Monday, December 14, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
We’ve been away from any wifi for the last several days on St. John, USVI, so sorry the web site and blog have been idle for a while. This update is via our satellite phone.
We sailed west to the US Virgin Islands on December 8th to wait for a weather window to go East to St. Martin. We reached our 30 day limit in the BVI so we had to leave or pay a $200 fee to stay longer. Since we haven’t seen the USVI yet, we decided to explore St. John for a few days. Most of St John is a National Park donated by Laurence Rockefeller in 1956. In 2001, by presidential proclamation, George W Bush added almost 13,000 acres of adjoining submerged land to the reserve in an effort to preserve the coral ecology surrounding St John. It was badly needed as the snorkeling and diving I’ve done so far has shown that the coral has been heavily damaged. Hopefully the new rules will be followed and the coral will slowly recover. The coral in the Exuma Cays of the Bahamas was in much better shape, but it’s a lot harder to get to the Exumas, so it’s experienced a lot less damage from tourists and cruisers.
For those of you wondering why it’s harder to get to the Exumas than the Virgin Islands when the Virgin Islands are a 10 day offshore passage and the Exumas are a few overnight hops, it’s a matter of logistics and infrastructure. The Virgin Islands have two international airports, deep water harbors for cruise ships and an enormous charter fleet. The Exumas are a collection of 350 islands and cays that have only a handful of airstrips suitable for a small prop plane, no resorts, no charter industry, and only a handful of cottages to rent if you come by air rather than boat. The only deep water access for a cruise ship was abandoned in the 1980’s as it wasn’t navigable whenever a cold front blew through. So, visitors are limited almost exclusively to those who come by private boat.
We’ve really enjoyed our stay in St John. The beaches are very nice and free of any garbage (as in the BVI) and all beaches have public access (not like the BVI). The snorkeling is very good as far as seeing cool fish. We’ve seen several sea turtles and sting rays of all sizes, barracuda, blue tang, purple squids, a blowfish, and all sorts of reef fish.
We went on a longish hike yesterday with Susan Williamson to get up to Rams Head Point, which a 200 ft bluff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. A great view. Quinn wanted to try climbing down the cliff, but we declined.
Tomorrow we’ll head back to the BVI and pay our $200 so we can stay longer. The Christmas winds are in full swing and it’ll be a rough beat to windward to get to St Martin without the help of a low to stall out the trade winds. We had planned on spending Christmas in St Martin, but aren’t willing to take a beating to get there, so we’ll hang out in the BVI for a while more and maybe shoot south to St Croix (USVI) for a few days. As soon as our low shows up, we’ll head for St Martin and points south.
Randy and Susan Williamson came to the USVI at the same time as we did so we’ve been exploring the island together. Jen dusted off her cribbage skills and beat Randy by 2 games (skunked him twice) after a lot of trash talking from both sides. Was a lot of fun to watch, even though I have no idea how to play the game.
Expect a big update to the photos on the web site in the next few days as we’ll have better access to wifi when we get back to the BVI. The USVI National Park doesn’t have much in the way of wifi hotspots.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Windward Passage had to head back to Trellis Bay so Kathy and John can get their flight out tomorrow. I know they are anxious to get back to their boat (Oceana) and get started on their own adventure in the Bahamas.
Today, it rained all day so we just hung out on the boat at Leverick Bay and had school. Not sure what we're doing tomorrow yet - depends again on the weather. We will be heading back over to Road Town sometime this week to pick up a package, then probably back to Virgin Gorda for the Jumbies on Friday night. I will post a photo of the "Jumbies" if we get to see them.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
Day 1, Oct 31: 164 nm
Gulf Stream crossing.
Day 2: 128 nm
Today started out with light and variable winds. We motored and then motor-sailed. Then at around 10AM the wind picked up to around 20 knots and we were making good time. The wind was from the South so we sailed Southeast towards Bermuda, and worked as much South as we could manage. The crew was still recovering from the very rough passage across the Gulf Stream so heading to windward wasn’t very popular, but we had no choice. Today we noticed that we had almost chafed through the 1st reef line in the main sail. We set the 2nd reef and will change the 1st reef line when the seas are calmer. Today the seas were mostly 5’-7’ from the South.
Day 3: 158nm
Overnight continued to be very windy and the winds continued throughout the day from the South and Southwest. Seas were 4-6feet increasing to 6-8 feet.
