When Everything Works Against You, it Sometimes all Works Out

Wednesday June 4, 2014

everything works out

It’s suffice to say we should have been gone by now.  In the cruising world it’s almost impossible to adhere to a schedule, but we still like to when we can.  You can see that by the way we rushed ourselves through the Bahamas this year.  We’re also the kind of people that would rather show up early than late.  So the fact that we’re still sitting in Miami 4 days after our intended departure date, and still have about 5 days minimum before we can think of leaving, is a bit of an oddity for us.  That’s because we seem to have everything working against us right now.  Almost every aspect that depends on us being able to get out is being held up.

At the moment, we have a multitude of things preventing us from leaving.  I’ve just spend my whole afternoon getting to know the Miami transit system once more so I could swing by the USDA yet again (let’s see, that would be my third visit to their office) to pick up the notarized forms that the vet signed on Monday. If you’re wondering, it was a five hour round trip to go from the boat to their office about 10 miles away, and come back.  That’s one item checked off our list, but it’s by no means the only thing keeping us here.

We also have a number of projects that need to be done to Serendipity before we drag her across 3,000 miles of ocean without rest.  Projects that were supposed to have been completed well over a week ago, but our shipment of odds and ends was lost in the postal system and we didn’t get a chance to purchase them again until just a few days ago.  So even if a weather window came up tomorrow, we still have about three good hard days of work on our hand now that we have a few tubes of 3M 4000 in our possession.  

Another thing keeping us in this spot is waiting for just the right weather window.  This one is a biggie, because, well, weather windows are key.

Ah yes, and the last minute project that just came up..  Even though we’ve had three weeks now to deal with it, we just thought to ourselves, ‘Hmmmm, we should replace the backstay’.  The one we currently have up there right now is original to the boat, and we don’t know if we want to trust it to 30 straight days of pressure.  Better safe than sorry, right?  As you can tell we’re taking this crossing very seriously.  You’d think we’re making ourselves out to be the first people to ever accomplish this feat.  

We just placed an order for a new one today, and even with expedited shipping, we won’t get it until Friday evening.  The real kicker on this is we had a new backstay lying around.  Right in our aft cabin!  Truth be told, we should probably get a stupidity award for this one. The only reason we didn’t install it with the rest of our rigging after exiting the Erie Canal is that we didn’t have the right fitting. So we kept cruising with the old one. Then when we just came to Miami now and we wanted to run an inner forestay, we thought, ‘There’s some rigging lying around in the aft cabin we can use. Brilliant!’. And so we thought we were. Not realizing that, duh, that piece could still go up as a new backstay once we ordered the proper fitting. Now we’re left to ordering new fittings as well as the rigging for our blunder.

So as you can see, we seem to have just about everything working against us right now.  If it’s not one thing, it’s another.  Paperwork, projects, weather….the list goes on.  You think we’d be cursing the fates, wondering why everything had to fall on us at once.  Can’t we just get a break, somewhere?  But here’s the thing.  When everything works against you, it actually all works out.  We’re not sitting here just cursing one single thing.  We’re not pounding our fists saying ‘If only the weather would change’, or ‘If only that package would come in’.  When there’s only one thing working against you, when there’s only one thing holding you back, it’s easy to become angry and think of all that could be working in your favor had that one thing been different.  But when everything works against you, you just sit back with a smile and say ‘Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about it’. And then you make the best of what you have.

 

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A Letter to my Family

Friday May 30, 2014

Matt & Jessica 2

 Don’t worry about us, we’re all smiles now.

(Photo courtesy of Lahowind)

 

Ha, what was I thinking posting something on the blog last week about having a major meltdown about our Atlantic crossing without sharing any of my hesitations with my parents first?  Here they are sitting at home, thinking everything is fine and we’ll still be leaving in just a few days time, and then BAM, they see something online with me basically running in circles yelling ‘Oh my god, We’re going to die!!’.  Yeah, not one of my smarter moves.

The good thing about getting that blog post up though was so any future ocean crossing cruisers know they’re not alone when that ‘Oh s%*t, what the hell are we doing?!’ moment comes up.  If you stop and think twice about your actions and if you’re doing the right thing, then you can know you’re not alone.

The other reason, and I think I knew this before I published it, is that by publishing it, it would help bring me a little perspective.  In all honesty, I know we’ll be ok, whatever we decide to do.  If it’s to wait for the perfect weather window and cross the Atlantic, try for that but find ourselves running down to Grenada instead, or deciding that the Atlantic just isn’t in the plans for us this year.  I needed to actually hear other people telling us that we’d be ok.  And the support and positive energy you’ve all sent our way has been amazing.   I feel a new vigor like we can actually handle this, and any nerves I had before have now given way to excitement.

