Have you ever wondered exactly what might happen when you're on a Passage of Epic Proportions?
When Dave and I first received the invite to help Paul and Sheryl
with a boat delivery, we immediately said Yes. Then we thought about the reality of it, and, incredulously enough, still said Yes! A lot goes into planning a passage, any passage, but especially a passage of Epic Proportions. And a passage across an Ocean is, in my books, a passage of Epic Proportions.
In case you're just coming onboard, David and I are delivering SY Zao, a 50 foot (luxurious) Catamaran to Saint Lucia. We departed Las Palmas on November 12th, and we're currently somewhere on the Big Blue, En Route, playing and participating, while on passage.
You can read all about how our Adventure, that wasn't even part of a planned Adventure, began, HERE
. Our Passage is being chronicled in a Three Part Series of Blogs: Link to Part One: A Personal Passaging Perspective
, and Link to Part Two : Planning and Provisioning
This is Part Three: Playing and Participating on Passage. And may we suggest you grab your Drink of Choice, for it might be an Epic Read, with many photos to whisk you away on the Salty Sea Air Breezes.
It's been a Passage of Watches: the minutes ticking into hours tocking into days, and time has moved us ahead, slowly, mile by nautical mile.
Our bodies have acclimated to the Motion of the Ocean, and settled into a rhythm of With a crew of six onboard, it really was an easy watch system: four hours ON, 8 hours OFF, and four hours back On.
Although 8 hours off sounds like a lot of time, on some days, it really wasn't.
"Have you had time to watch any of the movies you preloaded?" asked Sheryl one day?
"Nope" I replied with a laugh, "And I haven't been doing much reading either. Truth be told? As strange as it sounds? I haven't had the time!"
"Me either" she said, in total agreement.
So what have we been up to, while on Watch, or Off Watch, as we play and participate on a Passage of Epic Proportions?
The other night Dave and I were sitting at the helm. It was somewhere between 8 p.m. and midnight, when a sleepeyed Dan emerged from his cabin. He was walking like a zombie as he entered the red-lighted salon, his arms extended, holding something in his hands.
"Look what I found in our bathroom" he said, and we quite curiously, flashed our our mini pocket lights towards his hands. What we saw there, in his hands, surprised us, honestly shocked us. And then made us laugh.
For in his hands, was a large, slimy, scaly, Flying Fish.
Somehow, during the course of our passage this fish had furiously jumped out of his watery home, perhaps in a daring effort to esacpe a predator, and in a flying twist of fate, had flown straight up and across and down into the tiny square that was the SY Zao's starboard side head hatch. It flipped and flopped around on the floor, loud enough to wake up the occupants of the bedroom. Isn't this the stuff nightmarish movies are made of?
We laughingly exchanged Fishy stories for a while after that. Not to mention quite a portion of many watches participating in the constant clean up of the chaotic littering of dead flying fish on our decks.
It's not without just reason that Dave often gets nicknamed "Safety Dave". His training with the Navy has provided him with a lifetime of "could's, would's and should's" and it's not without reason, be it on a Catamaran or Monohull, that he likes to keep things clean and tidy. From lines to living space, everything should be "ready, aye, ready" and as Ship Shape as possible.
Somehow this Neat and Tidy trickled onto the Chartplotter. One evening during our watch, he saw a few errant waypoints as he zoomed out, and promptly deleted them. Next night, more waypoints, more deleting. He couldn't figure it out.
So one day, during supper, he wondered out loud about this new very sensitive Chartplotter. How easy it was to leave a WayPoint by simply very lightly touching the screen. The other crew members agreed that it was indeed a very sensitive screen, as they'd experienced the same thing.
Except for Sheryl, who noted she was actually having trouble with the WayPoint function.
"Oh really" said Dave, "What kind of problems?"
"Well, I keep inputting waypoints..." she said with a sigh, "the positions of the other boats around us? And I must be doing something wrong, because they keep disappearing!" she said.
We laughingly exchanged many WayPoint stories after that!
"Holy Sugar Pops" yelled Paul one night during his watch. This immediately woke woke Dave up from a deep slumber, and he looked out our cabin window. Since he didn't jump into action stations with any appropriate swear words, I quickly fell back asleep. It wasn't until the next morning, over breakfast, that I learned what Holy Sugar Pops was all about!
Paul had been at the helm and thought he saw a Shooting Star. It was a Shooting Star of Epic Size and Epic Con-Trails. We debated the event up, down, and shooting star sideways and eventually reasoned that it could've been some space junk of significant size, (perhaps even the Chinese Space Station?) that disintegrated as it entered our atmosphere. Recent Google Research shows it can be quite a common occurrence!
