Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Shore Leave - Samana, Dominican Republic

We're actually docked about 15km away from Samana in (the town? Village? Settlement?) Arroyo Barril. Taxis are always around so getting in to town isn't a problem but does take a while so you have to plan accordingly. 

In this port the kids had three nights of homestays which meant a pretty quiet ship. I had a day off and went for a run and spent the afternoon on wifi/Skype. 

With less people to cook for there was time to bake! One day before noon I'd made 13 loaves of bread and 65 rolls. Should keep us going for a day or two!

One of the crew has a wake board so I tried that out. Didn't quite achieve standing up on it but it was fun to try. The water is really warm so getting in is no problem. 

Although we were here longer then most ports I feel like I didn't see as much. Which is OK, I had good social times with crew mates and some much needed down time. It's all about balance. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sailing Along - Costa Rica to Dominican Republic

Other than our Atlantic crossing this will be the longest sail of the semester, 11 days at sea.  I have to admit the first half felt really long but once we crossed the half way point and I felt we were in the “home stretch” with the end in sight.  I’m also feeling a lot more confident in my ability to handle an Atlantic crossing/three weeks at sea after handling 11 days.

Before we left the crew predicted it would be a rough passage based on the expected wind and sea state.  It turned out to be not as bad as expected. I was happy each morning I woke up to less motion then expected which turned out to be most of them!  We had two time changes during this sail, each time we lost an hour of sleep.

There’s definitely a rhythm you find when you’re at sea for longer then a few days at a time.  I guess it’s settling into a routine but there are variations as well.  The Downton Abbey club got running again and had two “meetings” (i.e. we got together to watch an episode), the first TV/movie I’ve watched since I got here!

This will sound strange but I also had the first chance to really hang out with my cabin mate, Anna Marie.  She’s one of the teachers and our schedules are different so sometimes it’s not till we’re climbing into bed that we really see each other.  It was nice to get to know her better and we plan to be more social in the future!

I stood a night watch from 0400-0600, that was (part of) my watch in the summer and I love it.  You get up and see the stars and then the sunrise and it’s really like watching the ship come awake, hopefully I find the time and energy to do that again!  In another effort to be more sailor-y I went up in the rigging one calm afternoon and spend some time hanging out watching the water and the sky.  I went right up to the royal (top sail) - I’d forgotten how unstable the shrouds up near the top feel but I’m glad I continued and made it up, it’s definitely a sense of accomplishment! 

Another morning my cabin mate, Anna-Marie and I got up at 4:30 to look at the stars.  We are far enough south we could see the southern cross but also the big dipper!  There were a few planets visible and other constellations like scorpio and orion.  It’s sure handy having sailors nearby as they are pretty good at knowing at least some of the stars (as well as lots of other things. I’ve come to the conclusion that sailors are very much like farmers, hard workers with lots of practical knowledge about many things). After a quick star gaze we went back to bed to sleep for a while longer before our days had to start.

We motored the whole way with a bit of sail set for stability and extra speed but it was slow going at first, many days of doing 3 knots as we headed right into the wind.  About half way through it looked like we’d be arriving late but things picked up and we ended up arriving in port on schedule.  There was excitement in the air as we spotted land and got closer and closer to our destination.  I think more so seeing as it came after a long sail.  All the kids were excited to get off and get sugar (ice cream, chocolate, candy) and I think everyone was happy at the prospect of spending some time away from our home away from home (however nice it is a break is always appreciated).

For those who think I’m just sailing around to various amazing tropical locations let me mention that this sail I had to deal with more-then-week-old food waste with maggots. Thank goodness for farm boys who are used to nasty smells (apparently rotting grain smells worse) and aren’t afraid of work.  Between one of the students and I we got the garbage debagged and overboard while some of the more squeamish students made a hasty retreat.

