Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Exploring Antigua.

After two weeks at sea we could finally relax and recover our sleep and start to use our muscles again under the bright sun of the Caribbean. Somehow I caught a bug or something while in Cape Verde and about mid way across the Atlantic I developed a sort of lung infection and it took me almost a full week after our arrival here to recover from it. But talking about my being sick would start to be repetitive as it seems I get sick in every country we go lately. However, on a more exciting tone I went on a very interesting tour they have here in Antigua. It was called the Antigua Rainforest Canopy Tour and we would basically wear a harness and slide on zip lines spread between hug trees. This was really fun but unfortunately I had to do this only by myself since it was totally out of question for Danielle to do that activity. Danielle wouldn’t mind to go at the bow of the boat to fix a broken line while sailing through a storm, and she actually did that once, but her chronic vertigo prevents her for climbing a 3 feet (1m) ladder! It is then not hard to imagine that she would bail out of sliding on a cable at 100 ft (30m) over the forest! But the miss was all hers because the 12 zip lines and 9 suspended obstacle bridges were exceptionally fun.

We are definitively back to the Caribbean; the only place in the world where you can find a gas station that actually has no gas! I mean, seriously if they don’t have gas to sell what exactly do they do? Selling chocolate bars? They are obviously at the mercy of the delivery boat but this is exactly why the mercantile society invented a very interesting concept called: inventory. But apparently this obscure concept didn’t reach the southern islands. But part of our recovery time included some alcohol consumption and one night Danielle decided to look up on internet for the recipe of B52 shooters and found out it was made of Tia-Maria, Irish cream and Grand Marinier poured skillfully in distinct layers. It happened that we actually had these ingredient on board and after using the back of a tea spoon to pour the liquids; voila! I don’t know exactly how many we drank because after 12 I stopped counting but I do know that when we ran out of Grand Marinier we used the Brandy we bought in Gibraltar and although the layers were not as clearly defined, by lack of discrepancy in the specific gravity of each liquid or by lack of motor faculties, the taste was good anyway. And as Danielle put it so brilliantly “Bahhhh when it’s in our stomach it ain’t going to make a difference … hic!”

On December 23rd it was my birthday and we had a nice dinner in a fancy restaurant with the crews of “Karacool” in the back and “Adagio III” on the right. Not much to say other than I got a few more grey hairs but still have a very young heart and a beautiful wife.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all and we wish you all the best for the coming year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

We crossed the Atlantic!

We finally made it; we crossed the big ‘O following the wake of Christopher Columbus on that crossing of 2111M (3926 km). Two weeks at sea were necessary for that achievement and it was with relief that we shouted “Land ‘O!” when Antigua showed up on the horizon. Two weeks at sea and being tossed in every direction by the waves takes a drain on two unfit sailors like us. We should really stop drinking and start exercising instead! In the mind of most people, crossing the Atlantic is a huge life milestone and it showed up by the sheer number of boats we saw jumping in that adventure while we were in the Canaries where they were preparing for the crossing. We estimated that about 300 other boats crossed the Atlantic at the same time than we did, at one point we were wondering whether we needed to take a number to get in line or what. With the advent of the GPS (Global Positioning System) and autopilots such a journey is now made affordable to a larger portion of the population but still remains a serious undertaking. Therefore, soon after dropping the hook, the cork of the bottle of wine popped and it was time for us to celebrate. An important point to notice is that even though we are now back to the Caribbean we haven’t completed the circumnavigation part of our trip. To complete a circumnavigation of the earth it is necessary to cross all the meridians and to sail over our own wake. We did cross all the meridians of the earth but we are still 35M (65 km) from the closest point of our wake when we sailed in Montserrat in 2009. Therefore, we are not yet to the point of celebrating THAT achievement, which will makes the Atlantic crossing look like a weekend trip, and since we want to stay in Antigua and Barbuda for at least until after Christmas the celebration for the big loop will have to wait a bit more.

The crossing itself went relatively eventless. On two occasions dolphins came to play at the bow of Chocobo and on a sunny day of the first week we had the rare privilege of the company of an 18ft (6m) whale who travelled with us for over an hour and half. This was more than what we asked for since sighting a whale is quite a rare event but having her to swim with us for 90 minutes is the treat of a lifetime! On the fourth day we had the surprise of passing another sailboat. Note that even if 300 other sailboats are crossing doesn’t mean we would see them. We can barely see more than 5 miles around us and the ocean is immense. I called them and they appear to be “Moin”, a German boat, who left Mindelo, the same port we left from, but the day before us. In four days we had caught up with them as we were flying with the strong steady wind prevailing in the eastern part of the Atlantic. That was probably only the second time in our trip that we found a boat slower than us and with our boosted ego we wish them good luck and fair wind as they disappeared behind us. We saw another sailboat on the horizon about a week later but we didn’t bother calling them. They didn’t call us either so they were probably not inclined to chat although usually when one spends two weeks at sea without seeing another boat it is usually tempting to talk to another human being other than his or her own spouse!

But beside these few “events” an ocean crossing is quite a boring adventure in itself. We stay on watch 24/7 alternating on 4 hour shifts during the night and a less rigid schedule during the day. In the morning when the night has been wavy I had to go and throw overboard the flying fishes that jumped on the boat in a suicidal leap for survival but end up flapping on the front trampolines. This time we caught a weird fish that I’m holding here on the picture. Danielle cooks pretty much all the meals since I am usually quite incapacitated by the continuous movement of the waves. I appear not to be much of a sailor on long passages although I jump right up when something breaks to fix it in a timely fashion. However, to our great surprise and satisfaction, we didn’t encounter any breakups worth mentioning during that very long passage. Normally, we would have expected to have a long list of repairs along the way or to be done as soon as we touch land but it seems that all the precautionary work we did and the fact that we now know Chocobo like the back of our hand really paid off. Exchanging emails with two of our boat friends, who are also crossing, we learned that one had a flaky autopilot looking for a reason to die and the other had his main sail ripped apart. On Chocobo we had only the spring of a deck block that snapped under fatigue with basically no consequences other than the fact that this block, which is under constant pressure of over many hundreds of pounds anyway would not stand straight up by itself! Chocobo might be a high maintenance chick but she’s a good boat.

Arrived in Antigua.

We arrived at English Harbor on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean from Mindelo in the Republic of Cape Verde in on December 12th, 2011 after a passage of 2111 nautical miles (3926 km) that took us 14 days, 6 hours and 30 minutes for an average speed of 6.2 knots, which is relatively fast for such a long crossing. This was our second longest crossing after the Pacific and accounted for a huge milestone in our journey.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Not much to say about Cape Verde.

We don’t have much to say about Cape Verde because we stayed only 4 short days just to sleep a bit after our crossing from the Canaries and to complete the last repairs and maintenance on the boat before the Atlantic crossing. Danielle and I went ashore only once for leisure and that very day a huge cruise ship docked in the harbor for the day and consequently the only people in the streets were tourists while the only locals we encountered were young men trying to get money from us by either simply asking for it or using more or less elaborated schemes to attain the same result. I went a couple of other times but it was for clearance and groceries. With the other thousands of tourists in town we went to a restaurant and to the farmer’s market to fill up with fresh fruits and veggies and in both places we got totally tourist priced by paying, in a poor African country, more than what we would pay back home! Since it didn’t amount to much money we didn’t argue the prices and simply contributed to the local economy. It may sound that we didn’t have a good time in Cape Verde but it was not the case. The small town of Mindelo and peoples were very nice and we had indeed a good time and rested plenty and finally got ready for the two week crossing to come.