Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fishing and Catching

We didn't get in as much fishing as we would have liked this year, what with one thing and another, but what we were able to accomplish was thrilling.  

The instant adrenalin rush as the reel screams, the fish taking the line.  We jump into action.  Getting the rod out of the holder on the deck and into the fighting belt is the first order of business.  Next, clamping down the drag so the line stops peeling off the spool so quickly.  And then the struggle to reel in the fish as he fights to throw the hook, swallow the bait and get free.

We only came up empty once--every other effort was well rewarded and we dined on the most delicious fresh fish many nights.

Woody broke the spell of the jinx that has kept him from catching anything for the past four years.  Boy, did he ever break that jinx for good!

Barracuda.  Better than nothing.  We never eat them but they are fun to play with.

King Mackerel.

Cero Mackerel

Mahi Mahi/Dorado/Dolphin Fish

The Trophy Flag.  
We raise it coming into port, boasting our catch.  
Hey, Everybody!  Look at us, see what we got!

Okay now.  Who else out there likes to fish?

Friday, March 23, 2012

It's A Small World

We have arrived at Atlantis once again.  For almost 12 years, Steadfast has come and gone from the port of Nassau and never graced the docks of this august realm.  This season, we are now amazed to report our third visit in three months!


I LOVE it here!

Yesterday, we pulled into Paradise with two seasick guest-sailors aboard, just around mid-afternoon. 
 (I'm not pointing any fingers or making accusations, but some people just can not drink all night and  sail the next day.  Enough said.)

Our slip assignment put us alongside the Discoverer on one side and Modus Vivendi on the other.  Two sailboats.  
Two different stories.

Modus Vivendi is home to two adorable little girls who are in love with Nelson, and he with them.  They hail from Toronto's RCYC.  Small world.

The fourteen sailors on Discoverer are all from the British Military Services.

Built as a racing sailboat in 1991 and refitted in 1996, Discoverer is a steel hulled, 67 foot British Armed Forces training vessel.  A crew of 14 mans this vessel at all times, wherever it sails.  

They do things the hard way....
There are no port holes.  With a steel hull and steel decks and no ventilation, the boat is a floating hot box.
They do around-the-world races, backwards, against the prevailing winds.
Sails are hung and raised as needed, not stored on deck.

Check out the view from the main companionway...this is no leisure cruiser!!!!
It's all business, a lesson in claustrophobia and endurance.

Three to a cabin, hot bunks, meaning, one crew sleeps in the bunks, while the other crew stands watch, and then they switch. 
We're talking sweating, unbathed men here, six days, or more, at sea at a time.  They hit the marina docks running for the showers.

Can you spot the "lee cloths"?  They are slings clipped in to keep a body from falling out of the narrow births as the vessel keels over to one side or the other.

 The forward vee-birth area has been given over to storage for fenders, sails and extra lines.
There are two heads, the kind where you sit on the John and hose yourself down with cold water for showering.

The "Wet Locker"...can you smell it???
And the boat had aired out before our visit!!!!!

I had to go for a second tour to take pictures with no people.  Photos of men in service are not allowed to be published online, or so they say.
Yes, they have volunteered to serve this duty.  They pay their own flights to join the crew wherever it might be when their tour begins, and then their flights home again.  Still and all, they get to see and enjoy places they would never ordinarily afford to visit.  They are on duty, paid a wage by the service of the force they belong to for the duration of their voyage.  Russ laughingly told us he was "on the job" while floating down the "Lazy River" ride and taking a plunge down the "Abyss" water slide.

We asked them how this worked.
What is the point of this endeavour?
How does the military benefit from this sailing, racing around the world?
What do the individual service men get from this?
Why do men and women volunteer for this duty?

We toured their boat.
They came aboard Steadfast.
Beer and wine were involved.
Admiral Lord Nelson was much vetted.

It took awhile, but eventually, this is what we came away with:
A tour of duty onboard the Discoverer is a perk.  Service men and women request permission to crew her.  Tonight we met a totally, all-male crew.  Two weeks ago, there were five women and nine men onboard.  Crews change over on a two week basis during these expeditions.  The boat had just crossed from Portsmouth, England, to Saint Thomas in 6 days, then Saint Thomas to Nassau in six days.  In twenty-four hours, they will make Miami.  (Change of crew.)   From there, they head for Eastern Canada--Halifax,  (change of crew) and then to Alaska.  There are 21 vessels of various types in this British Military Training program cruising around the world and 4500 service men and women participating in expeditions annually.  Assignments vary in length from one week to one year.

Veterans of Afghanistan and Libya "take a cruise" to help them rehabilitate back into non-combatant life conditions, even those with physical and mental wounds.  The support of military brotherhood helps them bridge the leap from the regimented life of the corps to routine daily life.  One of the men we met had just finished his seventh tour in Afghanistan.

Some of the men we met were near the end of their military careers.  Some were just beginning.
None of them had known each other before their time aboard Discoverer began.  Engineers, Medics, Cooks, Pilots, non-sailors, Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants, Army, Air Force, Navy...they are a real mix that has to work at being a team. 

It seems the focus is on learning and re-enforcing team building and leadership skills.
""Fit to fight, fit for life" is their motto.

Here we see the navigation station on Discoverer.  My guess is the Navigator/Captain gets the best seat in the house--a seat all for him/herself, not to be crowded out by buddy-boys hogging the cushy seats.

There are three standing Watches while this training vessel is at sea:  
One (4 men) is on helm.  
One is asleep.  
One is "Mother".  (Remember we are talking British here:  Mother pours the tea.)
There is one Captain, and three Mates.  There is one Mate is on watch at all times.
The watches rotate on a regular schedule.

