24 December, 2011
25 November, 2011
|Live oaks intertwined|
|Beach walking with good friends old and new|
15 November, 2011
11 November, 2011
04 October, 2011
Position: N 36 45.350 W 076 18.544
Location: Deep Creek Anchorage
We're anchored off Jackson Creek in Deltaville, VA, our old stomping grounds. We decide not to go into Jackson Creek – the weather's supposed to be benign tonight and it will make leaving early in the morning easier if we don't have to negotiate the tight turns and unlit marks of the narrow entrance channel.
We go to bed early and both find ourselves awake at midnight. We toss and turn and try to get back to sleep. Yeah, right! "Trying" to get back to sleep" is a bit of an oxymoron, isn't it? It may have worked some, but we finally decide to get up and make coffee at around 04:00.
Since we're up anyway, and outside the creek, we decide to leave in the dark. We turn on the navigation lights, haul anchor, and and head out into the bay at 06:00. There's a nice breeze behind us, so we get out the big head sail, turn off the engine, and have the best sail we've had so far this fall. The current is with us and we fly down the bay. We don't start the engine and put away the sail until we're well down the Elizabeth River in Norfolk, VA on our way down the Intracoastal Waterway.
We arrive 45 minutes early at the only opening bridge we have to negotiate today. Time to start the "idle into the current to stay in one place" drill while we wait for the scheduled opening. It's our lucky day – right after we head into the current, a barge coming up river calls for a commercial opening (note: bridges that open on a schedule will also generally open at unscheduled times to allow commercial traffic to pass). We call the bridge tender and she lets us slip through on this opening after the barge clears the channel, saving us a big chunk of time.
Since we are ahead of schedule, we decide to do some exploring. We turn off the main ICW channel toward the Dismal Swamp and, about a mile in, enter a small, man-made basin. We've passed this basin every time we've taken the Dismal Swamp route, but we've never stopped here. We feel our way in, seeing nothing less than 9 feet at the entrance and are happy to find 18 feet in the middle. We drop the anchor, back down to set it, and have a peaceful evening all to ourselves.
Days like today are what it's all about – beautiful weather, great sailing, a big dose of good luck, and a quiet place to spend the night.
Note: Of course days like today have to be balanced out by days like tomorrow. We run aground coming out of this idyllic anchorage at 6am the next morning trying to hurry out to make another bridge opening. We are not quite in the middle of the channel. It turns out OK, though. Mark flings himself from one side of the boat to the other to get a pendulum motion going while Julie at the helm is gunning the engine in reverse. Finally he has such a good swing going that the keel comes off the bottom and away we go, just barely making the bridge opening. Sorry no pictures of this hilarious sight you will just have to use your imagination.
02 October, 2011
Position: N 38 W 076 17.0 (approximate)
Location: Mouth of the Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay, USA
We've been planning to visit friends in Deltaville and decide to do the trip in a single overnight leg, rather than in 3 day trips so we can spend more time with them. We haul anchor around 5pm just south of Annapolis for the 90 mile trip which should take around 16 hours. The low temperature is going to be in the mid 60s – not too cold - but it will be dark as pitch as there is no moon tonight.
We have just installed an AIS (Automatic Identification System) receiver, which we are thrilled to try out as we have been coveting this piece of equipment for 3 years. The AIS shows any big ships in the area, their name, what course they are on and the closest point of approach. When out in the ocean if a vessel looks like it will be passing very close to us we can hail them on the radio, make sure they know we are there and ask if we need to change course to avoid them. It is not essential equipment but it's VERY nice to have.
As we start to head down the bay there are several AIS targets and we pass the time looking them up and figuring out how this new equipment works, enjoying a new found sense of security from knowing how close they will come. We'll be paralleling the shipping lanes all night so we expect to be kept entertained. We're not too worried about an altercation as all the big ships will stay in the shipping lanes.
Around 11pm Julie goes below for a nap and around 2am we have a change of watch and Mark goes below. It's starting to get a little chilly now and we are approaching the mouth of the Potomac River. This river flows down from Washington DC and has quite a lot of current and more shipping traffic - it's always a bit of a problem area and we need to stay alert.
Julie notices an AIS target on it's way up the bay but it doesn't seem to be any problem. It's still pretty far away and the CPA (closest point of approach) is over ½ mile. She turns on the radar to track the vessel as it may start turning and heading up the Potomac. All the land masses and navigation aids show up on the radar making it difficult to ascertain which blip is the ship. Julie is pondering over the equipment when suddenly a flood light flashes on Rachel.
She jumps up and sees lots of lights closing in on her. Where the heck did that come from? She sees red AND green lights along with lots of white lights. Red and green at the same time is not good, it means the other vessel is coming right for you – head on!! And it was BIG!! Julie calls for Mark, jumps to the helm, and picks up the VHF. Mark is sound asleep, lulled by the steady throb of the engine – he doesn't hear her.
Julie: "Vessel at the mouth of the Potomac this is Rachel".
