13/01/2012, Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, West Indies
Our English cousins have a saying:
THERE ARE TWO THINGS THAT ARE NOT NEEDED ON BOARD A SAILING YACHT; A NAVAL OFFICER, AND AN UMBRELLA.
Damned if we don't have BOTH!!
04/01/2012, Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, West Indies
OUR ARRIVAL IN ANTIGUA:
Tom-Tom said the part of the voyage which he most enjoyed was watching my face light up as we sailed south down the west coast of Antigua. Oh my gosh, what a magnificent display of color and motion! After being at sea in the grey North Atlantic winter for two whole weeks, my eyes drank in the crescendo of ascending shades of the vivid blue Caribbean waters, rising up out of the deep and bursting on to the brilliant white sand separating sea from shore. From my vantage point the surf looked like a shower of white diamonds. The steep dark green hills of Antigua, scarred with slashes of grey volcanic rock, brooded over it all, and added such solid contrast to the dynamic scene below - it all looked so very inviting and exciting. Antigua truly is a tropical paradise; and it meant so much more to me sailing to these sparkling shores in a small boat than if I had flown in with a plane full of brightly clad plump tourists. I felt like I had really earned this beautiful moment; perhaps I was beginning to understand a small part of this cruising lifestyle. As we ghosted down the west coast, the high island of Antigua shadowed us from the easterly Trade Winds, and we had to start the engine and motor-sail through Goat Head Channel and along the south coast into Falmouth Harbour. (Yes, that's how our English cousins spell "harbor" - go figure!) We motored in and dropped our anchor in this well sheltered harbour of crystal clear water, and found ourselves surrounded by many of the world's fanciest mega yachts.
THE HAIR CUT:
It took us little time, and with just a few words exchanged between us, to unrig our dinghy "Grace" from the cabin top, flip her upright, and launch her - we were working together as a crew. My first experience clearing Customs and Immigration was really a lot of fun, and not at all what Mr. Serious Naval Officer Guy tried to make it out to be. As my Mr. Serious was dotting all the eyes and crossing all the tees on the official forms, and of course being so very proper and thorough and Naval Officer like, I was making friends with the Senior Customs Officer - who also started out acting pretty stuffy and serious himself. (WHAT IS IT WITH THESE OLD GUYS TAKING THEMSELVES SO SERIOUSLY?) I started to break the ice when I asked Mr. Stuffy Customs if HIS wife cut his hair; it looked just about as short as Tom-Tom's, and when I remarked on this, he started to crack a friendly smile. After I asked him about his family and home, I then proceeded to tell him the story of how my Mr. Horse's Ass (who admittedly had been up most of the night to ensure our safe landfall) made me absolutely fighting mad about something he was barking about just after we anchored (just now I forget what it was, but I am sure that it will come to me), and then he had the absolute AUDACITY to ask me to cut his hair. Well, let me tell you about the first hair cut I ever gave a man with electric clippers - who had just pissed me off royally! Now those hair clippers are hard, sharp, and have perfectly square corners; and Mr. Pissed-Me-Off-Before-He-Asked has an almost perfectly curved head that he was so very proud of (well, it used to be anyway - before I gouged it in 13 very specific places). I cut that sucker three ways: wide, deep, and unnecessarily. Now, let me tell you Sistas out there that I have NOT been asked to cut Mr. Big Shot's hair since! The Customs Officer had really warmed up to my story, and was laughing out loud and pounding the counter in glee; but I think he actually felt sorry for the poor fellow standing before him with slashes of clotted blood on his scalp. We were having quite a good time in the Customs Office (that would be Mr. Smiling Customs and I), at Mr. Serious Service's expense, of course. I came here to have FUN, and that is exactly what WE are going to do - even if it kills him! (Service sez: "I think that someone upset the big wicker basket that their mother used to carry the whole damn Hermes litter in, and they ALL fell on their heads. This woman, in particular, is a real piece of work - and she can be meaner than a friggin snake!")
Not only do the Antiguan folks spell some words differently (like harbour and endeavour), but their money is really hard to figure out, too. They use Eastern Caribbean Dollars, and some apparently smart and important person in the Government has decided that 2.7 EC equals one US Dollar; but the really smart people in the shops and tee shirt booths use 2.6 - isn't THAT clever of the shopkeepers! I must have been in the pool at swim practice the day they taught the 2.6 times tables in 4th grade, because I have NO CLUE how to figure out their money - I just tell Tom-Tom to pay the man!
