Sailing to Guatemala

Leaving Dock KW

The first day came and went like lamb and lion. The boat leaves the fuel docks of Key West at a leisurely pace and the point of sail is so perfect that we stay on the same tack for the entire night. But with constant wind direction, the seas begin to build. As I write this it feels like I’m in a giant shoe box rolling down an endless rocky hill. The shelves occasionally toss their goods at the boat’s floor. The crew is now on sleepy shifts holding the tiller in line with the following waves. The wind is strong enough now that we only need the medium sized jib. Flying the main would lead to dangerous jibes and lethal boom action.

It’s now the end of my sleep shift. The full moon guided Steve and Oba for the last 6 hours. Day is breaking now. The autopilot is engaged, so I’m going to make some coffee and get to work.


Day 2 Sucks

Even running to grab the laptop makes me nauseated. Bouncing around the v-berth, listening to the awful clanging of the halyard on the mast and the wind howling through the sail (still too much running and waves for the main), all I want to do is close my eyes. So I’m typing with them closed.

I am going to sound like a baby, but I don’t care. My thigh hurts from where the anchor pinched a cute little hole in my leg. My knee feels like a raw scab (later to be infected, but managed when back on land) that I haven’t even taken time to look at yet. My teeth still taste gross from the stomach acid / grits that came up to say they missed me this morning while I was riding the bow like a rollercoaster to fill up water jugs. I’m not sure which is more comforting: the dull smack of more than a ton of water on the wall next to me or the smashing of power tool bags leaving shelves in the salon behind me.

The good news: it could be worse. The bad news: it might get worse. Oranges are the only thing I can easily keep down today and thank Oba, we have a lot. It’s getting dark now and I was in the cockpit since sunrise, so I’m gonna see if I can get some sleep. We’ll be rounding the tip of Cuba tomorrow. I do hope it’s a smoother ride on the other side.

Day 3

The sun is shining and the water a luscious blue. Cruising along at about 6 knots, we approach some tall, fluffy weather systems. We were able to fly the mainsail this morning, but now drop it at the sight of possible squalls and ride once again with only the jib.

Before entering the gloomy system, a bright yellow finch-looking bird lands on our cockpit. Within a couple of minutes he flies in the boat and lands on Steve’s head. Then Dubie snags him out of mid air and he plays dead for a moment before regaining his enthusiasm. Later that night, I dig around the closet for my pancho (gift from Boots and Nail) and rouse our new bird. He joined us around Cabo San Antonio, and the last place I saw Tony was in the V-berth when I slid into bed around 1:30AM.

Day 4

Wet with mild wind. Each time we begin un-reefing the main, the wind picks up. We are past the tip of Cuba, moving just east of south. We will aim to maintain this track for about 60 more miles or 12-15 hours before heading toward the Bay Islands of Honduras.

The crew is fully in a groove, slumped around the soggy, cluttered boat, watching the days get longer and more boring.

– An Injury –
Well actually a lot of injuries. It turns out I am quite prone to getting myself hurt.

Before we even left, I was holding the anchor on the pull-pit, I carelessly let it slip and pinch my leg. Rusty + 45 lbs = ouch. I also broke my little toe on my left foot. If you’ve never broken a toe tripping over the tiller, there’s really nothing you can do but tape it to the adjacent one and wear shoes.

The first two days it was cold and wet and the night watch distracted my pea-brain so I passed out without first changing clothes. Now I have two mild-to-bad infections, the anchor pinch and a big pimple on my knee which is full of puss and giving me a fever. My instincts told me to cook mashed potatoes with canned veggies on the side.

Building the trust in my subconscious (or superconscious?) is tricky after not listening for the past 6 months. Working too much leaves little energy and focus for that faint but pure voice. My body gets round one. If I wake up with a fever, it’s time for tetracycline antibiotics.

About an hour later I decide to try the antibiotics. Then I start getting really paranoid that the handwritten dosage and FOR ANIMALS ONLY label might do me more harm than good. Clean socks soaked in boiled salt water do a pretty good job of keeping the subcutaneous fluid from hardening. I used this method for an earring infection. Coupled with half-decent nutrition, I am confident my body would disperse of the foreign civilization taking advantage of my weakened economy. The wound will take a few more days to heal, but the serious risks have been managed.

