I believe I last left you somewhere on the south side of Puerto Rico. Where the mangroves were plentiful and I sat in blissful ignorance of what an overnight sailing passage entails.
If you’re looking to lose those few extra around that stubborn middle section, I have the solution for you! We welcome you aboard, where you can take my place on any future 50 hour passages. My previous bouts of seasickness have been minor, nothing a bit of fresh air and steady gaze couldn’t keep at bay until anchoring. I understood night sailing is a different ballgame, requiring extra diligence, caution, and stamina; however, after living on a boat for 7 months I did not really consider that I may be so ill-disposed to being on the water.
We arrived in Boqueron, PR the day before we crossed the Mona Passage en route to Turks and Caicos. Ideally, we would have had more than 15 hours to prepare in Boqueron, but word from the professionals told us the proper weather window was happening for the crossing (calm seas but not dead wind), and we were bent on not missing it. The Mona Passage according to Wikipedia is ” [an] 80 mi stretch of sea between the four islands and is one of the most difficult passages in the Caribbean. It is fraught with variable tidal currents created by the large islands on either side of it, and by sand banks that extend out for many miles from both coasts.”
Uber, i.e. Pedro, the only Uber driver seemingly servicing this area, took us to Walmart to provision before leaving. At 9am he drove 20 minutes north to pick us up, 20 more minutes north to Walmart, then waited 1 hour for us to finish shopping, so he could drive us back south– it was very sobering (the ride there with Uber cost $15, of which, he gets $10 – excluding tip). Late afternoon thunderstorms are a daily occurrence off the coast of Puerto Rico as the storms roll off the mountains; and we wanted to be far enough away from the coast to miss them. We left around 1pm, but the storms arrived early that day. The forecasted S-SW winds were nowhere to be found, but they sent their Northernly cousins as a sub-par replacement. The water moved as if it were boiling in a pot, with no consolidated direction. Thankfully, we dodged most of the rain, could motor N-NW, and the seas were only 3-4 feet : so really for the Mona Passage, this is ideal.
Once the sun went down and I lost all reference point for my position in space, the constant movement played it’s part and I was revisiting all the quinoa salad I had eaten an hour before, followed shortly by my afternoon sandwich. From then on, 7 hours into a 50 hour trip, I was useless. Anything I put down, came up. By the end of the trip I had been able to keep down a few sips of water, a couple spoonfuls of applesauce, a banana and a some pretzels. Dehydration and inability to stand without severe nausea, do not make for a worthwhile sailing partner. JB tucked me into bed the first night and manned the helm solo. By mid-morning I kept watch so he could nap, but he insisted after only 4 hours he wasn’t tired, so back to bed I went after being sick once again, and slept until nightfall. I would crawl out of bed every few hours (to a panicked sensation wondering if something horrible happened to JB while I was asleep) to solicit my services, but I don’t think JB would have admitted if he needed help to such a pathetic looking partner. He spent the second night sleeping for 15 minute intervals, and waking up to check for tanker ships. Tanker ships are the biggest concern for night sailing, especially since our AIS system decided to stop working mid-trip, and these ships do not keep a watch, or not a very good one at least (they are required to transmit an AIS signal). The first bit of daylight after the second night was an ever welcome glimmer of salvation. Just 12 more hours. JB napped and I was a bit more for conversation, until I ate some papaya — then back to the cabin, or now, what seemed like my sailing dungeon. Better it me, than JB, for I would never have been able to single-hand sail us 300 miles. It took me 2-3 days of being in the Turks and Caicos to fully recover. (I went 5 days without coffee b/c of my sour stomach for the first time in years!) If JB were to write a blog post about his sailing experience, I wonder what it would say….I would be lying if I didn’t second, third, and fourth guess living aboard and cruising during/after that. But for now, no more extended passages.
I believe we have been in the Turks and Caicos now 5 or 6 days. We are currently in a marina, given the wind swell on the shallow Caicos Bank (7-10feet) we felt more comfortable with the boat in protected waters. Arriving in Grand Turk, the inhabited island furthest east, we waited 2-3 days to sail across the Caicos bank to Providenciales. Quite a different sailing experience than the Mona Passage, or any sailing we have the done yet; sailing up to 11 knots in 6-15 feet of water can be unnerving with coral heads. Infinitely clear water allows you to see the bottom at all times, we could see the bottom in 30 feet of water under a full moon. I think pictures can tell a better story than I (since it is 1:30am, and my itch-stopping pills are kicking in. I still have hives from mangoes, I think I got recontaminated by something on the boat since we haven’t done laundry….in addition to sealice and mosquitoes). I think Turks and Caicos may be my favorite yet (probably because they have a small version of Whole Foods at a quarter of the stock but triple the price, and a juice bar and vegan cafe)…
We are going to enjoy one more day in the water here tomorrow (15 May) before heading out on Monday to the first Bahamian island. The cruising permit there is $300, so we were hesitant to go for such a short period of time. Since I can’t do another long passage, allowing us to skip The Bahamas for the Florida Keys, it will take an additional two weeks to skip up the Bahamas chain. JB has started studying for the Washington state Bar, from a hammock, and we are currently having a little weevil crisis that has me a little worried and skeeved out…. I am a little anxious to get home and spend time with family but there is a season for it all.
Oh! and we are officially registered as Ahimsa with the Coast Guard!!
Love to you.. JB & KB