Saturday, March 29, 2014

Homesickness, The Experts Say To Talk About It

Homesickness, is a terrible thing and I have been battling bouts of it throughout this trip off and on. According to the experts keeping it inside can only make you feel worse, and anyone that knows me, knows I can’t keep anything on the inside, so I thought I would blog about it. Today, is especially bad because it is the lead up to my daughters birthday. I know it’s just a birthday, but for me it is one of the most important days of the year and I’m not going to be there to celebrate. Who is going to make Ashlee’s favorite breakfast? Who could make her feel more loved than me? 

I signed on for this adventure, I helped plan for this adventure, I accepted the well done’s and the, “Boy, I wish it were me going on this adventure,” I wore it all like a badge of honor. I was involved in every decision from the date to leave, to selling the house, but when push came to shove though, or when the dock lines were untied, well that wasn’t so easy. 

The first bout happened continuously and progressively became worse for about the first month after we left. Really though, who could blame me? I was really off, don’t get me wrong, I had a good time, enjoyed the new sites, explored the new locations. I just wasn’t well with me. Frankly, I had periods of deep sadness and became anxious. I missed my family, friends, home, if a Skype call coincided with wine, it was pretty messy. Poor Marc, it didn’t matter what he did, he couldn't do very much right, no matter how hard he tried, yet he remained ever kind and thoughtful.

The second bout, was about three months after we left, and it started about two weeks before Christmas, that was a hard one. I don’t pay attention much to time or dates anymore and was doing fine until we stopped in Duneden Florida, sitting there was Santa cuddling the cutest little girl, music playing, Christmas lights flashing. I missed the lead up, the exhaustion, the cooking, the wrapping, I missed God this Christmas. Two weeks of the weeps, and poor Marc is trying to keep me on board again. Seeing family saved me from that one. 

Now the third bout, I think, is about not being present. Not being present when the kids are sick, birthdays, family dinners, moments, just everyday moments that you want them to share with you. Connections, being connected with the lives of people you love. I miss the familiarity of friends.  Allot has gone on with friends since we left, sickness, weddings, babies, I’m not there sharing in their joy and grief, so I feel like I’m losing out, I’m not being a good friend. In the course of my life I have moved many, many times and know how connections can be lost with distance. Who ever said distance makes the heart grow fonder was full of crap. There are anchors in the place where everyone knows you and loves you. I am learning that, and I guess I always knew it, I don’t tolerate ambiguity in my life as well as others.  I need anchor points, familiarity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not packing in the towel yet, I just have to be vigilant about controlling my emotions. 

During this trip I have also learned that I am not alone and have met many women on board struggling with homesickness and being separated from loved ones. One woman, I met while doing laundry in Mobile, Alabama expressed having a bad day and wishing to go home, we ran into them again two months later and she was happy and looking forward to carrying on. They had been cruising full time for 13 years. Some women we have met have the resources and have ensured they have planned their cruising around relationships at home. We have met many captains sailing solo because of the differences in passions, that's,  just not an option for me.

So, what is working for me

  1. Most importantly, an understanding and patient captain
  2. Keeping myself busy, and fully participating in the journey
  3. Keeping contact with family & friends, but not over doing it
  4. Socializing with others
  5. Do the familiar, like I would do at home; bake, sew, knit, readOK I can't knit
  6. Exercising   
  7. When I am feeling sad, limiting alcohol
  8. Realizing that for me each bout is getting shorter   

Lastly, I think the  experts are right, getting it off your chest helps and I am feeling better already. I know that this won’t be my last bout of homesickness, but I also know that I am enjoying the journey and the option to go home when I’m ready is there. So, for today I have decided to be the happy eccentric grandma cruising the world sending home funky gifts and funny postcards.  

