Monday, February 19, 2007

December 5, 2006

Yesterday we spent the day catching up on our email and bills and visiting two huge marine chandleries (neither of us had ever seen anything quite like them) and visiting the local sail maker. Then we sat down over a bottle of wine, some cheese and crackers, and our new overview chart of the Caribbean, and plotted out the next few months. The original plan was to go through the Panama Canal in the spring, but we’re hesitating for a few reasons. The house hasn’t sold yet, and we won’t be comfortable with our financial situation until it does. But the overwhelming issue is that we’ve discovered that neither of us really likes being on passage, and once we’re spit out the other side of the Canal, we’re going to be in for some very long passages. We are keeping in mind that the past two passages have been in some pretty tough conditions, so we’ll see how we fare on the leg from the Grenadines to the ABC’s, then the next leg on over to the San Blas Islands in March before we decide whether to pull the rip cord on the whole scheme and head back to New England for hurricane season. In the meantime, we’re going to enjoy the next three months of cruising the Caribbean. High on our list of places to visit on this side of the Canal are Dominica and the Grenadines.

Today we went off in search of a free internet connection only to spend two frustrating hours where gmail and skype wouldn’t work. It is unbelievably frustrating not to be able to communicate. I know that there is a Zen lesson in patience here for me. But in the meantime it is costing us a dollar a minute in sat phone time just to deal with things like banking and bills. A very expensive Zen lesson it seems.

From our frustrating internet experience, the day continued to oscillate between frustration and fun. We returned to the boat to find that the water tank was dry, and our water pump had been working in vain for at least two hours. After letting the pump cool down and dumping our jerry cans in the tank, we spent an hour getting the pump to prime again - Sten in the engine room cleaning filters and sucking on the hose while I turned on and off valves and breakers. We got it working again, and Sten enjoyed showering in Newport’s finest.

While the pump cooled down, Sten hauled me up the mast so that I could take down the old topping lift and attach reflective mast head tape (so that we can pick out our stick in a crowded harbor). Earlier in the week, he’d taken me up to the first spreader, so that I could retrieve our new topping lift, which had broken free during the last passage. And I had thought that was good fun, swinging around in the bosun’s chair in a gentle breeze. But going to the top of the mast, now that is wicked good fun.

This is where John, our webmaster, is going to be incredibly jealous:

How cool is that? For scale, that is Sten standing on the starboard deck. We’re still airing out from passage, so those bundles on the foredeck are the contents of our sail locker.

The shackle holding the old topping lift was pretty well seized up, and no amount of pressure with the wrench would get it to budge. So I tried sticking the tip of the needle nose pliers in the hole in the shackle pin to get some leverage. Bad plan. The tip of the pliers promptly broke off, in the pin. So Sten had the brilliant idea of sending a marlin spike up to me on a flag halyard. That did the trick.

I’ve got to give a shout out here to Brett Little, Darren Baird, Bjorn Andersen, Jay Kugler DeYoung, Ann Brachman and Jerry Tichner for a most excellent going away present. The Icom Submersible Plus handheld that you guys gave us is fantastic. We use it all the time when one of us is off the boat and the other is aboard. I had it up at the top of the mast with me, while Sten monitored the Command Mic (the cockpit extension of our main radio) to communicate without the entire marina hearing. Thanks guys!

After we got the water working, while Sten cleaned up, I got us ready to meet up with Fred and Linda from Nike. They had just done 19 islands in 21 days on their Amel Super Maramu, and we were anxious to hear about their travels. As we rushed to meet up with them at the appointed time, I tossed our jerry cans into the dingy, only to have one go well beyond its mark. So there I am, chasing a jerry can across the lagoon as it floats away, all the swagger from my success at the top of the mast completely wiped away.

We met up with Fred and Linda, and headed over to the Sunset Beach Bar at the end of the airport runway. The sunset was a bit disappointing, but luckily we had human stupidity to entertain us. People stand at the strip of beach at the end of the runway when the 747’s take off in order to get blasted with sand and whatever else the engines kick up. One potential Darwin Award recipient was standing there holding his child up to the sand blast so that she could enjoy the full effect of ear drum and potential cornea damage. Amazing. After many drinks, some decent burgers, a few dollars lost on the crab races, and a smattering of sand flea bites, we decided to call it a day. Besides, at 8:30, it was way past our bedtime.

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