Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Land trip, day 1

         Thanks to the Grego's from Free Spirt who we have not seen in 2.5 years.  They offered their home to us so we did not have to sleep in 104 degree heat.  The day we were ready to leave, our ride to the airport  has arrived but the boat and the Johnson's are  not ready to go yet. Marc and I are still covered in sweat. Another cruising family has offered us a ride to the airport and has arrived. A half an hour later, quick shower, some pictures of Side-by-Side for the blog and we are finally ready to go. Thanks to the iphone, we found out the flight was delayed and had plenty of time. Otherwise, we would have missed our flight from Richmond to Salt Lake City. It is a relief to be off the boat, with the kids finally done with school.   Sabrina finishing hers in the car ride to the airport. The delay means we might miss our connection and can reconnect with our friends on Liberty in Houston. I call ahead, get everyone excited and then, darn, we make our flight. All of us were hoping for a delay and a good night sleep. Instead, we have to find a hotel. We hadn't thought about that earlier. Just before boarding, I use HOTWIRE and hope for the best when we get to SLC. Wow, what a great deal. For $50 we get a ride from airport, a suite room and a breakfast. Marc's birthday is the next day but after all the traveling, no one is prepared. He actually calls a guy who he met on the airplane last year and has a nice lunch at Charlie Chow's Mongolian restaurant while the kids and I hung out at the new modern downtown Library. With bated breath we head toward the RV in storage for a year. I had left cans and bottles in the shower and hoped I did not have a big mess. It is amazing how different a dry climate is from the humid ones on a boat. Everything was fine, even the cereal was not stale. Wind had been an issue and the cover was all cadywompus with one tire cover gone. The battery disconnection switch did not work so the rental car was used to jump the RV. For our first year of winterizing an RV, no major disasters. After a night at the Pony Express Resort we headed west.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Excitement at Sea

After an exciting father's day, we are having a very pleasant sail. At about 4 a.m. last night a squall overtook us. The wind reached 35 knots and the boat, with one reef in, handled fine. The scary part were 3 very close lightening strikes. On land, there are other good targets for lightening. On the ocean, we have a 60 foot metal object that is the only tall items for miles around. The strike was so close that Marc's hair stood on end and the boat shook with the thunder. Instead of running downwind with the storm we tried to get out of it after the close calls. In the confusion. our sun shade blew over board. It will be an expensive oversight on our part. We headed off shore to avoid the squalls.. but one got us.

This afternoon Marc diverted 5 miles (about a two hour detour) to avoid 3, count them 3 water spouts! We have some good pictures. On a positive note, dolphins have been following us today and the skis are blue. Hopefully tonight will be less exciting.

Our position is updated online, shiptrak.org, call sign kc2hcj. We look forward to hearing from you. Twice daily at 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 pm. we are checking in at 4045 on the SSB for anyone with a radio.

Angie, Marc, Parker and Sabrina

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sabrina's Leap of Faith

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Our weather guru, Chris Parker came on the SSB at 6:30 a.m. the other day and said, "all my weather models say something different and I have no idea what the wind will be like!". "However, plan on squalls to 50 knots from any direction". Nothing like that to get sailors excited. Especially sailors with kids who like to keep together with other kid boats. So over coffee and banana bread we had a 3-boat 6- adult, "where should we go" conversation. Finally, after a dingy exploration, Liberty and Side-by-Side went into Norman's Pond at high tide on Norman's Cay, Bahamas. It did rain all day but the wind was not that bad. The next day we moved to the northern Exumas. Everyday we thought it may be goodbye with our good friends on Liberty. The kids were very close and we had lots of fun, great dinners and adventures with the parents. On the day it was supposed to be goodbye, Marc got up early, looked at the wind and said, "we are going to Nassau". Liberty agreed and we headed for a surprise night at Atlantis one last time. The kids and adults had a ball on the rides and lazy river. Who knew the lazy river is more fun with a Rubbermaid lidded cup of Bahamian sky juice? Those signs that say no alcoholic beverages on the rides are not for us. Thanks Liberty! Atlantis was even playing Avatar on the big screen! Now onto Spanish Wells.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