Other vessel: "This is <garbled>"
Julie: "Do I need to change my course to avoid you?"
Other vessel: "Yes - you need to head east."
Julie: "Roger That"
Quickly looking down at the compass realizes that she's heading SW. Feeling a little confused she gets back on the radio.
Julie: "I'm heading SW. Will you pass behind me?"
Other vessel: "No! I'm passing right in front of you and you need to head east NOW to avoid a collision!"
She madly turns the wheel and slams the engine control to full throttle. The spotlight passes over Rachel again and the lights are REALLY close. Mark pops up from down below. Apparently the engine suddenly screaming at full RPM makes an effective alarm clock.
Mark: "What's going on?"
Julie: "I have no idea where we're heading!"
Mark: "Looks like north east."
Julie: "I know that! I mean I don't know if we're going to have a collision!"
Mark: "Looks like we're moving away – can we back off a few hundred RPM?"
Julie: "NO! Not until I know we are well away from this monster!"
Mark realizes that now would be a good time to just sit and be quiet for a few minutes. There's not much for him to do at this point, anyway, as we are obviously moving away from the other vessel and can only see the green starboard light indicating that the danger of collision is past.
Mark: "I'm going to throttle back a bit now. Are you okay?"
Julie: "Can you take the helm for a while? I'm pretty shaken up."
Mark: " Sure, Petal. What happened, anyway?"
Much discussion ensues about the nature of the other vessel, it's "sudden" appearance, it's lack of AIS transponder, the confusion w/ the radar and the lights, and what could have been done to avoid such a close call. This is interspersed with several comments from Julie similar to "Holy crap!", "I'm still shaking", "Wow! That was close!", and "He was just suddenly there!".
We still aren't sure what type of vessel it was (other than "big"). In retrospect, after referencing our light chart, Julie thinks the lights looked like a "trawler less than 50 meters". That sounds like a menhaden boat, but we're still not certain. Three things we are sure of are: we were having too much fun playing with the AIS; there was no AIS signal; and we totally misread the lights until the other vessel was way too close.
We decide we've been given the opportunity to relearn a lesson we've already learned well: instruments are incredibly helpful, but there is no substitute for an awake, alert, and active watch in busy waters.
AIS is cool, but not all vessels have a transponder. Radar is great, but it can be confusing to read in close quarters. A chart plotter is a big help in keeping track of your position but it can't tell you anything about other vessels in the area. We already know all this, but, once again, we are reminded of it with about as much subtlety as a frying pan upside the head. We decide to add a new ship's policy – from now on whenever we know or anticipate being in a "problem area" we will both be on watch. Four eyes are better than two, that's for sure.
Still a bit shaken,
26 September, 2011
Position: N38 53.170 W076 31.675
Location: Rhode River, Maryland, USA
We were a bit worried about a visit from Mark's mum this month, about how would she manage on the boat,. After all, she's 84 and not as spry as she used to be. But we had a great 5 day visit - she was a real trooper, on and off the boat; up and down the companionway; learned how to use the head (toilet), etc, etc.
Unfortunately the first 3 days were pouring rain but then it cleared up and we managed to take her out for a cruise. We wanted to give her a small sample of our day to day life aboard Rachel and I think she got a good taste. We sailed all day playing slalom between debris that was covering the Chesapeake. After lots of rain a big dam on the Susquehanna River had opened all of it's flood gates and all kinds of trash was floating down into the Chesapeake. There was trash everywhere! We had to have a person on the bow pointing to avoid 'the big stuff'. It was a bit like being back in the San Blas negotiating the reefs, but with much browner water!
Amongst the usual whole trees, stumps and brush, we also saw things like hot water heaters, big plastic drums, propane tanks, water heaters, car tires, tractor tires, and loads of other junk. Picking our way through debris fields hundreds of yards wide made for a challenging trip but Rachel's crew was up to the task.
Determined to have a good day we slowly sailed south to the Magothy River and anchored out for the night along with our friends Mike & Roberta on Celilo. Mum got to enjoy happy hour on board, the gentle rocking of Rachel at night and the camaraderie of cruisers, among other things. We all had a great time together.
With all of our family visits complete (except one - we're still hoping to get together with our granddaughter Tigerlily along the way) and it starting to get cooler during the day and colder at night, we decided it was time to start heading south again. Marina life is OK but it's not why we choose to live aboard Rachel.
So after a frantic week of preparation getting Rachel ready to be seaworthy again, we cast off the dock lines and made 'The Great Escape', a big 30 mile trip to visit with friends at the Seven Seas Cruising Association get together on the Rhode River south of Annapolis. A big weight was lifted from us, we had our home back and our freedom. Now we just have to sift through all the last minute stuff we tossed aboard before we left, stow what we're keeping, and sell or give away the rest.
