Night watch: “Aieres eyes”

Zodiac followers describe Aries’ eyes as sharp, alert, intense and very focused.  Such eyes are particularly apt for night watch, when alone on deck in the wee hours vigilance is particularly important.  Aries eyes of a different sort, coincidentally, played an important role in Eric’s night watch ritual.  Over four years, our division of watches for night passages fell into a comfortable (or at least routine) pattern.  Lal would stand the 6:00-9:00 pm (dog watch) and 12:00-3:00 am watches.  Eric claimed 9:00 pm to midnight and 3:00-6:00.  Eric often used the artificial stimulus of audio books and music to keep alert (i.e. awake).  As sunrise approached, Aries Eyes, a stunning trumpet solo by Seattlite Alan Vizzuti would augment the sun rising over the eastern ocean.  The confluence of nature’s gradual and finally blazing awakening with Vizzuti’s quiet to soaring brass is enough to make a grown man weep (at least one grown man).  Eric’s journal notes his last night watch after rounding Cape Hatteras with a pledge that he will not forget such mystical moments.

To savor the magic, click on the link below, close your eyes and imagine a wind rippled sea, sunlight creeping over the horizon as Vizzuti’s horn makes its climatic cry.





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The Captain’s Burden

Over a beer following our first season of cruising, I debriefed with a good friend, a navy man who had spent years of his life at sea, many of them in command.  In response to his question regarding what we had learned that first year I shared with him the extent to which Eulalie took to heart her captain’s role.  It appeared, as I recounted it, the weight of her role was a hard thing for her to set aside.  My friend, in turn, confirmed that this burden was real and could be relentless.  He confided his own methods for shouldering the weight and the palpable relief that followed his last sea command.

As co-owner and partner in our travels, I shared much of the burden.  Yet, a part was uniquely Lal’s—the Captain’s burden.  For shouldering that extra load she has my respect, gratitude and love.

Last Monday, Lal celebrated her birthday—hundreds of miles off shore.  In a not altogether surprising turn of events, Lal accepted Luiz Goncalvez’s offer to help sail Elizabeth Jean another 1300 miles to her winter cruising grounds in Antigua.

Happy belated birthday Captain Lal.

Lal at a particularly dramatic moment in the Panama Canal.  Off camera a Canal Authority Tug has just gunned its engines pushing Elizabeth Jean towards the canal lock wall.

The blue dot 0001 marks Elizabeth Jean’s position on December 11, the good captain’s birthday.  If it looks as if they are pretty far off shore it’s because they are, on a direct course to clear Puerto Rico and reach the Caribbean’s windward islands.

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“The two happiest days” Traditional boaters saying

It would be inaccurate to say that the two happiest days of our lives with Elizabeth Jean were the days we bought her and the day we sold her.  Our happiest days have been with her doing what she does best, rising and falling easily with a ten foot sea, eighteen knots abeam filling her sails.  The quiet days at remote, sun washed anchorages have been pretty awesome as well.

At the same time, we would not be completely honest if we said we felt no happiness when Luiz and Priscilla Goncalvez responded to the ad listing Elizabeth Jean for sale.  Both had worked extensively on sail boats, including the 107 foot luxury charter yacht Inukshuk.  Luiz, a dual citizen of Brazil and Italy, has crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a variety of crafts 14 times.  During Elizabeth Jean‘s survey, he calmly took in the surveyors’ comments about vessel and faithful Perkins, both showing their 32 years of use as well as our care.  His experienced ear heard the bottom line–Elizabeth Jean was ready immediately for further adventure.   The Goncalvez adventure will include their two year old son; the sails in the aft cabin will make way for more precious cargo.

We have no doubt that Elizabeth Jean will readily catch on to Portuguese and Italian, as well as the higher pitched chirps of a toddler.  Too, she will adjust readily to new seas, the Mediterranean, South America?  With her new owners we can only imagine.  We are delighted and yes, happy to pass on our stewardship of this special spirit to the Goncalvez family.  We will never forget the time that Elizabeth Jean spent with us and the happiness that remains in her wake.

