Passages

 

 

DSCN2871Our Passage Home From Lucaya,Bahamas- Beaufort, S.C.

Magical Vibes, Stowaways and Warships

Part 1 : Magical Vibes

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I was siting on the rail watching the sun sparkle on the gentle swells. It was 7A.M. and we had just completed our 2nd evening on passage. We would be reaching land today, dropping anchor around sunset. I had tears in my eyes. I was thinking that I would never have imagined so long ago that my life would wind a path to here….Sitting on my own sailboat traveling the sea, becoming so many things, but mostly more myself. One of the stepping stones that I had walked along to get to this destination was so clear to me.

I grew up on the water, spending summers on our boat in Nantucket Island as a kid. I feel like the boating life is in me like a tide to the sea. It’s different what Travis and I are doing now. For one, we are on a sailboat which is very different from a powerboat. Still being on the water, experiencing the sights and sounds of this world, feels like home.  We spent a handful of summers of my life in Nantucket on The Carrier before we moved South and my parents sold her and purchased a mountain cabin. Still those years on the boat in Nantucket defined my childhood, it’s what I remember most. I realize that my ease of living on the boat may be rooted in this.

Travis and I have added a wilderness experience to the boating life. Joining in with a small group of people who travel the seas to far places and some who sail the world on thier sailboats. Will we sail the world? We’ve only begun, but we are hopeful and we have a good start.

Sitting on the rail, I watch the day unfold. I felt awakened. It had never occurred to me to have a boat be part of my adult life. How did I forget? Or did it just seem so out of the box from my everyday life that I never thought to incorporate it?

I remember thinking life is perfect in this moment. Travis and I, enjoying an intimate passage on our so loved Seahorse where we spend most of our moments together in the cockpit under the sun and the stars, witnessing the day become night and the night become day and over again. The sails look so majestic as they capture the wind and like a friend, steady us through the water. As I write this, the pups are asleep, husband is asleep, and a little Warbler just landed on the deck. My heart just melted at the grace of it all.

I was awakened from my nostalgic moment by the sudden playful greeting of dolphins. One traveled to the beam at lightening speed and leaped out of the water and splashed on its side announcing its presence. The rest of the herd followed. I hurried to the bow and basked in the dolphin delight. My morning could only get better if a mermaid were to swim by.

The frightfulness of the big dark ship that we encountered in the night had passed and all was majestic again.

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Part 2: More Magic

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Have you ever watched the moon set like the sun? I had not and it took me by surprise. It was our first night on passage, a perfect night with 20 knot winds gusting to 30 and a magical canvas of stars above that could only be more interesting if Van Gogh had put a spin on them. It was on the edge of brisk, but completely beautiful. I was enjoying this wild and wondrous wilderness experience…trying to capture the dark purple water of the gulf stream glistening with luminescence in my camera lens….

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hmmm… you had to be there. It actually looks like fireworks in the waves as they collide against the hull of the boat.

I looked up and was struck by the big orangey-pink moon setting on the water. It took me a second to realize what I was seeing; as obvious as it was, I had never seen it before. It was midnight. What a majestic site. I felt energized and grateful for this beauty and adventure abound. I wanted to wake Travis up, but that seemed like bad shift etiquette. It would have to be for me alone.

Travis woke from his shift and sleepy eyed I went down below with Truchie and crashed on the settee in the “living room” but Truchie was wild eyed as there was much more noticeable movement down below than in the cockpit and the dishes were shifting side to side in their compartment in the galley. click…click…clack…click…click…clack . Truchie also hates the red lights that we run in the cabin at night. Unrelaxed, I realized how much I was enjoying the night in the cockpit. I grabbed Truchie, my pillow and blanket and we slept under the stars…. Perfect. I could even wake up and talk to Travis here and there. Except Truchie was still freaked out a bit and moved every 5 minutes; she just couldn’t be still and settle in. It was her first overnight on the boat and Truchie is afraid of the dark. At the house, she barks at her shadow in the night. Bella was comatose and in full snore, but hiding her face in the blankets, fully aware that this was an unusual world around us; however, anyone who knows Bella knows that Bella views the everyday world as unusual anyway… so no big change for Bella 🙂

Everytime I woke up (because of Truchie squirming) and saw the stars and felt the wind on my face, I felt as if I was in my perfect space. It was completely broken sleep, yet the best night of sleep. I actually enjoyed waking out of a sound sleep and witnessing the awesomeness of my surroundings… our flag flapping with the stars overhead, the sound of the boat moving through the water, the wind with a light howl in the sails; it rained gently and I curled up tighter in my blanket happily. I awoke to nothing but sea and sunrise. Yes Perfect.

One hour into our passage, Travis announced that everything was magical. Indeed. It was magical.

November 11, 2015

Oriental NC To Abaco Bahamas

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  ….. So this is what it was all about…  Seahorse was to accompany us to beautiful and exotic places. She was to be our vehicle for seeing the world and its people and wonders. Places we couldn’t take a car to, places we didn’t care to take an airplane to and show up as a tourist. Everything we had done on Seahorse was for this moment. A Passage.

