Quote of the Month

"Not all those who wander are lost." J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, 1954.

“We must change our attitudes toward the ocean. We must regard it as no longer a mystery, a menace, something so vast and invulnerable that we need not concern ourselves with it … Instead we want to explore the themes of the ocean’s existence—how it moves and breathes, how it experiences dramas and seasons, how it nourishes its hosts of living things, how it harmonizes the physical and biological rhythms of the whole earth, what hurts it and what feeds it—not least of all, what are its stories.” Jacques Yves Cousteau, 1910-1997.

"It's the glory of the sea that has turned my head." Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, 1894.

"It is with you as with the sea: the most varied names are given to what is in the end only salt water." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections, 1833.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!


May you have fair winds and following seas in the new year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Once Upon a Blue Moon, on a Winter Solstice Eve


Once in a blue moon, there comes a day when you may have the clearest skies, in-the-groove sails, perfect tide, proper wind, following seas, and you feel a part of the best sailing team ever. Yesterday was such a day.

I woke up at 5:00 a.m., and as I readied for yet another Sunday sail, I checked the marine weather on my iPhone. There was a small craft advisory in effect until 6:00 a.m. I wondered what the implications would be for the day. What is it like immediately after the advisory ends?

The wind was S-SE, as opposed to our faithful easterly Trades. The sky was clearer than ever. I mimicked Barbara Streisand, humming the song, “On a clear day, rise and look around you, and you’ll know who you are …”

Bob, Silvia, Marisol and I sailed Bebe II (32’ Beneteau) to Icacos Island from Sunbay Marina in Fajardo, departing at 11:00 a.m., and returning at about 6:00 p.m. There were scattered clouds, dwindling white caps and big breakers on the distant northeast corridor turn by Las Cucarachas. Subsiding waves and wind, the sailboat shimmered across a high-tide peaked current. Mainsail raised and jib unfurled, we couldn’t stop repeating, “What a great day for a sail!” A present to one another—a Christmas sail to remember.

We wandered to Palomino Island, played tag with Glory Days, and at about 1:30 p.m. anchored behind her in Icacos. We were boarded by Carlos, Glory Days’ captain. The boat talk was intertwined by comments on this sailing day perfection. A day so clear, we could see St. Thomas, a good 23 miles visibility, a first time for us, so close to Fajardo. They were all present: Vieques, Culebra, St. Thomas, and the myriad islands and cays in between. The lighthouses in Fajardo and Las Cucarachas shone under the sun.

After anchoring, we plunged into the water, some in some out, pensive, smiling, cleansing body and spirit with sea salted waters. As I floated, holding on to the sailboat by a length of rope on a floating fender, I closed my eyes. I heard the Caribbean Sea singing to me through John Denver’s song, Tradewinds: “I can make you happy! / If I can, I take you away on a wave in my arms / never leave you on the edge all alone. / If you feel like dancing, / rolling like the water across my sleepless night / making me a peaceful place. / All my life to be with you / all I ever want to do / knowing you are feeling that way too / …” Oh, I feel that way too; at one with the sea, sun, sky, sailboat, sailing friends, islands, cays, and my thoughts like shimmering clouds.

A blue moon happens when there are two full moons in the same month. It doesn’t occur often. This month, December 2009, there was a full moon on December 2nd and the next blue moon will be on December 31st. We will now have to wait three more years for the next blue moon, on August 2012 (August 2nd and August 31st). Anyone for a Caribbean blue moon sail?

A day imbued with magic—a Christmas sail—we said our farewells. All heading home for Christmas, to Houston, Trujillo Alto, San Juan—filled with best wishes and memories of that island Christmas sail. And as I drove back home that night, there was a waxing crescent moon smiling at me, midst two December moons, once upon a blue moon, on a winter solstice eve.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Doing Something Good for the Earth - Around the Americas










On November 3, 2009 at 11:00 a.m., a representative group of three students from my English courses visited the sailing vessel, Ocean Watch, docked at Pier #1, Old San Juan. The Ocean Watch is presently circumnavigating the Americas. It departed north from Seattle, Washington, across the Arctic due east, down south past New York with a brief 4-day stop in Puerto Rico before heading to Brazil. You can follow the expedition around the Americas, clicking their site under my favorite links.

Dr. Michael Reynolds, Oceanographer in this scientific sailing exploration and adventure invited us to visit and tour the sailboat and kindly made the time to talk to students. Those who were unable to go wrote questions to the crew, which I emailed to Dr. Reynolds. Today I received his answers to the students. Following is a copy of the email.

