One Long Port Tack   2 comments

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Pirat’s underside back in Rum Cay. The hull is a bit scummy.

        That’s all it took to get from Rum Cay to Mayaguana – just 24 hours of close hauled action. We made one little jaunt on starboard to go around Plana Cays. I started my second stretch of bunk time on one side of the boat, then stumbled to the new low side to keep sleeping.
        All things considered, it wasn’t too bad of a sail. I was painfully bored during the day when all I could really do was sit in the cockpit and apply layer after layer of sunscreen. Nighttime was beautiful, though. The moon was full or close to it so the ocean landscape was as bright as day. I listened to my ipod and watched the moon go in and out of the clouds for my graveyard watch. In the morning, I watched the sun rise into a dramatic cloud bank while the moon still shone full force on the other side of the boat.
        Pirat sailed fast. We used the solent and reefed the main down quite a bit when the wind increased to 20+ at night. Our only disaster came when we ran the engine in the evening for the refrigeration. It ran for quite a while then stopped unexpectedly. We attributed the failure to fuel not making it to the engine from the tank on the extreme low side of the boat (we were really healed over).
        Mayaguana appeared on the horizon while Lee slept his last shift. We tucked into an anchorage along the southwest shore to work on the engine, which hadn’t started that morning. Pirat pitched and rolled in the exposed anchorage while Lee went to work changing fuel filters (our next guess that what was wrong was clogged fuel filters due to stuff stirred up in the tank) and I tidied up on deck. After a few hours, the fuel filter emerged as the likely culprit for our engine trouble. It had spontaneously disassembled itself inside. Lee put it back together and the engine started up just in time to charge our depleted batteries and cool down the fridge.
        We then motored West along Mayaguana to Abraham’s Bay, the island’s main anchorage. Lee decided to throw in the fishing line on the way and, of course, ended up reeling in a giant Barracuda just as we entered the reef. He managed to throw the monster back. We snuggled up to the protective reef on Abraham Bay’s outer edge along with two other sailboats. There is no shelter from the wind here and the chop is pretty significant but at least the reef keeps the swells out. The sandy bottom is littered with starfish. Maybe they’re helping us out by holding onto our anchor.

        Now for the next step. Where to from here? Actually, the most pressing issue is our need for water. We lost some through the sink in the head, which leaks when we’re healed far to port and which we stupidly forgot to turn off at the beginning of our sail. I’d say we have enough water for 2-3 days plus an emergency supply but we don’t want to chance running out. Therefore we don’t have much choice but to put the dinghy together, put the engine on, and slog across this huge bay for a hike to the nearby settlement. Filling the dromedaries and 5 gallon jug should get us to the next port. And that port is…

        Luperon, Dominican Republic! (hopefully) That’s right folks, we’re taking a big leap ahead on the path South and skipping right over Turks and Caicos. There’s a good stretch of Northerly wind in the forecast so we decided (after much discussion) to just go for it. We plan to leave tomorrow morning and, if all goes well, should arrive in the DR on Friday afternoon. There’s a good chance we’ll pull into an anchorage just West of Luperon first. We’ll be careful, of course, and can always tack over to Turks and Caicos if we’ve had enough.
        I’m excited! I think I’m getting better with these long sails and I really just want to get somewhere different at this point. The Bahamas have been wonderful but I’m ready for a bit more action, more people, and more fresh produce. The temptation of jumping ahead several weeks in our itinerary in just a couple of days is too great. When things get rough and I’m miserably tired in the middle of the night I just have to remind myself that finishing an overnight passage feels a lot like climbing a 14er. When I collapse at the end I’m overcome with a sense of accomplishment that only comes from crossing, climbing, or otherwise surviving something big in the natural world.
        

Posted April 20, 2011 by Rachel in Uncategorized

Southern Bahamas Pinball   Leave a comment

        This post is a little outdated but we didn’t have internet for a few days. Lee and I sailed from Rum Cay to Mayaguana overnight last night. It was our first overnight in a long time and I have some good stories to tell! Those will have to wait till I get a good night’s sleep.

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The clouds are often the most interesting scenery on our passages.