Day 4: 130nm
Today started with a nice respite from the rough sailing we’ve had to date. The front we’ve been racing south caught back up with us and gave us light NW winds. We rigged the sails for downwind sailing and set about straightening up and getting some rest. We replaced the chafed reef line and took some much needed hot showers! Love the water maker! The day ended up with the wind filling in from the Northwest, giving us 20 knots of fair winds and following seas.
Day 5: 143nm
Today started out windy with the Northeasterly winds, but then we appeared to catch up with the front we’ve been playing tag with (or another one, it’s hard to keep track) and the winds clocked around to the South and died off. We fired up the motor to help out and did some fishing. Didn’t catch anything this time. I guess the fish were hanging out in the deeps.
Day 6: 141nm
The wind continued clocking around to the Northwest and we had a nice downhill ride all day. Winds were around 20 knots and the seas were 6 foot rollers on the stern.
Day 7: 162nm
We’re getting some early Northeasterly Trade Winds now and so we’ve got plenty of wind forecasted for rest of the trip. We had Northeast winds in the high 20’s and 8 – 10 foot following seas the whole day. Two reefs in both the main and jib. We were over-reefed, but doing so to keep boat speed down to the low to mid 7’s. There were large cross swells which caused a very bouncy ride when boat speed was in the 8+ knot range and Jen and Quinn were not pleased with that!
Day 8: 171nm
Tried to keep boat speed down, but even with 2 reefs in the main and three in the jib we spent most of the morning going 8 knots or more in 30 to 35 knots of wind. Big following seas. Hard to estimate in the dark, but seemed to be in the 10 to 14 foot range. We were frequently surfing down the front face at 10 to 16 knots. Exciting and a bit nerve wracking as this is the fastest I’ve ever sailed Mirasol (or any sailboat for that matter). Once again we had heavy cross swells from a distant system that were causing us some interesting moments. At one point we got slammed in the beam by a cross wave while surfing down a big following sea. Mirasol swung around hard sending items normally very secure on their shelves flying. I’m glad that only happened once.
As a treat after the long night, Jen made the crew some yummy Brittany Trawler Hash for breakfast. In the middle of the prep work we were tagged by a beam wave that knocked the coffee press flying. Fortunately, most of the coffee and grounds were confined to the galley counter and the worst casualties were a couple of brand new dish towels.
Day 9: In progress
Good winds on the beam. 18 to 25 knots of wind with 10-12 foot following rolling swells. Right now we’re going at 8.2 knots in 25 knots of wind with 2 reefs in the main and jib (approximately 40% of our sails up) We’re on track for a dawn landfall in the BVI. (Or Not). If it looks like we’re going to get there early, we’ll slow the boat way down overnight to ensure a daylight landfall. We’re all looking forward to dawn tomorrow!
We cast off the lines at Waterside Marina in Norfolk, Virginia at 2PM on Saturday, October 31st. We were planning on leaving on November 1st, but with the weather window closing in we decided to leave as soon as John arrived on the boat. Since Quinn had already had a great time Trick or Treating a few days prior, we didn't feel bad leaving on Halloween.
The sail up the Elizabeth River and out of the Chesapeake was uneventful except for a beautiful full rainbow and a few up-close buoy inspections by our helmsman, John. Jen offered to break out the green paint to touch them up as we passed by.
Once through the Bay Bridge - Tunnel and into the Atlantic, the race was on. We needed to get across the Gulf Stream before an approaching cold front overtook us and changed the winds to an unfavorable and possibly hazardous direction. The far side of the Gulf Stream was about 150 miles from Norfolk, about 24 hours away. The front was expected to overtake us just as we finished crossing the south wall of the Stream.
Although we motor-sailed to make the best possible time, the front accelerated and overtook us before we reached the Gulf Stream. This was bad news as it caused the wind to clock around and blow directly opposite the flow of the current, creating very steep and confused seas. In addition, we found that the predicted ground swells from both the Northeast and Southeast further confused the seas.
The witches brew of opposed wind and current mixed with moderate swells from both the NE and SE generated the wildest sea state I've ever experienced. The sea state reminded me of a full washtub that someone had worked into a frenzy with a toilet plunger. The waves were very steep and seemed to come from all directions, with the wave crests more like pyramids than anything else. By 1PM on Sunday the wind had been blowing from the NE at 25 - 30 knots for some time and I estimated the waves to be 8 to 12 feet and nearly vertical at times. This made for a pretty uncomfortable ride for the 6 or so hours we took to cross the 40-mile wide Stream.
