**Editor’s note: with Laurie in Austin and Damon on the boat, he’s taken the reigns on keeping up with the ship’s log. I hope he and Will send pics soon, but until then, happy reading!**
4/16/12 – Laurie leaves for Austin
After watching Laurie board her plane at the Inagua airport (where we had cheeseburgers for breakfast!), I headed back to our dinghy we had beached on an unoccupied boat ramp near the airport entrance (still there, whew…) and back to Mother Jones.
After relaxing for a few minutes, Will and I figured it was time to knock out the last of our “Jamaica passage to do list” items. So, we did the double sink-full of dirty dishes (yesterday Laurie was VERY generous and prepared several DEEEEEE-licious meals for us to munch on for the next few days), hopped in the water and cleaned the bottom of the boat (growth on boat = slower boat), checked the engine oil and tightened up the motor steering lines, and put together our “oh-sh*t” bag (the bag that contains everything vital to survival we would grab in the event we are forced to abandon ship…yikes!). Somewhere in there we got hungry and had grilled egg, cheese, and sausage sandwiches. Yum.
After all that, we treated Kemah to some much-needed beach time. Unfortunately, Jamaica doesn’t allow foreign pets on their soil, so we wanted to burn off as much of his steam-ah as we could before he’s boat-locked for the next 2 weeks.
Back on the boat, we watched a couple movies (Super 8 = awesome! In Time = awful!), ate some of the scrumptious homemade chili Laurie made for us, and went to bed around midnight.
All that’s left to do tomorrow is tidy up the boat a bit, make Kemah’s kennel a bit more accessible (in case the Jamaican officials need to board us upon clearing in), and head back over to a different anchorage where we can pick up internet signal for a final check on weather, email, etc. Oh and I need to get my boatin’ hat back from Great Orca, a 50ft trawler who is still planning on following our trail to Port Antonio. We plan on leaving at 3pm tomorrow (which will put our arrival in Jamaica in the morning/early afternoon hours), so sleeping in tomorrow is also on the agenda. Good night!
4/17/12 – Passage to Jamaica, Day One
Slept in until 8:30 this morning and started final preparations for the passage today. While getting ready to move to boat into internet range, I realized that I hadn’t calculated our nautical miles to statute miles for the trip (our GPS reads in MPH – not nautical miles- so it’s easier for us to measure distances in “regular” miles). Not that big a deal really, but it does mean we’ll have to leave sooner…like right now. Should still arrive in Port Antonio around the same time though.
The crew of Great Orca was kind enough to swing by with my hat on their way into town, so after internetting and breakfast, we’re ready to go!
Right after we pulled up the anchor and left Inagua, one of the port lifelines abruptly snaps loose. I run to the bow to investigate and discover that our “wash the bow bucket” had fallen over the side of the boat (which is why we didn’t see it or remember to stow it), and had been filled up with water and violently pulled down with each passing wave, which broke the clamp that held the line on and nearly destroyed the bucket. Ugh, that’s lame. My bad. I wired it back in place, tighter than it was before even, and will need to repair itproperly in Jamaica or Panama.
Anyway, seas were QUITE a bit larger (15-20 ft! Crazy!!) and winds stronger (20-25 kts) than we expected based on the forecasts we got. We raised our main sail only, and it’s been zooming us along at 7-10 mph. Our saving grace is that we’re going with it all instead of against it; otherwise we’d be turning back. Kemah seems not to mind either, and he did an excellent job of following my lead and commands when we ventured out on a delicate bow trip for a bathroom break.
Several hours into the trip, a USCG helicopter circled us VERY closely, twice. Then they waved at us and kept on. Not looking for REGULAR hooligans I guess.
(*not taken from Coast Guard heli, but Laurie’s plane. Mother Jones is closest to the beach – gotcha!)
We approached Cuba/Windward passage at dusk. Pretty cool to see Cuba’s mountainous landscape from like 15 miles away.
Seas and wind were consistent until we were out of the Windward and turning toward Jamaica at our waypoint. We enjoyed watching a massive cruise ship pass us then. It lit up the horizon like the 4th of July. I called the captain on the VHF to make sure he’d seen us, which he replied that he had both radar and visual contact with us, so all was good. As we turned to Jamaica, the ride got smoother as the wind and waves were now directly on our stern. We even surfed down a couple of big ones and maxed out once at, get this, 15MPH! Felt totally calm, but nutso-fast nonetheless.