Staying ahead of the cold (we hope),
Mark & Julie
03 September, 2011
Location: Pasadena, Maryland, USA
While we are down in Virginia visiting family we are continually watching the weather. Julie's brother Tony is coming from England to visit for a week, flying into BWI (Baltimore Washington International airport) and catching the train down, as we did. As the day of his arrival approaches so does Hurricane Irene. She's scheduled to pass by the Chesapeake Bay, where Rachel is moored, the day after Tony arrives. We're in a quandary, glued to the Weather Channel, watching Irene's progress and hoping she'll turn out into the Atlantic, giving us a miss.
No such luck. On Thursday afternoon the models still show her tracking close and we make the decision to drive up and have her hauled. We need to change a through hull fitting anyway, so we'll be killing two birds with one stone. Charlotte graciously offers to loan us her car and we leave Radford at 2:30 Friday morning and make the 6 hour drive back to Oak Harbor Marina. There we strip all the sails and canvas off, stow everything that could get blown away in a hurricane and get Rachel up on land where hopefully she'll be safe and sound.
Then it's off to the airport to pick up Tony. He gets to spend his first night on Rachel on land, climbing up and down the ladder, experiencing all the “fun” that comes with living on the hard. The next morning the hurricane is supposed to hit the lower bay, working it's way north. Rachel's as safe as she's going to be, so we pile into the car and head back south to Radford. This is a tough decision for us – we really want to stay and make sure Rachel is OK, but Tony is only here for a week and we don't want to ruin his holiday!!
As it turns out Baltimore area only got winds in the 45-60 mph range and Rachel was pretty sheltered behind trees so she only saw 30-45 knots of wind and no damage was incurred. Our friends who remained at the boat yard kept a close eye on her for us. We spent four more lovely days in Radford with the family and then traveled back up to Baltimore on the train. The plan was to take Tony out on Rachel for a couple of days before he returned to England.
Mark was able to change the though hull fitting the day we arrived back on Rachel and the boat yard was able get her back in the water early the next morning. We spent the rest of the morning getting her partially back together and left the dock at noon. We had a wonderful day sail in the Bay and spent the night anchored out, giving Tony a small taste of our cruising life. The following morning we gave him a ride to the airport and he's been whisked away back to England while we slowly get Rachel back to herself. Phew what a week!!
...and guess what? Now hurricane Katia is working her way across the Atlantic and may well hit the US near us at the end of this week. Sigh.
Mark & Julie
23 August, 2011
Let's rewind to a couple of weeks ago...
Our oldest grandchild Alex comes up to visit us for a week on Rachel. He's 9 ½ years old and loves being on the boat with us. He's been going out on boats with us since he was a baby and always seems to enjoy his time aboard with Oma and B'da. We sail over to the Chester River and spend several days gunkholing, swimming, and exploring in the dinghy. Then it's time to head back to the dock so we can close up Rachel and go visit our three other grandchildren for 2½ weeks.
“Look! There's Mommy!!” he cries as we prepare to disembark. Sure enough Charlotte's standing on the platform scanning the passengers as they exit the train, her head turning left, then right, like she's watching a tennis match from center court. We step down, she spots us, and there's a flurry of hugs, kisses, and “I'm so happy you're here!”s.
After a two hour drive we arrive at Charlotte's house in Radford, Va at 9pm. Alex is too excited about going home to fall asleep during the drive, although we doubt Emma, our 3 yr old granddaughter will still be up. Boy, are we wrong! We open the door and hear gleeful cries and are nearly bowled over as she runs to greet us - especially Alex, whom she has missed terribly for the past week. Kelly ushers us inside, welcomes us in his usual generous and genial fashion, and we settle in for a week of visiting, catching up, and playing with Alex and Emma.
We borrow a car from friends and drive up into the beautiful mountains to Floyd County, where Mark lived for 15 years, and his son Jeseph spent his first 6 years. Last fall Jeseph decided to return to his roots and bring his daughter, Tigerlily, and lovely, pregnant lady Emilee with him. Baby Baylen was born a month ago and this is the first time we've met both him and Emilee! Unfortunately, Tigerlily is away, visiting her Mom in Hawaii. We're really going to miss seeing her this visit. We discuss getting together with her somewhere on our way south later this fall with Jeseph, who'd also like to get in a couple of days of surfing.
30 July, 2011
Location: Pasadena, MD, USA
We finally got off the dock for a weekend and decided to go watch the log canoe races at St. Michaels, Maryland, about 35 miles away.
As usual, we had wind on the nose. And when we made the turn from West to Southwest, the wind followed us. We had a motor boat ride in light wind the whole way, arriving at anchor just before dark. But it was so nice to be back at anchor, we hardly minded.
