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.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Ho, Ho, Ho

     To all sailing spirits who love the raw nature of the sea, the radiant light of the sun, a canopy of stars, and sharing with kindred souls.
      May the new year bring new shores to explore, gentle winds, and following seas.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Through My Looking Glass: The V-Berth Hatch

Jupiter (Institute of Technical Science, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR)

November 4, 2012, midnight hour, Isleta Marina.  Pleasantly exhausted after a day sail, I went to sleep early, around 9:00 p.m., in Andariego’s forward cabin. Sometime around midnight, the light of a star peeking through the V-berth hatch woke me up. I checked the Distant Suns and Star Walk apps in my iPhone. It was Jupiter. Overcast skies, only a few selected stars peeked through the veil of clouds at a time. The hatch is small so my selection was even more delimited—but rich.
Cancer Constellation (Wiki-The Stars in Cancer)
The first constellation I identified was Cancer, the Crab. The moon (waning gibbous, 66.7%) was astronomically in the Cancer Constellation. With intuitive imagination, I was able to see its pincers and form. This fascinated me, to the point of awe, because before going to sleep I had been reading a book (The Quest for the Zodiac: The Cosmic Code Beyond Astrology (1999) by John Lash) about the difference between the astronomy or sidereal ecliptic and the tropical astrology ecliptic, the stuff of popular horoscopes in newspapers. They don’t match.
Technically, you have to move one constellation back to get the actual constellation in the sky (not the horoscope sign) where the sun was on your birth date. Astronomically, mine would have been Cancer, a water element, rather than Leo, a fire element in the popular horoscope. Coincidence?
After cloud curtain calls in the hatch theater stage, I recognized Gemini, the Twins. Outside the ecliptic, I identified the little dog, Canis Minor. Then there was Orion, the Hunter, with his three shiny stars for a belt. As I dozed off, after Jupiter’s wake-up call in the midnight hours, I saw Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, the bull’s eye. Sixty-eight light years away, Aldebaran, the red star, is a reminder of my life’s passage, and that looking at stars is to look into our past, individual and evolutionary. As one looks into the deepest depth of the universe (the self) even through the hatch of a small sailboat on a cloudy night, the book’s question invokes mental shivers: “How is humanity living through me?” (Lash 99).
The ‘writing-in-the-sky’ was not clear to me but at some deeper level, seeing the moon in Cancer after reading about it made me understand something I cannot express with words—a most difficult confession for a PhD linguist. In semiotic terms (a branch of linguistics that studies the meaning of signs), this is something that I want to pursue in my sailing adventures. Perhaps I can call it, astro-semiotics
I’ll finish this entry with a quote from Empedocles, a pre-Socratic philosopher: “A wanderer exiled from the great origins, in former times I was already a boy and a girl, a bush and a bird, a mute fish in the sea.” (Lash 89). I am a wanderer rediscovering the language of the stars. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Night Sail

On Friday, April 6, 2012, there was a full moon rising. It was the tail-end of a small craft advisory. The wind was still a little fresh with remnants of the north swells that had played some havoc the day before. It was perfect for a night sail. I checked the moon rise time in my AyeTides iPhone application; 6:42 p.m. AST. Sue, Mike, and I sat in Bona Roba (Sue's sailboat), and on a whim decided we had one hour to get Andariego ready for a night sail. We walked from dock A to dock B, and set to the task.
We left the dock at Isleta Marina sometime after sunset, which was at 6:37 p.m. The sun set behind dark clouds. It was dark, and indigo hues with silvery sparks engulfed us as we raised the mainsail and unfurled the jib. We left Isleta Marina to our starboard, as we headed to the lights at Cayo Lobos. The moon made her grand entrance between these two points; big, round, aflamed in yellow-orange tones midst indigo blues.
A balm for our sorrows, deceptions, as well as a toast to life, happiness, and all that is divine in us all. Impossible to capture this in a photo, Sue nonetheless made an attempt to photograph it, as we sailed so fast, bobbed up and down with occasional cockpit splashes, and danced with the waves and the wind.
There is something very special about sailing at night. The Fajardo Lighthouse becomes a guiding star, juxtaposed to the moon's mesmerizing lighthouse-like beam reflected on the water. Andariego's red and green tenuous headlights and orange glowing compass light were bearing witness to the three souls on board. A moment in time, a wakening call, the light in the darkness of our being.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Vive la Différence!

