Once we got both boats to St Thomas we were spent. It was incredibly hot in the day, so I shut all the hatches and took a chance and fired up the aircon, which was heaven! For 10 joyful minutes we lay flat on the sofa, feeling the icy cool air filling up the boat, with the peaceful sound of trickling water in the background. Then we realised the peaceful sound of trickling water was actually a bloody flood gushing down the back of the settee as Bilbo Baggins here had forgotten to open the stopcock, so we were pumping water into the boat rather than out of it.
The anticipation began to grow when a massive Sevenstar ship appeared one day, across from the marina. The gigantic ship was late, and was now taking the space up where our own delayed Sevenstar ship should be. I met a guy who’d been waiting for 3 weeks for this first ship to turn up. Poor bloke ended up flying home and had to pay a delivery skipper to load the boat on his behalf.
Our loading date was pushed back from Saturday to Sunday. Each day cost us £260 for both boats in marina fees. We happened to be in possibly the most expensive marina we’d ever been in. Relieved as both boats were in one place, but eager to get this shit show over with and stop haemorrhaging money.
We had missed every single carnival in the Caribbean over February and March whilst on this stupid mission to buy HC. We had missed one in Martinique, one in Bonaire and one in St Croix each by just one day. All Trina had wanted for months was to go to a Carnival. So Trina finally got her wish in St Thomas when the carnival came to town. Twerk tastic! Here’s a lovely wholesome video of proceedings; cover your children’s eyes.
Our Sevenstar ship arrived and, knowing we’d have to get both boats alongside it at some point in the week, we found this pretty nerve wracking. The days were windy, the ship was huge, and the loading times and instructions were changing by the hour.
When yet another delay was announced, we went about moving all of our belongings from Excalibur to HC. We had a lot of stuff! We packed up all the memories that adorned the walls and nooks and crannies around Excalibur. Some memories have clocked up quite a substantial number of sea miles over the years. Ben’s knot has done 10,000nm for example. Through the rough and the smooth, these constant reminders of friends from back home have accompanied me as I learned to sail with Excalibur around the UK and France, and now to the Caribbean with Trina. When I’ve been far away from home and missing friends and fam, the whole bloody boat reminds me how god awfully lonely I am (lol I jest, but I really like the comfort it brings to have them around me). So we transported Scally’s memories to their new home on board the good ship HC, ready for the next chapter.
I won’t be able to list them all, but here’s just a few.
- ‘Fridge over troubled water’ picture from Fran.
- Princess, Trina’s discounted pink chihuahua from B&H
- Ollie’s 3d printed diesel key, broken mug (which has done 2 Atlantic crossings, 3 if you count the return trip on Sevenstars), blow-up parrot, strip poker cards (never been played, by us anyhow)
- Ben’s casserole dish, climbing knot
- Neil’s Boatshed stress ball
- Azerbaijani tea from when I visited James and Elaine
- Acid Teddy gifted to us from Matt & Jo (the rum went a long time ago)
- Oli and Geri’s wedding gin
- Jamie’s picture from my Graphic days. RIP Graphic
- Eliza’s goldfish, that’s been all over!
- Dave’s many drinking vestibules. Let the adventure begin!
- Anne and Paul’s Robin
- Trina’s pisspot, modified to fit in Scally’s cockpit cupboard (the epoxied bottom has since failed. It started to leak the other week and has now been thrown out)
- James ‘disaster at sea’ book
There are so many, and I will have forgotten them all so I apologise for any that haven’t been listed.
We packed up and sent off 4 huge boxes of the previous owner’s belongings, which was quite time consuming. But on the upside, with our stuff and Scally memories dispersed around HC, we were well on the way to exorcising the ghosts of HC’s past.
Monday came and we found out Sevenstar were still fixing a crane needed to load the boats. Some rockstar looking iguanas (the one in the pic we christened Iggy Pop) hung around while we sat on a bench watching a few boats being lifted. Traci called to say our loading times had been pushed back til Tuesday.
