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Supernova's Caribbean Cruise - How It All Started.....
 
   

February 12, 2012. The website LadyTrap.org/Supernova is, unfortunately, down and one day, we hope, will be back up and running. The account there of Supernova's Caribbean Cruise is a great log with super photos of cruising a Dolphin.

In the meantime we have found an archived 2004 remnant on the web posted by Simon Graves that gets us started. This is the link .http://simondreams.blogspot.com/ but we have reprinted here the applicable sections just in case we lose that story too. (minor edits)

LADYTRAP, INC.

navigating the (not so) high seas

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Prologue: a Bit of Background

It all started for me about four years ago, in the Nova.

I picked up a Swedish backpacker from a hostel in Pacific Beach to drive to San Francisco with me in the Nova. His name was Klas, and during our three day adventure I introduced him to Devo, pre-energy crisis automobiles and the California coast. In return he paid for the fuel, played some Swedish death metal on my guitar, and told me about how he had made his way from Sweden to Spain to Morocco and eventually to the New World by hitchhiking on sailboats.

Wow, what a romantic dream, right? By this point in my young life I had already determined that travel would be an obsession I would never shake. I had thus resigned to the idea that I would lead a rather nomadic existence far into my late years. Once you have this sort of resolve, the standard question isn't "Will I travel?", "When will I travel?" or even "Where will I travel?"...but "How will I travel?"

And of all the possible answers to that question, SAILING is certainly an exciting concept. The O.G.-riginal way to wander the earth!

So thus began the seed that Klas planted in my head. I was on the verge of taking a cubicle-bound corporate career-style job while this bright eyed 20-year-old kid was out there living my dream. "Someday I'll do that..."

Incidentally the idea of sailing wasn't the only way Klas's travels sowed seeds of adventure in my brain. The last I saw of him was when I dropped him off at SFO, bound for Lima. After the subsequent emails of his adventures in South America, I found myself exploring Peru less than half a year later....

So I should have known something was up when I ran into Klaas. I came across Klaas in 2003 in very much the same way I met Klas. He joined me on a drive south from San Francisco (as well as a spunky lesbian and her bicycle on their way to explore New Zealand). Klaas was a German on his own 6-week odyssey of self-discovery around North America. Like Klas, he was young and adventurous and played in a metal band back home in Europe. It was as if the re-embodied spirit of Klas had earned an extra A for adventure and come back to prod me along, to encourage me to pursue my own A.

I took Klaas out for his first surfing lesson down by Scripps Pier and the tide of random events led us afterward to the renowned Scripps Friday happy hour, a periodic ritual of scientists and grad students, summing up the week's research with cold barley soup. It was here that I ran into Jim Cleaves, a friend from college. He had recently bought a sailboat, a Cal 20, and over frothy beers we made plans to go sailing the following weekend.

Jim's intention in buying that boat was ambitious: to cruise down the coast of Mexico and Central America, through the Canal and up to Cuba. I couldn't resist, and within a month we were making plans. Eventually research and self-preservation led us to a different itinerary: Avoid the dangerous Pacific coast of Mexico, buy a bigger boat in Florida, and start right off by cruising the Caribbean.

So there you have it. That is how the ball started rolling and over the next several months I will attempt to bring you into the world of this first-time sailor's adventure...

posted by simon on 8:35 PM

TODAY'S DREAM:

hiatus!

Friday, March 05, 2004

Chapter 1: Buying a Craft and Exploring a Flat Soggy State

The weeks that preceded and followed my last day at work were consumed by an intensive telephone-and-internet campaign to find a suitable sailboat. Starting from scratch with only a rudimentary understanding of even how sailing works, I absorbed everything I could, from Jim's own knowledge and books to the unlimited and unorganized resources and experts of the internet.

We peeled through Boat Trader Online to create a list of boats in Florida that seemed to fit our budget (in the neighborhood of $5000) and size (24-30 feet) requirements. Those two factors were all we really had to go on, while there is so much more that goes into choosing a craft suitable for open ocean cruising. Some boats are great racers, but would collapse in heavy water like a Palestinian orphanage under an Israeli bulldozer. Others are built like bomb shelters but sail worse than garbage trucks. Certain manufacturers may have made fine craft for decades, but for some reason their 1974-1977 models should be avoided like the plague. Draft is a major issue in Florida and the Bahamas, as the water is so shallow that any boat drawing more than 4 feet will have a hell of a time not making love to rocks and coral. And on. And on.

Also of heavy consideration was what necessary equipment was already included with the boat. What looks like a money-saving budget boat may actually cost and extra $4000 before she is actually ready for cruising. So for every boat we figured an adjusted cost based on what we would expect to add (GPS, solar panels, extra sails, etc.) before departure.

Once we had a list of what looked like about ten potential candidates, I flew to Florida with a digital camera, Jim's copy of "Inspecting the Aging Sailboat", and a goal of returning a week later as a boat owner.

*****************************

Florida is an oddity. The air is wet, the land is wet, the people are wet. God laid out this phallic peninsula in the days previous to inventing such modern complexities as elevation change and soy milk. The state is governed by a sociopath and local officials do all they can to prevent votes of dissent from being counted.

In Madeline L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time", our childhood heroes find themselves on the planet Camazotz which, since being consumed by a dark evil cloud, is ruled by a disembodied brain called IT. IT keep the planet in strict conformity, and a drive through any neighborhood reveals miles upon miles of identical houses, and the families within retain none of their individuality. This image has stuck in my brain since childhood as the horror of suburbia, and this image is alive and active in Florida. I thought I'd seen the worst of suburban sprawl here in California but nothing could have prepared me for the mindless homogeneity that is Florida's suburbia. Faster than the rainforests are being replaced by logging efforts, the vast Everglades are being replaced with zone upon zone of gated cookie-cutter housing developments and strip malls. Want a cute, walkable neighborhood with a coffee shop, movie theatre, and maybe a grocer? Forget it. Go to Walmart, or drive on down to the AMC, conveniently located near Target AND Costco.

