2010-10-10 Morocco, By Mark
Many interesting things have happened since my last post, Lena have left the crew but Maria is joining me soon. Let me tell you:
A week or two ago Lena left the Mare for 5 days to let me sail alone with Maria (dear old friend from Sweden). Maria boarded in Lisboa and we set sail south the next day. Maria and me had some beautiful sailing, mild wind, small waves, dolphin, the works in short. It was beautiful. Towards the evening we came to the channel to Setubal.
Imagine you are sailing up 5 miles long and 200m wide channel, you have full light wind sails up, suddenly darkness is upon you and the mild wind is channelled by the mountains to gale force gusts, the current is a massive against you and the sea looks like its boiling, a few miles ahead you discover a 200m container ship steaming towards you in the dark channel. You start the engine to get a bit of extra speed and manuverability. Suddenly you hear a loud DONK and the engine stops and the rudder is ripped from your hands and you discover you can only turn starboard because the rudder is jammed and its dark and gale force and current and full sails and a HUGE containership is bearing down on you in a narrow channel..oh yes… and your crew is sailing for the first day!
Worst case scenario in this kind of simultaneous engine-rudder failure is the propeller shaft have been halfway ripped out of the hull by an underwater log and is blocking the rudder. It also means that if the whole axle goes you will be sinking FAST.
Trying hard to keep calm I tell Maria to take the (non functioning) rudder because “I just have to check we are not sinking”. I run to the bilge and check the water level and at the same time I hear Maria say in a disbelieving voice “ I thought you said we could be sinking but you cant say that so I assuming I heard wrong” I didn’t want to correct her but there was not water in the bilge so we were OK for the moment.
In the end everything turned out alright (except when I kicked Maria on the nose in all the commotion), the anchor chain had broke lose in the high heel and got entangled in both the engine and the rudder and once that was fixed everything was OK and we could avoid the freighter just in time. After that we had a BIG glass of wine and a lot of relaxing. Altogether I was impressed with Marias calm in a critical situation.
After a few more days of relaxed sailing with Maria she went back to Sweden and Lena reboarded the yatch to continue to South Portugal. We had decided to go by different routes from there, I offered her to buy Mare, but she turned down the offer (to my great relief) so here I am all alone in a boat I love more and more everyday. Maria will join me 1 Jan 2011 but it looks like I might tackle the Atlantic solo. Scary… I have a week of non-stop solo sailing down to Gran Canarias to make up my mind if I should try to find crew or not but if you, dear reader, feels like crossing the Atlantic send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh yes the last couple of days… I’m in morocco, solo sailed here from Portugal in 48h. It was fine but having to get up every 15minutes in the night to check for ships is a bit tiresome. Its roasting here, today we spend most of the afternoon at the local yatch clubs pool pretending to be rich and fancy (the smuggled beer kind of ruined it though) I have met some FINE people here. We are now a group of 3 Swedish, 1 Norwegian and 1 German boat enjoying the country together. Its so nice to run into so many like minded and cool people - sailing life is just so gooood! Don’t forget to visit my friends on 28fot.se - they have a great site (in Swedish)
2010-10-18 Canary Islands. Written by Mark
Phuuuu after 7 days alone at see I finally arrived in the Canary Islands. The trip should have taken half the time but the winds were poor and I dont have a lot of fuel. I think its illegal to imprison people in isolation but apparently its OK for sailors. OK it wasn't total isolation, I had the whales and the dolphins to talk to and of course some fish too (especially the monster that broke my 30kg line like it was spiderweb). The only "highlight" was when I got sick from something (no idea what) and couldn't do anything but sleep and puke for 24h (sounds like sea-sickness but wasn't) which is a bit scary when the nearest hospital is faaaar away and you have to steer the boat. Anyway I was alright again the next day so no harm done, probably just food poisoning. again. Now I#m going to relax and explore the islands for a week or two.
2010-10-18 Canary Islands. Written by Mark
Dear reader at this stage you might be wondering what do all day? Well let me tell you, Not a lot, not a lot at all. Let me describe a typical day sailing.
