Monday, February 15, 2010

Different kind of crossing

We had all the right ingredients for a fun and stress-free passage: Favourable weather and winds, a working Autopilot (the Dan / Meggie combo), our newly mounted windvane ‘The Eskimo’, and enough provisions to carry us anywhere in the North Atlantic.
Leaving Los Lobo’s the winds were light and flukey due to the Azores high being much further south than usual. It did mean we needed to motor initially, however 24hrs and 100 odd miles south of the Canaries saw us into the fantastic tropical trade winds with no looking back.

Being the responsible Captain I wanted to enforce some discipline amongst my far too laid back crew and set a gruelling watch system of 3 hrs on / 21 hrs off (logic being that we were all on deck during the day so only did a watch at night). Being a boys trip it just wouldn’t be the same if there was no emphasis on fishing, hence prior to leaving the Canaries went to town buying a wide selection of lures. €100 filled the tackle box with lures ranging from flying fish to record marlin catches, giving us really no excuse for poor results. Day two of our sail this all paid off when Rich caught a foot long bonito on the hand line – After a tough 30 seconds reeling this giant (that already appeared to have drowned) into the boat we all breathed a sigh of relief that we would not go hungry.
El secondo, Ludo "Oui oui, mon fish soooo big!"
Rich, rich wake up!
The days that followed routine set in and memories for stressful / tiring passages felt very distant. We filled our days with catching fish (usually either too big or too small), repairing sails, learning Spanish and French, practicing our celestrial navigation, reading tales of other sailors and looking at the world map, contemplating future options travelling by sea.
More sail repairs...
"I think the GPS must be wrong"
At night time when there is little else to do it was always a great opportunity to reflect and I would always look forward to reading the log entries of the others after their watch. In society we are taught to cram as much as possible into our working week, and when one does get a chance to do nothing the time is most likely spent in front of the TV. Our 3 hour shifts would be spent picking star constellations, watching dolphins in phosphorescence or staring mesmerised at ‘The Eskimo’, so elegantly and effortlessly steering the boat.
It is something one would never get tired of watching, the windvane and Double Bruyn working together continuously, keeping the boat on course perfectly with tiny adjustments to the rudder. The night watches were really so much fun and I don’t think we were ever unhappy to be woken up to go on watch.
Not quite keeping up the tradition of a dry boat on passage, we seemed to find any excuse to have a party – Half way mark, DB’s done 10,000 miles since Florida, wow the number’s on the GPS are the same etc!
One particularly funny night saw us under the command of Richie who, after a bottle of 10yo Havana Club thought we should sail to Orion’s belt. With full support of me and Dan it was lucky we had Ludo aboard to keep the DB on track to the Cape Verdes. With the disco ball, strobe light and outside speakers we could have been anywhere and quickly forgot nearest land was 500miles away. Had we known the party would be so much fun we would have invited more people ;-)
8 days and about 1,000miles saw us arrive in Mendelo, Sao Vincent Cabo Verde. No nasty weather, no damage to the boat, no tiring hours helming, no sea monsters or even big fish – This leg was a tale of simple pleasures and how you really need very little to have the time of your life with good friends.