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I've been taking lots of notes and am starting this letter to all of you in mid- passage so that it won't take me so long to type once we get somewhere. If you're overwhelmed with the number of pages you're holding in your hands and you don't have time to plow through all this, soon we'll be composing our one page annual letter. It will contain the high points of all that follows. Some of you are more familiar with boat terminology than others, so forgive my explanations and usage of words in some cases. Before acquiring this laptop computer, I used to be able to only type or write about four to six pages to one person at a time. I never had time to relate this much to any one family member. Using my manual typewriter took forever! Generally there hasn't been an opportunity to relate as much when we've seen either. I hope this will help you all to understand what sailing on "Arctracer" is like, and what I do and think about during a voyage.
Thursday, November 20, 1997 34deg 40' N, 76deg 40' W (Beaufort, North Carolina) . I wrote a letter November 19th and said we'd be in Beaufort a couple more days, but we decided to leave sooner. The weather forecasts said that for the next several days there would not be more than 25 to 30 knots of wind between Beaufort and Bermuda. This is the start of the storm season in the North Atlantic, so any "window" with light winds is an opportunity not to be missed. We had our anchors up at 7:30 this morning.
We were lucky that the current was slack while we got our anchors up, because before we could get the anchors up we had to untangle the rope of one anchor from the chain of the other. While we were circling around under power there was too much strain on our bow roller (which the chain goes over) and it bent and came loose from its lashings. Jerry retrieved it okay, but it needs serious straightening. The current in Beaufort isn't nearly as bad as the Piscataqua River in New Hampshire/Maine, but it is bad enough. After the anchors were up I steered the boat through the harbor and out to sea while Jerry tied the anchors on deck, put clay in the holes for the rope and chain, and got the sail covers off. By 8:45 we were out in the ocean and put our sails up even though there was very little wind. We ran the engine too. A French boat came out behind us - apparently also heading to Bermuda. It passed us and was out of sight before too long. It was a beautiful day and we had our shoes and socks off for the first time in months. We watched the gannets fishing and saw schools of fish on the surface.
At 11:30 some white, speckled dolphins came to play around our boat. We learned from our reference book that we got at the Washington zoo this summer (with a discount from Dorothy's membership card) that they were Atlantic Spotted Dolphins. We hadn't ever seen them before. At 12:15 I put out a fish line, but by dark we hadn't had any luck so we put it away for the night. We never fish at night, as it would be too difficult to deal with a fish if we caught one in the dark. At 2:30 a Myrtle Warbler landed on the boat and stayed for about 3 hours. Apparently it was hungry. It hopped all over the boat. It found one dead insect in a corner of our cockpit and then after a while started eating the silly putty I had put around our round hatch in the back of the boat. Jerry suggested I get some bread for it and it actually did eat some. It stayed aboard for three hours and acted quite tame. It landed on my head twice and my arm once. I can't say I cared for that too much! The warbler was the main entertainment of the day though. The last bit of U.S.A. we saw was the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. At 3 PM we listened to the weather forecast (Herb in Ontario) and he predicted a big storm on Saturday, which would affect everybody north of 32deg N. The other forecast (November Mike November - the computer voice of the Coast Guard) also predicted gales Friday night and Saturday north of 35deg N. We were at about 34deg 23' N at the time. About 5 PM our depth sounder stopped registering depths, so we turned it off for the rest of the trip. We have a new transducer and this one read up to 456', which was better than our previous one which always stopped about 250'. We had potato/onion soup for dinner and watched a pretty sunset streaking the western sky. At 10:30 PM we were at 34deg N and 76deg W and our compass said we were pointing 130deg (southeast) but our GPS said we were tracking 100deg (much more east), so we were in the Gulf Stream and it was giving us quite a push. We needed to get out of the Gulf Stream before the wind picked up because it makes storms worse. Arctracer went 123.8 nautical miles today - mostly southeast.
Friday, November 21 34deg N, 74deg 30' W At 2 AM we were still motor sailing in the Gulf Stream. At 7 AM the current of the Gulf Stream was not pushing us any more so we were happy. We turned the engine off about 8 AM, after using it for a little over 24 hours. The wind was finally strong enough for sailing. Jerry set up our new Auto Helm wind vane self-steering system, but after a couple of hours one of the control wires broke, so we were back to hand steering. By noon the wind was up to 20 knots from the south, so we furled our jib, which is only used in lighter winds. We saw one ship today - a car carrier. NMN forecast up to 30 knots of wind for tonight, so before it got dark we put double reefs in both gaff sails. The wind did blow pretty hard, and the waves got pretty big, but we kept jogging slowly east , taking the waves on our starboard bow, and it wasn't too bad. I had to put more clay in the hole for the rope. The previous clay disappeared with all the waves coming over the bow. While I was doing this 2 waves came over my head. Luckily I had my raingear on so I didn't get too wet and uncomfortable. We had a wild night. I truly think we can say we've been in our first "moderate gale" (it was for quite a short period of time). The waves were huge by the time it got daylight! I'd never seen such huge waves. During the night one wave came aboard, over my head and completely filled the cockpit. Did I ever get wet that time! This had never happened before and I learned that our cockpit boards float. We have a box on most of them, so they didn't float much. Four of our sheets (ropes) went overboard with the onslaught of the wave, so I finally got them back aboard and put the ends in the cockpit instead of on the deck. We had had them wrapped around cleats, but the repeated waves coming aboard loosened them. When the 3rd squall hit us there was lightning and thunder really close by. I called for Jerry to see if there was any way I could get inside out of the lightning. At the time I felt I really needed to steer into the wind as the strong winds tried to heel us way over. When those squalls came through we were really moving! Tonight I learned that Arctracer truly seems to be a very seaworthy boat. Arctracer went 87.3 nautical miles today. Part of the reason for such low mileage was the huge seas and attempting to go into the wind.
Saturday, November 22nd 33deg 32' N, 72deg 56'W By about 11 AM the wind had diminished. The seas were confused and still large. I saw three fish jumping at different times during the day. We had really light winds and then a rainsquall, but nothing like yesterday. Yesterday the winds were 30 - 35 knots with higher gusts. We only used a sheet to cover up while sleeping today and tonight. It was the first time we hadn't used a quilt since going north from the Bahamas in June. I had quite an uneventful, boring watch from 1:30 AM until 7:30 AM. I saw 2 shooting stars and lots of phosphorescence in the sea. Most of the night was overcast with no stars. Arctracer went 115.8 nautical miles today.
Sunday, November 23rd 33deg 16' N, 69deg 52' W Wind is reasonable this morning, so we took out the reefs and started sailing at our normal 6 knots again. Jerry tied knots in the wind vane control wires and got it working. Now that our Auto Helm is repaired we truly do have a third crewmember. We decided to name it. Jerry said we should probably call it Otto, but that didn't seem too creative. He then suggested Tracy since it is on the back end of Arctracer. I liked his reasoning for the name, so Tracy is our trusty new crewmember. Hilary gave us a cuddly teddy bear that we named Arcy. He has been our mascot for over 3 years now. So now we have Arcy & Tracy on Arctracer.
During the day we saw one freighter and we saw a white tailed tropic bird for the first time this trip. I made red flannel hash for the first time. By 2 PM the winds had picked up quite a bit and we put a double reef in our mainsail again and a single reef in our fore sail. By 4:30 the wind had picked up even more and it was going to be dark soon so we put another reef in our fore sail and took the mainsail down. This time we had the mainsail down because we were going down wind. We learned on previous occasions that having just the fore sail up in strong following winds makes Arctracer quite happy (and we like to keep her as happy as possible). At 5 AM we had a squall and at 5:30 AM I saw another white tailed tropicbird. Arctracer went 123.8 nautical miles today.
Monday, November 24th 32deg 38' N, 68deg 24' W As I read my notes I am reminded that this was a really rocking and rolling day aboard. The winds had been strong for quite a while and the waves were starting to get much larger. The boat was really rolling because of the waves and because we didn't have the mainsail up to stabilize her stern. I hurt my knee outside, bumped my head inside, and got thrown around in the galley trying to cook. When making Jennifer and Agu's coconut rice recipe the liquid in the pan spilled all over my shoulder as I was leaning over. My clothes sure were sticky! I had just barely put on clean, dry clothes as I had just gotten drenched in the cockpit with no raincoat on. (It was wishful thinking on my part that waves wouldn't come into the cockpit today.) This was the first and only spill so far on our new Force 10 stove. I make a lot of one-pot dishes in the pressure cooker that was given to us. Having a lid that goes on securely is wonderful! I have never used it as a pressure cooker, but I sure like it when we're at sea. We also had sweet and sour soya chunks today. It was the first time I'd tried the recipe and I really liked it.
At 1:30 AM Jerry saw a ship pass us. The only way we can see ships in these conditions is when we're at the top of large enough waves. During the night, while Jerry was on watch things got REALLY exciting. I slept through most of it, but from inside I did hear a really strange noise at one point. It sounded like we'd struck something really large. A HUGE wave came aboard while Tracy was steering. It wasn't her fault, as we were sluing around on the large waves. Tracy always managed to get us back on course quite quickly, but this time before she had a chance to get us going back down wind a wave broke the stanchion near the cockpit on the starboard side of the boat. This stanchion was welded to our steel hull in two places (the deck and the toe rail). It broke just at the welded point at the toe rail. There was no rust or anything weak about the metal at all. Besides the wave, the main reason it broke was that we still had one of the new splash cloths I'd made this summer up and the wave put a lot of strain on the splash cloth which in turn caused the metal to break. Not only did the stanchion break; the lifeline between the stanchions came down. The piece of metal that held the lifeline to one of its ends straightened out like it was a toothpick. It was a strong piece of stainless steel (a kind of shackle). We were starting to understand the power of waves! Jerry quickly got a long piece of dock line and improvised a lifeline under VERY adverse conditions. He has since put a piece of pipe in the part of the stanchion still on the boat and the piece that broke off and made a new lifeline to put through it. It seems fine for now, but we'll have to get it welded back on before we plan to sail in any more large seas. Now we have two stanchions to get welded - this one and the one that got really bent on our way into Cape May. I don't think we'll have our splash cloths up again while we're at sea. At least one of them had a grommet torn out. I haven't checked the other one yet. Having it protect us from a few waves isn't worth it. On short trips between islands it will be fine to have them up, but when at sea you never know when the seas will build up to cause problems. The outhaul on the staysail broke shortly after this. This means that the back of the sail came unattached from its boom. Things sure were keeping Jerry busy this night. Jerry saw floorboards floating in the cockpit for the first time. At 2:40 AM I started my watch, afraid that more events might occur, but they didn't.
While on watch I was trying to recall all the things that happened. Thank goodness we have small portholes. The waves were bashing them, and might have broken bigger windows. Small windows were one of the requirements we had when shopping for the boat. Our two chart drawers wouldn't stay in place and were continuously open. The bed in the aft cabin got very wet. The tins of food stored in our main saloon port locker got wet from bilge water sloshing over them. It was very difficult to keep the onions separated from the potatoes. (You aren't supposed to store them near each other or they won't last as long.) The nonskid rubber on the counters doesn't help much under the conditions we were in. Even it went to the floor. It is good only to a certain heeling point.
I have two quotes by Mark Twain on the wall in our head. From the Bermuda Cruising guide one quote is: "Bermuda is like paradise, but you have to go through Purgatory to get there." He apparently got there in small boats too. We didn't have to go through purgatory, but boats a few days behind us have really had terrible conditions. Herb, the route planner, forecaster said the other day that the storms in the north Atlantic are "popping up like popcorn." We got out of there just in time. Another Twain quote is "You know it's an adventure if halfway through it you wish you were home." I don't think we had an adventure, as I never wished I were home. I doubt it would take much more wind before it would be an adventure though.
Even after we passed Bermuda we were luckier than most. Around 30deg N there are generally lots of calms, but we were lucky enough to get a weak cold front passing through and had wind all the way.
I was just wondering how powerful waves actually are so I decided to go to our sailing reference bible, the "American Practical Navigator" by Bowditch. I've recently learned how much useful information it contains. Bowditch says, "The amount of kinetic energy in even a moderate wave is tremendous. A 4-foot, 10- second wave striking a coast expends more than 35,000 horsepower per mile of beach. For each 56 miles of coast, the energy expended equals the power generated at Hoover Dam." I just calculated that our cockpit measures 58 x 135 x 145 cm, a bit less than 1 1/2 cubic meters, and can hold a ton of water. This is the weight of "still" water. When you consider the kinetic energy involved with the wind and the actual wave, the force is much more. No wonder our stanchion broke off!! Arctracer went 145.3 nautical miles today with only a double-reefed foresail up. The wind was whipping!
Tuesday, November 25th 31deg 54' N, 65deg 47' W At 9 AM I saw my first flying fish of the trip. A few minutes later one flew over the bow of the boat and landed back in the water. I'd never seen one do that before. The boat is now full of water. Somehow water even got onto the benches in the main salon. We were both wet from head to toes after our watches. The waves that came aboard found ways of getting down our necks and into our boots. My turtleneck, wool sweater, and rain suit (generally quite waterproof) were drenched.
At 10 AM we were within 35 miles of Bermuda; the closest we ever got to it. It took us about 5 days. That's not bad at all. It could have easily taken us a week. The distance from Beaufort to Bermuda is 600 miles. We changed the clocks from Eastern Standard Time to Atlantic Standard Time. Now we're one hour ahead of you for awhile. In New Bedford, MA we did intend to go to Bermuda, and I made 30 postcards with photos I'd taken, and even addressed them. My intent was to have that all done so that when we arrived in Bermuda I would just have to write on them. I would have more time to enjoy the island instead of staying on the boat constructing and addressing postcards. I guess some of you will be getting those from some point further south now. By the time we left Beaufort, it was getting too late to spend much time in Bermuda, and we planned to go right on past unless we developed a serious problem or needed to hide from a storm. This morning it definitely seemed best to keep on going. We'll be back to visit this island some other time.
By 11:30 AM the wind finally died down and we needed the mainsail up to reduce sluing on the tops of the waves. Putting the mainsail up was no easy chore. When we put the boat into the wind to get the sail up, it was as though we were climbing mountains. (I'd hate to be in a storm!! I can't begin to imagine how large the waves must get.) Although these waves were big and steep, at least the wave tops weren't breaking. We put one reef in the main and took the two reefs out of the fore sail. We ran the engine for about 3 hours to charge the batteries. The batteries get run down at night by the tricolor light at the top of the mast, our compass light, our radios, and some cabin lights. Our GPS has been on since we left Beaufort. It took us an hour to do the sail changes. The waves knocked us around so we had to keep waiting until the bow of the boat went up into the wind again to continue putting the sails up. Our engine helped some, but was limited by its lack of power. Porpoises were playing around the boat while all of this was going on. I slept extra during the day. Just trying to move around the boat exhausted me. I took a nap at 1 PM and then slept from 5 until midnight. My body was aching all over. My arms and back were really bothering me from all the hanging on I did in the cockpit on my last watch. It was a strain just to try to sit up out there. I could certainly see the reason for wearing our harnesses during this period of time. They seem confining sometimes, but we always feel better and can sleep better at night if we know the person outside is tethered to the boat.
Tracy really helped last night. We had to steer downwind with big waves constantly coming up behind us. This is tricky work, and is very tiring for a human helmsman. With Tracy doing most of the work, and never losing concentration, we could relax and even leave the wheel to get hot drinks and snacks.
At 4:30 I got all shook up when I thought I was really close to a ship. I quickly turned on the VHF radio, as we usually do when we spot a ship, and called Jerry. Before he could get out of bed, I realized that I was on a collision course with the moon. It was a crescent moon just coming over a slightly cloud covered horizon. I saw the two cusps first and thought they were the two lights of a big ship. Was I embarrassed! At about this time we put the engine on as there was little or no wind and we needed to charge the batteries again anyway. I disengaged Tracy for the first time. Arctracer went 107.5 nautical miles today.
Wednesday, November 26th 31deg 04' N, 63deg 59' W After yesterday I was reminded of the pin in our galley that Dorothy made her father in about 1981 or 1982. It says "I Survived Dead Creek." We took Jennifer, Hilary, Ben, and Dorothy on a weekend camping trip and spent a day canoeing on Dead Creek with the mosquitoes in hot, humid weather. It wasn't a good place to swim as the water was murky and there were lots of carp. (I wonder what the kids' version of the story is.) Anyway, I now feel "I've Survived Another Moderate gale."
I thought about fishing, but it was still too rough and there was too much Sargasso weed to fish. I would have to be checking the line a lot. I usually put out 200' to 300' and that would be a lot of work while getting tossed around on deck trying to steady myself on the back of the boat.
Today I want to look at three of our reference books to find out about going from Bermuda south - either to St. Thomas, St. Croix, Barbados, Trinidad, or Venezuela. At this point I have no idea of their latitudes and longitudes or what course cruising boats usually take to get to these places. It's time we find out.
I want to learn more about barometer readings after these past few days. I know that the barometer falls when a storm or something lesser is forming, but I don't know much at all about the meanings of the ups and downs of one. Although we've had one on board for the past 3+ years, neither of us has ever really used the information that it gives. When I think about it I guess it isn't as important in the tropics as it is in other parts of the world - except during hurricane season.
At 9:30 we took the last reef out of our sails. I made a cheese omelet with some of the cheese I bought to make Polly's pumpkin cheese soup. Making an omelet in rocking conditions is perfect. I didn't have to shake the pan at all as the boat did it for me. I also made an almond cake using the recipe of a cruising friend in Ontario. I still marvel at the capability of our new propane stove, compared to the old kerosene one. We can boil water in half the time and having two burners and an oven are heaven. We found a dead squid on board today. Too bad it wasn't large enough to eat. I've never used fresh squid, but I want to learn to do it someday.
At 1:20 we put up our topsail for the first time during this trip. The sun was out so we had a chance to dry out our boots, foul weather gear, sheets, wool socks, and wool mittens. My bruised toenail that I lost broke off again. I don't think having it in wet conditions for several days helped it any. I wonder if it will ever be normal again. We saw a bird we hadn't seen before. We're pretty sure it was a Bermuda petrel. We saw only one flying fish today. During the night Jerry thought he saw a ship on the horizon. He turned on the VHF radio, got the binoculars, and discovered that it was the navigational star Betelgeuse in Orion. He had me look through the binoculars and it really did appear to have red and green colors in it. (I'm not the only one that has collision courses with celestial bodies.) Today Jerry stowed the rope that was on deck from using our second anchor in Beaufort. We put a wooden plug in the hole so we shouldn't have any more problems with water getting in there. We also put clay around the wooden plug to keep it from popping off enough to get water in. (It is also tied down in the forepeak.)
At 1AM ship passed us. At 4:30 AM we had been motoring for 24 hours. I was wearing a t-shirt and going barefoot. This is much nicer than the long underwear and wool socks we wore just a few days ago. However, I'm still drinking lots of hot Tang and hot tea.
At 5:15 AM I'm ready for the moon to rise, but the clouds on the horizon cause it to show through much higher than the horizon. There's no possibility of it being a ship tonight!? It must be almost a new moon because it doesn't seem as though it can get much smaller. I just checked the calendar and the new moon is on November 30th.
At 5:40 I thought Jerry turned the engine off. It was on for the last 25 hours. Later I discovered that Jerry was sleeping. The engine went off by itself. Now Jerry has more maintenance work to do - troubleshooting why the engine quit. Arctracer went 99.8 nautical miles today.
Thursday, November 27th 30deg 22' N, 62deg 16' W 6:15 I turn the night lights off. There are lots of clouds in the sky, so I go inside to get my Cloud Book. I found it for less than $ 2 at the second hand bookstore in New Bedford. I read some more of it and decide we have a mackerel sky. Jerry once mentioned that his Dad says a mackerel sky means there will be rain. This book says there's an old saying: "Mackerel sky and mares' tails, make lofty ships carry low sails." They said this is actually true. "They appear hours before changing weather and usually indicate strong winds ahead of a front moving in." Most fronts have rain squalls in them.
At 7:15 I see a whale. I wake Jerry up to see it. It is different than any whale we've seen before and is about 20 feet long. We still aren't REALLY sure what kind it was, but after reading the two reference books we have we think it might have been a "false killer whale." The books say that this mammal is really a member of the dolphin family. When it breathed it showed a lot of its back as the books say and it played in our bow wake which the book also mentioned. I've never seen whales play in a bow wake, but then, I haven't really seen many whales. A flying fish comes aboard (6"long) and gets washed back overboard, through the scuppers, with the next wave.
At 9 AM today we started studying a 1997 nautical reference guide called "Reeds" to find out how to use our single side band radio to make a phone call. ATT provides a high seas service on stations in FL, NJ and CA. They tell which frequencies to use for each state and how to get a high seas marine operator to make a phone call for you. The operator never heard us, though Jerry made attempts to call for about 1 1/2 hours. So, even though no one heard from us over the Thanksgiving holidays, we were thinking of you all. We were trying to call my Mom. We figured it was her turn to accept a collect call from us. It would have been $ 15 for the first minute and $ 4.95 for each additional minute. We're wondering if it costs the same to use the marine operator on the VHF radio. Here's what we had written down on a 3 x 5 index card to say to Mom: Happy Thanksgiving. We're at 30deg N and 62deg W. We're calling by radio from the Atlantic Ocean. Do you have a pen and some paper handy? Everything is fine. We are far away from all the storms. We left Beaufort one week ago today. We have sailed 800 miles and decided not to stop in Bermuda. We're 1200 miles from Trinidad or Venezuela and 700 miles from St. Thomas. We could be at sea for a couple of more weeks, depending on where we decide to go. If you check out our latitude and longitude in an atlas you may think that we are too far east of Bermuda, but because of the trade winds further south we have to go more east before going south. Would you please call Jerry's parents for us? Have them email others. We plan to have Polly's pumpkin cheese soup for an appetizer today, then turkey and dumplings with cranberry sauce, asparagus and almond cake. Wish everyone a nice holiday for us.
Today I realized I have been using muscles I haven't used in a while. I got cramps in my legs for the first time in year and a couple of times it felt as though some of my ribs were crossed. This is the result of attempting to say in the cockpit in rough seas. 1 PM We see a gray ship going the same way we are. We see a few flying fish. 2 PM Jerry finished working on the engine. It stopped because it used up all the fuel in one of our two tanks. He switched to use the other tank, and drained some contaminated fuel away from the filters. He tested the engine and it runs fine again. We see two birds with crooked black bills. They are brown with white chests and are seagull-like in shape.
Our locker with tin cans in it, under Jerry's bench has cans that are starting to get rusty. I learn that water finds all kinds of ways of getting into the boat and places on the boat after getting into the bilge. These cans got wet when we were near Bermuda, but I didn't think they'd rust so quickly. Our electric bilge pump only works when the boat is flat or has A LOT of water in the bilge. Probably everything in our cedar closet, under our bed, is wet too, but I haven't dared to check it. Nor have I had the energy to check it. Since the last time everything got wet and mildewed in the cedar closet, I have washed it all and put most of it in plastic zip lock bags. Hopefully I won't have to wash as much this time. We bought an extra electric bilge pump in Beaufort, since we won't find many places to get another one until we get to New Zealand. I thought it was important to have a spare. Of course we do have a bilge pump that we work by hand, so we can always use that, but it's a lot more work.
Half our fuel is gone. We HAD to motor on our way to Bermuda to get through the Gulf Stream before we got adverse winds. We need to conserve it to charge batteries for night lights. I hope we continue to get wind in our sails for the rest of the trip.
I've learned that in the weather we've been having that I get too tired, when doing night watches, to cook after noon. I need a 5-7 grain bread recipe. I think I have a bread cookbook stored at Gary's. Maybe he'll look for it for me and get it to Mom to get to the first person that visits us.
While at sea this trip, it is all we can do to: (1) maintain the boat (2) sleep (3) listen to weather forecasts (4) cook and eat (5) do our watches.
There is less Sargasso weed now. Should I fish? I think I'm too tired to even do that. Herb today talked about a freighter that broke in half near the Azores. All of the crewmembers were rescued, but Herb said they only had another 24 hours to salvage the containers before more bad weather. Those containers could became serious hazards to navigation. We thought of this when we decided to buy a steel boat. We might get a dent colliding with a floating container, but we wouldn't be holed as easily as a fiberglass or wooden boat. After listening to Herb we put a reef in the foresail and a double reef in the mainsail, to prepare for a front that is supposed to reach us tonight. We take the topsail down first.
Today I ate my last orange from a bag I bought in Beaufort. I wish I'd purchased more! The small pressure cooker that Jennifer and Agu gave us SURE has come in handy this trip! We get no spills with it. It stays on the large burner at all times. We have pumpkin/cheese soup and turkey sandwiches for our Thanksgiving dinner. I had grandiose plans this morning, but the day has been too rough to do much cooking. We'll have our Thanksgiving dinner another day.
