Sunday, April 24, 2016

17. There's No Glamour in Passages

So, think of all the things you did from Sunday 10am through Wednesday 11pm .  You got ready for your day and maybe went to church and out to lunch with some friends.  Then watched a ball game and made sure the kids’ homework was ready for school.  Monday morning everyone was up early and headed to work or school, followed by dance classes or sports practices and dinner.  Tuesday may look very similar to Monday.  Wednesday, you made it to hump day!  Maybe you celebrated with a family dinner or have a kids’ club you have to make it to.  Think of all the things you did in those 4 days.  Then picture us, on the open ocean that entire time, bobbing and rocking constantly.  Unending motion - while sleeping, eating, always moving.  Sound sickening?  It can be!  But it has it’s highs as well.  You may want to remind me that we signed up for this and you’d be right.  But I don't think anyone goes sailing for the love of passage making, at least I didn’t.  You do it for the amazing places that the necessary evil of passage making can take you!
Day 1- 
We left Blue Haven Marina in high spirts.  We said goodbye to our friends from Canada and headed on our way.  We even saw a large sea turtle as we left the channel which always makes our day.  
    He was this big!
We knew we would be heading into a storm that evening but nothing too terrible.  As the grey loomed in the distance, we began to brace ourselves and batten down the hatches.  The girls questioned why we would knowingly head into a storm and we explained how this weather window was working out for us and had hoped it would be better to encounter rougher weather at the beginning when we were fresh instead of at the end of our journey, exhausted.  Nobody was feeling their best but Andrew gets the award for being the first to toss his cookies since we left in December :) 
It was a beautiful night with moon shining on the water and air temp very comfortable but by the middle of my watch, around midnight, it was sucking!  Seas had transitioned from 15’ swells with a valley(period) of 100’(12 seconds) to 10’ swells with valleys of only 20’(8 seconds) and disorganized which means rolly and uncomfortable.  The girls both had pallets in the salon and were thankfully able to fall asleep.  

Day 2- 
    Off the eastern coast of Grand Turk - 4/18/16
Because Andrew did the bulk of the night watch, I got the amazing sunrise all to myself.  Shortly after day break my blue eyed, bleach blonde beauties joined me up top and we were ecstatic to cruise through the waves with an entire pod of dolphins.  While the adults played at the bow, the babies would swim right alongside the girls until they felt too close for comfort and would dart away and jump completely out of the wave before returning to do it all again.  So fun!
Not to miss out on the action, Andrew was quick to catch two big barracuda who seemed to be very fond of the cedar plug lure that is meant to attract tuna, not them!
    Look out for those teeth!
Everyone was eating like birds but at least it was all staying down & it made for light galley work ;)
We kept the same 5-6 hour night watch schedule as the previous night.  I’ve had a few people ask what we do when we are on watch.  If the auto-pilot is working well with the seas, you can read a book or just relax.  But I stare at the gauges!  It has the same affect on me as compulsively doing sudoku or playing Tetris.  When you close your eyes you still see the numbers filling in the boxes or the blocks dropping into their slots.  When I close my eyes after a watch I see 120 degrees floating in my compass!

Day 3- 
    North of DR - 4/19/16
Everyone is feeling much better!  We are getting our groove on.  We celebrated passing our previous mark of longest passage ever by reaching the 49th hour.  
    Enjoying some fresh rice krispy treats.
And even had a little jam session in the cockpit.
    Check out the lean happening, 4 days of that makes you feel a little lopsided :)
We had two full days of great wind where we didn't use the engine at all.  It was a beautiful sound to hear the hum of the prop as it spun in the water and to have both sails up and full!

