Day 21: Strange light signals at night and Friday is … fish day

During the last hour of my nightly shift with Fred, we detected a bright, yellow flashing light. And we are were still more than 400 miles away from land. We tried to find it in our navigation charts, but couldn’t find it neither on the electronic chart nor on the paper chart. Based on the light’s signature (we saw flashing(4), but it should be flashing(5) usually), it could only be a weather buoy, but we couldn’t confirm. This really made our shift much shorter, and the next morning we got the solution. Jochen had another navigation chart, that also had a recent list of weather buoys, and this one was included.

In the morning I could enjoy a very nice sunrise during my next shift (and we are alr eady very selective regarding sunrises and sunsets, most of the time nobody even takes his camera out), here are some impressions:

And the moon was also still present …

In the afternoon, while the others were playing cards (this time the looser had to peel of some very resisting plastic foil from the solar panels, guess who made this proposal ;-)), I prepared different pasta sauces for dinner (a spicy variant of Ammatriciana and a vegetarian alternative). Suddenly Casi shouted fish, as it is Friday, and Friday is fish day, this perfectly fitted. So I stopped cooking and went out to land the fish and get it kitchen ready. It was another mackerel (Seriola rivoliana, the same kind as last Friday), but a bit smaller, about 40 cm. We decided to stay with the pasta for today and eat it tomorrow and try to catch another fish. And we had luck, just when I was starting to serve dinner, we got another one, again the same mackerel, this time around 35 cm. So overall we have caught 4 mackerel till now, and a few days left for fishing.

We also saw another ship, but just via AIS on the navigation plotter, at the time of the closest approach, it was about 11 miles away from us, but we couldn’t see it even with binoculars. We expect to reach Martinique on Monday, the main question is whether we will arrive during office hours for the immigration procedure or not.

The day in numbers (noon to noon, all time in UTC):

position at noon: 14° 42,2′ N 054° 01,8′ W

distance through water travelled: 133 nm

wind speed: 11-28 kn

wind direction: ESE -> E -> ENE 

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Day 20: Optimized sleep, dolphins … and time perception

When I steered manually last night in order to let time pass by faster, Beate suddenly came upstairs and claimed that our steering wires were producing a horrible noise which didn’t let her sleep. Hence I gave it back to Ray (since he acts directly at the steering link and doesn’t cause noise), have to find something different to make the night shifts more enjoyable. But this is not the only optimization we have in place to let people sleep. Beside trying to avoid maneuvers at night whenever possible, we also pay attention to the windward sheet of the foresail. When it is reefed the windward sheet knocks on the hull, so we have to tighten the sheet to stop this. We also try to sail wing-on-wing at night, where waves are usually coming straight from behind, which avoids heavy hits between the two hulls. Of course it is impossible to really get it calm on a boat, but we try our best to make it as comfortable as possible to sleep.

The highlight of the day has been a long visit of an entire dolphin school. Here are some of my pictures:

I also did a delphie, which is a selfie with a dolphin (German: Delphin), since Dieter, our skipper, has put a contest on that. I got 4 dolphins on the photo, including 2 of them jumping. Should raise the bar 😉

One discussion today showed again how dimensions might change. We were talking about how much time we will need till the arrival (the classical “when will we arrive” 😉 ), and used words such as “only 4-5 days left”. Just put that in the context of a long journey by car or even a long distance flight, if somebody says 4-5 hours in that context, you probably consider that an eternity. But to me, 4-5 days seems short in our context, without any irony. It’s all about perception. And context.

The day in numbers (noon to noon, all time in UTC):

position at noon: 14° 34,9′ N 051° 45,7′ W

distance through water travelled: 123 nm

wind speed: 10-30 kn

wind direction: ESE -> E -> ESE 

Day 19: a lazy day, rain at night, no more potatoes … and an extra shift hour

Today has been a lazy day, and I just tried to relax (ok, there is no real stress here at the moment, but nevertheless 😉 ). I gave Ray another break and took over the helm for an hour. During night we had some rain, but just a bit that didn’t last long. A remarkable event has been that we have run out of potatoes. We haven’t a lot of fresh fruits or vegetables left, onions, cabbage, lemons, some apples and a lot of garlic is all that’s still available. However, we won’t have a scurvy problem and we will arrive within a few days.

Unfortunately I lost lost during a shift hour during our Skat session today, and hence have to work an extra hour tomorrow. My cabin mate Fred won it, so he has to work one less. I tried to play more aggressively than the other day, which didn’t pay off at the beginning, but in the last game I nearly compensated my prior losses, well, just nearly due to a bad card distribution, bad for me :-(. However, lot of fun again.

Other noticeable events … well, a nice sunset 😉

The day in numbers (noon to noon, all time in UTC):

position at noon: 14° 33,5′ N 049° 41,1′ W

distance through water travelled: 136 nm

wind speed: 14-25 kn

wind direction: E

Day 18: Another ship, giving Ray a break and my first and only phone call for weeks

Today we saw another ship, the first one after about a week, but just on the navigation plotter via AIS at a distance of 13 nm. This strengthened my belief in that we are not the only humans left on earth.

Till now, we have sailed 99+% using the auto pilot (except after the fire and a few hours more). I call him Ray, since he is from Raymarine. He is quite good in steering, both on direction to waypoint or course to wind. It’s like autonomous driving, we just supervise him and helming looks like this

Since this is not really sailing, or at least it doesn’t seem so to me, and to get some feeling for the helm, I decided to steer manually for an hour or so today. We were sailing wing-on-wing, and this worked quite fine with the catamaran, with a monohull this is much trickier. I decided to try to give Ray a break at least an hour per day during my shifts, this also helps to let time pass by faster.

