A Different Ocean
Flipper and Dinner

Notes From Our Fourth Day at Sea (Parenthically Speaking)

It always takes us a couple of days to settle in on a passage. We left Porvenir between one and two in the afternoon on Tuesday, and I didn't really get 'settled' until today, our fourth day at sea. Just as Chris Parker had told us, we had to motor for the first full day and the better part of the next 24 hours. (Jimmy Cornell in "World Cruising Routes" says that any yacht making this passage will have to expect to motor for part of it.) Motoring is no fun, but it's more fun that bobbing around with flogging sails, and we have to keep moving so we can take advantage of that "benign" weather window. One of the problems, of course, is that we can't hear each other speak when we are motoring. Understand, that we normally aren't sitting together much during a passage; one of us is doing a project, cooking, writing, or sleeping, while the other is on deck on watch. EW (and less often, I) will simply start talking prior to ascertaining whether the other can hear. This results in frequent repetitions of whole sentences and thoughts, or the more occasional "Never mind!" It does not result in good communication. When the motor was finally turned off, my entire body and soul settled.

Once we were able to sail we also had, as Chris Parker had promised, squalls. Now these were benign squalls. (This is evidently my new favorite passage word. Sure beats "horrific".) Only one hit over 30 knots and the seas weren't bad and we had (glory be!) no lightning. (After nearly 6 months in Eastern Panama going four days without being in a lightning storm is heavenly.)Our only problem with squalls is that "Casey" our auto-pilot sometimes had a hissy fit with a strong shift in wind and seas and turns himself off. Unfortunately, he doesn't turn off totally, so someone must press the "human" button in order to take the helm. That wouldn't be an issue if our auto pilot remote weren't in pieces in a plastic zip-lock. If Casey (not La Luna) get's smacked down, the on-deck person will yell, "HUMAN!", and the below deck person will dive for the button, yelling "Human!" back once it's been pressed. If the down below person was in deep sleep, or has to find glasses, or was "indisposed", then we will have rounded so much that the sails won't allow us to come back on course without help from "Pinetop" (the engine). I'm not sure who to feel more sorry for last night: All of the squalls occurred on my watch, so I was the one manning the wheel in the rain and yelling "HUMAN!"; but EW was the one who was off watch, supposedly getting 5+ hours of rest who kept stumbling out of bed to press the button, and if need be turn off "Gramps" (wind generator) so that I could start the engine. I let him go an extra half hour after midnight, and got up at 5 to give him an extra hour this morning. I called my generosity his birthday present. He was thrilled with his gift.

Remember when you (or your kids) were young and delighted to make a new friend, and called that new friend by his or her full name? "My friend Kathy Hunt's parents own a restaurant." "My friend Kathy Hunt's mom crosses us when we cross Main street." Well, he doesn't know it but Chris Parker is my new friend and on this trip I have been referring to him as "Chris Parker": "Chris Parker got it right when he told us the squalls would end and we'd have 15-18 at 090 degrees." "Chris Parker is always so patient with all of us." "I wonder how Chris Parker keeps track of each boat." This morning, he was late getting to the Western Caribbean because he is helping the Salty Dog rally head to the Virgin Islands. In an unusual confluence of radio waves propagation, we could hear Chris Parker as he spoke to the subscribers at sea between Bermuda and the US. All of this has helped me to understand more fully how important 50 miles can be at sea. Boats 50 to 100 miles apart in the same ocean can be experiencing different weather patterns and may have different solutions available to them for missing a trough that contains 40 knots of wind. (We don't like 40. We don't love 30, but it's not horrible or horrific. We do not like 40.) So far my new best friend, Chris Parker, has been spot on for us.

So today, we have been sailing a 6-6.5 knots with lovely trades from the East, under blue skies with fluffy white clouds. This definitely does not suck. With Chris Parker, we have decided to try to make directly for Key West, which is a 48 hour sail (give or take) from the Yucatan off of Isla Mujeres. We cannot make that sail in strong northeast winds and will not arrive at the Yucatan (that body of water between Mexico and Cuba) in time to take advantage of a window open from Sunday night through Tuesday. This morning, Chris Parker said there may be a window on Thursday/Friday or Friday/Saturday. No problem. Chris Parker also said that the winds were going to calm down to 15-18 knots, we'd go more slowly, and (ideally) we will arrive at the turn just in time for the favorable window. (From Chris Parker's lips to the sea gods' ears.) Fingers crossed.

As of 13:15 on Friday November 6 (Happy Birthday, my love!) we are located at 15 degrees 16.29 North and 80 degrees 04.15 West. Raise a glass to (and for) EW. He won't be drinking any spirits until we're in a safe harbor.


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Robb Hamic

I enjoyed your story. We are living aboard in Islamorada and we will be headed South in a few weeks towards Havana. We came to be here from Texas and we cruised our boat to this location over 1300 miles, I know that isn't that much. Anyway, we are going to take this gas guzzler on a season south- maybe 1800 miles round trip back to Key West. Once we get back, she will get sold and we will trade up for a nice monohull. Cheers to y'all. We also have a blog that lists a lot of the same topics. We'd love you to give it a look.

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