First leg of circumnavigation is behind us
January 15, 2012, 12:52 pm, 9 42.9'N:78 28.1'W, Ten miles from San Blas Archpelego Panama
Again they said that this leg of the trip was one of the more challenging and I hope they are right. But the good news is that we managed the 20 foot waves and 40+ knot winds very well. At Last really demonstrated her capabilities in heavy weather sailing. She was very stable no matter what mother nature threw at her. The crew did just as well. Many thanks to Joel Chadwick for his major contributions. He is going to a unversity in Wales GB to be a mega yacht captian. I know he will certainly acheive his goal and make a fine captian as well. We will enjoy being at anchor tonight and watch the sun set in a calm bay. I could not wish for a better birthday present (because Janet tells me that is all I am getting for my birthday). We will update the blog again after we catch up on our sleep.
Surfing by South America
January 12, 2012, 3:33 pm, 13 10'N:72 09'W, 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela
At this moment, I am ecstatic that we picked up another crew person before we left St. Lucia. Joel Chadwick works for the World Cruising Club, is from Wales and is currently taking a year off from University. He was given the opportunity to sail to the San Blas Islands instead of flying there if he could find a member of the fleet who would be willing to take him along. We met Joel when he did our safety inspection on the boat and we offered to have him sail along with us. We have quickly learned that Joel is a very experienced sailor and a huge help on the boat.
Mark is sleeping right now, I am blogging and Joel is sailing the boat in 15 foot waves and 25 - 33 knot winds. We have reefed the jib and the main sail and are going about 7 - 8 knots. Last night we hit over 10 knots at one point and today we hit 11.5 knots surfing down a 15+ foot wave. There is a very strong current pushing us due to the ocean water being funneled around the tip of South America. The boat is rolling around quite a bit as the following seas are coming up behind us and causing us to "surf" down the waves. It will be another two days in these difficult seas. We understand that this is probably one of the worse passages on the round the world trip. It is tolerable but somewhat uncomfortable at times.
With three crew on board, life at sea seems to be a bit more manageable. We each have a three hour shift followed by six hours off shift. You tend to get much more sleep than with the four hours on and four hours off that we did on the way to Tortola. The three hour shift seems to go by much more quickly than the four hour shifts. Much of the day all three of us are up which makes the passage much more social. Every third night you only have one shift during the evening so the rest of the time you can sleep while it is dark out.
We have had quite a few laughs during the trip already. Mark had an unexpected visitor in the cockpit the other night. It was pitch dark and Joel and I were both sleeping when all of a sudden Mark yelled, "Expletives, expletives..., there is something in the cockpit." Joel and I quickly went above deck as Mark was trying to avoid the rather large flying fish (eight inches or so) that had miraculously found its way into the cockpit. Joel bravely picked the fish up and tossed it back into the water.
This is the only fish we have caught despite reading the book that Tony and Eileen gave to us - Salt Water Fishing Made Easy. Twice yesterday we were reeling in a fish and it got away. At the time the boat was going over 8 knots and we were not inclined to slow down so there was a tremendous amount of pressure on the reel and the fish. We are determined to try again once the conditions settle down. Joel kept talking about cooking a fish on the barbie and I threatened not to prepare anything for dinner to motivate my fishermen. Mark became quite concerned when it was dinner time and they had no fish to eat. Luckily, I had a backup plan for dinner.
We received our handicap ratings before we left St. Lucia. Although this is a pleasure trip, they do give out small and silly rewards for winning different legs of the trip. Our boat is ranked 23rd out of the 28 boats currently on the trip. We are clearly a cruising yacht not a racing yacht. At this point, as long as there are five boats behind us we think we are doing quite well. One boat has lost their auto pilot and another has broken their boom vang. We are grateful that nothing has gone wrong as of yet. We do speak with the other boats twice per day over the SSB radio. We check in and give our position. They also have a question of the day like what books are people reading on board or what are they most looking forward to once getting to San Blas. It is very reassuring to have so much support around you. It is also very exciting when we plot everyone else's positions while eating breakfast to learn where we are in relation to the other boats.
We should be at sea for another four or five days so we are at about the halfway point of this trip. Please remember that you can chart our current location through the World Cruising Club's website at www.worldcruising.com. We are equipped with a GPS transponder for the next sixteen months so you can see our current position at any time.
