SAILING WITH CAPT. CRIPPLE: Winter 2024 W’Indies Cruise (feat. the Amazing Anders Lehmann and His Quadriplegic Transat on Wavester)

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March 14/2024:  As I have muttered to myself repeatedly over the years: I am one lucky boy. And I was surely feeling fortunate contemplating the prospect of this winter’s sailing schedule, a full month wandering the Eastern Caribbean with a crew of three old friends onboard. The first time in many years I’ve been able to organize so much time uninterrupted in the W’Indies. But of course… a fly must somehow insert itself into such ointments. (See photo up top.) Details to follow.

You’ll recall we left the good ship Lunacy at Jolly Harbour in Antigua. I flew in with my old mate and ex-Deth Cruzer Michael Csenger and hooked up with another mate (and local neighbor), Jeff Bolster, right at the airport, one evening in early February. We spent all the following day madly provisioning and prepping to depart the marina and encountered another cruiser, Walter Garschagen, who was doing the same. A serendipitous encounter! It turned out he is not only dad to Emma Garschagen, who I know of through Andy Schell, but his boat, a Jonmeri 40 named Karjala, was also docked next to a highly unusual craft.

Walter’s neighbor, Wavester, seen here not in Antigua, but in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, prior to crossing the Atlantic in December. The boat belongs to and was heavily modified by one Anders Lehmann, who was paralyzed from the neck down in an accident many years ago. Anders sailed this boat from Europe to the Caribbean with a crew of seven and spent the entire voyage himself in a special wheelchair/bed console inside that retractable shelter you see at the back of the boat. One member of the crew, a fellow named Klaus, was putting the boat to bed at Jolly Harbour when we arrived and immediately afterward joined Walter on Karjala as pick-up crew. (Photo courtesy of Wavester crew)

 

From Antigua we sailed to Guadeloupe in persistent drizzle and light wind, not exactly the conditions one expects to enjoy in the W’Indies during the winter. It has been a weird season in that respect—lots of light wind and wind from weird directions (including west!) as the tail ends of cold fronts from huge lows further north gently caressed the region. We had Walter and Klaus close by the whole way over. At one point we saw a huge ray leaping out of the water, directly at Karjala, as though to attack her. Yikes! Lots of whooping and hollering at that point. Later we had a humpback whale sounding close aboard, which was also very cool.

Our second night at Deshaies we lured Walter and Klaus aboard for cocktails and nibbles.

Arrival at Deshaies in Guadeloupe, Jeff on the left, Michael on the right, in persistent drizzly rain

 

Finally, a day later, the rain unpersisted!

 

Klaus Hjerl Lillelund, former crew on Wavester, getting loose on Lunacy

 

Likewise Jeff (left) and Walter (right)

 

From Klaus we got a full debrief on Wavester’s transat. Truly a remarkable voyage!  Here’s the full crew at Las Palmas, before striking out for Martinique (by way of Cape Verde). From the left: Lars Lehmann (brother to Anders); Toke Sode Lundberg; Anders Lehmann (in the chair/bed, severely disabled, on a ventilator); Tobias Hedegaard Lipp; Peter Olivarius; Klaus; and Kenneth Madsen (an old friend of Anders and president of Dimension Polyant). Klaus said it was like sailing with Stephen Hawking, in that Anders could only manage controls with his mouth and chin. Much of the crew work was devoted to tending to Anders, who received support from the Danish government in making this voyage. (Photo courtesy of Wavester crew) 

 

Anders at sea in his chair/bed with Kenneth Madsen at the wheel. You can get more details on this adventure from the Wavester website (assuming you can read Danish) or from this story in East Bay RI. (Photo courtesy of Wavester crew)

 

A plague on the modern Caribbean! Deshaies is not a very big town, more a village actually, but that doesn’t mean a cruise ship can’t stop in and visit. As the corresponding mural suggests, the locals don’t seem to mind

 

Can it be only a coincidence??? That just two days after hearing Klaus’s story of sailing with a crippled skipper I myself became crippled???

Not nearly as badly, thankfully, but still…

We were hustling to get underway, and I stumbled and fell while rushing to take down the cockpit awning. Broke my fall with my extended left hand, folding it back against my arm. And ouch!!! Ouch!!! Much cursing ensued.

The end result—bandage courtesy of Mr. Bolster. Wounds on arm from diving on Lunacy’s hull and scraping it clean one day earlier

 

Another big problem we had on Guadeloupe: we couldn’t check in anywhere! Thanks to Mardi Gras. The immigration office at Deshaies was closed the whole time we were there (Saturday through Monday), as was the office at Basse Terre, the freaking capitol of the island (which we visited on Tuesday, the day itself). We thus ended up departing Guadeloupe, from Pigeon Cove, on Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras, having never officially arrived there.

