Sailing with Dummies (California to
Texas Florida, Day 39)
Friday, July 17, 2009
We made it! They opened the 17th Street bridge for us at 12:00 noon. We parked at the marina shortly after.
Sailing with Dummies (California to
Texas Florida, Day 38)
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Today we planned eight, or maybe nine dives, all wreck dives except for the first one. We entered the waters west of the Florida Keys before sunup and anchored at our first dive spot around 6:30. We slept until 8:00, waiting for good light for diving.
Our first dive was at 50-65 feet in a flat area a east of the Dry Tortugas. The bottom was full of coral and full of fish. There weren’t any coral structures, just a lot of coral growing in the sand.
Preparing for our second we drove around the spot on the map that had the wreck symbol until we saw a structure on out fish finder. Then we anchored and headed downward. There was a very strong current so we pulled ourselves forward to the anchor chain on a rope and then headed to the bottom holding on to the chain. The current was weaker at the bottom (75 feet) but still required constant hard swimming to keep from losing ground. The wreck was a small boat. There were two large (400 pounds?) groupers hanging around the wreck.
For our third dive we repeated the anchoring process. The current was not quite as strong, but still moving fast enough that we held onto the anchor chain for the descent. At 30 feet we passed a thermal cline into cold water. The visibility went to less than 10 feet at that point. We went to the bottom (70 feet) and swam looking for a wreck for 20 minute and gave up.
Our next wreck spot was in 65 feet of water. We never saw a structure on the fish finder, but we did see some nice structures and what appeared to be a steep wall on the way there so we anchored and dived there. This was a nice place with a good, but small, wall. The upper part was 25-35 feet and the lower part went down to 60 feet. Slight current and good visibility made this dive very enjoyable.
Our next wreck spot was in 16 feet of water. The water was so murky we skipped it. And we looked for two more in that same area and skipped both of them, due to no structure and murky water. We decided to head south, away from the Florida Bay and toward the Gulf of Mexico, hoping to have better visibility.
For our fifth dive we found some structures at 65 feet on the fish finder next to a wreck spot on the map. The current was manageable. The water was warm and clear until we hit 30 feet. Then it turned cold and visibility reduced to about 15 feet. We both swam around at 50+ feet for more than 30 minutes looking for anything. Neither of us saw anything except sand and a few jellyfish at the surface. Very barren.
We found some very well-defined structures on the fish finder for our sixth dive. In the water we found no wreck. However, we found some wonderful coral structures teeming with fish. Probably the biggest concentration of fish I have ever seen. Thousands of them, and dozens of different kinds. We spent about an hour at 30-45 feet enjoying the dive.
It was 7:30 when we finished our sixth dive and we were tired. Six dives and five tanks of air each. We relaxed and headed for Fort Lauderdale.
I’ve found that diving creates a lot of hunger. After the first dive was French toast – lots of it – and fried eggs, too. The second dive was capped by a banana covered with peanut butter. And we finished off a bag of chips ahoy, too (it was already open, so we didn’t eat the entire thing, just most of it). After the third dive Bob made tuna sandwiches. We had a fairly long break after the fourth dive. That allowed time for crackers and cheese, an apple, and cereal. And I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies, since we ran out of chips ahoy.
Then an odd thing happened. Nothing was eaten between dives five and six. I guess the stomach can only hold so much.
Sailing with Dummies (California to
Texas Florida, Day 37)
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Staying 12 miles away from Cuban soil, we started rounding the western tip of Cuba early this morning. We should enter the waters near Florida in the morning.
The Gulf Stream produced! Bob caught a barracuda. I caught some seaweed.
Cooked more fish. Mackerel. Still good!
Sailing with Dummies (California to
Texas Florida, Day 36)
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Some rain showers early this morning cooled things off. I actually put a towel over my legs to keep warm while I was reading.
We made good time from Grand Cayman overnight but a head current started increasing this morning, reaching more than two knots in the afternoon. It feels better to be going 8.5 knots than 6.5 knots.
The cruise ship business seems to be in good order. In addition to the numerous cargo ships we have passed, or been passed by, we have seen several cruise ships.
Fishing conditions south of Cuba are sad. No fish today. After we round the tip of Cuba tonight we’ll enter the Gulf Stream. That should change our luck!
Sailing with Dummies (California to
Texas Florida, Day 35)
Monday, July 13, 2009
I took Elizabeth and Fullerton to the airport at 6:00 this morning. Back to civilization for them and now I’m stuck with Bob. It sure was nice having them along for as long as they could stand us.
After that we got fuel, picked up laundry, turned in the rental car, and checked out with customs. We also removed 59’ 9” of broken stainless steel hanging from the mast and lashed it to the side of the boat. It was good to get it out of the way. We would drop it in deep water later.
We unhooked and drove about 30 minutes to the northwest corner of the island and hooked up to a mooring ball there for a parting dive. We were looking for a wall to dive, hopefully with a light current. The depth at the mooring ball was 50 feet. The depth when the boat strung out behind the mooring ball was 79 feet. That was encouraging.
We both planned to follow the mooring ball to the bottom. However, once we got below the surface it was so clear and the current was light so we just went straight down. The coral formations were spectacular.
Swimming along at 60 feet we could go over straight drop offs of coral, and swim straight down the face of coral, surrounded by fish. It reminded me of the IMAX videos of airplanes flying over the cliffs in the Grand Canyon. There was coral as far down as we could see.
There was a natural temptation to go over the cliff edges and swim down to see what’s there. Problem is, the wall goes down … and down … and down. Within a hundred yards the depth is 700 feet, and just past there it is a few thousand feet.
I spent about 20 minutes between 60 and 95 feet and then spent the rest of the dive at 50 feet or less. There was plenty to see everywhere. When I got low air I spent a long time on the mooring rope at 15 feet, safety-stopping just in case. Bob did the same.
After the dive we took off for the west tip of Cuba. We dropped the front stay in 702 feet of water.
