I looked at our log a few days ago and it read 16,676 nautical miles. Now that, coupled with the latest reading, 17,601 means we have passed two milestones, so perhaps it is time to reflect a bit on our lives and times and what we have been doing the past year and what the future might bring.
Ok – you ask – just what are the milestones? Well, when we left Copenhagen, I wrote in our logbook, before we cast off that the log read 6.676 (ahhh, you say, the importance beginning to dawn on you). Since it now reads 16,676, it means we have sailed 10,000 nautical miles since leaving Copenhagen. Ten thousand nm or roughly 12,000 statutory miles in about a year (after all we did spend 2 months in Denmark when Vinni had to go back). We can break that down it becomes 800 nm per month. Quite a bit.
For you landlubber types – that’s about 12,000 statutory miles or 18,000 kilometers (for the European types).
Now – what about that other number? Yes, well the earth is divided into 360 meridian degrees, each degree equals 60 minutes, each minute equals 1 nm. Soooo, a quick bit of multiplication (tap, tap, tap sounds as he feverishly punches the calculator (old age having set in and he is no longer able to do such complicated mathematics in his head), that means there are 21,600 nautical miles around the earth at the equator. Divide that by two (tap, tap, tap again) and that means it is 10,800 nm halfway around the world.
Back upstairs, our log now reads, 17,601 nm. It read 6,676 when we left Copenhagen (tap, tap, tap, tap on the calculator, sweat breaking out on his brow), and by golly, 17,601 minus 6,676 equals (oops, let’s see now), 10,925.
Just a little bit more than half way around the world. Now we haven’t actually SAILED halfway around the world, but we have sailed a distance equal to that.
So it is time to reflect. What have we discovered (besides the new world), about ourselves?
Lots of things. Firstly, we’ve discovered that we like passage-making. Passage-making means sailing long distances without seeing land, like across the ocean. Not everyone likes this. There are few that are indifferent to passage-making. You NEVER hear a sailor saying, “passage-making? I can take it or leave it”. People either HATE passage-making, saying things like, “I’d rather have an aneurism than sail a passage again”. Or “Never again – not in this or any other lifetime”.
On the other hand there are the ones (Vinni and me) who say, “passage-making – it takes a couple of days to get into the rhythm, but once there, watch on watch and driving the boat alone is a wonderful experience. The sunsets and sunrises, not to mention the starry nights, simply take your breath away.”
Starry nights, in case you’ve never experienced one, are unique. Only those people who live out west, New Mexico and Colorado, high up in the mountains, can relate to this –you also see the stars out there. Pictures don’t do these nights justice and I lack the poetic gene to be able to describe them. Suffice to say that perhaps man was not meant to understand everything, but just meant to look in wonder and to enjoy. And you can easily spend an entire dogwatch just enjoying the stars.
This is a side of yourself that many people never get the chance to explore – are you comfortable being alone with yourself in your own company? Really alone? You have the watch, it is the middle of the night, the other person is sleeping and there you are – all alone, having to be completely self-reliant. Nobody to talk to but yourself. You also carry the full responsibility for the boat (and sleeping crew). You and only you have to make sure everything is right with Capri, are the sails trimmed correctly, is she riding the waves as she should. Is she a “happy boat”? Any strange noises that might mean something is awry? Any other boats or ships out here? If so will we miss them or is there a danger of collision? Do you need to reef the sails (reduce the areas of the sails you have up)? I’ve noted before that reefing Capri’s sails single-handed in 25-30 knots of wind requires a bit of skill – and you have to do it yourself. You can’t wake the other person, if you start doing that then they’ll never get any sleep.
Yeah – that’s not for everyone. But we’ve found we enjoy it (ok – we’re weird).
We’ve developed as sailors. We’re much better sailors now than when we left. We’ve learned to single-hand Capri, almost no matter what the weather and we’ve learned how to both prepare for and sail in heavy weather – especially when the heavy weather continues for days on end. That’s not something you experience in the Baltic, where you are never more than a few hours from a safe harbor. When you are on passage, you have to take what you are given, like it or not. There is no harbor nearby to run to. Passage-making is a confidence builder, if nothing else. As a fellow named Jan said to us – “once you’re out there – why bother getting grib files (weather reports)? You can’t do anything about the weather anyway and if you get grib files you’ll just start worrying about it”.
