When we returned from St.Barth, Antigua Race Week had finished, the hurricane season was approaching, and the harbour had transformed itself from a busy and bustling international sailing centre into a ghost town. There were few boats left, and fewer people.
I had been thinking for a while about what the next step would be. It felt like time to leave Antigua, but Elin and I didn’t feel like going straight back to the itinerant cruising lifestyle – much fun though it is, it doesn’t present a huge challenge after a while, and is, in some ways, a pointless endeavour of tourism. I was also running out of dosh, and was realising that working as a boatbuilder doesn’t pay that well when you take every second week off to go sailing. It was time for a new project.
I wanted a challenging skippering job, and Elin wanted to live on a farm. Damn. We scratched our heads for a while, trying to work out how to do both at the same time, together, and soon came to a standstill – daily teleportation, a dinghy on the duck-pond, investment in climate change and an Ark; these options were all carefully considered, but finally it was obvious that the two lifestyles just don’t go hand in hand.
Meanwhile, in customary timely fashion, and partly thanks to our success at Antigua Classics, I was offered a job as skipper of a 90′ classic 1920s ketch. Elin was invited to run it with me, but after much consideration she realised that she was tired of boats and needed her own project for a while. I understood, and while part of me wanted to join her and go to live with horses in Sweden, I knew that I couldn’t turn down the job that would teach me more than anything else I could do, and might not present itself again for quite some time.
And so she climbed onto a plane, and I stayed behind.
Next, I took Lorema to a boatyard on the North Coast of the Island, where I stored her safely in an enormous hurricane-proof, sun-sheltered shed. I took a few things, tidied up, lashed the boom down, wiped a little tear away, and left her there. In just a few days, I had managed to lose both my ladies!
But change is good, change is healthy and exciting, and I knew I would be back to sail Lorema again.
The new boat, Sincerity, 90′ of teak and oak and mahogany, flew a Norweigen flag, and welcomed me aboard with mixed feelings. The owner had left shortly after we met, and the only crew on board was a Dominican guy, unusually skilled in the art of having a conversation with you that bears absolutely no relation to anything you might say or have said. When not engaged in this pursuit, he sulked and muttered with his headphones in. I left him to his sanding and varnishing, and started to organise and prepare the boat for a trip north.
I now know that the work involved building or working on a boat is not proportional to its length, but to its displacement, or size. Sincerity is only three and a half times longer than Lorema, but she weighs over thirty times as much. She was filled with several generations of hydraulic, electrical, and plumbing systems that I barely understood and that seemed barely to work. Slowly I worked my way through the boat, labelling, understanding, fixing, sweating, cursing, disbelieving, bodging, sometimes uncomprehending, but usually learning something.
Some crew eventually turned up, as did the owner. Little by little, we got the boat ready for the ocean. And finally, after some sincere goodbyes to some great new friends, I set sail with a new crew and a new boat, away from the Caribbean. Apprehension and excitement, a new adventure and an open horizon, and thirty times as much boat to break.