Thursday, 30 January 2014

The pelicans have gone postal.

There was a pelican party in the harbour the other day...

The Captain and Crew are leading a surprisingly "regular" life these days.  There is work that happens each day, not exactly from 9 to 5, more like 10 to 3, and then socializing in the evenings if we are lucky, or quiet dinners on the boat if we are not. Actually, we're pretty lucky all the time, simply because there is no snow in sight.

The Captain has been working on boat jobs, including our water system in and what goes back out again. As Master Engineer, he has been designing and ordering a new backstay tensioner, since the original hydraulic one does not want to play anymore. The good news is that he has completed ordering new parts online and they should be shipped on Friday from Miami, Florida. Next week they will arrive in Montego Bay. After paperwork in triplicates has been completed to get everything through customs, we shall have such delectable new toys such as an autopilot and an inflatable kayak!

The Crew has been working on various projects, but most importantly, she has also joined her old J22 racing crew for the first series of the new year and Defender has won the series!  On January 12th, they had three firsts, and on January 26th, there were two firsts and a second.  Defender's strategy on the 26th was to confuse the other boats regarding the course, and it worked quite well as Zipper conducted a scenic tour of the harbour instead of staying on course.  It appears that the Crew is useful on both big and small boats, and won't give up sailing, even if Diva is temporarily stuck on the mooring.

Also for your reading pleasure, I've included the following race report from the Royal Jamaican Yacht Club as posted on June 24, 2013 here. Since one of the themes of this week's post is confusion on the course, I thought this report was a perfect match. Note for clarity: Kingstonians race around a series of marks that have letter names, not that any of the letters are actually labeled on the marks, mind you.

Last night's Moonlight Race.... (as Told by Stephanie J)

Not really a race report. But gives some insight into how we on Steffi have evolved a rock solid training programme for new crew ...

It was wonderful, last night. Good race.
Also tricky.
Why? Well, full moon and full belly should mean everything cool - right?
Well, a whole heap of new people on Steffi.
Never sailed before. Youngsters all of them, guys and gals.
And want to know everything.
Ready for blast up to "F" and back. Full of zip, energy and enthusiasm.
And just look at that moon!

So, once in the boat and going through the usual pre-race stuff, the conversation went something like this...
Remember, we'd all had a few rums.

'So, what's "F"'?

"F"? Well, it's a red flag on a bamboo post way up deh so.
I pointed towards the east end of the harbour, trying to keep it simple.

'Is a big flag on a big post?'
Keep it simple - avoid the temptation to elaborate. The rum nice an sweet.

'Why up there?'
Somehow the rum seemed to make the questions more complicated than they really were.
Well... And this was a tricky one. Best to change the topic.
OK, let's tack - heads down. Watch that boom!

De (quietly): better tell them what the boom is...
De had noticed they were all peering into the darkness above us as if we were drawing their attention to some fast-approaching sonic phenomenon.

'What's "tack"?'
They all looked at me. No sign of a boom...

Um ... Well, we were now half way through the tack to come down towards the start line and they were all about to get swept overboard by the boom.

As a group they all sensed the tone of urgency in my voice and all heads immediately faced skywards again.

De and I sort of fluffed the tack and headed Steffi into the wind with sails flogging.
Hey guys! THIS is the boom. This long thing here. It's not a sound and it's not up there (me pointing at moon). And if this boom thing hits you, it's going to hurt like hell.

Oh, says one guy. I thought that was a tack.
I wasn't sure if it was me - but I didn't feel I was coping very well.
Must be the rum...

No, a tack is a manoeuvre you carry out to change the direction of the boat.
You guys then need to clamber over the other side of the boat - with your rum - while the boom swings across and tries to knock you overboard. It can be tricky. Everyone ok with that?
Didn't look like it.

Well, it was the best I could do at the time, but that youthful confidence seemed to have evaporated. Perhaps skipper Ross wasn't really the one to lead them to the promised land after all.

Somehow, we got through that first tack without anyone losing any rum or any crew getting swept into the murk.

"So if "F" is up there" - he pointed in the opposite direction to the one we were now heading - "why are we going this way?"

