Saint Lucia, Caribbean
 
 January 20, 2020    |   read entry >












  




  < Hot Off The Press!
Dream Time's January 2020
article in Yachting Monthly
Magazine

  < 20/20 Cool
Even at sea level our Maverick
aviators deliver the highest
clarity. Mahalo nui, Maui Jim!







Jan 20, 2020 (Day 4,617)
Quick Fix: 14° 05.3 N / 60° 57.7 W
Saint Lucia, Caribbean

A Sweet Arrival
Gregory was the first person to welcome us to the Caribbean in, what appeared to be, a drifting hedge plant. A resourceful local and entrepreneur, he motored over on his tiny floating fruit stall, an island of palm fronds, lashed together with old rags balancing on a boat covered by tarp to stop it from sinking, and a hold filled to the gunnel with fruit. Fresh fruit. Mountains of juicy colors! Gregory knows his market and a yacht flying a yellow Q flag, which means a new arrival and perhaps, like us, a boat that has just spent 16 days and 2,090 nautical miles at sea, is an easy mark - few things are more appealing to the weary mariner than stacks of ripe bananas, plump grapefruits, piles of passion fruit, mangoes, papaya... We helped raise Gregory's waterline, and after watching him wobble away to his next customer, spent the night anchored in Rodney Bay, enjoying the offbeat rhythm of Reggae music floating over from a local beach bar, bowls of fresh fruit salad, and our arrival in the Caribbean.

                       




Jan 18, 2020   |  Crossing the Atlantic - Wing to wing, our genoa and cutter sail catching gentle trades over smooth seas into the Caribbean.






Jan 18, 2020 (Day 4,615)
Quick Fix: 14° 26.8 N / 59° 12.2 W
Crossing the Atlantic

Smooth Sailing
We're down to double digits. Our chartplotter just informed us that we're only 90 nautical miles from Saint Lucia. Conditions have really settled down - blue skies, a warm breeze, gentle rolling waves, not the noisy cascading seas we endured last week. We have crossed the Atlantic under sail! Our diesel engine has remained silent, as has our generator, for fifteen days - a voyage, with compliments, from Mother Nature. We had another whale visit us last night. For hours it swam alongside, alternating from our port side, then to starboard. We couldn't see it, but would hear deep whoosing sighs every few minutes just a few feet from our cockpit. We were keeping each other company. Besides a boisterous beginning (one of Catherine's earlier midnight log entries reads, "Rolly x 47!" she couldn't explain exactly why such a precise multiplication, and I know when it's best not to press for more details), it has been a smooth passage, which after three weeks of not shaving, is more than you can say for me.








Jan 15, 2020 (Day 4,612)
Quick Fix: 15° 01.5 N / 53° 09.3 W
Crossing the Atlantic

A Fine Sea Bird
For 12 consecutive days we have run neither engine or generator for power or propulsion. For 1,650 nautical miles, Dream Time has been driven entirely by the wind - during 12 years of passages, none have been as satisfying as this. Our fuel tanks remain brimming with Gibraltar diesel we purchased over 16 weeks ago and St. Lucia now lays just 4 days over the bowsprit. A handsome sea bird has joined us (no, it's not Sock) but a gannet, a variety of robust long-range gull, twisting and turning its wings, rarely needing to flap, effortlessly catching the wind as it skims over the crests in search, no doubt, of a tasty flying fish breakfast. And 2 whales have arrived, surfing alongside Dream Time in the following rolling swell. We're in good company, and with our full keel carving smoothly through the seas, and our white sails stretched out against a cobalt sky, gently riding the same wind and waves as our travel companions, perhaps they're sharing the same thought about us.





 




 
Day 4,610 - Crossing the Atlantic
14:32 hrs - January 13, 2020
Suck it Up Buttercup

"Hi Catherine - So, what's it like living and sailing across the Atlantic?"

First thing that comes to mind, imagine your bathroom is the size of a phone box. Then imagine strapping your phone box bathroom to the top of a flatbed truck and then driving at speed, weaving in and out of traffic, on a rolly hilly motorway. Now I dare you, get in the phone box and try brushing your teeth! Yep, it's just like that.

The Atlantic portion of our voyage all the way from Gibraltar has been fast. We've had steady trade wind sailing all the way down so far, which has been great, but it does make for some interesting daily routine challenges. With 25 knot winds and matching seas behind us everything is moving in all directions all the time, so each personal move needs to be chosen carefully with consideration for which part of the roll and swing you happen to be in, because an absentminded move could really ruin your day.

