February 05, 2010

Open Ocean

Meandering back through the Spanish islands we set off for the Cape Verdes. After leaving the Canary- land/sea breeze we motored for a hundred miles to reach the trade winds.

We had an epic crossing. The new wind vane “The Eskimo” worked magically and the electric auto pilot “Captain Dan / Meggie” worked sweet when the wind was to light for the Vane.

We installed an 80 watt solar panel earlier on our "boys trip" so cold beer and music could be enjoyed along the way. The conditions were ideal for the self steering mechanisms and they held out for the whole eight days of following wind. So what did we do?

We made it look easy. I read three books about sailing around the world, and learned to splice cored braided line. Why not?

We played card games (BS), studied Spanish and French, caught fish, let fish go, practiced using a sextant, looked at the map of the world and contemplated all the options.

In fact the primary activity became contemplating the endless number of scenarios, studying wind patterns and fueling our endless ambitions.

We had a two scheduled parties, one for the “halfway mark” and one for the Double Bruyn’s 10,000 mile.

Then there was that spontaneous night when we wore costumes, brought out the disco ball, got completely fueled on rum (thanks Monsie), sang songs and danced the night away under the stars and moon light, then slept all the next day. Someone coherent stayed with "The Eskimo" at all times, thanks Ludo!

After steering us towards Orion's belt for a wonderful detour Ritchie slept for two days, but he was the champion of entertainment that night and has become my new idol.

We sailed at a leisurely pace.

It’s wonderful to be out in the ocean in a warm climate with consistent wind and swell.

The conditions were ideal. There was no rush to end the experience.

We found a rhythm.

Sailing under a reefed main and no foresail, so that the boat stayed dry and reasonably level.

We relaxed from the normal worries of coastal sailing.

Out in the Ocean, where the weather is stable there are no rocks to hit, seldom boats to collide with, and once she’s trimmed properly she’ll sail her self. So keeping watch means: just watching.

Watch the wind power the boat in that magical way, watch the wind vane mysteriously gyroscope our helm straight, watch ones surroundings for that new depth of awareness.

That first glance out to sea seems void and abysmal. What can be described as "mind numbing" begins to show you things, and becomes more and more interactive. When you are steering you can watch the GPS to hold your course. You can also watch a compass. You can also watch a little piece of string and its angle to the wind. You can keep the wind on the back of your neck, or the side of your cheek depending on how you sit. You can note the angle of the boat to the swell and its motion. If anything changes, goes wrong or you loose your bearings, you can refer back to any of these.

We played around with the sextant. We found our selves within one hundred miles of where the GPS put us. It’s fun to begin to relate the map of stars in the sky to the way we use maps of land. The constellations pass like features on the landscape. They also break the night up just as the sun breaks up the day. Orion’s Belt arcs across as the night goes by. It rises as the sun sets, it peaks in the sky then sets to the west. We broke the night watch into four-three hour shifts. Correspondingly Orion’s path through the sky was broken into consistent quarters. And over our passage south the Southern Cross noticeably rose as the North Star sunk in the horizon to the north. We were passing constellations like landmarks on the map. If we were more familiar with the map of the stars it would be easy to have a sense of time passing and have a feel for your location on the surface of the earth.

It all gets lost in the street lights at home.