Posted by: vlbyers | June 1, 2013

South coast Cuba to Bahamas

Larry and I would be on our own for the next few weeks, making our way to Nassau, Bahamas. I had gone over the charts making our route with possible stops along the way depending on weather and us. As is our usual we will make decisions based on what it going on but one option was to go straight through for 3 days to get to the N Exumas where we would only have 30 more miles to go to Nassau.
I have to say, other than the motoring east along the coast of Cuba it was one of the best sails we have had on Rocinante. We stuck to the south coast of Cuba until reaching the Windward passage, we were warned not to go this route by a sailor who said he tried it 3 years in a row and couldn’t make it through, needless to say we were a bit apprehensive wanting to make it through with at least an East wind, south-east would be better.
Once we rounded the corner of Cuba heading into the passage the wind was in our favor and we turned off the engine for what would be the longest continuous sail we have done.
Seasick Vicki was a figment of our imagination on this journey, thank goodness, not a trace remained. We had from 8-20 k E, SE and sometimes a little North component but we were able to make good northern progress on a starboard tack, adjusting sails occasionally only to improve our speed.
Our chart plotter at the nav station has complete charts which is what we would be using to make our way from the Exuma sound across to the bank. I had mapped out several options but in the cruising guide the recommended route going to Nassau would be through the Highborne Cut.
Our timing was pretty good as we got to the cut about noon, we had gotten to our rhythm and I got a full 4 hour sleep that morning, thankfully, as this crossing would test our nerves.
Hearing that charts were way off in the Bahamas we didn’t know if we should trust our chartplotter even though there were recommended routes pre-loaded, so we put in waypoints to navigate this tricky but supposed wide deep channel. One of the challenges was that the directions for navigating through was given from west to east, we would not see the markers until we were well into the channel.
I set up the waypoints, Larry was at the helm and I would go to the bow to make sure rocks would not harm our precious boat. Of course there was a good bit of swell and the wind had kicked up as we began our entry. The path was not clear to me at all, I saw rocks ahead and to our right which was where we were to turn so after getting far too close in I told Larry that we had to turn around and look at the charts and regroup.
Once back out in deeper water, well 8 feet, we compared the chart and the waypoint and determined that the waypoint was not accurate. The rocks I was seeing were well-marked on the chart so we made our way using the route on the chart and our eyes of course to slowly creep through the channel. Like I said, once we were about halfway through it was much clearer the route we should take.
Once past the marina we made our way for the anchorage where we would have well deserved rest for the remainder of the day and night, no rock and roll sleeping tonight, no watches, pure bliss.
After our wonderful night sleep as we listened to the weather it was clear that our departure had to be that morning for Nassau, quickly stowing and readying the boat we were off in a matter of minutes, it was 0930, later than we would have chosen if we had planned to leave. This would get us into Nassau later than we had planned and at low tide.
Nassau arrival to come
Vicki

Posted by: vlbyers | June 1, 2013

Jamaica or bust part 3

I am finally getting part 3 up, Internet has been challenging during the past few weeks. As we left Jamaica I thought I had downloaded charts to our iPad, which is what we use in the cockpit while underway. It is a perfect solution, but it helps if you have the charts for a particular area.
Much to my horror as we sailed up towards Cuba to the south side of the island to make our way east I discovered that I hadn’t downloaded any of the Bahamas, zero,none zip. More on this later.
The last leg of our journey was uneventful.The winds started to decrease and it was apparent that we would have to do some motoring. The total time we had to motor was 44 hours directly east. I didn’t have another problem with seasickness and we arrived in Kingston with plenty of time to explore with our friends before they had to leave.
We had such a great time sailing and being with our friends, it is an adventure we will not forget.
Vickiimage