25 April 2014 Some time ago I posted a blog about being homesick, I also posted the content on a closed women’s sailing group that I belong to. I have the utmost respect for and use this group as a constant source of information, support and camaraderie. I have decided to post anonymously the comments that were posted because I was so moved at the support of these, woman and I want there words to be out there for other women who may need their encouragement.
  • You’re doing great! Thanks for the post
  • Thanks for sharing this post Linda. As you mentioned, your not alone. This cruising lifestyle is like the ocean itself with many humongous highs and gut-wrenching lowsboth more extreme than in traditional society. I also miss my friends and family, incredibly. This is my sixth year on this voyage, and while I have certain moments of missing “home” I work hard to stay connected to family and friendsMostly, I believe that as time goes on I’ve embraced this lifestyle more and more, and become one with it. Therefore my cruising IS “home” But it takes time. One small trick that I’ve learned is to buy one way tickets homeI used to fly home and rush around to “fit everyone and everything in”  and then zoom back to the boat. Now, I allow enough time to visit everyone in greater depthand when I finally feel ready which is usually around six weeks, I’ve caught up with everyone, enjoyed all my Canadian amenitiesI quite frankly am excited to return to the boat and this lifestyle. Best wishes
  • I’m glad you posted this, I was feeling the same. Heading home after 7 months. This was planned, we teach sailing in Maine in the summer, this being our longest cruise. Your suggestions are great, I wish I saw them 2 months ago when homesickness really set in! Thanks for sharing! We are not alone sistah!
  • I’ve always found it’s almost always “further to turn back than it was to go forward” wise words 
  • I am not living aboard yet, but your post is certainly enlightening. I anticipate I will feel homesickness and it is nice to be forwarned. I wonder if any of our longer term ladies can tell us if they still get homesick or how they handle it when it strikes. Thanks for your honesty…
  • It manifests in different ways but we all get it. For example my family has always been spread out so I didn’t think it would be a problem for me. But once we came to the Bahamas and I couldn’t just pick up a phone, I felt guilty somehow, that I couldn’t talk to my family whenever I felt like it, or whenever they wanted to talk to me? Now I don’t mind not getting some of my sister whinier calls, butand it can go the other way to, My husband said he wasn’t sure he wanted to keep going, with the stress of things breaking, and weather, and the lack of creature comforts. But we talked about it and he started to feel better, so I think communication is huge. We feel this strange kind of homesicknesswe aren’t homesick for a “home” we don’t miss our former home in NYC, it’s a general weird feeling of perhaps not having a place. Anyway you are not alone, even with those of us who don’t have kids and grandkids and a house or whatever…
  • i just want to thank you for your emotional honesty. The cruising lifestyle has long been a dream, and I applaud your adventurous spirits and admire and respect each and every one of you ladies! I grew up in Corpus Christi basically on a trawler and its in my blood. I’m in my mid fifties and I just have to do this! On dirt, on a lake but it is NOT the same as sailing!!!Period. Bless you all. You are my inspiration!
  • It took a lot  of courage to post such real emotions, Linda. I’m sure some women must handle being “out there” better than others, and you may not know what category you will fall into until your out there! But I appreciate your honesty and foresight and will sock your experience away when it is MY turn. Thanks for sharing
  • It’s not all cocktails and sunsets LOL
  • Those are great ideas for staying in touch with little ones. And I am pretty certain there are physical books that allow one to record the words in the book so your grandchildren can read along as grandma’s voice reads the textI think grandchildren would be the hardest element to miss out on. However, all grandparents involved in my life were far away and were not involved in my daily life. My point is living on land does not necessarily mean you would see your grandkids all the time either. That is how Im going to think about it for now, since my kids are years from having children (I hope)
  • Thanks for writing sometimes I wonder why we are doing this. I like having home with ground and my stomach flips when I think of the final transition and I question everything. Insurance, broken bones, everything that we cannot control is it an adventure yes, but this lifestyle I never gave a thought to until a year ago and it scares me to death. 
  • Not much to add after all  these great posts, except it does get less painful with time. And in a similar way to fear being a natural emotion and making you careful. Homesickness makes YOU more missed and appreciated as well. We cruised for a decade during which three granddaughters were born and two parents died. We missed only one of those events as we were able, with careful planning, to afford to return home most years for a few weeks or months and were fortunate in that most family and friends lived in our home city of Melbourne Australia. So hang in there Linda, it was well worth it!
  • Homesickness barely begins to describe my first year full time on board. I literally felt homeless, largely because of what I went through in the months before leaving. My mom died unexpectedly, we had to sell the house I grew up in. I felt so uprooted and when my eight year old daughter said to me one day, crying “I don’t know what home means anymore” I couldn’t have said it better. I got a photo of my family home in winter via e mail one day ( on one of those rare days I could get e mail) and was so instantly heartbroken I was openly crying in this lovely place in the Bahamas in front of everybodyAnd that’s another thing, you feel so weird feeling so broken while being surrounded by such beauty. This is your dream right? WTF??? Anyway, everything you describe I went through too. It got better. And yes it was worth it. But there will always be things that happen to remind you that you just are not there everyday or even every week or month. Sometimes this is one of the prices you pay for the privilege of a life most people will never understand or appreciate. Hang in.
  • I’ve lived aboard for 1.5 yearsIn the beginning everything was wonderful. But me and my husband couldn’t find a way to get money for our dream. So we had to come back home, cause he had a daughter that lives with her mother and he needs to guarantee her lifewe thought it was just for awhile. But when we decided come back I was to much tired and feeling homesickwe didn’t have to much money and all the facilities when I was home and all the love of my family were coming all the time in my mindnow!!! I miss a lot the cruising lifeI wanna come back! But Im planning come back with a plan, to go and been there forever!
  • I have gone through the depression. One day, not long ago, when the head broke, I just sat down and cried. It can be overwhelming. I have been single handling for almost two years. At a marina I find it easier to meet and socialise. Anchorages can be very lonely. Many people I have talked to said they only do it half a year so they can go home and do other things. Maybe get their sanity back? I plan on doing that. I am putting the boat on the hard for hurricane season and living on dirt. Bubble bath here I come. I will come back to the boat refreshed and ready for adventure. 
  • Wow, how do I thank you all? I am so honoured and humbled by the comments posted in the form. I am not alone. What good advice was shared, what valuable insight you all have. what heartfelt reflections were made. Aren’t women wonderful! Thank you for sharing back. 
  • Wonderful words. I miss my family and friends too but after being home for 3 months I’m getting itchy feet again. I have a restless gypsy soul that needs appeasing more often that not…Thank goodness for Facebook Skype FaceTime e mail and all the wonderful communication we have now. 
  • One thing I’ve learned while cruising is that if I am experiencing homesickness, loneliness, ect at one point in time or another someone else has as well. Reach out to another woman boater—go for coffee, a swim in the sea, lunch, a walk, provisioning , whatever. Just getting to know another person and making a new friend can make all the difference in the world. Putting your thoughts on paper in a journal can help too. Trust me, you are not alone in your feelings 
  • I had to write again. Here I as ready to go north. I saw a pod of dolphins this morning that seemed to be calling my name. It has been a while since I saw dolphins. Came to No Name Harbor and saw fish being chased everywhere. Beautiful blue sky, lovely weather, aqua water. I changed my mind. I am going south. LOL Homesickness depression is gone and I can move forward. Not giving up yet. There are good days and bad days. Too many bad days in a row are hard on the system, so I see I need to see more nature and beauty. Anchoring out.
  • I’ve been living aboard full time for almost 8 years and you could write my story! I only wish that I had found this site 8 years ago! Wow thanks for sharing!
  • Anchoring out takes most of the pain away
  • Heading to Bimini at 2 am. It is amazing how attitudes can change so quickly. I now feel great and got over the blues. I hope you do too

