Monday July 28, 2014
I have no idea how I would handle living in the real world again, because my time management is completely out the window. Even for the simplest things. For example, making dinner. This has been my task ever since Matt and I got married and moved into our new house to start our new life together. In the beginning the food was regrettably abysmal and not well thought out (Oh, you mean you wanted a side with your meat?), but over the years we lived in that house they had improved. And at the end, I knew how to clock each item I was cooking so that everything would finish at the same time and just as Matt was walking in the door from work.
You’d think that with all this spare time on my hands for the past two years I would have mastered the timing issue. I guess I could liken that part to the rising and falling tides. Sometimes I am a genius of cooking where my rice absorbs the last of the water at the same moment my chicken is just cooked and spiced enough, while warm and slightly crispy tortillas are sitting and waiting under a covered plate. Other times I forget that I need to cook rice until my chicken is already almost done, and where the hell are my tortillas, did I forget to buy them?!
The past few days have very much been the latter scenario. I begin preparing dinner way too late, forget to cook certain ingredients, or forget to check that we have certain items before we start. And there is no making a quick Publix run out here. Last night as I stood over the stove at 7:30, thirty minutes before I was supposed to be in bed, and I realized the mahi I had cooking on the stove had been sitting in the fridge, never having been frozen, for about thirteen days now and was definitely no longer safe to eat. Searching through the fridge for new meats that could be quickly cooked up I realized that all of those were safely tucked in the freezer. I threw my hands up and went for the pantry. A can of soup it was going to be.
*On a sad note, our little bird friend did not make it through the night. Matt made sure to give him/her a nice little funeral at sea during his shift this morning.
Maybe I shouldn’t have spent so much of my afternoon messing around on deck instead?
Tuesday July 29, 2014
So 40 days at sea is how long it takes for one to lose their mind. Or maybe it’s 22, since I guess I can’t count that stint on the way from Miami to Bermuda since we did have that sweet little interlude of rest in there. And maybe I’m not loosing my mind, maybe it’s just not functioning to it’s highest ability lately. I don’t know why or how it has not happened once until this point, but multiple times over the past few nights I’ve been comfortably sleeping in my bunk during my allotted time and all of a sudden my eyes will fly open. I’ll look over and see Matt on the settee across from me, usually reading his Kindle, and maybe it’s because he’s in the cabin with me instead of out in the cockpit, but the first thing that springs to my mind is, ‘You idiot, you’re supposed to be on watch!’. And this isn’t directed at Matt since he’s seeking the comfort of a warm and cozy seat instead of being forced out into the elements of the cockpit, but is instead directed at myself. I then fly out of my bunk, search for my glasses on the nav station, and begin bounding up the steps on the companionway to look around and make sure no boats are showing on AIS, or worse, in person.
In my feverish haste to get back to my duties, Matt will just kind of stare at me with a puzzled look on face and ask, “What the heck are you doing?”. In my embarrassment that I was ‘sleeping on the job’, I nonchalantly reply, “Um…you know…just doing one of my checks…”, to which he’ll laugh and reply, “Yeah, but you’re not on shift”. Then it will all come back to me that, yes, this is in fact my time for rest, and I slink back into my bunk until the same thing happens 90 minutes later.
Wednesday July 30, 2014
We may have made many, many miles south and out of our way to avoid that stationary gale that has been sitting directly in the path between us and Horta, but I guess we haven’t gotten quite far enough out of the way to not feel any effects from it. Things haven’t gotten incredibly bad, but there has been a noticeable increase in wind and waves in the past day or two. We’re averaging 5 knots of speed now, which is great, but my body is trying to get used to this new rocking back and forth motion that normally accompanies sailing but we’ve been lucky enough to barely experience on this crossing.
I should still consider myself lucky that I can move about the boat at all, considering that basically every passage we’ve made before this one has left me nailed down to the cockpit, incapable of doing much more than making it back and forth between my bunk for sleep shifts. So today as we got back to feeling the motion of the ocean, those past memories barely registered with me and I thought, ‘This would be a perfect time to make bread!’. Long story short, I was able to actually complete this task, but it was done with lots of difficulty and lots of grabbing on to different surfaces to keep myself from tumbling around. I’m just surprised I was able to do all of this without getting sick, which is nice because it means that my body might finally be adjusting to the sea, but I think I may have lots of new bruises to show for my efforts.