Posted by: vlbyers | May 2, 2013

Jamaica or Bust part 2

Sunrise on the Caribbean sea

Sunrise on the Caribbean sea

100_0693 Our cabin stowed

Our route has been thought out after talking with many people experienced with this passage. Basically when we first began talking about going from Panama to USA, years ago, it was commonly said that no matter what direction you choose there will be difficult passages, it’s just not easy to sail from here to there. We chose this route because we wanted to see Jamaica, the Bahamas and possibly some other islands along the way, figuring that we would get the biggest hunk done with first jump to Jamaica. General opinion is that the further east you are when you start the easier it will be, due to the prevailing wind direction, so Cartegena is a starting point for many. We didn’t want to sail the 200 miles to Cartegena so we left from the San Blas islands.
Going around the Hollandes keys was the first excitement of the day, there is a shallow area that extends east for a mile or 2 off the actual island. Combine that with the incoming swell and you have breaking waves. I cut the corner a bit short and saw 20ft on my depth meter, not shallow in calm water, but very shallow coming off the 10 ft breaking waves.
OK away from the reef and into deeper water, I can now breathe normally. I didn’t need that excitement to start this journey but it was done. We did have 10-15 knot winds with a 7-10ft swell, not much in the way of other waves which can give the washing machine effect and make things very uncomfortable so for now we just needed to get ourselves accustomed to the movement of the boat with this ocean. We headed off in a NE direction about 70 degrees due to the wind we had and tacked back and forth every 3-4 hours for the first 24. Because of this tacking back and forth we were not able to make our easting but Larry was ‘comfort’ tacking as he calls it, Vicki was sick even after taking Stugeron. I just hope that I will not be sick the entire 5 days, Jeanna was thinking she should have brought the LR at this point.
I am of no help for the first 18 hours and we have set up our watch schedule every 4 hours with 2 crew on at a time, Larry and I would be on with our friends since they didn’t have ocean sailing experience, which isn’t the biggest factor because sailing is sailing and they did have sailing experience. The biggest factor is that they are unfamiliar with our boat and how she handles in certain situations, when to reef, when to be concerned when not to be so we like one of us to be with them on watch.
Larry of course is exhausted being the only one of ‘us’ able to stand watch, it is 0500 and I have started taking Meclazine. He doesn’t typically sleep the first 24 hours of our trips anyway but with me being sick he wants to support our friends on their watch. At 0700 I am able to pick my head up without feeling worse, and at 0900 I am actually able to stay in the cockpit to do my watch. I offer to stay on watch for 4 hours to try to get ourselves back on a schedule, knowing that may not be the best idea since I haven’t been feeling well for so long, but the boys took me up on my offer, Jeanna understood and asked if I would be OK with that, I told her that if I wasn’t I would let her know. Oh my it is wonderful having another woman on the boat. Thank you Jeanna for being here for me on this trip! I know I have said that before and I will repeat it often during our passage.
So during this first 24 hours we have developed a leak, Larry has been dismantling the boat in search of this leak, the bilge pump has been coming on every few seconds to constantly, that is what triggered the search in the first place. We had a problem with the bilge pipe creating a siphon and bringing water into the boat at a prior time but this was the first time in several months that the boat has been on such a heel to port and Larry thinks that is the situation which causes this. Besides the boat looking like it had rolled over down below, we were having to tack back and forth to see if we were taking on more water on a certain tack. When I was sick I hadn’t had the presence of mind to ‘help’ Larry investigate this ‘taking on water’ situation but I now was. He continued saying he had to work on finding the leak, he was sweaty, and was just a bit crazy, even telling our friends back in the San Blas that we were ‘still taking on water’ but that it was under control.