We’ve found that we simply love to anchor. The peace and quiet of anchoring is beyond description. “Gunkholing” is the American expression for looking for quiet out-of-the- way spots to anchor where you are all by yourself. Vinni and I have become “Gunkhole” fanatics. We’ve also developed our anchoring techniques to the point that we sleep worry-free when at anchor. “In Mantus we trust” is our motto, but it also reflects that we’ve become better at and more knowledgeable about anchoring and about the techniques necessary to set an anchor – that stays set, no matter how the wind and currents turn. We never did much anchoring out for the night in the Baltic – here it has become a necessity, if for no other reason then economically. But also because marinas that can take a boat with a 7.5 foot keel are few and far between. You also see lots of stars when you’re at anchor.
We’ve also discovered that we’ve become “boat bums”. This honorific we bear with pride. Being a boat bum simply means that we’ve found life aboard to be more enjoyable than life ashore. We thrive in our little world, 40 feet long and 13 feet wide at its widest. Capri is not only our home – it is our vehicle, our transportation. She is the “snail house” we carry on our backs. She (boats ARE female – no political correctness here) takes us to places landlubbers can’t go. She also protects us, taking care of us no matter how nasty the weather, how high the waves, Capri rides them all out and brings us safely into a cove or bay where we can drop the anchor.
Yes, I know – she’s just a boat – try telling that to Vinni or to anyone who has sailed passages. Boats have their own souls and ideas. They can get annoyed and they can be just downright stubborn some days. But, it you treat them right, then they are “happy boats” and then they will take very good care of you indeed.
It is getting difficult to imagine life on land again. A cruising sailor who had gone ashore after 8-10 sailing once told us that she moved into a 2 room apartment and the first six months she couldn’t find anything because there were simply too many places to look for something and anyway – she often got lost in the 2 rooms.
We laughed at that – but now we’re not so sure it was all a joke.
The other evening Vinni remarked that we live our lives outdoors. I hadn’t really thought about that, but she’s right. We spend all our time on our cockpit or walking around ashore. We almost never spend any time below in the salon – we only go below to sleep or to make dinner (unless we’re grilling – that is also on the cockpit). Spending all your time outdoors also means lot’s of fresh air and going to bed early. So we’ve become like our forefathers, our living rhythm follows the sun, arising at dawn and going to bed shortly after sundown.
Being outdoors all the time also means that we have tans that would make any “beach bum” or “surf babe” jealous. Vinni is, as true blondes become, golden brown – much like the color of polished brass. I’m a bit darker, looking more like leather – but both of us have those very deep tans that come from being outdoors most of the time.
Transportation means we use our Maxi-taxi. What is a Maxi-taxi? Well your left foot is Maxi and your right foot is Taxi. We walk everywhere, which I suppose is good for your cardio-vascular system. Surprisingly, whenever we are walking to the supermarket (or especially walking back pulling our trolley full of food etc), strangers stop their cars and ask if we want a ride. Yesterday we asked a person for directions to the supermarket and she immediately offered to drive us there. We’ve met so many wonderful and friendly people so far.
I’s a pleasant life, guaranteeing a solid 8 hours sleep every night. It also means a life that is stress-free. We rarely have any deadlines we have to meet. Virtually everything can wait until tomorrow. The most stressful areas are when Capri needs repairs – do we have the spare parts? Can we source them locally? Can we fix it ourselves? But that really doesn’t happen often. Spare parts are the bane of our existence. They are always difficult to get and frequently require being ordered, then waiting several days until they arrive. Now if the right thing has been sent – you can spend a day or so repairing whatever it was that was broken. At the moment, I’m working on our manual fresh water pump. As I write this, it is torn apart while I wait for it to show me exactly where it is leaking. Doesn’t matter – it will rain all day and we will have more thunderstorms later.
