We caught up with Nate Atwater and Heather Hild-Atwater while they were preparing to host the second of five Colgate Sailing Adventures® flotilla sailing vacations in 2021. They have been sailing on their “new-to-them” Hylas 49 Moonshine this past year. Boating became enormously popular and boat sales are through the roof, with parts on backorder for months, as any boat owner knows. Here’s what they have been up to…
Q: What have you missed this past year with restrictions due to the pandemic?
Heather: Besides missing the two Flotillas that were pushed back due to the pandemic, I have missed going to the Bahamas on our own boat. I was lucky to be quarantined with my Mom, my Sister Hope and Son Bert for the first few months of the pandemic so I can’t say I did not see family, thankfully.
Nate: Due to COVID, Heather and I skipped going to the Bahamas this year. We have not been in two years and I for one, really missed the beauty and solitude of the Exumas. As we missed the year before due to the work needed on the new boat, it was a major disappointment. Luckily, we are going to lead a Flotilla in the Exumas and we get to share the places we love so much with others.
Q: How often did you sail during the pandemic and on what boat?
Heather: We moved aboard our own boat, Moonshine, last July. Living aboard has given us many opportunities to sail. We also enjoyed the Colgate Flotillas in the Apostle Islands and Belize!
Nate: I for one was able to sail a lot. We got our new to us boat in the water in late July 2020 and we have been living aboard ever since. I have also been able to do a fair amount of racing on a variety of other boats with great friends as well, but not to the extent we used to be able to.
Q: Where did you sail? Did you need to quarantine anywhere before going ashore upon arrival in certain destinations?
Heather: We christened our new to us Hylas 49 in Mattapoisett, MA, and sailed her South in the Fall of 2020. Our general route took us from Tiverton, RI, through Long Island Sound and New York Harbor. Then offshore to Cape May NJ, up the C&D canal and gunkholing through the Chesapeake Bay. We joined up with some friends in Hampton Bay, VA, and went through the ICW to Minnesott Beach, NC, where we had Thanksgiving with our eldest son Nate and then after, our other son Bert joined us and we traveled offshore from Beaufort, NC, to Charleston, SC, then on to Ferdindina Beach, St. Augustine, Fort Pierce, Miami and on to to the Key, south around Key West then up through the Everglades to as far North as Fort Myers where we visited with the Colgates and everyone at the Offshore Sailing School base there. After the Belize Flotilla, we reversed our direction and made it back to Oriental, NC.
Nate: We have sailed from Mattapoisset in Buzzards Bay all the way down the eastern Seaboard to Key West and up to Ft Myers. We have now backtracked to the Oriental, NC, area where we will be based for summer 2021 while we lead the Exuma, Corfu, and Tahiti Flotillas. We have not been forced to quarantine anywhere but have been reasonably cautious and have somehow managed to get vaccinated during our travels. We were also able to squeeze in two Flotillas, one to the Apostle Island in Lake Superior, and one to Belize.
Q: What changes did you witness when you hosted the flotilla in the Apostle Islands July 2020, and in Belize March 2021?
Heather: I thought that Belize handled the COVID situation very well. They required a PCR test to get in, took masks seriously and enforced a curfew. However once we left the docks, we were in nature and it was very healthy. Sun, wind, salt water are all good healers.
Nate: Both trips were very different. The Apostles was an amazing trip for several reasons. First off, the only people that flew to the Flotilla were Heather and I. Everyone else drove or took a train from as far away as Florida! The trip was amazing as the cruising grounds were stunning, empty, and the dedication to the trip by the participants really shined through. Belize we had done before and the country really was just starting to open up. It was sad to see people struggling so much and it felt great to be part of the reopening. The ability to give our business to the locals was a real joy and the gratitude and thanks we received in return were priceless.
Q: What historic site, experience, or interesting place stands out to each of you from past Colgate Sailing Adventures flotilla trips? Why?
Heather: The last day in Belize we took a tour with Diana Dean, an Offshore Sailing School graduate that has been on many of these flotillas. We visited the Mayan ruins and it was really spectacular! Nate even found an artifact which had special meaning to him.
Nate: Oh boy. I am a real student of History and I could go on forever. Epidaurus in Greece with the Ancient Theatre; standing in the house where Marco Polo lived in Croatia; walking through Dubrovnik and talking to natives about the not so Civil War; paddling into the submarine base in Uvala Smrka; the annual celebration of Santa Candida the Patron Saint of Ventotene; the caves in Mallorca; the people we have met during every trip to the Caribbean; finding a Mayan Mortar in Belize; visiting the Bora Bora Yacht Club and putting my Yacht Club burgee on the wall there.
Q: What are you most looking forward to for the 2021 flotillas in Exumas, Greek Islands, Tahiti and the BVI? Have you sailed in any of these destinations before?
Heather: They are all really exciting! We have sailed the Exumas before on our own boat so I’d have to say Corfu, Greece, is the most exciting. It’s natural beauty and sailing promise to be a very special flotilla. The BVI is an old favorite as Nate and I have sailed there many times pre-Hurricanes Irma and Maria. We are looking forward to returning to the scene of our honeymoon.
Nate: We have spent roughly five months in the Exumas in the last four years and love cruising the area. As we were not able to get there this year, I am excited to share the places we love with other people. A bonus is that we know a lot of the participants and count them as friends so it makes it extra special. Tahiti is much the same idea as we have led a Flotilla to the area before. Added to this will be that it is a ten-day trip which creates the ability to see and do more while adding flexibility. Corfu has been a long time bucket list for me as I love European history and antiquity. That should be an incredible trip in many ways! The BVI speaks for itself as we had our honeymoon there and visited several times with family, friends and our children over the years. We have not been there in fifteen years so we are excited for that trip.
Q: What are you looking forward to on the 2022 Colgate Sailing Adventures flotilla schedule?
Heather: Wow! It’s quite a line up for 2022 and I have to say again, they are all interesting! Thailand! The Seychelles! to name a few…so exciting!
Nate: I for one love to travel so each one has great interest for me. Thailand and the Seychelles are very high on my list. The latter due to my desire to spend time cruising Mexico on our own and the previous two due to their exotic nature. I honestly love them all as each venue is so different.
Q: Do you keep in touch with flotilla participants after the sailing vacations; have you met up with any outside of the flotillas themselves?
Heather: I feel blessed to have met so many great people on these Colgate Sailing Adventures. Quiet a few have become ‘regulars’ and still we meet new friends each trip. You know what they say about strangers…”they are just friends we have not sailed with yet!”
Nate: That we do! Although we clearly travel a lot we are in touch with many past participants on a consistent basis and count many as friends more than acquaintances. Facebook has been a great way to stay in touch with many.
As Nate says, “If you are not traveling, you are not learning!”