What a year it has been. I left Beaufort NC on December 6th 2017 bound for the Caribbean Island of Antigua. The idea of an Atlantic circuit was more of a passing idea or thought than a goal. It is now December 22, 2018 and Oh! is about to set out on our longest passage yet, the Trans-Atlantic passage from the Canary Island of La Gomera to return to the Caribbean Island of Antigua. That will complete the circuit. Along the way there have been incredible emotional highs and heart wrenching lows; wonderful adventures and amazing places and events to look back on; and then there are the people I have met along the way. Their impact on this journey has been immense and mostly in a good way. The year has been incredible.
There have been many firsts, personal bests and wonderful achievements; all pieces of what made 2018 and the Atlantic circuit so special. One achievement stands out for its uniqueness and as something that was never even contemplated at the beginning of the adventure. Yet it just came to be more by contact and conversations with the people I met along the way, than any grand plan or scheme. A unique set of new highs…literally.
The first new high was the hike to the summit of Mt Scenery, on Saba Island in the Caribbean. Saba is the northern most of the “Islands that touch the clouds”. I enjoy hiking in the Caribbean and Saba has some fantastic hiking, and a rich history. I had no idea it was the highest point in the Netherlands until we climbed Mt. Scenery to its 877m summit. The views were spectacular and the thought of this remote island being the highest point in a low lying and even subsea country like the Netherlands seemed so unique and just plain “good fun”.
Fast forward four months. I have just set a new personal best for my own solo passage making. My longest used to be from the Berry Islands in the Bahamas to West Palm Beach, Florida – a two day 155 nmi. passage. The new bar was an 1860 nmi. solo Trans-Atlantic passage over 13.8 days. I was celebrating in Lajes Harbour on the island of Flores, Azores with David and Mary on board “Adventurous”, who had also completed the passage. A wonderful adventure to look back on with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. We were discussing what was next for the Aussies and myself when…the matter of Pico came up. David really wanted to climb Mt. Pico, the 2351 m summit of Pico Island and the highest point in Portugal. Wait a minute, there is a pattern here. Two European countries whose highest point is an Island on my Atlantic Circuit.
Ok…I was in. The day was cool and Pico had its usual cloud band swirling around its summit. The climb was much longer and higher than Mt Scenery, and we had spent a lot of time at sea level; so a 2351 m climb was “breathe taking”. Wow, two summits of the highest points in two European countries in one year…neither of them planned. Both of them volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. David and I celebrated with huge ice cream cones back at the wharf at Madalene Harbour as we looked back at the huge shield volcano summit we had just climbed. Another of David’s bucket list items crossed off and a second unique summit for me.
I met Mona and Arno trough David and Mary while we were all cruising and visiting Sao Jorge Island in the Azores. David and I had just summited Pico and Mona and Arno had it on their list of summits they were going to climb and hikes they wanted to do in while in the Azores. One evening while enjoying wine and cheese with them on Oh! the conversation drifted over to hiking and when they found out I had been to the top of Mt. Pico we shared details of various climbs and arranged to do many hikes together in the Azores. Mona and Arno were heading in the same direction as we were back to the Caribbean and we had plenty of time to talk about the various islands on our way. They suggested that since I had stood on the highest point in both the Netherlands and Portugal, I should also add Spain. They wanted to climb Mt Teide in the Canary Islands if they got the chance when they cruised the Canary Islands enroute to the Caribbean. At 3718m, Mt. Teide is the highest point in Spain and once again a giant shield Volcano.
On December 17th, I stood on top of the highest point in Spain. That made it a hat trick. Three summits, each the highest point in their respective countries, each a volcanic island in the Atlantic and all in one year. It was a very cool feeling…especially at 3718m!
For me, the joy and rewards of the cruising lifestyle are not about the sailing – it is all about the people I meet along the way and the amazing experiences and adventures we share.
Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas and all the very best for the New Year.
Cheers from Oh!