Atlantic Adventure – Canaries to Caribbean

Destination, St Vincent

We made it! Cue the rum punch! Here we are in the Caribbean, after 6 days of pretty hairy weather from the Canary Islands down to Cape Verde, and then 18 days of near perfection across to St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean. We had a dream run apparently, as far as long passages go. In fact some of the more experienced sailors got bored! We were too busy to be bored – catching fish, cooking, practicing ukulele and harmonica, baking, EATING, doing pilates, swimming, reading, preserving fish, (did I mention fishing?) gazing at the moon, watching sunrises and sunsets…. you get the picture. That being said, I understand that this idyllic experience is not shared by all who cross the Atlantic.

Some new experiences included:

  • Being surrounded by a pod of orcas. We were both beside ourselves with delight AND a little nervous and they cavorted around and under the boat, turning and apparently charging at us, ducking and diving in the nick of time to just skim under the boat. The blowing and playing continued for some time, maybe 10 minutes – until we began to wonder if they were playful, or possibly protective? It truly felt like a once in a lifetime experience; awesome does not even begin cover it. We were both quite profoundly affected by our proximity to such majestic predators. Wow!
  • Swimming in the royal blue water of the mid Atlantic, with about 5 km depth of water beneath! The azure hue appeared almost phosphorescent, and the clarity incredible. Magnus went straight in, but I was a LITTLE hesitant following the orca visit the day before, but also reluctant to pass up the experience. Glad I did it, and even more glad I was not devoured.
  • Playing harmonica. The “munspel” was a thoughtful Christmas present from Janne and Anki, and a thoroughly enjoyable pastime. The instruction book in Swedish made it an even more rich learning experience!
  • Sampling rum punch before midday! (OK this only happened once, on arrival day – the marina welcomed each crew with a rum punch in hand!)
  • Taking a Caribbean bus ride – one of those experiences that remind us that we are FAR from home! Colourful Minivans crammed with people, with reggae BLASTING through the speakers, transporting business men, schoolkids and tourists alike., at breakneck speed, and when required, off road for short periods!

Weekly highlights:

BEST

  • ORCAS!
  • The vast Atlantic ocean. I spent many hours gazing at it, in all its moods and colours. Trying to describe its omnipotence and relentless restlessness seems futile. I tried “tempestuous mercurial water”, or “slithering silver foil”, and “brooding boiling blackness,” but none of these come close to describing the beauty of the open sea, either when benign or ferocious. On the passage to Cape Verde the waves were enormous and at close intervals, and therefore steep. The power of these towering walls of water that rose above our stern, appearing as if to completely swamp us was unfathomable. They did not swamp us though, instead they seemed to move under us, deftly passing us over their heads and down the other side. At other times, we were so fast down the waves that we surfed, and then the possibility of broaching and being flattened became real.
  • The night watches. Unforgettable, and because we were a crew of just two, we both saw much of the night sea and sky. Sometimes the night sky was like fine black mohair studded with pearls, and sometimes moonlit and matt above the liquid pewter of the sea. Sometimes it seemed as if we were sailing on a boulevard of moonlight; drawn along by the bright yellow orb that was the moon. Most often though, the full vista of the nightwatchman was a study in monochrome; the gunmetal grey and silver sea set against the dove grey or charcoal of the sky, and the clouds many shades of grey. The layers of the night soundtrack began with the gentle bass of the constant swish and slap of the waves, sometimes ascending to a crashing thump on the hull, which honestly felt like we had collided with a heavy solid object, and shook the boat from the outside in. The humming and whistling of the wind past the sails and rig rose and fell, and creaks and groans from all parts of the boat drowned out similar sounds from the crew on most occasions…. ! The occasional repetitive rolling or clattering of a loose jar, pen, bottle, toothbrush…… ANYTHING really, proved my theory that the more annoying the sound, the more difficult it seemed to be to locate the source! Most often though, the nights were spent listening to the calm sounds of the water, wind, and gently creaking boat. (And the occasional audio book of course!)
  • Sunsets and rises. Watching the sun set in front of the boat, and rise behind it each day bookended our days. Often the clouds were lined with gold, and the sky every shade of pink, purple, and orange. Another pleasure was the company of gulls, who frequently came along with us, swooping for flying fish, and often hovering just upwind of our sails, seemingly motionless in the deflected air.
  • Fishing! We caught 9 mahi mahi, a wahoo, a tuna, and a barracuda. And of course the HUGE one or two that got away….. Some days we had an almost solely fish diet, and we experimented with preserving fish by pickling, salting, and drying them. All methods turned out to be successful, but to be on the safe side, we only trialled the fruits of our preserving labours once safely ashore!
  • The boat. We often sat, mesmerised, as the bulk of our 47 foot hull was tossed around like a paper boat on a lively steam. But every step of the way, the boat felt strong and sturdy, as if it was “made for this.” Good choice Captain.
  • Camaraderie and support of fellow Vikings. Messages on the satellite device about weather, fishing, whereabouts etc were fun and reassuring. Even though the closest boat was usually over 100 nautical miles (185 km) away, it was nice to know we were not completely alone!

WORST

  • A couple of days and nights spent wondering whether we really should have bought a drogue, when the waves were very steep and broaching was a distinct possibility. When Magnus started to fashion one from anything he could find – it became apparent that maybe it would have been a good idea. We did deploy some warps to help to slow us down a little, but didn’t use the home made drogue. We were fine, but other boats broached, and one had significant engine damage. No knockdowns though.
  • During the same period, having our whisker pole out when it really should have been away. We had furled the sail, but it was too rough to sensibly go on deck to lift the pole away. We spent an anxious night watching it dip close to the water as we pitched and rolled in the waves, hoping it did not submerge and snap like a matchstick. All was well, and in the morning we put it safely away.
  • Tearing a cleat almost off, when tied to a very mobile jetty at Cape Verde. Thanks to quick action from the Captain, and help from other Vikings, this was fixable. The jetty was so wobbly that was quite difficult to walk along it, and I fully expected that someone would go into the water. Someone did. (Not us!)

FUNNIEST

  • Finally discovering and embracing the “lazy girls'” reading method – audio books! I have only half heartedly dabbled with these before, but I think the absence of a busy life, commuting in heavy traffic etc let me fall into the stories to the point of almost complete immersion. In fact both Magnus and I had to set alarms to ensure we actually checked the boat and horizon every 10 minutes during particularly gripping tales!
  • The very mixed feelings as we drew close to the end of our crossing. In one way we looked forward to land, but in another way we were loathe to leave the relaxed but purposeful rhythms that structured our days for the past month or so. The exultant feeling we expected at the completion of our journey was almost non existent, but we did enjoy recounting with absolute awe and wonder everything we had experienced on the way across. Being greeted warmly and loudly by friends on arrival, and in turn greeting others as they were heralded into the marina by a ship’s horn felt like true camaraderie. The goodwill between cruisers was strong, and we enjoyed celebrating the completion of the journey together. The wide mix of boat and crew age, size, and nationality helped to create a family feeling, and knowledge, tools, equipment and fun were shared freely between us.
  • The Captain and I attempting to play a wobbly duet on the ukulele and harmonica. A version of the walking blues is almost within our grasp, but we have not booked our first gig JUST yet…!
  • FLYING FISH! I had heard of these, but never seen them. They were landing all over the boat, every night, and a morning job was to walk around and put them back into the water. Some other crews cooked them, but not us chickens. Many of our friends had them land in their laps, in their faces, and one guy had a flying fish “on tour” up his shorts! Just ask Lina from sailingsvea.com or Morten from sylaens.com !

Food and bevvy highlights:

  • Fresh tuna, used for sushi, and also pan fried. Too good!
  • SOOO much mahi mahi. This delicate fish was perfect to quickly pan fry in butter, but we had so much of it we had to try all sorts of things, and everything was delicious! We had fish soup, curry, tacos, rice paper rolls, crumbed fish… the list goes on.
  • Midway boat made pizza and coke! This really felt like a party!
  • Pumpkin soup, a welcome change from fish.
  • Zucchini slice – ditto.
  • Captain’s fresh bread – a real treat, warm and buttery.
  • Captain’s “sugar cake.” Delicious.
  • Lemon and chocolate balls, occasionally made in sheer desperation by the part time sugar addict aboard.
  • Pop corn, another Captain’s special.

Boat work:

  • Daily chafe checks.
  • Winch temporary fix.
  • New solution for the bridle line to whisker pole attachment – after two shackles leapt off.
  • Cleat bolt tightening.

FUN FACTS : (actually just reflections today)

  • We were struck by the enormity of the ocean, and the natural environment we were in, and completely at the whim of. I imagined the salty sea air burrowing into my every cell, restoring vitality to my very being. My paternal grandma had a strong belief in the restorative power of the sea, and therefore made an annual pilgrimage to bathe in the sea well into her advanced old age. She breathed the sea air deeply, and submerged every inch of her papery skin in the salty water. She did this even when almost bent double with osteoporosis, making her way down the hot sand to bathe contentedly among us noisy splashing grand kids, to emerge eventually, invigorated for another year. As the days passed, I felt slowly more in tune with the natural world, as we fell into the life dictated to us by the sun, wind, and sea. Unforgettable.

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