Day 4- 
    NW of Puerto Rico - 4/20/16
Started like all the others, beautiful sunrise & smiling faces.  We had a traumatic moment when one of our red and white cockpit pillows accidentally fell overboard.  With both sails up, you can't just turn around and go get it.  So we sadly watched as it floated into the distance.  It felt very much like the scene in Castaway when Tom Hanks realizes Wilson is gone and he can't get to him.  It was a disappointing loss :(
But everyone’s spirits were lifted when Puerto Rico came into view!  
We tried a bit more fishing 
but the Puerto Rican fish don't seem to like us, not even a barracuda.  We did catch an awful lot of seaweed though.
    Andrew’s top secret fish alarm that shakes the can of pennies when we have a fish on.
The last few hours are always the hardest.  You can see where you want to be but it takes so long to get there!  As we finally rounded Culebra, Andrew decided he wanted to sail in since we had the engine on most of the day.  When the wind died in the lee of the island, Abby decided not to start, she was tired!  Luckily I was able to continue sailing while Andrew bypassed the starter solenoid and got her jumped from below. (We won't mention who said we should keep the engine running for safety :)
We made it into the cove by Dewey, Culebra safely and had the hook set in the water by 11pm, 85hrs after leaving Turks & Caicos.  
We did it!  We were so excited to be here!
    Culebra - Abby on anchor in the background.
The town looked even better in the daylight!  Such a quaint piece of heaven on earth.  We quickly made our way to the airport to get checked in by customs.
    Waiting on customs - Free WIFI :)
After a very professional check-in process, the CBP agent spent an extra 20 minutes with us going over the map, pointing out the "must see" stops and even making recommendations for when we visit the mainland.  His service was above and beyond and unlike any check-in experience we’ve had or heard of.  He set us off on a great foot to enjoy his island!
    Girls thought it was funny to have hen and chicks roaming the airport outside the customs window :)
You can walk pretty much everywhere you need to go and we quickly found our way to some of the highly recommended stops in town.  
Zaco’s Tacos was a great little dive where no shoes, no shirt = no problem.  They had amazing food and service and even served up some local beer on tap!
But the highlight of our first day here was finding the new local candy store, Sweet & Naughty.  Claude & Simon run a great little shop where you can get ice cream, Icees, candy, popcorn, fudge, freshly spun cotten candy, and homemade when ordered doughnuts.  Tell me you can't find something to love!  And you can enjoy it all while swinging at their groovy bar under the watchful eye of Jaba.

There’s also a great local place called The Dinghy Dock where, you guessed it, you can dinghy right up to the restaraunt and hang out.  
Not only did we enjoy our lunch there, but met some really fun new friends there as well.  One couple told us about some amazing upcoming stops to not miss in the Virgin Islands and passed along a good book (I’m always happy for hand-me-downs) and another couple vacationing here from Mass told us of a great local snorkel spot and we met up with them the following morning to swim with the sea turtles.
    No one should be this cute while goofing off!
We had a great day hanging with Mark, Cheryl, & Lila.  We saw 8 Hawksbill sea turtles ranging in size from shells as big as a dinner plate, up to 3-4’ in length.  They are magical to float by, looking as if they have not a care in the world.  Just munching down on some sea grass and gliding by to catch another breath.
We spent the rest of the day together grabbing some lunch and hitting another great beach for some wave surfing.
We even saw the leatherback turtle nest roped off on the beach.
Their family has a beautiful home with the most breath-taking view of Manglar Bay.
They were even gracious enough to let us do some laundry while also meeting the local pet peacock.
This week has been so spectacular that I can't even imagine how next week will compare.  But I can tell you we are beginning tomorrow by snorkeling near a starfish breeding ground so that's a good way to start!
    God art.

Things learned aboard this week:
Just because something is difficult, doesn't mean it isn't awesome as well.  I will never run a marathon or climb the peak of a mountain but I imagine the feeling we had on completing this passage with happy hearts still in tact is similar to the high you get from those accomplishments.  There were moments we hated and moments we loved and we made it through all of them.  And just like childbirth, once it's all over, the details begin to fade away and all you are left with is a sense of pride and a sweet little treasure.  That is what this week has been for our family.

