When you’ve had 15 years running the Horizon Yacht Charters Antigua base and the wonderful owners of Horizon in Grenada – James and Jacqui – say “would you like to join our photoshoot to enjoy sailing the Windwards as you’ve some downtime?”. Well, you don’t say “Sorry, I have laundry to do”! You say “OMG, SIGN ME UP, WHERE’S MY KIT BAG, YEAH!”. Yes, it’s all in caps as I’m shouting with excitement! Such was the level of our excitement that we started to read all the guides in advance and try and make a mental picture of the sailing area. Who am I kidding? I was checking out the best beach restaurants for fresh lobster!
Now when you tell people that you owned a charter base, it’s a fair assumption that they believe you are a “cruiser”. Not so fast, my readers. My background was rooted firmly in Ad Agency land in London, UK, and my only exposure to sailing was crewing in a classic yacht in Chichester Harbour. Fake news? You tell me!
So, not only did we go into our Caribbean life with a completely open mind, we also had never chartered before! For us, this was a huge positive as we had no pre conceptions or bad habits to un-train; we could simply treat people as we would want to be treated. Well, we are also glass half full type of folks, so positive thinking comes easily. I divulge this only because it gives my blog more context; I am actually seeing and experiencing what you could for the first time as a non-sailor, or for more experienced cruisers, why you are so happily addicted to this lifestyle.
However, for some this was concerning and startling (I know this because I openly told our first sailing guests back in 2004 this nugget and they looked ever so slightly horrified). I think it became apparent when I tried to pull in a heavy, 50’ yacht called JUST AUDACIOUS single handedly with bare hands when the charter guest couldn’t get close to the dock and I shouted “no problem, throw me the line and I’ll pull you in”. Boy, who knew that 15 tons of boat could be that hard to pull? Having only previously owned a Topper to teach myself to sail, this came as a bit of a shock. I have since learnt that these are great sea-faring vessels and you wouldn’t want to be at sea in anything less; and certainly not a bright red, rather tippy Topper.
But I digress, where was I? Oh yes, getting excited by my first ever Grenada cruising experience. For the first time I was going to experience that amazing feeling of being at one with the ocean (is that the official term? Never quite sure as the word “Sea” suggests some grey, south coast, UK waterway that you would avoid at all cost apart from Christmas Day afternoon when you took a “bracing” beach hike to walk off the mince pies). How I miss those Christmas days 😉 Did I mention ‘tongue in cheek?’. My other “cruising” ambition is to own one of those string bags that you fill with onions and swing above the saloon. Yes, I am that sad person.
But what to pack, my goodness, having advised over 200 charter groups on “pack light” “you won’t wear much” “it’s informal here”, I found myself with 1 incredibly large, hard suitcase full of completely inappropriate clothing and nick nacks. I had every eventuality covered: rain, light rain, heavy rain, light breeze, no breeze (don’t ask!) a bit more breeze. Outfits for day, outfits for sundowners…. You name it, I had it. Did I really need my Bose speaker to listen to my Caribbean reggae playlist? Would the sound of the halyards on other boats clacking away not be enough for ambiance? Hmmm… keep to one side and decide last minute. Having managed to get my wardrobe down to just one soft bag, I was decidedly giddy. I was turning into a proper cruiser after all and had visions of selling all of our property and living on a boat with just the fish for company and probably a boat dog. Boat dogs are great for making new friends and more importantly, they look really cute as you come into the dinghy dock. Don’t get ahead of yourself, I was told, it’s just a 10-day trip for goodness sake! Still, with thoughts of what I would call my boat dog (not “Shark” I’m told), we were ready to leave for the airport and catch our flight to Grenada.
Tune in next time for more confessions of an ex-yacht charter company owner and her very first cruising experience in the stunning Windward Islands.
Confessions of a Charter Base Owner part 2 is out and waiting to be read.