Inukshuk, a Baltic 107, has prepared the Goncalvez family for their adventure aboard Elizabeth Jean.

Elizabeth Jean with her once and future owners, a happy bunch of souls.

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“Not dead yet” Monty Python

You read the post with the anchor in our Seattle yard.  You read the post of the rainbow and our return to the Emerald City.  You read the Parting Glances haiku.  Surely, the voyage is over and the blog has struck its final chord, you might be thinking.  Well as Monty Python would quip, “Not yet!”  There is some final accounting to tally and a few last tales to tell.  Thus, the internal voyage continues and you are welcomed aboard.  In our last blog (which will be labeled as such) we will sing the Elizabeth Jean Sea Chantey one more time.

For those who are or are not familiar with Monty Python, the famous “Not dead yet” scene can be seen below.


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Parting glances: A Haiku

We left Elizabeth Jean in early October.   Our last image of her, tied in a slip, under a grey fall sky, a “For Sale Sign” secured to her lifeline uncomfortably lingered.  Her future fate was largely out of our hands.

Parting glances: A Haiku

Tugging at her lines,

As a horse tightly tethered,

Waiting to be freed.

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“Under the Rainbow” With apologies to Dorothy

Dorothy wished to fly over the rainbow, but in the end concluded that there was no place like home.  Thus, it was somehow fitting that a rainbow arched over the Kittitas Valley wind mills  as we descended into Ellensberg, a scant hour and a half from that most emerald of cities, Seattle.  Rainbows on land, as porpoises at sea, harbinger good luck for Elizabeth Jean’s crew.  The rainbow grew brighter as we turned west towards the Cascade Mountains.  As we crested the mountains, rain beat down on our ruby red Rav as she conveyed us home.  Flame hued bushes lit the evergreen slopes.  Soon we were at sea level, having completed the third of our three cross country road- trips in two months.
The red highlighted route shows our path in September from the east coast to Seattle.  The blue route shows our return east at the end of September and early October with boat gear.  The green route shows our final path in mid-October.  Thanks to all our friends and family who made time for us in their busy lives along the way.
Eric is smiling because he was able to retrieve Elizabeth Jean’s carefully wrapped and stored doors without unpacking the entire storage unit.  If it looks as if he is about as far back in the unit as he could be that is because we intentionally stored the doors deep in the storage unit because we would not be using during our voyage.  It seemed to be a good idea at the time.
We didn’t find munchkins, but we did find trolls in Mt. Horeb, self-proclaimed troll capital of the world.  You can find the trolls in Wisconsin on the blue route.
We spent the Columbus Day weekend working the Passport booth at the Annapolis Boat Show.  In the process we became friends with the team that is helping us find a good home for Elizabeth Jean.
A huge rainbow pointed our way to the Emerald City.
Fall colors glistened as seasonal rains welcomed us to the Cascade Mountains’ west side.
Our new friend Joan, office manager of the Passport dealership, awarded us the Chutzpah trophy.  A number of our friends just called us crazy for our cross country travels.
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“Sitting in limbo” Jimmy Cliff

Almost four months have passed since we secured Elizabeth Jean to a dock in Hampton Virginia, just in time for a squall to wash clean her salt-rimed decks. These four months have at times had that “caught “in-between” feeling of which Jimmy Cliff sings. At the same time, 120 days (about a year’s third) have eased us from seafaring to a less salty, but equally rich life.

In July, we joyously celebrated daughter Jean’s marriage to our new son-in-law Max. July began our new OPB (Other People’s Boats) voyaging mode as we helped our good friends on Bonni Jean II, a well-appointed 44 foot catamaran, transit from Annapolis to Long Island Sound. July ended with us back in Annapolis facing the heart-tugging and mind-numbing task of removing our belongings from Elizabeth Jean to prepare her for sale. On August 25 we spent our last night on our sweet ride and drove off all lump-throated in RAV, our new-used Toyota land yacht. We ended August gamely spinning at Soul Cycle in Brooklyn with daughter Beth.

