"Arctracer" Letters

Update 8 - At Sea 11 March 2013


It's Monday, March 11.

Our noon coordinates since my last update:
Tue 3/5: 6 deg 21' S, 21 deg 02' W
Wed 3/6: 5 deg 50' S, 23 deg 14' W
Thu 3/7: 5 deg 15' S, 25 deg 43' W
Fri 3/8: 4 deg 42' S, 27 deg 57' W
Sat 3/9: 4 deg 12' S, 30 deg 27' W
Sun 3/10: 3 deg 49' S. 32 deg 18' W
Mon 3/11: 2 deg 57' S, 34 deg 23' W

Yesterday we passed the archipelago of Fernando de Naronha (Brazilian) - first land we've seen in 8 days! We didn't stop and now, of course, it is out of sight again!

Things could change, but as of now we are thinking of making a stop at Devil's Island (off of French Guiana) before going to Suriname. We are about halfway there from Ascension.

After losing 3 lures and having several other fish get away, we caught a nice sized mahi-mahi a few days ago. It was 4' long and could easily fit Plastic Kyle MacLachlan in its mouth. (Sorry about that, Kyle.) We've had several meals from it already - fillets, sandwiches, and fish cakes. There's more in the freezer waiting for us! We've also had chicken rendang with butternut squash and pineapple upside-down cake. Delicious.

For the past six nights, I have been "on watch" from 7pm-11pm, while Mom & Jerry sleep. Jerry takes over at 11pm and Mom takes over at 3am. Pre-Hilary, they each had a 6-hour watch.

Mom and Jerry go to bed and I am alone! In the dark! There's a button to push in the cockpit that buzzes in their room, though, so I can get their attention whenever I need it.

On the first night, I put my mic on and talked to myself for a couple hours about the experience. It's very different being the only one awake at night than being one of 3 people during the day! I feel even smaller in the dark. SO SCARY! ;)

For the most part, I look for ships, keep track of our direction and watch out for changes in wind & strange weather. I've also been listening to a lot of podcasts. My awesome husband loaded up an iPod with all sorts of cool stuff and presented it to me before I left NY. I've fallen a little bit in love with Albert Maysles after listening to a couple interviews with him.

A couple interesting moments from my night watch...

On my second night on duty I was moving right along in the darkness when I heard a strange non-boat sound behind me. It was kind of like the clicking sound that dolphins sometimes make. A little nervous, I took off my headphones and turned my head to look in the water. Nothing there, but there was a sudden dark movement above my head. I looked around and then to my left and jumped as a winged creature only 2 feet away stared directly into my eyes and cawed in my face. His wings were outstretched and he seemed to be flying sideways.

I rang the buzzer.

By the time Jerry arrived, the bird was sitting on a lifeline just behind me, looking EVIL. I put a flashlight on him for a moment. Jerry told me it was a noddy and that it was probably just tired and hitching a ride. He wasn't really all that scary in the light. I spent the rest of my watch talking to him. He (or another noddy?) came back for the next three nights.

Another evening I was amusing myself by watching the lights of a giant ship as it passed behind our boat. On the AIS (Automatic Information System), I could see the exact location, how many miles away it was from us and the CPA (closest point of approach). It was about 6 miles from us and I was pushing buttons on our gadget to zoom in and get info, when all of a sudden on the screen at the same spot as our boat, I saw a message appear: MOB. I didn't know what that meant, though some of you may have already guessed. I clicked on it and saw a little icon of the top half of a man waving his arms.

I rang the buzzer.

When Jerry appeared I said "There's a ship behind us and that's fine, but...what does MOB mean? It's on the screen!" He laughed and said "That means man overboard". It didn't seem that funny to me until he added that I must have hit the wrong button. Slightly embarrassed, I asked if anyone else could see that. He assured me that they could not. But now I know what to do if there IS a man overboard! You can mark the exact spot when it happens so that you can navigate back there...if you want to.

I've been filming like a banshee (or something) and filling up hard drives with footage. Nothing else has broken and I still haven't accidentally dropped anything in the ocean. There was a close call with my iPhone yesterday, though...

In other news, we sent a hello from me to Stephen the Ferry Driver through some other cruisers who stopped in St. Helena. They reported back that he was "all smiles."

I waited too long to send this update and there's a lot more I could write about, but I'm going to leave it for now! Hope you are all well and enjoying things like...friends and washing machines and ice cold drinks and Google.

Sailor Hilary