After pulling my freshly baked bread out of the oven and finally going back to resting on the settee, it suddenly hit me why my legs have been so sore the past few days even though I don’t remember doing anything besides sitting on my butt. It’s been all that time I’ve spent bracing myself in the galley while I cooked or did dishes. Right foot back; flex; wait. Step together; rotate; left leg to the side; brace. I’ve been getting a first class workout and haven’t even realized it.
Friday July 25, 2014
In my boredom of my morning shifts alone I’ve taken to mimicking the cat, repeating every move she makes just to see her reaction. If she moves her head to the side, I move my head to the side. If she makes a large and exaggerated yawn, I make a large and exaggerated yawn. If she starts licking herself clean….well, I just rub my nose along my arm and pretend I’m doing it too.
Saturday July 26, 2014
Today to relieve my boredom I’ve taken to reading PDF’d posts from a few of my favorite bloggers, who coincidentally happen not to be sailors. Because God help me, please let me forget for just one moment that I’m on a boat. Losing myself in the travels and musing of The Everywhereist and Mr. & Mrs. Globetrot, I fantasized about all the places we’ll be visiting. I spent a good hour today staring at Yuriy and Julia’s images of Turkey, making lists of areas I’d like to visit that they’d already seen, and most importantly, listing the all the food there I’d like to try. Plus, just generally getting lost in the beauty of their amazing photos. Oh Europe, we’ll reach you some day. I’m sure of it.
Sunday July 27, 2014
In every other blog I’ve read about someone crossing an ocean, each one of them at some point has had a feathery friend take refuge on their boat, and for weeks now I’ve been wondering if it would ever happen to us. I mean, there’s only so many places one can rest out here, our boat has to look pretty appealing to anything flying along, right? But for days out of Bermuda we watched long tailed tropical birds swoop by, eyeing lifelines and solar panels, but never actually touching down on them. There’s even been a bird that we’ve seen come out and do laps around our boat for hours every night that we assumed had to be hiding on Serendipity during the day, but we could never find it’s spot.
Then this evening during dinner, we finally had a taker. A little song bird it looked like, but a far cry from all the sea birds that are normally flying overhead. It took up residence on the lifeline on the starboard stern quarter, and Matt held Georgie back as she noticed our new guest too. For a few minutes we all stared at this temporary visitor, wondering what it would do next. Was he just going to catch his breath and be off again or was he looking for a place to hunker down for the night? Trying to get a closer look I inched myself over to the starboard side while our new friend made no startled motions to get away. Maybe I could pull a Slapdash and get it to rest on top of my head?
I was so excited at the prospect of having a bird aboard to play with, that I was just about to turn to Matt and tell him about stories I’ve heard of birds like this that don’t know to be afraid of humans or pets because they’ve never encountered them before. I was just about to tell him about the cases of other cruisers that have set up birds, nestled in lines or small blankets, as extra travel companions for days. Before I could get any of this out though, he made a grave mistake and let Georgie out of his arms so she could investigate the situation.
His assumption, before I could correct him otherwise, is that if Georgie got too close this bird would sense the danger and fly off. But after having just read through Maiden Voyage a second time, I distinctly remembered a chapter where she found her cockpit a mess of feathers after her cat found it’s own flying companion. It wasn’t even a half a second before Georgie was on the other side of the boat, exactly where our new friend was sitting. Both of us looked off to the sky to see where the bird had gone, it took us a moment to realize that Georgie was already headed back to the companionway with the bird in her mouth!
While I grabbed on to her to keep her from going any further, Matt pried her mouth open to get the bird out. It was quite a feat though as she was not ready to let her prize go. When he finally wrangled her mouth open and the bird fell out, I rushed her down below deck so she couldn’t go at it a second time. Inspecting our injured friend we couldn’t find any wounds puncturing the skin, although we assumed there might be some internal damage. The bird wasn’t flapping around although it was still breathing, so at least we knew it wasn’t dead. Maybe suffering from shock though. Taking one of our 5 gallon buckets we made a tissue bed and set the bird inside to see if it will make it through the night. Georgie went back onto her (shortened) leash to make sure she couldn’t make any visits to the infirmary.
Look at that face. No remorse.
