Captain Woody Cruising Adventure

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Curacao to Honduras II (118)

 When I left you last month, my friend Phil and I were delivering a beautiful Tayana 48 from Curacao, in the ABC's, to the island of Roatan in Honduras. We were two days into our 1100nm voyage. We had just cleared the top of Aruba and eased into the open water. I could feel the westbound swell build underneath us as we unfurled more sail. More interestingly, we had just gotten the weather report showing hurricane Ida ramping up and preparing to cross our path.

It works like this. Hurricanes in the Caribbean tend to make right hand turns. They usually come in from the east and eventually swing northwards. Ida was SW of us. If she headed W then she would run into Costa Rica and lose some power. If she headed north then she would cross our path at full strength. It was too early to tell what her plans were and we were still hundreds of miles away, so we so we carried on with full sails.

A Tayana 48 is a family boat. With only two people, we had lots of room to stretch out. Phil took up residence in the grand, full width, aft cabin. I usually sleep in the saloon for deliveries but with Phil on watch I felt comfortable to sleep in the big cabin just forward ... with the door open to stay in tune.
It took a few days but we finally got a proper squall. We had been getting soaked now and then by rogue clouds no wind. This one was different. I had just come on watch as Phil was heading below. He usually hung out for a couple of minutes to chat but not this time. I got the watch recap from him, “No ships, nothing to report … except you might be getting some rain” as he quickly ducked below. I looked behind us and saw the big black starless patch closing fast.

It was the wind that hit us first, I saw 42kts the one time I looked. And then the boat tried to round up. We may have had a little too much main up. The autopilot gave up trying to countersteer. I jumped back behind the wheel, just as the driving rain hit. Phil passed up my foulies. Even 80 degree rain will make you cold after a while. The boat straightened out and the sleigh ride began. I kept us under the beast as long as I could, running with the squall by steering to the wind guage. We were headed in almost the right direction, why not make some easy miles?With enough wind and swell, most boats will surf and Island Time was no exception.

But the big wind didn't last long and we were soon back in the slow 4-5 kt realm of boatspeed. This run across the top of Venezuela is known for it's good E winds, though it also gets confused seas. I got lots of both when I sailed Low Key through there. On this trip we didn't see much of either. It seemed we were sailing on the change of seasons where you usually get a lot of nothing. It would have been an ideal time to move a boat in the other direction. It's rare I get a downwind delivery. It kinda sucked that we didn't have much wind. But the sea is all about overcoming challenges, so we persevered through the light air.
Every morning I logged into Skymate to get the wx. The reports were more interesting now that there was a hurricane to track. Ida had indeed gone ashore and then had turned north. She was expected to pop out the top of Honduras, plow over our destination of Roatan and continue north to spill some margaritas in Cancun. The good news was that she was in a hurry. The estimate had her north of Roatan by the time we could get there.

Going over Buys Ballot Law in my head I figured we could sail under her and get a favorable 'breeze' to drive us home with some conviction. Ol' Christophorus BB tells us that if you are facing into the wind, the center of the low is about 120 degrees to starboard (in N hemisphere). Working backwards, if you already know where the low is going to be you should be able to determine your wind direction … the way I see it. We plodded on.

And then I found it, a Patrick O'Brian book. These are the greatest. If you or a loved one enjoys good historical sailing fiction, you'll love this guy. He has a whole series on British Navy war ships and their adventures. The Seafaring Ship Store should have some in stock by the time you read this. I dove into my find. The days sailed by as I ate, drank and slept in the soup of square rigged adventure. The distraction was good since we had to motor a lot, something I'm not a fan of. We wanted to keep to the delivery estimate. It's the downside to being paid by the day. The old school skippers charged by the mile and just sat out there waiting for wind (or pulled in and partied in every port). So much for progress. The good news was that we never had to run the generator. The motoring helped but it was the wind and solar power that kept us fat with amps. Free clean energy, why not?

And then we entered the islands, more like hard-to-see reefs, off the north end of Nicaragua. Yes, more vigilance was required but on the plus side, the hurricane swell was knocked down to nothing. And the trade wind did come back. With the beautiful, stable conditions I was inspired to fire up the BBQ and make the chicken that had been calling to me from the freezer. It was a sunny flat day with a warm aft breeze, a couple coldies, a transom shower and a BBQ'd critter – just about a perfect afternoon.

Alas, Ida had moved off to the north, clearing the way for our arrival into Roatan. I say clearing the way, but what we experienced was a whole lot of rain that last night as we ran the gap between mainland Honduras and her northern islands. We had finally found all the cockpit covers so we mostly stayed dry. On the bright side, there would be less post-delivery scrubbing.

We put on the brakes that night, electing to arrive by day. The harbor at Roatan has a tricky reef-strewn entrance. We rolled up to the outer bouy at 0800. The owners had arranged a parking spot at a place called Barefoot Cay. We called on the radio and Santos came out in a skiff to lead Island Time to our berth.
That Barefoot Cay place was plush. On it's own a private island, it had all the amenities: a pool, a restaurant with icy pints and a long pier with a palapa at the end for snorkeling the wrecks. And there was a free shuttle to shore where they had a full service dive shop. Phil fit a bunch of dives into our day and a half stay. We even toured both ends of the island with a few of the resort guests who had a car.

I'm off to deliver a 40' cat through the canal and up to S CA. That story next month.
-Quality, Balance and a Clean Wake-

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Curacao to Honduras I (117)

Anyone been to Curacao (say ker-a-sow)? It's not on the beaten path and I had never been. I took a job moving a newer Tayana 48 from Curacao to Honduras. Normally I would pass that opportunity on to my east coast skipper friends to save the owners flight money and of course to reduce the ol' footprint, but since I was going to be in el Carib for the BVI Share the Sail anyway, timing was perfect.

My friend Phil and his wife Vicki run a ranch in CO. They invite me to come up each year to do some ranch stuff and pack-trips into the mountains on horses. I know – very kewl. Phil was one of the first to respond to my crew request email. I invited him on the trip. It was a good chance for me to get him back for all the hospitality they had bestowed on me. I used to take two crew with me on deliveries but have discovered that one works better. Yes, the watches are more often (3 on, 3 off) but travel arrangements are easier and less expensive and there is more room on the boat. If the guy/gal is good, that's all we need.

It would be a tight schedule (a no-no when cruising). The plan was to complete the delivery and leave enough time to get to the BVI to run the Lats & Atts, 6 boat, Share the Sail there. I had figured how much time we would need at sea, added a day and a half on each end for travel, boat inspection and clean up and booked the flights. The sailing distance between Curacao (an island just above Venezuela) and Roatan (an island just above Honduras … which is below Mex) was about 1100nm. Good news, bad news: the trip was to be downwind but scheduled in the last month of hurricane season. As we say, "If it were easy, the owner would do it". On hurricane trips I require a way to get daily wx (weather). I knew Island Time was well equipped with all kinds of safety gear but it also had an SSB for long range communication. We were good to go.