At 7:15 PM Jerry takes a nap. Usually I've been sleeping at this time, but a cold front is supposed to pass us. It will have squalls with it so I want Jerry to take a nap early and then perhaps I won't have to be the one to deal with the squalls. I take life as easily as I possibly can.
At 9:15 a squall really hit us. Did we ever heel over! Tracy had been steering, but she needed help. The sudden change in sounds woke Jerry up and he came out as soon as he could. I let out more of the sails and headed up into the wind. Jerry took over for the next several hours. I slept from 9:30 PM until 4 AM. I had intended to be up and on watch by 3:30 to relieve Jerry, but I never heard a thing. As it turned out, my plan to avoid the squalls didn't work. Jerry reported the next morning that no more squalls came through. Oh well...
Today it is nice to be able to walk to the cockpit from the cabin. Of course we're hanging on to backstays, shrouds, etc. while we're heeled, but we're not having to crawl on our hands and knees to get there.
Jerry has been making coffee at about 8 AM each day. I generally go to sleep about that time, so I warm up and drink my share when I do my early morning watch. We have no set watch schedule. Several times during this trip Jerry has gotten up much sooner than I think he should have. Lately I've been saying: "I'm steering until 8 AM. If you want to come join me you may, but you may as well get some more sleep." He seems quite concerned about not sleeping more than he should. I'm not exactly sure what his psychology is. Anyway, it appears that he's continuing to be very considerate of my needs, as usual.
A flying fish comes aboard (6" long) and gets washed back overboard, through the scuppers, with the next wave. About 4 AM I saw a shooting star. We were sailing down wind with a double reef in the mainsail and a single reef in the foresail. Later I saw another falling star go across the Big Dipper. It had a trail that stayed lit for a long time.
5:30 AM I see a ship's lights going SW in front of us. There's a sliver of a moon on the horizon. 6:30 I turn the lights off on the mast and binnacle. Arctracer went 134.9 nautical miles today.
Friday, November 28th 28deg 36' N, 61deg 11' W 11 AM We took the reefs out of the sails. 12:30 I have the bread dough rising. I made up a 5-grain wheat bread recipe. I hope it is edible. Large waves have built up and they're sluing us around. 4 PM The bread is weird looking in "free form" on a cookie sheet. I decide to use my 2 bread pans, so I divide the dough and make a small loaf and a larger (normal sized) loaf. I put it in the oven to rise. In there it will stay level since the stove is gimbaled. If it doesn't rise enough this time I think breakfast will be fried bread dough with maple syrup. We have wonderful dark maple syrup that Dawn and Tom made this past spring. We got it in quart jugs which should keep better without refrigeration after being opened.
I remember going with my Dad to hand tap the maple trees, then gather the sap in large milk cans, take it back home to our makeshift boiling shed with its half- barrel where we burned wood he'd chopped to boil the sap down in a homemade pan on top of the fire. When the sap was almost to the syrup state he would take it inside to finish the boiling. I wonder what my father would think of my present live-aboard life. He didn't swim (if I remember correctly) and didn't particularly like to be in deep water. I know he wouldn't have cared to join us on this particular voyage. Speaking of Dad, I've bought quite a few books about WWII in the Pacific. I plan to read them as we cross the Pacific and see if we'll be going to any of the places that he was in during the war. Maybe I'll have more information to give Dale to add to comments in the family genealogy he's working on.
5 PM We have 624 miles to go to get to St. Croix at a bearing of 213deg . Sombrero Cay is 558 miles away. We have turkey and dumplings, asparagus, and cranberry sauce. We had planned to have this yesterday, but the sea was too rough to be in the galley for very long. Today is still rocky, but I did manage to cook.
3:40 AM We've been 115.8 miles so far in 24 hours. It is 502 miles to Sombrero. 4:00 The topsail is up. I get the cloud reference book I found at the used bookstore in New Bedford, MA. I want to learn to "read" the clouds. The book has colored pictures of cloud formations seen during an approaching cold front. Winds clock around as fronts approach and pass us. Presently we are trying to stay ahead of a ridge and get south before the next strong cold front arrives. We want to stay ahead of the ridge because north of the ridge there are supposed to be SW winds of 15 - 20 knots, while south of the ridge there are supposed to be E winds at 10 - 15 knots. Since we need to go SW to get to St. Croix, we don't want SW winds. I see two falling stars. We need to think about installing our new solar panel to charge the batteries.
6 AM It takes 1/2 hour to get up and 1/2 hour to get ready to go to sleep. I notice the "pretty blue water" for the first time yesterday. Maybe because it was the first really clear, sunny day. I put "pretty blue water" in quotes because these were the words a sports fisherman used in North Carolina on our way north. He asked if we'd seen any "pretty blue water" lately, instead of asking if we remembered when we last saw the Gulf Stream. We chuckled at his choice of words at the time. His boat came VERY close to Arctracer so we had turned the radio on. I think he addressed us on the radio as the green-hulled sailboat. I have to look at the horizon for ships when I'm at the tops of waves today. The sunrise is lovely. There are no whitecaps and no waves are coming aboard. Tracy needs a little help in light winds to keep the sails happy (trimmed), but we're still doing 5 knots. Our GPS has registered that we were going 9 knots at times during the trip while surfing down waves. Arctracer went 140.9 nautical miles today.
Saturday, November 29th 26deg 19' N, 61deg 09' W
6:10 A tropic bird came by to check Arctracer out. It must mean food is around. 6:20 AM I turn the lights off. I get out a hook with a red plastic skirt on it. I made this lure and it is attached to a 3' piece of wire. Yesterday I thought about fishing. Today I'm going to do it. I'm thinking of fish steaks. I still have potatoes and onions left for fish chowder. I want to try Pat's marinade for beef jerky on fish. Since I don't have a dehydrator (and don't want one) I string it and hang it in the galley, out of the sun. I learned from a South African that it is supposed to be in a draughty place. The galley isn't all that draughty with every porthole and most hatches closed, but it has worked before. We used to hang it across lifelines and try to shade it from the sun, but that was too troublesome.
6:35 The sun is coming up over the horizon. There's LITTLE wind. It needs to pick up to have my lure attract a mahi mahi or a tuna. I take my wool sweater and wool socks off. 7:00 The engine is on. Jerry has been having to hand-crank it to get it started. I woke him up on his off-watch sleep time. We have no wind and the batteries need charging so we may as well run the engine now. It will give me a better chance of catching a fish too. 7:15 I put the sun shower bag in the sun. There are very few clouds today so maybe the water in it will get warm enough to take a shower. I really need to get some of the salt out of my hair! I hate to say it (people on land could not possibly understand), but I haven't had a shampoo since those waves were coming aboard over my head. Just as I get back to the cockpit and sit down, I have a fish on. I'll drag it and tire it out, not wake Jerry up again. When he wakes up I'm sure we'll need to use the gaff to bring it aboard. I only hope a shark doesn't get it first. Now I'm glad I didn't have any plans for dinner.
7:30 Tracy seems to be steering us okay so I go to the back of the boat. The line is still taut and I can see a fish dragging on the surface of the water about 300' behind the boat. I see it only when "Arctracer" is on top of a fairly steep wave. The swells are quite high this morning, probably due to storms further north. Perhaps it will be fish for dinner! On long sailing trips such as this one (because we're in the open sea), I need to be at sea for a few days to get my "sea legs" before I feel like fishing or doing most anything else. 7:45 I don't see the fish dragging in the water. The line is no longer taut. I reel in the line. The wire leader is about 1/3 gone. I need to get busy and make another lure. I think a shark must have gotten this fish. I can't think of any other explanation for retrieving a partial piece of wire leader.
8:10 I'm trolling again with some red lures I had forgotten I had. Again I used the Palomar knot that Tom showed me to attach this new lure directly to the wire that remained on my fish line. Now I get out a can of WD-40. When I reeled my line in, it made a terrible noise. All seven rollers were frozen from salt. Perhaps I couldn't have gotten the fish in anyway. We've used WD-40 one other time on this trip. I used it to stop the squeaking of a block near the hatch. We wouldn't leave home without it - WD-40 i.e. 8:25 I finally have 5 of the 7 rollers on the pole freed up. I have two more to get, but I can't budge them. I keep applying the WD-40. 8:30 I take a GPS reading to see how far we've been in the past 24 hours. I think we're still going too slowly to catch a mahi mahi or tuna. Our engine usually allows us to go 4-5 knots in still water, maximum. We usually catch fish while going 6 knots or more. We need wind. 8:40 Jerry is up after only 4 hours of sleep. 9:00 I see a piece of wood and a yellow bucket floating by Arctracer. We decide to head for St. Croix instead of St. Thomas. We take our staysail down and put the jib up. We see a dead flying fish on the side deck. The foresail is banging and Jerry suggests I do something about it. Jerry has had breakfast. I ask if he'll try to free the last two frozen rollers on our reel. He starts to work on them and a fish hits the line. We watch a mahi mahi jumping behind the boat. Our heavy duty "tuna pole" that Jennifer and Agu gave us is actually bending near the tip of the pole. 9:20 The fish is aboard after Jerry gaffs it. It then jumps and the gaff comes out while he's on the side deck. I had reeled in too much line for Jerry to be able to get it all the way to the cockpit. Luckily Jerry is able to keep it on board. We can tell it is a male from the shape of its head. Jerry had to help me hold the pole while I reeled in the line, even with the boat headed up into the wind. It was A LOT of work to bring it in. I sometimes wonder, especially at times like this, if a belt made especially for these large poles would be helpful. I almost bought one once, but didn't think we really needed it. Today I think about it again, since there isn't enough room for a fighting chair on our deck. Wouldn't that be nice? 10 AM We need to get some sun tan lotion on. It flows freely from the bottle today. In NH it wouldn't come out of the bottle, so I had to put my finger in the bottle to get the lotion. It sure was cold in NH!
Jerry puts the fish on a halyard and hangs it up so he can take a picture. He can't get his new digital camera to work. He is very discouraged with this and I don't blame him. He's had bad luck with cameras ever since I've known him. I only hope he finds the message the camera gives him, "disk error," has some simple solution. He tried 6 disks and they all said the same thing. It also said "please format the disk." We know that all our disks are formatted. Jerry uses the camera he gave me to take a picture of the fish with me standing beside it. I'm wearing the pareu Mom got me in St. Thomas for my birthday. I'm 66" tall and the fish is 55" tall. It is the largest one we've caught so far. We won't need to fish for a couple of days now. 11:15 We have fish for breakfast. It's delicious and tender. Wonderful! There was so much meat on the fish that Jerry said he threw out at least as much as you'd get from a walleye up north. He felt he probably could have gotten five more pounds from it if he'd been really careful. The fillets I cooked would have fed a family of four. We didn't bother with rice or a vegetable since we had so much fish to eat. If anyone has time to research the habits and natural history of the mahi mahi, I'd love to learn more about them. Our computerized World Book Encyclopedia wasn't much help. I wish we had access to the internet but we don't and it won't be part of our email package when we get it either.
NOON We see another white-tailed tropic bird. The bread is done. I started it yesterday, but just got it in the oven today. I've let it rise more times than ever before. It is so calm today that we air out some of our clothes and blankets. I start making fish chowder. I also make Pat's marinade for beef jerky to marinate some of the fish. I make another marinade, given to me by friend from South Africa. I know this second marinade works as I've used it before. So I plan to marinate half the fish allotted to drying in this marinade. We turn the engine off, as the batteries are charged and we need to save our diesel fuel. There is no danger of storms now, so we can relax and just go slowly. There is absolutely no wind. We stayed in about the same place all afternoon. I'm glad I was busy in the galley and didn't have to deal with what was going on outside. It gets quite warm out there with no wind.
2 PM I see another white-tailed tropic bird. I put a roll of toilet tissue that had gotten wet under the bathroom sink while near Bermuda into the sun to see if it will dry. Watching ships pass in the night is a form of entertainment while at sea. Since they take over 1/2 hour to pass us it makes that 1/2 hour pass by more quickly. I want to find the distance to the visible horizon (in nautical miles). I looked in the Bowditch book Hilary gave us and found the formula: distance = 1.17 H the height of the eye of the observer in feet Standing in the cockpit, my eye is 5' above the water so I can see 2 1/2 miles away. I would be able to see a ship farther away, since it is above the horizon even more than I am. 7:30 - 11:30 PM I sleep. It is so calm that Jerry heard porpoises playing in what little bow wake we had during the night, in the dark. They usually get bored quickly when we're going so slowly, but tonight they stayed a while. 11:30 PM - 5 AM I eat our last apple. I see an airplane and two falling stars. It is very difficult to steer with practically no wind, and Tracy cannot help. We're averaging only 2 to 3 knots while this ridge of high pressure is near us. I think of asking Aeolus for help. We should get some wind once the ridge passes us. It is VERY noisy with sails slatting. The water didn't get hot enough for a shower today. 1 AM I hear our wake for the first time since being on watch. More wind. Perhaps just thinking about talking to Aeolus brought wind? Tracy sure needs help tonight. Although we have a little wind, it isn't much. We got 30deg off course when I went in to make some hot Tang. I'll need to spend practically a whole day at a laundromat once we get somewhere. Then, hopefully, I'll be able to stow our winter clothes and blankets in the cedar closet, in zip-lock bags.
Because of what we heard from Herb, we need to get below 24deg N before Monday morning. The forecast is for 30-35 knots of wind out of the SW (the direction we want to go) north of 24deg N. Also these winds are quite strong. Usually there are much higher gusts of wind when winds this strong are forecast. We'd be in for another uncomfortable ride. There is no moon. It would be great to get some star charts out and study more of the constellations and navigational stars, but...some other night. 2 AM I see a falling star. Today Jerry couldn't find his sunglasses. They had flown into the hanging locker from their shelf near the hatchway. I guess we need to keep the hanging locker door closed on rough days. 2:30 I go inside to go to the bathroom and to get another flashlight. The batteries on the one I'm using are dead. I don't want to get new batteries because they're too close to where Jerry is sleeping. When at sea we sleep on the benches in the main salon. On a starboard tack we sleep on the port bench since it is downhill and on a port tack we sleep on the starboard bench since it is downhill. Sleeping on the downhill side of the boat, without leeboards up is much more roomy and comfortable. If we slept on the uphill side of the boat we'd need to latch the leeboard in place.
So far we have two small grocery shopping bags of trash. We throw our vegetable and fruit peels and seeds overboard. We also throw our tin cans overboard after putting plenty of holes in them so that they'll sink. Therefore, our trash is mostly paper and plastic. 2:45 I'm watching one star/ship very closely to see which it turns out to be. Without a well-defined horizon when there is no moon out, as the stars set or come up they look just like the lights of ships. When a ship approaches we always turn on our VHF radio. Twice, while listening to Herb, we've heard instances of where that is a good idea. One boat became the concern of the coast guard when a ship saw a sailing vessel but no crew and tried to raise it on the radio without response. Another time a sailboat's EPIRB went off, but a passing ship contacted the sailboat by radio and found that it went off inadvertently, so a search was avoided. There is enough wind so that I need to put on my wool sweater again. We have a bow wake and a stern wake. Even though we've had little or no wind today, there are big gentle rollers from the storms and gales further north. 3:05 I see another shooting star. I also see shooting stars at 3:15 and 3:35. 3:l5 I turn the radio on because I think I really see a ship this time. I'm watching its angle to a star and I think I see the white, low bow light and the high stern light. I may see a ship headed for us or a sailboat with mast lights and running lights. The lights I see have red and green flickers too - like Betelgeuse and many other navigational stars.
If we had unlimited fuel and I could hand crank the engine to start it, I'd be motoring right now. It looks and sounds like we are actually going backwards. I notice more clouds behind us. Maybe the ridge will pass us soon and we'll get some wind. I don't like this sitting and waiting out here in the dark. 4:05 Clouds cover all "possible other vessels" lights. I turn the VHF radio off and put the binoculars back inside. I take my wool sweater off again. 4:15 The boat is going forward again in a very light breeze. I put my wool sweater back on. 4:30 I see two falling stars to the south. There are no clouds there yet. Jerry is awake and getting something to eat. 4:45 Jerry brought his food into the cockpit. As soon as he sits down, we both see a whale blow on the port side of the boat, 6' away. Then we hear it one more time behind us. I find out the next morning that it stayed around the boat for about 1/2 hour. I went to bed before it left. We actually went 9 miles south in the 5 hours during my watch! It was the slowest we've been this trip, and I'm surprised we even went that far. 5:30 Jerry watches the sunrise for the first time during the trip. It's been on my watch before. 8:30 I wake up with the gollywobbler flying and the portholes open. Arctracer went 68.8 miles today.
Sunday, November 30th 25deg 10' N, 61deg 01' W I opened another gallon jug of cranberry juice today. We're using it very sparingly as we only had room for about 8 gallons on board. It is my favorite juice and not to be found in most of the islands. I checked the splash cloth that Jerry took off near Bermuda. At least one grommet ripped out. I'll need to mend it one of these days. The new bottle of suntan lotion that was in the pocket is gone. I'm using sea water and Joy to do my dishes now. I think Joy is the only detergent that produces suds in sea water. (Prell is the only shampoo that produces suds in sea water as far as I know.) In harbors I won't use sea water. We know many European cruisers who don't have holding tanks. Everything goes directly overboard. The U. S. Coast Guard requires holding tanks in the U. S., so Americans have them. Every time the Coast Guard boards a boat they check out the situation of the holding tank.
10:30 AM The fish is hanging across the galley on two strings to dry and the galley is cleaned up. We have 5 sails up today and we have some clothes out to dry some more. Since the voltage meter reads 12.29 today, it is okay to use the computer to type up some of the notes I've taken by hand, mostly while on watch in the cockpit. Jerry says he will install plugs under the table for the computer. Right now we have cords running everywhere when we use the computer, often in the way of something else we want to do. We're still doing less that 3 knots. At noon we're at 25deg N. I make curried fish sandwiches for lunch. I got the idea from some friends who own a boatyard on Cranberry Island in Maine. We caught quite a few mackerel up in that area. I put about 1 Tbsp. curry and about 2 Tbsp. lemon juice with about 1 - 2 cups of (leftover) cooked fish.
It's 2:30 PM and I just realized we're heeling as I'm typing this letter. That means the wind is back. Yeah!! It appears that the clouds are all in front of us now, so the ridge has passed us. I just checked the GPS. We've been 20.7 miles since 8:30 and it's 395 miles to Sombrero Cay and 484 miles to St. Croix. We'll probably head for Sombrero Cay on our way to St. Croix as it is a good place to go between islands. It has a huge light on it and no reefs. It is in the Anegada Passage just east of the British Virgins. We don't plan to stop. 3:00 PM There's too much wind for the gollywobbler so we take it down and put the fore sail back up. We take the clothes off the lifelines again as we're starting to get splashes aboard. It sure is great to have the wind back. 4 PM I stop typing and finish fixing fish chowder. 4:30 - 5:45 Jerry listens to Herb, who says the ridge hasn't passed us yet. 5:30 PM After eating, I go on watch. I take tea and small notepad out to the cockpit. I heated the water in a large aluminum (no rust) coffee pot that Agu found for me. 8 PM I heard another whale around the boat for 10 to 15 minutes. 8:30 I saw an airplane going NE to Europe. We haven't seen many airplanes. The clouds are gone and the stars are out. 10 PM I see a shooting star. I see another one 10 minutes later. At 10:25 I see a third, and a 4th one at 10:35. I see another plane headed NE at 10:25. 11 PM I get a splash of salt water in my eyes. Arctracer traveled 99.5 nautical miles today.
Monday, December 1st 23deg 41' N, 61deg 40' W Today Jerry watched his second sunrise of the trip while I slept. I stayed in bed longer than usual because my back was bothering me. Generally I sleep about 6 hours at a time and Jerry sleeps about 4 hours at a time, but there are no hard and fast rules about how long we sleep. It varies from day to day. I awoke at 6:30AM today after sleeping since about 12:30 AM. My back was bothering me so much that Jerry got me a Voltaren, which is an anti- inflammatory drug. I stayed in bed until 8:15. At this point my back felt much better so I went out on watch so that Jerry could take a nap.
Sometime today we'll be below the Tropic of Cancer at 23deg N 27deg W and truly in the tropics. I've looked forward to this day as it means consistently warmer weather. We both like warm weather these days. From 9 to 9:30 I saw lots of flying fish. There was quite a bit of Sargasso weed on the sea and a lot more junk like broken pieces of hawsers from large boats, plastic and styrofoam (it wasn't a lot, just more than usual). 10:05 Jerry up from 1 1/2 hour nap. He had picked up a 6" - 8" flying fish off the deck and put it in a pail. I wanted to take a picture of it with its "wings" but they were too dried out by the time I got around to doing it so we decided to wait and take a picture when we find another one. It's the 3rd one that's been aboard so far this trip. 10:30 We're almost out of bread so I need to make some today. I would really like to get some wheat berries to sprout to put in my bread. I've never used them before, but I'm wondering if a Natural Food Store or the King Arthur store might have some. Perhaps the next time someone comes to visit they could bring some.
As I'm going through all the difficulty of constructing a loaf of bread on a heeled boat going 5 - 6 knots ( a wonderful sailing day, but not such a great day for being in the galley) I decided I would bore you with the procedure for making a loaf of bread under such circumstances. Here goes: Boil some water. Put a 1/2 cup total mixture of cous cous, barley, TVP (textured vegetable protein, a soy product for those who are wondering what it is) and cracked wheat (bulgar wheat) into a good sized container. Add 2 cups boiling water and let stand 30 minutes in the sink where it can't tip over. During the 30 minute waiting time, cut up a small handful of walnuts and put them in a container twice as large as necessary and place on non-skid material so they won't be as apt to spill. Only small things will stay on the non-skid material in these conditions. Forget trying to put bowls of water on it, you'll only have a mess to clean up and then have to start all over again. When the water in with the grain mixture is lukewarm, strain 1/2 to 1 cup of it into the bowl you plan to make the bread in. . It is a challenge to keep water in bowls under such conditions, so after you've put about 1/2 cup water in the bowl you're actually making the bread in, put it on the gimbaled stove or on the floor on the "downhill" side of the boat against a wall while you get out a package of yeast or 1 1/2 Tbsp. if you buy yeast in bulk like I do. Add the yeast to the water on the floor or gimbaled stove, being careful not to fall over, and let it stand 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup sugar or honey, 1 tsp. salt and about 1 Tbsp. butter or margarine to the dissolved yeast mixture. (New Zealand has great butter in tins that lasts for about a year in the tropics in the bilge. If you keep it in a galley cupboard it gets too much heat from the sun and doesn't last nearly as long. The Dutch have large tins of margarine that need to be stored the same way.) Now find some way to brace yourself in the galley so you won't fall or stumble, pick up the yeast mixture and while it is on non-skid material on the downhill side of a galley shelf quickly add the grains and the rest of the water that is with them. Move quickly as this container is on the other side of the galley in the sink. Add the walnuts. Add 2 cups of whole wheat flour and mix before the liquid spills. Be sure the whole wheat flour and white flour are easily accessible (again on the downhill side of the boat) before attempting any of the above, as there is less chance of spillage. Add a cup of white flour. Mix it in well and add another cup of white flour. You're pretty safe now. If you've gotten this far you probably don't have to worry about starting any of the above procedures over. Now for the messy part. Put 1/2 cup flour on a LARGE cutting board and quickly add the dough. Flour falls off the board so you MUST move as quickly as possible. Also plan on the board sliding toward the cupboards if it isn't there already. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, probably for about 5 to 7 minutes. Be sure you're in as comfortable a position as possible as this 5 - 7 minutes can seem like an eternity while you're bracing yourself against cabinets and have one foot on the uphill side of the boat for better balance. Continue adding flour as necessary. When the bread is kneaded try to pump enough water to wash the bowl in sea water to conserve your drinking water. This will be a challenge when on a port tack like today because the hole in the boat that brings in the sea water is on the port side, which means it is above the water line half the time.. You can get the necessary water needed for washing the bowl, but it takes twice a long as usual. The next challenge is to get the olive or canola oil out of the galley cupboard on the port side. You know that when you open the door and get the bottle of oil that everything behind it is going to move forward and attempt to leave the cupboard. I find that if I keep my left arm on the left side of the cabinet to prevent everything on that side from falling out, then I can quickly get out the bottle of oil and close the door. Now, while I have the oil out I may as well oil the pans too so I won't have to go through this again. I have one normal bread pan and one small bread pan so I grease both of these and place them on the floor on the downhill side of the boat. Now put the kneaded dough into the greased bowl and turn it so all sides of the dough are greased. Place the oven shelf on the lowest level so the bowl will fit in the small oven. Cover the bowl and place it in the gimbaled oven on a cookie sheet where it will rise evenly. Once I put the bowl on the floor and the dough spilled over to the downhill side of the boat. When the dough has doubled, punch it down and let it stand while you move the shelf in the small oven to the middle position. This is done so the bottom of the bread won't burn before the loaf is completely baked. Divide the dough into the 2 pans and place the pans in the gimbaled oven to rise until the dough is at the top of the bread pans. Remove pans from oven while you preheat it to 375deg . Place back in oven and cook for 45 minutes. DONE. The bread comes out quite well, so all of the trouble is worth it. We do, however, buy as much bread as we feel will last before leaving on a trip such as this since making bread takes so long. It took me 1 1/2 hours to get the dough into the oven to rise for the first time today.
