Saturday, December 25, 2010

Back in the US of A, Baby!

see how tattered my
ensign (American flag) is? It's been a hell of a rough sail from Grenada! I made it to Miami this morning after staying up all night for the sail across the gulf. It was pretty dull, not much wind, cold, and I had to fight the gulf current, which really wanted to shoot me north. Video coming soon! Merry Christmas today!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve on Cat Island

Here's a video from earlier in the month. I'm on Cat Island waiting for weather. As soon as I arrived here I was taken in by a very nice Columbian family from Miami, the father of which met me on the fuel dock when I arrived and immediately invited me over to the house for the next couple meals. It's very nice to have some company while I wait for weather, and the everyone in the family has been super nice.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Arrival in Cat Cay; 40nm to Miami!

I haven't been able to access the site for updates. I'm on Cat Cay waiting for Christmas morning when there is supposed to be good weather to cross to Miami. I've had awful weather since Puerto Rico. No wind, or strong stormy wind from the exact direction I want to go. Bad news. I'm almost there though.

This update is from a week or so ago:
Exhaustion. I’ve been open ocean and coastal sailing daily for the last 20 days with occasional overnight stops.
After I arrived in Ponce, Puerto Rico I hopped up to Mayaguez on the NW side of the island, then departed the next day for Grand Turk Island. What a miserable sail, walking speed the whole way and one 24hr period of dead calm. However, I made it in 4 days and arrived 24hrs before my father and step-mother arrived on their cruise ship. So we had a nice, though brief visit. That night I weighed anchor and sailed north behind the cruise ship. I went north of Caicos islands bound for Mayaguez Isl. North of Caicos I was becalmed again, the weather has been very aggravating! I changed my destination to Rum Cay, which is a bit further away. I never made it, the wind shifted and strengthened to the NW (just the direction I wanted to go) and I had to backtrack a couple hours to take refuge on the SE point of Mayaguez. It wasn’t much of a refuge, the wind was very strong and running parallel to the coast, and the swells rolled along violently in the same direction. I dropped anchor anyway and slept in short periods, rolling violently and getting up to check the anchor, which dragged twice buy held for the rest of the night once I paid out more line and it found its spot and dug in. Leaving the next morning was a nightmare. The high winds and swells continued, so getting the 45lb anchor and 50ft of chain back onboard by hand took an hour. Before sunset, I made the anchorage on the SW side of the island, which is well protected by a long reef. What a joy it was to drop anchor there, the water was calm and the boat protected from the wind by the land. I rowed into the small settlement to look around and walk the dog, but when I returned I collapsed into my bunk and slept soundly until morning. I was completely exhausted.

Unable to update the blog from Mayaguez I continued on to Rum Cay 130 or so nm away. I arrived Friday shortly before sunset. I’m relieved there was a place to stop today, I’m rocking an awful headache. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Grenada to Puerto Rico Pt II

Man, I love Puerto Rico. Great food, great weather. It's warm during the day and borderline chilly at night, perfect.I was getting really tired or sweating day and night in Grenada. But I'm not complaining I promise! Here's the second part of the videos. I'm leaving Ponce tonight for the SW corner of the island, then Mayaguez tomorrow and on to the Bahamas the next day. I've got a special visitor coming on the 29th to Miami, so I'm hustling a bit to ensure I'm on time.

as a special treat, I cooked steak and mashed potatoes tonight. Soo good! I haven't had a steak since I left the US.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Grenada to Puerto Rico Pt I

I'm writing this in the marina office and the rain is pouring down in buckets. I've cleared out and payed all my bills, the video is uploading, so as soon as the rain dies down I'm out. I threw in a little intro to the video and I'm rather proud of this one. Well, see for yourself. Part II will be the sail itself, which I will upload in PR. It should take me about 4 days to get there, straight shot across the Caribe Sea. I'm putting a lot of faith in this steering gear...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Halfway point reflections

My first attempt at a video log! I'll try to be a bit better with updates, and perhaps do more on video like this. Please leave a comment, I'm curious if people are really checking out this site. In the video I mention procrastination as a big issue for me, and how timeboxing seems to help some. If interested you can read more in this article here, this guy mentions timeboxing in item #6.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Afloat in Grenada

My apologies for not updating in so long. I suppose you could say I've been having mixed feelings about this voyage, and that didn't put me in a updating mood. Right now I'm in Prickly Bay, Grenada. I've lived on the boat for 7 months now, and I've completed the Caribbean islands. The steering gear arrives next week, so I'll be spending a few days soon getting that installed. My end goal of moving to Japan by June still stands, but the plan for between now and then has changed; As much as I'd love to see Pategonia, I don't think I'll be going any further South than Venezuela. I've had near constant problems with the boat and equipment, which have drained my savings quicker then I'd hoped. On top of that, the safety concerns are large for a single-handed sailor going to South American countries, and I'm talking about crime in the ports. The research I've done on the ports has been pretty dismal about personal safety for boaters. Anyway, it doesn't change much; I'm still living on the boat over the winter and getting to choose where I want to go.
I can't say I've been impressed at all with Grenada, there's not much here. But I loved the Grenadines. The trip south from St Lucia was pretty uneventful. I stopped and anchored for one night in St. Vincent, only went ashore to walk the dog, and continued on to Bequia the next day. My favorite Grenadine Island was Mayreau (see photos). You can hike one side to the other in 30 minutes, but they had a gorgeous protected little bay on the north end, great views, and even an internet cafe. On the windward side of the island are the Tobago Keys, famous for their turtles and shallow reefs.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Pitons and the hassle of Boat boys

