A Month in the Life
18 July 2014 | St. Pierre, Martinique
Seeing it's been a month since our last post (A Day in the Life), the title seems appropriate. And to continue the John Lennon tribute, the local radio station here in Martinique just played Marianne Faithful's version of his Working Class Hero -a real upbeat tune if there ever was one. The French do take their politics seriously (Alors! To the Barricades!! Off with their heads!!!). Just occurred to me that politics is yet another area in which Americans and the French are becoming more alike. It used to be that culturally we were similar...both of us take our cultures with us when we travel (or invade), we're both obnoxious to foreigners, and we both expect others to speak our language (exceptions abound, certainly...and the reader no doubt is more cosmopolitan than the norm!). But now, politically, we are becoming more alike--does Issa really want to re-instate Joseph-Ignace's famous political punishment? Alors! What would Franklin, et al, have to say! So, for all of the Working Class Heroes out there, whether or not you're kept "doped with religion, sex, and TV", welcome to the latest.
A quick rundown:
Departed Nonsuch Bay with our Welsh/Antiguan crew Jonathan with his Belgian friend Dara--Anchor Aweigh! (I should learn some chanty to help with that process....) Unfortunately, we had to pull into Falmouth again just to check out of customs. I had tried to do just that the day before--had even rented a car partially for that expressed purpose. Asked where the vessel was at that moment, I cheerfully offered Nonsuch Bay--and was rather sternly told the vessel had to be in Falmouth or English Harbor...not that they would check. Silly me...had I known that was a requirement my Academy training would have kicked in and I could have offered an expanded truth. Fortunately, the good folks at the Cat Club allowed us to dock for a couple hours, gratis, so that we could make the hike back to Customs. Ah, but having tried to check out the previous day, their computer was 'confused', and the officials there were in its control rather than the reverse. Look out Brave New World. Escape from Falmouth, coming soon to theatres near you. I do think Kafka could have been Antiguan. His spirit lives on--in limbo, of course!
Outta there at high noon--Amigos and amigas, we ride! Towing the dingy (never again between islands) we head south to Guadeloupe. Pleasant ride...two dudes, two babes, sailing the Caribbean, making 6 to 8 knots--what's not to like? Uneventful (as it should be), we anchor in breezzzzzy and quaint Deshaies in the afternoon. Can't get over how clear is the water--unlike Antigua (and the US). We begin what's become the new standard activity, donning snorkel gear and getting wet.
Jon and Dara leave after a couple days in Guadeloupe, after hitch-hiking around the island a bit. How refreshing it is to know that there are some places in the world that have not succumbed to fear and still exercise the freedom of the thumb. (When was the last time you saw a hitch-hiker in the States? And this is from someone who hitched from San Diego to D.C. in less than 3 days...at Christmas! Yee haw...that was fun. How did we get so afraid of each other?)
Julie and I hang in Deshaies for a week and an half. I can't remember much of what we did (that's why she keeps a journal!), other than a hike up the local creek, some great meals, a drive around the island to sightsee and provision (and leaving the provisions in the grocery store), and a return to the store in Basse Terre where they had kept our groceries safe overnight. Silly me, and my pack job, leaving a bag on the floor!
Finally raise anchor again (heave ho, it's off we go, ho heave, we're gonna leave), and motor down to Pigeon Island--the home of the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Park. (You didn't think he'd be remembered above the surface, did you?!) Hop in the water, count the turtles.... Also managed to watch a World Cup match in the local bar. They don't get many 'Americs' in these parts--fun to be a novelty.
Load the dinghy on deck, raise the anchor (sing along: heave ho...), and off we go to Les Saintes. Julie and I are getting the routine down, working Mistress as a team. No real need to use the main, so that makes the effort more doable as well. I recall studying the Battle of Les Saintes in Z-Power at the Academy--but don't quiz me. The fort on the island has a veritable re-enactment of the battle depicted within its walls, for those who are curious. We spend a week here, and celebrate her 29th birthday at yet another great restaurant. The French do have the 'cuisine thing' down!
Load the dinghy, raise the anchor--just kidding, we were on a mooring in Les Saintes. Dominica next. We pull into Portsmouth, having been met at the mouth of the Bay by Titus of the local Yacht Service (PAYS), the catch-all and do-all group in Portsmouth. He guides us to our mooring (how am I going to stay in shape if we keep picking up moorings?!). We take the 'round the island' tour one day, swim in the waterfall pool, hike in the mud, and dodge the rain. The next day is the 'up the river' tour--famous as the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean. Allusions to Kurtz 1 or Kurtz 2 (oh, the horror...) were entirely appropriate for all you Heart of Darkness fans. But Lawrence (of Arabia) kept us safe, and returned us to Mistress none the worse for the experience.
