TBT: Sailing the Tobago Cays

Photographs from my sailing trip to St. Vincent & the Grenadines in March

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Authentically Aurora

Life at Sea – Part II

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 3.42.39 PMIn my recent adventure on the high seas, our sailing crew was comprised of starkly different characters. Tony, our skipper, encapsulated everything I’d imagined a skipper would be: rugged and weathered, with a tangled mass of shoulder-length hair, tattooed arms, beer in hand and never clad in anything more than a pair of swim trunks.

Elle, a curvy blonde in her 50s, is a British lawyer who smokes like a chimney and never ends the evening without her friends Gin & Tonic. Elle lives with abandon and a zeal for life that has led her on countless adventures of dancing in the sand and running off with passionate lovers. She’s lived a full and exciting life but, childless, divorced and advanced in years, she seems lonely. She travels the world but has no one to share life with but the locals who she inevitably befriends, but between throaty laughs, she speaks longingly of community and companionship.

While I found in Elle much that I hope to emulate – her zeal, passion and friendly playfulness – I learned the most from observing Jenna, a single 35-year-old from Boston. Jenna aced all of our written sailing exams, but when it came to working together on the rigging, she tended toward stress, either barking bossy orders and criticisms at other crew members or getting panicked and defensive when Tony pointed out something she needed to do differently.

I saw mirrored in Jenna my own perfectionism and the toll it took on not only her enjoyment of the trip but also her relationships with others. During long stretches of sailing on a single tack, Jenna would often read aloud to us from a sailing book she’d brought along. “Oooh, listen to this article on retractable keels!” I frequently saw Tony and Elle exchange glances – Is this girl for real? – but she remained oblivious to the way her unsolicited readings were received.

One night ashore at a beach bar on one of the many remote islands of the Grenadines, Jenna met a young American man over rum punch. After about six beers, Tony was ready to take the dingy back to our boat, but Elle ssh-ed him and gestured to Jenna. “Look at her! She’s forgotten all about her allergies and her Kindle and her lactose intolerance. Give her some time. She may dance in the sand yet!”

Although I agreed with Elle – this girl seriously needed to loosen up – I remember wondering if those are the kinds of comments people make about me when I’m out of earshot. As sweet at Jenna was, it pained me how much I related to her because I saw in Jenna not only my strengths – intellect, ambition and focus – but also many of the things I dislike about myself.

I know I should be who I am, but I hope that as I age, I will relax, live in the moment, and develop a bit more Elle in my Aurora.

Authentically Aurora

Life at Sea – Part I

YachtWhen Bryan invited me to accompany him on a Barefoot Yacht Charter for ten days in the Caribbean, I had visions of Goldie Hawn in Overboard (pre going overboard). I imagined scenes aboard superyacht White Night in The Bourne Identity (less the gunshot wounds). I envisioned cruising in style with James Bond aboard the luxury M3 in Casino Royale (before Vesper dies).

And so I went out and bought a new bikini. And gold anchor earrings. And ordered two pair of adorable new Sperry’s online. I pre-planned my outfits for each day, complete with matching headbands, figuring that if my hair was going to be windblown, it may as well be windblown in style.

Instead, I discovered that living aboard a catamaran is essentially roughing it. It’s camping at sea, with hand-pumped toilets, no showers and rationed fresh water. Prior to the trip, I’d shaved, waxed and dieted for the perfect, pristine bikini body. But by day three, I’d grown oblivious to my leg stubble and peeling sunburn as I smeared on multiple layers of deodorant. I no longer concerned myself with further sun damage, since the rays surely couldn’t penetrate my skin’s countless layers of dirt and grime.

I will say, all of those color-coordinated headbands turned out to be useful in mildly masking the greasiness of my unwashed hair. Actually that one white headband I threw on every morning at the crack of dawn worked wonders when I went aboveboard to hoist the sails before getting drenched by seawater from gale-force winds.

Despite not having a proper shower for over a week and living in perpetually damp clothing with a sheen of salt on my skin from my “Caribbean baths”, I actually had a great time letting go, letting loose and learning a new skill. Once I got used to leaving my makeup bag untouched and sleeping in a stagnant cabin on salt-encrusted sheets next to a man who almost never kissed me goodnight, I adapted well to the life of a sailor. It was kind of freeing.

But as fun as it was to unplug for a while, I’m grateful to be home. I remember afresh why I used to commit to volunteering abroad at least once a year. Living in a third world country has a way of righting my perspective and making me thankful for my very many blessings. Now I can add to that list of blessings the ability to skipper a keelboat. Life is good.

Authentically Aurora

Dating a Double O

Vesper James BondI think I might be dating 007. Bryan owns:

5 houses,

4 guns,

3 passports,

2 vehicles

and has taken at least 1 FBI training course.

And we just booked tickets together to get our sailing certifications in the Caribbean. If I disappear, it wasn’t the Bermuda Triangle. It was Bond. Bryan Bond.

Authentically Aurora

P.S. In all seriousness, I wouldn’t go on this trip if I didn’t trust him implicitly. And my parents will have all of my travel documentation and itinerary, just in case. And my Special Forces older brother could take a Double O any day. So booyah.