We bought Mojito (a Hunter 50, American built, South African flagged) in 2008 – on a whim – and without much, if any sailing experience. Kicked the kids out of the house, sold everything that we can’t use on a boat and packed our bags for adventure
And what an adventure we had too date. Mojito was build in Alachua, Florida and commissioned in St Augustine at the St Augustine Marine Center in the Sebastian River. A narrow fast flowing river. Our slip was in a bend which tested our skills (of which we had none), our marriage, our sanity, our bank account and much more. Eventually all these trails come to an end and so we sailed off into the sunset. Or so we thought….
I am sure many of you have read romantic novels about couples with stars in their eyes buying boats and sailing off , leaving all the troubles of terra firma behind. That is not altogether true.
Owning a boat is a huge responsibility. A boat do nor suffer fools gladly (the great big ocean out there, even less). A boat needs constant attention of the $$$ kind and the TLC kind. I swear, we have never in our lives worked so hard at constantly cleaning, polishing, reading manuals & learning. The pictures you see in magazines of boats gently swinging at anchor in remote locations with white sandy beaches, palm trees and girls in bikini’s are SO PHOTO SHOPPED. Most of the time you will see me with a shammy polishing something …
To get there takes hundreds of hours of back breaking sweat and tears. Many nights I would dream of a warm bed (with legs), warm pajamas and reading a book in peace. When in reality I am on watch in foul weather gear in pouring rain, wind blowing 25 knots, a pitch black night, a pitching deck under my feet. The only light is from the Raymarine navigation screen with the radar alarm going off regularly warning of dangerous targets. Usually huge cargo ships that in all probability won’t notice when they run us over.
Against all odds (I heard later that my family took bets that we would last only 2 months) we persevered, managed not to get divorced (not yet anyway), did not sell the boat on the spot and did have great adventures.
Mojito took us where not many people ever get to go. You experience the world from another perspective. You live close to nature. You realize how fascinating the world really is. You meet awesome, like minded people. These strangers would become instant friends.
For the past three years we have sailed mostly in Abaco, Bahamas and the US East Coast. Mojito is a deep drafted, blue water yacht and the shallow Bahamian waters was a navigational challenge. In the beginning when the depth sounder starts to read 6 feet than 5 feet then suddenly zero, you heart nearly stops. We had a couple of close encounters! Sailing in the Bahamian waters was challenging and also very rewarding. The azure blue water, snow white sand, little cays where the only footprints are yours. Reef fish in all the colors of the rainbow – one fish called a Parrot Fish, has fluorescent blue eyeshadow and purple lips. In total we sailed for nearly 12 months in the Bahamas.
An unforgettable experience of snorkeling pristine reefs, beach combing for sea glass and shells along miles of deserted beaches, anchoring in remote locations and little cays with settlements of only a handful of the friendliest people we ever met. Deep sea sport fishing, chasing lobsters with a hawaiian sling, cracking coconuts, (the cool milk makes a great cocktail if you add a splash or two of vodka), making bonfires and roasting our catch of the day. Weathering storms in sometimes not such protected bays. Having friends over for intimate dinners. Watching every sunset with awe (and a glass of cold wine, dripping with condensation). Mojito, FYI has an ice-maker on board. James insisted on one when she was built. See, men sometimes do have good ideas!
But now it is time for new adventures.
Our son, Peter, is working in the yachting industry and is based in Monaco. We miss him terribly and although we do talk nearly every day on Skype, we believe it is time to cross the North Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean. That is why we entered Mojito in the ARC Europe 2011 Rally that leaves from Hampton, Virginia the 6th of May 2011. Twenty four boats from all over the world takes part in the rally and we will sail via Bermuda and the Azores to Lisboa in Portugal. The trip will take 6 weeks and we plan on arriving mid June in Portugal.
For the crossing we need additional crew and so friends that we knew would enjoy the challenge and also have the skills to get Mojito safely to the other side of the “pond”, gladly accepted the challenge.
Mojito will have a truly international crew onboard. Deborah Smales and Neil Withers from the UK, Gerda Möhr from South Africa, Larkin Wright, Trevor Mulkey and Cliff Merrell from the USA. James will return to SA for business commitments and will rejoin Mojito in Portugal in June.
Currently Mojito is based in the Ocean Club Marina, Port Canaveral, Florida, for engine servicing, rigging checking and provisioning. Half of the crew are joining us in Port Canaveral and the rest in Hampton. We plan on sailing up north to Hampton, VA the 24th of April. A trip of nearly 700 nautical miles, that will take approximately 4½ days. What makes this trip interesting and scary (what’s new?) at the same time is that we will sail in the Gulf Stream most of the way. The busiest shipping lane on the US East Coast and we will round the infamous Cape Hatteras before we make landfall in the Chesapeake Bay. Most of the way we will be more than 100 nautical miles off shore. Another first for Mojito since the northern Bahamas is only 60 nm from the US East Coast of Florida