July 16, 2008

Crossing the Atlantic

Atlantic Crossing:
The water became a canvass for all the colors the sun could throw at us, and the sky displayed endless new cloud formations right above, way above and afar. The moon lit up our nights and the sun rose earlier each day as we flew east with the wind. It was like gliding. We were caught in an endless moment where we were “right” with the wind and “right” with the soft roll of big ancient waves from other storms steadily encouraging us on and letting us be.

Laura of Colorado, Derek of THEWORLDBYSEA and Ben the metaphysics master (all former all star crew) will appreciate the 2,470 knautical mile/ 24-day venture into our personal frontier of experience. These are the stats in order of impressiveness: Not a drop of water came inside the boat*, we didn’t run out of fuel**, the automatic steering systems worked*** twenty of those days and we sailed with the wind behind the beam never to exceeded 15knots (10 apparent). For all the wet passports, soggy moldy clothes and days of drying stuff out on other sailing adventures we earned this blissful spinnaker driven crossing. I kept looking at Morning Glory and shaking my head, “sailing isn’t supposed to be like this, I mean, its supposed to be like this, but its not really like this, even though we do it in hopes that we get days like this, but we don’t really, but we are now”.

Gains and losses: We lost two fishing poles with their reels, but somehow fish would occasionally jump on deck anyway and we came right up on one free life ring. We made friends twice with two passing sailboats that came within ten meters and we were blessed with five dolphin escorts. On board there was a full moon costume party, a birthday party with balloons and carrot bread, potlucks and gourmet meals, pedicures, backrubs, and a frenzy of reading.

I cleared my backlog of books, who of us can say that we’ve read the reference books on our shelves? He he, I have a small shelf, but I am actually reading about famous storms of the 1950’s. I am studying weather; it’s fascinating and relevant. I haven’t learned anything really but I have become more acutely aware and I know what pages the clouds are on in my books and where to read about what s going on now, and as my American childhood mentor used to say “knowing is half the battle.”

We started a basil plant, and we completed the journey with out consciously consuming processed sugar, alcohol or caffeine. The challenge in that came while stocking the boat, once we set off it was out of site and out of mind.
A neat part of our month at sea was our radio hour. Months ago I bargained for an out of date short wave radio that had been used as a shelf display and got it for ten cents on the dollar. We depended fully on it for our weather information. A former sailor by the name of “Herb” on the east coast of America voluntarily looks at the Atlantic weather information and corresponds with boats crossing the Atlantic via Single Side Band radios that cost thousands to buy and install properly. With jury rigged alligator clips and ten feet of randomly strung wire, we could hear Herb and the boaters talking clearly from a thousand miles away on our fifteen dollar double A radio. Unbeknownst to them we tracked them and Herb’s recommendations. For about three days there were two boats within eighty miles of us that guided us around the doldrums of the Azores high.

As Captain there are so many voices one fears when preparing for something that’s beyond your level of experience. Daydreams of the boat sinking and the town’s people saying, “He left with out a life raft!” Then there is getting caught in a storm and feeling that pang of regret for having bought an IPOD instead of a heavy weather jib. Or knocking your rudder off months prior, hammering it a few times back into place and calling it good. Setting off with batteries that don’t hold a charge, going to the cheapest welder in town to rebuild your masthead chain plate. These things remain on your mind and the knot in your stomach doesn’t loosen till you see land again. Once you do then comes the fear of running into stuff again, but you look around and relish all your good luck and you soak up that sense of empowerment that land provides in this situation, and you think “few”, but in fact this time those fears were just fear.
Going now is the only way to go and less is more. Plenty have done more with less than our little boat. Read the biographies, and less of the preparatory magazines that fill your mind full of equipment you “need” before you can go sailing. There are plenty of good books to ready someone to go, but they are too long, you’re never ready. They can do as much to keep people in the harbor as they do to launch them after their dreams.

All in all we had a fantastic crossing, and I look forward to the next.

*One rouge wave caught us off guard and splashed a wee bit into the companionway and made it to the galley floor. No personal items casualties.
**We bobbed around for a few days waiting for wind during the first thousand miles and it seemed imprudent to fire up the engine with so much ahead of us, anyway we’re a sailboat.
***The electric tiller pilot worked when there was hardly any wind and when we motored and the wind vane worked when there was at least six knots apparent wind and three knots over water.


Derek said...

Unbelievable! No wet passports or soggy clothes??? Impossible! Even today I had an customs agent stare disdainfully at my passport and ask, "Did you wash it?", "No..." I replied, "I was sailing."

Well I am happy for you and Gizmo... and yes jealous. I keep reminding myself but you were in Africa(!). Still there is void only filled with the gentle rolling of waves and perfect sunset.

Well done maties. Well done.

sybille said...

I am so relieved with incredible joy to know that the two of you experienced the most "perfect" crossing!
Naturally, my motherly instincts... I had so many fears for you both. I am relieved that Noche held up and the weather treated you so well! Congratulations!!!