It had been a long time since I last
wrote something here. So now I’m returning with a vengeance! (Pictures will be posted soon)

As most of you know I’ve been working
like mad the last few months for Royal Caribbean, to make some much
needed cash. My sailboat, though wonderful, is a black hole for my
already limited budget, so I really need to replenish my drained and
strained bank account. 

This post will be a bit long, because
I’ll try to update everyone on what’s happened since the last post,
when I was enjoying life in St. Maarten. The plan was to begin
working for Royal Caribbean within a few days of walking off my boat,
but I needed to get a medical done and most importantly I needed a
new C1/D visa (This is something Royal Caribbean requires for anyone
that works for them). The easiest place to get that done was on
Barbados. While Royal Caribbean would pay for my flights down there,
they wouldn’t cover hotel, so I turned to my old friend to see if I could find a place to stay for free. Low
and behold I got a response from Vicky and Steve living just north of
Bridgetown. When I arrived in Barbados I jumped on a bus to Fitts
Village, where Vicky met me at the bus stop and we walked up to their
excellent house. Vicky and Steve turned out to be a fantastic couple
that I really enjoyed hanging out with. Their background was cool,
involving a lot of traveling and a interesting lifestyle. They had
amongst other things run the largest nightclub in the Caribbean, run
a few restaurants and enjoyed life. They recently decided to
“retire”, so when I met them, they had a lot of time on their
hands, which was great, because we really got to hang out and have
fun together. I almost felt sorry for their youngest daughter Kim,
because I became a new addition to the family (Their oldest daughter
was away when I was staying there, but I got to meet her later when I
returned to Barbados with the Vision of the Seas (the cruise ship I
started working on when I left Barbados).

Their house had a big pool and a very
comfortable lounging area. Though I contacted them through
Couchsurfing, I actually got my own room. On sunny days the time was
spent in the pool other times we just hung out inside. Mostly we
drank copious amounts of Mount Gay and Coke and talked. I ended up
getting my visa from the US embassy and enjoyed every second on
Barbados. Steve, Vicky and Kim will hopefully come and sail with me
as soon as I get my ass back on my boat in November.

When I left Barbados I flew straight to
Santo Domingo and joined the Vision of the Seas as their Head
Broadcast Technician. The itinerary we cruised was pretty good: St.
Maarten, Dominica, St. Kitts, Antigua, Barbados, Venezuela and Aruba
in addition to the Dominican Republic.

The only hick-up was that it went
pear-shaped with Trond and Thomas who was taking care of my boat.
They were doing charters in the BVI’s for me sailing around with
Norwegian guests. The plan was good, but it proved to be a huge
mistake on my end to trust two people I didn’t know 100% to take care
of my boat. Without going into detail I can say that I’ve learned a
big lesson from this and if I ever meet them again I’ll drop-kick
them. You’ll understand more when you hear the state the boat was in
when I picked the boat up from them a few months later.

The original plan was to work as a Head
Broadcast Tech for Royal Caribbean till the beginning of June, when I
would return to St. Maarten, pick up my boat and take her out of the
hurricane area for the duration of the hurricane season. A sound
plan, until I was asked if I wanted to work as a Port & Shopping
Guide instead. This implied a small increase in pay, the emphasis
here is small, but it meant less work and most importantly I’d get to
challenge myself in very different ways. Instead of being behind the
camera I’d now be making presentations in front of people. What’s
more is that these presentations would be recorded and shown to
guests on TV on my own channel. So I went from controlling what’s on
TV to being the face on TV. After some deliberation I decided to
accept the job.

The next few days passed in a blur: I
resigned from Royal Caribbean, left the Vision of the Seas and flew
to Miami for training (or a conference as they called it) with my new
employer, Onboard Media, at their headquarters on Miami Beach. I
spent 4 excellent days in training together with the “European
Dreamteam”, working hard and preparing for my return to the Vision
of the Seas.

Well, we worked hard and played hard as
well. I shared room with Erick and a little refreshment (or two)
never hurt.

I had to leave the conference in Miami
a day early, because I had frightfully little time to sail my boat
from St. Maarten to Aruba. The sail was a 4 – 5 day sail, but I
wanted to leave with good margins, because I needed to be on Aruba by
May 2nd, so that I could fly to England to join the Vision

Trond and Thomas were supposed to
arrive with the boat on St. Maarten on Wednesday evening, because I
had ordered parts and a service person that was standing by to fix
the autopilot. When I arrived in the afternoon on Thursday the boat
wasn’t there. I was alarmed, because this meant they were a day late,
but hoped they were delayed and would arrive in the course of the
night. The next morning they were still not there and I had not
received any word from them. I was upset and didn’t know what to do.
It’s a horrible thing to wait for something when you have no idea,
why you’re waiting and how long you have to wait. I was wondering if
something was wrong and most importantly I couldn’t understand why
they didn’t get in touch with me when all of the BVI’s has cell phone
coverage. When I tried to call them their phones were turned off. I
was getting fairly frantic and waited another night, but on Saturday
morning I decided that something must be horribly wrong, because they
had now taken more than 3 times the time it should take to sail from
St. Thomas to St. Maarten calculating with a very slow speed. When I
was basically lifting the phone to call the Coastguard to start a
search for them, they called me. They were still in St. Thomas. I
couldn’t believe what I heard. They had set sail for St. Maarten, but
had broken the second engine (this is after they had succeeded in
breaking the first engine a few weeks earlier, so I had heavy engine
parts with me).

