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Sage Musings At Sea

March 23, 2018

San Juan, Puerto Rico to Georgetown, Bahamas

March – 1320hrs (off watch)
Exiting from San Juan was nerve racking. For several days enormous northerly swells had been roaring down from the north east slamming into Puerto Rico’s north shore – a surfers delight. However, the waves were breaking on either side of the harbour entrance leaving a 100 metre gap in which to punch through the swell and escape the embrace of San Juan’s harbour. Dramatic especially when there is little wind on which to rely if the engine fails. I think that is every sailors thought, always thinking of ‘what-ifs’. At least that’s me.

Exiting San Juan Harbour through the surf

Escaping the harbour we set out to sea with very light ENE winds, big swell, sunny day and promises of difficulties in keeping the wind in the sails. San Juan recedes in the distance looking like stalagmites in the larger landscape of distant mountains and big seas. Funny how insignificant the city seems when viewed from a receding distance. However, the impact of the city’s waste follows us for miles offshore as the storm surge has swept all sorts of detritus from the shores into the sea. Plastic abounds caught in palm leaves, logs and other garbage. Where will the plastic go this time?
As we roll west like drunken sailors ships come and go reminding us that we really need to install an AIS onto Sage to assist our safe navigation through the Bahamas and up the east coast towards…

March 9th – 1410hrs
Off watch once again looking out at this vast circle of blue that reflects back the rays of sunshine and the blue sky. Flying fish abound free from the fear of marauding birds. Only occasionally does one miscalculate their flight path and crashes onto Sage’s deck. Seems to always happen at night.
Last night was no exception. Leaping out of the water, probably thinking he was escaping being eaten by a larger fish, he careened into the dodger window missing smacking me on the forehead. I heard a whack and getting up to investigate it didn’t take long to not see the critter but smell him. Nothing like smelling a flying fish that is going through all the gyrations of throwing himself back into the water. And they really don’t like to be picked up. Of course, being quite slimy they are hard to hold on to but thinking the wings would be drier I had him. Get him off the deck and wash my hands to rid myself of the smell. Done…he’s free. Free till the next larger fish picks him up on their radar and the flight begins once again.
Amazing this struggle for survival that goes on below Sage’s keel and we’re oblivious to it. We’re not fishing yet. I don’t really like to fish until we’re closer to land where, if I catch a large offshore fish, I can use it to trade for some favour from a local. Usually offshore fishing brings in fish too large for 2 people to consume before it starts smelling like a flying fish on deck. We don’t have a freezer and hell we have enough supplies on board to last a few months.
Today the wind is light (7kn) and we drift along at 3-4 knots enjoying the fact we can read, cook, walk around and be comfortable for a change. The number of times we’ve able to do those things on a flat deck since leaving Grenada in November have been very limited so we’re enjoying this lazy sail for as long as it lasts.

March 9th – 1700hrs
Wind has settled in from the SE providing enough for us to travel at 6knots. However, off to port lies the Dominican Republic and dark, large heavy clouds gather over the mountains and there’s deep growling coming from the clouds. Ominous I would say and I don’t like the idea of a rainy storm filled night. Lightening is one of my most feared phenomena at sea. Too may boats we know have been hit and right now I just want to run away and hide!
Being philosophical though I guess this is as good a place to be as any other. The wind blows gently, a gorgeous sunset is in the making, the sea state is relatively quiet and Connie has been hard at work conjuring up a pork and eggplant curry.

March 10th – 1230hrs
Wow, what a night. Ran smack dab into a frontal system. Felt like we ran into a brick wall driving a Ferrari at a speed way beyond what those cars should be driven at. We first heard the thunder over to portside on the DR coastline. We chuckled thinking we were north of the disturbance but after dinner the skies clouded, the wind circled the clock, the rain drove down like pellets, the lightening was like a strobe light and the thunder made it feel like we were inside a taiko drum in a world competition. If that wasn’t enough 2 ships appeared off our starboard side. We were able to call them and despite us being less than a ¼ mile away they saw us on neither radar nor by naked eye. Not surprising as the rain pelted down and we had limited visibility. The strobe cut through it all and the ships picked us up right away. Just another reminder that we need AIS.