Our tour of the gulf coast of Texas will have to wait. We have decided to take the Minnow to Florida. We think some of the needed repairs will be easier to do there, so our next destination is Fort Lauderdale. We want to get the front stay fixed. And there’s the air conditioner issue.
Oh, and for all of you who are enjoying telling us that it is 102 in Oklahoma, a few questions:
(1) How many of you were in 102 degrees when you sent the emails or text messages telling us it was 102?
(2) What was the temperature in your office when you typed your message?
(3) How many minutes have you spent in 102 degrees this summer?
Okay, I feel better … but it’s still
hot warm here!
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 34)
Sunday, July 12, 2009
When we got to Grand Cayman they assigned us a mooring ball where we were to tie up the boat. That was easy for us. It was also nice because it parked the Minnow right around some coral. There were dive boat mooring balls all around us. That meant we could scuba dive right off the back of the boat without moving.
Elizabeth and I got underwater about 9:15. Conditions couldn’t have been better. Visibility was great, the current was so small it was hard to detect, and huge numbers and varieties of fish were everywhere. Most of our dive we were 15-25 feet underwater. Our dive lasted more than two hours, and we still had air left. Bob and Fullerton enjoyed the diving, too. Fullerton even let go of the rope!
After lunch (mackerel again!) we went again. We explored slightly different areas and saw even more fish. There were lots of valleys and crannies in the coral where we could swim and look up at the fish on the bottom of the coral formations. For easy diving with lots of things to see, it couldn’t have been better.
After diving we drove around the island. Four years ago the place was a mess from hurricane damage. Now it’s rebuilt and looks in better shape than it was before.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 33)
Saturday, July 11, 2009
“… again,” he said. And then Bob went back upstairs. Hmm. It was 1:50am.
I knew there were words preceding that, I just had no idea what they might have been. I sat up and decided to get out of bed and go see what he was talking about. I stretched, yawned, and stumbled upstairs and it began to make sense. “The front stay broke again,” he must have said.
The front stay was loose alright. It was flopping around banging into things. Part of the 60-fot furler was in the water – maybe 20 feet. And it was slowly continuing down. The bowsprit, furling drum, and assorted cables were dragging along in the water.
Our first action was getting the sails down and minimizing the motion of the boat. Then we roped the furler with some rolling hitches and stopped its descent. By then we had a fairly good idea of what happened. The stay (stainless steel guy wire) had broken in two and the furler was sliding off of it. The bottom eight feet of the furler and stay were hooked to the tangle of bowsprit and cables that were dragging in the water.
The biggest challenge was lowering the furler off of the stay and then successfully capturing and controlling the bottom end of a flailing, loose 60-foot stainless steel cable. Hopefully before it beat us or the boat into submission.
We wrapped ropes and halyards around the mast and the upper part of the stay to help minimize the stay’s movement once it was free. Bob lowered the furler into the water and jettisoned it when it was free of the boat. I grabbed the bottom of the stay and managed to get vise-grips on it.
With it temporarily under control (three pairs of vice-grips on it by now) we considered our options. When hanging down at the mast, it was broken off about five feet above the deck. It wasn’t a braided or twisted cable – it turned out to be a solid rod and very slippery. The sea was too rough (and it was too dark) to climb the mast and remove it safely. We needed a way to attach to the bottom of it to control it for about 12 hours.
We ended up drilling a small hole in the stay. With a small bolt in the hole, we tied ropes tightly around it. Then we wrapped the broken stay around the furled solent and tied it off firmly.
From there it was just a matter of getting tangled bowsprit mess out of the water, disassembled, and the cables tied off out of the way.
We arrived in Georgetown, Grand Cayman late in the afternoon. We got checked in with customs and ate supper off the boat at a local spot called Breezes. The island looked deserted. All the shops were closed, and most restaurants were closed … on a Saturday night! There were no cruise boats in town. That would change.
Morning twilight was just beginning when we finished our repair work and headed back north toward Grand Cayman. Naturally I put the fishing lines out, as I do every morning. Fullerton asked why we were fishing since we had a freezer full of fish. Elizabeth was properly greedy and said to catch more! Bob and I just understood: when you’re sailing, you’re supposed to fish.
Oh … no luck today.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 32)
Friday, July 10, 2009
We sailed along nicely today making good speed, 8-9 knots most of the day, which should allow us to arrive in Grand Cayman sometime tomorrow afternoon.
Fine Dining and Fishing Report:
Succumbing to a desire for eggs, fried, this morning, I started some bacon and just got the eggs into the pan when a fishing pole started making noise. I ran outside and tightened the drag and turned the boat to the right from 50 degrees off the wind to 30 degrees off the wind to slow us down. Reeling in a fish while the boat is moving at nine knots is a lot of work. Even for a small fish.
Then I went back to tend the eggs and bacon, allowing the boat to slow. Back at the fishing pole I noticed that the boat speed was down to eight knots and there was a lot of line out. I turned more into the wind and eventually slowed the boat down to seven knots. That was about as slow as I could get without some sail and rope work, so I started reeling. In between cooking and eating, that is.
About 25 minutes later I had a 51” king mackerel and a full tummy. I tried to weigh it, but it bottomed out our 50-pound scale before I got the tail off the deck. I winched it up on the steps by the tail and started hacking into it. We ended up with several gallons of white-meat steaks.
We had blackened mackerel for lunch. Then, due to popularity of the dish (demands of the female), we had blackened mackerel for supper.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 31)
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Everyone got up feeling good today after a calm night at anchor. We waited until shortly after nine for the customs people to arrive at the boat. This time it didn’t take long. We found out that customs clearing was not required if we were staying less than 24 hours. We weren’t.
So we loaded up the dinghy with some junk and ourselves and headed to shore. We walked, picture took, ate some local cuisine (crab something, it was good!), and shopped the local grocery store. We picked up crackers, cookies, different cookies, and some bread.
We filled our scuba tanks and other misc. things and then headed north a few miles to a reef with good anchorage. The good anchorage part was appealing since the wind was topping 30 knots occasionally.
