Published: March 12th 2009February 12th 2009
With a prayer to the wind Gods (and a careful look at weather predictions) we fueled Volpaia, readied our sails, secured anything that could possibly move, provisioned, checked fluids, pumps, belts...pre-cooked & froze meals, tied down everything, covered hatches, sealed, stuffed, tucked & tidied. And set sail with Bruce, Veronica and our newest crew, Romain (pronounced Romaine like the lettuce... which coincidentally, he has never heard of).
Romain is a young rock climbing, sailing, new graduate of finance and friend of the owner of our boat who needed an adventure, so he joined us for almost a month of sailing from Panama. We were planning to head for the San Blas then South to Cartagena, Columbia in order to get a good wind angle; however, the weather charts seemed to show a window that, if it came true, could allow us to do a gruesome upwind sail to Jamaica on a single tack. We will see.
Due to the personal affects of the motion of the ocean, it became clear to me that I was going to most probably be the only human that could venture into the abyss... the interior of the boat to prepare food. We were
on an upwind battle in 35 plus winds and 10-15 ft. seas heading right into it. Below decks is usually the last place you want to be unless you can somehow wedge yourself into your bunk, stuff pillows around you and hope your lee cloth holds you tight. Turn on a fan and try to sleep the restless sleep of the sailor. We were discussing how to explain what a crossing like this feels like in a way that it would be easy to grasp and I think we have one:
IMAGINE: You are on a road trip with a great group of 4 other friends. It is a nice RV that allows you to cook and have bunks to sleep in and a toilet to use along your trip across the country. Nice huh! Now... you can only drive this RV on top, in an open aired cockpit and the rest of the RV must be closed up. Not a window open, no air conditioning below. Got it so far? Ok... so now you feel the fresh breeze up top and you have sweltering heat below. You feel the rain of the storms in your face and the
occasional random splash of water ... lets say from an overpass or off of the trees... for no apparent reason, you will be driving and get hit in the face with water. Now put the road at a 30 degree angle. So you are driving across the country for hundreds and hundreds of miles at a sideways, 30 degree angle on a road....... full of potholes. LARGE potholes that have no rhyme or reason. So at any moment you may be bouncing up in the air or coming to almost a dead stop at times. Now go below and cook a meal for 5. You cannot let go of anything. Unfortunately, your refrigerator opens on the high side of your RV... so when you open the door, if the timing is not JUST right, you will have all of the contents jumping out onto your face. This goes for half of the cabinets in the galley. Imagine a shower? Going to the restroom? The most boring of chores now become a bit more intense, exciting or mostly frustrating and absolutely exhausting. Sleeping below in the heat... bouncing below, rocking back and forth and at this steep angle re-defines sleep. It
is all you can do to be bright enough to do a solid watch. What if you get carsick????
Needless to say, I didn't feel well at all, but better than the others onboard so I was the chosen one. Not that the others had much of an appetite, but whatever they craved, I wanted to try to make it happen. Mostly, it had to be fairly easy, thus as many pre-cooked meals as I could pull off. So I could just add a few things, but mostly, it had to fit in one single bowl that could be slid out a window into the cockpit. They had strict watches, and I floated, helping an hour here and there, and being sure that I was poking food into their faces when they needed it during meal times. Salty foods seemed the best and sometimes just simple crackers or pretzels and Cyrus' favorite rough seas snack... Goldfish would suffice for a meal for one or two while the others may try a whole meal. The watches were four hours on then off... so the most they could sleep in a row would be about 3 hours if they were very
very lucky. This creates an interesting type of exhaustion.
The first night was the most difficult and we think this was a trifecta of events. One... It is the first day at sea and our bodies needed to get used to the motion again. Two... we were headed as hard into the wind as we could flying just a small stay sail and a double reefed main... but into the weather. Three... the night was PITCH DARK. No moon... not a star... dark clouds muffled the night into a black space where ocean and sky could not be differentiated from each other. No horizon... can't see the waves coming at us... we could only hear them. It was like a bumpy roller coaster ride with no way to know which way was up. EVERYONE felt bad. Some worse than others... some fed the fishes and some just felt tired and bad. These are the moments when we remember the thousands of times we have been told that we live a "charmed life" "a Dream of a job" We are so "LUCKY". What would these people think now if they were here... is what WE are thinking. This is
Smoother waters make dining an event!
the reason we are paid, because most humans would really think twice about life choices when in the middle of these sorts of trips.
Day two: we had better light with less clouds and the moon rose, so we had a sliver of a moon to help us.. everyone still not right.
Day three: Cyrus getting worried that the wind won't shift more to the East like predicted and we would have to tack back and forth to make it to Jamaica. We have to now cut on the inside of banks off of Nicaragua... wasn't our plan. But conditions are either getting better or they are getting used to it.. but there are a few more jokes... few more smiles and the evening turns out to be gorgeous! A lovely sunset, nicer seas and I even had the conditions to pull of chocolate cupcakes for Valentines Day!
Day Four: Hopes are dashed a bit when conditions worsen again and we find the waves turning square. But we are closer and Veronica's daily question of "Are we at least half way yet?" can finally be answered with YES! The betting begins as we all write a time
and day that we think we will arrive. The closest will get the drink of their choice from the rest of the crew... The evening is better and some get a bit of sleep!
DAY 5: Approaching Jamaica and sailing along the island ... glassy water. The Ocean has become playful and friendly. We see her mood change and ours changes along with it. We catch a mackeral then a giant barracuda which we give back to the ocean, since we are not used to eating Barracuda. This becomes a Jamaica Lecture point many times over as we accidentally mention this fish, and this is a favorite food fish for these guys. Apparently they are disgusted we didn't keep it. oops. The crew enjoys a blue water swim, a fancy dinner as we watched the shoreline pass by... We first noticed the burning smell. Unlike any island we have smelled actually. Of course the guys decided that it was all the ganja they are smoking... could be an interesting stop!
DAY 6: Arrive in the East Bay at 5am... dark, exhausted and ready to sleep. WE MADE IT! We are going to the next bay over, but it
Cleaning up for Port
Romain has a sunset shave
is a narrow pass so we will rest a bit and go when there is light. Welcome to Jamaica Mon!!!
There are more photos below