Well Judy and I were hoping that would be the case for us. However we didn't get off to a good start. As soon as we departed from Mindelo, Cape Verde, we were immersed in some pretty strong wind and waves as we passed between 2 of the islands and that was not so bad other than in all that excitement we discovered a serious problem in the rigging that necessitated an emergency stop on the back side of the most western island of Cape Verde.
Problem fixed, we were off to seek the conveyor belt trade winds to carry us across.
Long after those imperious mountain peaks of the Cape Verdes dissolved like ghosts into the Sahara induced haze, we knew it would be the last land we would see for 20 or more days.
This passage was typical in that after a few days we settled into an indolent rhythm where the desultory days blend one into the other and it would matter not if the voyage was 10 or 30 days or if it was Sunday or Wednesday or if it was the 1st or the 15th of the month.
Sea cat's berth
However we were diligent in our routine of watches. We do 3 hours on and 3 hours off during the night and every 18 minutes, a 360° visual regardless day or night. The other relentless event is our cat Chanty's demand to be let out each morning for her "walk around the block" to fetch her breakfast that without fail is waiting on deck. It's those flying fish accompanied by an occasional squid that make their fateful last nocturnal flights.
Most of our idle time is spent on such things as reading, watching DVDs occasionally, playing Scrabble, and writing and ruminating. However the lonely lazy days were made more interesting in a few delightful ways, mostly involving, what else? Fish.
Once, our languid aura was broken by the frantic tolling of the bell on the fishing rod and it was all hands on deck, including Chanty. It was a big Mahi Mahi. These ubiquitous pelagic roamers are one of the fastest growing fish in the sea. As we watched the vivid iridescent hues of blues and greens of its skin dissolve into a lackluster grey before our eyes as it expired on board, there is a certain measure of guilty regret of the sacrifice not to mention we, sadly, quite likely snatched it from its travelling mate.
An ocean rainbow
The latter fact was made evident one night when we were on deck awash with spreader lights. There we saw in the deep blackness a pair swimming tight formation right alongside like sleek escorts for the lumbering mothership. And again in the morning, the same thing, maybe the same ones?
If Chanty could talk, this would be her tale:
"We were given a start one night as I was being held in Dad's arms in the companionway while he was doing his 360° visual check, when a flying fish whizzed by my face like a ballistic missile, ricocheted off the inside of the dodger, and crash landed inside the boat, leaving a tracer of scales. I dispatched him at once."
Flying fish shrapnel
In another chance sighting as we were slowly sailing along, I saw a fin sticking out of the water. A sunfish? They are known to lay on the surface. No. This one was moving and then I saw the corresponding tail following. It was a big shark, and judging the space between the dorsal and tail, I would estimate his overall size to be maybe 4 metres or more.
Well along, we were given notice, with rafts of gilded seaweed, that we had entered the Sargasso Sea. The sea was a palate of royal colours as the opulent gold was in a perfect compatible contrast with the rich aqua marine of the deep ocean. Its presence lasted for days and frustrated any attempts of trailing a fishing line.
Golden sargasso seaweed
Twice we were visited by pods of breaching pilot whales. In one pod, there were about a dozen that included a wee one swimming in unison with mom as though attached while another fellow, like a black submarine, maybe 5 metres long, cruised right along beside us barely moving a muscle.
A pod of pilots
After several days, our loneliness was interrupted when Judy spotted another ship. As we focused on the blip on the horizon, there is a mustering of inquisitive thoughts like, who are they? Where are they going? It is easy to conjure up romantic thoughts of adventurous itinerant mariners heading to exotic ports, that is, until the modern tech of AIS gives the pragmatic answer. It was a Japanese fishing vessel about as far away from home as it could get.
When the lambent light of twilight gave way to night, most nights were sailed in a blanket of darkness. The moon being elsewhere would leave us in the care of brilliant stars, from the North Star to the Southern Cross. It is those nights in this vast remoteness that you realize just how utterly alone and remote you are. It isn't a scary isolation, but a privileged tranquil peace that very few people ever experience. It is a rare and precious opportunity for reflection and contemplation.
"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails." by William Arthur WardAs far as the sailing conditions were concerned, our expectations inspired by that old salty sailor's experience were not met.
Starting out, it took us about 3 days to break free of the clutches of tangled wind and confused seas that the lees of the Cape Verde islands produce when the winds eventually became relatively constant in direction and strength.
Before leaving, the forecast we had for the first week suggested we should head SW before turning west for a straight shot across.
We were in daily contact with Adam back home who was constantly consulting online weather forecasting and routing us. He warned of a 5-day calm that was forecast to develop on our plotted course and suggested we drop more south to avoid it. So we extended our SW trajectory to 12° north and then turned west. That was just about the time that the butter melted.
Well it turned out the weather feeds from Adam, our land based router, paid off. We only had about 10 hours of faint winds in which we motored as we skirted that particular calm area,. After that it was back to downwind sailing but not exactly constant. At times it was wing-on-wing with a poled out genoa on portside and poled out staysail on the other. Then other times, it was just genoa, Sometimes it was down to a wisp of 5 to 10 knots and at times 25 plus.
Then about 4 days from arrival, we hit light and variable winds that had us ghosting on frequent sail changes and adjustments combined with motor sailing.
Where's the wind?
The majority of days were sunny. There were only a couple of days that had the sun play hide and seek with a myriad of clouds that polka dotted the sky. Once we had a light rain shower, a welcomed chance to towel off the salty decks.
On the morning of the 21st day and after about 2,200 nautical miles covered, we rounded the southern point of Martinique (Caribbean) and into the big bay at La Marin in the lee of the verdant tropical hills. When we dropped the hook, a kind of hush fell over us and it was as though our reliable ship Sea Turtle fell into a sound sleep in - what seemed strange - calm and peaceful waters.
Even though this passage wasn't a sleepy trade wind run as had by that old salt we talked with, it had its delightful moments and left us with yet another feeling of accomplishment.
Passage from Cape Verde to Caribbean Dec 27 to Jan 17
N14°25.625' W060°53.385' Jan 17 Martinique (La Marin)