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Posted on July 12, 2017 | 0 comments

The Perfect Boat Person is…

The Perfect Boat Person is…

…An organized workaholic. That makes us a good team–I’m organized and Allen is a workaholic. Or rather, Allen’s a project-aholic. He takes on project after project, challenge after challenge, and problem after problem until they are resolved. And unlike me, in my compartmentalized Bento Box fashion, Allen takes on multiple projects at a single time. This is perfectly illustrated on our salon table.

While I would like this to be a nice tidy place for people to gather and visit, Allen has deemed this the perfect place for all projects to gather and visit. There are old shackles and new shackles, opened packages and unopened packaged, tools, and bits and pieces of various electronic parts scattered hither and yon. It all looks the same to me, i.e., a big mess. I offer my organizational expertise by placing all the bits and pieces in nice little boxes stowed neatly out of sight. Or, I could put the entire lot in a big bin so at least it is contained. I suggest a safety perspective in hopes of getting my way, since afterall, the sharp bits and pieces could become an actual hazard in heavy seas. I even donate one of only three drawers in our galley to house tools. Blah blah blah. More tools land on the table and new projects outpace any organization efforts. I do wish our salon table was available to host the many friends I plan to make, but I guess I can’t make any new friends if the boat can’t sail. I retreat to a tool-free corner and observe.

I notice the endless amount of energy Allen has–fixing this, fixing that. I notice he rarely gets frustrated. I notice these are not problems, they are projects and challenges and they are fun! And, the more the merrier! Allen will be working intently on the wiring of the chart plotter and I’ll say, “The ac doesn’t seem to be working on the port side.” Without any acknowledgement, he’ll leave the chart plotter dangling from the wall, set some little bits and pieces on the salon table(!), wander down inside the hull to inspect the ac, and before I know it another project has taken flight. Oftentimes, if the issue remains unresolved, he’ll announce excitedly first thing the following morning, that he thought about it some more around 2am and figured it out. Other times, he’ll stumble out of his working stupor with a great big grin and say, “Well, that was a little more than I expected.” And still other times, the new project just finds another corner on the salon table. Some might say that this constant problem-solving is just the nature of owning a boat. But, for me it’s more. It’s made me realize that I have a partner who never gives up, never loses his patience, never complains of being tired, and has an amazing capacity to solve problems…with a smile. So friends, come on over–we’ll sit on the floor:) 

P.S. Update from the proud Organizer!

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Posted on July 11, 2017 | 0 comments

Night Watch is Like Childbirth

Night Watch is Like Childbirth

I’m so tired I cannot keep my eyes open. My head hurts and I can tell my brain is not functioning at full power as I try to process the steps I must take to avert a potential collision with something out there in the dark. When my shift is over I roll into bed, my aching body is awakened way too soon for another shift. Another round of pushing through the hard work. Stay strong, stay awake, the baby, er, the morning is almost here. I can’t do it. I’m never having another baby EVER. 

I value sleep. I need 8 hours to feel completely rested and I’m crabby if I’m woken before my 8 hours have been fulfilled. So the idea of a night watch in order to sail through the night does not appeal to me. I tried to convince my crew that I would be a devoted galley slave and handle all things related to the kitchen in exchange for a normal night’s sleep. Okay I’ll clean the toilets too. And I promise to make a complete breakfast for the crew first thing in the morning. But no, we are only a crew of 3 or 4 people and everyone needs to take a watch to maximize sleep…that is, periods of about 3 hours at a time. That is not sleep…that’s a nap.

On this night, I’m on the second night shift. I go to bed after the galley is cleaned up from dinner. I lay out my life jacket and headlamp for the imminent watch and then brush my teeth and hit the sack. Normally, I read in bed before my 8 hours of bliss begins, but tonight I know the alarm will ring shortly so I maximize every second by forcing sleep. It’s hot and I’m still adjusting to the creaks and moans of the boat so sleep doesn’t come easily. I eventually must have dozed off because I’m awakened suddenly by a loud broadcast over the radio. Crabbiness initiates as my brief sleep is interrupted before the alarm rings. I’m awakened for my shift at 1:30am. I brush my teeth pretending that is the beginning of my day, put on my life jacket, and stumble begrudgingly to the helm.