I’ve made my way from Rodney Bay on the north end of St. Lucia to Vieux Fort on the Southern end over the course of 3 day-sails. Short sails are preferable for me while I’m still having to sail alone without any steering aid. This will change in Grenada, as the steering gear is being produced in Canada now and will meet me there.

Much of this coast is a National Park, The Pitons, which is supposed to be beautiful. Unfortunately they don’t allow anchoring along the coast, so I enjoyed the beauty of the mountains from the comfort of my yacht as I sailed past, which is just fine for me. They want you to pay for moorings instead of using your anchor, and being forced to hand over cash always rubs me the wrong way. Everyone on these islands wants to squeeze you for cash, it’s getting tiresome. Even at anchor, twice a day I have to come topside and say to some boat vendor “no, I don’t want to buy any bananas.” Imagine having door to door salesmen come to your house or office twice a day.

My guidebook listed an exception to the no-anchoring rule, there is a restaurant that you can anchor in front of from 1800 to 0600. That’s exactly what I did on Friday night. A mile offshore, a local boat came at me full speed, and the boy at the wheel insisted he would take me to a mooring. You have to tell these people “no thank you” 15 times before they start to get the hint. Even if I did want a mooring, I really don’t need help picking up a line out of the water and cleating it off on deck. I motored to the restaurant, with the boy motoring beside me, getting more and more angry at me as I insisted I didn’t need his help nor a mooring ball. “The rules changed, you can’t do that, I know the rules! I’m going to tell the police!” “If the rule’s really changed, I’ll find out from an authority and move, but you want my money, yes? So no offense, but I don’t trust what you have to say.” He didn’t like that so much. I let Lexi sleep up on deck to alert me of any trouble that night, but left without incident at 0700.

I must say I’m “over” the Caribbean. The locals; many are kind, but just as many are pushy and aggressive, begging, drugs, and theft are rampant. Some other boats told me the only reason I haven’t had any “night-time visits” yet is because I have the dog aboard. Now I’m really glad I brought her. By next week I’ll be in Grenada, I will have sailed the entire Caribe! In September I’ll venture out into the Atlantic and cut back west to Brazil. I’m pretty excited to get to South America, especially to Argentina and Chile.

I can’t deny though, these islands are beautiful. Vieux Fort has one of the coolest beaches I’ve seen and the it is an excellent spot for kitesurfing, which I’m taking advantage of.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Long range planning

Such beautiful sunsets here in St. Lucia; this photo’s colors are un-altered.

Ever since attending my brother’s Tokyo wedding last April, I’ve been consumed with the notion of finding a job in and moving to Japan. I’ve always been interested in working abroad, and I’d better do it now while I’m still clinging on to the last quarter of my 20’s. When I flew back into Puerto Rico, I immediately went to a Borders book store and bought a Japanese language book and audio set, as well as a phrasebook and a guide to living abroad in Japan. I figured if I was serious about the idea, then learning the language would be a good way to prove it to myself. Now I’ve learned over 300 words and phrases on flashcards. Obviously, being able to speak Japanese fluently would be an immense resume plus when looking for a job there. In addition, it gives me some peace of mind to know I’m doing something productive on this trip, something besides just being a sailing tourist.

I always shy away from publishing a trip “schedule” on here, because I change my long-range plans constantly, and don’t want to be held to any schedule. I’ve spent many hours this trip looking through my World Sailing Routes book, researching different possible routes. But, I’ve had it in my mind for a good while to transit the Straights of Magellan, in Patagonia (Bottom of South America) this December (their summer). There are several options after that, like sailing clear across the Pacific. The option I’m leaning towards now is arriving in California b/t April - June of 2011. From there I’d sell the boat, visit Charleston, and make the move to Japan all in short order. I’ve come to be very comfortable on the boat and could happily live aboard in Japan, but sailing the 10,000nm (Chile – Hawaii – Japan) there really doesn’t appeal to me. It would be over 90 days of solo sailing very long passages on a desolate, often angry ocean.