To: Eva de Lourdes Edwards, delourdes@mac.com

From: R. Michael Reynolds, RMR Co., LLC

cc: none

Date: 2009-11-13, 02:20:33

Subj: Questions from students

Hi,

It has taken me some time after leaving San Juan to get organized so this reply will be a little late. I am going to put these and some other questions into one of my regular reports.

Questions:

Q: In addition to watching the ocean, what other things do you do during the voyage that you may not put in the website? (Jenni)

Ans:

This is a small boat (I have to remember to call this a boat, not a ship) and our crew is only six people. Therefore there are chores we all must share. I cook dinner or clean the dishes sometimes. I help keep the boat clean. I stand watch like everyone else. Do you know what "watches" are? We are divided into two groups. Each watch group will be on duty to operate the boat while the others are free to sleep, eat, or just relax. Here are the hours of the day for watch: day: 06-10, 10-14, 14-18, and night: 18-21, 21-00, 00-03, 03-06. Each group takes turns. As I write you this now it is 2:50 in the morning and my watch is almost over, but I only have three hours to sleep then I have to be back up at 6 am.

Q: What do you think about the contamination problems in the ocean around the Americas? (Yineza and Kenny)

Ans:

I am very concerned about how humans have treated the oceans as a dumping place for garbage, pollution, and human waste. However, it is easy to see when you are out here in the open ocean how we might think the ocean is infinite. It seems so vast. But of course it isn't.

Q: In what moment did you decide to go around the Americas and why? (Janice, José Manuel and Kiara)

Ans:

I work with the University of Washington and one of my colleagues suggested I come to a meeting with some people who had this crazy plan to sail around North & South America in a sailboat. I went to the meeting and met the crew and I realized this was a chance of a lifetime for me. I have traveled a great deal as an oceanographer and I have sailed small boats for fun. But I have always wanted to do blue water sailing offshore. This was my opportunity to sail and do something good for the Earth.

Q: What do you recommend to protect our ocean? (Janice, José Manuel and Kiara)

Ans:

First educate yourself. Take courses, read magazines, and learn all you can. Don't just learn how there are problems; learn all about the wonders of the sea. Second, start doing the little things to change your habits. Never, never throw plastic in the sea and don't be afraid to tell others the same. Drive less; think about how you can conserve energy. All the little things. And third, become political. Join an environmental group, write letters to politicians, and stay informed on local issues. Remember the old advice to think globally and act locally.

Here are two questions that can have the same answer.

Q: What have you seen that you consider amazing? (Frances)

Q: What is the most impressive thing that you have seen in this voyage?

Ans:

We have seen so many amazing things so far: whales, polar bears, huge ice bergs, storm waves fifty feet high and glorious skies full of stars. But the thing I am enjoying the most is occurring right now in the equatorial ocean: the clouds. This is the place where weather happens. Huge towering cumulonimbus clouds rise to the top of the atmosphere then spread across the sky as anvils. These are a joy to watch. Oh yes, the stars at night are limitless.

Q: What inspired you to make this cruise? (Yolady, Irishka, Zuleyka)

Ans:

I have lived a good life. I have a terrific family and my job has taken me all over the world. As an oceanographer I have been concerned with the environment my whole career. But I have not had the opportunity to "give back." At least to my satisfaction. Around the Americas fills my wish. I can meet people and show first hand how important it is to protect our natural world. And it's fun too!

Q: What do you need to travel around the Americas? (Evalyannit and Indira)

Ans:

I am not sure how to answer this question. First you need people with vision; people who have the idea that with this trip we can capture people's imagination and interest. Next after the idea you need money. This is not a cheap trip and so you need supporters who will donate money, time, and gifts to support the project. You need a crew of dedicated sailors. People, and their families, who will take about two years out of their life for this project. And then, you need people like you who take an interest in what we are doing, and, very important, in what we have to say.

Q: What is interesting and entertaining about our oceans? (Cindy and Xiomara)

Ans:

The ocean is a wonderland and the more you look into it the more you can learn about ourselves. Did you know a dolphin can hear your heartbeat in the water? That the eyes of an octopus are much more advanced than our human eyes? That the Albatross travels twenty thousand miles to bring some food home to the family? Read all about it and you will be amazed. Read, read, read.