LAUNDRY - TOM'S WAY:
After arriving in Antigua and finding out that laundry ashore costs $10.00 USD per load, and that water cost 15 US cents per gallon, we elected to hand wash our clothes aboard Tiger Lilly; we would use the water we had in the tanks, and then buy water to top-off when we went to the fuel dock. You will recall that little lobster pot incident that we had on the way in, well that fire-drill produced a LOT of extra laundry, so we washed our clothes and bedding by hand and dried them on Spaceship Tiger Lilly's life lines for the first 4 days we were in this tropical paradise - my welcome to the cruising world! (Tom sez: "Cruising is nothing more than working on boats in exotic places" - and I sure hope that he is wrong on that one; but then, this is not his first rodeo - as he is so quick to remind me.) I have found one more area this compulsive-excessive husband of mine excels in; hand washing our laundry. Here is the "Official Tiger Lilly Northern Hemisphere Procedure for Hand Washing Laundry." The two large Home Depot orange plastic buckets that live in the shower are brought out to the cockpit and filled to the 3/4 level with water (not 1/2 or 7/8, but exactly 3/4). Next, we read the laundry detergent label (HE READS IT EVERY TIME) and precisely two ounces of soap are evenly disbursed into the water. The clothes are added until the water is EXACTLY two inches from the top of the bucket, and then a toilet plunger is used to agitate the clothes (in a clockwise pattern). This is the Phase-One Wash Agitation, and you can probably imagine that our laundry is not the only thing GETTING AGITATED by this time. The clothes are then allowed to soak for about two hours with the sun warming the buckets, which are turned every 15 minutes - all timed by the MOST AGGRAVATING kitchen timer buzzer I have ever heard in my life. (Tom sez; First you have to understand that this woman has NEVER owned a watch!) Then 50 anti-clockwise plunges are applied in the Phase-Two Wash Agitation. (According to Mr. Know-It-All the alternate clockwise and anti-clockwise pattern must be reversed in the Southern Hemisphere to correctly offset the Coriolis Effect. Here's the kicker Ladies, he made me get out Bowditch "The American Practical Navigator" and look up the word coriolis. Working with this guy is more fun than a root canal!) Then an old-fashioned hand-operated wringer is clamped to the boom gallows aft of the cockpit and the clothes are rolled almost dry with two passes through the tightly tensioned rollers - first head to tail, then tail to head. Only Tom-Tom could have found this antique wringer in the twenty-first century (remember his Horatio Hornblower identity crisis thingy?); Horatio found it on a web site that supplies the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish community. I could have bought a bottom-of-the-line automatic washer at Sears for almost the same price, but where would the water or electricity come from to operate it? Where would we put it? Dancing with our low-carbon footprint seems to be stomping all over my flip flops - what is up with that? I must admit though that I was impressed by the construction of our industrial strength, direct drive, double dip-galvanized, prehistoric wringing contraption; which is so heavy that it could kill a rhinoceros - if sincerely applied. (Until seeing one of these museum pieces, I had never really had an in-depth understanding of that quaint warning about keeping your tits out of the wringer.) The First Rinse Phase is next, the soapy wash water is dumped on deck where ever a good cleaning is needed (which is most everywhere after the boat has been in the salty sea for two weeks) then refilled as before (less 10% since the clothes are already partially wet - we are leaving NOTHING to chance here), two ounces of fabric softener are substituted for the detergent (and of course we have to read THAT label too, and then make some ratio calculations with a calculator), and then the clothes are agitated 50 times with the toilet plunger (you guessed it, in a clockwise pattern). After the First Rinse Phase (I swear to you that I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!) the clothes are rotated by hand from the bottom of the bucket to the top, and agitated 50 more times in the Second Rinse Phase (we are now at a total of exactly 200 plunges - made in very specific patterns (BUT WHO'S COUNTING? WE FLIPPING ARE, THAT'S WHO! WE COUNT EVERYTHING! We even count the lever strokes when we pump the head - down and back up is one stroke, NOT two - but then, that is a whole 'nother story.) Then it is back to the boom gallows (that whole gallows-thingy sounds so depressing to me) and our Amish wringer, an artifact right out of the Old Testament, for the final double-pass Rinse Wring-Out Phase. Ladies, if you haven't already CUT YOUR THROAT OUT OF DESPERATION, or simply THROWN YOUR LAPTOP ACROSS THE ROOM OUT OF FRUSTRATION by this point, then you know that we are having some fun now, and are ready to hang the clothes out to dry on the life lines. Standing on the foredeck and looking aft towards the cockpit, I could clearly see it coming; The very first instant this man made a motion towards me, no doubt to tell me how to hang out the laundry, I WARNED THE MR. TOUGH GUY WITHIN AN INCH OF HIS OVERLY-STRUCTURED LIFE TO STAND CLEAR OF ME - OR BE PREPARED TO SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES!! And so help me, as God is my witness, I WOULD HAVE DONE IT! I don't think there is a jury of 12 honest citizens this side of MARS that would convict me; I am confident that when the jury heard my story they would find the case to be justifiable friggin homicide, and then the judge would likely order him dug up and shot again! As you can probably understand by now, our clothes are certainly clean when Mr. Tidy Whitey gets through with them, but it makes me absolutely crazy watching the process.