One thing is very clear to me; I need a good working steering gear. This is a mechanical device that will steer the boat using no electronics and allow me to leave the helm to tend sails, cook, sleep, etc. while single-handing. Up till now I’ve made do without one, but no one sails like this, hands on the wheel at all times, it’s ridiculous; exhausting. Unfortunately they are expensive, and the one I want, the “Cape Horn” has a 3 month wait. They custom build them upon request. For lack of a better option I think I’ll buy it and just wait for it to arrive at a mailing address in Grenada. Then I can install it and take off for Trinidad and S. America.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Down time in St Lucia

Here is a little movie of clips I compiled from time spent on the lovely island of Dominica. I am now spending some down time from sailing in St. Lucia (funny to suggest that I need “down time” on a vacation). I’ve offloaded both of my crewmembers here and am single-handing on the boat again. There is a nice bay here with a good beach, the down side being that the tourists rent jet skis and buzz around the boat during the day. It’s still good though. I’m taking some time to clean and re-organize the boat, as well as take care of small projects I wasn’t able to tackle while I had crew aboard. I’ve also managed to get some kitesurfing in.

Friday, June 18, 2010

St. Kitts, Montserrat, Guadeloupe

I finished up my stay in St. Martin with a visit to the Sunset beach bar, where you can get the full jet blast of landing and departing jumbo jets as they fly over the beach and onto the short runway. It was pretty funny to watch the tourists who underestimated this power as they rolled down the beach, getting sandblasted, and then had to swim out 50 ft into the ocean to get their bags and sandals, etc. Repairs were finished up to the roller furling jib, which is back to normal operation.

Now with 3 people and a dog aboard, Alexandra set sail for St Kitts with a strong SE wind. We made it in no time and anchored for the night. I thought I’d get away without clearing in, since I planned to depart in the morning, but I got a lovely visit from their coast guard at 0100 and sat for a boat search. I flashed my old Navy ID and explained I was merely stopping for the night to take a rest and I would be off. The guys decided to let me go instead of escorting me into port.

We spent most of the next day sailing to Montserrat. This was a very interesting island because of its active volcano. Their capital city of Plymouth was destroyed and abandoned by falling ash that began in 2003 and eventually covered most of the town up to the roofs! In the photo you see the 3rd floor above the ash, another photo shows the ash coving the golf course. The southern end of the island with the volcano looks like a desert, while the north end is green and lush. We took a taxi tour as my guidebook recommended and it was well worth it. Much of the volcanic side of the island is off limits. Signs that read “You are now entering Zone B” made me think of the movie “District 9.” Our guide took us to his home and picked ripe mangos and breadfruit for us out of his own trees. I don’t like mangos, but the breadfruit is excellent. Chopped up it is the size of 4 potatoes and similar looking, but the taste once cooked is like a boiled bread dumpling. We added an onion and made a wonderful stew that night in the pressure cooker. Luckily, they hang off the trees on every corner, and there are more than anyone on the islands can eat. Cheap eating!

The next day, on the 12th, we had mostly no wind and when we did, it died and shifted 180 degrees. I hate it, but I had to (chose to) motor for a long way. We arrived in Guadeloupe. Feeling a bit cramped on the boat, we all decided to take a break from each other and just take a hike for the day. I went and found some internet, and then hitched up to the Volcano. The hike (first two photos) from the parking lot was pretty long and steep, but at the top was a rocky volcanic peak and a crater, masked in a rain cloud. There was also a vent which was venting sulfuric steam and gasses. Crazy. It was so nice and cool up there. Then after a hike back down you get hot, but there’s a wonderful bath at the bottom which is slightly warm from the volcano. Excellent hike. Funny enough, I ran into both my crewmembers on the trail and we all enjoyed the pool together at the bottom. Early morning of the 16th, we departed for Dominica. I’m putting together a little movie for my next post with clips of Dominica.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Outfitting and repairs in St Martin

On 31May we sailed out behind the mass of Antiguan sailing boats and made the short sail to French St Martin, Marigot Bay. We cleared in and then returned to the boat for a grilled pork dinner and I finished scraping the last of the Puerto Rican Barnacles from the bottom of the hull. On 01Jun, first day of the Hurricane season, we motored through the drawbridge into the large lagoon. In the winter months this lagoon is packed with sailboats and megayachts of every sort, but now the majority have headed north or south out of the tropical storm belt. I’ll be south of it soon enough. For now the priority is getting my boat running nicely again. I bounced between the Dutch and French side of the island, getting various work done. I had the roller furling jib repaired and I had a stainless steel pole fabricated to hold the wind generator, my two most expensive jobs done here. I also got a great deal on a small outboard engine for the dinghy, a luxury after 3 months of rowing everywhere. And there were various other minor projects and needed items that were bought. Because of the large boating market here, St Martin’s boating chandleries can provide about the same prices you find in the US.

We spent this weekend at Orient Bay on the NE side of the island, where we caught a nice tuna (again bit in half by a shark or barracuda) as we sailed in to the anchorage. We had a nice relaxing time there, and discovered that the nearby beach was a nude beach.

I motored Alexandra into the Marigot bay marina for last night to use the electrical power for my drill. I have to drill holes in the deck (a Captain never likes drilling holes in his boat) to install the pole for the wind generator. We’ll be heading for Nevis Island early tomorrow morning, 60nm south, then on to Guadeloupe. Guadeloupe is supposed to have some really interesting hikes featuring volcanic activity and a "boiling lake". I'll be sure to take good photos. At the marina, I was approached by a British bloke named Andrew. He requested to crew for me down to Guadaloupe, as he is trying to make his way south as well. I agreed after talking with him a little and informing him he would have to cover his own grocery costs. It should be nice to have some more company on the boat, and if it works out well, I can always help him out by taking him further on towards his destination, Brazil. Handy with electrical work, he's already helped fix a couple buttons and wire the new wind gen.

