Current time: 2AM
Current position: North 7 degrees 55 minutes, West 38 degrees 59 minutes
Well, I’m rested. I actually felt ambitious when I got up; the pilothouse floor is now wiped free of salt, the clothes have been brought in from their drying lines, and I’ve marked our position on the paper chart we’ve been using that shows the entire route we have left – from the shoulder of South America up to New England. We are just around the three-quarters mark at this point; the GPS shows 2000 miles to the Beavertail Lighthouse, on a trip that is basically 8000 miles long (as Philip says, 1/3 of the way around the world). 🙂
I’m rested because I finally agreed to try some earplugs, which Philip always uses when he sleeps. (Yes, I have a stubborn streak.) Well, I’m here to tell ya – he was right. I could still hear the water flowing past the hulls, but so many of the other sounds were just not there – I could hear myself think for the first time in weeks. I tend to think in words – being a writer – so it was refreshing to find so many, just waiting for a quiet moment. Ahhhhhh. I even got up before he came to get me up. Earplugs from now on.
Philip broke one of his toes today, just at the bottom of the steps leading down to the port (left) hull. He’s wearing shoes, probably, for the rest of the trip. Poor guy. I can sympathize; one of the toes on my left foot is still swollen and numb, and my big toe is still stinging and swollen. I am going to investigate the medical kit tomorrow to see if there is some kind of spray for that..
Your toes do suffer in a situation like this, lurching around with the boat and stepping over the bottoms of doors (all the doors in a boat don’t go all the way to the floor – which is actually called a “sole”). There are also all those things sticking up on deck – clutches (which hold lines in place with a gear-like grip), winches, blocks (pulleys), etc. Tripping is common. Nothing you can do about a broken toe, except wait for it to heal.
Almost went overboard yesterday morning. I was on the afterdeck, bringing in the wash. I’m trying to get caught up on the washing before we get home, so I’m doing some every day. There’s not much to hold on to where I was standing, and I had things in my hands as well. The boat lurched, I went tumbling, and was about to go over the edge of the afterdeck when I managed to clumsily sit on a metal bucket that was there (the safety inspector in Cape Town insisted we have a metal bucket on board; I have 5 buckets stored on the afterdeck, hoping to catch rain water). I grabbed something – anything – fortunately it was solid. So all I ended up with was a bruise from the metal bucket and a sigh of relief.
The problem with falling overboard in this situation is you are basically dead when it happens. Your sailing partner is sleeping, and wouldn’t hear any verbal noise. The boat is moving so fast that you’d be out of sight in seconds. I see that when I toss foodstuffs – veggie peelings, that sort of thing – overboard. So you just have to be really careful.
Speaking of trash, on a long journey like this one, you separate all your trash. The only thing you contribute to the sea is biodegradable – little bits of food, in other words. All the plastics go into a plastic shopping bag and then into a large garbage bag. We’re storing that stuff in the shower, which we haven’t used anyway – to conserve water and because the shower turns out to be a great place to store stuff that doesn’t go well anywhere else.
Several of you have said that you’re passing these messages along to “salty dogs” and “salty dog wanna-be’s,” who don’t know us personally. So I’m going to just take a moment to explain how we ended up where we are.
Philip and I have been happily married 33 years. I’m a management consultant who specializes in marketing and sales (revenue growth). Philip is a designer – industrial, graphics, electro-mechanical – and an inventor. We ran a high-tech ad agency in Silicon Valley together for 12 years, then when the Mac came along, I could see clients wanted to do their marketing in-house. That was in 1991. I started focusing on helping them do that, and phased out the agency. Philip retired. He was 52. Actually, he shifted to doing what he loves to do – design and make things.
He has a degree in theoretical math, I have one in music – obviously not related to the work I do. I love my work, and will continue working until I keel over. We live in Jamestown, RI, on the water. The location is great, the house is like Howard Johnson’s on steroids. Someday, if we get around to it, we will remodel. Philip is 65, I’m 58 in a couple of weeks.
About 3 years ago, Philip was surprised to find a lump on the side of his neck. It was “head and neck” cancer, which has something like a 5% survival rate, especially when it gets to the stage it had gotten to – spread to a lymph gland. The radiation and chemo treatments almost killed him. He was on a feeding tube for 4 months, lost 30 pounds (already skinny to begin with), and was in a wheelchair by the end of the treatments. It’s particularly nasty when they basically burn the inside of your throat day after day. You can’t eat, swallow, spit, talk, sleep…he was one sick and pain-ridden guy. But he survived, thank God, and is still cancer-free (which is rare for this type of cancer).
Once we knew he was going to make it, he said to me, “OK, that’s it. We’re doing it.”
“It” was THIS.
