Steve: Sargasso sighting and snicker hoarding …
A front came through Monday evening and brought with it some much-appreciated breezes in the 14-18 knot range that we expect to last for a couple days. We are steering SW with the Genoa poled out to windward (except when squalls threaten, in which case it is safer to bring it back to the same side as the mainsail).
Later in the week a high pressure system will settle in north of 31 degrees latitude. We are trying to get south of that high pressure in order to keep some reasonable (albeit lighter) breezes later in the week.
As the sailors reading this know, sailing downwind in light air can be tedious, and that was our lot for the previous few days. All Sunday night the breeze was especially fickle, shifting from ENE to NE and back again, all night long. Lynnie and Rudy both did an excellent job on their watches, adjusting our course accordingly to keep the sails full. It made the difference between going say 3.5 knots and 4.5 knots in the gentle breeze. Unfortunately when the breeze is unsteady we are precluded from our preferred past-times during night watches – reading or listening to music!
Rudy is quickly ‘learning the ropes – at 3 AM today with a fresh breeze behind us I awoke to hear the Genoa luffing. Rudy was pulling the sail around to be poled out, and get us closer to our desired course. It gave us a boost in speed to boot.
Yesterday I heard a long swish under the hull and jumped on deck to see what caused it. We had sailed through a large swatch of thick sargasso weed.
We’ve also seen a few flying fish (a first for Rudy) but lament the fact that they aren’t ubiquitous as they were 40 years ago. Back then you would typically find a few that had landed on deck during the night.
While typing this Tuesday morning I saw the first ship we have seen in several days – the Tanker “Hoegh Gallant” carrying hazardous cargo according to our AIS. I spoke to them on the radio and the friendly captain confirmed that they did, indeed, see us on AIS.
All is well aboard Juanona. The crew is extremely conscientious about keeping harnesses clipped to the boat anytime we are on deck – even if the seas are gentle and we are playing “Oh Hell” in the cockpit.
And, yesterday the crew completed their celestial calculations with good results. Both felt relief in realizing their plotted positions were close to the GPS latitude & longitude. Surprisingly they refrained from celebrating with a coveted Snickers bar. At least this time!
We wish you all a pleasant day.
Steve: Message in a bottle: a key milestone heralds a much-deserved celebration!
With an inhuman groan, I plodded out of the aft berth this morning into the well-after-dawn sunlight to see the cabin of Juanona decorated with brightly colored streamers. A cry of celebration from the Captain and First-Mate heralded my appearance. My mortal consciousness still returning, I looked around in confusion.
“We’re halfway!” Max explained, “In terms of longitude anyways! We passed 40° W earlier this morning.”
I looked over at Lynnie, the likely culprit of such decoration, but she shook her head, “This was all Max!”
Max completed our short celebration by producing a hidden piñata which is currently hanging from the central hatch. He also wrote up a message to put in an empty “Linie“ bottle, an appropriately named (and quite potent) brand of Norwegian sherry which we had saved for this purpose. We are excited to see if, when, and where the bottle turns up.
After the last two days of strong Northeasterly winds, we have made great westward progress, on both days exceeding our daily travel estimate of 135 miles. Concerning our westward progress, we moved our clocks back two hours today to better reflect our current time zone. Max has also noted that we have only used 5 gallons of fuel so far, an amount Juanona might use traveling between Casco and Penobscot Bays back home. We have certainly enjoyed some excellent sailing so far!
Two days ago, Juanona, like a stubborn toddler, deftly avoided getting an evening wash as we managed to sail around and through a handful of passing rain storms. However we were able to get the residual salt rinsed off later that night with a shower which surprised her in the dark.
The crew continues to act as paragons of chivalry. Our only extant contention being the assurance of equitable serving sizes at meals, with each of us offering up the very contents of our plates to each other to ensure mutual satisfaction. Max and I finally balanced the last of yesterday’s supper with the transfer of half-a-forkful from my plate to his.
We will continue to enjoy the sun, the blue seas, and the following winds. Wishing the best to you all!
Steve: Lynnie’s vivid descriptions: fish folding, underwear bartering and toenail aging …
L here, and reporting Captain and crew all good while alternating lolling in one’s berth with roaming the four feet of shared space below (not including the head) and three above. Gentle easterlies of 8-12kts and rolling seas maintain a lullaby rock as JUANONA sleds down hills of sapphire blue. Every now and then she gives herself a shake, ensuring the humans aboard remain alert. Then settles back down to 5-6 Kts speed. As Max informed Rudy and me this is typical trade-wind sailing. Fine by me, although I wouldn’t mind a bit more giddy-upping. Which we may soon enjoy when we reach 29° Lat and 15 Kts of wind.
Since hitting our Longitude halfway-mark exactly two weeks out we’ve slipped into a rather languorous existence. Other than repairing the ripped hem of our jib with sail tape on Wednesday life has slowed waaaay down. Not quite belly button gazing but close.