        Take a look at a map of the southern Bahamas (the scattered islands to the southeast of the Exumas). To me, this region resembles a pinball machine full of little island bumpers, obstacles, and passages that bounce sailboats around before spitting them out at the bottom. The wind is a constant repelling force from the S-SE-E, making almost every passage upwind unless one is willing to wait for a front. Lee and I don’t feel much like waiting. There aren’t any fronts bringing NE breezes in the forecast and we want out of the Bahamas now.
        We need to get out of the Bahamas now, actually, so that we can make it to St. Kitts by early June. Why St. Kitts, and where is that, you ask? After some research over our mini-vacation in California, Lee found a yard in the two-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis that seems like our best option for hauling and storing Pirat. The place we were looking at in Florida is too questionable depth-wise and every place else we’ve looked doesn’t have enough protection or isn’t in a place we could easily get to. St. Kitts has the advantage of situating us well into the Caribbean for our next chunk of sailing. Lee’s favorite part is that this yard will dig a hole in the ground for your keel to fit into while the boat is out of the water, keeping the hull lower to the ground and therefore a bit safer from high winds.
        St. Kitts is in the Leeward islands, which are just East of the Virgins and form the top of the southeast-reaching Caribbean chain. That means we’ll be sailing through/past/to the Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, U.S.V.I, B.V.I, and a few Northern Leeward Islands like St. Martin. At first I was excited at the prospect of seeing all these places we didn’t think we’d make it to before. Then I realized how far we had to go and got discouraged. Now that we’re finally on our way, though, I feel much better about the miles we have to go and the island’s well visit along the way.

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Conception at dusk.

        Yes, we’re finally on our way…but not by much. We left Georgetown on Friday (Gasp! Bad Luck!) but we’ll just say we left on Thursday because that’s when Pirat left her mooring in Kevalli Cove to anchor near the mouth of Elizabeth Harbor. On Friday we sailed to Conception, a tiny island that is part of the Land and Sea Park. It was a gorgeous spot and we wished we’d had time to explore. We left there bright and early yesterday, prepared for another long beat to San Salvador. Unfortunately it was going to be a little bit too long. We didn’t think we’d make it before dark so we settled for Rum Cay. San Salvador may seem like it was in the wrong direction for where we ultimately want to go but it would have situated us well to sail SE with the current wind direction.
        Yesterday was full of close calls and near misses. It took us all day to get to the anchorage on Rum Cay, even though that was our fall-back shorter sail. We sailed along peacefully for a while. It was another one of those unbelievably beautiful days in the Bahamas. Then the wind died and Lee started the engine. Almost immediately, he decided that it sounded strange and went down below to check something we’d had an inkling might become a problem. Our fears were confirmed by the oil all over the engine compartment. The oil filter we’d just put in was too close to the refrigeration compressor so the compressor punched a hole in the filter after running a few times. All the fresh oil we’d just changed had leaked out.
        No engine? That’s okay, we’ll just sail into Port Nelson. It took all afternoon and I don’t know how many tacks to get to the anchorage. We were fighting a current and beating into sub-10 knot wind. For the second half of the beat, Lee worked below on the engine between tacks while I watched for coral heads and rocks. We wove in and out of the reef and probably came the closest we’ve ever been aware of to hitting a submerged danger. I spotted two distinct, very dark spots out in front of us with barely enough time to run back from the bow, take the helm from the auto pilot, and steer Pirat between the two spots. Rock or coral, they looked shallow and menacing!
        We weren’t having enough fun yet. The fishing line we’d been dragging had to get in on the action. Lee started reeling it in to put the pole away only to find a Barracuda on the hook. It was still alive and it looked mad, as only a Barracuda can. Lee grabbed heavy rubber gloves and pliers and with a little teamwork we managed to get the angry fish off the hook and back into the ocean. Lee swears the Barracuda was mouthing the word revenge.
        We were lucky no coral heads jumped out in front of the boat while we were messing with the Barracuda. Things seemed to be calming down. Then we heard someone hail us on the radio. Lee answered. It was a friendly sailor on his way out of the anchorage who just wanted to let us know that we didn’t show up on his powerful radar. Thanks for the info.
        I was completely exhausted by the time Lee dropped the anchor and we took down the main. I had done the trimming and grinding for all of our many tacks and my arms felt like noodles. I also get these great bruises on my knee caps from resting them on the edge of the cockpit while I trim the jib.