While in the Bahamas, a rocket launched from Cape Canaveral lit up the night sky over Stocking Island, Georgetown Bahamas. The pictures show when the rocket broke the sound barrier and the after cloud. The kids said, Mom, Dad, come see this. Enjoying our wine and company we were slow to come out and look but glad we did.
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

But I don't want to tack


Family Island Regatta Race week was something that we returned to Georgetown Bahamas to watch and hopefully participate in. Bahamanian sloops are the pride of each "family" island. For 4 days, they race several races a day with exciting anchor starts, aggressive tacks at the turns and usually several near collisions per race. The sloops are hand crafted mostly wood boats with over sized masts and sails, made to go fast. The ballasts are produced by people "hikin out" on pry boards that have to be moved across on tacks and gybes. A friend of ours broke their thumb last year crewing on a boat. Marc then met the "Rev" owner of a B class boat who was 72 years old, had a 37 year old boat and needed crew. Without doing any independent investigation, he agreed to crew. So, off Marc went to the start while I followed in the dingy with Sabrina. Here is Marc to tell the rest of the story.

The boat was a "classic" and the Rev was past his prime. No two pieces of hardware matched, there had been several restorations, jerry rigs, and patch jobs to "Six Sisters". So after a 12 second training session "puu up da anca" "gim som sail" "Rev! Push it up ya gon hit da boa at ancar!" So a committee boat gave us a tow to the start as I was re rigging the main sheet line that was all knotted up between the blocks. The fact that I knew how to keep it from knotting now made me the main sail trimmer and not high on the pry board... that was a relief. A thousand feet of sail a 3:1 block and pulley ratio, no winch and just a plastic cleat that was pulling out of the deck to secure the main sheet to ...nice.

Bang! Our crew of 8 start pulling on the anchor rode for the traditional Bahamian anchor start. As this is happening the captain hauls up the sail as we bear off on the planned starboard tack. Only problem, we are the most windward boat and all the other boats below us have right of way and are pointing higher than the Rev likes to sail. To add to the excitement the port tack boats with 35' booms hanging off 25' boats are crossing on all sides. Puu it Rev, mak i hard (hardin in the main)but that could go for the jib but no distinction is made just louder yelling. CHAOS is an understatement. Did I mention our wooden mast has a crack in it at the base about a foot long? By the grace of God, he is a Reverend, we survive. The communication with our captain goes from bad to worse as the Rev at 72 does not like to be told what to do. "Why you havin may on da boat u no gonna lisen Rev? Sal da boat Rev! don' slac it Rev, Sal da boat repeat" 10x.

Now the good part. Behind the 50' high curtain of sail is another boat now approaching perpendicular and with the right of way. The English language has over 50,000 words but 80% of the conversation contains only one and it starts with F. The Rev keeps falling off and not going up into the wind high enough. Despite our captains continual "positive encouragement and coaching" we are falling off into a collision course. The captain now changes strategies and demands that we tack to avoid a collision. "Wha' ya wan tack fo? You teln me sail da boat now you wan tack? Yo all mes up!" The Rev say, "I ain' ready ta tack! I can reach da mark!"