Phil and I arrived in Curacao and met up with the owners, Paul and Maggie, at Hook's restaurant on the beach. Hook's was a bitchin little place, right on the sand and infested with tourists. The ABC's being Dutch, they were mostly the blonde type. I felt oddly at home in this far away place. Paul and Maggie were good people. It's always more fun working with the easygoing, cheery types. After a couple of coldies (I recommend the Amstel Bright), we hopped in their rental car and made our way to the dock. There we boarded their dinghy and headed across the long bay making a right into a cul-de-sac where their boat was anchored fore and aft. Island Time was in great condition. This was good news 'cause you never know what you're going to get on these adventures.

They gave us a thorough tour, getting us up to speed on all the mechanicals and boat quirks. I also like to lay eyes on all throughulls. We don't always have the owners around for the inspection. It saves some time. Paul and I loaded his Skymate software into my mini Eee laptop. I had never seen Skymate before. Satellite and subscription based, I plugged the cord in and had instant access to email and weather, 24/7. Beautiful.
That was enough work for one day. We all retired to the cockpit for a couple glasses of wine and some great grub. Maggie, bless her heart, had prepared a bunch of food for our trip. We sampled lasagna, stew, BBQ sausage and salad.

I usually do the provisioning when I arrive but Paul and Maggie had offered to do it for us. I sent them a list of suggested staples. As it turned out, we would be hard pressed to eat the food they bought for us. It took us three days to mow through the leftovers.

After breakfast in the morning, we headed into town and completed the extensive checkout formalities. We also checked out downtown. It was Dutch quaint with brightly colored buildings and a long floating bridge that had a built in tug boat that powered it open and closed.

Back at Island Time, we still had enough sunlight to get out the pass so I dropped Paul and Maggie ashore. I got and Phil was already restowing stuff. A lot of people don't appreciate the amount of motion that a boat gets in the open ocean. What you don't want is gear falling underfoot at the wrong time. In our case we were headed over the top of Venezuela. Though the path is inside the Caribbean Sea, that particular run is known to be especially bumpy. We secured the stern anchor, the scuba tanks, and boat poles and brought in the lines that were coiled and hanging on the lifelines. No need to risk fouling the prop. Below, we secured bookshelves and stuffed pillows in with plates and glassware. We took in the stern line that was shackled to a boulder ashore before pulling the outboard off and hoisting the dinghy up on the davits. We secured it tightly, tying it crossways to eliminate any movement and chafe.

And finally, we departed through the tight, crooked pass. The boat had in-boom furling so we released the vang, boom brake, and sheet. We then got the boom the right height (87 degrees) before rounding up into the wind and winching up the sail being careful to keep tension on the roller. Knowing that reducing main sail area would require similar acrobatics (and I don't like having to head upwind to reef), we kept the main small and used the furling genoa for easy sail area control. I tend to use more headsail then main on downwind legs anyway.

It was flat and sunny on the lee side of Curacao. We picked our way through the parked tankers and got out to sea. We had a nice ocean swell running with us. The trip was starting out pretty easy. We had calm, light wind conditions and everything on the boat was working – very strange. I pulled out my new Spot device and transmitted our location to my friends and family. My friend Terry sent me the unit. He runs a cruiser friendly dive shop in Manzanillo Mex: aquaticsportsadventures.com.

The next day we sailed by Aruba. We started getting some rain squalls, mostly at night. Island Time had a center cockpit that you could mostly enclose in isinglass. This makes squalls more entertaining and less of a pain. I also liked the way the instruments were above and on each side of the companionway. Most cruisers don't spend much time actually at the wheel. When the autopilot is driving, you sit up by the companionway. The boat had those great folding chairs from Sportaseat.com (not the stolen imitations from West) – comfy.

On day two it was time to fire up the Skymate and check wx. Surprise! The tropical depression that should have gone ashore in Panama had become hurricane Ida and parked south of our destination. In the Caribbean, hurricanes eventually head north. We were headed into the path of Ida.

Part II next month. As always - leave a clean wake.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

British Virgin Islands - Suggested Route (116)

 I am packing to leave on a second big trip this year. I have halved my flying but further cut backs will have to wait. To help Bob and the magazine, I've agreed to run the Share the Sails to the British Virgin Islands, Nov ‘09 , and Thailand, May ‘10. Right about the time you are reading this, know that Bob and I will be working hard, basking under the Caribbean sun, quietly swaying at anchor, coldies in hand, discussing cruising tactics with 50 or 60 of our Lats and Atts friends and family.

By next issue I’m sure there’ll be a full accounting of our BVI adventuring for your reading displeasure. The BVI are where most cruisers-to-be go for their first charter, to get the feel of what cruising might be like. I thought this might be a good time to field a BVI question from one of my seven fans:
Capt. Woody, Hope things are going well with you. I'm going to the B.V.I.'s in January. We are sailing out of Tortola and was wondering what are the best places to see, what are the best Islands to visit and the best marinas. We are cheep and plan on cooking on the boat a lot. We love to explore the Islands and meet great people. Give me your thoughts. Best wishes, Randal

Randy, First thing to do is to get the Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands by Cruising Guide Publications. We do sell it at Seafaring.com. The guide lists all the good spots and has little chartlets for each. Most charter boats come equipped with the guide but it’s fun to do some advanced planning and get a history of the islands. Though I'll go over the happening spots, there is also the option to hike the interiors of most of the islands and meet people that way. I bring down a couple issues of Lats to offer to the few real cruising boats you'll see. That is usually enough to get invited to a sundowner aboard a real boat.

Most of us do a counter-clockwise circle of the islands that looks a like this: Norman Island, Cooper Island, Virgin Gorda, backside of Tortola, across to Jost Van Dyke and around the bottom again to return to base. Keep in mind that everywhere you go now in the BVI, there are overnight moorings that cost $. The guide will suggest where you can still anchor, outside the moorings.

The first day we'll shoot across to Norman Island to hang out at the Willy T. If you get out early you can take a free mooring at the Indians for some great snorkeling. The moored schooner William Thorton is a permanent fixture in The Bight on Norman Island. The old steel boat has been there as long as I've been BVI chartering. The Willy T is a floating hamburger joint with a great bar that goes off late at night. You can dance the night away and even see the occasional naked lady jumping overboard from the top deck (they used to give away a free Willy T shirt for this). If you've got time, Pirate's beach is in the NE part of the bay and is worth checking out. Don't forget to dinghy around to the treasure cave just outside the SW corner of the bay.

From Norman we head north. If we have divers aboard we stop at the bottom of Salt Island to dive on the wreck Rhone. Kewlest dive I’ve ever done. No need to bring your gear. You can have a dive boat meet you at the site. Yes, I imagine this is spendy. Moving on. We usually stop at Manchioneel Bay on Cooper Island for the night. They have a little beach bar and restaurant.

