24 June 2021 | St. George's, Bermuda
Tuesday 22 June 2021
Despite smaller population numbers previously mentioned, Hamilton appears much larger than St. George's with some more modern buildings. It's positively littered with coffee shops. A large Viking cruise ship is on the waterfront quay looming over downtown. It's huge, but moderately less ugly than most - actually has characteristics reminiscent of a boat.
Upper nasal swabbing was again efficient and uncomplicated, barring potential brain damage, after which limited exploration was attempted. Visited a small, but very interesting history museum by test site, then toured beautifully maintained Fort Hamilton. Still feeling knocked about by evil microorganisms, Jan was done early so we returned to boat middle afternoon. Not to be kept down, went back ashore to White Horse Pub for dinner fortified by Guinness Stout and Magner's Cider.
Boat jobs day. Sized and replaced solar panel struts that were corroded and broken. Ran out mainsail to tighten leech line and began process to unstop forward toilet - a sanitary, chemically based effort before delving into the icky bit. Still haven't cleaned out the Panda impeller trap, but have built up a fairly impressive guilt about it so could happen any time.
Winds look tolerable for departure tomorrow, but probably stay until at least Saturday because.. oh, just because. NOAA seems to be expecting a tropical low to form around here by following weekend so we'll beat feet well before. Looks like a good, if slow, passage, but then somebody accused somebody of saying something similar about what turned into a miserable sail to Bermuda. Somebody has stopped making prognostications having learned his lesson. Referenced individual now says trip will be awful and if it goes OK, we're all better off. Mr. Psychology.
Laundry day. Always fun to periodically schlep bags of dirty clothes to local laundromat (which is sometimes, as in Key West or Bonaire, quite a trek), wait for the magic to happen then drag them back. Can accomplish on boat when necessary, but requires running generator and making extra water. Although larger, using less water than previous, new washer still small, so freshening skivvies is efficient (anyway can always go commando... TMI?), but takes forever to do heavier clothing, two towels or one bed sheet per load.
*** Philosophical Rant Warning ***
The further away from the homeland's feckless or often malignant governance, attendant rhetoric and lemming-like thinking the less threatening and more entertaining it tends to be. It was a hoot in Indonesia, but considerably less so when immersed in it touring East Coast and Florida. Fortunately we're mostly unaffected by European politics, which are arguably much worse, so expect to have a pleasant sojourn in the Mediterranean. If you're feeling bedeviled and angry, try acquiring some distance, if only in your mind. You'll be glad you did.
"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."
- Rudyard Kipling, 1935
Jack & Jan
21 June 2021 | St. George's, Bermuda
Monday 21 June 2021
Norman on SV Pawnee has given up trying to enter Bermuda and plans resuming passage today. We went over to help with rigging problem yesterday, but he had it sorted and was ready to bale. Forced us to drink an Aguila beer from Colombia at one pm. We normally don't drink that early as it makes us drowsy and stupid, but it would have been rude to refuse. We're good neighbors. Although not needing paperwork from here to enter Azores he'll go early tomorrow to inform immigration just to preclude possibility of getting blown out of the water by local coast guard as he heads out Town Cut. Probably not a concern, but one can never be too careful with government functionaries. It's often judicious to smile and agree with whatever they say before figuring out how to blow them off.
We have another covid test Tuesday in Hamilton, about nineteen kilometers from here. Making it easy for cruisers probably doesn't intrude on the official purview. Probably take the bus and explore the city of a thousand, one of the smallest capitols in the world. St. George's has perhaps seventeen hundred inhabitants, but Hamilton is the real heart of the one hundred eighty one island and islet archipelago. Town population numbers vary from different sources (Hamilton is the only one incorporated), but total population is apparently around sixty two thousand. Banking and financial services including offshore insurance plus tourism are the largest contributors to the sixth highest GDP per capita in the world. Self-governing Bermuda is the most populous member of the fourteen British Overseas territories which include, surprisingly, parts of Cyprus. Never know where those wacky Brits will turn up.
Jan enjoyed a night of all the interesting things that happen when you get food poisoning. Still weak and shaky early she has mostly recovered for tomorrow's covid test. And yes, we know it will be negative unless a false positive. Bermuda charges for four tests before you arrive. We're happy to endure the hassle to get our money's worth.
Discovered several other anchored boats are heading for Azores, all waiting for a wind that may never come. No one has fuel to motor entire way through Bermuda/Azores high, Sargasso Sea. Trip may take two weeks; we have fuel for six days. Our tentative plan includes climbing north to higher latitudes where wind is stronger, but not too strong and yet below where ice goes. We don't like cold.