Now all I need to do is move very deliberately and slowly, steadying myself at all times to get the place cleaned up. There are dishes to do and flour everywhere that needs to be wiped up. I always put each dish away as I wash it because of the lack of room and the motion of the boat. Before I got around to washing my dishes I lost all of them from the shelf beside the sink. They crashed onto the floor because I forgot to put them in the sink or on the floor. Some people learn very slowly!? Working in the galley today was an extra challenge because I have two strings filled with pieces of fish drying. Each string is tied to the handhold bars at about eye level, so they go from starboard to port, across the galley. After all the work I went through marinating them and hanging them I'd hate to have bumped them and have them come crashing down. The fish is still quite tender and is apt to break off the string easily if it is touched. Being on a port tack, like today, is best if you have to be heeled because my flour, sugar, honey, and yeast are on the starboard side of the boat. This means that things won't come falling out of the cupboards on that side. It makes it easier to get at things. The only problem today was the oil. When doing something like making bread, cooking, or doing dishes at sea I really appreciate the small galley. Since our boat is only 10' wide and counters and shelves come out from there, the space inside should allow one to move without too much trouble. However, this is not always the case.
1 PM The bread is rising for the first time and Jerry needs to take another nap. 1:20 Sight a freighter on our port (left, in case you're wondering) side. I turned on the VHF radio and got the binoculars. With my feet braced against the side rails on the downhill side of the boat I watched it as it appeared when we were on the top of a wave, hoping that the binoculars wouldn't get wet from the spray. It appeared largest as it passed our bow at 1:45. We were going 250deg (in a WSW direction) so it was going northwest. Perhaps it was headed to the northern Bahamas or Miami. By 2:15 the ship was barely visible on the horizon. 2 PM I took a GPS reading and discovered we were at 23deg 24' N and 62deg 07' W. We're in the TROPICS!! We're only 3 miles south of the line , but we're there. I can remember where the Tropic of Cancer is because of the Exumas in the Bahamas. The "Shark Lady" lives at that latitude. Since the Shark Lady's last name is Fitzgerald we read her book and got a copy of it for Jerry's Mom. We actually sailed our dinghy 3 1/2 miles to a place near her house to attempt to meet her, but she wasn't home. Arctracer couldn't go to the place we went with the dinghy as the water was too shallow. We saw lots of locals bonefishing on the way. 2:20 Jerry gets up. It starts to rain with the sun out. I come in to type this letter for a while. 3 PM Jerry wants to tack because we're going west and we need to go more south. We'll be able to sail west easily once we get to the trade winds (I think at about 21deg N). He asks me if everything is okay inside to tack and I say yes. However, as the trash basket and the cranberry juice slide across the floor one of the starboard cupboard doors opens and everything comes crashing out, including a glass quart jar of mayonnaise, a glass jar of olives and a glass jar of picante sauce. It makes a terrible noise, but nothing breaks, so I am lucky. 3-4:30 We run the engine to charge the batteries. Before I started using the computer today they registered 11.87 volts. We need to charge them! Jerry is not in a good mood at the moment as we have run out of engine oil. We can't find any more any where. The engine appears to be down a quart at present, though it's hard to measure while we're heeled. 4 PM Jerry came in to take a GPS reading. He left the hatch open and all of a sudden we both get sprayed with sea water as a wave decides to jump aboard. In doing some research today I discover that we have quite a bit of information on board about barometers. Now I just need to take time to read it. 4:15 Jerry likes to eat before listening to Herb's weather so I put the computer up. Herb comes on at 4 PM, but he doesn't get to the boats in our area until around 5:20 or 5:30. I need to be on watch while Jerry listens to the weather. As soon as I got the computer put away and went into the cockpit with Jerry I realized I'd probably been inside the cabin too long as I felt nauseated. Then I realized I hadn't taken time to eat all day. I couldn't stand the idea of spending time in the cabin right then, so Jerry heated up some mushroom soup since he felt better than I did. I stayed on watch until Jerry woke up at 10:30 PM. 4:50 I sunk the soup cans in the ocean. It is best to pop holes in the bottoms of the cans too so they really sink. There is lightning to the north of us. We learn on the weather forecast that there is another cold front north of us and it is even going to come this far south. We are too far south to get terrible winds from it though. 5:30 A wave comes into the cockpit and really gets me wet so I go inside to get my raincoat. I got really cold after the dampening, but it is warm out. 6 PM Every night after we listen to Herb's weather we decide who is going to sleep first. Tonight Jerry decides he'll sleep first. 6:15 A larger wave comes into the cockpit and gets my legs wet too. As I am cold I go put on my rain pants too. I get one of the bottles of ginger ale that we got at a real bargain store in Binghamton. I still don't feel all that great. I see two shooting stars on the horizon during my watch. Usually I'm scanning the sky for them, but tonight I don't feel like looking up. I need to keep my eyes on the horizon to feel the best I can with this nausea feeling. Tonight there is too much water coming aboard to have out my notepad, flashlight, watch, pen, and eyeglasses. No notes tonight. I'll just have to abbreviate everything. I'm glad we had a couple of good days to dry out clothes and quilts. Today wasn't the day to do it! 7 PM The crescent moon set.
10:30 PM While Jerry was waking up and getting ready to go out on watch I came in to make him some tea. The motion inside was still bad and I fell into the stove and burned my arm on the pot with the boiling water. Jerry said "When we get somewhere I'm taking a vacation. I need one." I, myself, can't wait to get 12 hours or more of uninterrupted sleep, but it doesn't matter if that is in 3 days or 3 weeks. Jerry went on watch armed with a cup of tea and four granola bars. He must have eaten two dozen granola bars since we left North Carolina. I've had a couple, but they're too sweet for me. I prefer oranges or dried fish to snack on while I'm on watch. My bag of oranges seems long gone - something for me to remember next time I'm grocery shopping for an ocean voyage. 10:45 My bread still isn't baked, but I'm too tired to do it now, so I punch the dough down, knead it again, place it back in the bowl, and put it on a shelf in the oven. I had to do this as it was running all out of the bowl and onto the cookie sheet that the bowl was on. 11 PM I go to sleep until 4:30 AM. 4:45 AM I make a pot of coffee for me now and for Jerry to warm up when he wakes up next time. I knead the bread again and put it in the bread pans in the oven. Arctracer went 111.7 nautical miles today.
Tuesday, December 2nd 22deg 47' N, 60deg 55' W 5 AM I go on watch with my rain coat on, but no rain pants. Jerry reports that a ship passed behind us about midnight and a thunderstorm passed behind us and to the east. The waves are more gentle now and no water is coming into the cockpit, though plenty is coming over the bow. 5:30 AM Just as the horizon is starting to get light a flying fish flies aboard behind the cockpit. I put the ends of the mainsail sheet near the scupper so it won't fall back into the sea before I get a picture of it. I get my paper and pen to take notes of what I've been thinking about. 5:40 I open the vents above the galley to provide more ventilation inside for Jerry and for the strings of fish that are drying. Usually we have to keep them closed while sailing because of the water that gets inside. 6:20 I turn off the masthead tricolor light and the binnacle (where the compass is) light. 6:30 I see another white tailed tropic bird. 6:35 The sun appears over the horizon. I check my bread in the pans. It is ready to bake but Jerry's asleep so I decide to not have it get too hot inside for him. I punch it down, knead it again and put it back into the pans. Besides getting hot in the cabin, I think our propane tank must be about empty. I want to bake the bread when Jerry is awake so he can change tanks for me if necessary. We keep 4 ten- pound propane tanks in a custom-made steel box with a VERY heavy steel cover, so I choose not to deal with changing tanks unless it is absolutely necessary. We headed SE, in the "wrong" direction, all day yesterday and today, because the wind was from SSW. However, this afternoon we're supposed to get a wind shift with some northerly component in it, so we should be able to head directly toward Sombrero Cay. 7 AM It's nice to not be getting beat up by the waves this morning, but now we're going much more slowly. 7:15 I ventured to the mess in our forepeak to find my camera and got common pins out. I take a picture of an 8 - 9 inch flying fish with pins in its "wings" to hold them out. I also took pictures of the twisted stanchion and the jury-rigged broken stanchion. 7:35 I take the unbaked bread out of the oven and light the oven to preheat it even though Jerry's still sleeping. I decide it really needs to cooked now or it needs to be kneaded again and put back into the pan. I am beginning to wonder what this is going to look like and taste like. I've never punched down and kneaded one loaf of bread so much! Very slowly I open the portholes in the galley while holding a sponge underneath to catch the water that has gathered there. I hope it stays calm while I bake the bread, and hopefully a little longer so open portholes can provide ventilation for those 2 strings of fish.
7:40 I've seen lots of schools of flying fish this morning, but we still aren't ready to fish again. Three days on a fish diet is enough for a while and I need to get the first strings of fish completely dried to have room to dry more. Snacking on dried fish during watches is great! It usually keeps for 3 or 4 weeks. It is also good for hors d'oeuvres that we have when anchored. We don't have hors d'oeuvres or drinks at sea. While cocktail hours are popular among cruisers at anchor they are not appropriate at sea. Jerry and I don't have much time together when we're at sea either, as we're too busy. Sun is high enough in the sky now for it to be quite warm. I take off my raincoat. I go inside to check the oven temperature. It is at 475deg , so I turn the heat down. I haven't used the oven enough yet to know where to set the knob for various temperatures.
Have any of you ever made "free form" bread? I tried it with my last bread. After kneading the dough the last time, I put a round loaf on a cookie sheet. A couple of hours later it looked like dough ready to make pizza - completely flattened out, but risen. I'm wondering if it was the motion of the boat that did this or if the bread needed more flour, or what. I don't think I'll try it again until I get suggestions from someone. I ended up using my bread pans and the bread came out fine - except the bottom got too dark. From that I learned to raise the shelf in the oven.
7:50 The bread is baking. It should be done about the time I take my daily 8:30 AM GPS reading, since it is supposed to bake at 375deg to 400deg for 40 to 50 minutes. At 8:30 each day I calculate how far we've been in the past 24 hours. The previous owner of the boat left a calculator (digital navigation computer) on board that deals with computations needed for sun sights and star sights using a sextant. It can also find the distance between two latitude and longitude positions. I take 4 or 5 readings a day to see how far Arctracer has been. This gives a longer distance traveled than if I took only one reading a day since we rarely go in a straight line for 24 hours.
Motion of the boat has caused all the strips of fish that are drying to slide together in the middle of the string, so I separate them. They're starting to get quite dry now. Having a notebook and pen at all times has taken up a good deal of my time, but I feel it's well worth it, if you're interested in such stuff. Previously I didn't take many notes, and my day's records could be confined to about half of a 3x5 card, which took about 3 minutes to write down. 8:10 Jerry gets up from sleeping. We haven't used a chart in days. We use the GPS to know which direction to head, but there's nothing out here to worry about except ships. It's not too far now to Sombrero Cay and St. Croix, so soon we'll have to get out some detailed charts of the Virgin Islands. 8:20 I see a very small bird, blackish with a little white and a forked tail. If it is a land bird it will probably come aboard. As I watch it, it flies amongst the waves, so it must be a storm petrel. This is the first one I've seen on this trip. The Bermuda petrel we saw was a much larger bird and was brown and white. 8:30 I go inside to take my GPS reading and learn that we're 287 miles from Sombrero Cay and 370 miles from St. Croix. I check the bread and find that the small loaf is done, but the larger loaf needs to cook longer. I had a hard time getting the large loaf out of the oven because the top of it was on the top of the oven. It appears that I don't have a shelf of good height to make bread - it either hits the roof or burns the bottom.
Since the oven is on already, I decide to make blueberry muffins for breakfast and save the bread for sandwiches later. The muffin tin Pat gave us and the dried blueberries Katyana and Ben gave us are handy. In making the muffins the procedure is similar to making the bread yesterday, but we're on the other tack so everything is tipping or falling toward the small galley floor space in front of the sink instead of toward the galley cabinets on the starboard side. At least everything in the cupboards with the flour, brown sugar, etc. is in plastic. Nothing will break. I break the egg into a separate container first to make sure it is still good. I've read all kinds of things about how to keep eggs for a long time without refrigeration and I've tried several schemes. Eggs last at least a couple of weeks, and longer if I buy them in a country where they are fresh and haven't been refrigerated. The eggs I have now are a couple of weeks old, so I need to use them up. When I run out I have powdered eggs that Agu got for us.
It seems that we've been about 300 miles from Sombrero Cay for several days. We don't seem to be able to get there from here. The wind seems to be coming from that direction. This could only happen on a sailboat. Dorothy sent us a saying by Dave Barry (a columnist for one of the Baltimore papers): "Sailboats are the slowest form of transportation on Earth with the possible exception of airline flights that go through O'Hare. Sometimes I suspect that sailboats never move at all, and the only reason they appear to go from place to place is continental drift." (This is another one of the sayings I have posted in the head - I'm getting quite a collection and am always interested in adding more if you hear any that are appropriate.)
9:05 The second, larger loaf of bread is done and it is on a metal rack on the floor in front of the stove on the downhill side of the boat. I put 6 muffins in the oven and clean up the galley. There's no problem getting sea water to clean up the galley today as the intake hole is always in the water on this tack. 9:20 I sit on the floor with 2 pot holders, a knife and the large loaf of bread, attempting to get it out of an under-greased pan. Success, but now I need to clean all the crumbs off the floor. 9:25 The muffins are done and Jerry's coffee is heating. I throw the coffee grounds overboard, VERY careful not to drop the basket into the ocean. Once in the Bahamas, while throwing coffee grounds overboard I threw in the basket too. Jerry dove in, as we were at anchor in shallow water, and retrieved it. He has retrieved other things too - eye glasses, a Swiss army knife, and maybe some tweezers. The Swiss army knife and tweezers went down the cockpit drain holes, so now we have rubber strainers over them. Jerry put away the Bermuda charts and the New England charts. He got out a chart of the southwest North Atlantic with Florida, the greater and lesser Antilles, Leewards, Windwards, Trinidad, and Venezuela. 9:30 We sit down for a leisurely breakfast in the cockpit on a lovely day. While we are persuing the chart we discover that Antigua is directly south of our present position. We decide to go there instead of St. Croix. If we continue to St. Croix from here we'd have to beat into the wind and tack A LOT to get 200 miles back east to get to Antigua, Trinidad, or Venezuela. I'd prefer not to stop until we get to Trinidad or Venezuela, but we really need to call you and we need to get engine oil so we'll stop sooner. 10:30 I put a way point into the GPS for English Harbour, Antigua. It is 348 miles to Antigua and 370 miles to St. Croix. We couldn't believe that Antigua is actually closer. The reason we had wanted to go to St. Croix was because we've never been there, but we'll have plenty of chances when we arrive back in the Caribbean after our trip westward. 11 AM I go out in the cockpit to look around after finishing a little research and some calculations. I find tubes of charts and bags of sails everywhere. Jerry is looking for the charts we need to approach Antigua. 11:10 I start using the computer to transcribe my notes after getting a reading of 11.94 volts on the batteries. It read 11.85 yesterday just before I used the computer. Today I can put the computer on the salon table with nonskid material under it. Yesterday it wouldn't stay on the table, so I had to sit on the downhill side of the boat and hold it in my lap. I had never realized how hot the bottom of it got before. If you've managed to read this far and would like future letters that will be sent to kids and parents anyway, let us know that you are interested. I'll be making 14 printouts of this and addressing 14 envelopes. I certainly don't mind doing it at all if the interest is there, but I know you're all busy and may not even have time to read this all at once.
NOON I take a GPS reading and find that we've been 15.2 miles since 8:30. We're going slowly, but it's a very relaxing day. We need those once in a while. Jerry has found charts of the San Blas Islands and the Windward Islands. It has taken him over an hour. Not all our tubes of charts were marked. He did find one empty tube which we can put to good use as not all our charts are in plastic tubes yet. 12:20 I go outside to check the horizon for ships. For the past 1 1/2 hours we've been taking turns about every 10 minutes to go out and check. Tracy continues to be a terrific 3rd crew member. Her steering today is superb as there is enough wind for her to hold a course. I see a ship off to starboard headed in the opposite direction. 12:35 I take a break from typing to check on the ship again and find that it is getting closer, but it will go behind us. It appears to be headed in a slightly more easterly direction that we are. 1 PM I need to take a break to make some crabmeat sandwiches on freshly baked bread. 1:15 I remembered to latch the table down after I put the computer away. I put 4 very wet rolls of toilet tissue outside in the sun to dry, since the one I put out three days ago successfully dried. 1:30 We had a nice lunch in the cockpit. 2:00 Wash muffin tins, bread pans and lunch dishes. 2:20 Make pizza dough so it can start rising while I rest for a few minutes. I need to use up some mozzarella cheese that I bought in Beaufort. When I bought it, it was all shredded, but now it's one mass. That's one aspect of no refrigeration in the tropics. To get tomato sauce for the pizza I had to move cushions off the bench to get at a locker. One settee is always out of commission when we are underway, while the other one is our bed. The one out of commission has a dozen pillows on it that we use for cushions on the settees in normal conditions. We have the lee board up on that side so they won't be constantly falling on the floor. By 2:40 I have kneaded the dough and cleaned up the mess. Then I put a milk crate full of tin cans back in the tin can locker under Jerry's bench. When they were all wet, while heading to Bermuda, I took them out of the locker and dried them off. Several of them were a little bit rusty, so now they are on top of the other cans and I'll have to use them before too long. I threw out the rest of the fish chowder as it has been on the stove for a couple of days.
2:50 When I go out to look for ships I see a tropic bird. I notice that the wind has shifted more to the south and we're going more east. We're also going faster and heeling more. It was more difficult doing dishes this time than before. We're heeling so much that Jerry is having difficulty keeping his charts on the bench in the aft cabin. He has spent hours today cutting off large borders around the charts and attempting to organize them. He's dealing with charts from Antigua, to Trinidad, to Venezuela, to the San Blas Islands, to Panama, to the Canal, to the Galapagos, the Marquesas, all the islands going toward New Zealand, and New Zealand. He's hoping they'll all fit in one chart drawer. 3:10 I'm exhausted so I lay down to rest my back between periods of checking for ships. The pizza dough is rising and Herb comes on at 4 PM. He's been reporting to boats in our area about 5:30, but because of all the storms in the North Atlantic there aren't many boats in that area, so he got to our area before 5 yesterday. Jerry missed hearing one of the boats near us. Today I'll turn the radio on earlier. 3:20 I reconstitute some dried green peppers that I bought at a Natural Food Store in Concord @ $ 38 per pound. (I only bought $ 2 worth of them to try. This will be the first time I've tried them.) I started some alfalfa sprouts to have on humus sandwiches later in the week. They grow well in the tropics, but they rot on a boat in New England. They need to soak in warm water in a dark place overnight, then be rinsed once a day and kept in a dark, warm place until they are sprouted. New England doesn't have the warmth needed. I close the porthole in the galley on the starboard side because too many waves are hitting it. I don't want my dried fish to get wrecked. 3:50 Check for ships. 4:00 Turn the single side band radio to the frequency 12359 khz to listen to Herb in Ontario, while I type up everything that has happened since I made lunch. 4:30 I stop typing, form the dough for the pizza, make a sauce, and open cans of artichoke hearts and mushrooms while listening to Herb. While the pizza is cooking I notice that the water in the shower bag is warm enough to take a fresh water shower, but I'm not sure I want an algae shower. I empty the shower bag full of algae and put it in the cockpit. I'm too tired to get Clorox to clean it out tonight, so I'll do it in the morning. 6:00 Eat pizza with the artichoke hearts, mushrooms, garlic, onions, and green peppers. I'm so tired I can barely lift the piece of pizza to my mouth. There is no discussion about who is going to sleep first tonight. We can both tell it will be me. The stars and crescent moon light up the sky well enough so that we decide to sail without our tricolor light on. This will prevent us having to use the engine as much to charge our batteries. We'll turn the light on only if we see a ship. Not having enough engine oil is as much of a pain (if not more) than not having enough diesel fuel. I bet this will never happen again. We'll definitely overstock in that department from now on! We wouldn't be able to leave the light off in large swells, as a passing ship is only visible when we're at the tops of the swells. However, tonight we can see all the way to the horizon in all of the 360deg around us, at all times, so there's no problem. 6:30 PM to 11:30 PM I mostly sleep. It is so warm inside that I wake up a few times. Once I go outside to cool off. 11:30 When I check the GPS I find that we're 334 miles from English Harbour. At 10 AM this morning we were 348 miles from it. (over 12 hours later and we've made 14 miles to the good toward English Harbour. We actually enjoy it when we don't have a schedule to meet, and this trip has no deadline.) The GPS says we're doing 2 knots. There are no waves, only gentle swells. 11:50 When I go outside to relieve Jerry from his watch I learn that he has seen one ship pass us to the north. It's a starry night so I get out a cylindrical tube which shows the constellations and their positions with respect to one another. Jerry's Mom and Dad found it for us. I have never used it before. I learn that it is for recognizing and locating the 35 main stars and the 60 constellations visible between 30deg N and 60deg N and that it is set up for Universal time. Jerry tells me that it is 4 AM Universal time since it is now midnight AST (Atlantic Standard Time). Although we're south of 30deg N I decide to see how far off it is at our position of 22deg 22' N. Orion is above the boat and clouds cover the Big Dipper on the port side of the boat. Also, the sails hide a lot of the sky. The flashlight is very bright when I shine it into the bottom of the tube, the writing is very small and I start to feel queasy. It appears that doing this while at anchor would be better. I put everything away and concentrate on other things. 12:10 AM I see my first shooting star for the night. I see other shooting stars at 12:22, 12:50, 1:03(a very nice display), 1:25 (a magnificent one - the best I've ever seen), 1:30, 2:07, 2:16, 2:32, 3:06, 3:15, 2 @ 3:16, 2 @ 3:37, 3:50, 3:52, 3:55,3:56, 4:10(a nice one), 4:18, 4:28, 4:42 (first one I've seen in the east as the sails are blocking out the eastern sky), 5:00 (a wonderful one), 5:02, 5:06, 5:15, 5:18, 5:25, and 5:27. I can't believe I've seen 30 shooting stars during one watch! The most falling stars I've ever seen during one watch before is seven. Normally I see two to five shooting stars during a night watch. When I think about it, we haven't really sailed overnight too many nights in our 3 1/2 years of living aboard Arctracer.
Between Kittery, ME and Trinidad on our way south we were at sea during the night on 13 occasions. Going from Trinidad back to Kittery we were at sea during the night 18 times, and at the end of the day today we will have been at sea for 14 nights. So, presently we have only sailed throughout the night 44 times which is 3 1/2 % of the time we've been living aboard. To figure this out I found out that we've lived aboard for 1,237 days. It certainly doesn't seem that long. Comparing the percentage of nights at sea with the percentage of time we've spent "on the hard" working on the boat seemed like an interesting comparison to me so I got out my notes for the past few years and counted 133 days that we've spent overnight in boat yards. To my amazement this is 17 % of the time we've been aboard. Do you think we bought an old boat that needs lots of work?