Get up early and head N to the famous Bath's on the SW tip of Virgin Gorda. Take a free mooring and then tie up your dinghy just off the N beach and swim in. Walk through the Baths and chill on Devil's Bay beach or grab a coldy on the hill (swimming pool access for coldy purchasers). From there, some charterers head into Spanish Town to take a slip for the night. There are nice bar/restaurants on the quay and the Rock Cafe has nightly entertainment, just up the road. Don't be put off by the expensive slips, you can anchor out, dinghy in and hit one of the small stores for supplies for cooking onboard.

Three days into our charter we are usually ready for a longer sail and so we line up with our other boats and engage in some tacking duels to the top of Virgin Gorda. Inside North Sound are a ton of great options. If you get there early stop at Vixen Point beach for a beverage and some volleyball. The Fat Virgin, in Birras Creek, is a Lats Harbor Hangout and a great spot for awesome affordable grub. Say hi to Ethel. The Bitter End has some high end night spots and Saba Rock is kewl if just that it is it's own island. On the BVI Share the Sail we are scheduled to stop into Leverick Bay as they are hosting free rum punch for us. They have it all there too plus a pool.

From North (Gorda) Sound we either head to Anegada or down around the top of Tortola. Anegada is awesome if you have the time. Be sure to stop by and say hi to Randy at Neptune's Treasure – another Lats Harbor Hangout. Consider a taxi or a moped to take you around the island. Usually we head out of North Sound and sail downwind to Pussers on Marina Cay or Trellis Bay for lunch. From there it's a beautiful sail down the back side of Tortola to Cane Garden Bay. Do not skip Myett's on the beach there. It's a great dinner spot and they have the best live music/dancing I've found on the island.

Most people sail straight across to Foxy's on Jost Van Dyke but I prefer to make a quick stop at Sandy Spit – the perfect south seas islet. And then there are a slew of famous places on JvD including Sidney's Peace and Love, Foxy's, Corsairs (a Harbor Hangout) and The Soggy Dollar Bar. They're all in your guide.
 Provisioning can be done there at Great Harbor for quiet meals aboard. If you happen to be around on a full moon don't miss Bomba Shack for a loopy evening of free magic mushroom tea (Trellis Bay does a full moon fire party too).

From JvD we head down around the bottom of Tortola and often stop in Soper's Hole. There is a chance for some high end eating and souvenirs but we usually grab a bite at the Jolly Roger, W of the ferry. We'll sometimes spend our last night back at the Willy T., where the debauchery began.

Before you go you can become a Lats Cruising Club member for a free drink at Harbor Hangouts – Seafaring.com, click L&A Cruising Club. Have a great time (we'll try and leave you some rum).  

Friday, October 9, 2009

Delivering Junk (115)

 Hurricane season is ending here in the northern hemisphere. Most of my boat delivery work occurs in the tropics where warm summer water breeds hurricanes. This means that I get the summer off to work on other things, visit with friends and family, take long bike rides and hang out at the beach. That is what usually happens. This summer I starting doing smaller local deliveries up and down the coast of CA. On the upside I know coast well, I’m never away for long and the flights are short one way deals. On the downside, these local deliveries are mostly racing sail boats and you know what that means, no dodger and a lot of hand steering out in the elements. I can get real cold. My high-end foulies make all the difference but it’s still not sailing in the tropics. I feel like I’m actually earning my money, sometimes. And then there are the boats that are just being moved from one marina to another … often because they had been asked to leave.

I got an email from a guy in one of our local marinas. He just wanted his boat moved from Marina del Rey to Marina Salinas which is south of the border. I didn’t ask a lot of questions about the boat because that’s an easy downwind trip. Like we say about the sail to Hawaii, “Just push the boat off the dock and she’ll eventually end up there on her own”.

When I first saw the boat called Noname I noticed that she had not been maintained very well, I mean at all. She was a sloop rigged Yorktown 35 and she was a beater. The decks were green with mold, the sails looked original and ready to fail. Below was not much better. The companionway stairs/engine cover was hardware store plywood and didn’t fit right. That should have been my first clue that this boat was handmade in someone’s backyard.

I offered to work on the boat before the trip at my hourly rate. We talked about the work that had to be done before leaving, the work that should be done soon and the work that would simply make sailing more enjoyable. I suggested a couple weeks of pre-trip labor. We settled on 5 hours. I do enjoy a challenge.
I came down the next day with my tools. I had to clean a spot in the cockpit so I wouldn’t get them dirty. I checked all engine fluids and set out to find all through hulls. The eco-unconscious owner was pumping the oily bilge water into the marina each time he came down to the boat. It’s a simple thing to keep the bilge oil free - keep those marine diapers under the engine. I poured in some of our oil eating microbes that we sell at Lats. He wanted an old battery removed. On it’s way out I bumped a rusted throughull valve. It crumbled and fell away as a jet of water shot up playfully. So there I was, leaning over a battery with my hand on an open hole in the bottom of the boat, no one around to fetch me a plug. I put a piece of plywood on the hole and weighted it down with some tools. I did find a plug onboard which indicated that he was prepared, at least, for sinking.

It was a short trip so I was able to tear my friend Randy away from his day to day. Randy taught me how to sail (as he tells it) and more importantly, taught me plumbing. I was 17 when I bought my first boat with a friend. Randy was walking up the dock when he saw me standing on the deck of our little boat, a coldy in one hand and the “main halyard” in the other. I was looking up bewildered (as he tells it). He offered to take us out and we learned a lot. When we got back he hopped off the boat and continued his walk up the dock. I called after him to thank him. He looked back and said, “I just didn’t want you to hit my boat on your way out”.

I also brought a local guy that had been bugging me to take him on a delivery. I think John expected to be invited on a much bigger adventure. We took fuel at the fuel dock and motored off into the sunset. The motor continued to run all night but our speed kept decreasing. Usually this means the boat has acquired some kelp so we backed down to release it. But the boat remained slow. I checked the packing gland and it was not dripping anymore. I bet the boat had not been run for that long in years. The packing had expanded and clamped down on the shaft. I had to build a tool to release the lock nut.

While I was jammed back behind the engine I decided to remount the exhaust hose. It was loose and shaking and quickly wearing through. Hours later I emerged triumphant. John and Randy were chillin’ in the sunny cockpit, talking and eating cold fried chicken. They had started lunch without me!

John put it in gear and a whirring sound emerged from the engine room. “Nuetral,” is my response to most problems. The gear oil still looked good (which surprised me considering the state of the rest of the engine). It seemed that little bit of extra pressure was too much for the ancient clutch.

Looks like we would be forced to … sail! The rotted old sails went up and there we sat, waiting for wind, for hours. We sailed all afternoon, and thankfully, the wind stayed with us all night. Salinas has a tricky entrance and I had never been there. I was curious to see what the marina looked like. But the wind was dying and we couldn’t risk being trapped at sea for days. We turned into San Diego and tacked up the long channel, the slowly shredding headsail fluttering in the breeze. It was fun maneuvering through the traffic and trimming for more speed.

