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Lions and Tigers and Mona. Oh My!

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Map taken from the internet


Like the childhood fears in the Wizard of Oz, The Mona Passage looms large in the minds of sailors who are moving east, and we had heard enough stories that we approached it with slight trepidation.

As soon as Frank returned from his crossing of the Atlantic Ocean on an Outremer 5X catamaran, we began looking for a weather window to move from Marina Puerto Bahia, on the Samana Peninsula, DR to Puerto Rico.  The trade winds are easterly and we would be moving directly into them across a passage that is well known for its’ consistent winds and waves, The Mona Passage.  But the move had to be made and we were anxious to go.  Not because we were tired of the Dominican Republic, but because we needed to move on in preparation of hurricane season.

Fortunately, just days after Frank’s return, a window appeared and we decided to sail.  Now, understand, this window was by no means perfect but there is rarely a perfect weather window for the Mona Passage, especially during this time of year.

Let It Be is usually in great shape, but we had a few glitches arise before departing that we decided to live with until we arrived in PR.  The biggest issue is that our anemometer is not working so we do not have any readings of the wind speed or wind direction from the top of our mast.

But hey, we have some experience with estimating wind speeds (thank you kiteboarding) so we were willing to go without that instrument.

Next up is our IridiumGo!  For some reason it is showing our position, but it is not delivering internet so we would not have updated weather reports.  Still, the Mona is only about a day and a half passage.  We would make do and get the Iridium repaired in PR.

Per the recommendation of Van Sant’s book, “Passages South, The Thornless Path,” we chose to leave in the late afternoon Sunday and make this a night, day, night passage.

Well the Mona lived up to her reputaion of sloppy seas and strong easterly winds.  We departed from Puerto Bahia around 5 pm and all was well until darkness fell and I began feeling less than chipper.  I took the first watch.  Unfortunately mine was a short watch since I didn’t feel great. But, as usual, Frank stepped up and took the helm until I could get some rest and find my rhythm.

We had a couple of surprises during our trip.  One was that our navigation lights were not working!?  But we have a tri-colored light at the top of the mast and allowed that to be our beacon.

I took over the watch around 5 am after we had turned away from the Dominican Republic shore and took a northeastern tack to have a better wind angle.  We raised the main and jib as the sun rose and Frank headed below for some much needed rest.

We were happily moving along our predicted route; Frank was asleep and I was just settling in to listen to an audio book when BOOM…. EVERYTHING started flapping.  The attachment ring of the jib clew pulled completely out of our sail!  That was quite a wake up call! (This attachment holds the bottom rear corner of the front sail down to the deck.)

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The clew of our jib without an attachment point.

I pulled in the jib as quickly as I could and made sure the sheets were well secured, then alerted Frank to the problem.  We decided to continue our predetermined path and leave the main sail up.  Unfortunately our speed over ground immediately dropped from about 7.5 knots to about 5.5 knots…. Our trip just became much longer!

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A ring without a function

Still, this was not a life threatening issue but it does change the motion of the boat to something a little less pleasant.   We work very hard to make sure LIB is in excellent condition and it is unusual for us to feel like we are “limping along.”

Thankfully, that was the last mishap we had during our crossing.  The seas were not friendly but we would estimate that the winds were not more than 20 knots, so actually we were pretty fortunate.

Because of our slower than expected progress, we did not reach our intended first harbor of Boqueron but instead slowly entered Puerto Rico at Mayaguez around 9 pm on Monday evening.  Mayaguez is a wide open anchorage and we felt comfortable entering after dark, a practice we avoid 99.5 percent of the time.

We have been exceedingly happy with our North 3Di sails and we had excellent service and help from Andrew Dove, Antigua North Sails, during our purchase process.  So after we had a good night of sleep, Frank contacted Andrew about our jib issue.

Andrew was amazingly quick in responding to Frank’s email and he was very apologetic about our jib issue.  Andrew has assured us that North Sails will repair our sail at their cost including having the sail shipped to and from a nearby loft to make sure the repairs are performed perfectly.

Based on our buying experience and the excellent service we received, we are not at all surprise that North Sails is stepping up to help us.  But it is very nice to have it happen so quickly and easily.