Tuesday July 22, 2014
It’s plainly apparent the front is on it’s way and going to hit us tomorrow. Today we had the winds pick up to a steady 15-25, and bringing growing seas along with them. Even though I never put on a seasickness patch though, I took the new movement very well. The 4-6 ft seas didn’t bother me very much, and other than losing my balance a few times as I crept along the cabin, it was still quite a nice ride. Especially since our speeds have finally picked up to a normal cruising rate of about 5 knots. If we could only keep this for the rest of the way to the Azores, I’d be one happy girl. There’s still just a little over 800 miles left as the crow flies, and if we could arrive a week from now…..sigh. But that will probably never happen.
For one thing there’s a stationary gale sitting smack between us and Horta. We’ve been watching it for a few days on the weather now, looking at the grib files showing 40 knots of wind in that area, and wondering what kind of seas it will leave for us when we hit that spot even after the gale is gone. Only..it’s not leaving. This morning when Matt was getting the daily updates he saw the dreaded STNRY symbol right next to it. Looks like we’re going to have to find a way around the thing, which unfortunately could mean adding up to a couple of hundred miles overall. This thing is not small and we no not want to get caught in it’s path.
It amazes me how many close calls we’ve had with other ships out here. I’m not talking about coming within one mile of each other, but on actual collision courses. Today we had to call up a tanker to alter course because our AIS was showing that we were going to come within 230 ft of each other. This is not the first time this has happened on our crossing either. It’s the third. Just another reason why I’m so in love with our AIS and I don’t think I could ever travel without having at least a receiver.
*Excuse the terrible photos in today’s post, they were transferred from video.
Wednesday July 23, 2014
Wow, what a difference a day can make. Yesterday we were comfortably cruising along at 5 knots under a 15 knot breeze, and gliding over 4-6 ft waves. Today, all hell has broken loose*. Well, comparatively from what we’ve been experiencing so far. My night shift brought an increase of wind that was getting slightly worrysome after we hadn’t seen anything over 10 knots in well over a week, and although I couldn’t see the waves through the darkness I could tell they were growing as well. Our sleep schedules for the day were now all screwed up since I had a terrible time trying to fall asleep at 8, and Matt while trying to do something nice for me, let me sleep until almost 3 am instead of getting me up at midnight. This means I finally was able to experience a full sunrise and see the frothy goodness of the Atlantic that surrounded us.
All in all I know it’s not as bad as I’m making it out to be, but along with sustained winds of 25-30 knots, something we’ve experienced plenty of during our travels and we can get past although I can’t say we like them, the building waves were what was getting under our skin. Twelve feet from trough to tip, these were the largest waves we’d ever come across. Although Serendipity was taking them like a champ, rising up on them and cresting down, we were keeping a steady speed of 6-7 knots with just the tiniest bit of sail up, and even surfing down a few waves at over 8 knots. Exciting for just a little bit, until you remember that one of these monsters could broach you, throwing you on your side and not giving you enough time to recover and right yourself before the next one crashed down on you. The drouge was creeping up in our minds as something that might have to be used if conditions continued to build, but at the moment there was one more issue on hand.
According to our Weatherfax, the Low pressure system between us and the Azores that we’re trying to avoid has now extended itself even further south and still directly in our path even though we spent all of yesterday making extra miles south that we wish we didn’t have to, just so we wouldn’t have to encounter it. If we were doing this poorly in a front, we had no idea what a gale might do to us and we had no intention of trying to find out. Waiting for a large tanker to pass us through the overcast haze, we cranked the wheel 40 degrees south and Matt began making all the necessary sail changes while I stood gaping at these massive waves that were now coming almost directly on our beam. Matt assured me that as long as they’re not breaking, which they weren’t, they wouldn’t knock us down. Our speed dramatically decreased down to four knots, but we figured it would still allow us to get about 100 miles south in the next 24 hours and out of harms way.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in the cabin, each of us fighting for a spot on the low side while the other person was stuck on windward, bracing themselves in any meas necessary as we were constantly tipped on our side and back. Sleep was unattainable and so we spent the day in a zombie like haze where we counted down the hours until the next day might come and bring some respite. Or maybe I was the only one in a zombie like state. Matt spent a good few hours on high alert as cannonballs of water exploded against our hull. Sometimes the sound was so deafening that he would begin to start checking the inside seams for water leaking in, positive that the last rouge wave had begun to tear Serendipity apart. For myself however, I just kept repeating the mantra of ‘Boats are strong, it’s the sailor that’s the weak link’. Serendipity was going to get through this. Therefore, we would too.
