Once more   Leave a comment

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Lee and I are weighing anchor and heading out to sea one more time together in the Caribbean. I am certainly ready for our time in the tropics to be over. I think Lee is too, although we will both miss swimming off the boat in turquoise water, buying bags full of mangoes and papayas at the market, and standing night watches in minimal clothing. We are not hot weather people and our boat is better suited for a different climate. I, for one, feel like I’m doing the equivalent of smoking cigarettes after being diagnosed with lung cancer by spending all this time in the equatorial sun post-skin cancer.

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Okay, I don’t want to start a rant. Montego bay is a bit on the boring side, especially now that we’ve been in Jamaica for a while. We can only get places by cab. The yacht club’s trusty driver, Brenton, took us to just the right shops to get a replacement hydraulic hose for our vang. The fittings aren’t stainless but Lee can replace those later.

We also went out to lunch on the tourist strip (called the Hip Strip I think). Lee tried the national dish – ackee and salt cod, my attempt at which had totally flopped. It was tasty – served with green bananas, plantains, and some kind of fried dough ball. Afterwards the cab took us to Mega Mart, where we loaded up on supplies. There are a surprising amount of Jamaican products around: Jamaican coconut water, coffee, jerk sauce, oatmeal, tea, cold medicine, and even a pillow (Lee was in need of a replacement for his damp, moldy pillow I threw out a while back).

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Last night and today we mostly hung around the yacht club, ferrying water and fuel out to the boat and trying to track down customs and immigration so we can check out of the country. We made a final run to the store for ice and to check for bananas, which they didn’t have! Anyone who has eaten breakfast with me before knows how much I love my bananas. How ironic for me to end up in Jamaica during a banana shortage! Mangoes and papayas will have to do.

I am clearly nursing a full-blown head cold at this point. At first I thought it was a side effect of the scope patch but even after removing it I am totally stuffed up and woozy. Being sick in an oppressively hot environment isn’t much fun.

We are leaving tonight for Grand Cayman. I have my flight out from there booked so all we have to do is get there by Saturday. It should be a 2 night, 1 day sail, so we should get to Grand Cayman on Thursday morning.

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It feels strange for my role in this journey to be coming to a close. Curacao seems both far away and vividly recent. Covering miles and miles between island nations by sea certainly makes the oceans seem vast and time slow. I still cant believe that we can spend days at sea and arrive at some place hundreds of miles from our starting point. It feels too much like time travel, or time suspension while we move across the sea.

I’m going to savor this last sail. Lee may be continuing north with other crew, Pirat will certainly go home to New England, but Grand Cayman is where I get off. I may be done with the heat but I don’t know if I’m ready to return to reality.

Posted April 16, 2013 by Rachel in Uncategorized

Going places and breaking things   2 comments

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I miss Port Antonio already. On this cool, calm Monday morning Pirat is anchored off the Montego Bay Yacht Club. Montego Bay is a big tourist/cruise ship port near the west end of Jamaica. We sailed here yesterday from a little anchorage called Fosters cove. We spent one night in that solitary spot after a morning sail west from Port Antonio.
I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t finished telling you about Port Antonio yet. I think Errol Flynn marina ranks up there with the best marinas we’ve ever visited. It was getting quite busy around there with lots of boats coming in and new people to meet. A sailboat full of our generation of sailors was docked next to us for our last few nights at the marina. It is always so much fun to share stories with other people enjoying the seafaring lifestyle.

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I think I mentioned in my last post that a guy in then produce market instructed me on how to make the Jamaican national dish – ackee and salt cod – and picked out all the ingredients for me. Well, I tried to make it that night and it didn’t go so well. First, the hot peppers be put in my bag were seriously HOT, like so hot that my hands and any other part of my body I touched after handling the cut peppers (ahem…should not have touched my face) burned for the rest of the evening. One tiny pepper, totally de-seeded, made the dish too hot to eat. The ackee itself was interesting. It is definitely the weirdest food I’ve ever prepared. The fruit comes out of this big, pink seed pod-like thing. There is a huge, black seed attached to the egg-shaped little bulb of flesh. You first remove the seed and then scrape out these red flowery bits inside. I boiled it in water with one hot pepper, some regular green peppers, and tomatoes…then came the salt cod. I have eaten salt cod prepared by others and loved it but this time…not so much.