A bolt snapped while I was replacing the fan belt on Excalibur, so I left Trina to go on a bus ride to the other side of the island in search of a replacement for this very particular bolt. Catching buses to find someone who sells the thing that you need to fix the thing that broke was a familiar Caribbean pastime by now. Not that I minded. I’d rather sit on a bus to find a bolt than sit in an office behind a computer. Though those days were nearly upon us again. Baaah!!
Taking the bus back, I got off just as Trina was walking down the road. Trina’s morning hadn’t been as pleasant as mine though. I told her with great pride, ‘I’ve got the bolt!’. She told me some pervert had groped and pelvic thrusted her in a narrow aisle in a supermarket. The pervert got one of Trina’s best shoves and was pushed back knocking him over, along with half a dozen stores shelves.
Apart from that encounter, and the worry about loading the boats, life was pretty pleasant in the marina. We made enough friends to make the walk from one boat to the other a half-day excursion, due to the lengthy conversations we had to stop for every few feet.
Once again the loading date was pushed back. We had thought that booking flights 6 days after our initial loading date would have given us a sufficient buffer, but it hadn’t.
We reluctantly arranged for a delivery skipper to move both boats from the marina to the cargo ship, a distance of 500 feet for the sum of $870. Trina thinks my standard default is to throw money at a problem to make it go away. And I was secretly relieved not to have to load the boats myself, but in reality there was nothing either of us could do. We had to catch our flight. One of the main reasons I find sailing attractive is because it makes me do things I don’t want to do, or don’t think I can do, but end up doing anyway, with mixed results. We would have loaded the boats ourselves if the dates hadn’t been pushed back, but it was pretty good feeling when suddenly loading the boats became somebody else’s problem.
The next morning I stood in a very empty and sparse Excalibur, let out a sigh and closed her up. Sad times, but what can you do. We waved goodbye to the two boats, who were off on an unaccompanied journey of their own. We hoped to see them back in the UK in a month’s time. The cargo ship would set off for Antigua, then to the Bahamas, from there to Rhode Island, and from there straight across the North Atlantic to Southampton.
Yogi drove us to the airport, and we flew to Puerto Rico on the smallest plane I’ve ever been in. We managed to touch down just before a storm hit.
We got into another taxi, and had a night pounding the streets of beautiful Old San Juan. Had a nice dinner, failed to find any despacito-ing going on of a Monday night, and collapsed back at the hotel. The next day we got on a Thomas Cook flight to Gatwick. Knowing that by the time we landed, both boats would be on the cargo ship and that would be mission accomplished. Like the classy, almost totally broke couple we were, we ordered Thomas Cook’s best champagne and a packet of Kit-Kat bites. God how we had missed chocolate!
When we landed Trina had some text messages. Excalibur was loaded, but the delivery skipper couldn’t start the engine on HC. That was the extent of the information. It was now 3am Caribbean time, so no-one was picking up the phone. Our triumphant return fizzled and deflated as we didn’t know whether or not HC was on the cargo ship, which was already on its way to Antigua. Thoughts ran through our minds along the lines of, are we going to have to turn right around and fly back to St Thomas to move HC out of the crazy expensive marina? Should we risk moving her to the BVIs, where Irma decimated the entire island? Or should we turn around and sail back to the safe zone of Bonaire or Curacao, thereby undoing all the hard work we had put into getting her to the USVIs – oh yeah and now of course we had a questionable leaky prop shaft and a genoa ripped to shreds. AW GAWD!!!
There was no fanfare to greet us at Gatwick, unlike our St Lucia arrival. I think this is how the majority of sailing trips go. Big send off, quiet return. Unless you’ve earned your stripes and done a full circumnavigation. Then you might get a party popper or two. But it’s fine, if we were all about the attention, we’d have kept our Instagram account updated and I’d have been having daily deck showers in a bikini.
We got on a bus back to my folks’ place, paid the bus driver in familiar coinage, and before we knew it we were back home at the kitchen table drinking tea with my folks, hearing about village life. Like a Dallas dream sequence it felt like the last 9 months was all a dream. Until morning arrived in the USVIs and the delivery skipper returned our calls to say he’d used his little 2.5hp dinghy to tow all 25 tonnes of HC to the cargo ship and all was fine.
Mum’s sausage rolls; steaming hot bath; ale at the village pub; bed. Home.