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.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Christmas Sailing

Qué el lucero de la Navidad nos guíe a un rumbo de pax in terra,
Qué en el silencio del mar oigamos la música cósmica de las esferas,
 y nos deleitemos en la creación del universo.
Somos estrellas, peces, y naves,
árboles, piedras, arena, y plancton,
viento, agua, tierra, y fuego – infinito
Qué no olvidemos nunca ser y estar maravillados en este mundo encantado.

May the Christmas evening star guide us towards pax in terra,
In the silence of the sea, may we listen to the cosmic music of the spheres,
and delight in the creation of the universe.
We are stars, fish, and sailing vessels,
trees, stones, sand, and plankton,
wind, water, earth, and fire – infinity
May we never forget our sense of wonder in this enchanted world.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Irene, Leda and the Swan

Andariego after Tropical Storm Irene

            Tropical Storm Irene became Hurricane Irene, Category 1, as it crossed the island of Puerto Rico. It is not about what category a hurricane is. It is about the things that come alive around you as the hurricane passes. The water nymph that enlivened the wind infused life on a distant zinc plank. Its new grown wings sent the plank directly to Andariego’s jib. It locked itself around the rope that was keeping the jib taut in its stay during the storm. Like the white skirt of a Turk dancing dervish, it twirled round and round the forestay, cutting and unwrapping its prize, searching for its beloved in the sublimity of nature. The gusty Naiad that forced the plank unto Andariego’s wings went on to other mischief. And the zinc’s lifeless form dropped to the deck, bouncing to Davy Jones’ locker. Andariego was the swan that dropped Leda from its beak, to a final resting place.
            Twelve lines kept Andariego from hitting concrete docks and nearby boats. Hull intact, cabins dry, Irene went on to cause chaos on Andariego’s friends, near and far. In our marina, two boats sank and many sustained major and minor damages. All one can do is be thankful and better prepared for the next one, for the next one cometh.
Leda and the Swan

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Sound of Sailing

Sailing past Cabeza de Perro

Friday, July 29 to Sunday, July 31, 2011. Friday afternoon Marisol, Fabián and I prepared Andariego for a weekend sail to Punta Arenas, Vieques (19 nautical miles). Clean linen, food, water, music, solar chargers, general check-ups and cleaning. We had an early night, to get up early at 6:00 a.m., have a leisure morning and set sail at 8:30 a.m. Sue, the captain of Bona Roba, a beautiful Hans Christian classic, joined us for our sail Saturday morning—three women and a young man.
Marisol on the lookout
We set sail at 9:30 a.m., blue skies with distant thunderheads, east winds from 12 to 16 knots, and a pleasant beamy sail averaging 4 to 5 knots, had us there in 3-odd hours. The wind blew through the fishing rod stainless steel holder and made a gentle whistling sound. The wind was whispering sweet nothings through Andariego. The sound of the wind on the sails, the rush of the water against the hull, and aft foamy crescendos rivaled Mozart’s Jupiter in that allegro vivace first movement.
 As we approached Punta Arenas, we found a faulty mooring and opted to anchor nearby on a sandy spot, facing Monte Pirata. A police boat went by twice, perhaps wondering where the men were … ha! On our last sail, we moored on the first try, and later on we watched a sailboat with a French name and 4 men give up mooring after 3 tries. After we anchored, our 13-year-old young man was hungry, and the barbecue was started. Fabián checked the anchor 3 times; any excuse to snorkel further than the 3 feet distance from the sailboat required. Sue made a super salad with mango dressing, and Marisol made barbecued spare ribs. Lots of water, some spirits and Kenny Chesney’s key lime pie song, Jimmy Buffet’s 5-o’clock somewhere, and Martinique’s Compagnie Creole’s k-dance rhythms reminded us of friends not present—Neill, Bob, Brenda, Margarita, Michael, Silvia, Ramón, Tessie, Francisco, … We toasted to us and those unable to share the sunset from Punta Arenas. Dark clouds covered El Yunque rainforest, yonder in the rainy Puerto Rico mainland.
Sue at the helm
As the night drew near, Fabián signed-off early to his cabin (all that anchor watching), and we three females laid down at the bow’s deck to look at the stars; we played Chopin’s Nocturne in B flat minor. A moonless night, we saw infinite numbers of stars and the Milky Way. Sue was at the starboard side, Marisol at the port side, and I was in the middle. Feet towards the pulpit, a choir of crickets joined Chopin, along with the music of the spheres. I was recently reading a book, Song of the Spine: Sound healing and vibrational therapy (2004) by Dr. June Leslie Wieder, in which she states that: “Astronomers have recently discovered that a black hole in the Perseus star cluster emits a B-flat sound wave 57 octaves below the middle B-flat on a piano.” Chopin must have known something. In that primordial B-flat, we were connected to the sound of the universe.
           Sunday morning was Mozart’s Jupiter symphony, energizing us to welcome a glorious sunrise. I prepared coffee and we joined the morning in the cockpit, along with distant neighbors, a catamaran, a sloop and a couple of even more distant motorboats. The weather announced yet more distant rumors of a possible hurricane Emily forming, 2-3 days away. We opted to leave at 11:00 a.m. after swimming and tidying up. Marisol brought up the anchor (so proud of her), and everyone took turns behind the helm. A superb sailing team! On the sail back, we were threatened by 4 squall-like fronts, which we luckily avoided swiftly. As we approached our bay entrance, the wind died down, and we were running at 1.8 knots. A sailboat named Adagio passed us. Adagio is a slow musical piece, appropriate for our finale. No hurry, but for that looming black cloud I wished away as we approached the dock. Molto allegro, Jupiter’s fourth and last movement, very happy, sums up the sound of sailing.
Bliss at 13 - Fabián

