11/14/2008, Atlantic Ocean
Pic: Water coming over the bow and hitting the salon windows
Google Earth Position at 06:00: 25 09 846N, 65 25 070W
As day 6 and 7 blended into day 8, Elizabeth found ways to relax despite the never ending rocky conditions by placing herself in another world with my iPod and a new Showtime TV series called "The Tudors." Although I am certain that she was not a happy girl, she did not complain, which had to be respected. Instead, she holed up in our cabin, lying flat, which was by far the most comfortable place to be in these conditions.
Meanwhile I found other things on board to keep me interested. It was funny to me how different life on a boat had become. Although I had spent a lot of time on boats in the past, this was by far the longest voyage I had ever been on and several aspects were still new to me.
For example, recycling took on a whole new meaning. I was used to throwing food scraps overboard, but I did not expect to see myself throwing everything else overboard too. Cardboard, paper, aluminum, glass, paper towels, Kleenex... You name it, it goes overboard. Everything but plastic, and thus far through our trip we had accumulated only two bags of trash as we had discarded most of our plastic before leaving. But still, throwing all these things overboard really felt strange to a Californian. I mean, I am hardly a tree hugger and my recycling habits at home are not something to be admired, but this felt wrong. Until I really thought about it.
Basically the ocean floor below us was 6,000 feet down. Six thousand feet! And by the time a beer bottle was filled with water and dropped overboard that sucker was going to sink to a depth where no person would see it before it was eventually turned back into sand. Never harming a thing, except for maybe the rather surprised crab at the bottom.
In the end it was almost fun to think about the second life these beer bottles were going to have. After accomplishing its reason in life (namely satisfying me with a delicious beer in the middle of nowhere) it set off on a new adventure. This time diving to a depth never before explored by man. From the time I let it go from my hand, this object was going on a crazy path. Imagine it, six thousand feet. And to think as a kid I was intimidated by a 12 foot deep swimming pool.
I also found it interesting how easy night watches were. I had pictured an environment where nothing could be seen and where our radar would be our only eyes, but it remained so bright at night this was never a problem. Once your eyes adjusted you could see much more than you would expect. Moon or no moon, you really could see a lot at night and the watches were less daunting than expected. Which was good, because as I was once asked, you cannot anchor in the middle of the ocean for the night and get some sleep.
The weather changed too. Although it would make sense that the weather would get warmer as you head south, it still surprised me just how much warmer it had become over the past couple of days. Almost subconsciously, we were shedding layers and now wearing nothing but bathing suits, which was a long way off from the jackets and foul weather gear we started with. I guess this was the first time I had traveled such a distance while remaining outside. It would be different on a plane or even in a car where the temperature is controlled, but for us it was just another slow example of the distance we had covered.
All this kept me fascinated as we continued south. Although I have to admit, I might have snuck in an episode or two of the Tudors myself. Anything to help pass the time and take my mind off the incessant pounding of the waves.
11/13/2008, Atlantic Ocean
Pic: The boat between waves, the next 12 footer heading for our beam.
Google Earth Position at 06:00: 27 31 336N, 66 16 070W
Day 7 was a lot like day 6, but worse. Over the course of the day the seas steadily grew to 12 or 15 feet. We knew it was big because we were having debates about how many people standing on each other's shoulders could fit in the crest of the waves. And considering myself a near expert on wave height from my surfing days, I can tell you that you would never see me on the beach where these behemoths were going to break. These were big waves.
Cooking became a near impossibility as you wouldn't dare boil a pot of water - the thought of it falling off the stove and burning someone this far from shore would be a serious medical emergency. Using our microwave instead also became interesting as the rotating plate refused to stay put and the food would slosh back and forth inside as if possessed by an evil food demon. Sleeping took new forms as you could only place your head in the dead middle of the pillow - otherwise your face would roll right off the edge, twisting your neck out of a sleep only possible by shear exhaustion. You would think it simple to sleep with your head in a different place than normal, but for some reason this felt suffocating to me.
Even standing was difficult. Usually one hand is all you need to steady yourself, but on a day like this you needed three. Once seated, all you really wanted to do was sit there and not get up again. It was exhausting - constantly using your muscles (back, legs, abs, arms) to steady yourself.
Using the toilet was a near impossibility. Standing up was not an option, or at least a messy one. Sitting down made it a challenge to stand back up. Your feet tied closely together by your shorts giving no stability. Both hands being used to steady yourself as you stand, leaving no way to finish the process of pulling your pants back up. I mean, have you ever tried to zip and button your shorts with one hand before?! This was difficult...
And then there was the noise. The boat would flex and creak and slosh and snap constantly. Similar to your home, you start to get used to the noises your boat makes at night and anything out of the ordinary frightens you. To me, the boat sounded like it was literally ripping in half. The pounding on the bottom and on our "emergency hatch" was so great it would literally slide the boat sideways several feet and flex the fiberglass in the process. How any boat could take 12 consecutive hours of this punishment was unbelievable to me - little own four days.
Thus concluded day 7. It was a lot like day 6, but now sleeping had new meaning and we officially reached the point of "no fun." I think all of us were ready to get out of this and land in the BVIs. The unofficial countdown to the end of misery had begun.
Pic: Half way, with only 700 nautical miles to Tortola!
Google Earth Position at 06:00: 29 53 142N, 67 17 243W
Aside from ripping the top of our mainsail off the mast on day two it would be safe to say that we were having a relatively easy time heading south. Days three, four and five all showed light winds and small seas, making for a rather pleasurable journey. Our only complaint or concern was that the winds were so calm that we had to motor (which was noisy and using valuable diesel fuel) and I had yet to catch a fish. But we were sleeping at night, charging our batteries, cooking fairly easily and Henry was finally over his bout of seasickness. We also crossed over the halfway point in mileage, which was celebrated briefly with a few beers between Steve and I.
We were still sailors however, so when the winds started to pick up we were happy to finally sail rather than trawl. At 04:15 I hoisted our main sail to the first (permanent) reef and unfurled our genoa and picked up a knot (bringing us to 7 knots). But with our increased speed and the newly developed winds came short, choppy waves of about 3 feet in height and about 10 feet of distance from one another. After a while this becomes the perfect storm for a catamaran as the design of the hull displays a couple of flaws when in certain types of seas. Although the Catamaran has many positive features when compared to a monohull, I can safely say that under "confused seas" I would much rather be in a conventional sailboat.
Honeymoon started to "pound," as the term has been coined. And this meant that the short choppy waves did not have enough time to pass under the first hull before another wave hit, causing the first wave to slam against the second hull and even the bottom side of the bridgedeck (which connects the two hulls together). The Lagoon is one of the better designed catamarans because it has a higher bridgedeck clearance over the water, but on this day any catamaran was going to pound. And pound and pound and pound we did.
We were pounding so hard that our refrigerator door would pop open and our feet would bounce off the floor when sitting down. So hard that Henry, now over his seasickness, couldn't sleep in his forward birth because it was bouncing so badly. Needless to say, dominoes and yoga were out of the question and we were back to the regular life of living on the ocean in a sailboat.
But the four of us were happy to be sailing again and we could live through a rough day or two. Although the pounding was annoying, our weather report from the Caribbean 1500 check in called for calmer seas, more consistent easterly trade winds and fewer squalls for the remainder of the trip. So with that in our minds, the otherwise uneventful day six came to a close.
Although we didn't know it at the time, the weather report was just about as wrong as you could imagine. Our pounding days were not over yet, they were just beginning...