At this point I had to see for myself just how much water we were taking on and if it warranted the frantic antics of the captain. I sat on the floor with the engine compartment door open, with a flashlight looking into the bilge. I did not see water pouring from the ledge where water from the forward of the boat would come in. I asked Larry ‘Any water coming from the forward part of the boat would come over this ledge right?’ Reluctantly he said yes. ‘Well I don’t see much if any at all, it is wet so we must have had some come in at some time.’ Next I asked ‘this rounded slope on the port side would be where I would see the water from the bilge drain right?’ Right he said. ‘Well I don’t see any water coming over it either, it is wet also so there must have been water there too.’ At this point I am looking at the level of the water in the bottom of the bilge, it is not rising at an alarming rate, in fact it is not rising much that I can discern at all.
My assessment at this point is to stop what I see as crazy-sleep deprived behavior and take a break, periodically assessing the water level and pumping if necessary. I told my husband that he needed to take a break, get a cold drink, wash off and relax and let it go, he was making himself crazy. He looked skeptical when I informed him I was going to wait an 2 hours before checking the bilge, asking all kinds of questions about how I would check it, warning me to be careful about the wires in the bilge….but finally he obeyed my directive and got a coke, freshened up and seemed to be OK for the moment that I would check the level.
After an hour, I sensed that 2 would be too long for Larry, I checked the bilge, found it had raised about 1 inch. Informed all and said I would re-check in another hour. After another hour it had raised about double the original mark, making it 2 inches. At this point I switched on the bilge and it ran about 9 seconds before it was empty. My suggestion at this point was that at the 2 hour mark, which was the change of shift, we would check the bilge and/or just switch the bilge pump on. I am not sure how Larry felt about this, my feeling is that he wasn’t 100% comfortable with the situation but all the rest of us were. We know that there is a certain amount of water that will come into the bilge from waves crashing over the bow for hours and hours, there is just no way around it, seal as we might you just can’t stop that force completely. We were not at any risk whatsoever, at this point I began to question just how much water originally came in or was this just the automatic pump getting overloaded with amount of movement of the boat. It is my intuition that an automatic bilge pump works great at the dock or at anchor and needs to be switched to manual on a passage, but what do I know I’m just a girl:)
So we are into our second day of the passage, at this point it feels like we will be at sea a lifetime. We made a whopping 60 miles toward our destination, oh not actual miles traveled that was about 110, but all the tacking put us well behind our friends on Kokomo, by about 20 miles. Today would be better all around, I was feeling pretty good, we were starting to get into a rhythm, sleeping when we could and staying hydrated and snacking mostly for meals. We were sailing except for a bit of engine time to make water, wow almost 24 hours of pure sailing. A little after midnight Steve and Larry were on watch and the engine came on. When I came on my watch, I would be with Steve relieving Larry, they gave me report which informed me that they were ‘getting off course’ which meant we were west of a line we had made from a point earlier where the boat was to a point where Chris Parker had said ‘go to this lat/long and then east to Jamaica’.
I worked out the calculations for them, at this point and speed 3-3.5 we would make 10 miles in about 4 hours. On our tack from before (Jeanna was at the helm) we were making 5.5-6 NW, just slightly W. The prediction was that the wind would clock more south meaning we would be able to turn toward the east without adjusting the sails but we would make 15 more miles in the same time. No amount of reasoning would sway their conviction that we needed to continue to bash into this swell. As Steve went off watch, Jeanna came on. I gave it another hour on their course and then decided to cut the engine and sail, we had 14-18 knots of NE wind and the swell was much more comfortable. Thank you Jeanna for being on this journey with us, you are my sounding board, girls rock:).
Stay tuned, part 3

