On to Plan D • The term “cruising schedule” is an oxymoron. Every cruiser knows that when you try to construct a rigid timeline, one of two things happens: either you stay on schedule despite having to slog through weather that would normally keep you in port, or you end up ripping up the schedule and moving on to Plan B or C (or even D).
This happened to Rosie and me in a big way when we first set off, years ago, with our two sons to sail our 43-foot ketch Clover to New Zealand from our home in Newport, RI. The plan that fall was to leave Newport in October, sail to Bermuda with my brother Steve and good buddy Herb as crew, then head to the BVI for Thanksgiving. From there we would cruise south through the Eastern Caribbean with the expectation of having Christmas in Grenada before heading for Panama and the Pacific Ocean.
On the basis of this plan, we encouraged our parents and siblings to join us in Grenada for the holidays. It all sounded sensible, but wasn’t—in no small part because we were cruising with two small children and had vowed to avoid storms at sea if at all possible.
On our first day out on the passage to Bermuda, we decided to turn back for Newport when we got the forecast “storm warnings” in the Gulf Stream. No fun, we thought. So we slunk back into Newport under cover of darkness. With days to wait, we lost our crew. No crew, no passage to Bermuda. After some deliberation we went to Plan B, which was to cruise south to the Chesapeake and then head straight to the BVI from Norfolk. Since our family had all bought plane tickets to Grenada, we really wanted to be there, too. It was our idea, after all.
But the fall weather didn’t cooperate. We waited in Norfolk for a weather window to open so we could get across the Gulf Stream in less than gale conditions, but we were stymied and decided to move on to Plan C: Cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway to Beaufort, NC, then head off to the islands. Once again, events intervened. A week of boat work and another week of horrendous weather kept us in Beaufort and saw the last flickers of Plan C fade into the night.
Next, we decided to head south on the ICW to Charleston, and from there try to catch a northwest clearing breeze to ride eastward offshore so we could make the islands without an upwind slog. But by the time we got to Charleston, Thanksgiving had come and gone, we were enjoying the ICW, and we knew we needed to stop somewhere for a week or two to prep the boat for the Pacific. On to Plan D, which was a hard decision because it X-ed out the Eastern Caribbean and Christmas in Grenada, and led us instead to the Bahamas, Windward Passage and a straight shot south to Panama.
And that’s how it played out. We had Christmas in St. Simons Island, GA, not in Grenada where our family was lounging in the sun; celebrated New Year’s in St. Augustine, FL; and spent January and February cruising south through the Bahamas and Caribbean to Panama. Plan D. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”
But that’s the cruising life. And cruising schedules are made to be broken and broken again until you get there…or somewhere else.