We parked in less than 25 feet of water in the sand near the reef with 100 feet of anchor chain out. A scope of better than 4-to-1. When we were diving I looked at the anchor and watched as the chain was pulled tight. It raised the chain out of the sand within a few feet of the anchor. It was a good visual reminder that 6-to-1 (some say 8-to-1) is a good scope for a windy anchorage. In this case we had someone on the boat at all times, so it wasn’t as critical.
It was a good place for diving. The strong wind was creating a strong surface current. But just below the surface it was nice. The fish here reminded us somewhat of the fish around the Florida Keys, but I didn’t think they were quite as colorful. We saw a couple of sharks, lots of rays, and large varieties of fish in the coral formations.
The diving was so good we refilled the tanks and Bob, Elizabeth and I went again. The sun was an hour-and-a-half from setting. It was still bright on the boat, but it didn’t light the underwater world as well as it had earlier. That was interesting to me. It was another enjoyable dive. We explored some different coral structures and swam around the same ones as earlier. It’s hard to get tired of that.
After eating and battening down we took off northward into the wind and waves. To Cayman!
It was quiet on the boat after the last dive. Elizabeth requested some music. Rock and roll. Bob inquired of her graduating year and then played the top songs of 1977 for her pleasure. Many of those songs were painful reminders of what we were forced to listen to back then. Occasionally there was a good one, but seldom. After this agonizing review, I have re-convinced myself that society suffered from disco.
In three hours we endured top hits from 1977 and 1970 and 1971. Elizabeth knew all the words.
In an effort to enjoy the calm before the waves, we relaxed after our last dive. Tanks were refilled, cigars were puffed, junk was stowed, everyone showered. I grilled chicken and made some garlic red potatoes to go along with the green beans. We were all clean and pretty, tired and hungry, and it was good.
Another day of catch and release. Elizabeth caught a nice 20-inch Spanish mackerel on the way to the dive site. Apparently she reeled too slow. The back half of the fish was shredded with some nasty-looking teeth marks. She was excited and wanted to eat it. The good meat was missing. We told her to catch another one and reel fast!
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 30)
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
We had a rough sea today. Starting with big swells from the west and significant wind waves from the east, creating very confused seas, the wind clocked (or backed?) around in front of us becoming from the west. This created big swells with good-sized wind waves on top of them. When they combined just right, they got as big as 15 feet. Mostly we were in seas of 8-12 feet.
Elizabeth and Fullerton were both stricken by either “jetlag” (as Serge likes to call it) or “sleeping sickness” since they both repeatedly assured us that they were not seasick. Elizabeth logged north of 20 hours of sleep in 24 and Fullerton wasn’t far behind. I’m pretty sure neither of them smiled the entire day either.
The thing that caused them the most grief was the unsteadiness of the boat. It wasn’t rough in the sense of hard banging or jolts. It was an unpredictable motion, which made it a good idea to grab a handhold when walking around.
We got to Providencia, a Columbian Island in the middle of the ocean, and anchored after midnight.
Caught one tuna fish, skipjack, which is lousy eating. It was a good day for catch and release.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 29)
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
On the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal there is a new marina called Shelter Bay Marina. We stayed there overnight. It’s very nice. There are lots of buildings around there left over from the US presence. Most are run down.
We spent the morning biking and walking around the area and filled up with diesel. There are thick forests around. Could be rain forests, I guess. Since it was raining.
I was walking down a trail in a forest with a canopy high over my head. It wasn’t thick enough to make it dark, but it was nice and shady. The mosquitoes liked it there, too. When I was pretty deep in, I could hear the rain increase. And then it started pouring. Except there was nothing but a light, misty sprinkle on me. I suppose that the tall trees have evolved to the point that they capture most of the rain for themselves.
When I got back to the boat I asked if it had rained hard, just to make sure I wasn’t hearing things. It had.
We left around noon for the Rio Chagres. This is the river that forms the lake that is used in the Panama Canal. We went to the mouth of it and drove up it. The thick forests were nice to look into as we went along the shore. We anchored up the river a few miles and got out the kayaks. Elizabeth and I paddled upstream and then the rain began. It poured. It felt good.
Two interesting animals were there. One we saw and one we heard. The howling monkey sounds like I would expect a lion or jaguar to sound. Once the rain started, they started howling. The roars echoed through the trees. They would be really scary if you were in the woods close to one. They are loud. And they sound mean.
We went up a small creek feeding the river and saw a lizard walking on water. It was on a leaf near one bank and ran upright on its back feet to the other bank. It looked like a cartoon character.
Fullerton and Bob hopped in when we got back. Bob stayed in his kayak kayaked to the mouth of the river, where we picked him up and headed out to sea. We raised the sails and headed north in some stiff wind.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 28)
Monday, July 6, 2009
We got up bright and early at 4:00 to get ready for the three line handlers, which would arrive promptly at 4:30. After some phone calls to and from our agent, and so forth, they showed up at 5:15. We left at 5:16 and hurried to arrive at Buoy 6 to meet our adviser at 5:30. We drove around in circles near buoy 6 until he showed up at 6:35.
We had drive a couple of miles to the first lock and were eager to get started. The advisor advised us that we would wait until 8:40 to enter the lock. We were allowed to enter the first lock around 9:30, a mere five hours of waiting and 30 minutes of doing since we got up.
Apparently when the US ran the canal, things were well regulated and run on a pretty good schedule. Not so much now. It’s frustrating to deal with people that have such little regard for pre-agreed times. It must be a nightmare for ships and shipping companies to spend weeks pressing for time and then get to Panama and wait. For a day, and then maybe another day. Why not make it three?
The lock system itself is impressive. It was completed in 1914 by the United States. It was used in WWI and WWII. While there have been repairs and upgrades to several things in the Panama Canal, the locks are the same as they were in 1913. They are 110 feet wide and 1000 feet long. For a long time they were the world’s largest concrete structures. They have functioned flawlessly for nearly 100 years. That’s a lot better than most sidewalks.
It was amazing to see ships 103 feet wide and 966 feet long so neatly placed in the locks by tug boats. Once in the locks, they are tied front and rear on each side with strong cables to locomotives. The locomotives follow the ships through the locks and keep them from hitting the sides. This takes skill, practice, attention, working together. It also requires straight walls.
