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March 2011

Four Days at Sea

While EW has delivered boats from Maine to St. Thomas and sailed with friends across the Atlantic, this four day journey is my longest at sea. I did well.

We left Luperon on the afternoon of the 24th for Salinas, Puerto Rico and were able to sail for most of the trip - though the majority of that involved tacking to get East. As of this morning we are hugging the southern shore of Puerto Rico, motoring to Salinas. This is a beautiful coast and we'll definitely make time to explore it at some point, but this is a "delivery" stage of the journey so we'll provision in Salinas and head to St. Thomas as quickly as possible.

Cruising for us this year has alternated between delivering the boat and remaining for up to three weeks in an area: St. Augistine, Fort Lauderdale, numerous harbors in the Bahamas, and Luperon. EW has always wanted to cross oceans and sail long distances; I am happy to say that I share much of that dream with him. Now I'm getting the experience I need to prepare for longer passages. Our three on/three off watch system works well for us. We had two nights during which we both got plenty of sleep. Last night we had to take shorter tacks, to and from shore, and were awakened half way through each watch; we're both a little sleepy this morning. When the boat is hurtling through the swells at 7 knots on a dark night, it feels to me as though we're going 50 miles per hour, blindfolded. There is no way to identify and avoid anything that doesn't show up on the radar. I'm getting used to it -- sort of.

Here's what Bruce Van Sant said about this passage in his book:"An Australian couple on a circumnavigation told me the south coast of Puerto Rico gave them the roughest sail." Great. If Australians said it was rough, it was rough. Bruce advices us to "Stay close inshore (10 fathoms or under) to avoid the garbage line with junk from the Atlantic trades, the Equatorial Current and the South American Rivers (Orinoco). Think semi-submerged containers or trees here." Great. Not what I need to be thinking about at 3:30 AM. When we realized that our options were to find a harbor near dark or keep going through the night, we chose to keep going, tacking in and out seven times from 3:00 PM yesterday until sunrise today. It mostly went as planned as we reached a large bay through which we can motor with some protection from the ocean swell.

For the past two days we've sailed close hauled in 20 knots of wind, with three to five foot swells. La Luna heeled over and handled it just fine. I have bruises allllll over my body from falling against the cabinets, doors, table, wheel ... well, you get the idea. This trip, I handled the wheel on the tacks and EW handled the sheets (lines). I've come a long way from our honey-moon when I refused to take the wheel as I was afraid that I'd "turn over the boat".I also don't think about the depth sounder. Since Mayaguana in the Bahamas, we've been sailing thousands of feet of water, heeling over in strong winds. EW told me "not to look at the depth sounder". When it's too deep to sound it is supposed to show a line of dashes but ours will frequently show imaginary depth. Imaginary shallow depth such as 19 feet, 6.9 feet, or (my favorite) 0.0 feet. This makes me nervous. EW launched into some explanation about the signal bouncing back on the waves or whatever. I just don't look at the depth sounder. As for the garbage line, something did bounce off us around midnight, but it wasn't big and didn't do any damage. No containers or trees were seen or felt.

So we have about 6 or seven hours motoring along the island. We are charging the iPhone and are able to make and receive calls (and TWEET!) from here. I graciously gave EW the phone while I cooked up the bacon this morning. My turn is coming soon. (Pardon me a moment, I have to go spit on a fish hook. He called me his "flaxen haired beauty". I call that progress.)
We did well this trip, good tacks, good and easy food, and we slept off watch. Guess I can do this -- now if we can just land a fish....

We Are Sailing ... And Sailing ... And Still Sailing

As I write this it is 1:47 PM Eastern Standard Time or 17:47 UTC on March 26. We've been underway since leaving Luperon at 2:30 on the 24th and have been sort of pleasantly thwarted by the prevailing south-easterlies. This isn't a surprise as we left knowing that we had 12-18 knots of wind from the southeast for the next few days. Evidently the Mona Passage and the north coast of the Dominican Republic are no fun in a north wind, so we took what we could get and made tracks.

During the first night of the journey, along the north coast of the Dominican Republic, we motored into the wind, tempering its effects by going into each large bay, such as Bruce Van Sant advises. That worked quite well. At the end of the DR, where he would have hugged the coast and gone into Samana to anchor for a favorable wind, we elected to continue by tacking north of the Mona Passage to make our way to it's eastern side. We would tack in one direction for the length of a watch (3 hours) change tacks with the change of watch and so on, for 30 hours. The skies are clear, the sun is bright and the half moon is lovely. It has been a pleasant sail. The track on the chart plotter looks like a crude paper crown with it's even points and valleys. Now the wind has fallen to less than 10 knots and we just started Perkins to assist our sails.

