Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Finally….A New Country!

We decided to stay an extra day in Mayaguana to get some rest as well as enjoy the spearfishing offered on the island.  Initially, we had planned to leave that night after a couple of hours of sleep and continue on to the Turks & Caicos, but after seeing the water quality (we dropped a quarter in 35 ft of water and were able to see it on the bottom from deck level), we couldn't resist exploring the reefs.  As well, our buddy boat, Sailboat Furminger has been having a bunch of mechanical problems lately, the most recent two being setting the engine room on fire while underway from Long Island to Crooked (a wire had shorted out and ignited their oil absorbent rag under the engine…see their site for more details), along with losing their throttle control cable also while underway from Crooked to Mayaguana, the day after the fire.  What had happened with the cable was that they had paid a marina back in Baltimore $4K for someone to install new control cables and a dual action control arm as their binnacle mounted controls had broken at that point.  Since they are new to the whole boating arena, they didn't notice that the mechanic had improperly routed the morse cables so that the throttle cable was sitting against their exhaust riser, which ended up melting and seizing the cable (you can't trust anyone!).  When Nico went to throttle back, he broke the control arm as well.  After they finally got anchored up later that evening, Frank was able to go over and jerry rig a simple system for them consisting of lines and pulleys so that they could again control their throttle from the helm.  The sea always manages to find the weaknesses in any system so it pays to be handy...

After a good night's rest, we spent the next morning hunting in some of the clearest waters we've seen so far.  Of course, the day's haul was stupendous, and we were able to spear some Slipper lobsters to boot.  Frank and I have been looking for these elusive Slippers now for many, many years (at this point, I'd say close to 10).  Ever since we've heard about these things, we have been hoping to spot one.  This time around, not only did we finally see them but we managed to catch 4, and they were absolutely delicious.  They are a lot like Spiny lobster in flavor and texture except a little sweeter.  They however don't hide in the same way Spiny lobsters do.  Normally when in search of Spiny lobster, we look under a rock or coral head, and they are usually just tucked up under there, sitting up, just staring at you, antennas waving around just waiting to be captured.  With Slipper lobsters we found that they usually cling on to the undersides of the rock/coral in a nook very well camouflaged, so when you're peaking into a hole, instead of looking down, you would look up and along the sides of the walls.  Though hunting them was slightly different than hunting Spiny lobster, preparing them was just as easy.  We simply steamed them and dipped it in melted butter.  In the same meal, we also prepared Stone crab, which were also just as delectable.  It was a real treat as crabs tend to be a little more rare.  I now know why they call them Stone crabs, as the shells on them are rock hard.  I lost one in a reef trying to spear it, with no luck as my spear wasn't strong enough to puncture the tough shell, and all it did was deflect off before the little critter ran away.  How frustrating!  Frank, with the better spear and skills, managed to spear one that Nico had spotted right between the eyes (as you can see from the photo). All in all, our brief stay in Mayaguana turned out to be very worthwhile, and I wish that our weather window wasn't so short so that we could've had more time to spend exploring this beautiful, remote island.  

They really look like slippers!
I love Mayaguana!!!
This poor crab didn't know what was coming….

After sharing our feast with our Nico and Lindsay, we took a nap and awoke at 11pm to continue on to the Turks.  With the winds at 10-15 knots on a close haul, we were able to have a beautiful night sail with a sky full of stars and a trail of phosphorescence in our wake.  Getting through Sandbore Channel proved only mildly challenging as the 10 miles of the shallow "channel" was sprinkled with coral heads, so visual piloting was absolutely necessary.  We are now anchored in Sapodilla Bay on Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos.  We will spend the next couple of days here awaiting another weather window to open up so that we can take our next passage safely.  I'm not sure what we're going to do in terms of fun activities as spearfishing is highly forbidden here and lobster season is over.  I'm sure we will find something…

Beach that we are anchored in front of….
Sunrise underway….
Chalk Sound, Providenciales

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Long Island to Mayaguana

After what seemed like an eternity in Georgetown, we finally got a good enough window to leave.  The one good thing about being stuck there was that we were able to meet yet ANOTHER younger couple cruising.  Lee and Rachel Cumberland on Satori.  Our time together was brief, and I wish that we were going in the same direction, as we did have a bunch of fun with you guys.  It was so refreshing to find another couple like us, in a similar situation, going through a long refit of the same style of boat as ours (he has a Tayana 37).  Lee's pragmatic sensibility, affinity for traditional style looking boats, as well as general handiness, reminded me much of a younger Frank.  The same but completely different.  Isn't it great when you meet an alternate version of someone you know?  Check out their blog.