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I followed the local’s instructions and boiled it in the vegetable mixture till I could peel the skin off, then put the skinned pieces back in the skillet. When Lee and I sat down with our ackee and salt cod serves over quinoa, I could barely eat it, mostly due to the salt level, and Lee was floored by the spiciness. I’d like to give this dish another chance if someone who knows what they’re doing would make it for me!

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On then subject of food, I have to admit that Lee and I patronized Port Antonio’s ice cream shop more nights than not during our stay. The shop, called i Scream, is a short walk along the water front from the marina. Their flavors range from guava to coconut, rum raisin, and rocky river (like rocky road). The woman behind the counter scooped up heaping cones of perfectly melty ice cream. Ice cream in the tropics melts at just the right rate to lick off a cone. Pistachio was my favorite ūüôā

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In my world, it is very, very tough to beat a marina with a top-notch ice cream shop next door, decent showers, friendly people, and wifi.

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Fosters cove had no ice cream but it did have lovely, sandy beaches, machete-wielding children, sea turtles, and a jungle full of fireflies at night. Picking our way in through the reefs that line both sides of the cove was hair-raising. There were waves breaking on the reefs and the water was so stirred up we couldn’t see much.

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It was wonderful to spend a night at anchor all by ourselves. A sea turtle did come out to keep us company at night and the local fishing boats (the Struggler and Sugarloaf) anchored near us were a reminder that civilization was nearby. There really were kids with machetes fishing on the beach. There were also tons of fireflies in the jungle surrounding us at night. A few flashlights on shore right next to us creeped me out too. We were not really alone.

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After enjoying some relative solitude, Lee and I set sail for Mo’bay (as it’s called) yesterday morning. We soon found ourselves rocketing down wind and waves, wing-on-wing, in 20 knots or so of breeze. Just as were starting to think we might be carrying too much sail at too precarious of an angle, there was an unusually loud bang, sigh, and smack. It took me a second to figure out what had happened but it was obvious from the shape of the main that our hydraulic vang had let go. The boom was kicked up at a ridiculous angle. When Lee went forward to check things out our worst fears were confirmed. There was hydraulic fluid all over the place. The tube feeding fluid into the vang appeared to have burst.

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Apparently, there is only a pressure relief valve in our hydraulic system if it is left set on the vang, which it was not. When the vang loaded up with force from the sail it had finally had enough and burst the hose. We opted to furl the jib, start the engine, drop the main, and then turn downwind again to unfurl the jib and sail the rest of the way on headsail only. It wasn’t little slow but it worked.

We arrived at the anchorage by Montego Bay yacht club around 8pm last night. It was a little tough to find a spot to anchor among the derelict boats and party catamarans. The club has a dock but boats have to moor to it Mediterranean style, which we find tricky. With our broken vang we now have some parts to find and repairs to arrange. This may change our plans to sail to Grand Cayman later this week. I guess its time to go ashore and get to work.

Posted April 15, 2013 by Rachel in Uncategorized

Lazy days in Jamaica   Leave a comment

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Jamaica is both nothing like we expected and everything you’d think it would be. People are friendly (sometimes a little too friendly). Mountains cloaked in tropical jungles serve as a backdrop for clear, blue bays and sandy beaches. There is plenty of Red Stripe and there would be plenty of bananas if, according to one local, hurricane Sandy hadn’t decimated the crop.
The town of Port Antonio is what surprised us the most. Walking out of the marina compound brings us to a crowded, busy, chaos of cars and people going every which way.  No one walks on the treacherous sidewalks (I stubbed my toe on a piece of rebar sticking out of one). Everyone is in the street. In the afternoon and evening school children of all ages take to the streets in their clean and proper uniforms. It is impossible for Lee and me not to stand out in the crowd. We are instantly accosted by people offering to sell us something or take us somewhere.
This afternoon a man attached himself to us as we entered the produce market. He ended up telling me how to make a special Jamaican dish and picking out all the ingredients for me in the market. I don’t know if he expected a tip but we didn’t give him one. We will see if I can turn salt cod and a very odd looking fruit into something edible tonight!
This afternoon Lee and I took the dinghy over to Navy island, a small island in the bay at Port Antonio. Lee rowed us around in the shelter of the reef and we clamored around the island’s rocky shore to our own, private beach. Lee even braved the edge of the jungle ashore to retrieve some low-hanging coconuts from a tree. Of course, I brought my camera but forgot the card, so no pictures. We will have to go back with an anchor for the dinghy so we can swim around in the deeper parts of the bank.
Jamaica is somewhat bewitching. We’re not sure if we really like it but we’re giving it a few more days. I’m down to my last week on Pirat, though, so we need to cover some more distance too!