I'm happy to report our autopilot managed the confused seas better than I expected. The most disconcerting moments were as rode down the face of a large wave and got smacked in the aft quarter by a breaking wave from another direction. This would fishtail us around so that we were sliding sideways down the face of the wave we had been riding. Within a few seconds, Francois (our autopilot) got her under control and back on course. This took my breath away the first time it happened, but we soon got used to the motion as it happened two or three times every hour while we were in the Stream.
Once out of the current, the seas calmed down quite a bit and to our relief the pyramidal waves disappeared. The front that had overtaken us ahead of the stream stalled on the south side of the stream and in another five hours we had passed back through it. The wind abated to the mid-teens and the seas mellowed to 5-7 foot easy waves for a comparatively comfortable start to Day 2.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Hi all. We were looking forward to being able to post updates on a daily basis during our passage from Norfolk, VA to Tortola,BVI but it didn’t quite work out that way. The first two days were a bit of a train wreck crossing the Gulf Stream and it was too bouncy to work on a blog. Then, in the middle of the night on the second day, I dug out the laptop, fired it up and started putting together my first offshore blog message. To my dismay, just as I started work on it, my computer gave me Microsoft’s equivalent of the Finger… the blue Stop Error screen also known as the Blue Screen of Death. I was displeased. No matter, a quick reboot should set things right.
Not so much. On reboot, all I got was a blank screen and a flashing Caps Lock key. Sigh. So, I put it away for a calmer day to diagnose. (We were still in pretty rough weather and I wasn’t keen on gutting my laptop in those conditions. It took me a couple of sessions in milder weather to figure it out. It turns out one of my memory cards is bad. I took it out and I have a functional, if dreadfully slow, laptop again!
So instead of several daily offshore blogs, you’ll see only a few since we’re most of the way there now. The next entry will have a summary of our first 8 days at sea. Once in the Caribbean we’ll continue to post notes as interesting (to us, hopefully interesting to you too) things happen.
Be sure to check out the “Our Position” link on the web site for an updated map of our progress.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Courtesy of Mrs. / Shelby Merkel
Gregg called at 2 pm EST, said they are doing well, on course, making great time, currently at 29 degrees 26 min N, 66 degrees 5 min W, about 185 miles S/SE of Bermuda. He said the seas were 8-10 ft. last night but glassy today. Surely was good to hear from him :>)
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
They are through the Gulf Stream and about half way to port. Current position as of this post is 32 deg 53 min North by 68 deg 24 min West.
All are well. Gaich is hoping to be promoted from Bilge rat to cabin boy soon. Jen says don't count on it.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands and is one of the most Northwestern islands of the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. We plan to spend several weeks in this area before venturing further South and East.
As the bird flies, Tortola is about 1250 nautical miles (1450 statute miles) from Norfolk, Virginia. Aboard Mirasol, we expect to sail about 1400 nautical miles.
For our landlubber friends, this circuitous route deserves a little explanation. It's all about the Trade Winds. Once we get down to the latitudes of south Florida, the winds start blowing very predictably from the South East. Further south, they blow always from the East. These are the Trade Winds. If we head straight for Tortola, we'll run right into the Trades and be faced with an upwind slog for many days. That is a recipe for a very, very grumpy wife and son. Since I don't want a divorce or to sell the boat in November, we won't go that way.
Instead, we'll head towards Bermuda. Once we're about 100-200 miles southwest of Bermuda, we'll turn almost due south for Tortola. This should keep the wind on our beam and the family smiling!
We hope to make the trip inside of 10 days. A lot will depend on the weather we get, and how much wind. Right now, the forecast for our departure from Norfolk is for very light winds so we'll probably have to motor-sail for the first couple of days. The first leg of the trip is a little tricky as we have to deal with the Gulf Stream and coastal weather. I'll go into that on the next post once I have a better grip on the weather for next week.
Once we're offshore, we hope to make daily posts of our location to our web site and a short update to the blog. Stay tuned!
Friday, October 23, 2009
We're glad our friends from North Point, Kathy and John (Oceana), made it in safely today. (Thanks again, guys, for bringing our new hatch down with you!) It'll be fun to hang out with them for a while before the passage to the BVI's. They are also heading south to Tortola on another boat (Windward Passage), then they are returning to Norfolk to take their own boat to the Bahamas.