7am The sun is rising and the alarm clock wake me up for the 20th time or so. I-m fully dressed with shoes and all and everything is a bit damp. I clean up the debrie that have accumulated in the cockpit during the night, pillows, cups, plates, books and flying fish and then its time for a big porridge breakfast with lots of coffee. After this I have the strength to change to more suitable sails and find the optimal course in relation to the wind. The autopilot is steering all the time but needs a few corrections every now and then. As the sun climbs the horizon its getting warmer fast and I shed clothes like layer by layer until I’m completely naked except for my sunglasses most days. I’m getting tanned Everywhere :)
I see a 337 m containership passing in the distance and I call them up on the VHF to get a weather forecast, as usual its light winds and sunshine (I hardly have anything else). Good commercial sailors that help a poor singe hander like me. The Indian captain on the container ship also give me some good advice about Trinidad that they just left, what bordellos to go to and other things that seems to interest him. I play along for the fun and tease him about not being a good Hindu and he in turn complains about what a crazy world it is with an all Indian crew on a ship registered in panama and owned by a Japanese company transporting containers for a Dutch company. The merchant marine seems very “international”.
Strengthen by my first communication with a human in a few days I deploy my fishing lures. i now have 4 rods active at the same time so there always something going on. Then its time for the books. I get to read a lot, there’s not much else to do really. later on its time for lunch which as usual is a Greek salad, its to warm to eat hot food and the vege here is so cheap and tasty. Suddenly in the middle of lunch one of the rods bend and the line starts screaming of the spool at an unbelievable speed. The resistance is set so high I can hardly pull out t he line by my self so this must be one monster of a fish. I jump up and scatter salad everywhere. before I dare to start fighting the fish I must put on my life west and clip in the life line and get the gaf-hook. After 30 seconds of panic I’m ready for the fight but at the same time the 30kg line breaks and its all over. Dammit! That must have been one awesome fish, oh well better luck next time. I clear up all the mess I created and settle down with the book again. A while later its time for dinner and a glass of whine. While I’m relaxing and watching the sunset a large school of dolphins keep me company and life is just so good tear of joy are rolling down my chin ( no kidding, crying from sheer happiness seems to be my new hobby :D). At around 10pm I’m getting sleepy. Since its a warm night I take the mattress up in the cockpit and fall asleep under a billion stars gently rocked by the swell while the wind and Mare whispers a lullaby to me. 30 minutes later the alarm rings, I wake up and have a look around the horizon and the AIS for other ships but nothing on a collision course so i fall asleep again. 30 minutes later the alarm rings again and I scan the horizon and 30 minutes later the alarm rings again and again and again. I always have to keep a vigilant watch every night for other ships so I never sleep more then an hour at time and often not more then 15 minutes. At 3am Im approaching a shipping line (its like a highways in the sea for large ships) and I have to stay awake for an hour dodging ships and wondering if they even notice me, the sea that seemed so friendly and safe in the day is a lot scarier at night. Then its back to sleep again. At this stage of the night dreams and reality start to get mixed up and I sometimes don’t know if I’m awake or asleep so before I do anything I do a reality check, saves me a lot of trouble. I don’t want any more incidents like when I thought I was being boarded by captain Blackbeard and jumped up with a big knife or another time when i dreamed i was eating nuts and took a large bite of my own finger. Long terms with disturbed sleep is probably not so healthy but I compensate by sleeping as much as I want, up to 12 hours some days so its OK. Once again the sun rises and the world becomes a warm and friendly place and a new day have begun. Its not always this nice thought, sometimes everything and i mean Everything is wet and the boat rolls so much in the high sea that I cant do anything but hold on and hope nothing vital breaks while sea-sickness looms around the corner and the whole world seems to be a miserable wet cold noisy torture chamber for foolish me.
Life ashore is quite different and more varied with lots of places to see, new friends to meet and lots of wine to be drunk in their company. Its so nice to be surrounded by like-minded people who all have the same idea of life as me, its like a big warm family where everyone helps everyone else and there always something going on somewhere.