With that being said though, it still doesn’t make up for freaking out my family like I did.  I’m sorry family.  Don’t worry about us.  We’ll be smart in our planning and always trust our gut.  And just to smooth out any wrinkles and ease any worry that my previous post might have caused, here’s a follow up on the subject.  A response I sent to my dad after getting a ‘Why didn’t you tell us what’s been going on?!’ email from him that will also let all of you know our most up to date plans:

 

Hi dad.  Sorry to freak the rest of the family out with my ‘Freaking out’ blog post.  I did want to contact you and mom about our most recent plans, but we’ve still been trying to figure out what they are.  Our departure date of June 1st is totally out the window now, so we’ll be around here a few more days.  (Don’t ever think I’d leave without letting you know!).  There’s actually a number of things keeping us here for about a week longer than expected.

  •   Georgie.  Nope, everything did not go according to plan there. Getting her into the EU seems like one of the hardest projects we’ll ever have to tackle. There was never specific information online about exactly what we needed (or maybe there was too much and I couldn’t make sense of it) and the vets we had talked to before seemed clueless about what was actually needed, only giving us small tidbits of information here and there, so that when we showed up at the USDA yesterday it turns out we did not have all the papers that were required.  Everything we found before (and what the vet in Fort Lauderdale told us) is that we just had to show up to the USDA with an up to date health certificate.  Which we got from the vet in Guatemala, and then added the record of Georgie’s rabies titer test.  It turns out that we needed to visit a certified vet one more time within 10 days of our departure for them to say that she’s healthy, has all of her shots, and THAT’S what we bring to the USDA.  So now we have another vet appt for Georgie on Monday, can drop the paperwork off to the USDA right after, and pick up the signed and notarized copy the next day.

 

  •   We’re missing a few shipments.  Last Thursday we ordered a lot of things from this online boating store, things that we needed in order to complete projects on the boat before we could leave, like caulk to make sure we fix whatever leaks we’ve been finding.  Ones that we’ve been able to semi-ignore in the past but shouldn’t for an ocean crossing.  We even paid extra for 2 day shipping so that we’d have it by the weekend and get right to work.  Well, that package hasn’t gotten to us yet and is now actually missing.  We put in a claim with the USPS, but we think we’ll just have to get reimbursed for the money of what was inside.  It looks like on Monday when we rent a car to take Georgie to the vet we’ll also have to swing by West Marine and buy all the stuff that was in the box just so we have it in our hands.  Then, we need about 3-4  rain-free days to complete those projects.

 

  •  The weather.  That was what my worry in the freak-out blog post was mostly about.  Not so much the two other boats that were lost and thinking for sure it would happen to us.  As everyone is telling me, hundreds of boats successfully make the crossing each season, it’s just the ones with problems that make the news.  One of the boats that was abandoned actually had issues last summer and lost their rudder, the same exact boat that made us go through and put an emergency rudder in after hearing what happened to them.  I won’t go too far into it, but it may be questionable if that boat was sound enough to handle that kind of crossing.

So..more with the weather…this past winter seems to have screwed up global weather patterns and things seem to be settling in later than normal.  The kind of weather we’re seeing out there right now is typical in that area for March or April, but not for late May.  We’d never leave unless we were 100% confident about ourselves and the passage, which is also part of what that post was about.  A prelude in case we end up in Panama or the Eastern Carribean.  Not too likely, but we need to have backup plans and I thought I’d introduce the possibility of them now so no one is thrown a curve ball in case we one day show up a few thousand miles from where we originally thought we’d be.  ’Hey, guess what we just decided today on a whim….we’re going to Panama!!’.

Something I’ve been keeping my eye on, and Matt has actually come around to the idea in the past day or two as well, is to go much further south than we originally planned.  The only thing that had us hesitating to still make the Atlantic crossing is the bad weather that’s been starting off the NE coast of the US, near NY and CT, and then making it’s way east out into the Atlantic.  Most of it dissipates about 500-600 miles off shore though.  The original plan was to ride the Gulf Stream north of Bermuda and then start cutting NE where the North Atlantic current runs, a route normally followed due to trade winds and currents.  What we’re now looking at doing is waiting for a window of 4-5 days of south wind off Miami and then get just north of the Bahamas and cut east.  We’d follow that for the 500 miles or so that all the bad weather has been happening above us, and then turn NE toward the Azores.  Normally people don’t do this because there are constant east winds in that area making it almost impossible to head in that direction, but with a few good days we should be able to do it and it should help us avoid all the depressions off the east coast that have been causing us to worry.

So, that’s all that we’ve been up to lately.  Sorry to freak anyone into thinking we’re certainly going to perish out there.  We’ll constantly have weather updates at our fingertips and are hoping to be able to send short texts from our satellite phone every couple of days giving our location and letting you know we’re ok.

 I don’t know when our new departure date is, but I’ll make sure to call you before we go.

 Love, Jessica 

 

 

 

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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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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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Perfection to Sob Stories: All in a Day’s Cruising

Thursday April 24, 2014

Family Regatta - Georgetown

This morning was, in my opinion, the perfection of Bahamian cruising. Getting up just after 8 am, I found a shady spot in the cockpit where the breeze was blowing just a little bit, but only enough to be refreshing and bring around a whiff of the fresh air around you. Nestled next to me was a hot cup of Michigan sweet cherry coffee, and sitting on my lap was my computer, where work was speedily getting done as I took in the beautiful surroundings sprawled out in front of me. Then a gun went off, and as I sat in my perfect little cruisers throne, a slew of 18 ft Bahamian sloops began to glide past me to begin the races for this day’s regatta. I know it might be different than what other people’s, or especially cruisers dreams are made of (Get off the computer!, you’re probably telling me), but to me, it was a little slice of heaven.

