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June 2014

May 2014

Hi-Ho! Hi-Ho! Back to Sint Marten We Go!

Yep.

It is 10:52 AM Atlantic Time on May 30. We are sailing back to Sint Maarten.

Don't worry. We plan an immediate "Do-over" -- just as soon as we have the auto-pilot fixed.

Our auto-pilot, AKA Casey, stopped working at 2:00 AM on the 28th. EW was on watch and sailed onward, letting me sleep my full off-watch. At six, when I took the helm, he gathered tools, moved the dinghy engine off the master bed (yeah, photos from the Azores) and began diagnosing the problem. He worked on it for a number of hours, but this is one of the (very) few items he is not confident about fixing. I kept steering the boat while he worked on it, but he finally determined that this one was beyond his skill set.

We had a brief meeting in the cockpit and I checked our position relative to all land masses. Bermuda was 600 miles away. The BVI and Sint Maarten were both about 375. We know Sint Maarten, and know people who can help, so back we go. We fully expect the unit to be operational in a day and we'll head back out immediately. This is not yet too late to cross. In fact, we know two boats with very experienced captains who weren't planning to go until early June.

So it's a Do-Over. Some great sailors have experienced Do-Overs. Dodge Morgan left Maine in American Promise for his solo around the world sail. Equipment problems required a detour to Bermuda where he began again. Miles and Beryl Smeeton were shipwrecked going around the Horn, stayed months in Chili repairing the boat, only to shipwreck once again. (Shipwreck is the wrong term. The first time, they pitchpoled, coming back upright with downed rigging. The second time they rolled over, also coming back upright. Both times they were able to jury-rig the remaining sailing parts and make it in to shore. The books are "Because the Horn is There" and "Once is Enough." In my opinion, once is WAY too much and this is why there is no Horn in EW's future.) Dear friends Ross and Diana aboard One White Tree, left Panama for the Galapagos and turned back due to equipment issues. Repairs made, they set out again on their Pacific crossing that took them from the Galapagos to New Zealand as planned. These intrepid and outstanding sailors all re-grouped, fixed what had to be fixed. and followed their course.

As will we.

In the meantime - hey you in Sint Maarten, we're coming back. Drinks at the yacht club or Lagoonies? EW wanted to try out this new Rockna anchor anyway. Brad and Shana -- you still there? Drop us an email to the Sailmail address, please.

Everyone else. Don't worry. We are fine, though 3 hour watches and hand steering gets old fast. Glad we turned around, as I would hate to do this for 3-4 weeks. We should be in Sint Maarten sometime on Monday night/Tuesday morning.

If you like reading about sailing and haven't read the Smeeton Books -- do so immediately.
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Settling in to Life Truly at Sea

As EW pointed out a bit ago, we have been at sea for just over 48 hours. Already we have settled in to the routine.
Things have broken and been repaired. I have cooked. We have both had one solid night's sleep. We just shared popcorn on deck for an afternoon snack. EW has played guitar and I've done some writing. (Have to pay for that new Rockna Anchor.)

Our watch system seems to work well for us, though it's still early days for a full appraisal. Previously, we stood watches like this for only 5 days in a row. Heck, previously, I've only ever been at sea for five or six days and most of that was lessthan 100 miles from shore. I took photos of the views from the deck this morning: water and sky with clouds. I've seen few planes, no other boats or ships, and expect to see no land until we reach the Azores. (Any land before that will NOT be a good thing.)

For new readers, two years ago we tried a new watch system and have found that we get much more sleep in good weather. We have two 6-hour watches at night, from 6:00 PM to Midnight (or 1800-2400) and from Midnight to 6:00 AM (2400 to 0600). That way, if there is no weather and if there are no boat issues, we each get nearly 6 hours off at night. During the day the watches are 6 - 10, 10 -2, and 2-6 (or 0600-1000, 1000-1400, and 1400-1800). Each of us gets one extra off watch every other day, time to work on the boat, clean, cook, write, play guitar, send and receive bits and bites via Sailmail, and enjoy a bowl of popcorn together.

Of course there is no sleeping together on this trip (get your mind out of the gutter, people), but we do have quiet time together most afternoons. Right now, with light winds and Casey the Auto-pilot standing watch isn't too laborious.

I had worried that I hadn't downloaded the Grib weather files properly -- but I did. When I get on Sailmail to post this today I hope to find new Grib files for us. If I did it right. In the meantime, the wind has diminished some and is once again turning us a bit more East than we would have liked, but for the past 24 hours we had been moving at over 6 knots and aiming for the mark. Cool.

