Random Images from our Anchorage

Sunday May 25, 2014

sunset over Miami

I wish I could tell you that more exciting things were happening here on the ‘Dip, but honestly, there hasn’t been much for us to do. Most of our projects are reliant on getting our order from Defender, something that was supposed to come yesterday, but still hadn’t arrived when we went to the Post Office to claim it.  So we sit here stagnant.  Stalled.

We try to keep ourselves busy in the afternoon with little cleaning projects and even took Georgie next door to Monument Island on Friday.  I didn’t realize what a hermit she has turned into since we’ve adopted her.  Going from being in a shelter with over 200 cats and a dozen assistants, she was extremely overwhelmed by all the weekend boaters that decided to turn this into a party island and I think was actually excited to get back into the dinghy after less than five minutes ashore.

Let’s hope that our package comes in on Tuesday so I’ll have something new to report on, but until then, enjoy some random images of our anchorage.  We really haven’t ventured past it in the last few days.

Monument Island at night

Our first night in Miami, anchored east of Monument Island.

Georgie in her litter box

Georgie couldn’t wait to get back in her litter box after I washed it out.

Belle Island, Miami Beach

Storms rolling in behind Belle Island.

rain over Miami

Monument Island, Miami Beach

sunset over Miami

Georgie on Beach

Just a quick walk for the kitty.

Star Island, Miami

Passing by Star Island.  Not all that great.

Matt driving dinghy

sunset over Miami Beach

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One Project Forward, Two Projects Back

Thursday May 22, 2014

inner forestay

Don’t you love when a list of projects leads to another whole group of projects that weren’t even on that list? Things that come up while you’re doing said list, and you think to yourself, ‘Well that just can’t go ignored’. Such is the case on our to-do list. We’ve had it all printed out since the Bahamas and even got busy checking off little things here and there. We were confident that with about a week of hard work in Miami it would all be completed. If only it were that easy. Because the one unplanned thing that can be added to a list and drive any sailor crazy are unexpected leaks.

There we were one afternoon this week, cleaning out our garage aft cabin to lube up the steering system when Matt gets to the very back part of the cabin, only reserved for the the things we never have to get to (like my sewing machine) and therefore never pull those items out of the way, only to find dampness all over the bottom of the cabin. We had just suffered through about a day of constant downpours and assumed that was the cause of the wetness…but where had it come from? Doing a little tracing we found that it also followed along the shelf that runs against the wall and since there are no hatches or ports that far back, it must be from the toerail.

It looks like our simple and relaxed day of just doing two small items to get off the list was now going to be taken over by pinning down the source of and fixing that leak. The bung plugs were taken out above deck, and while I did my best up there to keep the screws from moving while Matt worked in the small confines from below with the ratchets, we successfully removed about 10 screws that would be rebedded with a little more staying and leak-proof power. We hope.

Originally placed in the toerail with butyl tape, of which we find works great for many other things, we just weren’t sure if it was up to handling the job here, which meant it needed to come off all of the screws. And if you’ve ever worked with butyl tape, especially once it gets warm and gooey, you’ll know that it is a pain in the butt to remove. All of the screws were handed to me since Matt has only nubs of fingernails and I spent the next hour trying to get this blessed yet wretched product off. It wasn’t until after I’d gone through and cleaned them all down to a nice silvery sheen that Matt found out, and quite by accident, that WD-40 will actually remove butyl tape clean off a surface. Nice to know. I wish I could blame him for ruining my nails after going through this process when it turns out I didn’t have to, but it turns out that I had already done it myself with a sewing project. Constantly pushing a needle through fabric using my thumbnail to put a little force behind it kind of screwed it up to begin with.

Once these were all clean we went through with the drill to make sure all the holes were wide enough, and Matt took some Life Caulk to the screws and made sure they were fully coated before placing them back in their holes. Then just as before, I sat above deck and held the screws in place while he tightened them from below. Now we just wait for more rain to make sure the whole process has worked. I’m sure we’re the only cruisers in history that have been disappointed by every rain cloud that keeps dodging us, keeping us bathed in sunshine instead.

In good news though, we did complete one more project that didn’t give us any hassle at all. That was to place a permanent (for the crossing) inner forestay up at the bow instead of relying on the temporary Amsteel we currently keep up there. Ever since we replaced all of our rigging upon getting the mast back up on the east side of the Erie Canal, we’ve had a spare piece of standing rigging just sitting in our aft cabin going unused. We figured this would work best since we want to keep our staysail rigged during the entire crossing so it’s ready whenever we want to use it, and this way we don’t have the hanks chaffing the braided rope of the Amsteel.

All in all this project took us about two hours which isn’t too bad in my book. We’d already taken the previous Amsteel inner forestay down and brought it to shore along with the new rigging to measure the two pieces to the same length and mark the new one. Back on the boat though, before we got down to any cutting, Matt had the suggestion of attaching the new forestay and measuring once more down to the deck just to make sure our cut would be precise. Good thing too, because as soon as Matt came down from the mast and we went to hold it out we realized that our original measurement was about a half an inch too short. And there would have been no getting that back if we went ahead with that cut! Re-marking our new measurement we got busy making the proper cut and getting everything attached. Voila! New inner forestay installed! Now, if we could just make sure the order we just put into Defender can get here by this weekend we’ll be able to start checking the rest of these projects off and look at getting this show on the road.

toe rail

inner forestay

sunset over Miami

Georgie at sunset

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I am FREAKING Out Here People!