Yesterday I can’t say we did much, except watch the races from our boat. Apparently when we first landed on Tuesday afternoon we had been right in the middle of the race track and ended up moving inside Kidd’s Cove a little more, which is fine by both of us because now we have a much shorter dinghy ride to town. I tried my hand at making bread again, and with a little tweaking I’m finding out that I’m getting better with each loaf. Then something that proves I have the best husband in the world happened. He bought us one week of internet services here through Bahamas Wii Max. Unlimited, 24 hours on the boat. I tried to promise him when we were leaving Florida that I wouldn’t be as crazy as I was last year about trying to find an internet signal, and as long as I could have at least two hours of internet time every seven days, I would be ok.  Having gotten one hour inside the McDonald’s in Nassau and not bringing it up again, I think I’ve held my part up pretty well.

Terrible rain storms have been passing through on and off since yesterday, so there wasn’t much occasion to get off the boat anyway.  I was prodded by Drena to make a trip over to Anthyllide in the late afternoon to watch the class-A regatta, but assuming I was going to spend the next three days in a frenzy of regatta and cruiser related activities, I declined stating that I needed one full night of internet time and then I’d be game for anything after that.  I really should have gone over since today has just been spent on the boat, watching the clouds pass over and playing a game to see how long we could keep the hatches open between rounds of rain to let fresh air in the boat.

Just before lunch today we did stop by Anthyllide to say hi and see what we had missed the previous day.  Scott and Kim mentioned that for this evening’s class-A races they’d be tagging along in their dinghy to get photos, watching from the beginning line as the sloops raised anchor and sail, and at the time we agreed to tag along behind them.  But come five o’clock, the rain clouds were looming and I was in a foul mood.  Not just because I thought it might rain, but because I had spent the morning looking at Scott and Kim’s gorgeous photos of the races so far, and completely bummed out that I would no longer be able to take photos like that.  And not just because my photo skills aren’t as up to par as Scott’s.  Seriously, you should see his straight out of the camera shots.  No, as soon as we left Bimini I went to turn on my ‘good’ camera, my Sony NEX-5N, only to find out it wouldn’t turn on.  I thought the battery was dead and spent the next few hours charging it.  That night it still wouldn’t turn on, or the next day, or the next day.  Finally when I went to inspect it further I found out that it is not an issue with the battery, but with the body.  It gives an error message of ‘Camera is overheating, needs to cool’, gives a few strange clicking noises, and then goes black.  I don’t know how I did it, but it appears as if my 14 month old camera is toast.  All I’m left with now is my Sony Cyber Shot.  It took about five days for it to sink in, but tonight I finally broke down that I’m going to have to shoot Europe in JPEG with minimal settings.  Even Photoshop won’t be able to fix everything that made my NEX-5 so great.

Anyway, enough with my sob story about my camera.  I will still leave you with what mediocre photos I have been able to take of the past two days of races with my Cyber Shot. (Or at least I think they are, compared to my other photos)

 

Shots from Wednesday’s Races

Georgetown Family Regatta

Georgetown Family Regatta

class C regatta

sunset over Georgetown Regatta

Georgetown Regatta

 

My Perfect Morning

Kidd's Cove - Georgetown

regatta passing through Kidd's Cove

Shots from Thursday’s Races

Georgetown Family Regatta

boat's racing through Kidd's Cove

 Sunset at Kidd’s Cove

sunset over Gorgetown

Georgie on deck

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Passing on Marathon

Tuesday February 25, 2014

Marathon, 7 Mile Bridge

I’m sorry, but I just can’t write a post about our time here in Marathon/Boot Key Harbor. You know the old saying, ‘If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all’?. That’s kind of the case that I’m dealing with here. Trust me, I could go on about the many reasons we did not like this stop, but I won’t do it. Not even necessarily because of the above adage, but because we are probably the 1% of cruisers that aren’t completely in love with this harbor, and I’m not ready to start getting that kind of hate mail just yet. So for now I’m just going to leave it alone. In fact, just to show a little bit of gratitude and keep you from dumping your garbage on me the next time you see me walking down the street (or in your daydreams since chances are, we may not meet), I do have one nice thing to say about this place. If you find yourself anchored outside of the chaos they like to label as a harbor, you can catch some amazing sunsets overlooking 7 Mile Bridge.

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The World is Not Enough

Friday June 21, 2013

Great Bahama Bank

I was hoping I wouldn’t have to admit this, but I don’t think I can hold it in any longer, especially with all the negative hints I’ve probably been dropping lately. I’m burnt out on cruising. At this moment I don’t want to do it any more. Neither of us really do, actually. I don’t know exactly how or when it came about, when the excitement and thrills turned to dread and loathing, all I know is that I want off of this boat and out of this lifestyle. Lately every day has been a struggle, and the worst part is, I can’t even figure out why. It’s not like anything has suddenly changed, that we’re in a terrible place, or have just faced weeks and weeks of bad weather, which could leave anyone yearning for their life back on land. The situation is the same. It’s somehow me that’s now different.