I realize that on our website we frequently write about repairing things and we are sure some of you wonder – what is this piece of shit boat they have that constantly needs repairing? Actually Capri is wonderful boat and doesn’t break down all that often – but constant sailing (every day) and constant living aboard means a lot of wear and tear on just about everything. The general consensus is that a trip across the Atlantic wears just as much as 10 years of normal sailing – and we ‘ve sailed over 10,000 nm which is more than most people sail in way over 10 years – so it is no wonder that we experience things that break down. Actually, this increased wear and tear is something we are becoming more aware of – we don’t think about it – but imagine the difference in wear on your car if you drive it 8 hours per day or only a few hours per day for a month or two each year. Same difference for Capri.
I’ve noted before that we don’t watch television anymore. We watched some in Scotland (1 year ago) and when we were in Baltimore, we went to a bar to see the British Open. When it rained the other night Vinni wanted to watch a movie, so we dug out the TV, set it up and watched a DVD.
That is all the TV we’ve seen in a year.
We don’t miss it either. We sometimes read the newspaper on the internet when we have a really good connection – but the news is basically the same as it was when we lived in Denmark. Everything seems the same. Yada, yada, yada.
After a while, you realize just how much time was spent sitting in front of the “box”, being passively entertained. What a waste. We manage to read books now and Vinni has managed to start knitting again (but we’re in the tropics – so woolen sweaters aren’t really necessary………………..)
Both of us have become VERY relaxed. Vinni says I’ve become too relaxed (read: lazy), but that is just one (wo)man’s opinion.
Since arriving in Florida, our sailing challenges have been minor, mainly because we’ve been on the Intracoastal Waterway, where the sailing is using the engine. We’ve had to be careful and keep an wary eye on the tides and on the depth gauge, but there hasn’t been much sailing using the sails. The depths have been a major challenge – especially since our draught in fresh water is close to 7.5 feet.
Vinni is finding small town America fascinating. The is a United States she has never seen before (neither have a lot of Americans), nor even heard about. And she’s also learning a lot of American history as we sail the east coast – here where American history from the landing of the Europeans began. Now we are in Washington and will be visiting the Smithsonian Museum of American History – this should give Vinni a complete run-down. I think I’ll look on Amazon to see if they have a condensed American history book that Vinni could read to get everything in the right chronological order. So she’s getting her head around the American Revolutionary War (and its major characters, Washington, Jefferson, etc) and the Civil War (and its major participants: Lincoln, Lee, Grant etc), not to mention FDR and Eleanor – both of whom she is fascinated by.
Washington and the National Mall overwhelmed Vinni. Never in her life has she seen such a concentration of museums as the Smithsonian buildings that line the Mall on both sides. I’ll let her describe them, but we spent an entire afternoon in the new Afro-american museum and saw only the subterranean 3 floors – it closed at 5 p.m. before we were finished with them so the upper 3-4 floors will just have to wait until another time. The FDR monument is truly impressive. Impressive not because of size (it is big), but because we both felt it caught the essence of FDR and Eleanor and their legacy. Few Americans realize just how profoundly the United States changed under FDR. Truly a great man (and woman).
Vinni has surprised herself – she’s never really been terribly interested in history, mainly because when she was in school, her history teachers were terrible. She and everyone else was only interested in passing the class and getting the hell out of there. I’ve always loved history and can thank, amongst others, my grade and high school teachers who were very good at igniting my interest.
What else? Well, we’ve both put on a few pounds, which we are trying desperately to lose again. Pounds are much easier and much more enjoyable to gain than to lose (sigh). So we’ve cut back on the wine etc.
I’m also enjoying this American sojourn. I grew up here, after all, and have many (fond) memories of the United States. As Vinni likes to say – I’m probably more than half American, certainly no one here suspects me of being anything other than American – I have no accent on my language.