Ponce De Leon came to Florida seeking the Fountain of Youth and testament to its non-existence is the thick geriatric fog that has descended onto the land, filling every nook of the state with shuffling, mumbling, slow-moving blue-haired ladies. Everywhere you turn, whether on foot, bike, car, or boat, you are met with the progress-impeding Elderly Wall. Every other car has a sticker that says "Nice and easy" or "Once day at a time", and the only way to avoid driving yourself into a certain madness is to take this advice and move slowly, becoming one with the fog. Florida has the air of being a place where people come (albeit happily) to relax themselves to death.

But woven into this web of stagnancy are striking anomalies, some very interesting people and places. I discovered several in my 7-day whirlwind tour of the state. I talked to crusty old sailors, confident brokers, Jimmy Buffett's modern-day ambassadors, a 29-year-old on his 19th boat, drug runners, harbor masters, yacht clubbers and racers, boat builders, and an inventor/luther (my Uncle Phil), gathering information and advice on boats and cruising. I heard stories about real Pirates of the Caribbean, ate Thai food, drove 80 miles straight through swamp (twice), endured torrents and gale-force winds, and slept among the largest colony of stray cats in the solar system. I pleased a sleepy bar with my upbeat jukebox choices, I saw two surreal lines of helmeted senior citizens on Segway tours. But most importantly, I shopped for boats.

********************

I ended up inspecting 7 boats and owners/brokers in total:

1971 Yankee 30 boat Craig
1964 Cal 28 boat
1970 Yankee Dolphin 24 boat Dan
1975 C&C 24 "Aeolus" hull Wayne
1974 Ericson 27 cockpit mark
1965 Grampian Classic 31 boat
1977 Morgan Out Island 30 boat Shirley

They were all over the scale in size, quality and cleanliness. Some were meticulously cared for while others had sat dead in the water for years. Some were like spacious hotels inside, and some were, well, let's say better suited for elitists such as ourselves.

Craig was selling the Yankee 30 since his dream of cruising with his teenage son died with his son two years ago. 29 year-old Scott found that he and his wife Beth's baby son just wasn't cut out for life on the Cal or the Morgan. Dan liked his sailing-phobic girlfriend more than his Yankee Dolphin. Aeolus's owner was just too old to sail anymore. Mark is selling the Ericson to raise funds to get his business off its feet-- building small boats for handicapped sailors. And the Kiwis who brought the Grampian up from the Caribbean went home to get married.

I photographed and inspected all these boats to the best of my abilities, emailed the photos to Jim, and then he and I deliberated for hours via phone. Eventually we chose the Dolphin. It was the right boat from the start. While being on the cramped side (it was the smallest boat on our list), the Dolphin has a reputation for being a sturdy boat that sails well and holds up to heavy weather. I have read accounts of them being sailed all over the world. The shallow draft (2'10" but with a centerboard that drops down to 5') makes it ideal for the shallow shoals of the Bahamas. In addition, the owner (a fantastic man named Dan Levinson) takes care of boats for a living and has been meticulous with this one. It is in fantastic shape, and doesn't look any older than the ten years he has owned it.

************************

We made the decision when I was in Tampa, and I headed immediately south, devouring a celebratory pint of Phish Food along the way. I spent a relaxation/recovery day with Uncle Phil in Ft. Myers. I needed it after days of nonstop boat-chasing. Phil makes guitars in his garage and he gave me one for the trip (the all-wood unstained one on the left)! I headed back across the swamp to North Miami and Dan and I took the boat for a sea trial. Very exciting to sit in that boat, replacing the surrounding urban scenery with coconut and banana trees, the murky bay water with a crystal clear window to brilliant coral...

The following day we hauled the Dolphin out of the water at a local boatyard, to inspect the hull and get the bottom painted.. This was a fascinating process in itself. A giant blue machine (which is essentially a frame on wheels with a motor) lifts the boat out of the water so we have access to the hull. Cheerful Luis then jumped out of the machine and immediately sprayed the green organic gunk off the hull. If you let it dry it turns to cement.

(I noticed something else mechanically exciting at the boatyard. They have forklifts that can pluck a considerably large boat right out of the water!)

We then identified half a dozen blisters in the hull. These are areas where water has penetrated behind the outer layer of fiberglass. They must be dug out and repaired. After that is done, Luis and Matt will paint the bottom with a toxic paint that discourages barnacles and other such critters from making the boat their home. This keeps the hull smooth and thus reduces that kind of drag that kills a sailboat's speed.

The speedometer stopped working recently. Whether it happened previously or during our attempts to troubleshoot it, we found the cable that connects the propeller to the gauge was broken. A replacement cable and propeller would have cost $125 plus the labor of assembling it, so Jim and I decided I should remove the device altogether and have Luis plug the hole, eliminating one of the through-hull fixtures and thus giving us more confidence in leaky hull department.

Dan has been fantastic through this entire process. He is very honest and it is important to him that he sell us a boat that is in good condition, hence his help in getting the bottom painted and the blisters repaired. I enjoyed his company over my last three days, and our conversation ranged from sailing to Harleys to trains to marriage and children. He treated me and his girlfriend Arlene to breakfast the day I paid for the boat.

I have left the boat in Dan's care and returned to San Diego. Over the next three weeks Jim and I will tied up our loose ends here and on March 25 we head to Florida with one-way tickets to prepare the boat, gather supplies, and take it for a test spin in the Keys.

posted by simon on 8:37 PM

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