The wind died off of the Customs dock. We pulled out the oars and rowed the rest of the way. The boat was a kinda big for rowing but we made it to the dock. Just before landing a Customs officer came out and waved us off. He knew it would be hard to get rid of some ugly vagrant boat that was engineless. Still, where was his seafaring attitude, his desire to aid and assist his fellow sailors? We drifted over to the public docks close by. “Arrival coldy anyone?”. But of course.

I called the owner and offered to arrange a mechanic in my home away from home. He wasn’t interested in the easy task of getting the work done in the boating mecca San Diego. I worried, where he was going, he wouldn’t be able to get it fixed. He released us. He must have figured we’d run into trouble because he had a plan B. He came down to the boat the next week, pushed off the dock and called Sea Tow. See, he was now in range of his Sea Tow coverage to get towed to his “home port” Salinas. Clever.

It is one of the kewlest train rides, the Amtrak from San Diego to Los Angeles. For a good part of the trip the train goes right along the beach. We three enjoyed another coldy and some warm train food while the best part of socal drifted by our window.  

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Trinidad to Savannah II - (114)

 When I left you last month; Dena, JD and I had picked up a 43’ cutter named Surprise in Trinidad and were moving it 2000nm to Savannah, GA. We had sailed up behind the Caribbean island chain, and west of St. Thomas, sailed out into the open Atlantic. From there we sailed northwest, staying outside of Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas.

The conditions were perfect, we had full warm tradewinds aft of the beam. Aft winds make for a flatter boat and a smoother ride. We had some clouds but mostly it was beautifully sunny. The wind was strong enough so that we were usually reefed. I like this because it gives us the option of going faster if we want to by shaking out a reef. We mostly ran with a reefed main and full stays’l. We furled the big headsail as conditions warranted it.

And we had great crew. Good crew makes all the difference. The boat is a small place and you want people who get along easily with others and keep their good sense of humor, even when things seem a little crazy. Good crew respects your space, cleans up after themselves and keeps their gear in their area. It’s also nice when each crewmember finds their niche on the boat -- a thing that they can do that helps the boat run smoother.

Surprise had no solar panels or wind generator and without wind steering, we had a big draw from the autopilot. Other big amp consumers were the refer and the old school nav lights. This all made for a lot of generator running -- about 2 hours, twice a day. Ouch. But that’s all I really had to complain about. We were still enjoying great meals and lazy downwind sailing conditions to go with our beautiful sunsets.

And then there were the ways to pass the time. We were playing the crew watch game with a point gained for spotting a whale, a pod of dolphins, a turtle and, of course, a ship. Two points awarded for spotting a ship on another crewperson’s watch. Points also awarded for guessing when we would arrive at 1000nm out, 500nm out and five points for guessing our arrival time. Winner gets their first big shore meal free, courtesy of the rest of the crew.
We had JD’s 24th birthday out at sea. Dena baked him a cake from scratch, of course, and we had pizza for his birthday dinner! We played Trivial Pursuit. Not the normal way, we just read the cards and tried to answer the questions. And Dena kept pulling out candy that she had brought.

Before I left home I photocopied the relevant sections of the pilot charts. The pilot charts give you a lot of information including the average wind and sea and current conditions in a given month. They were telling me that we could pick up a knot or more of current if we cut in closer to the Bahamas and later cut over to the Gulfstream. They will also tell you the frequency of squalls of each area and, in hurricane season, the direction those monsters are likely to take. Other info provided is typical swell height, water temperature and on.

Before we cleared the top of the Bahamas the wind shut off. We fired up the engine, furled the headsail, dropped the stays’l and sheeted in the main. I use a preventer on the main to stop any side to side movement. You’ll get away with that movement for very short sails but over longer adventures that movement wears the gooseneck. I suspect that this is why you hear a lot about gooseneck failures when out cruising. Our windless condition turned into days of motoring. JD finally asked, "Is this what powerboating feels like?" I couldn’t recall. We still had sunny and warm but now we added flat and rumbly. We made the most of it with bucket deck showers (fresh water rinse) in the hot part of the day and sunset coldies to welcome the night.

After days of calm motoring the wind switched back on, light at first. With full sail we trimmed for every tenth of a knot so we could keep the motor off. I had turned the boat more west to dump us into Gulf Stream so we could pick up some free northing. Before we knew it we had spotted land and were prepping for some river navigation.

Where I live there isn’t a lot of shallow water. To get Surprise from the Atlantic to her up-river Savannah home I had to put on my east coast murky shallow water navigation hat. We came in at night and there was some confusion as to what the bouys were trying to tell us. We decided to anchor out at the sea buoy (in 15’ of water) for a couple hours ‘til daylight.

As we made our way in I called my local friend Wade and he gave us the low down. “They‘ve moved some buoys out there because of the shifting shoals and the new wreck." From his description of the route we must have just missed the wreck beneath us. Soon as we got to the actual river, things turned real nice. We cruised by big green areas and then plantation homes and resorts. We found the boat’s intended home at a boatyard but it looked like she wouldn’t make it under low bridge just before it. We took it slow and discovered we had room.

We got her parked and had our arrival coldies … first thing in the morning. Customs tracked us down a little later -- cute girl, real easy check in. JD was researching ways he could get home. He had been great crew so Dena offered the kid one of her buddy passes with United. Jerry, the broker we were working for, took JD to the airport. In the mean time my friend Wade swung by and dragged Dena and I over to Tubby's for lunch and another coldy. Then he took us all the way out to Tybee beach across from Hilton Head. It was a bitchin little beach party town. On the way back we hit Joes Crabshack, the real one, not the Mickey Mouse franchise you see everywhere (I go there too). Wade showed us the 65' yacht that he runs and offered us to stay onboard! I wasn't sure I was ready for aircon just yet and thought I should keep an eye on our little boat until we turned her over.

In the morning we three went down to the Savannah waterfront for lunch before putting Dena on a bus to head south to visit her vacationing parents. Savannah is a beautiful city. The older architecture is very kewl but mostly for me; it's the trees that make it. Wade told me that there is a local ordinance that says you can't take out a tree without replacing it. We need that rule at home. Thank you Wade for your unbelievable hospitality -- southern style. It was much appreciated.

Early the next morning I flew to DC to offer my friends Laurel and Joe advice on greening their home and creating a more comfortable and healthier environment for their new baby boy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Trinidad to Savannah I - (113)

 My friend Wade called from Georgia and asked if I wanted to deliver a 43 Slocum cutter named Surprise from Trinidad to Savannah, GA. The timing was perfect. One of the things Ive done to cut back on flying is to give my Carib and east coast deliveries to east coast skippers. The exception being, when Im already passing through because of a rare Lats & Atts excursion. This was one of those times.

