The cure for get-there-itis
09 June 2021
There is a difference between a delivery and a cruise. I had forgotten about that when we sailed from Great Guana Cay, Bahamas to Beaufort, North Carolina.
Just to recap, we spent the past three years in French Polynesia. Loved it but due to Covid, couldn't proceed to New Zealand. We made the decision to ship Uproar from Tahiti to Fort Lauderdale where we had some choices for cruising grounds. When Uproar arrived, we sailed to the Bahamas, mid-March. Hurricane season starts July 1 (according to our insurance). We had to either sail to the Caribbean or back to the US for hurricane season. We decided to sail back to the US, haul Uproar and live at the River Retreat in Wisconsin for the entire summer.
This is our first long-term break from six years of continuous cruising. Can't wait to spend some time with family and friends and be dirt dwellers again for a bit.
The “can't wait” part became the problem. We were thinking about just getting to NC where the fun would begin. I had to fly back to Fort Lauderdale to retrieve our car, drive back to Beaufort, unrig sails, canvas, remove food and shut down the systems for storage. We would then have Uproar hauled in a local yard for the summer and drive back to Wisconsin.
But first we had to sail 500 miles from Bahamas to Beaufort. Uproar normally makes 150 miles/day on passages. At least that's what we plan for. But we usually exceed the 150 miles/day making it possible to get to Beaufort in three, plus days. No problem, we would leave in the morning and have three days plus eight hours of daylight to arrive in Beaufort.
Winds leaving the Bahamas were light but consistent. Uproar hopped right up to over six knots, our target speed. We knew from weather reports we would hit lighter winds but had a tank full of diesel to get us through the flat spots. First 24 hours, we made exactly 150 miles....then the wind died. No problem, we just started up the trusty Yanmar diesel.
Like most vehicles, fuel economy varies a lot with speed. We can easily motor in flat seas at five knots, the speed of a lawn tractor, and consume only 10 mpg. That doesn't sound great but keep in mind, we are sailing a 23,000 pound boat. A powerboat our size would cruise at 25 knots but consume at least three gallons per mile!
Five knots would still leave us short of our six, plus knots goal. We upped the throttle and watched the fuel gauge. Day two we made only 145 miles but consumed about 1/3 of our 40 gallons. I did a lot of mental math to determine if we could make it before dark of day four. I had actually done these calculations throughout our trip. And the wind stayed light. Oh, I forgot to mention, I had a flight the morning of day five to Fort Lauderdale, two day drive back to Beaufort and an appointment to haul Uproar the next afternoon. Then two day drive back to WI. And I had an eye doctor appointment the day after arriving in Wisconsin.
At dawn of day three, it dawned on me that the deadline we had arbitrarily set for ourselves and the hectic schedule following was the antithesis of what our cruising lifestyle was all about. This would be our last sail on Uproar for four months. And we were treating it as cough medicine instead of wine. Lisa and I had a quick discussion about this and agreed, we were charging hard for absolutely no rational reason. The stress of get-there-itis was ruining the ride. Here we were on our boat, sailing on a slightly rolly, beautiful sea. We were stressing about the trip! No good!
We made the decision to just let the wind take us and spend an extra day getting to Beaufort. The tension of our haste melted away. We did calculate just how fast or slow we needed to sail to get there in the morning of day four, after sunrise. Now the task was to slow down. We slowed down the boat and our attitude. Uproar motored through the Beaufort Pass around 7:00 am. We were all smiles and relaxed from our cruise on a gentle ocean. The task will be to continue that attitude with our more complicated lives ashore. Uproar and the sea have taught us lessons we embrace and treasure.
Blowing Stink in Exumas
21 May 2021
Russ Whitford | Blowing Stink!
Living on the water, we are at the mercy of the weather. Well, that may be a slight exaggeration but weather is a big part of our lives and we have to pay attention.
