Homeward Bound

Genevieve now floats peacefully in Port Jefferson Harbor on the North Shore of Long Island after a long, fun, varied journey–some of it meandering through familiar islands, some of it on the open North Atlantic.  Read on…

In February, we had limited options heading north from Antigua due to COVID border restrictions, which made it impossible to stop at our old haunts of St Barts, St Martin etc. and prevented us from breaking new ground in Anguilla, Saba, Eustatia.  But the US Virgins were welcoming anyone and everyone so we set sail from Antigua for the 180 mile sail to St Thomas.  We were subjected to a rough Caribbean slog with the wind and waves on the beam, enabling us to make great speed but with large side-on rolly waves and squalls dumping rain and high winds on us.  John was not impressed! 

In St Thomas, we dried out and quickly started to appreciate some of the sights and sounds of the US Virgin Islands that we had glossed over on previous visits.  Immediately we noticed how clear the water was and how vibrant the sea life was with evening visits from dolphins, shark sightings, turtles galore.  We hosted a couple of sets of good friends from NY to share the fun with, which was a nice distraction and it was a joy to explore the sun sea and sand with folks who had been locked down for months in the dark cold Northeast.

A mile or less from the US Virgin Islands sit the British Virgin Islands, a favorite of ours, but the BVI borders had been closed from the onset of the pandemic.  However, we discovered a natty loophole: If we had Genevieve “imported” by a licensed captain and we flew to the BVI and endured multiple tests and quarantine procedures, we could get in.  So we arranged to leave Genevieve to be picked up at a mooring, ferried ourselves to the airport and chartered a plane to fly us the 10 miles to Beef Island airport in the BVI.  Our sinuses endured test after test, we isolated and masked, but eventually we were free to roam the spookily empty BVIs. 

After a month of BVI bliss it was time to return to the US islands to prepare for our long sail to New York by way of Bermuda.  Part of the plan involved persuading our pals Lisa and Stephen to leave their boat in Panama, where they had been riding out COVID, to join us on the sail north.  And, as we successfully procured help from two such seasoned sailors, John decided that he could safely skip the long sail and fly home to prepare for our eventual arrival.  So we got him to the airport, prepared Genevieve, stocked the fridge with delicious pre-prepared meals, filled the tanks, and cleared out of the US Virgin Islands for the five day 700 mile sail, almost directly north to Bermuda.

To start, we enjoyed two days of fast, fun, warm reaching. As the sea temperature started to fall, but with shorts still on, the wind veered and we shook out Genevieve’s spinnaker for the first time ever and enjoyed two days of broad reaching.  Stephen complained that John’s fishing rods were faulty as we had only one fish bite in the first four days.  Unfortunately we worked out that it was better to take the protective cork off the barbed hook before you put it in the water.  So that first bite did not supply dinner.

Day five, as we neared Bermuda, the wind died and we ended up motoring into St George’s Harbour, tied up to the (suddenly windy and hard to negotiate!) customs dock and completed our entry process with the nicest and funniest customs officials we had ever met.  But, although friendly, they would not let us go to the pub until our COVID test results were in, so we had to retreat to the anchoring field and bide our time before we could procure $10 pints of Bermudan beer.  Once proven negative (again), we motor-sailed to Hamilton, and tied up in a fancy marina.  However, we decided the quaint (and cheap) town dock at St George’s was more our style, so we headed back there the next day to explore the impossibly lovely east end, replenish, and watch the weather for a window to depart for NYC.

The weather between Bermuda and NY was a bit unpredictable, but eventually we picked a departure time and date, cleared out, and we were off!  The first 12 hours as we headed around the northeastern reefs was breezy and wet as the Atlantic waves piled up on the reefs.  We found out that some of our hatches were quite leaky when subjected to the waves breaking over the bow and shooting towards the cockpit and us.  But as soon as we turned to the northwest we enjoyed better conditions, more fast reaching, but this time with long trousers and fleecy layers as the water and air temperature plummeted. 

Ship traffic was more or less nonexistent, just a couple of distant AIS signals that did not make it over the horizon. We passed the time tweaking sail trim; listening to chill vibes, country, disco, pop; eating great food (thanks Lisa!); discussing the world’s problems; fighting over the cockpit fleecy blanket; counting meteors at night; telling yarns and jokes; and fishing, still without success.

Suddenly, as we approached the Gulf Steam, the faulty fishing rods became non-faulty and we had a huge bite.  So huge in fact that the leaping, spectacular sailfish, spectacularly and rapidly pulled out the entire line and made off with it and the lure!  Then again, as we crossed the Canyons off the New Jersey coast, another gargantuan fishy took another lure and line in a flash.  So now it was not so much the rods at fault, but the enormity of the oceanic fish that was to blame for our non-pescatarian menu.  However, our faith in the rods were restored when eventually we landed a manageable tuna, dressed him up as delicious fish tacos and invited him to dinner!

On the dawn of the last day, we had an uncomfortable time when the wind decided to blow directly from NYC and we tacked to and fro making little progress, but the wind died away and we ended up motoring on calm-ish seas as the USA came into view followed, painfully slowly, by the hazy outline of the Verrazano Bridge and New York City.  Soon, we were playing our carefully curated collection of NY songs on the speakers and watching New York City unfold in front of us!  Under the bridge, we made a detour to high-five Lady Liberty, ogle at Ellis Island, and then rounded the Battery to make landfall in Brooklyn.  What a way to enter the USA! I wonder if anyone else has ever done it that way before?

After exploring the old Brooklyn neighborhood, the familiar bars, and eating good city food, it was time to move on.  We took Genevieve to Jersey to fill her tanks and after a little sightseeing up the Hudson and West Side, we headed up the East River for a spectacular journey under the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsberg Bridges, up the east side of Manhattan, though Devil’s Gate, past Riker’s and into the Long Island Sound where we launched the spinnaker and enjoyed a lovely sail east to Port Jefferson and Genevieve’s temporary summer home.

Enjoy the vids and pics below…

6 thoughts on “Homeward Bound

  1. Hi kiddo, great post, epic journey. We’re on a minor one soon – 45 minutes north to hopefully meet our first grandchild, Ben. Heather went in today to be induced. I will let you know how it goes, DaveSent from my Galaxy


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