Anyway, after dinner on the boat with Kathy & John tonight, I spent the evening updating our main website and hemming Quinn's Halloween costume pants. He is adorable, by the way, as a little super hero/muscle man. The festivities begin tomorrow for the little ones with a Halloween party at the Children's Museum, then "safe" trick-or-treating for a couple hours in Portsmouth (a ferry ride from here). We'll let him do it for a while, then go to dinner at the Biergarten. Last year, there was trick-or-treating at the mall in Norfolk on Halloween, so I will check and make sure we can do it again this year. I know trick-or-treating in a mall sounds lame to those of you with actual neighborhoods, but I tell ya, the Godiva and Lindt stores hand out the good stuff. I'm trying to figure out how I can borrow a few more kids!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Good thing I loaded up on food & UHT milk (and beer/wine, etc.) - it's already been a week since I've seen a grocery store. Thanks again, Kathy, for the use of the Passat! Can't tell you how cool it was to get to drive my old car again! Anyway, we're running out of fresh veg & fruit, but I have a freezer full of proteins, a locker full of *sigh* canned veg, and I still have potatoes, carrots, some citrus, and some bananas that are turning brown. Might get to go shopping on Monday?
We're not terribly busy... Having school with Quinn, catching up on our reading and some chores, maybe even a little guitar hero when we run the generator today (it's overcast so the solar panels are doing nothing for us). Our real constraint is going to be the tanks. Waste tanks are getting full, water tanks are getting low. We are enjoying the quiet, though. There's only one other boat here with us.
Last night, the water here was like glass, so we took the dinghy out for a long ride and found a place to go for dinner. Being stuck on the boat for a couple days will get us a little crazy, but we've done it before. We'll be quite ready to step on shore again on Sunday (hopefully).
Friday, September 4, 2009
If you look at the site and find any broken links or other problems, please let me know.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
"Mmmph?" I respond, pretending to pay attention to the question while I'm reading a book. A bad habit I have.
"You've always wanted to do a circumnavigation haven't you? It's always been a dream of yours, hasn't it?"
"Hmmm... what? Oh. Yes, well I wrote that off when I decided I wanted to get married. It was a good trade off." To myself I add, especially since she's here on the boat with me for a whole year now and we're looking forward to at least one more, which I never expected to happen.. Figuring that was the end of the conversation, I dove back into my book.
A few minutes later: "How long would it take?"
"Huh? What? Take to do what?" Obviously I wasn't keeping up with the discussion.
"To sail around the world." she said.
"Oh... um... about 3 or 4 years I think." Depends on which route you take and how long you mess around along the way." Ok, now back to the book, it's a really good part... wait, did she say something again?
"What was that sweety?" I said a little strained this time, it really was a good part in the book.
"I said, why don't we do it then?" She repeated.
After a few seconds, I scrape my jaw up off the floor and wipe what was probably a pretty silly look off my face. "Really?" "Are you serious?"
She's serious. Wow. Really WOW.
So, we dug out Jimmy Cornell's encyclopedic "World Cruising Routes" and got to work.
A couple months have passed since this conversation and the planning has raised some timing questions. To avoid hurricane season in the South Pacific, we need to transit the Panama Canal sometime in the spring, probably in April. So, we have a decision to make: return to the US for another summer after this winter's trip to the Caribbean or turn left and head for Panama and the South Pacific. We have a lot of prep work to do and the summer is half over. So as not to rush things we may wait a year. This would also give Quinn another year so he remembers more of it. We'll probably make the timing decision by the end of August.
I'm still pinching myself.
Did I mention I married the coolest lady in the world?
Monday, June 29, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I can't read underway (or do detail work like sewing, for example) because I get seasick. I've tried practicing knots, but that gets old quick (at least I can do a bowline, figure 8 and even a monkey's fist now without having to stop and think about it). Can't really play loud music because I need to be able to hear the boat if something changes and I don't want to keep other crew members awake. Oh, and if it wasn't obvious, it has to be something I can do sitting at the helm.