There are times when the weather is unrelenting and we must just endure. This past week in the Exumas is one of those weeks. Three high pressure systems in the North Atlantic have caused east winds to the south of the high pressure areas, enhancing the east trade winds. Bottom line, it has been blowing stink out of the ENE for the past week. Steady winds are around 20 with gusts over 30.
Lisa keeps a good watch on Windy.com and we knew this weather system was coming. We decided a safe anchorage would be Sampson Cay where we had protection from the north and east. We have been sitting here a week and there are still two days of strong winds predicted.
In spite of whitecap waves around the boat, we have to have some fun. We made a few trips to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for cracked conch and fish tacos. There are a few rocks nearby with good snorkeling. But dinghy exploring has been the best. There are endless cays and lagoons, just deep enough for our dinghy. We found a tiny swimming pool and crescent beach on a remote end of Sampson's Cay. The pool is the size of a back yard swimming pool and about six feet deep at high tide.
It is a tranquil spot, even in high winds.
The ocean side of the cay has another lagoon but just a few rocks protect that bay from the raging Exuma Sound. It's a fun place to explore the beach. I found a few dead Buttonwood trees and cut some pieces for woodworking projects. Buttonwood is a hard, smooth, butterscotch colored wood. Yes, they used to make buttons out of this durable species.
Today we made our second trip to our private beach. But it wasn't private for long. A family from Oconomowoc, WI visited. They rented a boat at the resort where they were staying. What a coincidence to meet other Cheeseheads. Another launch from a superyacht came to visit. Mary and Tom are from Minneapolis area. They shared some beers with us and we plan to take their big launch to Compass Cay tomorrow for lunch.
Being “stranded” in rough weather is not all that bad. Wind will abate on Sunday, we will sail north to Shroud Cay. In a few more days we will sail to Eluthera, then on to the Abacos. We just have to be patient.
But sailors learn patience, sailboats are the slowest form of transportation.
Rum for Mahi
17 May 2021 | Little Sampson Cay, Exuma
We are still in a fishing drought. We now troll three lines instead of the usual two and switch lures regularly. We don't fish in shallow water where it is quite easy to catch Barracudas. We caught two of these but that doesn't count, can't safely eat them in the Bahamas.
Sailing with Starship from Conception to Cat Island, we saw six, large sportfishing boats working the south end of Cat. They were talking with each other on the VHF and we listened in. Some were cursing the Mahi for wrecking their bait sets. They were hunting big Marlin.
A few days later, we rented a car with Mitch and Delana to tour Cat. We stopped at Hawk's Nest Marina bar where the sportfishing boats were hanging out. One fisherman confirmed Mahi were a nuisance. I offered to trade a big bottle of rum for a Mahi. He agreed.
The next day we called Anita Jeanne and asked if they had some Mahi to trade. They said they would. Lisa and I dinghied ten miles from our anchorage in the Bight to Hawk's Nest. It was downwind so not that rough a ride. That's still a long dinghy ride doing 15 knots, about 45 minutes.
We arrived and had a nice chat with Pete, his son, Spencer and crew. We gave them a 1.5 liter bottle of Cruzan Rum and the gave us a little bag of fillets. Spencer said, “I feel bad taking your rum for just that bag of fish.” I replied, “We will take more if it will make you feel better!” He gave us another bag.
Hawk's Nest Marina had a nice, paved airport. Pete mentioned to us that there were five paved runways on Cat Island. There are fewer than 1,000 people living on Cat. Remember my last blog? In a half-finished hotel, gas station and restaurant complex we met The Pilot of Pilot Harbor. He explained that his family had cargo planes, light planes and a helicopter. Why so many airports, pilots and planes in a desolate place like Cat Island? Do the math, it's not long division.
It was getting toward dark and Lisa and I had a long ride back to Uproar. Remember when I said the ride to Hawk's Nest was downwind? Well it was upwind going back and the wind had picked up. Not only were we soaking wet but I had to modulate the throttle to keep from slamming into the bigger waves and still try to keep on a gentle plane. On plane we are a bit higher above the waves and go faster. I'm sure we took twice as long to return to Uproar.