This photo is from the fort here, then a couple of the sailing race on Antigua, I forgot to take the rest off my camera, so I'll have to post later. Oh, I do have this proposal for a t-shirt also, it's a bit expensive to have them made, but I'm still thinking about it. I did the drawing on the back just with pen and paper. I'd really like to have them. The cost was around $9.10 per shirt for 50. Think I should do it?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Arrival in Anguilla

After a good full day of solar charging my starter battery, I managed to start the engine at the Spanish Town anchorage in Virgin Gorda. Much relieved, I motored Alexandra into the local marina for a full night of charging using the shore power plug. The next morning the 25th of May, with the starter battery showing 12.5 Volts (charged as one could hope) , we set sail, rounding the southern end of the island and making a nice bay on the East side protected by a long reef before sunset.

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but it makes for entertaining reading; I lost my anchor for the 2nd time the night before we motored into the Marina on VG. It's worse than that, we had been ashore to see The Baths (a boulder covered beach) on a particularly windless day. When we returned to the boat at dusk, I noticed it was about 100 yds from where I had anchored it. I felt the nylon anchor line and realized the weight of the Anchor and chain wasn't on it. Had it been a normally windy day, the boat would have drifted to Tortolla before I ever noticed. In a way, my tragedies are often intertwined with a strange luck, where I make a mistake, am much inconvenienced by it, but in a way where the boat and I remain safe from any major problems. Basically, the anchor shackle must have worked itself loose. Normally I wire the shackle pin, but I had changed out chains quiet recently and hadn't wired the shackle yet, only tightened it, thinking that was enough. We re-anchored with my lighter anchor and managed, with great difficulty, to recover the anchor on our own from 7 fathoms of water. I owe recognition to my crew-member, J, for excellent underwater lassoing technique. Lesson learned... again.

ALEXANDRA departed VG for good on the morning of the 26th, arriving in Antigua 64 hours later on the 28th. We didn't have much wind and it rained the entire time. We caught and returned two barracuda. On the 28th we passed the lonely and deserted Sombrero island by about 100 yds. it's only 1 nm long, and features unusual looking buildings, a lighthouse and ruins . I thought I might anchor there for a rest, but I never saw less than 11 fathoms along it's coral cliff coast. Apparently they used to mine phosphate there, until the Brits depleted the mineral and left the once hilly island flat, barren, and un-manned.

On to St Martin for repairs tomorrow. I plan to Island hop on down to Grenada, arriving around July 5th or so, unless a hurricane forces me to make a dash out of the belt earlier. My crew member plans to depart in late June, so I will be back to single-handing again. With a faulty Aries steering gear (plan to get a new one in St. Martin) we've been doing 4 hour watches on the longer sails, hand steering the entire trip. I've come to enjoy the 0400-0800 watch, when it's cool and you can enjoy a coffee and watch the sunrise. That's what it's all about! Now I'm considering not making a September return stateside. My sister sent a reminder of the predicted intensity of the coming hurricane season, and I'm fairly sure I broke my dad's heart when he read I might return without seeing the Pacific ;) . We'll see, I'm not so decisive in these matters. I had particularly annoying complications with the boat recently, but perhaps when I've made good my repairs I'll feel better about continuing on for longer.

I'm already feeling better about her, in fact, after a recent bout of productivity. I dove on the hull this morning, scraping the hoards of barnacles that are attacking my so recently (oh wait, that was a year ago?!) painted hull. I think it best to haul the boat out of the water in Grenada, giving her new bottom paint, maintenancing all the seacocks (underwater valves), and finally painting the topsides, which still show my repairs to the deck fiberglass. I've been cleaning and re-organizing, etc. I've also gotten quite handy with my pressure cooker, I make all sorts of stews these days and even brownies and cakes. You can cook rice with only 6 minutes of cook time. Great thing to have on a boat.

Also! June 4th marks the one year anniversary of buying my boat! cool.