LAUNDRY - LILLY'S WAY:
But can you even imagine how HE feels when he goes to a laundromat ashore with his Get-R-Done production (not process) oriented bride? First, I CRAM in - using my not-unformidable foot-power if necessary - 30 pounds of really dirty laundry into a 15 pound machine, ignoring any posted capacity warnings, and not sorting ANYTHING by color. Next, I usually put in HALF the amount of detergent recommended on the label, which I guess at - if I remember to put in any at all. Finally, I go off somewhere and completely ignore the wash cycle while reading a motocross magazine, checking the bulletin board for the local carpet cleaning rates, and socialize with the homeless denizens that frequent the seedy laundromats patronized by sailboat cruisers. Somewhere in this process, if I remember, I throw the clothes in the dryer, feed it a few quarters (slugs if I have them), turn the heat up to max, and forget about them. Meanwhile, my Tom-Tom has retreated to a neutral corner, kicks a cat if one is convenient, and then has a head shaking / sneezing / swearing fit. You can only imagine how much fun we have when Mr. Blue Jackets Manual and Ms. Origami-NOT get together to fold clothes. Hint; Do you remember how Jack Nicholson packed for his road trip with Helen Hunt in the movie "As Good As It Gets"? Then you KNOW just how precisely this man folds clothes - and as Jack would put it, "Precisely is not a word I use lightly here, Sweetheart."
THE ODD COUPLE:
Well, that's my wash day story, and I am sticking to it. In spite of all our back and forth ego flexing and war of wills, somehow our marriage is turning out just fine. Perhaps a good way to describe us is "The Odd Couple Goes Cruising," starring Felix the perfectionist (Tom-Tom), and Oscar the sports fan (me, of course), living on the same boat with two very different philosophies of life - but we are actually enjoying ourselves. OK ladies, are YOU ready to sell everything (including your automatic washing machine) and sail off in a cruising sailboat? Yeah, that's what I thought. This ain't exactly Margaritaville baby, but I think that God has a plan for us all, and it may be something we NEVER expected for our lives - so hang on, it's going to be a wild ride! I also think that God's plan for His people is that we be happy, joyous and free - and certainly not seasick! So, I am quite hopeful "This too shall pass" and most importantly I claim the promises of Psalm 91 for my own - look it up, you will be surprised. Well, there you have it, the rites of passage aboard Spaceship Tiger Lilly, pretty much from MY point-of-view. We think that we can use sailing as a way of realizing God's plan for Tom and Lilly. But we guess that right about now you are probably asking yourselves some questions:
A) What about her seasickness?
B) Can she live with that strong hard-headed SOB?
C) They seem to be so different, how can they get along?
What do you think? Can we do it?
Lill (aka The Tiger Lilly)
Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, West Indies
Answers to the Marriage Quiz:
A) Don't worry, I'll make it - my sea sickness seems to be manageable.
B) Of course I can live with him, he's trainable.
C) Lots of love, and prayer are what make our new marriage work. Remember, Felix and Oscar are each exactly what the other one needs!
03/01/2012, AT SEA
Well, one thing that I do know is that preps for a triathlon, and the actual race, are two very different things. We had worked very hard and done our best to get ourselves and our boat ready for this passage, and now here I was out on our Lord's very big ocean, in a tightly confined environment, and totally dependent on the man who brought me here. (Ladies, I must admit that although I do LOVE him ALL of the time, I certainly don't LIKE him ALL the time - especially when he starts barking commands and orders.) What's more, once at sea, Spaceship Tiger Lilly was making moves and sounds like I never felt or heard in our previous sailing. All along my family and friends (and even some of HIS family and friends) wondered out-loud if I could make it in as little as 44 feet, day and night, 24-7, with a handful like Mr. Tough Guy. Well, the first thing I found out (which of course HE wasn't telling) was that when the boat is at sea with the wind forward of the beam (which would turn out to be the norm on this passage), the forward one-third of the cabin is totally uninhabitable as the bow rapidly rises and falls to meet the oncoming waves. If I would venture forward of the main cabin bulkhead (that is what he insists we call walls) for even a moment to retrieve something from the forward head, the pitching would immediately make me sick. So, it turns out that at sea our boat effectively SHRINKS to only about THIRTY FEET LONG! But apparently that was long enough, and Spaceship Tiger Lilly actually took very good care of us. Probably the most disturbing sound I heard as I lay in our main cabin sea berth was the gurgling of water up the galley sink drains as the boat rolled in the waves; but until Tom identified the source for me, I didn't have a clue what was making that very discomforting noise. After over 24 years and many thousands of miles of sailing his boat, Tom-Tom did not even notice this gurgling anymore; but to ME, laying in my bunk and listening in the dark, it sounded like our Spaceship Tiger Lilly was sinking. Once I asked him (after two days of wondering where and how much water was coming in) Tom-Tom explained the situation and then quieted the drains right down with the sink-stoppers and a dish rag.