Never having sailed the Mona Passage I'm not sure how bad she can be, I do know that weather reports on the Luperon Net had mentioned that "The Mona Passage is Closed" during the north winds that blew while we were at anchor. That was a meaningless phrase to me as there are no guards at the Mona Passage and it doesn't "close". It spans over 60 miles in width with a few islands and shoal areas and depths of over 13000. There can be squalls off the mountains of Puerto Rico, but if one sails close enough to that shore they actually blow over you and touch down closer to the DR. That is one reason we struggled to get east before heading into the passage. We were also determined to get to Puerto Rico and not stop again in the Dominican Republic, and once in the passage we can elect to enter the port of Mayaguez if this journey takes too long or if the north winds start to blow.

This is the longest run we've had since sailing down from Maine. We've settled into our watches well, though I didn't get a lot of sleep the first night. Now we both seem to get 8 hours a day, in two and three hour blocks of time. Before leaving Luperon I had cooked hamburger, chicken and pork, and made peas 'n rice so it's been easy to put together good meals at sea. We had also visited the excellent farm market on Tuesday and have enjoyed snacks of fresh pineapple and papaya. Today we showered with the sun shower on deck -- that was a new experience underway. Since that's a photo opportunity I'd like to avoid, it's fortunate that this is the first day we haven't seen other boats nearby. (Trust me, no one needs to see that.) On the morning of the 25th we were within hailing distance of a couple of very small open wooden fishing boats from the DR. One of them had just hauled in a 4 foot long mahi-mahi and posed for a photo. Those brightly painted boats had one or two fishermen in them and were powered by small outboard motor; and we encountered them over 20 miles off shore. We've also see tankers and one very large cargo ship who didn't appear to see us in broad daylight. EW grumbled a bit when I woke him early yesterday afternoon, but agreed afterward that the cargo ship clearly didn't want to give way. We tacked.

We're getting good at tacking. If we have wind when we round the southwestern tip of Puerto Rico, it will probably be on the nose and we'll tack along that coast. If there is no wind, we'll motor. Right now we are under sail and power going 5.2 knots, and at this rate will be in Salinas in 1 day and 15 hours, according to Maxsea. Don't hold us to it. After all, we are sailing.

Haircuts at Sea

When we set sail, EW was going to grow his hair and have a (masculine) pony tail, and he was going to cut my hair.

This falls under the “best laid plans” category of events.

EW has wonderful hair. Thick, wavy, silver. Hairstylists love his hair. When we met he had a nothing cut – over the years (and I do mean years) I finally got him to leave the barber for a men’s salon that a friend recommended,  Ray Michaud in Portland – a man’s man with a simple masculine shop in on Free Street. He gave EW a great, easy to maintain cut and (gasp!) EW would even blow it dry when we were getting dressed up. (Shhhh. Don’t tell him I told you.)

We both thought he’d enjoy long hair and I thought he’d look sexy with a silver pony tail.

Not so much – though it never did get long enough to tie back. The longer it got, the straighter it got. He grew weird wings over his ears and the front got in the way snorkeling. Finally, I offered to cut his hair. No, I don’t know how to cut hair, but we had purchase the appropriate scissors before leaving the states, and EW is a brave man. Since I liked running my my fingers through the longer waves I wanted to try a cut that would allow some length in back while keeping it out of his eyes and getting rid of the wings.

We were warned repeatedly to cut the hair on shore – not on the boat, so he ended up sitting on the rocks in  Hairstylin' 3-3-2011 8-15-59 PM Conception Cay. Our friend (and a real photo-journalist) Eleanor Marriot from S/Y Amandla took a couple of action shots for us. I’m sure I’ll get better with practice, but we are both happy with the results, and I’m now EW’s hairstylist.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0037 So far, so good. (See how long and unruly my hair is?)

 

Finished and Still Handsome 3-3-2011 8-32-35 PM Finished and still handsome!

