With months of preparation and many postponed departures the young St. Maarteners who are attempting to sail around the world have set sail.
In February 2013 Kippy Gilders, Alex Nebe, Maria Merckens, Laura Bijnsdorp and I came up with the idea to take the 52ft Beneteau, Corina IV, around the world and visit over sixty countries in five continents. This two year adventure was met with immense support from the people of St. Maarten and was only made possible with their help.
When we approached Budget Marine about being our primary sponsor we were greeted with such enthusiasm that within a week the details of their sponsorship were set and the dream was becoming a reality. However, not only businesses were swept up in the excitement. Many individuals began offering aid through services and funds. The whole idea of taking St. Maarten around the world took on a whole new meaning. What had started as the dream of very few had become the reality of many. The crew now felt that what they were doing was not so much a private endeavor as a joint effort of an entire community. We could not have asked for more!
Preparations began when Kippy Gilders and I flew to Honduras to collect Corina IV, from the shipyard in La Ceiba, where she had been on the hard since 2011. We spent a few days getting the boat ready to launch and scouring nearby towns for parts and supplies to make the journey home. After touching salt water for the first time in almost two years, we motor-sailed Corina IV to Utila for the final preparations. After a few days waiting for the friendly customs officer to arrive, the voyage to St. Maarten began.
There is no better place in the Caribbean for outfitting or refitting a boat.
The three weeks that followed were not the best as we beat west into heavy weather in the Caribbean Sea. The boat, strong but not in tip-top condition, was battered by 30 to 40 knot winds and 20-foot seas. After weeks of gunnels in the water and problems with a leaky through-hull fitting and sun-damaged sails that were barely holding together, we made it home with a great sense of relief and a whole new respect for those who sail long distances to windward. Luckily, it’s possible to sail around the world by primarily going west downwind.
Once in St. Maarten it became clear that we had made the right decision to bring the boat home in order to get it shipshape for the big trip. There is no better place in the Caribbean for outfitting or refitting a boat. Most of the time was spent replacing and servicing all the hardware onboard as the long hibernation and years of sun and salt had taken their toll. Due to the leaky through-hull a lot of the wiring in the lower sections of the hull was damaged and needed replacing. It always amazes me how quickly salt water can turn a perfectly functioning electrical unit into a ball of useless corrosion.
Corina IV, top tip: “When you finish installing or redoing anything metal, cover it thoroughly with heavy duty corrosion inhibitor. Best $15 you will ever spend!”
The days passed and the crew brought the boat back to sailing trim. The bilges received shiny through-hulls, the batteries were new and maintenance free, the engine was purring. Technicians from Electec brought our little Spectra water maker back to life, and Robby from St. Maarten Sails furnished us with a brand new set of Quantum sails. The momentum we had set in motion seemed to have spiraled out of our control and was sweeping us along on its own. But as with the best things in life, sometimes you just need to hold on and enjoy the ride because that is what you are going to remember the most.
At 5:45pm on June 11, we left through a special opening of the Simpson Bay Bridge to a great sendoff from folks on the balcony of the St. Maarten Yacht Club and followed by a flotilla of young St. Maarten sailors in their Optimist dinghies.
We will miss our little island during the next two years and want to thank everyone on it for making our dream possible.