Leaving Hopetown, Land of the Lotus

After only two and a half weeks in town, we had met many people we could imagine as life-long friends and could envision ourselves in the community. Without even noting the alluring, picturesque scenery, the pastel-painted houses, gorgeous beaches, and its candy striped lighthouse, Hopetown—especially before the season begins—is a charming, welcoming, comfortable place to spend a winter, maybe even a lifetime.

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Scratch the Cat on the Beach in Hopetown

A week and one day ago, we tore ourselves away from the comforts and conviviality of Hopetown.   Listening to the Abaco cruiser’s net, as we do every morning, did not make this any easier.  

What is the Cruiser’s Net, you ask? The Cruiser’s Net (CN) begins at 8:15 and broadcasts weather forecasts, announcements about local events, and “invitations,” which are really ads for restaurants around town. A couple of noble volunteers take turns anchoring the program, which lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how many people are in town.  That morning’s anchor, Will, whose voice and wit seem to have destined him for radio, told that the weather would be rainy for the next four to five days. He also informed us when, where, and how we could dispose of our trash, always a nuisance when you live aboard. A truck comes Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 8 and 10 to a specific dock. They pick up trash and recycle Bahamian beer bottles. (Don’t leave your bags there unless you see the truck, please.) Another volunteer anchor, called in to tell us about all the cool things we’d be missing if we left town: a number of country and folk bands would be performing for free at various restaurants for an entire week; the bi-weekly farmer’s market would convene the next day; and yoga classes would continue every Tuesdays and Thursdays at a beautiful art gallery on the beach.   

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Kids in Hopetown

We were tempted to stay; we love live music and relished the idea of spending more time with the people we had met in town.  Our mouths watered when we thought about the delicious greens and pasta salad we bought at the last Farmer’s market, not to mention the best blueberry muffins I have ever eaten in my life.  There also were other lures, not mentioned on the radio, such as the weekly writing group I had just started to attend, and a mahjongg group had recently invited me to learn the game and play with them.  In addition, it was Friday night, so we’d be missing the gathering of locals at Wine Down, Sip-Sip, for happy hour. After only two and a half weeks in town, we had met many people we could imagine as life-long friends and could envision ourselves in the community.  Without even noting the alluring, picturesque scenery, the pastel-painted houses, gorgeous beaches, and its candy striped lighthouse, Hopetown—especially before the season begins—is a charming, welcoming, comfortable place to spend a winter, maybe even a lifetime.  But to cruisers like us, who had come south to explore places unreachable by car or commercial airplane, it also seemed a bit like the land of the Lotus-eaters, where Odysseus and his crew risked forgetting where they have come from and where they were going. 

For the past week, we had discussed many good reasons to leave, but kept delaying our departure.  We had to take our SSB radio, the third brand-new one to blow up on our boat, to the FedEx office in Marsh Harbor, to mail it back to the guy who installed it.  We were going to be coming back to Hopetown on the 20th or so, to meet our friends on Seahorse.  We needed new snorkels and the dive shop on Elbow Cay did not have the “dry” kind we wanted, but the one on Guana did.  We had been exactly nowhere else in the Abacos since we arrived at Marsh Harbor on November 15, and it was high time we got out and about.