In spite of all his many efforts to lift my spirits, I did not feel like Tough Chick at all. In fact, a little white two-gallon paint bucket had become my new best friend: I threw-up in my Little White Bucket ("Tom-Tom QUICK, BRING ME MY BUCKET!"), and then afterward he would dutifully empty it and rinse it out for me; and then I would pee in it, and again (with hardly a discouraging word) my Tom-Tom would empty it and rinse it out again - and all the while he would be promising me that I would feel better soon. (WHENEVER THAT IS!) Thank God he didn't bring me my food in that Little White Bucket! For those first few days out of Port Canaveral I didn't know what day it was, what time it was (except dark and noisy), or where we were - nor did I much care. I seemed to have forgotten all those chart talks Tom and I had before we left about our proposed track to the West Indies and how we would get there. My hair was knotted and mangled, my mouth tasted like dried up vomit, and all I wanted to do was curl up into the fetal position and get this passage over with. THIS PART WAS NOT FUN OR PRETTY! And then the sun came out. We were well to the east of the Gulf Stream, the wind had died down to about 12 knots, and the sea was beginning to calm. Tom-Tom talked me into coming out to the cockpit (why on earth do they call it THAT!) and getting some fresh air in my face. Well, I must admit it took some cajoling and coaxing, and against my better judgment I untied the web of line used to lace up the canvas lee cloth on the outside of the sea berth which prevented me from being thrown out on to the floor (he always reminds me it is a deck or cabin sole), wiggled out of my cocoon, came topside - and soon began to actually feel better. (Tom-Tom describes a perfect sea berth as being as tight and comfortable as a coffin - words that do not particularly soothe my weary soul, or bring reassurance of a better life at the end of a rough passage.) I won't sugar coat it and tell you it was blue skies, smooth sailing, and a calm stomach for the rest of the passage, but it did get better - just as all my sailing mentors and Tom told me it would.
Tom-Tom said he knew I was feeling better when he looked down in the main cabin and saw me on my hands and knees with my Little White Bucket with soap and water in it, and a damp rag in my hand wiping down the deck. And I was better, until that last strong cold front came out of the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Florida - and I had my head right back in my Little White Bucket as we beat to windward to escape the worst of the gale; that was so discouraging - I really wanted to enjoy myself, and learn what this man saw in a life on the sea. From my current vantage point here in calm, sunny Falmouth Harbour, I see my Little White Bucket sitting out in the cockpit and as I reflect back on our passage the Tom Hanks movie "Castaway" and his friend Wilson the soccer ball comes to mind. My Little White Bucket became my Wilson! Tom actually did most everything on the passage like cook, clean, sail, navigate, and stand watch night and day, while I paid close attention to my own personal needs of vomit, hydrate, pee and the occasional hot meal that I was urged to eat in a boat that rocked and rolled constantly; more than any carnival ride I had ever been on - and I HATE those rides. When I did finally get my appetite back, it came on strong - and did I eat. Unfortunately, I ate too much (and Tom warned me at the time to take it easy on the chow), and within a couple of hours back up it came! My new criteria for what to eat, and what not to eat, was based on how it would taste and look when I would see it again! I did try ("try" being the operative word) to help Tom with an occasional watch so that he could get a few hours of sleep each day - but that was sure a challenge. He says it was enough, and our improvised watch system seemed to somehow work. My pre-reading about seasickness and Tom's continuing reassurance told me that this too shall pass, but in the depths of my misery this was so HARD for me to believe. Don't you just hate it when they lay that one of those platitudes on you - and then get it right? I really DID want to help with some of the chores and duties - when I didn't want to die. When I would ask Tom-Tom to please let me help, he always made sure that I understood that what I really meant by "help" was PLEASE, TOM, DO IT FOR ME! He said that my "help" usually consisted of sitting in the cockpit, or lying in the sea berth, and issuing rapid-fire "suggestions" on how HE should be performing the task at hand (usually, cooking or washing up afterwards).
SUNSHINE and SEA BREEZES:
Then things began to look up as we skirted that last cold front, celebrated "Over the Hump Day" (half way there) with brownies and ice cream, and then feted New Years and our First Anniversary with Coke Floats. Tom had snuck some ice cream aboard to surprise me, and it was such a great treat! It wasn't exactly like Sister Carol's Annual Gala and Christmas Party with a paid piano player, seven varieties of catered cheese balls, and of course the ubiquitous "Hi, it's soooo nice to see you again." cooed between the suburban French Hens and the rustic Maids-a-Milking; but our little party at sea suited us just fine, thank-you-very-much. Each morning Tom-Tom would inspect the deck and return to the sea, for burial and consumption, any flying fish that had the misfortune of slamming into Spaceship Tiger Lilly's cabin top during the hours of darkness. One morning, after I was starting to feel better, he presented three of these nasty dead creatures to me in my Little White Bucket for breakfast; but I politely declined - and then pretended to spit in the cheeky rascal's morning cup of Earl Grey tea. On another morning, after a particularly rough night of near gale force winds, a large squid had washed up on the foredeck and in his death throws ejected thick black ink all over our newly painted non-skid deck. Tom-Tom actually had to use bleach and a swab to clean up the mess, and he did it on a wildly pitching wet deck. After that I called him my Squid-Lips Swabby!