Q: How does it feel to discover different cultures? Do you like to learn from them? (Pamela)

Ans:

One of the most exciting parts of this expedition is that we are meeting and talking with people of all cultures along the way. We have met Native Americans on Vancouver Island, Inuit (Eskimo) people in Alaska and Canada, and now we are entering the Latin communities from Puerto Rico, South America, Central America and Mexico. We are all thrilled and excited to meet these people and to learn from them their lives. Everywhere we go we hear a consistent story of concern for the changing ocean and the changing climate.

Q: What made you decide to work for the environment? (Ninotchka)

Ans:

You never know where your life might take you. I was born in Dallas Texas and never had too much to do with the ocean until I began graduate school. Actually, I decided to become an oceanographer because I wanted to study Earth science (Geology, Geophysics, or Physical Oceanography) and at that time Oceanography was new. As I studied Oceanography I became aware of the environmental issues and so it was natural to try to share that knowledge with others.

Q: What does your family think about what you are doing? (Lizette)

Ans:

They miss me of course. I always walked our dog Lucy and now they have to do it rain or shine. So I think they will be happy to see me come back.

Q: What has caused you the most fear? (Marisely)

Ans:

The first time I was hoisted to the top of the mast in a canvas chair I was a little nervous. I go up there to tend to the climate instruments. Now I am used to it. Also I miss my family and I fear something bad might happen and I am days away at sea. But I worry far too much.

Q: How can this expedition help nature instead of just being aware of its problems? (Juan Carlos)

Ans:

Our main supporting organization is called "Sailors for the Sea." Their goal is to convince sailors to become protectors of the sea. These sailors will carry the idea from their own personal choices to friends, employees, and politicians. That is one way the message can go from idea to practice. But the truth is that being aware is the first step in actually doing something. We want to stimulate people to begin to learn the issues.

Thank you, Dr. Reynolds, and all the Ocean Watch crew.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sailing with new sailing students


Sun 18 Oct 09. 1130-1530. On board Bébé (41' Beneteau) with Captain Michael, five new sailing students, plus Ramón and myself. Weather--Wind: SE 14-18 knots (According to NOAA, small craft should exercise caution). Seas: 3-4 ft. Clear skies. Barometer: 29.75 in. Hg. (rising).

It is always good to sail with students. One always learns something new. Capt. Michael asked Ramón and I to serve as mentors to the new sailors. I learned to take a sailing boat out going backwards. We practiced tacking, knot tying, and docking. We met new friends and future sailing companions.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dockmanship

LOG: Sat 12 Sep 09. 1000-1400. Onboard Lolita (30’ Beneteau, 1984). Crew: Silvia, Inés, Hernán and myself. Weather—Wind: E 10-14 knots (We experienced the 10 knots mostly.). Seas: 2-4 feet. Sky: Cumulus white clouds on the horizon to the east and southeast. Barometer: 29.92 in. Hg. (steady). Position: Between Sunbay Marina, Fajardo and the islands of Icacos and Palomino.

Dockmanship (Cornell Boaters Library)     There is an excellent little book, Dockmanship by David Owen Bell, printed by Cornell Maritime Press (1992), which is all about docking and undocking a sailboat—berthing, unberthing; arrival, departure; alpha, omega; the beginning and the end of a sailing adventure. Bell states that, “Many people consider good dockmanship to be the mark of a competent skipper.” For many a sail lately, while I have been the designated captain, I have managed to do this task with greater and lesser degrees of apprehension (I’ve a good record so far of not damaging body or property.). The more I do it, the more I realize, it is not about an individual’s competence to manage the task, but rather an individual’s ability to conduct the task, much as an orchestra conductor leads musicians, instruments, environmental acoustics and surrounding audience. Bell says there are three components to any docking situation: (1) elements under your control: the engine, rudder and dock lines; (2) external forces beyond your control: wind and current; and (3) the human factor, partially under your control: attitude, reflexes and perception—yours and those of the crew. Docking to me is orchestrating all these factors at once in a very quick, brief, flashing sacred moment in the craft of sailing. It is sacred, if seen as entering and leaving the cathedral of the sea. Conversations cease, silence rules over occasional warnings, and everyone is focused on the musical overture.
     Such were my feelings and spirits as we left Sunbay Marina for yet another sail onboard my good old friend, Lolita. There wasn’t much wind, but the sun was shining, and after so many rainy days, threats of storms (Erika) and tropical depressions, it was a well-received welcome sail. We sailed towards Icacos and Palomino, never reaching either. As the sailors’ adage goes, once sails are up and you’re sailing, you’ve reached your destination.
     We had the company of a new Caribbean Sailing School student, Hernán (see picture), who took to sailing as a natural. After only five lessons, he joined our team where he practiced checking oil, starting/stopping the engine, raising sails, helming with a tiller, doing a heave-to, working knots and ropework, and of course joining in the dockmanship, where he was in charge of the aft starboard line and on arrival the forward starboard line, as well as assisting crew as required in our musical overture’s grand finale.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Squall