Tuesday May 20, 2014

waves b&w

Do you know what I was doing this morning at 4 am? I was lying awake in bed, thinking off all the terrible things that could happen to us as we cross the Atlantic in a few weeks. Here’s another fun question for you. Do you know how many boats were abandoned just last week while taking the same route that we are? Two!! That’s right. Two boats with a larger number and more experienced crew than the two of us had to leave their boats behind while making the same trip we’re about to do. I am FREAKING out here people! Granted, both of those boats appeared to be passing through a very nasty low pressure system a few hundred miles east of the United States around the 40th degree latitude, but all I could think of through the whole night was ‘That could be us!’. One of the two crews was picked up by the USCG, but the other crew, as I currently write this, are still missing; their boat believed to be abandoned in the Northern Atlantic.* Pardon my French, but that is some scary shit!

For the weeks and month leading up to our departure from Miami and across the Atlantic to the Azores and then through Gibraltar, I’ve tried to mentally prepare myself as much as possible. Prepare for the monotony of being at sea for 30 straight days, and prepare for the onset of at least 2-3 fairly rough storms during our crossing. In my mind, and according to most of the books I’m reading, the worst part of these storms usually pass you in a few hours and all you’re left with after is maybe a day or two of overcast skies with some rain and the drudgery of waiting for the seas to settle back to their original state. The weather systems that we’ve been tracking for the past few weeks though to get a feel for what’s going on out on these waters, is showing a completely different story.

I will admit to you now that we have never once listened to a Chris Parker forecast. We have taken his information while cruising with friends that do get up at the ungodly hour of 6 am to listen, but personally we’ve always been fans of Passage Weather and have used that to prepare for any passage we’ve taken. This does require internet, of which we will not have once we leave on our crossing, but at that point we’ll be relying on downloading forecasts from our SSB twice daily, something that should give us a four day outlook that will be very similar to what we’ve always viewed on Passage Weather. While keeping an eye on it at the moment though, these are the kind of images that we keep seeing pop up.

front over Bermuda

front over Azores

You can see where I’ve labeled Bermuda and the Azores, and our approximate intended route (terrible job with the paint brush, I know). You can also see all that yellow and orange showing up in areas close to where we’ll be, and that’s very, very bad. If you follow the wind indicator at the bottom, you’ll see that yellow represents winds of 30-35 knots, and orange represents 35-40 knots. That would be bad enough on it’s own, but I may have mentioned to you before of our learning of reading Passage Weather, and have pretty much found it to be true. Always expect 5-10 knots higher than it shows. If it’s reading 30-35 knots, expect 35-45. If it’s reading 35-40, well, you’re S.O.L. It’s why we never go anywhere when a forecast is reading over 20 knots. Even though we always travel in weather that shows 15-20, we experience at least 30 knots sometime during the trip. Every.Single.Time.

So you can imagine why these images are getting under my skin. They never end. There might be two days of calm in those areas before another front develops. This is not normal, not for this late in the season, and it has me terrified that nothing will change before our intended June 1st departure date.

So as I laid there wide awake, waiting for the sun to come up, my mind was filled with alternative routes. I was thinking to myself, ‘You know, since we were about to take on a 30 day passage anyway, we could make it to Panama in 10-12. And you know who’s in Panama? Brian and Stephanie on Rode Trip. That would be so fun!!’. I actually lulled myself to sleep with false promises that we would stick to the Caribbean where we would never be more than 200 miles from some form of land.

Reality did set in this morning though as I realized the light of a few very important things. 1. We don’t have to go if everything is showing the same in a week and a half. Have those fronts not showed any sign of leaving, we will wait for them to do so. Or, hightail it to Panama. 2. Based on years and years of data, they should be changing any day now. The Bermuda/Azores high should be settling in, and things should start to look much calmer on those waters. And 3. Downloading a 96 hour forecast twice a day should keep us on top of any fronts that could arise. If we see anything that looks like it’s coming up, we have no problem backtracking or adding extra miles to avoid it. We are going to be very cautious cruisers on this trip, and that is fine by me. I would much rather arrive even a week later than anticipated if it means we’re not surfing down 20 ft waves in 40 knot winds. Ever.

preferred weather

Now this is the kind of weather I’m looking for!

 

* On Friday May 23rd, the USCG found the hull of this second boat, the Cheeki Rafiki, but with no sign of the crew.  The life raft was still on board and never inflated.

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Brushing up on Chapman’s

Sunday May 18, 2014

Chapman Piloting & Seamanship

I think it’s about time I became reacquainted with an old friend of mine, Chapman’s Guide to Piloting & Seamanship  A 900 page manual on everything boats and boat related. The how’s, why’s, navigation, weather, safety, ect. Chapman’s and I were supposed to become well acquainted back in 2010 when Matt had purchased the most recent volume for me and plopped it in my lap stating “Read this”. Right…this is exactly how I wanted to spend my summer. I did try though, really. There was actual effort put into covering the essential chapters, the ones that were going to teach me how to sail and read weather patterns. The only problem was I didn’t fully understand the information at the time, and therefore didn’t retain much of any of it. What I did retain was actual on the water sailing where I’d try and pay attention to what Matt was doing and figure it in to what I had previously read. Even that wasn’t…great.