 

Despite this success, EW was not anxious to return the favor, even though I had already absolved him of any blame if things went wrong. My wonderful stylist in Maine, Darlene Nejera, had offered to teach EW how to cut my hair, but he didn’t jump at the opportunity and she’s been waiting to see the results for months now.  When EW and I met Anna, who has a salon chair on her porch, he was delighted to step aside and encouraged me to book an appointment. Since Anna has worked in a salon at a nearby resort and, as her cousin Tony said, “Cut many foreigners’ hair,” I agreed. (My hair is very, very straight and I have had some horrible cuts, and hated leaving Darlene – who is wonderful.)

I last visited Darlene’s shop in September. In Jacksonville Cathy took me to a walk in salon and I got a cut – no wash and blow-dry, but it was a very good cut. It’s now March and my hair was too long and driving me to distraction. We had taken the laptop in for our dinner/hair cut with Anna and I showed her a photo taken after the cut in Florida, so she could see the length I wanted. Tony translated my requests and she seemed to understand, so off we went to the salon chair. First, Anna washed my hair. Since there isn’t running water on the porch, she filled a bucket with water from the Cold Water Wash 3-21-2011 10-19-18 AM cistern and dipped it over my head, saying “Es frio, Bar-Bar-Ah.” It was a bit frio. I only whimpered a little.

She washed my hair, massaging my scalp, and used a conditioner with a tropical aroma. It was wonderful, and I got used to the frio part. (Darlene will smile as I was always quick to point out when the temperature was too hot or cold.) After a towel dry, Anna moved me to the plastic lawn chair for the cut.  I could tell she was cutting the back a bit shorter than I'd had recently, but I decided to go with the flow. It couldn't be worse than what EW would do, right? After the cut, she got out round brushes and a blow drier -- heaven. My first professional styling since September.First blowdry in months 3-21-2011 10-35-02 AM

 

It’s a great cut. I’m recommending Anna to all the cruisers. EW feels as though he dodged a bullet and I’m delighted.

New Haircut


Strangers in Paradise

One of our greatest joys in this new journey is meeting people and making new friends of both other cruisers and locals. Recently we were invited to join Anna’s family for two mid-day meals. I hope we showed proper appreciation as we ate very well and had a wonderful time.

It begins with Tony. Tony is a gay 30-something from Luperon who says he speaks 7 languages (I’ve heard  Spanish, English, and German, so have no reason to doubt him). He works as a tour guide for the nearby resort and appears to have not other employment. This is a down year for the resort, so he may only be required to work one or two days a week. We met Tony at a local seafood restaurant and shop when we stopped in to purchase fish to cook aboard. (Read Mr. Romance.. to find out why I have to buy fish.)

Tony was visiting in the restaurant and translated for us. We chatted. Frankly I'd been surprised and pleased that he and a few other gay men we’ve seen seem to be accepted and respected in Luperon.  We chatted, thanked him and went off to La Luna.

Tony Close Up 3-19-2011 3-56-24 PM On Saturday morning, we had a “mission” to stop at the ATM, the grocery store, the hardware store and the pharmacy. Along the Tony in the Neighborhood 3-19-2011 10-34-21 AM way we ran into Tony. Hugs and kisses. In Luperon, I am Bar-bar-Ah. Bar-Brua (or however one writes my name phonetically) is impossible for them. It sounds so celebratory to hear Tony call out to me -- “Bar-Bar-Ah! How are you?” Tony asked what we are doing and said, “I will translate for you at the pharmacy". Then he accompanied us to the hardware store and showed us the new Catholic church, the location of the Tuesday farmer’s market, and more.

 

Goats du Roam 3-19-2011 10-31-07 AM 3-19-2011 10-31-07 AM Goats du Roam  The Colors of Luperon 3-19-2011 10-34-07 AM 

                                                                                      The Colors of Luperon

Anna's Kitten 3-21-2011 11-53-43 AM Anna’s Kitten

As we wandered the town with Tony he led us to his cousin’s house, and introduced us to Anna and her family.

Anna is a delight. She is a hair stylist, and is raising two sons, Fehlu (Felito), 13 and Alex, 15 and a niece, P3190004 Deanna who is 18. Her husband died three years ago. Her mother lives nearby and her mother-in-law lives in the country and visits often. Late Saturday morning Anna and her gentleman friend (P., a Navy guy with an incredible smile) were creating a meal and invited us to stay. We demurred. They insisted in Spanish. Tony insisted in English and suggested we go get some rum to share, so he and EW went off for a bottle of rum, Cokes and limes, and I watched Anna and P. cook. Her kitchen is tiny and clean, and they deftly worked together, preparing Dominican beans, rice, eggplant, conch, and a salad.  I watched them cook, asked about the ingredients and techniques, and tasted the eggplant all in very broken English and Spanish. When EW and Tony returned, we all drank Cuba Libras. Everything was delicious but the eggplant and beans were amazing. 