LOG: Sun 9 Aug 09. 1200-1830. Onboard Bébé II (32’ Beneteau). Crew: Ramón, Silvia and myself. Wind: E-NE 13-18 Knots. Seas: 5-6 feet. Barometer: 29.90 steady. Weather: Scattered clouds, distant thunderheads southeast, NOAA small craft caution. Position: Between Sunbay Marina, Fajardo and the Island of Icacos in Puerto Rico.
Riddle of the Ice: A Scientific Adventure into the ArcticI am inspired to enter a log in my entries in the manner that Myron Arms writes his in the book, Riddle of the ice: A scientific adventure into the Arctic (1998). He starts every chapter with a log entry for the sailboat Brendan Isle, as it sails into the icy waters of the Labrador Sea, Davis Strait and Baffin Bay. As it ventures north, he states, “… you are a sailor, moving along with the forces of nature rather than against them. You are a minion of the wind—only partially in control of where you go …”
And so it was on this particular Sunday. We debated whether to go to Palomino or Icacos. There was a large thunderhead behind Palomino. Normally these weather formations travel east toward Naguabo. We moved northeast towards Icacos hoping to avoid it but it decided to travel northward and split north and east (to mainland Puerto Rico). Greek mythological sailors, such as Jason and the Argonauts, would have been convinced that the gods had a hand in it. It came straight to us. We came about and headed back to sea rather than to boat-crowded Icacos. In its imminent approach, we reefed the mainsail. Ramón and Silvia furled the jib just as it began to engulf us into its misty grey. I was behind the helm and felt myself becoming “a minion of the wind” and the blinding cold rain. The water looked like the pocked surface of the moon with multiple little peaks. I started the engine and headed close to the wind, working “with the forces of nature rather than against them,” well aware that our bearing kept us from harms way, if it pleased the gods.
Within five minutes that felt like five hours it passed by and the clouds opened as theater curtains to verdant Palomino in the distant center stage. We were drenched. Tissue papers deep in my pockets were soaked. Silvia said the water was colder than normal rainwater. Ramón added that it was thick and hit the skin like pellets. Me, I was so proud of being part of a team that never once panicked, at least not visibly. We pulled together to keep ourselves safe, our sailboat as steady as possible in the turmoil, and her sails intact. After a well-deserved rest in a heave-to, with Palomino to one side and the Fajardo lighthouse to the other, we sailed back uneventfully to Sunbay under sun-clear skies. Scattered dark clouds headed to Naguabo, some to the distant north Atlantic, perhaps to the Labrador Sea.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Stormy Weather: Extreme Sailing

July 3rd to 4th, 2009, the Caribbean Sailing School & Club fleet sailed to Punta Arenas, Vieques from Sunbay Marina in Fajardo. The skies were overcast with scattered sunshine. The wind freshened as we approached Punta Arenas. We spent two days enjoying the sea, sand and sun, the company of good friends and the view of Monte Pirata in Vieques (see the slideshow on the right). The sail into Vieques was a little extreme after the R2 nun, but nothing like it was on our return on Sunday. Lolita's mainsail was torn and we had to bring it down while hove-to in very windy and turbulent seas. Bebe's bimini ripped. There was lightning and thunder, rain, gusts and changing winds. Our three sailboats--Lolita, Bebe II and Bebe--made it back safely. There were moments of high adrenaline intertwined with moments of awe at nature's wrath, beauty and changing moods. It is good to be in the company of good sailors and high spirited people.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Three Women at Sea in the Sahara Dust

In the picture on the left, see the haze of the Sahara dust behind Silvia as we sail Lolita.

Silvia, Inés and myself planned to take Lolita (30’ Beneteau) out for a sail on Saturday, June 27, 2009 (1130-1630). NOAA had issued a warning that there would be Sahara dust in the air and therefore lower visibility. The wind was expected to be from the E, 9-13 knots and the seas 2-4 feet. With a due east wind, we chose to sail north towards Icacos.