Posted April 11, 2013 by Rachel in Uncategorized

Crash! Bang! Boom! – Jamaica   1 comment

I had every intention of writing blog posts to publish via sat phone internet during our passage. That possibility went out the window when it became clear that the seasickness medication I took wasn’t going to keep me feeling 100%. I felt better than I would have un-medicated but sitting down to type something sounded like torture (as did drinking coffee, which never appeals to me while we’re sailing in hot climates).

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Here we are in Jamaica. You may be wondering how we ended up here rather than in Puerto Rico as we planned. It all came down the the weather conditions when we first left Curacao. The waves and wind were more serious than we envisioned based on the forecast. The prospect of slogging upwind into them for 3 days was not appealing. It also became clear within minutes of heading towards our intended destination that our chain plates (where rigging that holds up the mast attaches to the deck) were leaking like sieves. We should have foreseen that. They are notoriously leaky and need constant re-bedding. There were streams of water pouring from the chain plate that was getting hit with every wave that splashed on deck.

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Then there was the mainsheet. We broke the attachment piece joining the mainsheet to the traveler…twice. We jibed, the boom rocketed across the boat, and that little about-to-fail piece disintegrated. We ended up starting the engine, furling the jib, and then coaching our runaway sail back to the boat so Lee could re-attach it. This was all in about 20-25 knots of wind. Lee lashed two shackles together with spectra. Then we were stupid enough to gybe again a few minutes later. Again, crash, bang, another part of the system was broken. That repair took a¬†little while longer and looked super sketchy. Hey, it got us all the way to Jamaica (with no more gybes).

Heading a little off the wind seemed like an excellent idea at that point to we steered Pirat towards Jamaica and settled in for a slightly longer passage than we had planned (4 days, 3 nights rather than 3 days and 2 nights). Now that we are here, it was totally worth every extra hour in the relentless sun or on an exhausting night watch.

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The days all blended together. There was nothing out there but an occasional freighter, which seemed to pass us more at night time. One got awfully close and we were really thankful for our AIS receiving abilities, allowing us to see what was coming.  The only living things we saw were flying fish. Gathering them from the deck every morning was fun. They accidentally fly onto the boat and tend to get stuck there. A GIANT one landed right next to me on one of my night watches. It scared me so badly that I almost jumped off the boat. The poor fish flopped into the cockpit rather than over the side. I left it there for Lee to deal with in the morning.

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During the day we did a lot of reading and napping. The oven-like conditions down below were often preferable to the hot sun on deck. It was fun playing with the Delorme tracker and I hope some of you followed our progress with that as well! Getting text messages while in the middle of the Caribbean sea was especially fun.

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I wish I could show you a picture of the sea and sky at night. It is so breathtakingly beautiful. There were so many stars. I probably saw 5 shooting stars a night too. Pirat’s wake glowed with phosphorescence and the only sound was of the rumbling waves and persistent wind.

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We made good time – averaging around 7.5 to 8 knots at first and then less as the wind abated. With waves to surf and 20 knots of wind behind us we peaked at over 13 knots.

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We spent all day yesterday looking for Jamaica and were starting to think that dry land was just a myth. I finally spotted land around dinner time last night. The wind was dying and we knew we wouldn’t make it into port until late so we called the marina on the sat phone. They said an easy dock would be there waiting for us. It turned out there was a friendly local to help us tie up when we pulled in at around 1 am too. Welcome to Jamaica!

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I’ll check in tomorrow with more on what we are doing now that we’re here. All I can say is its gorgeous and the people are the friendliest we’ve encountered so far. Oh, and a plunge in a nice, cold swimming pool was the best feeling ever after 4 days without a shower!