The walls are 1000 feet long and 100+ feet tall. They look to be a perfectly straight. And they must be perfectly straight to allow a 966-foot, multi-story-tall ship to drive in, go down (or up) 30 feet, and drive out without hitting a side. All with only three and one-half feet (3.5’) of clearance on each side. That is some serious concrete work.
There are a number of horizontal gashes on the concrete side walls of the locks. Some are a few feet long and some are 30 feet or longer. We were speculating that during hectic times in WWII maybe a locomotive would go down, resulting in the ship pressing against a wall. And perhaps a young crew would be saying “I don’t care just get this thing moving … fast!” thinking of the admiral’s orders. Maybe that’s how some of the gashes got there.
We tried not to leave a mark with the Minnow.
Some history on the canal is interesting:
· The canal was first proposed to the Spanish King Charles in 1534.
· In 1856 the Panama Railway crossed the Isthmus of Panama.
· In 1879 Columbia (Panama was then a state of Columbia) granted a French Company the authority to build (and operate for profit) the Panama Canal.
· In 1889 the French Company ran out of money after spending 1.4 billion francs, and incurring 20,000 deaths. Fiscal mismanagement and corruption contributed.
· In 1894 a Second French Company tried again and soon went bankrupt.
· In 1903 Panama seceded from Columbia, the US promptly recognized the new government, and a canal treaty was signed. This treaty gave the US the equivalent of absolute sovereignty over the Canal Zone.
· In 1914 the Panama Canal opened for traffic. It was completed below the estimated cost of $400 million and earlier than projected.
· In 1999 the Panama Canal was turned over to Panama.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 26-27)
Saturday/Sunday, July 4-5, 2009
We stayed parked at the Flamenco Marina Saturday and Sunday waiting for our turn in the canal. Elizabeth got here Saturday night. We planned to go scuba diving Sunday, since we had to wait until Monday to go through the canal.
We got stuck waiting at the dock most of the day. We were waiting for different Panama people for different things. Central Americans have no problem being a few hours late on almost everything. A few hours late for an agreed meeting time seems to be normal. For them, that is.
Finally in the afternoon we took off to scuba dive near Taboga Island. It was low visibility with a strong current, but it was still fun. Due to the current, we went down the anchor chain. It was funny trying to get neutrally buoyant. We were hanging onto the chain and were horizontal to the surface … like human flags.
We got back to the dock after dark and waited until morning.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 25)
Friday, July 3, 2009
A little rain this morning. A little sun. Fullerton spent time some outside with a kite this morning. He says he does this for therapy and relaxation. Usually it seems to fluster and frustrate him, and entertain us. I’m pretty sure his blood pressure goes up after most episodes of kite almost-flying. But it’s sure fun for everyone else on the boat. Today his kite flew! Fullerton was walking on tiptoes the rest of the day.
We neared Balboa, Panama in heavy rain. I actually got chilled as we stood in 35-knotswinds and pouring rain and tried to locate other boats or buoys through wet glasses and blowing rain. We avoided them all and parked in light wind and sprinkles at 2:30.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 24)
Thursday, July 2, 2009
We continued toward Panama. With the depth showing 4750 feet we stopped the boat in light wind. Bob and I decided to go for a swim. Bob did a flip off the front and I dived off the bowsprit. The water felt great. The stings were probably from jellyfish, although we never saw them. Our swim didn’t last long.
We fished all day. Got one little non-keeper.
Franz Liszt made a piano transcription of Beethoven’s nine symphonies. They were both good piano players, and good composers, and Liszt was an extra-good player. And he did a really, really good job putting these symphonies in piano form. I’d guess his piano playing experience and ability contributed to the complexities of these transcriptions. For example, in some cases, the thumb and pinkie get two notes each. Not something you see every day (except in jazz).
We have the sheet music of the transcription for symphonies 1-5 on the boat and Bob and I have at them occasionally. They go very slowly when we play them. I mean extremely slow. Liszt not only got all the moving parts going at the same time, he also used different parts of the keyboard almost at the same time to create some great effects. Every now and then, when Bob and I are tackling a section of one of these, it sounds extra good. But it’s pretty seldom. They are just too hard to play (for us).
Today we both played a little of them. It was sad. I turned on Gardiner’s symphonic performance of the finale of Beethoven’s third – a simple theme and variation – and told Bob to play along and keep up (note that Gardiner likes a fast tempo, haha). It prompted us to dig into the Minnow’s music vault and bring out a Russian performance of these transcriptions. We wanted to listen to how these transcriptions were meant to sound. They sound incredible.
It was dark by then, and nice and cool outside. We started with the finale of the third and then sat outside and listened to the entire piano performance of the fifth. Then we listened to Karajan’s symphonic version of the fifth (60s version – it has a little more pep than the 70s version). Although we were able to criticize many details of each performance (and we did), they were both, uhm, magnificent. The only place that the piano transcription comes up short is when Beethoven gets all the instruments whipped into a frenzy in the forth movement. Even then, the ability of Liszt to create some amazing sounds, such as the building arpeggio sections that recur during the movement, from a single keyboard played by a single person, is amazing.
BUT, what’s the problem with fancy piano players and rhythm? They get moving and in a good groove, everyone’s listening and following along, they play the really fast parts perfectly with flawless accuracy. Then, the music building up to a big climax, they ruin the moment by adding a noticeable pause. They get so good and high on themselves that they forget to tap their foot! And then they claim its “artistic.” But every listener has to restart the foot-tapping each time they lose the beat. I can abide a ritard at the end of a phrase, and an occasional birds-eye. They’re written in the music. But not these random gaps in the music.
Personally, I think the habit starts when they’re learning to play. A lot of climactic chords use lots of fingers. As a beginner it’s common to take an extra split second to line up and stretch all the fingers. Then Chopin and all his romantic buddies showed up and made it socially acceptable, calling it “rubato.” Then “habit” becomes “art” and that’s the end of high-quality rhythm.