And then from behind the curtain of sail the bow of "Hummingbird" of Long Island came T-boning into the side of our boat knocking me off the high side into the bilge as the Rev was sent more forward. Booms and masts entangled, my shades were in 5 pieces. Hummingbird is going down and we don't want to sink too so I reached up and pushed the tiller over to sail us off their boat. Within 5 seconds there boat had sunk to the 8' bottom as the wide eyed crew bobbed in the water. Tis better to be the sinker and not the sunken because you can just keep on racing hoping to get into more close calls with the Rev. After finishing next to last we lined up at the start with a foot long structural hole in the side of our boat to do it all over again. To avoid sinking we had to keep the rail out of the water. not easy to do. With team work and me planting my foot next to the tiller to keep us on track we managed finish around 12Th of 18!" In the interest of self preservation I chose not to crew with them the next day. What a ride!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The crazy sport of free diving

While in Long Island we watched, as much as we could, the first day of the world championship free diving contests. Men and women from around the world, using fins or no fins descent into the worlds deepest blue hole in Long Island Bahamas without compressed air. They hold their breath for longer than 4 minutes, risk lung damage or worse so see who can go the deepest. We met a US free diver Jared who informed us about the extreme sport. He and his girlfriend were interested in our life as we were in their sport. Jared informed us how safe the sport was. Funny, they inquired about the dangers of our life, sailing about the world in a small boat with two kids. How big are the waves, what about hurricanes? While I thought diving to 210 feet, learning to close off your lungs from your mouth, often passing out at the surface was dangerous. I guess it is all a matter of comfort. Keep me on the surface with my boat afloat.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

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Sabrina went hunting with Marc determined to land her first lobster. She has developed amazing ability to dive to 20-25 feet and hold her breath. As she tells it, she looked under a ledge and waited for a school of snapper to clear out. She could not believe it when she saw a huge lobster sitting there under the ledge Excited, she surfaced, took a big breath and went down, steadied herself and took a perfect shot. As the lobster shook violently at the end of the pole spear, she gave Marc a look at the surface.. Dad, help. Marc helped her so she could go up for air. Marc bought it up and into the dingy. Back at the boat, we measured it, it was 41 inches for end to end. It was one of the biggest lobsters ever.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Black and White


Our friends the Cases came down from Saratoga. Even with sunscreen, it is hard to avoid the sun out here. Can you tell Angie's feet from Kelly's? We had a great visit and were sad to see them go back to the great white north. Now it is the craziness of Georgetown.. 300 boats and the fun of cruisers week. We love it.
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Parker and Sabrina do their junior ranger program at the Fort San Cristobal in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Old San Juan is a jewel of a city in the Carribean.
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Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Johnson's New Years Letter

Wow, how time flies.   This is   our 4th year sailing on Side-by-Side.  The friends we made, the laughs we had and the memories we formed will be cherished for life.   As you will see, 2009 was the year of Plan A turning to Plan B then Plan C Option 2a. 
Parker, our conscientious, studious 7th grader, thrives on wakeboarding, cliff jumping, hanging with other kid boats, and non-tropical diversions such as Legos, and electronics.   He did spear his first lobster this year! Sabrina, our attentive 5th grader, remembers everything and everyone, and has become a great swimmer and snorkeler.  Whenever possible, she finds a way to get on a horse.  Several Bahamas kid-boats we met had wonderful young ladies aboard, now all good friends of Sabrina’s.  (From left to right, Kaitlin, Emma, Sabrina, Claudia, Ally and Caroline) 

With our kids  now working semi- independently on school, Angie and I spend many mornings kayaking or snorkeling.    For “testosterone therapy” I dive for conch and stalk huge lobsters.  I’m always dreaming up ideas for the next “work” stage of my life to allow for future adventures.   Angie  is the family navigator, chef, weather tracker, bill payer, and communicator.    For her, it has been the year of injuries.  She left a chunk of her leg on a tree, mountain biking in Idaho, folded her ankle over in Montana, has a shoulder protesting its every move and she got a pinched hip nerve doing who knows what.  Thank you acupuncture. Seems to be safer for her to stay on the boat!

Last Christmas, all we wanted from Santa was a new mast and sails…instead we received a denied insurance claim.    Hey kids, if you like metal and money, become a PhD forensic metallurgist like Dr. Paul, our new best friend.  First, using his electron microscope, he vindicated us with the insurance company.   Then, he agreed our newly installed rigging wire should not rust after 3 months and “encouraged” the company to make it right. I think the mast coming down was the least stressful part of the whole ordeal.   