The crew is waiting to see who stops by this week and what new adventures we will have.  We'll keep you posted!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

16. Vacation Week in Turks & Caicos

When we docked here last Saturday, I never expected to be so lucky as to spend a week in this beautiful resort, with these views to die for, hanging with friends that keep smiles on our faces!  
It has been vacation week for the Abby Singer crew and it has been amazing!  

We straight away started the adventure by renting a car and going exploring with Dean & Kim (Dream Catcher crew).  
    How do you fit 6 bodies in a Honda Fit?!
We did a few errands and found an great, off-the-beaten-path, Mexican Restaraunt, Mis Amigos.  
We met the amazing owner, Tina, and heard her family stories of their years at sea.
    Trophy Black Marlin horn landed by Tina’s father.

We were totally surprised by MikBeth arriving at Blue Haven Marina a few days in.  The girls were even more ecstatic to have some partners in crime to roam the resort with.  They’ve spent every moment of everyday together :)

We even got to enjoy the weekly fish fry.  
Great food.
Local merchants.
Live music.
All wrapped up with the always fun Junkanoo!
These locals really know how to party!

Even though we’ve had a massive amount of recooperation, we’ve also accomplished a lot in preparation for our next big crossing.  Andrew fixed the leak in one of the water tanks.
Filled all our water & fuel tanks and cleaned the decks.
I spent my mornings prepping meals and snacks and getting the cabin better ready for our passage.  
It doesn't sound like much but took the better part of 4 mornings with runs to the market, making salsa, tuna, and omelette bags, along with portion packing cheese slices, rearranging the fridge & freezer and packing up the loose canons that are first to dislodge when we heel in good wind :)

We just enjoyed a magical last day here in Provodenciales, TCI.  We snorkeled the Coral Gardens.  
We saw tons of parrot fish, various angel fish, rays & 2 sea turtles.  We spent a few hours on the reef before enjoying lunch at a highly recommended beach dive, Somewhere.

We are now as prepped and ready as we will ever be, getting ready to shove off heading for Puerto Rico.  We will take all the prayers we can get as we will be doubling our last and longest passage :)

Thing learned aboard this week:
Sometimes a forced vacation is just what you need!  So blessed to spend the extra days waiting for the weather window in such an amazing place.  The belongers (locals) are so friendly, the food is amazing and our company couldn't have been better :)
The unknown is scary but exciting!  Even though the prep for this next passage is important, the attitude going into it is what will make the most difference, I think.  Instead of letting the change of plans happen to me and responding, I'm hoping that having an improved perspective will be a good influence on everyone aboard.  
You will have to wait until next week to see if it worked ;)
    Photo by Paige - finding beauty in the small things.

17. There's No Glamour in Passages

Monday, April 11, 2016

15. New Stamp in the Passport - Turks & Caicos

This week has been a whirlwind of activity.  Our days at Emerald Bay Marina were crammed full of projects in preparation for leaving the Bahamas.  
We moved to Georgetown because every respectable cruiser goes to Georgetown.  
It is a cruisers' haven where all paths cross; boats traveling north, south, jumping off to Turks & Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and beyond.  We looked forward to some down time to enjoy hanging with fellow cruisers at the infamous Chat & Chill Beach, a great beach across from the city that has volleyball courts, hammocks, swings, horseshoes; just a great place to “chat & chill”.  
    Chat & Chill Beach - Georgetown, Exumas. 4/4/2016
The kids loved our time here because there are lots of kid boats.  We met back up with the crew from Take Two and made new friends aboard Alley Cat, Neptune II, Singing Frog & Paisley.  
    That's my little monkey in the tree waiting for her turn to swing on the rope.
    Alley picked Paige up and off they went to a friend's boat.  Kind of like watching your baby drive away in a friend's car for the first time :)

Along with the fun, Andrew & I stayed busy every minute we were there.  He continued with boat projects.
Finished the hand sewing on our new main sail.  We were able to give away a few items onboard and the ladies stole me away for a massive provisioning run (Georgetown is the first proper grocery store we’ve seen since Nassau).  
Our new friends aboard Alley Cat are finishing up their two year journey & were happy to share all their tips of travel for the Caribbean islands to come.  I spent 5 hours taking notes and marking places of interest in my guide book. 
 It is so helpful to hear from someone who has already been there & done that.