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Cool clouds off Rum Cay.

        The good news is Lee had another oil filter and enough oil to replace what had leaked out. He worked hard for the rest of the evening to get everything cleaned up and out back together. He even pulled out the dead mouse that’s been floating around in the oil extracting pump cylinder thing (that’s the best name i could come up with) since it came out of Lee’s parents’ garage in Maine. I think the mouse was clogging up the pour spout…it looked like something out of the La Brea Tar Pits.
        Today we took it easy on Rum Cay. We met some Danish sailors and a family who sailed down from Maine. Both are on their way North. They’ve already been where we’re going. Tomorrow morning we’re leaving for an overnight sail to (hopefully) Mayaguana. If we don’t make it that far there are plenty of stopping points along the pinball path. The wind should keep us close hauled the whole time but we’re ready for that. My arms have had their day of rest!

Posted April 17, 2011 by Rachel in Uncategorized

Important Announcement: Pirat has moved!   Leave a comment

With access to high-speed internet here in California, Lee took the opportunity to move the blog off of WordPress.com. This is something we’ve been wanting to do since moving my cooking blog, MuffinEgg. Now Lee can do all kinds of cool things with our map and all sorts of other potential blog upgrades are possible!

We decided not to forward the old blog address to the new one, so please update your links to www.sailpirat.com. I apologize for the inconvenience. I know this can be kind of a pain. You don’t want to miss out on the sail we have planned for when we return to the boat!

Posted April 5, 2011 by Rachel in Uncategorized

The Wedding Post   1 comment

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        I wish I could think of a clever, cute title for this post. It deserves a better title but I can’t think of a way to sum up the past week’s events in a few words.

Transformative would be a good word.
Exhausting is also very descriptive.
Things were chaotic at times.
Overall, the mood was festive and happiness prevailed.
I was occasionally frantic but Lee was very supportive.
Our families and friends were very generous and we are so thankful that so many of then came.

St. John was beautiful, frustrating, and inspirational.
Taxi’s were (not so) wonderful.
Concordia was amazing and sometimes irritating.
We ate our fill of delicious food every day.

        Okay, enough of that. I won’t go into detail about every day on the island. Lee and I have been here since last Monday. Guests started to trickle in shortly after we arrived and then a whole mob of people arrived a couple of days before the wedding. Rather than messing with a welcome letter and other, more conventional destination wedding flourishes, I attempted to greet every single guest in person when they arrived. For the most part, I was successful. Lee and I met my mom and Doug at the Cruz Bay ferry on Tuesday and intercepted my aunt’s taxi at the resort when she arrived late that night.
        Our tent was often full of friends. My mom’s was just across the way but the amount of steps up and down it took to get there made my calves sore for the first few days. I spotted many new arrivals from my mom’s balcony above the main walkway

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Our friend Becky, me, and Lee.

        We didn’t do much in the way of organized activities. I quickly realized that rounding everyone up was as futile as herding cats. On most days, some people stuck close to the resort, snorkeling and relaxing at nearby Salt Pond Beach. Others hiked nearby trails in the coolish mornings and a few groups explored the island by car, bus, or taxi. Waterlemon, Honeymoon, Cinnamon, and Maho Bays were popular destinations for snorkeling and general beach enjoyment.

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One table of the rehearsal dinner.