Preppy shows the next day. Worries about how he would find his way to Mistress from the airport were entirely unfounded...he of course got a free ride! Cocktail hour was especially delightful with the addition of Prep and Ellen (who was there to check out a summer teaching program). Off to dinner to one of the few open restaurants--and definitely the only one with a cannon in the open dining room. We're talking big cannon--not one of those silly pop guns. And better yet, the restaurant is run by the son of the former Prime Minister...and even better history of how his socialist grandfather and rightist father used to 'tangle'. Golly gee, I love a good political discussion! But best was the building used to be the town movie theatre--think Cinema Paradiso. Sweet!
Off again we go, slipping lines at 0400. We want to get to Martinique in time to check into Customs. The plan was to leave earlier the day before, but the supplies I had ordered did not clear customs in Dominica until after noon--which did not give us time to get to St. Pierre in the daylight. Nothing to do but...change plans. Nice having Prep on board to help with the heavy lifting. Beautiful dawn sail down the lee coast of Dominica. We witnessed some heavy duty rays popping through the clouds--almost religiously inspirational--but definitely a demonstration of light refraction and reflection upon suspended water vapor.
Out from behind the island into the open sea--5 to 8 ft, 16 to 20 knots--just what Mistress is made for. We cross the span in about 5 hours, never getting the broader hoped for reach...but nothing new there. Tucked into the lee again, sails are furled and we motor up to the beach of St. Pierre. The shelf drops off quickly and steeply--requiring one to anchor close to shore. Additionally, there are several sunken ships in the bay--detritus from the volcanic eruption in 1902. (Not to worry--it has not burped lately.)
We'll stay here a while...
Be seeing you.
A Day in the Life
18 June 2014 | Deshaies Guadeloupe
A Day in the Life
And no, this tract won’t end with a hand slapping the strings of a Grand Piano like its namesake—maybe I’ll pluck the strings of the viola though in reminiscence.
Some of you—well one or two—may wonder how a day (or day after perfect day after perfect day…) at anchor is spent. The answer--a glorious second at a time. No, it’s not a great as all that—but if one has kept up with the travels and travails so far, spending time in Nonsuch Bay (Antigua) and now Deshaies (Guadeloupe) has been a welcome respite.
To assuage any curiosity however, for the last couple of weeks this is what a ‘typical’ day has been like:
For me the day is as follows; awake between 5:30 and 6:00 (basically shortly after it gets light outside), roll out of the berth to go on deck and do my morning workout. This consists of a series of sun salutations (for you yoga types—someone has to greet the sun), a Pilates/yoga routine, interspersed with sets of basic pushups. The whole evolution takes 35/40 minutes—I’d never make it through BUDS these days—but then I may not have back in the day either. (If you have not seen the movie, I recommend “Lone Survivor”.)
Back down below where I brew a pot of coffee for me, and an espresso for Julie (who is usually still in bed). We’ve been fortunate to have internet access at anchor, so I take the time to read the ‘papers’; trying to stay a bit up on events (though it is as frustrating as ever, with half the country________(fill in your own characterization). Julie arises, and gets to work immediately on her IPad—researching and sorting and writing and asking me questions (for which I have no answers till after I’ve read the comics!) A bit of breakfast; usually granola and yogurt with some fruit…reminiscent of bike rides and breakfasts at Pepe’s in Key West. Breakfast done, and the comics read, it is time for the day’s activity.
And by that I mean maintenance on the boat. To wit, I've had to ‘fiddle’ with the gray water sump pump (it stopped working), the watermaker (it stopped working—a real show stopper), and of course rebuild and paint the foremast, cloth and paint the mainmast—though not while at anchor. And I just remembered—a batten pocket on the foresail needs to be resewn. But aside from all those extra items, we do put in a half day on the cosmetics—the varnish work. I sand a region, and Julie coats with the oil and gloss finishes. Must say, she is looking as good or better than ever (both of them!). It is great to have a full time varnish girl!
Nonsuch was extra special with the attraction of kiteboarding lessons. We both ‘got up’, but haven’t quite mastered the ‘change in direction’ skill. Falling down and then getting up heading back the other way doesn't count.
We intend to rent a car for the next couple of days to play tourist around Guadeloupe—but that’s for another post.
Lunch—prosciutto and melon, figs, leftovers from the night before…ummmm!
Boat maintenance is one aspect—the attempt is to keep that to no more than half the day. We try to carve out time for mental maintenance as well. I’ve been somewhat successful at spending an hour (every other day or so) on my French lesson on the IPod. And I am still playing around with—or attempting to play--the viola (and learn how to read music, and figure out what the hell is a circle of fifths or a perfect sixth).
More successful is the reading list. Mentioned previously “Lone Survivor”—a remarkable story, but for the naked politics. If the chance avails itself pick up “The Worst Hard Time” about the Dust Bowl years in the Great Plains. Anyone who still believes man’s actions could not have a direct deleterious effect on the environment should read this account. Started, and gave up on, Dante’s Divine Comedy. But I am still working on Les Miserable…high school reading list is getting shorter! “Over the Edge of the World” about Magellan’s voyage is a winner. “Suite Francaise”, about life under Nazi Occupation in France 1940 is very much about the human condition (whatever that means)…people making do under stress…and not always living up to their supposed convictions. Sound familiar?