I take in the night. A half moon lights the sky and the stars are bright. The engines provide a constant purr while waves slosh and bang against the boat. It is still warm and humid so the night breeze feels good on my face. The glow of the radar and instrument  panel reminds me why I’m here–to avoid danger, particularly a collision course with a freighter. And, while I’m tired and wishing for more sleep, I’m enjoying the calm of the night and being outdoors–my favorite place to be. Crabbiness subsides. And then just before 5am, the day begins to break and the sun crowns and the birth of another glorious sunrise is handed to me. Okay, I’ll do it one more time.

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Posted on July 4, 2017 | 0 comments

The Land of Ma’am

The Land of Ma’am

After 48 hours of sailing, we entered Georgia’s Wassaw Sound that boasts sprawling 3-story antebellum mansions, complete with their own dock and a perfect line of Adirondak chairs. The 90+ degree weather and dripping humidity, however, kept any signs of humanity indoors so our arrival on this July 4th was quiet.

“Good morning ma’am,” was our first encounter with this southern civilization as we tossed our dock lines to the three young men at the Isle of Hope marina outside Savannah. Memories of being Miss Shiera from my Atlanta days came flooding back. “May I take your trash ma’am? Yes ma’am, it’s very hot today. Thank you ma’am, y’all have a nice day.” Ahh, that southern charm.

No sooner had we docked and were settling into our home for the next three nights, I heard the familiar voice of my dear friend, “Hey y’all, welcome to Savannah!” Complete with flowers and birthday balloons from my kids, Kathryn launched the beginning of a fabulous birthday. First stop–boiled peanuts from a roadside stand to accompany a lovely brunch of mimosas, Georgia shrimp, berries, and gluten-free cupcakes. The Stout hospitality even included a doggy fix from their two Golden Retrievers.

Now with full bellies, sleep deprivation really kicked in and we couldn’t get back fast enough to Gémeaux for a nap. Following yet another shower (we took many to combat the high humidity and temps), we drove the dock’s loaner car downtown to join the millions of other tourists visiting the historic squares of Savannah. We spent the rest of the evening with Rachel Henry, who’s all growed up and taking Gulf Stream by storm. She entertained us with stories of how to build and test aircraft and Allen and I had great fun watching Rachel and Jim Moore talk airplane shop. Fantastic views of the Savannah River from the Topdeck Bar on the top of the Cotton Sail Hotel, followed by dinner at nearby Vic’s with a fireworks display just outside the restaurant window completed the perfect birthday.

Later in our sailing adventures we would discover three things–we always visit the local West Marine store, we always hire the local marine expert to fix something on the boat, and we often end up hiring the local expert at the next stop to fix what the first guy repaired. I like to think of it as doing our share to ensure the various local economies are thriving. And thrive they did as we pulled into the Thunderbolt Marina to repair the steering and autopilot issues that the first guy in Ft. Lauderdale repaired. These were issues that we discovered during our night shifts (of course) were not properly working.  No time like an offshore night passage to pretend you’re Christopher Columbus and practice hand steering. But all was not lost–Thunderbolt was an impressive facility in the Port of Savannah and it was our first chance to watch giant 150-foot vessels be lifted out of the water and dry docked, like Larry Ellison’s former super yacht that we just happened to have seen on an earlier sailing charter to Catalina in CA. Nice to know we travel in the same circles:)

While Allen and Jim supervised work on Gemeaux, I had a delightful afternoon being a southern belle with my girlfriend. Kathryn took me to the famous Pink House for a lovely champagne lunch, followed, of course, by ice cream at the famous Leopold’s. One must hit all the famous spots, right?

Not to be left behind, Allen and Jim got a chance to be tourists too after they finished their chores and safely returned Gemeaux to Isle of Hope. Having hiked the 200-mile John Muir Trail through the Sierras, this trio is quite accustomed to walking and it’s generally our preferred method of sightseeing. Given the sweltering heat, however, we chose to do a trolley tour of the city. It turned out to be fabulous and I highly recommend it if you’re headed to Savannah.