        We ate some fabulous meals, both at Concordia and at restaurants in Coral Bay. The rehearsal dinner at Shipwreck Landing was the first wonderful occasion that brought everyone together. Then, of course, there was the wedding itself!
        All day long on the wedding day people commented on how relaxed I was. Lee and I chose to divide and conquer that day – him with his family and me with mine. We both enjoyed some good beach time and returned to the resort in time to get ready for the big night.
        For me, getting ready meant a solar heated shower from the hose nozzle eco-tent shower. My cousins did my hair and helped me apply the absolute minimum amount of makeup. All my primping and dressing preparations took place in the air-conditioned office/pantry near the pavilion. There was no mirror and a tablecloth on the floor protected my dress from the dusty floor.
        Of course, our time to proceed out for the ceremony snuck up on my dad and me despite rehearsing it earlier that day. He and Peggy had put together a beautiful selection of music, some of which was meaningful and some just nice to listen to. Lee’s brother and my friend Lindsay, the best man and maid of honor, walked out. Lee’s parents followed and my brother walked my mom down the aisle. Lee was waiting for me next to the officiant when my dad walked me out. There were lots of faces watching, cameras flashing, and sun in my eyes.
        The ceremony is kind of a blur. I remember watching Lee’s mouth and seeing my reflection in his sunglasses. The officiant made proclamations in the booming voice I imagine a female deity might have. Lee and I looked out at the island and the ocean. The wind wrapped around us and blew my hair in my face for all of the pictures I’m sure. Lee’s ring was too small (which we’d known since he’d tried it on earlier in the week). I could barely get it on his finger. Mine slid on perfectly. It sparkles and I love it.
        Kissing in front of a crowd was strange. Eventually we got more comfortable with it, as all the post-ceremony photography took place in full view of our appetizer munching guests. Lee and I stumbled around in a daze. Did we feel different? Is married a feeling? I think yes.
        The reception progressed. Appetizers gave way to dinner, which was fresh, simple, and good. The band had arrived and begun playing during the appetizers but we had to wait till after dinner and dessert to really get things started musically. The dad’s and Lee’s brother, Matt, gave wonderful, thoughtful toasts.
        I chose the time for the cake cutting. It was a bit awkward at first. Lee and I had never cut a wedding cake before (of course) and we didn’t really know what to do. The photographer gave us some pointers and we sliced a HUGE piece of the enormous, round, one-level cake. Lee wanted to slice another but I insisted that we share the first piece. We tasted the sweet banana custard, rich yellow cake, and buttery, coconut-flecked icing simultaneously. There really is something beautiful about that.
        We almost finished our gargantuan slice but had to remain lively enough for dancing, which followed soon after cake. I think we were both nervous about the first dance but it went off without a stumble and I took a few turns around the dance floor with my dad next. The band was awesome. Their happy Caribbean music was perfect for our crowd and there was quite a bit of dancing despite the heat.
        Still, the party didn’t last all night long. It lasted just as long as Lee and I typically last with things like that. The band cleaned up by 9. Stragglers danced while I threw the bouquet straight into my cousin Jenna’s arms. I’m sure Lee and I were back at our tent around 10. He carried me across the doorstep. Awww…
        Everything about that evening is hazy and wonderful in my mind now. It was so much fun to have everyone there and truly enjoying themselves, I think. I know I felt special (and I’ll admit it – I like to feel special). Being a bride for a day has to be one of the most fabulous feelings on the planet.

        The wedding faded slowly, letting Lee and I down gently. We all had brunch at Concordia the morning after the ceremony and then continued our St. John frolicking. I’m so glad I got to spend some time with everyone who came. It wasn’t nearly enough time but I tried to give myself a good-sized serving of each guest.

        Ahhh, I fell behind before I even posted this. Now we’re back in mainland USA, more specifically California. All I can say is Lee and I need some serious down time and we’re going to get it here over the next week. I’ll catch up on the post-wedding events and everything else in my next post. Now I’m going to go fix dinner in a real kitchen!

Posted March 30, 2011 by Rachel in Uncategorized

St. John At Last + Tips on Getting Here   4 comments

        Ah, there’s nothing like a long day of travel to make you appreciate a soft bed and a roof over your head, even if that bed is two mattresses pushed together on the floor and the roof is a tent.
        Lee and I staggered in to Estate Concordia Preserve just before the registration desk closed last night. Our flight to St. Thomas was uneventful and we didn’t encounter any problems picking up our marriage license. The ferry to St. John was another story. We would have made it to the 3pm ferry, if, as we had been told, such a ferry existed. It turned out that the next ferry wasn’t till 5:30 so we found a bar with free wifi and half price beers and waited.

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Leaving Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas on the ferry.