Here is their galley.

How do YOU like your coffee?

You ABSOLUTELY have to enlarge this photo and read around the flash burn to learn the duties of the Mother Watch.  I want one of these plaques in MY galley.

Each crew person gets one plastic box to store personal items.
Maybe Steadfast should enforce this system on our guests to keep clutter at a minimum.

We meet the most interesting people when Steadfast comes to port and when we make it ashore from the various anchorages we frequent.  Tonight, the world became a friendlier and cozier place as we became acquainted with men from the other side of the globe.

Dog lovers.
Beer Drinkers.


Don't you just love making new friends?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Black and White Wednesday

On board Steadfast, water conservation is a big issue.  
Sailor showers are designed to use as little water as possible.  
Hose down.
Turn off the water.
Soap up and scrub.
All done?  Rinse.
Turn off the water and check for drips.
Some books say a good sailor shower uses only a cup of water.  I don't read those kinds of books!!!

The bigger the sailor, the longer his or her hair, the more water they seem to need.
This little sailor had three baths a day--in a five gallon bucket!

No showers for him.  He loved a 20 minute soak.

He looks so content!  
I love his two-year-old-sized polarized sunglasses and hat as he relaxes in his "tub".  His "heat lamp" is the blazing Bahamian sun.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sailing Solo, or...Man OverBoard!

The sun was high in the sky, the wind coming briskly at 20 knots from the south-east.  The waves had been building all morning and now were cresting at four to five feet off his stern. 

Twenty miles from land in any direction, John had had enough of the waves pushing him around.  Time to haul in the jib and reef the main.  Time to get things back under his control and out of the merciless hands of Mother Nature.

Hand over hand, he worked his way forward thru the shrouds until he was positioned at the foot of the jib.  The auto helm had the boat moving at a steady six knots without him there to think about it.  You had to admire technology that left his hands free for the task at hand.  The auto-helm was his first mate in all but flesh and blood. 

His feet planted in the wide stance of sailors at sea, he leaned his hip into the spinnaker boom notched in its cradle across the bow.  Reefing the jib with both hands, he had nothing but the tread of his speery topsiders left to keep a secure hold as he worked.

The rogue wave caught him unawares as it hit his 40 foot sloop broadside.  The boom taking all his weight suddenly popped out of its nesting spot and swung out of the cradle, sending him flying over the safety rail.

-I’m dead, he thought!  This is it!!

Miraculously, he still held the jib sheet in his hand.  His fist around the rope was his one chance at life, his only chance.

-I’m dead for sure, his brain screamed inside his head!

The speed of the boat and the force of the water slew his body to the length of the free rope, bashing him alongside his boat at mid-ships.  He was holding on to the sheet with both hands now, getting bruised and tired quickly.

-Haven’t spotted a boat all day.  There’s no one to help… no one to see…no one will know….

At the water line, he looked up at the deck of the boat five feet above him.  His eyes burning in the salt water, his mouth a grim line of determination, he stretched as far as an arm could go.   Impossible.   He’d never reach it in a hundred years. 

His hands had rubbed raw and his fingers had stiffened to clubs of stubborn wood.  The sheet was now clenched in the crook of his right arm, tight against the bitter end, knotted to prevent it running through the chock inadvertently.  Who knew that knot was to prevent the rope from running out at the end of his elbow in this emergency?

Another wave.  This time the boat keeled over to starboard and the freeboard was lower to the water and closer to John floundering at her side.  No conscious thought moved him—it was the instinctual drive for survival that had his leg flailing up towards the decking of the boat.  Just as the boat righted, moving the deck upwards once more, John’s heel caught on a stanchion.

All his years sailing solo in the islands had toughened his body and strengthened his mind.  Fighting back from three double knee transplants had taught him the quickest way thru any pain was to swallow the bitter pill and keep moving.

-Keep going.  Keep trying.  Keep on keeping on, he encouraged himself.

Little by little, first his heel, then his foot, eventually his knee had purchase against the stanchion.  It took him almost ten minutes to work the weight of his body back aboard the wind-driven boat. 

-I’M ALIVE!!  I’M ALIVE!!!!!

Two weeks later, at Sundowners in Big Major’s Spot, he swaggered ashore to share his tale with those gathered around the bonfire.

-I’ve been re-incarnated.  This is me, a new man.

He showed the proof of his tale, a hematoma the size of a large grapefruit on the inside of his leg, just above his knee. 

-It’s been awhile now, but I’m sure it will go down eventually, he said.

Those around the fire shook their heads and couldn’t help shuddering, a shiver running up their spines.

-Better him than me, they thought as one.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Thar' She Blows



And then...

 "The Weather Event of the Season" was scheduled to hit Sunday night.  
Okay then, let's find shelter and be quick about it. 
 We started calling for dockage reservations and were getting the old "No-Room-At-the-Inn" message everywhere we turned.  Plan B.... 

Did we have a Plan B?  

What could be an alternative to swinging wildly on a hook or two, waiting out a week-long blow?  Our guardian angel was working on our behalf, and a space opened up for us at Compass Cay.  
Hurrah!  We're saved.  

Soaked by the spray of the breakers...

We took turns holding the little one lest he be blown away in the Gale force winds.

I love the sea oats blowing in the beach dunes.

The winds are lessening now, but Steadfast is growing fond of the dock.  Nelson is partial to the beach runs and Captain and Crew are decidedly attached to the pot luck dinners and Sundowners with the gang  at Compass Cay.  We are in no hurry to move on.

How's the weather in your neck of the woods?
One hears hints of spring are making their appearance here and there.