wow... Cant see it or read it.. what happened to it..
I used to post sailing stories when I first joined the forum. It calmed me down to write them, since it took me away from TX and let me dream about one of my great loves. I am off treatment now, but life is a roller coaster. Between the bi-polar stock market, house hunting and TX withdrawal – life is still difficult.
Many people said they enjoyed reading the stories, so here is another:
One of my great sailing goals was to do an ocean passage to a foreign country. Learning the survival skills and preparing the boat for the passage, seemed exactly like the challenge I needed to forget business and health issues.
Preparing oneself and the boat for this is a much larger effort than anyone might realize. Major storms are a remote possibility, but you must prepare for the worst and hope it never happens. During a major storm, waves can easily reach 30 – 40 feet and break over the boat; equipment can fail forcing the crew to go up on deck in horrendous conditions.
This means providing a mechanism to physically attach oneself to the boat while you are up on deck. The boat must have enough water for the crew to drink and enough fuel to motor through the doldrums. You must also have an inflatable life raft and a “ditch bag” – a bag you grab as you go over the side; it contains all the emergency signaling devices, a radio and medicine for pain and infections.
So, after months of preparing the boat and taking courses in weather, emergency medicine and navigation, I felt we were ready to embark on our adventure: a sail from Connecticut directly to St Marten. 1500 miles of open ocean with Bermuda the only land along the way.
We left Westport Connecticut the last day of October in order to satisfy my insurance company that we would not be sailing during the hurricane season. The crew consisted of Mafalda and me and two other people that I never met before, but came highly recommended.
The trip was a magnificent experience; we never had a major storm, but we certainly did experience a pretty good sized one! We had every condition from 35 degrees with high winds to gentle breezes with candlelight dinners in the cockpit. We stood watches of 3 hours on and 6 hours off. The person on watch sailed the boat by themselves and everyone else slept.
Here is the log from the trip written in real time; sometimes in very rough conditions and very little sleep, so please forgive the grammar.
We are starting this trip with a great deal of anticipation and wonder. We have two crew members that are highly recommended, but we never spent enough time with them to know what 12 Days on a small boat will be like.
10/26/02: I spent the day listening to weather forecasts trying to decide when to leave. It is raining and very windy out of the east, the direction we will start with.
4:00 PM the forecast for Tuesday in the Gulf Stream is very bad weather for a crossing. I decided to leave immediately, so we can cross the stream on Monday. The wind has shifted to the Northeast and we are casting off at 4:30 PM. It is 35 degrees.
10/27/02: It is 3AM and we are rounding Montauk Point, having blasted out of the sound at over 8 knots. As I stare at the lights on the point, I realize this is the last time I will see land for 10 - 12 days. The wind is 30 knots from the Northwest and we are on a broad reach making 8.5 knots over the bottom. The seas are 2 – 3 feet, not too bad.
The compass light has failed and we can not see the compass at night. I am steering by using a flash light to get a look at the compass and then line the mast up with a star. It is ironic to me that with thousands of dollars worth of hi – tech equipment, I am steering as the sailors of a thousand years ago did.
A small sparrow has joined the crew. It was blown off shore by the strong winds and can’t get back. It has become tame and allows us to hand feed it, but I believe it is doomed; it will never get back to shore.
10/28/02 8 AM: Mafalda is not standing watch, so she has decided to cook for us. The three remaining crew are standing 3 hours on and 6 hours off watch. It is taking me some time to get used to this, but Interferon gave me some practice dealing with sleep depravation.
Standing watch means steering and staring at the compass – looking up every once in a while to make sure there are no boats in view.
Those of you that envision eating meals on a boat as depicted in old sea faring movies (Lantern lit cabins with elegant dinner ware – the boat making gentle creaking noises in the background) can rest assured that nothing could be further from the truth. It is more like getting a plate of food, crawling into your washing machine and putting it on a heavy duty spin cycle. It is almost like playing a video game: trying to spear a piece of meat while it zips off the plate at supersonic speed; the gravy makes wonderful designs on our clothes.
10AM we have crossed the north wall of the Gulf Stream and the water temperature shot up to 81 degrees. We are peeling off our winter clothes and enjoying the warm weather.
10/29/02 We crossed the south wall of the stream and we are now out of the foul current. The weather is cloudy and humid caused by the convection of the stream.