Fair winds!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tail end of the BVI's

Here I am at the tail end of the BVI's, on Virgin Gorda about to order a pizza and a beer. I am experiencing the true essence of low budget sailing by enduring at least one broken item per sail. I now have a jammed roller-furling jib and two banks of dead batteries. We left Tortolla under engine power only b/c I got a jump, thinking that the engine would re-charge the batteries over the course of 40 minutes. When I went to start the engine again at Virgin Gorda - no joy - so we sailed to our anchoring spot and safely dropped anchor near Spanish Town. Why didn't they charge properly? Is there a wiring problem? Is the batteries life simply over? I left one bank charging with the solar panels all day in a last attempt to charge for a good start. We shall see. I may need to have a new battery delivered to the boat. As for the Roller furling jib, it is a sad affair. J hoisted me up the mast today in my harness so that I could have a look. The inner cable for the roller has snapped at the top, who knows how the hell that happened? I suspect the entire deal needs replacement, which is going to cost... I can't think about it, thousands. So my last sail was quite basic, my only force of movement coming from 2 out of my 3 sails, no engine. Trouble in paradise.
We hiked down to the Baths, which came highly recommended. They were worth the visit, quite beautiful. We've visited Tortolla and Norman Island before here. Norman Island featured a two masted, 90ft schooner which was moored and a popular restaurant. It's theme seemed to be people getting drunk enough to lose their clothes, and we watched two drunk women fall accidently into the bay while trying to get to their dingy. Unfortunately, most of the people doing what I'm doing around here are over 40 or well over 40, and they are chartering massive catamerans. So there aren't as many young bikini-clad girls romping around as I would have hoped. I'm starting to feel that this trip will be limited to a Clockwise tour of the Caribean sea, which I feel is enough of an accomplishment. I am thinking my route will go from here down to Grenada, then West to the ABC islands and Venezuela, and then a return stateside, arriving in September. That's my best guess right now. We'll see. Even though I am living quite modestly on the boat, the unavoidable repairs that have and will come up are casting a menacing shadow on my savings.

The photos are of the snapped roller furling jib cable and one of the Baths. And one tired looking dog

If I can get the engine started tomorrow, we'll be off to St. Martin. Until then, fair winds.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A wedding in Tokyo and sailing to the Virgin Islands

My apologies for not posting in over a month. I spent over a month in San Juan and most of my days were pretty uneventful. I spent the 20th to the 29th of April in Tokyo. My brother Donald was getting married to his Elisa. I had an excellent time in Tokyo and the wedding was wonderfully planned and featured a great ceremony, amazing multi-course meal, a rockin band, and dancing. We all had a blast. I've promised myself to return in the near future. The flight back to San Juan came too soon, but the sailing since then has been spectacular. Finally I am in the Virgin Islands! The real Caribbean. My new Crew member, Jorrit joined me in San Juan and we shortly left for Culebra, a small island on the east coast of PR. where we spotted a serious looking waterspout in front of us, but luckily it was a couple miles away and moving south. We spent one night in Culebra, and then jumped to Culebrita, an even smaller island a stone's throw from Culebra to the east. We hiked up the hill which held the oldest lighthouse in the Caribbean. Rusted and crumbling, the lighthouse housed a modern solar powered light welded in place of the old lamp. Not only that, but one of the best views I have encountered on my trip. The next morning at 0530 we made for a bay on the north side of St Thomas, USVI. On the way there, Jorrit caught a big tuna, which was 2/3rds eaten by barracudas before we got it into the boat. There was still more meat left over than we could eat, and we had an excellent dinner of fresh tuna and rice with lemon. Then off at 0510 the next morning for White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, BVI. Why the rush? My dad and step-mother are staying in a beach-side bungalow here and I am anchored within swimming range of it. Jost Van Dyke is a wonderful island, small but very busy with boats sailing in and out from the other islands, just to enjoy the world famous beachside bars here such as the Soggy Dollar and Foxxy's. The four of us enjoyed several of their famous "Painkiller" drinks, which really did the trick.
I am very excited to finally be in the Caribbean and especially the Virgin Islands, which are supposed to be one of the best sailing areas of the world. It's kind of like sailing along the alps, flooded near to their peaks. It truly is a captivating under-water mountain range. I plan to take my time exploring all that the VI's have to offer, perhaps 2 or 3 weeks, then continuing south along the chain of Islands that lead to Trinidad. It is almost unbelievable to me that I have sailed over 1800 sea miles since Charleston and it has been 3 months since this adventure began.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

SEA 9; Sailing to Puerto Rico and a moment of expensive idiocy

I spent a couple days in Samana, DR, where there wasn't too much to see. Two cruise ships per day came in and anchored and left at night, so the town was over-touristed. There were supposed to be some nice waterfalls nearby, but when I asked how much to get there (only 8 kilometers) they wanted $150! Once I realized they didn't mean Dominican dollars I laughed and walked away, I suppose they manage to regularly squeeze that out of the cattle coming off the cruise-liners. I met a wonderful young Dutch couple on an Aluminum 36' sailboat that looked more like a spaceship, called "Seagull". I dined aboard a few times with these gracious hosts and they were also kind enough to give me paper charts covering the rest of the way down the Caribbean. We sailed in convoy to the national park across the bay for a two night stay. We walked the trails together, looking at caves and beautiful mangrove lined creeks under the shadows of forested cliffs (see photo with Lexi and the Dutchman). When we parted ways I sailed the Mona Passage over to Puerto Rico and they began to make their way to the US.
I'm in San Juan, Puerto Rico now. The original plan was to take my time sailing along the southern side of the island and ending up here, but the wind was right for coming straight here, and when sailing alone I don't pass up rare weather that makes my life easier. I catch my flight here to Tokyo for my brother's wedding at the end of the month, so I need to stick around the island for a month. I walked around town the first afternoon which was Easter Sunday. All of San Juan seemed to be outside in the sun, flying hundreds of kites, enjoying the beach and using charcoal grilles.