It took forever until we could see Uproar's anchor light in the distance, well after sunset. This is a sparsely populated place. There were no other boats around and very few houses along the shore. Lisa had the forethought to bring a portable VHF radio in case we needed help.
The water gradually flattened out as we approached the Bight anchorage. Our hands, arms and shoulders were cramped from hanging on. Lisa's back hurt for two days. But we finally had some Mahi, enough for four small meals.
We have enjoyed two Mahi meals so far. With our French Polynesian recipe for vanilla sauce, the fish is superb, but decidedly not worth the punishing dinghy ride. Just hope to catch one of our own soon!
Pilot of Pilot Harbor
15 May 2021
“I”m a pilot. I went to school in Florida and the UK. I was once a first officer on jumbo jets but now just fly my family's inter-island cargo and small planes.” I asked if he could take us up for a ride and fly around the Exumas. “That plane is off island now but next week for sure.”
Lisa and I sailed from Conception Island to Cat Island, Exumas. It was a smooth, 40 mile spinnaker run in light to moderate wind. Cat Island is a 40 mile long hockey stick shape. The Bight is inside the crook of the hockey stick toward the south end. We anchored there for the most protection from changing winds.
Starship II followed us to Cat. We had just said hello a few times passing in the dinghy. They left Conception just before us. We called on the radio to introduce ourselves and determine if we were headed the same way. Yes, they were. They anchored in Cat a few hours after we arrived. Later that evening a small sloop beat to weather into our anchorage. They anchored just before sunset. I called Bimini Blue on the radio and told them we enjoyed watching their nice sailing into Cat. And would they like to come over for an anchor beer. Yes.
Shortly after they arrived, Aaron and Amy from Horizon Run also dinghied by, we invited them to join us for cocktails. These are two young couples doing some extensive cruising. We love to see young people out here. Why wait until you are old to throw off the dock lines.
But our first morning on Cat began with a dinghy expedition. Having a fast dinghy is such an advantage. It is our “car” and allows us to venture far from where Uproar rests at anchor. We headed for some buildings on shore just over a mile away. The chart showed a creek that led to a mangrove. This is typical of the eastern, Exuma Islands. These low islands have extensive mangroves in their interior. At high tide, it is often possible to dinghy into these mangroves and explore for miles. Turtles, rays and occasional nurse sharks live in these shallow waters.
We found the entrance to the creek at Pilot Harbor and dinghied as far as we could. It just became too shallow after about ½ mile. We returned to a boat ramp where we anchored the dinghy and went for a walk. The first building was a nice house with several additions. No one was around. Down the road further was what appeared to be an abandoned hotel. There were eight rooms, arranged town house style with a second floor. But the first floor on the beach side was just an empty shell, not finished. It could have been a cute hotel but was further compromised by the rusty wreck of an old tug on their beautiful beach. Such is the Bahamas.
We walked along and came to some construction machinery and fuel tanks. These led to a gas station, closed, with convenience store, closed, and a sign for laundry. A young Bahamian man was putzing around with a truck. He was the pilot. He explained his family had built the buildings we observed, the first being a restaurant. The hotel wasn't finished but they occasionally had groups stay there. A power surge had knocked out the freezers in the store and gas pumps. And no the laundry wasn't operational.
It was clear his love was flying! He talked about his family's planes They even had a helicopter. It is a shame we didn't get his name. We usually introduce ourselves and spend time getting to know other people. But in this era of masks, there is an undertone of caution that doesn't lead to personal encounters. What a shame we weren't able to fly with the pilot of Pilot Harbor.
Later we met Delana and Mitch from Starship II on Rollez Beach Resort for a beer. Carl had built a small and colorful resort on the beach. What an inviting spot. We planned to share a rental car with Delana and Mitch the next day and further explore Cat Island.