We were on our way the following day. So happy to have had the chance to finally visit my dear friend and see her southern home.

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Posted on July 3, 2017 | 0 comments

Sea Artist

Sea Artist

In an instant, the clutter of civilization is behind us and we are surrounded by a canvas of blue as far as the eye can see. The endless view of only blue water and blue sky is both boring and awesome.

The simplicity of it is comforting and gives me a sense of peace. It forces me to notice things I haven’t seen before. Like, how many different shades of blue there are. Or, the yellow butterfly who appeared at the stern of our boat midday when we were 20 miles offshore. Where did he come from? How far can a butterfly fly without landing? I know millions of sea critters live just below but only the occasional flying fish entertains us. Certainly, the sunsets are not just more noticeable, but more spectacular as they break up the blue monotony with oranges and reds.

Tonight, the setting sun ducked behind a puffy cumulus cloud revealing its stunning silver lining. So that’s where that term comes from! Day turns to night and the canvas becomes even more monochromatic as the dividing horizon fades. The stars are bright and the Milky Way runs the entire length of the sky overhead. I notice phosphorous streaks alongside the boat as our motion stirs the water. They’re everywhere–most are small bursts of light, others spread their glow across a couple feet and finally dissipate several feet behind in our wake.

It’s a quiet night with only a few freighters appearing on the horizon and even fewer crossing our path. Soon, the last bit of light from the moon sinks below the horizon and the canvas is now completely black. There is no distinction between sea and sky and we are engulfed in stars with Venus taking center stage. It’s 4:30am and soon the sea artist will open the palette of oranges and reds and draw another day.

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Posted on July 1, 2017 | 0 comments

Wandering Underway

Wandering Underway

When I grow up I want to wander the planet and photograph and write about women. That’s been my dream and today it began. Well at least the wandering began…there are no women yet. Just two men, two of my favorite men. After two days of scrubbing, repairing, and organizing, Allen, Jim Moore, and I set sail in the wee hours of the morning. So different from our arrival two months ago to this busy metropolis, today was eerily quiet, the water calm and flat, even the no see ums were still asleep. It was as though we were sneaking off trying our best not to wake the sleeping giant of Ft. Lauderdale. Within minutes, we merged onto the gulf stream freeway just a few miles offshore and began our northbound journey up the Eastern seaboard.

The crowded South Florida coastline faded and before long we were surrounded by the deep blue sea. Where the sea ends, the blue sky begins on every horizon. In many ways, it’s a very monotonous view that forces contemplation. Or in my case, sleep. So far, my dream of wandering is filled with just that…dreams. The steady motion of the boat rocks me instantly to sleep. And, until my tummy adjusts to the rocking and I gain my sea legs, sleep indeed seems the best solution. Jim Moore is on the same program so we keep the couches warm while Allen, who requires no adjustment time, keeps us sailing north.

Destination: Savannah, Georgia where I’m hoping to spend my 4th of July birthday with my dear friend, Kathryn, in a city I’ve never visited. In order to reach our destination on said date, however, we must sail through the night. To understand how I feel about sailing through the night, read Blog Post, Night Watch is Like Childbirth.  You get the idea. 

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Posted on June 5, 2017 | 0 comments

Squall!

Squall!

At 2am we float quietly away in a dead calm from Ft. Lauderdale’s Harbor Town Marina. Allen and his son, Grant, are at the helm. Down below in our separate berths are Cara, Kate (Grant’s fiancée), and me–sound asleep with the promise of waking to a tropical vacation in the Bahamas. As we enter the Atlantic Ocean, we take a southerly route seeking a better angle on the Gulf Stream. The dark night skies are a perfect canvas to various lightening strikes and distant storm cells on the eastern horizon. They are far away so Allen and Grant just enjoy the show.

