October 25th: “Do you think we remembered everything we wanted to buy?” I said to Jon as we were packing up our stuff, hoping it would fit into our 2 checked bags and 2 carry-ons. “ I sure hope so” was his response. We had 3 more days till we were boarding our Copa Airline flight back to Curaçao, which were filled to the brim of shit to do. Jon had one last job, we both had dermatologist appointments, we needed to find a place to store our car and we needed to get out of Shaver Lake and down to LA. How can 6 months go by so fast?
As we were driving down HWY 99 heading south, Jon was getting really excited, but it had not sunk in for me that we were returning to our floating home. Even as we were saying our last goodbyes it still felt like we had just arrived back in California and we were getting ready for our summer to begin. The saying that time flies when you are having fun so so true. This summer was jammed packed of memories. We went to Italy and London with family, had many get togethers with friends, we got our old jobs back which kept us busy. I turned 35 (when did that happen?) and Jon turned 33. With the summer in the bag, fall coming to an end and winter started to show its face, it was defiantly time for us to go. When Momma Neely dropped us off at the Ventura LAX shuttle we all had tears in our eyes as we drove off in opposite directions.
Jon and I had the entire shuttle to ourselves and plenty of time to get to our flights. Our driver was very talkative and filled us in on things about California as we took PCH all the way down towards LAX. Jon and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we both grew up in California and knew this area well.
We got through LAX security in literally 10 minutes. The airport was empty! We arrived at our gate with over 3 hours to kill. While waiting we started to take care of the last minute stuff we still needed to cancel, like our car insurance, our cell phone plans, and making sure all our devices were up to date and ready to go.
Once Copa airline attendants started to call groups for boarding, I started to feel like it was actually happening. The butterflies were starting to happen for me. It could be because I HATE flying, but i think it was because we were in route to PRISM. The red eye flight to Panama City, went without flaw, yes there was a little turbulence, but Jon and I were able to sleep for most of the flight. As we approached Panama, we were shocked to look out the window and see the Caribbean Sea in a state of such a dead calm that the low lying clouds had full reflections shining back up towards them off the water. We could see the new bridge over Colon that had been built in the years since we passed through, and then all the ships waiting outside near the Bridge of the Americas for their chance to transit the canal on the Pacific side.
When we got off the plane the airport in Panama was freezing! To the point where every window in the place was sweating from the condensation. For the next 2 hours, Jon and I updated friends and family where we were and that everything was going well. Once we boarded our last flight destined for Curaçao, we both started to get excited. For me, I don’t know if I was more excited to see Prism, or our friends, Christina and Derek who would be picking us up at the airport.
To our surprise, Jon and I slept for the 3 hour flight, which was one of the smoothest flights I have ever been on. Holy cow, we are back in the same country as our boat, and in true island fashion, we were welcomed with a shot of the local flavored rum. As we prepared ourselves for a possible long customs inspection (I mean we were bringing back quite a bit of stuff) we were amazed when we were escorted into the fast pass check in process where we just had to scan our passports and we were in. As for customs, they just asked us to put our 2 large bags into the scanner, which sped through at full speed, no pause and reverse, just straight on through. We were out on the curb waiting for our ride in less than 30 minutes after landing. CRAZY!
Now this is when it officially kicked in that we were back, our friend Derek pulled up in seriously the “Captain Ron” car (you know the one), beers in hand. The isolated thunderstorms made for the perfect color contrast for the plant life, birds and water color. BACK IN THE CARIBBEAN!!! Whoop whoop! The immediate appearance of sweat on my upper lip told me it was going to be a hot day and it was only going to get hotter. Derek and Christina were letting us stay aboard FIN while Prism was in the yard, but we did not need to take all our stuff back to their boat, so our first stop was Curaçao Marine to see Prism to drop off our stuff.
We located a ladder and tied it safely to Prism and then hopped for the best, but we were prepared for the worst. When we decommissioned Prism 6 months ago, Jon and I were very proud of the steps we took so that Prism would fare well while we were gone, but you can never be sure if you did everything perfect as Mother Nature has a way of getting into your boat one way or another. At least in the past she had….
We climbed up into the cockpit and first thing Jon moved were the dock lines that were tossed into the well as we departed during the haul-out process. As he lifted higher, the amount of movement on the teak was slightly terrifying. Once they were identified as little black ants scurrying off with their white larva in tow, Jon and I went on a stomping spree in hopes that they were only in the cockpit and that we did not have an ant infestation inside. Once we opened the companionway we were relived to see nothing move inside and there was no damp smell. Phew! We did however notice one very dry and dead cockroach, and what looked like mice droppings. Rut row!
When we were getting ready to leave back in April, a couple in the yard who had been hauling out here for years told us that they once got a mice infestation aboard and that we should lock Prism up as tight as we possibly could. That is what we did, and we could not see how any mouse could have made its way in while we were gone. So the little creature must have gotten on aboard the night before we hauled out while we were tied to the dock. Great so now we were looking for a possible “nest” or a body. The boat did not smell like something had died, and we could not find anything that looked like a nest. All cushions were still intact, no wiring was chewed through, and all bundles of sheets in their vacuumed bags were all still sealed. Hummm?
Finally, it came to us, that the droppings we found were not from mice, but from geckos! What a relief! We LOVE having geckos onboard!