The DR is a mail port so on arrival day big bags of mail showed up for the crew, yay! As someone who loves getting mail, a month and a half is a long time to go without getting anything so I was very excited to have a little package waiting for me.  hint, hint: another mail port is coming up in Bermuda, we arrive March 19, the address is:
Laura Fung
SS Sorlandet/Class Afloat
c/o Bermuda Ship Agencies Ltd
27 Woodlands Rd
Hamilton HM 09


Shore Leave - Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

In Puerto Limon we were at anchor, not alongside (ie. Tied up to a pier) so the only way to get ashore was by tender.  Of course this is more complicated then simply walking off the gangway, tenders run at specific times (usually around 9:00, after cleaning is done, midday and then around 6:00) so getting ashore becomes more of a logistical challenge.  I only got ashore once, for a bit more then 7 hours.

I didn’t spend much time in Puerto Limon, apparently not the greatest place to spend your limited time in Costa Rica.  After a quick wifi session in town I caught a bus with a bunch of crewmates to go to Cahuita.  Some of them had been a day or two earlier which was handy as they knew where and when to catch the bus so I just followed along.

First order of business was finding a place to have lunch.   The restaurant we chose served a lot of local food so most of us ended up with beans and rice in some form or other.  After lunch we headed to the beach which is part of a National Park.  More beautiful Caribbean sand and sea!

The beach was right next to a (rain?) forest where we saw monkeys and raccoons.  I was pretty excited to see wild monkeys for the first time! The raccoons back home in their looks and boldness.

After a quick swim at the beach we headed back into town for ice cream, I got some postcards sent and then caught the bus back in time to make the earliest tender for dinner prep.

Shore Leave - Cartagena, Colombia

Oops! Technical difficulties. This post should have appeared before Sailing Along - Curacao to Colombia!

When we arrived in Cartagena I was quite surprised by all the skyscrapers! The pictures I saw at the Port Presentation showed the Old City and I wasn't expecting such a modern port. 

Cartagena felt quite safe to walk around in, tho I didn't explore too much, just the walk from the ship to the Old City (15 minute walk) and then around in there. 

Once I got into the Old City Cartagena was what I expected fom the pictures I'd seen. Lots of bright colours and colonial (?) architecture. 

Some of the alleys had bunting type decorations up that gave a festive feel. 

All over there were people selling things: fruit on most corners (mango, watermelon), guys walking around with Thermoses of coffee (I think) and trays of cigarettes and confectionery, carts of produce that were hand pushed or pulled by a small horse, small tables set up with some sort of cell phone business (selling minutes? Selling phones? Fixing phones?), sheets covering bits of sidewalk with hats, shoes, art and more for sale. Coming from a culture where bigger is so often sold as better it was refreshing to be in a culture where this is not true!

One night the crew and teaching staff went out for dinner together. This doesn't happen often with the different schedules everyone has. As it was two of the maritime crew couldn't come as they were on duty and two of the teachers had to leave after drinks to be there for the students. But impressively both Jess and I were able to go! I made dinner and put it out before changing and heading out to join the others. 

Cartagena is the first place we've visited where the majority of people do not speak English. It makes for interesting communication. When I was looking for stamps I kept showing people my post cards and pointing to the spot a stamp would go. Most people seemed to think I wanted to know where the building in the picture on the postcard was and happily gave me directions by pointing me in the right direction. In the end I had a student find me stamps and then began the chore of finding a mailbox. That never happened but I was able to leave them with a friend of a crew mate who lives in Cartagena so I hope they arrive. 

Another interesting story, I was wanting to buy a shirt in a store and found one I liked OK and then one I liked better. For some reason the salesperson helping me didn't want to sell me the one I really wanted. Finally he got a calculator and showed me the first one I picked was about half the price of the second. I eventually managed to convince him I really wanted the more expensive shirt - who would've guessed I'd have to talk a salesperson in to upselling!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Playing Christopher Columbus

We are anchored just outside Puerto Limon, Costa Rica and next to Isla Uvita where Christopher Columbus is said to have landed.  While the students were away on shore leave a couple of the crew took a tender out to circumnavigate the island, do a lot of wave watching and picture taking.  All in all not a bad way to spend an hour.