Tom had predicted that this voyage would probably take between 12 and 14 days (which really brings home the concept of a slow boat to China), but I was hoping so much for 10 or 11. By the time we were 13 days out of Port Canaveral I was really praying for some land and a quiet anchorage where we could sleep through the night in the same bed together. It was just after dark when from his vantage point at the mast Tom-Tom hollered out, "LAND HO!!" in his best imitation of Horatio Hornblower - a persona which he regularly assumes. (Note to self: Hmmmm, better watch THAT behavior.) He explained to me what "LAND HO" meant (I had never heard that one before), and he pointed out the lights of St. Martin off to the west. Shortly after that, the lights of St. Barts began to wink at us from below the horizon in the southwest. Oh my gosh, we were going to make it! I was getting excited! Tom-Tom called my new-found optimism Channel Fever, but warned that we still had a ways to go. But things were going well for me - and I was enjoying my upbeat mood; I felt pretty good (not great, but a solid good), it was a warm tropical night full of stars, I could see land again (or at least lights on land), and hey - I actually knew where we were. The Trade Winds had diminished to about 12 to 14 knots and dipped south of east, the seas had calmed considerably as we came out of the deep sea and into the West Indies, and we were making good speed towards our destination on the Island of Antigua - about 90 miles to the south. At around 2030 (8:30PM in land time) the depth sounder perked up and started showing numbers on the display; we came on soundings at 328 feet and by 2200 (10:00PM in land time) it was reading 110 feet of water under us - and that should have given us a clue. For the last 12 days the depth sounder could not find a bottom because the water had been so deep (the chart showed up to 16,000 feet in places along our track), so I was amused and comforted to have numbers on it again. But then, all at once and quite mysteriously, the boat started to behave very weirdly: no matter how Tom trimmed the sails, Helmer the self-steering wind vane could not keep the course to the south, and we kept running down and off the wind toward the west, and the shallows off the east coast of St. Martin - not a good thing. When we hand-steered and put the boat back on a southerly heading for Antigua, the wheel felt funny and the boat was sluggish to respond. Then, just by chance, we happened to glance at the speed on the GPS display, and it read ZERO! We were dead-in-the-water and not moving, zip, nada, and stopped! As soon as Tom got to the aft deck with our big spotlight the situation immediately became clear - we had snagged a lobster pot line. Just about that time I heard water sloshing around in the aft cabin; a stern window was open, we were anchored by the lobster pot line, and waves were hitting the back of the boat and coming in on the aft bunk! OH MY GOSH, WHAT A MESS! I dove below and closed the open port, while Tom furled the sails to reduce the strain on whatever part of the under-water hull was fouled by the lobster pot. My Captain was on this problem like a duck on a June Bug, and I could tell by his words and actions that there was a sense of urgency about him; but it wasn't until we had it all sorted out that he was able to take the time to explain the immediate danger to me. The wet aft cabin was merely an inconvenience, the real problem was how and where we were fouled. We knew by the feel of the steering wheel that the rudder was involved, but our principal concern was if the propeller and propeller shaft were also caught by the lobster pot line. If this was the case, it was really important that we reduce the strain on the propeller as quickly as possible because it was not designed to take the stress of anchoring our heavy boat in the open sea. Boats under similar circumstances had been sunk when their propeller shafts were pulled off the coupling to the transmission and the shaft came right out of the boat; leaving a formidable hole for the sea to flood in. Right then we were not in any danger of sinking; however, we had to figure out our situation pretty quickly. The aft cabin mattress, the bedding and pillows on it, and over 100 paper charts stowed under the mattress, were all saturated with sea water - but those would have to be dealt with later. Tom could have gone into the engine room and tried to rotate the propeller shaft by hand to see if it was caught on the line, but he saw a way to quickly release us and solve the problem - and into action we went. Before I could realize what he was doing, he was in and out of cockpit lockers, grabbed some gear, and then nipped back to the aft deck. He used the dinghy anchor to grapple the lobster pot line, then rigged the anchor line over the top of the utility arch, down to the deck through a snatch block, and then forward to the starboard jib sheet winch in the cockpit. On Tom's order, I cranked the winch and lifted the grappled lobster pot line clear of the water; then, while I sat on the aft deck and held the tensioned anchor and rode off of the stern and away from our brand new paint job, he reached out through the centerline stern port and cut the lobster pot line - and we were free. We then hoisted our sails and by 2230 (10:30PM in land time) we were headed back south towards Antigua. The up-side of this mess was that we had faced a serious problem, and solved it together as a team, and we both felt good about that. Well, that said, it still put quite a damper on my Channel Fever, but I was so very thankful that Tom did not have to go overboard and into the rough sea on that dark night to cut us free - and so was he.
24/12/2011, Under way for Antigua
TIGER LILLY'S CHRISTMAS EVE LOG
Twas the night before Christmas, and the TIGER LILLY is out, sailing His grand sea - that's what we're about.
Her keel's a deep one, she sails quite true, her mast is so sturdy, as she runs for the blue.
Our latitude is north at two eight point five, and our attitude is up, we are feeling alive.