To figure out where this may have started, we’d have to go way, way back. Both of us had been thoroughly enjoying our travels until Hurricane Sandy hit us last October. The storm wasn’t bad, in fact, we had a nice little hurricane party in honor of it, but right after that the weather turned to shit. We spent the next month where the highs were in the 50′s, low’s in the 30′s, and the sky was overcast every day. But, we held out hope that things would get better. Traveling from Georgia to Florida, the sun broke from the clouds, I was able to peel off a few layers, and white sand beaches with clear waters were almost within our reach. I should not have spoken too soon. That evening we had our accident, which left us in Florida’s First Coast for three months while we waited on insurance, fixed the boat, and prepared ourselves to leave once more. Christmas was spent alone, on the hard in a boat yard, but we both still held hope that things would get better.

Finally, they did. We entered the Bahamas in mid-March, to the sunny days, crystal clear waters, and white sand beaches we both had been dreaming about. Reunited with good friends we traveled the islands, caught and cooked fish and lobster for dinner, and had bonfires under the starts at night. It was perfection, everything we could have dreamed of. Holding out hope had payed off a thousand times over. From the Bahamas we crossed over to Jamaica and Cuba, still with our friends, and still having the times of our lives. There were the normal hardships, sure, living on a boat doesn’t come without it’s difficulties, but for the most part all of these initial annoyances had become second nature by now. My rage didn’t pop up when I had to move all the pots and pans from our oven to the navigation station so I could use it for cooking, or when I had to use three of the steps on the companionway to temporarily store the contents of our chill box as I searched for the strawberry jam all the way at the bottom. We both became masters at unpacking and repacking our aft cabin/storage area to reach the paper towel stored all the way at the back. It wasn’t really hard anymore, it was just….how it was now.

So this still leaves me grasping at what has changed. I can tell you that it happened in Cayman. Here we were on this beautiful little slice of paradise, and after about three days there, I could have cared less. I wasn’t interested in walking the streets or browsing through the windows. After a couple of fun days of snorkeling, I didn’t feel like getting in the water anymore. Our lives became centered, for a short time, around boat work, and I figured that it, along with our rolling anchorage, was what was putting me in my foul mood. I think the only reason we got off the boat most of the time was because our friends made plans that involved us, and even though I’d go back to my ol’ happy self while we were with them, as soon as we got back to Serendipity, the unhappiness sank back in.

Matt was going crazy in his own mind with never ending boat repairs, and this constant creaking noise that’s been in some of the floor boards ever since our accident. I think he was tired of the cost and the work related to cruising. I was just…tired. I wanted creature comforts again, I wanted to go home. One night, when Matt did his usual song and dance of not wanting to cruise, I gave in. (For those of you who don’t know, even though cruising was originally his idea, by the time we were getting ready to leave, he changed his mind and decided he didn’t want to do it anymore. He was happy with his life at home, and with all the money we’d saved up, we could have had a very comfortable lifestyle there. A condo on the 14th floor in the heart of downtown? That’s all starting to sound very nice now. But back then, it was me who still wanted to go, dragging him along, somewhat kicking and screaming at the beginning.) I never knew if these were serious request before, I’d always talk him back into the cruising lifestyle, saying that when he got older he’d regret that he didn’t travel the world, but this time, I wanted out just as bad. When he said “That’s it, I’m done with it”, as he tends to do at least every other week, I replied, “Me too, let’s go home”. But, to switch up roles, it was him that talked me into staying, stating that we’d at least get ourselves to Guatemala and re-evaluate there.

Which, while on the topic of traveling, I have another confession to make. We HATE passages. Seriously dread them. It’s not that they’re scary or overwhelming. They’re just incredibly boring and uncomfortable, and for days at a time. I didn’t mind them too much while going down the eastern seaboard. It was mostly just day traveling down the ICW, and the few hops out into the Atlantic, usually only for 24 hours, or 36 max. Were those passages comfortable? No, probably some of the worst we’ve had (damn you Northern Atlantic!), but, the excitement was there still, because every passage meant more miles south. Closer to warm weather, closer to clear waters, and closer to sandy beaches. But ever since we left the Bahamas and there are no more ‘day trips’, and neither of us are now too fond of the thought of traveling in a boat. Worst.Cruisers.Ever.

I thought a change of scenery might help, but the feelings haven’t changed since we’ve gotten to Utila. For the past few days, Matt’s been doing his best trying to cheer me up, telling me we can do whatever I want, but it still hasn’t made a difference. Have I already become jaded? It almost feels like no matter what island or location I could place myself right now, the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, or the azul waters of Greece, I wouldn’t be happy. Which, in the end, makes me feel ten times worse about the situation. How spoiled must I be to lead the life I do, and not have it be enough for me? Who knows, maybe it’s just the waves rattling my brain around too much, and I haven’t been able to think straight lately Or maybe, the world is not enough. I really hope it’s the first one, because I can’t wait to get those feelings of excitement back.*

 

Double Breasted Cay

I feel like my life has gone from this…

Piankatank River

 …to this.

