This introduction will try to provide some background and answer some questions raised by people reading the transcript of my Captain's Log.
The Captain's log is from a passage I made from Florida to Mexico and Belize in a 16' hydrofoil trimaran which I temporarily named "Further" (the owners later chose to keep the name in honor of the trip, and they just liked the name). It is primarily just the detailed, daily story of the events. I also wrote a Ship's log, more concerned with times and positions, and my personal journals, which contained my thoughts and reflections. I have included on this site both a schematic of the boat and copies of two charts showing the Gulf crossing and the coastal area I cruised.
I have also written a critique of the boat, detailing the problems I experienced and suggesting improvements. Because it is such a great boat in concept and design, it's failings are unfortunate, simply because they are avoidable, whether the bad quality control in construction or simple practical details that slipped by in the development process. If it is meant (as I read in some of the literature) to be more than just a toy and a practical boat in all conditions, then it should have been capable of all I put it through, and should have as much care given to the stresses of displacement sailing as well as foiling. If nothing else, its not that hard to do. Like climbing a mountain, you risk your life anytime you venture onto the sea, even if it is "recreation". Those levels of quality in workmanship and design must be met. However, problems and flaws like I experienced should be expected. It would be quite exceptional for there not to be problems both in a revolutionary design and the initial production boat developed from it. They in no way detract from my over-all high opinion of the boat, it's designers and builders.
It started when Jerry and Trina showed up in Key West on a 16 foot trimarran. It was practically an experimental job (theirs is #5) that planes up on hydrofoils given the right conditions and does 20 to 30 knots without any problems. A sister ship had been clocked at 45 knots, just before the mast pulled off. They had just sailed it down from Pine Island, FL, and were looking a bit lost in Key West, not an odd thing. It's not a friendly place for boaters. They weren't even allowed to bring their boat to the dock. Luckily, they ran into me, and I offered them a place on my unoccupied sailboat (I have two), just to help them out. It was next to it in my other sailboat, and knew it would be better to have someone living on it, using it. I wanted to change the energy dynamic as well, so it's not just a silent and painful reminder of a lost friend's self-destruction. The idea worked, to a great degree. It was much better with them living there, and having neighbors as well to keep me from getting to withdrawn in my thoughts. The arrangement worked for them, they could ride in and out with me or take the water taxi.
After a while, they decided they wanted to go south with their boat, and were starting to look at the cost of shipping it. I said "why not just sail down?" They said they weren't sailors enough for that kind of a open water trip. I said that I could sail it down, and the next day, they asked me if I would. I weighed the logistics, and told them if the dulcimer would fit in their boat, and they stayed and took car of my cat, my car, and my boats, I'd go. "How wide is the dulcimer?" "17 inches" I replied. "The cockpit is 18!" So I went.
For myself, I have been a sailor all my life. I have spent a lot of time touring in my sailing kayak, "Horse". You can find a fuller story with pictures on the other pages of this site. I have travelled and trekked from Panama to Alaska, so I am no stranger to journeys like this. Though a bit hard, I did not consider this passage particularly difficult. I do not expect my jouneys to be "fun", except in moments along the way. They are hard, sometimes very difficult, and often involve a lot of discomforts. But the rewards are experiences that are never forgotten, and a chance to use the inner strengths that see you through. I might describe my treks with words like "intense", "beautiful", "hard", "amazing", "deep", indescribable", and "inspiring". I seldom use the word "fun". Adventures are not comfortable, armchairs are. Though in fact, a lot of it was pretty laid back and relaxed. Many of my trips are, much more about retreats to beauty and wilderness, more philosophical and spiritual, a quest for depth rather than for excitement, to "be somewhere" rather than "get somewhere".
I wasn't out to prove anything. I wasn't out to have fun or adventure. If anything, I was taking this boat to Belize because I knew I could, it was within my abilities. It was also a great and unique opportunity to take a little trip, helping some friends at the same time, earning the memories that last. I'd been going through some hard times the last five years, and here was a chance to get back to my old life, get away from the painful things I was still having to deal with. All told, it was relatively pretty tame, and I enjoyed it. I really don't seek out danger, that is stupid. I neither need nor want witnesses or recognition of what I've done. In fact, I didn't at the time, and would have filed the experience away with the rest of my life if the Rave owners association hadn't gotten in touch with me.
Perhaps it is true that as I make my rather obscure way through life, I want to be reminded, in the privacy of my solitary struggle, of the steel that is in me. I am capable, and it allows me to live the life I do, and if I chose roads that are sometiems hard, it is because I know I have that choice. But as I said, I have nothing to prove, I did that long ago. But it is really the experience of drawing upon that depth and strength and feeling it solid and sure within me that I seek, like a horse galloping to feel itelf run. There is a natural and simple pleasure in using your talents and doing something well. I get the same pleasure from music, really.