It’s one thing to play Debussy and company in herky-jerky fashion. It’s not that good anyway, so not much is lost. But for the sake of all that is proper, play Beethoven like Beethoven intended. With a beat. Beethoven even dedicated a movement of a symphony to the metronome!
Fortunately, for the artistic advancement of mankind, someone invented the snare drum. We got back on track with John Phillips Sousa and Benny Goodman. And kept on track with John Williams, Led Zeppelin, and Hannah Montana. Even tribal rain dances and rap have a beat … they just aren’t interesting since they don’t have a melody, and lots of people prefer them to Chopin.
Fullerton treated breakfast this morning. Eggs, bacon, biscuits, and gravy. The gravy was tasty and the bacon and eggs were great. The biscuits … as far as I know, no one broke a tooth on them, but there were some close calls. It’s easy for me to write this since he probably won’t read it until he’s off the boat.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 23)
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Not much happened today. A few minor repairs and some cleaning. Quite a bit of reading. Several Beethoven symphonies, and a few by Brahms. Brahms did good symphonies, but Beethoven’s are better.
We are heading on a straight line toward the corner of Panama. Then we’ll follow the coast around to Balboa, where the Panama canal is. It looks like we’ll get there some time Friday.
Fullerton cleaned the reels and did some work on the lures and stuff. Bob made a big ruckus, slowing the boat, reeling and reeling, adjusting the drag. “You gotta play the fish!” He reeled in a bunch of plastic.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 22)
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
It was cloudy and sprinkling first thing, with some blustery wind. But it cleared soon into a nice day. Mostly cloudy with a comfortable breeze.
That weather worked good for dinghy diving. We did two dives today. This place is packed with fish. Lots of fish. Most of them are tropical and colorful. Hundreds and hundreds of them. More than that even. We also saw moray eels, starfish, weird-looking growths that are probably animals, lobsters, big turtles, and sharks. Many of the sharks lay in the sand here.
On our first dive I went in first to check the anchor, which Bob and Fullerton were weighing, or considering, or fighting over, or something. The anchor was laying on top of the sand, but the rope was zigzagged and tangled around enough rocks that is wasn’t going anywhere. When Bob got in the water he dropped one of his weights. It landed a few feet from a four-foot white-tipped shark lying in the sand. It swam away when we approached. But it was still scary!
After diving, Bob and I took off on kayaks. Bob went to shore to hike (walk) and I went along shore to look (paddle).
Late in the afternoon we took off. Next stop Panama, gateway to the Atlantic.
There was a French-toast-eating frenzy that occurred this morning.
Fullerton did some repair work on fishing gear as we sailed away from the island. There’s a no-fishing zone that extends for 12 miles from Cocos Island. This is one no-fishing zone that I think is a good idea.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 21)
Monday, June 29, 2009
More rain this morning. We headed directly into a headwind. That’s the Minnow’s most common travel condition. Into a raining headwind.
We got to Cocos Island at 1:00 in the afternoon and it was sunny and nice! Perfect conditions for island exploration and diving. We did both.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 20)
Sunday, June 28, 2009
It’s been raining a lot on the way to Cocos Island. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 96% of the time. Of course, part of the time it’s only sprinking, but that still counts as rain.
We started out the day with a 15-pound dolphin. It was raining too hard to clean it, so we practiced our catch and release techniques. Next Fullerton brought in a 10-pound dolphin. This time we were in light rain so we killed it and cleaned it.
Late in the afternoon Bob slowed the engines and started reeling in a good one. So good, in fact, that it started jumping out of the water. It was some sort of bill fish and looked just like they used to on Wide World of Sports. Bob kept after it for a long time. Luckily we had the sails down at the time and could stop quickly, or it wouldn’t have been on long.
“Bob quit screwing around and catch that thing,” I said after about an hour. It was getting dark.
Thirty minutes later Fullerton had the spotlight pointed to the end of the pole and we all were wearing headlights, Bob was playing the fish (or playing with the fish), and I was trying to follow the fish around with the boat.
“Turn 40 degrees left and back up,” Bob would say, “now thirty right. This fish is fast. Now forward!” I couldn’t see the line in the dark, so I was just driving blindly. Kind of like driving a minivan?
Thirty minutes later the fish was up near the boat, tired out, but still much stronger than any of us. After lots of effort (lots of failures) I finally got a sailing rope tied around its tail. We winched it up on the steps. Then we rejoiced, puffed our chests out, took pictures, touched the fish, and measured it.
It measured 115” long (9 feet, 7 inches). A blue marlin. A beast!
Then we let it go. It twitched a couple of times and then swam off like nothing was wrong. Catch and release. That’s what fishermen do.
We ate the dolphin. The actual name of the dish was “Sautéed Mahi-mahi in spices ala New Orleans.” The potatoes went down good with the fried fish!
In the lull between catching fish I treated Bob and Fullerton to some fine art. I hooked my electric guitar into the ship-wide stereo and started wailing. It was great!
One problem was some electronic noise, kind of like feedback only high-pitched and constant and loud. Fullerton thought it sounded like a carbon monoxide detector going off. I thought it added to the experience. After 20 minutes my fingers got sore and I ended the performance.
They were still sitting there, outside, when the big fish bit.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 19)
Saturday, June 27, 2009
We spent the morning and afternoon cleaning, getting more diesel and diet cokes, and exploring a bit. Fullerton showed up with a rental car and took us for a ride. Bob and I were good enough to earn a McDonald’s drive-thru in Liberia.
We had gotten enough stuff done, and explored enough that at 4:00 we took off for Cocos Island. About 30 minutes into our voyage we looked back and saw the marina and harbor in deluge of rain. We thought, “wow, that was luck, what good timing.” About 30 minutes later we were rushing to shut all the windows and hatches as the deluge caught us. We thought, “wow, it’s nice to get the entire boat rinsed off so well.”
