12/05/2012, Atlantic Ocean
We are not optimists, we are realists, and we never expected our Atlantic crossing to be all smooth sailing without any incidents. That's a good thing because we would have been in for a rude awakening when our mainsail halyard snapped on day 4, sending the mainsail crashing down to the deck. We also would have been surprised to find our autopilot linkage failing on day 5, annoyed to discover salt water leaking into the engine room, and bewildered when we noticed three new tears in our mainsail as we tried to re-hoist it on day 6. But because we are realists, our boat is 20 years old, and we are attempting a passage more than 5 times the size of our second biggest passage, we expected events like these and took them in stride. So we've spent the past three days performing MacGyver like repairs all over the boat while sailing under jib alone. Our speed has been slowed from 8 knots to 6 knots while we had no mainsail, but we made progress the whole time and probably lost no more than a day in total. We are now steaming back along at almost 8 knots with ideal trade wind conditions, relaxing and enjoying a storm-free day of sunshine for the first time on this journey.
An optimist would have assumed none of this would happen, been upset by the number of things going wrong, and probably would have been missing a bunch of tools and spare parts that we needed to fix things. If you're an optimist, we suggest adding a little pessimism to your thinking - you won't be as let down when things go wrong, and you'll probably be better prepared to tackle problems when they come up. That's just a little wisdom from the sea that has served us well.
We caught our second fish last night (I mean our second fish ever) when a flying fish on an apparent suicide mission flew into the cockpit and began flopping on the floor looking for an exit. We tossed him back (he would have made a pathetic snack), but in doing so we evened up the fishing score with Piers who caught the other fish a few weeks ago. The score is now tied at one-all, and that's a good feeling because he's been getting a little arrogant about his fishing skills lately.
How far can you sail into an ocean? Exactly half way - after that you're sailing out. Tomorrow we will reach the half way point of this voyage when we cross the 1325 mile mark. We're all looking forward to be sailing out of the Atlantic starting tomorrow, and if we're not in the middle of repairing something at the time, it might be a good moment to crack open a beer and enjoy the view as the half way mark passes beneath us.
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10/29/2012, Malaga, Spain
Piers and I are British by birth but have spent most of our lives in Southern California. Our friend Eric, who's been with us for the past week, is a Southern California native. As we've explored the Costa del Sol region of Spain, mainly by rental car, we've all noticed the same thing about this place: it feels like California. The architecture is different (Spain was built up many years before California was appeared on Western maps), the streets are smaller, and there are far less rules for people to worry about (beach bars everywhere, no meter maids, food served on the sidewalk, etc.), but the similarities far outweigh the differences. Like California, the coastline is beautiful, the beaches are wide, the climate is similar, the mountains look the same (even with ski resorts), the culture has that laid back and friendly feel (we have some common roots after all), and most Spanish people seem to speak at least some English. For a Californian, relocation here would be easy, and when we said goodbye to Eric this afternoon and cast away from the dock in Malaga, where we spent four nights, it almost felt like we were leaving home.
But that feeling was short lived... sailing around the world would be miserable if we got too emotional each time we left a place we liked. Our attention quickly turned to the 20-hour passage ahead, which goes around the southern tip of Spain and through tbe Straight of Gibraltar. This is the narrow entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, where the southernmost part of Europe sits just 8 miles away from northern Africa, and as we enter the Straight now, we see twinkling lights from both continents on the horizon. This is also the point where our time in the Med officially comes to an end, which is another small milestone for us. We're timing this passage to coincide with a light wind forecast because we hear the waters here can get rough, and the large volume of commercial traffic creates an additional challenge.
One notable thing about the twinkling lights on the horizon is that they're much brighter and denser on our starboard side (Europe) versus our port (Africa), where resource consumption is minimal. The lights subtly remind us that we're lucky to have been born on the bright side of this gap - we've enjoyed lives of comfort and comparative luxury and avoided countless hardships that our counterparts in the developing world have to face. We should mention again the close relationship we have with Focusing Philanthropy, a non-profit philanthropic organization that seeks out charities where donation money can have a big impact on eliminating some form of human suffering. Focusing Philanthropy accepts donations for those recipients, often small charities in hard to reach places, and directs funds to them. Because Focusing Philanthropy itself is entirely funded by its founding family, 100% of the donation money it receives is passed on to the donation recipients (no deductions for overhead, processing, etc.). We will be doing research and diligence for Focusing Philanthropy when we visit some developing countries later on this journey, but for now we're committed to raising awareness for this organization and the causes it supports.
After Gibraltar we'll turn north and head back up the Spanish coast towards Cadiz, our first stop on the Atlantic Ocean. We've been looking forward to this one for the photo opportunities because the coastline here looks incredible.
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