Monday, May 18, 2009
To help with my reflection, I thought I'd pour myself a touch of the delicious island rum... in the form of a tasty Bahama Mama. But it's COLD here in Charleston today! When we arrived two days ago it was as warm as it was in the Bahamas... but it was a TRICK! Today we're being pummeled by a strong Nor'easter with 50 degree temps and 30 knot winds. Brrrrrrrr. I think I'll make that rum drink a hot buttered rum... be right back.
Mmmm yummy. Even better with the rum we brought back. Great stuff.
Where was I... oh yeah, the Bahamas. For us, the Bahamas were a big surprise, even with all the research we did. If you've ever been to Nassau or Lucaya, that's only a very small aspect of the islands. What you see there is Cruise Ship Strip Malls and resort facilities. It isn't at all what the Bahamas are about. Once you get away from the easy to get to tourist areas, the Bahamas are exquisitely lovely.
The Exumas are a chain of tiny islands they call Cays (pronounced keys), about 180 of them. They run in a line roughly northwest to southeast. On the east side of the cays is the Exuma Sound / Atlantic Ocean. Within a half mile of shore you are in thousands of feet of water. On the west side of the cays you are on the Great Bahama Bank. The Bank is thousands of square miles of emerald water less than 25' deep. Most of the time we were sailing in water between 8' and 12' deep. This added a little excitement to the whole thing since scattered around the banks are coral heads that grow to within 3' of the surface. Our boat draws 4' 2". Fortunately, most coral heads are more than 6' below the water. When in shallower water, it pays to have someone on the bow "reading the water", looking for the telltale black circles that means a coral head, or the light tan color of an unmarked sand bore.
To get between the banks and the ocean you must pass through one of many "cuts" between the cays. There are a handful that are navigable in good weather and with the tide. None are to be risked in strong winds or large swells from distant weather systems. In those conditions, called a "rage", the breaking seas are extremely dangerous.
Many islands in the Exumas have someone living there, but there are many uninhabited. There are a few cays that have small towns, such as Black Point on Great Guana Cay, Staniel Cay, and Little Farmers Cay. These towns generally have two or three grocery stores (generally about the size of a 1 or 2 car garage in the US), one school (all ages), a one or two room municipal office, one or two restaurant/bars, and maybe a laundry. There are no banks in the Exumas with the exception of George Town at the southern tip of the chain, everyone else runs on a cash and barter basis. Some businesses take a credit card, but there is a 5% fee to do so, and their phone has to be working at the time.
All the houses and buildings are painted pastel colors. Conch shells are the favorite yard decoration, and there's usually at least one woman baking bread for the islanders and cruisers out of her house. If you wanted to eat a a restaurant, you needed to make reservations, not so that you could get a seat, but so that they would make enough (delicious) food. The people were without exception gracious and friendly.
Just about every cay had at least one beach on either the ocean or banks side, or both. On the ocean side, the waves are big and there's lots of shells. On the banks side, there are usually little or no waves and the sand is white and is often almost as fine as talcum powder. We almost always had the entire beach to ourselves.
We spent two very happy months in the Exumas, almost exclusively at anchor. We only stayed a a marina once, for two days. Beaches, snorkeling, exploring the cays kept us plenty busy.
We also wanted to see the Abaco Islands, on the northeast side of the Bahamas. We sailed from the Exumas to Nassau, re-provisioned in Nassau and then on to the Abacos. The Abacos have a busy tourism industry with most of the islands having lots of small villas for rent. People fly in to the Bahamas via Nassau and then take a 6 or 8-seater prop plane to one of the islands, and then a ferry (25' motorboat) to their cay. Lots of charter power and sailboats are available as well. This area is more what you probably were thinking the out islands of the Bahamas are like. There's plenty of infrastructure support, Internet is easily available and the phones usually work. Groceries and restaurants are bigger and better supplied. However, the water isn't as clear and it's harder to get a beach or anchorage to yourself.
Between the two, we liked the Exumas the best, but it's picking between two wonderful places for sure. I hope they remain as wonderful for years to come. It helps that its difficult to get there, especially the Exumas. Maybe next time we'll check out the Ragged Islands south of the Exumas. Now those are REALLY the out islands.
Anyway, the day before departure, our Raymaine flux gate electronic compass that is hooked up to the autopilot (Francios) seemed to be askew. The GPS, our old fashioned compass and the sun all agreed we were sailing East, while the electronic compass insisted we were sailing South. "Hmmph... that's not right" Jen said. I was somewhat less civil in expressing my feelings about the matter.