Never fear, the day does end. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, and we respect the 5 o’clock. Dark and Stormy hour (a finger or two of Goslings, a good pour of homemade ginger beer (non-carbonated), and some fizzy Ginger Beer with wedge of lime. Toss in a beautiful sunset, a couple hammocks, and there you have it—a day on Mistress!
Think you can handle it…come try.
Old Dog, New Trick
03 June 2014 | Nonsuch Bay, Antigua
Old Dog, New Trick--
Or Things To Do in Paradise
Trials and travails come in all shapes and sizes--not to mention shades (no, not of gray) but of fun! Yes, dear reader and readette, the fun has begun. Certainly there was great entertainment value to our previous month in Falmouth with the mast/inverter/outboard repairs--but only for the schadenfreude in all of us (yes, in you too...I can see the smirk from here!) Well, smirk on...we still haven't managed to get the wind generator working. (Anybody want to bring us an new ammeter for the panel?)
So here we arrived in the Month of May in Nonsuch Bay on the east side of Antigua. There is No Such Bay, you Say--ha ha ho I Bray Anon more and Much. Not only is there Such a Bay as Nonsuch, but as Luck May Say it's a Bay to Touch for all cruisers. Wide, but not too wide--deep, but not real deep--and smooth, just smooth enough. As the little girl exclaimed, it's Just Right. About 1 mile square, it faces east but is protected by a shallow reef across the mouth. Green Island is to one side, and forms the entry channel into the Bay. Nice.
There are a couple resorts--and associated wifi transceivers--around the Bay. One resort is closed for the summer, but the other is quite nice--reasonable prices and the obligatory infinity pool necessary for the brochure photos. The resort is not very occupied this time of year, but we did meet a couple here from Canada on holiday. Mike and Toby--he just left the New Zealand Special Forces (after 4? tours in Afghanistan) and she a Canadian nurse who also spent time in theatre. It's good to have allies.
The reason they picked here for holiday is that there is a kiteboarding school, for this Bay and Green Island is an ideal location to get pulled along like a modern day Mary Poppins. (She actually used a kite with which to travel, not an umbrella--one of those little known tea party facts. One of the requirements to pass the school is to sing a refrain of "Let's Go Fly a Kite" before ending a run.) Kiteboarding is on Julie's bucket list--now is that a fortuitous circumstance, or what! The instructors are fantastic--2 guys/2 gals/2 Poles/2 Germans--smiling all the time. What's not to like? I doubt they check their stock portfolio much, but who's to say? In any event, she's taken 4 lessons but is at a stopping point now due to a bum knee. She talked her loving husband into trying as well, and must say it promises to be a hoot. I haven't been on the board yet--just drug around in the water--but that's next. And, a kite takes up less room on Mistress than a Laser would! Just think, when we get home, we can be the crazy old couple kiting up and down the Severn River, waving at all the Mids at the Academy. Yee haw!
Once we're done here, this weekend or early next week, it's off to Guadeloupe. It's not too late to make your reservation for your comfy berth on Mistress! Come join the fun, and leave the WSJ at home.
Falmouth Harbour Diary
28 May 2014 | Cat Club, Falmouth Harbour Antigua
TUESDAY, MAY 13
Returned to Antigua's Falmouth Harbour to find the marina restaurant close for the season and the docks depressingly deserted. Mistress looked sad - one mast, brightwork seeking attention, emptied out a filthy fridge with the bottom teak shelf infested with maggots. To not think of Briarcliff was impossible as was holding back tears. But Glenn came to the rescue, removed the infested piece and made a new plastic shelf to boot - all before the sun was down.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 14
Practiced yoga in the deserted restaurant followed by a cleaning and reorganization of the mess we had below deck. My closet should be an advertisement for ziplock bags. Still having a difficult time being back, although having he boat to ourselves again is nice. Meanwhile, Glenn shuttled back and forth in the dinghy between the boat and the yard where our repaired foremast lay and awaited his attention.
THURSDAY, MAY 15
Began sanding above deck while blasting musicals on my iPod and singing aloud (thank god the marina is empty!). I also planned a trip to nyc to visit my friends and reconnect with teaching/dance - a decision that makes me very happy. We took the dinghy over to the other side of Falmouth for a swim on the way back, a local approached us selling papayas and my New Yorker emerged in full force (for those that understand this, this is NOT a good thing. Not outside NYC. Never really realized it before. In any case, it doesn't work in the Caribbean... working on that.