Jack & Jan
Three Fourths Perfect
20 June 2021 | St. George's, Bermuda
Sunday 20 June 2021
Beautiful weather descended on Bermuda just before we did Friday afternoon. Clear-in at customs dock, which included cotton-swab-rammed-up-nose-into-brain covid test, was otherwise painless, but after anchoring had to remain aboard until negative results available next morning. Since we've had vaccines, moving about now is unrestricted.
While inbound talked to seventy eight year old Australian on SV Pawnee, an eighty foot double headsail sloop that he's single-handing to Azores. The boat has no communication except VHF so he was looking for tropical activity information. Made unscheduled stop to fix rig problem an hour before our arrival. Came over to Anthem yesterday afternoon for a nice, long chat while awaiting clearance into Bermuda with no prior notice or preparation. Local authorities seem in no hurry to get him tested and cleared. Interesting fellow who spent much of his life in Vancouver, he's been most places we have around the world so fun to reminisce and swap tall tales.
Spent early Saturday in tete-a-tete with generator. Short swim with long screwdriver cleared thru-hulls that were indeed encrusted with crustaceans, but Panda still overheated. Subsequent replacement of raw water impeller, which was almost finless, then allowed normal operation. Broken fins remain in trap which is awkward and time consuming to access, so will be left until enthusiasm peaks - could be awhile. Assuming destruction of impeller was due acutely silty, barnacle infested water in Gulfport anchorage, may rethink otherwise good location if ever again passing through.
Despite clearing outlet forward toilet remained plugged so may require addition of harsh, environmentally unfriendly chemicals and eventual removal and cleaning of hoses. In rating the panoply of maintenance jobs on a boat this is number one on the "poopy" scale. Hopefully, poisonous solutions will have deactivated virulent pathogens before any hands on (or in) work is necessary.
St. George's looks the way one might expect - narrow streets called alleys fronted by British colonial era buildings. It's clean, attractive and very expensive. Two fish taco dinners with a side and two libations apiece at famous White Horse Pub cost a hundred fifty dollars. Bermuda money is par with US. One review of local sailmaker indicated any customer should "leave your wallet on the floor" in anticipation of astronomical bill. Well, the guy has to eat doesn't he? Don't want to quibble about that. The place is five hundred fifty NM from Cape Hatteras, closest land, and quite beautiful with a wonderfully protected harbour and free Wifi. Three out of four ain't bad.
Jack & Jan
Pooping And Popping
17 June 2021 | En Route Bermuda
Thursday 17 June 2021
Weather has been mercifully better. Wind yesterday and last night twenty to twenty five, but sea, while still high, had smoothed out becoming very comfortable giving us six and a half to seven and a half knots through the water. Swirling currents are strong so speed over ground varies greatly. Front should pass today leaving little wind so expect to begin motoring. Just as well as auxiliary is needed for charging batteries. Shooting for St. George's tomorrow afternoon.
To explain above, generator again showed overheat and shut down. No help cleaning contacts, so circumvented sensors revealing it's actually overheating at mixing elbow. As with forward head that passed fluid, but bunged attempting chunks, suspect fecund barnacle growth cesspool of Boca Ciega Bay clogged thru-hulls for both toilet outflow and Panda cooling water. TBD in Bermuda.
Remember Tuesday's comments about taking pills? Crew discussion inspired scheme to make a killing... in a manner of speaking. Build a machine (a Pill-o-Matic) with several silos to hold each medication. Probably need lots for geriatrics who eat, like candy, dozens of different types. Install app in base with bluetooth that can be programmed with dates and times for each one along with dispensing mechanism. When time arrives for dosing, green lights flash, bells ring and a special wristband vibrates alerting medically challenged geezer that correct pills for that time have been dispensed into a cup. Beside it another cup fills with water. If you can design and make the things for fifty bucks and sell them for ninety nine ninety five, every pill popper in the country, in the world, will want one. You could retire to a mansion in Palm Beach. Join Mar-a-Lago and hobnob with the Trumps... at least until you all need a Pill-o-Matic.
Jack & Jan
16 June 2021 | En Route Bermuda
Wednesday 16 June 2021
Oh Crikey! Wrongly called named cyclone in North Atlantic, Bob. Sorry about
that Bill. No aspersions intended. Hey, both names begin with "B" so
understandable, right? At least he didn't get called Beelzebub. One does not
want to provoke a tropical storm.
