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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

2021 Antigua: Thoughts & Reflections

 I've done a number of sailing trips, and in recent years have had those magical days where everything goes right, including the most recent one on Xiaoqin's birthday. I've thought a lot about how those magic days happen, and why they happen when they do. Here are what I think the pre-requisites are:

  • No external or internal constraints. If you're required to be some place somewhere at a specific time, the constraints prevent you from having the flexibility to make a magic day happen. That's why magic days almost never happen at the start of a trip. If you're a typical American, your vacation time is fixed, and you'll spend the first few days of your trip rushing about and getting certain things done. There was no chance you can have a magic day when you have to provision, or get a PCR test. One thought is that Europeans, who can sail for 2 weeks or a month at a time might have more magic days than Americans do.
  • Familiarity with the Area. You can only have a magic day when you know the area well. This includes the wind/wave conditions (e.g., on a North Swell, you want to be on the south side of an island). Your chances of having a magic day are much reduced if you don't know where/when the optimal location to be at is. This is very similar to Galen Rowell's admonition to "look for the rainbow in the anti-solar position before 10am."
  • An open-ness to serendipity. A cruise with a fixed itinerary will almost never have a magic day. That's because you can't change your plans to fit the conditions, so you'll never have a day of perfection.
You can't control what they day will bring, whether it's a bike tour or a sailing trip. But you can maximize your chances of a great experience:
  • Schedule longer trips, not more trips. This helps eliminate the external/internal constraints.
  • Do repeated visits to the same or similar areas. This builds familiarity with local environment and makes your decisions better.
  • Seize the opportunities when they arrive.
Antigua was very pretty and well worth visiting. Flying through Canada was safer while we only had half-vaccinated kids, but was really an ordeal when the plane ran late. I definitely think that without COVID restrictions at play, it would have been useful to visit Antigua for longer (a 2 week trip) which would have enabled us to visit St Kitts/Nevis and/or Guadeloupe as well. But with the time we had and the COVID19 restrictions in existence it was neither responsible nor practical. Definitely something to think about for a longer trip.


Barry Chaffin said...

While reading, I thought some of this applied to bike touring and sure enough, your summary was for both. The concept of repeated visits bothers me a little as there are so many places to see. I guess certain places are so special, like the Caribbean and the Alps, it makes sense to just keep going back.

Piaw Na said...

Indeed. And both aren't just a single place, but are divided into many subsections that can be explored over multiple years and decades. Note that the stuff you learn over time is generalizable, such as winds building up into the mountains during the day and then dying overnight.