01 May 2021
Nick Hayes wrote an insightful book, “Saving Sailing.” He looked at sailing and other sports and hobbies and what has caused a decline in these activities.
I will try to summarize his findings: Leisure activities that are learned through inter-generational participation become life-long passions. I sailed at a very early age with my father, my kids and some with my grandfather. Sailing has become a life-long passion for me.
There are more kids participating in sailing now than when I was a kid. But few of them stick with sailing. Why? This participation consists of being dropped off at a sailing school, learning to sail, then going home. At the end of the lessons, there is no next step. The family is not involved beyond transportation to lessons which doesn't lead to future opportunities and inspiration.
It's the same with soccer. Millions of kids play soccer but few continue in the sport past youth teams.
Another example Nick gave was fishing. Fishing for me was going out in a rowboat with dad or grandpa and dangling a worm. I'm sure this is still the way a lot of kids go fishing. But there has been a glorification of the tournament fishing. Big purses and TV shows are now a huge part of the sport. Dad wants to be a part of this so buys a sparkly bass boat with a huge motor and all the gear. He is certain to wear the right clothes and have a truck big enough to tow the boat. The simple pleasures of dangling a worm with the kids may get lost in the hype. I sure hope not.
Nick called the participation that just involved showing up a “charted experience.” You get exactly what you expect when you drop your kids off at sailing school, a few hours of lesson. Going to Disney World is a charted experience. You just show up (and pay a lot) and you get the Disney Buzz. It is fun but let's face it, you don't have to expend any effort or imagination. And when it's over, it's over except for some memories.
Compare a trip to Disney with a canoeing or backpacking vacation with the family. These families will make their own experiences, not just be present for them. Nick didn't come up with a term for this opposite of the chartered experience. Let's call it an “earned experience.” One has to become intimately involved in a canoeing or backpacking trip.
It has been six years since I was at the Annapolis Boat Show. A few years ago, another sailor told me she knew people going to the show, just to meet the Youtube sailing bloggers! I was shocked. I go to see my sailing friends, hit a few seminars and drool over the cool sailing stuff on display. I could care less about Youtube sailors and what they cooked for dinner, but it sure is a thing.
I recently talked with a cruising, sailing school instructor. He said the majority of his work is teaching people who have never sailed before, who have bought cruising catamarans, to sail their own boats. These people spent up to $1/2 million on a boat and didn't know how to sail. And they were ALL inspired by Youtube channels. Talk about a chartered experience. They see the Youtubers living the life and think all they need to do is buy a boat like theirs. Voila! Oh, let's pay for a week of lessons just to get it right. The instructor told me he can teach them to drive a boat but that's not sailing.
Let me give a recent example. A few weeks ago we came across a boat that was aground. They had the sails sheeted in tight. We dinghied up to the boat and asked if we could help. They said, “No, as soon as the tide goes up, we will just shoot forward and be off the bottom. I mentioned as diplomatically as possible that the boat will not go forward until there is some speed over the keels. It would just be pushed sideways into the shallower water. They were oblivious to what I mentioned so we just motored away and wished them luck.
We know a handful of zero to cruising, cruisers who are very competent sailors. I can assure you they were motivated by far more than a Youtube channel. The ones I know really dedicated themselves to learning all they could and taking it slowly. They mixed with other cruisers and learned from them. They had no delusions that the mere purchase of a boat made them a cruiser.
But that's not the current trend as I was informed and what I am observing in the Bahamas. Our return to the Bahamas has shown us an influx of new cruisers. We have talked with a few. We always introduce ourselves to boat anchored nearby. These new, inexperienced cruisers don't mix very well. One told us with pride, “We are buddy boating.” We have seen them and others since who are in lock step with their buddy boat. How much they are missing by not expanding their experiences with other cruisers and local people. Lynn Pardee warned, “As a single person or couple, you are approachable by local people. As two couples, you have your own thing going and won't be approached.”