As I write this, at 1:50 PM on May 28 (1350) EW is reading on deck, I'm still technically on watch, but down in the salon. Our location is North 22.49.697 and 063.02.732 West. We have some clouds, and progressively lighter winds. Others who are ahead of us have been motoring for days. We hope that having left nearly a week later we will endure only a little bit of these light winds.

Ooh! I can report a favorable wind shift. We were steering 350 -- that's Northwest people, now making 035 -- Northeast with more east. This is a small squall, so it may not last, but we'll take what we can get.

Subsequent posts will have more newsy news and fun stuff. I promise. Photos are being taken and will be posted in a few weeks. When I am at a marina. And have had a haircut. And a shower on land. And perhaps dinner out.

In the meantime, enjoying the moment at sea.

Hey there! Would someone who has our Sailmail address please send a short note letting me know this is being posted? I'm working blind here. Thank you!

Settling in to Life Truly at Sea

As EW pointed out a bit ago, we have been at sea for just over 48 hours. Already we have settled in to the routine.
Things have broken and been repaired. I have cooked. We have both had one solid night's sleep. We just shared popcorn on deck for an afternoon snack. EW has played guitar and I've done some writing. (Have to pay for that new Rockna Anchor.)

Our watch system seems to work well for us, though it's still early days for a full appraisal. Previously, we stood watches like this for only 5 days in a row. Heck, previously, I've only ever been at sea for five or six days and most of that was lessthan 100 miles from shore. I took photos of the views from the deck this morning: water and sky with clouds. I've seen few planes, no other boats or ships, and expect to see no land until we reach the Azores. (Any land before that will NOT be a good thing.)

For new readers, two years ago we tried a new watch system and have found that we get much more sleep in good weather. We have two 6-hour watches at night, from 6:00 PM to Midnight (or 1800-2400) and from Midnight to 6:00 AM (2400 to 0600). That way, if there is no weather and if there are no boat issues, we each get nearly 6 hours off at night. During the day the watches are 6 - 10, 10 -2, and 2-6 (or 0600-1000, 1000-1400, and 1400-1800). Each of us gets one extra off watch every other day, time to work on the boat, clean, cook, write, play guitar, send and receive bits and bites via Sailmail, and enjoy a bowl of popcorn together.

Of course there is no sleeping together on this trip (get your mind out of the gutter, people), but we do have quiet time together most afternoons. Right now, with light winds and Casey the Auto-pilot standing watch isn't too laborious.

I had worried that I hadn't downloaded the Grib weather files properly -- but I did. When I get on Sailmail to post this today I hope to find new Grib files for us. If I did it right. In the meantime, the wind has diminished some and is once again turning us a bit more East than we would have liked, but for the past 24 hours we had been moving at over 6 knots and aiming for the mark. Cool.

As I write this, at 1:50 PM on May 28 (1350) EW is reading on deck, I'm still technically on watch, but down in the salon. Our location is North 22.49.697 and 063.02.732 West. We have some clouds, and progressively lighter winds. Others who are ahead of us have been motoring for days. We hope that having left nearly a week later we will endure only a little bit of these light winds.

Ooh! I can report a favorable wind shift. We were steering 350 -- that's Northwest people, now making 035 -- Northeast with more east. This is a small squall, so it may not last, but we'll take what we can get.

Subsequent posts will have more newsy news and fun stuff. I promise. Photos are being taken and will be posted in a few weeks. When I am at a marina. And have had a haircut. And a shower on land. And perhaps dinner out.

In the meantime, enjoying the moment at sea.

Hey there! Would someone who has our Sailmail address please send a short note letting me know this is being posted? I'm working blind here. Thank you!

We Are Really At Sea

Our Saturday departure date became "Sunday for sure", then "Early Monday Morning after a good night's sleep". As we were raising the anchor, EW came back toward me from the bow and said, "Something horrible has happened." Horrible is never good. In this case it was upsetting and expensive, but not horrible.

Since the Bahamas we have anchored with two anchors in a series, by attaching a Fortress anchor on chain ten feet in front of the CQR. It is a terrific set-up for sand. Just over a week ago we had experienced a hefty squall that included 180 degree wind shift. I was standing watch on anchor at around 9 or 10 and EW came up to let out 20 feet more chain to counteract the bouncing of the swells. Just as he got on deck, the anchors broke free. No issues, we re-anchored, but didn't realize that the Fortress had broken free from the CQR until EW raised the anchors to find on anchor and 10 feet of chain. Crap.