The next day we spent a half hour motoring in painfully slow circles to re-swing the electronic compass. With it pointing in the right direction once again, we turned Northwest towards the Gulf Stream and the US.
That night, sometime around dark o'clock, the compass started playing games again, only this time it was completely lost. Instead of just pointing in the wrong direction, it would slowly swing around westerly, counting down around all points of the compass, around and around and around. I started thinking about those old Bermuda Triangle movies where boaters/pilots experienced spinning compasses. Yikes, what next, a rotating time-warp tunnel and UFOs? Strange things seem plausible at night in the middle of ocean. I glanced up to confirm our trusty old fashioned mechanical compass was behaving properly, which it was, and the hairs on my neck laid back down.
Jen suggested that rebooting the navigation system might clear things up. No such luck... at first anyway. After powering up, the compass resumed it's sedate countdown around the compass one or two more times and then picked a random heading and stopped. 8 button-presses later I had the thing realigned to read in the correct direction and our autopilot was functional again. This happened about a half dozen times throughout the three-day passage. Our first warning would be a beeping error message from Francios, followed by the boat rapidly veering off in one direction or another.
I suppose it's likely to be a bad connection (crossing fingers here) or a faulty Raymarine compass, not aliens or spooky geography or Atlantis. While we're here here in Charleston, I'll check out the connections and then get Raymarine on the phone... again.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
It was an interesting thing handling a closing from the Bahamas. We didn't have to sit through the endless closing meeting, signing things until our fingers were sore. We let the attorney sign everything for us except the deed, which we signed here in the Bahamas and sent express to the attorney to hold for the closing. I strongly recommend it.
So to all you River Rats, enjoy the summer on the water!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
So what are these new “routines” we carefully adhere to? I’ll run through a few of them here.
Think of this one as knocking on wood. It started on our friend John’s sailboat several years ago when I made a somewhat optimistic announcement on our arrival time. We had been on a fast sail in perfect weather all day up the west side of Lake Michigan when I called home and said we’d be in Milwaukee in three hours. No sooner had I hung up the phone that the wind backed and we found ourselves on a dead beat to windward into 25+ knots of wind for the last 15 miles. Three hours turned into six exhausting hours tacking up the coast (since we didn’t have the good sense to fire up the engine and have done with it.) Ever since that day, John insisted that any statement about schedules, weather conditions, or destinations are followed by “or NOT”. For example… “Well, we’ve got the wind on our beam and we’ve been making good time. We should be in by 2pm… OR NOT.” The “or not” is usually accompanied by vigorous rapping of knuckles on wood or fiberglass, crossing of the fingers, and if I had one, rubbing of a rabbit’s foot. This one may have originated with our good friend John, but Jen and I are firm believers in it.
Jen and I have a backpack we use on just about every excursion ashore. It is used for carrying groceries (and rum) back to the boat, or maybe Jen’s camera and a picnic lunch out to the beach. Since this is a boat we need keep the clutter under control, so when we move the boat from place to place we have a habit of tidying up the place a little in case it gets a little bouncy. That keeps us from being distracted by having to run around grabbing things just when the seas get peppy. It’s also a good excuse to tidy up the boat a little. Anyway, it’s come to our attention that every time we stow the backpack prior to the next day’s sail, we never manage to get the weather we were expecting. It’s downright uncanny. Once we figured out the pattern the backpack has the honor of NEVER being stowed. It sits on a seat, ready for use. Since then, we’ve not had any weather surprises. Needless to say, the backpack will remain unstowed, tossed casually (but deliberately) on a bench until we get off the boat. Even then, I imagine it’s going to have an honorary spot in our home. We’ve had a lot of fun toting that backpack about.
A Clean-Shaven Face Never Leaves Port
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. I’m not sure how not shaving became the rule for departure day, but if nothing else it’s a good excuse not to shave. Not that I need any. I think I’m averaging 4 days before the thing starts getting too itchy or Jen decides it’s getting too scratchy.
Do A Little Dance
I think this one started after a long, windy, wet and salty day. We dropped anchor in a cool anchorage, looked around and smiled. Jen did this little happy dance she came up with which involves standing in one place, swinging of the hips and moving of the hands back and forth (in counter-point) with the index finger pointed forward. I mimicked it, which made us laugh. Now, every time we arrive in port we do our little dance to celebrate our safe arrival. Aside from our own amusement of doing the little dance, it also summons good juju which we direct towards our trusty anchor, giving it just a wee bit more holding power. Oh, and I imagine some of our anchorage neighbors have found it amusing.