This puts Vinni at a disadvantage sometimes, because I speak English (ok – American) as my native language. When we’re speaking English, it IS a foreign language for Vinni. Even though she speaks it perfectly and is able to tell jokes etc – it still is a foreign language and she still needs to pay attention when the rest of us are talking. So she tires occasionally. The rest of us just platter on, not realizing that we’re losing Vinni. I try to remember, but frequently forget (sorry Vinni – I truly understand the issue, I had it in the Netherlands when you were fluent in Dutch and I had to concentrate like mad to just catch the gist of what was being said).
We’ve made the turn and are heading south now – the Caribbean awaits and so do the colors in New England, where we are going with Marshall and Debbie to drive through the wondrous autumn colors in New Hampshire and also play some golf (can’t wait – That all sounds glorious and Marshall and Debbie are some of our favorite people) and a trip to San Francisco to baby-sit my grandchildren. Anne- Sophie and Jamie are going on a cruise for a week and invited us to baby-sit.
Not sure if they have a lot of confidence in us or there are just plain crazy – but as I said, “well hell, we can only kill them once”. But it will be fun to have a whole week playing baby-sitter with the kids.
We’re feeling the lack of sail sailing though. Both of us really miss gliding along under sail. There hasn’t been much of that on the Chesapeake and there was none on the Hudson. The trip down along the Outer Banks will give the opportunity and thereafter we’ll be going back into the Caribbean. We’ve been talking a lot lately about the Caribbean. Warm waters – jump off the back end or your morning bath (and evening bath). Getting to sail with our sails again. Go exploring some more islands – not to mention the Bahamas and the BVI both of which everyone says are utterly fantastic.
But we wouldn’t have missed this American voyage for love nor money. It has been an experience that is difficult to describe. The United States is so many things. From the huge houses we saw in Fort Lauderdale to the absolutely charming city of Charleston, South Carolina (lest we forget good friends like Marshall and Debbie). The Intracoastal Waterway has entranced both Vinni and me. For the most part it is desolate and empty. Anchoring up is akin to going back in time several hundred years. The hawks, eagles and buzzards soar across the skies, the fish jump completely out of the water in the morning and evenings. In some places the dolphins can be seen hunting breakfast. Although we haven’t seen them, there are alligators and bear and most other forms of wildlife. The sunrises and sunsets defy description – even great pictures don’t do them real justice.
I feel that I’ve developed as a skipper. Oh I felt pretty confident before – Vinni and I had tried most things, but there is a difference when you are totally reliant on only yourself, as you are when passagemaking. Vinni is a very skilled and confident sailor but she looks to me for leadership, especially when we are in tight situations. For some reason she thinks I’m a better sailor than she is (well – she’s usually right, but not necessarily this time). I am the chief engineer on board and while I’ve had my cock-ups, I have managed to jury-rig or fix most things – at least enough to get us to port.
We both have become a part of Capri. We notice whenever anything is awry immediately. Strange noise? No noise when there is supposed to be one? We wake immediately if Capri’s motion changes. But fall asleep again as soon as we have figured what the change is and why. Strange that our body can attune itself to even minute changes in the environment around you.
How so we feel about having sailed a distance equal to half way around the world? Well it is a long way to go yet. Assuming we make it all the way around – we’ll probably have sailed more than 40,000 nautical miles.
40,000 nm – much more than most sail in their entire lives and we’ve only done a quarter of it so far. There are so many more adventures waiting for us – first we’ll be exploring the rest of the carribean and seeing Canada and then the real adventure begins – the Pacific and the south seas await us (ah yes – all those nubile you ladies dressed only in grass skirts etc (boyhood fantasies), even though I know that this is not reality. For Vinni – she can think about strapping young men dressed only in loincloths (also only in her fantasy).
Back to reality, the south seas will be offering us the chance to go places where you really only can go if you have your own boat – there really isn’t any other mode of transportation. We don’t have a set route yet, I’d dearly love to go to Pitcairn Island (the Bounty), but Vinni is not enthused. Getting there will require at least a 2 week beat against the wind and weather. Well, we’ll see.
Write more about this when we get closer to the Panama Canal……………………………