The Baths, The Refit, The Grief

Lines of latitude are also referred to as “parallels” and the refit of Hazel James parallels my grief for Colleen. They are both so big, so enmeshed in the fabric of life, enmeshed in the weave of the fiberglass of Hazel’s hull—it seems like they will never end, they will never be “done”.

Perhaps that’s the message of it all, the lesson to be learned. They never will end, never will be done.

I’ll never forget Colleen and all that we shared. In parallel—as any sailor knows—there’s always work to be done on a boat. However, the intensity and frequency of the memories mitigate and reduce over time. Likewise, I’m confident that as I complete more projects on Hazel and get her put back together, although there always be something that needs to be done on her, the projects won’t be as big or as frequent.

Maybe the second message is: that’s how it was intended to be, all is as it should be. As I’ve said, I love to work with my hands. I never would want a new and shiny boat without anything to fix. Not only would I not want it, but the mere concept is a myth. The rigors of the sea dictate that constant attention is needed to keep a vessel seaworthy. In parallel, I would never want the grief, or the memories, of Colleen to be totally gone.

Building on these themes, the concept of maintaining the boat is as important as maintaining one’s mental and emotional health—which is even more trying during the perfect-storm of a global pandemic and economic recession, protests for racial justice, and a U.S. presidential election. Meditation, journaling, exercise—whatever you choose—stick to it. When on passage, I would make a point to walk the deck daily and examine every line, every fitting and do my best to identify problems and remediate them before they happened. On my passage home from the Virgin Islands I got lucky when the spinnaker halyard parted during mild weather during the middle of the day. Odds-are that should have happened during a squall during the middle of the night. I’ll take luck any day of the week and will learn from it.

Back to the refit and the grief: yes, it’s important to “have a list” and to see the enormity of the collective work as it helps identify the interdependencies between projects (e.g, replacing my refrigeration unit and installing a water-maker will require added solar capacity, etc.). It’s also important to pop my head up from time-to-time and look at the list and adjust the overall plan. However, it’s more important on a daily basis to keep my head down and work through projects one-by-one and remain confident that progress will be made on Hazel—that my grief will process and allow me to go on living.

In the midst of the Sisyphean refit, it’s fun and healthy to think back to the adventures I had earlier in the year. It’s a reminder that what I’m doing now is preparing us for future, and further-reaching voyages.

It’s doubly-fun to reminisce when I’m in Florida in the summer of 2020, socially distanced and missing travel and interaction. Florida is accurately described as an epicenter of the pandemic so I’m doing my best to hole-up and stay healthy. Hazel enjoys the attention.

With all that in mind, here’s a photo-journey of The Baths. The Baths are a stunning granite boulder-field on a Virgin Gorda beach in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). I entered the BVI from the USVI at Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. The Baths are couple miles south of Spanish Town so I decided to make a day of it on March 12th and walk there rather than take a taxi.

On the way, I stopped at Mama Africa’s Roti Stand. In addition to delicious food and homemade drinks, “Mama Africa” crochets purses and belts, and I bought a couple for special friends back home. In getting to know her, she said, “‘Mama Africa’ is not my real name but after I put the sticker on my truck, it’s all anyone calls me.”

A Caribbean or West Indies roti is a wonderful street-food mash-up of the Indian whole-wheat roti flatbread wrapped around a curried Caribbean stew. Rotis were brought to the Caribbean by indentured laborers from South Asia and are especially popular in southern Caribbean islands with large Indo-Caribbean populations. I discovered that Mama Africa is originally from Grenada in the southern Caribbean so she knows her roti well.

Mama Africa
Mama Africa’s lobster roti and conch soup, the mango chutney and homemade hot pepper sauce took the meal over the top

After the roti stop, I walked over some higher ground to get to The Baths and observed how seriously the threat of tsunamis is taken. Let’s not forget that the Caribbean was created from volcanic and tectonic activity.

A sign on high-ground

I then walked by a school with wonderful murals painted by the students on the walls surrounding the schoolyard and athletic fields. Looking back on these pictures now and thinking about the pandemic and racial justice protests, I’m reminded how much we all have changed for the not-so-good and good over the past several months.

Powerful murals painted by students

I finally made it to The Baths. I was fortunate that the brewing pandemic had cleared-out the cruise ship crowds there so I had the place virtually to myself.

Boulders on the beach
I love the visually evident erosion in this one
More boulders on the beach
Looking out over the channel toward the island of Tortola
I thought this pitting was fascinating, and beautiful
Amazing to see the ocean surge swirling around the rocks, I could have watched it all day

Really fun to explore and squeeze through the cracks
The photo doesn’t give the colors justice
The sun shining through the boulders and reflecting on the water left me with such hope

Fair winds and following seas!

4 thoughts on “The Baths, The Refit, The Grief

  1. Of all the nice account of your experience, Roti made me thrilled. Interesting to see the Roti has travelled so much. Thanks for the nice narration and pictures, really wonderful.

    Best always,

  2. You are right they will never be “done” but they will be transformed.
    Great pictures of “The Baths”.

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