We’re about 1.75 days from Cocos Island. It’s supposed to be really good scuba diving there. We’re looking forward to diving and exploring the island when we get there.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 18)
Friday, June 26, 2009
We pulled into Costa Rica at 4:30 in the afternoon. We parked at Marina Papagayo, “Costa Rica’s first and only luxury marina - the jewel of the Pacific American Coastline” according to their website. It is a nice place, but it’s still under construction. The people there are nice and willing to help. Wendy was especially helpful!
We hired an agent to help. They cost too much and weren’t the greatest. By 6:30 we had completed most of the customs and immigration junk.
After we got rid of everyone we unfurled the gennaker, revealing a messed up furler. This meant that we couldn’t refurl the gennaker (as we suspected) so we took the sail down, folded it, stuffed it in a sail bag, and stowed it. We will continue “gennakerless.”
Wireless internet in the marina let us catch up on normal email. It also let us waste time reading old news (olds?). Word was that Fullerton was in the country, but we didn’t see him.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 17)
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Nothing noteworthy to report today. We motor-sailed our way toward Costa Rica against a current of .75 to 1.5 knots. It was hot outside and cool inside. Finished another book and started yet another. Nothing broke!
Lots of porpoises swam around the boat during the afternoon and evening. They were fun to watch.
Some bites, no fish.
Bob broke out his IPod to settle some sort of debate. The debate was left unsettled but we did listen to a variety of music for a few hours.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 16)
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Good conditions continued overnight. Early this morning the oil plug came out of the right engine while it was running, draining it into the bilge. Luckily, Bob heard the beeping of it and shut it down quickly. Unluckily, this made a really messy mess.
After he went to bed, I attacked the clean-up and refill. Figuring to get full credit for an oil change (and deservedly so, it was a mess) I opted to change the filter, too. It’s stuck down at the bottom of the most forward (hardest to get to) part of the motor. It’s way worse than I can describe.
We got about 13 miles from shore hunting for the most favorable current. It got hotter, the closer we got to land. Good thing the air conditioner works. Looks like we might make Costa Rica on Friday. Reports are in: Fullerton is already there waiting on us.
Right in the middle of changing the oil filter I heard a reel start zinging. I actually had to think about it for a moment. I was oily, greasy, sweaty, and crammed horizontally in a cranny a little smaller than I comfortably fit. But a fish is a fish. So I backed my way out of the corner, climbed out of the engine compartment, walked across to the other side of the boat, and dutifully cranked the drag down, quieting the reel. Then I returned to the engine for awhile.
Twenty minutes later I came up for air and checked. The pole was still bent. I reeled it in. And I caught a fish! It was an eight-pounder. A skipjack tuna. I let it go and got back to finishing the oil business.
Late in afternoon I started reeling in a fish. It seemed big. I put the motor in idle, reeled a bit, the fish ran a bit. The fight was over in only five minutes, when I reeled in a fishless lure. Blah. Looking at the lure I noticed the hook was bent. Not just any hook, this is a very large stainless steel hook. The same kind of hook that brought in a 9’10” sailfish in these very waters two years ago. “Hookbender” won this round. I don’t know what kind of fish “hookbender” is, but he is now part of Minnow lore.
We caught our first dolphin today also. It was kind of small, maybe 2-3 pounds. It’s in the refrig now. The fishing drought has ended!
Started the morning cooking, and eating, sticky buns. And fried eggs. Continued with pasta for lunch. Feeling frisky, I mixed Kroger’s noodles with Albertson’s marinara sauce. Worked great!
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 15)
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
We went faster today. First, the wind was finally not directly opposing us. This was a big improvement. Also, the waves were negligible, except for a large swell from the storm, now hundreds of miles away but still making its existence known. Choppy waves slow the boat down. Large swells don’t. Finally, we were not going against a two-knot head current. In fact, for much of the day, we had a current moving us along slightly faster!
The result was SOG (speed over ground) of 8-9 knots for most of the day. That compares with 3-4 knots for most of the three previous days on the water. The ride is also much more relaxing. One more thing … nothing broke.
It started out as a good fishing day. I put the first line out and within 10 seconds had a bite. The reel screamed and took out about 50 feet of line in seconds. Then it quit. An hour later, when I was bike riding, the other pole started screaming. Then quit. Might need sharper hooks?
Late in the day we noticed that one of the poles had no line left on it. Probably lost a big one. Anyway, no fish boated today, but more action than we’ve had in several days.
Spending time outside by the poles would probably help our success rate, but it’s a lot nicer inside with the shade and air conditioning.
I finally broke out some chicken and fried it today for lunch. It really hit the spot. I don’t know I was needing (wanting), meat (protein) or grease (fat), but it was sure good.
The evening meal consisted of a huge baked potato loaded with butter, sour cream, salt, pepper, cheese and ketchup.
Long Beach to Cost Rica
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 14)
Monday, June 22, 2009
We spent the morning and afternoon at dock today. It rained lightly most of the morning and quit around noon for three hours. Then it started again.
We put up a new radome and now have radar again. Repaired the chafed rope holding a radar reflector so now it might not fall. Painted some marks on the anchor chain so we can see how deep it is in the water. Fixed the generator so we can run the air conditioner. Repaired the lifelines so we might not fall overboard. Remounted the teak seat in the front right of the boat so we can sit there and relax. Replaced the halyard clip so the rope wouldn’t flail around in the wind. Ate a bunch of cake for energy.
We also got 4 large trash bags of laundry done.
At 6:30 the welders showed up and welded the broken ¾” aluminum. Then we reassembled the front end of the boat and filled up with diesel.
By 9:00pm we were heading out to sea. And at 10:00 we put up the sails and were sailing at 9-10 knots in smooth waters with a nice quartering wind under the stars.
Bacon, eggs (over easy), and tuna-fish sandwich. And we ran out of cake!
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 13)
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Today I got up at 4:00am. I got semi-functional at 4:10. Bob went to bed at 4:15. It was rough with a 20 knot headwind and big waves coming right at us. And it was raining, of course. It was too rough to do much of anything comfortably, so I plugged in a movie. Then I sat, reclining on two pillows letting them absorb some of the banging and slamming.