Yesterday afternoon watched a pod of wee dolphins. Waves are tall enough to see
them through the sides as if in an aquarium. We're three hundred fifty miles
from closest land so wonder if they followed some pelagic sardines out here. We
love our creature features.
GRIB (Ghastly Recommendation for Incipient Blastoff) indicated higher wind for
yesterday evening and, who could have guessed, it was almost correct. Adding to
already brisk conditions, squall line catching and pacing us produced winds
above forty five knots, considered strong gale force or Beaufort scale nine, and
kicked up over three meter sea. Probably would have doubled that had it built
awhile longer. Don't often get impressed, but that did it. Visibility almost
nil from spray pulled off tops of waves and entire boat shuddered with wind
force. We were dancing along at close to hull speed with all sail furled except
a bare hanky of genoa. Golly crackers Uncle Beauregard, that was something.
Let's not do that again.
And then we did. Shorter duration, but wind gauge went to fifty two. Now
constant thirty knots with two and a half meter sea and forecast to continue for
next two days. Apparently we're caught in a "pressure squeeze between a
weakening high and an intensifying complex frontal boundary" which should pass
Bermuda Friday noon leaving more settled conditions. And we thought the
Atlantic was such a nice ocean.
Jack & Jan
15 June 2021 | En Route Bermuda
Monday 14 June 2021
After futzing with the thing for an hour, giving up then checking later without further ministrations, computer began talking via bluetooth to SSB modem. The cantankerous connection has worked perfectly since. Subsequently sent email through radio with same result as with satellite connection - bupkis. Since satellite and SSB are demonstrably operative figured it was problem with Sailmail. It was. Finally received message back from sysop that their server went to the pub for a pint over the weekend, but is now back on the job. It is. As far as can be determined all electronical type communication devices are now fully operational, even ones seldom if ever used. Since installing Iridium Go satellite comm, SSB had gotten short shrift, but now being used for morning net. We're back on the grid.
In a nefarious contrivance to prevent maintenance section from screwing off, as it will unless otherwise incited, boat gremlins unlatched pull-out rubbish bin causing cabinet to come apart and rocket across galley spewing trash, plastic slider bits and wee ball bearings everywhere. Additionally they caused generator overheat light to flash periodically, prompting near shut downs, and WiFi antenna to loosened. Well, it couldn't go perfectly, now could it?
Bin now operating fine, but with fewer bearings (will be looking for new sliders), Panda humming sweetly after sensor contacts cleaned and antenna secure. All systems operating nominally. Countdown to noon and we're go for lunch. Don't tell the gremlins.
Looks like rainy weather all the way to Bermuda. Progress slow. Probably won't arrive until later Friday. Due shifting wind speeds/direction and periodic squalls we're short sailed. That means to say sails are heavily reefed, which has nothing to do with coral, but rather that the big flappy things have not been rolled out very far. We don't overstress rig with hard wind, but do move regrettably slowly as it goes light. And yes, we're too lazy to constantly mess with them.
What about Bob? Tropical storm NE of Cape Hatteras may or may not be providing a wee bit more sea, wind and squalliness, but shouldn't bestow undue influence. Weather along route is forecast to suck even after Bob passes Newfoundland. Although hurricane season officially begins June 1, early storms are usually small, begin in Gulf or Caribbean and often run up East Coast. Mid-season storms typically come from Africa and pummel the Eastern Caribbean, Hispaniola, Cuba and Yucatan. Late storms again often begin in Caribbean. Florida and northern Gulf are vulnerable to all of them. Most crossings to Europe depart in May, but are more susceptible to storms dropping down from the cold, cruel north. Ya pays yer money and ya takes yer choice.
Jan has been taking tamoxifen prophylactically, one a day for five years, due family history of cancer. Being a bit OCD and frightfully punctilious, she places four week's supply in a twenty eight compartmented container with velcroed date labels to match day of week already on lid. These are re-installed with correct day at each refill. Thinking yesterday was Tuesday she took that pill. She took Wednesday's late morning then, realizing it is Tuesday, checked to discover previous pill gone. Didn't remember whether she took it during the normal fugue state she exhibits early mornings, thus two today and none for tomorrow. Subsequent investigation revealed a pill in Monday's slot. Relieved at the dosage accuracy, but aghast at this breach in the time/space continuum she moved Monday's pill to tomorrow's compartment. Lesson: Being organized causes undue angst and is totally overrated.