The next day is where my "expensive idiocy" story begins. I was sitting at anchor with heaviest anchor and 50ft of heavy chain down. In a sudden rain shower I looked out the cabin and noticed I was dragging anchor and was now within 5 ft of a sunken sailboat, whose mast was still sticking up out of the water some 20 ft up. No problem, it happens; I started the engine, pulled up enough chain so that the anchor was hanging above the bay floor, and motored to a new spot. This time I let out more line and really made sure the anchor buried itself snugly into the mud. The local immigration officer now returned my call to explain how I could clear into the island. He explained that I needed to come to the marina so that the officers could board my boat. Feeling very clever, I look my largest Styrofoam float and detached the anchor chain at it's shackle which connects it to more nylon line, then I attached the large float to the anchor chain. This way I could leave all that iron down there and just come back later, grabbing the float and hooking back up, without breaking a sweat getting it all on deck only to have to re-anchor later. As I threw the float in the water, I immediately realized what a stupid move I had made. The float, with all that chain on it, was quickly sucked down to the depths. Hundreds of dollars worth of anchor and chain, resting comfortably in the murky depths of the San Juan bay, 5 fathoms down. I noted my position with the GPS and motored cursing all the way to the marina to clear in. I cleared in without incident and had a nice Dutch Family invite me aboard for a wonderful dinner. Their 3 little blonde girls sang at the top of their lungs along with the "Mamma Mia" movie. I didn't sleep well that night, tossing in my rack trying to think of how the hell to get my anchor back. Luckily I have another lighter anchor, I motored back out in the morning, dragging it around the area hoping to snag the chain of the larger anchor and pull it up. No luck. I anchored on the lighter anchor and dinghied in to the marina, rowing straight up to a dive boat. The friendly Captain Orlando decided to help me for a mere $100, a real bargain.
"You lost your anchor?" "No... I know exactly where it is! It's just not, uh, attached to the boat anymore." He immediately took me back the anchorage, deployed his diver, and had a line with a big orange float tied to my lost anchor chain within 10 minutes of splashing in! What a relief. I gave them a bottle of Dominican rum and the C note, and was on my way, quite relieved. I would have spent a fortune having to replace that gear.
Now I need to make use of my time here by getting my wind generator installed and getting a working stove onboard along with other projects.

Friday, March 26, 2010

SEA 8; Village hopping

From Rio San Juan, I left at 0400 yesterday for another village 35nm SE. I anchored in front of a mansion with a private beach with a french couple kayaking beside me. They were residents of the island and I had them aboard for a few minutes, though they didn´t speak much english or spanish, and my french is less than 10 words worth, either way, it was a nice visit. I love the DR´s mountainous terrain which is lush in vegitation, comapared to the Bahamas which was arrid and flat. In Rio SJ I went ashore and had cervesas with a couple guys; Carlo, Joselo, and Robinson. I footed the bill all night, of course, but for a few hours of dinner, drinks, and a couple small bottles of rum I bought to give to immigration officers as I sail, I spent less than 50USD, it was a great night, and I was able to converse surprisingly easily with them, even though it has been 4 years since I was last in a Spanish speaking country. Also, as you can see, I finally got to wear my "caribbean pants." ;). There is a photo of where I am at anchor, and one of the Billiards bar, these people can really play some pool!
I plan to sail to this nice little cove this afternoon, 13nm East of here, then on to Cabo Samana the next day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SEA Update 7: Arrival in Dominican Republic

¿Donde esta un lugar con internet in este pueblo?
After 9 lonely days at sea, singlehanding from San Salvador, I have arrived in a small fishing village just east of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. That was my first time singlehanding besides in the Chesapeake. PRetty dull, just me and the dog. I had that nice NW wind, but my Aries steering gear doesn´t work when sailing downwind, so I pretty much went very very slowly, then when the wind kicked around to the SE, like it normally is, the steering gear worked fine. OF course, then the winds and current were hitting me on the nose, and I plugged along very slowly hoping to get to Puerto Rico. I caved on day 7 and just decided to head due south to the Dominican Republic. Here I am, in a tiny fishing village just East of Puerto Plata. It is excellent here and the people are very friendly. I had lunch on a veranda overlooking my boat (see white speck in photo) on the bay not 100 yards from where I rowed the dinghy in, kids with big smiles helping me pull the dinghy up to the big coil of cable I locked it to. Now I will hop along the coast, across to the south side of Puerto Rico, stopping every night (no more bashing through waves all night for me as I read book after book on a seemingly endless voyage) in quiet little coves. Also, before I forget, I have caught zero fish, except the one in the photo, which tried to kamikaze me last night, it´s a flying fish and he made his own way onboard!