For our vessel decommissioning and meandering passage west to Seattle, we reactivated the friends and family bed-surfing plan that we perfected after our first cruising season. To all who recently welcomed Elizabeth Jean’s crew into your homes and helped us re-find our land legs, a hearty thank you. Mariners who are tired of the sea joke about walking inland with an oar until someone asks what it is. There they settle, safe from the sea’s charms. On September 24, we planted Elizabeth Jean’s original anchor (an oar would have been easier) in front of a snug little house just north of Ballard. Everyone in this Seattle fishing community and pleasure boating center knows precisely what it is. The sea is within whispering distance; she calls us still.

To hear Jimmy Cliff reggae us down the road click the link below:

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Heading Home: A Haiku

Gibbous moon above.

Scorpio rising astern.

Gliding, homeward bound.

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Day 6: “Everything that slows us down . . . is a help” May Sarton

The great capes are weather pivot points.  As we rounded Cape Hatteras, cool moist air enveloped us.  We added layers to the tee shirts and shorts that had been sufficient to the Cape’s south.  The sun inched up over the horizon, joining the moon which had risen late and remained high in the sky.  Cape Henry, the entrance to Chesapeake Bay lay less than 100 hundred miles away.  At 6 knots we would enter the commerce-dense Bay in darkness.  We preferred day light.  As the south wind gusted to twenty knots, we reduced our jib to a napkin.  Elizabeth Jean mosied her way up the Outer Banks at a leisurely 2 knots.  Slowing down helped us savor Elizabeth Jean‘s last day on the Atlantic Ocean.  With daylight’s arrival the following morning we passed the Bay’s fishing fleet putting out to sea and joined the cargo ships and naval vessels entering the Bay.  Around 1300 (1 pm),  we tethered Elizabeth Jean to the fuel dock at Salt Pond Marina in Hampton Virginia.  Four hours later, the squall hit.  The torrential rains and arcing lightning, when viewed from our secure dock, reminded us of our decision six days earlier to leave the Bahamas rather than linger and shorten our weather window.  Had we stayed in the Bahamas we would have been weathering the storm rounding Hatteras. 

Rounding Hatteras brought cooler weather.  Eric reviews possible marinas on his iPad and in the Waterway Guide for Chesapeake Bay.  Go Hawks!

Ocean Jedi, Aircraft Carrier #69, steamed towards Norfolk as we made our way to Hampton.


Elizabeth Jean, secure at Salt Pond Marina, over seven hundred miles from the Bahamas just hours before the squall hit.

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Day 5: “Elizabeth Jean in her element” Captain Sullivan’s note in the log

By midnight at the beginning of our fifth day out from the Bahamas, the wind was gusting up to 16 knots, rewarding our earlier faith in its return.  Elizabeth Jean’s reefed main and full jib powered us along at seven knots; Perkins rested.  Much of South Carolina’s coast was now behind us.  The coastline jutted northeastward into the Atlantic, shrinking our distance from land.  Cape Fear, north of the South Carolina–North Carolina Border was under 100 nautical miles to the east, northeast.  Shortly after sunrise, we altered course towards a safe point off of Diamond Shoal, the beginning of the long passage around Cape Hatteras.  The morning weather forecast predicted another two days of good sailing before the cold front that would close our weather window arrived.  Our VHF radio, silent for much of our passage, hummed with reports of naval maneuvers, Coast Guard reports, and towing activities.  Cargo ships, also on their way to Cape Hatteras, accompanied us at a safe, but imposing two mile distance.  By 2100 (9 pm), Elizabeth Jean was nimbly gliding over the three to four foot seas with the wind gusting up to 27 knots.  As the midnight watch began, only the stars in the moonless sky and the Cape Hatteras Light abeam studded the dark, dark night.  Elizabeth Jean had rounded the fabled Cape in style.

Hatteras winks at Albatross as he hovers above North Carolina.  Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC.

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