Jack & Jan
Go With The Flow
13 June 2021 | En Route Bermuda
Thursday 10 June 2021
Well color me green and call me an olive. Received word that genoa was repaired
so made earliest appointments for covid tests this morning before rescuing it
with a $40 ransom. Report was back before 1500, travel requests containing
negative results and proof of vaccinations immediately emailed to Bermuda and
first approval received before second was even sent. Efficiency reigns. We be
Expect calm wind in the morning to hank on sail, mount outboard on rail and lift
dink into travel mode then we'll depart by noon. No particular rush as weather
looks excellent for next several days... that's the story I'm sticking with.
Everything went exactly as planned - alert the media. Also Jan spoke with best
bud Leslie and big sis Terri so all right with the world. Let's see if we can
keep that train on track.
Weighed anchor at noon and now in Gulf Stream making impressive speed over
ground in nearly perfect conditions. This sailing thing is fun.
And as all utopias do, this one turned to custard. About 0545 a line of
thunderstorm ran us down. As it caught up we jibed over and cut through a thin
spot to the backside where overcast and showers continued. This stuff was
suppose to stay further north. Oh well, it's not so uncomfortable, bimini leak-
proofing worked and we're moving in the right direction.
Lighter wind and strong adverse current (forecast, but not nearly as strong) has
kept us plodding along until this morning. Wind now up over twenty and current
has eased so making better time. Favorable flow predicted ahead. Thursday
arrival still looks doable. Sea up to two meters on the starboard quarter, but
not ugly. Might get a little friskier Monday and Tuesday.
Uploads show sending, but no downloads so can't tell if position reports and
blog posts are getting through. If not will pummel any hapless readers with
everything upon arrival Bermuda. If reading this any time before then, avoid
confusion by hiding this paragraph with magic marker, crayon or sharp stylus,
depending on your grasp of reality at the moment. Don't forget to clean screen
when leaving page... if able.
Jack & Jan
08 June 2021 | West Palm Beach
Tuesday 8 June 2021
Once past outer reef of Hawk Channel Sunday night ride got a smidge spicier, but the Gulf Stream pumped us along at a good clip so we arrived at Lake Worth Inlet near West Palm Beach just after sunrise. After a quick nap we again dropped the genoa, rolled it into a huge mess to load onto dinghy for transport. Fortunately nearby public dock is wide enough to allow flaking the thing into a reasonable package for stuffing into sailbag. Called Super Sailmakers, the sail loft promised to look at it today (it wasn't actually the loft as they tend to be rather uncommunicative, it was the owner). If we can get it back may have a chance to reship tomorrow morning with light wind. Can't get covid test until assured of being able to leave within seventy two hours.
Meantime we're at a favorite coffee shop, Paris Cafe & Bakery, for a bit of energy before Ubering to USPS for hefty rebate from electronics purchase while we await news on sail. If stars align and crick don't rise (a little southern lingo) we should blow this popsicle stand on Thursday. Current forecast shows good wind for faster and more direct trip than other possibility of riding Gulf Stream potentially as far as North Carolina.
Looks like at least tomorrow before sail ready. Although indicating yesterday they might take a look as early as this morning, loft is amidst a big job and may not get to us until Friday. Thursday looks good to go, but we'll blast off whenever able.
Have been fighting off cold for a few days, but the bug fought back a bit harder today. Felt like something the cat dragged in after mauling it a bit.
*** Snide Comment Alert ***
Watch out for the next hot conspiracy. Since right wingers are getting vaccinated at much lower rates than lefties, expect conservative commentators and leaders to begin claiming that resultant higher covid rates among their constituents have been engineered by progressives... and yet the vaccines still won't allow connection to bluetooth.
Jack & Jan
06 June 2021 | En Route West Palm Beach
Friday 4 June 2021
Due thunderstorms and tenacious fifteen knot wind kicking up short period waves directly ahead, added to earlier mentioned impediments, arriving at Channel Five in daylight may have become a whimsical aspiration so have pointed bow at Little Shark River on Cape Sable. Previous experience indicates a reason no people live here. Great sky blackening clouds of ravenous mosquitos ravage the local, tormented mammal population, which must nevertheless be substantial as females require their blood to reproduce. Since many of the fiends already had their evil way with us at Cabbage Key, we'll swelter airless below all night to avoid filling in gaps between current bites. Keys tomorrow.
Conditions changed and a rethink of plans returned us to course with idea to stop at Oxfoot Bank if later information indicates unable original destination until very late. It's an uncharted and open anchorage, but may provide protection from projected moderate SE wind as well as bugs (opined with something less than absolute confidence).