No Sailing on Friday the 13th… whenever possible, anyway
Jen googled Friday the 13th and found a few references to sailing. According to some, it’s bad luck to begin passage on a Friday in general. Compound that with it being Friday the 13th and… well… you see where I’m going with this.
As I write this Jen just pointed out that Wednesday is April 1st. Wednesday was the day we planned on leaving the Exumas for the Abacos. (Or Not). Since this involves an overnight sail, superstitions come even more into play and we’re not sure if April Fools Day is such a good day to pick. The weather’s supposed to be favorable (Or Not), but wouldn’t that just be a clever April Fools Day joke if we got served up a big cold front to sail through… Hmmmmm…
At Warderick Wells at the top of Boo Boo Hill (don’t ask), there is a cairn where the park encourages visitors to leave a piece of driftwood with the boat and crew’s names carved on it. It has to be driftwood found on the island as Warderick Wells is in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, which has very strict rules about taking or leaving anything. It’s supposed to give you 100 days of good cruising weather if you leave your contribution to the cairn… so OF COURSE, we did. Warderick Wells is a special place. It is virtually unspoiled due to the strict rules and the fact that the boaters respect them.
The Green Flash
Every day at anchor we try to stop whatever we’re doing just before sunset to be sure we don’t miss it. The sunsets are gorgeous just about every night, with the sun setting over the Great Bahamas Banks, but we’re also watching closely for a Green Flash.
We had heard about the “Green Flash” that can be seen just as the top of the sun drops below the water horizon, but I had always thought it was a myth or a sailor’s’ story. Pirates of the Caribbean, At World’s End, etc. However, when we reached the Exumas we started hearing boaters talk over the VHF about sundowners (boat drinks) on the beach and to join them to watch for a green flash. Hmmm, this might be something, so we started watching.
A few weeks ago while we were anchored off of Normans Cay, we both saw a bright emerald green spark, or flash just as the top of the sun disappeared. Since then we’ve been looking very closely and have seen two or three of them. It’s very cool when it happens, and it does feel like a dose of good luck.
Well, that’s about all of the superstitions we’ve gathered over the past year of cruising. I’m sure we’ll come up with more. I’ll keep you posted. Or Not.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I left them to their task because I prefer not to watch - I can do without the blood. A few minutes into it, I hear "cut off his head... his mouth... his tail!!!" All I could say was "Who's child are you?!?!??!" His response to that was "I like looking at fish. Dead fish and alive fish."
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Right now we're anchored just south of Black Point on Great Guana Cay. We're hoping to head down to Georgetown tomorrow, but the weather may not cooperate. If it doesn't, well then we'll probably give up on the idea of Georgetown and start slowly working our way north to the Abacos. Georgetown seems to be a bit crowded for our tastes so if we miss it we won't be disappointed - it's not worth a rough sail when the conditions on the Banks are so superior. We do need to do some provisioning so it's either Georgetown or Nassau within a week or two.
We'll update more as soon as we can. Take care all!
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
We had a huge list of things to get done and haven't gotten to half of it since we've been here, so even if we could wrap everything up in a day or so, the weather window for our next sail closed with the setting of the sun today. Our next shot to leave looks like Friday.
Oh well. Off I go to make a Bahama Mama.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I finally resolved our electronics problem after 3 days screwing around with the navigation system wiring and many emails back and forth with RayMarine Customer Support. Apparently, we’re lucky enough to get 2 bad wind instrument pods in a row.
In between the emails with RayMarine, I’ve been busy rewiring and rerouting our SeaTalk communications cables in every possible configuration. It seems the SeaTalk networks (we have three on board… SeaTalk, SeaTalkNG and SeaTalk Express) require very exact wiring procedures that are not well documented, and even when wired correctly some talent in wizardry doesn’t hurt when dealing with communication problems. Having tried every possible combination of connections, RayMarine determined that the new wind pod is indeed a POS and needs to be replaced. The standard RayMarine warranty policy is: you ship us yours and we’ll send you ours…in about 3 to 5 weeks. With only moderate pleading and emphasis on our plight of being cruisers in the Bahamas relying heavily on our wind instrument, they agreed to ship us an advance replacement with my promise (and credit card number) that I will ship the offending pod back to them within 30 days. Thank you RayMarine!!!