Crew is always an issue. The voyage would be 2000nm, which is a good sail at 2-3 weeks. Its hard to find someone that can get that kind of time off. I put together my wish list and started at the top. My girlfriend Dena wasnt hard to convince that a nice warm sail through the Caribbean might be fun. She provisions, she cooks, she does her watches and stays cheery no matter how badly the weather behaves. We didnt need one but we took a third crewmember to lengthen our off watch time from 3-on, 3-off to 3-on, 6-off. Jondavid had sent me an email a while back. I hadnt sailed with him before but he sounded like a good kid. I booked everyones flights and we met up in Trinidad.

The owners wanted to meet me before they left their boat. The husband wanted to be sure I knew something about boats. It was good to have him there showing me the boat he had refit mostly himself. He beamed with pride as he showed me her clever systems. Still, he didnt seem very happy to be leaving. We found out that he and his wife were selling the boat. She had agreed to cruise for 5 years and the time was up. While she hopped about the boat, he seemed a little somber. I felt bad for him but at least he got his 5 years.

Trinidad was beautiful as usual. Chaguaramas, the big boaters bay with all kinds of refit facilities, was more empty than I had ever seen it. Economy eshnonomy; isnt this the time that you head out and go cruising until things improve? Theres no place cheaper to live than out cruising if done simply.

Keep in mind that when flying into Trinidad with a one-way ticket, you have to have a stamped letter saying you are leaving by boat. The Crews Inn marina had arranged our paperwork. Trinidad Customs and Immigration was unusually painless though the last official stressed the importance of leaving on time. We provisioned and left the dock at 1201 a minute late, per my paperwork. No one chased us down.
We motored out through the last pass and into the deep blue Caribbean. We had a nice trade wind breeze on the beam. It was good for sailing, though the direction made for a rolly ride. When starting out on any sail, we stow everything and batten all the hatches. We can loosen up later after weve slain the boat gremlins and things are going smoothly. For both the crew and the vessel, Ill often start out a little off the throttle. Usually, one extra reef will do it.

Surprise was cutter rigged with the headsail having most of its bulk down low. The staysl was cut very high. The sails complimented each other well, filling the voids from the other. We found that the boat didnt like sailing without the staysl so we left it up and just furled the big headsail in stronger winds. Though she wouldnt point high, the boat sailed great off the wind, loving the good Carib breeze.

It took a day or two for the residue of land to rinse away but it happened, as it always does. Soon we were all about the sea -- in tune with every sound, wave induced motion and cloud in the sky. We got the boat dialed in and then opened her up. Surprise was not a light boat but with the full trades she ran well averaging over 6 knots in comfort.

The crew was doing great. Sailing hard across the Caribbean, Dena was in her element, splitting her time between playing in the galley and catching rays. Like magic, amazing meals continued to appear from the seagoing galley. JD was a learning sponge. He had gained some experience skippering a friends sailboat up through the Bahamas and back across to the states. On Surprise, he added to his bag of tricks. He got some tips on dialing in a boat which keeps her safe and comfortable, while still sailing fast.

My plan was to cruise north, staying to leeward of the Caribbean island chain, using them for protection in case of a big storm. We didnt see any big weather but we did get the mini squalls that filter through the islands. The pockets of weather gave me a chance to test out my new foul weather jacket. Theres a lot of boat gear out there and when a company gets it right I like my seven fans to hear about it. Back when we were circumnavigating people made fun of us. We assembled Low Key with simple gear (read bullet-proof). But then we had bought these high-end Gill foulies. We relied on simple, but never skimped on comfort. When the weather is bad and you have to spend some extra time out in the elements you do not want to be wet and you do not want to be cold. My old jacket was amazing but the miles were starting to take their toll. I saw the new black offshore Gill and had to have it. I wouldnt have thought it possible but theyve improved on the design (more on my website).
I got cell reception as we blew by St. Croix, so I left a message for Eric Stone who was living and playing on St. Thomas. We were thinking of stopping for fuel anyway and so I thought Id find some evening entertainment for my hard working crew. But sometimes its not so good being fast. We chose to skip the fuel stop and had sailed out of range before Eric had a chance to call back to invite us to his gig that night.

After passing St. Thomas we broke out into open ocean -- no more little islands to dodge. We were free and had room to adjust course to take advantage of wind and current changes. It was beautiful out there with sunny days, good aft wind and moderate seas.

Before we knew it we were having our 1000nm-to-go party. Dena is a vegetarian and though she will cook meat she enjoys the challenge of making faux-meat dinners that omnivores will enjoy. We cranked up the Eric Stone and set the cockpit table while the the tasty smells from the galley distracted us. We three sipped red wine and ate veggie hamburgers laced with smuggled-in CA salsa as the sun glowed orange, then red, and set into the sea.

On many evenings, JD and I enjoyed appetizers while the rest of the meal was being created. It looked like pate to me but JD wasnt fooled, Is this cat food?

Apparently Dena had opened a can without a label. It looked like meat so she put it on a plate and sent it up. I asked her if she had sampled it first before serving it to us. She told us, Im a vegetarian, I dont eat cat food.

The Gulf Stream, a tricky entrance and some Savannah hospitality -- next month.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

East Europe Land Cruise - II (112)

 When I left you last Dena and I had finished Share the Sail Croatia and were headed SE by bus to see what eastern Europe was all about. We had passed through Bosnia and Montenegro and had now arrived in Shkoder, Albania. Downtown Shkoder was not pretty. Like around much of eastern Europe, the communists had come in and built it up and then split (like a town east of Trogir). Things eventually started to fall apart. Big dilapidated buildings, old permanently parked cars and broken up 'sidewalks' greeted our arrival.

Earlier, while still careening through Sound of Music hillsides and with a fairly thick language barrier between us, we impressed on our driver that we wanted cheap accommodations. The guy took us to the Hotel Rosafa. It was a giant Vegas Hilton looking place, only imagine what it would look like if the maintenance guy retired two decades ago. For $15 we got a clean room with a mini balcony. The bathroom was at the end of the hallway but since there didn’t seem to be anyone else staying in the 300 room hotel, we had it to ourselves.

It was still light so we decided to venture out to get some grub. We found a place where the guy spoke some English. Dinner was great and third world cheap. From inside the café we could safely watch the world go by. What we saw surprised us. Yes, the city was dilapidated but the people still lived the high quality life of villagers. The first thing I noticed was that the bicycles were not locked. In a big city - not locked! And most people rode bikes. The ones that were not riding bikes were walking. Whole families were walking together, hand in hand. I know, strange. We suddenly felt a lot safer.

We followed the crowds to a newly fixed up part of town where there was a jazz festival on. It seemed like a very modern event for a people living so simply. But they were having a great time embracing the West. We walked all over and always felt safe.

At 10pm we were back at the room when we got the message from Allah. There was a loud chicken-getting-strangled sound coming from outside. From the balcony I could see the towers of the mosque where loudspeakers bellowed out the night prayers. After that night I noticed the mosque spires in lots of places. I come from a country that was founded on religious freedom. As long as the tenents of your religion aren’t forced on me, I’m cool. The different religions in Albania all seemed to get along. It was good to see.