I teasingly scolded Dave: telling him he was to use some serious swear words if that were ever to happen again. And then I teasingly scolded Paul that he needed something more than Holy Cereal words for an event as exciting as that! Because I never ever wanted to sleep through something as exciting as that!
Sadly no photos were taken during this exciting event. And of course, Holy Sugar Pops were attributed to every exciting event after that.
SY Zao is a brand new boat with a brand new engine, and as per John's instructions, we were to run the engines at a 2300 rpm. So the first few days of passage, we did exactly that. On the first week of night passage, when there was *perhaps* sufficient wind to sail, but we didn't want to stress the chute, or have an incident in the dark of night, we ran the engines. At the specified 2300 rpm.
"Paul?" asked Dave one morning, "Have you noticed our fuel levels?"
"Hmmm...." said Paul. "Something's not quite right!"
SY Zao has the capacity to hold enough fuel stores to *almost* motor across the Atlantic. But at our high RPM's, the engines were guzzling the fuel, and since our tanks weren't full to begin with? Well, it didn't take long to deplete what was there. Paul and David, along with John's email input, figured out how to siphon one tank completely dry, thus emptying what reserves that were in there into one of the other tanks, so that the little red gage indicator was just slightly above the empty line on the remaining two tanks. We were now totally reliant on wind. And that's when the last little bit of wind we have, died into almost nothing, and we entered The Doldrums.
Ah, The Doldrums! Defined as an area "affected by a low-pressure where the prevailing winds are calm".
Those calm winds showed up quite clearly as big blobs of blue on the daily downloading of GRIB files. And our course had us heading straight for them. Which is why we ventured a full two days further South than we had to.
Dave and I have a drone, a DJI MavicPro, but we opted not to bring it on this voyage. So we were rather excited to find out that Craig had brought his. And the one good thing about The Doldrums? Craig brought it out so we could play!
He captured some amazing footage of us, but then trying to land it, on a slow moving platform, proved to be quite exciting, especially with Craig running out of power on his IPhone controls. All that excitement earned Dan, who caught it in mid-air, held on to it, while Paul tried to power it down, the nickname "The Hulk".
You can check out Craig's You Tube Vlogs
to watch all that excitement.
One day Eddie the Egret joined us. He arrived out of nowhere, landed on our boat, and very curiously tried to enter the salon from the forward open hatch.
We played with him for a while and then I had to solemnly promise Paul that I wouldn't feed him.
Because with food, comes poop. And we were busy enough with dead flying fish clean up every morning.
One morning over Egg McBimbo's, David asks: "So, Paul, what's the PPFT
"Huh?" exclaimed Paul?
? Given all the little jobs you like to do, I thought I'd give you an Official Acronym, Navy Style!" laughed Dave, and continued on to explain: "PPFT
is Paul's Project For Today!".
"I don't know" said Paul as he handed us The Torch, and headed off to bed "I'll let you know when I wake up".
Some of the PPFT
's that were tackled? The wing on wing formation caused the bottom of the jib to chafe a bit. The PPFT
that day was to put some sail tape on to prevent further chafing. During regular engine room checks, a water leak was discovered. Several times the PPFT
was to check for water ingress, and see if the problem could be solved. A constant banging noise near the auto helm revealed some slack in the chain of the rudder system.
With the spinnaker flying constantly, an incessant and frustrating creaking sound developed. The PPFT
that day was to send Paul up the mast, armed with some tools and good ole grease.
Unfortunately nothing he could do to help reduce the squeak. But his climb up the mast allowed us to surmise that the culprit was a sheave at the top of the mast.
With the more boisterous seas the first week we noticed the Escape Hatches had developed a considerable leak. PPFT
? Ensure that the water was sponged up on an hourly basis, with the water being measured to ensure we weren't taking on increasingly more. Thankfully, once the seas had abated when we reached The Doldrums, this task was reduced to once a day. And of course, everything was recorded by the different Watches in SY Zao's Log Book
So while Dave and Paul were busy tending to PPFT
's, and with Dan up on watch, Sheryl and I coordinated forces to Managing the Galley.
We would check each item in the fridge and freezer, see if anything was spoiling, get rid of leftovers if any and with the results, determine the next few meals, making sure we were on the same... menu (pardon the pun)! The many oranges, lemons and limes that we'd individually pre-wrapped in tin foil to prevent mold spoilage from transferring, needed to be checked, and usually we lost a couple a day. We were glad we'd spent the time preparing them in advance. Shelves got restocked, and garbage tidied up, and regular housekeeping chores were a daily occurrence.
