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.

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?