Boqueron

Anchored off the beach at Boqueron, Puerto Rico

So now we are back in Puerto Rico and exploring the southern shore as we work our way eastward toward Palmas del Mar.  It feels good to be in a U.S. Territory as we approach the July 4th Holiday.

And it feels really good to have the Mona Passage behind us.

Trading “Security” for Life on a Sailboat?

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In 1955, Hunter S. Thompson wrote an interesting piece entitled Security” asking at the outset, “… (security) means safety and freedom from worry. It is said to be the end that all men strive for; but is security a utopian goal or is it another word for rut?”
I will not say that I have found the security within our life a rut, but rather it has offered us the freedom to focus on family or seek out new interests; to pursue new hobbies or increase knowledge.
This freedom to learn and expose ourselves to new things led us to sailing.
Together, Frank and I earned a few sailing certifications and began to immerse ourselves in learning about sailing and the lifestyle of living on a boat full-time.
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Our forays have sparked a desire to live more simply, to be guided more directly by the rhythms of nature and to learn first hand about countries we have yet to see.
The decision to change our lifestyle is not designed to free ourselves from some “rut” but rather a desire to explore and learn new things by living a little differently.
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We look forward to the challenge of using the wind as our major form of propulsion.
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We anticipate buying foods from local markets and figuring out how to prepare them.
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We hope to snorkel and dive some beautiful and remote places.
But I admit, sometimes I fear the idea of navigating without references like “the McDonalds on the corner!”
Learning how to thrive in a sailing environment and working as a team to reach our destinations are goals Frank and I are equally exited about.
As we prepare to uproot ourselves, I admit there is some anxiety about leaving our familiar and secure lifestyle.  But there is also anticipation of learning a huge variety of new skills, expanding our knowledge base and discovering lesser known places.
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We foresee some amazing experiences, yet we sincerely hope family and friends will come to visit because our journey will be deeper and more beautiful by sharing it with those we love.
Thompson concluded Security” this way,  “…who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”
We are not UNhappy in our security, nor do we know if we will be happier when we leave the comforts of shore; but we definitely know we will be more greatly challenged!
Hunter S. Thomas (1937-2005) was an American journalist.

The Hardest Part? STILL Photographs!

There are a lot of decisions to be made when downsizing and putting your house on the market.  Emotions obviously range from excitement to dread; from denial to staunch determination.  And that is only about the “things” and doesn’t touch the emotions involved with family, friends, memories or even familiarity.

For me, the most emotionally and decision intensive part so far is the photographs! Not to mention this is a HUGE time investment for those of us who have lived through the printed picture age.

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This is actually a sampling of the photos we have!

I guess I was too busy enjoying and photographing my kids and family to take the time to organize all those photos when they were developed.  As a result, I have hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pictures to work through.

First I am sorting the photos by year, and next I am culling the duplicates and triplicates ~ after all, I had two sets of grandparents to send photos!

But culling duplicates isn’t as easy as you may think because some of said photos actually ended up in photo albums! This throws me into the dilemma of, “wait, did I just see that picture or do I remember it from a photo album?” (Which happens to already be in the storage unit.)

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This box isn’t ALL discarded photos, but…

When I finally finish sorting and culling duplicates, I plan on having all the remaining paper photos scanned so the colors won’t continue to fade and I will have access to them on my computer.

But alas, scanning is also a process! Recently I had our old videos converted from cassette tapes to flash drives and for the same price I could have bought something pretty awesome for our boat!

So now I am researching my options for scanning services and weighing the cost against heading to the nearest Target or CVS, pulling up a lawn chair and scanning the photos myself.

I have a feeling the cost of professional scanning will seem significantly more reasonable when I calculate how many hours I will have to stand in a local store to scan those photos myself. The price will seem especially reasonable when I consider that the time I spend at a photo kiosk could be spent sorting, donating and selling household goods.

Soooo many times I thought all those friends who spent weekends “scrapbooking” were wasting their time. Well, I guess they are laughing now?

Oh, the fun of downsizing continues!!

If anyone reading this, like me, was too busy (read disorganized) to cull and sort photos along the way, I strongly suggest you tackle your photos WAY before you begin the actual downsizing process!

If you are anything like me, you will need a LOT of time for this process!