That’s it for now, I’m off to explore a volcano on Lanzarote and maybe a bit of spear fishing for dinner. Apparently you need a license for that here but poaching just ads to the fun ;D
2010-11-25 Cap Verde. Written by Mark
In this episode you will learn about giant rays, shark fishing and how to butcher a pig. I have been keeping busy :)
I anchored up outside Playa Englese for a week, a great place for anyone who likes the sun but don't want to see any foreign culture. All the waiters spoke Swedish and Thor-Leifs were playing and you can buy ABBAs sill in the shop. Just like Sällskapsresan. The anchorage was visited by a 2m ray, when I first saw it I thought the whole bottom had come alive. Later I harpooned a smaller cousin of the giant and had it for dinner but I must say rays isn't my favorite.
The 3 November my father joined me on the boat to sail with me for 3 weeks. We set sail towards Cap Verde 1600km south of Gran Canaria. We had great winds and wonderful sailing for most of the trip and as usual the fishing was awe inspiring. One day I put a 4kg Dorado as bait on a hook and the next day there was a feckin' SHARK trailing the boat on the hook. Good thing i used 6mm steel wire for fishing line. We put a sling around its tail, hoisted it onboard, took some pictures and released it back alive. A slightly scary adventure.
We arrived in Cape Verde 8 days later having made record time. Mare Liberum (my boat) is sailing better and better every day. The old inboard engine wasn't working at all so I ripped it out with the propeller axle and gave it all away so now the boat is 100kg lighter and water resistance is less. In addition to this the boat has a very light load having to carry only me and the supplies i need. She is flying thru the water in light winds now. Anyway in Mindelo I hooked up with my friends on Allie, Fri Inspiration and Barracuda. We went out for drink and had a jolly good time, cold beer after a long time at sea is fantastic.
A few days later we sailed to another island close by where we stayed on the beach for a few days. One of the days I got into my head we should have a "pig-Party" so we bought a whole live pig from some locals, found a butcher to do the dirty work and in the evening ´we had a big party with a lot of the locals. we supplied the pig and they brought insanely strong homemade sugarcane rum. Some guests had to be carried back to their boats and hoisted onboard afterward...
Time is running short. On Saturday (2 days from today) I'm starting my solo sail across the Atlantic. It will take approximately 20 days and I think I'm going to be seriously bored by the end. I hope the fish will keep me company and I really hope I don't have to celebrate Christmas solo on the sea...
2010-12-28 Atlantic crossing day by day. By Mark
I will try to describe the Atlantic crossing here, mainly it will be an extract from my logbook with some comments.
Day 1 (2010-11-27)
I wake up early as usual. I'm in Mindelo in Cap Verde and its finally time for the crossing after 3 great weeks sailing with my father. I will sail alone across and I'm a bit nervous but of course there wont be any (serious) problems. Probably...
The first thing I notice in the morning is how the Police delivers one of my friends (a German so Anders and Henriks mother don't need to worry :D) to his boat after spending a night in the drunk tank where the police had soundly beaten him up repeatedly. Feels like a good time to leave Cap Verde. All my stock all full but the boat is still incredibly light since I'm alone on it and don't need a lot of water and the engine is long gone, I think the boat is actually lighter then it would be with a normal family sailing it on vacation in Sweden. The low weight make me quicker in light winds but its rolls horribly. In anything more the a light breeze I have to hold on with most of my hands and teeth but its great if you like roller coasters.
The wind today is a force 4 from SE and I'm heading SW so that's OK. The Easterly tradewind that should blow steady at this time of the year haven't started yet and the winds will probably be random and light for a while. I make 90mn during the first day.
A Southerly wind give me slow but steady progress SW, I sleep most of the day and night, not much else to do. The AIS system will hopefully give me a waring if a ship comes within 10nm (a nm is a nautical mile or about 2km for my Swedish readers) I made 80nm the second day.
I'm staring to head straight W towards Trinidad now with a SW wind slowly helping me. I sleep a lot, maybe 16h a day even. I get so incredibly relaxed during the crossings and I'm really enjoying it so far. This will be an easy crossing. Very poos progress during this day, only 30nm :(
No wind during the whole night and day. During the day I run the engine and during the night I just drift with the current. In the middle of the day I see a disturbance in the calm waters and a HUGE sailfish, maybe 3m jump out of the water and look at me as curious as I look at him. Beautiful!