 

P3190006

Here are Anna, Deanna, P., EW and me – enjoying a great meal.   There was a lot of conversation – though only Tony spoke English, he is very good at translating. We laughed, talked about raising sons and were scolded for not having Mo’s photo on our persons.

And we were invited to return on Monday, when Anna would cut my hair and they would feed us again. Again, we tried to decline. “No, that is too much!” They wouldn’t hear of it. I baked a bread, we brought beer and cokes, and maple syrup and three pairs of “Barefoot Sandals” (Footbling). We arrived at 10 as instructed and I watched them make the beans and the rice and prepare the chicken. I'll be able to recreate the barbeque sauce because I had purchased the major flavoring ingredient after our first visit. 

Again, we had a wonderful meal. They thought the Barefoot Sandals were ridiculously funny. Deanna and Anna will wear them with other sandals; when we saw Tony on Tuesday he was wearing one of the pair on his wrist, looped over his finger. That works. (I knew he’d like it; he's a bling kind of guy.)

It’s hard for us to know how to show our appreciation. We don’t want to insult them, but don’t want to take without giving either. Anna is a strong, funny, amazing person – both EW and I were delighted to meet her and her family. We’ve told a number of the gringos about my haircut, and hope that they become her customers. We'll definitely visit them again when we are next in Luperon – perhaps we can have them to the boat and cook for them for a change.


EW, A Good Sport and A Great Topic

If you read yesterday’s post, please be advised that I showed it to EW prior to publishing and he laughed. I married a good sport – and a great topic.

When I started on Twitter, I would frequently mention Stew (first as DH and then as EW). He would meet folks on Twitter who knew way more about him than he knew about them and he (mostly) laughed it off. When I got more serious (or at least regular) with the blog, his adventures were detailed in greater fashion.

From the beginning he has called himself “The Topic”. In fact, he would attend Meet-Ups or other networking events, follow behind me, and introduce himself thusly, “Hi, I’m the Topic.”

So why is he EW?

Well, his first name is Stewart, so he spells his name with an EW. When we were living aboard year-round in South Portland the local news media would call to ask us to interview for a human interest story. They were bored, we lived on a boat on the dock in a Maine winter, and EW was a yacht broker. I thought (and still do) that being a live aboard broker carries a certain amount of credibility so one of the reasons I’d agree (other than I like being in the limelight) was to provide EW with some publicity.

That works if they spell his name right.

One year, a local paper called us “The Hearts” all the way through their piece and I was not amused.

Shortly afterward, another journalist called for an interview and I wanted to make sure that he got the name right. When I mentioned Stewart, I said, “He spells his name with an EW; he’s an EW Stewart Hart (H A R T). I may (probably) (certainly) said it a few times. I was insistent.

When the article was published I brought it home to Stew and handed it to him with a wince. “Why did they call me that?” he asked.

“I think I was too insistent when I told him how to spell your name.” I said. He got it right away.

The entire article referred to him as “E.W. Stewart Hart”, as in:

  • E.W. Stewart Hart is a Yacht Broker ….
  • E.W. Stewart Hart said, “….”
  • E.W. Stewart Hart --- well you get the idea.

Since I had been trying not to “out” him totally on Twitter, I had been resorting to the universal “DH” for darling husband. After the news article, he became EW.

He’s a good sport. I have met sailors who are not and sailors who don’t really have a sense of humor. (Those people occur everywhere, poor things.) I could not sail with one. This life is too challenging and we are too close together to get through this without laughing. I wouldn’t try.

EW is my perfect mate – and was even before he was EW.


Mr. Romance is Not a Hunter-Gatherer

I love EW. Truly and with all my heart. He will attempt to fix nearly anything on board and is successful most of the time. But I have never seen him land a fish.

Stew's fish and the larger one
He landed one when he crossed the Atlantic with Chuck and Diane. Here's the photo. It gave me hope. I believed with all my heart that EW would follow the thousands of other cruisers who have gone before and provide for us from the sea’s bounty. I was ready. I purchased rice for sticky rice and sushi and limes for seveche. I collected seafood recipes and made sure I had stocked up on the normal necessary ingredients. I read articles and books by other sailors – about how they never used the canned meats they’d packed because they caught so much seafood. I believed.