“Saving the Ocean One Straw at a Time…”

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The unspoiled ocean I want to maintain.

Spending time on the ocean and practicing more responsible use of resources has raised my awareness of how much I can improve my “green” on land.  I have recently adopted the motto in the title of this post.

Although I don’t actually stop with straws… I am also that strange person you see leaving the grocery, juggling 5 or 6 items because I forgot my reusable bag and I don’t want to use a plastic grocery sack.

I am by no means an expert in all things green, but I am trying to learn more and inform others as I find small, manageable ways to be more responsible about trash and pollution.  I hope to empower you with information and easy ways to fight pollution with me.

When I delve into ocean pollution facts, it is easy to become depressed and overwhelmed, which can lead to a feeling of futility. I want to empower you, not depress you with the magnitude of the problem.

I have included two pictorials to inform you about trash:

top-10-items-foundBy switchboard.nrdc.org

My big step this week was writing a letter about straws to Brinker International which owns Chili’s Grill and Bar. Recently I went to Chili’s for lunch and realized that they provide every, single customer with a straw wrapped in a napkin with the silverware! I am confident that at least half of those straws are never used, but end up in a trash pile. My hope is that Chili’s will stop including the straws and thereby reduce unnecessary plastic trash!

By myself, these steps toward plastic reduction are minuscule, but they are such easy choices, that anyone, everyone, can implement them and together we can make a difference!

Here are some other very easy choices we can all make and thereby reduce our pollution:

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By http://www.dolphinblue.com

Do you have “greens” you want to share? Let me know and I will incorporate them in future posts.

Who will help “Save the Ocean, One Straw at a Time?”

Preparing to Cruise = Sort + Shred + Donate + Repeat

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I know this looks like a mess, but honestly,these are organized piles! The largest group, front and center of this picture, is paperwork that needs to go.

Thank goodness for shredding services! Between business and home, we have a bit of shredding going on. I am saying a prayer of thanks that I don’t have to shred 800 pound of paper 10 pages at a time!
When sorting through papers I was struck by how much change has occurred and so gradually that we don’t notice. The best example I have is the bank statements. As recently as early 2000s, every bank statement was mailed (yes, snail mail) to us and every statement had the complete social security number on the front page!
Identity theft was relatively new and rare. Today, protecting people from identity theft is a huge business covering a gamut of services.
But that is a subject I don’t have time to dwell on. I am off to attack the Christmas decorations. Won’t my college age sons be thrilled when I gift them their own Christmas bins?

Maintenance Month

Let It Be is not chartered during September, so TMM is using this month to take care of some general upkeep so she will be in great shape for the next charter group.

Most of the items will go unnoticed by our guests, but we are happy to see some items removed from our To Do list.

One of our favorite features of the Helia is the large window and door that opens from the salon to the cockpit.  The door and window were a bit finicky from the very beginning and were a factory warranty issue.

30/08/2012, Cogolin (FRA,83), Chantier Fountaine-Pajot, Helia 44

TMM has worked on this issue several times and now has adjusted the door and window so they work properly.  I’m glad this distinguishing feature is now as awesome as it can be.

Most of the maintenance items will be undetectable but they do keep LIB in excellent working order so our guests can be confident that all systems on board work well.  Our goal is to provide a very well maintained boat because the last thing we want is a mechanical issue to mar your vacation.

 

Lacking a Majority

Lately I have vacillated about our plan to live on Let It Be.  Why? Perhaps because living on a boat is a fairly unique choice.  Most of the people I know think the idea of leaving a spacious home and community for a gypsy lifestyle on a small boat is ridiculous.

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As I struggled with my hesitation, I reflected upon an isolated sunset Frank and I shared on LIB.  We climbed up a steep, rocky shore and looked out at LIB where she sat alone: beautiful and serene with the option to become a sufficient and complete sanctuary. Within her hulls we could create a home in which we can sail to whatever adventures we choose to pursuit.

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Mark Twain once said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

Certainly the preponderance of our friends are not considering a sailing life.  So if I assume Twain’s attitude, there is no need for me to pause and reflect or to question our plans.  Instead, I should feel free to proceed without hesitation; confident in our minority…

 

 

 

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