Thursday July 24, 2014
What a difference a day can make…again. Yesterday evening the conditions had begun to calm and we were left with a steady 11-13 knots of wind that were pushing us along at a comfortable 4 knots of speed and helping to keep us just enough above the decreasing waves to ride them as they rose and fell.
When I woke up this morning and the sun was shinning, and at the moment all things felt still, I was extremely excited, thinking that we were back to our almost glass waters while still making close to that 4 knots. Which after calculating the remaining distance between us and the Azores yesterday of 750 miles, would have put us there in about 8 days at this comfortable and attainable speed. Finally, a countdown I could handle. But, first moments can be deceiving. While waking out of my slumbering stupor, ready to make myself a cup of coffee and actually enjoy it without the worry of it spilling all over my lap, or worse, my face, as waves came to throw us on our side, I was sorely mistaken. Those swells were still there. And our speed…a diminished 1.5 knots.
Getting my morning briefing from Matt, he informed me that the winds had died down even further from the 8-10 knots I had been experiencing on my night watch, to a measly 5-6 knots. The headsail was rolled in, as I actually should have done on my own shift, since the only feat it was accomplishing was to make an unholy racket and threaten the seams of which I had just sewn after it blew open during the storm our first night out. The reality of my morning that I was now left with was a double reefed main and a course that was left completely up to the whims of the Atlantic as we couldn’t even keep the autopilot steady and instead had to lock the wheel and drift along at one knot in whichever direction the meak wind and swells felt like pushing us. Swells which, as we’d finally get a little bit of wind in the sail and start gaining momentum, would throw us on our side just enough to spill all the air out and leave us wallowing instead. Incredibly frustrating. Now my steadfast of 8 days is beginning to look more like 12-14. One of the only bright sides is that we have an abundance of sunshine being soaked up by our solar panels which means that hopefully I’ll be able to loose myself to the boob tube this afternoon and forget that I’m in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean drifting along at 1 knot.
*The title of this post is a quote from my all time favorite movie. Any guesses what it is? I’ll give you a hint, it stars Katharine Hepburn and Sydney Poitier.
Saturday July 19, 2014
Way back when, when we were living a sedentary life back in Ft. Lauderdale where we stayed in the glass calm anchorage that is Lake Sylvia for a whole month, our days would sometimes fall into a routine. Saturdays most likely, since that was the only day of the week that had something specifically scheduled. Or more likely, I’d roll out of bed and enjoy a cup of coffee and a little peace and quiet to get some writing done while Matt slept in another hour or two after me. Then when he woke up and I’d make his cup of coffee, giving myself seconds while I was at it, I’d flip on the radio and we’d listen to ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t tell me’ on NPR.
We may be thousands of miles from mainland shore, but at least I can still keep some semblance to my life back near land. I’m going to have my cake and eat it too.
Getting up on this gorgeous, sunny, and mostly (6-8 knots) windless day, I wanted to pretend it was a normal Saturday like any other. Before Matt could fully fall asleep and I could make as much racket in the galley as I wanted, I made myself a tall cup of coffee and brought it out into the cockpit. Bringing the Android and earbuds with me, something I normally only reserve for night shifts, I cued up the podcast to one of our downloaded episodes of ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t tell me’. For the next 45 minutes, my life was about as close as it was going to be to when we were at anchor, and it felt incredibly good.
When the podcast finished I wanted to take the opportunity to blare some music from the speakers, and what’s more, belt out along with it, but I knew I couldn’t do that while Matt was still sleeping. I might be able to listen to it at a ‘reasonable’ volume, but there would definitely be no singing along in this scenario. Then I had a eureka moment. I’ll just close up the companionway!