I recommend that all new sailors learn to sail a small boat. It can be a Sunfish or something larger. I suggest it be a tiller steered boat with a main and jib. Once you learn to handle that boat with proficiency, you will have strong, basic sailing skills. Spend a few thousand dollars on a Flying Scot or similar. These boats are great fun to sail and sensitive to “feel” sailing. Most of us started sailing this way, did some racing and sailed on a variety of boats. That's how we progressed to buy the boat that is now our life and home. It is an earned experience that is quite rewarding.
If you are a Youtube newbie sailor, I hope you are not offended by what I am writing. Why not take a step back and learn the basics of sailing? Make it your earned experience to love for a lifetime. Sailboats are slow, why hurry? Learn for yourself what sailing is all about, not just what other people tell you it is about. There is plenty of room out here and it is a life I sure recommend for all who dedicate themselves to go to sea.
Georgetown, Adult Daycare
01 May 2021
It's the “sticky harbor.” Georgetown is one of the largest settlements in the southern Bahamas. Cruisers intending to sail to the Caribbean often use Georgetown as a provisioning and jump off point. Unfortunately, it is the most social spot for cruising in the Bahamas.
“Oh, just another sundowner on the beach with friends and we will leave tomorrow.” All of this detracts from the girding of loins required to sail the “thorny path” to the Caribbean. From Bahamas to the Caribbean can be a tough, upwind slog, especially for boats that don't sail to weather very well. Those loins remain un-girded and boats tend to stay in Georgetown until they are hard aground on the pile of coffee grounds surrounding their keel.
In 2016 we were “stuck” in Georgetown for about six weeks with a vacation to Long Island in between. Steve and Carla were flying to meet us, we had to be here for their arrival and departure. But we had a great time. There were 300 boats in the anchorage in 2016. We were told it is usually closer to 500 but the weather was pretty tough that year and some boats just went back to the US.
The Georgetown Regatta was a big part of our stay here. This ten day event consisted of three sailboat races (we won) and a wide variety of fun events. They had a cruise ship style talent contest, conch horn blowing contest, coconut dinghy gathering, dinghy poker run, volleyball tournament, softball games against local team, bake sale, treasures of the bilge sale, and lots of food and drink at Chat 'n Chill beach. But most of all, there was a pet show. Sophie won “oldest participant!” They don't just give that prize to any old dog.
The organizers of Regatta really put on a professional style event and it was great fun. They raised money for local charities in the process of entertaining about a thousand cruisers. But there is always social fun in Georgetown. Every morning there is a cruiser's net on channel 72. It is easy to meet other cruisers here, a big plus. Even outside of the regatta craziness, there are cruisers gatherings every day. The Wednesday ARG (alcohol research group) is especially well attended. That's why we call Georgetown “adult daycare.”
Unfortunately, 2021 is quite different. This year we are a bit late in the season, boats are already heading back to the US for hurricane season. There are only about 60 boats here. We have still had fun meeting new friends and old. Leahona, Willy and Mark, friends from the Caribbean saw on FB we were coming here. We had fun hanging out with them and catching up. It had been five years since we last saw them in Dominica.
Covid and the Bahamas are to blame. Great that the Bahamas is open to cruisers (with extensive Covid testing) but bad that they increased cruising fees from $300 to $600. They still issue a 90 day cruising permit for $300. Guess what? Many cruisers now leave after 90 days.
We spotted another sister ship, First 42s7. We had just a brief conversation with the young owners. They loved their boat but hurricane Michael didn't. Their boat barely survived the hurricane in Panama City. The insurance company paid for a superb paint job to repair the dock damage. They hadn't even painted a name on her yet. We hope to see them again somewhere.
We will be sailing to Conception Island tomorrow. We have enjoyed our time in Georgetown but after a week, we are itching to go sailing again.