12:30 We're just about drifting now (it seems much less than 2 knots). When I came out on watch we were going SE (135deg ). Now we're going S (180deg ). Antigua's bearing is 212deg (SSW), so we're going more toward it now. [Perhaps we'll get there one of these days??] 12:45 My flashlight batteries just died so I contort my body to go underneath the fore sail sheet (rope that keeps the fore sail at the correct angle to the wind) to go in the front hatch to get more batteries. The need to contort one's body frequently on a boat is now a given. Actually I'd forgotten that it was inconvenient at one time. Now I just accept the idea and don't even think about it. While inside I look at the GPS and it tells me that we are indeed still doing 2 knots. It's hard to believe, but I do actually trust the thing. 1:20 AM My legs get cold so I go in to get some long pants. The wind picks up a bit. We're going SE again and I can actually tell that we're moving. Although we're going too far east at the moment we'll have no problem getting back west once we get into the easterly trade winds belt. I'm wondering when that will happen. One book I read said you usually pick them up somewhere between 25deg N and 20deg N. I think it varies from season to season and day to day even. I bet it is in one of our books somewhere, but I'll research that later. 1:30 I'm still not warm enough so I go inside to get wool socks and a wool sweater. I decide to make some hot Tang too. It is really hot inside the cabin, even with all the vents and portholes open. While inside I can't understand why I'm making hot Tang, but once outside again it's great to be drinking a hot drink. 2:30 There's no wind to speak of. I take off my wool sweater, wool socks and long pants. This afternoon Jerry told me he's thinking about having 2 extra stanchions (one extra on each side of the cockpit) welded onto the boat (probably in Trinidad). I don't think it's really necessary, but he wants a REALLY secure cockpit. I can understand that he went through a lot in rough seas putting up a temporary lifeline, but I think that simply not having splash cloths up will keep the stanchions from breaking off again. I wonder what we'll decide to do. Time will tell. 3:30 I want a ginger ale so I go inside, hoping to find one in the icebox (which has no ice in it). I discover that I've already finished the last one that was there so I have to work my way halfway into the forepeak, lift up two mattresses with lots of stuff on top of them - for instance: sleeping bags, cushions, large pressure cooker that I used as an oven on top of my old kerosene stove, picture albums, yarn. Under all of this I locate an 8" square piece of wood with a finger hole in it. Under this piece of wood is space for about a dozen quarts of liquid. Jerry has rum stored in this space on the port side of the boat, while I have ginger ale stored in this space on the starboard side. These spaces have shut-off valves for controlling the flow from the two 25 gallon water tanks just aft of them. The two tanks can be on together, or they can be used one at a time. We use them one at a time. That way if one of them gets a leak we won't lose all our fresh water. Back to the ginger ale (boy does my mind wander), I decide that getting only one out for now is good enough. The supply is dwindling so I had to reach quite a ways toward the bottom of the boat to reach one. In the daylight I should get a few more out to put in the ice box where they're much more easily accessible. 4:25 I see an airplane, headed NW
4:42 I see my first shooting star in the eastern sky while watching a light that seems to be staying at the level of the horizon (possibly a ship). During our watches we stand up and scan the horizon every 10 minutes or so to look for ships. Ships have two white lights, one higher than the other. The highest light is at the back of the ship. When attempting to decide if you see a ship or a star at night, you watch for these two lights. They always appear about the same distance apart. As a ship approaches you, you see more than those two white lights. You either see a red light on its port side or a green light on its starboard side. From this you can determine which way it is headed. The most scary thing to me is seeing the red and green lights at the same time, since it means the ship is headed right for you. This happened to me on our way into Cape May. I thought the bloody thing was a fishing boat and then I realized it was a freighter. Was it ever close!! We weren't in any danger, but I got Jerry out of bed in a hurry to help me decide what to do. The wind was howling and we were flying. I couldn't decide the best way to get out of its way. Since it was coming directly toward me, I didn't recognize the two white lights. They were aligned with one another. I'd never experienced that before (luckily). Today, at the time I was watching another "star/ship" it was late enough so that the horizon wasn't really well defined in the ESE. By 5 AM the sun was having an effect. In the direction of ESE at this time of day it is much more difficult to tell if a light is on the horizon or above it, since the sky and sea all seem meshed together. Today Arctracer went 68.5 miles.
Wednesday, December 3rd 22deg 07' N, 59deg 58' W At the end of today we will have been at sea for 2 weeks. The time has actually gone by quite quickly. We closed our 3rd bag of trash today. These bags are the small plastic bags you bring home groceries in. Putting lots of things in plastic containers in port really cuts down on the trash accumulated at sea. Plastic ginger ale bottles probably account for one of those 3 bags. I used to buy my ginger ale in aluminum cans so that I could dispose of them when we were way out at sea. On our way from Florida to Trinidad we discovered that the steel of the boat, the salt water in the bilge, and aluminum cans don't mix. The cans had no visible holes in them and the pop-up tabs were undisturbed, but several the cans had nothing in them when I went to drink them. I REALLY like ginger ale while underway, so I choose to buy it mostly in plastic now for long trips. When we're going from island to island I buy a couple of six packs and put them in the cooler, away from the steel. However, when I buy lots of it, there isn't room for it all in the cooler, so I have to put it in the bilge.
5:28 AM I see a satellite. We only see them just after sunset and just before sunrise because of the sun illuminating them at those times. 5:45 AM I can still see Orion in the west (minus his sword) but he's fading fast as the eastern sky turns pink. There will be no more shooting stars on this watch. 6:10 I stubbed my toe with the bad toenail again while going in the aft cabin to get our Trinidad and Tobago guide book. I wanted to know how far east we'd been in Arctracer. The previous owner took her to Spain once, so she's been farther east than Tobago, but not with us. Anyway, more of the nail on my big toe ripped off. There's not much nail left now. I wonder if it will ever have a normal toenail again. Perhaps once we move to land (in 25 or 30 years?) it will have a chance. 6:24 The sun is rising. It's a nice sunrise. 6:50 I put Clorox in the sun shower bag with sea water to kill the algae, let it work for about 1/2 hour and then fill it twice with sea water to try to get rid of the chlorine smell. 7:00 I guess the gentle sailing is like a cradle for Jerry. He hasn't slept 7 hours in a row before during this entire trip from North Carolina. Usually he seems to be too worried about whether or not I need sleep to be able to relax and get more than 4 hours sleep at a time for himself. I've gotten 6 hours of sleep in a row on several occasions. I realize I need it and Jerry encourages me to sleep that long. He's very considerate. Jerry also worries about our speed (when we have a choice about it), whether or not the sails are trimmed properly, and if we have the right sails up. During the night and this morning he doesn't need to worry about such things because we have our 4 regular sails up plus our topsail and there's still only a slight breeze. 7:15 I'm hungry so I go inside to get a piece of leftover pizza for breakfast. While inside I realize I need to make coleslaw today. The cabbage I bought over 2 weeks ago is fine, but the carrots really need to be used. I bought them in Great Bridge, NC which in on the Intracoastal Waterway (4 days away, by Arctracer, from Beaufort). The carrots must be 3 weeks old now and of course haven't been refrigerated. Great Ridge, NC is where we met the two guys from Burlington, VT on the schooner "Northern Spy." They charter their wooden schooner on Lake Champlain during the summer and were headed to the Bahamas. 7:30 I'd like to get the computer and start typing, but it would wake Jerry up and I really don't think it is a good idea to start using it in the cockpit anyway. I put on suntan lotion. The sun is getting higher and it is getting rather hot. I should have waited to do this because the next thing I do is put more water in the shower bag and take a sea bath. What I REALLY need to do is have a fresh water shower and wash my hair. It is DISGUSTING!! My hair has had so much salt water in it that I can barely get a brush through it. I KNOW that some of you would NEVER have put up with this as long as I have. Today is the day, sunny or not, fresh sun-warmed water or not, I'm taking a fresh water shower. 7:55 I see a glass bottle floating on top of the water. I'm thinking of Sara and Nico and wondering if there is a note by Pu Pu Le Pipe in it. We'll never know because it was too far away to reach. If Jerry had been up he probably would have changed course and gone over to get it. Since I doubt it was a bottle with anything in it, I decided to keep sailing on course. 8:10 Jerry is up and fixing himself some cereal. He rinses the alfalfa sprouts for me. Whenever I'm growing sprouts I leave them by the vitamins so that we remember to rinse them every day until they're ready to use. Although there was only a gentle breeze during my watch and we didn't get very far, at least the sails weren't flapping, as they were the other night when we were actually drifting backwards at one point. I REALLY wanted to use the engine that night! 8:15 I smell coffee perking. It smells great! 8:25 Jerry helps me put fresh water, from one of our three 5-gallon plastic jugs lashed on deck, into the sun shower bag. 8:30 AM After taking my daily GPS reading at this time I learn that "Arctracer" went 17 miles while I was on watch from midnight until 8:30 AM. I also punch buttons on the GPS to discover that we are now 322 miles from English Harbour, Antigua at a bearing of 214deg and 286 miles from Sombrero at a bearing of 239deg . All night we've averaged about 147deg to 158deg so we need to go west to get to either of them. The trade winds will definitely push us that way. We're just hoping they don't push us too far west so that we have to tack back. I truly am beginning to wonder when and if we'll get somewhere. 8:35 Jerry goes in to get coffee. I see a green glass bottle floating by in the water (good thing Jerry didn't see it). We drink coffee together in the cockpit and review the overnight sails since we moved aboard on July 14th, 1994. 9:10 I sit down at the salon table at the computer to work on what has become a "document." I NEVER intended for this to get so far out of hand! How my mind does wander. 9:50 - 10 AM I have my own figurehead on the bow of the boat for about 10 minutes. I took a break from typing so that I would know if Jerry fell in the water ( I could tack to go back and get him) from the end of the bowsprit where he is wiring our rubber pipe that is over our bobstay so that it will stay in place. When our bow dips into the waves the rubber pipe has been pulled part-way off the bobstay. We have the rubber on the bobstay because the anchor chain rubs against it at anchor. We don't like chain rubbing on chain and paint coming off the bobstay chain. 10:15 Jerry takes the fore sail down and puts up the gollywobbler (a huge light air sail - ours is mostly yellow with some black and it goes from the front mast to the back of the boat. In light airs such as we have today it might make us go a little faster). Even most sailors don't know what a gollywobbler is. We even met a person with a schooner once who didn't know what it was. Normal sailboats don't have them. We certainly wouldn't want to be normal, so we have one!? 12:00 A ship passes south of us, headed west. 1:00 Jerry fixes himself a sandwich and I eat the last piece of leftover pizza while typing. 2:30 A pod of about a dozen porpoises joins us. I take a break from typing to go out to see if I can tell what kind they are, but they don't stay long enough or get enough of their bodies out of the water so I can see anything that would distinguish them from any other porpoises. I have only recently learned that there are about 50 species of porpoises/dolphins. I had no idea there were that many. 2:50 I stop typing for the day. I have typed all of today's happenings plus my notes for November 27th. I think I only have to transcribe the notes for the 28th, 29th and 30th now. Perhaps I can catch up soon. It's time to take a warm shower. Jerry just finished his, so I get to use all of the rest of the water in the bag. He always leaves me more than my share. I love it! I guess I have longer hair which takes more water anyway, but if I'm careful I always have plenty of water. It is another 2 knot day. Jerry put up the gollywobbler and then mended our light air jib with some green webbing I had left over from making shoulder bags for groceries and supplies. He raised the light air jib and it is doing a good job of helping to pull us along. 3:00 We take fresh water showers and shampoos on the side deck with the shower bag hanging from one of the shrouds. Jerry cut 2 inches off my hair. It feels great. I've been wanting it done for a long time. He asks if I'll cut his hair, but I'm too tired and not in a haircutting mood. He seems to understand. 4 PM I want a menu for tonight based on coleslaw. I get out the Black Beans and Rice that Pat gave us to try. It is in the starboard locker in the main salon, under my bench. I have to remove pillows and the cushion to get it. We'll cook the carrots that I don't use in the coleslaw for our vegetable. We really like our coleslaw dressing. I never use mayonnaise for it any more. Our dressing consists of: 3 Tbsp. oil, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 Tbsp. sherry, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp. soy sauce. I brown about 2 Tbsp. of sesame seeds to spread over the top, once it is on our plates. While I'm fixing dinner Jerry notices a squall approaching so he takes down the two light air sails. 4:05 I turn on the single side-band radio to listen to Herb while I prepare dinner. 5 PM There are nasty looking clouds to the north and to the east, but there is a nice sunset in the west. Dinner is ready. I hand some food out to Jerry in the cockpit while I plan to take notes on what Herb has to say for the area we're in tonight. Jerry has his raincoat on and is preparing for strong winds in the approaching squall which may barely miss us. 5:10 It sure is eerie out! There are lots of mean looking black clouds with rain behind us. We're going downwind now at about 5 knots. 5:20 This squall dissipates before reaching us. I stay in the cockpit while Jerry listens to Herb. I'd much rather he take down notes since he is more used to it. Herb's report includes two boats in our area tonight. About two dozen porpoises jump completely out of the water. Tracy is working well so I go to the bow of the boat to watch them playing in the bow wave. Since we're going 5 knots they stay for quite a while, taking turns swimming right under our bow. Some of them are quite small. I still can't see any special features on them to make it worth my time to try looking them up in our reference books. 5:45 We are in the cockpit. Jerry has seconds while I eat my dinner. When I go inside to get our food I see that I've forgotten to latch the table leaf. It swings out to the downhill side of the boat. Jerry tells me about listening to Herb. One boat is less than 60 miles east and is also going to Antigua. It left Bermuda 4 days after we did and says it can go 250 to 300 miles a day. Since hull speed is calculated as 1 and 1/3 times the square root of the waterline we figure it must have about a 64' waterline and be about 75' overall. I sort of wish we could go that fast, but I don't want a 75' boat to maintain. A 45' boat is maintenance enough! 6:10 - 6:25 I do dishes and chop up the rest of the cabbage since it will now fit in the bowl. 6:45 Jerry changes tacks, so the bed we sleep on needs to be changed. This means moving LOTS of things and I'm too tired to think about it, so Jerry volunteers to do it. Am I ever thankful! 7 PM - 2 AM I sleep. 2 AM I take a GPS reading. At 2:30 I'm ready with my coffee, writing material, harness and tether, ginger ale, and sweater to go outside. It feels like we're in the trade winds and Jerry says we are, at long last. Now we'll have reasonable winds the rest of the way. 2: 45 Jerry goes inside. He saw 4 or 5 shooting stars and either a ship or a motor-sailing sailboat. I see no shooting stars tonight. It is too cloudy near the horizon and I don't feel well enough to look overhead. The sails are blocking the western sky tonight. 3:15 Jerry turns out the lights inside and goes to sleep after pumping out the head. I smell the holding tank being pumped out and nausea sets in. The through-hull for it is out of the water on this tack. Bad news for me. There's no need to communicate with Aeolus tonight. We're moving along at top speed - over 7 knots I'd estimate. I need to keep my eyes on the horizon constantly because of the nauseous feeling. After two days of calms my body/mind need to get acclimated again to these sea conditions. I hear a noise in the cockpit and think my white pen with blue ink has fallen out of the double plastic bags. I'm still waking up and too sleepy to figure out that this is impossible so I reach down to pick it up. Yuck, it's a 4" flying fish with a white belly. It is very skinny. I squirm. I hate to touch small wriggling creatures with my bare hands. I hate having them touch my body anywhere.
There is a black mass of clouds to the east which blends in with the horizon. I feel like I'm waiting and waiting as the wind calms down before its arrival. Then all of a sudden "we're off." The wind really picks up. Then comes the driving rain and lots of spray over the boat. I really wanted to capture my thoughts and feelings during this squall, but by morning I'd forgotten since I didn't take notes immediately after it. Maybe we'll encounter another one. A cold front came down into the trades yesterday and there are some clouds still around further east. The feeling of wonderfully clean hair is short lived! I'm really beginning to understand the expression "old salt." I put my knee and leg over the doubled plastic bags with all of my writing supplies, to keep out as much rain and spray as possible.
4 AM My legs are all wet and cold. I need to go inside to get dried out, then put on my rain pants to keep warm. The foresail sheet on this port tack is out of the way of the hatchway, so I don't have to contort my body too much to get inside this morning. I start making some herbal tea to help warm me up. The tea water seems to take forever to boil. For one thing, I'd put more water in the pot than I usually do. I'm always aware of the sounds outside and the motion of the boat in case I need to rush outside to help Tracy. Things aren't really too settled out there. I check the portholes. Jerry remembered to close them after our calmer days. The drying fish in the galley brings back the feeling of nausea. When I go back outside I leave the hatch open so Jerry can get more ventilation (I need it?!). It is really stuffy inside. 4:l5 Jerry would have the jib up. I am more comfortable waiting for daylight to put it up. I want to go south but Tracy doesn't from 4 to 5 AM. I want to knock off those degrees of latitude. 5 AM I stop fighting with Tracy after about 1 1/2 hours. She is like trying to reason with a small child that just can't understand an adult's logic. I watch to see what direction she wants to go in. It's too west of south for me, so I move the hook on my tether from the stem of the wheel to the secured part of the mainsheet and move back to Tracy. I unscrew the knob and pull her T- bar toward me to change her bearing more to the south. I tighten the knob. (I did all this while leaning through our circular life ring on the back of the boat with my knees on a secured 3rd anchor there AND with the life raft tied to the stanchion on my right. Awkward or what? It's easier to change Tracy's course when we're on the other tack. On that side of the boat I need only contend with our two 5-gallon diesel fuel jugs. Our two diesel tanks that are built into the boat behind the aft cabin hold about 18 gallons each. We use about 1/3 of a gallon of diesel an hour. We have no gauge to indicate how much fuel is in the tanks, so we carry a couple of jugs on deck. Jerry keeps a special log book just for keeping track of oil changes, amount of time the engine is on, and voltage readings of the batteries. Some cruisers have massive numbers of yellow jugs on their decks. Of course when we were near Bermuda I didn't have the problem of even the diesel jugs being in the way since they were overboard and dragging along in the sea. For 10 minutes I attempted to get them back aboard, but they were too heavy and the knots in the rope keeping them attached to the boat were too tight for me to untie. It was really easy to adjust Tracy then. I expected our three 5-gallon water jugs to be problems sooner than our diesel jugs because they are tied on with much thinner rope and seem to be in a more precarious spot.
Back to Tracy - I watch our bearing for a couple of minutes. I make another adjustment and then both she and I are happy. I move my tether back into the cockpit. As the sky starts to lighten, the 3' to 5' waves seem much larger than they did during the night. These waves won't get much larger, unless for some reason the trade winds get stronger. That is comforting to me. 5:55 It is light enough to get a pen and 3 note cards out of my bag. I put on my glasses. Because of spray coming over the port side, nausea feeling, and rain squalls I couldn't write until now. I use note cards instead of my note book. That way only one card has a chance of getting wet, instead of a whole notebook. I attempt to remember and write down the sequence of events since I came outside at 2:30 AM. I get warm, so take my raincoat off. I take my glasses off to look around the horizon. The ear piece to my glasses finally breaks off. I look for the broken piece, can't find it, then it falls off my right ear. I noticed 3 or 4 days ago that the ear piece was bent and in danger of breaking. I must have stumbled on them while they were in their case, and didn't realize it. They're my favorite ones, but I have several other pairs. About the time we moved aboard I reached the age of needing "drug store" reading glasses. I'll probably need to buy some with stronger magnification some year. In the SE, where the sun is rising, the cloud formations are unusual and interesting. I see a rain cloud and ridges of other clouds behind it. 6:03 I put the jib up and we do seem to pick up some speed. Jerry would not be proud of me though. The lines are a mess - all Tangled. There's rain to the east of us now. 6:15 We were able to leave our tricolor light off again. I turn the binnacle light off. Jerry appears to be sleeping peacefully. I don't think I woke him up. I'm hungry, but I think I'll wait and fix toast and eggs when Jerry wakes up. Often I'm not hungry in the morning so he has cereal. He dumps some corn flakes in a bowl, pours the powder of powdered milk over them, then pumps some water out of the tap and puts in on top. Yuck! I've never been able to do this. 6:27 The sun is rising. It is the same color as the sunset last night. They both had an orange tint to them. I take a sip of tea. It got cold while I was having my battle with Tracy. 6:30 My three note cards are full and the order of my notes on them are way out of order. I'll have lots of fun deciphering these. I almost lose overboard what remains of my glasses when I tilt my head too low getting my notebook. The paper is really damp, but no spray is coming into the cockpit to speak of. I open the back hatch to go in to take a GPS reading. While doing this yesterday I broke my toenail again. I move with extra caution this morning. I haven't measured the voltage in our two sets of golf cart batteries for two days. I'm afraid I won't be able to recharge the computer's battery and won't be able to type. As I get into the aft cabin I find charts everywhere as I step over five rolls of partially dried toilet tissue. The results of my GPS reading are that we're averaging 170deg , we've been 24.7 miles in 4 hours, and we have 243 miles to go to English Harbour, Antigua. We're going 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 knots. We don't go as fast down wind as we go with the wind on the side of our sails (a beam reach). 6:43 I remember to put my tether back on after the GPS reading. I have a harness in my raincoat. If I'm not wearing my raincoat I have a separate harness to wear. Jerry and I used to share one, but this summer I bought one for myself. It is much more comfortable since it was made for women. Jerry gave me the harness that is now in my raincoat for Christmas one year and I didn't even know what it was. He had to explain it to me. Now I'm really thankful for it at times. I detest it at other times as it is too confining. 6:50 Occasionally our starboard side really heels into the sea, bringing lots of water onto the side deck, which immediately goes out the 5 scuppers on that side. When water comes over the port side on this tack it runs to the back of the boat, into the air vents for the engine (if they aren't closed) then either overboard through the starboard (downhill) scuppers or under the cockpit seat that we sit on. When it goes under our seat it continues on down our legs. I like this warmer water these days! While taking off my jacket inside I notice a pin in the bottom of the stairs which needs to be pushed in to keep the stairs from coming loose. I need to go sit in the bathroom (head). I can't believe the subject of the head hasn't come up previously in this letter. I'll pay close attention to details and give you my version of using our "Jane" as Mom called it in St. Thomas ( I guess Janes are more petite that Johns). To fully appreciate how small our bathroom is you really need to use it while under sail in a brisk breeze. Some of you understand, but some of you have no idea how bad it can be! Of course it is one of those things we've long since stopped noticing and simply accept. Most of the time it is no problem for us now, so I needed to pay close attention this time. It really brings back memories of the early days aboard and my mumbling while underway. Brushing Hair in the head: This is next to impossible. My elbows hit the walls and the door. At the last boatyard we put a 4' long plexiglass mirror on the outside of the head door. Now I can brush my hair in the main salon using that. Brushing Teeth: I find that brushing my teeth in there isn't bad, especially if I leave the door open. Size: I've seen people during my lifetime that wouldn't even begin to be able to get through the narrow door. It is possible to turn around in the bathroom, but only if you're standing up straight. An indication of its size is that I can, without glasses, read most of the sayings I have mounted on the walls while sitting on the toilet. Besides sayings I also have cartoons, a star chart, a chart I made up showing deg C vs. deg F , the Beaufort Wind Scale and a plaque Hope gave me that says "A Sister is a Special Friend." After sitting, you start pulling your pants back up before you get off the seat, because there isn't room to lean forward to do it later. Then you stand up straight, finish pulling up your pants, turn around, and work the hand pump that pumps everything into the holding tank in the aft cabin. The Door: If the head is on the uphill side of the boat while sailing, the door will stay open, giving you more room but less privacy. If the boat is rolling, the door only bangs back and forth if you try to keep it open. Toilet Seat: Sometimes the toilet seat shifts, especially if waves are pounding us. Since I've sometimes had difficulty getting the toilet cover to stay up long enough for me to sit down, I'm sure men would sometimes have to hold the seat up while they urinate. (I hope they do, because I'm usually the one who cleans in there.) Jerry says he usually sits too while sailing. Staying Seated: I've even been tossed into the door while sitting on the toilet and the door has opened. Flushing: We flush the head with sea water, but that is difficult today since this side of the boat is heeled out of the water. I pump with the door open while standing mostly in the main salon. Before we can bring in sea water we have to turn the knob that that says "dry" or "flush" on it. It has to be turned to "flush" to bring in the sea water and it is difficult to turn the knob. Best Time to Use: The best time for guests to use the head in port is when everyone else is outside. That way they can leave the door open and the space isn't as confined. Holding Tanks: In the U.S. it is legal to pump out the holding tank when you're 6 miles off shore. In the Caribbean islands there are no rules. Cruisers from the U.S. must have holding tanks because the Coast Guard does come aboard to make inspections. They've stopped us twice - once in Lady Slipper off the Delmarva peninsula and once in Puerto Rico. The big charter boat companies in the Caribbean have no holding tanks on their charter boats. Everything goes overboard immediately. Europeans don't have holding tanks either. I hope those people on all the charter boats in the BVI's waited to have their bowel movements away from all the popular snorkeling spots! Opinion: If you've had the fortune, or misfortune as the case may be, of using our head I'm interested to know what other problems you encountered. Arctracer went 106.8 nautical miles today, according to the way points I took.
Thursday, December 4th 20deg 22' N, 59deg 42' W 7:12 AM The wind is picking up. We're heeling more and going faster. It is sprinkling and a HUGE cloud is approaching. I put my notebook and pen in their plastic bags until later. This is truly invigorating! I'm reminded of Polly when she sailed with us to the Isles of Shoals. This is just a little more invigorating than that fairly brisk sail we had, but the water was cold that day and we had our warm clothes on. Also, the wind was steady that day and as these squalls approach the wind is anything but steady.
THE SQUALLY HOURS: 7:15 A squall is almost here. My tea spills. I quickly close the hatches and try to decide if I'll go down wind to roll up the jib. I start to go down wind but then remember it is a crazy idea because I could back the main sail, it would jibe (go to the other side of the boat) and possibly break something. Breaking Tracy's vane would be a terrible loss. I almost forgot about the jib - it really shouldn't be up in strong winds since its material is lighter than the other sails. The jib gets really noisy. Jerry comes to the door. Just then I am trying to decide whether to let the strong winds fill our sails from behind and push us fast or to turn our bow into the wind so that we barely move and barely heel. In the dark, there is no question in my mind, I'd go into the wind. It is easy because you just turn until the sails start to luff (flap), and it is a very safe position in which to wait out a short squall. Jerry says "turn into the wind," then goes back inside and back to sleep. My heart seems to be in my stomach and I am wishing the squall would end. With my definition, this is definitely an adventure, no matter what Mark Twain said.