At about 9pm Will and I started our night shifts, which are 3 hours apiece (9p, 12a, 3a, 6a) and the night looks like it’ll be chill from here on out.
Spoke too soon. At 3am, we realized that the batteries were completely drained because we’d been running the autopilot for 8 hours (it uses a bunch of juice, turns out) and we had too many clouds to really charge the battery today, and since we’ve only been sailing, we had no motor running to charge either. No worries, right? I’ll just turn on the gas generator and charge up the batteries. Well for the first time EVER, the generator didn’t want to start. It took me the better part of 20 minutes cranking and massaging the choke switch to get it to come on and stay on. Thankfully, no more excitement that evening.
4/18/12 Passage to Jamaica, Day Two
We’re in pretty good shape after our night shifts; after the generator problem, the night was uneventful and the seas and winds are now completely subdued (maybe 4-6 ft seas ant 5-10 knot winds). Breakfast was fruit cups, applesauce and coffee (propane ran out, of course, so I had to switch that before we could have our coffee hot).
I wanted to make sure we weren’t going to take longer than needed for this leg of the passage, so I employed our whisker pole on the genoa for the first time and it works like a champ for wing-in-wing sailing. Now we should arrive around 7am or 8am at Porta Antonio for sure.
Spoke too soon; wind completely died around 1pm. Less than 5 knots now, so we’ve turned on the motor, but only enough to make our needed speed in the hopes that it’ll pick up again. Keepin’ ‘em crossed (don’t want to motor for the last 18 hours)! We’re draggin lines now that it’s calm, so maybe we’ll have some fresh fish for our arrival in PA… that’d be nice.
Ok, no fish. Plus, at 2am, the autopilot (a.k.a. “Steery Dan”) quit working. Can’t mess with it now, just have to manually steer the remaining 9 hours to PA and figure out if I can fix it alter. Lame-o.
4/19/12 Arrival in Jamaica
We arrived at Port Antonio at 8am local time (9am to us; Why are they on central time?…). It was pretty awesome approaching this lush, cloud-shrouded, mountainous island, and we rolled right into a refreshing and massive tropical downpour. Felt good, and Mother Jones got a much-needed bath.
After radioing ahead, we pulled up and docked at Errol Flynn Marina and received instructions to wait for Quarantine (Kemah isn’t allowed on land L), Customs, and Immigration officials. Once the rain stopped, we had individual visits from each department (glad we had Kemah’s kennel on the ready). They all came aboard and did paperwork/asked questions/acted officially. It was a very easy process, and it didn’t cost anything at all, which is unusual, and great! One of the officials…shhhh…even gave me an unexpected “you COULD take your dog over here to this island and let him run around, as long as no one sees you…and you didn’t hear it from me”! We may give it a shot, maybe not…we’ll see. Regardless, everyone we’ve met so far has been super-nice, polite, and welcoming.
After we we’d been cleared in, we cast off the dock and dropped the hook just a stones-throw from the marina dock, nuzzled in-between a few other boats. This bay is well protected from all sides and has a nice soft mud bottom, so minimum scope is required for solid holding. There’s also a nice breeze flowing down from the mountains that brings a refreshing coolness through the boat.
After shutting down the boat and going on a fence-jumping mini-adventure to get a Jamaican courtesy flag to fly on the boat (and acquiring some 80’s reggae cds along the way), Will and I decided to play poker and imbibe as many celebratory “rum-onades” as we could handle until we were unable keep our eyes open. Tomorrow we will be refreshed for some Jamaican adventures proper.
4/20/12 First full day in Jamaica
Woke up feeling the effects of those rum-onades something fierce. Will and I ate egg, cheese & sausage breakfast sandwiches and then went to shore to take HOT showers at the marina. On shore, I had a strong enough wi-fi signal to make a Skype call to Laurie in Austin. Reeeeeaaaaallllly nice to hear her voice. Boat life is not the same without her. After the call, we came back to the boat to chill and maybe watch a movie or two. Proper Jamaican adventure time starts tomorrow.