The assumed length of our journey was 20 days. We did the provisioning ourselves (not Captain Morgan), which in my opinion was quite successful, and sailed out of Las Palmas bearing south on a 34 foot Gyb Sea on the 1st of December.
We left during a small weather window in between two low pressure systems, so unluckily for us the sea was pretty rough due to the first low that had just passed. We couldn’t escape the seasickness. Being up on the helm was more or less fine, but as soon as I went down to the saloon, it hit me right away. The rest of the day was spent in our new “home”, trying to sleep through seasickness. Pills helped, but made me very sleepy. I woke up at 5 p.m. to get informed that my shift with our captain for watching would be 12 to 4. That mean 12 to 4 at night and the next day in the afternoon.
At night during the watch I was sitting with my jaw dropped all the way down to the floor of the cockpit, not able to stop being amazed by the beauty of millions of stars spread chaotically across the dark, black velvet sky, and by the twinkling in the water produced by the fluorescent plankton. Absolutely magical…and then suddenly I see this fluorescent shining plankton gathering and forming into some sort of silhouette and overtaking the boat. It’s dolphins!!! First watch and they are here to cheer me up and keep me company. They were incredibly close and it was easy to see them, because while moving they create their own plankton shine. Incredible!
I was quite proud and happy with myself standing at the helm, steering our little boat in the middle of the night, alone. Captain Morgan was sleeping quietly near by. Above me, the distant shine of stars, below me, the sparkling plankton and my companion for the next 20 days – a compass. I felt free. I felt like a pirate! 🙂
Dolphins again! Curly already started whinging and complaining that the dolphins were avoiding him, but here they were coming to show off their tricks in the beautiful light of sunset. I think we saw about 20 of them. Being extremely excited to see them again I forgot about my camera and was just sitting on side of the boat, clapping my hands and whistling. They were jumping completely out of the water, showing off their smooth, but surprisingly small bodies. (The small bodies is because they were actually porpoises, not dolphins)
Tonight I was cooking dinner. Cooking was a duty of each and every one of us, but we didn’t write up a roster, trusting in the sense of responsibility. It worked well and I can’ remember a single time when the meal wasn’t delicious. The experience of cooking on the moving vessels wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. Seasickness didn’t bother me anymore and I even refrained from taking pills.
In the whole, everyone is healthy and happy to be here and now, eating dinner and watching the sunset and dolphins on the lovely evening of December the 3rd.
Day 4 and 5
Yesterday we were observing an incredibly beautiful sunrise…and dolphins with it of course! It seems like they like me. These ones were a lot bigger then the ones we saw the previous times, but less playful. They showed off a few jumps and disappeared into the blue water of the Atlantic.
Days and nights seem to melt in time, the sense of time dissolving in a rolling sleepy kingdom. Last night was so nice to stand at the helm, listen to Beirut on my ipod, look at the stars, the milky way and the little arrow on top of the mast showing which direction the wind is coming from, thus defining which way we’re going to sail. I wish I had one on top of my head for my personal purposes. Life would be much easier. Not that it’s hard now..:)
Tonight it was almost impossible to sleep in our room. The boat bow was jumping on waves like a roller coaster. During my watch I felt pretty flat, because I didn’t sleep enough and we reached some sort of extra humid area. All the bedsheets and clothes got damp in no time. At noon, although it was extremely hot, nothing would dry due to the high humidity. We changed our course from south-west to west. Today we put our bets on the estimated arrival date to Caribbean. Mine is 23 of December, 18.40. I am only going to be happy if we arrive earlier.
The best watch times are 8 to 12 or 6 to 10, because you get to see the sunset and the sunrise. These are the highlights of our days. It’s like watching a favourite series on TV at a certain time. Everybody is gathering at the cockpit for dinner at sunset and sometimes our family favourite “The Dolphin Show”.
The weather got better today. It’s sunny and windy. Hopefully it will get all of the dampness out of our clothes and sheets.
The days start to go by faster. The watches too. We are surrounded by a blue desert, where a man would die without fresh water and very little grows on the surface. Big ocean swells are rolling the boat like a baby cradle- up and down, up and down. So powerful and yet so gentle. We live like a big family. We get to know each other. We play dominoes, joke and laugh. It’s good.
