Monday, February 3, 2014

Steadfast At Sea

Lorna asked for a post about cruising/sea crossings/sailing.  Well...here it is.

At supper, Captain B makes his announcement:
-We're off the dock tomorrow and under way by 9:30 sharp!

Note to those who sail, not motor:  your Captain will announce a departure time before dawn, as you will cruise at 6 knots.  We make 15-18kt. at 2500 RPMs and arrive faster and earlier than you would.  There is an upside to your slower pace--you can fish all the way there, whereas, Steadfast has to slow down to troll for pelagics.

If we happen to be at a dock for this announcement, not at anchor, or at a mooring, this signals time to raise and secure the dingy on the aft deck house.  The Admiral (Nelson, our dog) will need an early morning pee, which would shift the dingy routine until after a run ashore.  Note to prospective cruisers:  dogs complicate life aboard.  The debate continues regarding the pros and cons.

There will be no lollygagging over breakfast next day.  Eat, wash up, walk the dog, stow the boat.  It's automatic now, after 13 years, but in the early days, we learned the hard way to check, and double-check with guests aboard, that all hatches and port holes are closed AND locked down.  The forward shower door is lashed with bungies to the door handle of the room.  This is peculiar to Steadfast, after having to re-attach the hinges TWICE following rough crossings.  (Some of us take a little longer to catch on.)  Cutting boards, tea kettle, floral arrangements and water jug get stowed in the galley sink--something else we learned through experience.  The lamp and salon fans are laid on cushioned seats so they don't go flying across the room while we are at sea.  Soap, shampoo bottles, laptop computers--anything and everything not bolted down, needs to be secured before we cast off.  We have a sad story about a glass Aladdin Lamp....

Usually, the evening before we leave, or else before breakfast, Captain B lays in a course. 13 years ago, we did all our navigation the old fashioned way, on paper charts with rulers and sharp pencils, using electronics as back ups.  These days, we are extremely familiar with the areas we frequent and our Navtech, Sea Maps, Chart Plotter and Auto Pilot make life very easy.  Both Captain and Crew (me) have graduated Power Squadron Basic Navigation courses.  Captain B has a certificate in VHF radio as well as diesel engine maintenance.  We subscribe to Chris Parker, NOAA, PassageMaker Weather and WindFinder.  All our ducks are DEFINITELY in a row before we decide to move.  Just because it is a beautiful, sunny day in paradise doesn't mean we'll have smooth sailing for any crossing.  Wind direction, and strength, wave height and frequency, distance and time all factor into the equation.

Everybody's tolerance for sea motion is different.  I am the one with the reversible stomach.  Nelson and I both agree, we build tolerance as the season progresses, but....  We've had three rough crossings thus far this year.  I resort to antiemetics so as not to vomit for the hours at sea.  Poor Captain B!  I take drugs and go to sleep, leaving him to go it solo, with Nelson for company.  That's what he gets for having a cast-iron stomach.

This year in the Exumas, Sampson Cay has gone totally private.  Okay, Mr. MoneyBags, buy yourself an island!  BUT...cruisers are now facing the consequences: no fuel depot, no groceries, no showers, no restaurant (read: no 2 for 1 pizzas on Thursdays.)  Again, this is an example of another factor to plan around.  The first year Steadfast came this way, there were no grocery stores between Nassau and Staniel Cay and then none until we reached Georgetown.  I use the term "grocery store" loosely.  There has always been the Pink Store, the Blue Store and Isle's General in Staniel.  The big boat from Nassau provisions them weekly, or biweekly.  On those days, Cruisers stand in a "bread line", hoping to score a head of fresh lettuce and a ripe tomato!  Steadfast's larder has seeds to sprout for greens, flour and yeast to make bread, et cetera.  You get the idea.

For the past two days, Steadfast has been at a slip in Highbourne Cay Marina, a heavenly oasis in the Exuma Chain.  The robin's egg blue ski butts against the aqua-coloured sea. The sun is beating down and we are somnolent in the shade.  Nelson is digging to China on the beach.  Cruising is blissful repose, on the good days.
iguanas in Allen's Cay

Other posts will extoll the virtues of Captain B, who works hard daily to keep us safely afloat.  Stay tuned to learn how he has become a master of electronic systems, vacuum toilets, water maker systems, air conditioning units, and on, and on, and on.  The learning curve has been steep and arduous.  
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