Jerry wouldn't be proud of me as far as the jib sheet is concerned at this moment. The jib sheet and the jib furling line are tangled. The jib doesn't look pretty as it wrapped up in a messy fashion when I tried to roll it up. I had too much wind by the time I tried to roll it up. I should have rolled it up much earlier. I tense up with my hand on the wheel. I'm ready to react when the wind picks up again. There's pelting rain and waves coming over my head. I wish I had my mask and snorkel here in the cockpit. I might use them if I dared take time to put them on. The rain is blinding. I remember one time while we were on a 50 mile bike ride in Vermont on my birthday. It was raining. While Dorothy was riding along in her bikini, Ben was riding with his raincoat, mask, and snorkel - two different approaches to riding bicycles in the rain. The wind calms down, then it pours, and half the time there's a lot of extra wind. Sometimes I'm glad we don't have an anemometer. I'd hate to know the strengths of some of the gusts, but "Arctracer" handles them beautifully. She's wonderful! The strips of the colors in the rainbow to the west seem to get wider - wider than I've ever seen before. There's blue sky ahead and more squalls approaching. Outrun the next one Arctracer.
7:55 I scan the horizon after marveling at the double rainbow. There is more rain pelting the ocean and more ominous looking clouds to our east, approaching slowly. Blue sky and puffy cumulus clouds are ahead and to the south. There are dark, gray, clouds behind us. It is sprinkling again. I wonder if this is a cold front with its beginnings up near Bermuda somewhere. We've heard of cold fronts projecting 900 miles from a storm center since this trip started. Or, are we just encountering clouds that move with the trades?
I need to put my notebook away again. The winds just became lighter as the next system approaches. I wonder if this is the calm before the rage. The sky is getting blacker and blacker as it starts to rain. I would like to put the jib back up, but not yet - it's still too threatening to the east. The rain stops and we must be going only 4 knots while rocking and rolling excessively. It's a good thing there are only a few pages left in the old UNH notebook, leftover from getting my second masters degree. It is getting really wet and damp as I put it on my wet rain pants to take notes. There's less wind and it's darker, but I don't see pelting rain approaching yet. The foresail hops to the other side of the boat - an indication of almost no wind in this instance. We'll never outrun this squall at this slow pace. It continues to get darker. The clouds are taking all the wind away. I check the wind indicator on the top of the mast, which shows which direction the wind is coming from up there. Often when there is no wind it goes around in circles. At least it isn't doing that yet. The swells are bouncing us around like crazy.
8:10 There's essentially no wind. I'm WAITING, WAITING, WAITING. What can I expect and when can I expect it? I keep heading south. Since these clouds are coming from the east, maybe it will pass behind us - wishful thinking. 8:12 A bit of wind comes back. We start to move south faster again. Outrun this one Arctracer. The sun comes out and it gets really warm, so I unzip my raincoat. The "thing" is still lurching in the east. Go away. Or dissipate. Don't interfere with our sailing in the trade winds. After this squall we encounter part of one that is mostly in front of us, then a very large and a very dark cloud that has lots of rain, but little wind, then a 4th system with lots of wind, but not as much as the first. While all of this is going on I see a beautiful double rainbow. Each color is about 5 times wider than I've ever seen before. The colors are brilliant: purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. The whole rainbow has a reflection in the water which comes back toward "Arctracer." For a moment I could swear I saw three rainbows at once, but the middle one disappeared very quickly so it was probably my eyes playing tricks. Two wide rainbows - what a treat! The wind picks up and we're almost back to our 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 knots that we had before this all started. Maybe we really do have a chance of escaping from these squalls. 8:15 I finally feel I have time to slowly check the horizon again instead of constantly watching the "monster" with my hands on the wheel, ready to react to strong winds. Then the wind picks up even stronger. I put my notebook away. We're on another joy ride. I head into the wind. The lyrics "freight train, freight train, moving so fast" come to mind. I decide "Arctracer" and I (especially me) can handle this wind, so I turn back south. Waves come onboard and we heel. I'm ready, and turn up into the wind as soon as that happens for a more comfortable sail. I'm glad I didn't put the jib back up. I would have to roll it up again. More waves are breaking and coming into the cockpit now. My poor, clean hair of yesterday! 8:27 The rain stops, wind abates a little and I turn back south. I see more pounding rain approaching. I play the winds for over 10 minutes - first into, then away from, gets uncomfortable, back into the wind, ease a bit, back off again and again. 8:35 The rainbow is full again. It is a complete semicircle this time. All this reminds me of the time we took the Rhodes 19, our first sailboat, out on the Hudson River on a Friday evening. Quite a ways upriver from Ossining a gust hit so hard that the sail went in the water and the boat leaned over so much that it was drawing water into it like crazy. I was scared. Jerry released the mainsheet and told me to release the jib sheet. It was on the downhill side of the boat, and now well below my feet. I couldn't bring myself to go into the water to release it. All I said was "it's way down there." He had to release that too. As soon as he released the sheet the boat was upright again and we had an unbelievable number of pails of water to bail out. Our sleeping bags were wet, as was everything else. We still camped out at anchor that night, as planned. We always camped on the Rhodes because there was no roof and no big cabin to go into. It was fun.
A storm might knock "Arctracer" down too, but only if we had too much sail up. With the correct amount of sail up it will never happen to us. I imagine that giant waves such as are found in the Southern Ocean near Cape Horn could cause a boat like ours to pitch pole (go head over heels), but neither of us has any desire to go into those extreme conditions. Most circumnavigators are able to avoid all such problems, and we intend to also. 8:40 I took a quick reading, moving even more charts than before out of the way, as I make my way through the aft hatch into the back cabin where the GPS is mounted. I climb over the three spools of new rope we bought for new halyards, lifeline, anchor rode, etc. I don't take time to do any calculations with our navigational calculator as things are still a little unsettled outside. I can do that after Jerry wakes up. Antigua is about 230 miles away at a bearing of 224deg . 8:50 Things are quieting down enough so I'm starting to think again about frying eggs and making toast after Jerry awakens. I'm getting hungry and I need to use those eggs up soon. Of course I'll crack each one into a bowl, individually, before putting it in the fry pan, just to make sure it isn't spoiled. We've had spoiled eggs in fry pans before, unaware that there was any chance they'd be rotten. My thrill of the day ends. The other threatening clouds pass behind us. I'm ready to relax. Good old "Arctracer" did manage to outrun most of the threatening clouds. This is the first day I've totally forgotten about taking my 8:30 AM reading. The sun is shining and we're moving south comfortably now. I unzip my raincoat and have some more ginger ale. 8:55 There are still a few sprinkles, but it is sunny and warm. I finally take my raincoat off. There is a dark squall but it is mostly behind us now. There are some to the east too, but they don't look as threatening. I'm almost sure that those, too will go behind us. We really did miss most of it. Thank goodness, since this dark one seems much larger than the other ones we went through 2 hours ago. It sure doesn't seem like this all started that long ago. Time sure flies by when you're anticipating each of your next moves during conditions like these! 9 AM I take my rain pants off. I pull the jib back out to speed further away from the dark clouds. I tie the sheet onto the cleat. The jib isn't happy. I have to take its sheet off the cleat and let out a little more. I wait a minute. It seems happy so I go back to making notes. 9:10 We're moving along fast, but comfortably. I estimate we're going over 6 knots. I'm not going to check the GPS because it is much too messy in there. Charts are everywhere. I guess Jerry didn't finish getting them all sorted two days ago. I hadn't noticed before, when it was calm, and they were staying in their designated place on our double bed in the aft cabin. 9:20 There's another squall to the east. Yuck! I've had enough of them for one day. As spray comes into the cockpit I put my pen and notebook away to watch and prepare. I'll spare you the details of these from now on. You've experienced my thoughts once. That's enough. 9:45 I'll let you guess whether or not that squall got us, but I will say that the sun is out again and the rainbow is in the WNW. When I checked the time on my watch in the plastic bags, I found a nail file I grabbed in my sleep (while still waking up between 2 and 2:30). I thought about bringing it out for use after daylight, but didn't remember if I'd actually brought it. Now I'll clean and file my jagged and broken nails. 9:50 Jerry gets up. Breakfast at last. I look at the compass. I've been so busy with my nails that I wasn't paying attention to it. We're going SW. I'd better turn more to the south before Jerry gets out here. He won't know this happened until he proofreads this letter. I know he'll understand though, as it happens to him sometimes too, and then I hear him mumbling, suggesting something is wrong. It is often because he is off course because of concentrating on something else, or simply not concentrating on steering. Tracy helps considerably now, and we aren't off course as often.
10 AM Jerry comes outside as it begins to sprinkle and yet another squall approaches from the east. I go inside to do my calculations, take another GPS reading, read the voltage in the batteries (11.61 - not good) and fix toast and eggs. I'm almost out of bread so maybe I'll make English muffins next as they're easier to make. When I go to light the broiler for the toast, the automatic ignition fails. The battery must be dead. I get the butane lighter out and the stove still won't light. Then I decide to turn on the propane with the solenoid switch before making any more attempts to light the broiler and it works fine. It sure is different inside the boat than outside. The bread won't stay on the cutting board and the egg won't stay in the dish I've cracked it into. I'm sure glad we have a gimbaled stove and oven!
11:05 Breakfast accomplished. I don't feel like going through the ordeal of cleaning up, so I'll write first. I do, however, wash the plate and bowl which could break if not stored properly. Experiences during the preparation of breakfast: After putting the bread under the broiler to toast I tried lighting the burner to fry the eggs, but the knob was so hot and the heat coming from the open oven door was so hot that I couldn't keep my hands on the knob long enough to get the burner lighted. The bread wouldn't stay in one place long enough for me to butter it and put jelly on it, and jelly got everywhere. I fixed one plate at a time and took Jerry's out to him with his warmed up coffee. My toast was cold by the time I went to butter it, but then I remembered the margarine was liquefied by the heat and I had to spoon it onto Jerry's toast. My finished egg sandwiches wouldn't stay on a plate, so I put them in a bowl. I sat on the floor with my travel mug between my knees to pour my cranberry juice. I finally joined Jerry in the cockpit for a nice breakfast.
The sailing is ideal today (as long as I don't need to do too much in the cabin). We're going about 7 knots. We really need to get an accurate way point into the GPS for Antigua soon. Going straight to the present way point would take us through the middle of the island, which would be okay if there was water there. We also need to avoid the massive outlying reefs to the east and north of Antigua. We've been there before and know about these reefs. 12:30 PM I lay down to take a nap. It takes me 10 minutes to find the cause of and eliminate all the obnoxious noises. Some of the noises are the table leaf rattling, a metal cup and measuring cup swinging on hooks onto the walls, and a knife falling off the magnetic strip next to the stove. 1:20 Jerry comes in to the "chartroom" to put in a waypoint east of Antigua. We're close enough to get there tomorrow. We've been there before. We'd arrive on a weekend with most things closed. They'd probably charge us extra for overtime at Customs. We really need engine oil. Barbados is 480 miles straight south. We've never been there, and wouldn't arrive until Monday, so... we decide to go to Barbados. It won't be too easy to get there if the trade winds turn to the SE, but then there are always other alternatives.
I lose my desire to take a nap, get out a cruising guidebook to see if it discusses Barbados and go into the cockpit to pay attention to what Tracy is doing while Jerry looks for a chart of Barbados and puts a way point for it into the GPS. Our only problem is our low batteries. We need electricity for our night lights and for our radio to listen to weather. With no engine oil we can't use the engine to charge the batteries. However, we do have that solar panel stored in the forepeak, ready to be installed. At this point I wonder where we will anchor first. If we can't get to Barbados we'll have to go further west to a different island. That will be easy from anywhere out here east of 60deg W. 1:40 It starts raining. I get cold. Jerry left his raincoat in the cockpit so I put it on. I put the cruising book and my notebook inside it, against my chest. I have this weird sensation that we are sailing uphill. The moon is out and above us. I wonder what degree of fullness it will have before we arrive somewhere. The guidebook does have 3 1/2 pages, written in the mid 1970's, about Barbados. There is a gorgeous rainbow in the northeast. It is very low to the horizon, a full arc. It is unusual to see a rainbow at this time of day, but maybe it's because the sun is approaching the Tropic of Capricorn at this time of year. Just as I am thinking about getting my camera a wave comes aboard. I'll wait to get a picture of a rainbow. When the rain stops the rainbow is gone. 2:45 I check the horizon and go inside to do the breakfast dishes. Jerry is organizing charts. I take the strings of dried fish down and store them. Some pieces have white on them. These pieces were all on the port side of the galley so I think some salt water came through the porthole and got them wet. They taste okay, but I think I'll store them in a separate container. 3:10 I'm back on watch. Massive amounts of skin are peeling off our fingers and toes. We have salt sores on our derrieres. Believe me, the salt water gets everywhere. The sun is out and it's absolutely beautiful. What a great sailing day! I have to say I like the wind and the sea. They're terrific when not raging. Dinner is going to be easy tonight. We'll have a tin of green beans that started to get rusty near Bermuda, leftover rice and beans, and leftover coleslaw. 3:30 I see flying fish, food for larger fish, but its too late in the day to fish. It gets dark so early, although as we get further south, it does get dark a little later. Anyway, Jerry's busy, we have dried fish to snack on, and only a few days ago we overdosed on fish. I think I'll fish within 12 hours of arriving in Barbados, then get some ice when we get there so it will last longer. Also, if it is too much fish I can give some away and it won't get wasted. I abhor wasting things. Perhaps Jerry will feel like fishing sooner than that. If he does, that's fine. 4:30 I see big squalls behind us. Jerry just finished cutting margins off charts. Now he'll try to roll them again and see if they all fit in the chart tube (1/3 of a PVC pipe). 5:15 There's a pretty sky. The sun is creating lots of pink on the high clouds. It is, however, too cloudy in the west to actually watch the sun set. Jerry listens to Herb. 5:45 I warm up dinner. Jerry goes to a lot of trouble to get out our last Dutch tin of margarine. It is fairly near the bottom of one of the lockers. Other tin cans keep rolling down towards it as he digs. He ends up with many tins out of the locker which have to be stowed again. 6:00 I take a GPS reading and discover that we aren't as far east as the longitude of Barbados, but it has a bearing west of south. Weird. Jerry tells me our GPS takes magnetic variation into consideration and that makes about 11deg difference here. I don't have the foggiest idea of this concept, but thought I'd mention it anyway. It never ceases to amaze me how much I still have to learn. Magnetic variation can wait a while. It isn't high on my list of priorities. Thank goodness the GPS handles this automatically. We eat dinner and Jerry helps me with the dishes. I love having him help with dishes, especially when we have a lot of cooking dishes.
7 PM - 1:30 AM I sleep. 1:50 AM I go to the cockpit in my regular attire while at sea in the warm tropics with not another soul around. This cuts down on the amount of laundry and do we ever have a lot of laundry from the cold days. Not only do we have all those clothes to wash, our cushion covers, quilts, wool blankets and sheets all need washing. I'll be at a laundromat in Trinidad for hours. I bet I have six loads of laundry - forget doing all that heavy stuff by hand with the antique scrub board Mom gave us. It would take too long and use too much of the water we have on board. I take my normal supplies to the cockpit, with one addition. I have dried fish to snack on. I decide to try Pat's recipe first. A few pieces got moldy, but there are many left. 2:00 Jerry tells me about a weather forecast given by ham operators. There is a ham net that meets at 6:30 AM Atlantic Standard Time on lower side band on the frequency 3815 khz. I will try to remember to turn it on at that time in the morning. Jerry gets me one of his notebooks to use during the night. He has some old blank log books that were left on the boat. He never cared for the way they were set up, so he has been using them to record weather information as we listen to the radio. He only uses one side of the paper because the other side seems too cluttered to him. I have no problem using it. He saw some shooting stars during his watch, but no ships. 2:15 Lights out for Jerry. The sails are luffing some. I tighten them and we go a little faster. 2:25 The mainsail luffs again. I need to tighten it more. I'm not really awake yet, and I'm feeling too lazy to take my tether off the wheel and move it along the lifeline to go loosen the jibe preventer before I am able to tighten the sail, but I decide to do it anyway. We keep a jibe preventer rope on the mainsail at all times when Tracy is on watch, because her wind vane could break if we got a sudden wind shift and the main boom decided to swing to the other side of the boat. When Tracy is on watch, her wind vane sticks way up in the air, right in the way of our long main boom. Whenever we need to tack (put the sails on the other side of the boat), we have to disengage Tracy first, remove the preventer, tack, put the preventer back on the other side of the boat, and engage Tracy again. The wind vane is pushed down and out of the way when Tracy isn't in use so the boom can't possibly hit it. 2:52 I see my first shooting star in the eastern or southeastern sky. They are the easiest places to observe tonight. This shooting star is a dull one, nothing spectacular. I see four more shooting stars during my watch, none of which is absolutely wonderful. When I discussed shooting stars with Jerry the day after I saw 30 of them, he reminded me that some places in the earth's orbit around the sun have more meteor activity than others. Astronomers can predict when there will be a lot of activity. I haven't seen many since that night. Last night it was cloudy and tonight my writing cut down on my observation time. Can you believe this is the first time in my life I've enjoyed writing? I've never taken this much time to do it before. I can better appreciate why Hilary and Dorothy enjoy it now. From reading Jerry's Mom's poetry and memoirs I know that she, too, enjoys writing. Then I also remember the write-up my Mom did after joining us in Puerto Rico, Culebra, and St. Thomas telling of her memories. 3 AM The wind picks up a bit. A wave comes aboard. Water starts coming in through the scuppers on the downhill side of the boat. I put my raincoat on, but don't zip it. 3:10 I finish my coffee and have some ginger ale. Again tonight I reached into the cubby in the forepeak until I found just one bottle. I think I'm afraid to get out more than one, as I'm reaching further and further down into that locker and I imagine there aren't many left. I thought I'd bought a lot (I did buy plenty for the amount of storage space allotted for it, but now I'm just hoping I have enough to get me to our first landfall and that they sell it at that particular landfall. As you all know (at least my family knows), I'm very frugal with my money, but when it comes to ginger ale I'll pay anything to get it. In NH I was paying 25 cents a can, while in the Bahamas (the most expensive place so far for soda) I was paying $3.50 for a six-pack. This was still less expensive than Ben was willing to pay for a coke in Paris in 1988 on our bike trip. There a can of soda cost $ 2 U.S. I hope I don't see those prices again for a while. 3:25 It's really nice to not feel nauseated tonight. It took me about 24 hours to get used to the constant motion of the boat, after being becalmed for two days. I just hope Jerry feels like installing the solar panel soon so I can use the laptop and recharge its battery. If I don't type up my notes en route, to reach my goal of getting this mailed at our first port of entry outside the U.S. on this trip we'll be in that port for three days minimum while I type and revise before I can tour the island and enjoy it. I'm still excited about the fact that the port might be Barbados. If we can get there it will be a fantastic sail downwind 185 miles to Trinidad. In Trinidad we can go to the dentist, do laundry and get our stanchions fixed before heading west to Venezuela and Panama. Maybe we can even get an email provider there and get our weather fax functional. Soon we need to think about our itinerary and do an estimated schedule of when we have to be where in order to see the Galapagos and get to the Marquesas during the right time of year. We'll have to read parts of Jimmy Cornell's book, "World Cruising Routes," before we do this. 3:35 The sails aren't happy again. I look at the compass and we're going too much east and too much into the wind. I help Tracy out and turn the wheel so that we're going south again. 3:40 I see an airplane headed NE and wonder if it's out of Barbados. If it is, it is a weird time of day for it, and I imagine it might be drug dealers. In the Bahamas, small planes aren't allowed to land at night, an attempt to cut down on drugs. I check the horizon for ships again. 4 AM My flashlight runs out of batteries again, so I take a break from writing to pay attention to the course we're on and the horizon. We're going too much west of south, so I adjust the wheel again. It wasn't too far off course. I'm not fighting with Tracy tonight like I was last night. 4:20 I want to go inside to get more batteries (or another flashlight) and make tea, but there's a dark cloud to the east. I feel I need to keep an eye on it. At night it is difficult to tell if it will bring rain and/or wind. 4:30 The cloud is still approaching, but my mind is swimming with memorable events in Trinidad and the Dominican Republic which I want to write down before I forget them. I quickly go inside to get another flashlight. When I get back to the cockpit I trip over my tether which reminds me to hook it back on to my raincoat. I should have used it to get inside, but the conditions outside tonight are stable and I keep my weight low and have lots of handholds on my way into the cabin (not a good enough excuse). 5:20 It is starting to get light. The stars are still out, but fading. Trade wind sailing is wonderful. I enjoy making progress. 5:45 The stars have disappeared. Tracy is just about on course. I can see rain in the east which may get us. It will be close as to whether or not it does. It is a large system which takes the wind out of our sails for a few minutes as it makes its approach. Jerry pokes his head out the hatch to see how things are going, just as the batteries in my second flashlight start to fade. I stop writing until it is light enough to see. That won't be long now. 5:55 A tropic bird joins us for a while, flying back and forth. It is light enough to turn the binnacle light off. I can tell what direction Tracy is taking us in now without it. I get hungry and eat some of the dried fish marinated like beef jerky. It's a little on the salty side, but very good. The salt is necessary, as it is the actual preservative. 6:00 Some long life milk went sour on us before we could use it up, so I'm thinking about making some cream/cottage cheese later. Some English cruisers that Dorothy met, on a boat called "Trophy Girl" gave me my first starter, in the Bahamas. In the Dominican Republic I shared starter with several of the other cruisers. After making it the first time, I really could visualize "Little Miss Muffet eating her curds and whey." I've always wondered how many little kids understand that verse in this day and age. 6:15 As the rain continues to approach, I go inside to get dental floss to remove pieces of fish caught between my teeth. I decide to make my favorite tea (Twinings Lapsang Souchong - which I've only been able to find in the NYC area) when my stomach is in good condition. On some days I can only drink herbal teas and there are many of those I enjoy drinking. On the tea bag of the Lapsang Souchong tea it is described as "a tea with a distinctive smokey flavour much appreciated by connoisseurs." 6:20 The sun is rising behind the clouds, south of the approaching rain. The rays ascending into the sky make the higher clouds above yellowish-orange. High clouds to the west are all pink. 6:24 I remember my tea water and go in to finish making my tea. I also remember that at 6:30 I'm supposed to turn on the SSB to LSB(usually it's on USB - upper side band - This is another thing for me to perhaps understand some day) to 3815 to listen to a ham weather net. We listened to it last in Trinidad and one daily participant was from Barbados - which is the forecast that interests us today. 6:26 The wind really picks up. Lots of spray comes over our bow. I hope things calm down so I can go inside to listen to this forecast. Wow, I'm getting really wet and we're heeled quite a bit more. 6:30 Although conditions out here have changed, it's quite safe, so I go inside and turn on the radio. I forget my broken glasses, which are in the cockpit, but never fear, I have another pair near the radio. The first words I hear on the ham net are nostalgic: "How you doin' mon?" I haven't heard that language in a while. The men are discussing their families, then one asks if anyone has an official weather report for the Caribbean Emergency Weather Net. Another gentleman comes on and says he has a report from the government MET office. I find out that the wind is 19 km/hour. I have never needed to convert km/hr to knots and I don't know how to, so I refer to our Beaufort Wind Scale on the wall in the head. 19 km/hr is about 10 - 12 knots. There's 81% humidity, the temperature is 26.6deg C, and sea conditions will be moderate to rough in open water at 2 - 3 meters. A small craft advisory remains in effect because of larger than usual swells. This means good wind in the sails for "Arctracer" (a heavy steel boat). We know from previous experience that a "small craft advisory" is nothing for "Arctracer" to worry about. We should have another great day of sailing! Besides, 10 knots of wind doesn't generally call for a small craft advisory. There are no significant features, which means there are no tropical storms or hurricanes in the making. The ITCZ is well south. This means that the Intertropical Convergence Zone near the equator, with all its rain and thunder storms is not going to concern this area today. When a different guy gave his weather report he said: As far as I'm concerned the sea conditions are light to moderate. All of this is very interesting, but what I really wanted to know is the wind direction. Since we need to go SE I want the wind to be NE or E and I'm wondering what they are predicting. After I turn the radio off I ask Jerry if he heard the wind direction. He laughed and said yes, E to ENE. I said I'd missed it. Then he proceeded to tell me that they said the wind direction would be from "Echo to Echo November Echo" - ham jargon for E to ENE. No wonder I missed it! I like having my husband be able to continually decipher things for me! I mention to Jerry that I've written 11 pages in my notebook during the night. He says I should send you all a postcard and at the end say "book to follow." Arctracer went 139.1 miles today.
