The Stowaway

  Friday, May 31, 2013 / Stephanie / Uncategorized  

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

We followed the channel markers toward our marina.

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


  1. From stephanie on Jun 20, 2013
    Hey, it's SO NICE to hear from you! Thanks for checking in on us! You'll be happy to know that we had a safe passage...a long passage leaving from Grand Cayman. I'm going to check out that tip about bananas, it's so hard to keep track of all these sailing superstitions...what was that one about bringing women aboard is bad luck...we didn't have any bananas for this trip, thank goodness! Hey if you've got time for a flight out to Bermuda let us know, we'll be exploring a few days before our next passage to the Azores.

  2. From Gary on Jun 03, 2013
    Great to hear you are starting the very signifiant undertaking of crossing the Atlantic at this time! I want to wish both of you good luck on the journey. I would like to bring up just one note about luck, as I trust it is always good to have on your side for these types of things. I am not a seafarer, but one of the early things I learned is that bananas are bad luck to have on boats. A quick internet search will back up my claim. So as you are embarking on this long haul, I suggest you throw the bananas overboard and seek an alternative scurvy-fighting fruit. Safe Trip!

  3. From stephanie on May 31, 2013
    Ah hah! Greg would be the perfect mascot!

  4. From stephanie on May 31, 2013
    Good to hear from you, Marilyn. Thanks for adventuring with us!

  5. From Ann Landau on May 31, 2013
    I want a T shirt with Greg on it! Great narrative....and he didn't ask you for anything, did he!

  6. From bahama mama on May 31, 2013
    so where are you- you didn't say where you were headed.....5 days sailing? WOW! You guys are masters!!! So enjoy your blog!

  7. From Marilyn M on May 31, 2013
    I'm sorry to say that I have a similar distaste for Jamaica for much of the same reasons you mentioned. It's sad, for the country is SO beautiful! Love reading your blog first thing every morning! Thanks for sharing your adventures with us landlubbers.