Yes, this is really happening
January 9, 2012, 12:32 pm, 14 49'N:63 55'E, Leaving St Lucia
We left St Lucia Sunday 1/8/12 at noon local time (11 am est) for Panama. Start of the passage was quite the site to see. More than 30 sail boats sailing in close formation for a few hours past the starting line.
We are fortunate to have one of the staff of the World Arc, Joel, join us for this leg to panama. Though he is young, he is quite an experienced sailor. This will make the down wind passage to Panama all the more enjoyable. We expect the 1100 mile trip to take about 7 days. Weather for atleast the first half of the trip is forecasted to be comfortable.
You can follow our position and the rest of the fleet by clicking on the link on the left side of the page for the World ARC.
The World ARC Check In - (Is this really happening?)
January 2, 2012, 1:36 pm, Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia
We had our week of fun in the sun, and a special week it was, thanks to Tony and Eileen. Now it is time to get back to the more serious side of this trip and prepare for the next big passage to Panama.
We checked in today with the World ARC office. The rally includes thirty-three boats from 14 different countries. USA, Great Britain, and Germany top the list at eight, six and five boats respectively. This is the biggest fleet ever for the World ARC. There are 11 other boats who, like At Last, will be will double handed or sailing with just two people aboard. The boats range in size from 38 feet to 67 feet. We are right in the middle of the pack at 49 feet. Two of the boats have children on board, both two girls ranging in age from six to ten. A handful of people like us have taken a break from work to do the trip while many more are retired. Surprising to me, quite a few boats have all male crew and the wives will be joining the men for different times during the fifteen months we are at sea. How do these men do it? I cannot imagine having Mark go without me! Although my guess is that by the end of the trip I would be willing to forgo the three week passages and meet up with him at the next tropical island! Also surprising, there are a handful of boats that will be meeting us at some other port along the trip, mostly in Australia. Many of these boats started a previous World ARC and left the trip to spend a year or two in the New Zealand/Australia area and will be rejoining the trip to make the return. Oh, if we only didn't have to return to work!!!
We wanted to let everyone know that we had our swim platform fixed by a fantastic carpenter, Tyson. We also had two gentlemen refinish our teak. Mark just did not have the time and they did a fantastic job. It was 1/3 of the price we would have paid in the United States.
Best of all, Tony and Mark installed the companion way doors which Mark had purchased prior to leaving the States. Mark said that without Tony it would have taken him at least twice the time and at least twice the amount of frustration.
We will spend the rest of the week doing other needed maintenance projects and getting the boat ready for our trip to Panama. From what we have already heard, the trip to Panama may be the most challenging of the trip inlcuding the Caribbean 1500. We will be leaving on Sunday at noon for a seven day trip to the San Blas Islands located just off the coast of Panama. Once there, our good friend Andrea will be joining us for the transit through the Panama Canal. We will begin the canal transit on January 26th. We are really excited about this portion of the trip! This adventure is starting to get real. We will update the blog again before we leave and along the way.
Happy New Year’s from the Edge Restaurant
December 31, 2011, 1:30 pm, Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
After all of our crazy adventures in St. Lucia, no one minded when we had a lazy Saturday on the boat. We got dressed for a special New Year's Eve at The Edge Restaurant, one of the best if not the best restaurant on the island. Chef Bobo who runs the restaurant is an award winning chef who owns three restaurants in St. Lucia. We ate at all three! There was a special menu for New Year's which came complete with a pre dessert - a basil cheesecake. Tony and Eileen enjoyed this the most. I had an appetizer of duck and my main course was sushi - I surprised even myself. There were fireworks on the beach and tons of people walking the streets to get there but we opted for a quieter New Year's celebration back on the boat. Actually, we were all asleep by midnight if the truth be known.
The next day, Tony and Eileen left. We are incredibly grateful to them for being the first guests to join us on our travels. We love you both very much and are thrilled with all we were able to do together. It was a magical week and I only cried a little bit after you left. We cannot believe we never took you out sailing. I guess you will have to come to Australia to go sailing!
Zippin' through the rain forest canopy
December 30, 2011, 1:18 pm, Rainforest Adventures, Daughin, St. Lucia
We were picked up at Eileen and Tony's hotel, Harmony Suites, at 8:25 am to go zip lining through the rain forest. This was Tony's idea and he thought if anyone would go with him it would be me. This seems remarkable given both he and I are afraid of heights. We all signed on for the adventure with some level of apprehension. Mark quickly asked one of the guides if anyone had died zip lining. I quickly informed him that the question was like "the number we don't talk about" while playing craps.