*Editor’s Note:  We are now in Guatemala, and back to our regular selves.  Time spent in a marina, living a somewhat normal life again, has done wonders for our attitude.  I can’t say I’m still looking forward to crossing the Caribbean Sea again, but, maybe after a few more months the excitement will restore itself.  I’m also finding out from a herd of other bloggers right now, that cruising can make one…a little bipolar.  As bad as I feel for anyone else going through these emotions, I’m also glad to know I’m not the only one.

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Ragged Islands, no reliable Internet

Wednesday April 17, 2013

We are having a great time at the moment traveling through the Ragged Islands and Jumentos. We’re currently sitting in Hog Cay, just next to Duncan Town on Ragged Island, of which we had a lovely tour of today. The only issue is that all four of us (Rode Trip included) we’re counting on the Internet service there, the only place in these island chains that offer it. After checking in on it today we found that a thunderstorm took it out a few weeks ago and they don’t know when it will be fixed. So here I sit with a bunch of posts from our Long Island adventures ready to go up, but no way to post them. Maybe they’ll have to wait until we get to Jamaica? We’re looking for the best weather window to get a little East and South to make the Windward Passage there, hopefully arriving in about a week. Wish us luck!

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Always a Crisis at Midnight

Sunday March 17, 2013

image Setting the alarm this morning to go off 30 minutes before the sun rose, we poked our heads out of the companionway, and everything still appeared to be calm.  Our crossing through the Gulf Stream and into the Bahamas was still on.  Just like the day of our original departure from Michigan, I expected to be overly excited and have my stomach full of butterflies, but for some reason it felt like any other morning.  Raising the anchor we joined with the ICW once more and followed it the few miles south and around Peanut Island until we were faced with the inlet.  Nothing like the last one we experienced, this one was wide and deep and full of commercial traffic.  Although we had the sun rising right in our eyes making it hard to make out a few of the ships passing through (all pleasure vessels at the moment), there was no apprehension about continuing outside and into the Atlantic.  It didn’t hold the dark skies with foamy white caps that I was so used to from our previous journeys on her, but was flat and calm with a bright blue sky looming overhead.  Not knowing exactly how far the stream was to begin offshore, we knew it came the closest to Florida in this particular area, I turned our instruments to water temperature, hoping the sudden rise once we hit the stream would give me any kind of clue.

Since all of our fishing attempts before had failed us, and from what we heard, a lot of it had to do with being in cooler waters, we thought we’d try our luck once more since we were in an area much more likely to produce something on our line.  After all, with the dozens of fishing boats that had buzzed out of the inlet with us, there had to be fish around here somewhere.  Combing through our suitcase/tackle box, Matt browsed for the perfect lure and finally chose one that looked like a shrunken head.  Maybe the fish like that?  Feeding our reel a few hundred feet of spool and then attaching the lure to the end, we dropped the hook in the water.  Finished with that distraction for the moment, I checked back on the water temperature to see what it was doing.  The water had been hovering around 72 degrees right at the inlet, and was now climbing up to 75.  Did that mean we were in the stream, or just getting closer?  It was hard to tell since there was no change at all to the water that we could tell.  Setting the course a few degrees further south than we were aiming for, we sat back to enjoy this perfect morning.  This is the kind of cruising I had been waiting for for months.

Just when I had settled back into watching the coastline disappear behind us, the fishing line jumped to life with a loud buzz.  Matt and I looked at each other full of excitement and I exclaimed, “What do you need me to do?!, What do you need me to do?!”.  I didn’t know if I should get a bucket of water ready or a shot of vodka to stun the fish while trying to get it on board, but first I was just told to lower the engine speed.  Bringing us down to just over idle I looked over to Matt who had untied our reel from the pole it had been hugging (we lost our original rod holder during some high winds on Lake Huron), and he began to slowly reel in the line.  Still excited, I stopped to think for a moment.  Wait, hadn’t we just passed through a huge patch of seaweed?  Was that our big ‘catch’ of the day?  Matt had the same thoughts as well, and described how there was no kind fight on the end of the line.  Reeling it the rest of the way in, we both stuck our heads down by the combing of the stern to look under where the dinghy was hanging and into the open water behind us.  Sure enough, skipping across the top of the water was a little patch of seaweed, tricking us into thinking it was our dinner for the night.  Clearing it off we threw the line back in the water and hoped for better luck.

The rest of the day was mostly uneventful.  The sun was bright and the breeze was low, so I finally had a chance to pull out one of my bikinis after six months of sitting at the bottom of my clothing bag, and work on my tan so I wouldn’t be ‘that pasty white person’ once we arrived in the Bahamas.  Conditions were calm enough that Georgie was even allowed to roam the deck, although I did join her a few times when small ripples would send us rocking back and forth a little bit.  Once more my Nook came out, and while Matt napped below, I kept a watch on deck while starting a new book.  Although the water temperature had risen to 79 degrees, later in the afternoon it began to drop just a little bit, and our coordinates showing that we were beginning to make progress south as opposed to just east, confirmed that we were on our way out of the Gulf Stream.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day for a crossing, and besides the fact that we motored across the entire thing instead of sailed since the 5-10 winds that were forecast (still don’t have the anemometer fixed yet) were on our nose the whole time, it was a perfect day on the water.  We watched the sun set while enjoying some leftover General Tso’s chicken, and shortly after I got myself ready for my 9:00 sleep shift.  With the early wake up and sun beating on me all day though, I could have gone to bed much earlier.