Of all my time living aboard and cruising, I have rarely done my own laundry. SY Zao had a working watermaker, and came with a washer and dryer, but we were hesitant to use it out here without a stable platform: this was not our boat after all. It was time to get the bucket out, and attack the stinky piles!
One morning Sheryl received an email. The ARC had issued a distressing and sad update, one that no one wants to read. A man overboard: a boat somewhere ahead of us had an issue with downing their spinnaker, and someone had gone overboard. All vessels were being asked to keep a watch.
"So this means that we have a drifting vessel we need to keep our eye on" I surmised. We all kept a keen but grim eye on the horizon after that. And realized how quickly stuff can happen, and how imperative it is to be on watch, at all times. A terrible and sad day for all.
And then there was the time that Dan jumped off the Capt'Ns seat, excitedly running towards the fishing pole dancing madly in its holder. Sheryl and I quickly ran out of the galley, Sheryl taking the helm, and I towards the fishing pole. It was, sadly, just some Sargassum
But the next day? He caught a Tuna! Our first fish of the Passage, and my first fish, ever. What ensued was a few tears during my first killing of said Fish, I'm such a wimp.
The end result though? Experience, Knowledge and Awesome Sushi. The next day Dan was at it again, and he reeled us in a a beautiful Mahi Mahi. This one was made into fillets and fish bites.
On the third day, I was ready to go solo. I put the line in the water and a while later, I saw the familiar tug. I tried to reel it in, but couldn't for the life of me, make any headway. I called Dave in for some extra muscle.
For over half an hour, both man and fish fought bravely. Man won, and Dave reeled in a beautiful silver Wahoo, which I declared all mine. Thankfully it was already dead, so I just had to clean it. Phew.
Dan and Sheryl's watch over, the PPFT
chores done, the galley set up for supper preps later, it was time for Paul and Craig to go on watch.
"Does anyone know how to play Wizard?" I asked?
No one had heard of the game (it's a Canadian game, eh?) so we brought out the brand new deck of Wizard cards we'd brought with us. We quickly taught everyone the rules, distributed the tokens, and had a go at it. It turned out to be a great game to play, and for everyone who is familiar with the game, much swearing (either Navy Style or Cereal Style) and name calling comes with the Dealing of the Hands and with the ScoreKeeping.
And if the sun was setting as we were halfway through a game? We would take a break and assemble on the trampoline, in great anticipation of a green flash.
There was that time when we were all bored. And Paul told us how he was the reigning champ of One Handed Bowline Tying. So we all had to learn.
Holy Bowline Moments! Because, we all know, every second counts when doing a bowline.
There was no distress involved when I sent out our Message in a Bottle.
Although we hated throwing a bottle overboard, we do hope that someone somewhere finds our message, and our respective social media tags, and lets us know. How fun would that be?
"What time is it?" Asked Paul, quite innocently, one day, as he came up from his siesta. Dave, at the helm, checked and responded that it was close to noon. Our TransAtlantic Passage involves crossing Four Time Zones, and it was at that point that we realized we should start dealing with them before we run out of time (pardon the pun!). Since there's no time like the present, Dave and I volunteered to stay on watch for an extra hour. However, for the next three times, we divided up that extra hour: Dave and I pulling an extra half hour on our shift, and Sheryl and Dan covered the other extra half hour.
And then one day, somewhere in the middle of the ocean with absolutely no wind, we brought down the Spinnaker, and with Sheryl at the helm, the rest of us jumped in for a swim.
And that's how I not only added, but crossed off, one HELLUVA Bucket List item. One I didn't even know I had. Swimming, after weeks of not much exercise, felt wonderful. Swimming with nothing but 3 miles of water below us was pretty darn cool. Swimming in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, while on passage of Epic Proportions? Priceless.
We were extremely grateful to Dan, for having brought and shared his Iridum Account with us. There was nothing like logging in to hear the familiar incoming email notifications, allowing us to exchange emails with friends and family back home. And we still owe you a deck of Wizard cards, eh?
All passages, whether they be short or long, can quickly become a Passage of Epic Proportions. All passages, short or long, are about communication, helpfulness and teamwork. Passages can be sleepless, at times, when there's strange loud noises that won't go away, or when Holy Cereal Words are involved. Passages can be funny, at times (and usually after the fact), when nightmarish things happen. Passages can be aggravating, at times, when it feels like the same routine chores are never-ending and repetitive (and sometimes feel like you're the only one having at it!). But one thing's for sure, in between the waves and squalls, there are countless Perfect Moments! Many Moments of Perfection that will forever remain Priceless Memories.
In the end, the Passage becomes part of Your Story.
This is ours. We sure hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.