Sailing Dreams?

I have over 50K miles offshore sailing experience, I often think back to when I sailed that first time, and compare what I knew then versus what I know now.  I often dwell on that perspective so I feel qualified to talk on the subject.  Here you go.. a cruising captain’s version of the ultimate guide to decide “If YOU would love cruising” free of charge.  Cruising for dummies if you will.

There are several levels of sailboat lovers, from what I have seen we all fit into one of them.  When a sailboat dreamer explains his heart felt desire to sell his house – buy a big boat and live in a space about the size of his current garage, with about the same capacity of air conditioning, most of his friends can’t imagine a worse fate.  The nay sayers probably represent 80% of the population.  Most of your friends are what I’d call level 1 enthusiasts, basically they will think you are nuts.  We sailors may be nuts, but I’m here to tell you the unwilling majority will never risk failure or folly.  I now know, any accomplishment without contention isn’t worth the wax to keep it polished.  Level 1 represents the great majority that live out common lives, and seem to be happy enough.

Level 2:  Some folks love the idea of sailing and will even promise to come sail with you (and they mean it) but then they don’t.  When a sailor’s dream finally comes true, we recall the excitement of our friends for our dream so we offer to share it, but they won’t come.  Level 2 friends enjoy the thought of the perfect sail.  They desire some of that “escape” factor sailing into the sunset provides, but will never act on it, even as a guest.  Don’t judge them when your reality doesn’t match theirs anymore.  It happens.  The dream of freedom is still there but you just changed lanes too fast and you should know, they may never come with you.  Level 2 sailors have a fantasy that works well for them, but know it’s a pipe dream… and that’s OK.

Level 3:  Daddy Warbucks – Walk around any marina and you will find trophies that represent achieved wealth lining the docks.  Some owners have cruising dreams but most use their craft as a dockside condo to entice the level 2’s to come by and enjoy a glass of wine.  It works, it’s great entertainment that at least makes you think of cruising, but they never unplug the twin 50 amp cords.  Inside this level 3 there is a very small percentage that do actually leave the dock.  They sail from Yacht Club to Yacht club and remark on who had the best floral presentation at the dinner table.  The only tools they have onboard is a pen and checkbook.  I guess I might fit into that subset if I had the money.. lol.  These rich guys, and level 2’s that made a mistake, keep marinas in business.  95% of the masts you see in any harbor never move.  The ones that do sail, shouldn’t stray far from home or be out longer than fresh fruit.  I’ve met some good Level 2’s out on the water but they are pretty rare.  Most mega yachts you see “out there” don’t fit in this category.  Cruising mega yachts are normally a business venture that changes its boat name based on which corporate occupants are on board at the time.  I have seen the same boat docked at Atlantis in Nassu sport 3 different names.  The big gold letters on the side apparently bolt on and can be changed by the crew without much fanfare.

Level 4 Cruisers – These are the dreamers that find a way to move on a boat.  I’d say level 4 represents up to 10% of the people you will see “out there” cruising.  They have the overwhelming desire for freedom but they aren’t good decision makers.  They buy the wrong boat, or they don’t make good decisions day to day.  Level 4 includes everything from homeless people that happen to live on a boat, to the fiscally capable but “mentally moronic” sailors with a desire to live free, especially free of common sense.  It can be a hard life.  Sort of the left wing democrats of the boating world.  Their sense of reality floats with the tide, they survive off what other people give them.  Heck they MUST be Democrats now that I think about it, you know.. feed them fish and you have their vote forever, teach them to fish….. and they might vote for somebody else.  Actually they fit into the cruising world quite well.  These folks are totally harmless, in their happily aimless way… lol.  They are often fun to watch and are – totally groovy man…….   I keep extra starter fluid, and spark plugs onboard for these folks.  It’s nice to have the opportunity to make somebody’s day now and then.