Under sail as the sun dissolves behind Montserrat

 

The lack of paperwork from Guadeloupe certainly caused problems when we tried to book into the Dutch side of St. Maarten the following day. So instead we went around and booked into the French side, no problem at all. Here we also hooked up with another old Deth Cruzer, Marc Thibodeau, who took the place of Jeff, who flew out the next afternoon to return to Colorado, where he’s been practicing being a newly created grandfather.

My old partners in crime Michael (left) and Marc (right) atop Pic du Paradis, highest point on St. Martin at nearly 1,400 feet. We drove most of the way up (in a rented car) and spotted monkeys en route. Never knew there were monkeys on this island!

 

Seen in Marigot. You have to wonder what goes on in here. Something onanistic perhaps???

 

Seen in Grand Case. Don’t piss off the ape!

 

Capt. Oliver’s Resort and Marina on Oyster Pond, formerly my favorite spot to base a boat on St. Martin prior to the advent of Hurricane Irma in September 2017, is still a total mess. Nothing has been done here to rebuild anything. I’m told this is because of a centuries-old border dispute between the French and Dutch over who has jurisdiction over the property

 

Irma-ruined boats on the lagoon side in Marigot. There is a huge supply of these, and several are inhabited. Though a lot of the hurricane damage on the island has been repaired, the recovery is far from complete

 

Capt. Cripple’s wrist as x-rayed in Marigot (cost just 20 minutes and 100 euros with no appointment or insurance!) three days after the accident. The French radiologist found no fracture, but another x-ray just this week revealed there is indeed a fracture that likely was obscured by swollen soft tissue in this first image. If you look closely, you can in fact just make out a very faint hairline crack on the lower outer edge of radius bone, just above the radiocarpal joint

 

From St. Martin we sashayed over to St. Barth’s, where Marc and Michael were particularly impressed by the challenging approach to the airport runway

 

After a couple of days on St. Barth’s, we noodled over to the uninhabited islet of Ile Fourchue, always a favorite stop for me. We did some hiking ashore in the afternoon and bathed in the luxuriant moonlight that evening

 

Michael also hooked a fairly large barracuda on a very light rod and line. It was released in the end

 

Unfortunately for me, both Marc and Michael had to leave the boat after we returned to St. Martin. For Marc this was a planned departure; for Michael, who had intended to stay aboard for the duration, it was unplanned, as he was summoned home due to a death in the family. Leaving the miserable Capt. Cripple a truly singlehanded singlehanded sailor. My wrist was (is!) still quite painful, so I had sail conservatively, minimizing sailhandling and deck-work as much as possible.

My first solo stop was Jost Van Dyke in the BVI. Great Harbour, I was dismayed to find, is now entirely filled with moorings renting for $40 a night. And these are primarily inhabited by plastic cats, most of them bareboats, of course. On waking the morning after my arrival, I counted a total of 54 boats on moorings and anchored just outside the bay, plus one small cruise ship! A lot of visitors for an island with only about 300 residents

 

Once ashore I of course stopped in to chat with Foxy Callwood and gave him a signed copy of my latest book, in which he is mentioned a few times

 

Mostly Foxy and I chatted about his latest business venture, a sportfishing boat named Super Fox, that will do fishing charters out of Oil Nut Bay on Virgin Gorda. Foxy wistfully told me he wished he was a young man again, so that he could crew on his own boat

 

I was very pleased to see the biggest new building on Jost is the primary school, replacing the school that was destroyed by Ivan in 2017

 

I was also a bit surprised to see that Jost now has a fuel dock. How convenient is that?

 

From Jost I sailed over to St. John (under headsail alone, like a hapless bareboater) and after booking in at Cruz Bay motored around to Rendezvous Bay on the west coast. First time I’d anchored here since 1999! Only had a couple of catamarans for company, and I noticed there are a few over-the-top fancy houses overlooking the bay now, including this one under construction

 

One of the brightest rainbows I’ve ever seen, en route from Rendezvous Bay to Great Lameshur Bay, inside the Virgin Islands National Park

 

Once ensconced at Lameshur, I bit the bullet, hiked to the top of Bordeaux Mountain, elevation almost 1,300 feet, and enjoyed this view of the bay. Lunacy is the moored boat furthest to the right

 

After three days on St. John, it was at last time to wrap up the cruise. Thanks to the folks at the American Yacht Harbor marina in Red Hook, on St. Thomas, Lunacy has a place to rest until I return next month to start bringing her home.

Hopefully I’ll have two hands to work with by then. Putting the boat to bed with just one was a real PITA!

Special thanks to my old pal “Barefoot” Davis Murray for keeping an eye on the boat while I’m away.

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