Monthly Archives: April 2016

“Old Friends” Simon and Garfunkle

Something personal lured us to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.  Our friends, the Garritys and Quinns, who Eulalie has known for forty years, might be spending the first week of March there.  So, two years ago we sketched the date in on our calendar and told them to hold open a couch should winds and weather conspire to bring us ashore while they were there.

As we cruised through this winter, we learned that other friends were making their way towards the Yucatan.  Barry on Seaswift, who we first met crossing the Tehuantepec on Mexico’s Pacific side, planned to stop at Isla Mujeres before completing this round of cruising in Florida, where he has a home.  Rod and Deb Merrit on Si Bella, with whom we had reggaed and Rondoned in San Andres and Providencia, were also singing Isla’s praises and planned a long stop there before heading home to Texas.  Skylark’s Ed, Elizabeth and Luna, who we met in the San Blas, also were making their way home to Maine via the Yucatan.

The winds and weather cooperated.  For the last six weeks we have shared the Yucatan’s many charms with our old friends.  We luxuriated with the Garritys and Quinns at the Luxxe, enjoying hot showers daily and dancing one fine night away.  In Isla Mujeres, Barry dinghied over for cocktails and shared his experience visiting Cuba.  He enjoyed a full moon and perfect winds as Seaswift danced him home to Florida.  The Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza provided a day’s adventure away from the sea, for Rod, Deb and us.  We look forward to hearing about their Austen reentry.  Nights of Mexican Train and heavy appetizers in Skylark’s cockpit cemented our friendship with Ed, Elizabeth and Luna.  Maine is not too far away for the Elizabeth Jean.  Listen for us on the SSB.

Too we renewed our friendship with Mexico, which had won our hearts as our first foreign port of call.

On Tuesday we received our Coast Guard permit to visit Cuba.  We sail today.

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“Passion is the gale” Alexander Pope

On the Beaufort Wind Scale, a gale is classified as: 7: Moderate Gale (32–38 miles per hour), 8: Fresh Gale (39-46 mph), 9: Strong Gale (47-54 mph) and 10: Storm/Whole Gale (55-63 mph).   As a general rule, Elizabeth Jean avoids gales.  For example, two days after departing Seattle in 2013 with Elizabeth Jean 60 miles offshore, weather forecasts predicted we would run into gales off southern Oregon.  We opted to head for Newport, Oregon to wait.

We were anchored at Isla Mujeres, when we broke our general rule.  The good news: we we were in an anchorage.  The bad: Isla Mujeres is notorious for its poor holding.

Dark clouds and nearby thunder and lightening flashing in the mid-afternoon announced the gale’s arrival.  As our wind meter climbed to 29, then 35 and finally 37 knots, the gale engulfed us.  The squall hit the same time as the peak winds, drenching and blinding us with white-out conditions.

The Cruisers’ Net the next morning joked about a night of “bumper cars and drag races” in the anchorage.  We were among many boats that dragged. During a lull, we set a second bow anchor (a first in our two and a half years) and set an anchor watch through a long “passion-filled” night.  We were spared the harrowing experience of encountering another boat, although an errant boat came down hard on two nearby boats, entangling one’s second anchor and ripping another’s bow pulpit from its deck.

Gales, as do clouds, come with silver linings.  The below photo of the entry from our log the day of the squall explains.

squall log

As the log notes, the gale’s first hit came quickly at 1650 (4:50) and lasted 30-45 minutes.  At 1700 (5:00) our daughter Jean called to tell us she and her boyfriend, Max Friedman, were engaged.  Shortly after the call, the winds built again and we spent the night taking turns on anchor watch.

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Eight Bells: Amazing Grace

A picture stands in my friends Marli and John Iverson’s living room.  Framed for posterity is a young man, his arm embracing a string bass.  In his youth, his face smooth, his hair long, the man is beautiful, as some men can be.  At over six feet tall, the man in the picture also projects an unconscious power.  Power and beauty.  Grace.

John’s good looks stayed with him as he aged well into his seventies.  Music also remained his second love with Marli always his first.  His voice, as was the man, was strong and beautiful.  A tenor, John on occasion sang in the Seattle Opera’s chorus.  John brought his love of music to Seattle Rotary #4, where he served as president from 2007-2008.  Before he took office, John chartered the formation of a musical group to reprise a band, the Rotary Rogues, which had entertained the club in earlier years.

With an enthusiastic if musically imperfect debut, the Rogues 2.0 played at John’s inaugural meeting.  After John’s presidential year ended the Rogues welcomed him to its fold.  He played bass and sang, strong and beautifully.  The Rogues’ musical prowess and commitment to service grew over time.  The band regularly played at retirement homes.  An audience of octogenarians would regain youthful energy as the Rogues reprised Sentimental Journey, Tuxedo Junction, and other old time favorites.  From the band stand, one could look out and see folks transported to another time and place, one that knew nothing of oxygen tanks, canes, or walkers.

Several days after learning of John’s sudden and unexpected death, disbelief lingered.  I had looked forward to music making with John again after Eulalie and my cruising stopped.  Not joining my voice with John’s again was beyond my imagination.    How I would miss hearing his voice.

At the Rotary meeting following John’s passage, the Rogues took to the podium to honor John.  The song choice was easy:  Amazing Grace, which the Rogues regularly sang towards the end of their nursing home performances.  John always soloed a verse, his beautiful, strong tenor true and clear.  I hear it now, as I will always when I think of John.

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“There is a river in the ocean” Matthew Fontaine Maury

Our passage from Grand Cayman to Isla Mujeres, Mexico  began with a group effort to hand line Elizabeth Jean out of her marina slip in the face of twenty knot winds that were pinning her in.  Once out of the marina and across the reef that fringes North Sound we made swift progress with winds at our back.  At dawn on our third day out, the Caribbean Current which feeds the Gulf Stream, the ocean’s river, began sweeping Elizabeth Jean towards the Yucatan Channel and away from our Mexico destination.  An hour before sunset we dropped anchor in Bahia Mujeres after learning a new respect for the currents that will play a major role in the next leg of our travels.

gulfstream

Isla Mujeres lies just south of the Yucatan Channel separating Cuba and Mexico.  The above figure shows how the Caribbean Current, which feeds into the Gulf Stream,  directly intersected our path from Grand Cayman to Isla Mujeres Mexico.

chart plotter isla

This screen shot from Elizabeth Jean’s chart plotter shows the current’s effect as we approached Isla Mujeres (covered with waypoint notations and green AIS vessel marks.  Not obvious from the chart’s scale is how far out of our way we were swept and the fight needed to get back on track.

islamujeres

After fighting our way to Isla’s southern point we proceeded up the island’s west side and into the large Northwest anchorage seen in the picture’s upper left hand corner.

gulf-stream (1)

Satellite imagery of the currents.

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