Exerting considerable willpower, we packed up the boat.  We gathered up all the shells and coral pieces we had collected and put them inside our five-gallon bucket, which we had left out for washing clothes.  That bucket went into the stern lazarette.  I took in all the laundry, folded and stowed the dry clothes, then hung up still wet items from the finger rail down below.  Then I picked the last clothespins off the lifelines and shoved them in a plastic bag in the compartment under the winches.  I hauled the heavy string bag carrying potatoes, squash, and coconuts down below and tied it up where it wouldn’t swing into anything fragile.  Ryan put the gin, rum, and vodka, that we leave out under the stairs heading into the hatch, into a storage locker behind the seat cushions ,and stored the smaller bottles of Braggs’ aminos, vinegar, vanilla, coconut- and tea-tree oil behind the sliding panels where we keep our dishes.  I took the coffee pot and rinsed the grounds out in sea-water while Ryan washed, dried, and stowed the cups and plates from breakfast. I gathered up all the books scattered throughout the cabin and shoved them into the too-tight shelves, smoothed and stored sea-charts, the computer, our two ipads, two kindles, and iphone, under the desk at the navigation station, after coiling up all the cords and packing them into a plastic lock-n-lock bin.  I stowed the bug screens in a mesh bag that gets crammed under the table next to the laundry and ditch-bag and stacked all the pillows.  Finally, I put all our loose toiletries back into plastic boxes or bags and shoved them into the cabinet in the head.  Then we allowed ourselves a last luxury—we dinghied over to the Hopetown Inn & Marina, whom we have paid a weekly rate for mooring, took a brief swim and then showered.  Or I did.

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Storm clouds over Hopetown

Just as we were getting into the pool, the sky darkened threateningly.  Ryan remembered that we hadn’t closed up the boat, so he jumped into the dinghy and raced the rain. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the shower.  Ah!  to stand in warm water instead of crouching in the cockpit with a bucket!  I washed my hair twice, conditioned it, and put my wet bathing suit back on without drying off.  At my insistence, we had brought only one towel, so that we wouldn’t have two wet masses getting in our way during the journey.  I hung it on a rocking chair on the covered walkway near the bathrooms and stretched while watching the downpour and waiting for Ryan.  He came back drenched.  He had reached the boat just in time to batten both hatches and screw down all six port lights before the torrent—and it was a torrent—soaked everything inside. 

The rain seemed to be in league with the lotus, luring us to stay longer in Hopetown.  It roared down well after Ryan showered and emerged in clean, dry clothes.  Since it made no sense to drown ourselves in the dinghy, and there was a perfectly lovely restaurant in the marina,  we plopped ourselves down at the bar, ordered up a couple of chardonnays and some conch chowder for lunch.  Ah! the life of the lotus-eaters!  Still we remained firm, determined despite reason to go.  When the rain petered out, we motored back to the boat, shook off the mooring, and headed out into the Sea of Abaco.  As though trying to force us back, the rain started up again and beat hard against the dodger’s plastic window, making it hard to see ahead.  Our jackets, and the bimini, the canvas roof over the wheel in the stern, kept the worst of the rain off us, but we both got thoroughly soaked within minutes.  What determination! 

Was it worth it?  Read our next blog, Adventures on Guana Cay, to find out!

Crazy water

IMG_4482There’s a certain irony to installing a water maker during a monsoon.  The rain pours down relentlessly, sometimes angrily, as though it had a score to settle with the earth, while the north wind blows white-capped waves over the breakwater and high into the streets, drowning the sidewalks and slipping over the docks. The canvas stretching over our cockpit leaks like cheesecloth, letting the rain pool into great lakes that spill down the steps every time we open the hatch.   So yesterday I bought three, blue plastic tarps that Ryan and I pulled over the boom, dodger, and bimini, securing them with bungies and string.  We blocked enough of the rain to create a kind of wet locker where we hang our rain jackets and soaked towels, as you can see, above.  Everything remains damp out there.

At least it’s now dry enough to a few hatches open.  Still, the wind screams and rips into the tarps, which shudder, snap and whip, and we have to crawl like rats through this tunnel to leave or board the boat:

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That’s our friend Larry’s yellow kayak on the dock.  It has been raining so darkly and long I can’t imagine taking it out, except maybe to navigate the brackish waters flooding the street to the only coffee shop in town, The Bean (the blue building in the photo, below): IMG_4478I rode my bike through those waters, unwisely, perhaps; but I wanted caffeine, like all the other crazy folks you see below.  The Bean looks out over the town dock and the fishing boats.

