The Stowaway

The wind was ready for us and we said, “good riddens, Jamaica!” We felt safe in Port Antonio; we enjoyed the scenic mountain backdrop and fresh, exotic fruits and vegetables to sample. It was the people (sorry Jamaica) of Port Antonio that made us uncomfortable; when we weren’t speed-walking through the city to find an off the beaten path, we were hunkering in the marina hoping not to be approached while we minded our own business. The people (except our friends; Rochelle and Damon, a lovely lady we met in the hills behind the hospital, and Norma at the market) all wanted something, namely cash. When they weren’t outright asking for it, they were following behind us offering taxis and overpriced excursions. Constant! And forget about asking a local for directions because anyone who seemed kind enough to show us around always asked for us to literally repay their kindness with a tip. Jamaica was good practice for Brian and I to say “NO!” which we are terrible at doing and will undoubtedly need to do to survive world travel.

And so, we were happy to be on the Rode again and among friends. Skebenga took the lead and Serendipity followed behind (certain to pass us in no time). We departed in the evening and set a northwest course with what would become very variable east winds. We were fully stocked with green bananas among our other Jamaican treats; cabbage, potatoes, mangos, ginger beer, and rum. Even though we’d rinsed them I wouldn’t allow the bananas inside for fear we’d get some bug infestation. Brian reluctantly secured them in the cockpit and told me they’d be yellow and rotted in a day out in the sun, but I was willing to chance it.

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The entire second day we bobbled around with just the jib in 0-5 knots of wind. The main came down because we could not keep it full and the flogging back and forth made a miserable sound. Brian had made some adjustments to the Cape Horn windvane prior to our leaving Jamaica. Remember it was on the fritz en route from the Bahamas and so he consulted Yves, the Cape Horn mastermind via email. Brian completed step one of troubleshooting per the very helpful and prompt directions received from Yves. Unfortunately step one wasn’t quite the fix our problem needed and the windvane continued to get stuck, although not quite as often. This left us babysitting the steering and keeping 3-hour watch schedules through the night.

The second evening the wind kicked up to a roaring 10-15 knots. Yippee! With the main back up we made some tracks until the wind died again the next morning. We were not used to such a calm trip! I was able to do all my usual boat chores, Brian cooked breakfasts and suppers, and all the while we’d read like we’d never read before!

On our third day out we finally got some excitement. No, not the weather, it stayed remarkably dull. At 4:00pm just as I knelt to settle into my afternoon reading position between the mast and the solar panel frame, I was startled by two frightened eyes and a very sharp beak! A cattle egret had landed for a rest on the lifeline.

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What an excellent zoom lens opportunity! Brian scooted below to get the camera before the egret took off. We needn’t have worried though, in the next half hour he’d moved onto the dinghy and was adjusting his balance to the motion of the boat.

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I named the stowaway Greg and proceeded to document his movements in our log. I also tried to think of what Greg might like to eat, he looked exhausted and famished! Brian suggested bananas, as we were now eating them as main entrees and snacks. I thought a flying fish would entice Greg (we had a total of 5 flying fish land on deck during this trip).

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I managed to set out a bowl of water near Greg atop the dinghy. I willed him to take a drink, but he paid no mind to the water. At 6:06pm, despite the flogging of our main as we attempted to heave to in the incredibly light wind, Greg laid down for a snooze.

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While hove to Brian and I enjoyed dinner together. At 8:35pm we took down the main, prompting a startled Greg to flutter onto the bowsprit. During the very early morning hours of our fourth day out, we were happy to have had only the jib flying when the wind actually presented itself. I took my shift at 5:00am. The rigging was whistling, that’s 20-25 knots of wind on Rode Trips carefully calibrated ananometer, and Brian informed me that he hadn’t seen Greg for several hours. The light of dawn was just peeking through the clouds at 5:19am when I stood out of the hatch to take a good look around for Greg. I startled him from wherever he was. He took flight and flew a lap around the boat, but returned just in time to assist me with sail trim.

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Greg stayed in the cockpit during my morning shift while I came out twice to adjust the windvane. At 8:00am when Brian awoke, Greg took a turn at the tiller before finally flying away.

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We had another full day of sailing before reaching our destination on day five. We’d arrived last, as usual, our friends aboard Skebenga and Serendipity were docked when we hailed the marina indicating our arrival. We entered the channel leading into the Bahia de Cienfuegos and were breath taken by the sheer beauty that we found. Beautiful mountains, sprawling green fields, a massive bay alive with sea birds, fishermen, and ferry boats.

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We followed the channel markers toward our marina.

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A new place to explore! And friends to share banana bread…loaves all around!

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When Cruisers Make Plans, God Laughs

I’m sure everyone is wondering the same thing…if these two crazy kids are planning to cruise around the world, why don’t they get on with it already!? We’ve traversed the eastern US coast, spent an amazing three months exploring the Bahamas, another week in Jamaica, and now…

When we find places we like we spend time there. Afterall, we may have a tight budget but on time we are millionaires. So we’ve spent countless hours behind the scenes researching, talking, and acquiring information about where in the world to travel – who liked where, what did those places have to offer, how affordable were those places, how safe or accommodating were those places for cruisers – the web-searches and conversations just go on and on. And of course there is that all determining factor, weather.

We had what we thought was a great plan to be through the Panama Canal in February, of 2012. God laughed at that and said, “oh, but what about getting the boat outfitted and working out all the kinks…” Then we had another great plan to check out the Bahamas and round the eastern Carribbean on our way to Panama for a safe hurricane season. God laughed and said, “sure, take your time enjoying the Bahamas and then beat yourselves up heading to windward and just try to get to the Dominican Republic without running out of fuel…” Moving onto plan, hmmmm I guess plan #47 at this point, we thought better to not waste time in the eastern Carribbean let’s head west so we can continue to take it slow. God laughed and said, “alright, take your time let’s see how you like four months of heat and mosquitoes while you wait out hurricane season in Guatemala…”

And so we’re onto our latest and greatest plan, sure to change in about a week or so…a South African couple we’ve recently befriended aboard sv/Skebenga told us, “of course you can cruise the Med on your budget, we did it for two years and that wasn’t nearly enough time…” Wow cruising through hurricane season with the potential for land travel while interacting with a multitude of cultures, learning history, hiking, eating delicious foods, seeing fabulous scenery, and then possibly cruising through winter season too! Sold!

Rode Trip is headed to the Mediterranean! And we’re taking reservations for guests!

All Play and No Work Makes a Dull Cruiser

During our passage from Great Inagua, Bahamas to Port Antonio, Jamaica while doing sail changes I’d noticed that the railing around the bowsprit was a bit wobbly. Shaking it quite vigorously, I pointed this out to Brian who took one look at the base and said, “OH, it’s cracked!” So for the duration of the passage I couldn’t rely on the lifelines or the railing for stability up on the bow.

We wanted to get this fixed before our next passage because it just wasn’t safe to have a cracked railing. So Brian went to work disassembling the railing from the bowsprit.

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Fortunately, Brian found a welder nearby and was able to take the railing to be properly repaired. The welder dropped what he was doing to complete the project, what service! $800 Jamaican dollars later ($8.00USD) we had a neatly welded base.

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Brian reinstalled the railing in no time! Now we’re ready once again to get underway.

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