The next week was filled with morning and nights aboard FIN, catching up, eating and drinking, while our days were filled with yard time. The crew from Fin, like the good friends they are, were very quick to jump up and help at the yard when we needed it. Jon and I went back and forth about putting a new coat of bottom paint on. The stuff we had looked good, although it was hard paint and deemed “no good” after you haul and store for a x- period of time. The argument was, that Curaçao does not have the paint that we want, nor do they have options in red, except for one. We figured if we didn’t paint, we would be in warm water and we would just have to scrub the bottom a little more often and, if we got sick of doing that we could do a quick haul in Puerto Rico to slap some paint on there. There was also a plan to move the saltwater intake for the galley foot pump and water maker, but the urge to get back in the water out weighed the need to move said thru-hull.
On Tuesday, Jon was over half way through burnishing the bottom ( in hopes that would “reactivate” the bottom paint) and I made the appointment to launch on Thursday morning 8am. A few hours later Jon came to me and said, “ I think we should just buy the cheap red paint and put on a coat, we will thank ourselves later”. Not one to ever argue with Jon ;)….. I was quick to agree and asked if we could reschedule our launch for Friday afternoon. The yard manager JJ said it would be no problem and we were good to go Friday at 1pm. Derek, Christina and I went on a run to get the paint called Nautical Pro Guard, it is a red Ablative and only cost $275.00 Gilder/ gal ( that’s less then $150USD). We were short on a few other painting supplies but a few more stops and we were all ready to set painting….tomorrow. The next morning (Wednesday) we were all at the yard, Jon had about a 1/4 left of the bottom to sand, so the rest of us started to put other things together. The anchor and chain were put back into place. Christina went up the mast to start running halyards, but that only lasted 5 minutes before JJ came running to tell us that people were not aloud aloft while on the hard. Understandable, but annoying as there was nothing else to do while we waited for Jon to be done with the sander.
By 3ish the boat was sanded and we started to rinse, wipe and tape the water line. As soon as we were about to start applying, the dark line of a squall started to show its ugly face. Everyone in the yard said it was going to rain, but the 4 of us bet that it was going to miss us. We waited about 30 minutes to make sure we bet correctly and when it was clear the line was going to go to the south we all got to work! Jon was hopeful ( as he always is) that we would only need 1 gallon of paint ( though that is never the case). It is crazy how fast a bottom paint job goes when you have 4 people who know that they are doing. The first gallon got us more that 3/4 of the way, but it was not enough. So we opened the seconded and got 1 full coat on the bottom with a second along the water line and leading edges. We still had paint left over, so Jon and I would be back the next day to move the stands, paint those areas and apply more coats to the leading edges and water line until we were out of paint. Happy with the coverage, we were all set to launch Friday afternoon, hopefully with no set backs. A local friend of Christina and Dereks wanted to meet up with them on Friday, so the boys invited him to bring/sail Prism back to Spanish Waters after the launch.
Friday morning came and seemed to last forever! We were all ready to go, I even told the yard that they could launch us earlier if they wanted or could. They couldn’t. So we were all kind of milling about, getting little things here and there done, but it was mostly the waiting game. Christina and I loaded up in the car to go get the anchor permit from the Port Authority, which was right around the corner. We knew they closed for lunch from 1200 to 1330. It was only 1100 so we had time, but when we got there around 1120, the gate keeper would not let us in. She said they were closed till 1330. I looked at her and said, “I still have 40 minutes!” She looked at me and just said “ No, you come back at 1330”. Okay…..
Once 1300 hit, the tractor and trailer were on their way to Prism. It’s go time. We have to say that the tractor and trailer combo in this yard is top notch, it is so clean, shockingly quiet and so smooth. Prism was picked up and launched like it was no big deal and once she was floating again Jon was up the mast in no time running lines, getting the topping lift back in place, installing the running backs and doing a quick rig inspection. While the rest of us did what needed to be done on the deck level. Alex( Fins’ friend) was also there at 1300 to help in anyway he could and the boys were off the dock and underway by 1500.
After a quick stop in downtown to watch Prism go through the floating bridge, Christina and I headed back to the port authority to get the anchor permit and to also hit the grocery store so that we could start to stock up Prism once again. Us girls took the 5 minute drive to the officials buildings, when I walked up to the gate keeper with a smile on my face, it was 1530. She looked at me and said “ No, I told you to come back at 1330”. When I responded with “I was launching my boat” she simply said “oh, well it is too late now, come back on Monday” She did not care when I mentioned that the office does not close until 4pm. I think she simply had plans for her Friday night and wanted to get out of there ASAP. That was very frustrating. Did I mention that they were painting the bridge, so the traffic there was stop and go the entire way, in a car who’s clutch is on its last leg.
Christina and I then raced down to the water edge to watch Prism sail down the coast towards Spanish Waters. It was only because we had things to do that I was able to pull away from watching my beautiful boat sailing along. Provisions were needed badly as Prism was empty. We headed to the market closest to the anchorage and stocked up on some of the essentials.
By the time the dinghy was loaded up and we made our way towards FIN, Prism was already anchored next to her with the guys having some beer celebrating the fact that Prism and Fin were anchored next to each other once again.
Just like that, it felt like no time had past at all, and that we have been at anchor with FIN all along. Someone asked me while I was home this summer, if it feels wired to come and go between our sea life and land life. My response was “ Not really, it feels like we go through black holes. Nothing really changes that much on either side, so when we pick up and head back to one or the other, it is like no time has passed at all.”
This time around, getting back into the swing of cruising took no time at all. The crew aboard FIN and Prism started to do the morning weather meetings as we all talked about possible windows north. There were a handful of boats leaving on Sunday, as in 2 days after we launched, Jon and I could have been ready, but we simply did not want to leave. And that might have been the nail in our coffin….