Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Just one of those big blue blogs...

This was the whole point of it all guys, so sorry if it seems like bragging but...

Hard work needs a little admiration to sweeten the deal... (Isla Mujeres, Mexico)

Mexican walls through the looking glass... Could you live with a little less if your back garden gate looked like this?

That's the shadow of our sails leaving Isla Mujeres

Cancun from a distance, we certainly aint stopping there...

It seems obvious where the pass between the reef was from this side...

Duncan auditioning for Miss Belize 2013; we're enjoying sewing our own courtesy flags en route, from charity shop t-shirts we picked up in all necessary colours.

Off with the Mexican, up with the quarentine Belize.  We checked in at San Pedro, Ambergris cay.

Rowing in an inflatable, it's tricky to get a straight square photo but here's to plenty of time to work on it; there is no doubt it will get bigger and bluer as we go on...

This evening, having successfully checked in to our holiday destination, we've been catching up with some radio 4 podcasts and are now listening to a full on Dusty Springfield bliss out.

Just you wait for the phosphoresence photos.... c'mon, we've earnt it!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Homeopathic beer...

I think one of Englands' great attributes are its pubs and for that matter the beer that is sold within them.  As the seasons change, so do the styles and taste of the beer that is sold.  If I had to write a list of things I miss most about not being in England beer and pubs would be pretty close to the top of it.

Why do I mention this?  Well our fridge is working.  Now, as neither of us has lived with a fridge for collectively about 19 years we are a little unsure of what to put in them.  The obvious stuff; meat, butter of course, but after that...  There is always beer.  Not that English beer is overly cold, we rely on our climate for that.

America has some fine beers too and one that we have particularly come to enjoy is from the Sierra Nevada Brewery.  We stocked up with a crate before we left, we were also given some really nice beers from some friends as a leaving present, but these are special occasion beers so we're trying to make them last.

So to celebrate our fridge working we went and savoured the local brew with the idea of purchasing a few.   We bought a selection of different cans and went and supped them on a nearby wall overlooking the sea. 

'Whats yours like?'  I enquired of Ruth? I could tell from her face the answer was not going to be positive. 

'Doesn't really taste of anything, very fizzy though. How about yours?' 

'Same' I replied. We swapped cans and agreed. 'Its like there is a faint taste of beer but its been so watered down you can hardly taste it, homeopathic beer, mostly water with a hint of bitterness.'

We returned without any; still with the nagging question of what to put in the fridge which will perform far better when full.  For now we have filled it up with water for drinking and have bought a couple more ice trays so we can really churn out ice.

I wonder how we ever managed to live for so long without the luxury of cold water and ice cubes.  Then I remember the amount of time and money that was spent upon our fridge and pour myself another glass of water. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

First impressions of an offshore voyage...

We made it!

I thought I'd just jot down a couple of my first impressions from our first trip while it is still fresh and before we get absorbed in the new 'cruising' way of life here in Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

So we left Galveston last Friday morning and FINALLY headed into the big blue. Now it's Sunday nine days hence and we've just got in.

What took us?

When we left we said we'd be at least a week to our nearest and dearest but I now see that Dunc's deliberate vagueness is the way to go. Of course people want to know when they are 'allowed' to start worrying, but this emphasis on time does not fit with our way of sailing.

Nothing went wrong on our trip... well, that patently isn't true, but the sentiment is; loads of things needed our attention as we went along, but nothing impeded our journey.

The reason it took us nine days to travel what could have been around 650 miles is that we really like sailing.   Listening to the engine rumbling away, we like less.   We're pretty confident that once in favourable winds Impetuous could easily clock off 120-150 miles a day.   However, the path that we needed to take across the gulf of Mexico was not such a trip.

The wind was constantly varying it's strength and direction, though more often than not coming from the South, the East or somewhere in between.   Since our path to the Yucatan channel between Mexico and Cuba was a definite South-East this meant if we wanted to sail, we couldn't go straight there, we probably did several hundred extra miles.   This presented no problem to either Duncan nor I; we were here to go sailing, not to get there quick; just wish I'd told my mum two weeks!

So, do I like it?

This was, for other people, by no means a given. I am not an experienced sailor, but I really did just 'know' that I'd love it.

Did I get seasick?

The fact that I've been horribly sick most times I've been out on a boat (away from our sedate canals that is) was only a minor concern to me. The fact that I've always loved these trips despite being sick has always been an indicator for me just how much I love the sea.

One such trip that particularly sticks in my mind was whale watching when I was nine; I spent the entire time sharing the toilet with my poor mum, but when my mum was in there, I could snatch a weary look out at the ocean and the whales...before returning. It was my highlight of our three week holiday!  Also, my learning to dive program 'down under' included a three day dive trip on the Great Barrier Reef; I remember being up one night leaning over the side feeling retched, when I thought, 'it's slippy and rough, if I fell over, no-one would know I was missing until tomorrow...' this is great!   I love that feeling of being alone and knowing the responsibility is mine.

As it happens, and I can't really explain it, I was not sick once. Sure I felt queasy several times but nothing a lie down or a spot of being outside in the wind couldn't fix.  I can only hope this continues.  Our boats' motion is very gentle and feels reassuringly stable.  Even when slamming into big waves heeled over, she just felt solid and fine. We'll have plenty worse to come over the years so I'm ready for this to change.

Did we get bored?

No no no no no. There was loads to do, though we didn't do many of the jobs we could have done, we just enjoyed the boat. I still love sitting staring out to sea with an empty head and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Did we have any strong winds?

We had two patches; when two reefs and just the staysail were plenty. I had expected the weather to be bad at times during this trip, so what we got was a pleasant surprise.