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Our Anchorage Saga Continues or as Seabbatical say’s, "Sometimes you're the show, Sometimes you're watching it."

For the last week or so we have had some fairly heavy winds and our anchors dragged, causing some excitement, I guess we were not done.  A couple of days ago the winds were nothing major, but a steady 20-22 knots, our anchors were holding well.  I was a little anchor shy, and kept a sharp eye out on everything, us, our anchors and the boats anchored around us. The cruisers in Isla Mujeres, monitor 13 so this is where I had the VHF radio
dialled. Things seem to be going well so I had fallen into a calm zone. At about 17:30 we had just started to get ready to go and have supper with our friends on S/V Honeymoon Forever, when we heard on the radio "British vessel, British vessel, do you know you are dragging your anchor?" no response!,”British vessel, British vessel, do you know you are dragging your anchor?" no response! Like a field of gophers everyone on every vessel in the anchorage pop their heads out for a look.
As luck would have it, a 42’ boat is dragging and heading straight for us, luckily its at least 500’ away. The captain of the dragging sailboat should have time to take action.  HOLY CRAP, no dinghy, It looks like no one is on board. I start the engine on DevOcean and tell Linda to be prepared to move DevOcean if need be.  I jump in the Dinghy rush over and confirmed nobody is on board.  I rush back to DevOcean to let Linda know we just may have to move and race back to the dragging boat. As I go back, I meet up with the Canadian Captain of Gambit II.  We climb aboard to see what we can do as time is running short for this boat.  If this vessel passes and hopefully misses DevOcean she will then run aground. There are no keys in the ignition, the vessel is locked, so we check the windlass, it has power, we remove the snubber line, and let out as much chain as possible, It’s still dragging.  I tell the other Captain I have to get back to raise my anchors and move.  We managed to move DevOcean as this boat only missed us by 10’, going right over the spot we were anchored minutes before.  We move DevOcean, and re-anchor. Luckily for the other boat the anchor finally grabs, just before running aground. I again check my two anchors, and debate on leaving for supper.  So, confidently yet alert we keep a sharp eye on our baby and enjoy a great supper with our friends.  When we return we happily see the dragging boat has moved and is safely anchored, we hope for the night,  because, if he slips again, he has positioned himself to possibly hit us. 
Luckily The Boat Came To Rest Before Running Aground 