The meridian is west at seven four and a bit, that star in the east makes this holy night fit.
Over two thousand fathoms, the sea here's quit deep, sans rocks and sans shoals, the navigator can sleep.
With mains'l and yankee set on the port tack, we're close hauled for the Antillies, and not looking back.
The wind's just a light breeze from the northeast and fluky, but sailing our boat is both pleasure and duty.
At ten twenty-two and on the up slope, the glass foretells light air and quells our wind hope.
The vane gear is steering right down our chart track, Helmer's like a third crew, and he doesn't talk back!
We're running down our easting to meridian 65, then south till the butter melts, she'll give us a ride.
The balmy West Indies that's where we are bound, where tropical waters and Trade Winds are found.
Lilly's Christmas bike socks are the only holiday trimming, but Christ's in our hearts, with his love we are brimming.
Michael W. Smith fills the boat with His carols, the birth of the Christ child he croons and he heralds.
The HAM radio is tuned to the back stay with care, sending these Christmas greetings to our family back there.
So MERRY CHRISTMAS from Captain Tom and his Admiral Lilly, we're having more fun than the circus at Piccadilly!
21/12/2011, CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA
"HOLY TOLEDO, THERE'S A LOT OF WATER OUT HERE!"
This was my reaction as I emerged from the cabin on my first trip to the cockpit after being sick in my bunk for a day and a half. We were well clear of the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream and I was becoming hopeful - not chipper mind you, but somewhat hopeful; the sun was out, the sea had settled a bit, and I was feeling better - at least for now. As I let the warm breeze caress my face I reflected: How did I get here? What on earth am I doing here? Will I ever really enjoy this lifestyle? Can I live with this man who brought me here? Not the usual thoughts of a newlywed as she approached her one-year anniversary - or maybe they are typical. Hey, getting married in middle-age is certainly not for sissies. (Service sez: Middle-age Cupcake? "So, do you really expect to live to be one hundred and six?") See what I mean, why does he have to say these mean things?
Was it really less than three years ago that I had stopped in at Starbucks for that life-changing Carmel Macchiato and met this man? I seemed to have just turned around and the house in suburbia (as he calls it), my truck, my business, and most of all, my kid, are gone! What happened? Here I stand, grasping the handle of a manual clothes wringer which my grandmother (or perhaps her mother) would have used; and to add just a bit more confusion, I find myself in a clear tropical anchorage surrounded by the world's most POSH mega-yachts that I know have their own mega-washers and mega-dryers on board. I don't think I could have even made up this story three years ago.
TAKING CARE OF LILLY:
In my former athletic career and business life I was used to being First Team all the way; and in fact, I have never been on a sports team that I was not elected captain. But I made up my mind starting out on this, my first blue water passage on Tiger Lilly, that I was just going to take care of myself and allow Tom to be the captain. Tom whole-heartily agreed with me, and promptly appointed me Admiral of the Boat. He kept reassuring me that although this winter passage directly between the east coast of Florida and the West Indies was a challenge - the adverse winds, light air, successive cold fronts, and the "occasional" gale likely encountered on this off shore route was much preferred to sitting in the Bahama's at Chicken Harbor with the rock hoppers, pot-luckers, and pinochle players; but I'm not so sure that the Thorny Path, as it is called, is really so bad. Over the past 18 months or so we had adopted a crawl / walk / run approach to my sailing indoctrination. First we stayed in Florida's ICW and the St. Johns River, then we progressed to a coastal cruise from Florida north to the Chesapeake Bay and back, and this past spring we completed a sailboat delivery project from Connecticut to Florida with about half of that voyage off shore. Tom was preparing me for blue water sailing, and HE said I was getting better, and I guess I didn't seem quite as seasick as I was those first few times out; but I was still afraid that I was going to be sick all the way to the West Indies. My greatest fear about my new lifestyle was that my seasickness would not allow me to be any help to my Tom-Tom while we were sailing off shore on long passages. As a nun takes a vow of chastity, I took one of self; I vowed to learn to just take care of Lilly on this voyage. (Tom sez: OK Lill's family - PLEASE, no laughing at the nun / chastity part! But I must admit that I am having a difficult time keeping a straight face myself.) I wanted to learn more about the boat, and I wanted to learn how to make off shore passages - but first and foremost I didn't want to be sick and miserable. Tom told me that by day two of our voyage to Antigua I would likely start to feel better - if I would just take it easy - something I have never done well in my life. I even surprised myself though, because that is exactly what I did; I was faithful to my vow of not over doing anything (well almost) - which is completely out of character for someone like me.