Although I do now know all the lines on the boat, where they run to and from, and what purpose they serve…I’m clueless when it comes to sail trim. I have read the little annecdote on how to read tell tales numerous times, and every single time I get it backward in my mind which has me trimming the sails the wrong way, and the official sail trimmer of the boat getting upset that I still haven’t learned how to do it after five years on the water and almost two years cruising. Understandably as well. I know I would be very frustrated if it was the other way around. No more excuses though, it’s time, and I need to learn what I’m doing. There’s 3,000 miles of ocean coming up in front of us shortly and we can’t afford mistakes out there. Plus I can’t rely on Matt to always be there to fix everything for me. I need to be able to do it on my own.

During our days with bad weather in the Bahamas, especially the areas like Lee Stocking island where we were never even able to get off the boat, I’ve set myself down with as many sailing how-to videos as possible. Penny Whiting’s ‘Learn to Sail’ and ‘Annapolis Book of Seamanship’. I know, these are as basic as it gets and a lot of the information I do already know, but, it just gives me that extra visual so when I do pick up Chapman’s again, it might come a little easier to me. I can put an image in my mind of what they’re trying to describe. So with enough watching and reading over and over again, I might finally learn how to trim a sail to look like an airplane wing, or find out where I want the draft.  And then how to get it there.. Funny thing is, I feel much more prepared to handle sails in storm conditions than just cruising along. I think those tactics have been engrained in me long ago. But, if I can finally figure out how to get the sail back in perfect shape after it starts flogging without Matt having to yell out “Ease the main!!!”, then I will consider it a successful payoff.

Chapman's Seamanship

Chapman on sailing

Chapman on weather

 *Example: While sailing from Warderick Wells to Bimini, Matt asked me to move the main over as we set ourselves on a downwind course. I stared back at him with a blank face. ‘So I … walk it over to the other side?’ (No, I was supposed to trim the main to the center, and then the wind would catch it as I eased it out to the other side) To be fair, I had just woken up and also hadn’t eaten in 14 hours, so my mind wasn’t quite all there yet, but still. I know how to do that move when fully awake and full, I should know how to do it while sleep deprived and starving.

 

 

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Cosmetics that Stand Up to the Heat

Friday May 16, 2014

 

Let’s be honest.  Once you move yourself onto a boat where your daily chores consist of scrubbing decks and cleaning the bilge, and extracurricular activities are going for an afternoon swim or a sweaty hike around an island, your old beauty regimen tends to fall by the wayside.  It might be because you know you’re apt to get dirty minutes later, or because no one else will see you besides other cruisers that have also stopped putting the landlubber effort into getting ready, or possibly because you don’t feel a need for it out in nature and you’re happy just to get back to nature.  Face is clean, albeit sunscreened because that is still a must, and hair is pulled back from the face.  It’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s what works for most days.

But, if you happen to be like me, there are days that you just want that girly touch back.  Not an all out blow-out of the hair and a pair of strappy black heels, but just a few extra touches to enhance your natural beauty.  (Or a Fancy Cocktail Hour with blown out hair and strappy black heels)  I think all of us women want that from time to time.  But depending on where you’re cruising, even that might be troublesome due to heat and humidity.  Who wants to spend the time making themselves up just to have it sweat off ten minutes later?

Luckily for you, before we began cruising I did a lot of research on products that could stand up to the kind of heat and humidity we’d be living in, or would stay on my face as I played around in the water, and then carefully made purchases through a variety of different brands.  Some are cheap items you can find at any drug store, and a few are a bit more high end.  Now that we’ve traveled through the ridiculous heat of places like Jamaica, Cayman, and Guatemala, I think I have a good idea on how they all hold up to their claims.  And while everything may not be completely waterproof or melt-proof, I mean, I did put them through 90 degree days with 90% humidity, I haven’t been disappointed by any of these products yet.

Aveeno Positively Radiant

 Aveeno Positively Radiant Moisturizer

Purchase through Amazon here

This is my go to moisturizer I use throughout the day, and I love it. It’s very light, non greasy or oily, and it has a key component of having an SPF built right in. That probably would have been enough to sell me on it right there, but there’s also hidden beauty promoters added inside. This moisturizer contains a natural soy complex which works to even out skin tone and blotchiness while using light diffusers to promote radiance. Even though I do also have expensive skin care products, my skin has always had a nice glow when soley using this product, and the fact that it is cheaper, means that I wont hesitate to use it during multiple rounds in and out of the water when I know I’ll be reapplying all day. Don’t let that fool you though, a little bit goes a long way. One of these bottles will last me about a year.

Lancome Lift Volumetry

Lancôme Rénergie Lift Volumetry

Purchase through Amazon here

Ah yes, the aforementioned expensive skin cream. Ok, maybe it doesn’t fall into the category of ‘stands up to heat and humidity’, but I’m including it on this list because of what it lets me do when the sun goes down. Unfortunately, and although I love this lifestyle, I’ve probably done more damage to my skin over the past two years than I have my entire life beforehand. Maybe that’s because I had no friends to go to the beach with in high school and college, but either way, it definitely suffers now. Let me just warn you, this stuff is expensive, but it is also magic. It works to firm the skin and erase fine lines and wrinkles. I used it for about a year before we left and had amazing skin, but then I became lazy as we started to travel more and believe me, certain areas of my skin could tell that I was trying to cheap out on it. Within two weeks of starting my old beauty routine up again though, boom, flawless skin was on it’s way back in. Again, a little bit goes a long way, and personally I think it is well worth the money.