[ * * * The infection actually got worse and instead of constantly trying a new trick of the day, I just kept the surface as clean and dry as possible, as recommended by Steve. I should have squeezed the puss out of this giant pimple-looking mountain, but the pain was such that it felt like a bad idea and I didn’t want to send anything deeper into my body. * * * ]

Day 5

Last night was our first experience in the trade winds. This is what I scribbled on a spiral notebook, half asleep in the dark:

~ ~ ~ I keep waiting for the boat to break in half. Fiberglass creaks like crickets. Water rushes by the hull like a tunnel in the Hoover Dam. Wind is staying 20 knots plus. These are the tradewinds. This is the Caribbean Expressway. ~ ~ ~

Every now and then the boat lurches upwards and slams down on a wave or two, creating a constant gravitational field through the lower starboard walls. Everything shifts ceaselessly toward this edge of the boat and half of the contents are tethered to or balancing on a ledge on the opposite side. Dubious finds comfort wedging his frame against the walls of the hallway.

Stove Gimble

The stainless steel stove/oven gimbles at a 30 degree angle and is the only visual evidence of how much the boat is heeling. As I type this, I am being pressed against a wooden shelf. It’s like laying on a stick and having your weight added and subtracted every 2-5 seconds.

The mashed potatoes were a nutritional hit, so I ask my superconscious what else I’m lacking. Bread. Biscuits are voted, but I make no space for expansion and the batch ends up doughey and bland. Luckily you can’t mess up eggs and country gravy from a packet.

We’re less than 200 miles from Utila now. The tradewinds are named this because of their historical utility. It’s too bad we don’t generate power from Old Faithful. I guess tourism money counts in a way. We’ve made 4.5 to 6.5 knots and haven’t touched the sails or Otto (Our German navigator. He’s very strong! {read in a German accent}) in a day and a half. At this rate, we’ll be sailing up to the Bay Islands sometime tomorrow night.


Day 6

Our use of humor has been one of the most useful tool on this journey and this should be noted and applied to all journeys.

The examples of stress traps are silly and minuscule. A book and pillow were left in the rain. Someone caught rainwater for drinking in a bucket where a fish had been bled out. A can of sweet tea was saved until the last day and it became a debate of communism vs. private property. Anytime a small group of people are locked together for days and days, an erruption of frustration becomes increasingly imminent. We joke at every opportunity, not because anything is particularly funny, but to keep the mood as light as possible. It is a sort of self-preservation instinct and an indicator of true unhappiness. The alternative would be to scrutinize every event and succumb to the frigid realization that in the middle of a giant body of water only two types of beings exist: quick ones and dead ones.

On a brighter note, we found the ramen noodles last night, so it’s easy cooking from here on out!


Day 7

Looking at the pictures of the past seven days, I realize something. I’ve been focused most of this trip on how horribly uncomfortable it has been. The pictures spark that reminiscent feeling. Every detail resonates with a story. It’s as if this trip wasn’t about enjoying it at the time. Keeping in touch with the memories will be the true benefit.

Oba mentions wanting to read a book on sailing which I recommended at the beginning of the trip. Now at the end of the trip, he is asking very basic questions about the mainsail. My reaction is to be frustrated at his false show of interest. As I’m typing this, a book on sailing knots falls on me. Steve has always been frustrated that I won’t learn more knots. I’m a hypocrite if I believe someone should learn something they’re not interested in. Maybe this principle can be extrapolated…

We decide to make our first stop Utila, Honduras. It’s the cheapest dive mecca in the Carribean and we don’t pay anything to check in to the country.

This week I’ll be taking photos and writing about the island. I’ll figure out how to put them together on this new app so I can post them for you next Saturday.


One thought on “Sailing to Guatemala

  1. Mikey, you damn wizard. Glad to see you’re back doing what you seem to do best…exploring the world. I absolutely love reading this blog and following your journey via the Internet. Makes me want to do a bit of traveling myself. All in due time I suppose. Loved the Tradewinds/Carribbean Expressway comment, shades of Francis Drake. My sister was in Honduras a few years ago and enjoyed her time there, I trust you’ll do the same. Safe travels, my friend. Keep us updated. We’ll see you soon.

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