I found one of my favorite albums to blare out and sing along to (coincidentally, one that Matt hates), and as soon as I had it cued up I ran out into the cockpit, placed in the boards, and slid the top closed before it could wake him. It seemed to do the trick and just moments later I was crooning along with ‘Off to the Races’ and ‘Blue Jeans’. When the next album started and I needed a change I went to let myself back into the cabin only to find out that the sliding top to the companionway wouldn’t budge. It will do this sometimes when it gets too hot outside, the plexiglass will expand and leave itself immobile in the sliding area it’s in. Using all my strength I pushed and I heaved, all to no avail. This thing was not going to move an inch until it had time to cool down.
I was now literally stuck in the cockpit, forced to listen to the second disc of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Born to Die’ album, and even though I am completely in love with the first disc, the second is a torturous and bad cover of snippets taken from the first. #Problemsoflivingonaboat.
Sunday July 20, 2014
I had a terrible nights sleep last night. All I could hear was the boom clanging due to a lack of wind. It has actually put me in a bad mood all day, although that bad mood might also partially be due to the fact that we’re only moving at 1.5 knots with 5-7 knots of wind on our beam. We seem to have found the Bermuda/Azores high and can not get ourselves out of it. Something needs to change, and it needs to happen soon. While sitting through my night shift the other day, locking the wheel and drifting aimlessly because we didn’t have enough wind to keep us on course, I honestly worried that we might be out here for months. That July will turn to August, August will turn to September, and we’ll still be miles and miles from shore.
Don’t mind the fact that we’ll probably be out of food by then, but if that happen to be the scenario, I have a feeling that the weather will take a sudden shift into fall and we’ll go from no winds to sudden and everlasting squalls. These are the kinds of things that pop into your head when there is no end in sight.
At least we still have the luxury of being ‘at anchor’. But for as much as we joke about our calm nights are just like being at anchor, tonight we wanted to throw our hands up and pretend we actually were at anchor. This would mean shutting off all systems to conserve our batteries, and then use that battery power to play a movie while both of us sprawl out, undisturbed, while munching on popcorn and drinking soda before finally passing out for 9 full, glorious hours of sleep. In short, a little slice of heaven to break up this monotonous schedule.
Monday July 21, 2014
You guys! I have this amazing new invention I need to tell you about! Some people somewhere have come up with these things that let you block out noise when you don’t want to hear it. All you have to do is insert these little foam plugs into your ears and it makes things quiet! They’re called earplugs, and I swear, every one of you should go out and buy a pair right this second!
Wait? You already know about them? They’ve been out for decades? Either way, I finally went ahead and put in a pair last night to block out the clanging noise of the boom and they worked like a charm. Seriously the best night of sleep I’ve had since we left Bermuda. Normally I don’t like to wear them while we’re on passage because I want to be able to hear if Matt’s calling to me for assistance, but really, what is going to happen to us out here right now? There’s no 60 knot winds trying to tear our headsail in half, and no 5 meter waves threatening to wipe our jerrycans off the deck. I’m pretty sure Matt can handle scanning the horizon for other ships, I hope, so I felt confident to allow myself into the land of complete unconsciousness for the night. It.Was.Amazing.
This afternoon when we went to check our satellite phone for messages from home we got some shocking news, but in the best kind of way. We’re going to be first time aunts and uncles! Matt’s mom had sent us a short text to let us know that his little brother and girlfriend are going to be expecting a baby early next year. We were thrilled to hear the news, as I’ve been waiting to be an aunt for years from one sibling or another. If we’re not in the time frame to have our own baby right now, the next best thing is having a niece or nephew that we can spoil. I smell a lot of nautical themed onsies in this babies future.
On a weather related note, there’s a depression coming up behind us from the east coast of the states, so we have some rough weather to look forward to in the next few days. If it’s anything like the front we had pass through on Matt’s birthday, I think we’ll be able to handle it just fine. But let me go ahead and check our stock of canned soup and Pop Tarts just to make sure we have enough to get us through the next few days.
Thursday July 17, 2014
This morning I was able to experience something few people can probably say they’ve ever done. Watched a 4 am sunrise. Although really, it’s total BS because as I mentioned before, we haven’t changed our clocks since we left Miami, and that was two time zones ago. So my 4 am sunrise would have actually been a 6 am sunrise if you want to get into technicalities, but I’m not. I rule the time out here on the seas, and I say it was 4 am.
