Cruising

Stop Over in San Juan

by Ellen Birrell, Posted January 17, 2014

“Have you ever sailed into San Juan?”

“No, but we’ve chartered in the Virgin Islands” is the response I often receive...


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Over the course of the past 56 issues, we’ve brought you “Windshifts,” a reflective collection of pieces written by a host of different sailors on sailing, sailboats and life lived among them. However, in 2014, we’ll be taking a slightly different tack with “Waterlines,” a column in which Amy Schaefer and Paul VanDevelder take turns using this last-page space to fill you in on their unique whereabouts and reflections.


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When an offshore earthquake near Japan resulted in a destructive tsunami in March 2011, I, along with sailors everywhere, held my breath. My eyes were glued to the Internet. I watched videos of massive volumes of water rushing ashore, displacing families, killing people and destroying villages.


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It all began when I was eight. The bilge pump on our wooden skiff was running nonstop, and my mother had been pointing this out for some time before my father finally peeked under the hatch and saw water slopping around just inches below the battery.


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The last time I went frostbiting it was February in Chicago, and it was freezing. Not far offshore, ice floes loomed and just inshore, a layer of frost covered the hardened beaches of Lake Michigan, which bordered the black ice on Lake Shore Drive.


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