10/30/02 The wind has picked up to 20 – 30 knots and the waves are starting to build. I wanted to send the email today, but it is too rough to go on deck to use the satellite phone. We spend a lot of time listening to the weather report and it sounds like we are in for a storm.
There is very accurate weather information available and the report has been very useful to us.
The experienced crew is very nonchalant about the impending bad weather; I am trying to envision what it will be like and Mafalda is totally freaked out.
The wind is building and the waves are 6 – 8 feet.
10/31/02 3AM It is my watch and when I come up on deck the stars are out and the wind is holding at 25 knots. Within an hour, the wind has climbed to 30 knots and it is starting to rain. The rain is horizontal and the wind is now 40 knots. I can’t see anything beyond my compass. We have storm sails up and the boat is riding comfortably. So far, not too bad.
12PM the sky has cleared and the wind is down to 25 knots – the storm has mostly passed north and west of us. By 5 PM the waves are huge – over 20 feet, but we are in clear conditions. Down below, it is impossible to move without holding on to something. The motion is so strong that unless you hold on – you catapult across the cabin and crash into a bulkhead.
We need to sleep with lee cloths holding us in our bunks. Lee cloths are pieces of canvas that are set up much like the rails on a hospital bead.
The boat seems to sense that this is what it was built to do. It charges up each wave like a race horse, then surfs down the back side like a 27,000 pound surf board. It crashes into the trough sending spray thirty feet into the air – truly exhilarating sailing.
11/1/02 This is a day that we dream about: 85 degrees, clear skies and 15 – 20 knot winds aft of the beam. Looks like I can send email today!
11/2/02 We are due south of Bermuda and another bird has joined us. Like the first, it is a land bird and we have no idea where it came from. We are many miles from the nearest land and we don’t recognize the species.
11/3/02 The bird made one last attempt to fly to land, but we watched it land in the sea.
We have all settled into our temporary social arrangement; everyone has staked out an area of the boat and built a little “nest” of sleeping gear and clothes all held in place by the lee cloths when we are not sleeping in the bunk.
11/4/02 3AM it is my watch and there is no moon. The stars make a complete dome all the way to the horizon – I have never seen anything like this – the Milky Way looks like it is painted on the sky. One of the crew is an amateur astronomer and is teaching me the constellations. We can see the gas nebulae in the sword of Orion using only binoculars.
The wind has been so calm for the last few days that we had to motor sail. The second half of the trip is very different from the first half. We are often able to have candle light dinners on deck with all hands participating.
11/5/02 11PM it is my watch and I see a glow on the horizon off the starboard bow – it’s the lights of Anguilla. I feel a real thrill of anticipation as I realize that we are about to make landfall after more than ten days. Another hour and I can see lights on Anguilla directly. I am off watch at midnight, but I am so excited that I can not go below. John, one of the crew, is steering as I navigate past Scrub Island on the east end of Anguilla. Now we see lights on St. Martin and we decide to start the engine and drop the sails as we motor towards the harbor of our destination.
11/6/02 2AM We wake up Mickey Spillane, our experienced crew member, to guide us into the harbor and we all get up to help tie up to the dock. I can not begin to describe the sense of accomplishment and the thrill to be back on land.
We decide that although we are exhausted, we are so excited that we have to walk on land and explore. We have not cleared customs, but who cares!
We stagger off the boat and I get a full understanding of the term ”sea legs”; I am unable to walk without lurching from side to side as we all laugh hysterically at how strange this sensation is. Thank goodness, it only takes a few minutes to remember how to walk on a stable platform.
Great story! Now that's an adventure! Sounds much more exciting than being landlocked on a lake.
Thanks sharing that.
that was awesome! Took me away, I could smell the salt and even the decorative clothing of food stains, took me somewhere else. I need to be somewhere else today!
Sea legs and laughter! Good stuff!
Andiamo you are just the best! Thank you my friend for taking me awaym for a few minutes!
Oh my --- WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITHOUT PEN IN HAND???
Hmmm - why aren't you writing articles to sailing magazines --- or just a daily journal or some sort of fictional - non-fictional biography?
Youse gots no excuuuuuuuuuuuse now.
Tap tap tap... ahem.... I'm waiting.
Very good stuff there!
that is a great adventure
Thanks! I love your story. Can't wait to read the next chapter!
What an amazing adventure!
Thank you for taking me along with you!!=)
You truly are a wonderful writer!
Oh wow, now that is reason for living!
Thanks for letting a landlubber like me vicariously share your adventure! It was a terrific story.