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sailing in the New Planet

Capturing Sunset from Palomino Island--Fabian and Brenda

            July 18-20, 2011. The planet is changing. To some, it has already changed, and we must adapt. In Bill McKibben’s book, Eaarth: Making a life on a tough new planet, we are reminded that, “it suddenly rains harder and faster than it has ever rained before … global warming is no longer a philosophical threat, no longer a future threat, no longer a threat at all. It’s our reality.” In Puerto Rico, it has been raining since spring, unheard of before, and as I write this, there’s a thunderstorm outside.
Testing the Cobb BBQ
Monday afternoon, Marisol, Fabián and I went to Andariego at Isleta Marina to get ready to sail early next morning. We drove in the rain. We aired the sailboat as we prepared cabins, galley, and checked the engine, rigging, hull, and so on down the checklist. As the evening approached fast, we started the Cobb BBQ, finding a niche for it on the helmsperson’s seat, under the bimini. I’ve used the Cobb before for sailing, but this was the first time in Andariego. I bought this grill in a West Marine in Connecticut many years ago. They don’t sell them anymore, but they are available directly from the South Africa/Florida website. They’re very good on a boat, because they don’t get hot in the bottom or sides, and they use very little charcoal. We used local vegetable charcoal from Adjuntas. Marisol was the chef on this trip, which she performed exquisitely. We barbecued three times in our overnight sail to Palomino.
Selkies--Marisol and Brenda. Palomino's hill
            Early next morning, Brenda joined us. There were overcast skies, but it was clearing up in the east, and we set sail at around 8:30 a.m. It was a bit blustery and choppy, so we reefed the main. Three women and a child (well, a 13-year-old young man), we zigzagged into the wind to Palomino. Fabián was a little seasick, but by the time we moored, at about 10:00 a.m., his cheeks were rosy again. We grabbed a mooring, first try, right behind Palomino’s mountain for protection. We had ALL the Palomino moorings to choose from; one of the advantages of sailing on a weekday. Fabián spied, using binoculars, a big pelican in a nest high up on the hill. S/he was magnificent on her perch. We saw turtles and their favorite treat, jellyfish. There were seagulls, brown boobies, plus the chickens and roosters on the hill. A large fish remained under Andariego for the length of our stay. We threw breadcrumbs overboard and fish came by, but not in the profusion they came when I was younger, when it was actually scary to be surrounded by such a large ball of fish. The planet has changed: “We need now to understand the world we’ve created and consider—urgently—how to live in it.” McKibben’s message may sound depressing at first, but as we understand and embrace the reality, we just might learn to live with and not against nature. He further states: “Maturity is not the opposite of hope; it’s what makes hope possible.” I see hope in Fabián’s eyes. He was another sea creature in the water. We joined him in the fun. We basked on Andariego as seals on rocky mounds. Selkies rising from the sea to assume women forms on land.
            Andariego uses a solar panel to charge and start the engine. We use small solar lamps after dark, and charge our cell phones with solar and wind chargers. Somewhat un-tethered from land oil-based energy sources, weaning from oil seems difficult but not impossible. I say somewhat, because Grendel, the engine, still uses oil and diesel. There are hardy sailors out there who have rid themselves of the engine on board, living aboard and sailing on wind and solar power.
            Tuesday night it rained, but just past midnight, the moon peeked in through the hatches, as if telling us that there is still beauty in the tough new planet. We must also become tough, but with a gentle heart.
            Wednesday morning we sailed back unto the darkened, cloud covered Yunque rain forest. At 9:30 a.m. we were back at Isleta. Brenda had a land appointment. She made a comment on how smoothly and quietly we docked. Everyone had an assigned task—bow lines, aft portside lines, starboard spring lines, with me behind the helm. Calm under pressure is a call for the new planet. McKibben notes: “This is the current inventory: more thunder, more lightning, less ice.” It is important to learn about this new reality from books, but it is equally, if not more important, to witness it and live it directly with nature.
Last barbie bites