It seems like my mind here is not busy with anything else to think about, so there is some free space for unconscious thoughts to come in and surprise me.
Day 7 and 8
Day number 7 started with me baking bread. The funny thing is that instead of yeast I bought baking soda in Spain, because they don’t seem to distinguish between the two, so my bread didn’t raise the way it should have.
Today we took a shower. Because the amount of water is limited on our yacht, there is no water for luxuries like showering or even washing your face in the morning. The solution is obvious – salt water showers. Surprisingly the water in the ocean is amazingly warm and a shower is rewardingly refreshing. The procedure happens like this – you take a bucket or a bottle, fill it with lots of water and then spill it all out on yourself, screaming with surprise. Fun fun fun!
Day 9 -10
Everything is nice and quiet. We are like a big family – sharing and caring. We cook and bake bread. It started to come out better, although still it’s more like turkish flat bread rather than fluffy crispy loaf…
Saw lots of flying fish. Never thought it can fly so far! The crazy creatures jump out of the water and land on board in an attempt to commit suicide. Sometimes it hits you in the middle of the night, which is so freaky!
We covered almost 700 nautical miles so far. 1700 more until Antigua… Hopefully we will get there in two weeks. Yesterday we had strong winds – a little scary, but exciting. I think I can steer the boat pretty good through big ocean swells. 🙂
Every sunset and sunrise makes me feel like I’m in a fairy tale, like it’s all unreal and I’m dreaming about it. I am proud of myself and joyful. I love watching golden reflections in the iron blue water, dark silhouette of the boat and ropes. Listening to Boards of Canada during sunrise is wonderful!
I have a lot of weird, surreal dreams…which is surprising because it isn’t easy to sleep. If the wind is from starboard, which it normally is, then I have to resist myself from rolling to the other side of the bed, because the boat is healing so much. From that I wake up with sore and tired shoulders. To the contrary, when the wind is from the port side – I am the one getting good sleep!
What were our days filled with? I think the main activity for us was eating. You wake up to make breakfast and then half a day think about or discuss with the others what to have for lunch and after lunch everyone is discussing who is cooking what for dinner. Some domino games and a lot of reading. Most of our discussions were about where we are and how long until we get to land. It seemed like we had so much time, but nevertheless, I didn’t manage to do everything I had planned to do or to read.
The wind died down today, which allowed us to try out the cruising chute. It was very spectacular when we raised it and it filled with wind and shone it’s bright colours on the background of a dark blue sky…even though it fell in the water, because we raised it too slow. Everything comes with experience! At least it gets dry straight away in the wind and sun.
We almost (almost!!) caught a fish too! A big dolphin fish, or so we think. We were fighting with it for a long time. The boat was going at 6 knots and we were trying to pull the hand line in slowly. The fish was jumping out of the water and struggling for survival. When it was a meter away and we stretched out our hands to grab it – off it went. We only got our rubber calamari and empty hook. Big disappointment! Instead of delicious meaty fish we get bony stupid flying fish jumping at us to freak us out. Yesterday we managed to save two of them, who jumped out on the deck in another suicidal attempt. Another two were found on the bow of the boat in the morning. Dead. With their eyes eaten out by birds (or Curly enjoying a midnight snack).
The night was stunning! The wind died out and we had to motor all night and morning. This isn’t the reason of my joy, but!..it was so nice and quiet…Serenity, tranquil ocean, millions of stars reflecting in the still water of the Atlantic ocean. I have seen so many shooting stars, that by the end of the night I lost my count. I think I could see at least one every ten seconds – I am not joking! Sometimes I could see two or three at a time falling like in an arranged performance. The moon set at about 2. It was so interesting and so fascinating to see the moon setting down. Normally it’s the sun and it means that the day is over and it’s time to go to home/bar/sleep, but with the moon it’s completely different – with the moon setting the night doesn’t end, it only becomes darker and more mysterious..even a bit empty and sad. It was so huge and red on the horizon. When we were left in the complete darkness with dead calm, it felt like we were moving through the starry sky, not the water. Magical. I felt like I am a tiny tiny, but nevertheless important part of this universe.