On our way from Colombia to Costa Rica we had an extra stop at a surprise port.  The San Blas Islands, Panama were not part of the original port plan but the maritime crew arranged for us to spend a night at anchor there and to have a day of shore leave on Tortuga Island.  These islands are home to one of the last remaining truly indigenous peoples - apparently if they marry an outsider they have to leave the islands!  Shortly after we dropped anchor a family came over in their boat selling textiles that were beautifully handmade.  I found it ironic that in these little islands seemingly in the middle of nowhere technology has not gone unnoticed – one of the items they were selling was a laptop case!

The tender was doing runs most of the shore leave day, it took 20-30 minutes to get to Tortuga from our anchorage and not everyone can fit in at once.  I left the ship around 10:00 and had a couple hours on the island before coming back so that Jess could have some time ashore too.  As everyone was getting ready to go we had an awesome galley moment – we had got breakfast and bagged lunches made in the nick of time and all our galley team were sent away to get themselves ready for the 9:00 tender.  “Phew, we made it,” we thought.  That was great but the galley was still a mess with dirty dishes everywhere.  As the first tender was filling up with people to leave we heard one of the students on galley that call out “hey guys, let’s go clean the galley.  It’ll only take 10 minutes and we can take the second tender.”  And come they did!  All the kids who are amazing in galley showed up in a swarm and had that place spic and span in the time it took me to go to the walk-in (two levels below the galley) to put food away in the fridge.  I came up amazed at how much work had taken place! 

Back to the island. When I arrived I decided the first thing was to circumnavigate the island by foot, walking in the surf when possible.  I took a lot of pictures and every shot is postcard worthy.  If you were looking for a tropical island you couldn’t do much better!  The water was a beautiful colour and some places had a nice white sandy beach while others were rockier but beside coral.  I did a little snorkelling, the most interesting find was a bottom dwelling fish, the kind with two eyes on one side.

There were a few indigenous people on the island, it was unclear whether they lived there or just came for the day to supply tourists with handmade textiles (no laptop cases this time) and drinks (until the cooler was empty). 

Everyone had a great time swimming, snorkeling, napping etc.  Some of the kids made their way over to a nearby island, others wove visors from palm fronds.  There was a volley ball net set up in the water and lots of people made use of that.

It was definitely an “I love my job” type day!  

Sailing Along - Colombia to Costa Rica

Another fairly short sail, made even shorter with a night at anchor in the San Blas islands.  As we approached the islands spotted dolphins came and swam along our bow.  Finally I had my camera/phone at the right time and was able to get a couple pictures of them!

In the food department I was kept busy with things like making hot dog buns (my first attempt, need to work on the shape a bit more) and chocolate cake for “Galley of the Week”.  I also got to fine tune my stir fry muscles when we made Pad Thai (I’m not sure if it’s my Asian blood or what but I am chief stir fryer in the galley).  One day our second mate, Johannes, came to make Danish meatballs for dinner!  They are called frikadella and you serve them with boiled potatoes, carrots, slightly pickled cabbage, a white gravy/sauce and we used cranberry sauce although the traditional Danish accompaniment is another type of berry Johannes didn’t know the English word for.  That was a delicious meal and all the Scandinavians on board (a lot of the maritime crew is Scandinavian) really appreciated a little taste of home.

On this sail we changed time zones again and it’s the last time we’ll gain an hour of sleep.  (So far our clocks always change at midnight for least disturbance to the work day).

Slapps was open and I went to support the crew fund and get a little chocolate fix.  The slapps are kept in a storage area called Aft Provisions behind a locked gate.  Not the greatest ambiance but very convenient!
We arrived at our anchorage on January 31 and it was the most rolling I’ve felt on the ship! Crazy! When we are at anchor it’s supposed to be calmer then being at sea.  Luckily we were only in that spot for less then an hour before we got going again, not very far away but kind of tucked behind an island where the waters are much calmer.  Thank goodness!

We had a deep clean on arrival night, so after an early (5:30) dinner everyone piled in and got to work giving the ship an extra good clean.  I don’t really look forward to deep cleans but it is nice to get everything scrubbed and tick off all those little jobs you’ve been wanting to do for a while.  The only thing is afterwards I don’t want to cook in the galley as it looks so nice!

Since we are at anchor shore leave can only happen by way of a tender ride, and they are trying to keep those to daylight hours so I don’t think I’ll be seeing much of Costa Rica.