I run out of alcohol and cigarettes today. I have intentionally not brought enough and from now on the sailing will be very sober indeed. Still feels great :) Made 60nm
...later still during day 4...
I cant sleep and get up and sit in the cockpit. Its dark, not the cold dark of a northern Europe night but the hot steaming almost alive darkness of a primordial jungle. I put some Enya on the stereo and turn of all the lights. Gradually my eyes adjust to the darkness and the contours of Mare appear. Its warmer and darker then sex in Africa and I'm ALONE in the whole universe gliding slowly thru the night. It feels like I'm in the warm dark belly of the night waiting to be reborn in the morning. (Hmm I seems to get a bit wonky in the middle of the night)
An easterly wind finally, Dare I hope its the start of the trade wind that will blow steadily in my back for the rest of the trip? Its warm and rainy and I'm catching lots of Dorado, the biggest 11kg which I used for shark bait (just put the whole fish on a huge hook and wait). Unfortunately I loos the whole rig in the sea because of a broken wire. Make 70nm
No wind all day. No fish all day, No ciggs, No alcohol make Mark a dull boy. Where is the feckin passage wind!?!?! In the night the wind finally picks up and I make an acceptable 80nm but it was a loooong boring day.
A week of sailing almost done and I wake up with no wind an no enthusiasm and to make matters worse theres a big swell coming in and I get seasick and feed the fish. 3 more weeks of this, Whohoo I'm having so much fun. Not. Made 60nm.
During the first week of sailing I made 540nm. Not bad considering the light variable winds but its not much fun to sail in light winds. Only 1650nm left. Moral is starting to improve but I'm feeling a bit scared all alone in the Atlantic. I haven't talked or seen a human for a week now.
A busy and intensive day, moral is definitely improving. I caught lots of Tuna and cooked a big dinner which ended up on the floor och the cockpit as usual, the waves can still surprise me. Ah who care the floor is clean anyway. I also put up the spinnaker but it got caught on the anchor and ripped and while I was fixing it got sea sick and fed the fish. again. not a glorious moment :) Made a respectable 125nm
A good force 4/6 N wind push me along at record speed. I average 5.75knots during 24h which is good for a 43 year solo sailed boat. Especially since i slept for 11h :D. Made 138nm
The N wind keeps increasing and reaching gale force and the boat rolls horribly, its not like I'm sailing slalom its more like a snowboarder in the half pipe. The self steering cant deal with the waves so well and the coarse can change almost 180 degrees in a few seconds when I'm surfing down a wave and then swings the other way. Its pretty mad on the boat and there is porridge EVERYWHERE after a surprise wave at breakfast. The wind is starting to swing towards ENE, could it be the trade (its 11 bloody days late now). Made 140nm, a new record for me.
After a scary night I'm happy to see slightly milder winds from NE, its starting to look like the trade wind has FINALLY started. Mare, the boat, used to be very noisy and 'creaky' in light wind but for some reason shes running silently in strong winds probably because all the joint are under constant pressure. If the wind continues I should reach Trinidad in 10 days or so. Made 130nm
Mare is still rocking like mad in the high waves but I'm certain the trade wind is here to stay. Seasick AGAIN, dammit but moral is high. Ill soon be in Trinidad with coconuts and PEOPLE. I haven't had any contact with anyone and the bond of civilisation are falling of me. Clothes and modest behavior is but a memory as I sit naked in the cockpit screaming along to the songs on the stereo. The fish don't seems to mind and theres no one else around. I haven't seen more then 4 boats in the distance since I left Cap Verde. Made 123nm
I wake up underneath a steel sky and its raining cats and dogs. Strong winds again, a gale force 7 gusting to 8, for more then 10 seconds I surf down a giant wave at more then 10.5knots and the boat is reeling like a teenager after his first bottle of vodka. I sail with a storm sail only. Its difficult to do anything at all and don't get me started on the bathroom. Made 124nm
During the night the boat almost broaches (go on its side) several time and I wake up sleeping on the wall instead of the bed. I was probably heeling around 70 degrees at times. It doesn't matter thought. The boat is so light it just flies over the waves and everything is relatively nice and dry (except my pants that I almost wet in fear sometimes, you try being alone in the middle of nowhere in the gale and 5m waves in a 43 year old boat that cost less then 7.000 euro...)