FRIDAY, MAY 16
Another day of yoga, then sanding and varnishing to West Side Story and Chicago the rest of the day. The 'super'market nearby has only frightening looking frozen meats and fish, that I - who has been much too spoiled by Wholefoods (we have no idea how spoiled we are in the States) refuse to buy. So we have little food of substance other than pasta and have been eating out more than we would like lately.
SATURDAY, MAY 17
Rented a car to go to the grocery store - and explore the island. We did the latter first - driving to nonsuch bay since a local suggested we anchor there before we leave for Guadeloupe. Had a fancy lunch at the nonsuch bay resort after which all their facilities were available to us (including an infinity pool! sweet.) Inquired into kiteboarding lessons - something on my "to do before 40" list that I never did - so finally! CANNOT WAIT! Returned to Mistress for cocktails at sunset and grilled steaks. This was a day out of the brochure.
SUNDAY, MAY 18
Mosquitos won't leave me alone at night (they don't touch Glenn), so awoke groggy yet again. Early trip to the one largest grocery on Antigua to stock up - walking every aisle; food is extremely expensive in the Caribbean. I will have to get used to that. Varnished during afternoon with aching back and feeling overwhelmed and distraught at how much work was in front of me and how endless it would be. By evening, we decided that in order to get the brightwork to a place where we can maintain it, we will need some help - and set aside a budget for one of these "professional varnishers" 4 times a year for 4-5 days. Feeling better about this.
MONDAY, MAY 19
"Professinal varnisher", Schillacchie (named after a famous soccer player) came by today and went to town on the sanding. Worth every penny! G & I had a couple strong, dark&stormy's before heading over to the marina's 'Straggler's Party' for the few of us left at the docks (most have to leave Antigua by now for insurance purposes). Lots of circumnavigators. Not a lot of "connection" for me though.
TUESDAY, MAY 20
Started doing yoga but Schillacchie, our professional varnisher, shows at 8am and I feel the ridiculous need to be working while he is working. So I worked on the varnish all day with him and made good progress.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 21
Another good 8 hr day with Schillacchie, then off to Quiz Night (a British quiz is more challenging than any in the States. Cricket, anyone?) at Bar Sushi at the Antigua Yacht Club. Dinghyed over and met Marcus and Jonathan, crew we picked up in Antigua and Jon's friend Rachel, an art curator in Dublin. Someone from 'my world'! Fun to meet her and hope to see her again in Dublin.
THURSDAY, MAY 20
Big day. Me on helm and Glenn on the anchor, we moved the boat from the marina to the yard (not far at all) to finally put the foremast in and make her a true schooner again. Yeah! It was windy, which was a bit nerve-wracking but all went well, both taking her there, getting the mast in, and returning to the marina. Took Glenn up the foremast 3 times resulting in some very sore hands. So thrilled to have Mistress back together but begrudged the varnish work that needed to get done before sun down when all I really wanted was a cocktail.
FRIDAY, MAY 23
Awoke excited to be "complete" again and ready to get the booms and sails back on right away. Spent the day volleying between varnishing and rigging but by cocktail hour Mistress was back together with even the hammocks up! Completely exhausted but thrilled to see things coming together.
SATURDAY, MAY 24
I was taking some photos of Mistress early in the morning when this guy driving down the dock rolls right over the varnished hatch cover (caught on camera), and then only eventually did he unwillingly apologize. I didn't think damage was done except for a new layer of varnish (I was wrong), but shocked by his dismissal. Then, I walked back on deck, which I had cleaned the day before and saw dirt flying... one of my planter pots had fallen. Not a good start. Varnished from 8am to 4:30 (my help is gone now); feeling very 'unbalanced' (read between the lines) even though I realize we have so much more to do before leaving - and so much we already accomplished in the last couple days. My proclamation of the day: NO more 8 hour varnish days.
SUNDAY, MAY 25
Glenn woke early and made me my cup of coffee, as he always does (a wonderful husband, indeed). Now that the rigging was done ,we both varnished and got everything finished before noon! I was thrilled. Borrowed Jonathan's car to make a trip to the grocery store and by the time we returned, all meats vacuum-sealed, all packaging thrown out and provisions stowed, it was time to make dinner. Where does the time go?
MONDAY, MAY 26
mosquitos are still horrible; lots more varnishing as we are nearing the 'final' coat (it never really ends though so that is a misnomer); it does look awesome so I really hope we can maintain it; looking into aikido studios for glenn, ballet studios for me in Guadeloupe and seems there may be some interesting opportunities. Dinner aboard. Nice to have a full fridge.
TUESDAY, MAY 27
Glenn and I both have sore throats and low energy. I put final coats on the doghouse and a few other pieces (I varnish so damn slow it is infuriating, but there is no way to change that. I suppose it is the perfectionist from dance that comes thru. Christ.) On top of this infuriation, Schalacchi tells me to put another coat or two on when we get to Guadeloupe to “keep it fresh”.