There is a difference between sailing with men and sailing with women. My attempt is not to state that one is better than the other, but that they're different and enjoyable in their own way.

Nelson, Bob, and Fred

Sunday, February 25, 2012.  Sailing with Men. There was a small craft advisory warning, ENE winds 15-18 knots with higher gusts, and the seas were 3-4 feet with north swells.  Sunny, threatening storms. The crew: Eva, Betty, Nelson (savvy sailor), Bob (former owner of an Island Packet 35), and Fred (twice winner of best sailor of the year award). The plan was to go to Palomino.

Normally, I wouldn't sail with a warning, but the men were keen. They were sea knowledgeable; the only kind of men with whom to sail, especially with a warning. We left the dock at 10:00 a.m. and returned at 1:00 p.m. It was very gusty, so we tried sailing with just the mainsail. The men displayed their best sailing rhetoric, argued about the best rigging for the weather, raised voices, cajoled, and insisted that in sailing, where quick, sharp decisions require fast reflexes, yelling is a must. And they yelled, and laughed, and boasted sailing strategies, and took in all the weather could muster. The weather obliged, sending high swells, gusts, and menacing clouds in the horizon.

Betty's body rebelled with all the tossing and turning; sea sickness engulfed her from beginning to end. A trooper nonetheless, she was a good sport, in spite of her mal de mer. The men were like athletes in extreme weather sports. Me, I learned a few strategies for rough weather sailing, which are always welcome. I enjoyed seeing how much weather Andariego could take with full sails and with the mainsail alone. For a brief moment, Andariego was heeling a good 30 degrees and we were washing boards. Though I did not enjoy the feeling (I certainly didn't want to see my keel while sailing that morning), I observed what he could take, before I requested to roll the jib, which the men did immediately. We never made Palomino.

Fred wrote in Andariego's log, "What a treat! ... Such a clean well cared for boat. Well equipped. Very impressed."  Nelson added, "Fantastico! ... It was a windy vigorous sail, and we got all we could handle without a reef. Beautiful boat too." Betty wrote, "... You were also so understanding and forgiving of these guys who yell! Thanks for the day and for your friendship." There was nothing to forgive; they were sailors having fun. I was also a sailor having fun. But then I saw a dark set of clouds in the distant horizon. I requested to return and call it a day. A great crew, they went through all the motions to head back. Nelson checked his radar connection and verified that indeed it was a strong weather front. He added in the log, "You're a good weather forecaster." As we docked, Fred missed grabbing the aft lines (the break) with the hook and I tapped the dock box with the pulpit. No damage done, but not a smooth docking. The rain started so we had our lunch in the main cabin. We hosed the boat and left Andariego immediately to catch the ferry back home.

Punta Águila, Palomino
Friday, March 2, 2012. Sailing with Women. There was an 'exercise caution' advisory but no major warnings, ENE winds 14-17 knots, and the seas were 3-5 feet.  Sunny with scattered clouds. The crew: Eva, Betty, Margarita, Sue, and María. The plan was to go to Palomino.

We sailed out at 11:15 a.m. and returned at 5:15 p.m. Everyone was assigned a task as we were docking out: bow lines, starboard spring lines, port side, aft lines. I had to go in reverse making sure not to hit any of the concrete fingers and columns on the way. The crew was ready to fend off from their post. It was done smoothly.

As we headed out, the food (enough for a weekend sail) was put away, waters served and the conversations started. As we passed our first green marker, we got ready to raise the main. It was jammed halfway up. In a Socratic mode of problem solving, we asked questions, checked, asked questions again, until we realized the main halyard was jammed by the lazy jacks. Sue sorted it out and Maria raised the main without a problem. Sue was behind the helm most of the way. We sailed with the main for a while, until the wind subsided. We unfurled the jib, and with two tacks, we sailed straight to Palomino. All sails down without a hitch, we caught a mooring on our first try, celebrated our sail and had a regal lunch. Margarita brought homemade hommus and grapes. Betty made her famous Gazpacho soup. There was tarragon dip and Maria's dip with pimentos. Wheat roll-ups, marzipan, pan sobao, Margarita's mojito with yerbabuena, and wines.