The log canoe races were great! We'd never seen them before and were impressed. We understand that around the turn of the century, log canoes were the “pickup trucks” of the Chesapeake Bay. Captains would race each other back to port, purportedly because the first one in got the best price for their catch. Over time more sail was added. This required boards set to windward for the crew to counteract the heel caused by the sails. Now the boats carry more canvas than any other boat their size we've seen! Luckily for us the wind was light, allowing us to follow the boats around the course in our dinghy. We had a great time. Here's a link for more info on the log canoes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Log_canoe
Unfortunately on our way back on Sunday afternoon we had a bit of a “holy shit!!!” moment at Kent Narrows ridge. This is a narrow opening bridge which usually has quite a bit of current going through it but it saves a good 2-4 hours off the return trip. We usually try to time our passage for slack tide. We didn't want to get back too late, however, so we cut the corner on the tide by a couple of hours. At that time, we had about 3-4 knots of following current. This was exacerbated by the 15-25 knots of wind from behind us that was being kicked up by a nearby thunderstorm.
We were about 10 minutes early for the opening, so we turned into the wind and current and were able to hold our position using the throttle. The bridge finally opened and all the power boats that were in front of us went through, we got turned around and were making about 8 knots at idle speed as we approached the bridge.
For those of you who don't know, the marine “rules of the road” dictate that vessels going with the current have the right of way over those going against the current, especially at bridge openings. This being the case we we weren't too worried about oncoming traffic. All the same, Mark got on the radio and let all the opposing traffic know they should hold their positions because we and another sailboat were coming.
As we made the final turn to head through the bridge we saw a BIG fishing boat heading into the opening from the other side. And there's only room for one boat at a time! There was no way we could stop with the current behind us. The fishing boat slammed into reverse and did start to back up but he also “walked” a little to the side – our side. Julie braced herself to hit, she was sure there was no way to avoid it. Mark was at the helm and with quick thinking, full throttle, a bit of luck, and masterful maneuvering managed to squeeze between the fishing boat and the bridge with about a foot to spare on either side – and without catching the mast or rigging on the bridge before the hole closed.
Phew. It was the closest we've ever come to losing Rachel. The bridge tender was yelling at the fishing boat captain to turn on his radio and pay attention!! We were just shaking. Mark didn't even try to call the other captain to give him a piece of his mind, he was so shaken up. After the adrenaline wore off we agreed that we were just happy that neither us nor Rachel got damaged.
To get a feel for what it was like, take a look at this short video we found on the Internet. Imagine a boat nearly as wide as the bridge opening coming at you as you enter the bridge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItE_waN121w&feature=related – yikes!
Needless to say we'll not be trying Kent Narrows at other than slack tide again.
After that, the wind lightened up a bit and we had a wonderful beam reach back to the marina. All in all, a lovely end to a lovely (albeit a bit too exciting at times) weekend.
Mark & Julie
30 June, 2011
Location: Pasadena, MD, USA
After 24 days of living on Rachel while she was on dry land we're finally back in the water. Wolohoo!! No more climbing down the ladder to use the head in the middle of the night! No more dust, sand, and grit everywhere!
Rachel's bottom is all clean and freshly painted with (hopefully!!) enough bottom paint to last a couple of years. We cleaned and inspected all the underwater fittings, replaced a couple of thru-hulls, raised the water line (due to all the 'stuff' we have on the boat), and waxed and polished all the topsides paint (much easier to get at with scaffolding rather than from the dinghy). She's looking all sparkly ready for the 4th of July.
Now we need to spend some time cleaning out the inside of the boat, get rid of stuff we're not using and do more boat jobs. Julie is working in the marina office and picking up some canvas sewing jobs while Mark is working on the boat. We're hoping to also get to do a little fun stuff like cruising on the Bay while we are here too. We haven't done much exploring up at this end of the Bay so now's our chance.
Happy July 4th
Mark & Julie
03 June, 2011
Location: Pasadena, MD, USA
Only 46 days and 1942 miles since we left Panama and we're back in our old stomping grounds, the Chesapeake Bay. We had a great trip up the east coast stopping in Isle of Palms, SC, Beaufort, NC, Deltaville, VA, and Annapolis, MD to visit friends for a few days each. This really helped to break up the trip and gave the crew some R & R time. It is always great to catch up with old friends – it always feels like we've never been apart. Now we need to do some inland trips to visit family.
Rachel is currently hauled out and we are giving her bottom some much-needed attention. Living “on the hard” is, as always, annoying. We have to climb up and down a step ladder to get on and off the boat, deal with sand and dust constantly, and the boat just doesn't move right
Our current plan is to spend the summer here working in the area to put some of the money we're spending back in the “cruising kitty”, working on the boat, and visiting family.
More as it unfolds.
