New crew and new lessons

New crew and new lessons

April 21, 2018 Off By tony

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It’s been almost a month since the last update from Tarka, and there is a lot to share, and there are a few important updates, but first, let defend my tardiness.

For one, while not on-passage, or hopping around remote islands, I decided the world does not need (nor want) an account of my weekly activities. Once Tarka and I continue our voyage west, the frequency will increase again. Two, I’ve been very busy for an unemployed sea-bum. I’ve begun working on means of generating small passive income streams such that Tarka’s voyage is sustainable over the next year or two, and these take a lot of upfront investment in terms of time. Three, making episodes for YouTube is extremely time-consuming, and though I always wanted to publish on a weekly basis, it a challenging task on a boat. Finally, Tarka, as the boat she is, always need some attention and upkeep, and these projects also chew up time. So, please envy the fact that I wake up every day in paradise, but don’t think that it isn’t a lot of work.

Boat maintenance is never-ending. As soon as one thing is fixed, something else breaks, like this zipper that needed to be replaced.

Now for the updates! Tarka will soon set sail for a short stop on Curaçao as a sea trial for the new crew, and also because I hate to see such an ocean-worthy boat tied up in one spot for so long. We will likely spend just a few days there, and might do some kite surfing on Klein Curaçao if the weather permits. I expect it to be a pleasant downwind passage to get there, and a slow upwind beat on the way back.

Tentative sail plan for Curaçao trip. White path is the downwind leg, and the red is the upwind return.

The downwind portion of this trip will also be a good opportunity to fly Tarka’s spinnaker (it’s actually a gennaker). I’ve never used it, and it’s been tucked away in a corner of the boat since I bought her. These types of sails are made of light, rip-stop nylon, and are very large. They can make downwind sailing easy, and fast in light wind conditions. Their large size also makes them difficult to wrangle, and in some circumstances, they can be dangerous.

My gennaker fits inside a giant condom-like device called a snuffer, which makes deploying and dousing the sail relatively easy.

But, even on land, sometimes the sail can get away from you. This was moments before it blew over into the ocean.

There is another first for me on Tarka, other than just sail configuration: Tarka has new crew. Noustha has come aboard. Even at only 27-feet, Tarka was designed to comfortably accommodate two people, but there was still much to be done to make space, and lighten up the boat to make room for another person’s belongings, no matter how minimal they might be.

It may not be a lot of stuff, but it wasn’t going to be easy to find room for everything without making some sacrifices.

It just barely all fit in the dinghy.

Small boats are great lessons in minimalism. Aboard Tarka, there is no ‘extra space’, and where things get put matter. Too much weight aft, and Tarka’s stern sags in the water and algea and grass start growing on the paint. Too much weight forward, and the boat plunges uncomfortably into the backs of waves. Too much weight high-up, and the roll stability of the boat is compromised. The best place to put things would be low and center, but Tarka has now storage space low and center. Instead, it must be carefully distributed.

Where are we going to put everything??

That means that, in order to have a happy boat, compromises had to be made, and it was time to gut the boat of anything non-essential. I had already been living pretty minimally, but I still had a few toys that I could no longer justify keeping.

Going through clothes I don’t need. I don’t think I’m going to need these tights in the tropics. I also converted two pairs of pants into shorts.

Some decisions were tougher than others, but there just wasn’t space for a guitar on such a small boat.

Coming aboard Tarka doesn’t come for free and new crew need to learn new skills. After all, they are crew, not passengers. That means Noustha is becoming acquainted with Tarka’s systems, learning how she sails, learning how to fix things if they break, learning what to do in case of an emergency, and of course contributing to the daily boat chores.

New crew need to know how to climb the mast!

But sometimes new crew make mistakes, like throwing dishes overboard.

Meanwhile, yours truly helps out the neighbor by climbing his mast.

But at least I get a good view up here.

I am also continuing to learn new things. Living with someone else on a tiny boat presents a whole new world of challenges that no amount of reading can prepare you for, and right now, it’s easy, because land is only meters away. There are more advantages to having a partner on this voyage than disadvantages, though. For one, it’s now safe to dive, because I’ll always have a dive buddy.

Pretending like I know what I’m doing (Noustha knows what she’s doing)

I may not have my own dive gear (yet), but at least I have a dive buddy now.

Though I haven’t done a lot of diving in the last few weeks, it has been nice to dive at all. Friendly neighbors have been kind enough to loan me their gear. And this is one of my favorite things about the community of crazy people, sailing the planet on their boats — they tend to be kind, generous, and willing to help each other out.

This is one way to clean the bottom of a boat, but I don’t recommend it.

The real trick to making the bottom of the boat clean, is to get far enough away that it looks clean.

Noustha inspecting some tube corals.

The snorkeling also continues to be excellent, and I am often surprised by the things I see. One day, while working on the boat, I heard some splashing — which isn’t uncommon really. Fish are always jumping, but this was different. This was a lot of splashing, right beneath Tarka’s hull. It turns out there was a bait ball of tiny fish being pursued by a number of different predators, and they were desperately trying to use Tarka’s underside as cover.

The bait ball of tiny fish that was beneath Tarka.

Bar jacks scattering the ball of fish.

Needle fish also joined the hunt, and often swam away with winnings.

There have been other bait balls, and they are all fascinating to watch. Schooling and flocking behavior is surprisingly simple, at an individual level, but results in some extraordinary and beautiful behavior as a group.

A bait ball of larger fish being harassed by a pack of of bar jacks.

The same bait ball being harassed by a much larger fish.

A closer look at the larger bait ball.

We also have seen some very unusual fish — fish that we have never seen before. The three in the picture below are juvenile African Pompanos, and are generally palegic, so these ones most have found something of interest in shallower water. They look much different than their fully-grown counterparts, and it’s thought that their long wispy tails are meant to deter predators by disguising themselves at jelly fish.

Juvenile African Pompanos with long, jelly fish-like tails.

It’s not uncommon for marine fish to appear very different in their juvenile form when compared to their adult form, and this is almost always for reasons of enhanced survival. Angel fish are a great example, and for a long time, I didn’t realize the two fish pictured below were one in the same.

An adult Bryan checking out a juvenile Angel Fish

An adult Angel Fish, and a very curious one at that.

Otherwise, life on Tarka is quiet and simple. It’s not all exciting, and in fact, much of it can be boring or frustrating at times. However, it doesn’t take much more than a glance out a window, surrounded by perfect turquoise water, and a wonderful world of life just below, to be reminded why it’s all worth it at the end of the day.