Betty and Eva
Then we went for a swim. We talked and listened to jazz. While I was in the water floating about and enjoying the day, I looked at my watch, thinking it was shortly after noon. It was nearly 4:00 p.m. We put away leftover goodies and sailed into the sunset with the wind on our backs. A smooth sunset sail, we docked quietly, without any glitches. Betty was never seasick and remarked in the log, "Best captain, best crew, and absolutely my best ever day of sailing. I'll never forget it ..."

We packed and cleaned up. Some had to go; most stayed. Then we sat down in the cockpit area as it darkened, sharing thoughts of the day and about sails to come. Someone looked up the mast and noticed the moon just above it, as someone else softly remarked that Andariego had an awesome anchor light.
and the rainbow welcomed us back

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Puppy Rottweiler, Geese, Dead Batteries, New and Dear Friends

Cielito, Ceiba with Palomino in the distance

Friday, February 3. I met with dear friends and fellow sailors (Sue, Margarita, Betty and me) in Cielito, Ceiba to celebrate life. From Sue’s beautiful home, one can see Palomino, the island that, little did I know, I would sail to in the morning. After an 8-hour lunch and joyful day, I spent the night in Andariego.
Four sailing women on land
Saturday, February 4. The plan was to sail with Ángel and his young family early on Saturday morning to Luis Peña. There were five souls in Andariego. The engine would not start in the morning. After much problem-solving, that which true sailors do best, it was deduced that the batteries were faulty. Neill, in San Juan, helped us conclude that the lead oxide in the old batteries had been converted to lead sulfate, short-circuiting against its next-door serial neighbor. We took both batteries to West Marine, where their meter declared them dead batteries and adviced, “Replace Batteries.” New batteries later, the engine started without a problem. Our late afternoon start made us reconsider our destination. We sailed to Palomino instead.
As we left Isleta Marina, I saw a black small head in the water. At first I thought it was a turtle, then a seal (but the last Caribbean Monk Seal spotted in these waters was in 1952, now extinct), finally realizing it was a small dog. The puppy Rottweiler was swimming toward Andariego, seeing us as his only salvation. Had we not passed by, he would have swam himself to exhaustion; there was no shore nearby. I went in reverse, as Ángel grabbed the net on a long pole from down below. The puppy was rescued in the net, brought aboard, and wrapped in a towel. We went back to the dock and gave the puppy to Kurk, from Andariego’s next-dock sailboat. I live with two rescued dogs at home, Desie and Falcor, but I never thought I’d rescue a dog at sea. We felt very proud, happy, and celebrated the successful rescue quite a ways into Palomino.
We grabbed a mooring on Palomino’s north side, near the interesting rock formations, protected by the hill from east winds. Ángel, a geologist, explained how the rocks that look like stacked blocks were natural formations, shaped mainly by the rain. After a swim and an early night, scattered clouds played peek-a-boo with the moon, and played misty on me, until I secured the hatches.
Palomino sunrise
Sunday, February 5. The sea gremlins were not done with their mischief after rendering the old batteries useless. The engine started beautifully in the morning, but the gas stove died soon after starting it. The meter read that there was propane gas left; it was lying. The Cobb barbecue came to the rescue. Ángel managed to almost boil water in the Cobb, enough to make coffee. He made scrambled eggs with cheese for all on a flat pan on the coals. For lunch, you guessed it, a barbecue grill. Midst barbecue extravaganzas, we saw a flock of geese flying northwest in perfect V-formation. South to north, north to south, without a stop in the tropics. What a treat to see these beautiful birds flying so high in their ancient migratory display.
We docked in the afternoon, and my new friends helped to clean Andariego after our short adventure, making him look shiny and new, ready for the next new adventures.
Andariego's new caring friends