While Side-by-Side was docked in Fort Myers for repairs, we escaped to Utah in January for some snow and ski time.  During Sundance, we caught glimpses of Cuba Gooding and Kevin Bacon.  With our claim denied, the boat repairs un-started, grandparents arriving and getting more grey hairs by the minute, we left Utah.   Finally, 6 weeks after arriving, we cast off the dock lines the second the contractor stepped off.   

From Marathon FL, sailing out of the great abyss of the Gulf Stream onto the gin clear shallows of the Bahamas Banks under moonlight was indescribable. In the morning, the sun saturated the Bahama blue water as far as the eye could see. Oh how sweet it was to be back ‘n da ilans’.  With the Johnson’s just-in-time planning, we were a whole day early to pick up the Case family for a wonderful week with them.  Dr. Chris, though, had to practice his ER skills on Marc’s head.

 At cruisers week in Georgetown Bahamas, Angie’s mom visited and joined us dancing under the stars.  We competed in the crazy events of coconut harvest (kids won, adults did not), beach golf, sand sculpture, (Parker’s and Sabrina’s entry won) and the sailing regatta.  The Mima/Side-by-Side “no talent show” entry won 3rd place and garnered huge laughs.  New to us Bahamian islands such as Eleuthra, Cat Island, and Duncan town (just try and find that one) called us.  By April, we had a flotilla of kid boats which helped fill the void when Mima went back to the States.
With a punch list on our new refit, we headed to Ft. Lauderdale in May with plans to cross to Europe. The juxtaposition of multi-million dollar yachts against the addicted homeless “living” on the benches near our boat was dramatic.    Getting that dreaded phone call, we flew to Michigan just before Grandpa Ray died at 92.  Then on to Saratoga just before the death of a dear family friend.   It was a time of great sadness and loss. 

As hurricane season was underway, we sailed Side-by-Side bound for Panama now, not Europe.  4 days at sea and 100 miles from the Caymans, mechanical issues caused a turnaround. 8 days later we fueled up in Marathon and headed to North Carolina for hurricane season.  

With Side-by-Side out of commission, it was onto plan F, get an RV!  I spotted an unadvertised 38 foot land yacht on a car lot that had been repo-ed and was priced to move in the Michigan economy.  On August 8th, we headed west supplied thanks to garage sales, thrift stores, Craig’s list and parents’ basements.  August and September in the northern Rockies was incredible. Wal-Mart and Flying J parking lots had better amenities than most marinas in the Caribbean.   Our trip started with the Corn Palace of SD, of course, then WY, ID, MT, Alberta Canada and ended in UT where we put our RV in storage. We visited 13 National Parks, friends, and even cousins and hiked, biked, learned and photographed the west. 

In October, we returned to Side-by-Side and rejoined many Bahamian kid boats for the Annapolis boat show.   The cold dismal weather pulled us south after a quick visit to Saratoga.  In November, the storms passed, the seas settled, and a voice said “carry on Side-by-Side and fair winds”. After saying goodbye to friends in NC, we did a straight 1500 mile passage to St. Thomas for Thanksgiving in the tropics with the Watts.

Since then, we’ve meandered through the BVI’s, where Angie and I first learned sailing 18 years ago.  The detour to St. Croix, USVI, the most under-rated island of the Caribbean, was a highlight of the trip.

On New Year’s Eve we were anchored in Gustavia, St. Barth; the place to be seen in the Caribbean. Anchored around us were maxi, mega and the new giga-yachts. Some with not one but two helicopters on deck, tenders longer than our boat, water slides strapped to the side that are 4 stories tall, on deck swimming pools, crews of over a dozen and annual operating budgets in the millions. And they say times are tough?  Now, we are enjoying our last cruising season with plans to sail to Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos and back to the Bahamas….. and then home.


“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” Thoreau