My highlight today has been a call via satellite phone. Since it is the birthday of my small niece, I wanted to surprise her by calling her. And this was intended to be the only phone call during on the ocean. I used the satellite phone we had aboard, dialed my parents number and … got the mailbox. I don’t like talking to mailboxes, but given that we only activate the satellite phone from time to time, I left a message. Sure she will get it. What a spectacular call 😦

We also returned to Germany from a culinary perspective: for dinner, Casi prepared a delicious lentil soup with bacon like you usually eat at your grandma’s home.

The day in numbers (noon to noon, all time in UTC):

position at noon: 14° 53,8′ N 047° 27,1′ W

distance through water travelled: 123 nm

wind speed: 10-25 kn

wind direction: E -> ENE -> E

Day 17: Board casino opened, more light at night … and I stopped wearing glasses

I finally decided to don’t wear my glasses on board. Well, it’s not that my eyes have improved, but it just doesn’t make any difference here. There is nothing I could see better with glasses. Since they haven’t any impact at the moment, I thought it may be more convenient to just don’t wear them. I cleaned the deck with sea water again today in order to keep moving and cooked spaghetti al sugo mediterraneo based on a recipe I got years ago from my Italian friend Michele. So the catch of the day has been canned tuna today ;-), accompanied by tomato sauce with olives and onions, yummy 🙂

One thing that has changed a lot are the nights. We are now around full moon, and hence have much more light at night (while I will continue to have no light in my cabin due to the cable fire). Watching the moon at night and his reflections on the sea is quite nice, and after moon set, we often have a clear and dark sky with a lot of stars. It’s hard to get this impressions on a photo, since the boat is moving all the time, but at least I tried …

Beside, our board entertainment program got enriched again: the casino opened and we started gambling. We played Skat, a traditional German card game. The winner got a shift hour from the looser. I did neither win nor loose, but had a lot of fun.

The day in numbers (noon to noon, all time in UTC):

position at noon: 15° 04,4′ N 045° 25,6′ W

distance through water travelled: 131 nm

wind speed: 12-26 kn

wind direction: ESE -> E

Day 16: Yet another normal day … but less than 1000 miles left :-) and the first time I completed the work out

Today is Sunday, but basically this doesn’t matter, since all days are basically the same: 2 shifts, and you see plenty of water, the same people, the same boat, and no other boats for days (I think the last one we have seen 5 or 6 days ago). In order to don’t get bored, I started the day with some activity: first I removed the water from the port bilge (which meant to get out 10 liters of water with a small sponge, so it took some time), and after having a “light lunch” (crispbread with cheese and ham) I went to the “gym” with Casi once again. The workout is based on bodyweight exercises and switches between cardio and power. Some of the exercises are taken from fitness.com, a platform that Casi runs. I will check for more exercises once I have internet again, since I like the workout. Here’s what we are doing (the high knees ups have been replaced by a triceps exercise for safety reasons):

The coolest thing about today’s workout was that it was the first time I finished it (the first time my stomach intervened, the second time a fish) :-). Next one the day after tomorrow.

Unfortunately my autonomous electricity project failed today, since the solar panels were not capable to produce sufficient energy over the last two weeks, and I had to charge my iPad using the boat’s batteries. More details will follow in a separate post. And I “lost” the shirts and underwear that we planned for the time on board on the open sea (the nicer ones for land visits are stowed separately). What have happened? I had stored them in the wardrobe where we had the fire, and today we noticed that there was a blue liquid escaping from the distribution panel inside. Probably something related to copper corrosion. And that liquid had reached my clothes. I decided to throw the shirts away (of course not to the sea, stored them where we collect trash, they were planned to be thrown away anyway since I wanted to travel back with less luggage and I they were just occupying space in my wardrobe at home) since shirts are probably overrated at temperatures of 25+ degrees Celsius and washed the rest to have something for the remaining approximately 8 days. And I will “sacrifice” one of the “land shirts” for the nights. 

But the event of the day were two numbers. I didn’t pay attention to the numbers for a bunch of days (at the beginning, it was really exciting to see the progress, every 100 nautical miles were impressive, but then you see there are thousands left, so I really ignored the numbers for days), but the two we achieved today were quite noticeable:

  • we have now sailed more than 2000 nautical miles (=3700+ km)
  • we have less than 1000 nautical miles left, this is the important one. It seems to be just a number, but now the perceived progress is much higher, since the first digit will change at least once every day. Yippie 🙂 After that many days of sailing, I really have a certain appetite for land.

It seems to give the idea of infinity (of course not in a mathematical correct way), imaging that there there is no solid ground about a 1000 nautical miles around us and that we have moved approximately the equivalent of Munich – Madrid with wind as the only “fuel”, hard to imagine if you are used to have the next bakery around the corner (ok, may be that’s not the best comparison, since we also have it around the corner, as far as every sign of civilization is away from us, as close our board facilities are here, there are always short ways ;-)).

The day in numbers (noon to noon, all time in UTC):

position at noon: 15° 44,2′ N 043° 14,9′ W

distance through water travelled: 123 nm

wind speed: 8-21 kn

wind direction: ESE -> E

Day 15: Just another day

Today was just another uneventful day: sleeping, doing my shifts, hanging around and looking forward to “less than a 1000 miles left”. the only noticeable events were that after years of not cooking on a ship, Dieter made his Käsespätzle once again, and I caught another small fish that I released. The sunset has also been a nice one (hope you don’t get bored of sunsets, but they are currently often the most exciting thing)

1150 nm miles left till Martinique at noon … tomorrow we will get below 1000 🙂

The day in numbers (noon to noon, all time in UTC):

position at noon:  15° 58,1′ N 041° 19,3′ W

distance through water travelled: 139 nm

wind speed: 12-22 kn

wind direction: ESE