Monday, June 1, 2009

We're Back!

On Monday we arrived in Miami Beach, our new home for the next couple years. We'll be leaving Cielo on the hard until later this year and will be heading north by land for the summer.

Motoring With The Sails Up

The trip from Isla Mujeres to Southeast Florida is notorious for being a painful one. The Gulf Stream runs east at 3 knots, which would be good, except the Trade winds blow from the east at 15-20+ knots. Aside from the fact that you are trying to go east (and sail directly into the wind), the wind-against-current thing generates monstrously steep and choppy seas. So when we got a forecast for light Southerly winds instead of easterly Trades, we were so happy we nearly peed our pants. Turns out there was no reason to get excited.

The forecasted wind never did materialize, but severe squalls with enough lighting to solve the world's energy crisis sure did. We motored virtually the entire way, with the mainsail up to slow our rolling in the leftover ocean swells. We motored all day, and dodged intense lightning storms all night. There's nothing quite so disconcerting as being in the middle of the ocean during a lightening storm with a 55 foot tall metal pole sticking out the top of your home. Had we both not been scared to death, we probably could have appreciated how spectacular the lightning was. Stunning displays of branching cloud to cloud and cloud to ground (water!) lit up the sky. The squalls themselves weren't bad - 30 knots or so and heavy rain - but the lightening was just too much. I wish I could have gotten some better pictures, but in addition to being on a rocking boat it turns out that a) lightning is pretty hard to predict, and b) those scientists weren't kidding about the speed of light - that stuff is FAST! So despite the fabulous light show, we had trouble capturing it on film.

What we did capture on film though, finally, are good images and video of dolphins playing in Cielo's bow wave (if you're getting the email version of this you won't see the YouTube video link - click here instead). After 2 years and over 10,000 miles, this is something that has never gotten old. We see dolphins often, and they just make you smile. They'll come rocketing in from who knows where, leaping clear of the water and clearly excited. They rush up to the bow of the boat and then zig and zag across Cielo's path, just inches from the bow. I have no idea why this is fun, but apparently it's like catnip to dolphins. I know we sure enjoy it. Sometimes they do it for only a couple minutes, once they stuck with us for almost an hour. It's one of a very long list of things I'm going to miss while we're on land for the next couple years. Maybe I can try to hug a Manatee instead.

We've Got A Live One Here...

If you've been following our blog, you'll know that we've (ok, I've) become pretty obsessed with fishing. Not in a true angler-style, fishing just for sport kind of way, but more like a "damn there is a lot of sushi swimming around under me and I've got to do something about it" kind of way. Two years ago when we first started we couldn't catch anything. But I've learned a lot and by last year we progressed to hooking up a lot of fish and by this year we were hooking up lots of fish and landing most of them. We fish for meat, not sport, so there are three fish we focus on; Mahi-Mahi, Wahoo, and the prized tuna. The first day out the big reel starts screaming, I grab the rod, set the hook, and proceed to fight it in. After about a short five minute fight, we land a 20 lb tuna! The middle of the next day, the small reel gets a hit, and we land another fish, a 10 lb Mahi-Mahi this time. At this point, with the success we've been having, and with 15 pounds of fresh tuna steaks and Mahi fillets in the freezer we're feeling pretty bad-ass. I guess we were due for a setback.

About two hours later, the big reel gets hit. The line is peeling off the reel by the yard, and even after stopping the boat it's all I can do to slow the fishes flight. This is by far the hardest fighting fish we've caught. At this point we don't know what's on the other end, but it feels like Moby Dick. Suddenly, a 4' Mahi-Mahi leaps clear of the surface! After thirty minutes of fighting so intense I was winded from it, we had the Mahi-Mahi alongside Cielo. Lizz was ready with the gaff and tail-rope, and I began to hand-leader the fish in (you can't reel the last bit of heavy line in, so you have to bring it in by hand - with gloves on of course!). This fish is a good 60 lbs, and once alongside the boat he gets an eyeball pointed my way and decides he doesn't like the look of me at all. He goes completely berserk, thrashing around and slamming his big head into the side of the boat. He nearly pulls me into the water - remember, I'm holding the line with my hands at this point - and it's all I can do to hold onto him. He manages to get his head down in the water and starts flailing his tail like a maniac, covering and drenching both Lizz and I with salt water. Then he gives one more massive yank...and he's gone. I'm left standing there, exhuasted and soaking wet, holding a straightend 7/0 hook (the top hook in the picture).

The next day, idiot that I am, I put one fishing line back in the water - just for ha-has. In short order, the reel commences to screaming. After the previous day's monster, this one feels like just a toy. Instead, it's another Mahi-Mahi - about 25 lbs this time. Lizz is ready with the vodka (we pour vodka on the fishes gills to calm and subdue them), and gives him a good dousing as soon as he is clear of the water. Everything seems fine - until I get him on the cabin top. Suddenly he goes ape-shit bananas, and over the next minute I proceed to get my ass whooped by a 25 lb fish. I couldn't even hold him down! He flopped and flailed and throughly thrashed me. After about a half-bottle of additional vodka he finally calmed down (I think he must have been Russian). Not that I blame either of the two fish for any of it. In addition to trying to kill them, I've killed a few of their friends and relatives. I deserved every bit of it and then some more. Still, it's a little embarrasing. It's one thing to get beat up by the school bully. I got beat up by a fish.

Thank God for Tall Buildings!

We were highly relieved to get ourselves anchored just next to Miami Beach, nestled between sets of tall buildings, as yet another lightning storm made its way through. I've been sleeping much better at night knowing we aren't the tallest thing for 300 miles around. It's good to be here for lots of reasons though, and we're very happy to be back. We have one more short trip of 120 miles before Cielo finds her home for the summer in Ft. Pierce, FL. Since we won't be out cruising we won't be posting much, if at all. We have a few "best of" posts we've never gotten together that we'll try to post, those may come in handy for anyone travelling anywhere in the Caribbean basin. Other than that, if you don't hear from us on the blog - pick up the phone, ours work again!

Posted by: Kevin