18 April 2010

Jessica Watson

Today I'm anchored in Clearwater, Florida, having decided I didn't have time to make it into Tampa Bay before dark. Ever since threading the needle into Cedar Key in the pitch dark, I've been over cautious about getting to an anchorage before dark.

Today, I found the perfect anchorage, and then decided to try for something just a wee bit better... Oh bitter irony!

But I'm not emotionally ready to tell that story yet. Maybe later.

Meanwhile, I don't know about you, but I've been following Jessica Watson's non-stop sail around the world ever since she started. Here's a link to her new blog location:


I don't want to compare my little voyage to her's but three things in her latest posts popped out at me. I figured I'd share them while I stew about my 'perfect' anchorage. Grrrr...

First, in "Headwinds and More Lightning", Jessica is dealing with a knockdown in a ferocious, lightning-cleaved gale, when she notices that the cabin is being flooded through the sink. She'd just opened the sea cock before the gale struck, thinking the weather was settled enough to open it.

I could really relate to that. Every day at sea, tired or not, you make dozens of decisions. You try to think them through, try to anticipate problems, try to make the best decision possible, given the situation. But every once in a while, things just don't work out as you planned. And when one thing goes wrong, you can bet your marlin spike that 2 or 3 other things will go wrong at the same time. Usually at the other end of the boat. This is called chaos.

That's when you go into triage mode, dealing with the most urgent problems first, while keeping a wary eye on the problems you can't reach, yet.

Chaos on the wing of an airplane
photo NASA

Later in the same blog post, Jessica mentions her damp bunk and how she's looking forward to finally sleeping in a dry bed.

One decision I'm very happy with is choosing a good quality vinyl cover for my home-sewn bunk cushion. There are two schools of thought, when it comes to bunk cushions, with the pro-vinyl group stressing it's water-proof qualities, and the anti-vinyl group concerned with clamminess and lack of breathability.

In the end, I went with the Pardey's recommendation from the pro-vinyl group, and I am so glad I did. While lots of things on this boat are damp, my bunk is not one of them. I find the leather-like texture perfectly comfortable, and haven't had any problems with moisture buildup under my sleeping bag at night.

And when I put my wet feet on it, or spill some milk on it (as I did yesterday), it's a huge convenience to be able to just wipe the wet off.

In "Slow Sailing, Stitching and Fog", Jessica complains about her 'bruised and tender hands'. Wow! This is one problem I share with her, and it's one I never read about in any sailing books, and never anticipated.

Your hands take quite a beating while sailing every day, and it is true -- they get so tender you don't want to pick anything up. Of course, in the next instant, you are dragging away at a rope that wants to yank you bodily to the top of the mast. Gloves help, but they are awkward and uncomfortable to wear all day long, especially the ones that really help, which tend to be tough and water proof. They eventually turn green inside... Yuck. I haven't figured out a solution to this one yet. Any suggestions much appreciated. At the moment, I'm hoping my hands just toughen up.

Finally, while stitching her torn sail back together, Jessica congratulates herself on not dropping a single needle overboard.

After dropping my only whipping needle overboard a couple days ago, I knew exactly what she meant!

They say that the sea is the Mother of everything on earth, and I believe it! The proof is in how every object on a boat seems to want to get back to it's Mother via the quickest and most direct route possible.

The incident also made me start thinking about:

1. How you want to secure all the things that you really, really don't want to fall overboard, like my rigging knife, which I use several times a day, and would really, really miss if it successfully escaped my grasp.

2. How you should have spares of the things you absolutely cannot do without.

My list of 'must haves' is fairly short, so far, and include:

  • my simple Garmin 72 GPS - this is about the simplest GPS you can buy, but it does everything you need. I like to chart on real paper charts, and take bearings on things, and do 'real' coastal navigation, but for finding an anchorage in the pitch dark, you can't beat a GPS.
  • rigging knife - several times a day I find a knot that I tied too quickly the day before. Knots get terribly obstinate when they are not given the attention they deserve. The marlin spike at the end of my rigging knife spares my tender hands. 
  • folding seat - the Blue Moon has a relatively large and comfortable cockpit, but the folding seat that I bought from West Marine a couple years ago makes long hours in the cockpit MUCH more comfortable. In particular, it makes it possible to sit FACING FORWARD, instead of the usual sitting sideways, with your head turned to the right or left all day. I have one for on deck and one for below, which I use to turn my bunk into a comfortable place that I can work, sitting up (like, right now.)
  • iPhone - the ultimate tool and toy. From fabulous weather applications that I use every day, to podcasts, music, and audio books for keeping the crew sane and in a good mood, you can't beat this amazing product. Life is too short to live without an iPhone, in my totally unbiased opinion :-)

The indispensable West Marine folding seat
photo jalmberg

Okay, so I'm ready to talk about my 'perfect' anchorage...

As I said, I found a great anchorage in Clearwater, was ready to drop the hook in 8' of water, and then decided it looked just a bit better over there...

Unfortunately, there wasn't quite as much water over there. Somewhat less than 4', in fact. About 1/4" less than what I needed. And of course the tide was going out...

They say you haven't really cruised in Florida until you spend a night aground. Well, I guess I've really cruised in Florida, now.

By the way, those folding seats also come in handy when your boat is heeled over at a 45 degree angle, I can tell you! Marvelous to be able to wedge one into a vertical angle on the cabin floor where you can't kick yourself.


At least that's one problem that Jessica Watson doesn't have to worry about!

Cabin Boy helped me put out an anchor in deeper water, and I was able to pull myself off the bar at about 2 am. Another lesson learned the hard way!

Next Episode: Jumping Dolphins, Batman!

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  1. Hi John,
    Hang in there! Statistically speaking, you were due to paint-mark the bottom at some point on your voyage- now it's out of the way!

    Regarding hand care, get a pair of cheap framers gloves- your hands will thank you. Pics at link below:

  2. I find the fingerless gloves with leather or synthetic leather palms & fabric backs are comfortable long term & never sail without wearing them - REALLY hate rope burn

  3. Racing mits are great. Open weave on the back and greenhide on the face where the work gets done; and no finger tips covered so they breathe and never turn green inside. Take 4 pairs. They wear out - better that than your hands. Chris.


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