12 May, 2011
Position: N 30 43.009 W 081 18.184
We just spent 3 days and 3 nights traveling 483 miles along the coast of Florida. The passage was not one of our best but we got a lot of miles under our belt. The winds were fairly light and not strong enough to sail most of the time, other times they were dead on the nose and we still had to motor into them. The good thing is we are now at one of our all-time favorite spots - Cumberland Island. GA. We've spent the last couple of days walking the beaches and through the live oak forests. Great after being on the boat for so many days.
|On our way into Cumberland Island a huge submarine passed us on it's way to the base upriver|
Today we are leaving again for an overnight passage to Charleston, SC
01 May, 2011
Location: Key West, Florida, USA
After crunching some numbers here are some interesting facts about our trip north:
Total miles traveled: 1,157 nautical miles (1,331 standard miles)
Total travel time: 7 days 20 hours
Average speed: 6.1 knots (7 standard miles per hour)
We feel compelled to give a huge thank you to our wind vane 'Helga'. She's been on the boat for almost three years now and we haven't really used her that much, but this trip was so long we decided to take the time to get to know her better. On the first day we learned the wonders of wind vane sailing. Not to get too technical, it's a self-steering system which uses the wind to steer the boat. No electricity, no battery power, no fuel...only wind. You set a paddle to point into the wind, adjust the sails so they are set perfectly (this is the hard part), then engage the lock to Rachel's steering wheel. That's it! Now sit back and watch Helga do her magic - silently and using no electricity!! She steered the boat almost the entire way back - we love her.
Why is she called Helga, you might ask? Well!! Our wind generator in called Wendy (windy), our electric auto pilot is called Otto (auto). As the wind vane was a close relative of Otto she also needed a Germanic name. After a few days of discussion underway, and with not much else to do, we decided on Helga, because she's a 'hell of a gal'. Can't help it if we're not all that creative...
We are finally getting caught up on our sleep and are starting to feel like our old selves again. Except that we're in Key West. Key West is a wild and crazy place, at the best of times, but after spending months in Central America and our most recent time in remote Kuna Yala, we are having culture and sensory shock. So many shops where we can buy anything, and we mean ANYTHING in Key West. So many people. So much noise. We've probably spent as much money in a week as we spent in Panama in 3 months - Yikes!!
Since we've been here we've seen a battle for the independence of the Conch Republic that involved among others biplanes, schooners, a Coast Guard fire boat. It was quite impressive.
Then yesterday we got to see the bed races. Yep. That's right. They shut down 6 or 7 blocks of Duval St. (one of the main streets in town) for a few hours and have a "parade of beds" and "bed races". Different groups (and we mean "different"!!) dress up and push a "bed" on wheels up the street in a parade, then race back against the clock. Hilarity and mayhem were the order of the day.
We're looking for a weather window to head East to Miami, then to points further north. It looks like next Wednesday will be the earliest we can leave, given the easterly winds we're expecting to have through next Tuesday.
It feels good to be back and we're looking forward to seeing all of you soon.
28 April, 2011
Position: N 24 34.175 W 081 48.206
Location: Key West, Florida, USA
Our last 2 days have been busy and tiring. We slogged along the north coast of Cuba for a day and 2 nights, into the wind, which is never fun. However, there were times of reprieve when the winds died down and made the ride a little more comfortable. Our plan was to head for Miami ahead of some bad weather this weekend, but after checking the weather this morning we saw the wind was expected to shift more easterly. This meant 2 more days of close hauled sailing into the wind and waves. Suddenly Key West was looking much more attractive!!
We turned Rachel toward Key West and immediately she rode the waves better, sailed faster and more easily, and we all felt much happier.
About 50 miles off Key West we got a call on the VHF radio from the Coast Guard. They asked for basic information about the boat and told us to stand by. About 5 minutes later they call back and say they'll be sending a boarding party to do a 'safety check'.
|US Coast Guard cutter|
A pretty good sized Coast Guard cutter suddenly comes into view, they lift a big inflatable into the water off the side deck, 4 officers get into it and they head toward Rachel. While we are still sailing 3 of them jumped aboard Rachel to do our safety check. Everything went really well, they were very professional but friendly and after about 30 minutes they were on their way. We told them it was so nice to talk to someone other than each other and they got a chuckle out of that!! Apparently the Coast Guard cutter had been 300 yards off our boat while we were sailing along the Cuban coast last night, we had never seen them (even using our radar!!), and neither did Osprey, our travel companions.
30 miles from Key West a pod of dolphins came to play with us. About 15 of them swam in front of the boat doing tricks and leaping out of the water. What a lovely welcome back!!
20 miles from Key West we started seeing a lot of port traffic and hearing LOTS of chatter on the radio. All vessels with a VHF radio are required to monitor channel 16. Unfortunately, there is so much yakking on that channel that we looked at each wondering why we came back. We couldn't even have a conversation with each other without interruption. The constant chatter really got on our "last nerve". We'll take a dolphin welcome, any day!!
Despite the constant interruptions we managed to communicate with each other and slowly work our way into Key West harbor in the dark. We anchored at 9:30 pm and are safe and well. Tomorrow we have to figure out how to check in to the US here. Until then it's a good nights sleep for Rachel's crew. And we get to sleep at the same time for the first time in 10 days!
