**This blog was written by our good friend, Schuyler who is a Navy fighter pilot and flight instructor.
Under the cover of darkness I got my first look at SV Alli Oop. She looks like a vessel built to endure, decorated with all the things you would expect to need for months underway. Jugs of fresh water and diesel line the rails, an outboard motor perched off the stern. Essential items mix with recreational must-haves: a 9’0” surfboard and a Stand-Up paddle board. Stepping onboard that night I was feeling a mix of excitement, nerves, and the realization that the three of us would be living approximately 4 feet away from each other for the next 7 days…. Here we go!
First up, a 25ish mile sail from the Eastern side of PR to the island of Vieques. My job is mostly watching and learning, Dave and Alli have perfected their craft after 5 months at sea, and this short crossing is nothing more than an easy “Sunday sail”… Not the case for me! I’m surprised at the amount of boat movement as soon as we break the calm waters of the harbor, and my new focus becomes not getting seasick! I find the best way to fight the nausea is manning the helm, and the crew is kind enough to let me take the reins for the majority of the crossing.
Luckily many of the concepts and terms of sailing overlap with that of flying, and I find things are making sense for the most part. Dave and Ali are both very patient sailing instructors. Going into this trip I had zero sailing experience and was looking forward to learning the “ropes” a bit, and by the end I do feel comfortable with the very basics, but mostly I’m humbled at the skill required to be safe and confident sailing a ship. Alli and Dave’s undertaking is no joke and I have the utmost respect for what they have accomplished! It becomes apparent that being down in the cabin while underway is the fastest way to lose your breakfast, so everyone (including Darby cat) takes a seat in the cockpit. After a few hours underway we are approaching our anchorage. This is very exciting and it’s a feeling that repeats itself throughout my stay, the anticipation of a new anchorage to explore. I imagine the early nautical explorers arriving at unknown lands after exhausting months or even years at sea… yeah we have detailed charts and GPS, but it’s basically the same thing.
Living aboard a 31′ single hulled sail boat is not easy and takes discipline. Alli and Dave have adapted well. It is obvious that a detailed period of pre-sail preparation is crucial to success at sea. Their day-to-day is a constant battle with clutter. However this clutter is unlike the stacks of junk mail and dirty socks that pile up in our living rooms and bedrooms at home. Their clutter is necessary and “by design”. To access almost anything, something else must be displaced. To climb into bed at night, a large cooking pot must be moved. To get a bag of pasta for dinner, a couch cushion needs to be pulled up. This arrangement is not for everyone. Better stated, not everyone could handle the deliberate thought that goes into even the simplest of things. I’m not even going to begin with the challenges of cooking in the “kitchen”, let’s just say that Alli keeps the crew well-fed and her efforts do not go unnoticed. Thanks Alli! Best burgers ever!
Two anchorages in Vieques, two more in Culebra, and a taxing 55 nm crossing back West to San Juan.Too many individual highlights to discuss here, so I’ll resort to list format:
- Paddle boarding new beaches
- Snorkeling coral reef
- Hoisting Dave up the mast (to the dismay of his nether-region)
- Jumping off the mast (not the top, but the Spreader, still EXTREME!)
- Exploring the island jungles
- Watching various items fall overboard
- Writing sailor songs
- Capt Ron
- Watching Dave do his thing up on the bow in rough seas
- Waking up at 2AM to the big yellow eyes of Darby cat staring me dow
- The amazing tropical views
- El Yunque rainforest
- Dave’s killer ‘Rican haircut and countless other memorable moments!
Most of all I’m grateful for the precious time spent with close friends. I’ll never forget my experience as a crew member aboard the Alli Oop, and wish my friends “Fair Winds and Following Seas”!!