Level 5 Cruisers – Hopefully this is the category I fit into.  Level 5 are the successful cruisers that represent the largest group you will meet if you pull that proverbial pin yourself.  Have you ever been camping or RV’ing?  It’s great when you meet people in the RV park and talk about their equipment or similar circumstances.  You make friends quickly.  The cruiser community is like that on steroids.  If you pull up next to a guy 400 miles from nowhere just off some deserted island, you have a major commonality.  That guy kinda’ qualifies right off the bat.  Most of our best and most devoted friends are cruisers we met in the Bahamas.  We average about 6 months on, and 6 months off the boat so all our time isn’t spent with cruisers… but the best times are.  Even when we are on land, our cruising buddies are hands down the best people.  In March of this year my house flooded, I had a cruising buddy drive 16 hours with a truck full of supplies to help me clean up and get my life back together.  To be fair, another drove 6 hours to do the same and he’s never been on SYL.  “Sea Yawl Later” Sittononthebeach.com  Level 5 is the most successful cruising group of the five, and fortunately they represent the overwhelming majority of who you will see “out there”.

If you generally make good decisions, don’t be afraid to just get on a boat and go. Nothing beats real time experience.  Your love of sailing will drive you to do enough research to excel.  But … If your decision making skills are suspect it might be good to commit to exhaustive study and take it slower, or better yet change your dream to do something you might actually enjoy. I hate to be that blunt but there it is.

Making good decisions (even more than preparedness) is THE foundation for successful cruising. If your generally pretty lucky, and a handy guy.. cruising opens up a door you simply must walk through. You were made to do this.  Conversely if you’re the kind of guy that is hyper-focused on details, relies heavily on product warrantees, and somebody that holds on to the negative longer than you should, if the main tool you use to work on your boat is your wallet… don’t get far from home my friend.  Cruising can be fun for you, but not long term.

When you’re out sailing, some “new” problem presents itself almost every day.  No amount of study will yield the perfect solution to every scenario.  Common sense and how you adapt is what gets you out of a jam.  I’m not saying don’t do your research, I’m saying the smartest thing you can do is check your personal tool box, understand how much of “the right stuff” you possess because that too.. will run low at the worst possible moment.  When you have been awake all night on a crossing, something breaks and the weather gets bad… tools, spare parts or preparedness won’t mean much if you don’t make good decisions about how to use them.

Your first and most important decision is to buy a solid boat in the first place.  One that will take care of you when your skills bump the rev limiter.  The lower your endurance to adversity… the more money you better spend on a boat.

Here’s my take on what you as a top (level 5) sailor will experience on the high seas.  Sailing is 10-80-10. Other sailors may disagree with my percentages but here’s the deal. 10% of your sailing will be idyllic – like you dream of and see on the postcards. Sandy beaches, blue skies, wind on your beam and wine in your favorite glass. Euphoric in every way and totally worth the other 90%. On the opposite end of the spectrum – 10% is sheer terror, something you only brag about after the appropriate amount of time has lapsed. lol. How much skin you lose during a wild experience often determines how long that duration is, but… when you realize that you and your well-chosen equipment can overcome true adversity it grounds you like nothing else. You own something sweet dreams could never purchase.

Sailboats can do that for you. Even though we all hope bad things won’t happen, when they do, that too becomes a talking point to share when you reach that deserted island and anchor next to a guy that just did the same thing. Sooner or later situations that bring the most fear become mental jewelry that most will never own. Now I’m not suggesting you go out and do something stupid or that sailing will eventually render you anemic. While perusing your dreams if you accidentally find a base to judge all things by.. for real…. your eyes simply “see” with higher resolution. Even the worst of times on a sailboat have their merit.

Regarding my math: Given my 10-80-10 scenario if the middle 80% of sailing transports you from one 10% to the other with varying degrees of joy. I know.. I know, you might say my math is flawed.  When I claimed earlier that the best 10% makes the other 90% more than worth it, I didn’t make a mistake… What I’m saying is, the unintended bad times… the 10% that scares the crap out of you eventually become a bonus to be included in the “worth it column”.

And here’s a bit for us dreamers: I totally understand that planning and anticipation is a wonderful part of the journey not to be missed… Dream, and if you find a way.. go for it!