Getting woken up at midnight for my first watch, I rolled off the settee and slid on the harness that Matt had just taken off.  Getting my bearings, I found out that all the cruise ships and tankers that had been on our radar when I went to bed were now long gone, but we had new cruise ships headed in the same direction we were, a few miles off our starboard side.  Since we had been motoring for 16 hours straight now, Matt asked me to turn the engine off for just a moment while he checked a few things on it.  Obliging, I sat at the stern while our forward moment carried us along under autopilot.  In the few minutes he spent working down there, our forward motion could no longer carry us forward and the autopilot lost it course, furiously beeping at me until I turned it off.  Thinking that our belt was getting pretty worn down, he wanted to take a quick minute to change it.  Needing me to hold the step up so he could gain access to the engine, he worked around the scalding hot parts with an oven mitt, trying to get the belt replaced.   When he finished and confirmed that everything looked good I was told to turn the engine back on.  Bending down behind the wheel I turned the key and pushed the starter….but nothing happened.  Thinking that I was getting things mixed up because it was dark and I was tired, I tried again with the same results of nothing.

Having Matt come up and try as well, we realized it was more serious than not hitting the right buttons.  He left for the engine area again, and with a few grunts and curses he climbed into the aft cabin to find it was an issue with grounding for the spade connector to the starter, and within a few minutes he had it fixed and we were up and running again.  I put us back on course and sat back for a moment to relax while Matt cleaned up his tools below.  We weren’t even going for two minutes when I heard shouts of “Turn it off, turn it off!!”.  Shutting the engine down once more I scrambled down the companionway while he pulled back out the tools out of drawers and shelves. The new belt we had just put on snapped and yet another one needed to be put on immediately.   While Matt feverishly worked, now having to remove the bushing and put it back on, I was constantly trying to crane my neck for a view out of the port light to make sure those cruise ships were not coming any closer while we were sitting adrift out there.  What felt like forever but was probably one five minutes, everything was fixed, we were back on course and out of the way of cruise ships, and I just had to keep up hope that the engine would not die during my shift.

Today came with a lot fewer surprises, at least during the daylight hours.  When I woke up for my 6-9 watch, we were half way through the Northwest Providence Channel.  I had been thinking that we’d already be passing the Berry Islands by this point, but those headwinds were really slowing us down.  Still moving solely under motor power, we were averaging about 3.5 knots.  The winds were also picking up, which would be great sailing if they were closer to our beam, but being directly on our nose the only power they had was to keep us at a snails pace.  Once more without much to do for the afternoon we sat around reading and then took a bucket bath up on deck while trying out our new bug sprayer for the fresh water rinse.  We can each get ourselves fully clean with it’s one gallon capacity (1 @ each), so it looks like it was a good purchase.  While bathing (sans suits, cause…who’s around?) we passed by a cruise ship that was a few miles off our port side and didn’t seem to be moving.  Yet another cruise ship failure out on the open waters?  We just hoped the guests on deck weren’t bored enough to whip out a set of binoculars and aim them at us.  Or better yet, come out with their high zoom video cameras.  I can see it on CNN now.  “Cruisers stuck on a Carnival ship were treated to an interesting site while bobbing around in Bahamian waters.  A sailboat passing by was giving quite a show with two nude bathers on deck.  Are they hippies or have the faucets on their boat just stopped producing water?  We’ll have the story for you tonight at 11:00.”.

After our possible peep show, Matt was below deck working on getting the water maker attached (we took it apart for workers to get the engine and transmission in and out) when the engine stopped on us once more.  A little puzzled since everything for the most part appeared to be working fine, after a few minutes we realized that our fuel had run out.  Still having the 10 gallons in our jerrycans, Matt put about 8 in and left the remaining two in case we were to run out a second time.  The last thing we wanted was to come into Nassau Harbor under sail.  While he went below again to continue working I started charting our course more and found out that there were about 75 miles still left between us and Nassau.  Assuming we had put 8 gallons in, that would give us about 16 hours of motoring.  Moving at the speed we were, which was now down to only 3 knots, we weren’t even going to make it 50 miles on what we had.  Decisions needed to be made, and while we still had time to make them.  My two suggestions were that we check into the Berry Islands instead, now 13 miles away, or turn off the engine and tack our way across the channel until we had made up enough miles to put the engine back on.  While my vote was for the Berry Islands, it was only two hours until sunset and there was no way we’d be able to make it there without having to wait in the channel for the sun to come up anyway.  So after talking it over we let out the sails and turned on the motor, having to fall off the wind so far that we were barely able to make any progress on our course.  Nassau here we come….even slower.

