Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thankspigging, races, clear waters, and finding weakness in the best way possible

The Thankspigging party turned out well, although I wished I had more tolerance for noise and crowds and had a couple extra stomachs. The meat courses (mostly pig and deep fried turkey) all got eaten up, as did the humus and veggies I brought. They needed some spice rub on the turkey, but still tasty.
Some time back, I hitched a ride with a fellow named Anthony who told me about a movie being made based on his experience in on a fishing boat in NY. He had woken to take his shift and found himself alone, his partner having fallen overboard. His partner managed to find a navigational buoy and tied himself to it. After over ten hours the search effort found him. Amazing story! And another fellow I met here, Rob, told me about a fishing boat he worked on in the summer. On the day he said goodby to his mates and headed down here for the winter, one of his friends fell over and the other, name of Anthony, managed to get the coast guard onto the right track to find him. Small world... small island. Anyway, Anthony and Rob brought scallops and oysters from NY that they cooked up as part of the feast. VERY tasty!

Each year there is a singlehanded race on the day after Thanksgiving, so I pulled out my biggest jib since the forecast called for very little wind. It needed some repairs, then I raised it, furled it, and climbed the mast to check the fit. I checked the bottom of the roller furler and, just where a shadow always falls, found a gaping smile in the stainless steel of the bow chainplate (aka "stem fitting"): if I had tried to sail in heavy wind it soon would have broken, perhaps dropping the mast and creating other minor inconveniences. I am so grateful to have found it with so little associated trauma and now will be far more conscientious about keeping an eye on things.

Smiley face!

When I awoke Friday morning I glanced at the water.... and saw something I've never seen before in the harbor: the bottom! A day of stillness had caused the mooring chains to cease their endless stirring and the mud had settled, giving me a fairly clear view of the bottom 14' below. Amazing! I even saw a nice 3' barracuda and schools of smaller fish.

The singlehanded races went fine and the light wind made me fairly glad I was not racing, even though sitting on the committee boat brought a new level of meaning to "tedium". The next day's races had similarly light winds, but the mathematics involved in handicapping all the boats and in keeping track of start and end times made it far more interesting. Folks raced everything from a little trimaran to an old steel smuggling ship from the great lakes. Fun.

That's all for now. Oh.... here is an urchin test I hung from the ceiling over an LED light:

Goodnight, all! I hope your Thanksgivings were as happy and eventful as mine.... and I hope you got a lot more hugs.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ups and downs

Life continues. A couple days ago I paddled ashore in the gray pre-twilight to go walk up a mountain and, upon stepping ashore, found myself accosted by a large land crab. Like giant fiddler crabs, normally they scuttle into their holes at the approach of a human, but I had caught this one foraging on the windrow of sargassum seaweed on the beach and it had no choice but to stand and defend. I pinned it with a shoe and picked it up. One claw measured about six inches from body to tip and about 1.5" in largest cross section: tempting, but I had a walk calling me and released the critter. No picture, sorry, but this google search should give you a good idea:
The day before that I had sailed out of the harbor and into the ever-increasing winds and waves and rain, finally having enough and turning tail, surfing down the six-foot, white-capped waves toward my mooring. About then I heard a noise that sounded like the sudden release of high-pressure water.... perhaps something had broken loose in my boat? I listened further, but the roar of wind and wave made things difficult.... and then I saw a creature surface along the port side beam. Shark? A minute later I saw the back again. I stood on the seat to get a better look into the glare of the sun and, a couple minutes later was rewarded by the sight of a porpoise peeling away from the Dorado and heading off.  My second porpoise sighting in the islands and the first alongside! No picture of this either.
The wind also seems to have been a factor in securing the wreck of the Aurora on Monday. Apparently they somehow managed to end up too close to a lee shore and the trio of happy chartering couples had their trip abruptly truncated. My neighbor speculates that autopilot was involved, but I know nothing.
I sailed well offshore to dump my waste tanks yesterday, turned on the pump and heard it working away for a minnute until..... clunk.... and silence. NOT the sort of thing one wants to hear, especially since it means I either need to do horrible work or hire someone to do it. Well, I hemmed and hawed and finally told myself that I would buy myself a pint of Ben and Jerry's Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz once I finished the job. Two hours later I had a Pratchett book in one hand and spoon in the other. In the meantime, however, I discovered that sea water had gotten into the electronics of the pump.... and there were other issues as well. Anyway, the pump now works.... somewhat... and I need to decide whether to try a new pump ($200) or rip out the toilet and tank and install a Nature's Head composting head (toilet) for $1000. The composting toilet weighs less, smells far better, and never clogs. I am sorely tempted, but am reluctant to spend the money. Well, I'll contemplate...
Wild wind tossing my boat at night and making it creak and groan against the mooring line, rain showers driving me indoors, and occasional strong coffee ice cream have made sleeping a bit disturbed lately. One night I walked about, half asleep, contemplating where to go back to sleep.... and my eye fell upon the sail bag stuffed with an old jib and my mind recalled happy childhood naps curled up on similar sails in the cabin of our Bristol 29. A few minutes later I was sound asleep on it and did not awaken until the sun had risen high in the sky. Very nice.
Today I will go to my first Thankspigging party, bring my potluck contribution and enjoy the roast pig, various foods, and company. We shall see how long I can stand the noise and crowds.