Sleep is difficult when the bed doesn't stop moving, but Neville has come up with a fiendishly clever cushion perimeter arrangement which ridiculously uses every single cushion, but it holds me mostly in one place and allows some version of slumber. I do, however, feel a bit like a camera squeezed into one of those cut-out Pelican boxes, but it's so much better than my previous pencil in a biscuit tin method and it's actually kind of working!

Kitchen activities can be especially testing so to alleviate some of the drama I usually cook as much as I can pre-passage (for this passage, sixteen evening meals for two, including: spaghetti, Shepherd's Pie, chili, Thai and Mexican chicken), so all I have to do while underway is heat food up. But even that can sometimes require Herculean patience on my part, some swear words, and a few deep breathing exercises.

And as for personal hygiene routines, well, I probably don't need to elaborate on the ever moving phone box bathroom on a flat bed truck situation. It speaks for itself.

But all that said, as I write this there are a group of adventurous seafaring young men and women who have chosen to row, yes actually row! across the Atlantic for the 'Atlantic Challenge' and they'd probably think our bouncy phone box bathroom was wildly decadent and luxurious. So as I believe they say in the Marines, "Suck it up buttercup!" we're almost there :-)





 




 
Day 4,607 - Crossing the Atlantic
07:41 hrs - January 10, 2020
Crossing The Fold

On long ocean passages, the kind that last for weeks, milestones are important. Well, at least to me. Some mariners are able to relax into an enviable state of tranquility, drifting effortlessly from one day to the next, meditating sea miles away as happy and content as the flying fish seem to be when gliding over the ocean waves, pectoral fins stretched wide to catch the trades and a wiggly tail to steer by. A creature quite literally out of its element, yet one that has evolved to master another. But finding that freedom does not come easily, particularly on a passage where large rolling seas and salty waves slosh noisily over the deck and randomly, without warning, swish into the cockpit to dampen both clothes and spirits. I enjoy the peace and serenity of ocean sailing, if conditions allow, otherwise my focus is largely drawn to practical distractions, like monitoring weather, our distance to destination, and trying to secure five hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.

With wind gusting to thirty knots on the stern, and seas building to ten feet, Dream Time has offered a rolly platform far from the sublime. But thankfully conditions are settling down and, after a week at sea, we are now half way across the Atlantic and finding a little harmony. South America is closer than Africa, and that is very satisfying to me. We are averaging 140 nautical miles a day, which is a pleasing distance, and at noon I mark our progress on a paper chart that displays a reassuring line of crosses stretching east to west, each offering a daily reminder of our progress in a world otherwise saturated entirely by sea and sky.

The moon is full tonight and appeared directly off our stern before sweeping over the mast, and during my 0300 - 0800 morning shift, raced ahead, casting a silvery path for us to trace to the horizon. Two constellations, my favorites, the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross, also kept me company, and we are traveling perfectly between them - one rests neatly off our starboard showing the way north, the other, twinkling to port, points to a hemisphere we left over a year ago.

We are making good progress. Indeed, today we crossed the fold! sailing from one side of our North Atlantic Ocean chart #120 to the other, a most satisfying accomplishment which puts our destination, the Caribbean, comfortably within sight, even if it is still 1,000 nautical miles away.





 




 
Day 4,603 - Crossing the Atlantic
12:41 hrs - January 6, 2020
Sock

This is a short story about a sock.

Sleep deprivation is a funny thing. We're just three nights into our Atlantic crossing, it's early days for this 2-3 week passage, and our bodies, and minds, are definitely still adjusting to the challenges of a 24/7 watch routine, only a few hours of sleep a night, and the constant movement of Dream Time on the high seas after three weeks of rest in Cape Verde.

The sock story begins in the early hours of the morning during my five-hour 'sunrise shift' from 0300 - 0800. Catherine was already busy down below after her 2000 - 0300 'party shift', burrowing into a pile of cushions and pillows strategically placed to give her the most comfort, support and, as she puts it, to stop her 'rolling around like a pencil'. We have a leecloth, a canvas sling, a sort-of one-sided hammock that holds those keen on sleep in one place, but Catherine prefers her pillow method.

At any rate, with no moon and a sky still heavy with sand, the only visible light across our sweeping stretch of sea came from the soft glow of our navigational instruments in the cockpit, and the tri-color masthead light drawing great lines in the sky sixty feet above the waves. After an hour or so into my watch and during a routine scan of the horizon, I noticed a black sock laying on the cockpit cushion. This seemed just a little odd to me because I hadn't noticed it earlier. But not giving it much thought, and thinking it was one of Catherine's, I reached down and picked it up.

It was a fleece sock, soft and warm, which also felt a little strange as Catherine had been off watch for over an hour. But fleece is a great insulator and can hold heat for a long time. I turned to stow it below, and that's when I felt it move. A little startled, I dropped the sock, which landed softly back on the cushion and, while considering it, the wind seemed to catch it and carry it down into the cabin.

