Notes From Our Fourth Day at Sea (Parenthically Speaking)
We Couldna Gone to Isla Mujeres

Flipper and Dinner

I made a bunch of new friends yesterday, during the last hour of my afternoon watch. I was sleepy but pretending to be alert, checking the horizon for traffic, when we were approached by a fleet (pod/troop/bevy) of dolphins. Now this isn't the first time we've had dolphins cavort near La Luna. It's happened before, but never by such a large group and never for nearly an hour.

These appeared to be bottle nosed dolphins--just like Flipper---and they spent the hour playing and performing for me. I was a most appreciative audience. At first I stayed in the cockpit and provided verbal ovations: "Hello beautiful." "Aren't you the best?" followed by many oohs and ahs and soft hand claps of pleasure. It seemed as though many of them swam near the cockpit in response to my appreciation. I called to EW and he joined me for some minutes before going below to read the engine manual. (Don't ask.)

Weve had groups of dolphins play in our wake in the Azores and Trinidad, but again, not for as long or as exuberantly as this group in the Northwest Caribbean. EW handed me the camera and I again stayed in the cockpit, taking photos and exclaiming. Finally, I ducked below to put on the life jacket and harness and made my way to the bow. There, I was the sole audience for a spectacular show. They leapt fully out of the water; three of them slapped their tails in turn; one stood on his tail to spy me; one did a flip; and all of them chased each other around the boat, passing back and forth in front of La Luna's wake. I snapped photos and wondered at one point whether they were enjoying the sounds of the camera, the little tone and snick-snick-snick that meant I was in sport mode, trying to take many photos to get one good shot. Later, I put the camera aside and simply enjoyed their acrobatics and joy.

I got splashed and laughed. I continued to talk with them. It was my best dolphin experience ever.

Both EW and I feel that seeing dolphins play near your boat is a good omen. It certainly made my day.

As did our progress. As of 0900 on Sunday morning (Panama Time) we are located at 17 degrees 20.42 minutes North, and 82 degrees 12.90 minutes West. We are sailing between 4-5 knots downwind in an East breeze. We have about 400 miles left to the arbitrary mark made off Isla Mujeres, and over 200 miles beyond that to Key West. We realize, however, that this East breeze will be Northeast in the Gulf of Mexico and we see tacking ahead of us, perhaps doubling that 200 miles. No worries. My friend Chris Parker will help us pick the right days and routes for that last passage to US shores.

Hey, are dolphins like dogs in that if they swim upside down, showing their white bellies, does it mean they trust you? I did not provide belly rubs, but I so wanted to. The harness (and I) remained tethered to the deck.

For the dinner portion of this message, let me tell you about the excellent lupper we enjoyed this afternoon. For EW's birthday, two days ago, I had cooked the smoked pork chops available in Panama and served them with roasted veggies including chunks of potato, onions, peppers, and eggplant. Today I smashed the leftover veggies and dumped them into hot olive oil in my small iron skillet, and fried that mess until the bottom was a bit crunchy. I whisked four eggs, added shredded cheddar cheese, basil, and mustard and poured that over the vegetable crust. Then I popped it into the oven for 20 minutes.

We have a winner.

This email will go out later this afternoon, so let me give you more up to date coordinates:
17 degrees 27.98 minutes North; 82 degrees 37.193 minutes West.

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