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Here’s another view from the porch of the coffee shop, looking left and south:

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This morning six large boxes from Cruise RO Water & Power, stuffed with colored hoses, long pipes, heavy, compact engine parts, and countless, airy filters, arrived at the dockmaster’s office.  We wheeled them down during a lull in the storm and unpacked them on deck, stashing the empty cartons under the tarp on the boom in case we need to send anything back.

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The water maker uses reverse osmosis to convert the sea to potable water, generating 30 gallons per hour under power from a generator small enough to store in the lazarette.  The man who manufactures these ingenious devices, Rich Boren invented them for cruisers like himself, and responds almost instantly to emails and phone calls seven days a week.  I settled on this brand after a great deal of on-line research.   It seemed to be the most economical and efficient system out there. Ryan liked it also because it runs on a generator small enough to fit into our lazarette and yet powerful enough to supply multiple ship needs.

We’re excited because all the stuff we’re doing now, such as installing solar panels and an SSB radio and water maker, will allow us to live off the grid for as long as we like (or at least until something breaks that we can’t fix).  We’re also frustrated because the rain won’t let up and the sail maker hasn’t finished repairing and cleaning our sails or sun shades and rain covers.  As soon as the sun comes out again for a reliable stretch, we’ll be dousing our cockpit canvas with 303 waterproofing and praying it will prevent us from having to deploy the noisy plastic tarps again.  But what we’re really looking forward to is getting out on the water and sailing towards bluer skies and lagoons.  It would also be nice to harness the wind to move in a deliberate direction, instead of being blown by it from one side of the slip to the other.

Sophia down below

Come take a tour of Sophia down below. See how we live in a very small space.

Hello, again friends!  One of you asked to see our home’s inside, so I scrubbed and straightened and took the following photos to satisfy your curiosity.  Welcome to our abode.

The hatch (our front door) on laundry day.
The hatch (our front door)

And here is our little sanctum, viewed as you come down the steps into our boat, a 36-foot Sabre built in 1986.

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The Salon looking towards the bow.

That’s the whole shebang, folks.  Our entire house.  But let me show you a few little details.  The table can be pushed down and fitted with cushions to create a double berth.  We sleep forward, in the v-berth, which you can glimpse beyond the hallway where you also see the padded mast.  First, look to your right and check out the navigation station.

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The nav station.

I am sitting there as I write this.  The cabinets above the control panels hold books and all our computer components and cables, while the desk opens up to store maps and pens and what not.   The seat stretches back behind me (as I’m sitting here) into the quarter berth, also a very comfortable place for two people to sleep.  There we stash our ditch bag (a ditch bag is what you hope you never have to use.  It’s your abandon ship store, with flashlights and extra eyeglasses and sunscreen and first aid, a GPS, hand held VHF, and an EPIRB, or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, food rations, and other stuff)  and my yoga mat (and often quite a few other things):

The quarter berth.
The quarter berth.

I’ve nursed the intention to get up and practice yoga every day.  More on that in a separate post.  On with the tour.  Coming into the cabin, look left and see our galley:

The galley
The galley

The hanging net bag holds fruit and onions and garlic, in mesh bags to keep out flies and to catch debris.  I have a bunch of them and take them with me to markets to avoid having to use extra plastic bags.  They’re machine washable.  Above the oven you’ll see a counter.  That slides up and down behind the oven to reveal the stove, below.  Notice that the teapot has moved!  Above it sits on a trivet that I wove out of old line.

The galley stove
The galley stove

Here’s a closer look at the “trivet” which could also serve as a block mat.  I followed Hervey Garrett Smith’s directions in his very useful The Marlinspike Sailor.  The cover of that book shows this mat in the bottom left hand corner.

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Block mat made out of old line. Very useful as a trivet! I sprayed the bottom of it with plastic, so it doesn’t slide around.

I also made this rug out of old line, which feels really good under your feet when standing too cook or wash dishes.

Rug made from old line.
Rug made from old line.

Hang on, there’s lots more to see in the galley! Here, for example, is the refrigerator, which sits to the left of the stove.  If you’re standing here, you’re looking back towards the stern.