We got on the VHF to some diving friends we know, who wanted to help but were attending two weeks of classes. Neighbors we hadn't met lurked on the conversation -- having seen us raise the anchor, turn around and re-anchor -- introduced themselves and offered to help. Bran and Shana from S/V Quartette are delightful -- outgoing, fun, friendly, and very, very helpful. First, the four of us snorkeled for the anchor but EW and I called that off after an hour. We've seen the Fortress screw itself down into the sand and figured she was invisible. So, Brad offered to take EW to the chandlery so we could buy a new anchor. We got a Rockna -- something we have both been coveting for this journey. We have to be more careful about what we ask the gods for. Ah well, one definition of a BOAT: Break Out Another Thousand, and that's what it takes to get ready to cross an ocean.

We finally left Sint Marten at 13:47 Atlantic Time and have been sailing since leaving the harbor. It was a bit of a rough night with squalls and wind shifts -- the last one being favorable. Before that, we went more West than we would have liked, but are now heading north toward Bermuda. As I write this, our position is 19.42.410 North, 63.44.118 West. We have 20-25 knots of wind from the NE -- E would be better.

I was promised E - which would provide less heeling.

Ah well. I'm in it for the adventure, and this certainly is an adventure.

During my first watch, I got out the book about the Atlantic Islands and began dreaming of our arrival at Horta in 3-4 weeks. But I want to enjoy this experience first. We had a pod of playful dolphins in the afternoon, and a lovely sun dog (tiny rainbow) greeted me this morning. I made stir fried rice with left-over pork for dinner last night.

All is good.

Blood on the Vinyl and Other Tales

Yep. We’re still in St. Martin and it’s been by turns:  busy, relaxing, friendly, frustrating, fun, exhausting, productive, and expensive.

Some boats have left for the Azores, while we and others weren’t ready or didn’t like the weather window. The “Jackrabbits” who left last week are complaining that there is no wind. Some have run their engines to the point that they’ll have to go into Bermuda to get (very expensive) diesel.Some were caught in storms with 35 to 40 knots of wind. We hope to avoid both of those scenarios.

There have been highs and lows out there meeting up and that is never a good thing. The result is that weather guru Chris Parker suggested last week that we hold here for a bit. (I really regret falling asleep during his on-line course a few years ago. EW says he understands grib files. Oh god, I hope so.)

In the meantime,  we are working on the boat, provisioning, working on the boat, meeting new sailing friends, working on the boat, getting things done.

Best thing that happened:

S/V Kookaburra showed up on Sunday morning!  It was so great to see Jaime and Keith again, though the new good-byes will be even more bittersweet.P1000428

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Worst thing that happened:

For the first time since moving aboard I have clogged the head. I am dealing with it. It was not a good day. You do not want a photo. <Shudder>

Here are more palatable bits about the past few weeks.

  • We bought and installed the Nimble Navigator and connected our AIS to the laptop. Very cool.
  • I’ve been working on provisioning – including medications – and got a skin check from a local dermatologist. He zapped the one suspicious spot I had with – I keep wanting to call it nitro glycerin, but I know that isn’t right. The literature he gave me called it “cryotherapy”, which is when a very cold liquid is sprayed onto the spot for 10-25 seconds. Burned like heck and I can’t swim before we leave – dang it – but I’m delighted to have been checked and treated. Life is good. As I told the taxi driver on the way back to the dinghy, “We white folks don’t always tolerate this Caribbean sun well.”
  • EW has been the energizer bunny of fixers. His list is long. His talents are many. In fact, I truly believe that I’ll nominate him for the best boat husband of the year and that he would give Keith from S/V Kookaburra a run for the gold. He has fixed so many things that I would have to ask him for a list because I can’t keep count. His list is so big that he deserves his own post. P1000424
  • My list is very short in comparison. I made covers for the water, gas, and diesel containers and a bag for when the awning poles are lashed on deck. This last project resulted in a boo-boo and my declaration that there was “blood on the vinyl”. EW thought that made a great mystery book title. I thought it would be better for a blog post.
  • I initiated “tool creep”.  Tool creep is when the fixer of all things on board needs more room for tools P1000411and parts. Tool creep can be a huge bone of contention on a boat. After assisting EW with some of his projects, mostly as go-fer, I realized that his tool storage was untenable and offered to provide him with new space in the forward head. He was surprised and delighted.P1000400

