Our new group arrived on the 29th, the first sunny day we’d had in a week. Evidence of Global Warming is everywhere these days, and the weather is any thing but predictable. But somehow we keep getting lucky and wind or sun would be in no shortage for the next week.
It seems an eternity ago that I happened across an old friend, completely unexpectedly. I was having a tough day, running around Cartagena, Colombia trying to get parts for Discovery, dripping sweat in the blistering humid heat. I sat down for a moment in the yacht club trying to plan my next move when in walked Francis Savage, who crewed for me for two seasons in the South Pacific a few years ago. We hadn’t seen or spoken to one another (Francis isn’t too keen on modern technology, such as email) since June, 2005 in Buenos Aires, me on my way to sail around Cape Horn, Francis on his way to becoming his own captain (I’d taught Francis how to sail). I guess we always knew that we’d see each other again, but it was a hell of a surprise.
After hauling the boat in Cartagena and getting Discovery ready for another year in the water, Nico and I spent a few days on maintenance items and provisioning, then on a perfectly calm hot morning departed for the San Blas. 5 hours out the winds came on like someone had thrown a switch and within minutes the sails were up and we were ripping towards Panama. We covered the 206 miles in 23 hours- not a bad run. We chose an anchorage near Porvenir to make it easy to pick up Jody early the next morning and were quickly visited by a few Kuna families in dugout canoes offering big smiles, Molas (intricate hand sewn handicrafts), lobster fish and crab. The crab are related to king crab- huge rock crab with big claws and a menacing look. Nico decided they would be dinner. I decided immediately I’d be liking the San Blas.
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.
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.
In some ways we’re back where it all started. At least this is where it all started on trip number 1 back in February. I can’t believe 6 months have passed. 6 trips, 6 thousand miles (if you include the passage from Italy to Trinidad), 32 kite spots, 15 countries, plenty of memories and smiles. It hasn’t been without its disappointments and hardships of course, but that’s what an expedition is all about. We said goodbye today to Ethan, Rogier, Jason and Bruce and tomorrow we set sail right away again for Trinidad to pick up a couple sails, some frozen goods, then hightail it for Puerto La Cruz in Northern Venezuela to get a short break and get Discovery ready for the rest of the season.
This trip by location is just about a dead repeat of trip number one. A 15 day Epic from St Lucia down to Prickly Bay, Grenada. From there we’ll sail a few hundred miles to Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela to take some much needed time off as well as complete a few major projects on Discovery, including a topside freezer, large solar array for some greener charging, which will double as a surfboard rack, possibly a new tender and outboard…it’s a long list.