As I type this, the darkness and gloom slowly increases as Hugh is slowly taping over all the remaining windows on Khulula. The dehumidifier is working overtime trying to remove the residue of my forepeak cleaning experiment – taking the fresh water hosepipe into the cabin and spraying down everything.
The acrid eye-watering smell of vinegar has been a constant for the past four days. Our hands are wrinkled and pruned, not my hours in the water swimming, surfing and snorkeling, but hours spend cleaning and preparing Khulula for five months on the hard.
So why are we leaving Khulula for so long, why not just continue sailing, as we have for the past two years ? It is now the very beginning of June and the official start of the Caribbean Hurricane season was just announced. As a result, every cruising sailboat, charter vessel and major fishing boat is preparing to leave the Caribbean for cooler, safer waters or are involved in the same procedure as we are.
The Caribbean Hurricane season runs from the beginning of June until the end of Oct, with the majority of tropical storms, hurricane, and depressions occurring in July and August. Remember Katrina, Ivan, etc… these were all Caribbean hurricanes which made headlines across the world for the devastation they caused and the ferocity of the winds and storm surges with these storms. You do not want to be caught in one of these bad boys… or as the Kiwi’s would calmly say, “Avoid”. You can keep constant checks on the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific Hurricane season at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/index.shtml
As a result, after a couple incredible weeks enjoying the scenery and generosity of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines (keep checking back for those upcoming blogs), Khulula and crew headed south to Trinidad. Northern Trinidad sits at approximately 11 deg North, which is below the theoretical southern limit of Atlantic/Caribbean Hurricanes, and as a result is host to an incredible influx of boats at the beginning of end Hurricane season and an equally incredible exodus of boats leaving at the end of each season. I have never seen so many boats in one place.
Chaguramas, just west of the capital Port-Of-Spain, is something of a yachties haven. There are 7 different marinas with haul-out yards, berths, workshops and every imaginable part available, at a price of course. Looking into the harbour from sea, one can barely see the trees and land due to the number of masts soaring skywards. Hundreds upon hundreds of boats sit in marina berths or high and dry on land. Some boats are still wet from their recent haul-out, some have people scurrying all over them trying to finish last minute repairs before catching flights home, and… well… some look like they have been sitting there for years, forgotten by their owners like a bad nightmare. Anyone looking to buy a boat, take note…
After spending a couple days exploring the island of Trinidad, home to Steel Drum music, we reluctantly began the procedure of packing Khulula up. On the 24th May, we were hauled out of the water at Power Boat yard, and placed in a nice secure corner of the yard. First job was to fiberglass in some bulkheads which had been moaning and groaning for the past few months, and then get to the cleaning. Everything must come out of lockers, get washed, wiped down in vinegar (to stop mold growing), and then left in a location with as much air flow as possible. As always, digging too deep into those mysterious dark places on the boat reveals new surprise; for instance, when washing down the forepeak (using the fresh water hose pipe), huge clumps of unknown material began to wash down into the bilges. They was definitely a certain percentage of hair and dust in these mystery balls, but also some other materials we chose not to investigate further, just grit your teeth, close your eyes, grab it and throw the mushy mess into the garbage bin.
It is with mixed feelings that we are leaving Khulula. Over the past two years, she has carried us a lot further than we can imagine. Despite all the planning, preparations, bravado in our talk, and days spend out at sea, it still seems completely surreal that we have somehow managed to cross the equator twice, sail clear across the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans, around the Cape of Storms and some 45 000km, all by the simple movement of wind. I imagine it will be a while before we truly appreciated how lucky we have been and understand all the subconscious lessons we have learnt along the way.
Come November, we will be heading back to Trinidad, to untarp and clean the dust off Khulula. Check the batteries, kick the tires, put her back in the water and get ready for the trip through the Panama Canal, up the Central American coastline, out to Hawaii and back into Vancouver. However, right now, hot showers, cold fridges, clean sheets and more than 2 square meters of personal space are feeling extremely good.