 

  • We’ve walked the new bridge, had drinks at the yacht club, visited with Mike and Sally at Shrimpy’s, and enjoyed a wonderful French breakfast with savory crepes and smoked salmon. I love St. Martin. 
  • We also popped the anchor during one of the squalls. No harm, no foul, but I did actually wear my real foul weather jacked when I worked on the foredeck. Haven’t worn that since Cape Fear three years ago.
  • I have made meal plans, massive lists, checked everything twice and provisioned the boat (except for the produce). As important, I have found places for all food we brought aboard. Well, EW helped with that. I had room for about half of every canned product we brought aboard. He offered me the storage under the chart table. It is the perfect extra food storage area and I was humbled and delighted. Apparently except for one group of spray bottles and a few other things, that stuff didn’t need to be as accessible. He did not have to mess up the spaces I had ceded earlier in the week.

Right now, it looks like we’ll be here until the 24th.  In the meantime, EW will get better at reading weather files; I’ll cook and freeze more meals, clean more and  write more; and we’ll both contact friends and family before we go. Last night we met up with other Grenada cruisers and were introduced to a couple who are also planning on heading off for the Azores soon. We’ll touch base with them and talk weather, buddy boating, weather, and departure dates. Their boat is called Wanda. That’s right, when we call them on the VHF we say, “Wanda, Wanda, Wanda”. You know I want to continue with “Wanda WHO! Who wrote the book of love?”

I’ll refrain.

Really.


Pizza

EW loves pizza. He has a prefrence for the kind of pizza he got in Niagara Falls, and he likes my home-made pizza, too. Of course there are some pretty good pizza parlors in St. Thomas, as well as a number of chain joints. It continues to surprise me that many American fast food chains have made it to all – or nearly all – of the Caribbean islands. We’ve seen Subway and Quiznos, and tons of KFC places all up and down the chain. And pizza parlors.

On the bus ride back to our home on the hard the other day, we evidently passed a few Pizza Joints and Dominoes shops. I didn’t notice them, but EW had pizza on his mind. Once we got back into town, he asked if I had seen a Dominoes or Pizza Joint in my travels.

I’ve been on a “No Chain Restaurant” kick for a while now, and the thought of junk pizza for dinner didn’t float my boat. (Nothing was floating my boat now. We were on the hard in a very dusty yard where I had to get broken out of jail after hours in order to use the bathroom. I was not at my best.) Still, I agreed to junk chain pizza, but honestly didn’t know of one close by. We decided to take a new road back to the boatyard and passed three little local bars/restaurants: a roti shack, a Chinese restaurant, and this place:

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Pizza and Shwarma? One is Italian by way of America and one is Arabic.

Capture

How can one place offer a menu of Pizza and Shwarma? And what kind of chef does both well?

This particular chef is a cute young woman from St. Martin. I’m not sure where she learned to cook, but she made a great pizza – eventually.

EW totally distrusted a place that offered both pizza and shwarma. I trusted it more than I did Dominoes and Pizza Joint, so I engaged the bartender and ordered two beers. Suzanne is from Holland and is a school librarian here in Sint Maarten. She knows the owner (Bobbieloo?) and took a job bartending on Saturday nights to help out. Most importantly from EW’s viewpoint: Suzanne drives a Harley.

We drank our beers and asked about the pizza. The response was, “We can cook it as soon as our friend returns with a wrench.”

Really?

They needed to change the propane tank.

“He’s on his way. He’ll be right back.”

Again, EW was ready to move on after a beer, but I was hooked, and before we’d finished our first beers, the friend, an 80 year old gentleman arrived with a wrench.

Unfortunately, neither the chef nor the bartender could change the tank fitting. (I had seen this coming a mile away.) Of course, EW could change the fitting. First he and the chef went into the tiny alley where EW  moved the large empty tank to make room for the large full tank. As we waited, the chef came back to the bar to ask Suzanne for a flashlight, but the only light available was the small light attached to a  zapping fly-swatter. This, I had to see. The flash on my camera flash was more helpful than the fly swatter light.P1000194

Afterward, we chatted with Suzanne and their elderly friend while our pepperoni and mushroom pizza was crafted and baked.

It was delicious. And EW’s first beer was free.

Now he wants to drive Suzanne’s Harley. Yeah. That ain’t happening.

We’ve got boat projects to do.

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