It's good to be back. Good Night
25 April, 2011
Location: Heading for the Yucatan Channel
Yesterday was an uneventful day except the seas were rolly and not too comfortable. In the evening Julie was sitting in the cockpit on night watch looking up at the stars when she felt a flutter near her cheek. She turned on the flashlight and there was a dove sitting on the cockpit floor. We were 120 miles from land to the west and northwest, poor thing must be tired she thought. Not too happy about it pooping all over, she shooed it to the stern of the boat and it fluttered again landing underneath our solar panel. There it sat for most of the night and when we looked this morning it was gone!!
After downloading the weather this morning and talking to our weather guy we, along with Osprey, have decided to keep on going, heading to the Dry Tortugas off the Florida Keys (or perhaps further), if the weather holds. Our other 2 friends kept on going to Isla Mujeres so now we are a fleet of two!
22 April, 2011
Location: Caribbean Sea
Well we just spent 1 1/2 lovely days at the Hobbies Cays (Cayos Cajones), tiny islands sitting behind a reef in the middle of nowhere. The small island next to which we were anchored had 2 young Honduran guys living on it. They said they were there for a month and as far as we could gather they were caretakers and guards for the hundreds of lobster pots piled all over the island. One of them, Federico, paddled out to our boat and asked if we had cigarettes and we had a nice chat in our pidgin Spanish.
The snorkeling and fishing around the reefs here is reportedly amazing, that's the main reason people stop here. We did manage a snorkel yesterday which was awesome and yesterday afternoon had a happy hour gathering on a tiny beach island by the reef, surprisingly there were 7 boats anchored here.
|Baracuda caught on our way into the anchorage|
Saturday, April 23, 2011
After listening to yesterday's forecast we all decided it was time to head further north before some stronger winds settle in on Tuesday, so this morning we hauled anchor at 06:15 and continued our journey to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. So far it's a bit rolly but the sun is shining and the fishing line is out. Today is our 4th anniversary living aboard Rachel, it keeps getting better. As the sun set we sat in the cockpit eating a special dinner with sparkling water!! We were rolling still pretty badly but the rolling allowed us to see 2 green flashes one after the other as Rachel rolled gunwale to gunwale. Good AND Bad
A quiet night, we saw no ship traffic.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
The four boats who set out together from the Hobbies for Isla Mujeres (Osprey, Tashmoo, Mentor, and Rachel) all seem to be fairly well matched - we're all still within about 8 miles of each other, making it possible to have nice chats on the VHF radio during night watches. It's nice to hear friend's voices during those dark hours. It's been very rolly with light winds and big waves - not one of our favorite 24 hours of passage making, that's for sure. Everyone has had trouble sleeping. We're hoping to get things a bit more stable during the day today and see if we can catch up on some sleep.
Adendum - since writing this the other 3 boats have sprinted ahead of us, we're still in VHF range with 2 of them though
Position: N 16 01.837 W 083 06.199
Wow! Talk about on the edge of nowhere! The Hobbies Cays (Cayos Cajones) is on the edge of nowhere!! Really! It's probably the most remote place we've ever been. We're sitting here looking out at the Caribbean Sea with nothing between us and all those waves but the reefs that surround these small, low cays. It's amazing.
Oh. We guess we should tell you that this morning we decided at the last minute to stop at the Hobbies to wait our some less-than-excellent weather that was expected over the next few days up near Isla Mujeres. Our friends on Osprey and Tashmoo, whom we are traveling with, stopped also. Funnily enough there are 3 other boats already here and we already know 2 of them from Honduras! Small world eh? We've heard there's great snorkeling here so that's what we'll be doing for the next couple of days.
It's amazing. We came in here at around 3pm today. It happened to be only a few miles out of our way, anyway - what could be better? When we dropped the anchor we were amazed to find an absolutely flat, calm, yet breezy anchorage on the edge of the shelf that extends all the way out here from Honduras. This after bouncing around for almost 4 days getting here! We're sitting here with only the barrier reef between us and the Atlantic Ocean and it's FLAT! This is so cool!
On the way here we hooked a 4' mahi mahi, but it got away as we were bringing it alongside the boat. DANG!! Images of delicious fish dinners reluctantly begin to fade ..
Then, just as we were turning in and had to haul in the fishing line, we hooked a 30" barracuda! Talk about teeth..man, these things are toothy! We'd never eaten barracuda before, but on the advice of friends anchored here decided to try it. WOW! It's delicious - a nice white meat without the fishy taste other fish sometimes have. We had a wonderful dinner and are now ready for some well deserved rest & relaxation. A glass of wine and a rum drink, sitting out on deck, just soaking it all in...
Wow. So. Awesome. We're taking an unexpected, albeit welcome "pit stop" on our way north. Sometimes the best things just sort of "happen". What a cool life we have!
All our best,
Mark & Julie
21 April, 2011
We've had a great day 3 and got another 142 miles under our belts. We're currently 40 miles south of the Hobbies (Cayos Cojones), off the coast of Nicaragua - about half way through our trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. We had sun all day, winds on the beam at 8 to 10 knots, sailed almost all day, and only saw maybe one boat ALL day.