 

 

Prior to leaving Maine, EW got gear. He wanted a chest harness so he could fight the big ones, but I suggested P3100144 we should start a bit smaller. He got a “yo-yo” rig, gloves, lures, a gaff, and filled one of my spray bottles with cheap booze for a humane kill. (Evidently one squirts rotgut into the fish’s gills and they die immediately. No muss, no fuss, no fish flopping all over deck and cockpit. He put his gear into a large tote and called it his “Fish Fear Me Bag”. Really.

He started fishing when we left Maine on October 18th. Nothing.

From October to March, not one fish took his line. We would buddy boat with other sailors in the Bahamas and hear about the fish they caught. We’d listen in on radio conversations and hear, “Fish on! Can’t talk now!”  We’d meet cruisers who had traveled the same track we had on the same day and caught a nice mahi-mahi or sea bass.

Furthermore, we went conching with cruisers who had easily harvested conch in thigh high water throughout the Berry Islands. Nothing. On another memorable day in the Exumas we went in search of conch and lobster with Dave and Aimee from Crow’s Nest. EW (and I) can’t dive very deep. I’m not that good a swimmer and EW can’t clear his ears – so I’m not complaining that EW didn’t get a conch in 12 feet of water. That’s above and beyond, in my opinion and Amiee and Dave did share their catch. EW helped them clean it and I cooked dinner. When the three of them took dinghies in to shore for the cleaning of the conch, I stayed on La Luna. Aimee used her noodle and goggles to swim ashore – and caught 3 conch in 3 feet of water. EW blithely motored over their bed and didn’t harvest anything. Apparently live seafood doesn’t speak to him.

Cleaning conch is icky and hard and it turns out we aren’t in love with it so I voluntarily withdrew all requests for conch. On Valentine’s Day in Georgetown, I bought lobster tails from the hair salon (I love that!) and made a wonderful dinner using a recipe from  An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof. Perfect.  Ann and her husband, Steve,  traveled from Eastern Canada to Grenada. He fished all the way – even learned how to toss a shrimp net. After two years they returned to Canada with all canned protein on board and untouched.  He speared fish, he lassoed lobster, he found conch, and on the way home he caught fish. Lots of fish. (While in the islands they bought fish, listening for the conch horn to let folks know when a fresh catch was in. I’m not in the right islands for that.)

Ann didn’t talk a lot about fishing off the boat until near the end of the book in a chapter entitled “Beautiful Babe Spit”. (That is not a typo.) They were returning north and competing in a fishing contest with a buddy boat. Ann and Steve were well back on the fishing points scale, when they stopped in at Culebra to meet up again with Cleo. …”a courtly man with the look of a longtime sailor. Lithe, attentive, with laughing eyes --- a real ladies’ man, my mother would have said –- white haired and well-read.” Over dinner Cleo described how he had taken a Grenadian girl fishing and had “explained the secret of successful fishing to her. If a pretty lady spits on the lure before it goes into the water, she will almost certainly catch a fish.”

That tickled me and you will have to read the book to see the results, but let’s just say that Ann’s wise and romantic husband assured his wife she was beautiful and asked her to spit on the lure for the remainder of the trip. It worked very well.

I read this to EW early in our voyage. He chuckled. He caught no fish. He talked with people about lures; he let out more line; he let out less line; he fished at different depths and speeds. He fished from Maine to the Turks and Caicos and never caught a fish and never --- not once --- asked his wife to spit on the lure. Mo will read this before we tell him the story, and right now he is thinking, “Way to go, Dad. Mr. Romance strikes, again.” Or something like that. EW is not always quick on the romance uptake. So, a couple of months into the trip, I mention the “Beautiful Babe Spit” and he looked appropriately chagrined – but still, never once asked me to anoint his lure.

Until last week. We were on our way to the Dominican Republic and I had suggested with a bit of attitude that it was “too damn bad that he didn’t have a beautiful wife” to anoint his lure. Finally – five months after leaving P3100145 Maine he got it. Now, it must be said that then he had a momentary relapse. He took his “Fish Fear Me Bag” to the aft deck and started getting things ready, saying he’d call me when it was time. A few minutes later I saw him paying out the line. “You ready?” I asked sweetly. “Oh, yes!  Just getting the lure wet!” He said as he rapidly reeled it back in. After I stopped laughing, I went aft, created a mouthful of saliva and spit on the lure and hook. He called me his beautiful bride and we both went back to the cockpit.