Friday, December 5th 18deg 04' N, 59deg 37' W 6:50 AM Jerry asks me if I switched batteries yesterday. I hadn't because I decided it was better not to use the computer and save the energy for our propane gas detector, weather reports, and binnacle light. I take a reading. It's 11.24. Jerry says he's never seen a battery that low and asks me to switch batteries - he's still on his sleep time. If I'd known how difficult that would be, I would have suggested we wait until he got up, but I'd done it before with only the problem of lifting up the mattress, then lifting up one board under the edge of the mattress in the aft cabin. This morning it was my turn to mumble. I mumbled while first having to take tubes of charts off the mattress, then trying to find floor space among the three spools of rope that take up practically the whole floor. I needed floor space to put my feet in a good position while trying to tilt uphill to do all of the above. Finally, mission accomplished. I take a reading on what is called battery 1 on the switch box. It reads 12.45. 6:55 I take another GPS reading. I go back to the cockpit and check out the scene around me. The wind is back to normal trade wind speed, the rain missed us, Tracy is on course, and there are no ships in sight on the horizon. I take the second sip of tea. It is lukewarm now. 7:15 I see a graceful and pretty storm petrel off to starboard. The sun is reflecting on it and it is more remarkable looking than usual. I'm going to take more GPS readings today than I normally do, to see how consistent our speed and direction are. It will also help us determine if we'll arrive in Barbados during daylight hours. Previously, when we've needed to wait for daylight to enter a port we've either hove to or reduced sail a lot early in the evening to slow down. We don't like to approach land in the night. Last year we were going to anchor in St. Lucia one night (we'd never stopped there), but we got there way after dark, so decided to sail through the night. We had our anchor down in Martinique by noon the next day. So, if we don't care where we stop, a third option is to keep on going.
7:35 I'm awakened/startled by a wave that hits my back and head with my raincoat beside me - wrong place for it at the moment. There are flying fish all around. It is sunny and beautiful. 7:55 Another wave comes aboard. When I check the horizon I'm standing at a tilt today and looking longer in each direction since the swells are quite large. I have to be at the top of the swells to see the furthest point on the horizon. 8 AM I see the tiniest flying fish I've ever seen, right beside me (2" long). It can really propel itself out of the water and over the tops of the waves. It seems to go a long distance for its size. 8:15 My salt sores hurt today. All I can think of to do is put rubbing alcohol on them. There's dried salt everywhere. It is left from salt water coming aboard, then evaporating. It doesn't take long for it to accumulate. We had enough rain yesterday to get rid of some of it that had built up, but I guess not enough to get rid of it all. 8:45 I was so preoccupied with my thinking that I forgot to take my 8:30 AM GPS reading. Oh well, this is close enough. Jerry awakened and said he'd get his cereal and be right out. I said I'm doing fine, having fun. Sleep some more because you know that once you get up you'll be up for awhile. It is surprising to me that we haven't been more exhausted. After calculations, I learned that we're 282 miles from Barbados and its bearing is 196deg . At this speed we should be anchored before dark on Sunday, and most importantly, make our approach to the island in the daytime. The idea of getting to land is both exciting and not exciting. Cons: (a) I never enjoy approaching land in a new place where we don't know the rocks, etc. (b) We have to deal with formalities like customs and immigrations, perhaps on a weekend. (c) The anchorage there is rocky, according to our old guidebook. (d) The overall peacefulness of being at sea will end for a few days. (e) I won't have as much time to write.
Pros: (a) I get to see an island I've never seen before. (b) I'll have a new experience (c) I'll get to eat out once instead of cooking a meal, and we can try some local dishes (d) We can have access to a telephone to call home. (e) I can buy ginger ale, oranges, eggs, and bread. (f) We can get ice for cold drinks. (g) We can sleep in the aft cabin again and the main salon will appear less cluttered. (h) I won't have to make bread again until underway. (i) I can get my normal 10-12 hours of sleep in a row. (j) We're closer to Trinidad and Venezuela than we would have been if we'd stopped further up in the islands. (k) We'll have a wonderful sail to Trinidad, in the trades with no islands in the way. (l) We can get engine oil and use the engine to charge our batteries.
9:15 My mind has been working hard. I keep saying I'm going to take a break from brainstorming ideas and thoughts, but then I think of something else to say. This time, since I really want to take a break, I'm leaving the pen and paper alone for at least 1/2 hour (unless I see something totally different than I've previously alluded to.) 10 AM I'm thirsty after eating more dried fish. I go inside to get some cranberry juice and vitamins, attempting to not disturb Jerry (he didn't move). I pour the cranberry juice 2/3 in my travel mug and 1/3 in the bread basket which is on the counter on the downhill side of the boat, where I had my cup against a wall. Just as I started pouring the juice the bow of the boat lurched. I should have expected it, but I forgot again. I get the wrapper that the black beans and rice came in to read the ingredients (and I hope they don't just list the word spices as one of the ingredients). I want to see if I can concoct my own version sometime. I also get our 1996 Reed's Nautical Almanac for the Caribbean. Jerry told me it had info about Barbados too. 10:10 The Carolina Black Beans and Rice package mentioned pre-cooked black beans (I'd never heard of pre-cooked beans before), natural flavors, salt, sugar, vinegar powder, spices, onion powder, garlic powder, cornstarch. Not too helpful, but a little informative. I have never understood why such products don't tell you which spices they use. They wouldn't have to say how much of the spice they use.
After reading Reed's I know that entering Barbados legally is similar to entering other islands. We have to fly our yellow Q (quarantine) flag until we're checked in. The only port of entry is Bridgetown. Customs officials are on duty 7 days a week from 0600 to 2200, but the main customs office is open weekdays only from 8:15 to 16:30. Overtime charges may apply on weekends, after 16:30 week days, and on public and bank holidays. You should have clearance papers from your last port. We always do, except when leaving the states. U. S. boats aren't required to clear out of the states. The Bahamas are used to this, but I wonder about the Barbados officials. We also need our ship's papers ( which means our documentation paper), crew lists, and passports. Clearance and departure fees are based on the length of the boat. All of the above is normal. One Barbados dollar = $ 0.50 U. S. There is a chart of the anchorage in Reed's too, and it tells where you can land a dinghy - very helpful information. Barbados has water for yachts, ice, diesel, and laundry facilities.
I plan to wait until we get to Trinidad to do our laundry. I want to spend my days in Barbados finishing this letter and seeing the island. I've seen Trinidad before so I can do laundry while Jerry works on boat projects. Reed's agrees with our other guidebook. "Few sailors will make the rough trip against the trade winds to reach Barbados from the rest of the Antilles, but this island is often the first stop for those crossing from the Canaries." Since we got so far east way up near Bermuda, we didn't have to "make the rough trip against the trade winds." The trade winds are really helping us now to get there.
The Hart and Stone guidebook states: "If Carlisle Bay looks like the headquarters of the international yacht set from late November through February, it's only because Barbados is the easternmost and thus the most logical target for the transatlantic sailors who annually scoot across from the Canaries at the end of each hurricane season. Some say that eight out of ten such sailors make for Barbados, and it's not uncommon to find 20 or more of them in the bay at one time. During the rest of the year, visiting yachts are few and far between, for Barbados really has little to offer in contrast to the cruising attractions of the Windward chain - and Barbados lies a hundred miles dead into the wind. Indeed, the best way to reach this island outpost is downwind from Europe or south from Martinique, hopefully on one tack.
10:30 I see a large sea bird, but it's too far away to tell what kind it is. I put Reed's back in the cabin before a wave gets it, moving very quietly and carefully to not awaken Jerry. He looks really relaxed in there - didn't move a muscle. It is another absolutely gorgeous day! This is what being under sail is all about, to me. I think I'm starting to get too much sun. I'd better get some suntan lotion on. We have 30 bottles aboard since it's expensive and/or hard to find in the islands. We ran out of it on our last trip south, so I really stocked up this time. We use lots of it. 10:45 Jerry wakes up and fixes his cereal. We'll have to get more corn flakes in Trinidad. We only allow storage space for about a dozen boxes at a time. We always discard the boxes before we store it. The plastic bags take up a little less room. Cereal is stored in our former coal bin, beside the cooler. The space also holds about 6 rolls of paper towels. There are all kinds of nooks and crannies on a boat! Of course some of these nooks and crannies are easier to get at than others. 11:05 Jerry comes into the cockpit with his coffee. The first thing he notices is that the sails aren't set properly. I release the jibe preventer while he pulls in the mainsail, then I tighten the jibe preventer. He tightens the foresail while I try to pull in the jib. The wind really is pulling it and I can't budge it, so I get out the handle for the winch that its sheet is wrapped around. I learn something about winches. I seldom touch the sails when Jerry is tending them, unless he asks me to and tells me EXACTLY what to do. Today, I could tell he was watching in disbelief. I'd always used the winch handle like a regular wrench handle, pulling the handle toward me to tighten the sheet, then taking the handle out and repositioning it for another pull. After today I'll save myself a lot of work, since this is a two- speed winch. For those of you who are ignorant like me, it winds the rope in the same direction, no matter which way you move the handle, so I never have to take the handle out. One direction is fast and the other is slow but more powerful. This I learn after 3 1/2 years? Unbelievable!
Jerry notices a dead flying fish on the back deck. Then we start going too far west, but Jerry tells me it is better to have speed than to be hove to. I had no idea I had us hove to (moving forward very little). He then said maybe I wasn't hove to, but I was only going 2 knots. Now, after checking the GPS I see that he has us going 5 1/2 to 6 knots. I'm REALLY disappointed with this because he'll probably go back to thinking he can only get 4 hours of sleep at a time, since he needs to check on the sails periodically. To gain speed Jerry has to head to a point west of Barbados since the wind is out of the ESE today, rather than out of the NE like yesterday. Perhaps it's Trinidad here we come? I'm game. 12:00 Noon I finally sleep, then wake up hungry. I fix the last two eggs and use the last of the small loaf of bread I made. When I get the quart tin of margarine out to butter the toast it is still in its solid form. Then, when I open the box of eggs I notice that one is cracked. Rats. I decide to crack it into a small bowl and smell it. It smells fine, so I get my two eggs for breakfast. Yeah. 1:45 I get out my recipe for Irish Soda bread. There's no yeast involved, so I won't have to wait for it to rise twice. I decide I have the energy to make it and Jerry has always liked it. As I'm measuring the white flour I decide I'd better find my round pan. I check my newly made drawer, where the old coal stove used to be. This is where most of my pots, pans and baking dishes are now. I can't find it so I figure it is in the forepeak with all the other things that don't fit somewhere. As I'm moving things around in the forepeak to look for the pan, the bow of the boat lurches again and I fall into something fairly sharp. I give up and go out into the cockpit. I really need to get rid of some of the stuff in that forepeak. I can get rid of the huge pressure cooker that I used to use as an oven and my typewriter. I hate to throw them out because I know people in Trinidad that can either use them or will know of someone who can use them. There are other things in there too, but I can't remember what.
In the cockpit Jerry has out all kinds of chart tubes. He is looking for the New Zealand charts and wonders if I've come across them. I don't really remember so I think perhaps they're in the forepeak. He already found two bunches of charts in there and didn't remember seeing any others, but he is willing to check again. I ask him if he'll look for the pan and get out some ginger ale at the same time. In the cockpit I enjoy the fresh air. I lean on my side because of the salt sores, which hurt more today. I go up to the front of the boat to open the vent over the galley on the starboard side of the boat. It is on the downhill side and the dinghy is in the way. I hold onto the ropes that have been keeping the dinghy in place for days and after a while manage to get the vent open. It was difficult because of the heel of the boat and the dinghy. Back in the cockpit I realize Jerry has been in the forepeak a long time. I go in, look around the galley again and find the round pan. Oops. I apologize profusely to Jerry as he crawls out of the forepeak with sweat all over his body. There were no charts in there, but he did get out 4 bottles of ginger ale for me to put in the ice box where they will be more easily accessible. He says there are 3 more bottles in the forepeak locker. That is good news, since I didn't think there could possibly be 7 bottles left. 2:30 I go back to making Irish Soda bread. I get out Jerry's Doubleday Cookbook (the best cookbook we've ever seen) to find the proper oven temperature. Previously I've only made it on top of the old kerosene stove, which only had one temperature setting anyway, so it wasn't on the recipe card. I get out the wheat flour and notice the empty coffee can. When I woke up at 1:30 AM I used the last of the coffee in it. I was too lazy to go to all the trouble of getting a new bag of coffee out of an inconvenient place. We stocked up on coffee twice in the Dominican Republic. This year, when we were there in April, we bought 40 one-pound bags at $ 2/ bag. Needless to say, we still have quite a few bags left. 3:20 The bread is in the oven. I set the mechanical timer for 40 minutes and start cleaning up the mess that tops all other ones I've made in the galley. I decided to use the sour milk for the bread (instead of using powdered milk and lemon juice as I usually do) rather than for cheese. It was long- life milk in a cardboard box with a small plastic lid. Need I say more than I decided to shake it before I put it in the measuring cup? Sour milk went all over the galley floor, the bread basket (which I'd set on the floor to have more counter space) and me. I clean up the floor, start feeling nausea again, and go outside for some fresh air. Several large schools of flying fish are "flying" across the sea, away from the boat. I notice for the first time that we have 6 sails up instead of the usual 4. The fisherman is up above the foresail and the topsail is up above the mainsail. Tracy is still taking us WSW with the SE winds. To get to Barbados we'll need some more NE winds. Jerry has found the New Zealand charts way down in the locker farthest back in the boat. The plastic tube has started to melt (it has indentations) from leaning against the engine vent pipes.
While I've been making bread, Jerry has been finding all the charts we need to get to New Zealand. He isn't sure which islands we'll go to, so we need extra charts to allow for changes of plans. When I came out he was finding the charts for Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa., All the charts we have aboard are in 10 tubes stored in the locker behind the cockpit with the sails, fenders for going up to docks, spare ropes and spare blocks. It's a huge locker. I went in there once and only once. I came out in tears after being in such a confined space. I'd rather go up the mast any day! 3:50 Jerry is done going through chart tubes. Now all he needs to do is cut off more margins and attempt to fit them all in the drawer. He comes out to stow tubes back into their locker. I go inside to see how much more time the bread needs to bake. The timer shows two minutes, so I start washing dishes. The timer goes off and the bread is done. There's flour all over the place and dirty dishes everywhere. I wipe flour off the nonskid material on the counter, off my 12-volt blender (wedged in a corner), off a recipe box, and finally off the counter itself. I clean up the sour milk in and on the bread basket. I finally finish the dishes. Eventually everything is in decent order. Briefly , the thought comes to my mind to make doughnuts for breakfast tomorrow, but only briefly. There's absolutely no way I can have hot grease on a stove, even a gimbaled one, at sea. Sometimes, when the stove swings, the bottom of it comes way out into the galley and I bump it. It was really in the way when I was attempting to mop the floor (on hands and knees with a sponge) to get up all the sour milk. Since I've been wanting to get out a new dish sponge (with scrubber) I start looking for one. I've always kept a dozen or so in the door under the sink, but it is supposed to stay closed with two magnets and doesn't stay closed when we're heeled any more, so I moved the sponges a long time ago, after they'd fallen out of the cupboard several times. I check under there again to make sure. I get out my list of stored food and "miscellaneous" printed from my computer database. I included 15 sponges in the forepeak bilge. There's absolutely no way it is worthwhile to take everything out and off the floor in there to lift the board to get those, so I dismiss the fact that they even exist. I KNOW I have others. I didn't start putting "miscellaneous things" in my database until halfway through entering data. By then I didn't feel like going back through the bilge, so some things aren't listed. I decide that maybe they're under the table. I further decide I have the ambition to look there. I move Jerry's cold weather boots and shoes, a basket with a pumpkin and potatoes in it and an old braided rug that my grandmother made. I took the rug outside to shake it and cleaned all the dirt and crumbs up from the floor in the main salon. While shaking the rug it comes apart in a few more places. It seems that pretty soon all the thread holding it together will have been replaced since we've lived aboard. I must have mended it over 25 times.
Now that I'm on the topic of braided rugs, I still have the strips, in the forepeak, to make another one. My goal is to have three - one in the galley, one under the table, and one at the foot of the stairs. I have another one my grandmother made in storage, but I can't seem to locate it. Susie thinks it is somewhere at her house. Perhaps she'll have time to look at some point. She keeps REALLY busy and has little time for such things, but she and the girls were the last to come to "Arctracer" to see us off in Portsmouth. I wonder, too, when I'll take time to make a new rug. Pat made one that is in front of her kitchen sink, and I asked her how to start sewing the braids together to get the right shape and size. That part of making it seems a big challenge to me.
I finally lift the floorboard up, after a lot of effort. The sponges aren't there, but there's a cardboard container of Tang that has gotten wet and needs to be used. I take that out. We're just about out in the galley cupboard and I'd been meaning to get some out anyway. Although the container is damp, the stuff inside is dry, which is fortunate. I bought lots of Tang and put as much as I could in plastic containers, but I had to store some in the original cardboard containers. I find some plastic jars and ziplock bags to put the Tang in. As I'm standing in the galley, wedged against the counter (on this heel), with one foot braced on the post next to the table, I get all wet. A wave comes over the bow and finds its way through a small hatch over the galley (presently under the dinghy which is tied on top of the cabin between the masts). I thought I'd taken all precautions to keep water from getting in there. The hatch has two hooks inside, and I put clay outside along the cracks. It must be that the clay has been washed overboard or shifted, as this was the first time I'd noticed water coming in here during this trip. This water also meant that perhaps Tracy was off course or the wind had picked up, so I immediately go to the cockpit. Jerry is working on the charts in the aft cabin. Tracy is doing fine, but the wind has picked up. Arctracer is still fine with the six sails up, but we are heeling a little more, causing more water to come through the scuppers. We usually don't have to reduce sail until the rail is drawing water constantly. Reducing sail at that point usually makes the ride more comfortable and just as speedy. Herb is on but we don't need to listen to him any more. Jerry got no useful information from him last night. All the boats that are talking with him and getting advice are farther west and/or north or northwest. Of course we could contact him ourselves and have him talk directly with us, but we've never needed to. The report we heard at 6:30 AM out of Barbados will be all we need from here to Trinidad. I like the idea that everything will be less hectic in the evening now that we don't have to listen to Herb. (Evening, on this trip, is after 5 PM.)
5 PM I go outside again to watch the sunset after taking another GPS reading. We're headed too far to the west of Barbados but maybe the wind will change direction so we can get there. Only time will tell. I think about what to prepare for dinner. 5:30 Jerry is completely done working on charts. He found about 5 duplicate charts that we can hopefully trade with other cruisers going to the Pacific. I decide to have an old standby for supper - mushroom soup and fresh bread. I've been inside baking and cleaning so much today that I don't' feel like spending much more time trying to stand up inside. I get a pot of coffee ready so I can just turn the burner on at about 1 AM or whenever I wake up. There isn't much of a sunset tonight. 6 - 7 We eat supper in the cockpit. We discuss the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) with its prominent thunderstorms, then the doldrums we'll encounter on our way to the Galapagos. We'll be becalmed in the doldrums and we'll encounter the thunderstorms because of the ITCZ. So far our only experience with the ITCZ was in Trinidad at 10deg N. It does get that far north, especially in the summer months. We had lots of rain, generally for a short period of time in the early afternoon, while attempting to work on the boat for 4 months. We look at a chart and find that we are about 120 miles west of Antigua and we don't have to worry about running into any of the islands tonight. I get new batteries for my flashlights and go to bed. Arctracer went 117.9 nautical miles today by my calculations (less than yesterday, but still respectable).