 This is what everything has been leading up to. The O’day at Keowee, The bumping along the Carolina Coast (a few times quite literally), the countless hours of boat love, maintenance and repairs by us and our ever so trusty team of experts….like Eugene Marais Carpenter & Sailor Extraordinaire from South Africa , Bill Zoble Tech-tician & Sailing Extraordinare as well as fellow dog lover, and  Dan the Welding Wizard at Sail Craft…all with whom Seahorse would not be the boat she is without them…. but that will be for another post…

        I can’t explain to you how fortunate we were to have our dear friend Donny accompany us.

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     Donny is an obvious wealth of knowledge, but he also embodies the other so very important factor of a passage… an easy to be with person. Yes, there will be nothing else except for you, your boat and the people in it for days. The only technology you will most likely have is a VHF radio and we were the only souls on it. The people and the weather can make or break the passage. We scored on both!

       We had remarkable wind for the most part. We had a few bouts with floggy wind on the second night and third day, but it was good for our Gulf Stream Crossing… and how do you know when you have entered the Gulf Stream? You go from 8 to 2.6 in 4 seconds. Everyone just looks at each other like, ” What just happened!?” Oh! This must be The Gulf Stream. It feels like running out of gas.

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and we got to Wing on Wing, which was cool.

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 and it was an excellent fishing day, so nothing lost.

       

     Every other day was blowing brisk. We had 25-30 knots steady and Seahorse was in all of her glory. She came to life quite literally. Her sails full of breath, the auto pilot moaning… we were just existing in our everyday lives it seemed as she was sailing across the sea. I was in awe. She was not wood, fiberglass, mechanical parts. She couldn’t possibly be… she was carrying us across the ocean in a safe and hardy manner.

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       I actually found that I preferred to sleep in the cockpit sometimes. Its so beautiful! A ceiling of stars….And when dusk turns to dawn… ahhhh. You do crave the comforts of a soft mattress and a bit of shelter from the wind. Bedding. No. I had that in the cockpit with me 🙂 … and thank you to Travis and Donny for not complaining about it 🙂 It was so much comfier than Foul Weather Gear 🙂  But I would try to wait until I existed under the stars long enough or saw the sunrise, before crawling into my bedroom.  Its also a nice time to hang with your fellow crew members who are on watch, but have a little company.

Romper Room

       There was one night that I felt pretty worn out and really did just want my bed. I slept a long time, no one woke me up. Our watch schedules were kind of loose. We had a schedule, but if someone needed more or someone needed less we seemed to fall into that natural rhythm with each other and it was understood that you could wake the next person up when your time was up, but if you were feeling up to it, maybe you would let them sleep if they had not surfaced yet. But this particular night the  “sleeping” was ridiculous!  It was so rolly on the boat. It was the night with little wind, so our forward motion through the water wasn’t great. The waves were coming on our sides and in huge motions at times. I was getting thrown out of the bed practically, even though much of the bed is enclosed with built in cabinetry. So I balled up in a fetal position in the top of the bed that was completely secured by cabinetry so I would stay in the bed. I slept about 10 minutes at a time it seemed, being jolted by the big waves in each set. I kept thinking, just go up in the cockpit and sleep! It won’t be half as bad up there, but I really wanted to be in my bed more. Definitely the most ridiculous night of  “sleep” in my life.

    …On the rolly note, Travis shared with Donny and I that when he went down below on one occasion and attempted to make his way through the galley that runs along the side of the boat to our bedroom… a big wave came and as he took his first step going onto the second, a big wave hit the boat and lurched him forward about 5 feet… not having the luxury of taking the next step he flew through the air, strategically ducking his head through the low door into the bedroom and then lurched himself to the left a bit and fell into bed. Donny and I completely understood. LOL. Travis came home with a large, deep  bruise on his hip that has turned every color that exists over the past few weeks. I’m thinking it applies to this story. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s sort of entertaining and the peace in between and the encounters in between are like no other…

Dolphins!

     We had a dolphin encounter that was more of a visit. A seeking of our attention and a desire to hang out and play amongst our boats. There must have been 10 Dolphins at the bow of our boat if not more, like right at the bow, just about touching it. Swimming along as if they were leading us. Some turned over upside down as if they were getting a look at us peering down on them. This went on for atleast 30 minutes. They stayed with us then would swim to Sophia and would come back and forth. It was awesome and simply amazing. It was absolutely fascinating. Sadly I must report that you have to have a memory card in your Go Pro in order to take pictures. I will say no more because I am deeply hurt by this massive error. Sophia did get some footage.

From Kimberly’s Post – Dolphins about 150 miles offshore of South Carolina. We counted about 16 dolphins, but two of them were particularly interested in us.

    I never tire of dolphins…

What is Going On!

       Donny cracked us up talking about our auto pilot he named Mona… yes she is noisy. He couldn’t sleep with all of her carrying on one night…and he was sleeping directly under one of the wenches which we were having to adjust a bit in the unsteady wind…Everything is so amplified down below. He just gave up sleep down below and surrendered to the cockpit. 