The photo at left is EW stating that he was just getting the line wet. Right. He was laughing so hard he couldn’t form the words.

 

About two hours later, I looked aft and said, “I think you have a fish!” He did. A beautiful mahi-mahi, probably about three pounds. He reeled it in and I got the camera and the gaff. Then we made a fatal error for which I share the responsibility.  As he lifted the fish out of the water, he said, “Get a photo!” not “Get the Gaff!” I complied and we lost the fish – and didn’t get the photo.

We’ve only had a very short opportunity since, sailing close to shore on the way to Luperon, but you can bet he remembered to call me beautiful and ask me to spit.

I believe.


Bling On Board

I’ve pretty much given up make-up on board. At the suggestion of an experienced sailing friend, when underway I don’t wear my rings and only wear small post earrings.  When we drop the hook, I get out my earrings, rings and bracelets. When “dressing up” means a clean shirt and shorts not stained with boat grime, there just isn’t a lot of energy put into bling.

In addition, the sand in the Bahamas convinced us not to wear our boat shoes aboard when at anchor. I do wear my sailing sandals on deck when we are underway off shore, because I think they provide better traction and protect my toes a bit.

In Luperon, Margie makes “barefoot sandals” – I call them footbling.  They make me smile.

Footbling


Close Encounters of the Nautical Kind

We left Conception Cay in the Bahamas on March 6 and began to travel south and east, with the goal of reaching Luperon in the Dominican Republic as quickly as possible. The first leg of the journey was an overnight trip to Abraham Bay off Mayaguana. We left at night so we would arrive there in the morning after a 36 hour sail. From Mayaguana we planned to stop at Turks and Caicos, because we didn’t think the wind would allow us to continue straight to the D.R. It isn’t supposed to, but for some reason we lucked out and were able to sail directly to the D.R, arriving at Ocean Marina in the early morning of March 11.

During each hop, from Conception to Mayaguana and from Mayaguana to the D.R., we experienced the best kind of encounters at sea, both of them on my watch.

First Close Encounter of the Nautical Kind, the Ruby Princess. When we left Conception we sailed south, then east, then south again toward Mayaguana. Well, actually we motored a lot, but later were able to sail. We were sailing during my 9:00 to midnight watch northeast of Mayaguana when I spotted lights from a large vessel apparently heading our way. At sea, you rely on your radar and the other boat’s navigation lights. Generally (to keep is simple and not discuss boats towing barges, boats fishing, etc.) white lights are supposed to be seen from 360 degrees, green lights shine on the starboard side of a boat and red on the port. So if you see a boat and and white and green lights, chances are they will pass you to their starboard side. If you see a lot of white lights and both red and green the boat is coming toward you or going away from you. (If you’re heading into a city with cars headlights and streetlights .. well, don’t get me started.)

So I saw white lights. In fact what I saw were both white lights on a tanker. They have “range” lights, the white light on the bow is at certain height from their deck and the one on the stern is higher. If you see both lights you could be on a collision course. From that distance I couldn’t make out the red or green. I saw lots of white lights  and called EW up from a sound sleep. As you may recall, we had no auto pilot at this point so I wasn’t going to handle this one alone. EW checked the radar; the ship was nine miles out and closing in so he waited and checked the radar again and the ship was 8 miles out and closing in. He got on the radio and tried to hail the ship at that lat/long and heading north west. “We are the sailboat on your bow; we appear to be converging.” 

No answer.

He called again. And again. “We appear to be converging.”

Then we heard, “La Luna, this is the Ruby Princess. Would you repeat your lat/long?” EW did. The skipper/radio god from the Ruby Princess came back and told us the name of the vessel that was converging with us. EW called the vessel by name, then they saw and acknowledged us and turned to port. I saw green lights as they passed us on their starboard side. EW thanked the Ruby Princess and went back to bed. Commercial ocean going vessels (and some private yachts) broadcast the name and location of their boat via AIS, a newish technology. The Powers That Be prefer that private boats such as ours opt to purchase a unit that will only allow us to receive AIS signals so we know what boat is where.  We will probably get one because as we’ve seen, the radio guy doesn’t know he’s the boat heading such and such towards that sailboat. The radio guy does know that he is on ABC Tanker and must respond to a call. The Skipper of the Ruby Princess allowed us to make that call.