Yet, we still have not touched the following:
rub rail (to finish)
bowsprit and platform
line box and cover
sail locker hatch and base
fwd skylight minus grills
aft skylight minus grills
upper part of midship skylight and grill
so, that's all. I spent the day wondering why I left doing something I absolutely loved (teaching) to be varnishing all day, which is a back-breaker to boot. And it haunted me all day.
But the boat is starting to look damn good, at least some of it's parts. And I've reached out to some others who said that the finish we are using will hold up better, I will have more time for other things, ... so I am hoping they are right!
WEDNESDAY, MAY 28
Awoke estatic to have no mosquito bites and a sleep thru the night (mosquito netting over the hatch cover!), then began to brood as I recalled the list I had been slowly taking note of since returning - and that culminated last night when I realized that my Ghiradelli brownie mix was NO WHERE to be found -- neither were my unopened bag of caramels, my gourmet jar of pickled beets I was saving for a special occasion when I had little on hand... all goodies that I cannot buy here. So if you plan to visit, please bring Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Brownie mix! It took awhile for my anger to dissipate (and really, I should not discuss it because a cloud begins to form over my head) Anyway, all the varnish of this 'phase' was finished today. Preparing to leave tomorrow for Nonsuch Bay. Should be a lovely sail. I am excited as we will finally be on our way to our first anchorage (I love being on the hook) - and kite boarding lessons to come! The varnish will always be there, but I hope the time for a little more fun is now beginning...
Sent from S/V Mistress
24 May 2014 | Falmouth Harbour, Antigua
Ah, Island Romance--
(Or, Looks Great in the Brochure...)
There are songs to the unicorn, myths of centaurs and satyrs, godzillas, kongs (king and lesser exhalted), odes to Valhalla and Shangri-La, searches for the magnetic monopole, Tea-Partiers who know history, and other fantastical beings, places, and things. But none is so rare, so fantastical, so unbelievable as the Single Masted Schooner. Yet we have for the last month inhabited such a vessel. Just as the koan of the Sound of One Hand Clapping continues to challenge those on the path to enlightenment, the Sight of the One Masted Schooner brings confusion, frustration, acceptance, and finally resolution to its acolytes. Similar to the monastic retreat, the boatyard has its own rhythm and time schedule. But now is the time for reflection and reportage.
Undoubtedly you, our tremendous readership (tremendous in character, not I know in quantity!) have been wondering of the state and status of the Good Schooner Mistress and its wayward crew after the unfortunate event during classic. Wonder no longer. We are back whole and sound--but still in Falmouth Harbor in Antigua. For the past month we have docked the boat at Bailey's Catamaran Marina, eaten at Bailey's Cat Club hotel restaurant, pulled and repaired the foremast at Bailey's Boat Yard, shopped at Bailey's grocery (and rented a vehicle from D's Car Rental! Not all things...).
The mast, recall, cracked during the second race of the Classic. The yard is adjacent to the marina. Scooting over one fine day, derigging all the stays and shrouds, the crane operator had little difficulty lifting the stick from its hole. Though Jeremiah later expressed a bit of concern of how the crack would open up as I was up the mast attaching the crane hook to the strap. (Some things I don't need to know.)
Jerry and his crew at Chippy's--most notably BM--did a bang up job on the mast whilst (this is a British Isle...) back home at Briarcliff for some R and R. (The definition of irony?) Two 12 ft lengths of fir were scarfed on either side of the mast behind the jib halyard winches--beautiful. It was up to me to paint and varnish prior to the step. (I do hate to think how many months, nay years, I've spent in various boatyards--no wonder I'm well preserved--or toxic--you decide!).
Briarcliff sparkled in the springtime. There were a few odds and ends to tidy up, but all is now ready for the rental season. And fantastic dinners were had with Mistress Family and friends who had the good sense to miss this passage and regatta. (If there is anyone out there who needs a vacation home
in Annapolis, we need to pay for the mast repair!-- www.briarcliffretreat.com.)
Thursday last came the big day. Alongside came that strangest of all vessels to receive her missing pole. Up it went and slowly slid in, with just a minimum of verbal and physical encouragement. (Damn it, twist--up a hair, now down--no, back up--keep it straight--forward a ch--now down--we're in!).
But like most dates, a girl's not complete till the rigging is attached and tidy. Unlike most, but perhaps not all dates, it can take a couple days for Mistress to be properly rigged. Up the mast I go, Julie now expertly manning the winch. But I failed to take the weight off the aft side of the main mast and am unable to attach the two intermast stays. So down I come to remedy that situation--and back up again. Masts connected together, forestays attached, shrouds woven, halyards strung, it is time to return to the deck and get some blood flowing in my legs again. (And have a cocktail.)
The next day completes the rig--tensioning all the stays and putting the booms and sails back on to their rightful places. Finally, there is a real schooner to gaze upon.