Lolita had had maintenance work done on her—a mainsail change (which was to be tested by us) and battery changes. As Captain Michael from the CSSC told us later, someone had played with the forward/aft engine lever and left it on neutral. Much to our ignorance when we left dock, the gear was on neutral and moving the lever forward or aft had no reaction except to rev the engine. I thought something was afoul with the maintenance work and as a team and the help of a fellow sailor on dock, we managed to use the wind (without sails) to maneuver into a dock across ours. We did not harm anything or anyone (thanks to the crew and the goddess of the sea). Once we set the little pinkish-white non-descript switch hidden behind the handle from neutral to engaged, we set sail as planned.

As designated captain, I felt dumb for not having figured it out immediately. This gear had always been engaged and ready to go. It was a humbling lesson that nothing can be taken for granted when at sea. Everything at sea is a never-ending learning experience. As the crew said, now we had learned something new to add to our checklist of things to verify before sailing. We worked well as a team under a stressful situation, fearing hurting anything, anyone or Lolita. Once we sorted out our new position in our temporary dock, we set sail again, adrenalin still pumping but joyous that our all female team had saved the day. As we left Sunbay Marina, we spotted a manatee on our starboard side. As sailors of ancient lore, we saw it as a good omen of approval.

Raising the new mainsail was challenging also due to some stiff reefing line that kept getting stuck but that was managed swiftly with a pair of pliers. No adrenalin there. Someone once wrote that the one thing all gung-ho sailors have in common is a love of problem-solving. Once challenges, big or small, are resolved there is such an uplifting sense of pride and wellbeing, which makes the sailing experience twice as pleasurable. You have to solve the problems swiftly so that you can be ready for the next batch, because it is coming.

The Sahara dust gave a misty look to the Caribbean sky and sea (see pix of Silvia with the surrounding white haze). The sail was spectacular, registering up to 5.4 knots on a starboard tack to Icacos. The small island was packed with boats, mostly motor boats, loud music and no moorings available. We were hungry so we opted to heave-to at a distance and enjoy the
sound of the waves and the wind on the sailboat and, of course, the Sahara dust. After lunch (mesa) and our after-lunch restful conversation (sobre-mesa), we sailed back to Icacos to see if we could identify any of the boats. No one we knew well was there. We hove-to again closer to shore but aware that we were being pushed slowly out to sea, and Inés dipped down in the water just to get wet. (see pix of Inés). We sailed back on a port tack and had a peaceful, uneventful sail and docking—three women at sea. We toasted our sail with Passoa and passion fruit on ice.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer Sailstice 09 – Caribbean


Sunday, June 21st, 2009 – 1130 to 1830. It is the first day of summer. Our fleet joined a group of sailboats celebrating Sailors for the Sea and the Summer Sailstice (see link). This organization based in San Francisco, California has a mission “that educates and empowers the boating community to protect and restore our oceans and coastal waters.” They had registered over 2,000 sailboats, including our small fleet and friends.

I was Lolita’s captain, and with Silvia, Inés and Ramón, we set sail from Sunbay Marina to the island of Icacos. We were following Bébé, with Captain Michael and Margarita, the leaders of the fleet. The wind was E-SE, at about 12 knots with occasional gusts. We sailed NE to Icacos and were there in no time (about an hour)—a fun sail on one tack and just in time for lunch. We anchored next to Glory Days (47’ Bavaria- see to the right of the pix above and the pix below), where Captain Carlos and Glory celebrated the solstice with their relatives.

We feasted on Lolita with a homemade Greek salad (I lived and sailed 4 years in Greece), French baguettes from Pepín Bakery, and Inés’s homemade Tarta Cubana (Cuban Torte) filled with a guava spread. We toasted with Passoa (a passion fruit liqueur) mixed with cranberry juice and lots of ice. Carlos and Glory swam over and had some Tarta Cubana. It was lovely to have them onboard.

Bébé had anchored a bit further. Inés and Ramón swam over, and then Ramón kayaked back to Lolita to pick up Silvia and me. We spent time with Captain Michael and Margarita talking boat stuff and future sails. We suddenly noticed the greater presence of sailboats at Icacos. Normally there are far more motorboats than sails. Today, there were masts all around us—we were the majority—Sailors for the Sea.