He was north of us and heading our way. About an hour later he showed up astern, made a sharp turn to the east and turned back south about a mile later. When he made the turn he flashed the lights on the lower decks. I think he winked at me. Nice guy.

Second Close Encounter of the Nautical Kind, the  U.S. Coast Guard

We were under sail in 15 – 20 knots of wind, south of the Turks and Caicos, heading southeast to the D.R. I was on my 3:00 AM to 6:00 AM watch when I saw something out there just before dawn. I checked radar. (EW had fixed the auto pilot in Mayaguana, so I could leave the helm. I love EW.) Yep. Definitely a boat of the power variety. Not as large as a cruise ship or tanker and with no lights at all. None.

Hmmmm. I watched the boat. I checked radar. We were on a collision course, we were under sail and I didn’t want to change course unless I had to. I got out a flashlight and shined it on the sails as bright lights on white sail can really catch a boater’s attention.  Nothing. In that area I didn’t believe this was a pirate or boat thug situation, I just assumed some fisherman was waiting for dawn and saving power. I woke up EW.

He checked the radar and just started to get on the radio, when the vessel in question lit up with white and red (we saw their port side) and flashing blue lights. Authorities. A young American hailed us, letting us know they were a  U.S. Coast vessel. Cool. He asked us a lot of questions such as the name of our vessel. EW spelled out La Luna using the NATO phonetic alphabet. We had realized that was the standard, particularly when traveling in foreign countries, so I had posted it by the radio. “Lima Alpha Lima Uniform November Alpha",”  EW crisply replied, then gave our radio call sign and our documentation number. ( I know the first, not the second.) They asked where we were from, our last port of call, and where we were going. They asked our names and birthdates. EW replied in perfect nautical fashion until after giving first his birthday then mine, said, “Some people think I should have adopted her.” Radio silence, then. “Captain, you have made our watch!”

They wished us a good sail and let us know we could call on them we we had a problem. Afterward, with EW’s permission, I called them back to let them know I had nephews in the Coast Guard. They didn’t know Brian or Patrick, but we certainly have friends down here. They made my watch, too.

Sunrise before landing in the Dominican Republic.

P3110158

 

NOTE: This post has been edited, thanks to the quick eye of Ken Hurst. I had written Luna Alpha Luna Uniform November Alpha. Wouldn't it be cool if our boat's name was the NATO spelling word? Not so. The correct word is Lima and EW was totally correct. Thanks, Ken.


Why the Cruising Lifestyle is Like Being in a Three-Legged Race

This life obviously agrees with EW, he looks great, he’s lost weight and I’ve given him a new hair cut. On the other hand, I need a haircut and while I haven’t gained back the weight I lost coming down the U.S. Coast, I haven’t lost any more and would like to get rid of 10 to 15 pounds. In order for me to lose weight, I need to exercise so I’m trying to get into a routine of sorts when we are on anchor. It isn’t working. On Monday I rowed ashore and participated in a yoga class. This morning, I had planned to go ashore and have a real exercise walk before it got too hot. I love to walk and walk fast for exercise; it’s a form of meditation for me. EW likes to walk at a normal pace and seems physically unable to walk fast. He walks, he climbs, or he jogs.

Even so, I asked him whether he wanted to join me on my planned Tuesday walk. Yes, he did. This morning I got up at 6:30, caught two weather nets and was about to get ready to jump in the dinghy when I realized he had made coffee, heated tea water and wanted toast and peanut butter before walking. Then we had to get the propane tanks ready for Papo to pick them up for refilling. Then EW thought we may have a shower and suggested that we wait a bit, and run the engine to charge the batteries. Soon it was 10:30 and too hot to go for a fast walk. I was not pleased.

When you are living on a boat at anchor, you are basically joined at the hip, and there’s a fine balance between meeting my needs and being a bitch. EW likes to walk with me and I like to walk with him, but I need  to get some exercise. Not only did I not get any exercise, but when we went to town we went to the bakery and then got lunch at Steve’s. This is not conducive to losing weight, and it doesn’t get me the exercise rush I need. So, new plan. I’m going in early for Yoga tomorrow and will take a 45 minute walk. EW will listen to the weather and the Luperon Cruisers’ Net. Then we’ll get on with our day together. That should work. Of course this “routine” will last only as long as we are in Luperon –about another week—then it’s off for the next stop and a new routine.