In the midst of this to-do, Julie--with a little local help from Scolatchy and Raymond--has been tackling the brightwork that was so sorely scarred on the passage from Key West. Salt water has a terrible scouring effect on the oiled teak--especially all the salt water baths we took on the way here. Rigging and face oil...so much work, and so much reward.
So, for those of you who still have the colorful brochure of the idyllic life sailing the isles of the Caribbean with warm crystal clear azure water, sleeping late, afternoon swims at anchor, and a rum cocktail at the end of the day while lying in the hammock--I'm here to tell you it's all true. That's our life, and I hope you'll join us in the coming months. Off to Nonsuch Bay next week, then onto Guadeloupe.
Be seeing you.
“We’ve got to lower the Fore”
30 April 2014 | Antigua
A sharp crack, and a throatier pop emanated from the foremast—Jeremiah gave me the word, and the order was returned—bring it down. (And while you’re at it, put a second reef in the main!) All hands leapt to and in short order the foresail was furled, the main double reefed. One would think the crew were old hands at this sort of thing—well done indeed. Retired from the race, we altered course for the beam reach back to home base.
At the dock all gathered around the fore. Seth, Captain of Adventuress, took a look and asked what he was looking at. There did not appear to be much—a few surface cracks in the paint. One Tack Ted insisted there had been a sound vibration most unnatural emanating from the mast. So off came the winch, followed by the wooden winch base—et Voilá—the most noticeable perforation since single sheet toilet paper. Between the screws affixing the base to the mast, and the ones performing the same function for the winch itself, a nice series of evenly spaced voids connected one side of the mast to the other. Talking the examination further, our collective Holmesian intellects considered viewing the state of affairs lurking behind the other two winches. And Lo! Holes Galore! And Rot Too! The ol’ book and cover dilemma…or as is said in the Navy, putty and paint will make good what ain’t (‘cept this time the putty and paint d’ain’t!) In this case, there was no hiding the state of affairs that something was rotten in Denmark—or at least in German Spruce. But what to do, what to do?
Michael and Teddy return the next day brimming with enthusiasm…rot begone! Cut it out, glue in new wood, wrap with carbon fiber…all the supplies are onboard. Just like old time…but wait, on the rethink…how about a new base all together. And so it was decided. Jerry, the proprietor of Chippy’s Woodworks, came by for his own assessment. They have the Fir, they have the talent, they have the time…done deal. At least, they’ll have the time and talent when Race Week is over. In the meantime we’ve pulled the mast at Bailey’s Boat Yard (which is next to the Catamanan Marina run by Helen Bailey, next to the Bailey’s Hotel, across the street from Bailey’s Market…hmmm, I sense a trend). If Jeremiah had a little more melanin in his skin he too could be part of the several enterprises!
So here Mistress sits at the Cat Club, right where she was in ’03, having done what was being done back then--fixin’ stuff. The inverter is in the shop, the tiller for the outboard had arrived—the local outboard shop will have it for action tomorrow, the mainmast crack is fixed, the sail track reglued, the main reattached…progress is being made. Just have to wait for the fore to be fixed and we are a proper Schooner again. Till then, you’ll find us a fixture here in Falmouth.
30 April 2014 | Falmouth Harbour, Antigua
Fortunately, no Snap--
Bailey slides back to the cockpit where I am wrestling with the wheel. It is the second leg of the second race of the Classics. The wind is 30knts, plus or minus. We’ve a single reef in the main (should have double reefed), and changed out the jib prior to the start—dousing the 90% and hanking on the 60--great fun for those who like to live in the spin and rinse cycle of life. Let’s just say it was a wet and wild evolution.
And we thought the first race was sporty--probably mid 20s on the knot-o-meter. We hit the line (and what a fine start it was) with the 90 jib and a double reefed main. So safe! All was well, until we realized that the schooner Papa would slowly make weigh on Mistress—so not acceptable. So out came the reefs, and on came the speed. (We’re talking schooners going up wind now—nothing to get too excited about.) But still, we made progress, catching and passing our closest competitor. We won’t even talk about Adventuress—she was off offf offffff in the distance—pretty though!
But you undoubtedly and indubitably are wondering who be the ‘we’. In addition to the illustrious passage crew (Monk, Tutu, Bailey, Elise, Lecie, and Libby) there are the usual dock hoppers—and some unusual ones. One Tack Ted and Michael Miller, long time Mistress family, flew down for the fun. Julie’s cousin Harry flew down from Manhattan to experience some really crazy maneuvering and winch cranking. Maddog (Dave) jumped aboard to lend his talents—great on the backstays and main halyard hauler. Marcus the Tall of Germany, solo sailor from South Africa, winch grinder extrodinaire. Jonathan of Wales, who teaches maths (this is British remember—they have more than one math) and has an Uncle who lives near The Village in Portmelion (I’ll explain later for those non-Prisoner fans) scooted aboard and found his nimble niche (only once was said niche over the rail). And Dynamo Ed, our photojournalist, who will be profiling our efforts and recent history in next year’s Antigua Classic programme. (Be sure to check out the accompanying photo galleries—most of the shots from onboard are courtesy of Ed.)