We had a 48-foot catamaran built in South Africa, where the molds were already, and local people who had experience building these boats. After working with the builder long-distance for over a year, we went to Cape Town in late October 2008 to “pick the boat up and sail her home.” Looking back on it, the boat was launched too soon, really, and we had to do a lot to get her ready for sea.
Six months later, we are on this trip, sailing from Cape Town to Jamestown in one go – except for a stop we made in St Helena. We had originally planned on leaving in December of 2008 and sauntering through the Caribbean, but the work we had to do in Cape Town meant that we left on April 20 instead, and we had to make a beeline for home.
From a sailing experience perspective, Philip has been sailing since he was 8. I’ve been sailing since I met him. First windsurfers in San Francisco, for about 10 years, then a 37-foot monohull called Moonlight, which we sold when we started having Horizon built.
All of my sailing experience has been bay sailing, first in San Francisco, then in Rhode Island. We moved to RI in 1996 to live on the water, to be in New England – we were both born there – and to be closer to Philip’s family and my New England family (I also have family in the western US). Philip has done quite a few New England-to-Caribbean boat deliveries with a RI delivery captain, Mickey Spillane. So much of this is familiar to him, and new to me.
We will take many trips on this boat over the next 10-20 years. Given its speed, it doesn’t take long to get to a new destination. We’ve been averaging 1000 miles a week on this trip.
We wanted a catamaran to “sail on the level,” to have that 360-degree view of the water while in the living area, and for the speed. We chose this particular boat because it had everything we wanted in a cruising catamaran. Chris White is the designer (http://www.chriswhitedesigns.com), and has had dozens of the Atlantic catamarans produced.
The unusual thing about this boat is the forward cockpit – a full cockpit with seats and a steering pedestal and all your instruments. Most cats have one steering station – behind the pilothouse. If you’re as short as I am, you can’t even see over the top in order to steer. Plus, they’re all designed as “party” boats, not “performance” boats. This is truly a performance boat, and perfect for a cruising couple.
All lines lead to the cockpit for easy boat handling.
There is also a steering station and compass inside the pilot house, so you can steer the boat from inside or outside. The pilothouse has a nav station on the forward port side, an L-shaped settee on the aft port side, and an L-shaped dinette on the aft starboard side.
The large galley is in the starboard hull, then going forward there is a stateroom with a double berth, a head, and the forepeak. You can also have a berth there; we opted to use it for storage. On the port side, there is a large shower aft of the steps leading into the hull, then going forward a nice workshop, and the same berth/head/forepeak arrangement forward of the workshop. The engine rooms, one in each transom, are so large you can walk around the engine and work standing up.
OK, back to the present moment. Things have calmed down on Horizon. We are in the steady Northeast Trades, and the boat is happily sailing along at about 6 – 7 knots. We are heading northeast, parallel to the north coast of South America. There haven’t been any squalls for days (only one bucket left with rain water in it, only half full), and the boat is covered with salt crystals. No use doing anything about it now; the spray will continue as long as we are on this heading – waves and swell basically coming from the side of us, and slapping on the hulls. We miss being able to keep the front door open – it’s very hot and humid during the day – but we have no choice because of the spray.
I have brought the plants inside. The tropical sun was just too much for them, not to mention the spray (even though they were in a protected part of the afterdeck). I water them every day, but even so, this morning the hot sun warmed the dark soil within an hour or so, affecting their roots. I checked on them after my morning post-watch nap, and they were wilted. Brought them in, watered them, apologized, and as I worked on my computer I could see them reviving. They’re happier in here for now.
Some nights we have many flying fish land on deck, other nights none. Most people have said they are not worth cooking, except for Bruce G., who said they could be quite tasty. Mostly we just try to get them back into the ocean before they die. They land, they flop around, and end up in the “lower” parts of the deck area, such as the front footwell. So you often open the door and find one there, stiff and staring up at you with one sad eye.
One last thing. Light. At night, the whitecaps shine in the darkness, and there are sparkles in the wake of the boat. Even in the darkness, there is light. And “the” Light.
Oh, wait – one more thing. When Philip went on deliveries with Mickey, there was usually one other guy. Roger, who has become a good friend, was one such person. I met him just before they left on their delivery. When he came back, I said to Philip that Roger was a changed man.
I am now knowing what happened to Roger. This trip is changing me. I can’t put it into words yet, but there is some sort of gift the sea gives you as you work with it to get to your destination safely. Interestingly, a lot of it is about limits – as in, don’t fall overboard, don’t try to “muscle” your way through something. The forces are always bigger than you. You have to find a way to work with the forces rather than forcing your will on the forces. I know there’s a business lesson in there somewhere…
Thanks for reading. A writer is nothing without readers.
Philip and Kristin