Maybelline Superstay foundation

Maybelline Super Stay Foundation

Purchase through Amazon here

These are a few of my cheap drug store purchases, and while, yes, I could have spent more and went with a department store product that they put on models while shooting in the tropics of Bali, I needed something cheap because foundation and concealer are the base of my beauty routine which means they get used much faster. And in turn empty out my wallet faster. As far as drug store brands go though, I think this is the best you can get. This product claims to flex with your skin so it never feels tight, and it also withstands heat, humidity, and sweat. Does it actually stay on for 24 hours or even a full day of sweating under the blazing sun? No. But it does hold up longer than anything else I’ve tried.

Tarte Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Blush

 Tarte Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Blush

Purchase through Amazon here

Tarte, whom I love as a brand for being eco friendly and cruelty free, has a great line of Amazonian clay products that contain a dose of Amazonian clay and are baked in the sun. The result is long lasting, streak free color that pops and lasts all day.  I love the slight gold shimmer in this color (Wonder), which is especially flattering on slightly tanned skin. If you’re looking at the photo you’d probably think that I’d just cracked this blush open last week (and then dropped it causing a chip in the color, that much is true), but let me set you straight. This is my number one blush. If make-up is going on my face, you better believe this blush is accompanying it. I even started using it the few months before we left on this trip. It’s just so packed in pigment that you only need a touch of it.

Tarte Bambeautiful

Tarte Amazonain Clay Eye Shadow Palette

(Purchase through Sephora here)

This eyeshadow quad is made of the same material as the brand’s cheek color, and does the same amazing job of staying on all day long. Just like the blush though, it is extremely high in pigment and you have to be very careful of how much you apply. In the quad shown above, I haven’t even gotten around to using the darkest color yet because I get so much punch with the other three that it’s just not necessary. I would love to learn how to use this kit to get the perfect smokey eye though, something I’ve never been able to perfect in my life. Anyone have any tips for me?

Tarte Amazonian Clay waterproof cream eyeshadow

 Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Cream Eyeshadow

Purchase through Amazon here

Unlike the above mentioned eye colors which only have high staying power, the contents of this little bottle are actually waterproof. I know what you’re thinking, it must be completely thick or waxy to be able to hold up to this claim, but trust me, it’s not. This color glides over your eyes and lasts all day without smudging or creasing. This color goes on light, but can be built up with more applications. For water or land, it’s been a great item to have in my beauty bag.   *Tip:  It works best if you can start with a dry, oil free eyelid.

Sephora waterproof eyeliner

 Sephora Liner 12 HR Wear Waterproof

Purchase through Amazon here

Ok, ok, I know that eyeliner is going just a bit overboard, but I like to wear it.  Honestly, I do.  I actually have four eyeliners aboard between two makeup bags at the moment.  These two however, are the ones I use when the temperature starts to climb.  The description claims that they are resistant to water, heat, and humidity, and trust me, they do.  Not have I only never had a problem with running or smudged eye liner when I’ve personally worn them, but I’ve also read accounts of women wearing this product to the gym and it’s still sitting perfectly on their eye after an hour long sweat session.  I’m sure that eyeliner is probably the last product to make it on to a boat, but if you’re like me and you just can’t live without it, this is the product to use.

Govergirl natureluxe mascara

Covergirl Natureluxe Water Resistant Mascara

Purchase through Amazon here

 You were probably wondering what happened to my drugstore products, thinking I may as well buy you a gift card to Macy’s since that’s the only place you’d be able to get most of these things. Don’t worry, there’s a few more cheapies on the way!

Here’s the thing about waterproof mascaras. They’re terrible for your eyelashes. They might keep them pretty and full for a few hours while you frollick around in the water, but too much use of them and you’ll barely have anything to put that mascara on anymore since they are very drying to lashes. Which is why I love this product from Cover Girl. It’s the lesser of evils in the mascara category for when you’d still like something for those occasions you need full lashes in the water or in the rain (me, me, I’m that girl!), but want to keep the damage to your lashes to a minimum. * Tip: Removing waterproof mascaras with all the extra rubbing and tugging is partially what makes them so bad. For tough eye make-up removal, I am a huge fan of Bi-Facil Double Action Eye Makeup Remover
.

Revlon lip color

Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick

Purchase through Amazon here

I’ll be truthful with you, basically any long wear liquid lip color will do it’s job if it’s applied properly.  For me that means starting with absolutely dry lips before applying the product.  Then (and this is the hard part), you have to let them stay completely dry for about five minutes.  It will feel tight and uncomfortable, but this is what lets it really soak in.  After that, apply some of your favorite lip balm to keep you lips moisturized throughout the day.  One of my favorites is Blistex Five Star Lip Protection SPF 30 (a godsend for the lips, I use it all the time).

The reason I choose Revlon Colorstay is that it’s lighter than the other brands, and I love their wide array of flattering colors.  With tiny micas and pearls added they always make my lips look fresh and flirty, with a natural pop of color.  Because of the cheaper price I can stock up on multiple colors, and the fact that it does hold up to it’s claim of 12 hr staying power makes it my must use item when I want a little color on my lips.

 

 

 

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Night Watches

Wednesday May 14, 2014

night watch

Lately I’ve been reading lots of accounts, through Facebook groups or blogs themselves, of how many other people out there don’t enjoy night sails. No one ever goes into much explanation of why…just that they don’t feel comfortable with them or would prefer not to do them if they don’t have to. Being no stranger to them myself, I thought I’d take a moment to go over my own personal pros and cons of these supposedly apprehension causing passages.