We were instructed to "empty our tanks" and get harnessed up. The harness reminded me of the ones we wear boating but I was happy to see that there was no crotch strap. We got to practice zip lining on one small line and then we were on our way. We took a tram to the top of the mountain and again got excellent information regarding the rain forest trees and flowers from our guides, Terry and Jibri. There were ten zip lines through the forest. All the zip lines were from platform to platform and all were off the ground at least 100 feet. The last zip line was the longest at 500 feet and landed you safely back to the ground.
During the last three zip lines, we were allowed to go hands free and what the guides called free style. We were given some excellent suggestions for this such as playing dead, bicycling, doing the back stroke, etc. By far the most creative was Mark who grabbed his ankles behind him and began flapping his knees in and out. Now, that was a sight to see. Mark quickly stated that Jibri had given him the suggestion. Eileen thought Terry, the rather serious guide, was going to fall off the platform laughing. He stated quite clearly that he had NEVER seen anyone do anything like that before.
We all thought the zip lining was very worthwhile. Tony and I were relieved that it was not as scary (height wise) as we thought it would be. We were also unaware that we would have to hike as much as we did during the trip. We really zip lined around the top of the mountain and took the tram up and then down to the base of the mountain.
The Long and Winding Road
December 29, 2011, 12:58 pm, Soufriere, St. Lucia
Multiple people had recommended that we visit the town if Soufriere during our stay in St. Lucia. There are many attractions there including the Pitons, which are two steep mountains seen in the picture above. No one intended for us to actually drive there ourselves. It is approximately twenty miles from Rodney Bay but about a 1.5 hour drive due to the winding roads up and down the mountains. You have never seen switchbacks and hair pin turns like these. And of course the road was barely wide enough for two cars to pass. most of the time just a few feet from the edge of the road was a sheer cliff of a hundreds of feet.
Eileen was our brave driver given that she had lived in Australia for three months and had some experience driving on the left hand side of the road and with the steering wheel on the right had side of the car. We had to get a minivan because there were no other smaller cars available. Not a good choice given the width of the roads.
Remarkably, when we were almost to Soufriere, a gentle man stopped his car and waved us over. He asked if we were going to the Diamond waterfall and the mud baths in Soufriere. Apparently, this is the only place four Americans in a rental car would be going to on such dangerous roads. His name was Charlie, a National Park Guide, and offered to give us the tour.
We hiked through a rain forest to the Diamond Waterfall. He instructed us what shoes to wear and that we would not be swimming on this portion of the tour. We had told him we wanted to quick tour because we were not anxious to drive back in the dark. Much like Alexis in Dominica, he named all of the trees and the flowers we were passing along the trail and told us more about the history of St. Lucia. We saw the waterfall and hiked back to the car.
We then went to the Sulphur Springs. It is the site of the only volcano on St. Lucia which is now dormant. Charlie instructed us that he would be provided us with white mud that we would rub all over our bodies which would make us look 10 years younger. He told us that many people don't know which mud to use and end up putting a black mud all over their bodies. When we got there Eileen and I quickly got into the sulphur spring - yes, it did smell a bit like rotten eggs - but the water was warm - yes, the water had a bit of soot in it. We encourage both Mark and Tony to take a dip and with some coaxing Mark got in. Once we were in the spring, we waited for Charlie who went up the river a bit to find the right mud. Sure enough, we saw a group of five people coming down the river covering in black mud - the wrong mud - according to Charlie. The bucket of mud from Charlie was white and he said its main ingredient was zinc. He was happy to cover each of us in the mud and by the end we were helping each other get completely covered. Tony was happy to be our official photographer.
After the mud dried and we tried to get as much of it off in the spring, we were back in our respective cars to drive to the final destination The Jalousie Plantation -which had another hot water spring which Charlie noted would get us all cleaned off. We took a short hike into another rain forest and came upon a beautiful hot spring fed pool with a waterfall. Eileen, Mark and I quickly took a swim and stood underneath the waterfall. The water was a bit cooler than the sulphur springs but sure smelt better and looked cleaner. We went quickly back to the car because given the time we had spent in Soufriere, we were quite certain we would be driving the long, winding road back in the dark.
When Eileen returned the car the next day Mark asked if they said congratulations when it was returned safely. Mark was reminded of what we said when we had reached Tortola. We had made it, no one was hurt and the car was in one piece.