Wednesday May 4th 2016

9:45AM 

The EndIMG_9275

Tuesday Pirate Beach to Allens Cay / Northern Exumas

Three Seawinds departed Big Major at 7AM for points North.  My goal was Allens Cay at the top of the Exumas, Jumanji and Zephyros broke off to take a mooring ball at Cambridge Cay.  We had said our good byes on the beach the night before but there were sweet radio conversations from Jumanji of thanks and joy for being their guide for the first cruise to the Bahamas.  He didn’t mention how I taught him to sail… lol.  No.. I’m kidding.. Mike and Laurie are accomplished sail boat racers in their own right, but I know they found a few sail trims that work better on a Seawind.

SYL pulled in to Allens about 4:15, Jono promptly dropped the dingy and went on a discovery mission.  We have found so much interesting stuff this trip.  I think he has developed a search criteria.. and Allens showed promise in his beach exploring model.

Tomorrow we head out early for a 70 mile jaunt to Morgan’s Bluff to wait out some heavy weather.  Hopefully we have enough wind to maintain 6 knots, if not we will probably drop one of our three bladed jibs and augment the speed with an outboard.  Our plan if the weather holds is to cross the Great Bahama Banks Saturday and look at a Gulfstream crossing Sunday.  From there we hope to be able to not hurry as much…. once we reach the US.  Leaving now also gives us some bad weather days to hole up, and still make it home on time.

Monday – Pirate Beach

We met Jack and Lauire… yep another Laurie last night on the beach.  They flew in to be with Ted and Mili on Morning Glory for 7 days.  We were all out driving around and happened to meet at Zephros to chat so we rafted the dinghys together and went to the beach enmasse with us pushing the other two boats.. lol.  While at the beach we met a couple that lives in the next town from us in Mandeville Louisiana!  Matt and his wife had picked up her sister at the airport.  Nicole (the wife’s sister) is a cute little thing as Jono recognized right away… lol.  Matt is a spear fisherman and apparently a great angler, he gave us half a Mahi from his “overstocked” refrigerator.  We traded information then, as dark fell the mosquitoes drove us back to our boats.

This morning winds are up and down, it blew pretty good during the night.  That seems to be the pattern; most of the high wind has been at night for the last few weeks.  Jono is sleeping in this morning.  He rode back over to Morning Glory about 8:30 last night; I’m not sure when he got home.

10:30AM – Morning Glory and I decided to head North 10 miles or so for the day.  Ted wanted to show his company the Undersea Aquarium just north of Bell Island and I wanted to put Jono on some possibly unpicked over beachs at Thomas Cay.  It’s almost noon and I’m anchored at my intended spot, Jono is on the Oceanside looking for cruiser treasures.  I’m excited to have more shipwreck wood to add to my collection back home.  I ran aground once going into pipe creek.  It’s low tide so I’m not surprised.  It wasn’t bad getting off but it wasn’t fun either.  I think I’ll take a swim around the boat while Jono is on the beach.

MG didn’t come all the way back to Pirate beach but we did.  This would be the last day we would see the other Seawinds, we are breaking away tomorrow to head back to the states.  SYL

May 1st – Big Major / Pirate Beach

In the wee hours of the morning a huge supply ship came right by our boat, I mean within 20’ of us.  I guess it’s the “mail boat” that supplies Fowl Cay Resort.  He docked over there for a while then moved on.  All these islands are supplied by these mail boats as they are called.  Everything from fresh water to diesel, groceries, building materials, everything….. comes on the mail boat.  Most islands they come once a week, some remote places get their boat every 2 weeks.  If you need a tire for your car on Crooked Island, or a bottle of wine… you call the store in Nassau, buy it and they put it on the mail boat for you.  It usually makes it intact, but if it doesn’t arrive whole…. or at all there’s no recourse.  You may get it next week, or maybe not.  To better explain what I mean about da’ Bahamas, read this sign from Ocean Cabin on Little Farmers.