Posted April 9, 2013 by Rachel in Uncategorized

Here we go   Leave a comment

I think we’ve spent just the right amount of time in Curacao. I’m no longer overly apprehensive about the passage and Lee and I are both sick of the bugs and heat, which are always worse in port. Lee has been driving us around in psycho traffic for almost a week and he deserves a medal. We returned the rental car this afternoon, leaving only tasks around the boat for the end of the day.

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Checking in/out with customs and immigration is always an experience. Nothing will ever match the insanity in the D.R.but Curacao doesn’t make it easy either. The customs building is in the Punda waterfront area of Willemstad and immigration is on the other side of the harbor, a long walk through the cruise ship and commercial port area. When we checked out of customs this morning the officer spent 10 minutes searching a binder for our paperwork, messing the the crooked d-rings to flip the pages, before Lee persuaded him that he was looking in the wrong year – Pirat arrived here in 2012.
The immigration office was a tiny, air-conditioned oasis full of people waiting for their papers. The officer there was the same one who checked us in last year (that’s the second time that’s happened). We encountered a giant iguana on the road in our travels this morning. It took its time getting out of the way and bobbed its head at our Kia in annoyance.
Here’s the tally from the produce market (a line of docked boats sells fruit and vegetables from Venezuela):
1 Pineapple
1 papaya
2 bunches of bananas
4 mangoes
6 oranges
1 giant avocado
9 or so little bell peppers
1 cabbage
3 giant carrots
3 cucumbers
1 bag of potatoes
2 bags of mysterious little things that kind of look like tiny apples (the vendor threw those in without us asking for them)

I have a good fruit net set up this time I think. There is nothing worse than fruit flying all over the boat while you’re sailing.

It’s late. We are mostly ready. There is strange, marching band music playing over the hill.

We hope to check in on the blog via sat phone internet as we head towards Puerto Rico tomorrow. It should take about 3 days and 2 nights to get where we’re going.

Wish us fair winds! We’re leaving on a Friday, an unlucky day to start a voyage…oops.

Posted April 4, 2013 by Rachel in Uncategorized

A work in progress   1 comment

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Its amazing what you can accomplish with zero energy. I guess I’m speaking for myself. Lee seems to have plenty of energy and is a regular machine working on the boat. He cleans. He organizes. He spent half of yesterday and the day before up the mast cleaning the rigging and re-attaching things. Of course, I was the one who hauled him up the mast.

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In this heat, just can’t muster the the energy to do anything. That doesn’t mean I’m off the hook from working, though! I’ve hauled Lee up the mast, done lots of cleaning and organizing down below, and scrubbed the whole deck. Scrubbing the deck had to come first. Pirat was totally caked in some serious dirt.

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By the way, we were wrong about the pipe bunk being stolen. It was just hiding under a pile of stuff in the aft cabin. So far, the only thing missing is a small kitchen knife. Our hatch is cracked through so Lee will have to epoxy it before we leave.

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Curacao Marine is, as always, an interesting place to hang out. There are French, Swiss, Australian, German, Dutch, and American boats on the docks and in the yard. There are several families with multiple kids living and sailing on very hard-core cruising boats. Everyone is friendly. Tonight there was a pot luck BBQ where everyone gathered to eat and share stories. Those are among the moments that make me glad to be doing what we’re doing – reveling in our freedom and shared love for for the ocean with a bunch of people from all over the world.

Our old, dead batteries (so sad) came out today and a new, jumbo battery went in. I did the last of the grocery store provisioning at the gigantic, Dutch supermarket today. We now have enough Nutella, sausages, and muesli to get us somewhere.

“Somewhere” being Puerto Rico…probably. We may set out and decide we don’t like that point of sail and end up in Jamaica instead. Right now, our plan is to leave Friday morning. That leaves tomorrow to go to the produce market, check out with customs and immigration (no small task), and return the rental car.
I am actually looking forward to getting out there in the breeze because hopefully it will be cooler!