Sunday, July 17, 2011

An Unexpected Sail

Fabián's First Sail
Friday, July 15, 2011. It’s been raining so much, with lightning, thunder and heavy winds that it has been hard to squeeze in a good day’s sail. I decided to take some engine parts and equipment to the sailboat anyway, under the rain. I asked Marisol and her 13-year old son Fabián to help me with the stuff. When we got on board, at about 2:00 p.m., the plan was to turn around and get back home before 8:00 p.m. The sun peeked out and beckoned. And then I thought, why not shake the sails out, go for a little spin, and the wind beckoned.
Fabián had never been sailing. Polito was near the dock. He joined us, why not? Andariego beckoned. We went out, just to go out, shake the sails, and come back. We passed green can #3, raised the sails, rainwater oozed out of the canvas covers. There was very little wind. We laughed as we close-hauled at 1.5 knots. Fabián went up to the pulpit and played Titanic lover boy with arms spread. We laughed at his excitement. He explored Andariego, touched this, asked that, and I loved seeing a 13 year-old’s first sailing experience.
When it comes to sailing, there are those who love it and those who hate it, and no in-betweens. Fabián loved it. We couldn’t just turn around, so we sailed to Icacos Island. We anchored. He used my snorkeling equipment and discovered the keel, checked the anchor, and checked out the fish as he swam around Andariego I don’t know how many times. The water beckoned.
On a beam and a broad reach, we sailed back. I showed Fabián how to fix on a land point, the compass, the wind marker, the tell-tales, how to focus and yet look around. I let him have a feel for the helm, thinking he’d give it back in no time. He not only took us back to the bay’s entrance, but he sailed like a natural. I was amazed at the depth of concentration of a 13-year old boy on his first sail ever. Pure magic. We made it back home close to midnight. Sailing beckoned.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Grendel and Grendel's Mother

Uruguay and assistant

Grendel and Grendel’s mother were misunderstood monsters in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, Beowulf, considered among the oldest literary pieces in the English language (Old English). Those misunderstood, mysterious creatures that delve in caves, dark and underground, surfacing only when they cause problems, most often provoked by humans, which can lead to danger or even death. I think of Andariego’s propeller shaft as Grendel, and the engine as Grendel’s mother, both intertwined as Grendel.
Andariego hauled out at Isleta Marina
Tuesday, June 28. Andariego was making a strange bumping noise when accelerated gently in reverse or forward. It was hauled out for a check. The bushing and PSS (packless sealing system) in the propeller shaft, Grendel, were replaced, and the problem solved. The propeller shaft starts, as an umbilical cord at the end of the engine’s dark cave in the sailboat’s gut and travels deep underwater as the monster’s long arm, ending in the propeller. While hauled out, Andariego was in Salomón’s care, as he said, “…con amor y cariño” (with love and care). Andariego’s bottom was cleaned, and the sides shined. It’s pending a super deck wash, due to little water pressure in the marina. In the epic poem, Beowulf cut off Grendel’s arm, provoking the wrath of Grendel’s mother. No need for such drastic measures.
Broken transmission dipstick
and filthy filter
Saturday, June 25. Grendel’s mother, the engine, so attached to her child, had her periodic maintenance. No need to wait for her to attack. The pre-emptive measures were: oil and diesel filter changes, gaskets, oil change, impeller, and replacement of a broken transmission dipstick. Two hours later, the engine mechanic, a very savvy old timer, Uruguay (nicknamed after his country of origin), asked me to start the engine. He stood there listening, as I stood behind the helm watching him and wondering why he was taking so long. He was listening. After a pregnant moment he said, “Suena bien.” (She sounds well.). How sweet the sound! If I could only learn to hear Grendel’s subtle sounds, like Uruguay! He is truly an engine guru.
          A little TLC (tender loving care) may appease the monsters for sometime. We’ll visit their dark realms again some 300 engine miles from now, or in a year, whichever one comes first. Or then again, before, if they decide to attack.
Grendel appeased

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sailing with Friends

Brenda and Eva
My friend and work colleague, Brenda, joined Marisol, Polito and me for a Sunday sail to Icacos. We were lucky to find a mooring, just as another boat was leaving it. It was one of those lazy Sundays where we mucked about in the sailboat, splashed in the water, talked and enjoyed the silence of contemplation.

