I knew right away the news wasn’t good. Our friend Sue had been home in England for much of the summer caring for elderly parents and in the last few days things had deteriorated. I texted Mark across the anchorage as soon as I awoke and he texted back immediately, “I’ll be over shortly.” It was 6 am. I put the coffee on and expected the worst. When Mark arrived a few minutes later he confirmed Sue’s dad had died during the night and he was bound for England on the evening flight.
We had coffee while Mark ran through the options. He would have to leave their boat somewhere safe in Grenada in the middle of hurricane season, not knowing how long he’d be gone and not knowing what the weather will be in the coming weeks. Grenada is “outside the box,” meaning it’s outside the usual path of Atlantic storms, but it does occasionally get hit, most recently in 2004 by Ivan.
This is the downside to cruising. We are by nature drawn to out-of-the-way places, many times completely out of touch and often in areas difficult and expensive to travel from. Here in Grenada there are only two flights a week to England. Had Mark missed Tuesday’s flight he’d’ve either had to wait until Sunday or island-hopped to a bigger island with more options. It’s scary to leave your boat no matter what the circumstances. You can have it hauled out of the water and blocked on land in a marina; you can leave it in the water at a marina at a dock; you can leave it on a mooring or at anchor. All of the options are risky in their own way. It all depends on the boat, the location, the facilities, how long you’ll be gone and what your insurance will cover.
Mark decided to move the boat to a marina but moored, not side-tied to a dock. Boats don’t like being tied to a dock; they prefer to roll with the wind and waves. He was happy with this option, and he had eight hours to move the boat and close it up. Within minutes of talking to the marina Mark had a plan and we all set to work. He directed us well as we stowed the dinghy, motored around to the next bay and up to the marina, removed all the sails and other canvas, then moved the boat to its temporary home and adjusted the mooring lines until Mark was satisfied.
Once the boat was secure and the systems were shut down all that was left were the usual things you do when you leave home — clean out the fridge, do the dishes, take out the trash, tidy up. Mark is the Energizer bunny and worked full speed until it was time to ferry him to shore for a taxi to the airport to begin the 18-hour journey.
They say sailing is 95% boredom and 5% sheer panic and sometimes the panic comes from events thousands of miles away. It’s our biggest fear as cruisers that something will happen to a loved one far away and we’ll be unable to get there in time or at all. It’s a reminder to cherish every moment you have together while you can, and know that your loved ones are happy that you’re following your dreams.