What amazed me is that they were
halfway to St. Maarten when the engine broke, but instead of sailing
on, they sailed back to St. Thomas and anchored there, knowing full
well the incredibly tight schedule I was on. This forced me to leave
the new mainsail I had gotten delivered to St. Maarten with Ian and
Lee, because I had to fly to St. Thomas to take over the boat there.
I was able to bring the engine parts with me, because I viewed them
as absolutely essential, but somehow the mechanic Thomas and Trond
were using had ordered the wrong parts from Italy, so I brought 25 kg
of wrong parts with me. So no matter what I would be unable to fix
that engine, because new parts would have to be ordered from Italy.

I assessed the situation and basically
kicked the guys off the boat as soon as I could. When I saw the state
of the boat I couldn’t believe that I had trusted them with her. I
had no working engines, no autopilot and my brand new mainsail was on
St. Maarten, because they couldn’t sail a sailboat from one island to
the other, and on top of that I didn’t have enough time to pick up my
new sail on St. Maarten before I needed to be in Aruba in time for my
flight to Europe. I think the fact that they hadn’t bothered to do
the dishes the last week, so it was standing moldy and green in the
sink when they left, illustrates well Trond and Thomas’s character.
There was no way to get parts for the autopilot, but I managed to get
one engine working by cleaning the fuel filter.

I was now faced with a 5 day sail
without autopilot … on my own. I knew I would be stretching the
rubber band very, very far if I did that, so I went ashore and looked
for potential crew. Picture me walking on the pier asking random
strangers if they would be interested in sailing to Aruba.
Miraculously enough I got a yes. I spoke to the manager of On Deck, a
company doing day sails and match racing. He knew a guy, who had his
son, Scott, visiting. In his opinion Scott would be perfect. Scott
gave me a call and we agreed that I would pay for food and his ticket
back to St. Thomas and that would be it. We met for the first time 45
minutes later, outside Customs and Immigration when we checked out of
the US. Having successfully checked out we hurried an bought a lot of
food for the journey, before we returned to the boat. Within two
hours of talking on the phone for the first time, Scott and I were
lifting anchor and motoring away from Charlotte Amalie.

The weather was really good, we had 15
– 18 knots of Easterly wind blowing consistently for pretty much the
entire journey. Waves were also coming in from that direction and I’d
say the waves were between 1 – 1.5 meters high. We were holding a
south-westerly course and got the wind and waves in from just aft of
our beam. The true challenge of the trip was that we had to steer by
hand the entire journey. We were looking at 4-5 days where one of us
would always had to be on the wheel. Due to the direction of the
waves it was impossible to lash the wheel and let the boat sail
herself, because you constantly needed to make adjustments. I was
really lucky, because Scott was exactly the sort of sailor I was
looking for: Hard working, always in high spirits and knowledgeable
about sailing. We had a good tone and the trip went very smoothly.
Before we knew it, we had Aruba on the horizon and we had actually
done the entire trip in 3 days, so we were very happy. We pulled up
alongside the customs and immigration dock an hour after darkness had
descended. Checking in was the easiest I’d experienced and by far the
cheapest, because it cost nothing. Having checked in, we cast off and
motored towards the marina, which was further into the lagoon we had
sailed into. It was very shallow and dark in the lagoon, but my draft
made it possible. When we got to the marina, we couldn’t find an
obvious place to dock, except at the end of one of the docks, where
we were too long. It ended up taking me three attempts to maneuver us
alongside, but finally we were tied up and could relax.

We were both tired, happy and ready for
a shower, me especially so, because I fell overboard as we were
docking, so I was drenched and having cut my arm and leg when I fell
overboard, I was also a bit bloody. The best part was when I realized
I’d lost my Rolex when I fell overboard: I grabbed a mask and dive
flashlight and jumped into the dark lagoon. While I was frantically
searching for my watch I reflected upon the nature of the lagoon.
They are normally frequented by sharks and being so close to
Venezuela and rainforest I even feared crocs or alligators. Bleeding
quite profusely from my arm and leg, I can promise you my heart was
racing, but the end is good because I found the watch and climbed
back onboard without ending up as someone’s midnight snack. I later
asked and was informed that there were no alligators or crocs in the
lagoon, but sharks … you bet. Oh well, that which does not kill
you, …

Scott and I cleaned up in the marina
shower and decided to drink beers instead of making dinner and for
entertainment we put on Pirates of the Caribbean and drank rum until
we passed out. A perfect ending to a great sail.

I had two days to arrange everything. I
tried to get my boat out of the water the following day, but it
couldn’t be done before the following Tuesday when I was on the other
side of the Atlantic. It ended up working out wonderfully, in large
parts thanks to Sally, a wonderful solo sailor also tied up in the
marina for hurricane season. Scott and I moved the boat to a part of
the dock where we could be lifted out of the water and then went
about preparing the boat for my long absence. We literally finished
preparing the boat when Sally picked me up and drove me to the
airport. Scott stayed in the boat a few extra days and explored Aruba
and Sally oversaw the lifting out of my boat.

It was with a huge sigh of relief I
could board the plane knowing that my boat would be safe while I was
away. I didn’t have time to relax, because as soon as the plane took
off I had to power on my laptop and start working on the port and
shopping presentations that I would be holding as soon as I got
onboard the Vision of the Seas.

Looking back, it is incredible that the
journey from St. Thomas worked out as well as it did. I can promise
you that I wasn’t quite as optimistic when I was waiting on St.
Maarten wondering where my boat was. Now the story moves to the
Vision of the Seas, where my adventures continue 🙂