The first blew up thankfully whilst I was asleep and which Duncan dealt with the worst of without ever needing any help. It continued to blow hard for 36 hours and the seas got quite big, but it just felt expected, and a bit exciting!

The second blew up fast when we were in the bay of Campeche. We were unsure about which way to go at the time so the weather helped us to choose to head back out, ENE away from the short choppy waves.

In the worst of it, the boat noises; crashes, bangs and shudders; feeling the boat get knocked this way and that, was of course concerning, but very soon I got accustomed to knowing that Impetuous could handle it, no problem... could I, outside helming? I should think so.

Best bits

I love being at sea just as much as I thought I would and wish the trip had been longer.

I was delighted that I could still be well enough inside to cook some of the time and eat Duncan's lovely creations, so we had some excellent slap up meals.

'Beryl' our Aries windvane; once we got the ropes around the right way (oops) she worked brilliantly. It's amazing to just leave the steering to her and know that she almost always does a better job than I could!

We still like each other, see bad bits...

My confidence is growing all the time in sail handling and knowing what to do; though I still need a bit more practice before I want to be the one that goes on deck to reef when an unexpected squall hits...

We're both so proud of all the work we've put into our boat and are now able to enjoy her where she should be!

Bad bits

In nasty seas and strong head winds, our boat doesn't sail very close to the wind. Our enormous genoa rolled up amplifies this. We have always intended to have the traditional cutter rig for which the Alajuela was designed, but have only so far got the sails which came with the boat. Once we make a new smaller jib and modify the staysail we think she will fair much better. There was a whole day and night when we were tacking back and forth struggling to get her to point closer to the wind and in the end we had to be happy with not going backwards. The waves were making steering a careful close course difficult and knocking back any progress that we made.

I got a bit pouty when I saw that Duncan was going to spend the majority of his time reading and not hanging out chatting or teaching me this and that. After a little strop I realised that that's fine; I like my space too and we've bought the Glenans sailing book so I've got a big wedge of french wisdom to draw upon when I've got questions.

Water, leaks and sogginess. The worst leak was our front hatch which at one point literally poured in with each wave that crashed onto the bow. This was not unforseen as we hadn't gotten around to weather stripping it or putting the second clasp on. It is being worked on and hasn't leaked for a few days... The general sogginess of everything gets me down much more than Dunc, who has grown used to his wooden boat; he says that when she is sailed hard that there is usually a constant stream cascading down the inside of her clinker built hull.  Impetuous is apparently quite a 'dry' boat so I should learn to be pleased...  Since we had plenty of fine days in which to air and clean up, I managed.

We'll post some blue water photos and a bit about where we are in the days to come, but for now, I'm eager to go find a COLD beer (still not fitted our compressor for the fridge... maybe tomorrow)

Friday, July 12, 2013

So long Texas, and thanks for all the shrimp...

We sailed down to Galveston last night and anchored off the marina here.  As silence was restored after motoring into the wind, our dolphin playmates continued on their way.  When the boat settled a crackling noise appeared to build and grow.  We cautiously hoped it was the barnacles we'd accumulated in the fresh water being horrified by the saltiness of our new surroundings and giving up the ghost.  We're told it was in fact the sound of cavitating shrimp who are very enthusiastic swimmers.  They squirt out water to propel themselves along so fast that it produces bubbles which in turn pop on the hull; like natures equilvant to a jet ski and no less annoying when trying to get back to sleep at four in the morning.

We woke to see the shrimp boats out in force as gulls flocked around them hoping for a feed.  We'll miss the shrimp we got here, we've consumed pounds of them and could recount all the ways you could cook them a la forest gump.

So this is it, the time has finally come; we just cleared out of customs and we're off!

Its been a lot of work to get to this point and there's plenty more to come, but for now we're ready to go and play in new playgrounds!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Welcome Aboard


Three weeks ago we had a leaving party. We invited all who have helped and supported us over the years whilst we have been here working on Impetuous.  With the impetus of knowing that lots of people would be looking at the boat inside and out we scrubbed and cleaned our home into a presentable state.

Of course we didn't leave after the party, we rolled up our sleeves (metaphorically you realise, one doesn't need sleeves here unless they're to keep the bloods sucking bugs off you.)  One long list of jobs remained. Once more the boat returned to chaos as we worked through our list, tools and debris once again were scattered across the boat.

Only this time it was worse; we were packing as well.   As lockers were emptied to get to whatever may, or may not be lurking at the bottom needed to finish the current job, it couldn't be repacked until we had decided what should go back in. We packed and repacked, shoehorning more and more of our stuff and supplies in.

Over the last few days I'm pleased to say the dust has settled, been swept away and once more revealed our shipshape boat, so we thought no better time than to take a few photos and give you a little tour.

We often say that we didn't do much to the inside of the boat.   Perhaps compared to the work that has gone on with jobs such as painting, building a rudder, bowsprit and mast, what we have done inside has paled into insignificance.  However, the storm surge that took the afore mentioned items was not selective. Interior doors, cupboard fronts and trim were also washed away, but not completely, so whatever needed to be replaced had to be done so with an eye to what remained.
None more frustrating than the round over; though I should make absolutely clear it is not round; on the drawer and cupboards door fronts. Copying this detail has pushed my wood working ability to new levels.

There is still plenty to do.  But not here. The 'didn't you have your leaving party three weeks ago' joke is starting to wear thin.  We have the most important things and all the others can be added and tweaked in the future.  We've finished the hatch, toerails and lifelines and now have a hank on staysail; the table, cupboard doors, hard dinghy and refrigerator can wait.  Our attention is drawn away from work on the boat and is focusing upon studying the weather and considering our route to our destination for this year.