I can’t say that I’ve had the luxury to be afraid or uncomfortable with them. Right from the beginning I was thrown into night watches without a choice. Our very first long distance excursion in Serendipity was an overnight sail from Muskegon to Milwaukee, back in 2010 with a couple of friends, complete with thunderstorms and sustained 30 knot winds. If that doesn’t prep you to be less afraid for what future night ventures might hold, I don’t know what will. Even our first leg of this journey was an overnight from Muskegon to South Manitou, a 120 mile jaunt. Maybe it was the nerves getting the better of me of having just left my whole life behind, but I remember going to bed just as the sun was setting with a very uneasy feeling in my stomach. When I woke up for my three hour shift and all I had to do was sit in the cockpit for the next three hours while we gently rocked back and forth in Lake Michigan as I stared up at the stars, I realized it wasn’t so bad.

Ever since then I’ve never really been fazed by night sails and actually prefer to take them when possible since why would you want to waste a whole day traveling on the water when you can do it at night and spend half that time sleeping instead? Friends had started asking me, especially once we got into the open waters of the Atlantic, Doesn’t it scare you to be out there in the dark where you can’t see anything? Wouldn’t you rather do it in the daylight? In reply I had to answer that it was actually better. Without being able to see anything, how could you be afraid of it? Those menacing graybeards that I had to stare down through the afternoon were now blended into oblivion. I couldn’t see them, and they couldn’t see me. In fact, on the really dark nights where you can only see a foot or two past the boat are the best because then you’re really just living in the space that is your boat instead of imagining all the empty miles between you and your next landfall.  It’s kind of like being in your own cocoon.

The only thing I have to do is make it through 3-4 hours while listening to music or a podcast until my shift is up and I can crawl back into bed and sleep half the night away. Sail changes rarely have to be made, maybe a little trimming or easing here and there, but for any of the major things I’d wake up Matt to help me, and what’s the difference between doing that in the dark vs daylight anyway?  Ok, maybe it was a little hard sometimes while going down the east coast, but once in the Bahamas we spent a few days rigging all lines to the cockpit, so it doesn’t need to be left unless something is really wrong.  Or the boom vang has to be brought from one side to the other.  But we run jacklines and wear harnesses, so that’s not usually a biggie.*

If I did have one contention of night sails though, it would be the fact that you do get an interrupted night of sleep. You can’t have your yin without your yang. Although I do love the fact that I can sleep half of the trip away, therein lies the problem as well. I’m only sleeping half of it. If you ever learn one major thing about me, it’s that I love my sleep and I am horrible under sleep deprivation. It can lead me to be moody, forgetful, or even downright sick. (Honestly, if I get less than six hours a night I get light headed and go into dry heaves at some point). If you ever got in the way of me and a good nights sleep, be prepared to be on the wrong end of the worst cussing, name calling, or possibly even property destruction that I can throw at you. (Ok, maybe I won’t actually destroy your property, but it will be the first thing to jump into my mind) That’s how much I love/need my sleep.

Not getting a full night’s sleep unfortunately goes hand in hand with night shifts, and it’s usually the debate I have in my mind on if it’s worth it. There are set schedules worked out on Serendipity where I sleep from 8 pm – 12 am, go on watch from 12 am – 4 am, and sleep again from 4 am – 8 am, meaning I should still get my eight hours in with just a four hour break. Which sounds perfect in theory. And that’s where everything is perfect, right?  In theory. Unless we’ve been on passage for at least two days I can’t actually force myself to fall asleep at the unholy hour of 8 pm. So I lay in my little bunk, rocking back and forth, for two to three hours until I finally manage to drift off, usually only gaining one hour of sleep until I have to be up again. The second day of passages we usually find ourselves sleeping away most of it, trying to catch up on the actual hours of sleep that we missed while waiting for it to come as we laid in our bunks the previous night.  It kind of reminds me of how I explained passages to our friend Nate before he joined us on a 380 mile journey from Grand Cayman to Utila, Honduras: “Passages are not exciting. They basically consist of sleeping, or counting down the hours until you can go to sleep again.”.

We’ve heard and sometimes realized ourselves that the longer you are on passage, the easier it is to fall into a routine, and after four to five days you’ve slipped into falling asleep when you’re supposed to, staying awake when you’re supposed to, and hopefully best of all, gaining your sea legs which means it’s much easier to move about the cabin without getting sick. That’s the big payoff that I’m hoping for.

So, between a few off tangents, there you have it, my feelings on night watches. If I can get my sleep schedule down and get a minimum of six hours in before being sent off to do anything that requires too much concentration, I am completely fine with them. Which kind of makes me laugh, although it’s kind of not funny, that because I’d had a collective two hours of sleep on our ride over from Bimini to Miami last night/this morning, I totally missed that I had us anchor right next to a submerged cable and almost right on top of it. My eyes were not even on the chart plotter, but instead of that wide open spot between a few boats in the anchorage. Let’s just hope I don’t suffer more severe consequences next time. I’ll let you know how it all goes once we pull into the Azores after four to five weeks at sea. Hopefully that schedule will have really settled in before I can do anything stupid.

 

*We also have a safety system that during non daylight hours, whoever is on watch in the cabin always has to be harnessed in.  No excuses.

 

 

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Radio Beach Rocks

Monday May 12, 2014

rocks on Radio Beach, North Bimini

Did you think I meant ‘rocks’ as in ‘this place is so cool, I never want to leave it’?.  Well, although that is also true, I was talking about the actual rocks on Radio Beach in North Bimini.  Are they actually rocks?  Or are they coral?  Fossils?  I’m not quite sure, Google didn’t help me out too much on that one.  All I know is that last time we were here I didn’t get to see much of them because it was high tide during our afternoons at the beach.  On this round however, the tide was low and leaving them fully exposed for me to explore.