We left Isleta Marina at 11:30 a.m. and returned at around 5:30 p.m. (4/23/11). A wind from the east, 10-15 knots, and seas 4-5 feet, made for a pleasant Caribbean blue seascape. Andariego blended with the wind and the sea, and we merged in the aqua-blue rendering. The Tao of Sailing (1990) by Ray Grigg, describes the silent power of the sailboat. “The sailboat itself is an image of this special way of being. It is resourceful, adaptive, silent. From the silence of its weight and shape comes a power that is peaceful and strong, serene and exciting, a belonging that does not trespass or counter the breathing wind and sea. So the ship moves in accord with the energy that is attendant, affirming itself and its harmony with the Great Mother.”  We belonged.
Andariego at Isleta Marina

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Here, there be monsters!

To all sailing mothers, Happy Mother's Day!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it is in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Maryanne Williamson. Used by Nelson Mandela in his 1994 inaugural speech.)

"It's fear of the unknown. The unknown is what it is. And to be frightened of it is what sends everybody scurrying around chasing dreams, illusions, wars, peace, love, hate, all that -- it's all illusion. Unknown is what it is. Accept what is unknown and it's plain sailing. Everything is unknown -- then you're ahead of the game. That's what it is. Right?" (John Lennon)

"Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood." (Marie Curie)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Viento en Popa

There are basically seven points of sail. Each one is determined by the direction of the wind with respect to the direction of the sailboat. Where is the wind hitting the boat and how do I adjust my sails best to catch the wind? Viento en popa is Spanish for, literally, wind on the poop. According to The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, the word “poop” is from the Latin puppis or stern. Now, it is used to mean a raised deck in the aft (stern) part of the boat, where “the master normally had his cabin.” As a verb, “a ship is pooped, or pooping, when a heavy sea breaks over her stern.” Picture a tidal wave hitting your sailboat from behind. You are pooped!
In English, viento en popa is known as a run. You are running with the wind. You and the wind are going in the same direction. It is like that Irish well-wishing expression, “May the road rise beneath your feet and may the wind be always at your back.” That was true for ancient mariners who, with their square rigging, could only sail on a run. They had to have the current and the wind going in the same direction as the sailboat; basically they had one good point of sail.
Sails went from square, to lateen, to the Bermuda rig, and the latter happened right here in the Caribbean. The Oxford states, “The ultimate development of the fore-and-aft rig was the introduction of the Bermuda rig, first developed in the West Indies at the start of the 19th century and brought to Europe for use in sailing yachts in the years just preceding the First World War (1914-18). It is now the most widely used rig in all sailing yachts, and during the last twenty years has been significantly developed on aerodynamic principles to provide greater driving power with a smaller overall sail area.” How cool is that, right in our own backyard.
Polito, Marisol, Eva (me)
Silvia took all the above pictures.
Friends joined me in Andariego to celebrate the changing of the season. Spring is just around the corner and northerly swells blend with eastern trades. After a lovely day in Palomino, we returned to Isleta Marina on a run. A beautiful way to catch the wind on a run is by setting the sails wing-on-wing. The jib and the main are juxtaposed, and Andariego is an egret (garza) gliding, white wings fully spread, chest proud, mates joining in the eternal sound. The ancient mariner in the Spanish Main yet calls out: ¡Viento en popa!
Egret or White Heron (La Garza)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

January Seascapes

Me (Eva) at the helm

One would have thought that after acquiring the sailboat, Andariego, I would have been writing more, not less. The fact is, I have been working on Andariego’s upkeep and sailing. In between sailing and upkeep, there’s been my university teaching work, research, writing, and added community work with Puerto Rico’s Sierra Club chapter. I know, it’s not an excuse. Following are some highlights of sailing Antilia (my mystical name for Puerto Rico). My virtual sailboat is no longer virtual; his name is Andariego. January was a month filled with visits from friends and family. The first half of the month Jeanine stayed at my home, visiting from Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jeanine is my soul sister from Avignon, with whom I’ve spent wonderful days with family in Provence. She went sailing with me. To those in Provence I say: Je pense souvent a vous avec tendresse. Je n’oublie pas votre merveilleux accueil et les bons voyages que nos avons fait ensembles. J’espère pouvoir vous accueillir un jour à Puerto Rico de la même façonJeanine gave Andariego a French version of his name, le Vagabond de Mer. I love it.