For all the effort it took to get here— in tacks, intact, complete, and whole—the smiles on the crew during the first race made it all worthwhile. Bloody hell (yes, this is British, recall) just check out Julie on the wheel. This ain’t no Laser sailing!
Ah, but how could I forget the Panerai t-shirt contest? (Actually, no contest…just a good idea.) From hideous swag to fashion setting, the beauties of the Mistress crew were intent and determined to make something worthwhile—or at least memorable—of the advertising regatta sponsors passed along to the participants.
But back to the races.
Mistress handled the course well, getting several salt water washes throughout the evolution. Salt water, the cure for all ills—sweat, tears, and the sea—they so often work in tandem. But it was just the sea and sweat for this first race—and beer.
Oh yeah…about that Snap…
Cheers from Antigua...finally
25 April 2014 | Falmouth Harbour
Fortunately Julie has been giving you tidbits, tadbits, and tittle-tattle of the tiny trials, tempest related, of our timely travels towards anTigua—or not so timely. Leaving Key West, the expectation was to be, by now, bored with Antigua having explored every corner and crevasse of this isle—but instead our two unplanned port stops in San Juan and Marigot have made the adventure, shall we say, more adventurous.
The wise among you certainly know the cognate of cognition—or perhaps the ‘re’cognition that to plan and to voyage have only a passing relationship with each other. As no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, so it goes that no sail plan survives contact with the weather. Battle damage had been sustained—the portside mid mainmast shroud pulled out of its fitting, flailing in the breeze—and just to ensure that any thought of continuing onto points East was banished, the wind gods, like time itself, slowly yet inexorably ‘clocked’ around forcing our track more and more southerly to the land of salsa and machine gun Spanish, San Juan Puerto Rico.
Rolling our way into port at dawn, anchoring to await marina opening, running aground at the entrance to the given slip, pushed off by friendly Canadians, trying another slip, loosing Jeremiah overboard, settling for the end T-head—a standard arrival (not really, but something always happens). And then a massive cleanup of boat and bodies and all that comes into contact with either.
Four days later we’re off into a wind that has diminished, and clocked south some more—and also into a bigger sea. (Not for me to chronicle time—get it? how’s that for irony—ashore, but Lecie did have the “Best Night Ever”!) Setting the sails find us almost immediately burying the nose. Fun fun fun. But we’re off and running, riding it out. Making a decent track east, through the Virgins, curving southerly now past St. Martin and St. Barths. It’s still a beat to windward, tacking as required or forced. The poor souls in the forward stateroom get no relief from the pounding and water—Jeremiah and Elise are forced to hot rack with Libby and Lecie and around the salon table.
Yet, the sail is relatively pleasant. Beautiful night sailing past St. Martin and St. Barths, wondering why the Moon that was full was now half. Was the end near? Was there some cosmic cookie eater mistaking Luna for a Moon Pie? Was I suffering from a half sight (a shade darker than full sight!)? None of the above…just a lunar eclipse Elise calmly informs me. Good thing too, because I was about to pray for deliverance and sacrifice to all the gods above and below. And that ain’t a pretty sight…! (Not the sacrifice part, the praying part.)
As it happened, a little sacrificial blood-letting (my own, of course), might have come in handy—I do it often enough--I’m always springing leaks. For not long later, the foresail rips a seam—completely. Half a tack later, halfway to Antigua from St. Martin, half wet and all salty (or all wet and half salty), we embrace discretion and reject valour (it is British down here), and turn tail to St. Martin for yet another repair. Pulling into Marina Fort Louis in Marigot creates a feeling of homecoming—for it is. Mistress enjoyed the French side in 2004—where and when other repairs were conducted. But enough of ancient history—we’re here this time to repair a sail. So, the team gets on it, removing the fore forthwith. Calling around gets me to Ernst Looser, on the Dutch side, who is ready and willing to patch it for us. Mr. Looser is familiar with the boat, as he was the gentleman who made our awnings that lasted for such a long time. Good to see him again. And better to see Zach, one of the dockhands at the marina who now is managing the place. My, they grow up so fast!
But off we venture again, leaving Marigot at 5 the afternoon for the sail around the north end of the island, past the east side of St. Barths this time, and onto Falmouth Harbour on the south side of Antigua. Getting near the island we get into a semi-tacking duel with Ticonderoga--a taste of things to come. Anchored too late to get to customs, we spend the night onboard…but we made it.