We're finally getting caught up on our sleep and starting to feel human again. It always seems to take until the second or third day for us to get acclimated to a passage. Not much happened during the day except for the 20 or so dolphins that came to play in our bow wake. As usual Julie ran up to the bow and spent a good 15 minutes watching them jump and play before they peeled off to play somewhere else. We had a lovely dinner in the cockpit, watched the sun disappear below the horizon, and were treated to a small green flash. The perfect end to a perfect day.
During the night we dodged a few squalls and enjoyed playing 'identify the cloud creatures' with the big black clouds in front of the majestic moon. "This one's a dragon with a lady on it's back." "That one is a man with a pointy nose and a big chin!"
We have to entertain ourselves as best we can!
Mark & Julie
20 April, 2011
Position: N 13 39.624 W 81 14.394
We're starting day three of our passage. We've just got the weather from our SSB radio weather guy, have downloaded the latest GRIB (wind and wave forecast model) files, and it looks like we'll have great weather to make Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
Our first day we had winds on the nose and boisterous seas, 5 - 8 feet, causing us to be a little uncomfortable. But we made good progress and after the first 60 or so miles, we were on a nice, fast close reach.
Our first night we got to see the Big Dipper pointing at Polaris, the North Star, off our bow, the Southern Cross off our stern, and a full moon above us. A fantastic display of three of our favorite stellar bodies. While we are sad to be leaving one of our favorite cruising grounds, and happy to be on our way back to family and friends in the US, we are also excited - this will be our longest passage to date on Rachel.
We've seen lots of big ship traffic heading toward and away from the Panama Canal, making watch keeping a bit exciting at times. The wind shifted a little more east and the seas died down to only 3-6 feet making us more comfortable. We made 140 miles in our first 24 hours, good for us.
The winds and seas held through our 2nd day, this is always the hardest day as we could both use a bit more sleep, but sleep is coming easier as we get into the rhythms of making passage. The ship traffic was less today, lovely sunny skies and we saw 3 dolphins.
Through the night we again had great starlit sky and the full moon, just past, rose at 8:30 pm to help us through the night. We got more sleep so we're feeling a bit more human and the seas have died down to 3-5 ft. We made another 150 miles today, awesome.
All is well as we start on Day 3, we're happy and healthy, and are just passing Providencia, feeling nostalgic for the times we spent there over Christmas. Rachel is cranking along on a beam reach at over 6 knots in light winds. It doesn't get much better than this. The constant movement, the rush of Rachel's movement through the waves, the wind in the cockpit, the sounds of friends on the radios all begin to keep us awake less and less as we acclimate to being on passage.
Oops - it's 7:44 in the morning! Time for bed for one of us!
17 April, 2011
Location: West Lemmon Cays, San Blas, Panama
We are hoping to make pretty fast progress. As long as the weather cooperates we'll try to keep on moving. Three or four other boats will be leaving with us. Even though we probably won't be able to keep up with them, it'll be nice to be in radio range and have someone to chat with during those long night watches.
We'll be sending daily position reports so check the 'Where is Rachel now' link on the blog as it will be updated daily. We'll also try to get out a few short Khronicle posting to the blog along the way, too.
Hasta la vista.
02 April, 2011
Position: N 09 28.778 W 078 38.103
Location: Green Island, San Blas, Panama
We've just spent 2 glorious days snorkeling on the reef here in Green Island. The wind and seas have been down making the water crystal clear. The low wind and waves also allowed us to get around to the ocean side of the reef just north of the island. We had 2, 2 hour snorkels and the fish were abundant. We saw hundreds of fish including: a spotted eagle ray gracefully flowing by; a big turtle foraging on sea grass 10 feet below the surface; trumpetfish; cowfish; indigo hamlets; 3 varieties of angelfish; porcupinefish; trunkfish; and a 6 ft nurse shark. We've never seen so many fish in such a short amount of time, although we're still on a quest to find seahorses. What a great couple of days!
24 March, 2011
Position: N 09 35.059 W 078 41.092
Location: Naguarchirdup, Lemmon Cays, San Blas, Panama
We have traveled almost 14,000 miles on Rachel and have finally made it to paradise. The San Blas , Kuna Yala to the locals - is the one of the most amazing places we have been to date. There are over 300 islands in this archipelago. Some are just a spit of sand with a palm tree or two, while others are almost half a mile long. And then there are the other hundreds that are in between. All are beautiful with swaying palm trees, white sand, warm breezes, and lots of beach treasures, a beach comber's paradise.
|A beautiful island|
|One more beautiful island|
|Another island - are these getting boring?|
|OK maybe just one more lovely island|
Most of the time we get to sail in clear blue waters behind coral reefs which means great wind for sailing without big ocean waves. With winds between 10 and 15 knots for the most part, it's not hard work, and everything is close enough together that we don't have to be in a hurry , we've been sailing a lot down here. After a few hours underway we pick a spot to anchor, sometimes amid a cluster of other boats, but more often away from the pack on our own. Some nights we are the only boat in the anchorage with our own private little island to explore. Nights have been mostly clear with millions of stars above, a sailor's paradise.
