Living on board a billionaires yacht, sailing through the Caribbean, exploring tropical islands and basking in the sun like a fat burnt British tourist.... Well minus the burnt Brit part.
It was an experience of a lifetime that I stumbled upon, offered late one evening in an unexpected phone call.
My heart was racing, I was caught completely off guard lounging around in my pyjamas on the 45ft sailboat I was living on at the time.
Our sailboat was beautiful, spacious but cosy, in need of a little TLC but with that perfect home feeling. However she (the boat) was definitely not lavish like those sparkly luxury yachts owned by the mega rich.
As I spoke to the captain of sailing vessel WindQuest, I couldn't quite believe my ears. WindQuest was a beautiful custom built catamaran; at 85ft she is the largest in this hemisphere of the world and the only one of her kind.
I was having cold sweats - an unusual combination being in the Caribbean - and raked with anxiety about the conversation happening in my ear hole. I was pacing back and forth, flapping my arms around like an extravagant character enthusiastic about a story they're telling. Thankfully it was an audio call, had it been video making me unable to pace and flap around in privacy, I may just have melted into a puddle on the floor.
And so the conversation went...
"Would I be available to come with the crew and owner on a private sailing voyage for 3 weeks leaving next week; calling by the Bahamas, docking in Havana and spending a week touring Cuba, a few days docked in Key West and final destination, central Miami?"
I had already arranged flights back to England, but that was quickly changeable. My head was thinking of reasons why I could not go (self sabotage stepping in...) and to my joy I couldn't find a single damn one! And rightly so!
This was the kind of opportunity one can work a lifetime to achieve, and many will never experience.
So I pulled myself together and accepted.
This was not an opportunity to turn down.
Over the next week in the run up to our departure I suffered from some of the worst anxiety I've ever experienced. Like a fish out of water I was doing a lot of flapping around; trying to get prepared as best I could, relying heavily on the little experience I had, my mini panic attacks limited to evening hours in short bursts of 'ahhhhh'-ness.
Thankfully time doesn't wait for anyone and before I knew it I'd moved onto the yacht and we were waving 'goodbye suckers' to the Virgin Islands, and hello to Puerto Rico.
WindQuest had just 4 crew, a captain, deckhand, chef and steward. They were a close knit team who had been chosen not only for their CV but also for the friendship, character and history they shared with the owner. This created a wonderful unusually relaxed atmosphere.
The owner was a marvellous, fascinating gentleman. In his 70's and as sharp as a knife, fit as a fiddle and the kind of down to earth millionaire that's as rare as a white snow leopard.
We navigated and sailed north to the Bahamas, taking turns to stay on watch.
Action; 'To be on watch'
Definition; To sit and gaze at the stars, whilst pretending to constantly monitor the horizon for vessels and obstructions, keeping an eye on the ever changing charts for swells, bad weather etc etc.. Joking aside this is an extremely important necessary task for any sailing vessel under way.
The best thing about being on watch was the alone time at the helm, with only the horizon to watch, seeing blue sea and sky meeting for as far as the eye can see. The incredible milky way as clear as in those fancy pants camera shots with the super duper flashy lenses.
The worst was trying to keep my eyes open on midnight-early morning shifts and hitting a patch of bad weather resulting in a lovely spot of torrential rain.. on the top deck of an 85ft catamaran rolling around in the middle of the ocean this combination can either result in terrible cold windy and wet shift, a sea sickness sitting or a 'rock a by baby' roll me to sleep feeling.
I must admit that waking up in the middle of the night, rolling out of bed, layering up with jumpers and warm cosy clothes, then rolling up to top deck with the moon as my night light and the stars as entertainment was more than enjoyable regardless of the weather.
However, not everyone's cup of tea, especially and understandably for an elderly person. When we make it big, that money can pay for someone else to do those uncomfortable cold mornings in torrential rain and turbulent swells, and it can. But believe it or not (believe it) the owner was up and ready for his watch shift at 5am every morning whether rain or shine, calm sea or turbulent...he was there, on watch. Which I can only say is a testament to the down to earth, interesting, lovely person he is.
Together we sailed from the beautiful Virgin Islands, past Puerto Rico to the Bahamas.
Within 24 hours of arriving in the land of swimming pigs we departed on our longest voyage of the trip,
Cuba was our destination.
Windquest and the crew have travelled some incredible journeys, from the cayman islands, north along the east and west coasts of USA and across the Atlantic. This small voyage I was joining them on was only part of their incredible itinerary over the summer until the charter season in the US Virgin islands began in November 2017.
To be continued...