Which means each of us retreats into our own world of reading, crosswords, napping, snacking, and, the most exciting: Origami fish. To-date our paper pals have multiplied to six. This may not seem a lot but translating crisp instructions into elaborate creases and folds is not as simple as it reads. After numerous creasing, folding, unfolding and refolding I manage to create a labyrinth of ceaseless seams, none acquiring the correct pattern to craft anything recognizable, let alone a fish.
But, Rudy, our sensei Origamist, encourages us to finish, which we do. He even mastered the Bubble Fish requiring a final puff in the er, rear, to create a rounded creature of the sea. And, for anyone interested I have a video of this solemn act.
The puffer fish inflated…
Another main attraction is ship spotting, several not transmitting their location until within seven or so miles from us. We average one a day now, and, if the mood hits us, we’ll radio the unsuspecting vessel asking if they see us on AIS. Since over a week ago when one replied “yes, but you go in and out” this may not seem as paranoid as it sounds. Of course, what I really want to ask is, if they could drop off a spare head or two of lettuce. After 15 days our “green” supplies will soon describe moldy ones vs. fresh.
One strange vision did appear a few days ago when I saw a stark white and red-striped lobster buoy standing to attention. Remaining stationery as we sailed by I thanked Neptune for not tossing that in front of JUANONA at night. How awfully ironic would that be? Snared by a lobster pot buoy over a 1,000 miles from land. No thank you.
With today featuring another miraculous shower day we’ve also added in some light laundry. Using a contraption, strangely described now as MY washing machine, we’ve cleaned one load of shirts and underwear. The latter now a necessity, especially when I overheard Max offering Rudy three Snickers bars for one of his smartly packed, 15 underwear hombres. This, also, is why I handed out balsam pine sachets as prizes for one of our travel quiz nights.
Speaking of rewards you’ve never seen three adults take such care in selecting stickers from a kid’s sticker book. It’d be worrisome if not for the cute scenes being created. I’d elaborate but…
Finally, as I perform the exacting calculation of receding toenail polish correlated to time at sea and posing as Cousin Itt when I finally unsnarl the top knot living on my head for several days now, I realize I’ve taken too much of your eye time. But, as I said, life aboard has definitely turned us into semi-hygienic sailors, eager for the outside world yet content to cruise gently through the days and nights towards home.
Wishing you wonderful weekends shared with family and friends, along with a good bottle of wine,
Steve: Living in the moment …
Another update, another morning of 12-15 Knot Easterly winds pushing Juanona that much closer to home. And, another day dealing with minor issues. Our fridge has been acting up and runs for hours, using a lot of battery reserves. No doubt the warmer water temps we are in don’t help (it is keel cooled). A few days ago, during sunny afternoons when our solar panels were generating excess power, I started placing bottles of booze in the fridge to cool down and act as a thermal mass and help preserve the cool temps. If anyone inspects our fridge back home they will find 7 bottles of gin and vodka and assume we’ve been on a booze cruise.
With the fridge requiring more power our four solar panels crank in daily battery charges, but not enough. So, we’ve added running the engine an hour every few days to boost our inflow of amps.
Like I mentioned above, minor issues at sea. At least we wear clean(er) clothes. The mini washing machine Lynnie referred to last update actually works quite well. I can’t remember if I gave it to her for her birthday, or for Valentine’s Day.* It is called an Ecowash. With only a gallon or so of water you can do a modest load, and by using a detergent called Soak you don’t even need to rinse if water is at a premium.
We’ve all been fascinated by what we think is a Roseate Tern or similar that we see from time to time. One distinguishing feature is it’s remarkably long tail. A fascinating book I just finished was written by a professional birder from NH, Scott Weidensaul, “A World on the Wing” about the incredible migrations birds make. Recent advances in tracking and miniaturization technology has led to new insights that make these journeys even more wondrous.
I’ve found myself settling into a timeless dimension in recent days whereby I no longer calculate how long we’ve been out, or how much further to go. I can barely remember what day it is, and only our daily check-in with a weather expert gives any semblance of routine. In many ways it feels we’re enjoying the surroundings and living in the moment, something hard to achieve in everyday life at home. I remember last feeling much this same way in 1985, on a long (52 day) sail across the Southern Ocean with my pal Rob Andrews.
It appears we are down to our last 3 or so days of decent winds, before we have to start heading north in what at the moment includes large areas of little wind. We feel fortunate to have virtually all the fuel we left Spain with, as we may need to use it strategically from here on. But, for now Juanona is gliding along with butterfly sails and following seas.
Wishing all a happy Sunday,
* just kidding!
Lynnie here – No, he’s not. And, I won’t even talk about the nesting saucepans he gave me for my birthday…
Steve: What makes a hero? You be the judge …
Good day, gentle reader!
