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Bryan's email is: SpamBlocker.clevelandirie@yahoo.com (remove SpamBlocker., of course)

3-17-02

Dear All,

Well, so much for weekly updates on the cruise. Here it is 5 weeks passed. Yikes! Myth number one: "I'll have lots of free time to contemplate the universe, read the important works of man, and maintain a lengthy journal to send to my friends." Truth is, I am finding, that between charting the course, reading about where to go, buying groceries, washing clothes, teaching the kids, anchoring, setting up and putting away the dinghy, fixing stuff on the boat and doing all the other stuff one does to live, I don't have the mythical free time for conscious expanding activities. Plus it's a pain in the ass to get the computer out and type a memo.

But we are now sitting in Nassau, the Bahamas, with a little free time this morning, and the guilt about not accomplishing my correspondence objective has driving me to write.

This is the voyage of the Irie, a 37' catamaran (seach for Fortuna catamaran island spirit if you want to see more of the boat). On board are Bryan, Eileen, Kiera (10) and Colette (7) Cleveland, and Art and Tracie (my sister) and Jacquelyn (14) Brink.

I had decided that when I send emails that I would not send long diatribes, as I recall having only so much time to read such things at work. Here I have already used half a page and not said anything, so I am not sure how successful I will be on this objective. [Having reviewed the finished letter, I have decided that this is a completely unattainable goal for me.]

Life on board has been a great change. I was reflecting the other day how totally my different my life is than a couple month ago. Living with 7 people on board a small boat requires some sacrifices and adjustments. Not any real suffering of course; we are living in more comfortable and spacious quarters than most cruisers, and 90% of the rest of the world, if you want to put it in perspective. However, certain resources previously taken for granted as being unlimited are no longer. Including, principally: space, power, water, and ice. For folks used to having these items without limitation, learning to conserve, ration, and compromise has been a bit of a struggle. With our efforts, we use about 3 gal water per person per day, about twice that of conscious cruisers, but about all I could expect with this group. With this many on board, there has been some issues of setting parameters regarding personalities, and everyone has their moments (not excepting myself), but so far, we have gotten along well.

Our general schedule depends on whether we are going or staying. If we are going, in the morning we get up and weigh anchor. The time depends on how far we go, but I find I am awake every morning at 7am regardless of the previous nights activities; I don't know whether it is habit, the sunlight, or the fact that you can only take the comfort of 4" of foam padding over a flat piece of fiberglass for so long. Then we sail to the next destination, drop anchor, and explore. If we are staying in port we usually spend our time exploring, provisioning, and shopping. Once in a while we have "fix it" day for working on various projects on the boat and for doing general cleaning. We usually do laundry in port, though we can wash the essentials underway.

Every morning we have school, through the correspondence course we purchased. The kids have adjusted to this amazingly well; they accept it as part of their obligation versus going back to school. It's tough to do it every day sometimes; if we are in waves the kids get sea sick, if you are in a new area everyone wants to explore. It's more of a chore for me, as I have to spend 3-4 hours of my day on it. However, it must be done, and I think the kids are getting the better for personalized attention. There is no doubt that their education in other areas is noteworthy. For example, Kiera devoured the books we bought on tropical fishes, and can identify just about every type of fish we meet. When we were at a shop in Key West selling shark tooth necklaces she pointed to them saying "this is from a lemon shark; this is from a bull.." from reading about book about sharks. Both girls can identify a good portion of the constellations at night. Jackie is becoming a history buff in all the places we are visiting.

Art is the fisherman on board, we seldom go 15 minutes before he casts the lines. I'd say he catches dinner about " the time we are out on the water. The other night we caught a dozen lobster and had a feast. Other nights we make fare from our provisions. Everyone takes turns cooking and we have dish duty based on a rotating schedule.

Quick overview of the cruise so far: We left Miami (finally) on February 8th, bound for an exploration of the Keys. We bumped our way down the Keys chain, went out to the Dry Tortugas (70 miles west of Key West) and back.

Highlights included:

A couple nice snorkeling trips on the reefs. To my pleasant surprise, all the girls really enjoyed snorkeling. The nippy water temp (if you are from S. Fla. - 70*) was offset by the spectacle of thousands of brightly colored fish swimming around a surreal landscape of 20' coral formations of all color jutting from the sandy ocean floor. Even after having been diving most of my life, it is hard not to be amazed all over again.

Key West. A mixture between Bohemian lifestyle and tourist trap, the girls loved shopping at all the eccentric shops. An expensive Parisian perfume shop next to a homey store selling locally made jewelry. The other fun thing was the Vaudeville type shows put on the western sea wall at sunset. Crowds gather every night to watch the shows and the sunsets. The kids loved the kitty show, my favorite was "Silver Man," painted silver from head to toe, who stood motionless until a tip bribed him into little pantomines of gestures and facial expressions.

Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas. Out in the middle of the ocean looms a truly imposing structure, rising from the sea. Ft. Jefferson is a civil war era fort, with dimensions not much smaller than the Pentagon, with which it shares its structure. The fort structure is intact, but was never really finished; the system of aqueducts designed to hold water ("Dry" means there is no source of water) did not even last the completion of the building before they began to crack, and the invention of the rifled cannon meant that the supposed impregnable fort never would be that.

After touring the Keys, we returned to Miami for a few days to reprovision before heading out to the Bahamas. Unfortunately, Tracie determined that the buyer of her stables was not running the place properly, and even worse, not making payments. So she jumped ship to fly to St. Martin to try to sort things out. It may be several weeks before we see her again.

We left for the Bahamas on March 4. This would be our first open water passage, about 45 miles. A 3 mile an hour current running north between Florida and the Bahamas (the Gulf Stream) means that the actual number of miles traversed is about 60. The weather report called for calm seas, however, a 15 knot wind out of the north kicked up choppy 5' seas making most of the passengers a little miserable. Fortunately, the winds calmed and shifted out of the SE in the afternoon, making the second half of the trip much nicer.

We generally stay in port if the weather looks rough, so far the worse we have faced is about 5-6' seas, and while I don't mind them, the kids get sea sick and the girls don't like it so we try to avoid much over 15 mph winds.

We spent a couple days in Bimini, the closest island, a fishing town of about 500, before crossing the great Bahama bank (scores of miles of 10' water) en route to Nassau, about another 120 miles. In Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas, about 150,000 live here. We toured the island, bought some treasures at the Straw Market (an open market where over hundred proprietors sell local crafts) and visited Atlantis. Atlantis is a Disney-esque hotel/water park. It combines huge natural exhibits (the aquarium in the hotel is 100 yards long an holds hammerhead sharks, 6' manta rays, and countless other fish) with a water park including slides, "lazy river" floating rides, etc. The most spectacular ride was the inner-tube ride thru a translucent tunnel, ending in a float through a rectangular tube watching silky sharks glide over and around you. Really spectacular. Naturally the kids loved it, and so did dad, to be truthful. We are going back today; tomorrow are bound for the Exumas, a 120 mile chain of little islands, ending in the port of Georgetown, where about 500 boats are anchored, with lots of fun activities, we have been told.

We are planning to then return back to Miami sometime around April 8th. After reprovisioning and collecting the mail, we will be heading up the intracoastal waterway. I'll try to get anther email off then. Until then,

Yours truly,

Bryan aboard s/v Irie.






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