I don’t know what it was about this little chunk of water that was so irresistible to me, but I could just not stay away from it.  Walking on the rocks, amid the rocks, poking between the rocks with a stick.  You would have thought I was a six year old let lose on their first school field trip.  One thing is for sure though, whether they’re entertaining a six year old, or just a thirty-one year old who likes to act like one, these rocks/coral/fossil combined with the crystal clear waters behind them were absolutely stunning.

rocks on Radio Beach, North Bimini, Bahamas

North Bimini, Bahamas

Bimini rocks

tide pool at Radio Beach

Jessica on Radio Beach, North Bimini, Bahamas

dark clouds over Radio Beach, North Bimini

rain on Radio Beach, North Bimini

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What’s in Our Beach Bag?

Saturday May 10, 2014

what's in our beach bag

Now that we’re sitting in Bimini and waiting for a good weather window to cross back over to the Bahamas, we’ve finally had some time where we’re not rushing to be anywhere or trying to dodge bad weather, and have had some time to actually lay out on a beach in the Bahamas.  Crazy concept, I know.

Back in Isla Mujeres we became quite familiar with day trips to the beach and what we wanted packed in our beach bag.  No, we don’t go crazy with big umbrella’s (that’s what the shade of a palm tree is for), or even those little pop up tents (have you seen those things??!!), but we did find there were a few core items that we wanted with us each time.  So, besides the obvious things like sunscreen, sunglasses, and a good book, this is what you’ll find in our beach bag.

 

Our Beach Bag.

Well, we couldn’t really fill our beach bag if we didn’t have one to start with, and this one from Reisenthel has worked out fantastic for us.  It’s the perfect size that it fits everything we need, but not so big that I think I’m going to dislocate my shoulder on my walks to and from the beach.  Near the bottom is an expandable zipper that gives me just a little extra space when I need it, and even has a convenient credit card holder on the very bottom of the bag.  Plus, this thing is tough.  Made up of a tearproof polyester fabric, we don’t have to worry about any stress that’s being put on it, or the tree branches poking out at us as we tried to find a shortcut to the beach that didn’t really turn out to be one.  Water and sand brush right off, which is also a big thing for us since we don’t want to be tracking any of it back to the boat.  Whatever we try to throw at this bag, it stands up to it.

reisenthel shopper e 1

Our beach blanket.

Although we do still have about two beach towels sitting on the boat, they’ve long been retired from actually making their way to the beach and instead just serve a purpose of drying us off after some of our showers when we can’t find or don’t feel like using our chamois.  At the beach, we use a large sarong that we purchased, fittingly, on the beaches of Mancora Peru, where a gentleman was walking through the sand trying to sell them to tourist.  Best beach purchase ever.  Not only is it much more lightweight and less bulky than trying to shove a couple of towels in our bag, but it doesn’t trap sand in it’s little fibers!  Do you know how great it is to just be able to quickly shake it out and know that it can go right back to it’s storage spot in the cabin without having to be washed first?  Plus it dries extremely quick.  Hang it on the lifelines for an hour or two and it’s dry as a bone.

sarong as beach towel

 Sexy husband sold separately.

 

Music.

In my opinion, you just can’t have a good day at the beach if you don’t have good music to pair it with.  Not only do we not have a boombox, but if we did have one it wouldn’t be practical for our lifestyle, so we wanted to stay away from anything like that.  Which is ok, because we’ve found something much better.  the XBoom is a small little speaker that fits in the palm of your hand but produces a mega sound.  We plug it into our MP3 player (which honestly is a little outdated and could use replacing), but it can work with any device such as computers, tablets, and phones.  The sound that comes out of this little speaker is anything but small and is also incredibly clear.  It’s the perfect beach accessory and so portable that it could be used in any of a variety of other places as well.  I just wish we would have had it around for all of those dinners in the ranchito back in Guatemala.

Xboom portable speaker

Our cooler.

Sticking with the boating theme of everything must be as compact as possible, and if it folds down then it’s even better, our cooler is just a small Thermos lunch duffel that can roughly fit about six cans of pop (or beer) and two small apples (chocolate bars).  But seriously, this thing is awesome!  It has a zip top closure, of which has never rusted on us, and we’ve always been able to fit everything we need in there, although if we happened to be bigger partiers or socializers we probably would have gone for a little bit bigger of a size.  Granted, this is not the option you choose when you need to throw together a bag of ice and a 24 pack for an all day bender (between many people of course), but this bag will keep cold items cold, and if you add a little ice pack like we do, they’ll stay cold all day.  Plus it’s just as tough and durable as our Reisenthel bag, which means that for short hikes or sundowners on another boat, this little sucker is all that we need.

Thermos lunch duffle

 Don’t you like our fish shaped bottle opener?  A very important addition.

 

 

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The Still Lost City of Atlantis

Thursday May 8, 2014

NW Bimini

Everyone has heard of the lost city of Atlantis, right? A highly developed society constructed  in script by Plato that supposedly sunk into the sea? Did you know that right here in Bimini Bahamas, they claim to have remains of this lost city? Or at least, the road leading to it. That’s right, situated on the NW side of the island just off Paradise Point is the Bimini road, an underwater rock formation that is so precisely laid out that it is claimed to have once been a man made road or wall, and is now currently sitting 15 or so feet below the water’s surface.

When we were here just a month ago I had desperately wanted to dive (snorkel) this site, but it was just waaaay more than our dinghy would have been able to handle, about five miles each way from where we had been sitting all the way up the channel inside. Since we had no reason to rush ourselves in this morning, in fact, we needed to wait for an incoming tide, we decided to time our departure from the anchorage in the afternoon which meant we had the whole morning to find and explore the Bimini Road. After our morning coffee to fully wake ourselves up, we checked the spot where I had plugged the coordinates in our chart plotter and with the destined spot now in mind, we hopped in the dinghy and sped off at all our little Mercury 3.3 could give us. Our guidebook along with the coordinates, also stated there was a buoy marking the site and you could not miss it. Only…we could. As far as we could see on the horizon, the only buoys that seemed to be littering our view were bright orange ones that were marking off construction zones for a new pier that is being installed.

At this point we realized that we should have put the coordinates into our little hand held GPS and brought it with us, but now, just like in that scene at the beginning of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, although we could still see the boat, we deemed that we’d ‘Already gone too far’ and didn’t want to head back to get it. The next best option was to have Matt stick his goggled head underwater each time we came up to a dark patch in the water only to find out that each of these dark patches was a bed of eel grass. There were a few rocks out in the water that were supposed to be marking the start, or end, or side, or some relation to the road, so we kept focusing on that area to no avail. Then we realized what we’d really been wanting to do all along. Catch some dinner at the end of our pole spear.

Four weeks in the Bahamas so far and we’d never been out for one spear fishing adventure. This was going to be our last opportunity, and if we couldn’t swim the underwater road to a mythological city, well damn it, we still weren’t going to go home empty handed. Based on the kind of below the surface life we found back at Emerald Rock in Warderick Wells, the rocks we had been skirting around all morning seemed like the perfect place to gouge things. Dropping the anchor to the dinghy in a sandy spot to the side we fell back in the water and were instantly greeted with bright purple fan coral and a small shelf of rock hiding glass eyed snappers below. I thought Matt would have to work at his rusty skills for awhile since it’s been over a year since he’s last stabbed anything, but on his third attempt he was already swimming to the surface with a punctured fish on his spear. Score! That was half a dinner right there, we just needed a few more to fill our plates up for a few nights.

Rounding all angles of the large rock now we first scanned to see what was available to eat before just shooting anything that moved. There were a lot of fish we hadn’t seen in quite some time, and a few new ones we couldn’t identify as well. Continuing around the edges we’d kick down the 5-6 feet below us to look in all nooks and I kept a close eye out for any lobster. We didn’t see any of those, but did come across something much much better. At the east side of the rock was a large tunnel that wasn’t visible above water, but once you got down a few feet you could see that it let from one side of the rock right out to the other. Except, you couldn’t quite see it clearly due to all the fish swaying back and forth in there with the tide. It was literally a wall of fish with a few specs of light filtering through here and there. Matt was completely ready to go in and do a little exploring, but my nerves got the best of me and made it apparent to him I would be waiting outside. He decided to forgo it if I wasn’t going along, we wanted to make sure to always have an eye on each other, and took the long way around instead.

Getting from one side to the other was a little tricky due to the shallowness of the coral and rock in some areas. We had to swim over rugged edges of rock that were mere inches away from our belly, all the while fighting against the crests of waves that were building up due to the shallow waters. Doing a circumnavigation of the rock we ended up on the south side for the best fishing, where a group of yellow fish that we can’t remember their name but ate all the time last year were hanging out. 15 more minutes in that spot and we had two more fish in the dinghy, ready to make their way to the dinner table that night.

Even though that spot had been treating us well we settled on a change of scenery and snorkeled past the dinghy to the next rock where we didn’t see many good fishing opportunities, but we did see parts of something that looked suspiciously like an underwater rock formation. The beginning of the Bimini Road perhaps? Hmmmm….I’m going to say yes just so I can say that we actually did snorkel it. Since we had lost sight of the rest of the road and had also lost sight of any good fishing, we moved ourselves and the dinghy to the northernmost rock of the formation. Wow. All I can say about this rock is wow. Best snorkeling we’ve seen in the Bahamas yet this year. Not only was there colorful coral abound, but there were underwater bays full of hundreds and hundreds of fish! We could have had enough fish to last us a year by staying in this spot had two unfavorable things not happened. The first is that the elastic band on our pull spear kept breaking. Matt was able to fix it two times, luckily since one of those time brought in another fish for us to eat, but after that it was deemed unusable for the rest of the day. The other thing was the biggest barracuda I’ve ever seen, and it would not leave our eyesight. It’s one thing just to swim with them, but when we have a bloody fish between us and them, well, let’s just say we don’t want to find out in person how they handle that.

I can’t say we were too disappointed with our day though. Great snorkeling, great fish gazing and spearing, and swimming the Bimini Road (yup, I’m calling it!). Once we had the fish on deck and cleaned into edible fillets, still need to hone that skill a little, we upped anchor to make our way out of the swells that were building and into the safety of the harbor where we were greeted with a calm anchorage and internet access. For dinner we enjoyed a breathtaking sunset and fish tacos where I decided that it was a special enough occasion to pull out my second to last Red Stripe (yup, part of the 24 pk I bought in Jamaica last May). Our time in the Bahamas now officially feels as if it’s at an end, we’ll probably be leaving on the next available weather window although it’s probably still a few days out. I can’t believe how fast it’s already gone by. Last time we were counting down the days until we could get out, now we’re savoring each day that we still have here.