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Jono made three trips to the outer beaches today…. One by himself, one with me, and another time with Mike.  The bounty was oodles of sea glass, and some nice pieces too!  He also found two more boat bumpers so he’s fixed up totally for bumpers…..  I hung out on Pirate Beach while Mike and Jono went, when they got back we went up to Pirate Beach and swam to cool off after the sun drenching day on the remote beaches.  On PB we met two couples, one from Corpus Christi Texas, the other from Knoxville Tennessee on the same boat.  Both men were helicopter pilots working in Afghanistan.  Laurie form Forever Young came over about 3, Richard followed at 5 with the wine… we left immediately after he got there with the wine… remembering what happened to us yesterday.  Actually we were hungry so… we are dining on Jono chili dogs at this very moment.

5:30 – A few minutes ago Morning Glory arrived at Big Major with their firefighter friends on board from Florida.  So now we are 4 Seawinds strong… a flotilla of Australian fiberglass here in the Bahamas.  Ted did a flyby.. we told him we were returning to the beach after dinner so we will rendezvous in a few minutes to meet Jack and his family!

SYL

Last day of April – Little Farmers to Big Majors Spot

We left Little Farmers under sail alone and worked our way North to Jack’s Bay Cove for our first big adventure on the outside.  We hiked over the narrow spit of land, Jono went one way and I went the other to double our search area.  There were tons of wood, a wrecked boat and every type of plastic bottle known to man on the remote beaches…. However you could tell that cruisers had picked them clean of the good stuff – float balls mainly… I found one but it was probably someone’s cull, I culled it too.  What I did find of interest to me was a shipwreck! 

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I think it was a Bahamian racing sloop by the paint on it and by the mast base I found.  I stood it up in the picture above so I could see it easily on the way back down the beach.  Being almost 3 miles away from the boat walking across lava rock, it was a huge undertaking.. but I hoisted about a 6’ long section of the mast base on my shoulder and carried it out.

Luckily I was just up off the beach when Jono met me from his exploration on his beach (we went seperate ways to double our search area) so he and I carried the relic together back to SYL !!.  It will make a wonderful conversation piece in my Bahamian wood / float ball display at home.  The 65# chunk of wood is nestled nicely in the dinghy davit, where I have carried much of my Bahamian wood pieces back to Texas over the years.

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This big 2’ chunk probably started its life before the United States was a country.  I don’t think it’s part of the sloop… it looks much older.  From a little sprig, this huge piece of wood grew up, was cut and used for years, then floated on the ocean for who knows how long until it reached the little beach where we found it after bleaching in the sun for who knows how long.  I wouldn’t hesitate to say that it’s a 300 year old piece of wood.  Another major effort was made to bring that piece back home…  the 5” thick 2′ long and 1′ wide chunk of wood may  be my favorite beach find this trip.

I intended to stop by Black Point and do a load of whites at the laundry… but I decided to do them in the ice chest like Jono does so we continued on the extra few miles to where Mike and Laurie are staying tonight… Big Major.  Sailing was fun.. winds were on our beam swaying aft now and then..  The water was flat and we had enough wind to enjoy the day.  We got to outrun two monohulls, one was only 36’ long but the other was over 40 so that’s more of a challenge.  At 9kts apparent I only had a knot or so on them, but when it piped up over 11 knots it was easy to see that SYL was pulling away.

We dropped the hook about 1PM at Big Major near Pirate Beach where Jono made massive us ham sandwiches.  He immediately dropped the dinghy and gathered his hunting gear for another big trek.  He’d scouted the charts and chose some beaches he hasn’t been on for his evening hike.

It’s amazing how much wood and junk are on some of these ocean side beaches.  This is Jono up high looking for the beach just before we split up.

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I just realized that “Forever Young” (the 78’ Hatteras) was back in her place on Pirate Beach.  Laurie and Richard just came by on the way to Laurie’s favorite reading chair at her favorite beach.