So after leaving Georgetown, we spent a couple of days in Calabash Bay on the NW tip of Long Island as we couldn't resist the spearfishing there.  After the last time, we remembered that this island offered some great reefs abundant with numerous culinary delights.  In one day, we speared 12 lobsters, 2 crabs, a big ass snapper, a jack.  I only speared 3 of the lobsters, so it was pretty much all Frank, but still it allowed us to feast with our friends Lindsay and Nico on Sailboat Furminger.  The next couple days were not as insane in terms of the haul, but were still pretty bountiful. We had to stock up our protein as our next couple spots offer scant protection and will serve only as rest stops for a couple of hours of sleep between passages.  I may officially be sick of lobster…

Hand puppet show…..


So here we are now anchored in front of Mayaguana Island. After a stop in Clarencetown, on the southeast side of Long Island, we had a short layover at Landrail Point on Crooked Island, both of which took a pretty hard hit during the recent cat 4 Hurricane Joaquin back in October (the one that took the cargo ship, El Faro, with 33 crew onboard).  The hurricane came within 15 miles of Crooked Island with winds up to 155 mph, and it submerged more than 70% of the island with flood waters up to 5 feet deep.   The islands from what we saw looked absolutely devastated.  Roofs were ripped up, homes were sunken in sand, it felt eerily like a war zone.  Mother Nature strikes again!  It is so sad to think of all the people who lost their homes and their lives. Makes you grateful for what you have, and a great reminder that life is short.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

"And I'm One too Many Mornings, and a Thousand Miles Behind…."


One of the things that people don't often talk about while cruising are the spells of restlessness you suffer from.  You'd think that since we are on this "adventure" that every day would be filled with novel, mind expanding experiences.  That the days of feeling "stuck in a rut" would be over.  Nope, not the case.  There are times when you just feel restless and bored, like you're directionless, floating around from day to day just "relaxing".  I find this feeling very disorientating, and it most often happens to me when I've been anchored somewhere for way too long (in this case Georgetown) with too much internet.  Right now, what's bothering me the most is being stuck here due to weather and not getting to be in St Thomas to work and just going into debt.  Since being stuck here I find I have fallen into this mindless rut, acting like a crazy person, surfing the web often addictively, compulsively checking my Facebook feed and looking at Instagram pics.  Basically doing a boat-load of nothing, repeating this meaningless act over and over again, while gaining nothing substantial from it, a bit like chasing my own tail…(but dogs make it look like so much fun!)   I find that the less productive I am, the more depressed I get, and more depressed I get, the less productive I am.  These spells can last for days and during this time I start to worry and panic about the future, our plans, being in debt, and so on.  Yeah, pretty demented.

This feeling of direction-lessness,  it's maddening and at times depressing.  Not knowing what the next year is going to bring and not even knowing where you will be, can both be paradoxically exciting and mentally exhausting.  You wonder if you're just wasting your life away, not settling down, buying a house, having kids, working towards a retirement...you know, what most people consider responsible. Perhaps this is the reason why people have these things in the first place...the house, the kids...so that they also have a reason to live, something to work towards.  I guess I underestimated the power of this notion.   Now I understand a little bit of why my father tells me he doesn't want to retire...he always says "if I rest I die" (sounds a lil more eloquent in Chinese, but you get the point).  I guess not having something to work towards can be considered mental suicide.  We all need some sort of structure and something to move towards.  For some, it's all about the goal and doing everything in their power to get to that goal, losing sight of everything along the way.  For others, it's not necessarily the end goal that matters but simply having a purpose.  I believe there has to be a balance between these in order to be truly happy.  But I suppose there is no right answer.  

After all of this, I have to ask myself?  What am I working towards?  I know it's all about traveling and seeing the world and the wonders of nature....but is that it?  No, it's more than that.  I guess what I want from all of this is personal enlightenment.  Seeing what life has to offer from a different perspective, a little outside the norm.  Seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly both from myself and from this beautiful, cruel world…


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

El Derecho


Been here in Georgetown for about a week and half now.  Some of it due to weather, some of it due to procrastinating the things we need to do while we are here (fuel, water, groceries, etc)…some of it just from being boaters.  I'm getting anxious to move on to the next place, because to be honest, Georgetown is one of my least favorite parts of the Bahamas.  With the exception of availability of goods, like awesome groceries and other needed amenities, there really is not much to do here in terms of spearfishing or underwater activities.  The sailing community here is large, with the anchorages full of other cruisers, which to me poses a deep love-hate relationship.  I hate how many people there are here; zipping by on dinghies, anchoring way too close, yapping on the VHF.  Sorry for sounding crotchety, perhaps I'm just getting used to being in less inhabited islands?  That being said though, what I do love is the how cruisers come together in a time of need and once again, how they abide by philosophy of communal living.  