Bimini sunset

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Making Miles

Wednesday May 7, 2014

Exuma Banks

There was only one thing left on my Exuma wish list, and sadly, I did not get to complete it.  The last item on the list that we missed out on last year and I wanted to squeeze in this time around was stopping at Norman’s Cay, just about 10 miles north of Warderick Wells.  This spot is famous for being the headquarters of drug smuggling operations for Carlos Lehder (even featured in one of my favorite movies, Blow), and even though the drug runners have been gone for about 30 years now, this little island still has a few draws.  There’s the famous McDuff’s restaurant where we hear you can pay $20 for a single burger (thanks, I think we would have passed on that one), and the sunken remains of an airplane that lies just a few feel below the water and is perfect for snorkeling.  That is the reason I wanted to visit.  But according to Kim and Jereme, whom had just come from there, getting to the plane from the anchorage we would have been in on the west side of the island would have been very far in the dingy and very hard at times with the current ripping through the cut between islands, where the wreckage lies.

Well, since our intended plan had been to anchor at Norman’s Cay, then Allen’s Cay; Nassua, Berry’s; Great Bahama Banks; and finally Bimini, and now it wasn’t likely that I’d even be able to see the one sight I wanted to go to Norman’s for, we decided to skip it all.  After talking to a couple from s/v Sea Witch while out snorkeling the other day, they mentioned there would be steady east winds for the next three days that they themselves would be riding directly back to their home port of Palm Beach.  We took a moment to think about it, and this is what we came up with.  We need/want to be back in Miami by May 15th to give ourselves at least two weeks to prepare the boat for our Atlantic crossing with a departure date for that of June 1st (weather dependent).  If we were to still hit all of these intended anchorages, even just staying for one night, that wouldn’t put us back to Bimini until the 12th.  Doable, but any bad weather could quickly put us behind schedule.  Or…we could skip all of that and head directly back to Bimini from Warderick Wells.  So that’s what we decided to do.

Matt was a little more enthusiastic about this ‘go go go’ idea than I was, I wasn’t ready to give up these excruciatingly beautiful anchorages just yet, but he’s been indulging me throughout all of the Bahamas so far, so he did not hear any complaints from me when he asked for this one favor back.  He was ready to get into ocean crossing prep mode, and after 8 days, I was just excited at the thought of getting internet back.  Anchor was weighed at 9 am yesterday under sail power alone, and we slid out into the calm waters of the Exuma Banks.  Due to the east winds and still being so close to shore, we enjoyed a good five hours of extremely settled water where it was hard to tell we were even moving.  Poor Georgie, who probably assumed we were still at anchor since it was so calm, didn’t understand why she was being reprimanded as she tried to wander the deck.  We still never want to take the chance that she might go overboard while underway and contain her to the cockpit, but unless conditions are pretty rough we won’t actually force her leash secured leash on her, letting her wander the cockpit and cabin.

Although we were headed in a NW direction, the winds had clocked just south enough to keep fairly downwind the whole way.  Things did start to pick up yesterday evening where the waves began to build just a little and even though our apparent wind was only in the 15-20 knot range, we were keeping a steady 7 knots under our hull.  We passed Nassau just at sunset and then I was sent to bed.  Even though we were speeding along and would normally reduce sail once the sun went down (just so a reef doesn’t have to be put in when one person is trying to sleep…we just take care of it beforehand), there was an unspoken wish between us that we might actually cover all our miles to Bimini before sundown the next night, but we needed to keep going fast to do that.  It was only when I had been down below for a few hours, never actually catching any sleep, that I felt a sudden knock on our side.  A big gust had come up and basically thrown us over and rounded us up into the wind.  Ok…time to slow down a little.  Matt brought in the headsail, but even in doing so we still managed to keep 6 knots under our hull until getting in the lee of the Berrys.

The NW Channel was crossed over at 3 am, and something we would normally never do in the dark, except we still had our track on the chart plotter from the first time we passed through and we made sure to stick to it exactly.  Surrounding us were the lights of anchored boats that had dropped hook in the shallow waters just before the pass, waiting until morning to make their run through it.  By this point I had been on shift for three hours, and since I had not managed to accumulate any sleep from my first shift below, Matt let me go down early to catch a few hours even though I still owed him two more. (We made sure to both be up for crossing the channel)

The rest of our sail today through the banks was rather uneventful, although I wish some excitement would have come in the form of fish biting on our line.  We didn’t even have any barracuda to throw back.*  I guess in the world of yin and yang though, we had to give something up to get something in return.  Our journey might have been fish-less, but it was also fast.  We rounded the North Rock of Bimini at four in the afternoon, plenty of time to get ourselves to a comfortable anchorage for the night.  Since the tide was now coming out though and we would prefer it to be at our backs instead of fighting it on our way in, we decided to anchor outside of the harbor for the night.  Which not only satisfied my wish for at least one more beautiful anchorage, but it might satisfy my wish for good snorkeling as well.  Because we have just put ourselves in a prime spot to check out the Bimini Road tomorrow morning.

 

*Imagine my disappointment when, as soon as I logged into our Facebook account after having scheduled a bunch of post to go up as we were heading up the Exumas, one of our readers pointed out to me that the first time we crossed the banks our first catch was not actually a barracuda, but a mackerel!!  Something we could have eaten!!  Thanks for letting us know Ben, we’ll make sure to keep a sharper eye out the next time.  It was those damn big teeth that had us confused the first time.

 

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