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Pirate Beach Sunset

7:45PM  We just got back on board SYL, Richard brought 2 bottles of wine to pirate beach at 5, so we were pretty roasted by the time we left.  Richard and Laurie, Mike and Laurie, and Jono and I had a great time talking about how we all came to be at this spot, at this time.  It was a special time none of us will forget.  The question came up “Where is it?”  where is it better than this?  My thoughts go back to “normal people” watching TV, getting up going to work the next morning…. Here we are sitting on a sweet little beach looking out on clear blue water with great friends sharing each other’s story watching the amazing sunset with our toes in the white sand of Pirate Beach.  Where is it indeed that it’s better than here….. there may be that place… but it’s not in some living room watching TV.   SYL

Little Farmers

We parked at the South end of the airstrip.  Our plan for the day is to find out what “Ocean Cabin” is serving  and go there for either lunch or dinner.  Jono is on the outer beach this morning trying to support his growing boat habit (looking for treasure).  When we arrived yesterday we inflated the dinghy, so far the patch is holding so we have our “car” back.  The kayak provides alternate transportation, but more for Jono than myself.  It’s not easy to get on or off the kayak these days.

I just looked over at Jumanji and Mike is at the top of his mast… he must suspect a bird pooped on the top and he has to clean it off.  I have never seen a cleaner boat outside of a boat show.  I went over and helped Mike come down the mast.  He was checking for a sharp edge that may have been chafing his main halyard.

While we were away walking the town, Jono came back with his first haul of the day…  several fishing floats… all on one beach!  After we came back to the boat and ate lunch, Jono and I went back to the junk covered beach he found all the good stuff on.  We found another huge score of float balls and some fine taylor made boat fenders worth probably $150 at the resale shop.  In all Jono and I found  one orange throw ring, 5 boat bumpers, 7 pre-war aluminum float balls… ! 14 assorted more modern float balls, 5 smaller oval float balls and 2 heavy fiber cylinders (I don’t really know what they are for).  All this was on a single 150 yard beach that apparently NOBODY ever goes to..  Salvage Beach / Wal-Mart / whatever you want to call it we found a great place to shop for beach junk.

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Dinner at Ocean Cabin with the group was very good.  Jono had fried fish and I had cracked conch.  Both were very good, with one beer it was a $42 dollar tab.   Steamed lobster was $28 a plate, it looked good but those that got it said it was spicy hot… but very good.  We got back to the boat after dark….. Jono made some new friends on the island; he got a carving of an owl from “JR” the local wood carver.

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Jonathon met Jeffery, Carlos, and a few others.  I think Jono likes Little Farmers Cay.  SYL !!

GT to Little Farmers Cay

Four Seawinds lifted anchor at 7:15 to make a formation fly by in Georgetown Harbor.  Jono and Mili were in the dinghy to take pictures as we approached Kidd Cove.  The boats in order are: closest to you sv “Zephyros”, second away is sv “Jumanji”, then sv “Morning Glory” with “Sea Yawl Later” in the distance.. but leading the pack.

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Ted and Mili on Morning Glory sailed out of the harbor with us but returned for guests arriving later in the week.  The trio of Seawinds continued on to Little Farmer’s for the evening.  It was a glorious downwind sail in 4’ swells and 8 knots of wind.  My fishing prowess (or lack thereof) remains intact.  I did everything I knew of to catch a fish and didn’t get a bite.  Almost 40 miles of trolling and we got nothing…..  Mike and Frank caught barracuda but no game fish.

Arrival drinks were shared on Jumanji until 6:30.  We all returned to our ships for the evening meal.  Jono had thawed out some of Linda’s chicken and sausage gumbo.  We ate it over rice and crackers with plenty salt and hot sauce….  Great finish for the day.

Stargazing was nice, I spent 15 minutes watching satellites move through the night sky – still lit strongly by the sun.  It’s quiet here, no generators running, no boats running thru the harbor all night… Little Farmers is much different than Georgetown on Regatta week.  The “zoo” was fun to see… but this is better!