And here is a rainbow I saw yesterday: it was far brighter in reality.

And a coconut I found on my way to the grocery.

Life continues, life varies, and life is good.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Tuesday, my friend Carrie brought her friends Anya and Scott (a very nice couple from CO) aboard and we all sailed to Princess Creek in Hurricane Hole, caught a mooring, and snorkeled the local reefs. I discovered that the kayak does not do well with too much weight: it becomes very unstable. I also found that there are beautiful mounds of reef about 30' or 40' down that I should investigate, should I ever get scuba certified.

So, how did the snorkeling go? Well, not badly, although I should have brought us to a more sheltered spot for inexperienced folks on such a windy day. Eventually, tired, thirsty, and hungry from the long swim, we returned to the Dorado, climbed aboard, and they pulled out snacks and beer. I offered gin and tonics (my neighbor Peter has been supplying me with limes from this year's bumper crop) and soon stories and laughter filled the air, continuing until the sun dropped low and I raised the mainsail and we headed for home. I was certainly sorry to see the end of a fun day.

Monday morning I said goodby in the predawn darkness to another visitor, my friend Cynthia from Cape Cod. During her few-day visit we had swum in the warm harbor water at night, galaxies of sparks forming around our hands; she hooked two tail-walking tarpon in the north side of the island; she used her knife skills to open and clean four conchs we harvested and then cooked them up for lunch; and we sailed and swam by day and lay awake at night watching stars while warm winds buffeted us... or while mosquitoes attacked me and ignored her when wind died. We even got to snorkel at Flanagan Island when the winds and waves had died and rough places became accessible: wonderful corals and caves and fish! And we swam with four tarpon at Rob's mooring in Johnson Bay, watching as these huge beautiful fish swam within six feet of us, curious about these intruders into their realm.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Rain, rain, rain, and bananas

Friday it rained frequently and I filled my tanks, buckets, pots, and jugs. Saturday it simply rained and thundered. The usual clouds sail in from the south-east and sweep curtains of rain across us for five to fifteen minutes, leaving us with rainbows,

This storm spread across the entire radar map and sprinkled, showered, poured, and soaked the region while blowing lightly from the north. Tendrils of brown runoff carrying debris from land intruded into the green harbor waters, then spread and merged until the entire harbor looked like milk chocolate. And still it rained.

 My nice tight boat eventually leaked and I spread towels to catch the drips, wringing out the rags in the worst spots at a couple port lights. Reading and sleeping and laundry and having a space in the cockpit covered with a sail/tent kept me sane.... well, from becoming much less sane.... but I felt great relief at finding no rain this morning, at seeing the clouds part and sunshine break through, at having the chance to dry out everything. Instead, the wind rose and blew and blew and blew, but that (and recovering things that the wind stole) is another story.
More rain forecast after noon today! Let's see if I can go walking and exercise before it hits.

In other news, I found a couple coconuts dropped on the road by the wind and someone took a whole bunch of bananas to the dumpster, so I snagged a nice big hand and they tasted excellent after a few days.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lights out..... and the water lights up! Sorry, no photos :(

I woke this morning at my usual time (2:30) and noticed darkness and flashes of light. I looked about and the constellation of houses on the hills and the sodium vapor beacons spreading their yellow light across the harbor were gone, replaced by perhaps twenty lights in toto, lightning flashing in retreat over the western hills. The normally bright harbor enjoyed unaccustomed darkness and the stars shone above.... and sparks of living light flashed in the water. I turned the boat for better breeze, shifting the mooring line to a stern cleat, and saw the flashing created by the moving line. I shook it and the shock created a diffuse rod of light that lead into the depths. I splashed water and sparks tumbled across the surface. Best I've ever seen.

Then I lay on the deck for a bit, watching the sky and feeling the caress of the breeze. A bright meteor flashed.  Clouds built up and occluded the stars. A few drops fell and the wind began to rise, so I flipped the boat end for end again and went inside to listen to the rain.

And, after an hour or so, the lights came back on. And the roosters began crowing: the locals complain that the roosters crow all night and now I think we know a large reason.

I wonder if we could get the lights turned off now and then, even just for an hour? Probably not, we may just need to enjoy the darkness when it comes. May all of you get the chance to experience dark skies and glowing waters.

Sunrise sailing (written November 1)

Four of the last five days the water lay flat and mosquitoes and midges visited me in the night..... so, why not spend Thursday night at Flanagan Island? I began sailing at 8am, got to Flanagan in short order, swam, relaxed...... and thought "maybe I should sail around St John..." Five minutes later, the boat pulled away from the anchorage and headed south. Wimpy wind kept speeds low and I turned back just before I reached the west end of the island, heading for a peaceful night at Flanagan. My anchor dropped below the surface just after the sun.
I don't want to say much about the night, except that the wind increased rather than died and sleep visited only for brief moments. But by gray dawn the wind had died and I shook out the reef I had tied in the night and set out. Incredible sunrise behind me, warm wind moving me along..... very nice. I'm sure the camera did not do it justice, but this is what I caught....