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Our refrigerator.

The line down the center is a hinge, which allows you to lift one side at a time.  I just cleaned it, so I’ll let you peek inside.

The freezer sits inside the refrigerator.
The freezer sits inside the refrigerator.

We can make huge ice cubes in the freezer, and store them in a large Blue Avocado bag.  Here’s the other side:

.IMG_4425It’s quite deep, but slanted on the bottom; not box-shaped.  You’re looking at the upper shelves.  Underneath them I put large plastic tubs with meats and cheese on the bottom.  I also bought a hard plastic egg case from Lock & Lock that stays down in the guts, as well.  It’s the coolest thing, pun intended!  In fact, I just pulled it out to make breakfast and found that it was literally too cool.  The eggs had frozen and split their shells.  I’ll be keeping the eggs closer to the top from now on.

To the left of the fridge, there is this nifty little cutting board set into the counter, standard on all Sabres: IMG_4422Underneath it, you find the trash! Look, I’ll show you:

Yes, all boats attract cockroaches. One must be proactive!!
Yes, all boats attract cockroaches. One must be proactive!!

Behind this counter we keep spices when we’re not underway.  We’ll pack them up into plastic bins and stow them for passages.

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But check out the cool teak shelf we discovered in a consignment store.  Ryan installed it.  All the wood on board is teak, of course.

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Just above the counter is a locker:

Locker in the galley.
Locker in the galley.

Here we keep olive oil, precious balsamic vinegar, coffee, an insulated French press, and a coffee grinder.  At least for now.  I’m sure I’ll rearrange things again and again as I gain experience.

Basic luxuries. Coffee, tea, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Basic luxuries. Coffee, tea, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

It seems most things take an extra step on a boat.  Coffee, for example.  Of course I don’t just turn on the stove to boil water.   First I have to get out of the galley, open the propane locker, and turn on the gas.  Then back to the stove, where I use a lighter to get the flame going.  While the water is boiling, I grind the beans in our ecogrinder, giving my biceps a tiny workout.

The ecogrinder. Coffee beans from La Prima!!! We accept donations of Pittsburgh coffee.
The ecogrinder. It has a ceramic grinder Coffee beans roasted in Pittsburgh: La Prima!!!

We eat quite well on board, actually.  This morning, for instance, we had homemade pepperoni bread that we got at the local Farmer’s market, lightly fried in oil and dipped in tomato sauce that I made with the last of our Pittsburgh garden tomatoes.  I had hoped to make eggs in purgatory, but you already know what happened to the eggs.

So, on with the tour.  Here’s where we keep the dishes, in the cabinets above the stove.  The cooking pot belonged to my mom.  It has a strainer inside which doubles as a colander, and the lid flips over to serve as an extra frying pan.  There is a lot of storage space of top, where I keep things in Lock & Lock boxes. The cups come from Ryan’s old boat, Zenobia, and the plates were free.

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The first week we got here, an old sailor with a gorgeous North Carolina twang overheard us asking for plastic plates in a store.  The shop did not have any.

“What kind of plates d’you wa-ant?”  he asked.

“Plates that don’t break.”

“Well, I have some you can have.  Was gonna throw ’em away.  My wife doesn’t want ’em.”

“Why not?  What’s wrong with them?”

“She di’nt buay em!”

So he told us he’d leave them at the marina where he keeps his boat, and we drove out and fetched them.  They’re perfectly good plates.  The boat also came with cutlery, so we save some dollars there.  Here are photos of the other side of the cabinet, where we keep foodstuffs in, you guessed it, Lock & Lock boxes:

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Wait! There’s more!  Next to the sink there is this lid:

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It opens to reveal a deep storage space with shelves.  We keep foodstuffs that we don’t use as often, such as flour, and extra pasta sauce, in here.  And of course everything stays airtight in Lock & Lock boxes. Oops!  Looks like I didn’t clean very well.  Someone spilled coffee on the chicken broth.  I better clean that up.