I've often asked myself the same question.
Sailing can be quite tricky...
Well, we haven't started the race yet, and first we need to find "I".

"I"??? What's "I"?
You're probably getting an idea of how this was going...

"I"....  Well.. (where's my rum?) it's a red flag on a bamboo post just over deh so!
No-one could see a thing, but they all stood up and peered into Kingston Harbour on starboard side... Just as we swept past it on port!

There's "I", I shouted. It seemed hard to accept that "I" was in exactly the opposite side to the one they were looking and, of course, before they had time to clamber over and peer towards the new "I", it was gone, captured once again by the darkness and by the other boats swirling around in a melee.

'Does "I" move'?
Of course it does. Especially after a few rums. Everyone knows that...

No, I say.
That would just be too tricky.

But "I" was slipping away quickly.
Quick, let's tack!
Watch that BOOM!

Well, that was really impressive.
Everyone just hit the deck flat, and stayed there, each grimly clasping their own rum. This was going to take time. Sailing should be more relaxing.

'Have we started yet?'
It sounded like one of those questions the kids ask every two seconds when you've just started a three-day car treck to the south of France.

Er, no.
I was still worried about "I".
Has anyone heard the gun?

'Gun'?? They looked alarmed...
This Moonlight race thing wasn't what they thought it was going to be.

Starter gun... well, horn. 'Arn...

At that very moment, the doleful sound of the groaning goat carried mournfully across the water.

'What the hell was that?'
That was the starter gun - 'arn.

Everyone turned and stared at me, and I got the impression - again - that I wasn't coping very well. That somehow, things seemed to be beyond my control.

We hadn't even started yet, and you could see some nervousness creeping in.
We couldn't even seem to find the start line, let alone get across it.
And that dying goat...
Their faces told me everything.
What the hell was going to happen up at "F"... If we ever got there!
And then, we still had to get back.

This sailing thing is tricky!

Monday, 20 January 2014


It is raining in Montego Bay today.  We are experiencing a cold front, the tail end of the weather that was terrorizing the land north of us.  I don't mind the rain most of the time, except that with a northern, as these storms are called here, we get swells in the harbour that rock our boat from side to side.  A good day to stay in bed.

The Captain and Crew have been keeping themselves busy with boat jobs and other miscellany.  One such item showed up in the bottom of a drawer in the galley.

"What is it?" you ask.
Unfortunately, another angle doesn't help much.
In case you don't already know, when the Captain aquired "Diva," she came fully furnished.  The previous owner left everything on board, leaving us the happy owners of full sets of charts, cruising guides and kitchen crockery of all kinds.

It also means that occasionally items pop up that have never been seen before, including the item above.  Post your guesses in the the comments section if you like.  (Those of you who were guests of a recent full moon sail where the purpose of our object of curiosity was revealed, don't spoil the fun.)

P.S. Plans have changed, as they are wont to do when sailors are involved.  It looks like we will be parked in Montego Bay longer than expected.  Want to come visit, anyone?

Monday, 13 January 2014

Leftover sparkles

I can't believe it's January already. I can't believe it's January and the holidays are all finished.  I can't believe it's January and I am so comfortable here in Jamaica in my shorts and tank top. (Sorry to all of you who've been in the deep freeze.  I'm trying to be sympathetic. Really.)

So let's pretend that we're not all done with fun and festivities yet and I will share some holiday pictures with you. It was lovely to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with old friends here in Jamaica.  The Captain and I definitely feel like we belong here, and so many friends in Montego Bay seem to easily accept us showing up again for all the holiday parties. It's really only the immigration officers that are fussy about these things.

Ah well, one more "home" to add to my collection...

Christmas Eve was just the Captain and I, enjoying a 'gala night' of food on the boat.  In an effort to re-create my own family's tradition of enjoying sweet and savory appetizers before we opened presents, I bought Solomon Gundy, Jamaican pickled fish spread. We always had pickled herring (or rollmops) and I thought this would be similar.  Except...what is the Jamaican's favourite ingredient?  What is my Northern European ancestors' least favourite ingredient?

Did I hear someone say "chili peppers" in the front row? Bing, bing, bing! You are correct.  That stuff was way too spicy for me and was banished to the bottom of the fridge in disgrace.