Fortunately, before we left Florida I had the opportunity for some great mentoring from women like circumnavigator Pam Wall of S/V Kandarik and Sherry McCampbell of S/V Soggy Paws; both very experienced and capable sailors who took me under their wings. These new cruising friends seemed to have a different plan for life than the dog-eat-dog business environment which I was used to; they were driven towards helping others meet the challenges and find enjoyment in the sailing and cruising lifestyle - with no expectation of anything in return - how altruistic and refreshing. What's more, both of these women were from Tom's former life, and yet they made me feel very welcome in their world. I liked them, identified with them, and learned from them. For me, it just seemed to be easier learning from another woman since there were no agendas; just friendship, camaraderie, and a lot of laughs discussing "those" men. They gave me some books to read, and gave me a lot of good practical information in their presentations at the Seven Seas Cruising Association Gams. I especially enjoyed the early morning walks with Sherry on the beach at Indian Harbor. As we walked the beach we talked about the upcoming passage that Tom and I were about to make; the 1600 miles of sailing and not seeing land for two weeks, the challenges of staying clean and comfortable at sea on a small boat, what clothes to wear, and what to do when the wind gets up and the sea gets rough. They told me about some of the passages that they had made (some were pleasant, and others simply had to be endured) and how they persevered. (Oh, and I must also remember to thank my over-the-road truck driver sister, Thea, for the wonderful gift of Aloe Wipes - they were my lifesaver.)
Based on my own limited experience, and with the help of these kind women, I realized that this passage was not going to be anything like sitting in Julington Creek with our keel stuck deep in the mud, or propped-up on the hard on jack-stands and keel blocks in a St. Augustine boatyard - this was going to be far more challenging. I had seen a few challenges before in my life, and I just made up my mind to suck it up and sort it out. I can remember straddling my mountain bike at the base of Albuquerque's 10,000 foot Sandia Peak, along with a couple hundred other very fit competitors, ready for the start of my first world class hill-climb; I had been the recipient of some very good mentoring before that race, and it paid off when I was the first woman across the finish line at the top of that steep mountain. I was very fortunate to have a similar quality of mentoring for my sailing challenge, and I was just as determined to succeed. I look at other women who have enjoyed and thrived in this sailing and cruising lifestyle, and I made up my mind that I could do this, too.
Tom-Tom called me "Tough Chick" and reminded me of the story of "Little Toot" - the tug that could (you know how very corny he can be sometimes). Coming up with nicknames was a fun thing, and calling Tom "Tough Guy" was a name that appropriately fit a man like him. One of the first things that Tough Guy told me was that the cell phone that had been physically connected to my hip for the past 23 years had to go - there would be no connection at sea; and this was not a temporary disconnection, this was for the duration of our cruising. That came as a real shock to a woman who had about 300 phone numbers of clients, friends, and family stored on her SIM card. I do believe that Tom was jumping for joy when our phones finally took a dive in the Gulf Stream. Oh my gosh, no more connection with family, friends, and most of all my precious son, Ryan - how would I survive? (Tom-Tom reminded me whenever I would go off on this "no communication" tangent that we had HAM radio email at sea, and Internet email and the Skype telephone on the computer in port. (But somehow all I could think of was unplugging from my ever present cell phone.) Now I realize that sometimes it is just a case of too much information. For instance, in one of the last calls that I received from my boy before we sailed from Port Canaveral he informed me that he and his buddies had been pepper-sprayed by the security guards at a concert at the Jacksonville Landings the previous evening. Now isn't that just what a mom needs to hear just before an extended ocean voyage? Tom sez that based on his experience in the Navy that mothers are better off NOT knowing all the details about the activities of their 21 year-old sons. Perhaps he is right; maybe, I need to love Ryan from afar for awhile! Another concept that Tom-Tom tried to drill into me was that once we could not see land (He calls it taking our departure - why can't he just call things what they are?) that Tiger Lilly was our life support system, we were dependent on her for everything - just like the astronauts on the Space Shuttle. That is why we treat our boat / equipment / supplies so much differently then what I had seen by recreational weekend boaters. In my mind's eye, I began to think of Tiger Lilly as a spaceship - and where we were going was just as unimaginable to me as a trip to Mars!
25/11/2011, Banana River at Indian Harbor Beach
After nearly five months on the hard we are so very happy to be afloat again. Like most classic women, she looks better with a little paint, a little powder, and a nicely cut-in waterline. (That is the boat of course, not Lilly.) As we begin the next chapter of our lives together as a cruising couple, we look back at our time in St. Augustine with many fond memories, and new-found friends.