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Yes, the boxes were quite an investment, but they last forever (unfortunately) and are incredibly useful.  Plus, it’s a sin to bring foodstuff cardboard or boxes on board, since they tend to harbor cockroaches and other nasty critters.  So everything that doesn’t come in glass goes into plastic.  We are making an effort to avoid creating plastic trash, and have therefore also invested in sturdy, reusable, Blue Avocado plastic bags.

There are more storage lockers, but I won’t bore you with all of them.  Let’s go admire the salon, where last night Ryan and I played a mean game of Gin Rummy. The open cubby holds a lot of books.  There’s an identical one on the other side of the boat, above the starboard. I keep my art supplies and personal items in the locker next to my turquoise hat.   Those ugly velcro strips held even uglier framed sea-themed art, which I took down immediately.  We’ll fill the space as we find stuff we like.

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Under these seats we have our water tanks and a pretty large locker where we are currently storing wine and other important drinks.  We love the conch shell decoration on the teak table:

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Looking forward towards the bow from the navigation station, you can appreciate how much light there is down below.  You can just barely make out the bookshelf above the starboard settee, underneath of which is more storage.  We keep tools there.  There are also two lockers on either side of the bookshelf.

IMG_4413In the photo above, the first door to the head is just behind the mast, on the left.  Open it, and you will see this, more or less:

The head.
The head.

Sophia came with a ridiculous electric toilet, which we hated, because it didn’t work and it seemed dumb to rely on electricity for this essential bodily function.  So Ryan tore it out and, with great labor and ingenuity, installed this lovely hand-pump commode.  We don’t use it while in port, because it’s against the law to discharge your toilet and we don’t want to fill up the storage tanks with stink.  They’re under our bed, after all.  No, we walk up to the bathroom at the marina.  It’s not so bad, we get extra exercise and keep the boat smelling fresh.

Now, there are two doors into the head; the one you’re looking through in the photo above and opposite the Tibetan curtain in the photo below.  The second door is just to right of the sink.  That one opens up into the v-berth. The Tibetan curtain covers the teak door of a large storage closet.  It swings towards the v-berth, dividing the main cabin from the “master bedroom” or v-berth.  So if we have guests, they can come in to the head from the main cabin and we can get into it from ours without having to get dressed.  IMG_4399

The photo above is taken from the v-berth.  Turn around and here it is!

The v-berth
The v-berth

The white rectangle at the top of the photo is an open hatch, draped from above with a Canadian Bugbusters screen.   We have one on the companionway as well, as you can see in the first photo. It’s kind of hard to see the whole berth with all my down pillows stuffing up the place.  I insisted on bringing them. Ryan protested briefly.  The step opens up for storage (we keep cleaning products there) and there are roomy drawers on either side.

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Step to the v-berth


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Drawer in the v-berth

At the base of the v-berth is a rug that I made of old line, just like the one in the galley.

Our friends Tom and Susan gave us lots of great suggestions for setting up the boat. They told us about Lock & Lock boxes and mesh bags for clothing.  Following their advice, we have organized tee-shirts, shorts, underwear, and so on, into these zippered bags, which store in the shelves in the v-berth.

Storing clothes in mesh bags
Storing clothes in mesh bags

Here’s how the v-berth converts into a bed.  First you insert a wooden platform that folds in half for storage (you can see the rug I made in this photo):

V-berth
V-berth

Then you put the triangular cushion on the platform:

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It’s a bed!

See that little circle at the bow?  That is a door that opens into the space where we keep our anchor, rode, and chain.  There used to be a ghastly example of chintzy marine art there, but I took it down.

Here’s the bed all made up:

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Cozy!  Don’t you think? We sleep with the hatch open so we can see the stars. In the morning we get up and look at this:

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Well, that’s the tour, folks!  Let us hear from you, now.  For more descriptions of boat interiors, follow this link:

http://themonkeysfist.blogspot.com/2014/10/sailboat-interiors.html