Saturday, December 6th 16deg 07' N, 59deg 47' W
2:30 AM I wake up and get up quickly (for me). Every night when I go to bed between 5 PM and 7 PM I decide when I want to relieve Jerry from his watch. Last night I decided 1 AM - it's way past that! The last time I checked my watch with my flashlight under my pillow, it was 12:15 AM and I decided to sleep for another 45 minutes. I never heard another thing until 2:30. I turn the burner on under the coffee pot and take a GPS reading. We're keeping pretty much on course to Barbados. When we looked at the chart last night Jerry showed me the lines of magnetic variation on it. We had been on a line with 12deg degrees of variation, now we're on one with 11deg . From looking at the chart, in my estimation, the lines go down a degree to the west, every hundred miles or so. I'm glad to find that we probably will make it to Barbados. I'd like to call Sara and Nico around the 10th - 14th, their birthdays. Of course, we also want to call someone as soon as we can find a phone to let you all know what we've been up to for the past couple of weeks. When I awoke at 9:30 PM and noticed the VHF radio light was on, I poked my head out the hatch and saw two ships - one to the north, going west and one to the south, going east. During dinner time we had decided we were in an area were no ships travel. It had been nice not to see any for a couple of days. We also agreed that this trade wind sailing is superb! 2:50 Before going outside, I notice the hatch to the main cabin is closed and ask Jerry if it's raining. It is, but very lightly. When it is pouring I can hear it on our steel cabin top. I'm hungry, but I can't think of anything we have that appeals to me. I decide to forget food until I wake up more. 3 AM When I finally make it to the cockpit Jerry is surprised. He thought I might wait until it stopped raining. Granted, I do feel that we don't both need to be in the cockpit when it is really, really coming down, so I go inside if he's willing to stay out. Tonight is different - it's his turn to sleep. Jerry tells me about a navigational star and a constellation he's learned the location of tonight. The star is behind the sails and I don't feel like going to the trouble of contorting my body to attempt to see it. The constellation is behind the cloud producing the light rain. I'll have him explain them another night. I ask about what sails are up as it is hard to see them all from the cockpit without some trouble (for me after dark and I've just awakened). The same 6 sails are up that were up when I went to sleep. I've never sailed at night with these all up before. We generally reduce sail area for the night (mostly for me) just in case. The constant trade winds are different and it feels quite safe to keep these sails up. 3:05 Jerry goes inside and I drink some of my coffee, trying to wake up. 3:15 Jerry turns the cabin lights out and goes to bed. 3:35 I see my first shooting star. I see four more during this watch and 3 of them are "nice ones", better than usual. I put my foot on the downhill side of the boat, on the toe rail, to stabilize myself. The warm tropical water comes up and hits my foot. The phosphorescence is abundant tonight. Little specks of green-looking, living organisms occasionally pass my skin. I wonder what they would look like under a microscope. I'm still thinking, and not writing yet, as I'm not used to the motion of the boat since waking up. I think about the 195 miles we have left to get to the NW corner of Barbados. If we can maintain our 5 knots it will take us 39 hours. Thirty-nine hours from 2:30 AM is 5:30 PM Sunday. That is about the time it gets dark. The way point we would arrive at is on the northwest corner of Barbados and the anchorage (clearing in location) is 15 - 20 miles further south. It appears we'll arrive at the anchorage about 8:30 PM unless the wind picks up. I sure hope it does. 4 AM I need to use the head so I crawl through the cockpit to the hatchway. While I'm sitting in there, the toilet seat moves 2 inches to the downhill side of the boat. I'm always afraid it will come completely off its hinges, but it only has happened once. It's difficult pumping seawater into the head because of the heel of the boat. I notice that Jerry left the basket of shells, kept on the shelf at anchor, on the shelf after he brushed his teeth. I put in back into the sink. It was leaning against the fiddle on the counter. Each of our counter and our table has a fiddle to help prevent some things from falling off. They don't help tall things like travel mugs at all - they fly anywhere at anytime, fiddle or no fiddle. Those shells have been all over the head floor more than once. One time some even got into the toilet before I could get the cover down. Yuck!! You can see that there's more to living on a boat than just sailing. 4:15 I finally feel like writing. I reach inside my plastic bag for my glasses but can't find them, so I go inside and get the pair in the head that Polly gave me. When I get back into the cockpit I see my other glasses case, with the broken glasses in it, on the cockpit floor. I decide to wear those that Polly gave me, with two ear pieces. This is much better. Maybe I'll finally throw out the others?? I'm hungry again, but still can think of nothing we have which appeals to me. I wish I had an orange. 5 AM The water is starting to appear "a little" lighter as I drink a little ginger ale. It sure was a treat not having to go into "that" forepeak again tonight to get one. Jerry is a sweetheart! I think I see the navigational star that Jerry was describing. It is lower on the horizon now, underneath the big mainsail. I think I remember Jerry telling me that the sword off Orion's belt points to it. I've forgotten its name though. 5:35 The southeastern sky is starting to show some color - pinkish/orange. Again the sun will rise with lots of clouds on the horizon. My waistline has been getting lots of exercise in the trade winds. My upper body wants to stay perpendicular to the earth/sea, but it naturally stays perpendicular to Arctracer's cockpit floor. I often lean on my side instead of fighting it. For those of you who haven't been on the boat, the seat we sit on behind the steering wheel, goes from port to starboard. Most sailboats have seats on the sides too, but not Arctracer. She is unique in more ways than you can imagine. We wouldn't want it any other way though. 5:50 The first splash of this watch comes across the cockpit. It gets me in the face. Luckily I wasn't writing and my most recent notepad didn't get wet. This is an unusual notepad. The paper is very thin, so the wind really takes it if I'm not careful. It is one I bought in Puerto Rico for Sara and Nico to use when they visited us in Trinidad in July 1996. It has a place at the top of each page to draw a picture and then the kind of lines that students in kindergarten and first grade use. Since Sara and Nico are too old for this now, I decide to use it up. My original plan, when I bought it, was to have something for them to do when they visited us for a month in Trinidad and Tobago. By the time they arrived I'd forgotten I had it and we always had PLENTY of other things to occupy our time. 6 AM We're riding over the waves very nicely and comfortably as they approach the side of the boat and pass underneath us. It is light enough so I don't have to use my flashlight any more. In another 1/2 hour I need to remember to turn on the Caribbean weather net. Today I should be able to get the disguised wind direction myself, without Jerry's help. It is light enough to turn the binnacle light off - earlier now that we're further south. I go in to turn it off and decide to take a GPS reading at the same time. We're 180 miles from Barbados now. While I'm inside Jerry wakes up enough to say it sounds like the wind has picked up some. I don't think so, but the GPS tells me we're now going 6 knots instead of the previous 5 knots. When I return to the cockpit I notice the swells aren't as large this morning and I can see much more of the horizon at one time than I could yesterday morning. 6:15 The sun is rising. We haven't seen any green flashes at sunset this trip. There have always been too many clouds at sunset. I hope we see one before we get to Trinidad. We only see them when the sun sets over the ocean and the horizon is clear. I've only seen two or three in 3 1/2 years. I think Jerry has seen a couple more. 6:25 I scan the horizon once more and go inside to turn on the radio. I approach the uphill side of the boat to turn it on. I slide on the floor because of wet feet and I almost fall onto the settee on top of Jerry. I brace myself against the post of the table so it won't happen again. 6:32 The voice I hear is familiar. It is Eric in Trinidad. We listened to him every day when we were at anchor in Trinidad. There is a cruiser's net in Trinidad which services cruisers, like ourselves. Each day Eric gave a weather report on the net from information he'd acquired from the local MET office and from the satellite pictures he's looked at on his computer (when his computer was up and running). He is a Trinidadian. It was the first time we heard locals participating in a cruisers' net. Someone asks if there's an official net controller on frequency. There is a bunch of "ham" talk about them meeting at 10:30 and 22:30 zulu (universal time) etc. Then the net controller asks if anyone has any "traffic." One guy says: "I have the weather. If you take it now I'll be happy." In Barbados, the wind will be out of the ESE to ENE at 15 to 40 km/hour , visibility is 10 km, humidity is 96%, it is 22.1deg C, sea conditions are moderate (2 - 2.5 meters), there will be isolated showers, the ITCZ is weak, sunrise is at 5:51 and sunset is at 5:37, west of 35deg N there are no significant features (no tropical waves or hurricanes to worry about), and that sea bathers and small craft operators should continue to exercise caution. They gave the tides, but I missed the info. I don't need it anyway. After 15 minutes the weather report was over. What a general forecast - it could have been for the next month, at least regarding "winds out of the ESE to ENE at 15 to 40 km/hour. That is what the trade winds are all about. It is the definition of 'trade winds.' 7 AM I put some water on to boil for hot Tang. I go outside to see how Tracy is doing. She is doing fine, but the wind has shifted a little more to the north, so I adjust her angle. While I'm doing this, Jerry comes to the hatchway and says my water is boiling. What do I want? I say I'll fix my Tang, but he says he'll do it and soon he hands me the mug. Then we have a fruitless discussion about the direction we should be headed. I've once again used incorrect logic, so he straightens me out and I readjust Tracy. He stays in the hatchway, while I change her angle. Then I realize he's doing this because I don't have my tether on. He wants to know if he has to tack to go back to get me if I fall overboard. I made a lot of errors in 15 minutes! I should have waited for the water to boil before coming outside and I should have left Tracy alone in the first place. I, also, should always wear my tether when Jerry's inside. I know this because of how I feel about him wearing his when I'm inside. It's a much safer feeling. Boy, am I ever thick when it comes to directions! (no comments from my brother and sisters and their spouses, especially Denny, please -it's nothing new to them). I should have realized that since we're 8 miles west of Barbados' longitude, because of the wind yesterday, that I needed to go more east now that the wind allows for it. We need to gain back those 8 miles. Jerry tried several ways to get me to understand this. Finally, the above terminology got through to me. He sure didn't bring me along for my sense of direction! 7:35 I see a flying fish. It reminds me that I'll fish tomorrow. 7:40 I'm still hungry, but the Tang is helping. It's the best thing I can think of for now. If we had eggs I'd fix them over easy when Jerry wakes up. Today I think I'll cut up our last pumpkin and use the last of our potatoes in some corned beef hash. Then I'll only have part of a bag of onions left for fresh fruits and vegetables. That's okay at sea, but not near land. This is the reason for all my tins of food and all the plastic containers full of beans, pasta, rice, etc. I NEVER want to run out of onions, however. I bought a gallon of onion flakes at Sam's club in case I run out of fresh onions while crossing the Pacific. We can't always take fruits and vegetables from one country to another. Sometimes guide books warn you, but since we have no guide book for Barbados we don't know their policy. I doubt they have restrictions. I've read that in Australia or New Zealand, or both, you can't take in meat. They confiscate it all (unless it is in tins). Those cruisers who have freezers have to be aware of this and attempt to eat it up before arriving in those countries. In Trinidad, the only thing we couldn't bring in was honey. Jerry talked to a retired official in Tobago and learned that "foul brood" disease can be communicated through honey from one beehive to another. 7:50 I see an extra large flying fish ( 1 ft. I'd guess). I decide to go inside to see if we have any information as to how large they get. I'll get a log book I found and transfer some of the info from my notes into it about the trip. This info will mostly be GPS points and wind directions. I'll also brush my hair. It really needs it as it keeps getting in my eyes. 8:00 AM On my way out the hatchway a flying fish goes away from Arctracer. When I get into the cockpit again we seem to be pointed more into the wind. We're taking more waves aboard. The spray is more frequent. I have eaten flying fish only once. On the menu at an open-air restaurant in the BVI's they had Barbados flying fish on the menu. I tried it. It came fried on a bun and seemed like any old fried fish. I haven't seen it offered cooked any other way. Maybe we should try some of the ones that come aboard sometime. When we see how small they are I wonder how they made that fish sandwich in the BVI's. 8:05 My feet were really slippery on the floor in the cabin again. I guess I should get that rag rug made to put at the bottom of the stairs. Propped up against an open head door, with one foot inside and one in the main salon, I'm able to use two hands/arms to brush my hair. Since the brush is in my right hand, my elbow goes out into the main salon instead of hitting a wall or a door. While I brush my hair, the bottom right corner of the mirror swings out into the main salon, trying to stay level with the earth instead of the boat. I can relate to its need! One mission accomplished. My hair feels better, but it has a lot of salt in it. I'll wash it today or tomorrow again. There's no sense in doing it too often out here! Next mission - get flying fish information to insert above in this letter when I start typing my notes. I have to remove our large cookbook from our "reference" book shelf in the galley. This shelf includes reference books and cookbooks. Then, the index isn't in large enough print for me to see, so I go on the uphill side of the boat (so I don't lurch into sleeping Jerry) and reach for a pair of glasses at his feet (2 pair are still in the cockpit). I almost stumble onto him, but manage not to. I need to put the pair of glasses I found in the forepeak in my Tupperware "extra desk supplies" box in the galley - then I won't have to go to all this trouble again. I'll do that later today. This was my first need for a pair of glasses in the galley. They will come in handy in the future for reading my recipe cards there, and I can't think of anywhere else I'd need them. I get the log book and my first notebook of notes and here I am, in the cockpit, remembering to scan the horizon periodically. 8:20 I see something brown in the water and wonder if it is a bird. It turns out to be a brown jar with a lid on it, but I see a large brownish bird surfing the waves behind it. I'm too lazy to get the binoculars and try to identify it. 8:30 For the first time in three days I'm on time for my 8:30 GPS reading. I go to the hatch with my empty mug and notebook in one hand. The notebook goes crashing down the stairs to the floor. Jerry doesn't move - thank goodness. I take the reading and do the calculations. I can't see what the buttons on the calculator are, but I know where they are since I've used it so much. The closest pair of glasses to the GPS is on the other side of the bed, so I decide not to venture over there to get them. I forgot my pen too, but Jerry keeps one, with his notebook, right beside the GPS. I'll use his. I have used the hook on the stairs to hold them away from the aft cabin as I always do, but today the hook is rattling and seems very noisy for sleeping Jerry. He still doesn't change positions though. I go back into the cockpit, scan the horizon and realize I have Jerry's pen in my hand, so I take it back inside. This time the stairs bang and he moves. As I put the stairs (really a ladder, but with much better steps than a ladder, and 5' high) back in position to go outside Jerry opens his eyes. I tell him we've made 2 miles further east. Now we're only 6 miles west of Barbados' longitude. Jerry asks me what our longitude is and goes back to sleep. I say thank you wind! Or should I say, "Thank you Aeolus?" I didn't want to keep Jerry awake, but I also learned that it is 166 miles to Barbados, bearing 192deg . The GPS vacillates in its reading with speed and ETE (Estimated Time needed to get there), but the ETE is always 30 hours or less at the moment and there are lots of speeds in the 6 knot range. If we continue at this speed, we'll be at the NW way point in Barbados at 2:30 PM tomorrow. We'd be anchored 6:30 PM - a little late for daylight. We need just a little more wind! 8:55 I decide to look at the log book to see if I really want to use it. It might be more work than it is worth. 9:00 AM Jerry pokes his head out and says, "I guess I'm awake." I say it is early and he shakes his head while saying he'll get his cereal and be out. Perhaps I shouldn't have taken that pen back inside?? 9:10 I finish reading the advice on the first few pages of the log. Then I study how it is set up. I like it. I now wish I'd started using it the first day of the voyage, but I didn't even remember I had it until I started looking for notebooks to take notes in. I think it can be our "quick" reference guide if we decide to do this particular trip again some day. We (actually Jerry) can study wind direction and speed, the direction Arctracer is headed, what sails were up, and what our speed was. Then he could be even more efficient with sail settings. Who knows, maybe one day I'll even get interested in such things. It amazes me how many things I finally care about as time goes by, when at the beginning of moving aboard I could have cared less about them. I will talk to Jerry before I write in it. As it is, I can't fill in a lot of the information, but I'll do the best I can. Here is some of the information from the log book: Information In Log Book Float Plan (As recommended by the U. S. Coast Guard) "The Coast Guard does not provide any vessel the following service but encourages you to leave your sailing plans with friends or relatives to whom you can report your safe arrival. It is equally important for you to advise them of any change to these plans. Should your friends or relatives fail to receive information on your arrival when due or within a reasonable time thereafter, they should notify the nearest Coast Guard activity with the following information: a. Vessel's name and registration number b. Length, type, description, color and any other characteristics c. Itinerary (departure, intermediate stops, destination) d. Provisions and emergency equipment aboard e. Owner's name, age, address, and experience f. Operator's name, age, address, and experience g. Names, ages, and addresses of all persons on board h. Radios, call signs, and frequencies" In case anyone ever needs it, our documentation number is 510904. Arctracer is a green-hulled, 45', gaff- rigged schooner. We have a 406mhz EPIRB on board, and it is registered. We have a VHF radio and a single side-band radio, but neither of us has a ham license. Our radio call sign is WCD6073. We also have a good 6-person Viking life raft that we just spent $ 700 to get checked , so it is up to date. We won't be providing formal "float plans" to anybody, but will try to keep you generally informed about our plans. If we had given you a plan to reach Bermuda from Beaufort in less than 10 days, how could we have continued on to Barbados? E-mail will soon give us a better way to keep in touch.
The log provides an atmospheric pressure conversion table and a geographic range of visibility. From the geographic range of visibility I learned the maximum visible distance of an object from an observer at sea: Given Height in Feet Visible Distance in Nautical Miles 6' 2.8 n. mi. 8' 3.1 n. mi. 45' (top of our mast) 7.7 n. mi. etc. (Of course when we see a ship we can see it much further away than 3.1 nautical miles because it too has height above the sea. One of these days I'm going to figure out the farthest distance away we can see an average-sized freighter.) Further, the log includes the Beaufort Scale with corresponding sea states, a table of cloud descriptions and lots of other "stuff" that doesn't interest me much at this point in time.
9:15 These notes get all wet. And again, wetter. I have to put this away while in the cockpit. 9:25 I get my notes out quickly to record the sighting of the first frigate bird of this trip. They cannot land on the water, so are only found near land. We must be approaching land. It's been a while. Jerry says he saw a frigate bird yesterday too. 9:30 The wind has died down some so I think it's safe to get my notepad back out. There isn't much water coming aboard now. I have a list of six things to ask Jerry about when he comes into the cockpit. Two of them are things I can learn from him or find out from him where to get my questions answered (this happens practically every day during this trip at sea) and four of them are things I need his advice or opinion on. 9:45 Jerry comes out the hatch with the solar panel. Yeah! It's great that the organization of charts is complete (it took him hours, and inside the cabin - which he usually can't deal with for very long). Now he has time for other projects - often ones that aren't even on his never-ending list. I've never seen him complete a list without having another list already started. 10 AM A new pot of coffee is done. My leftover coffee had boiled too vigorously and had grounds all through it. I would have used our strainer. I'm glad Jerry didn't. This way I get more coffee - and, at a normal hour (for weekends anyway). While Jerry is getting the coffee I decide to take another GPS reading. The closer we get to land, the more I always want to know where we are with respect to it and when we'll arrive. The large solar panel is on the pathway to the main hatch, so I decide to go into the aft cabin, where the GPS is, via the back hatch. First I have to move a spare cushion and the boom crutch for the foresail. They have slid to the downhill side of the boat and behind the sliding hatch cover. Once accomplished I notice the five rolls of still slightly damp toilet tissue on the steps. I can't put them out on deck in the sun today. It is too chancy. They'd probably get wetter. I go to the GPS and stay for a while reading the newly found offshore log book. Of course, I couldn't see any of it at first as I'd forgotten my glasses and it was too dark in there. Since it's daylight, I crawl across the spools of rope, onto the bed, and get some eyeglasses out of a basket in the cubby there. I put them in a box near the GPS for future use. When I go back out the back hatch (with a stair missing), I notice that Jerry has ropes tied to the solar panel and is wondering where to place it. We both decide the top of the front hatch is best. It has two handrails to tie to and will be in the sun most of the day. 10:15 Jerry asks what questions I have for him. He is sitting beside me in the cockpit with his coffee. My back is mostly to him because I'm still writing and I have a foot constantly getting wet against the toe rail on the downhill side of the boat, to brace myself and keep from falling overboard. First he reminds me about the Greek gods concerned with the sea, wind and sun. Of course now I have something else I want to do, read the Odyssey. I may have been required to read it once, but if I ever actually read it, it wasn't of interest at that point in my life. A copy of The Odyssey is box # 5 in the attic in Norwich. Maybe if someone visits us they could bring it. 10:15 - 11:40 I talk to Jerry and get his knowledge, opinion and/or advice on all the questions I have. He has a wealth of information in his head and the patience of Job. He's also very supportive and an excellent listener. No wonder I love him so much! 11:45 Jerry goes inside to find the brochure that came with the solar panel, after mentioning that once we get to Barbados' latitude of 59deg 40' we can sail faster by going less into the wind and more on a beam reach. I'll keep taking GPS readings so we're aware of this while he works on wiring up the solar panel. Maybe I'll be able to type up some of the notes soon. I haven't typed for three days. Typing will also prevent this from becoming even longer, as I'll be typing instead of brainstorming more to tell you. This will end in Barbados, no matter what I've forgotten. What I remember after that can be in a future letter. Do you dare say you'd like to receive it? NOON I am constantly forgetting what the date is and what day of the week it is. I remember to go inside to take a GPS reading on the hour. It was great to have glasses nearby! I almost forgot to leave them there. I'm glad I remembered as I still have two pair here in the cockpit with me. This idea of glasses makes me want to read a book we found this summer at a wonderful used book store in Wells, Maine. I try to go to it every time I get to New England. The other used book store we always like to go to is The Strand, near Hilary and NYU. The book is "I Ran Away to Sea at Fifty" by Mary Sheridan Fahnestock. I go into the aft cabin and get the book from our six foot book shelf (the length of our bed, so a little more than 6'). 12:15. I read. I've been wanting to read for a few days, but I've been preoccupied with taking notes for this letter and sleeping. 12:20 I stop reading to let you know that this particular book was presented to Aunt Phobie on her 95th birthday from her devoted nephew Robie on August 3rd, 1943. The book is copyrighted 1939. As I looked through the titles of the 34 chapters, I decide to read Chapter 21 first. It is called "At Sea." She devoted four pages to this chapter. At this point I bet you wish this letter was four pages long. I continue to read. 1:10 I see flying fish every time I stare at the sea today. The moon is up and appears half full. I'm really enjoying the book so far. A lot of "things" at sea haven't changed much since it was written. It reminds me of more situations we've experienced, but I'll leave the book in VT/ NH next time we're home and let you pass it around if you want to read it - instead of relaying the information I find interesting here. Storage of some food items and availability and choice of food to take are the only things I've noticed so far that are different in 1997. It is cold in the shade of the sails as I go back to my reading. 1:30 I take a GPS reading. I'm glad I did. We aren't gaining any easting, in fact we've lost a few tenths of a mile since noon. Either the wind direction has changed or Tracy needs assistance. Back in the cockpit, I see it is Tracy who needs assistance and get her back on course. On the correct course I'm partially in the sun. It warms me up and reminds me that if I get in the shade again, I need to pay attention to what Tracy is doing. While inside I ask Jerry how he's doing with the installation of the solar panel. He says it is all hooked up. He just needs to take voltage readings, then see if it works. I hope it works immediately, after one attempt. Some jobs on a boat should be completed easily and with the first try. Of course they aren't. I go back to reading. 1:45 Jerry comes to the cockpit with his hat on. He can't tell yet if the solar panel is working. I'm hungry so I go inside to fix hash and pumpkin. 2:45 Jerry comes in and takes a voltage reading. He thinks our voltage is rising with the solar panel hooked up. 3:00 I take a GPS reading. On my way back to the galley I figure out why the stairs won't always go back into their position easily. They're tilted downhill and go on to a board that sticks out into the room more that the wall behind the stairs. 3:45 Everything is cut up and cooking. I measure the voltage to one set of batteries again and it has gone up since Jerry took a reading. Yeah Jerry - 1st try! I remember to take my vitamins which reminds me to rinse my alfalfa seeds. They still aren't doing well. I didn't get a new supply when I was home, so maybe these are too old to sprout. They are starting to sprout a little though, so I'll give them another day or two. Jerry and I watch flying fish while sitting in the cockpit waiting for dinner to cook. 4:15 We eat pumpkin with onions and corned beef hash, out of our large bowls (everything falls off plates) in the cockpit. The pumpkin was large, so Jerry likes the idea of me making pumpkin/cheese soup tomorrow with the leftovers. I have two packages of sharp cheddar cheese ( 8 oz. each) left. It is lasting fine, unrefrigerated and unopened. I bought small blocks for this reason. 5:10 Supper and dishes are done. I take a GPS reading. If we keep up the same speed we'll be at the first way point in 24 hours, with 15 miles to go to the anchorage, which means we'll arrive after dark. I take a voltage reading of the batteries with the sun low to the horizon. It isn't charging very well now, so I turn its switch off. I read my book while Jerry writes in his log. 6:15 We both see the Green Flash. It is really neat to see. 6:45 I want to finish my book, but I need to get some sleep so I can relieve Jerry from his watch at a decent hour. 12:50 AM I wake up and decide I can't turn over to rest for 10 minutes or I might sleep another 1 1/2 hours. I make coffee, get ginger ale, and get index cards to take notes instead of using my notepad because there seems to be constant spray outside. 1:15 When I go outside Jerry points out a boat and a large dark cloud. He stays outside with me until I'm more awake and/or he's comfortable that the cloud doesn't mean a lot of extra wind. We still have our topsail and fisherman up. Jerry saw porpoises playing beside the boat in the moonlight. I can't remember ever seeing them after dark. 2:00 Lights out for Jerry. 2 AM - 4:30 This was a very tiring watch. Our side rail kept getting buried under water. When the rail wasn't buried there was constant water coming over and occasionally popping into the cockpit. With all the water coming into the cockpit I could see why Tyler had to grease our winches again. When they get this much salt on them they need it. Waves kept finding their way down my neck, no matter how securely I had my raincoat closed. The empty diesel cans were bouncing around on the back of the deck. I wanted to put away the binoculars that we got out to look at a fishing boat before Jerry went to bed, and I wanted a mint that was in my pocket, but I found myself just hanging on with both hands and bracing my feet constantly against the rail adjacent to the cockpit. I got cold several times, after waves washed over me, but I didn't want to leave the cockpit. Waves came over me 6 or 8 times and went inside my jacket. I wish I'd put my rain pants on, but I decide not to venture inside to get them now. Once a flying fish landed on my bare legs and I hated that. I knocked him into the cockpit for identification in the morning. I heard another one on the back deck, but before I could get my waterproof flashlight out to take a look at him, he'd gone back into the ocean through the scuppers. Of course I couldn't write, so I'm trying to recall the night. I had even taken my book out to read - wishful thinking. It got all wet on one side even though it was wrapped in two plastic bags. At 3 AM I saw the first and only shooting star of the watch. I let Tracy steer as I couldn't get used to the feel of the boat. The bow was pounding a lot. It would go up on a wave and then slam down into the next trough. I had spare batteries for my flashlight and of course they got wet. By 3 AM the lights of the fishing boat are barely visible so I go turn off the radio, but not the tricolor light. Now that we've seen one fishing boat, there may be more. In some of the islands these fishing boats don't have lights. Since I don't know about lights on Barbados boats I decide to keep ours on. If there are boats with no lights nearby, they will see us and perhaps get out of our way. A couple of times Jerry poked his head out the hatch to ask if the wind had come up and did I want to reduce sail. Each time I didn't want to bother him, so I said I was fine. One of these times was at 4:30. A light came on in the cabin. This is very unusual. Usually when he comes to the hatch the lights are off. All kinds of things go through my mind. When he does come to the hatchway he reports that 1/2 pot of coffee had flown off the burner and gone everywhere. It is the first time this has happened, but we didn't test the stove out when we were near Bermuda. Jerry reminds me that one or two years ago I wouldn't have been sailing like this - quite heeled and with lots of sail up in the dark. He is right. I sometimes said "I can't do it" when I went outside after dark. He would either continue steering (which he did 2 or 3 times, and stay up all night) or he would reduce sail so I would feel I could handle the boat. Usually we were very cautious and reduced sail before dark. We were very conservative because it was important for Jerry to get sleep. We just planned on going more slowly after dark and then it was no problem for me to steer during the night. We still are more cautious at night than during the day, but I can certainly cope with more wind and waves now. 5 AM As it starts to get light, I notice that there don't seem to be many whitecaps. I also notice that the mainsheet is overboard, dragging way behind us. I bring it in. I try to go more south, but the rail gets buried in the sea and it is difficult to steer. 6 AM I finally feel I can leave the cockpit. The daylight helps. I put the binoculars away and take the plastic bag, with my book in it, inside. I take a GPS reading and find we're only going 4 knots. This ride doesn't seem worth only 4 knots. I put up with it because I figured we were going faster and would get to Barbados before dark. We are at 30.3deg N. I find a washer and screw just outside the hatch door. It looks like it came off the gaff jaws where it held leather in place. 6:10 The sun rises above the horizon. I decide to lean way downhill, get water up my sleeves, and let out the sheets for all the sails, after discovering our bearing to Barbados. I further decide I need help and will admit defeat to Jerry when I go in at 6:30 to turn on the radio for the weather forecast. 6:30 I check the GPS again. We need to go 60 miles in 11 hours to anchor in the daylight. This time the GPS says we're going 7 - 8 1/2 knots. Letting out the sails helped, but the rails are still under the water much of the time. The weather report is about the same as the past two days. I admit to Jerry that I'm exhausted from "hanging on" and I need help. He says we have too much sail up. This is the first time during the trip that this has happened. The two extra sails are so high up in the rigging that they are causing Arctracer to heel like mad with the amount of wind we now have. 6:45 Jerry goes outside to take down the topsail (above the mainsail) and the fisherman (above the foresail), while I write down what I can remember since I got up to go on my watch. 7:30 The two high sails are down. I go outside ready to relieve Jerry so he can finish getting his sleep, but he insists I rest and says he's doing fine. He keeps apologizing for leaving too much sail up too long. I am truly exhausted, so I give in and decide to read. Arctracer traveled 127.8 nautical miles today.