I spent so much time in the water, by Lolita’s stern that my fingertips wrinkled. I had not done that in a long time. I took the two pictures shown while I was in the water, with my Olympus water-proof (to 16 ft) digital camera. Glory Days, from my selkie perspective, looks to be grazing the clouds’ canopy (see pix below). Silvia is high up in Lolita’s cockpit (see pix above). As the evening approached, we reluctantly sailed back into the sunset.

Celebrating the summer solstice in the Caribbean? Isn’t that as much of an oxymoron as a deafening silence? You may ask, if you are from the north or south of the equator. When one is born and raised in the Caribbean, as my fellow crew and I know, the seasons are very distinct. The arrival of the summer solstice is loudly announced by the fiery flamboyant trees, fully covered with orange-red, red flowers. The Reina de las Flores (queen of flowers tree) joins with her lavender clusters, as do the ripening mangoes, and many other announcers. There are the migrating birds stopping over on their way north—heavenly treats juxtaposed to the beginning of the hurricane season. Our Taino native people had Yuquiyú (the god of good) and Huracán (the god of evil). They knew we couldn’t have one without the other.

To many of us, this is the greatest sailing in the world. We love our seas, and as we are learning, there is only one sea. From our Caribbean shores, we are protecting the California kelp, so that it can continue growing one foot a day in the summer. To borrow the quote from the documentary, “The Living Sea”—“We can’t protect what we don’t understand. What we understand most profoundly, we love.” We love our Caribbean Sea and thank the sailors in San Francisco for protecting it. We are all sailors for the sea.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Caribbean Snow White


White skies, Sunday, June 14, the jib sail is set to heave-to (seen in pix), as is the tiller (not seen in pix). Lolita (the 30' Beneteau) was deep anchored (hove-to) between Cayo Lobos and El Yunque. Silvia, Ramón and I (the crew) had our lunch, and then--Silvia on the port side (seen in pix), Ramón on the starboard side (not seen in pix), yielded to Morpheus (the Greek god of sleep)--the peaceful spell of the Caribbean ruled. I yielded to some muse, jotting down random thoughts on tender moments.
The skies were white, more than gray, with distant thunder heads. Threats of rain with occasional sprinkles, our rain jackets were square knotted by their sleeves--ready-to-use--in the cockpit area, in the event of the downpour that never came. The bright Caribbean blue waters were more teal-blue, choppy at times, becalmed, bewitched. We should have known when we left port. The flags on the first row of boats from the sea and the entrance sea rocks were flying west. The inner land rows, including our C row, were flying east. Something was sweetly amiss in our consistent tradewinds.
NOAA had no warnings, E winds, 10-15 knots, seas 2-4 feet, with isolated showers. All on their own, these numbers translate to an ordinary sail on an ordinary day. No magic there. Oh, but NOAA has yet to invent the magicmometer to measure Caribbean maritime magic (CMM). On my CMM scale, from 1 to 10, this was perhaps an 8.5, for the Caribbean is filled with much more magic--sea apples, sleeping spells, nirvana awakenings. All in a spell of four hours: 11:50 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. Our thanks to Lolita for all the magic (see Ramón hosing her deck after a well deserved scrub).