One thing I’ve noticed, now that this is really the first time I’ve seen both the sunrise and sunset in a consecutive 24 hours, is how indistinguishable they are from each other. If you look at the moments just after the sun has sunk below the horizon, or the ten seconds before sunrise (#awesomesong), they look exactly the same. I am going to go through the effort today of changing the clocks forward one hour, since our early sunsets are starting to get a little ridiculous and I can’t stand them. But at least they do mean we’re making miles east.
sunset in the middle of the Atlantic.
sunrise in the middle of the Atlantic.
We found out something new yesterday afternoon. We must have wandered into some massive North Atlantic fishing area, because we’re starting to come across fishing buoys in the water. 1,000 miles from land in each direction and situated in depths of 12,000 feet. Yet someone has taken time to mark little areas here and there with what we’re assuming are very large nets that sit just under the water. Yesterday’s was such a shock that we passed within about 100 feet of it just to get a closer look (we could not see the net sitting below it), but the one we saw today was shocking in a different way.
Yet another glass calm day on the seas, we were debating if we should use our engine at all. Since getting ourselves out of the channel in Bermuda we have not turned it on once. If we knew there was wind sitting somewhere that we could motor to, we would, but otherwise there’s no point. We’re content (enough) to just drift. So when it got to the point today that we were dropping down to 2-3 knots of wind and the autopilot had to be turned off since we weren’t getting any forward motion, I was sitting in the cockpit actually contemplating going for a swim. It was sweltering hot out, and if ever I was going to get in the water, this was it. Just as I was scanning the horizon to make sure there weren’t dark clouds poised to pounce on me and kick up the winds just after I got in the water, I saw a bright orange something or other floating out in the water some distance from us. Calling Matt up to check it out as well, I assumed it was another set of fishing buoys. Because of the bright orange color though, he thought it might be a life raft.
Bringing out the binoculars now, we tried to make sense of the shape in front of us. We weren’t sure that it was a life raft, but we also weren’t sure that it wasn’t. And how terrible would that be to miss the chance to rescue someone adrift because you didn’t want to make the effort to investigate it further? One thing was for sure though. We definitely weren’t going to be able to sail our way over to check it out. Flipping the engine on and giving it a few minutes to warm up after ten days of disuse, we put ourselves into gear and flew over the calm seas at a good 6 knots. Keeping an eye on it with the binocs as we neared we did find out that, just like I had originally assumed, it was two orange buoys floating just a few feet from each other. I was glad to find out that it was not in fact anyone in need of assistance, but it begs to ask the question, How much do we miss when we’re not looking?
Friday July 18, 2014
This morning I woke up to what has become a familiar scene on Serendipity. Matt will have the wheel locked, stating there is not enough wind for the autopilot to keep us moving forward. Yet when I come up above deck I find there is 5-7 knots, at least enough to get us going somewhere it would seem. Then I spent the next 45 minutes or so trying to pinpoint exactly where that little bit of wind is coming from and turn the boat, which doesn’t want to turn because we’re only making 0.8 knots, in a direction that I can harness that wind. It’s a little frustrating, but the fact that Matt used to have to fix all my improper sail trims after my night shifts where I didn’t know how to get it right and would therefore just leave it wrong until he woke up, kind of makes up for it.
Before I could even get my morning coffee brewing today I could not stand the thought of us aimlessly drifting anymore and I was determined to do something about it. Spending the first 30 minutes spinning in circles as I tried to catch the wind in our sails, it looked as if I might be just as well off locking the wheel and letting us float south at just under a knot. I was about ready to give up when the wind picked up 1-2 knots, just enough for me to set a course in somewhat the right direction and get us moving again. Once we were on that course for a few minutes and I knew the wind wasn’t going to die out completely again I brought out the heasail and worked on trimming it just so. Getting behind the wheel again I began hand steering, getting a good feel of the wind and how we were moving in it.
Then it hit me. This is fun. I’m enjoying this. I’m enjoying sailing. For those of you who don’t know, I’m not the biggest fan of this sport. I haven’t hated it as much as I used to during some of our earlier passages in the Caribbean, but I’d say over the past year or so I’ve been learning to tolerate it more than I’d say I enjoyed it.
But something about being out here today and making something out of nothing, leisurely cruising along on calm waters with a light breeze on my face and nothing but blue surrounding me, something about this moment was ecstasy. Sailing in it’s purest form. Now I can see what all the fuss is about.