You know they say things happen in threes. In the morning we wake up after a choppy restless night and anchor watch.  I get to the top deck to check on my anchor rode and notice no dinghy, oh crap. The dinghy painter is still attached to my boat and the dinghy handle present. The wind and waves have ripped the handle off. I scan the area, hoping that the dinghy hasn't traveled beyond the bay where we would never see it again.  Luckily the winds were blowing toward the mangrove and our dinghy is sitting on the shore.  At this point I get in the kayak and paddle to shore to get our dinghy back. We have had enough excitement for a while.  

As one of our sailing friends Seabbatical say’s, "Sometimes you're the show, Sometimes you're watching it."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Carnival Isla Mujeres Mexico

While visiting Isla Mujeres, the Ile of woman, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that we happened to be here during Carnival. We had never been to a carnival before, so the thought of hot womenfolk in costume appealed to Marc’s adventureous side. Not only that, friends had just invited us to Fantasy Fest in Key West Florida next spring and he had been researching pictures of what that carnival offered, so his interest was peeked, to say the least. For me, the music, dancing, costumes, colour and food, what could be more perfect.  Fantasy Fest it was not, but we now have the carnival bug. Sadly though, this coincided with the two week period that I was sick so we only really enjoyed one day of this five day long party.
Carnival is a big deal on Isla Mujeres. Community groups, schools you name it, everyone participates. They make elaborate costumes, play music and dance salsa, rumba, merengue all over the place. It’s all so powerful that your feet aren’t able to stop moving along with them. There are parades that start at midday down Rueda Medina, dance competitions in the town square and impromptu performances everywhere. While sitting to rest and have a cervasa in a street side bar a rickety pick up stopped, unloaded a gaggle of performers who then stopped traffic performing to a crowd for 45 minutes. Of course, followed by tourist photo ops. The thing that interested me the most and made it so special was that everyone participated in the celebrations. It didn’t matter male or female, how young or how old, how sleek or curvaceous everyone was having the time of their lives. What a healthy dose of self esteem these people have. I would describe them as vivacious. Marc and I laughed to see an older, curvy woman (remember I think 50 is young) dressed vibrantly, who kept moving to the front of the troupe to get her picture taken. Think of a time when you have had one too many drinks and think you are the hottest dancer on the floor and everyone wants you! It was a marvelous day. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Blue View Let's Talk About Charts

Let's Talk About Charts

We are very spoiled when cruising in the Canadian and US waters.  The charts are detailed and fairly accurate.  Also, from what I see on my charts Bahamas, USVI and BVI are the same, which I can't confirm as we haven't been there yet. The problem with Cuban and Mexican charts is that they are either sporadic at best or sometimes almost downright non existent. Some people would say I'm crazy not to carry paper charts. But my thinking is the electronic charts are updated regularly, and your paper charts can be out of date within days of purchase.  To stay current, you would have to get the information off the website and manually update your charts.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing paper charts and I love to use them as they give you a great overview, but why would I go to the trouble of updating paper charts when it is done automatically by your electronic chart supplier.  I have an older Lowrance with 10 year old Navionic charts, a new Garmin in the cockpit, the new Garmin Bluechart Mobile App with Active Captain on my IPad, Sea Charts on my computer and last, a portable Garmin. I have looked at all of them and found them all the same.  The chart plotters can only give you the information that is available to them.

So, where am I going with this? Since traveling the Cuban and Mexican waters I have found it difficult to get detailed and accurate charts. Overall, Cuba's charts are minimal as soon as you leave a major port.  Mexico is somewhat better in highly traveled areas, but go outside the beaten path, then they are minimalistic also.