Today our 2 foresails are deployed fully spreading white canvas like butterfly wings. We rock and roll downwind and see another boat(Presto) off to port. Call them up, trade stories on last night’s light and water show and discover we’re both headed the same way. So just the two of us out here trying to trap the wind to push us north-westward.

Stretching off to the northeast are the Turks and Caicos, lying in a circular jewel of turquoise water and coral. It beckons strongly but does not have a great reputation for welcoming yachts – expensive cruising permits, very expensive supplies and unwelcome to yachtie-trash like ourselves! Ah well their loss…we had our fill of champagne, caviar and baubles in St. Barts so let’s move on.

March 11th – 1515hrs
This morning felt like torture. We hadn’t sailed well last night. It’s our fault. We didn’t have the right combination of sails up and we simply didn’t make the miles we should have. Normally this wouldn’t be so bad but the seas were very uncomfortable, our energy levels low and it was dark as hell reducing our initiative to do something about it. Sometimes sailing just isn’t made to be fun.

This afternoon we make slow headway with a SW wind (where did that come from?). Sun shines, the water on deck is warm for a shower and drinks are on the agenda in the late afternoon. Still, I just want to get there.

March 12th – 1345hrs
Ups and downs of sailing are vicarious. Some times things don’t seem to go in ones favour. For this trip we’ve had light winds, contrary winds, favourable winds, very strong winds and now we find ourselves battling increasingly stronger contrary winds and we’re only 60 miles from our destination with a front approaching, rain on the way and winds that aren’t producing comfortable conditions.

It’s simply hard to be positive all the time. And what do we do to hide our disappointments from others onboard. It’s impossible. Moods go up and down and we just have to take those into account and do the best we can to be positive. It helps us to keep going.

Arrival – crystal clear waters and a bottom that can be seen with and anchorage in 2 metres.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Archer permalink
    March 23, 2018 19:12

    Enjoy the Bahamas…Sorry to hear bad things about the Turks…had some great diving there.

  2. Sue Donaldson permalink
    March 23, 2018 20:45

    Puleeez install an AIS asap…

  3. March 23, 2018 21:42

    Tony, connie:

    When at sea want to be ashore, when ashore want to be at sea. Well some days anyway. Ya can’t have gravy all the time. That photo of leaving San Juan is a real pucker picture. Woohoo! Hope your next leg is kinder, thanks for the blog, great as ever.

  4. Wayno permalink
    March 23, 2018 21:58

    Yachtie trash…. I really like that. And bye the bye, what were you smoking when you wrote this journal? Hmmmm….?

  5. March 23, 2018 22:42

    I am soooo glad it is you and NOT me!!!!
    Annie B.

  6. Toby SY SANGOMA permalink
    March 24, 2018 03:06

    Tony, you should really try to catch a fish when doing a long passage. There’s nothing better than fresh sushi prepared by your galley-spider and you know, not many fishes I’ve caught were really much larger than the cockpit floor! And within a few days (breakfast, lunch & dinner) … he’s gone, no need for a freezer.
    You talked about getting an AIS when you were in Cape Town! What’s holding you up, don’t just write about it, get one!
    Enjoyed reading your journal, keep sending it!

  7. Barrie permalink
    March 24, 2018 06:07

    Great post. We opted for an AIS receiver built into or Standard Horizon VHF. The transponders send a weak signal, often not reaching more then a very few miles. Also, the large ships often disable the “B” transmissions sent by small craft, particularly in busy waters, to reduce “clutter”. The result is you think you are seen, but you are not. Also, if your AIS shares your radio antenna the signals may be interupted by other radio traffic, resulting in delayed updates. This is particularly true if the AIS is built into the radio, as other traffic is given priority by the radio. That being said we LOVE our AIS.

  8. Darrel and Loretta Smith permalink
    March 24, 2018 10:08

    Hang in there guys. And thanks again for sharing. We right there along with you and feeling it. L&D xx

  9. Donald permalink
    March 31, 2018 13:52

    Tony a great read as always Old Mate !!! Stay well you Two and fair winds Cheers and much Peace from the Wet Coast !!! Don

  10. Hugh Otterburn permalink
    April 5, 2018 21:39

    Your writing is beautiful Tony. I had the address but no time to relax and read it until now, here in FL waiting for repairs

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