The weather is great after a tough night. I'm desperate to talk to someone but I end up imitating farm animals instead. I think my mind is slipping. I wonder what Maria is doing now? In my dreams I constantly have normal conversations with friends, just talk and talk endlessly thru the night and loneliness thru the day. I'm tired of this now, its not horrible yet but I'm ready to come ashore. Made 119nm
Wind is getting milder again, feels good. I'm lonely and bored but in the night I get an unexpected visitor. Somehow a flying fish manages to jump into my bed and keeps slapping its tail in my face until I wake up with me and the pillow smelling of fish, just like after a wet night in town really.
Usually I start every morning with clearing the deck of flying fish and the odd squid that lands on the bot in the night. My personal best is 15 in the cockpit. A great and easy way to get breakfast. Made 111nm
Day 17 (13 December, Lucia)
A long boring day with lots of sunshine and good winds. Caught a nice 6kg yellow fin tuna, yummy, fresh tuna is SO good. Just throw a fillet in the pan for 1 min per side so its still a bit raw in the middle and serve with lots of lime. By the way lime is how I avoid scurvy, it never get old! (just look in the back of your fridge, I bet there a lime there somewhere forgotten after some party). Lucia was not celebrated but I did consider making a costume for the tuna. Made 120nm
Only 4 days left to Trinidad, hooooray!! Celebrated by sleeping all day and staying up most of the night. Made 126nm
High spirits and lots of energy but weak winds. Still dreaming of conversations. I'm craving cigarettes and red apples for some reason?! Made 104nm
Incredibly bored, now t hat I'm almost there I cant wait and feel like a kid the day before Christmas. Slept a lot to pass the time. A small exhausted bird comes from nowhere and rests on my hand. Almost there. Made 126nm
6.26am local time LAAAAND OHOY! I can see Trinidad and Tobago, frustratingly enough I had to say for 23 h more before I could get ashore In Chaguramas in Trinidad. A horrible night with light variable winds, shipping and rain which means I could only sleep for 15 minutes at a time in wet clothes before I had to change sails or course. I the middle of the night the scariest eel i have ever seen ( and I have seen a lot) bites my hook and end up in the cockpit. I escape up on the deck while the meter long mass of thrashing wrigling florescent slime and teeth bites everything in site. Urk.
2010-12-18 8am I'm finally there after almost exactly 21 days completely alone on the Atlantic. Oh boy did I talk to the poor people in immigrations and customs!!! I just couldn't stop, now I know what 'lappsjuk' really means.
On the whole it was a very event less and boring crossing, the first week was really nice but after that I was lonely. Next time I solo sail I will bring a generator so I can use my computer all the time instead of the 30min a day or so the solar panels manages to charge now. The wear on the sails was bad and I manage to tear 3 of them so now i have a lot of repair work to do.
On the whole I'm happy I did it, now I don't have to try that again but I always love a new experience! :)
I have been in Trinidad for a week and a half now and its SO warm, between 12 and 3pm any kind of physical activity is impossible. On the plus side I can drink like 10 beer without going to the bathroom, I just sweat it all out. Chaguramas where I am now is dirty with lots of criminality but theres a good chandlery and I have a million things to repair before Maria gets here so most of the days are spent working and shopping when the heat isnt too much. We (Mare Liberum and Fri Inspirasjon) took a few days of and went to an old leeper colony. It was a scary island with an empty hospital in ruins. You could still see the operation tables and old medical records while the bats hung from the roof. wonder what horrors happened there? Have you seen the movie Asylum? It was just like that.
After new year we are heading up to Tobago and then Grenada and the Grenadines for some quality snorkeling and hopefully to meet some old friends.