The Wave

 They all run together but I believe it was our second night on the boat. Travis Donnie and I were all in the cockpit talking and relaxing a bit after dinner. I was so comfy in my sweatpants and cozy sweater and blanket. Soon much better than the foul weather gear I had stored down below. I was laying on one bench in the cockpit looking at the sky engaged in conversation with Donny and Travis who were sitting side by side in the cockpit across from me. Then the rogue wave came. Splash! Scream! Complete surprise! Knocked out of my cozy cocoon! I had a vision of a coach on the field being buried by the Gatorade cooler. This was my closest and immediate association to what just occurred. I started laughing and Donny and Travis did as well. This was the first wave. For the rest of the night there was a wave in the cycle that would slap hard against the boat and come crashing in the cockpit. The rest would rise up beside it, looking quite daunting, then lift the boat in a as gentle as can be expected manner and roll along beneath the boat and out the other side. We learned where to sit and where not to sit that night as you didn’t know exactly when the rude wave was going to appear.

 Sophia

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        We met Ryan & Kimberly briefly at a party before the passage and then the night before we left we got together for a bit. So isn’t it so strange to realize a relationship out at sea. By the time we got to the Bahamas, we were Friends; although, we had never seen each other through the whole trip. We saw each others boats, we had concern for each other and a commitment to stay nearby, and we talked on the radio….yet by the time we got to the Bahamas, we had a connection with each other. We crossed this ocean together. Travis & Donny especially liked to call Ryan  when we had caught a fish as we were having a fishing tournament.

 

     I had this same friendship with people that I had ridden Mountain Bikes with. I had participated countlessly in rides and races that were tremendously difficult and me and the people I endured and suffered with, so much over what is comfortably acceptable… completely depleted… had made a connection that would take years to make under life’s normal daily  circumstances….Sailing can be like that, especially a passage, its a place where you know you have done everything you needed to do and you researched a good weather window… still you are very vulnerable if things do not go as planned.

       But it can also go better than could be expected, and you could catch lots of fish, see stars you have NEVER seen before and enjoy good wind with good friends and end up in paradise.

     And eat good food! Some folks we had the pleasure of meeting at North West Creek Marina in New Bern, Bob & Mona on Continuum, once told me that you can make Beans & Hot Dogs 50 different ways when they looked at the grocery cart I brought to the docks. Oh this is true. But Travis and I are foodies. We carried an unreasonable amount of food through the Pecos Wilderness on an 11 day backpacking trip in great fear we would be hungry.

     …Now give us a break, this is in the West in real wilderness, There are no stores or roads for atleast 100 miles and we had completed a 50 (me) and 100 (travis) mile mountain bike race before we got on the plane…. but yes we had avocados and honey and cheese and anything else you might think of- that a skunk stole! Crawled into our tent and looked us in the eye and stole our huge block of cheese as we sat like statues afraid he would spray us! He was so unbelievably cute I barely cared that he stole my cheese! 

   …So as I was saying, Beans and hotdogs just couldn’t be our gig. I get this and it’s cool and awesome if you can do that, but we cannot.

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     But I did have a real fear of having to prepare food, but feeling sick and not being able to. So I made a list of things I could prepare ahead of time and all I would have to do was take it from the fridge and pop it in the oven or put it on the stovetop to reheat. This worked really well. We ate Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole that Donny completely loved 🙂 Clam Chowder, Chili, Lasagna… and when it got rough, we enclosed the more solid foods in tortilla wraps and ate them like a sandwich. This is something that Travis and I would do backpacking..haha not for high seas, but more calories. Donny and Diana would do this sailing. Resourcefulness is resourcefulness. 

Almost “Home”

      We were nearing the Bahamas, but the Whale which was our favored entry was raging, so we talked about Spanish Wells and other places with Sophia on the radio. A fellow cruiser sailing on Dragon piped in and suggested Man O War. This was perfect! Thank you Dragon!

       We entered Marsh Harbor just as customs was closing for the day, half day on sunday. No problem, they arrived on island time the next day to our boats and it was such a nice process. The customs girl was polite and helpful in filling out our paperwork and we talked about everyday life and we learned about who she was and her family and children. 

        The immigrations officer met us at the bar at the marina, the Jib Room, and we filled out our paperwork and were slurping the last bits of our Goombay Smashes as she stamped our passports. She hung out and talked with us for a while and shared that she was headed to Vegas with some friends! 🙂 This is the way you should enter a country. In harmony.

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 Oriana

We met Richard and crew a few slips down from us at The Jib Room. They had just landed a day before us from the Chesapeake area. Sundowners on Sophia turned to moon downers on Oriana. I spied a guitar in the quarter berth but Richard assured us that he was not a very good guitarist. He then somewhat reluctantly pulled out his guitar and blew us away. We were all on a high from completing our passages and we sang along with every strum. It was truly a special evening for all of us.

We were fortunate to have a great passage. As we entered the harbour, part of me wanted to turn around just for a bit. I felt overcome with emotion. It was truly an exhilarating and intimate experience that has left us eager for the next.

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