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Appropriated Sea



The wind was blowing E-NE, 12 to 15 knots and the sea waves were 2 to 3 feet high, according to NOAA. The sun was shining with very sparse clouds at the horizon. After all the May rains, Vieques, Culebra and the Yunque rainforest were crispy-clean and visible. The sea sparkled. The crew, Francisco, Ishi, Silvia and myself, followed our scheduled checklist—oil check, bilge, rigging lines, motor water exhaust, sails, radio, chart—and decided our sail plan to be full mainsail and genoa. Our goal was the Island of Icacos. We set sail at 10:30 a.m. from Sunbay Marina.
And then, there interposed a fly, as the line in Emily Dickinson’s poem reads. Boat race markers blocked the sea passage to Icacos. Not sailboat races, but cigarette boat races. Cigarette boats are often in the news for their drug smuggling ventures (check Wikipedia, the name originates from their cigarette smuggling days in Canada ). These killing machines disregard manatees, pollute the air with noise, and leave oil in their wake. The Coast Guard Auxiliary and the DRNA (Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales) were protecting this race, ensuring that others avoided the race area. They yelled at us to go to shallow waters close to shore, waters too dangerous for sailboats. So much for the CGAux protecting the safety of those at sea. Today, May 31st, 2009, they were protecting cigarette boats, at the expense of other boats.
This race was not well announced in advance. Very brief mention was made on Channel 16. Our marina was apparently not informed. A CG Auxiliarist jet-ski approached us and in the rudest attitude told us that to go to Icacos we had to go close to shore. Our crew agreed that was too dangerous, so we decided to turn around towards Palomino to circumvent the race. As we tacked and sailed away from the area, the CGAux jet-skier approached again yelling at us to move faster, “más rápido.” Obviously, this CG Auxiliarist in his fancy CG Auxiliary jet-ski knew nothing about sailboats. His attitude was arrogant and illogical. Sailboats can only go as fast as the wind blows them.
Trying to accommodate to their appropriated sea section, from Las Croabas, midway to Palomino, we sailed away from our destination. Yet we were still harassed and sent to dangerous waters by those who should be promoting nature-friendly modes of sea enjoyment. Yet, they were sponsoring and protecting the interests of the most pollutant, nature-hating crafts. I am filled with questions unanswered: Why did they plan this race so close to shore? Why did they select an area known to be close to manatees, turtles, dolphins and humans? Why did they select a busy Sunday when most boaters are out? Are the CG and DRNA promoting the purchase and use of these sea-unfriendly vehicles? Do the CG and DRNA despise sailing vessels? Are they not trained about sails? Do they not know that with an E-NE wind, sending a sailboat close to shore, the wind will push it to the shoreline? What happened to the law of the sea? Can the CGAux and DRNA representatives receive training on how to deal with the law-abiding public in respectful ways? As a passing sailor asked me, “¿Quién autorizó a esa gente a apropiarse del mar?” Who authorized these people to appropriate the sea?
The Complete Poems of Emily DickinsonThere is a sailing expression that the moment a sailboat is sailing, it has reached its destination. We never reached Icacos but we still enjoyed a great sailing day. We hove-to between el Yunque and Palomino, in 38.1 feet of water, shared our lunch and enjoyed our peaceful conversation and communion with the sea. We just missed our swim to shore in Icacos. We docked at Sunbay Marina at 4:30 p.m.To heave-to is to set the sails and rudder in opposition, where the bow is being pushed in one direction by the sails, while the stern is being pushed into the opposite direction by the rudder. The result is that the sailboat enjoys a moment of stillness in the madness of the maelstrom. The last three lines in Dickinson’s verse say it best: The stillness round my form; Was like the stillness in the air; Between the heaves of storm. The name of the poem is “Dying.” What would Mother-Earth say?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Silvertone-Blue Sunday Sail


Ramón, Francisco and Silvia joined me on my Sunday sail at 10:00 a.m., onboard Lolita (30' Beneteau), from Sunbay Marina in Fajardo to the island of Icacos. It was overcast with ominous looking clouds SE and fog-covered rainforest mountains inland to the W. There was a small craft advisory. The sky over distant Icacos to the NE was patchy blue, and with an east-southeast (E-SE) wind, we headed NE, away from the gray, unto a blue silvertone sky.
Before leaving dock we prepared Lolita for a reduced sail area, by reefing the mainsail and attaching a jib instead of the genoa. We tacked our way to Icacos, midst conversations about boats, work, relationships, diets and dreams.
We could not find a free mooring, so we anchored and took a dip in the Caribbean teal-blue waters of Icacos, grayer clouds gathering in strength to the E, and SE and the W; away from us, but menacing nonetheless.
We sailed back in half the time it took us to sail to Icacos. We returned, jibing our way towards the hidden rainforest, dark green coast and silvery choppy waters. At about 4:30 p.m. we docked, said our goodbyes (see picture) and our thanks to Lolita for a great sail, a great day and awesome teamwork. We loosely planned our next coastal venture in one or two weeks time, when we may four meet again.
The drive back to San Juan was all rain, dark gray, May showers, wet greens, budding seeds, and silverytone blue skies to the NE.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sunday Sail


On Sunday, May 3, 2009, I went sailing on Bebe (41' Benetau) with Capt. Michael, Margarita (in picture), and Ramón. We left Sunbay Marina in Fajardo at 1:00 pm. The sea was calm with light winds and clear skies--a lovely afternoon cruise, with hints of bliss. The east northeast winds were perfect to go to Culebra but we settled for Palomino. We grabbed a mooring, swam around the boat, had lunch, listened to Brazilian music and talked about boats, people and future sailing plans (St. Thomas, circumnavigating Puerto Rico, ...). We sailed back with the genoa sail only. I was behind the helm sailing into the sun setting behind the mountains, with sunbeams in the water showing the way back. The rainforest mountains of El Yunque were covered with heavy rainclouds. We docked after sunset--thankful for a peaceful sail and ready to tack the work week, with the promise of another Sunday sail.