A new cell appears and begins approaching from the south. Father and son debate about turning around and returning to Ft. Lauderdale, but decide it’s possible to squeak between the two cells and so they press on. A nice southerly wind comes up, blowing about 12-14 knots, so the small crew raises the sails and sail close-hauled on a course just north of Bimini. After four hours of sailing, we are about 10 miles from Bimini and most of the crew is still sleeping. Another cell approaches from the west. The early daylight exposes the very dark, black ominous color of the approaching storm so we decide to bring down the sails.

Allen gets the jib in and immediately notices that in addition to the dark color, the approaching cell has very strong winds and is rapidly approaching. Just as he starts to lower the large main sail, the incoming 45-knot blast strikes the boat. The wind rotates Gémeaux about 90 degrees and rips the sail off the top two cars that attach it to the mast. As the wind continues to rock the boat, a three-foot section of the sail remains clinging to the top of the mast as the rest of the heavy canvas sail collapses on the deck. Grant is at the helm trying to maintain our position into the wind to reduce the amount of blow onto the boat. I’m sound asleep when I hear Cara at the foot of my bed yell, “Mommy, you need to get up—we’re in a big storm and we lost the sail.” Gathering my wits and fumbling into my life vest, I stumble up to the boom where Allen is wrestling with the wind trying to stuff the sail back into the bag. The boom swings back and forth several feet as the wind whips us around. I’m grateful to have had enough wit to put on my life vest as I’m sure it’s only a matter of minutes before the boom sends me flying over the edge into the sea. Or worse, it sends Allen overboard, the only person capable of sailing this vessel. The broken sail, no longer attached to the mast, is hanging off the back of the boat—the wind determined to blow the sail completely overboard. Adrenalin and teamwork collaborate as Allen pushes on one side and I push on the other and slowly we negotiate the unwieldy mass of canvas back into the sail bag. The tropical vacation in the Bahamas has begun.

We limped into Big Game Club Marina with our 3-foot storm souvenir hanging sadly from the top of the mast. Allen sent me up in the bosun chair to fetch the remainder. Dinner ashore that night was especially nice and all slept well. Heavy winds continued the next day as we pushed off the dock at North Bimini for Honeymoon Harbor. Waves, current, and 13-15 knots of wind, gusting up to 30 knots made progress slow. We decided to duck into a nearby bank which was much smoother but still windy. Honeymoon Harbor had waves breaking across the entrance so instead we anchored off the east side at Gun Cay.

Determined to see Honeymoon Harbor, we took the dinghy to shore and enjoyed a magnificent welcome by 20-30 stingrays surrounding our approaching vessel and slithering around our ankles in the shallow water. A little creepy at first but a very cool experience. Winds finally dropped around midnight finally providing calm.

Winds remained light the next day as we departed Gun Cay and finally anchored in Honeymoon Harbor. Snorkeling proved fruitless as the wind had stirred up the seas so much that visibility was really poor. We left around noon and headed to Nixon Harbor at South Bimini, where we anchored about ¾ miles offshore near the marked channel to an abandoned marina. After we navigated a very shallow anchorage, we snorkeled around Round Rock where we discovered lobsters hiding in the rocks. Determined to have a lobster feast, Grant and Kate made some very creative attempts to catch the spiny creatures with very effective claws. The lobsters won.

The tapering winds seemed the perfect invitation for mosquitos to take up residence on Gémeaux. Grant and Kate appeared to have the best-tasting blood as most of the mosquito army targeted their berth. Of course, we discovered the newly-installed generator wasn’t yet working so without air conditioning, we had to choose between blood thirsty biting beasts or hot, sweaty temperatures.

There was a lot of shuffling between indoor and outdoor sleeping spots and finally at 4am, we declared the mosquitos victorious and took up the anchor and headed out in the dark. Wind was dead calm, which didn’t make any difference since our 3-foot sail remnant wouldn’t have been sufficient to sail anyway. One final mean-looking storm cell hovered over the distant Miami and Ft. Lauderdale skyline but turned out to be only a fabulous photo opp. Alas, a 6-hour motor back to civilization landed us back in the safety of civilization, car accidents, and random shootings. Wonder if we’ll ever get Kate and Grant back on Gémeaux again?

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