Happy Fourth of July, and I hope everyone in St John survived another Carnival!!
As most of you have already heard, I made it to Spain! I’m sorry I didn’t post sooner but things have been hectic here since our arrival – we had some failures during the trip that need to be worked out before the owners arrive for their holiday in just a few weeks. The captain and his wife live here in Spain and have been spending some time at home while I manage the projects onboard. This is great experience, but it does come with a bit of stress and limited access to Internet, which is not available onboard.
What can I say about the crossing?
In the same way that a camera can never really capture the night sky, I’m afraid I am finding the English language equally inadequate in capturing the emotions I’ve experienced over the past month. There are no words I can think of to identify the sensation felt while witnessing meteors blaze across the starlit sky extending to the horizon in all directions. There’s no expression that adequately portrays the experience of being totally alone, 800 miles offshore, watching the moon rise slowly out of the water with a burning auburn glow. How can I describe the incredible pace at which your starved imagination works as the “Man in the Moon” tries on different disguises with the passing clouds – an ironic handlebar mustache, a pirate eye patch, a unibrow… A schoolgirl, hopelessly enamored with her first crush is as close as I can come to describing the swelling heart and pumping adrenaline experienced at the sight of dolphin strolling up to play in the glowing phosphorescence beside the boat on a pitch black night.
I’ve often heard people say how small and “insignificant” they feel at moments like these, but I feel just the opposite. I feel almost as if the whole universe has paused and taken notice of me, that these moments were designed for me specifically. The opposite of that word = “significant” isn’t nearly powerful enough to describe such a sensation.
Aside from the extreme natural beauty that we encountered on a daily basis, I also used the time to learn. As fate would have it, the captain of this vessel is an old school cargo ship officer, salvage tug boat driver, and has sailed his own small cruising boat single handed. Because of his background and extensive schooling required to receive a Class A Unlimited Yacht Master license, he is full of knowledge and old school habits that I believe are extremely important.
In modern yachting, most people rely so heavily on the electronics that many don’t even carry paper charts. During our crossing we plotted our position on a paper chart every day. We logged our exact location, wind speed and direction every hour. We did an engine and generator log every two hours to keep track of consumption, temperatures, etc. Each day we would calculate fuel usage, average speed, distance traveled, distance remaining etc. These concepts, though very simple, are largely being done away with, written off as “overkill” on modern yachts. It’s my belief that people are becoming too comfortable with and reliant upon technology. It makes you wonder what they would do if they lost all of their instruments.
The captain taught me how to read the weather fax reports that we received daily. He also taught me celestial navigation using the intercept method. If you give me a sexton I can tell you precisely where in the world we are just by looking at the sun. Well, I would need a nautical almanac, Norie’s tables, an accurate clock and a calculator but other than that, I’d be good to go. This is an amazingly comforting feeling and I know that from here forward I would never set out to sea for a long passage without those five items. While the concepts were initially difficult to grasp, and the mathematics of spherical trigonometry seemed extremely daunting, in the end I gained an understanding. The captain boosted my confidence by telling me that I was the best navigational student he’s had in more than 12 years – my head is now almost too big to fit into my bunk.
We had very calm weather for most of the trip and hardly any wind. We had a high-pressure system that followed us just to the North for almost the entire crossing. This meant that what little wind we did receive was right on our nose. Because of this, we did more motoring than I would have liked. This led to many oil changes and some mechanical failures that may not have occurred if we could’ve sailed more:
- The brand new fuel filters for the Main Engines that were replaced in St Thomas ($2500 each) both failed at separate times – we think it was old stock that sat on the shelf too long because the o-rings disintegrated. Fix: we jury rigged some fuel filters that were much too small for the engines – luckily we have an Alfa Laval centrifuge so we knew the fuel was clean, we just needed something to connect the hoses.
- The starter on one of our generators failed so we were down one generator for the last 10 days – not a huge issue since we have 3 generators.
- Hot water heater broke and leaked its whole tank sloshing down under the saloon.
- BOTH of our steering motors failed as soon as we entered the Gibraltar Straits (we had them both taken apart and serviced in St Maarten) leaving us in a very scary situation for about 10 minutes and then to hand steer for the last five days.
All in all, we were very lucky. Thank you all for your tireless thoughts and prayers! I’ll write soon!