The Oldest City was an enjoyable history lesson for us both. Unfortunately, Lilly had spent most of her college history classes doing laps in a swimming pool, so we do have a bit of catching up in this area. (Tom-Tom, tell me again was Ponce de Leon an astronaut, or did he invent the Internet with Steve Jobs?) Lilly explored the streets and alleyways of the town on a beach cruiser bike, making friends all over town. Since she loves horses, she made several contacts in the carriage tour business. In fact, some of the horses (most of which Lilly knew by name) were stabled in an open paddock adjacent to our boat yard on the outskirts of town. One evening, as we returned to the boat well after dark, we noticed three very large draft horses grazing in the public park across from the boat yard; they had escaped! Well, we quickly found ourselves transformed from sailors to horsemen, and there we were on a very dark night with apples, carrots, and a dinghy painter in hand helping to round up these gentle giants. Our reward, besides helping to ensure the safety of these absolutely beautiful animals, was a complimentary pass on a carriage tour with Ken (an ex-professional jockey) and his horse Big Mike. If you ever get a chance to tour St. Augustine with these guys, by all means do it - we guarantee you will have a memorable and enjoyable experience. We found a temporary church home at Destiny International Church out on US Highway One, pastored by a Harley riding preacher by the name of Donovan, and his spirited wife Nellie. Donovan is truly a great preacher, but he yells like a sailor, and spits like a camel when he gets on a roll - so don't sit too near the front :-) We connected most evenings with the AA folks at the Serenity House, and the air conditioning and camaraderie were most welcome respites from the rigors of the hot and dusty boat yard. We made a huge change in our lives by shifting from Starbucks to Dunkin Donuts - for way better coffee, and nutritious treats on the way to our AA meetings. Another transformation in our lifestyle came when we sold Lilly's pick-em-up truck; cruisers don't have such things, they would only tie us down. But it was nice to have a transition period to wean ourselves off the luxury of a private vehicle, when our Jacksonville friends Dennis and his daughter Karen insisted we drive their SUV for the last two weeks we were in the St. Augustine Marine Center.
In early November we headed south down the ICW to Melbourne, FL for the annual SSCA GAM. It was great to be on the move again. We had a very rewarding time at the GAM seeing old sailing friends, making some new ones, and learning about such diverse topics as SSB radio, cruising the South Pacific, and watching a life raft inflation up close and personal - something we never want to do for real! (FYI, a GAM is a meeting of ships at sea, and an exchange of information between the crews.) Our friends Rick (S/V Nautilus in the Florida Panhandle) and Robert (S/V Circe in Jacksonville) stayed aboard our boat and bunked in the aft cabin, and we had a grand time introducing them to the Seven Seas Cruising Association. After the GAM we crossed over to the east side of the Indian River to Dragon Point and the Banana River, anchoring at Indian Harbor Beach. This is our staging anchorage to work the Project List to prepare Tiger Lilly for her upcoming offshore passage south to the West Indies. Rick stayed after the GAM and helped Tom install our new wind generator, and convert many of our high energy incandescent lights to efficient LED's. The weekend before Thanksgiving we rented a car and drove over to St. Pete to visit with Tom's 90 year-old mom Grace - our dinghy's namesake - before we set out on our extended voyage. Lilly has been saying goodbye to her friends and family for the past several weeks, and now it was Tom's turn. This is one of those difficult moments in the life of a sailor. Do we stay close to our elderly parents, adult children, and young grandchildren, or do we venture forth and explore the world? We simply cannot do both. For us the answer lies with what we want our children to do, and we certainly do not want to hold them back from the joys of life while they wait for us to die. The logic is sound, but the goodbyes are difficult, and as Johnny Depp would say, "It's a pirate's life for me!" Speaking of which, we had a great Thanksgiving back aboard Tiger Lilly in Indian Harbor Beach with Lilly's 21 year-old son Ryan. He showed up sporting a brand new tattoo of a buxom pirate lady with Angelina Jolie like lips, eye patch with embossed skull and cross bones, and the name "TIGER LILLY" inscribed below. Lilly looked at the tattoo, turned to Tom and declared that there was no turning back now, her boy had blessed it and we HAD to go sailing!
Over the next couple of weeks we will continue to work the never-ending Project List until the must-do items for offshore sailing are complete. In early December when the Atlantic Hurricane Season is over, we will shift anchorage to Cape Canaveral to wait for the first good weather-window to head out the Canaveral Inlet and out across the Gulf Stream. We plan to sail offshore some 1600 miles to Antigua in the West Indies; hopefully arriving before Christmas.
One of the projects on the To Do List is to get our new computer working with the HAM radio so that we can update this Blog remotely from sea. If we are successful, you will be able to track our progress and events while on passage - stay tuned, this is not a sure thing. As we transition to the active cruising mode our new Communications Plan will not include cell phones, but we will have other ways to stay in touch: we have just started an account on Facebook, and we will try to learn the art and science of social networking (a natural talent for Lilly, and a forced endeavor for Mr. Personality), our Facebook name is of course Tiger Lilly; we have Skype installed, and with a lot of pre-planning it is theoretically possible to see and talk to you (Tom sez: if I wanted to see or talk to these people I wouldn't go sailing - this is making my hair hurt already!); of course we will still have email at [email protected], however our access to the Internet to down load your email will be periodic at best, usually quite brief, and will cost us money each time (so PLEASE DO NOT send us any forwards, jokes, or political rants - which is about 90% of the content of most email in-boxes), but we do want to hear from YOU; and finally, our children will be in direct contact with us via HAM radio email, so if you have a time-sensitive message you can ask one of them to forward it to us.
Well that is about it for this edition of our Blog. We have posted some photos of our time at the St. Augustine Marine Center in our photo albums. To view them click on our PHOTO GALLERY at the top right side of this page and navigate to PORTS OF CALL / USA / SHE SWIMS. SEE YOU THERE!