Anyway, a lot of skill and learning go into this and I research every trip carefully. I always stress safety. I have almost always had to venture alone, because there was no one up to going with me, so I have always been sure to take no chances with safety, when you are alone, there is no one to turn to if you get in trouble. I have found that it pays to depend upon yourself, because you are the one who will be there when trouble hits. It may be too late by the time someone else gets there, if they ever do. Personally, I try to avoid trouble. I try to stress these whenever I talk to folks about geting out and about, though most often they going blundering out, trusting to technology and civilization, oblivious to how little that counts when the real forces of nature are unleashed. They have no idea what a fragile and useless veneer technology is all too often, and what a great beast nature is, to be treated with the greatest respect. Their naivette amazes me. Perhaps thast's why their adventures end up as disasters you read about in the paper. And my quiet little walkabouts are unknown except to my friends and family, who at this point seem to accept the fact that despite surface appearances, I seem to live through them all, really without much trouble (in my perspective).
I've done a lot of stuff like this and being lucky isn't part of it. One thing you learn early on is when you are just lucky, you can feel it. If you are smart, you aknowledge it the first time, give thanks, and never let it happen again if you can help it. You never count on being lucky, you plan for being unlucky instead, and never press your luck, never walk along the edge of the drop if you don't have to, never climb a difficult route when there is a safer one. I only gamble what I am willing to lose, and my life isn't one of those things (nor major limbs, etc). So despite what people seem to think, luck didn't have much to do with it, (both actually and in principle). In fact, in actual experience, I never had a moment at sea where I felt I'd been lucky. In fact, I had more bad luck as far as that was concerned (the welds not once, but twice!) and my good luck came through on shore, in connections and coincidences to make the repairs happen, the boat get stored, and me being treated well. Though some of that I earned, certainly, by being what I was and through the music, some of it was just lucky.
I really am not an impractical, ignorant, or insane "adventurer", farthest thing from it. I've met the type often enough, sometimes when I was digging them out of the mess they'd gotten into, and mostly you read about them in the papers- disasters get the best press, I just think them pitifully arrogant or ignorant or both. This trip (and all my trips) was a sober, planned, practical, and in many way, straightforward and mundane trip (hmm, by my standards), not a big deal, a bit tough, but most of my trips are.Due to the rushed nature, it was not as well done as my usual standards, but well within tolerances or I would not have gone. Perserverance, endurance, skill, knowledge, research, seamanship, and respect for the sea were way more important than luck. If luck really had much to do with it, I'd never consider it again. As it is, I wouldn't hesitate, after I'd rewelded and reinforced those brackets, to do it again, or do something similiar.
Another point is that, although I wasn't being paid, this was a job to do, not a vacation. On this passage I was delivering a boat for friends of mine, and I take responsibilities seriously. That was allways my paramount consideration and purpose. If I had been able to accomplish that purpose with greater alacrity, I might have taken some time to just have "fun", for me, going farther, exploring to the south into Belize probably, looking for more places to play much as anything, though there is a pleasure in exploring.
Though this trip came up suddenly, and I was busy winding up other business to be free to go, I had a month to prepare. As I do for any journey, I researched it as much as possible. For the passage, I studied tidal charts and all the information I could find on the coast, as well as purchasing the two available guidebooks. My experience has taught me not to try and develop a plan so much as find out as much as possible, so you can understand the options and make the best choices as the trip unfolds according to circumstances, trying to achieve the most general goals possible.
Back to practicals, as part of the research I did study currents and used them throughout the trip. My course across the Gulf was based on the pattern of gulf currents. My eventual landfall was based on the pattern of currents in the Yucatan channel (swinging west to excape the current rather than fight it). And running down the coast I stayed near-by the reef to avoid that current again and use the counter current along the reef face instead, a 2 to 3 knot current in this case. Even big boats stay as near the reef as they can, since within a few miles the current climbs to 4 and 5 knots, set North. On my one leg north from Belize, I used the current to move a good distance even in near calm conditions.
One of the advantages of small boats is the ability to run much closer to things like the reef, due to manuverability and speed. Sometimes I took advantage of this to run inside the reef and sail in the protected water there, as much for the increased speed from a stable sailing orientation, but there were definite advantages in comfort as well! Practical advantage was that in a small boat without engine in bad conditions, the best option was to shelter inside the reef if not on shore during bad storms, rather than move out to sea (and into the northern current as well). In nescessity, it was much better to be inside the reef rather than too close outside in potentially extteme conditions, and though i usually chose to sail outside the reef rather than keep a constant lookout for obstructions inside, I also kept constant tabs on the nearest available entrance if conditions warranted caution. Every boat has its advantages and disadvantages, and the idea of cruising is to suit the course to the boat. A small boat's great advantage is its ability to manuever close to shore, in and out of the reef, to beach for camp or to anchor in extremely protected shallow water. This coast, with a protecting reef with few major marked opennings, nice beaches often, a rough choppy groundswell outside, constant squalls, and a strong adverse current; made small boat cruising really a better option than a bigger boat. Though if I was headed north again, I would dodge offshore and use the current to my benefit.