Sunday, December 7th 13deg 53' N, 59deg 31' W 8:30 I remember to take my daily GPS reading (perhaps the last one for a few days). When we go from Barbados to Trinidad I'll do it again. The bearing to Barbados is 210deg now, we're doing 7 1/2 - 8 knots (even without those 2 extra sails up), and we're 48 miles from the anchorage so we should make it before dark if the wind stays like this. So far on this trip, Arctracer has been 1919.2 nautical miles. This number was determined by using all the way points I took. If you measure in a straight line from Beaufort to Bermuda to Barbados it would be less. This is our 18th day at sea. As I go to the hatchway to tell Jerry about the present bearing to the first Barbados way point, he is on his way in to get his cereal. I finally go to sleep 10:15 I wake up to hear that Jerry can see land and we're 20 miles from the first way point (one that is safe with no shallow water, etc.), then it is 15 miles to the anchorage. I ask him if he wants me to make coffee and he says "sure." It will be much easier to make coffee now than it was at 7:30. We now have fewer sails up, and we're not as heeled because our present course allows us to go more downwind. I haven't looked outside to determine this, but I can tell from inside because of previous experience with the feel of the boat's motion. When I go outside to dump the coffee grounds overboard (at least those didn't dump all over the cabin with the liquid at 4:30 AM), I ask Jerry which direction he sees land. He points to it and it appears much higher than I thought it would. Often we could only see the Bahamian Islands from 12 miles away because they are such low-lying islands. 10:30 After I get coffee going I take a GPS reading. We went 15 miles directly toward our way point in the last 2 hours (7 1/2 knots - alright "Arctracer!"). I'm sitting by the mast inside while taking my GPS readings and I notice lots of water in the bilge. I hope the electric bilge pump is still working and that it pumps this water out when the boat straightens out. I haven't seen any water from our electric bilge pump come into the cockpit (where Jerry routed it so that we'd know if we had a leak or something) lately, but it usually doesn't work when we're heeled because the water isn't on the floor in the aft cabin with the pump. The water is leaning against the side of the boat as we heel. I look to see if we have a Barbados courtesy flag to fly. We don't. When we left NC we only made sure that we had a Bermuda flag. We'll have to put up our yellow Q flag before we get too close to the anchorage (to be sure we have enough time with everything else that will need to be done). Then, we'll have to find customs and they can probably tell us where we can purchase a Barbados flag. 10:50 The coffee is done. I always drink whatever has been in my travel mug with lid before rinsing it out and putting the next drink in it. What a surprise I just had salt water from my adventurous watch. I spit it into the sink and realize I should have expected it!
After taking Jerry's coffee out to him (he tends to get a headache on days he doesn't have coffee), I pour the last of the gallon of cranberry juice into my mug. When I get the vitamins I see the so-called sprouts which still aren't sprouting. They really smell badly, so I throw them overboard and wash the jar immediately with Joy. I put the cover away and I get out the plastic cover with larger holes. I'll soak mung beans overnight (if I remember). Those I know are good and will sprout. I have a few left that Jennifer brought to me in Trinidad and I bought a couple of quarts again this summer. We love curried mung bean sprouts and I imagine vegetables will be expensive in Barbados. 11:30 When I take Jerry's vitamins out to him, with my mug of cranberry juice, we talk for a few minutes. We both agree that there are an unbelievable number of flying fish this morning. They're everywhere you look and they're all sizes. Some brown boobies (seabirds) flew around the boat while I was inside. We discuss fishing and decide not to fish today as there's too much else to concentrate on, attempting to get anchored before dark. If we'd had an earlier arrival time we would have fished. As it is, if we caught a fish we'd have to go up into the wind while playing it and getting it in. This would greatly reduce our speed and consequently our chances of getting anchored before dark. Jerry would need about an hour to clean it and cut it up into steaks and/or fillets.
When we get to our first way point, 14 miles away now, we'll almost be in the lee of the island, on the western side. This always means smaller waves or no waves. Then we'll need to pump out the head and get at least one anchor ready. We have a slight problem with anchors today. Our bow roller still isn't straightened our and attached to the bowsprit, so we really shouldn't use our chain with its big 60 pound CQR anchor. We'd lose a lot of paint off the boat and we just painted it in New Hampshire. We will probably use one of our other two anchors on our rope rode. The only problem with this is coral. We never put our anchor down on coral, but sometimes the chain is over it. If a rope is over it, it could chafe through and we'd be floating toward the Leeward Islands - not too big a deal in Barbados since we'd realize we were drifting long before we hit land and we'd be floating away from Barbados land with these easterly trade winds. We'd have to come back to the anchorage and dive to retrieve our anchor. This is an unlikely scenario, but possible.
We discussed how to approach the anchorage - under sail or with the help of the engine. Jerry says we can use the engine a little bit. I think he's been saving what engine oil is in the engine especially for this occasion. I ask about the chart and Jerry says it is already in plastic, next to the GPS. I go in to see what kinds of reefs are around the island and what we'll encounter on our way to the anchorage in Carlisle Bay. I finally finish my cranberry juice and get my coffee. There's no way you have two liquids at a time on a moving "Arctracer!" I go outside again to throw out more coffee grounds and ask Jerry if he has the depth sounder on yet. He doesn't, but says he's considered it. I ask about using the computer and he tells me to take a voltage reading. I go back inside and go through all the usual problems again of pouring coffee, getting out the honey, and getting out a small creamer that Jennifer introduced me to. These creamers are great and last forever unrefrigerated. When in a port we keep cold long-life milk, but at sea it won't last long so we don't usually use it. I detest powdered milk in my coffee (I'm very fussy about this). I would rather drink black coffee, which is okay, but I love it with milk or cream and honey.
11:45 Jerry comes in, turns on the depth sounder, and takes the chart, in its plastic chart cover with a broken zipper (one item we forgot to get spares of), outside to the cockpit. He puts a bathing suit on. He mentions that he can now distinguish some sort of tall structure on the land. We're getting closer! I take a voltage reading while he's inside. The volt meter reads 12.26. I'm in luck. He says it is okay to use the computer to type some notes. I'll try it, but I might get that nausea feeling inside while trying to do anything but sleep. I'm sure my sister-in-law, Sue, can relate to this. 12:00 Noon I get the computer out to continue typing this letter, with several days of notes to transcribe. I still don't know if I'll mail this from Barbados or Trinidad. I unhook the table leaf and get out some nonskid material to put the computer on. I'm not sure if it's a table or a lap day for our laptop, but the bottom of it gets hot on my lap, so I'll try the table first. My guess is the table will work, since we're heeled, but the bow isn't pounding into waves. I'll put the computer right up next to the fiddle on the table for extra insurance. While the computer is warming up, I put three pillows behind my back, on the downhill side of the boat. 12:35 Jerry turns on the radio, as a large ship is in sight. It is behind us, apparently coming from the Windward Islands and headed out to sea. 12:50 I hear the first communications on the radio on channel 16, the calling channel. The accents are truly Caribbean. They go to channel 11 to talk. After this I hear several more voices on channel 16. Sometimes I like to eavesdrop on conversations to see what I can learn, but today I don't want to interrupt my typing. I have a massive number of notes to write up! 12:55 Jerry asks me to get the yellow flag. It is easily accessible as I got it out in New Bedford (weeks ago now) in anticipation of our arrival in Bermuda. The Bermuda flag is beside it, and now can be put away for a long time. When I take the flag out to Jerry he asks me if I remember which small halyard we usually use. I do. It's been a long time since we used it. I check my small yearly notebook and find we last used it on May 1st when entering the Bahamas at Mayaguana. 1:35 Jerry tells me to come look at the north end of Barbados. When I go out I see that we're right near land, with green trees and houses. I won't see the coastline of Barbados again for a long time (if ever) so I turn off the computer and go outside. I put the computer away and leave the table leaf unhooked for the first time since we left North Carolina. 1:50 I go inside to see how far it is to the anchorage. While in there I open the three portholes on each side of the cabin. The three on the portside have so much water in them, left over from my watch, that the sponge I hold underneath can't hold it all. A little water goes on a wool blanket and a cushion. I don't really care since they all need washing anyway. The cabin really need airing out! I didn't know how I'd feel when we finally got close to land. I find I'm excited. There are no outlying dangers off this west coast, so we go quite close to the land. I'm enjoying everything around me. We're doing 5 knots and have 13 nautical miles to go to the anchorage. 2 PM While in the cockpit, relaxing, I realize I'm hungry. I haven't eaten since dinner last night. I go back inside to warm up some hash for both of us. I'll make the pumpkin soup for dinner later. Before coming in I notice the change of color in the water. The depth sounder says it's the color of 50 feet under us. We'll get used to the colors and depths again soon, then we won't need to refer to the depth sounder. We're in the lee of the island. It's been a long time. The last time we were in the lee of an island was at the Isles of Shoals with Polly and John, but before that it was in the Abacos, Bahamas. Having flat water again is heavenly too. I divide the hash into two bowls, realizing we could start using our plates again. The portions are large, but I want to finish it and get the pressure cooker washed. With my foot on the pump, I pump sea water into the galley sink easily, now that the boat is level. This will be the last time I put sea water into a pot until we're at sea again, on our way to Trinidad. 2:10 We eat lunch together and enjoy the scenery. I forget to get water in our mugs, so I suggest we drink my ginger ale, untouched from my tense night watch. This if fine with Jerry. The moon is up and the solar panel is charging the batteries. 2:30 The dishes are done. While observing everything around us we are reminded of lots of other Caribbean islands. Barbados seems to have more resorts than most of the islands. We encounter our first fishing trap buoys in a long time. Today we don't need to worry about them getting Tangled in our propeller since we don't have our engine on. We see a factory, perhaps a cement factory, with a conveyer system extending way out into the water for ship loading. There's occasional talk on VHF channel 16. We see some surf on the beach. This island seems richer than many of the other Caribbean islands. We see a three-spreader sail boat with big lettering on its side: "Networks That Go the Distance." It has a British flag flying off its back showing its country of origin. While sailing quite close to shore we're in 230' of water. Around the resorts we see lounge chairs under umbrellas with a few people using them. I wonder how many pictures are taken of Arctracer as we sail past. We see cars for the first time in weeks. We also see small yellow busses, half the size of normal school busses at home. Maybe the government provides transportation to school, unlike the situation on many of the islands where the students have to walk or take public transportation. Near the resorts we see the familiar sights of jet skis, sunfish sailing dinghies, small Hobie Cats, and yellow plastic "bananas" with 4 - 8 tourists on them being pulled fast by small power boats. There are lots of orange life guard stands which most islands don't have.
There aren't very many people on the miles of white sand beaches on this beautiful Sunday. Near the resorts are a few people, but in only a couple of places do we see locals enjoying a weekend at the beach. Most of the shoreline here seems covered with resorts, more so than any other island we've seen. There are hills behind the beaches, but they aren't too steep. We see lots of small fishing boats with their unique paint jobs - blues and greens, unlike all the white sports fishing boats we see in New England. These small fishing fleets are moored or anchored close to shore. They have numbers on their cabins, unlike some of the poorer Caribbean islands. In one place we see lots of small, colorful local boats pulled up on shore next to their owners small homes. The colors of these pirogues are yellow, red, light blue, or light green. We see a fishing co-op with stacks of storage boxes around it. There are numerous palm trees. We see three sailboats sailing in front of us - an unusual sight after so many days at sea. They are the first ones we've seen since leaving Beaufort.
Jerry asks me to steer while he gets the anchor ready. I see a few seawalls in front of large buildings. I remember to put on suntan lotion. I spot a small local boat in front of us and decide to sail behind it. It appears to be headed to shore. As I get closer they wave their arms and hold their hand lines up in the air. They motion me to get out of their way as they don't want me to interfere with their lines. I discover they have their anchor out and I've come too close to them, but not really close enough to tangle their lines. I say "sorry" as I pass behind them. They shrug their shoulders.
As I continue to view the shoreline, I see many two to three story structures in the making - probably time-shares, condos, or more resorts - perhaps a Club Med. Jerry remembers to pump out. Here the trades and current will take the contents of our holding tank out to sea. At one HUGE resort I see a catamaran close to shore and many small sailing dinghies apparently sailed by tourists. I see a few anchored sailboats, generally no more than one next to each resort. As I'm steering, the electric bilge pump starts working. There's an outpouring of rusty water landing near my feet, but it works. I'd just been wondering about it. The rusty water reminds me that we haven't finished painting the inside bottom of the sail locker, but I don't want to think about work today, I just want to relax and enjoy myself. There's an occasional gust of wind and we heel a little, but there are no large waves in the lee of Barbados. Even as I approach shore now, our depth sounder registers what we call "dit dit," which means we're off soundings. The water close to shore here is deep! I am constantly watching for very small fishing boats in front of me that are either anchored or drifting slowly. I see an airplane headed farther south to the airport. On a hill not too far south, I see lots of houses. I wonder if it is a foreign community, like some of the islands have. I later realize it is the outskirts of Bridgetown, the city we'll be checking it at. Poor Jerry is having a lot of difficulty preparing the anchor, and he didn't get much sleep last night. He mumbles that the parts to put the anchor together with are scattered. He can't find one part and the mumbling gets more frequent. He must be exhausted after only 4 1/2 hours of sleep.
There's a point of land ahead with another factory, a large jetty, or a breakwater? There are big ships near it. I wonder which way to go through them. They appear anchored. It will become more obvious as I get closer, so I don't worry about it. We're moving rather slowly. We could anchor among some of the local fishing boats or near a resort with its one sailboat or catamaran if we can't get to Bridgetown before dark, so I don't worry about our speed any more. I see my first dive boat anchored near the shore and I notice another possible cruising boat, but it's in front of yet another resort, so it is probably associated with the resort. It is doing a lot of rolling with the swells of the ocean. I sail by two more local boats, out for a weekend day of fishing. The working fishing boats are farther out to sea. This time I stay way out of their way! While looking through the binoculars, the square sail yard is constantly in the way. I have to either look underneath it or stand up and look over it. As I'm sailing along I think of the morning ham radio weather report and I can't see any reason for the small craft advisory, at least not on this side of the island.
I see a charter boat. At least it appears to be a charter boat. It has only the jib up and it has lettering on its blue sail cover. Some cruising boats have their names on their sail covers, but generally this isn't the case. Another sign that it is a charter boat is that there is no clutter on deck such as water jugs, diesel cans, wind vanes, etc. I spot another boat that is very similar and conclude they must be charter boats. The letters don't, however, spell out the charter boat companies I'm accustomed to seeing in the Virgin Islands - Moorings, Sunsail, etc.
There are no more flying fish. It is an absolutely beautiful, sunny day! Poor Jerry is still finding parts for the anchor. Presently he's looking in the hanging locker, where he found his sunglasses earlier, for a missing part. He found a spare in a parts-drawer in the aft cabin earlier, but it turned out to be too large. He found the missing piece! He's smiling, but promising himself to attach it securely to its anchor so he doesn't have to go through this again soon. I see a large catamaran with no mast. A short while later this catamaran, "Ocean Mist", Barbados, West Indies came very close to us to say "a beauty." The hill with the massive number of houses, terraced, with a few trees between the roofs, are mostly one story with some huge houses in back, on the hilltops. When Jerry arrives back in the cockpit I discover this housing development is just on the outskirts of Bridgetown. There are twin radio towers. Maybe I'm getting too close to shore since the wind has died down a lot behind the hills. We are, however, still moving.
3:45 We have 3.89 miles to go before arriving at the anchorage. We're doing 3 knots. A sailboat is approaching the island behind us and another one is headed out to sea to starboard. I get Reed's Nautical Almanac. It has a fair chart of Bridgetown and the anchorage. It shows a circle with "Anchorage not recommended" and another one in Carlisle Bay that says "oiling berth buoys." I'm hoping there are other cruisers anchored so that we don't have to pick a suitable spot on our own.
Once we get past the higher hills and are opposite lower flatlands, we get more wind in our sails. This is terrific since the sun is now getting lower. Jerry is back to steering. Apparently I took us too far from shore. Now we will need to do more tacking to get into Carlisle Bay. We're approaching the breakwater to Deepwater Harbour. Just beyond it is large Carlisle Bay where we can anchor for a few days while sightseeing, doing small projects, taking a short vacation, and relaxing. I'm looking forward to all of the above. Of course my small project will be finishing this letter and getting it in the mail before heading to Trinidad. Approaching Deepwater Harbour, we see a four-masted schooner at a dock there. It is a cruise ship. We also see a container ship, a freighter and a large cruise ship with ugly red lips painted on its bow and a big blue squiggly thing with an eye painted along its side. This doesn't seem classy to me. Cruise ships usually leave port at sunset, after letting their passengers sight see for a day ashore. The cruise ship Aida just fired up her engines, but we're past her and out of her way. This hasn't always been the case at other islands.
According to Reed's Nautical Almanac we are supposed to contact the port authority's signal station on VHF channel 12 or 16 to ask permission to enter to check in with customs. We don't want to do this because of our engine problems. The customs officers are on duty from 600 to 2200 hours, 7 days a week. We disconnect Tracy for the first time in days as we need to tack soon. 4:30 We have about 1/2 mile to go to our second way point but it is upwind. A tug, pulling a huge barge of what appears to be sand, comes straight at us out of Deepwater Harbour, and heads out to sea. We see lots of masts in Carlisle Bay. I'd estimate there are about 25 cruising boats in there. The next frustration for Jerry will probably be getting the engine started. Let's hope that it starts immediately. 4:50 We can already see the masts of the anchored boats rolling quite a bit. We're in for a rocky night. Being heeled in a steady trade wind is usually more comfortable! Maybe we won't take a real vacation here. We'll at least take some form of public transportation to see some of the island and walk around Bridgetown for a day or two. I may be finishing this letter in Trinidad after all. We always play it by ear. If the anchorage is tolerable and there are lots of things that interest us, after visiting the Tourist Board on Harbour Road near the cruise ship docks, we'll stay as long as it takes to see everything interesting. Our retirement is great - no schedule most of the time.
Jerry takes the running backstay (that reinforces the masts against forward pull) down. A head boat full of tourists returns from a fishing trip out at sea. The colors of the buildings in Bridgetown are like those on the other islands - their paint is light blue, light green, a light purplish/bluish, orange, pink, and tan. I see two modern looking buildings, away from the waterfront. 5:15 We start tacking into the anchorage. When we tack our trash basket in the galley topples over. I turn off the solar panel. Before turning off the GPS I look to see how far it is to Trinidad. It is much closer than I thought it would be. It is 185 nautical miles away at a bearing of 235deg . 5:25 We need to tack again. Jerry turns the wheel and switches the jib to the other side of the boat while I pull the mainsail to the other side of the boat to ensure a tack. Sometimes we don't succeed in tacking the first time, but tonight things are going well for us. This time we tack fairly close to an approaching fishing boat who is returning to the harbor after a day out fishing. I'm getting very nervous. This is typical for me and nothing unusual when we're finding a place to put down the hook. 5:30 We tack one more time. Jerry goes in to start the engine since we're getting close to the anchored boats. It starts quickly and easily with one attempt at hand cranking. Yeah! I steer while Jerry takes down the staysail. I release the jib sheet while he rolls up the jib. I ask him what direction I should head in while he lets down the foresail. I agree with the location he has suggested, so I steer in that direction. The suggested place is in 70 feet of water. We'd need 350 feet of rope and we only have 300 feet. We have 400 feet of chain, but we can't use that tonight. We didn't realize it would be so deep here in the harbor, so Jerry only had 50 feet of rope pulled out of the rope locker. While I get out more anchor rode (rope) Jerry motors, with the mainsail still up, to a second agreed upon place, behind two European steel boats. We're in luck. We're in twenty-four feet of water. I want to get out more anchor rode early to be sure it comes out of its locker in the forepeak. Sometimes it Tangles because of pounding at sea. With the engine in reverse, Jerry throws the anchor overboard. I go to the bow to be sure it goes out okay, without Tangling, so that the anchor won't drag to deeper water where we'd need even more rope. We like to put out a 5 to 1 scope, while some people put out the minimum recommended 3 to 1 scope. There is less chance that our anchor will drag with the 5 to 1 scope. The anchor rope isn't marked, except at 150 ft. with a piece of red plastic. It was this way when we bought the boat. The anchor chain has yellow paint every 50 feet. It keeps needing to be repainted. Before putting our new anchor chain aboard in New Hampshire I painted it, but decided to use a slightly different system than I had on our old chain. After 3 1/2 years I knew what mark was where on the old chain. Now I don't remember exactly how I marked the new chain. I should look at it carefully after dragging it out of the chain locker before we use it again. It's VERY heavy for me to pull out by hand so I'm not sure I'll actually do it. There was a reason for getting our new manual windlass for the chain. It is heavy. Our old windlass needed a new gypsy but since those gypsies are no longer manufactured, we had to purchase a new windlass. We're hanging in 30' of water after dropping our anchor in 24' of water. Excellent.
While Jerry gets the mainsail down, I tidy up halyards and sheets. He ties up the mainsail and finished tying up the foresail. I clean up the main salon and start the pumpkin soup while Jerry puts the sail covers over the sails, puts oil in the anchor light, and hangs the light on a halyard in front of the foremast at the front of the boat. Jerry seems to be mumbling more that usual. I'm thankful we can both get rested tonight. He would have taken a nap today, but he had too many things to observe on a different island and too much to do to get ready to anchor.
6 PM We're at anchor after traveling 1970 nautical miles on this trip. We averaged 109 1/2 miles per day. I move our four weather gear from hooks over the large mirror on our bathroom door to hangers in the hanging locker. We can see the mirror again, after 18 days. Jerry gets a wind scoop out and hangs it over the round hatch over the forepeak. Things got quite damp in there and really need airing out before mildew sets in. We'll check in tomorrow, after getting the dinghy off and getting sun showers. When I put the stairs back after taking the last GPS reading, they go back into their place easily, a sure sign that we're in calm water. I hear a DJ and loud music ashore, so I know we've anchored at one of the Caribbean Islands. This ends the voyage from Beaufort, North Carolina to Bridgetown, Barbados. As far as we're concerned we had a great trip and some memorable new experiences to help us learn more about our home (Arctracer) and ourselves. Arctracer traveled about 50 nautical miles today and anchored before dark at 13deg 06 N, 59deg 38 W.
For a while I felt really guilty that we didn't call someone before we left Beaufort, NC. Now I'm thinking you would have been really worried by now if you hadn't heard from us or, we would have been forced to go into Bermuda to make a phone call before heading further south. That would have meant that we would have been around more gales when we left Bermuda or we would have been forced to stay there for a good weather window. Anyway, our plans are always subject to change and we don't want to worry anyone. I was also thinking that email would have been helpful, but even after we get it we have to understand that radio propagation is not always good and electronics often malfunction. Maybe when satellite phones are more economical, that will be the way to go.
If our E-mail isn't up and/or running, and you don't hear from us for a while as we do what is called the "milk run" across the Pacific, we hope you won't worry. As this letter indicates, we believe in carpe diem . Our plans constantly change, and we try to enjoy each moment, seizing the opportunities which arise. The route we're taking across the Pacific is called the "milk run" because it is mostly downwind, safe, and easy at the right time of year (which is when we will go). I recently read that cruisers who take this route aren't always prepared later for the more unstable conditions of the Indian Ocean, which are similar to those found between the states and Bermuda in the Fall.
If you have time to give me feedback, I am really interested in knowing what parts of this you found most or least interesting. If you have questions, be sure to ask them, either the next time we see you, or put them in writing and mail them to Weare or Norwich to be forwarded with our other mail. The major question I foresee is "why are you doing this?" If you feel this letter indicates a lot of tense times, inconveniences, and sameness, that isn't the way we see it. We REALLY enjoy living aboard "Arctracer," mostly for the adventure and my definition of adventure is different than Mark Twain's. We love meeting people and experiencing new cultures. Learning to communicate in Spanish in the Dominican Republic was fun. I studied Spanish for about 3 hours a day and became close friends with a couple of people who got used to me saying: "Como se dice en espanol?" They really helped me to learn more of their language. Only one of them spoke some English. Our favorite places so far have been the Dominican Republic and Trinidad. We decided this was because we were forced by hurricane season to stay long enough to really experience their cultures.
I have lots of experiences in my notes that I'll save for a future letter. Long night watches bring back lots of memories. I remember Mom saying in St. Thomas that being on the boat is like camping. I agree and I think this is an extension of our cycling trips. We lived in tents for several summers and always enjoyed being outdoors, seeing natural wonders and historical sites, visiting new places, and meeting new people. The fun continues. I promise I won't ever write another letter this detailed about "Arctracer" at sea, but I thought you might be interested in hearing about it once.
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