January 6-7. Jeanine and I stayed onboard Andariego. She slept in the forward cabin. I slept in the aft cabin with its three portholes opened. I did a full self-reiki session (60 minutes) before sleeping. As I sat in easy pose looking aft, I could see the harbor lights dancing in the water. I was comfortably rocked to sleep by gentle dock waves at Isleta Marina.

January 9, 2011 (1330-1730). Ramón, Silvia, Jeanine and I sailed Andariego. We sailed to Icacos and Palomino, and passed close to Ramos Island. NOAA’s weathercast was 9-14 knots, waves 3-5 feet, with isolated showers. Ramón and Silvia were impressed with Andariego’s sailing performance. Jeanine doesn’t sail. In fact, she doesn’t even swim. She wore a life vest at all times. She sat on the port side of the boat as we raised the sails soon after leaving port. Her expression of awe as the white wings went up is unforgettable; an audible in-breath and in the out-breath, “My god, they are so big. They are so beautiful. Take a picture. Take a picture.” And I saw Andariego’s sails, again, for the first time.

Upkeep. Andariego’s head (toilet) pump stopped working properly. I have had to buy a new kit to replace the pump. Installation is pending. The present pump works in dry bowl but not wet bowl. The third-world-technology remedy is to bring buckets of sea water to clean the head after use. No fun. The joys of sailboat ownership.

Jeanine and Sylvia
Just before Jeanine flew back to her home, Sylvia arrived from England. She is my husband Neill’s sister. She had never been to the tropics. She could not believe the noise the crickets and coquis made at night. I gave her a coqui pin as a souvenir. She had seen palm trees before, she said, in Italy (yeah, right). She had never been sailing, though she’s been on motorboats and ferries. Her son lives in a houseboat on the Thames River.

January 23, 2011 (1130-1600). Ramón, Silvia, Sylvia (Sam), Neill and I sailed Andariego. The seas were choppier due to north swells, according to NOAA, and the wind was gusting around 15 knots. Sam is an excellent swimmer. She sat in the starboard stern perch seat. She never once complained but I could tell she was feeling a little queasy. She did all the right things—sight on the horizon, drinking water—and managed not to get seasick. I wish it would have been a bit calmer for her. She still enjoyed the sail and the company. We sailed a similar route as on the Jan. 9, but we spilled more air from the sails to keep the sailboat from heeling more than 15 degrees. It was a bit tricky to do, but we managed it. Around lunchtime we did a heave-to near Palomino but because of gusty winds and following seas, we were still moving a little over one knot towards Isleta Marina.

Ramón, Neill, Eva, Silvia
Upkeep. While sailing, Neill noticed that the portside inner stay was wiggling like a snake while we were sailing on a beam reach port tack. I was shocked to see that. The stays hold the mast up. They are defined in the book, Sailing Fundamentals, as “Shrouds (sidestays)—wires that run from the masthead (or near the masthead) to the sides of the boat to support the mast and prevent it from swaying.” (p. 35). The headstay and the backstay, plus the two sidestays make up the four stays that hold the mast in place. We tacked to a starboard tack and sailed back to Isleta Marina.

Sailing FundamentalsWe ordered a tensiometer ($80.) from West Marine to fine tune the stay. None were available in local stores (not a hot ticket item). In the meantime, Capt. Michael is our tensiometer. He tightened it with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, hard-shaking the stay after tuning, to adjust up or down. I re-taped it after he put back the two clips that hold the tension adjustment. Sailing Fundamentals states: “The shrouds, forestay, and backstay support the mast. The strong metal fittings that attach these wires to the mast are called tangs. The other end of each shroud and backstay is attached to an adjustable device called a turnbuckle. The turnbuckle allows the shrouds and stays to be adjusted to the proper tension.” So, if I understand correctly, I taped over the tang and turnbuckle clips that hold the stays in place.

There’s a linguistic metaphor here. The stays are violin strings on a mast that vibrate to the touch of the wind. They play ethereal music to Ocean’s rhythm. Birds provide piccolo tweets, gusts percussion on sails’ skins. Dolphins dance to Andariego’s pas de deux. But who’s that playing pizzicato on the stays?
Leonardo di Caprio?