Practically, I had two GPS units (both failed) and an EPIRB (Emergency position indicator), and the radio (which also failed to work) and a large spotlight, and a solar cell for the battery that powered my lights. Two GPS units was redundant and they still both failed, I have little faith in Garmin at this point. As well, for this type of reef navigation, any navigation aid fails since none are accurate enough to run a reef entrance by, only D.R (direct reconning). is applicable to entrances and dodging around near reefs. The best use of the GPS early on was to give me accurate distances to a point ahead instantly and speed over ground, and they lasted long enough to let me make for a specific light on the coastl at Isla Contoy in the dark after a storm, though the actual landfall was DR. And I think I was justified in the end in my suggestion that a knotmeter and a depthsounder would have been good additions. Especially since many modern depth sounders are able to register speed over ground as well as depth. I did will keeping things dry (tupperware!) though of course, you have to take things out to use them. I wrote many of my notes with grease pencil on the outside of my mapcase and on a piece of plastic I had for a "notepad". My only real significant loss was the matches (the Gps units were well protected and should not have failed) though that was more a pain, it was a failure on my part, I usually keep them in a drybox, but had taken them out for dinner and left them only in their ziplock overnight rather than put everything away. Distasters usually start from small errors, and truth to tell, I realized it even as I did it. And as well, I normally have a whole kit of spares stashed in some other location. I just didn't have my normal gear together for this trip, it had been a couple years since I'd done any kayak cruising and my Alaska gear was up north still. But to me, nothing significant was lost. The radio would have enabled me to keep better contact as I was often in sight of freighters and cruise ships, but again, Personally, I wouldn't have bothered. I would say the equipment wasn't "marine grade" and the basic installation wasn't corrosion-proof enough. For years in the 80's I used to travel with my portable computer (and a solar cell to power it) in my kayak, and managed without problems. In fact, though horribly obsolete, it still works today.
I carried water and basic staples, granola and raisens, vitamins and protein powder. I had pasta for when I could camp on shore and cook. I studied nutrition intensively when I was first starting to travel, learning how to devise concentrated balanced all natural "trail-rations" without buying the expensive specialty stuff. Along the way I buy or gather the local produce, primarily fruit, then bread (whole-wheat if I can get it), cheese. I'll eat the local "comida economica", usually rice and beans and tortillas w/ salsa this time, and I eat at the cheap local places if I eat inside at all and don't just buy fromthe sidewalk and market vendors. Except when I buy coffee (when I'm drinking it) or chocolate (when I'm not), or a cup of hot water for tea, with some fresh bread. Then, I enjoy outdoor cafes where I can sit, and write, and watch people. Perhaps that is the only space I'm willing to buy, a table and a chair in a cafe. Often as not, I end up tuning up for the first time that day and playing before I go, often someone comes by and asks me to play for a friend or acquintance. On this trip, my treat was flan, caramel custard. All this cost a couple dollars a day, especially once I was known, the "Contor del calle", "El Troubador", "Contor de la Hente". There was a steady if small trickle of tips from locals and tourists, offsetting whatever I spent. Its funny, the locals knew I didn't accept money from them usually, so they would buy me water instead. Or something to eat. It is a simple life there.
I spent very little money on the trip, that is the way I travel. I bought maybe $50 worth of supplies before I left, and probably spent less along the way. I need little. I don't go out to eat, I don't pay to sleep inside. I have been too poor most of my life to develop such habits. The longer I could make my money last, the longer I could keep on travelling. The first summer I hitched west I lived for a few months on $50, back in the 70's of course. I am even pretty good at making enough money incidentally as I go to pay my few daily bills, mostly for coffee or chocolate and pastry. I live like the locals do, eat simply, can live off the land or sea if I feel like it. In fact, I was spending a lot more than usual rather than take the time to make more or live off the land more. How can you spend money on a uninhabiteed coast or at sea, anyway? My biggest treat was mangos, often at 5 to the dollar.
The dulcimer and the music was an integral part of the story as well. Everywhere I went, I played. The music is what made this trip part of the continuity of my life. Sometimes it felt like it was the real core of the trip, while the passage was just how I got there. Many people who met me never saw or even knew about the boat, only the music. And though I 've touched this point before, the music is one of the reasons I live this life, they somehow evolved together. Whether my adventures are providing need relief and recovery after burning myself out playing for people, or giving me the experiences and enrgies to express and release in the music; they are somehow inextricably bound up with it, one life.
What's missing are the endless details I can only begin to cover. You live in a state of intense awareness, with moment after moment proceeding in stunning clarity. Smells, colors, a single flower or wave, a piece of driftwood, a cloud; they all stand out in kaleidoscopic snapshot memories. Also there are scenes where so much more than just the individual images and senses are involved, it is a vast scene somehow, and all the feelings and emotions wrought up in moments of epic proportions. It is perhaps that state of awareness I seek out there, when energies beneath manifestation are clear, when everything is percieved and nothing missed, in stunning clarity and detail. It isn't an accident, but a skill developed over years of practice, yet often hard to find in the the confusion and distraction of the modern world. But once reached, I can maintain it often for long periods. Sometime I have likened it to tuning a instrument. Those moments, and that unexplainable state of being, are the real story.