Hit Land Again
12 April 2014 | Saint Martin
Well, we came into port yesterday afternoon, just about the time we expected to arrive. However, the island was Saint Martin, not Antigua. Had we pushed thru yesterday, perhaps we would be in Antigua but worse for the wear. The winds started to change forcing us to point right into it, blowing 25kts with 8-10 ft waves and an occasional larger one. Not a comfortable ride. The forward stateroom has been unlivable since day one when we buried the bow with a huge wave while departing Puerto Rico. Towels everywhere to soak up water coming thru the skylights. Yesterday, at 0400 the auto pilot decided to do its own thing and we went about accidentally (jib and fore were up only, motor running but coughing now and then as all the crud at the bottom was getting tossed up and clogging the filters. Engine make horrible sounds when they are not happy). With all the motion of the sheet, the jib block came undone and Glenn had to man-handle it back down while the sail was full. Tacked back onto course and then the foresail blew out - a nice split right along the seam. Well, now this was getting rather annoying as a McCormick would say. Mistress has taken quite the beating since leaving Key West. All our brightwork is completely gone; Glenn has never seen it so striped down to bare wood. And it looks like we won't have time to make ourselves pretty before the races in Antigua, but we aren't vain. She's just a little sad looking at the moment. Oh yes, in the midst of all the unexpected tacking, the jib sheet caught on the outboard for the dinghy and, again, broke the handle! The excitement never ends. One is already on order and Glenn will glue this back together in the meantime.
So, it is morning here in beautiful Saint Martin. I can easily see staying here awhile. Had an amazing meal at a nearby Bistro last night and trying to get back in my French groove. Glenn heads to the sailmaker shortly and I to the outdoor farmers market. The crew is all asleep (they tend to stay out much later than we do in port.) Our window for getting to Antigua looks small - a monday eve or night departure - but we are only 12 hrs away!
From here on, we are only going downwind - wherever that may take us. For many reasons, it seems pretty darn clear that going around the world with Blue Planet Odyssey or by ourselves is not going to happen. And we are both fine with that. In fact, in light of the recent passages, perhaps I could say relieved. I am not certain Mistress could handle it without Glenn spending his entire time ashore fixing her - which is, I strongly believe, what would happen... and that makes the destination rather pointless. So, plans continue to change. Who knows. Perhaps we will just hang in the Caribbean for awhile. Certainly not a bad alternative!
Living Life at 30 Degrees
07 April 2014 | Key West to San Juan
And I do not mean latitude--we’re talking heel here.
Mistress departed Key West Saturday morning, 29 March. We arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Saturday morning, 5 April. In between, live was lived on the slant. Living that life, joining Julie and I, were our four fearless companions and crew; Jeremiah, Elise, Lecie, and Libby.
East through Hawk’s Channel, outside the reef at American Shoal, calm motor sail north with the stream towards Miami, passing thunderstorm, 200 mile plus first day, turning the corner into Providence Channel through the Bahamas, chatting with a passing tanker, popping out into the open ocean, shooting noon lines of the sun (practice, practice, practice), and heading east again. Crew and galley adjusted to the schedule well, and all in very good spirits. And so well should we be--Julie had studied and planned and organized a passage menu par excellence, delighting the hungry young palates…and one grizzled vacuum cleaner. Hungry is not a term to be known onboard this vessel!
We had a good full day of a nice north wind, according to plan. But then someone had a different idea—wind slowly yet inexorably shifting east forcing our nose down down down further and further south. Will me make Antigua?...no. How about St. Martin?...negative, good buddy. OK, the Virgins would be nice…we’ll can make St. Johns, right? Ha! Please please, we’ve got to reach San Juan, at least.
So, eking out every degree to the east we could manage, we kept the nose of Mistress on or above Puerto Rico for 4 days. Ah, but during those days we banged and bumped our way below—walking on the ceiling grabbing for every hand held. Speaking of supports, a funny thing happened along the way—a most unusual thing. There we were, Jeremiah and I taking the noon site with the sextant, and all of a sudden there’s a ‘pop’. Lecie pipes up to inform us that one of the main shrouds has let go (the mid shroud to be precise—the cable had pulled out of the poured terminal end). But what’s the rather peculiar aspect of this situation? Come on people, it’s an easy answer…yes that’s right—it’s not 2 in the friggin’ morning!
So down comes the main, but we go right on pointing, and heeling, and bouncing through the seas—with the assistance of the new Nanni motor. As for Nanni, she works well, but something is going on with her electron creating generator—as in not generating an electrons below 1200rpm. Very unacceptable. Another phone call to Waterway Diesel!
But we near the PR in the wee hours of the 5th, douse the jib (whose slapping jib sheet grabs the tiller of the outboard motor that’s on deck in the dinghy and snaps it in two—insert your favorite string of epithets here.) Up the San Juan channel at dawn, pass the fort, and anchor off the marina. By noon, we’re tied up attending to the salt removal process from deck, sole, clothes, bodies, and matted hair. Ah, the sweet smell of shampoo (but no hot water here at San Juan’s finest marinas!).
On our way Wednesday…Antigua bound.