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Neverending Sail

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

The Neverending Sail



On Easter weekend, April 10-13, 2009, three sailboats from the Caribbean Sailing School & Club set sail from Fajardo to Culebra. I was onboard Lolita (30’ Benetau, cream and crimson colored tiller boat); the other two were Bébé (41’ Benetau) and Bébé II (32’ Benetau). The first day, eleven souls set sail under a small craft advisory, winds from the east accompanied by strong currents and occasional rain. We set sail due east early in the morning. Tacking and tacking, we made little progress and arrived at Dewey in Culebra at night. The second day, we sailed our fleet to Culebrita for an idyllic stay. The third day, we sailed to Ensenada Honda in Culebra, repairing a torn sail in Lolita. The fourth and last day, we sailed back to Fajardo with following winds and sunshine. I was inspired to write the following lines.



The Neverending Sail


It starts in-between somewhere

sailing into Culebra

passageway of the Tradewinds

currents churned to Fajardo

our sails beat winds and currents

to the islands of dreams we dare


Darker than dark our sailboat

Yemayá may protect us

Virgin of Cobre guides us

into light and dark Dewey’s

moonrise reflected waters

cream and crimson, blinded by night, float


Sunrise to Culebrita

filling our sails with whispers

sea songs, lullabies, chanteys

Silencing motors, cities

and other modern slavers

unreal, alien onboard Lolita


The degree, the right angle

that corner in the ocean

when all the sails must dance, tack

to Culebrita’s lighthouse

no signal, no service, bliss

full tango lines or lines that tangle


Captain Bob, soaring eagle

harp strings on vertical wings

Puff the magic dragon kite

caressing corals and rocks

with keel vibes, bubbles and foam

spirit dancing midst cloud and seagull


The lighthouse, the hill, the trees

white beach and gracious palm trees

moment of beauty, Earth sings,

“Love me, don’t disturb me, you’re

embraced in my arms of blue.”

Siren voices greening skies and seas


Predator, victim, Earth shares

life, death, live neverending

interspecies communion

man, woman, turtle, stingray,

barracuda aft sailboat

Do I, do you, does Earth—who cares?


It ends right where it started

same island but wilder side

castle rocks shield the lighthouse

gusty winds on bimini

memories of rainbow flights

sailors’ souls soared while minds just farted

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sailing Tomorrow

I am packed and ready to sail tomorrow morning. We (Caribbean Sailing School & Club members) are sailing to Culebra from Fajardo where we plan to spend the weekend.

My boat-stuff bag has a life vest, first aid kit, Swiss army sailing knife, binoculars, bits of rope, handheld compass, wind speed measuring instrument, GPS, sunscreen with zinc oxide, fit overall polarized sunglasses, VHF radio with weather band, depth sounder, marine chart, flashlight and 8 extra AA batteries.


-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sailing, Science and Literature


On Friday, March 27, 2009, two sailing vessels, Bebe (41' Benetau) and Bebe II (32' Benetau), sailed from Fajardo to Palomino with 12 first-year University of Puerto Rico students and two professors; Dr. Angel Olivares and Dr. Eva de Lourdes Edwards (me). Olivares teaches Biological Sciences and I teach Basic English at the College of General Studies. We named our adventure with students, SCI-LITE (science and literature). Olivares was working with coastal conservation and I with the novel, The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. Michael Barnick and Felix Garcia, from the Caribbean Sailing School & Club, both American Sailing Association Instructors, captained the sailboats. Prior to this event, none of the students had ever been sailing (the natural mode of transportation used by Santiago in the novel). They sailed to an "uninhabited" island where they were able to witness first hand the human impact on distant coastlines. On September 12, 1950, Santiago sails his skiff off the Cuban coastline, witnessing the onset of industrial fishing, motor boats, noise pollution, over fishing, and in the last scene, tourism. These and other related issues were discussed on the island and midst humming winds and following seas on the sailboats.  The event, in a most natural classroom, was sponsored by the Student Support Services Program (Programa de Servicios Académicos Especiales), College of General Studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus.
The Old Man and The Sea