Posted April 4, 2013 by Rachel in Uncategorized

Bonbini to Curacao   Leave a comment

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I’m an idiot and forgot the cable that connects my camera to the tablet so this will be a boring, wordy post.
We arrived in Curacao yesterday afternoon and I immediately remembered why we are leaving the Caribbean. Its just too hot. It’s too hot to function, too hot to enjoy much of anything. My feet and hands immediately swelled up like…sausages. Ugh.
I had forgotten how much this island looks like southern California. Its this weird, desert landscape. We should have also thought about that desert-like landscape in terms of storing the boat here. When we got to Curacao Marine in our rental car and spotted Pirat at the a lunch ramp dock I wanted to cry. Our precious boat was covered, caked, masked, in tan, desert dirt. The shrink wrap was partially torn off and the whole thing just looked so sad. Our companionway hatch was wide open (stupid Curacao Marine) but at least our chart plotter and other essentials were still below!
So far, the only obvious things that are missing are Lee’s sailing knife and…our pipe bunk. Don’t ask me why someone would steel a bunk. What would they even do with it?!?! It just makes me so angry that the marina allowed that to happen to our boat. For all we know it was even an inside job.
Down below is surprisingly clean and unsmelly, so that’s good. We gave the deck an initial rinse to get the caked dirt off. That made a huge difference. Maybe the dirt protected the deck underneath… In¬†any case its going to take a thorough scrubbing to get things back in order.
We stayed at a hotel last night – the Floris Suites. Surprisingly, we still kind of know our way around the island. Also surprisingly and to our relief, the big grocery store is open for a while today even though it’s Easter. We can get some food to keep us going today and hopefully figure out how to get into the bathrooms at the marina. We plan to spend tonight on the boat so bathrooms and showers would be nice!
Overall, I’m kinda freaking out about the passage we’re about to make. I feel so out of practice from this way of life. A few days scrubbing and re-rigging Pirat should help me feel better. It won’t make the Caribbean any less hot and unpleasant so at least we have that as motivation to get out of here!

Posted March 31, 2013 by Rachel in Uncategorized

On our way   Leave a comment

Losing hours of sleep and jumping ahead to Saturday was difficult. Here we are in the Newark airport, taking advantage of a United Club pass to sit in some comfy chairs.

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Lee and I were brainstorming the game plan for once we arrive in Curacao this afternoon. First and foremost, we need to make sure Pirat is safe in the water and tied up at the dock to our satisfaction. You can never be too careful with these things. This boat yard did scrape up our keel taking the boat out of the water last year.
Of course, we are eagerly awaiting that first look down below. Was anything stolen in the break-in? Do we still have a chart plotter? A computer monitor? Have lizards and spiders taken over the boat like they did in St. Kitts? We shall see.
All I want right now is to sleep in a bed not an uncomfortable chair. Oh, and some hot weather actually sounds kinda nice too, at least for a while. I know I will be melting in the sun before too long.

Posted March 30, 2013 by Rachel in Uncategorized

Watch us sail into the Bermuda Triangle!   Leave a comment

We got a Delorme Inreach¬†so you follow our track, wherever we end up going (we still don’t know). Right now you can see Lee’s usual commute to and from work – exciting stuff!

Track Lee and Rachel on Pirat!

More on this later, but don’t freak out if our track ends suddenly – this thing isn’t¬†necessarily reliable.

 

We are flying to Curacao TONIGHT!!! Ah! How did this happen? We have a duffle bag that could hold me full of survival suits, sleeping bags, emergency backpacking food, life jacket harnesses…band aids. Pirat is going in the water before we arrive so cross your fingers that all out through-hulls are closed!

See you in the Caribbean!

Posted March 29, 2013 by Rachel in Uncategorized

Back to the boat!   Leave a comment

Okay people, it’s time to go sailing. It’s T-minus 5 days till Lee and I fly to Curaco to put Pirat back in the water! It’s been a year and we both miss our boat like crazy. We’ve been doing some racing on the bay and puttering around in my dad’s boat but nothing compares to Pirat!

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A calm day on SF bay.

Lets just hope we find her more or less as we left her (aside from some dammage from a break in that happened right after we left Curaco). We don’t know for sure whether anything was stolen in that break in so we could get down there and find that chart plotter or Lee’s computer monitor missing. Hopefully not.

One things for sure, it’s gonna be hot! We’re going to be covering some serious mileage, and it will be a challenge. Okay, so maybe that’s three things.

I’ll be back with more about our plan later in the week.

Posted March 24, 2013 by Rachel in Uncategorized