New and Old Friends at Sea
Flipper and Dogs and Stuff

Two Different Passages: One North and One Back to the “Real World”

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A veggie boat, selling fruits, veggies, chickens, beer, wine, and other items to the cruisers in the San Blas

I. Re-entry

Our friends Sandy and Jeff on Magic Inspiration are returning to the cruising life as we are leaving it. While we were in Key Biscayne Sandy sent me an email that included a few thoughts about her re-entry into “real” life, and offering moral support and advice if I had similar problems. I am hopeful that this “soft landing” of Key West to Key Biscayne to St. Augustine will allow us to begin to acclimate to our new conditions. So far, I  have started a list.

1. Technology. We are not savvy. I know enough to know that I’m not savvy. EW thinks I’m savvy, so that lets you know his level of understanding. We were amazed by a few of the things Dani and Tate had on board Sundowner. Tate’s an uber-geek and Dani is truly savvy. They kindly gave us a 12 volt plug that has two USB ports so we can charge two things at once. We LOVE It! I swear those weren’t available when we left in 2010. In Isla Mujeres, where we met Travis on Party of Five we learned about these little chargers that you can carry with you to charge your phone if the battery dies. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve hung out in a ladies’ room for thirty minutes with my phone plugged in? And do not  get me started on $800.00 smart phones, or “What’s Ap?” I have been left in the dust. And really, how smart are you if you spend $800.00 on a phone? Fortunately in St. Augustine I have found Phone Hospital. These will be my go-to guys on all things tech. They may have fixed my BLU at no charge. If not, I’ll purchase my next smart phone with them—for considerably less than $800.00.

2. Clothing. I am going to get a job—preferably a recruiting/hiring job, and I can truthfully state that I have absolutely nothing to wear. Fashion is not kind to me. Over the years I can count on my fingers and toes the outfits that I felt were perfect. I can think of many more that just missed the mark and others that cause me to shudder. I am a stress shopper, picking up something when I think I have nothing to wear and often getting it wrong. Cathy has informed me that I probably won’t have to wear hose and heels. She has a great sense of style and I am definitely going to use her expertise. As I told her, not only do I have to get some new outfits, I need not to look like I’ve passed the age of 55. Oh joy. I wish “What Not to Wear” was still on and whisked me off to New York so I could purchase $5000.00 of high end clothing with too much style for me and for which I have no room on the boat. On second thought, I just want to find a few mix and match pieces and one pair of fashionable flat shoes. Is that too much to ask?

3.  The News of Maine, US, and the World. Wow. That’s all I will say here. Wow.

4. Groceries. So Publix and Win Dixie are quite something. Clean, friendly staff, expensive produce, and well-packaged chickens. This is the last chicken we purchased in the San Blas. While we’ve been in the Caribbean I got used to discovering “new” parts of a “processed” bird, and I’ve seen people barbeque chicken feet, but I’ve never been presented in one quite this way. The nails cry out for polish, don’t you think? (My mom made Kathy M. and me clean and prepare a chicken during one break in our freshman year of college when she realized that our home education had been woefully neglected. I daresay if that chicken had looked like this Kathy and I would have never served a whole bird.)

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IMG_2202Well, these are the first four things that come to mind. We’ll see see what the future holds.

II. From the San Blas North and My New Best Friend 11/4-11/6 2015

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November 4

Some of you may remember our passage from St. Thomas to Panama, during which we had to heave-to for more than 3 days. You can read an account of that journey by going to

http://www.allatsea.net/st-thomas-to-guna-yala-tough-but-never-horrific/

"An Horrific Passage", is definitely a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-did moment. The term "horrific" was provided by Chris Parker whose weather reports we have followed when in the Bahamas and Caribbean. Chris broadcasts on the SSB at scheduled times with weather for a particular area. In addition, he accepts subscriptions and will answer the questions of subscribed sailors after his regularly scheduled broadcast. We did not subscribe for the trip to Panama, and were rueful one morning to hear Chris tell folks not to travel south from Jamaica to Panama or Columbia because conditions were "horrific". We knew that. We were out in those conditions. At that moment we decided to subscribe to Chris Parker on our next major passage.

When he prompted us to leave the San Blas a week earlier than we expected, he described the conditions as "relatively benign". He also said that we would be motoring for a day and a half until we reached 12 degrees north, then we would have East winds of 15-20 with squalls to 30. We have been out here for just over 24 hours and and are motoring along on a beautiful day. The first night was stunning—a clear, starry night; lovely half moon; no rain; gentle seas. If we'd had wind it would have been perfect.

It was definitely benign.

So. We sweated. We ate. We slept. We kept watch.

And we hoped for some wind.

Not horrific wind. Not huge seas. But a nice stiff breeze from the east, if you please.

Once we reached 15 degrees north, we would also have a wonderful current, pushing us exactly where we want to go.

(NOTE: The shot of the route was taken much later in the trip. Took me that long to figure out I could just take a photo of the iPad screen. See #1 about out technology. This does show you our planned passage. It was a long one.)

Thoughts from that time at sea:

“Heading to sea for a passage of more than 3 or 4 days usually means we're traveling to a different country, and is always exciting for us. In a way, it's like starting over, with new foods, customs, bus systems, and adventures. If we don't have to tuck in to Isla Mujeres to wait for good weather, our "different country" will be the US (Author’s Note: You know how that worked out). Both EW and I are looking forward to this new adventure, and to exploring the areas around St. Augustine. EW wants to get a bike, a big old-fashioned looking one with fenders and a comfortable seat.

It's 14:40 Panama Time on November 4. We are located at 11 degrees, 24 minutes; and 78 degrees 44 minutes, motoring on a (for now) benign sea.

On 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 had 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." One  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 trof 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, (Friday 11/6) we have been sailing at 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 between Isla Mujeres, Mexico and Cuba. 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.  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.

And this completes the third portion of our flash-back series.

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