Posted by: vlbyers | April 13, 2013

Jamaica or bust part 1

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So I thought that it might be fun for you all to read about our passage of 565 nm to Jamaica on Rocinante. There is much to document though so I have broken it up into 3 parts. Enjoy

Along with our friends on Kokomo, we have been planning to make this trip to the USA via Jamaica and the Bahamas for many months. Spending the past few months in the San Blas islands, hanging out, sailing to anchorages as we desired, enjoying the sun, water and the very chill lifestyle has been quite an experience for many of us very ‘connected’ Americans, but we managed. It takes a while to let go of the desire to have all the ‘conveniences’ at your fingertips, stores only blocks away, nightlife, freeways to take you wherever you may want to go. There is none of that here and we have been enjoying the simple beauty for many months.
Jeanna and Steve Taylor joined us to spend some time in the islands and then to make the 500+ mile trip to Jamaica, knowing that there could be mother nature events that might prevent them from actually getting to Jamaica and their pre-arranged return flight plan, but they were willing to take the chance and we were more than willing to have them spend some time with us, hoping that they would be able to cross the Caribbean with us. Getting them here did take some fast talking, as I recall there were no bribes involved, but close. An offshore adventure is not something that just anyone would do, go ahead ask yourself: 5 days minimum on a boat in the middle of the ocean, no change of mind once the journey has begun, it may be uncomfortable, it might even get a little scary, very little sleep…
Larry and I made the journey into Panama City, it is quite the adventure and interesting for the first time or two, I was ready never to make this slog again. 1 hour on a panga(boat) to get from Rocinante to shore, 4 Wheel drive 2 ½ hours over a mountainous washed out road to the B and B. Then repeat above with 10 additional bags of provisioning. Anyway here we are in Panama city and our friends flight was delayed so they wouldn’t be getting in midday as expected. We would have to provision the next day right before going back to the boat. It was wonderful to greet them when they did arrive, just another validation that we were actually going to do this adventure!
So we are back at the boat waiting for our weather window while enjoying the islands, yes we were able to bar hop but that’s another story. What is a weather window? Well, that is a period of time, the amount of time that it will take you to get to your destination, and the weather that is forecast for that amount of time. On long passages such as this the weather can and will change depending on your location so the weather forecasting takes into account how many miles your boat will travel and what the weather will be at that point on the first day, then the second and so on. We opted this time to take advantage of a weather forecaster who is well known for pretty accurate forecasting and who also does individual forecasting, for a fee, his name is Chris Parker.
The first few days our friends were here the weather did not look too promising for making their crossing, there were forecasted very high winds and waves, something we would not head into. Our conversation had to include what is your drop dead date? When will you say-‘nope can’t take the chance of returning after this date’. Of course we had to ask it, I was hoping that the answer would be, ‘we are with you no matter what, but of course they had their obligations and couldn’t risk not meeting them. I understood and then went on to hope for the best.
The high winds/waves that had been predicted was a week out and we all know that especially weather changes, sometimes for the better in this case less wind and sometimes for the worse, meaning more wind, that is what I was listening for as the days progressed. Sure enough as I listened to the forecast everyday it seemed that the high wind and waves predicted didn’t get as high as expected nor last as long, this was the question that I continued to pose to our many friends, most with more sailing experience than I. ‘Are you hearing the same thing?’ I would ask. The answer was yes so my hopes began to rise that we would be able to leave during the window that would get our friends, and us to Kingston, Jamaica safely and in time to catch their flight.
Anticipation was building as we neared the possible date, funny how this works. It’s not like taking a regular vacation, you ask your boss for definite dates off, book your flight or hotel or plan some outing, pack your bags or meet up with friends or family on the appointed day and there you have it some good ole R and R. No how this works is that you think that, well today is the 30th of March and there may be a chance we can leave this week, hmmm in this case travel plans were in the mix but we never let that push us when it isn’t safe, we have learned that lesson.
Then that night we discuss the possibilities a little more, bounce around ideas and what we expect for the first 24 hours and decide that we could leave on the 3rd. The next day, 1st of April, and after getting the weather and again discussing the possibilities it looks like maybe we can leave the evening of the 2nd, and then that moves up to the morning of the 2nd, mostly due to not hearing that there would be any difference leaving 24 hours later, we would still have a tough time the first 24 hours out and then things would calm.
So the 2nd arrives, we have all slept a little restlessly turning over in our heads all the preparation needed for a safe crossing. We are all up early getting our cup of java or tea to listen to the weather and get another individual report for the area we will be in, getting just this last minute information before making the final call that indeed we will depart today. Another check with Kokomo and yes we are all on the same page, It will be 15-25k NE winds, 7-9 ft NE swell as we start out and 24hours later will calm to 15-20k ENE and 5-7 NE swell. Calming the rest of the way both seas and swell to make the first part the roughest and the last the easiest, in theory. Yes we are ready to go.
All the last minute stowing done, gear lashed and checked, engine levels checked, medication taken and at 1130 we will pull our anchor for the last time here in the San Blas and head around the corner out the reef to the wide open Caribbean sea headed for Jamaica.

Posted by: vlbyers | March 26, 2013

Saying so long to San Blas, Hello to our next port

One of the great things about cruising is all the wonderful people you meet and get to know. We spend time doing fun things like tours, snorkeling, walking the beach, yoga, playing music, making food, doing our nails (the girls that is) or just sitting in one of our cockpits talking about life, plans and life on the boat.
One of the difficult things about cruising is saying good bye to these great people. It happens with regularity and when you meet someone new chances are that you will be saying goodbye to them at some point in the future, just where that point lies is undetermined.
Today was one of those difficult days,we had to say goodbye to two of the boats we have had great times with. Today we will travel to the east lemons, tomorrow we plan to check out of the San Blas and out of Panama anticipating that we will get a good weather window for heading to Jamaica. We are hoping to the get the weather which will give us 15 K wind, and as our good friends on Diva said ‘I hope you have FF seas’. ‘What’s that?’ I said, Debi said ‘FF means F…ing Flat’! Those are the times I will remember, all the laughter.
Our plans in the next few days consist of making sure the boat will be in good working order for the offshore trip, picking up our friends in Panama who will be making the trip for us, provisioning and then waiting for that weather window. We are planning on a 5 day trip to the southeast end of Jamaica. Our hope is that our friends can spend a few days here in paradise, having fun but also becoming comfortable with the boat, before taking off. I am getting excited, this will be our longest offshore trip but not by much and I am much more at ease with the plan than I was say 4 years ago when we started this adventure. I know Rocinante and what a great sailing boat she is, how comfortable in weather she is and that we will make good speed depending of course on the direction and velocity of the wind. We played around the other day to see how we would point with the wind from the NNE and so with that information we would like wind from the ESE or better!
Today as we are sailing along we have 12 miles to go, with these light winds we should get to our destination about 4pm, oh well what else do we have to do. Larry is at the helm today, seems I have been at the helm, having fun hand steering for the past 2 weeks as we have moved from anchorage to anchorage so he can have a turn at playing with adjusting the sails and our direction. I get to play first mate and write a blog. I will miss sailing in the San Blas.
Vicki

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