The movie, some football movie with James Caan, wasn’t great, but wasn’t bad. About an hour into it I heard a huge “BOOM” behind me (toward the front of the boat) that sounded like some sort of major impact. Maybe like a car wreck really close. But I felt nothing. It was followed by a secondary noise (toward the back of the boat) which reminded me of glass breaking. Or something breaking.
Immediately I went outside to see what I could see. Well, immediately after pausing the movie, that is … it was at a good part. I didn’t see anything except rain in the pitch black. Then I grabbed an overboard beacon and a headlamp and put on a nighttime harness. I clipped into the safety webbing and headed forward. When I got to the front, I saw he front stay flying around loose and it had already caused some damage. I slowed the engines and went back inside and told Bob that he might want to start getting awake, we had some things to do (“happy father’s day, now get outa bed you lazy muttonhead!”).
The front stay is a 60-foot-long guy-wire that goes from the top of the mast to the tip of the bowsprit, (the pointy thing out front). It has a large sail (gennaker) furled around it. It holds the mast forward and we fly the gennaker from it in good sailing conditions. At the bottom of the stay is a drum that spools a rope used for furling and unfurling.
The stay had wrapped around the right spreader, about 30 feet up, and the bottom was held in a general area of the right front by the furling rope and a cable attached to the bottom right hull of the boat. Still attached to it were the eight-foot bowsprit and the 20-foot cable, along with substantial hardware and connections. It was heavy and swinging around wildly as the boat crashed into the waves.
I turned the boat sideways to the wind to settle the motion of the boat some and to use the wind to help keep the swinging mass away from the boat and doing more damage. Then I went forward for a better inspection of the situation, clipping and unclipping my harness along the way. It was windy, dark, and still raining. The gennaker had unfurled about 15 feet and was catching a lot of wind. It looked to be slowly unfurling more, not a good thing.
I took the left spinnaker tack (rope) from the front left of the boat and tied the end of it to the furling cage. Winching it in, it pulled the bottom of the mess back towards the middle of the boat over the trampoline where we could work on it.
By then Bob was up and silently observing the mess. We tied the bottom of the stay off with four different ropes and then removed the extra cabling and the bowsprit. This got rid of a lot of weight and thereby reduced the inertia of the swinging stay immensely. Then we turned the boat downwind to help get the stay off the spreader above. This accomplished, we tightening and loosening the four ropes, along with the furling rope, and managed to refurl the sail around the stay. That was a big help.
From there we ran ropes through the front cleats and back to winches. We were able to pull these ropes tight which pulled the end of the stay somewhat tight. Two hours after the “BOOM” we had things in good enough shape to limp on to the next town.
Some fine detective work later revealed that a shackle connecting a cable to front bottom part of the left hull had broken or come loose. This let the bowsprit be ripped upwards and to the right, which tore the bowsprit off where it was welded to a crossbeam. The stay, bowsprit, and cables tore off the top of the radome, killing our radar. It also tore off a radar reflector, broke a lifeline, and stetched and sprung two more lifelines. The gennaker furler may have some damage; we won’t be able to check it until we get the other things fixed.
While we’re at Huatulco, we’ll try to get the bowsprit mount welded and we’ll also try to fix a few other things, get some laundry done, and fill up with diesel. With luck, maybe we can be back sailing late tomorrow.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 12)
Saturday, June 20, 2009
There was no sailing today. Lots’ or rain, direct headwind of 25-35 knots, and big, choppy waves to go along with it kept our sails down and both our motors running.
The forecast showed winds of 7 knots from the front right, but this was one of the days that they didn’t get it quite right. In addition to the crappy wind and rain and waves, we had a head-current of up to two knots. That really hurts when the boat speed is five knots. Yes, that means we made the progress that a person makes at a comfortable walk, about three miles an hour.
And this was with both motors running at high speed and a rough ride. A very rough ride. It’s exactly the kind of situation where we would have opted to stay in Acapulco to ride out the storm, had we known the weather. But we didn’t, so I blame the weather, Bob, and anyone reading this blog that didn’t tell us about it.
OK I feel better now.
At what seemed like a tiny lull in the wind and waves when we got really close to shore, I decided to take the opportunity to cook. I chose eggs, over-easy. We ate eggs, scrambled.
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 11)
Friday, June 19, 2009
We got to Acapulco around 8:00am this morning. Much of the city is built high on the rocks and cliffs. The view from the water is beautiful. As we were pulling into the bay area, there were lots of different sized fishing boats heading out.
We had arranged for an “agent” to facilitate the customs process for us. We wanted to get in and out as fast as possible. All we wanted was to fill up with diesel and leave. Our first communication with our “agent” was to anchor in the harbor and wait. Luckily we were slow at that and before we got anchored we got our next instructions – tie up at the fuel dock and wait until 9:15 when he would meet us there.
We tied up at the fuel dock at 8:45 and waited. And waited. We couldn’t get diesel until our agent got the paperwork done. 9:15 came and went as we waited. We waited until 9:30, just sitting. We waited until 10:00. We waited until 10:30. We weren’t able to do anything but wait.
At 10:50am six “official” people came aboard the Minnow and made themselves at home in our living room. They did some paperwork. And then they started talking. And talking. In Spanish. And talking and laughing. Lots of stories with animated gestures. We could tell things were slow for them. I would have offered them Cokes and cookies, but that might have prolonged their visit for who knows how long.
Finally, at 11:30 they began the process of getting up and they slowly meandered their way to the dock. Our agent assured us that he would be back “in one hour. I’ll be back at 1:30” with our permission-to-go paperwork. Bob informed him that one hour was 12:30. Bob informed him several times. And he got lots of nods and assurances back from the agent, “one hour.”
We ate lunch at the restaurant, filled up with diesel, and were able to wait some more. 12:30 came and went. 1:00 and we still waited. Sigh.
We got untied and moving by 1:30.
We fished a few hours late in the afternoon. Didn’t get a bite. It looks like these waters must be fished out.
I ordered a cheeseburger at the restaurant. It was good, but not as good as yesterdays.