It pleases me to have you join us again. Pull up a seat, help yourself to a warm (or cold) beverage, and please silence your cell phones.
When we last left our noble heroes, they were westbound with good wind, easy following seas, and clear sunny skies. The breeze, however, has diminished in recent days. “Betrayal!” you cry, “You have been undone!” Rather not, Friend, for we can hardly complain about the performance of the wind thus far. It has only lessened to a small degree, even allowing us to fly the spinnaker yesterday afternoon. Its shifts and temporary gusts leave us with the impression of a tired steed, having served us along well and still seeking to carry us on tired legs and empty stomach. Take rest, Our Gentle Servant! Our engine can help us along for a time (but also please don’t go too far).
Instead, we reserve our enmity for the plague of sargasso weed. Although entranced by the patterns and wide patches of this resilient and exotic plant, it never fails to ensnare our fishing lure. It has thus far confounded all attempts by us to deflect or avoid the passing swarms. Alas, the enemy circles around us, but we will not be kept from our prize of delicious mahi-mahi!
Nevertheless we continue to eat like kings! Yesterday, Lady Lynnie produced a stately breakfast of bacon and onion omelets, featuring our versatile and ubiquitous Spanish cheese. Galley-made hummus and egg salad round out staples of our midday meal, and we come together in the evenings to share in mythic suppers of pizza, chicken curry, enchiladas, and sushi rolls. Our Fearless Leader took some of his own time to teach this lowly Second-Mate how to make the latter yesterday evening, another skill of which I quickly took mastery.
So is it right for us to call ourselves heroes? When the author approached Lady Lynnie on this topic, she chuckled and stated, “I think it might be a bit presumptuous.” Ah, but where else but in noble purpose as this might you find such humility! Captain Manche continues to project an air of detached confidence, which I believe speaks for itself on this matter. However he might just be trying to escape the bad jokes Lynnie and I have been making these past few weeks.
We will continue to act as paragons of resilience, fortitude, and humility. I will end this record here, as lunch approaches, and I would like to get some sunbathing in before my late-afternoon nap.
Wishing the best to you all, and thanks for humoring me.
Second Mate Rudolph
Steve: An insular decision, hirsute distinctions, and dancing to the call of sirens!
To follow fellow crewmate Rudy in his lyrical Shakespearean riff (if you haven’t read it yet, do so!): To go or not To go, that is the question… regarding a landing in Bermuda, or not. If former, then Rudy and Max may venture to the spot where a wily ancestor got tossed onto the shores, also a Shakespearean tale (more to come in a later post from the Captain). If latter, then yet another sail-by for second mate.
Fortunately one of our guiding stars is our fourth shipmate, Steve, pulling double duty as our land communicator and forecaster. We scour his updates as religiously as we do our formal weather router’s. Not only does Steve provide excellent info but he manages to include a personal zest much appreciated aboard. We feel fortunate to have two, an amateur and a professional, relaying weather forecasts as we sail east to westward home.
Activities maintain their attractions and distractions from boredom. From folding yet another origami fish (yes, another blow fish) to answering the strategic query “what’s for dinner?” Most meals now involve a load of tins. And, because only disintegrating paper flows overboard JUANONA proudly struts aft a near-full, meshed bag of said cans. Along with two, soon three, small bags of garbage.
Yet, culinary creativity abounds. Not all good. We’ve discovered adding greasy slabs of pepperoni to instant mushroom cup-of-soup leaves a faint oil spill on the surface while delivering the same to one’s mouth. And, for the record the ones with the hairiest limbs tried that recipe separately while I carefully noted the result.
Meanwhile back to cockpit cruising and cabin-berth surfing as JUANONA pulls ahead with a flying spinnaker, bare puffs of wind and fairly even seas. Only a startle now and then when the puff becomes more of a brief exhale causing the spinnaker to drape and the watcher to jump. But, small price to pay for eking out an extra half knot of speed in the morning while the afternoon’s wind earned us up to a knot and a half faster.
That was glorious yesterday (6/9) while today I begin my morning watch waking to the drumming of our engine. A judicious use of precious diesel as I left my evening watch with speeds ranging from a high of 3.4 to a low of just over 1.
But, a magical world rapidly replaced the mechanical vibrations under my feet with a tiara of stars above and rivers of phosphorescence below. As I clipped in and tuned up my music I danced to the call of sirens accompanied by JUANONA’s swaying and the theme from “Chariots of Fire.” A solitary streak of a falling star added the final pixie dust. Heaven!
And, then – yes, there’s always “and, then…” with me – the visual of sprinting men gracing the water’s edge morphs into SNL’s spoof of runners in slo-mo. Take two: Time for muesli.
I best sign off. A feeling of lassitude matches a dulling of my brain as I catch myself checking toenail polish recession as the music fades in the background. I think 21 days at sea are taking a toll on me.
Have amazing energetic Thursday’s,