Washed away the taste of Solomon Gundy with some lovely red.  Found this wine in a grocery store in Panama and bought several bottles, of course.

Christmas Eve spread.  Note our "some assembly required" tree made a comeback this year. In addition to the fish paste fiasco, we had homemade liver pate (by the Captain), pickled artichoke hearts, smoked salmon, brie, blue, and gouda cheeses, homemade pineapple salsa (by the Crew), lots of different crackers, and pineapple crumble with whipped cream for dessert.  Just thought you wanted to know.
Christmas Day dawned warm and sunny, as usual.  We opened stockings, had chocolate for breakfast, then a lovely brunch with friends, and later dinner with more friends.  Too much good food, too much to drink, too much sitting in general - you know the drill.

The Christmas orchid, which the Captain bought for his Crew.  It's still blooming away, seemingly happy to live in our cockpit.
Gene, the host of Christmas brunch, and Richard, neighbour and J22 sailor.  Both wearing red tops, so swap the shirts and who knows who is who?

Gene's alternate Christmas tree.

Several days earlier, the Christmas lunch at the Yacht Club involved a fun day on the water with youth and adults sailing the Pico lasers. Since we have a front row seat in the cockpit of Diva, I took a few pictures and am therefore inflicting more boring sailing pictures on you.

Making sailing look easy.
The sailing day involved "tricks," so check out this video of Richard sailing backwards and Evan's disgust at being passed while going forward.  And now we know why Richard wins all the races...

Part of every good youth sailing program, the trusty rescue dingy was out and about. 

But wait, I'm sure it says YOUTH sailing - that's not a youth, is it?
Jim, J22 skipper and "youth" in disguise.

 New Year's Eve brought its own extravaganza, with a party up in the hills of Jamaica at the Harper residence.
Lighting paper lanterns - a tricky task in the breeze.

Up, up, and...

...crash and burn in a tree.  Well, this one did.  But there were others that made it to the great beyond.
"Happy New Year's!"

And a happy one to you too, wherever you are.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Television specials

I thought I would take the time over the holidays to upload some videos I took with my camera over the last eight months.  It took much, much longer than I expected to upload the files, so you are getting this post after the holidays.  For those of you returning to work today, let it be something to watch when you are still in the holiday mood and don't really feel like doing anything.

At our first stop in the Rosario Islands, we made friends with Drooley.  She hung out with us for four days and got lots of cuddles.  (Click the title of the video to read the original post.)

Drooley the boat cat:

Diva had dolphins come and play in the bow wake on several occasions in 2013.  Every time it was awesome.  This might make you dizzy, but we were traveling at about 5 knots, and the dolphins were going faster.
Dolphins on the bow:

We were deep in the archipelago of the Kuna Yala when we acquired George.  He lived in the shade under the boat, and came out to eat scraps of food that we chucked overboard. It wasn't until we had an email via the satellite phone from the Captain's sister in the UK that we realized that the royal baby George had been born the same week.

George the Dogfish:

On Red Frog Island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago we saw lots of wildlife.  Pelicans on the beach are always a favourite, since they are very dramatic as they dive into the water.  This was a whole flock of them, and we figured out why they were there as we watched waves crash into the beach and we could actually see fish silhouetted in the blue rolls of water!

Pelicans at Red Frog Beach:

On Red Frog Beach we were lazily exploring, drinking beer and wandering up whatever paths we could find.  We saw these fellows, much more industrious than us, and were quite amazed at the speed and drive with which they worked.

Leaf-cutter ants at Red Frog Island:

In Providencia, it felt like we were stepping back in time, since the island's tiny size and isolation had somehow left it out of the development game.  One evening we were entertained by a local music group, and also by the man in the video below, who was Spanish, but now living in South Africa, although he also seemed to spend a fair amount of his time on a boat in Providencia.  He was an excellent storyteller, exacting audience participation even from us, the resistant crowd. The instrument he is playing is the stalk of a papaya plant, cut only on an angle at the top.  According to him, it is most likely the predecessor of the modern flute.

The Musician in Providencia: