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I have started another blog at http://bluewaterproject.org. My long term plan is to go offshore sailing, and in this blog I will document my way to get there.
Still using this domain? I would like to have it since my name is alexio.
Sorry yes, I’m using that domain.
What do you do when your blog becomes too neglected? Correct, you start another one.
Here goes: I just started a kind of sub blog called sparkfile where I will blog about ideas I have, in the hope of somebody else implementing them so I don’t have to. Read more about spark files here.
In a recent talk at Solve for <x> Neal Stepenson complained about mankind not undertaking enough big projects that would be difficult/costly but doable with today’s technology. One idea was to build a 20km tall building – because we can – and then come up with ideas of what to do with it (or maybe come up with the ideas first).
So, here’s my list of ideas:
I think we should totally do this. What could possibly go wrong? What are your ideas?
After failing to find a marina in Bridgetown, the capital in the south of Barbados, we went to Carlisle Bay and stayed there over the night. It has crystal clear turquoise water and is surrounded by a perfectly white beach with palm trees. There are a few hotels on the opposite side. We anchored next to The Boatyard, a beach bar with drinks, wifi and rude staff. In the evening a few bars at the beach started to play life music, so went there. By the time we arrived the band was finished, so we went back to The Boatyard for a few cold drinks. Also at the bar they would not let me in without shoes - without my sandals I now only had a pair of closed shoes which are way to warm for the weather here. Got some cheap flip flops at the supermarket today.
The next morning I got up and before really having woken up let myself drop into the warm water. It was an amazing feeling and I stayed in the water for half an hour, swam to the beach and just stood there, taking in my new surrounding. That was one of those moments you don’t forget for a while.
After a luxurious breakfast on deck (fried eggs, fresh fruit, fresh bread etc.) we went up the west coast (called platinum coast). We had heard there was a marina up there. The entire coast is lined with beaches, palm trees, small houses between the green – and jet skis. I’m hoping to rent one in the next days.
The marina was full, but we were able to fill our ginormous water tanks and then we went to anchor near a place called Speightstown. To the delight (or maybe not) of the public we then all went naked and finally showered on the bathing platform of the boat, maybe 200m off the coast :) After that Johan and I each spent 20 minutes getting rid of our beards. We look 10 years younger now. And feel like real people again.
We went on land and found a cafe right next to where we landed our dinghy. It’s called Fisherman’s Pub and we can see their wifi from the boat, but the reception is too weak. So we spent an hour there checking emails and what not. Went to the supermarket afterwards and bought a trolley full of food. Back on board I made some very delicious hamburgers for Johan and me while Alfred and Roman had the rest of the fish. For desert we had Hägen Dasz ice cream - sometimes globalization just rocks.
The place is very beautiful. From the boat we look at a coast with palm trees, beaches and colorful bars and restaurants. When on land we can watch our boat roll along slowly in the sunset. I guess we’ll stay here for a bit, so this ends our transatlantic journey, and also this diary. I’ll stay on the boat for a few more days and then spend Christmas on land before flying back to Berlin on the 26th.
I don’t have any final words yet. I’m very glad I have done this trip, I don’t know if I would do it again, probably not in the same setting. Right now I’m happy we’ve made it. Everything else we’ll see. Thank you for reading.
When I got up to my morning watch at 6:00 I could already see the first lights - the airport and a light house - of Barbados.
Roman had caught another fish yesterday and butchered it in the cockpit while I was steering. Not a pretty sight, especially before breakfast. The fish himself had just eaten before he was caught and I could see his full stomach. Well fish, that’s what you get when you can’t get enough.
Now we are still about 6 miles away from the marina in Bridgetown. About one hour to go. One hour until shower.
We have met numerous fishing boats already, an airplane flew straight over us, cell phones are starting to get reception again - civilization has us back. We have been at sea for 17 days and nights.
New time zone once again. Went for a short swim in a nearby bay. Water temperature was 31 degrees C. So. Good. I almost feel human again.
We are now in the harbor waiting for Roman and Alfred to clear customs for us. There is a big cruise ship lying next to us. It has a water slide on the top deck. Next to it are three luxury motor yachts, one has a private helicopter. It must suck to own one of the other two boats. I’m lucky we don’t have to compete with that.
To celebrate our arrival (ok, because I couldn’t stand it any longer) I put on a new t-shirt, the third in 17 days.
120 miles to go. The Navtex says the trade winds are going to pick up again but so far nothing. We once again turned on the engine and are now running straight towards the south end of Barbados. One more night and then we should be there some time in the afternoon. Now that we are so close I can’t wait to get there. Need to keep myself busy with something dull to pass the remaining time.
For lack of anything to do we decided to start eating again. Let the landfall feast begin. First course: spaghetti and pesto.
Seriously full now.
Roman has had a hole in his swim pants for three days now. I think he is trying to tan his butt.
Another huge fish bit but escaped again in the last moment. Nature is trying to make up for it by presenting us three huge birds fishing around our boat and in front of a fabulous sunset - the last at sea for this trip.
Again, time to cook. I have no idea how people manage to lose weight on these trips. We certainly haven’t.
Roman has shaved his beard. Big disappointment. Johan is leading the board with his 31 day beard looking like a bad ass pirate. I am on second with 21 days. We’ll take before/after shaving pictures when we get to Barbados.
It’s my time to cook again and I am making a five course menu. Gotta make the best of what’s left.
It might not be the ideal mix but I’m hoping with long enough breaks no-one will. notice.
A wall of dark clouds ahead. Thunderstorm! I might get my long-awaited shower after all. But maybe not. We are taking down sails and try to run around it under engine.
We managed to run around it. There was a little bit of rain but not enough to wash away weeks of … well you already know what.
And so the cooking show part 2 began. Add some sweat to the picture: due to the thunderstorm we had to keep all hatches shut. I actually enjoy cooking on the boat. It passes time. It gives purpose. It leads to the highlight of the day. It gives you a sense of power even. After all who is going to argue with the cook? Step aside I’m the cook. Everything you don’t eat now can and will be used against you. Amen.
I’m not such a big fan of washing dishes though. You have the right to remain dirty.
The wind is back! It actually came back over the night and we are now under sail and wind steering again. It’s only 15 knots but hey. Given the current speed and course we should arrive in Barbados in the morning of the 14th.
We are at 13 degrees north and 54 degrees west now, which is funny because it’s the same as Berlin but the axes swapped (Berlin being at 54 north and 13 east).
Never stop exploring. I don’t remember who said it (an ad for outdoor clothing?) but it’s also true for boats. In the bast days I found:
Craving of the day: croissants.
Over the night the wind died completely and the ocean became flat as a mirror. During my evening watch fog came up which in combination was a bit of a spooky setting, a bit like London in the movies. For my morning watch the clouds at the horizon had disappeared and I was greeted by the rising sun.
The heat is killing all motivation to do anything but sit around and wait for the evening. Or dinner (pasta with canned tuna). The good thing about reading is that it doesn’t require any major movements, so we do that. Roman is reading a survival book, Johan a law book (“a hobby”) and Alfred the sea charts of the Carribean.
I’m paging through another book from the on board library: “Storm, what now?” - it lists all the possible disaster scenarios and how to either avoid or deal with them. Did you know the most effective way to hold onto something is to wrap one arm around it and hold it with the other? Apparently this grip can withstand several tons of force. For one guy this solution ended up being not so ideal. He held onto one of the wires going up the mast when a wave broke over his ship, causing it to be pressed down on the water. After it righted itself back up the poor guy found himself clinging to one of the spreaders up in the mast. The water had washed him there when the mast was horizontal.
Next chapter: storm sailing techniques.
The wind is back again but with only 5-8kn - too little for us, so we are still running under engine. Not only is this not our preferred way of propulsion it is also slower than sailing. Instead of the usual 120-140 miles per 24h we only did 105 yesterday, which means we’ll be arriving a few hours later. Well, no big deal, but hey wind, could you please come back?
In four miles we are going to cross 51 degrees east - three quarters done, four days left.
Over the night the wind has died completely, so we have been running under engine the whole night and day. The ocean is almost flat, the ever-present swell is still there though. What’s weird though is that after a while running under engine does not feel too different from sailing, except for the one steering and the noise. Steering under engine means we have to steer by hand again as the auto pilot is still not working and the wind steering is useless without wind, so it’s actually harder. The sailing we do isn’t actually that interesting. You set a course where the wind is coming almost from behind. Every couple of hours you maybe make a correction and that’s it. In other regions the wind might be less steady and come from less favorable directions, which would give us a bit more to do, the “worst case” being that we would have to tack (zigzag) upwind. Sometimes it would be nice to have a change.
Today we took down the flag of Cape Verde and hoisted the flag of Barbados plus the quarantine flag. It’s completely yellow and boats that haven’t cleared customs yet are required to show it. Whenever you visit an island/country you have to pay the authorities a visit, show the ship’s papers and crew’s passports and the you can take the yellow flag down.
I started to read a new book called “Lila”. It starts with the view through the hatch in the front berth of a sailing boat. Coincidence?
Another leg of our journey, time to change the board time to UTC-3. Once again we all sat together in the cockpit enjoying the cool breeze of the evening. Finished the bottle of red wine we had been sipping on for the last ten days with some cheese. Contemplated wether we should keep the engine running or just shut it down and wait for wind. I would vote for the latter but I really need a shower. And do laundry.
The trade winds stopped training. We are doing a mere 3.5 knots, and that in the wrong direction - too far south. It’s unbelievably hot in the boat and on deck the sun is burning down on us. Everyone is just sitting around trying not to move more than necessary.
No wind. We have turned on the engine. Let’s hope it does not stay on for too long. The weather news on the Navtex don’t sound very promising though.
Engine still running. We stopped it during dinner though. Made leftover burritos again, everyone complained about not having had enough. I take that as a compliment. We had a bit of an argument over which can opener is better. The one that cuts away the complete top of the can or the one that only cuts into the lid? After almost completely destroying a can by trying to open it with the former I think the argument is settled :) Not calling any names.
It’s getting dark, which is nice because temperature is going down to a bearable level. Clouds all around us make for an interesting looking sky, but why don’t they bring any wind? Or showers?
Again going a bit into background information, here is a typical day on board (midnight to midnight):
00:00: Trying to sleep but it’s either too warm or too strong waves. Check watch regularly to make sure I don’t oversleep my next watch. Get up at 01:40, put in contacts, find something to eat (head torch ftw) 02:00: Night watch until 4:00. Really tired,meat cookies and listen to music to stay awake. Check the bolts on the wind steering every 15 minutes. Depending on weather help out the wind steering or reset it from time to time. 04:00: Go back to bed, hoping to find sleep now. 08:00: sun is up, i.e. it’s getting warmer, chances of waking up 09:00: wake up but stay in bed, open the hatch to get some air 10:00: finally get up because I’m hungry and don’t want to lie in my own sweat any longer. Bathroom, try to wash a bit using as little water as possible. Realize my next watch starts now. Start watch without breakfast. Again sit in the cockpit for two hours and make sure we go in the right direction. 12:00: Look at the watch schedule and count the days until we arrive. Find something to eat, usually hard baked bread plus something. Find that’s it’s way to warm so back to bed. Type something into the diary, browse through books and read a bit or listen to music. 14:00: Hungry again. Most of us are. The one most hungry starts to roam the kitchen for something edible and hopefully prepares something small for everyone (scrambled eggs, creative leftovers…). If not go to kitchen and find something that I can combine with hard baked bread. 15:00: Sit in the cockpit for a bit with no T-Shirt to reduce the contrast between lower arms and chest. Leave the cockpit because of too much sun, sit in the saloon instead where it’s 35 degrees C. 16:00: Realize it’s my turn to cook dinner. The upside of this is that I get to skip my next watch which would be at 18:00. Roam the kitchen again. Discuss plans with other crew, then cook something else. Spend an hour at the stove heating up the saloon a bit more. Curse the damn waves, hold the pan all the time so that it keeps it’s contents. 17:00: Dinner time. We all sit down either in the saloon or the cockpit and eat. A lot. If it’s good dinner is usually one of the highlights of the day. 17:40: The one who cooks also has to wash the dishes. First wash with salt water, then rinse with fresh water to save water. We don’t really know how much water is left as there is no indicator for that. 18:30: Exhausted from dinner, sit around again. Write into the diary or read. 18:45: Set up Internet by strapping the satellite modem to the outside of the boat. Plug in cables, configure connections, sit at the entrance because the network cable is too short. Check emails, publish blog posts. 19:30: It’s getting dark. Either everyone except the watch goes to bed now or we sit together in the cockpit for a bit. 20:30 Time for bed. I won’t sleep for a while but the next watch is at midnight so I better get started. 23:40 Get up again. Bathroom, contacts, grab an apple, off to watch.
Time for bed now.
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