After making above change, genoa head attachment broke and it was furled in an untidy wrap. Sail needs to be dropped for fix which will also require climbing mast to retrieve furling collar. Wind for next few days is forecast to remain fifteen knots and higher, a tad much for unfurling a big headsail on anchor. If Oxfoot is tenable and wind eases and thunderstorms don't blow up and fairy dust is sprinkled on us we could resew webbing and reinstall this afternoon or otherwise continue on to Channel Five hoping anchorage gives better protection at least from waves. Potential arrival and even movement after dark in very skinny water is not optimal, but not like we haven't done as much before. Should have a better idea when abeam Oxfoot around 1600.
Did indeed go to Jewfish anchorage by Channel Five just at dark for a restful night's sleep at least for some of us.
Saturday included about three times work ever contemplated on even the ugliest day. Pulled genoa down (easier than expected) and took head (top of sail) through forward hatch for webbing resew attempt while engineering crew replaced amazingly muddy watermaker pre-filters (courtesy of Boca Ciega Bay/mud pit). Maximum limit of Reliable Barracuda sewing machine was discovered, but persistent sailmaking crew got in almost four rows of straight stitches, enough (opined with something less than absolute confidence) to make West Palm. Wind considered too strong for re-mount, so diving crew donned gear and spent almost three hours removing carpet of barnacles covering entire hull, keel and rudder (also thanks to Boca Ciega Bay). Someone remind me to do this again when feeling extremely energetic or particularly stupid. After refilling both tanks with compressor, had dinner, checked wind forecast that never got better and decided to make a run at sail. Will never try this again, but finally got the thing up with boat occasionally jerking around from resultant windage putting stern nearly into wind. New anchor, to everyone's surprise, didn't move a meter. Oddly enough, even with barnacle cuts which were however properly ministered to, did not feel like complete dog squeeze this morning.
Blustery conditions had more conservative crew considering delay, but as forecast of both wind strength and direction deteriorates over next few days decision was made to go. Good choice as we've had a rather fine sail up Hawk Channel. With outer reef to help moderate sea and impeccable sail handling (you believe me don't you?) close-hauling was remarkably pleasant. Also speed was wonderfully improved with clean bottom (thank you, thank you very much).
Most likely continue overnight to West Palm where much needs doing: sail repair, fuel top-off, mail pickup (rebate on electronics purchased over three months ago) and grocery run plus, just before departure, covid test and various notice transmissions. Speaking of which, Jan finally got an email from immigration, nearly a year after applying for six month visa extension, to come in on 29 June for an interview and biometric evaluation & workup. Since she's been in country for nearly a year and a half perhaps someone decided she might have, due inundation by political insanity, become a radicalized evil doer... get serious, she's Canadian. Couldn't have expected anyone to actually go to work protecting the country because... covid. Expect contact attempt with appropriate bureaucrat Monday morning to explain that we are escaping their clutches before end of month. Should probably wait until day of departure in case they decide to deport her immediately.
Jack & Jan
Damper On The Scamper
03 June 2021 | En Route West Palm Beach
Thursday 3 June 2021
This was a busy week.. well, except Memorial Day Monday when we camped aboard to avoid holiday madness doing diddly. Didn't previously mention attempt Friday to remove carpet of wee barnacles from bottom came a cropper when visibility was a bleary three inches and went to zero with each swipe of scraper. Managed to clean prop and an arms length below boot stripe by feel only, but boat speed as we plow down the coast has been, is and will be - how do you say - crap until hull gets smoother. Current plan is to stop and anchor near channel 5, high bridge passage through Keys between Gulf and Atlantic where water may be clearish, to dispose of cantankerous crustaceans.
Despite any reasonable expectation, Tuesday's surgery and mattress swapping/schlepping/disposal operations proceeded rather efficiently leaving enough time for drinks and dinner with newly cataract free Angela at world famous Billy's Stonecrab Restaurant on Tierra Verde followed by return to boat in time for decent night's sleep before unconscionably early start yesterday morning. Covered seventy seven nautical miles in seventeen hours (lucky sevens) to drop the hook just before midnight.
Left Cabbage Key anchorage this morning after a much needed, wee sleep-in. Between scruffy hull and southerly winds we have motor-sailed the entire way. For non-sailors that means using every propulsive device available to shove this log through the water. Expect same until tomorrow evening at which time we may, possibly, without mishap, arrive on anchor with a glimmer of daylight. Inclusion of "mishap" contemplates possibility of running aground during thirty mile passage from Cape Sable past Oxfoot, Schooner and Sprigger Banks then through Yacht Channel. This area between mainland and keys escaped being part of Everglades by staying just deep enough most places to discourage mangroves.
Jack & Jan