SEA Update 6: Island hopping; arrival in San Salvador

From the 14th of March
On the 8th of March my friend Clint and I motored out of Nassau harbor, dropping my previous crewmember off on a dock we putted by. We sailed over 20ft deep water the 32 miles to Allen’s Cay in the Exumas, dropping anchor in a great little bay that fit my boat with no room for another. I put out the stern anchor as well to keep from hitting the cliff sides of the bay on either side of us. There were large iguanas to see and a lone palm tree on the little island. The next morning we departed for Conception Island, but realizing that we would arrive at night, I decided to stop at Cat Cay instead. This was my favorite island as of yet. We anchored off a beach with deep caves. Not far from where we landed we found a small shop with ice cream sandwiches and frozen hotdogs (dinner), which was a great treat since I have no refrigeration onboard. Traveling around the island was easy, as any local will stop when you put your thumb out, sometimes they stop and offer rides just because they see you walking. We enjoyed some snorkeling there and a dinner of grilled hot dogs and fresh bread which I made in the pressure cooker.
On the 12th we made our jump to Conception Island, an uninhabited beautiful island with excellent snorkeling. We were the only two souls there. During the passage there we hooked two Mahi-Mahi’s a two footer and a monster 4 footer, both which wriggled out of their lures not 5 feet from the stern!
With deteriorating weather and increasingly uncomfortable anchorage the next day, we decided to head on to San Salvador Island where Columbus made his first landing in 1492. We arrived last night (the 13th) after a very rainy sail and anchored the same spot where they think Columbus did, and dinghied in for some burgers, fries and Rum and cokes. This morning, after getting no sleep in the rough anchorage, we motored into the tiny marina. To my surprise, there are 3 boats here (basically all the boats here) from Charleston, SC, and it was great to talk to some people from home.
The winds in the Bahamas have been unusual lately, coming out of the NW, which has been in my favor. I’m thinking it may be a good idea to ride them on to the Dominican Republic before they change, though I have no crew as Clint flies home tomorrow. Single-handing may be just the ticket and good experience for me. The self-steering unit has been behaving very nicely over the last week, and there have been 24 hour periods where I barely had to adjust it. I finished the book my sister gave me about Joshua Slocam sailing around the world alone while my Aries kept the course for me, and started the book dad gave me about Cape Horn by Mortessier. Unfortunately internet is more and more difficult to come by, and my computer’s wireless has been acting up. There are no computer (or much else) stores on these islands, the locals just order what they want and pick it up from the Mail boat, it is quite a different life.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Internet sparse in Bahamas

Hello, I've got updates to post as soon as I can find a good connection, for now I can say I've made my way to SAn Salvador Island and am leaving today singlehanded for the DR or PR, depending on how far this rare NW wind takes me. Will update soon.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

SEA Update 5: Arrival in the Bahamas!

I’ve made my jump out of the country and into the Islands! The engine got its new exhaust elbow on Thursday in Ft Lauderdale, then I sailed out at 8:30 that night. We had a NW wind of 10-15 knots that really shot us down to the Bahamas quickly. My friend Clint was set to arrive on Saturday night in Nassau, New Providence Island, so I decided we would take a direct route to Nassau. We arrived Saturday at 2:30 PM, much quicker than I thought we would!
Our first night we averaged 7 knots, which is really booking it for my boat, which usually averages 4 or 5 knots. The sun rose and we were being escorted to the Bahamas by a pod of small dolphins and endless schools of flying fish. The self-steering gear wasn’t working properly so we hand steered the entire way in 2 hour shifts, it was quiet taxing work in the high winds and seas. As we approached Nassau the water became the most amazing aqua blue I have ever seen, it is truly like sailing into paradise! If the wind and weather are in our favor, Clint and I plan to sail for Allen’s Cay, stay the night, and continue on to Conception and San Salvador Islands, where he will fly out of on Sunday. He is intent on catching some big fish and has brought the gear to do it; with my Bahaman fishing permit in hand, I’m also hoping we catch fish for dinner each night.
We are at anchor in Nassau harbor and have enjoyed a little snorkeling here to check the anchor and the snorkeling gear. Clint and I trekked around town and up to the Fort Charlotte. It is interesting to note that I never saw another sailboat in the ocean during my entire trip from Charleston until we were 10 miles from Nassau. I guess everyone else made the trip before winter really set in. Upon requesting permission to enter the harbor from harbor control, I had to mention my port of departure over the radio. Another sailboat then called me, amazed that we had sailed all the way from Ft Lauderdale in such great time. He asked me about the sail, the weather, asked me my advice. I found it funny, perhaps a bit flattering, that advice was being asked of me. Regardless, it is beautiful, sunny, and WARM here, FINALLY!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