That is why the cruising lifestyle is like being in a three-legged race.

Post Script. I wasn't able to publish this yesterday (Tuesday, when I should have), so am able to give this update. Regarding Yoga this AM, I overslept. So EW offered to go for a walk with me. We did a one hour loop and for some of it I "sprinted" ahead and returned back. It rained. I feel great! (EW wanted to take cover in the rain, and I said he was welcome to but I was not going to do so. We got damp. He didn't melt.


Oh Hum. Traveling by Sailboat – Take Two

NOTE: I attempted to post this while at sea via our SSB. For some reason, though the process had apparently worked once for the “My Prayer” post, only the title appeared on TypePad for this post and a few others. Here’s what you should have been able to read on March 7:

 

 P3030081  Looking North at Conception Cay

Bored. Very bored. Bored, bored, bored.

We are traveling from Conception Cay (beautiful!) to Mayaguana  Cay, making our way to the Dominican Republic. We raised the anchor shortly after 5 PM on Sunday, with the intent to make 5 knots per hour and arrive at Mayaguana on Tuesday morning. At 6:00 PM, the MaxSea navigation software told us we had 1 day and 14 hours to go. For the first 4 hours we had a lovely sail, southeast along the eastern side of Long Cay.

About an hour after the start of my 9 to midnight watch, the auto pilot died. Shortly after that the wind died. We have been motoring with one of us manning the helm ever since. I usually read and write while on watch. Many of my posts during the trip down from Maine started in my notebook. During the storm off of Cape Fear I was too afraid and watchful to be bored. This trip is boring. From 10:00 to midnight and from 3:00 to 6:00 AM, I steered the boat. There were very few boats, no land or coral heads to avoid, no radio traffic, no weather issues. For much of that I’m thankful, but bored.

During the night I wrote absolutely wonderful posts for this blog – all in my head and I’m sure the reality of the written word will not compare to my thoughts under the stars. In the early morning hours I sang – softly so as not to awake (or scare) EW, who was asleep on the settee. It seems that the only songs I know all the words to are from Camp Natarswi, a two-week Girl Scout camp in Millinocket Maine. I only attended for two years, but spent the next 4 years teaching the songs to my younger nieces and nephews from Baltimore. I’m particularly familiar with “The Bear Song”, much loved by the three youngest boys, who are now a Police Detective, a Master Chief in the Coast Guard, and a Chef, respectively; and with “My Rose She Died” which was sung in an appalling hillbilly accent, much enjoyed by one of their older sisters who loved hamming up the accent. She’s a physician’s assistant, now, so none of them appeared to have been harmed by my singing.  Fortunately for EW, he slept through my whole repertoire last night.

P3070114 As the night progressed and the sky lightened prior to dawn, I amused myself by watching amazing cloud formations. They would form on the horizon and appear as towering shapes with a straight bottom line. Often, the looked like giant gates and I imagined sailing through them to new worlds. (I’m re-reading Tolkien’s trilogy – can you tell?) At other times I saw an elephant, a camel, Goofy, and a bear diving into water, cartoon fashion and wearing a big grin.

While there aren’t any major seas, we aren’t making 5 knots against the lovely large swells. This morning – 12 hours after our start, MaxSea informed me that we have 1 day and 5 hours remaining in this leg of the trip. At noon, 18 hours after the start, I learned that we have 1 day and 1 hour left to go. Did I tell you I was bored?

When EW came on deck at 6:00 I prepared tea and coffee and cereal and checked into Chris Parker’s weather net on the SSB. P3070122 Then, I slept. The seas are so calm that I perfected reading while driving during my last watch. The three hours between noon and three I’m preparing our big meal and writing and sending this and checking my SSB email.  Yes, this post and the one posted yesterday were delivered to Harts At Sea via email on through the SSB and Pactor modem. The system works beautifully and I promise to write a post detailing the final steps in this very long installation and trouble shooting process. (Well, the SSB and Pactor work great. Still have bugs regarding posting to the blog.)

I haven’t yet figured out how to tell Typepad to announce all my posts on Facebook and Twitter. If you find this, please feel free to spread the word. We are once again at sea, we are fine, and – except for being bored, all is well. (Hope you didn’t announce on Facebook and Twitter that I posted 3 or 4 blanks. So embarrassing. At least this way you get the photos with the posts.)