Andrew did get to enjoy a hike to the top of Monument Hill.
    Sky & the Take Two guys.
Open mic night at St Francis Resort was a blast!  Lots of cruisers singing & playing instruments and, when the weather forced us to cram into the small dining room, it turned into a sing-along with the kids from Paisley leading with the ukulele on some oldies but goodies.  

For the first time ever, we saw bioluminescence along the shore as we launched our dinghy.  They look just like fireflies in the water.  If you scoop your hands slowly through the water, they stay on your skin until you dip it back into the water.  It was the perfect ending to a great stay in Georgetown.

Thursday morning we were all set to head out to Rum Cay.  The wind was light enough for us to get the new main sail switched out.
    Flying the new main for the first time.  Sewn entirely by the Abby Singer crew!
And Andrew re-calibrated the autopilot before getting underway.  
It was a great morning to be on the water!  We soon heard friends from other boats (Dream Catcher, MeNorah, Neptune II & Take Two) that were heading out as well, which always makes you feel like you made the right choice when reading the weather.  
    I am standing straight, the boat is heeling that much!  Makes lunchtime a challenge :)

We were about half way through our day sail to Rum Cay when Andrew said everything was looking good for us to continue on and bypass our original stop.  The weather was right and the boat was ready but I wasn't!  I had big plans on things I wanted done to make our first passage more comfortable, snacks prepared, easy meals, cabin secured.  I had planned on using the night at Rum Cay to do all those things but when the wind blows, you go.  
We spent 48hrs at sea (our longest passage ever) to make passage to Providenciales in the Caicos Islands.  The hours at sea seem to stand still and fly by all at the same time.  The rolling seas and heat of the sun make you wish for nightfall.  And when sitting night watch all alone with no one but the bioluminescence and millions of stars to keep you company, you wish for sunrise.  Before you know it 2 days have passed and you did it, you survived.  The cabin was a mess from the pallet on the floor for the girls who were trying to help with night watch, dirty dishes left in the sink until I finally bit the bullet and stayed below long enough to get caught up.  My bum is bruised from banging around the galley during meal prep and clean up, but proper planning and paper plates should eliminate this in the future :)  It is hard to imagine passages being second nature or spending weeks at sea during an ocean crossing but that will be the norm soon.  
Even though I had some frustrating moments because of our course change, it really was quite pleasant.  
We colored, read books and watched the big rollers come in, enjoyed the solitude of the evening sky and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
    Sunrise - 4/9/2016

    We are a baby boat in this Marina!
An unexpected reward for our great passage is a beautiful stay at the Blue Haven Marina & Resort. 
I'm working on this blog poolside while the girls explore.  We are just minutes from the third largest reef system in the world.  The sun is out and the breeze is blowing!  
    We love the crew on Dream Catcher, Dean & Kim, our travel buddies and great friends.
    The guys eyeing the 80'+ catamaran that is anchored in our bay.
I think I could stay here forever or at least longer than our week long cruising permit will allow but there is more out there to be seen and I have to find out if we can ace this passage thing :)

Things learned this week aboard:
Expect the unexpected!  Whether it's the surprise gift of a guide book being passed on, fishing tips from a pro accompanied by a new lure, or a weather window opening (or closing) among your best laid plans; expect the unexpected and be flexible.  Just because something doesn't go the way you planned, doesn't mean it didn't work out for the best.  And who wants to be so rigid and locked into the way things are "supposed to be" that you miss an unexpected adventure waiting around the corner!

My PaigeE Paige has been missing her friends back home.  We are thankful for wifi so she could chat with her besties!  We love and miss you Maggie, Mia, & Olivia.  Thanks for making my girl's week!

Up next: another long passage. Will we make it?  We can hardly wait to find out ;)