A PERIPATETIC JOURNEY
not all who wander are lost
The effects of the strong front that passed soon after we arrived in Turks and Caicos had lingered, mostly in the form of large ocean waves of up to 15' along the way we needed to travel. After almost two weeks in the marina, it finally looked as if the winds and seas had calmed enough for us to begin our 2-3 day passage to Puerto Rico. Just after sunrise on January 19, we left the dock, threading our way through the reef and shallow water into the Atlantic. It was an uneventful day of motoring, motor sailing, or sailing, depending on the wind and our heading. The ride was a bit rolly at first, and the kids, while not sick, were definitely a bit off.
After we were away from the islands, we put out the hand lines to try our luck fishing. It wasn't long before we caught two skipjack tuna. We let them go because we were hoping for a mahi-mahi. Not all of us care for fish and our freezer is not large, so we make sure we don't keep more than we can eat. Bringing the fish to the boat and identifying them before either releasing or keeping them is an interesting learning experience. Whenever we have a fish on, we slow the boat and Eoin watches the helm while Brian does the messy work of filleting. The girls grab our fish identification guides and try to figure out what kind of fish we have. Of course, the mahi-mahi are obvious and fortunately, we caught one next.
Due to small swells and lack of strong wind, this passage was mostly mellow. We enjoyed beautiful sunrises and sunsets and the kids did a lot of reading and drawing. Brian sighted land early in the morning on the 21st, and we were safely anchored out in the harbor at Puerto Real by mid afternoon. Brian went to shore to take care of the formalities while Kendall and the kids tidied up the boat. Once we were cleared back into the United States, we went to shore for some food and a walk. The next morning, we would tie up at the fuel dock and wait for it to open, then after filling the tanks, we'd go to our assigned slip for the week.
Some of you may be curious about passages: what are they like, what happens, what do we do with our time? Passages are thought by some to be a necessary evil; something to be endured in order to experience the destination on the other side. Others love them - the challenge, the movement, the planning. Usually it takes a day or two to settle into the groove. The adults must adjust to a disrupted sleep schedule to cover night watches, and depending on the sea state, some of us need time to adjust to the motion. Kendall and the kids begin taking their drugs of choice at least a day prior to departure (Kendall takes Bonine and the occasional Zofran, Eoin takes Bonine, while the girls take Dramamine). So far, Brian has been unaffected. We all seem to be adapting somewhat and thus far no one has felt as seasick as they did on the first passage from the Chesapeake to Georgia (well, actually Kendall was in her worst shape so far on the aborted Thanksgiving Gulf Steam crossing).
Meals also become less regular or predictable, although we suspect this is something we will get better at in time. On our passage to Turks and Caicos, for example, we made a lunch of fish tacos with our fresh-caught mahi-mahi on day one. As long as our luck with the handlines holds, we hope to have more fresh fish to eat on future passages. Kendall and Eoin eat plenty of saltines, and there is a lot of grab-and-go. For example, an abundance of granola bars, cheese and crackers, beef jerky, and nuts are consumed on passages. We try to bake banana bread or other treats ahead of time and also make large quantities of pasta and rice to have on their own or as a base for a meal.
Sometimes we have school on passage, but depending on the motion of the boat, this isn't always possible. Usually we let the kids know what they have to do for the week's lesson, and they do what they can when they can. Passage school is usually reading, math, or workbook-based exercises. Writing can be difficult on a moving boat. Again, this comes down to preference. Some families never do school on passage, while others always at least try. We hadn't held school on a passage until our trip from The Bahamas to Turks and Caicos, and so far, that is the only time. We did not on our trip to Puerto Rico from Turks and Caicos. Rather than being rigid about school on passage, keeping it optional and based on the kids' (and teacher's!) comfort level works for us. There's always time to do the work once we make landfall. Of course, the students know they can't plead seasickness, then pick up their kindles. If they can read, they can have school!
Passages can also be kind of meditative, especially if the conditions are light and we are motoring or sailing slowly in calm seas. Marin and Eoin will often catch up on sleep during a passage. Isla spends a lot of her time reading our tropical fish, game fish, and coral reef guide books. She also enjoys a shark identification app we have on our phones. Brian and Kendall try to sleep when they can; keep an eye on the weather, fuel, and charts; refine plans for landfall and clearing in (if we are entering a new country); and identify anchorages or make marina reservations.
Sometimes, we need to repair something that breaks along the way. Late on the first night of our trip to Puerto Rico, the starboard engine shut off unexpectedly (these things do tend to happen in the dark for some reason). After starting up the port engine, Brian opened the starboard compartment to see what was going on. After ruling out other possibilities, he decided to switch fuel filters. When we had the engines serviced after purchasing the boat, we had the mechanic install a second fuel filter in each engine compartment. If a fuel filter clogs while we are underway, we can simply switch off fuel supply to the clogged one and send the fuel to the fresh one instead. This "hot switch" lets us get back up and running quickly and saves us from having to do an emergency filter change at night, in heavy seas, shorthanded, etc. The next day, when there was plenty of light, Brian changed the dirty filter in the starboard engine and proactively changed the one in the port engine. We will try to describe other aspects of passages in future posts.
McGlynn family 5 (Isla, Marin, Eoin, Kendall, and Brian) sailing Counting Stars
Satellite tracking: See where we are and where we have been on this DeLorme InReach map