        The ferry ride was scenic and smooth. We pulled into Cruz bay just in time to hop on Vitran bus, which took us despite our luggage. The bus bounced and wound it’s way to the other end of the island while we hung on for dear life. It was dark and I was starving by the time it dropped us off at Concordia.
        Unfortunately, the cafe is closed on Mondays so Lee and I called a cab to take us to the closest restaurant, Shipwreck Landing, which we think is the location of the rehearsal dinner. We sat at the bar and chatted with the friendly bartender. The outdoor atmosphere was very welcome after all the air-conditioned travel spaces and the food was delicious. The bread was amazing, partly because it tasted like it was toasted on the grill. My garden salad with grilled Mahimahi was exactly what I needed and Lee devoured his favorite salad (the taco variety).
        Our eco tent is awesome! It’s huge and comfy but not too comfy. These accommodations are genuinely energy conscious and environmentally friendly. I think our wedding guests will get a good idea of what it’s like to live on a boat.
        Now that Lee and I have had our run, showers, and breakfast, it’s time for some last minute wedding stuff and then a trip back to Cruz Bay. I want to pick up some groceries there and we’re going to try to meet my mom and perhaps Lee’s friend Doug at the ferry landing.

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Shroud Cay, The Bahamas, from the airplane. We visited this cay on Pirat.

        
        With that, here’s Lee with some travel advice for our wedding guests based on our experience getting here.

Getting Here Annex
        It was a little bit of a challenge to get to Concordia. We took an airport taxi into Charlotte Amalie for $16 for two people and two bags (they like to charge for bags it seems). From there, there is a ferry that leaves at 10 am, 1 pm, and 5:30 pm for $12/person plus $2.50/bag. The ferry is blue and white and stops in a yellow plastic fenced in area on the waterfront in the middle of downtown. The other option is to go out to Red Hook by airport taxi and there is a ferry there that leaves hourly 6am to 11pm, $6/person $2.50/bag. When we go back I’m going to ask if I can just carry my bag and avoid the $2.50. One book lists the standard taxi fare for the airport to Red Hook as $15 for one person not including bags. Red Hook is a 20 minute ferry, Charlotte Amalie is a 45 minute ferry.
        When you get to St. John, there are taxis and a bus. Concordia is basically as far away from the ferry terminal as you can get.. The book lists the taxi fare as $20 for one person. The Vitran bus leaves either every hour or every other hour, depending on how they feel that day and is only $1/person. The may or may not allow luggage, for us the allowed it. The bus ride took about an hour is a motion sickness inducing thrill ride through the park – if you get a younger driver (the old drivers are reputed to be slow).
        Also we haven’t been to the grocery store yet, but the better ones are likely to be in the town with the ferry terminal. We’ve heard that “Dolphin” and “Starfish” are good, with Dolphin having lower prices.

Posted March 22, 2011 by Rachel in Uncategorized

Pictures from Paradise   Leave a comment

Here are the rest of the pictures I’ve been hoarding. This album includes Lee’s fish, the Coconut Run, and other odds and ends.

More Bahamas

Posted March 21, 2011 by Rachel in Uncategorized

Up, Up and Away!   Leave a comment

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        I’m so tired. I’m sitting in bed in a cold, dingy hotel room in Maimi. I had a mediocre (at best) veggie burger and wilted green salad for dinner at the chain restaurant next door. I’d like to welcome myself back to America.
        Lee and I left Pirat at 6am today and spent more than 7 hours in the Nassau airport in between flights to Maimi. It’s amazing to think that we crossed the ocean we sailed over the course of months in just a few hours today. The best part of today was when the water taxi driver gave us a free ride across the harbor because we’re getting married.
        Pirat is safe on a mooring in Kevalli Cove on Stocking Island, Exuma. We slipped into the hurricane hole there on a 7:30am high tide the other day. Lee drove and only hit bottom once. He backed off and tried again with success.
        We spent the next few days cleaning up the boat, packing, and hanging out with our boat friends from Forest and Fin. Crossing the harbor to George Town was a pain as usual. I was disappointed that there were no papaya trucks to be found in town. Papayas filled with yogurt are one of my new favorite things.

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Kevalli Cove. At the base of the bluff to the left is a blue hole (an underwater

cave that goes all the way under Stocking Island).

        Going from a sailboat in the Bahamas to the Maimi airport in a day is quite a shock. Lee and I are overwhelmed by the chaos and ridiculous things like the freezing cold air-conditioned hotel and all the crap on TV. St. John will be a welcome relief from all this…”civilization.”
        The wedding is less than a week away and we’re going to St. John TOMORROW!

Posted March 20, 2011 by Rachel in Uncategorized