26º 42.9’ N 052º 05.7’ W. (Middle of the Atlantic).
Why does the sound of water whooshing past the hull make for such vivid dreams and wonderful, refreshing sleep?
It is so peaceful out here: no cell phones, no agendas, no bad news and nothing doable to resolve the world’s problems. One becomes “off the hook” from the responsabilities connected to other people and situations. It becomes easier to live in the present, concerned only with the well being of crew and vessel. This particular crew and vessel are quite happy and independent. Life is easy! Mother nature has smiled protectively upon us so far and delivered the very best conditions one could hope for. It is absolutely fabulous!
It’s five days since we left Antigua. Today the first of the large clumps of Sargasso, Portuguese Man-O-Wars and,unfortunately, rubbishy flotsam have begun to appear frequently; especially the jelly fish. Flying fish are whizzing around in all directions, occasionally crash landing on deck but usually bouncing back into the Atlantic dazed but not dead. We are sailing along sweetly at 10-11 knots, close reaching. Yesterday all the B&G wind instruments died so we’re using old fashioned methods of gauging wind speed and direction: when the tea in your cup has white caps there’s about 11 knots; it flies out of the cup around 15 etc. We drink a lot of tea, which I’ve discovered, is almost as good as drinking a lot of beer! David , Simon’s long time friend and sailing partner, drinks only Red Bush tea or “ginger minge” as he mischievously calls it. We do have happy hour and drink a beer daily around sunset, munch on cheese and crackers, chips and guacamole or Kelly Marie’s delightful tangy fruit salsa and dance around to our theme song for the voyage: “Dancing in the Moonlight”; a seventies hit. Well, I dance around and the others mock me.
This morning a vessel appeared on our radar. Soon we spotted sails on the horizon and received a call on the VHF from a 100 ft Swan called Varsovie. They’ve been trying to catch up with us all day and it’s quite fun. Any time two saiing boats are heading the same direction it is a race and while they can average a knot to a knot and half more boat speed than we can we’ve been putting extra effort into our helming today and the conditions are making it extremely enjoyable. We’re giving them a good run for their money! The mate just rang us again so we hook up for beers in the Azores. Maybe he wants to pump us for sailing tips!
I am thrilled with our watch schedule! We have two person watches 4 hours on and 4 off; which was a tad brutal at first but we’re all adjusted now. However, the fifth person gets the whole day off watches but is the chef for the day! This way we get a nice variety of culinary delights and everyone is spared the monotony of the galley. It also provides this person with some much needed extra winks.
Simon and I spent most of February and March at the Bitter End in Virgin Gorda’s Sound. We managed to get ahead on many boat maintenance and even improvement projects while not breaking too much of a sweat. Anchored out we got wet daily after work; sailing hobie cats and lasers, diving, paddle boarding , kite boarding and wake boarding. We almost became locals! I had a few kite boarding lessons and actually got up for a few rides which lasted long enough for me to actually be aware of controlling the kite and the board and my own body screaming along way too fast for much control at all! Needless to say I had some very interesting wipe outs and gained the useful knowledge that my face can create quite a wake and is not built to be hydrodynamic. Simon cringes when I brag that one day (only this one time) I beat him in 3 consecutive races on the little Hobie Waves. I drank 5 beers during the course of the race; a fun Tuesday regatta set up by the Bitter End Water Sports guys, in which you must sail past the committee dinghy and grab a beer between races! Good clean fun.
Kelly Marie joined us for our first real charter of the season. We had had a three day photo shoot with models and photographers, make up lady and coordinator for Conde Naste magazine. I asked the girl who has been working for them (she does the fashion section including the writing and setting and apparel and model chosing etc) what Conde Naste means but she admitted to having no idea. Imagine that. I’ll have to Google it, if I remember. So I don’t count that as a “real charter”. Our real charter was a family with an Italian dad, Dutch mum and teenage boy and girl from Amsterdam, all fluent in about 5 languages! They loved us and want to book us again in the Med this summer.
We are currently banging our way into Gibraltar, 50 miles away, about 3200 miles from Antigua. In a few days time we will carry onward towards Kephalonia in Greece, where we will almost immediately pick up the Neeleys (owners) for a month of cruising. Shortly after that we have another charter booked and will hopefully hire Kelly Marie again. She’s quite popular around here (and every where she goes no doubt!). She fell right into the charter stewardess routine and was the best helper I’ve ever had on any boat, anywhere! She has been a sparkling ray of sunshine the entire time. I am pushing to have her just stay on board for the family cruise but Simon thinks they probably won’t go for it. Anyway, all keep fingers crossed for us!
So Winston will be cruising in Greece while we are there and I am hoping to spend some time with him. Bonus!
The 100 ft Swan Varsovie was in Horta when we pulled in to the dock on May 13. They were only 12 hours ahead of us!! We wound up in the same restaurant for dinner that night and watched, perplexed as they took turns doing push ups on the restaurant floor…An antic devised at sea by bored sailors: any one caught saying “mine” was peer pressured into the there and then push up routine. So we had fun setting them up later at Peter Sports Café asking continuously: “whose beer is this?”. They never asked us anything about sailing!
We hired a car and drove around Faial one day. First up to the Caldera; thick with cloud, couldn’t see much. Then to lunch at a restaurant owned by 2 German gay guys who opened the restaurant especially for us. The food was delicious and so were the 4 bottles of Vinho Verde. Green wine? Yum though. Then we drove some more from a lush green landscape full of tethered cows (?) to a Northwestern ferny, foresty bit and on to a totally barren dry volcanic ash area with a half buried old light house. Yes, they tie the cows up in the paddocks…don’t know why. Didn’t get a chance to ask any one. We hypothesized that they were thus prevented from eating too much fresh grass and foundering (or whatever it’s called that they can do). We were in unanimous hypothetical agreement. Also they’re not big on fences there, just lots of bamboo dividers; growing bamboo I mean. There are certainly lots of cows but you can’t buy fresh milk in the market. We bought Azorian UHT milk!!
The light house used to be at the end of the island but another 2 square kilometers popped out of the sea in 1957 after an underwater volcano erupted!! I’ve never trod on such young ground.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention lots of bits and pieces and I’ll kick myself later in private but I think this gives the gist my current and latest situation. Oh, the guys just spotted land. Anyway, I am still planning on New Zealand some time before Dec 31st and I would love to get home some time for a spell. I miss every one and wish I could just zip back and forth in a nano instant. I look forward to hearing from all of you and wish you health, happiness and peace.