Monday, May 24, 2010

A note on speed...

My "later" edition (circa 1980) of Hiscock's Voyaging Under Sail has a photograph of a boat becalmed with the caption, "waiting for wind in the doldrums." The key word is "waiting." Today's cruiser doesn't wait for anything... If speed under way drops below 3 knots, they fire up the engine without any deliberation. When discussing passage times for familiar crossings, it can feel like a contest for the fastest. If you had a slow crossing, you feel compelled to offer that elaborate technical explanation of how the weather worked against you. A faster time would indicate that one is a competent sailor and knows how to get the most out of one's boat but this is often not the case. I don't know when being becalmed or moving at 2 kots became so dreadful... Diesel engines have become way more efficient but fuel has gotten a lot more expensive... And what does it matter if you are out on the ocean for an extra few days? Isn't that why you left to go cruising to begin with?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

41 days is 41 Sunsets

When I crossed the Atlantic from Simonstown, South Africa to Itapissuma, Brazil, I took a brief 4 or 5 second shot of each day's sunset. Here they are in consecutive order. I like watching this clip myself often as it has a way of condensing the 41 day experience into about three minutes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cartagena, Colombia

I guess the grinding is supposed to stop now... I told myself that Cartagena would be a break place, meaning, stop and rest for at least one month. Stop the cycle - one month of no sailing! I have only been here a day but I haven't stopped. Some part of me is wired to head back out in a few days and do another passage. It is like a constant searching for the perfect destination when part of you knows very well that none exists... I usually tire of most places I visit fairly quickly. Some places I dislike immediately and don't even go ashore. Aruba was the lastest example. I just gaze through my binoculars scanning at the bad signs and say "No". When you are on passage, you are in motion and aren't really anywhere. Plus you have the opportunity to imagine how the next place might be better than the last! It is a comfortable situation and one I have gotten used to...

First impressions of Cartagena have been good. I do plenty of research regarding the logistics of sailing when considering a destination, but lately, I do very little when it comes to the travel side. I usually step out of the dinghy and ask the first person which way is town and start walking. For example, I had no clue that Cartagena has, at its center, a sizable "walled city" where all the buildings create a feeling of being somewhere in Spain a few hundred years ago. The buildings are all tastefully lit up at night and there is no vehicle traffic allowed so it was quite enjoyable to stroll around.

The area before Panama, off Columbia, is listed in Jimmy Cornell's "World Cruising Routes" as one of the top five worst passages around the world. I planned well ahead to transit this area in May, a benign month, and sat in Aruba (on my boat) until I got a favorable forecast from Chris Parker, a Carib weather expert on 12350mhz, 1230 UTC. The forecast called for 25 to 30 knots with an 8 foot sea which is better than normal. The video shows me entering the area which starts around Cabo Vela. In the vid, the waves are only six foot or so. By the time I got to 75 West at night, the gusts were gale force and the seas were starting to top out past ten feet. The worst didn't last that long. I had to hand steer for two hours because the windvane couldn't take it. The truth is, I didn't do that much better a job. I had a 180 degree round up that took about a second and a half! Pooped a bunch of times and had a plenty of what I call 45 degree knockdowns... Ten foot breaking waves aren't going to capsize Pelican so it was never really dangerous, but it was quite a ride.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Getting ready to head west soon.

Port of Spain feels like a working class immigrant neighborhood somewhere in the U.S.. There are a lot of low end American chain stores that you usually only see in those places like Payless shoes or Church's Fried chicken. Chaguaramas feels like a large gated community for retired white people. This particular retirement complex has a "nautical" theme where residents get to play with sailboats...

Paramaribo, Surinam is a "World Heirtage site." A lot of colonial Dutch architecture. Here are a few pics to get you started. I am sure one can find a virtual tour on the net somewhere. You won't see the dozens of young aggressive Rasta guys trying to hustle the few Dutch tourists on those virtual tours... I had a particularly aggressive one that I told to f**k off. He started to threaten me with a three foot machete! I was quite impressed with his ability to hide a three foot machete given he was wearing a tank top, surfer shorts and flip flops...