The waters between the islands usually run from 50 to 150 feet deep and are a beautiful dark blue. As we approach the islands the depth can go from 100 feet to 10 feet in an instant, requiring us to be alert and have good light so we can see the reefs and sand bars. We nuzzle up to a beach or sand bar, drop the anchor, and drift back into maybe 60 feet of water. This was a bit disconcerting at first but after a week or so we got used to it. Now Rachel is just a few hundred feet from the beach allowing us to easily swim ashore and walk around the islands. Sometimes we have to anchor a little further out but it's still easy to dinghy in, explore, and cool off with a relaxing dip in the water. Each island and chain of islands is surrounded by coral reefs, and also quite a lot of shipwrecks. This means exploring fish and coral heads to your hearts content, a swimmer's, snorkeler's, and diver's paradise.
|Dinghy trip into the jungle up the Rio Diablo with our visiting friends Shep and Deb|
Many of the islands have one or two Kuna families living on them. They seem to rotate families on the islands, all seeming to come from villages on the mainland. We're not sure if this is work related, collecting coconuts, retaining ownership by habitation, or vacation for them. Whatever it is, they seem happy to be out here. At any rate, we're in the third world for sure - the Kuna live in dirt floor huts made from bamboo and palm fronds, and have very few possessions. Hammocks to sleep in, cooking and eating utensils, a few clothes, a machete, and usually a dugout canoe, called an ulu with paddles carved from boards and a sailing rig. Some very well-to-do Kunas have outboard motors for their ulus. So far we have found the Kuna to be honest, gentle, happy, and open, an anthropologist's paradise.
|Isla Gerti, a very traditional island|
|Kuna settlement on Canbombia displaying molas for sale|
|Another Kuna settlement on Canbombia|
|Kuna settlement on the island of Tiadup|
|An old man carving a nuchu, a good luck statue displayed in many kuna huts|
|The standard mode of transportation in Kuna Yala is the ulu or dugout canoe. Sometimes they are paddled and sometimes they have homemade sails, often patchworked with any fabric they come across.|
The men go out fishing every day and will often come around the cruising boats every afternoon selling their catch. Looking out from the boat we see them standing in their ulu wearing only underwear (their version of swimming shorts) with big grins on their faces, holding up a crab or lobster or fish, as if to say 'Look what I caught!'. We usually troll a fishing line when we move around so if we haven't managed to catch a fish we gladly buy from the locals at very reasonable prices - a seafood lover's paradise.
The women tend to stay on shore. They cook fish, bake bread, make molas, and bead. (Note: Google 'Kuna Yala mola' to learn more about molas). Whenever we go ashore on an island that's inhabited we politely ask permission to walk around. Permission is always granted. As the women see us approaching they scurry to get their bucket full of molas and arrange them for us to see. Julie had one of the women make her a beaded anklet, made to measure. It's one long string of beads that they wrap around and around and the beads line up to make a kuna design. Most of the local kuna women wear molas and sport these beads around their arms and legs. The molas and beads also make great gifts, a shopper's paradise.
|Julie with Venancio 'Master Mola Maker'|
|Mola makers will paddle up to the boat and without a lot of encouragement they are on board showing their molas|
|Julie and our visiting friend Deb shopping for molas|
The children sometimes get to go out fishing with the men or go out with women paddling an ulu around the cruising boats to sell molas or bread or they just play on the islands and in the water always laughing and enjoying life. Wherever we go the children appear around us smiling and saying "Hola!" (pronounced OH-la - Spanish for hello), and laughing and grinning when we say "Hola!" back to them. They almost always ask our names and will repeat them several times, we do the same with them. Sometimes we learn Kuna words from them like 'morbep' and teach them that it's 'conch' in English. Being so far from our grandchildren, we always enjoy spending time with the kids, a grandparent's paradise.
|Some little boys on Canbombia 'helping' to sell molas|
Anyway, it's time for us to get back to doing whatever it is we do. Today's a bit breezy so the wind generator is cranking out the amps. Thanks to the wind generator, the water maker is running, producing gallons of clear, fresh water from the sea without using any fuel. So it looks like we may get some reading done today. After lunch we just may take a nap. Or we might go snorkeling. 'Time and tide wait for no man' - no need for us to wait, we hardly ever know the time or the tide - the tide always seems to be less than a foot, anyway. You can tell we're really enjoying ourselves by this snippet of conversation from earlier this morning:
Julie: "What day is it today?"
Mark: "I dunno, maybe Wednesday or Thursday?"
Julie: "I'll turn on the computer. Oh! It's Thursday March 17th."
Julie, looking at the calendar: "Oh, it's St Patrick's Day"
Mark: "Happy St. Patrick's Day, sweetheart!"
Happy St. Patrick's Day from paradise,