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Sailust | 2008 | December

Archive for December, 2008:

A Crew Application

Monday, December 29th, 2008

I just spent an hour answering 26 questions that a potential skipper wanted answered. It’s like trying to find a roommate, but worse because quarters are really close and there’s no leaving once you’ve set sail. Here are my answers, see if you can guess the questions.
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Saturday, December 27th, 2008

It was a blustery and bouncy four days from Colon, Panama to Mahahual, Mexico. Based on our previous wind experience, we estmated the trip would take ten days. Distance-wise, it’s been the longest leg. We never slowed past 7 knots and we were upwards of 12 at times. We never once tacked or gybed either. The wind was coming from the Northeast and our initial bearing was Northwest by North, leaving us on a close reach until, after two days, we rounded Honduras and fell off to a beam reach, then a broad reach. We arrived in Mahahual while the sun was rising Friday morning.

With only three people for crew, it meant we each had an average of eight hours at the helm. Eight hours, I thought, it seemed kind of like a JOB. The time went by pleasantly, however, almost better than if we had four people. The more people there are, the more idle time there is and more room for animosity over who does what and for how long. After sleeping and steering, there wasn’t much time left to oneself. Heavier wind conditions works on your nerves too, making everything from walking, using the head, and cooking a trifle more difficult than when you’re just drifting.

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Panama Canal Passage

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

On Saturday, Crystal Blue Persuasion passed through the Panama canal with 9 people on board. In addition to the regular crew memebers, there was Lee and Rick, from Viking Heart. There was also another couple, Leah and Les, who had been through before and have been living in Central America for a few years, specifically Portobello. They were very informational. Finally there was Charlie, who will be making the passage on Tuesday with his boat and wanted to do a trial run.

This first image is of Puente de Las Americas, which used to be the only land link connecting North and South America. The bridge is one of Panama’s icons, much like the Golden Gate is to San Francisco.

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More Panama

Friday, December 19th, 2008

I spent the rest of my days in Panama crossing things off the usual Panama to-do list. I’ve been to the Canal Museum in Casco Viejo, a couple of blocks from my hotel. I hiked around Cerro Ancon and the Parque Metropolitano. I took a cab to the other side of town and visited old old Panama, aka Panama Viejo. I’m staying in the area that was built after Captain Henry Morgan burned the city in 1671. There are a few stone ruins left from this first settlement, most noticably the cathedral tower which looks more like a lookout tower than a belltower.

Last night I went to a British pub in Calle Uraguay, then to a rock club that had a 311 cover band playing. Although she never made it out, one of Rachel’s friends was in the band. I noticed one of the singers from the first night I went to Indigo. They played songs from 311’s whole discography: Omaha Stylee, Don’t Stay Home, Transistor, Amber, Down, and more.

On my way to go out, I was almost mugged. I stopped at a food stand by Santa Ana Park, just outside Casco Viejo. As I’m ordering, this crazy guy stands next to me, only a few feet away, and flashes a knife under his jacket. It was rusty and jagged and looked homemade. I was a little confused that he would be mugging me in front of the attendent, the 3 guys eating and other random people about the street. I got the fight or flight adrenaline and took a few steps back, still trying to figure out the situation. Flashing a knife is a pretty clear signal of your intentions, but it seemed as if he wanted me to go into a dark alley, elsewhere, so he could rob me. He argued with the attendant for a while and then walked off. The attendant said, “He wanted to rob you. You better go that way.” Pointing towards the well-light and populated pedestrian Avenida Central. It was what I was going to do anyways. I walked down the street, eating my food, glancing back every so often. Then I got into a cab. On my cab ride home I made sure I was dropped off right in front of my hotel instead of a few blocks away like usual.

Crystal Blue Persuasion is scheduled to go through the canal tomorrow. I’m going back to the boat this evening. Gary said it may take two days depending on whether or not our pilot is late, as they are rumoured to be. Lynne, he told me in an email, is going to jump ship on the other side to make it home by Christmas, which means it’s just Gary, Larry and me to Majahual, the end of the line. I’m hoping to stop in Rio Dulce in Guatemala on the way. I hear it’s beautiful but it’s recently infamous for a fatal pirate attack.

I’ve finally uploaded some photos from the whole trip, instead of the spase ones amongst my rhetoric. Click “Photos” above or click here.


Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Cabin fever is begining to set in. I don’t know if my crew mates and their idiosyncracies are truely annoying or if I’m just hyper-senstive and insane. One example is the way in which Larry asks for things. When he’s at the helm, he’ll say things like “a glass of water sure would be nice,” which means somebody should get him a glass of water. I don’t know why he does it. Maybe he does it so that if someone gets him the water, they’ve volunteered it rather than been requested. I’ve taken note of this, and so have the other crew members, and now it’s a sort of a joke. When he asks for something is this manner, I reply, “Do you mean you would like me to get you a glass of water?” When I force him to acknowledge his latent desire this way, out of stubborness, he still sticks to his guns and says “Sure, that will work,” kind of emphasizing the fact that it’s your idea to get him water, not his. When someone else asks me to do something, I’ll repeat the request, Larry-like, just to be funny. Gary will say, “Hey, Sean, can you help me lower the main?” and I’ll say “It sure would be nice of someone could drop the main.” I spend more and more time in my bunk in an effort to prevent my attitude from festering.

Larry and I also got into an argument about my leaving of personal items in the public area of the salon. He’s always finding things and putting them away¬†and getting on our cases for leaving things lying around. What’s worse is he’ll find something of his and then ask me “Why didn’t you say anything?” I understand the need for a tight ship. Because of this, we’ve developed a system: I put all of my personal items that I want to keep in the salon on the counter, above the stairs to my bunk. Everybody else does the same, each with a separate pile in different corners of the salon. My pile usually consists of a book or two, my camera, my ipod, my shirt if I’ve taken it off and my toothbrush. I’ll admit that my pile can sometimes grow large but it’s in a designated location with sufficient room, not out of order by any means. The stuff I keep in the salon are things that I frequently use and don’t want to have to go downstairs for, or things I intend to take downstairs the next time I go down. I think what really bothers Larry is my toothbrush, maybe because it’s the epitome of a personal item. Nobody else has any use for my toothbrush.

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Two Years Before the Mast, Selected Quotes

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

This first quote is funny because it’s a westerner’s first glimpse of a catamaran, the type of boat I’m on.

It was here that I first saw one of those singular things called catamarans. They are composed of logs lashed together upon the water, the men sitting with their feet in the water; have one large sail, are quite fast, and, strange as it may seem, are trusted as good as sea boats.

I assure you that they’ve come a long way since being “logs lashed together.”

The rest of the quotes are about California in 1835-6. Dana spends more than a year going up and down the coast from San Diego to San Francisco, stopping in Monterey, San Pedro and Santa Barbara, gathering 40,000 hides to take back to Boston. California is Mexican territory at this point and the only inhabitants are the Indians and Mexican nationals. The missions are in a state of decay and the official serfdom of the Indians has been prohibited. There are also numerous other transient nationalities that live on all the merchant ships. Dana takes to liking the “kanakas” or Sandwich Islanders, or, as we know them, Hawaiians.

The Californians are an idle, thriftless people, and can make nothing for themselves. The country abounds in grapes, yet they buy, at a great price, bad wine made in Boston and brought round by us… Their hides, too, which they value at two dollars in money, they barter for something which costs seventy-five cents in Boston

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Golfos de Tehuantepec y Papagayo

Friday, December 5th, 2008

We sailed almost a week straight from Huatulco to Puntarenas, Costa Rica (where I am now), passing Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. After hearing rumours of the nasty Tehuantepec winds (Tehuantepeckers), I braced myself for strong winds, even though we were leaving in a supposed window of good weather. The Tehuantepec winds never came and we even motored for parts. We hugged the coast instead of making a rhumb accross the gulf, because that’s the recommended procedure. At least this way, we got a close view of endless miles of undeveloped beaches.

At the Guatemalan border, the coast juts west towards the Gulf of Fonseca, the intersection of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Here we decided to make a rhumb line to Costa Rica, putting us at a distance of 80 miles offshore at the maximum. In the middle of the Gulf, Lynne read in one of the guidebooks about another area of high winds approaching Costa Rica, outside the Gulf of Papagayo and on our planned route. As if jinxed, that night, an hour or two after the discovery and before sundown, the heavy winds arrived. Crystal Blue Persuasion was booking it on a nice beam reach as the winds were coming offshore. The sea was getting rough too, jostling our catamaran. Gary made the decision to put two reefs in the main sail and replace the jib with a smaller stormsail jib. Even after the sail change, we were still doing 8 to 10 knots, but in a better controlled fashion. Larry estimated the winds to be 35 knots; I don’t have enough experience to judge the speed. It was like this all night but subsided the next day, returning again, the next night. We altered our course to go closer to shore in hopes that the wind would be calmer, and we eventually made it, just south of the Gulf of Papagayo. The winds died and we cruised along the coast to Puntarenas. Other than the fact that it takes more energy, atttention and nerve in high winds, I didn’t mind them. For my preference, we’ve been lacking in wind the whole trip. Also, being in a catamaran, it’s not as rocky as a monohull.

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