SYL

GT – Wednesday the 27th

Today is Seawind photo day, our plan is to get all 4 boats together for a photo.  Jono and I may be leaving GT tomorrow, so the opportunity for a group shot is waning.  I need to be back home in roughly a month, and we are talking about making some of the out islands on the way back… so we are at the apex of our argosy.  All good things must come to an end I guess.  This picture is of Morning Glory’s arrival (with the new stern extensions)

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Today was a great day… again.  Everybody rode on Morning Glory over to the Georgetown side of the harbor.  We all walked the town, I got a Batelco prepaid phone “top up” Jono got some more Gumbay Punch 2 liters, and we all watched the first two regatta races from the bank.  The third race (the big 28’ “A” boats) started at 4PM.  Moring Glory with all on board was on the starting line to watch the big race of the day begin.  Red Stripe and Tida Wave were my favorites… they are historically the fastest two boats.  Both boats took an early lead but had problems during the race.  Running Tide #5 took the win.  The SW flotilla all went back to their respective boats and re-convened at the Chat-n-chill for ribs and chicken dinner.

After hugs all around we left in the dark heading back to our boats.  Tomorrow everybody but Ted and Mili are leaving GT heading back North.

SYL

Tuesday April 26th – Georgetown

We charged batteries with the generator last evening; I cleaned the solar panels so we will see how they perform today.  Solar charging has been OK, but not up to par.

Jono is at work this morning.. which means he’s on an outer beach hunting relics.  With the dinghy waiting for glue to cure, he took the Kayak into hurricane hole 1 to walk across to the ocean.

With a light breeze picking up in GT harbor, it is becoming a nice morning.  I forgot to ask about a boat count in the harbor on the net this morning, but I did pick up a spare autopilot on the boat trader segment.  A boat named Celeste bought a new wheel pilot and is giving his old unit away, it will make a good backup for SYL.  It’s nice to see the regatta boats out practicing this morning; we have a ring side seat.  The little boats slide across the light blue water like a leaf in the wind.

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Having our Seawind friends around us is really nice.  Ted came over this morning, Mili has her sewing machine out and I need a little bimini repair.  Ted said to bring it on over and she’ll fix it up.  Richard and Laurie from “forever young” came by in their small boat; they came in the harbor yesterday evening on their 78’ Hatteras motor yacht.  She said she caught fish every day and her freezer is full… she wants to go fishing every day here in GT but she didn’t have anybody to clean fish for her so I volunteered.  Jono and I may be able to put up a nice store of fresh Mahi as barter.  Their dinghy is a 16’ boat with a Honda 90 on it, so they use that to go fishing.  I’m glad I bought that second jar of Wasabi….

“High Noon” just came by in his Dink after a grocery trip across the harbor.  I don’t remember his but his wife’s name is Mary.  They are long time seasonal GT residents from Canada.  The first time I came to GT they were parked in the same spot they are now.  High Noon is a 65’ sleek looking monohull that must go to wind like a 747…. It’s a narrow hull so it looks like it’s 100 feet long.  There isn’t many of the old guard left; life is a revolving door out here in cruiser paradise.

There is a 36’ monohull parked behind us; they bring their dog to the bank to do his business every morning.  When they get close to the boat on the return trip the dog bails off the bow of the dinghy and climbs the ladder back up into the boat… it’s the oddest thing you have ever seen.  He looks like a black and white spaniel breed… perty smart I guess.  Dogs on boats… I guess some people can’t make real friends…. Lol.  I love a dog, but when that dog consumes your life (and you don’t want to live for someone or something else) you need to rethink your situation.  I’m not callus; I just guard my heart against loving a non-human to a fault.

Conditions should be ideal for the Family Island Regatta.  I’ve been keeping up with weather and it looks really fine for the races this week.

Zephros invited everyone for drinks and snacks tonight.  I think I’ll go over and visit everyone.  Mike came and picked me up earlier, we went to all the other Seawinds looking at how they were set up.  Our dinghy is out of service while the glue dries so Mike is carrying me around these days.  In a couple days our dink will be good to go.  We used 3M 5200 for the repair, it’s brutally efficient but slow drying.

SYL