Long Beach to Cost Rica
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 10)
Thursday, June 18, 2009
What a difference a day makes. Today, the weather was great. Gentle wind with nice slow swells. Very nice.
One of the hard crossword puzzles that Bob started, and I tried to finish, asked as a hint “Rossini opera.” Eight letters with the first three T A N. “Tancredi” I said triumphantly, not remembering if it was spelled Tancredi or Tancreti. Bob mentioned that the only T A N opera that came to his mind was Tannhauser. I mentioned that that was Wagner. He mentioned that he knew that but was going to try to make it fit anyway.
This led to a couple of hours of Rossini overtures played on the boat-wide stereo. We agreed La Scala was pretty lousy. I told him La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie?) was my favorite Rossini overture. We both liked William Tell, but weren’t sure if it counted since it was from TV.
Fished all day. Didn’t get a bite. Again. We put the fishing poles into storage.
No, not because we were giving up on fishing! Because we didn’t want to get hassled by the Mexicans for fishing in their waters tomorrow.
good weather = smooth sailing = lots of french toast and huge cheeseburger = smile
Long Beach to Cost Rica
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 9)
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The rain started about 1:30am. That’s when the windows were shut and the heat started to set in. Along with rain squalls comes wind. Bob turned, adjusted sails, and contended with squalls and changing wind for two hours. When I got up and 3:30 he was in the process of taking down all the sails and we began motoring with two engines into a stiff headwind. Probably we would get through the rain and wind in a few hours and then would be back to easy sailing again.
The big waves from yesterday had turned into a substantial swell from the left. The headwind (20+ knots) was making a new set of “wind waves” from directly ahead. Motoring into this with no sails was rough. The constant splashing combined with the rain made it wet, too. Wet enough to keep all the windows shut. Which made it hot.
Luckily we have an air conditioner. Unluckily, it was blowing hot air, not cold. So it stayed hot. And rough.
The headwind and occasional rain continued all morning. And all afternoon. In the late afternoon the wind shifted to the right and put up some sails and turned off the motor. We sailed fast. We were doing more than 8 knots (40 degrees off the wind, with our mainsail at the second reef and our solent at 75%). It was still rough, but better with some sail up.
After sundown, twenty hours after it began, it started to ease. Turns out we were just north of a low pressure that was expected to dissipate, but when we got new weather this evening it had strengthened and is forecast as a possible tropical cyclone tomorrow. It’s behind us going the other way now, so no worries about it for us. The worries are the low that is forming south of Acapulco. We might end up in Acapulco for a few days to let that one pass.
Didn’t fish. Too wet, too bouncy, too hot (that’s not what fishermen do).
The closest I got to fine food was the Chef-boy-ardee (is that named after R. D. Mercer?) ravioli I microwaved late in the day.
Long Beach to Cost Rica
Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 8)
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Today I’ll give you a snapshot of life on the Minnow. Or sailing with Bob (see above).
In the living room we have a “nav station” where a lot of electronic and electrical stuff is. It has our VHF radio, HF radio, and satphone for communicating with people who not on the Minnow.
When we talk to other boats we sit there. When we connect our computers to the satphone to get weather or send/receive email, we sit there. Sometimes when we read we sit there.
There’s a nice table and a comfortable chair there, too. And our boat-wide stereo and DVD player. And TV.
It’s where we drive the boat from most of the time. It has a GPS/chartplotter with a big electronic map display. A control for the autopilot is there, along with instruments indicating wind speed and direction, depth, speed, water temperature, air temperature, barometric reading, and time (yes, a clock).
The autopilot steers the boat virtually 24 hours every day. There are two steering wheels outside, but they rarely get touched, except when we’re docking or anchoring. The autopilot steers the boat on a straight line, or I follows the wind in “wind vane” mode. Most of the time, when we are using sails we use “wind vane” mode, so when the wind shifts the boat turns and the sails don’t flap or tangle or jibe. The autopilot beeps when the boat has turned very much as a result of a wind direction change so we don’t go in circles, or to Japan. When this happens, it beeps until a button is pushed, acknowledging the change in direction, or until the wind changes back (can be a long time).
Typically, the person sitting at the nav station presses the button, stopping the annoying beeping. If no one is near the nav station, someone gets up and stops the beeping. When Bob is at the nav station, it works something like this:
“BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP,” the autopilot asks for a button push.
“Bob?” I say from across the room, laying down reading a book.
“BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP,” it’s louder right next to Bob.
“Hey, you want me to get that?” I try again. Bob is in his own world.
“BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP,” we’ve turned 20 degrees right and this thing won’t stop its racket until the button is mashed.
“I’ll get that.” I sit up slowly, delaying a bit longer, hoping Bob will snap out of his trance.
I walk up behind Bob and silence the noise with a simple touch.
“Oh,” he says, now staring at the button in a stupor, “want me to get that?”
A snapshot of life on the Minnow. It’s not pretty.
For lots of years many of us have been in the habit of listening to books-on-tape while we drive. Before going hiking in Nepal last fall, I put several audio books on my MP3 player and got in the habit of listening to them anytime I was walking. I continued this habit while deer hunting, bike riding, lawn mowing, and lots of other things.
Now it’s become a habit while sailing. It’s nice to be able to keep busy AND stay wrapped up in a story. On the Minnow, it’s not uncommon for Bob and me both to be walking around with ear-buds in our ears, doing whatever we do. It cuts down on meaningless chatter, too. Not that we talked much before.
But, there’s always a price to pay. It has cut back on our boat-wide enjoyment of the fine arts.
Changed lures. No bites. We were going fast today, most of the day between 9 and 10 knots, which is too fast for good fishing. But I took action anyway. I put new line on one of the reels so we could let the lure out farther. Take action. That’s what fishermen do.
When there’s enough wind to push a sailboat 9-10 knots, there’s enough wind to make some pretty big waves. So I opted for ready-to-eat meals. Banana bread, leftover fish, oreos, chips and salsa, breadmaker bread (good for the gums), cheese, chips ahoy, and bologna. It was a good day for eating.