The next morning we cabbed to the big fort on the hill. Another thing about traveling to places with little tourism is that you've got it to yourself. Not only are there no tourists but there are no tourist management guards. The drunk guy who collected our 30 cents at the big wooden gate was the only person we saw. No rules? This was my kind of place. The fort was riddled with secret passages. A flashlight gained us access to the nether regions.

We packed up and took a big bus to Tirana, the capital of Albania. At the train station we enjoyed Tirana Birra (I think the locals referred to it as a coldy - could be mistaken). We were told that neither the train nor the bus went to where we wanted to go. We found an English speaking cab driver who took us to some random corner where he arranged a couple of spots for us on a minibus to Elbasan. Elbasan seemed fine with a nice downtown fort but if we could make it all the way to Ohrid then we could spend two nights there - an unheard of treat when traveling Bitchin style (never 24 hours in one spot). We pressed on.

We made a deal with an off duty minibus to take us across the Macedonian border to Ohrid for 3000 leke - $30. It was the most beautiful part of our land adventure so far. Through both rain and sunshine we cruised along cool lush hills below snow capped mountains. We passed through small villages with kids playing and adults hanging out. Rad old dudes manned their repair shops, vegetable and butcher stands, when they weren’t sitting in cafés.

Our Albania minivan ride ended abruptly at the Macedonian border. The driver got out and pulled our packs out the back, dropping them on the gravel. I stiffed him, only giving him 2900 leke. We walked through the border and caught a cab to the bed and breakfast in Ohrid that we had booked online.

Paradise. It had taken a while to find it but Macedonia was what we were looking for. Like most of E. Europe it felt safe with the families out walking and the unlocked bikes but this place was cleaner and as cheap as anywhere we had been. When cruising, it’s dollar beers from places with stellar views that we are looking for. It was all here. Our room was real nice. We had payed a lot ($30 a night) but got a beautiful room with bath and balcony right on lake Ohrid ... for two days! We were stylin’.

I decided that this was the place that I would see a dentist. I had a cap come off one of my teeth and had been carrying the thing around for weeks knowing I was headed to Europe. In civilized countries, basic medical and dental services are free or nearly so. The dentist office was immaculate and the dentists were funny. They permanently attached my cap and cleaned my teeth for $60. I’m sure the locals weren’t paying that much but I didn’t complain. At no point did they try to force an X-Ray on me.

My dentist wanted me to check out the Ohrid Yacht Club, which we did via water taxi driven by a classic Popeye-hat dude. We also hiked out to the point where they had an old church (if you consider 1240 old) and around to the castle on the hill where they charged us 60 cents to check it out, again unsupervised.

We thoroughly enjoyed Ohrid before heading up to the Macedonian capital of Skopje. Being a big city, there wasn’t much to see besides a kewl ancient Turkish part of town. The hippy hostel we stayed in came with a bunch of backpackers that wanted us to help them drink their beers in exchange for stories. In the morning the nice manager girl made us a great breakfast: eggs, musli, wheat toast and fruit - refreshingly healthy.

As we flew out of Frankfurt to return home I looked down for one last glimpse at Europe. There were small towns separated by green farms and woods. On the hills, wind generators slowly turned - not a coal plant in site.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

East Europe Land Cruise - I (111)

 Mind if I divert your attention to a little land cruising? Cruisers often park their boats in a kewl spot to embark on an inland trek/diversion/safari. In our case, lovely Dena and I had just finished 7 wonderful days sailing with Lats' Share the Sail Croatia and were heading out for a quick tour through Eastern Europe.

After a farewell lunch with Capt. Mike Z, Dena and I headed straight for the bus station. I love the bus. For a miniscule fee I get my own local driver who takes me where I want to go as I sit up high in the back working on whatever, or in foreign lands, taking in all the sites. All I need is my backpack of essentials (food mostly) and if I’m lucky, someone to share the experience with. We were headed to the castle town of Split. As fate would have it we just missed the straight-through bus. We opted for the bus that "makes many stops". Even better, since time was not an issue and we were trying to take in all that we could.

Once in Split we stood around looking lost (only do this in safe areas) until someone who wanted to practice their English came forward. These people are everywhere, usually younger people. We got directions both to the other bus station, so we could check the schedule for the next day's transport, and also directions to the 'old' town where our hostel was. Old where I live means built 50 years ago. Old in Europe means built 5 centuries ago, or more. In this case the old town was within the walls of Diocletian's Palace and built back when the years only had three digits. The locals there didn't leave to go home at night, they lived within their own UNESCO World Heritage site. And that's where we were staying. We were traveling just before tourist season got humming which meant less crowds, cheaper accommodation and very excited hosts. After a fresh local fare dinner in our room we night toured the ancient narrow alleys of the castle/village. Wandering around we stumbled onto a small hole-in-the-wall pub in an off-the-main-drag square where we sat outside and enjoyed some local brew.

Our days developed a pattern. Pick up breakfast and snacks, board a bus, enjoy a chauffeured tour to our next destination (Dena usually slept, mostly on my lap – sorry about the crumbs). Upon arrival and while still at the station, check the following days bus schedule, unload at the hostel, walk/tour the afternoon away, internet book the next days accommodations, find and eat at a secluded dinner spot before heading back to the room.

This part of the world must get a lot of rain because it was incredibly green, almost jungly (without the heat). After an amazing coastal drive along steep cliff-side roads overlooking fishing villages and private rocky beaches, we arrived in the town of Dubrovnik, "The Pearl of the Adriatic". This was the real deal. The place made Split look like an afterthought. The local bus dropped us at the front of the castle. Before us was a giant rook crowned wall with a central arched entryway protected by a wooden draw bridge lowered over a very deep moat (to push enemies into). Inside the great wall was a long wide promenade that stretched down to a big church/bell tower. All these towns had grand functioning bell towers. I kicked off my flops. I wanted to feel the stone underfoot, worn smooth by a thousand years of human traffic. Had Alexander the Great stood here? Probly. We filled our stainless drink containers from the big stone cistern that pulled water from a spring deep inside the mountain.

The central promenade ran down a valley of sorts. On each side were rows and rows of ancient abodes rising steeply up the hillsides. At the top? More of the great wall that surrounded the city. My directions stated that our accommodation was the third 'street' on the left, about half way up and on the third floor. That's right, we were spending the night inside the walls of this incredible castle/village. I wouldn't call them streets though. They were 8 foot wide, steeply staired pathways which would account for the surprisingly fit locals – all natural foods balancing out their unplanned health regimen.

