructor. And we got to dive on the wreck of a ship and a plane, which had been sunk right next to each other. The whole thing was pretty cool. Too bad my ears hurt for weeks after.
|Wreck dive on Roatan, Honduras.|
|Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.|
Cuba, on the other hand, was different than any place we had ever been. Cuba is an anachronism wrapped in an enigma. (An enigmanism? Or maybe an anachronigma?). It is like the whole country got frozen in the late fifties, and things have just been decaying elegantly ever since. We loved our time exploring there. The people were incredibly friendly, the music was beautiful, and the way they carved joyful lives out of difficult circumstances was uplifting.
|Walking in Santiago de Cuba.|
|Sweet ride in Holguin, Cuba.|
|Park Central, Gibara, Cuba.|
|Market day in Panajachel, Guatemala.|
|"Chicken Bus", in Antigua, Guatemala.|