About a week ago, a weather system technically known as a "derecho" hit the Exumas.  A derecho, according to google, is "a widespread, long-lived straight-line wind storm that is associated with a land based, fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms.  Derechos can cause hurricane force winds, tornados, heavy rains, and flash floods..."  This particular one hit us unexpectedly, with winds reported at 70-100kts in some of the anchorage, I personally only noticed a sustained wind between 30-40 for a couple of hours on our anemometer.  Regardless, it was a bit of a shit show.  At the time, Nico and Lindsay were on our boat just hanging out, making dinner with us, when out of nowhere within minutes, the winds go from 15 kts to 50 kts.  Frank and Nico were in the cockpit, and Lindsay and I were down below preparing dinner.  Of course we stopped what we were doing to check on what was happening, and next thing you know, we notice that Nico and Lindsay's boat dragging.  The waves in Elizabeth Harbor were large and violent, and there was no way that anyone could safely get in a dinghy and drive over to his boat, which was a half a mile away.  The waves were so strong that we were getting soaked just from them crashing over the bow, and into our cockpit.  So there we were sitting helplessly watching their boat drag clear across the anchorage, while monitoring the VHF and the anemometer.  At this point, I'm at the helm putting the boat into the wind and driving forward so as to take some strain off the anchor and keeping an eye on our neighboring boats.  Frank was forward checking on the anchor and letting out more scope.  Next thing you know, our friends' dinghy starts to blow vertically and the point on which their line was attached at the bow rips off their dinghy.   Luckily, there was an aft line holding it as well, and Nico was standing close by, and able to catch it.  There he was holding onto his inflatable, which at this point is behaving much like a flapping sail, You never realize how much windage those things have until they start flopping around the side of the boat like a dying fish.  I call Lindsay who is down below to help because he was struggling to hold it.  Frank rushes back, grabs a line, and they both struggle and tie the line to the dinghy.  

Their boat continues to drag across the anchorage, and with every boat Vida del Sol (name of their boat) passes, we cringe hoping that they don't get closer. We watch helplessly as the boat slowly passes a couple other boats unscathed.  We keep an eye on the anchor light at their masthead, and hope that it's still bobbing, indicating they haven't run aground.  Eventually, Vida del Sol starts to get pretty close to another boat which at this point is now in our anchorage, half a mile later.  We see spotlights illuminating their boat as it starts to inch closer to another boat.  The owners of the said boat start yelling at Nico on the VHF shouting that he needs to get on his boat and drive away.  Nico replies that he can't because it was unsafe for him to get in the dinghy.  The woman on the other boat starts panicking and wailing like a banshee at Nico to get his ass to his boat now, which then ended with Nico calmly replying in broken english, "Look, be sure as soon as the weather is nice and it is safe for me get in my dinghy for go my boat, I will.  But be sure I will make a stop to your fucking boat first."   Nice...

 This situation was rather infuriating as number 1, why would anyone WANT to sit and watch their boat drag clear across an anchorage with the possibility of it running aground and sinking...idiots. Number 2, the other boat was  perfectly capable at that point to start their engines, hoist anchor, and drive away, why the hell didn't they?  I know damn well if I saw a boat coming even close to us, that I'd be ready to get the hell out of its way, regardless of whether or not there was someone helming it.  That to me was simply poor seamanship, not taking responsibilty for their own boat and leaving it to someone else to take care of it.  Anyhow, luckily, there was no such collision, and Vida del Sol continued to merrily drift on by, naive to any potential danger.  Shortly after, the winds die down to the 30s and Nico takes the opportunity to get in the dinghy and to his boat.  He gets to his boat safely and turns on the engine, and pretty much drives it into the wind for the next hour or so until Frank deemed it safe to leave Moitessier and go over and help him re-anchor.  All said and done, the only major loss was their solar panel, which decided to take flight and seek shelter elsewhere during the derecho.  Very lucky considering all the close calls.  