I followed the sock downstairs where I found it piled up on the floor laying at the bottom of the companionway, and it was staring up at me with large blinking eyes. A little confused I watched as it seemed to unfold itself on the dark floor, and miraculously, before my tired eyes, started to move.

Not wanting this sock to startle Catherine who, thankfully, was now fast asleep within a cocoon of soft pillows, I carefully placed a towel over it, gathered it up gently and carried it back up to the cockpit for inspection under the light of our chartplotter.

I unfolded the towel to find not a sock, but a tiny bird bundled up inside. Exhausted, it somehow managed to circle down to Dream Time in the night, and between rigging, sails and a whizzing wind generator, had landed on the cushion right next to me without a sound.

It seemed comfortable, or indifferent, with me holding it lightly in my cupped hand while I arranged a towel into a cozy nest under the dodger by the chartplotter, and for the remainder of my shift the two of us sat quietly together in the cockpit, both a little exhausted from our travels although, no doubt, his migration is certainly more impressive than ours, nodding our tired heads in sympathy with the swell.

A little before sunrise I went to check on Sock, for that was his name, but somehow, just as his arrival and without a fuss, he had flown off, carried away by the wind.



 





Jan 3, 2020 (Day 4,600)
Quick Fix: 16° 44.8 N / 25° 21.5 W
Crossing the Atlantic

Sandy Skies
Due to a sand storm - easterly winds are sweeping the Sahara's epidermal out of Africa, into the atmosphere, and carrying it in a heavy cloud across the Atlantic - all incoming and outgoing flights for Cape Verde have been temporarily suspended, and until the skies clear tourists are stranded on the islands. But we're sailing, so after just fifteen minutes with officials, collecting our ship's registration from port police and a rather faint, uninspiring stamp in our passports from an immigration officer, we were cleared for departure. On our walk back to Mindelo Marina an unexpected chance meeting with Paulo and his wife, Angela, owners of Green Line Tours, gave us a warm round of last minute hugs and a heartfelt farewell gift of wine and a can of Cape Verdean tuna for our ocean crossing. We are now 20 miles out to sea, sailing west. Ahead the sun looks like a full moon sinking behind the haze, visibility is only a mile, and our first logbook entry under 'sky conditions' reads 'sandy'.



 

 


   



 
Day 4,599 - Mindelo, Cape Verde
09:33 hrs - January 2, 2020
Good To Go

It can be a bouncy passage, and for many yachts arriving in Cape Verde it is their first serious shakedown sail, one that tests gear and equipment with a week of continuous movement, load and stress perhaps not experienced in the Mediterranean. We’re berthed in Mindelo Marina getting ready for our Atlantic crossing (we leave tomorrow) and literally every boat on our dock is making post-passage repairs.

Our immediate neighbor, a French aluminum sloop, lost a portion of their center board. The steel ketch, White Lady, who we passed sailing down from Canaries, blew out their genoa. A Lagoon broke a lower shroud. A Swan broke a forestay. An English Amel had half their house batteries fail on the way down, the list goes on and on... Angle grinders, drills, hammering and the occasional explicit echo throughout the marina daily as crews and local service vendors rush to make repairs in preparation for the big crossing.

Dream Time had her share of issues sailing south, nothing major, thankfully. But the starter motor solenoid failed when we tried running the engine on our arrival. Two upper batten box covers shattered when a large wave shoved us hard to port backing the mainsail (the preventer held so we didn't gybe), and during the course of our passage the anemometer slowly counted down from thirty knots to read a constant 0.0 by day four, even though the wind continued to blow steadily from the northeast.

While Cape Verde gained its independence from Portugal in 1975 and is politically and economically stable, ranking second highest among African countries listed in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index, it is still a developing country so yacht services, support and supplies are limited. For example, our starter motor can be purchased in America for $125, here it'll cost a wallet clenching $1,157. New batten covers can be flown in, but we've been told to allow at least a month for delivery, and there's not even a DHL office on this island. So it's no surprise that locals, and mariners, use a little ingenuity to MacGyver repairs in a style that reminds us of Cuba and one typical for a remote developing island nation.

We have a spare starter motor, which I've already installed. I've fixed the batten covers, securing each with a through bolt and some stainless steel backing plates, and after dismantling the anemometer and cleaning a little corrosion from the circuit board, we got that working again, too. So, touch wood, all systems are good to go, Dream Time is ready to begin her 2,000 nautical mile passage to the Caribbean, her last long voyage on this world tour, and so are we.



 


Jan 1, 2020   |  Mindelo, Cape Verde - Feliz Ano Novo!