What bothered me even more about having to fall so far off our course while we tacked across the channel, was now avoiding cruise ships and tankers without the ease of changing our course to whatever direction we needed to go to get out of their way.  And there were boats everywhere.  We couldn’t look at our AIS without seeing at least five or six within a few miles of us.  I was hoping that once it got dark out and we began to take our shift alone that the engine would go back on, but Matt assured that we’d be fine and we could tack out of the way of any oncoming traffic if we needed to.  Having switched shifts with him since he was feeling a little ill after spending a bumpy afternoon stuffed into the aft cabin, I was on first watch from nine to midnight.  We tacked just before Matt went to bed, and by the time we’d need to tack again after running into what would hopefully be the lower part of the Berry Islands, it would be time for him to wake up.  The first half of my shift was uneventful, although when the winds had died down and left us still moving forward at a pace of two knots, although now heading pretty much west when we wanted to be aiming south, part of me was hoping that the slow pace would continue so that it would actually take us until morning to reach the Berry Islands where we could then check in and fill up on diesel.  But as soon as I started wishing, the winds picked back up and now had me hurtling towards my target at close to six knots.

Our course over ground kept shifting all the time, so I had no clue if we were going to end up at the north or middle Berry Islands before it was time to tack again.  While I crossed over I kept an eye on the AIS, and watched the screen as blinking arrows passed miles away from our stern and bow, and then scanning the dark to make sure I could match up the navigation lights on the water that belonged to them.  There was one point about 45 minutes before my shift ended that I showed three arrows on the AIS headed at my beam, and I kept praying that they’d pass in front of me before we came up on one another.  Sitting there I contemplated on which direction I’d even be able to go to miss them.  The only thing I could think would be to tack and turn back in the direction I had just come from, but that would mean losing lots of miles and even more time.  I decided to wait a little longer until we got closer to each other.  Scanning the dark horizon I tried to place each vessel (two cruise ships and one tanker), so I could try to estimate if/when we’d run into each other.  Watching them all get closer and closer I started wringing my hands with what to do.  Should I wake Matt to tell him we need to tack?  Should I wait until they get a little bit closer?

Keeping a close eye on both the chart plotter and water, it looked like we might fall into an opening between the three.  The cruise ship closest to us looked like he was slightly veering off where he would pass by our stern, leaving a gap while we sat in an open space while the other two vessels passed by our bow.  Still not feeling comfortable leaving it up to chance, I hailed the cruise ship that looked like it was veering, just so he knew we were out there.  Although all these vessels are supposed to have someone constantly monitoring their radar, they don’t always follow these rules and sometimes little sailboats like us get missed.  Getting a hold of someone on the radio, I gave him our location and made him confirm that he had a visual on us.  He confirmed that he could see us passing in front of his bow, two miles out and to continue on course.  Feeling safe and satisfied, I called down to Matt to wake him up for his shift.  Crisis averted, and now I’d be able to get a few hours of shut eye.  When Matt came up a few minutes later I informed him of the situation, but he still wasn’t feeling comfortable with the other two vessels to pass in front of our bow.  He suggested we turn the motor on for a few hours so that dodging ships while in the dark wouldn’t be so hard.  Ummmm….didn’t I suggest that before?

Getting behind the wheel I turned on the engine while Matt went about furling in the headsail.  I hadn’t given a ton of thought to the cruised ship I had just hailed, but looking to my side once more, he didn’t look like he was going to go as far off our stern as I originally thought.  In fact, he looked like he was going to run us over.  Earlier I must have assumed that he was much further away because all of the cruise ships we had seen up to this point were lit up like a Christmas tree and impossible to miss the entire shape of the vessel.  This one however was much more stealthy, so it wasn’t until he was right on top us us that I could see how close he was.  You know those photos you see on DVD covers where it looks like you’re looking up at the bow of a naval ship and standing 10 feet away from it?  I could have taken that shot.  Without the zoom.  Punching up our RPMs we hightailed it out of there as fast as possible, angling ourselves so that we’d come up on it’s starboard side.  While I’m sure we weren’t in any real danger since we were able to clearly get out of it’s way by the time it passed, it was still very unnerving.  Still awing though, as we both stood there with mouths open at the sheer size of this vessel.  I’m really hoping we make landfall tomorrow afternoon, because I really don’t think I could take another crisis at midnight.

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Let’s Go To the Mall

Friday March 15, 2013

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Our stay here in Lake Worth has been pretty uneventful.  We’ll get off the boat every other day to make it into town and take advantage of the wifi at McDonald’s, but otherwise we’ve just been sitting on the boat.  It is nice to finally be in an area that has temperatures in the mid to upper 70′s ever day, but that front that’s been blowing through all week zaps all heat away when we’re on the water and exposed to 20-25 knot winds every day.  I had grand plans of counting down til Saturday while lounged out in my bikini and working on my tan so I wouldn’t be a pasty northerner when I got to the Bahamas, but those plans have been zapped as well.  So for the most part we’ve spent our afternoons below deck while I’ll scan through photos and Matt will play chess on his touchpad.  I did finally get my Nook working again, I found out it just wasn’t charged enough, duh, so I’ve also spent my afternoons blissfully reading away.  After four months without it, it feels so good to be able to read a book again.

