In a boat's own words: Thoughts from underway

We spent the last few days adding miles to our journey. We did about 120 miles with our guests Chuck and Sandra from Eliora so they could experience both George Town and the remote islands farther North. And then we took off on a 400 mile sail to Luperon, in the Dominican Republic, where we are now.

The sails with Chuck and Sandra were memorable. We had no choice but to deal with what forecasters called 6-8ft swells but looked a lot worse, particularly when going through narrow cuts with wind and current opposing each other. The thing is that there’s really no way to measure the size of a wave from a boat in motion but when the wave in front of you covers the ones on the horizon you know they are big! The 20-25 knot winds had a lot to do with that too, but they also helped move us along nicely. Once my sails were properly reefed I leaned on my side and took each wave in style and with speed. We even overtook a trawler beating into the waves under power. I don’t know why they were all so surprised. I guess they didn’t know what a sailboat like me is capable of in these conditions…

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After our guests left us, we set our sights on our next goal: the Dominican Republic. We got lucky with the weather window, as it opened wide right away, giving us just enough time to top off our tanks. We also got to meet a bunch of other boats getting ready to go the same way like Hanna Hou, Beach House, Snowaway, Going South and Broad Reaching. We also met Gord and Sue from Lady Simcoe during lunch at the Chat n’ Chill and had a laugh recounting scenes from the sailing movie Captain Ron.

The next morning we set sail bright and early for what was to become Andrea and Franc’s first two day sail non-stop with no crew. This was the first time they had to figure out a watch schedule for night sailing.

The passage took us to where Columbus arrived when he discovered the New World. There is debate as to which island he landed on first but there is no doubt that these are the waters he sailed with La Pinta, La Nina y La Santa Maria.

On top of the world
Despite having islands close by, most of the sailing was with no land in sight. For a 10 month old boat like me, that still feels like something new. When that happens and the depth sounder can no longer reach the bottom you know you are truly surrounded by water.

The curvature of the Earth became all that more apparent when we literally saw the catamaran Hanna Hou drop below the horizon. At first, we could see the hulls and the sails in the distance. Then, looking through the binoculars you could see the hull disappear but the sails still visible over the horizon. And then, just like when the sun disappears at dusk, there was nothing.

We were surrounded by water and alone.

This was when we noticed the silence. All we could hear was the water being pushed aside as we sliced the ocean and the sounds of the rigging as the wind leaned on the sails spread out like wings.

Then we realized that everyone we know, everything we know, every place we’ve been to was below the horizon, just like Hanna Hou. If we wanted to point to home on a straight line we had to point down at the water somewhere. Even the tallest building or the highest mountain was somewhere under us.

And then it hit us: we were at altitude zero but on top of the world. I guess we no longer need to climb mount Everest to get that feeling…

Now picture the Earth as seen from space, blue, round and with a tiny sailboat on top. Imagine the Earth slowly turning until the sailboat is upside down, at night, attached to it only by the force of gravity. What would happen if gravity suddenly let go for a minute? Would the sailboat slowly fall into the night sky and swim for ever in a sea of stars? Is that what happens when boats disappear at sea and leave no trace? We like to think so.

Night sailing
Sailing after dark is as if you learned to do something and then had to do it all blind folded. The light goes off and you still need to know where you are, where other possible traffic could be, trim the sails, stay on course and hope you won’t hit anything on your way. You can use a flash light and point it at the sails or a spot light pointed at the waves, but that doesn’t work very well. That’s when you develop your other senses. Especially your hearing, as you must rely on the sounds of the rigging, the sails and the waves around you. The sound of an engine in the distance is amongst those that will startle you the most. Perhaps that’s why Andrea and Franc pay so much attention to the brightest lights in front of them: their instruments. Granted: they help by complementing your senses but sometimes they also get in the way of USING your senses. That’s why Franc was got so nervous the second night, when a series of showers passing by disrupted the prevailing wind patterns. And then the strangest things started to happen. The GPS started misplacing us all over the chart, making 20 nautical mile jumps, as if we were a pin that could be moved from one end of the map to the other. My self steering was also all over the place, incapable of keeping us on course. When these things happen in the dead of night in the middle of the ocean, they get a little spooky. Did we drift into the Bermuda Triangle? Was it just an offshore nightmare?

So I made an unusual suggestion. I asked Franc, who was on watch at that time, to turn all instruments off. It’s not like they were of much help anyway! I said: try to navigate by the stars. Just pick one that’s in the direction you want to go, turn everything off and take the helm for Pete’s sake! And so he did. Then all the spookiness went away instantly. Yes, the wind was flakey and the waves a bit confused, but the sky was clear and the hand at the helm was firm. With no instruments there was no glare of distraction in the cockpit, so Franc’s eyes adjusted to the darkness and the stars suddenly became much brighter. He still couldn’t see the sails very well so I would just flutter the jib whenever he steered to far into the wind, alerting him with the gentle sound of my forward canvas. What an amazing couple of hours we spent!

Valentine’s Day on a Desert Island
What do you do if you want to spend Valentine’s Day with the love of your life on a desert island in the middle of the ocean with no one else in sight? Well, for us, it was just a matter of easing the sheets and throwing the anchor, as French Cay, at the edge of the Turks & Caicos bank was awaiting.

That was where we had a much needed rest after 48h at sea non-stop. Franc got a haircut, courtesy of his Valentine, which is best not shown here. However, the real treat was a potato pancake that Andrea made with the first Mahi-Mahi we ever caught, a really colorful and tasty catch!

As you know, we are donating $5 for every fish we catch so this Mahi Mahi will be no exception. Please, consider joining us with your donation.

We have raised $2,993.12 so far. Be the one to take us past the $3,000 line with your contribution!


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Comment by YACHTASEA on March 4, 2009 at 1:49pm
We love Turks & Caicos! We call them the "Turquoise Islands". What kind of fish is that?
Thinking of you.

Kathryn & Christopher
Comment by Mauici Blancafort Planas on February 23, 2009 at 11:46am
Joer, tio. Estic apunt de deixar-ho tot i apuntar-me a la vostre aventura!!! BANZAI!!!
Comment by Marc on February 22, 2009 at 11:10am
Uauu, Franc!! Aquest video es la es noten les onades!!
M'hagues encantat estar alla, disfrutant d'aquella velocitat i sensacio de perill...
Quina canyaaaa

Per tot el que expliqueu...esteu vivint unes aventures que es massaaaa

En serio, estem flipant amb les vostres fotos i experiencies del viatge.
Continueu tenint-nos al corrent!!!

Un peto molt fort als dos

Marc & Marta
Comment by Gran Azul on February 20, 2009 at 10:21am
Hi Franc!! We are in Tortola on our Heritage now. I don't know if you are going to arrive here before we leave. We will be taking part in the Heineken REgatta in St Martin at the beginning of March. Well, you will love Tortola and the BVI's, incredible beautiful islands. Hope you enjoy Dominican Republic, we spend more than two months there!!
Good winds,
cris & jordi

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