Celebrating the undiscovered charms of Caribbean travel & culture.
learning to sail in the grenadines by Patrick Bennett
Grenadines, St. Vincent

Living the Dream and Learning to Sail: Part 2 – Casting Off

Living the Dream and Learning to Sail: Part 2 – Casting Off
Editor’s note: This is part 2 in Patrick‘s quest to learn the ropes sailing in the Grenadines. Read part 1 here or connect with LTD Sailing School to charter your own adventure!

“So how’d you guys meet?” I ask of my new instructors, Chris and Chrystal of LTD Sailing School. We’re about to embark on a week of close quarters living while sometimes miles away from shore. With a Cheshire smile, Chris answers:

Oh, we met in prison.

For the past month I’ve had my nose buried in the American Sailing Association 101 textbook Sailing Made Easy.

On my way to work, at lunches, on my way home—anytime I had a free moment.

learning to sail in the grenadines by Patrick Bennett
learning to sail in the grenadines by Patrick Bennett

It’s not that the book is a massive tome crammed with Byzantine seafaring knowledge. In fact, the book is breezily written (no pun intended), chock-full of easy to understand illustrations, peppered with inspiring photos, and only 120 pages. It truly lives up to its name.

The real reason I couldn’t put it down is because this is the first time I’ve tried to learn something really new in a long time. Something that required studying, recall, and focus.

OK, the really real reason I couldn’t put it down is because I was afraid to fail. I hate the prospect of losing… At anything. So, I studied.

I committed all the new sailing terms to memory.

This is a “pulpit,” that’s a “transom.” Freeboard, draft, beam? Got it. What about head, luff, leach, clew, foot, and tack? Parts of a sail, no problem. I could point out spreaders, jibs, forestays, shrouds, goosenecks, boom topping lifts, boom vangs, and everything in between!

I went through the quizzes at the end of every chapter again and again until I finally found myself in sunny St. Vincent with Chris handing me a one hundred question test!

It’s 100 questions ‘cuz they know sailors can’t do math!

Chris joked, but I’d soon learn that’s far from the truth.

Young Island Resort, St. Vincent by Patrick Bennett
Young Island Resort, St. Vincent by Patrick Bennett

Sitting in the “cockpit” of the boat that would serve double duty as my classroom and dormroom for the next week, the minutes ticked away. We were moored between the dark, volcanic shores of St. Vincent and the exclusive sands of Young Island. The water surrounding us a turquoise temptation. Sea birds flew overhead. Some boats puttered about. The stark, white cross planted on tiny Dove Island paid silent witness to my scribbling. (More on that uncommon attraction another time.)

Perhaps a bit too quickly and feeling fairly triumphant, I turned in my test.

Scoring my test in the grenadines by Patrick Bennett
Scoring my test in the grenadines by Patrick Bennett

Chris retired below through the “companionway” to grade my effort… Moments later he popped back up. Final score: 95%!

So, today you’re just going to have to trust me.

I could tell Chris was going to be full of one liners all week. But wait… Trust me? My old boat Trust Me and the adventure I’d had three years earlier flashed before my eyes. Bequia, Moonhole, Canouan, the Tobago Cays, Happy Island, Carriacou! My heart started to race. Not only would I be sailing through those incredible destinations again, this time I’d be doing it as a sailor! As crew on the oddly named tack till Nordic.

tack till Nordic by Patrick Bennett
tack till Nordic by Patrick Bennett

Of course, before I could trust him, Chris needed to clarify that whole “met in prison” thing.

Turns out that Chris and Chrystal spent a number of years working for the Washington State Department of Corrections—Chrystal in the office and Chris sometimes tasked with settling down the population! Between all that fun at work, the dream of a life spent sailing in the Caribbean danced in their heads until one day Chris left the freezing waters of the Pacific, rainy weather, and all the inmates behind to literally live the dream in Grenada. LTD Sailing (short for Living the Dream Sailing) was born. Although for a while “LDR Sailing” or Long Distance Relationship Sailing may have been more apt. That is until Chrystal finally joined Chris in the dream after a couple years.

Time to cast off!

With instruction from Chris, I helped cast us off the mooring. I “jumped the halyard” for the first time; hoisting the mainsail (pronounced mains’l). Pulling properly (pinky down!) on the starboard jib sheet, I unfurled the jib while maintaining one reef.

All of those actions I’d read about at length over the past month. But none of those actions happened smoothly on this day. Still, it didn’t matter. In a way I was only just beginning to comprehend, I was sailing!

Fort Duvernette St. Vincent by Patrick Bennett
Fort Duvernette St. Vincent by Patrick Bennett

We left the picturesque, elevated canon battery of Fort Duvernette to port (the left side of the boat)—its 255-step ascent up 195 feet of volcanic basalt cliffside being relegated to some future adventure. The bay opened into a wide expanse of blue. Bequia beckoned just nine nautical miles away, promising a week to remember amongst the magical islands of the Grenadines.

Abruptly, Chris interrupted my daydream.

Prepare to tack!

Here we go…

Last updated by on .

  • Brewingfrog

    It is said that Fleet Admiral Nimitz had a habit of going to his dresser chest every morning, opening a small drawer in the chest and removing a tiny scrap of paper, reading it carefully, and replacing it in the drawer. He would then lock the chest up and go on about his day. Every day. His steward noticed this habit, but never looked in the drawer for many years. When the Admiral passed, the steward went to the chest, opened the drawer, and pulled out the tiny, well worn scrap. He then read the words that the Admiral read every morning for many years of his life: “Port is to the LEFT.”

    • uncommoncarib

      Hah, great story @Brewingfrog! I guess I’ve got one up on Admiral Nimitz.

  • Danny Davis

    Hi Patrick, if you don’t mind my asking, what make and model camera are you using? The pictures you’re taking are beautiful. Thanks!

    • uncommoncarib

      Hey @AngusMiddleAge:disqus, funny you should ask. My main camera for over a year has been a Nikon D600 (don’t buy one, they have a defect), but I was beginning to struggle with the bulk of a full-sized, weather sealed, DSLR and switched just before this trip to a Sony a7R!

      I was very concerned that I would see a dip in quality with the move to mirrorless, but your praise makes me feel a lot better! Hope that helps.

      Cheers!

      • Danny Davis

        Thanks Patrick! Can you also tell me which lens(es) you are using? I want to grow up to do what you and your brother are doing. I am trying to figure out which tools to buy, in order to do it as well as you guys. Thanks again! @dannyRdavis