Our run into town Wednesday basically was only for McDonald’s and wifi, so I won’t even bore you with the details of that.  Let’s just say that I have a great husband for letting me spend three hours there while I uploaded posts, responded to e-mails, and Facebooked with friends.  Today however, we did have a few more errands to run than the usual.  Taking the dinghy with our three 5 gallon jerrycans, we ran up to one of the local marinas to fill up with diesel for the trip.  The tank on the boat is nearly full now, so only one of the jerrycans should need to be put in there to top it off while the other two will be used as reserve.  Then our next mission was to find the post office.  Currently our bookcase is overstuffed with volumes of Waterway Guides that we have no use for anymore since we don’t know if or when we’ll be back to those areas, and we don’t feel like storing them for four years ‘just in case’.  Instead of throwing them away or leaving them at a local marina for any other cruisers that want them, we wanted to make sure they went to our soon-to-be cruising friends back home, Jackie and Ron.  After all, how could we deny them something we know they’ll need after they just had a bottle of Kraken hand delivered to us?

Finding out that the address given to us for the post office was two miles from the main corner we normally start at, we began hoofing it down PGA Blvd.  All that wind that had been keeping me in jackets and sweatshirts at the boat was now blocked from all the buildings and it got warm out very quickly.  We were looking forward to swiftly delivering the package and finding an air conditioned McDonald’s.  Following Google Maps on Matt’s phone, which was not being as much help as we thought it would.  According to the address we were given we had already passed the building, but neither of us had any recollection of seeing the post office, even tucked away somewhere.  Getting very hot and hungry now, I suggested we run to the food court of the mall we had just passed.  That way I could get my wifi and my work done, and then we’d be recharged while hunting down the post office which seemed to be covered in Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.  Walking through the parking lot there were BMW’s, and Mercedes Benz’s as far as the eye could see.  Walking in through Macy’s I was greeted with the initial pang of wanting to snatch up all the cute dresses, shoes, and purses in front of me, but as soon as we left the store the feeling left with it.

Coming out of that familiar mall territory we strolled into some very unfamiliar mall territory.  Instead of Hollister and Forever 21 there was Chanel and Burberry.  Louis Vitton and Gucci.  Not quite the kind of shopping mall we were used to.  Seeking out the food court we walked from one end of the mall to the other without finding it.  What we did spy though out of the corner of our eyes was an arrow pointing down a hallway to the Post Office.  There is no way we would have found it there from the street.  Getting the package sent out the backpack instantly became lighter and we checked another item off our to-do list.  Then finding that the food court was one floor up we ate our Sabarro’s while hooking up to the internet and getting as much done as possible since we knew we wouldn’t have access again for days.  I had scheduled a few posts to go up while we were traveling, and then downloaded images from passage weather, and also information from Noonsite on every possible port of entry we could make along the way in case plans changed at the last minute.  Getting information on West End, Berry Islands, Nassau, and Georgetown, I even downloaded Jamaica in case for any reason we decided to Q flag it through the Bahamas and skip them all together.  Once I was satisfied that I had done all I could do to prep ourselves to be without internet, we left the mall and headed back out on the street.  Not after noticing that at this mall, even the backs of stop signs were painted with pretty little leaf patterns.  It was obvious we were now in Palm Beach, mingling with the rich and famous.

Completing the rest of our errands, we picked up a few more things at West Marine, and then went to Publix to stuff our backpacks as full of pop as we could get them, along with a few other staples.  Walking back to the boat with extra bags dangling from our arms, we made our way back to the dinghy and then to Serendipity.  One other thing I had been looking forward to doing that night was to meet up with another couple of cruisers that we had been corresponding with for the past few months on the internet.  Katie and Ben of s/v Buckeye had just gotten back from cruising the Bahamas for the winter.  I was hoping that we’d actually be able to meet them in the Bahamas, but as luck would have it, we happened to be in their home port of Lake Worth right when they were getting back.  Chilling a few beer all day and preparing a bottle of wine, I was already to go out and mingle.

Sending them our location on Facebook, they told us they’d be in that evening.  After we had gotten back from our errands and were busy preparing dinner I got another message that they had just gotten in, but they couldn’t spot us anywhere.  At this point I climbed outside to hunt them down with our binoculars, but couldn’t seem to find them either.  After lots of conversation back and forth, we eventually found out that they were moored just south of the inlet, a good two miles from where we were sitting.  With it being so late in the evening, a dinghy ride over was out of the question, plus the issue of having to go to bed early enough to rise and get ready before the sun the next morning.  It was sad that we couldn’t meet up, especially since I was ready to pick their brains about Gulf Crossings and everything Bahamas.  Who knows though, maybe we’ll catch them again in a few seasons.  With nothing else to do for the night, we dazed out in front of the t.v. until it was time to go to bed.  I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been waiting so long and had already been delayed once more, but any nerves I had about making the crossing were now gone.  Wind and waves are forecast to be low, and I am ready for us to check into a new country!

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*Sorry for all the recent cat photos, there really has been nothing better to photograph.

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