SEA Update 4: Arrival in Fort Lauderdale

I left Fort Pierce Friday afternoon and arrived in Fort Lauderdale at sunrise Sunday, sneaking into the inlet after the 4th in a line of 6 massive cruise ships. Conditions were pretty calm Friday and Alexandra didn’t make much progress. Saturday we met stormy seas and had a north wind that really rocketed us south. At one point the rain was on such a high wind that it didn’t really hit the water, it just went sideways and the seas seemed to steam. I have yet to have good sailing conditions in these 2 weeks! It's all or nothing so far. I had to double reef and shake out reefs twice Saturday, but we ended up spending last night with just the mainsail up moving at a quick pace downwind toward Fort Lauderdale. Unfortunately the boat is not in great shape; the stove doesn’t work properly and leaks alcohol, so I can’t cook with ease, the mainsail had a batten rip through a pocket, the self steering unit won't self steer, the engine is exhausting into the cabin instead of out the stern, and the bilge fills up with water when the engine is running. I’ve pulled into the Ft Lauderdale marina in hopes of finding a sail maker and a diesel mechanic today. It’s frustrating to have all this stuff going wrong at once, but I press on and just remember; “blue-water cruising is boat repair in exotic places.”
My stay in Fort Pierce was very nice. I was disappointed that a cold front came through and immediately brought cold gusty weather, which is still lasting. I managed to repair the bilge hand-pump with replacement parts from ‘Worst’ Marine along with some other repairs. My crewmember and I decided to hit a bar on the last night to watch a couple favorite TV shows, which weren’t on anyway because NBC was showing the Olympics. So, we enjoyed men’s freestyle ski jump instead and the colorful cast of locals in the bar.
Now I have a little pressure to get to Nassau by the 6th, as an old friend from high school is meeting me there for some fishing and crewing on my beloved little boat. I keep breaking the rules by holding myself to a schedule… wish me good weather and a good diesel mechanic!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

SEA Update 3: Arrival in Ft Pierce, FL

From 24FEB2010

Ahoy there!

It took us 4.5 days, but we finally made it to Ft. Pierce, FL. We left JAX on Friday afternoon and the wind was very calm, then Saturday it was calmer, Then Sunday it was non-existent. We stayed busy working on the boat, fishing and reading in the warm sun. At night a group of whales noisily accompanied us for the entire night, though we never saw one until a couple days later. By Tuesday I felt like I was going to go nuts, no wind and several problems were developing on the boat; Including a magically re-filling bilge a failing hand-pump, and a electric pump which shorted out from the water level frying the wires. I traced the source of the leak to one of the underwater valves, which was spurting water through its small greaseport, though when I turned the valve handle slightly it stops. So I have a few repairs to make here, and luckily there is a WestMarine within walking distance.

By Tuesday my ship’s log began to reflect my frustration and so we sailed up to the national park north of Cape Canaveral, where it seems to me there were huge NASA launch towers. The park was isolated and very nice, we dropped anchor in 20ft of water and took the dingy toward the breakers with Lexi happily swimming her way in behind us in her lifevest. “Lets row fast and surf this one in!” “WHOA, oh, s%$#!” SPLASH! The dingy did a summersault and everything in the boat including us went into the surf. We laughed it off and waded in. Before I could catch my breath, there was an image, which is unfortunately burned into my eyes. A random 40yr old man powerwalked up to us right away, effeminately flailing his hands in the air. I quickly realized that all he wore was an American flag bandana around his head, and the rest was all horribly clean shaven hotdog like splotchy skin. Way too much bare skin. “Excuuuuuse me! You can’t have a dog here! You can’t walk on the dunes! Your dog isn’t on a leash, your dog just made a mess! You will get fined!” I grabbed my dingy and dragged it another 200 yards south of him and was not bothered again, not even by the park rangers who blasted by and waved from their 4 wheelers. After a relaxing couple hours - looking across the surf at my content, bobbing little white boat - we set out into the surf back to her, having a similar wet experience with the waves on the way out!

We had a squall that evening, a carbon gray wall of clouds came at us and I quickly doused the jib and put a double reef in the main. The wind blasted us and the clew of the staysail whipped its shackle overboard, flapping wildly in the wind with the staysail-boom falling to the deck. I doused that as well and we rocketed south for about 20 minutes on just the shortened main. Then it was back to our 3-5 knot wind for the rest of the trip. We saw a sea turtle with a head larger than my own and had absolutely no luck this trip catching fish.

What a relief to sail into Ft Pierce this morning with the sun on our faces, the trip taking over double the time it should have. We dropped anchor by the marina here, took showers, and rowed the dingy through scores of dolphins, pelicans, manatees, and sea turtles; right up to the restaurant, tourists' faces lit up and laughed at Lexi standing at the dingy bow, itching to feel sturdy land. The two of us behind her, rowing her to shore in a tiny inflatable dingy must have been a funny sight. I expect to be here 2 nights and then on to Ft Lauderdale.

Q: “I have to ask, where is the head for the dog?”

A: Lexi holds it, unfortunately… I am training her to use a mat on the bow which can then be thrown overboard and dragged to clean, I’m sure she will get used to it soon, but for now she just decreases input and waits for shore. She seems happy aboard.

Q: “Thanks for the updates, where are you heading?”

A: This is an open adventure, I could go to the Bahamas and come back or go clear around the Earth… I’m just staying open to all possibilities, making no promises, enjoying my freedom and we will see how it goes and where that takes me!