We tried to sail in the morning, but no success. There was some wind, but not in the right direction and later on it died away completely. It served us as a good reason to stop completely and…have a swim!!! Yes, at N17۫ 31’, W34۫ 05’, in the middle of the ocean with thousands of fathoms beneath us. It was so pleasant to jump off the deck into warm blue waters. The water was so warm! Unbelievable. Kilometres of water underneath me, staring down into nothingness, it felt a little scary, but mostly exciting and moving. The interesting part is that even though the wind was 0.0, and there were no waves, while we were swimming, the boat slowly floated away. Lucky we had the rope, otherwise we would be away from it in no time. How do some people think to jump in the water, while the boat is moving at 3 knots, just to save a blown away hat?..
After the swim- we motored for about 5 min, when we saw splashes. It was a whale!! First whale to see! What a day- to swim in the middle of the Atlantic ocean with whales! There is no other place where I’d prefer to be right now. I am happy!
Booooring! Dead calm – no wind, no waves We looked ourselves up on the GPS and map. Seems like it’s at least another 10 days at sea…and that’s the best case scenario. It’s getting a little tensed. We started to ration the food. No more free chocolate and cheese. Some misunderstandings and tensions building up, because of domestic matters – like who isn’t washing the dishes often enough, who is eating more chocolate that the rest…etc. Nevertheless, it’s still fine and we all try hard to keep our sanity and work things out.
I think I am tired myself, but only because there is no wind and everything seems stale and boring. I want to feel solid ground beneath my feet.
For some days already we have had a companion- a white bird. It’s circling around the boat. She’s a beautiful moderate sized bird with a long tale, like a parrot. It’s weird to see birds like this in the middle of the ocean.
Still no wind…At least I get really good sleep and don’t wake up at night struggling not to roll over… Also we have the opportunity to put the hammock up!
We saw more whales!!! They were Minke whales. Beautiful giant smooth animals. It seemed like there were lots of them, but I think it was a couple who circled around the boat out of curiosity. They were coming right underneath our boat and breaking the surface right next to us to stare at us. We were staring back. Such a mesmerising creature! I wish I could swim with them…
Finally we caught a fish! A wahoo according to Captain Morgan. This is the only good news. We are still motoring. Captain says still 10 days at least till Antigua. I can hear his confident answer to my question before we left Las Palmas- “It won’t take us 30 days..”. How can one having so much experience be so foolishly confident?… Seems like we all start to worry a little bit about our food, diesel and most importantly water supplies. Will it be enough?…Not really, the way we are travelling. Hopefully we will catch more fish…and hopefully there will be rain to get some fresh water.
Oh, Gods of wind and rain, please show us your power!
Hurray! Hurray! We’ve got 20 knots of wind! We go at 290 degrees and we caught another fish! A dolphin fish, bigger than the last one. Perfect day! this fish resembles chicken so much, even the raw meat looks like chicken meat. Delicious too.
Also we almost caught a seagull yesterday. Silly bird was hunting and thought our bate was a real calamari. We thought the bird must have swallowed the hook, because it wouldn’t let go of the bait. We started to take in the line and when I was about to grab the bird to help it and set it free it flew off. What happened is that it was fighting for it’s prey until the last minute. Poor hungry bird!…
I never thought the ocean could be as still as yesterday. Not a wave, not a ripple. The surface is so still and smooth, you can almost see your reflection in it. It looked as if it wasn’t water at all, but quicksilver. In a couple of hours this serene surreal environment would transform into foam, white seahorses and 5m waves. Mind blowing! The ocean is constantly changing. Sometimes you get waves coming in two directions at once. They can be at 90۫, in which case you may be trying to surf one set of waves whilst trying not to get thrown around by the second set, or they may be at 180۫, which just makes it confusing to know what’s going on.
Day 19 and 20
Yesterday I felt very homesick. I think I am getting tired of the journey. I would love so much to be at home – with snow falling down, candles and mulled wine. Cold feet and the smell of oranges and cinnamon…
The wind died off a little. We got the spinnaker out again. Pretty. We are moving slower, but with consistent speed. It’s getting hotter and more humid. Tropics. Last night I saw a lunar eclipse. The shadow of the Earth slowly crawled on the moon. The moon would turn it’s colour from pale yellow to thick orange and red. Never in my life have I seen anything like it. Wonderland!
