31 July 2012

An Enquiry in to the Betterness of the Bahamas

Dear readers,

My original intent for this post was to offer you my insights on The Bahamas, it's people, it's land, and so forth. It was, in fact, to have been the first in an ongoing series of exposes into the culturally inscribed DNA of the citizenry of the various countries into which we temporarily ensconce ourselves. To that end, I had been collecting some choice phrases with which to add a certain journalistic flair to my reflections, phrases such as, "Behind the rugged backdrop of (appropriate land formation to have been inserted here), a (flattering character trait here) people..." or, "Undaunted by a legacy of (hardship or uncertainty or colonialism, etc., etc.) the Bahamian people look ever (something)ly toward the future.

23 July 2012


It doesn't look like a downfall, but it was ours

The other day, it occurred to us that we've been live aboards for nine months now and we've been feeling right salty as of late. This, I'm certain, has a great deal to do with having successfully employed a storm tactic for the first time during that blow and very little to do with the fact that we've been anchored less than a mile away from a Morton Salt factory. We've even completed some pretty impressive field repairs. Yes, I think it's safe to say we're finally starting to find our cruiser groove.

I think back to January of 2010. It was at Strictly Sail Chicago. We'd just decided to embark on our little jaunt around the world and were trying to inhale information on all things cruising related. The most beneficial take away from the show for us was a more thorough understanding of profound ignorance. With one aspect only did we feel any sense of familiarity. It was information the seminar organizers hadn't even intend to relay.  We discovered that the way people get around the world on a boat, their "cruising styles" generally sway one way or the other (or maybe I'm just a dualist). On the one end, there're who I will call "randies": very buttoned-up, very organized, very experienced, very do-it-by-the-book. On the other end are bobs: buy a boat and THEN learn how to sail. Learn as you go. What could go wrong? Cruising is, after all, supposed to be about having fun. And (and there's always an "and") for the randies, it's about "fun and safety"; for the "bobs" it's about "fun and adventure". Safety and adventure, Felix and Oscar. 

18 July 2012

Strictly on a Need to Know Basis

We are here in Great Inagua, the southernmost island in the Bahamas chain.  It's a 215 nautical mile trip from George Town, Exumas, our last port of call, on a direct route. It can be considerably longer (413 in our case) if the tradewinds are against you, which they guaranteeably are at this time of year.

Like most cruising crews, we've developed a hierarchy of policies concerning passage making. They are predicated on the relative probability of events occurring to us and the consequences thereof.  Our default policy is to sail, rather than motor, regardless of wind direction because we are, after all, on a sailboat. However, this policy can be and is superseded by a number of factors.  Time of year is one.  We're in what is known as the "hurricane box," a set of longitudes and latitudes that is especially prone to hurricane activity in the months of June through November.  Hurricanes are not nice to boats generally and our insurance company, who isn't in the business of being nice to boaters doubles our deductible for any damage caused by a named storm, let alone a hurricane.  So our default policy gets supplanted by Amendment #3: Unless It Is Hurricane Season.  (Amendment #1: Unless There Is No Wind, is the default amendment to our default policy.  Regardless of what season it is, if there is so little wind that we lose steerage when under sail alone, we fire up the engines.)

14 July 2012

Tatter Tale

You'd need one big-a** altar
Somewhere between three and seven lifetimes ago, I hung with a bunch of pagans, or neo-pagans as they are more properly called. Neopagans teach respect for one another and the planet and that's cool. But the thing that really hooked me was that they use things in their rituals and I have a thing for things. Being a nature-based religion, Paganism personifies four elements, air, earth, wind and fire as sentient forces. (Pagans refer to these as THE four elements, but being a devotee of the Periodic Chart of the Elements, I take umbrage at this kind of blatant reductionism.) Each of the elements is associated with one of the four cardinal directions: earth/north; air/east; fire/south; water/west. And each of these pairs is symbolized in some way on an altar. Traditions vary, of course, but typically north is symbolized by a bowl of earth (known in urban areas as "dirt"), east by incense in a holder, south by a something which will burn (preferably inside something fireproof), and west by a chalice of water. (Note to my Unitarian Universalist friends: I'm pretty sure this makes the lot of you symbolic Southwesterners). As religious rites go, Paganism's are fairly straightforward thus easy to reconstruct if one forgets the finer points. Another point in its favor.

10 July 2012

A Day (or so) in the Life of a Dream

8:10 A.M.*: Anchors Aweigh
In our usual places, Jane at the helm, me at the anchor locker. I call for bumps forward to pull JOY up closer to her chain, and periodically a bump to starboard or to port, to lessen the strain on the windlass. Jane senses almost immediately that she got no maneuverability on the starboard side. She shouts out the problem to me and goes to see if there's any prop wash coming from under the starboard hull, but we both know what has happened.

8:32 A.M.: See Jane Snorkel
No early start for us today, yet we've been extremely lucky in the misfortunes of our prop. All three times it has fallen off before this, we've been able to retrieve it. Knowing that it was on when we anchored here, we expect we will find it somewhere within the arc that matches the swing of our boat. We also expect to find the nut that holds it in place. Owing to its size and buryability in the sand, I am less optimistic about the bolt.

05 July 2012

...and Nearly Nary a Drop to Drink

There's a story told of a man who lives in a small house with his large family. Things, as you might imagine, are pretty crowded. But he loves his family, of course, so he takes it all in stride.

One day, his wife announces that her parents will be moving in with them indefinitely. Well, if he had been feeling crowded before, now he's climbing the walls. In desperation, he goes to see his rabbi.

"Rabbi," he says "I don't know what to do. My home, as you know, is pretty small and I've been blessed with a large family. Things are pretty crowded, but I love my family, so I try to take it in stride. My in-laws moved in with us recently and now we are bursting at the seams. I never have a moment to myself. We yell and curse one another from morning to night. I'm about to lose my mind. I love my wife, but I don't think I can take her parents living with us much longer. Rabbi, what should I do?"

02 July 2012

Raft-Up: Are We Sailors or Travelers?

It's Raft-Up time!

We are part of a group of cruisers/bloggers who coordinate each month to write on a common subject.  Same topic, but different perspectives: it's pretty interesting!  Ean wrote our first Raft-Up article, about hobbies.  

The topic this month: Do we live on a boat because we want to SAIL or because we want to TRAVEL?

Of course, I could just say "BOTH" and let it go at that.  But this is, for most cruisers, one of those fuzzy "spectrum" questions that requires explanations and qualifications.  It becomes especially interesting if crewmates find themselves at different places on the sailor-traveler spectrum. 
You might guess, by this picture, which end of the spectrum I favor. 
South of Andros, entering the Tongue of the Ocean at dawn