The only problem now is how to get the replacement into the Bahamas without paying the 50% VAT tax on it. This is a significant cost as the retail price of this pod is $350. Replacement parts for vessels in Bahamas waters are exempted from VAT, but you have to have the right mix of paperwork and voodoo to pull it off. Enter our mail forwarding company, St. Brendan’s Isle. They advertise that they are experts on getting mail, etc delivered anywhere in the world, and with dealing with import/export issues. I gave them a call and they quickly outlined what we needed to do and how it would work. So, I had RayMarine ship the pod to St. Brendan’s Isle and when they receive it we’ll get it shipped to us in the Bahamas. We’re not sure where in the Bahamas, but we’ll figure that out soon. We have at least until Monday to figure it out.
Oh, I mentioned a crisis being averted. Now that I’m not waist-deep in navigation system wiring, we took the dingy out for a ride to the nearest town and replenished our rum supply. The rum is no longer gone :)
I love it when a plan comes together!
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Today, I trekked two miles each way (uphill, barefoot in the snow... ok, not so much, but definitely 2 miles) to find the liquor store in West End Village. Well, I was successful. I found the store. However, when I arrived at around 3:15 p.m., I was greeted by a sign on the door that said "out to lunch, back at 4". Everything I have read in cruising articles about this type of sign in the islands said that "back at 4" was merely a possible return time, if there was a return time at all, i.e., don't expect promptness. So, being that I was alone and it was getting late in the day, I returned to the boat with only a loaf of fresh, locally baked bread (yummy, by the way). Ok, so the bread was kind of worth the trip... but the liquor cabinet is still basically empty save the remaining third of a bottle of Sauza Conmemorativo.
The rum is still gone.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
I'm going to start this by saying that I am not complaining, just describing.
Since I am the cook on board, I am charged with provisioning the boat. This has been my responsibility since we moved on the boat, but never to this extreme. We are preparing for up to 16 weeks in the Bahamas. Yes, there are grocery stores there, but you're not going to find Jewel or Dominick's on the Exumas anywhere. According to cruising cookbooks, sailing magazine articles and word of mouth, you're more likely to find something more like a shop the size of a cubicle that might have condiments, frozen bread, Velveeta and one refrigerator containing very limited produce (if you're lucky).
Beer is available, but VERY expensive - to the tune of $60/case. Liquor, however, is available and cheap, so I don't have to worry about that. Paper products, when available, are also very expensive, as is just about everything else you might need. Needless to say, I've been loading up the boat as much as possible. Further complicate this with the fact that the fridge and freezer on the boat are each about the size of a med-large cooler. Most of the things I bring on board cannot require refridgeration. Like milk. There's a 3-year-old on board. We have to carry lots of milk. Fortunately, I've been able to find UHT milk. We are currently holding about 8 gallons worth. We probably have around 60 juice boxes, 20 or so boxes of mac & cheese, 60 individual cups of applesauce, and among other things, probably in the neighborhood of around 4 cases of canned vegetables.
Now, let's tack on that I no longer have a car. I did have the benefit of one major trip to the store with the use of Gregg's parents' jeep. The reciept from that trip was around 5 feet long. But now I am sans auto and walking to the store, which is about 6 blocks away, with a West Marine wheeled cart, which is slightly larger than a milk crate. Since I can only carry so much at a time, I have been to the grocery every day for the last two weeks. I'm still not finished. How much food, beer, milk, paper products, etc., would you go through in 4 months?
One more thing. Food in cardboard is bad. Bugs, moisture, etc. So, every food item that comes in a cardboard box must be repackaged in some type of plastic - be it just a ziploc, an airtight container, or actually vacuum sealed (items like coffee, flour, sugar, salt, rice, etc.). This and stowing adds about 1-4 hours to every trip to the grocery. All meats to be frozen have to be vacuum sealed as well. This eliminates the risk of freezer burn and reduces the amount of waste from packaging on board later (important also because some places charge per bag for garbage disposal).
On top of provisioning, I do the laundry (via the hauling the filled wagon to the laundromat), keep the inside of the boat pretty clean, teach school for Quinn, and do all the cooking.
There ya go. I've been a little busy. At least I'm not freezing my butt off in Chicago.
Gotta go. I'm off to the store again.