So I’ve got a fixed mouth and a fixed knee, compliments of one of our owners and one of our sponsors (nice to know doctors!). Other than body repairs, my brief time home was spent visiting my mom and sister, catching up with friends, and working with Jody on all those little things that keep The Best Odyssey operational. A littany of parts needed to be ordered, shopping for needed supplies, planning for future trips, and research for our 09′ season across Micronesia. This last bit entails hours and hours of hunkering down with guides, google earth, internet searches, airline schedules, pilot charts (which give averages of wind and current for specific times of the year). And while it is a bit grueling, it’s also fun imagining and fantasizing the places to come. We now have the first half of 09′ roughly sketched out across Micronesia: Kiribati, the Marshall islands, and much of the Carolines from Kosrae to Palau and dozens of islands in between.
Our first trip to Los Aves proved worthy of a return, which has completely altered our planned itinerary, but all for the good. This time the crew of Discovery only had 4 days to prep both the boat and ourselves for our next guests, Thomas and Adriena Scheuring and their daughter Clara from Germany, and Martin Stockl and Keith Cockrum who would join us from the States. Martin and Keith were on our “try before you buy” gig and I’m happy to say now ten days later that they are our most recent owners! I’m not sure if it was the boat, the food, the locations, or what was the deciding element because unfortunately this trip it probably was not the wind. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Bonaire is hardly remote. It’s been on the scuba diving map for 3 decades and sports a healthy tourism industry, due to the sound management of its ecological treasures. But it feels way off the map, and we’re finding much to love. With Los Aves so nearby, exploring the two on one trip makes for one hell of a journey. And #11 was wicked in the best of ways.
We finished up the last 4 days of the Best trip in Los Roques with just two guests onboard, Ian Huschle, the CEO of Best, out for his second trip on The Best Odyssey, and Michael Bigger, one of Best’s investors. We’d had nearly perfect conditions for the first 10 days, but somehow the winds got even better and really cranked for the final go. Jody still wanted to nail some shots on the outer reef with two of the wrecks, so we headed east out to the barrier reef one last time.
I have to admit something that will likely reap some funny looks. Jody and I are told by just about everyone who comes out here that our job is incredible. We run a boat that is going around the world seeking remote and special places to kiteboard and explore that most people will never see. OK, put that way I too think it sounds pretty grand. Hell, it’s why we put the expedition together in the first place. But until this trip with Best Jody and I were both seeing a pretty small light at the end of a very long tunnel. No days off, no income, lots of debt, rarely doing any of the things our owners and guests got to do in abundance. Maintenance, cleaning, chores, always racing to be ready for the next group and never really catching up have been adding to up to very long days and very little peace. Yes, we’ve got a great office, but you start to lose perspective. You know you’re in trouble when turquoise water and gorgeous sunsets are glossed over like yesterday’s paper.
We’ve got the Best crew for 15 days in Los Roques, which they’ve split into 3 trips of 5 days each. The first go brings us Gavin Butler, Best’s photographer, Alvaro Onieva, currently 3rd in the world on the PKRA, Rou Chater from Ikitesurf magazine, and the two lucky winners of Best’s retail challenge to win a free trip on The Best Odyssey, Harm Wattel and Martin Kooger from Xwatersports in Holland.
We’d gotten a couple nice evening sessions in Tortuga and were planning our early morning departure for Los Roques when we got “wind” of Hurricane Dean. My forecast had light wind and little swell on the horizon, but upon further investigation we found the beast bearing down on Martinique, forecasted to sweep 180 miles north of Los Roques in two days. I felt that was a little too close for comfort, so we decided to spend another day in Tortuga.
We had an interestingly painful week in port prepping for #9, the trip we are now on. I had two large shipments to navigate through customs and in some ways was unsuccessful with both. The first were 8 solar panels which had been shipped to Miami two months ago and then brought down to Margarita by boat. I’d done this to avoid the hefty import taxes Venezuela places on “luxury items”. The second was our paragliding tow winch, which was coming from Slovenia via Air France freight, to arrive in Caracas.
This trip ranks as highly or better than any I’ve done in the past 8 years. With lighter winds than expected and hoped for it proves that the group dynamic is the most important thing on any expedition and these guys rank among the best. Of course, the mood was helped with 12 out of 14 days of kiting, most of them either at sunset or under the full moon with a strong sea breeze blowing late in the day.
My return to Discovery was not exactly welcoming, nor even pleasant. A long flight from Seattle to Caracas, a sleepness night in a ratty hotel near the airport and then an early flight to Puerto La Cruz burdened with three massive bags and boxes stuffed with gear, parts and galley equipment only to be met with a frantic Nico. The water pump to the freezer had quit the night before and we were losing all our frozen goods. I dumped all the gear, hooked up the cooling water intake to the shore water and ran to the chandlery to purchase a new pump (and spare). The next 5 days would be of much the same. Replace the impellar for the generator after overheating, two of the 4 electric heads were down and needed replacement,…not a fun week in the blazing heat.