The next day, getting on the cruisers' net and seeing if anyone needed help, we re-discover just how amazing cruisers truly are.  People, ourselves included, were offering help to whomever needed it as well as loaning supplies and offering what we could to each any boat that needed it.  One woman lost one of her stays, and immediately 5 other boaters offered what they could to help her replace it,  another ran aground and were on the rocks and cruisers came together on their dinghies to get it off.  Some lost their dinghies, some floating away completely,  while others flipped over, ruining their outboards.  It was really touching to see people so selflessly come together.  Georgetown wasn't the only one affected by this...it was as far north as Warderick Wells which had reported winds of 110kts.  A lot of yachts, I hear, at Staniel Cay were found aground and on the rocks.  I am so grateful that nothing happened to Moitessier, considering the conditions.  We had seen worse in terms of wind and waves in both Miami and Long Island, but this system posed the greatest threat simply due to the crowded anchorage.   I hope to not see one of those again anytime soon. 

Anchorage from above

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Black Box

Have any of you heard of this idea of the Black Box?  No, no, not that box.  The box I'm referring to is an old mystical, sailor theory that every boat possesses an imaginary black box.  Every time a sailor does something seaman-like, he pays a coin into this box.  An aquatic, karmic bank account of sorts that one can draw from when shit hits the fan.  Now this box accepts an infinite amount of coins, and the more you pay into it, the more you can draw from it when you really need it.  This can be anything from changing the engine oil when it's due, to doing engine checks before starting it, to keeping the lines neatly coiled on deck, to climbing the mast to check your rigging, to varnishing your teak, there are countless ways to earn coins.  This explains why some people go through huge squalls with no injury to their beloved boat, while others suffer dis-mastings, torn sails, and so on.  

Since owning Moitessier, we have rigorously abided by this idea.  Well, Frank more than I as his personality tends to lean more towards obsessive compulsion than mine.  But regardless, we have tried at every opportunity to put coins in our account and so far it's really paid off.  Now this leads me to think about how this idea can be applied to so many things in life.  That perhaps there needs to be different Life Boxes of sorts.  In this case, a piggy bank for relationships.  More often than not, living in a such a small space, Frank and I fight over what is important to us in terms of Moitessier as a whole.  We have different ideals as to what level of messiness we can handle on the boat, how we like our space to be, and so on.  We get so caught up with being seaman-like and paying into the black box, that we forget that we also need to pay into our Life Box.  This can be anything from random acts of kindness, like picking up after someone without nagging them about it, saying thank you when they make you a meal, a back massage when they are tired, a hot chocolate when they are on watch, letting them sleep an extra 1/2 an hour during your watch.  These things after 13 years of being together are sometimes overlooked.  This theory primarily goes back to mindfulness, being mindful of how your partner feels, being aware of the things that your boat needs in order to keep you safe. The more mindful you are of their needs, both your partner and your boat, the more coins you accrue in your boxes.  The more coins you have, the more likely you are to weather some emotional squalls when you need to. The more "lifeman-like" things you do for one another, the stronger your love and the stronger your bond.

With the new year ahead of us, and most of us setting impossible resolutions, I found that this is a very interesting way of looking at life in general; whether it be your personal goals, fitness, career, whatever it may be, the more little things you do towards these goals, the more likely you are to succeed.  Ultimately, it comes down to the basic principle of taking responsibility for the things you value and the things that are important to you.



Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everyone....after spending the day yesterday in 25-30 kts of wind with big bumpy seas, we made it to Georgetown just in time to ring in the new year with our new boat besties Nico and Lindsay on Sailboat Furminger.  It was a pretty low key night.  They greeted us with a lovely dinner of Poutin (a Canadian fast food specialty of French fries with gravy and cheese) which was a perfect ending to a rough day on the water. Reunited and it feels so goooood....

We ended the night watching 2 sets of fireworks blasting off in Georgetown and all I could think about was how lucky I was to have the opportunity to do this and all that we've been through to get to this point.  What is it about a new year that makes people reflect?  2015 was a good year for us, it was the year we finally set out to begin this great adventure.  Lots of ups, lots of downs, lots of surprises.  Heck, we surprised ourselves in even getting this far....so here's to another great year.  2016, we're coming for you...I'm hoping it's just as fun, just as scary, and that we surprise ourselves once again.  Here are some of my most favorite photos of the year....

Oh and PS:  If you didn't notice my new Instagram button on the side tab, you can now follow me on Instagram under yus_world.  Enjoy!

Yesterday's sail....big waves :)
Back in Miami
First time in the Berries
Diving the plane at Norman's Cay
Ashley's giant starfish....
Campfire on Cat Island