So we arrived in the port in Las Palmas of the Carnary Islands (off the coast of Africa) on a Friday (12/10/16) at around 11:30 pm and docked against a concrete wall by the fuel dock. Not an ideal spot but that is all we had available. The next morning we got up early, 7:00 am and we were able to start fueling by 8:15 am. Captain Andy and crew member, Christine, then hit the grocery store for a big load of food as it had to last until we make it to Antigua. Even though we are going to the Cape Verde Islands as the next stop, it will only be a very fast stop for gas and go. I also picked up more fishing gear as the equipment that I picked up in France fell apart after one use. I do not know where it was made but it looked good but had zero durability.
We ended up leaving the Canary Islands just before 11:00 am the next day. This was less than a 12 hour turnaround which was a record for this captain by many hours. He likes this port a lot and is never in a rush to leave; but, I really pressured him on time. This did not make him happy but made me happy. I am trying to get to Antigua to spend some time on the boat with my family. I had to win at least one battle.
So we left and motored for 24 hours averaging around 8.5 knots. The wind was not favorable but by 9:00 am the next day it was and I put up both sails fully and turned off the engines. There is a glorious sound/ sensation of sailing under wind power with no engine; I love the peacefulness of water rushing past the hull. We reduced speed without the engines so it is a trade off of enjoyment and speed. Our speed went down to 6 knots or so. WE NEED MORE WIND! Quick someone eat a can of beans!(Ok, so my humor is sophomoric- still).
The captain came in behind me after I did the sails and then showed me what I could do better, to tweak them a bit. That is why he is here- to help me to become a better sailor, which I appreciate. His strong criticism of my cooking during this trip is an unpaid bonus that he has thrown in for free.
From now on to conserve fuel we will run on one engine when the wind is very low- like it is now. So with a good wind we can do 8-12 knots but when it is down to 6- 7 knot we kick in one engine. The 6-7 knots is walking speed and when you have many hundreds of miles, well, you get the message. Patience is a virtue.
With the extra time today I went through all the stainless steel railings and fittings and cleaned all the built up salt off and wiped them down with fresh water. I felt like there was enough salt chunks to fill a salt shaker. People pay for sea salt. I need to save it.
Tonight Christine made a chicken curry again with rice this time. It was wonderful. I will not get tired of her chicken curry. I was supposed to lose weight on this trip but that is not going to happen. The boat is well stocked with food including lots of desserts that should never have come on board. Way to tempting not to eat.
Laundry! Let's talk about it. From France all the way down to the Canary Islands is has been cold or at least cool. So you do not sweat as much which is good but you still have to wash your clothes. Most boats this size have a very limited amount of water to use and have to fill up from shore. So washing uses a lot of water as does showering. Water consumption can be a real issue. The tank will go dry fast. This boat has a water maker that can operate even if just one engine is running. So in effect we get very clean water, (better than your city water), in reasonable abundance. That is fantastic! It is a luxury that I like very much and tastes very good.
Trying to shower on a rocking moving boat is difficult and dangerous. You should NOT have both hands soapy at the same time as one should be holding on to the grab bar at all times. Really! To not do so with this much movement invites a nasty fall. So we only take showers only when it is reasonably calm and still the above care must be taken. We have to skip most days. TMI for some of you. For guys standing in the bathroom will not get you the sharpshooter award on a rocking boat. It will get you a mess to clean up. Sit, tuck and go is a good boating mantra. Again, perhaps TMI.
Today I got out of bed very early, way before my watch. The racquet that was going on in the cabin was scary. Waves were hitting the side of the boat hard and in the cabin down below it sounded bad. That was not all. I could feel the back of the boat lurch sideways then quickly stopping and throwing me sideways in the cabin. I thought it would be better to be on deck if we are having a problem, so I went up to investigate. After looking at the huge swells and only moderate to large waves, I decided we were not in danger at all. The boat could do it. Over the course of the day the big swells and waves were 45 degrees off the port aft quarter moving now to almost directly aft (basically, I mean, back left side of the boat and moving behind the boat later in the day). Should stay that way for the next two days. That is good. We need the waves and wind to make a sharp turn to the right toward the Caribbean. That will be the trade winds we want to pick up. Time will tell if it works out.
Speaking of time, what do you do all day on the boat? Well the first thing to understand is that even in fairly calm conditions you cannot walk or move without holding on. One hand should ALWAYS be on the boat. The movement of the boat does not stop and that wears you down so you always feel a little tired. You want to sleep. We are going to have somewhat rougher conditions for the next few days at least and we will definitely be lethargic.