Five days more…Hopefully will be there on 24 or 25th…
Early in the morning, we watched the sky and ocean turn from darkness to light as the sun rose slowly behind us. There was no bright red, orange or pink colours, just pale pastel orange and yellows spreading across the soft clouds. If an artist could capture this image on canvas, his life would be complete. Meanwhile, the 4m ocean swells were approaching us from our starboard side. We climbed up and down them like ever changing rolling hills. The big waves felt majestical. A gentle but steady 12 knots of wind kept us at 5 knots and on course. What a perfect start to the day,
I never thought that on the 22nd of December at 5.30 a.m. Caribbean time I would find myself lying on the foredeck with my feet hard against the metal rack, trying to balance myself so that I don’t slide off the boat into the rustling waters of the Atlantic as the boat is healing and bouncing wildly over the waves. It’s pitch black and it’s a couple of hours until sunrise. The rain is so intense and hard that it hurts my face and I can’t see a thing because my eyes are flooded with the amounts of water falling down from the sky. Precious fresh water. If not for the spinnaker I would run inside to grab my shampoo to finally have that fresh water shower…but the Spinnaker. We had to pull it down, when the wind picked up to 25-27 knots we had to wake Curly to help us. So there I was lying down on the deck, completely wet with colourful spinnaker in one hand, or should I say around and under one hand. The spinnaker halyard in the other, trying to figure out which position to take to click the halyard on to the ring and not to fall in the water, at the same time holding the colourful sail, that is trying to escape from my hands with the help of 27 knots wind. Curly pulls me out of my chaotic thoughts with a shout, calling for someone to realease the red sheet, desperate to pull in the last of the spinnaker which is billowing in the wild winds. It’s almost impossible to hear what anyone’s saying because the wind and the water are so loud. Adrenalin is beating hard in my chest, tickling my belly, but it isn’t the adrenalin of fear to die, it is the adrenalin of feeling to be alive! Eventually we readjusted, turned and stretched. Got the halyard on, Sam passed us the bag for the spinnaker. We stuffed it in as quick as we could, still clinging on to anything we could reach, and finally it was over.
After the storm passed, me and Sam were left alone to finish off our watch, wet and miserable without the ability to even have a hot cup of tea, because the gas went out and we had to change the bottle. Only the spectacular sunrise was trying to keep us warm with it’s colours. After two hours, when the watch was over, we changed into dry clothes and had a cup of tea, when we got a visit from our beloved friends – dolphins! I was sitting right on the bow of the boat, clapping and whistling to cheer the dolphins. They were extremely happy and rolled around in the water showing off their ability to swim faster than the boat at any time. I saw a mummy and a baby dolphin synchronised in their swimming and trick making. So sweet! Good morning world!
More rain, but in a good way. We had the main sail reefed, which meant the rain was running down the sail and collecting in the bottom. Tina and I put on our bikinis and started bucketing it out into our water bottles. We collected about 80 litres, more than enough to see us to land. This was very timely, because with our diesel supplies almost diminished, there would be no more motoring, even if there’s no wind, because we need to run the engine an hour a day just to charge the batteries for our instruments to run.
It’s Christmas! The wind yesterday was very good. We were making 6.5-7 knots. At night when the full moon was showing through the clouds, dolphins came to visit again. I was happy to see them as always, but even more so, because with their presence it gives us hope that the land isn’t far away now.
Since it’s Christmas we decided to do something special- pancakes! I was happy to commit to cooking and I think it was pretty good. Judging by our speed and location we will be in Antigua in two days. Everyone’s spirits went up with the wind and christmas pancake atmosphere! 🙂
Day 25 (Curly made me add this bit)
Because the majority of us on the boat were European, Christmas was celebrated on the 24th, a day early according to Curly and Captain Morgan. So for their English Christmas Curly cooked up an English breakfast using whatever he could manage to find. Lunch consisted of all sorts of snacks and delicious bits, again almost everything delicious left on the boat. Dinner was . The end of the strangest Christmas ever.
We are getting closer! wooo-hooo! I can see the land! I can smell it. How I missed it! Hopefully we will be there by the evening.
Last night we saw dolphins again! They really love me, don’t they? :))
We got into Antigua. It feels good to be close to land. All it’s smells and sounds. What’s the first thing you do when you reach land? Immigration and customs? No, straight to the bar, walking funny with sea legs, to have a cold beer. What an epic journey. Cheers, we made it!