But there's more. We were on a mission to discover the hidden secrets of this storybook place. We put our stuff away and headed down the promenade to a seaside arch which led out to a small craft harbor encircled by castle walls that were laced with cannon. Through another hole in the great wall we found ourselves back in a dense 'residential' area. Carved wooden "Cold Drinks" signs enticed us up a maze of steps, turns and tunnels to a tiny gated arch. Through the arch daddy found heaven. On the other side, a cliff dropped straight off a hundred feet into the wine dark Mediterranean Sea. But right there, perched on a rocky ledge was the world's perfect bar. We sat under a big umbrella, gazing across to islands over deep blue water as old school wooden vessels plied slowly past, sailing to and from their work at sea. All the while a lovely local lass brought us cheap local vino and pivo. Think I'm making it up? I don't dream that grand.

Throughout our entire E. Euro adventure, through 7 countries, there was a common theme. Though we chose to stay in smaller towns we had to pass through big cities to make bus transfers (we often heard, "Can't get there from here" but always did). All the big towns felt generally safe. As we bused through hundreds of miles of back country we passed through village after village. Along their central avenues were small family owned shops, each with a purpose: fruit and vegetable, bread, meat and all manner of repair shops. When something breaks they fix it. I know, a crazy concept where I'm from. Most towns had a square where families and individuals hung out when they weren't walking the main drag or chillin' with friends over coffee/tea/coldies in outdoor cafes. It was high quality living.

Between the rock built, red-tile roofed villages, were mini farms. They were everywhere. These farms must produce all the area food and then some. Which might explain why there was a bio-diesel pump at every gas station I saw. How is it that in all these undeveloped countries where I (thankfully) can't get a big mac, they have bio fuels?

Onward we pressed. We traveled sou'east along the coast through Bosnia and into Montenegro, and then inland to Albania. It took 2 coach buses, a mini bus and a cab that we split with a Dutch backpacker to get us to Shkoder, Albania where we they had buses to Macedonia. What was the rush? We were pushing to get to the outer reaches of eastern Europe, even further from the influence of things that we knew. At one stop I got off the bus to have a look around. In the distance I heard our bus motor out without me. Dena caused a ruckus, as she does, and made them stop - thereby saving the day (or preventing an unplanned side-adventure, however you want to look at it).

Well that's it for now, going to finish this up next month. In case you hadn't noticed, this was my once a year scoop on how "High Quality Living can go hand in hand with a Clean Happy Earth". Elegant symbiosis.   

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cabo to San Diego II (110)

 When I left you last month I was bringing a nice 44' cruising cutter up from Cabo to San Diego with crew Dane and owner Stacy. We had stopped in Turtle Bay for fuel and ran into a cruiser birthday, complete with 2 twenty-something cruising ladeez. Young Dane had just turned down their offer to crew for them paid in whiskey. But no need to relive that misalignment of the stars.

Fuel in Turtle has become complicated. We used to drop a hook, back up to the pier and they would hand down a hose. You would fill up, pay the coffee can on a string and sail off. On the morning we arrived Stace radioed Annabelle’s for fuel, the new mobile fuel service. Let the games begin. Stace had heard that the fuel was cleaner and better filtered from Ruben’s fuel barge (Annabelle's) than Ernesto (Gordo's) fuel pier. While we awaited our fuel barge appointment, Ernesto slithered up in his panga and explained to Stace that if we took fuel from Ruben then we would have to leave the bay. I wonder if the other vendors in town knew that their old friend Ernesto was trying to scare off cash fat tourists like ourselves. We hung out.

Ruben turned out to be the nicest guy. He had a great setup too. From aft you could see that the 'tank' on his barge was actually a seeled off panga hull. The fuel was clean, as advertised. Ruben filled our tanks and fuel cans with a smile while we sat calmly at anchor.
There were more projects on the list including the dismantling of the anti-bird, wire cage/sculpture at the top of the mast that was disrupting our wind instruments. For this I had to borrow a bosun’s chair. I looked around the bay and spotted a Lats and Atts burgee. Figuring that particular boat was the most likely to be manned with the finest upstanding individuals and rigged with quality outstanding gear, I dinghied over and traded a not out yet issue of Lats for an hour's lease of his chair. The boat, as it turned out, had been featured in Lats.

Dane donned his wetsuit and over the side he went. We had a shaky metal sound under the packing gland while underway. Dane checked the shaft zinc and cutlass bearing and it all seemed secure. On the inside I adjusted the packing, epoxied the diesel's water fill back onto the reservoir and changed the bilge diapers (water repellent, oil sucking, white sheets). I carry with me that Clean Water Solutions enzyme that eats oil, for sprinkling in the bilge. We want the bilge to be clean so we can identify oil and fuel leaks sooner and also to leave a clean wake. Before I arrived at the boat, Stace and Bill dumped a bottle of that Starbright diesel enzyme in the bad fuel tank. After spitting out some rust from the valve, that tank ran perfectly clean.

And just before midnight we sailed on out. Once again it was main up and sheeted hard, motor sailing. Crack off the wind until the main just fills and that's your course. The usual plan is to tack out to sea and get some space between the boat and the hard stuff but I had confidence in Dane and Stace. We played the wind shifts and tacked behind headlands when the counter-current lured us. Tacking out to get around Cedros Island we ran headlong into a 2 kt current. We tacked over again and slid along inside her mass which both blocked the rough short seas and freed us from the baja current.

We were doing 2 hours on and 4 off. I'm usually a 3 on guy but the legs were short. I'm flexible on the length of the watches but I do think there is value in having your watches at the same time everyday. Your body knows. It makes both sleep and awake times more efficient. The food was goood. When Stace asked how she should provision I gave her the short list and told her that we were flexible but quantity was important. Her and her mom had made a ton of frozen dishes which kept appearing in the refer each day. Heated up, they were gormet meals, by seagoing standards.

Our aproach to Ensenada was sunny and calm. Last time I came up Baja to SD I was coming home from my circumnavigation on Low Key. I had the same weather. Short hard chop and strong wind on the nose from Cabo to just south of Ensenada. Just as you come under radio range of Coast Guard San Diego, the weather lays down.

We arrived at beautiful Marina Coral (say Corral) at 0400. We had our arrival coldies before catching some zzzzzs. The Coral is also called the 90 day marina for its use as an out of state tax dodge for CA boat buyers. Marina manager Fito was nice enough to check us in that morning. He suggested we fuel sooner than later as there wasn't much water at low tide. In Mex I usually take suggestions with a grain of salt. We inched in, fueled, and sped out to the deep water of our slip. There were showers for the boaters but I led Dane and Stace up to the spa for higher end treatment I had become accustomed to when visiting the more than OK Coral.

We cabbed into town. Ahh, Ensendada. Many fond memories of my many visits including a bunch of Newport to Ensenada events, a thanksgiving spent on a yacht in the yard and, of course, years of teenage spring break debauchery. Our driver took us to my favorite roasted chicken restaurant. Big plates of food to dump into fresh made tortillas soaked in awesome salsa. Iced Pacificos for all. Ensenada is a party town and it was spring break. Yes, there were kidnappings to the north but that didn't stop the SD college kids from driving through to Ensenada and dancing on the tables of her legendary cantinas – Hussongs, Papas & Beer and some new place laced in orange dayglow.

