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Posted on January 5, 2017 | 0 comments

Midnight Alarms

Midnight Alarms

Sound asleep just past midnight, the GPS alarm rang notifying us that the boat had moved more than 50 feet from our original position. The mooring ball that we’re affixed to allows us a 40-foot swing so anything beyond that meant we potentially were drifting out to sea, into another boat, or crashing into the rocky shoreline.

With only a sliver of moonlight and the soft glow of neighboring anchor lights, Allen jumped out of bed to determine if we had broken free of our mooring ball. Night vision binoculars proved essential to confirm where we were relative to the shoreline and neighboring boats. At the point Allen woke Jim I knew there was a problem so I joined the triage discussion in the galley now fully underway. Of course on this boat, we have a multitude of electronic devices and part of the confusion was that they were not in agreement of any boat movement. We appeared to still be secure on the ball but had the ball moved? Not likely given that it’s attached to a concrete block at the bottom of the sea. But why would our trusty GPS alarm sound? GPS failure? Garmin no doubt would deny that possibility.

Now, we could see activity on another boat, which appeared perilously close to another vessel and was quickly motoring to another point in the bay. As is the case with most Jim Moore/Allen Roberts discussions, the triage discussion at this juncture turned into a far more technical conversation that this sleepy head could not keep up with and certainly had little to contribute. I returned to bed, trusting the shipmates to solve the immediate problem and any other global crises.

Allen eventually returned to bed but it was a sleepless night as GPS alerted us two additional times. In the morning as we caffeinated our sleepy bodies, we continued the discussion and speculation. Allen dove on the mooring line and confirmed all was good. It continues to be a mystery. Yawn.

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Posted on January 4, 2017 | 0 comments

Climbing the Mast

Climbing the Mast

When two of the three crew suffer from sever acrophobia, there’s no question who will be charged with climbing the mast for any repairs. Meet the boson chair—a sling that you sit in, securely affixed to the halyard, and raised up the mast by the two acrophobiacs.

Yesterday, the drone provided a good view of the top of the mast to confirm the broken antennae swinging around needed its bolt repaired. So this morning, when winds typically are friendlier for mast ascents and I confirmed that just a simple wrench was required for the job, I became a boson. I made sure that plenty of fancy knots were used to cinch me to the chair as I was hoisted 70 feet into the air. I don’t have any fear of heights; in fact I rather enjoy the thrill and always the view. Today, the climb afforded me a spectacular aerial view of the boat and ocean bottom in these crystal clear Caribbean waters. But I digress. I’m on a mission so I stayed focused on the task at hand. I wrapped my legs around the various wires and mast as Allen hoisted me to the top. Once at the top, the repair was pretty straight-forward and my fun ended far too soon as I was returned to the planet.

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Posted on January 3, 2017 | 0 comments

Securing the Mooring Ball

Securing the Mooring Ball

Part of sailing lessons involve learning how to attach our sailboat to a mooring ball. Simple enough. Little like threading a needle in the wind while standing on one leg. Allen slowly drives the boat towards the floating ball bobbing up and down in the waves and Jim and I hang off the front of the boat to catch it. Jim has a line from the boat and I have the boat hook. Allen, of course, can’t see the ball as we approach it so we yell back at him on its position. Keep the boat steady and straight. And just like that, the ball goes under the boat and we’ve missed it. Jim and I promptly launch into a conversation about how to modify our approach for round #2 but as conversations often go with Jim Moore, we digress into a discussion about the construction of the ball and everything else rather unrelated to the immediate task at hand. Meanwhile, Allen is still back at the helm waiting for an update of the ball. We eventually secure the dang ball and celebrate our success with island drinks and a conversation about communication, which of course in sailing life ends up being much more important than just attaching to a mooring ball.

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Posted on January 2, 2017 | 0 comments

Quiet Mornings

Quiet Mornings

It’s 6:00am. The light of the new day and cacophony of distant roosters wakes me. I can tell already that I will be an early riser in this new life. Last night’s storm left a beautiful arrangement of deep gray puffy clouds now trimmed in pink and orange as the day breaks. A special gift of a rainbow colors the sky. Neighboring anchored boats are quiet; every once in awhile I notice a soul sister as still as I am—drinking coffee and taking in the morning. I’m curious about her story and wonder if we’ll meet sometime in our journeys.

Allen joins me just as the sun begins to rise. He catches me up on all the world events based on his 3am New York Times read–fast becoming a nightly habit. Human interest stories, politics, and almost always some new report about our new president that generates much discussion and reaffirms our decision to be far far away. Our little biminy café provides a glorious view of this island paradise and a refreshing breeze. But mostly what I notice so different from our traditional morning newspaper ritual is the conversation. Silent reading is replaced with lots of discussion, learning, sharing, and laughter.

Corporate jets begin flying overhead, super yachts arrive, and the sun is guaranteeing another hot, humid day in this tropical paradise. Time to start the day.

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Posted on January 1, 2017 | 0 comments

New Year-New Boat-New Experiences…

New Year-New Boat-New Experiences…

…As in tangling the halyard at the top of the mast just minutes into our first attempt of raising the mainsail on Gémeaux. We had arrived in St. Martin on December 28th eager to make this new boat our new home and see if she would actually sail. We cleaned, sorted, purged, repaired, and learned. And then we did it all over again until the sun set each day. Finally, we put the steering mechanism back together and attached the jib—two pieces apparently essential to making the sailboat go–and deemed this first day of 2017 to host our maiden voyage.

We release the dock lines and cut the umbilical cord from the Ft. Louis Marina mother ship. Just 15 minutes outside the harbor with the marina still in the rearview mirror, we decided to put up the main sail. Captain Allen was at the helm, first mate Jim Moore stood ready at the mast to guide the sail, and I had the task of raising the mainsail–a very difficult task that involved pressing the up button. In 25 knots of wind, we started the process of putting up a 750-foot sheet of nylon. Up, up, up went the sail, flopping around as its big belly filled with air. We watched with great anticipation and excitement. And then just inches from the top, all progress stopped. The sail would go no more. Squinting up the 70-foot mast we could see that the critical line on the sail was twisted and the sail could not go up any further. Worse, the sail wouldn’t come down either. We pushed and pulled, twisted and swore, but the halyard would not budge. Hmm…what to do? We could send Shiera up the mast to untwist it. Recall that the wind is blowing about 25 knots. I don’t think so. We could swallow our pride and phone the marina for help. Come on, we can do this. And we did…finally. After more than an hour of turning the boat around in circles to alleviate the pressure on the sail, and much wiggling and jiggling, the halyard broke free of its tangle. We brought down the sail, surveyed the problem, and fixed the problem. We love zip ties, don’t we Jim Moore?

Thankful for two engines on this sail boat, we gave the halyard a rest and motored on. Our short journey landed us safely at the dock for Road Bay, situated on the southwest edge of the nearby island of Anguilla. Normally a bustling tourist destination, the beach was empty. We walked about a mile uphill where Google Maps promised beer and an Ace Hardware that would secure the temporary zip tie fix on the halyard. Unfortunately, Google didn’t account for the annual holiday and we discovered most businesses on this little island hotspot were shut down. Thankfully, the Chinese weren’t celebrating their new year and we found Limin, a small Chinese grocer open for business. This little oasis of civilization provided great entertainment as we marveled at the variety of available provisions, from motor oils to ice cream and even almond milk. 

Later that evening as we dissected the day over beer and our sacred bottle of Blue Sapphire gin, we agreed on two things–first, there will always be something that happens unexpectedly in this new life of sailing. And second (related to the first), not buying beer for a trip clearly is a bad decision.

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