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Saturday, December 22, 2018

Passage Notes Cape Verde - Martinique, part 2

Thursday (13th), night shift we are picking up the wind and moving along, just tweaking the course up and down a few degrees keeps the sail from flogging. Fortunately we are still on the pole. We have received texts from family and friends who are following our track asking exactly where the heck we are going. Chasing the wind we are heading more northward but we still have over 1000 nautical miles to go so there is plenty of time to deal with that. We are trying to keep everyone happy, including Destiny, and are working together much better now as a crew.

The night sky continues its entertainment offering up incredibly multicolored and brilliantly glistening stars with the occasional falling star thrown in for good measure. Late morning brought even more whales. We are certainly enjoying their curiosity as they approach Destiny for a close inspection. We have all tried to photograph them but they become elusive when the iPhones come out. During the afternoon I went out on the bow for a while to get a better look and found that this brought them even closer, perhaps wondering what this creature was that was walking around on the big sand-colored fish. To say it was thrilling, even exhilarating being up there with them so close as they breached for a better look and then pirouetted in Destiny’s bow wake is a grand understatement. The color of the water is becoming a gorgeous aquamarine blue and with the sunlight at just the right angle it is easy to see these fantastic creatures shooting just under the surface of the waves. They swim by just abeam then turn to show us their white underside before breaching and then ducking under the bow, ever so gracefully. For a good while several were taking turns and then eventually just one stuck around to circle back time and again. Jim had gone down for a nap but decided this was worth missing a few winks, so he came up to get a few minutes on the bow with the whale. Frank just enjoyed them from the cockpit. He’s had enough time on the foredeck lately. Later in the afternoon I was alone on watch when a large number of dolphins of varying sizes appeared on both sides, some of them must be babies because they would pop straight up out of the water, backs bowed like little bunnies. They frolicked for a short while and then dashed off as quickly as they had come.

Another rough night. Erratic big seas, boat not happy, sail not happy as the date becomes Friday, 14 December. We have a little over 930 nm to go. The promised winds must be hiding somewhere because we are chasing them as best we can, the boat rocking side to side but still getting forward motion. The night was filled with stars spilling gold and silver streaks from the heavens. It gives the impression of Angel tears streaming down. I wonder for whom or what are they crying.
Friday was a good one for sailing, riding the waves and making fair progress; the seas are lumpy and building, but occasionally the swells become organized. It’s quite beautiful to watch a big roller come up behind us building into a great blue wall and then just when you think it will swallow us whole it tucks under Destiny giving her a lift as she surfs it down, then we see the wall emerge at the front of the bow. This sound is soothing to the soul. We are all smilin’ and chillin’.

Saturday, December 15, the wee hours of my night shift the seas are calmer but only just. We are still under sail, thank God. No stars tonight. Clouds and a half moon are prevalent. We are making good time. 
Daytime Saturday has continued to bring enough of a downwind lift to keep the genny filled. Sometimes the side to side rocking gets going like a child having a tantrum, and it takes a while to calm back down. No complaints though as long as we are marching onward. It is now 6 pm, and we have just 690 miles to go.

Night shift, early Sunday (16th),  the shooting, or rather falling stars continue in between cloud cover. I hear but cannot see whales. A squall came through on my watch bringing short-lived good wind and a little rain but when the second one passed we nearly stopped dead in the water. Reluctantly I turned on the engine. Progress is slowing but it has been up and down anyway during this passage. Daytime brought the return of the whales around mid-day. They entertained us for a good while, and when the big swells arrived they surfed with and circled about Destiny. Eventually, the wind abated and the engine came back on. During the evening I received a text from my friend Lynn (Wind Pony), alerting us to watch for a comet tonight that should be visible with the naked eye near The 7 Sisters constellation. She indicated that this comet comes around every 20 years. Sure enough in the hours just before dawn (around 0730 UTC) Frank and I spotted it’s brilliance. From our perspective it looked more like an elongated kaleidoscopic capsule. 

Monday, December 17th. We have had somewhat overcast skies today and are making only fair progress but hoping for a Thursday arrival. We had engine assist for a short while and are enjoying a quiet sail today. No whales or dolphins today as of 3:30 pm. I am exhausted. I try to sleep during my off time but there is so much noise, slamming and pitching that I feel like a zombie with a very sore backside and so many bruises all over my body I’m beginning to resemble a Dalmatian. A few days ago a large wave hit us broadside just as I was entering the cockpit to sit, knocking me backward and slamming my tailbone right down onto the metal adjustment piece of the binoculars.Tonight is my night for two stands of night watches and yet I got up early deciding I might as well sit with Frank for his last hour. The comet was rising just about then so I had it to keep me company. During the next couple of hours it conveyed two separate massive “meteors” that - to my eye - fell ever so slowly and quite brightly down the entire stretch of the sky before suddenly going dark.

Tuesday, December 18th. We have turned southward in order to get a little more comfortable and also to correct our course from the northing we have done. We had a close call with a French sailing yacht last night just as I was coming up to relieve Frank on my 2nd night-watch. Frank had already moved a few degrees off our course because the guy was coming up quickly from behind, bearing directly for us then he drew abeam of Destiny and refused to answer repeated hailing attempts on the VHF. I’m not sure what the CPA indicated on AIS, but I lit up the running lights as Frank made ready to correct yet again when the guy began speaking French into the radio. I answered him in English letting him know we felt he had unnecessarily breached what we consider a safe nighttime radius. He casually bid us a fond good night and continued on toward Martinique. BTW, this is the third encounter we’ve had since leaving Cape Verde. The other two were commercial vessels who were extremely responsive and helpful, passing to our stern once radio contact was established and inevitably these all happened at night.

Wednesday morning, 9:30 am. Engine on, track on for a direct approach to the first waypoint at Martinique. This has been a no drama day. We managed to get below the 200 miles to go mark by afternoon. I’ve been asked what we do while on passage. We read books, sit and contemplate, watch the sea and the skies. We text and call on the “IridiumGo!”, I do squats, stretches and workouts using the companionway steps. I do Sudoku and other puzzle games. Jim spends a lot of time in his cabin reading and he writes a lot. We sit and contemplate some more. I journal. Everyone naps whenever possible. Each day, the person who gets off watch at 4:00 pm is responsible for cooking dinner that night for everyone. I have a lot of prepared meals in the freezer, so that all we have to do is nuke many night. I have stocked this boat with as much imaginative food as possible so that no one will starve. If they do it’s their own fault. We are mostly on our own for lunch and breakfast, and take turns making the morning pot of coffee. Exciting stuff, I know.

Thursday, December 20th. Last night passed without incident. Today we did move the pole to starboard, making the sail a bit happier and are enjoying being under sail again. Our distance to go at 2:00, UTC is 67 nautical miles. Eventually we lost good wind and motorsailed on and off through the day. Before dusk we could see the hazy outlines of Martinique mountains on the distant horizon. Again no drama as night’s velvet blanket fell and we prayed for the moon to rise high enough for us to pick our way into St. Anne’s bay. 

2:00 AM, UTC we motored into the wide open bay, dropped the hook by 2:08, and then Frank popped the champagne cork to celebrate our good and safe arrival. We have finally fulfilled an 11-year dream to sail Destiny into the Caribbean. It will feel real good to sleep as long as we want and without being tossed out of bed or jarred awake by creaking sheets and stressed rigging.

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