We sailed out that evening. I plotted our course a little more offshore than usual trying to avoid the Tijuana troubles. It was a fast flat run north to SD. Dane woke me up to show me flares going off inside us near shore. There are sailors that live for this kind of thing, being in a position to help out a fellow boater in need. I am one of them. But being almost onshore I suspected foul play. I decided to let this one go, the safety of my crew coming first. We cruised into San Diego, parked at the customs dock and had the nice boys in blue aboard while we enjoyed our arrival coldies.

I know what you're thinking and you're right, somebody's got to do it. I'm now closing fast on St. Thomas as I deliver this Slocum 43' from Trinidad to Savannah, GA. From there I fly direct to the five-boat Croatia Share the Sail. Having flown all that way for our annual event I feel compelled to hang around after to do some E. Europe adventuring. On my way back I’m stopping in to visit some friends in VA to help them green their home. In my spare time I’ve gotten my LEED certification. Combining all these trips gets me the most out of my flying emissions (also offset by buying carbon credits).  

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sailing Cabo to San Diego (109)



Bill and Stacy worked in education but they had a secret life.  They were closet cruisers.  Well they’re secret’s out now.  They both had to take off a large chunk of work to sail they’re most excellent Peterson 44 cutter Rhiannon south for a well deserved recess to Mexico.  In fact the rat race may have lost Stacy altogether.  
As it happens, Bill and Stace got lulled by the land of margarita siesta and after a hard bash north to Puerto Los Cabos, they ran out of time.  Bill had to return to work.  They called me in to bring the boat back.  Stace, on the other hand was able to take the extra time off and was fired up to do the rest of the beat to socal.  I sent the mass crew email with the bash details and got … no volunteers.  I sent a mass text to some friends and distant acquaintances and got Dane.  I met Dane mid CA while delivering a boat south.  He was 20 something and singlehanding his own cruiser so I knew his priorities were in order.  
Dane and I arrived at PLC in dry southern Baja and made our way to the boat.  Rhiannon was a real cruising boat.  She was heavy built with full bulwarks, a solid hull and beefy rigging.  We hung out with Stace and her soon departing sister for a bit before getting to work on the boat.  Accompanied by iced cocktails, we removed stuff from the deck and strapped everything else down.  Below there was more stowing of bobbles and rigging seaberths for Dane and I.  Stace had the comfort of the big aft cabin.  After running the motor we called it a day.  
I like to get everyone together for a meal ashore and some pre-departure down time.  We headed out for dinner to a great cruiser hangout called Tommy’s.  As it happens, my friend John who is skipper of fishing yacht Scrambler, was on our dock.  We stopped by to say hello.  John offered his yacht tender for our jaunt to the restaurant.  We had an amazing meal.  As we were leaving Scott sold us a case of beer to-go for our all important sunset coldies.  
Through monster break walls we motored out into a flat dark ocean.  Knowing we would soon enough have more interesting weather we relished the warm calm beat around Cabo where we were treated to an amazing moonset into the crook of lands end.  It was good to be at sea.  
As it is on the notorious beat up Baja, by morning we had it on the nose and choppy.  We motorsailed up the coast for a couple of days, tacking and sailing just off the wind.  Stace was getting wx (weather) reports from Bill through the bat phone (satellite).  It seemed a blow was coming through.  It was suggested that we pull in somewhere’s.  While it’s contrary to my delivery ethic to stop for anything other than fuel, major gear failure, or to plank unruly crew, I made an exception and added owner-suggested stop to the list.  
We threw a dart at the chart and whipped behind the point at Hippolito.  As we motored into the chop the wind topped out at 34 kts, a pittance for a boat like Rhiannon.  We cozied up behind a tall headland and dropped the hook.  It was a beautiful spot.  After the snubber stretched the rode tight and the motor shut down I let go the compulsory, “Daddy’s home baby”.  The ‘shhmock’ sound of a few coldies getting their first breath fritted off into the howling breeze as we revelled in our brave seamanship and wondrous courage.
In the morning we knocked out a few projects which would have had to be done at sea or wait until our fuel stop in Turtle Bay.  What a nice leisurely way to cruise, I mean do a delivery.  A couple hours later we rolled on out.  That next night was probably our least comfortable but no one complained - the best kind of crew.  We snuck into Turtle Bay before dawn and had our arrival coldies as a couple cruising boats slipped out to point north.  
Later I took a dinghy ride and got chatting with a cruiser named Jesse.  I queried as to the who, what and why of the two young women on the vessel laying astern of him.  Jesse informed me that they were cruising on their own boat and that they would be at the dinner that evening being held in honor of his own birthday.  And finally, that we were now invited.  I broke the news to my crew that we would be staying for dinner for it would be rude to refuse.
After a nice walk around to the other cove and a 3$ shower at the local motel we gathered for dinner.  There was Jesse, three other cruising couples, our three and the two girls, Sarah and Lydia.  It was Sarah’s boat and Lydia, a backpacker, had recently joined her.  As there always is at these functions there was plenty of cruising ‘advice’.  In this case a couple of the cruisers were trying to convince each other to not make the perilous jump to the South Pacific and beyond.  The year I crossed the Pacific in my coastal boat, many of the full keel boats, whose crews called me crazy, ended up in the foothills when a summer hurricane ran up the Sea of Cortez.  As they do.  The last thing these people wanted was for inexperienced Sarah to sail to Tahiti and leave them behind to fight the hurricanes alone.  So two of the older ladies set to scaring these very adventurous girls.  I kept it short but threw in my two cents for some balance.  As we would soon find out, it is usually land that sinks boats, not the ocean.  
Like puppies, very beautiful ones, Sarah and Lydia followed us back to our yacht (in comparison with their Ericson 39).  I had the presence of mind to pick up a 20 pack of Pacifico from a shack on the beach during our walk back to the dinghy.  We had a couple on Rhiannon before getting invited back to Sarah’s boat Gabrielle for Whisky.  The inside of her boat looked like a French whore house, which to me was a good look.  The hull was covered in beautiful wood and the cushions were a dark red lit by the warm glow of swinging oil lamp.  A painting of a naked lady adorned Sarah’s foc’sle bulkhead.  
And then someone’s dream came true.  Sarah and Lydia asked Dane to cruise south with them.  I tried not to take it personally.  Dane was closer to their age and they may have noticed that I had other pending responsibilities.  I started making the arrangements in my head.  I had the cash to pay Dane for the days a-crewed and it wouldn’t take long to pack his gear up.  Stace and I could still sail out before midnight as planned.  
Then Dane did the unthinkable.  He said no.  Blah blah blah ... girlfriend.  I couldn’t very well hear what he said after “no” on account of the horrendous  sound my world was making as it came crashing down around me.  The wind swirled outside as the souls of a thousand dead sailors cried out in anguish.   
I will have to finish this next month.  Since I’ve arrived home Sarah has gone on to have some trouble.