I am writing this blog, listening to music on the stereo, I have a fishing line out and contemplating what is the next thing I am going to eat. I wash the dishes, manage the water maker and keep a constant eye out for any problems. With that much time it also gives me time to think about life and what I need or want to do. Life is busy back in the States so this "retreat" is a very good thing. I think about family and friends. I think about my close relationships and many other meaningful things. This time helps me to fine tune my priorities. This is a spiritual experience for me. It is well worth it.
Is the trip what I expected it to be? The answer is yes and no. Everybody should always be trying to learn and while I will be learning more on sailing I also know there is still so much more to learn after this trip. So, yes, I knew I would get more experience and become a better sailor and be very familiar with the boat. That was expected. I also knew the time would give me time to think about life and I was so looking forward to that. That expectation was met. I did expect to be seasick much more but instead I have found my sea legs very quickly. I did have one moderately bad day and the second day of mild seasickness. I really developed an appreciation for how important it is to fully look at the weather, as often as possible, when you are on a boat. I have been too lax on that one in the past. That is seriously important.
Next question-How is it sailing on the ocean for days on end? Something that I suspected but have confirmed is that for me sailing is a means of transportation. Like getting on a plane to go on vacation; this is somewhat accurate but needs more explanation. If the plane trip is an hour or so it can be fun, minus TSA! However, if you encounter delays and it goes on for days it can be tough; but, you may need to power through to get to that special vacation let’s say, in Australia. So, I am all for the short sail in the Caribbean between Islands. These are tons of fun and sailing is great. You get a fun stop to look forward to in the near future. Even a couple of days continuous sailing are fine.
The longer sailing venture, to be jostled about for a long time such as the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean crossing becomes another matter. It is not so easy. It may be a trip that has to be done to get your floating house to French Polynesia or such. Many a sailor loves to go on a day sail then stopping for a beer at the end of the day. A great day! Now a long sail can be fun but make no mistake it is exhausting and seeing land can be quite exciting. So to be perfectly candid I do like shorter sailing that gets me somewhere.
I can and am willing to do the longer sail to also get me someplace. Best to plan as many stops that are reasonable. I have seen videos of many couples traveling the world on their sailboats stopping at all the ports along the way. They want to see all the sights and to break up the trip. When they do have a long sail they have a big smile when they see land. So there you have it a somewhat short answer to a big trip.
Wednesday A.M. now and last night on my 8-12 my watch the ocean was angry! Big swells tight together and a heavy chop to go with it. We were surfing swells up to 15 knots and only had the Genoa out with one reef (the main sail on a lower setting). The winds were 24 knots with higher gusts. As we wereand still are trying to move fast, we had both engines going at a moderate speed of 2200 rpm. We cut one engine off to bring the boat down to a safer speed. I felt better going a little slower but the captain said the boat can do it and more. He has been filling my head for weeks with heavy seas breaking boats or stuff on boats that I felt better with a bigger safety margin.
We also had 2 flying fish on deck. So with the first light we saw them but they were already stiff so instead of eating them they are now bait. I have heard that flying fish are a tasty treat. And I hope I have the opportunity to try a fresh one sometime during this voyage.
We are trying hard to get to the Cape Verde Islands fast and take a quick12 hour break from the waves and fuel up. Once we leave there it will be a 12 to 14 day stretch without seeing land or anybody else. It will be the last long stretch to our final destination. Long range forecast is for solid winds and plenty of rocking. One or two days is fine but 14 days is a lot of work. You are tired at the end. I do hope to get a fresh flying fish to eat! That gives me something to look forward.
Well, better yet, instead of flying fish we just caught and ate dolphin; also called dorado. Yeah! It was not a big one only about 7 pounds. Success! During the sail at night I had to clean off four flying fish that landed on the deck. One came flying through the air into the cockpit, hit a full cup of coffee that the captain just set down and sent the cup flying to the floor making a mess and a flopping bloody fish. Crazy how they get so high and into the boat!
We arrived in port at Cape Verde at 2 A.M. last night (12-14-16) and had a couple of beers then bed. Woke up this morning and the captain, who took the worst watch/ shift, has asked for a day of rest after the 4 and half days sailing into the Cape Verde Islands. He said if I gives him/us rest he will pay for gerry cans that allow us to carry more fuel onboard so that we can motor fully if needed and make the date to rendezvous with my family. I agreed to his pleading for rest.
I am at the cafe right at the foot of our dock and boat. I plan to clean the boat today by washing it and getting in the water and scrubbing the waterline. More after the crossing.