Detailed Garmin, Havana Cuba Habour Open To Commercial Vessels Only

Garmin Chart Of Hemingway Marina. A Large Pleasure Craft Marina Near Havana.  As You Can See, There Is No Detail. 
(The Markers 423 To 427 Were Part Of My Plotted Course).

This View Of Hemmingway Marina, Same As Above Is Information Of Provided By The Cruising Guide To Cuba By Cheryl Barr
Detailed And Clear To Understand

Garmin Overview Of Highly Cruised Isla Mujeres Mexico

Garmin Zoomed In Chart Of Isla Mujeres Mexico

Isla Contoy Is Only 15 Nm From Isla Mujeres.  This Island Is 4.5 Miles Long And Limited Detail With The Garmin Chartplotter.  The Dotted Line You See Was The Course We Took.  As You Can See At One Point We Were Doing Some Cross Country Travelling With Our Sailing Vessel Devocean.  

Although, This Cruising Guide To Mexico Is Seven Years Old, We Found The Detailed Charts In It, More Valuable Than Our Inaccurate Electronics

One quick word about Active Captain.  This is probably my favourite navigational tool, on board.  If you have an IPad with a GPS, you can purchase the Garmin Bluecharts Mobile App and charts. Then join Active Captain for free.  Active Captain is an information gathering system that interacts with the Garmin Mobile Chart.  This is updated by cruising members, giving you current information on anchorages, marinas, hazards, fuel prices and more.  I would highly recommend the Garmin Bluechart Mobile App with Active Captain to anyone.  Best purchase we have done yet.

Garmin Bluechart Mobile App With The Active Captain Gives You Icons To Achorages, Marinas And More.  By Touching The Icons You Get Actual Information Supplied By Cruisers.  Well Worth The Money. 

My recommendations:

When sailing these waters get the most accurate recent Cruising Guide books you can find. They are a great source of information. 
Never enter an unknown location in the dark unless it's an emergency.  
When in doubt, sail the deeper water as much as possible.  
Don't get complaisant in deep water.
Not all shoals or reefs are marked. 
The best indicator for shallow water is color, but even the colors can be affected by cloud shadows and you need to keep a sharp eyeball.

Finaly, I would like to say i'm not anti paper chart, pro electronic charts or pro guides.  This is what has worked for us so far.

May the trade winds be with you.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Isla Contoy Mexico

We have been using the Belize & Mexico’s Caribbean Coast Cruising Guide, by Captain Freya Rauscher, 3rd edition 2007. It has been a great source of information and the most current that we could locate on the market but, as we are finding out, it is out of date for such a fast changing cruising area. In the guide it described Isla Contoy as National Bird Sanctuary located 14NM from Isla Mujeres. The Island is home to the nesting grounds of flamingo, roseate, spoonbills, brown pelicans, frigates, cormorants, brown boobies, turns & red egrets. There is a 70 foot viewing tower, a biology station, where presently 5 biologists live and work, and a small information centre.  To be able to visit and anchor you must acquire a pass. 
When we received our 24 hour pass to visit, I was more than excited. I had visions of hiking the length of this 4.5 mile long by .5 mile wide island, coming into pristine areas of wildlife and birds, exploring like Jacques Cousteau. I was going to snorkel the advertised pristine reefs.  We had a beautiful sail north with a perfect east wind. When we caught sight of the island’s north tip we saw a 105 foot white masonry lighthouse, the sky above the island was filled with birds. We motored slowly as close as possible along the West side to capture as much of the island from the sea as possible. As we traveled we spotted a pink flamingo! Oh heart be still I had never seen a live flamingo before. 
When we arrived at the biology station, it was crowded with people from neighbouring Cancun basking on the small but beautiful beaches. Where did these people come from? What are they doing in my nirvana? Why are they lying on the beach and not exploring this pristine environment?  Well, it seems that 200 people a day are shuffled here from Cancun as an excursion, they are wined (tequilaed) and dined.  All, and that all includes us, can only use the beaches in a buoyed area, no snorkelling, visit the information centre which is very old and outdated, a two minute walk thru just about covered it all, hike a 550 meters cordoned area then up to the lookout where you can see where you really want to be. Out there exploring. I do get it, really I do. But it was me and this is not how it was presented. Now on the upside, as with everything, something just make the day perfect. The tourist leave at three, so we once again walked the area, it was like someone had told little creatures that the door was closed because hermit crabs came out of everywhere, iguanas scurried non stop and the concept of being anchored at a secluded island alone was pretty exciting.