I wrote this post over a week ago but was unable to upload it for a variety of reasons, including internet access issues in Belize, the Nightcreeper Incident (about which I will blog imminently) and my expedited Escape from Belize. Thus, I now bring you a belated post about my sailing trip in the Caribbean. For those of you keeping track of my itinerary (hi Mum), the events relayed in this post happened during 17 – 20 July.
Arr, cast ye minds back a span* and remember what the world was like then. Let me spin ye a tale of adventure on the high seas. Well, actually, dictionary.com tells me that technically, it not be the ‘high seas’ as such. But it be a tale! Arr – ’tis a tale…
I am finishing off breakfast at one of Caye Caulker’s many outdoor waterside establishments. A Canadian man passing by starts chatting to my friend, Karin, who has been trying to get on one of the organised two night trips that, allegedly, depart from Caye Caulker a couple of times a week. Alas, due to insufficient numbers, they have been cancelled, leaving Karin high and dry. Literally.
The Canadian guy, conveniently named Guy, is sailing his 42ft catamaran, The Hipsway, south along the same route as the organised tours and has a couple of spare cabins and offers to take Karin with him but in vastly improved comfort than the organised tours.
Does Karin want to go with him? Not really. It seems potentially dangerous. I mean, who is this random guy? (It’s Canadian Guy!) It’s not a legit tour. It sounds too good to be true. It goes against pretty much everything we solo female travelers have been told to keep ourselves safe.
At which point, I – Christine ‘Danger’ Brooks – decide to get involved. How much? (Pretty reasonable.) Who else? (His 13 year old son and a Canadian couple.) Is it legal? (Not really – he’ll sign us on as crew).
When traveling, I trust my gut. I get a feel for a situation and make a call. Is this one of those opportunities that come up and you have to grab them? (Spoiler: it is.) And so I do.
I have about an hour to go and pack up my stuff, check out of my room, get some cash from the ATM that only sometimes works on Sundays (it’s Sunday), buy anything I need for the next three days, let loved ones know I am about to embark on a slightly dodgy-sounding venture, and get down to the wharf for some sweet sailing action!
At this point, Karin decides to join the trip too and I am pleased that there will be a familiar face if and when I meet my watery doom. You know the old proverb: ‘A drowing shared is a drowning halved’.
And so it begins. We load our packs, a massive chiller, and ourselves onto a tiny little skiff and ride the choppy waves out to The Hipsway, who is moored offshore. Saturated, we arrive at the boat, form a human chain and load up the catamaran. It transpires that a long floaty silk skirt is not the ideal clothing for this activity.
Canadian Guy goes back to collect the other two adventurers (Anna the Ukrainian Canadian and Dan the Jerseyman), while Karin and I explore our home for the next few days. The Hipsway is great – it has a lived in feel, with aloe vera plants in little pots, lures hanging up above the table, and waterproof beanbags on the deck. All the home comforts of a modern boat!
Once we’re all aboard, we get ready for departure. Captain Canadian Guy uses Canadian Coop, his 13 year old son, to excellent effect as first mate. As we bob out into the ocean, we all look at each other like we can’t believe our luck.
And honestly? We can’t. The weather is perfect. Just enough wind that we can sail, zipping along at a good pace. Sun, sun and more sun.
It is also hurricane season. This, Canadian Guy tells us once we’re safely offshore, is the reason we see no other vessels on the water. Canadian Guy assures us it’s fine. Besides, he has sailed in worse and survived. And you’ve got to go somehow, right?
It transpires that one of the ‘rough seas’ Canadian Guy has experienced is The Perfect Storm. Yes. That Perfect Storm. The one brought to life in ‘dramatic, disaster film’ The Perfect Storm, about the confluence of events that result in a storm so perfect, Canadian God himself could not have designed it more effectively. Yes. the one where a hapless ship stumbles into said Perfect Storm. Yes. The one where there are no survivors and so the author and film-makers had to interview people like Canadian Guy who were on another boat in the same storm and survived and use that as the basis for the story. Yes. That one.
This is the beginning of the Many Crazy Tales of Canadian Guy. He was a fisherman most of his life, a seasonal job that gave him ample opportunity to pursue all sorts of other activities, boasting varying degrees of legality.
A brief list of things Canadian Guy has dabbled in (a list that does not begin to adequately capture the stories Canadian Guy told in their true techni-colour detail. The man is basically Baron Münchhausen):
- For around six years, he lived on a giant papaya orchard in the Dominican Republic, building a House of Folly, which he eventually had to abandon due to the harsh mistresses of time and money.
- He recently worked as a bodyguard for a decidedly dodgy sounding character (who, by the way, now owes him a lot of money). Canadian Guy and the dodgy character tore around the border regions of safe Colombia, crossing borders at midnight, pursued by druglords.
- He has acted as a stuntman in the movie industry. No big deal.
- He did something in the music industry that seemed to result in him hanging out with a lot of famous musicians during the eighties and nineties.
- He created some sort of commune in Mexico, where he paid off beer truck drivers to come and deliver by the crateload. Likewise, the icecream man.
Today? Canadian Guy lives a simple life. About four years ago, he sold his farm in British Columbia, Canada and bought a boat. Now he sails around the Caribbean doing pretty much whatever he damn well pleases. Once each year for a month, Canadian Coop joins him and they have adventures together.
It is one of these adventures we have stumbled upon. Thankfully, it is decidedly less death-defying than many of his past adventures. Or is it? (Spoiler: it is.)
We catch lobster and barracuda. We go snorkeling. We visit tiny little mangrove cayes. Only once in the course of four days do we go onto land, to Tobacco Caye – former docking point for pirates (who all look like Johnny Depp, right guyz?) – where we enjoy a cold beer at the open air beachside bar.
One night, too hot in my cabin, I sleep up on the top deck, feeling the breeze and looking up at the stars, getting salty air all over my face. It is completely magical. When we get too hot during the day, we just jump off the boat into the warm waters of the Caribbean.
We all take turns cooking and preparing food. One morning I make french toast with a side of fruit salad including papaya, grapefruit and banana. We feast on freshly caught fish and lobster. We drink cocktails of rum and fruit juice and ginger ale.
In short, we live like aquatic kings.
As we near Placencia on our fourth day, we look at the land and each other and wonder aloud how we’ll adjust back to “real life”.
We reluctantly alight from the boat, and step back into a world of humidity and mosquitos, and say our fond farewells to our little nautical family of the past four days.
Unsure of how to interact with this world, I hibernate in my hotel room for a couple of days, emerging only for meals. While in my cave, I attempt to put together a little souvenir that captures the magic of this journey. I fall short but share it with you anyway: