Crossing the Atlantic

07 June, 2015 - Day 1 - Sunday - Leaving

We left Mindelo today. Cabo Verde has a lot of poverty, and I gathered everything off the boat that we could possibly part with. My extra trousers, two of the sharp knives I had brought from Canada, our extra cooking oil and vinegar, some sugar and cinnamon packages from the custard tart store in Portugal, my blow up pillows, and lots of other little things. I had four big bags of things and I set off for the African Market with them. I wasn't sure if anyone would be there since it was Sunday morning, but I thought I would give it a try. I saw a small, beaten up pick up truck loading up with a group of men and women - about 8 of them. They would be going out to the fields or something similar I would guess. I handed the bags up to the women on the truck. I’m sure they did not understand my words, as I said “These are some things we don't need on the boat”, but they were quick to understand my intent and the bags disappeared out of my arms before I could finish my sentence. The one woman in the cab of the truck suddenly jumped out looking completely forlorn and pointed at the small girl she carried in her arms, and begging for something for her daughter. Luckily I had put the heavy bag in my backpack, and I unzipped it and handed it to her. As I walked away, I could see the one woman in the back of the truck, huddled over her packages, clinging to them as if someone would steal them away. These are the images that will stay with me. The images of true poverty, not like the homeless or poor people in Canada. Those people are rich comparatively. None of those people had shoes on their feet, or hope that a good education would lift their child out of poverty. Yesterday I met some women at the market. They were better off than these women in the truck, but still very poor. The one woman joked that her baby son was for sale if I would take him back to Canada. I joked back that I was not prepared to nurse a baby and would need a nursemaid to accompany him. The mom was delighted to apply for the job and we laughed. But inside, I know that if she could have sent her son with me, she just may have in order for him to have a chance at a better life. I wish I could bring each of these people back and give them the chance that they deserve for a better life. 

We sailed away, and as I watched the coast of the islands disappear, I understand more why some people give up their lives to try to help people less fortunate than them.

Looking back at Mindelo on the way out

Leaving Capo Verdes

All ready for the Ocean

08 June, 2015 - Day 2 - Monday - Fish

Great day at sea today. Saw a large flock of flying fish - maybe about 50 or 100 all at once rise up out of the water and fly for quite a distance before splashing down.

And then, in the later evening it started. I have to admit, I don't have a lot of memory of this time. I was so, so, so sick. I have never had diarrhea from seasickness… until tonight. I vomited nonstop all night. I sweated and was running a very high fever. 

The skies are always different

Calm seas for the trip

09 June, 2015 - Day 3 - Tuesday - Homesick

I got up for my 6am watch, and I must have looked like something the dog found in the bottom of the neighbour’s fetid garbage bin. I dragged myself up, clothing drenched though from sweat and sat curled in a ball on the settee. He asked if I was alright, and I said I was not. He said he needed some sleep and I agreed.

Jon got up at about 10:30 and I had passed out. I realized Jon was washing the deck, sloshing buckets of seawater around. I dragged myself back down to my bed and as I tried to close the small hatch I had opened to get some of the sick, stale air out of my cabin I was doused with a cold bucket of ocean water, right through the hatch. I was too sick to go up and say anything, and I closed the hatch and wiped up the water as best I could with my towel which doubles as my sheet. Luckily the mattresses are covered in plastic. The things on my bedside table weren’t so lucky, and I will have to toss most of it. Luckily my computer, which often sits there, but never will again, was in the drawer under my bed, and my phone had been upstairs with me. I would not have been impressed. I took my second to last Gravol, crawled in the driest part of my sleeping bag, and pulled the little airplane blanket over me, and fell into an exhausted stupor.

10 June, 2015 - Day 4 - Wednesday - Sorry … or not?

Woke up much better today. I saw Jon sloshing water on the deck and I said to him “You should probably make sure all the hatches are closed before you do that, mine was open the other night”. Pause, lack of acknowledgement. finished washing deck. “Which hatch” “The little one at the end, I needed some fresh air in my cabin” “You know” he said, “there’s one way you could insure that doesn’t happen … do it yourself!” “Wash the deck?” I asked “YES!” he said emphatically. “I was really ill, and it wasn't really nice being sloshed with icy water in my bed”. Silence. “You could just say sorry”. Silence. He didn't talk to me for the rest of the day, or eat the food I cooked, or acknowledge me in any way. He was nice enough at 6pm when I asked if there were any updates for the evening shift though. 

Did not photoshop these pictures

11 June, 2015 - Day 5 - Thursday - Still Miffy

0000h - no sound from below. I let my alarm go off at his door. He slams his door open suddenly and bursts out. I turn my alarm off. “Why aren’t the bloody hull lights on?” he bellows. “I didn't want to put them on in case one of your lights was on in your cabin - it would wake you up, I don't use them, so I was ok” “I told you to put the bloody hull lights on” pause, silence.makes coffee “Good evening Jon, things are going great out here, and I am off to bed”. Laid down. No, something has to be said. Be straight, be simple, be non-accusatory. I went back up before I could back out. “Look Jon, it seems that a lot of times you are angry or dissatisfied or annoyed at the things I do, Now, if you have a real complaint, I would be glad to have you let me know about it and we can discuss it, but just snapping at me makes me uncomfortable and I do not respond well to it. You will not get the best out of me this way” “Well, um yes, I guess I just got up and had to stumble around in the darkness and have a pee in the dark and that is quite uncomfortable, so when I came up I just needed to get it out.” “Well, ok then, maybe if you discuss it after” “You’d be bloody uncomfortable if the hull lights weren't on” “I rarely use them” “You were supposed to turn them on and you didn’t" “I turned the navigation lights on, I think you are a big boy and can turn your own hull lights on if you need them” I gave his “big boy” shoulder a warm pat and went back to bed. I did not sleep well tonight. We’ll see how Thursday morning goes…. I am never good with this situation, I do not have the self confidence in myself to know that I am not the one with the social problems. I do have my own, and often drive people away or incense them in some way which eludes me. I think Aodhan gets his autism fairly, and in no small part to me, as well as Greg, If anyone would like to enlighten me on my strong and, more importantly, on my weak points, I would be really glad to sit down, and provide free wine while you do. I’ve been trying to keep the “clashes out of this blog, and it is why I didn't write at all about my last big trip, because of the clash with one person on board - the other two I got along with great, but the one, yikes! I didn’t want to say anything bad about someone. But I think that it is part of the story, and I need to tell it. I think it is a big part of this journey. Crossing the ocean is one thing. Having to spend two weeks locked in a small condo with someone that won’t talk to you, seems annoyed at everything you do, snaps at you, and complains no matter what you do, is quite another. Oh, yes, and don't forget to add the vomiting.

12 June, 2015 - Day 6 - Friday - Miss my own Bed

The beds on this boat are so uncomfortable. I really want to be home in my own soft, comfortable bed with loving arms wrapped about me. This trip has, and still is, taking so much longer than I had expected. I don’t feel the need to do any more of this trip. I am not learning any more than I have, I am not seeing any more than I already have. When I get to Tortola, I will be heading across to the US Virgin Islands to catch a plane home. I would go today if I could. 

Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days ... laden with happiness and tears

13 June, 2015 - Day 7 - Saturday - Introspection and Chatter

Lots of time for introspection on a trip like this. Probably way, way too much. those of you who know me, know that I probably chatter too much about trivialities. Those of you who know me better might know that it is probably just my way of not having to think about all the crap that I have had to deal with in my life, and thus remaining sane. When I sailed from the Bahamas, the man I sailed with there, took a great deal of time and energy to try to make me feel as bad about my chatter as possible, tearing strips off of my already savaged emotions and chewing on them like the nasty hurtful creature he was. Maybe I deserved it, I am quite sure that others have wanted to tell me to shut up too, but no one else has ever been that cruel about it. Since then, I often lapse into silent states, often wandering away from social interactions, and probably seeming aloof and uninterested in people. I apologize if you are one of those people. There has just been too much going on in my life for me to ever recover from anything, and I thought that this trip would be a time for that, but instead, it has just opened new wounds, as I struggle to understand why I am once again put with someone who finds me annoying and stupid. 

Miracles start to happen when you give as much energy to your dreams as you do to your fears.

14 June, 2015 - Day 8 - Sunday - Halfway!

There is something about crossing the halfway mark, as we did yesterday, that changes everything. No longer are we sailing away from land, we are now sailing towards it. It is like coming to the crest of a mountain, and realizing that the climb is over. There is still the dangerous, and sometimes longer descent, but you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. As we slid slowly by the midpoint of the Atlantic, I felt an inward peace spread throughout my thoughts. Even Jon seems to be happier, and, although he has never made me the meal of beans and mashed potatoes he promised three days ago, has at least spoken to me about weather, tall ships marine life. We even briefly moved on to if the sea was boiling hot, but have not reached winged pigs yet. 

The negative thing about reaching half way, is that we are only… half way. And, I am bored. I have read a few books so far, Napoleon’s Gambit, The English Patient, Golden Earrings, One Morning - One Moment, Thomasina, Shantaram and Freedom’s Ransom. I have also listened to audio books, Genome, Before You Know Kindness, half of Outlander, Tesla and Atlas Shrugged - which I am currently listening to now. I was not able to finish Outlander and Tesla, because there seems to be a problem with the download halfway. I have only the last bit of Weather Lore for Sailors to read in hard copy, but I have several more audio books. I have worked my way through quite a bit of a puzzle book and I may never play another mind numbing arcade game on my i-phone when I get off this boat. 

I thought about another analogy. Imagine driving for two weeks though the hot prairies in the back of your mom and dad’s station wagon - and no, you don’t get to go to a hotel at night - just pull your pillow out and stare at the yellow grain while you fall into a boredom coma. 

A little worse for wear, but still hanging in there

15 June, 2015 - Day 9 - Monday - Tumbleweeds

At least there is some life out here. We have not seen another dolphin, but we have seen some flying fish, a couple of seagulls, and lots of a plant I call ocean tumbleweed. I’ll have to look it up and get it’s proper name and find out more about it when I get home. I do apologize, I haven’t taken any pictures of seagulls (the 4 or 5 we have seen) or flying fish - you just wouldn't see them even if I did have my camera ready! I think the gulls like the fact that the boat disturbs the flying fish and they fly around us looking for them.

Today Jon asked me if I was bored. It was an odd question. I said, “hmm, maybe, no, not really bored, are you?” He just grumbled that he had just finished cleaning all the rust off … again, and I realized that he really wasn't concerned about my emotional state, it was just his way of letting me know that I was not doing the work that was expected of me. Some people just never get it. If you are grumpy and mean and make people feel like they are constantly disappointing you, you get so much less out of them. I mean, at first, in the short term, you may get more, and if you actually have authority over them, you will seem to get more. However, in reality, they will do everything they can to defy you and irritate you - because it is a survival technique.

I feel like I am in a waiting room. It could be at the doctor or dentist or airport or anywhere. I am alone, and I have read all of the Reader’s Digest articles and even looked through all the pamphlets on the wall. My flight or appointment is delayed indefinitely and I am trapped in this timeless void without internet and needing to conserve my phone battery. Waiting. 

I now know why the sailors on the old tall ships were so excited “Land Ho!” They cried and “Land Ho!” I will cry and I will wash the salt water away from my eyes.

Sargassum - this free floating seaweed grows all over the middle of the Atlantic

I call it Ocean Tumbleweed:)

16 June, 2015 - Day 10 - Tuesday - Times they are a changing

We are changing time today. As we travel west, of course the time changes. Last night I did a 7.5 hour shift, until 1:30am, and then Jon did a shift until 9am. At 9am, he will shift the clock back to 6am and then I will continue with the 6-12 shifts (both am and pm of course). I find that it is a bit of a mess up with my system. The whole reason he wanted the shifts to be so precise, is to let our bodies get into a rhythm. But now, this disrupts the pattern and my body is thrown into a little bit of chaos, not to mention the log book that goes until 8am and then with a little asterix drops back to 6am as the next entry.  I tried to ask him why we couldn't just wait until BVI’s to change the time, and just stick with the shifts we have like we did down the coast of Europe and Africa. He went into a whole LONG exasperated explanation of how time changes as you move west, but not when you go south, adding little bonus remarks like “you should know this” and “do you not understand again?”. I bit my tongue. So now, the sun sets before 6pm, and it is full on dark by 6:30pm instead of 9:30pm… and the sun rises at about 3:30am or so. So my evening shift is now in complete darkness, and his shift has only an hour or two of darkness before dawn. Ya, I think I just am too stupid to understand his very good scientific explanation about how time changes as we go west.

I keep looking at the little boat on the i-pad screen and it doesn't seem to move any closer to the west shore. I know it is, but it still seems like we are four to six days out no matter how far past centre we go.

He accused me of being so stupid that I couldn't understand things. With the exaggerated patience, reserved for toddlers and developmentally delayed, Jon tried once again to explain the voltmeter and the auto helm etc to me. It’s not that I don’t understand the instruments, I said again, It’s that I don't understand exactly what YOU, want me to do with the information because we do not seem to think in similar ways and he is not clear in what he wants me to do. Whenever I do what I think is a good idea, it is not what you think is a good idea and it seems to irritate you. It is just easier to not bother. I told you that if you react with with intimidation and aggravation, I just shut down and will not put myself into that situation. I reminded him that at my job in the lab I take care of much more intensive instrumentation than a voltmeter. And he just shouted at me that I don't give him confidence.

Sailing at night in the full moon

17 June, 2015 - Day 11 - Wednesday - Face the Music

And it was the music that saved me. I wrote these words in my journal because they are true. Today I flipped through my i-phone. I wasn't sure, but I remembered that at some point I had put some books on my phone - not audio books, but written books. There is one problem with audio books. In most cases, it is a benefit, and the reason I like them so much. You can have all of your other senses and resources available while you listen. You can drive, do physical labour or exercise, you can look around and even think about things to an extent. The story is like an added bonus. When you are trying to fill a day, trying to make the long hours slip away, and stave off the malicious boredom that creeps in with the ominous cloud of depression, an audio book is less superior than a written one. You have to hold a written book, and look at it, and hear the words as you read them in your mind and it gloriously takes up so much of the day. I didn't come across the books, they may still be there, but I did come across the music. When I went away before, Greg sat down for days and made a compilation of music for me. He found so many songs and so much music that made me feel happy, and he put it together on my phone with my name on it. I was sitting downstairs in my stuffy room, feeling sorry for my wretched self, and I saw the mix, Elaine’s mix. Greg’s love. I almost started crying. I put my headphones in and closed my eyes as ABBA’s Dancing Queen filled my ears and my head and my heart. 

Within a few minutes I was up, out on deck, and laying on the trampoline, dancing (horizontally so I didn't fall off the boat) to the loud beat of so many songs. After a couple of hours I realized that I could dance standing up on the deck and I was able to get so much of the physical activity that I have been missing. My heart pumped and overflowed and I danced and sang my day away. It was the best day of all. It strengthened me and filled my soul with joy and happiness.

Enjoy life! Every day of it no matter what it throws at you - it is all an adventure.

18 June, 2015 - Day 12 - Thursday - Weird Introspection in the middle of the Ocean

Jon and I seem to be like two cats that don't like living with one another, but have come to some unspoken agreement about territory. He seems to be trying to be nice to me. It is sad that with some people, the nicer you are to them, the meaner they are to you. With those same people, as soon as you get mean to them, and become aloof and show them that you do not need them, they start being so nice to you. For me, it is just too much damn work to keep on top of it all. I just want to be nice. Some people have accused me of being clingy and needy and dependent. Have these people actually looked at my life? I take off for months at at time and go alone into the most atrocious situations with only brief thoughts of other people. And yet, as soon as I defer to someone, because I can’t be bothered arguing, because it is not worth it to me, I get accused of being uncertain and indecisive. I just get decision fatigue and couldn't care less about these little choices that will be so unimportant in my life and people can’t imagine that I just don’t care I guess. Don't get me wrong, I care about all of you, I just don’t need anyone, but I do want all of you. It is a choice that I love you, not a need to fill an empty space inside of me. I think the people around me are like our favourite foods and songs. They add so much to our lives. We would not be lost without them, but it would be a sad life without the intricate quilt of our many friendships.

A full circle rainbow in the middle of the ocean after a very light mist.

19 June, 2015 - Day 13 - Friday - Six Hours

Get up, do my six hour shift while listening to my audiobook. Six hours drags by. Eat my breakfast of the last piece of cow cheese, and then some sautéed lentil and quinoa with some squash soup. At noon, go lay down for an hour and try unsuccessfully to sleep. Put on headphones with great music. Dance on the deck standing and laying down on the tramp - (horizontal dancing). Great - feel so much better after exercise and inspired and just plain made happy by the music. Jon seems to be being reasonable - ask him how he met his girlfriend since she lives in Florida and he lives in Tortola? “She volunteered for a delivery” he sneers as he stomps off down to play with his iPad. Play Plants vs Zombies. Listen to my audiobook. Put more music on. Have more squash soup and make more quinoa to go in it. Six hours drags by. Lay down for an hour before my evening shift. Success!! I was able to sleep for about half an hour or maybe even 45 minutes. Now I won’t be so tired by the end. Yea! Come up for my shift. Play my audiobook. Play plants vs Zombies. Make fried potatoes and vegetables. Do my logs. Six hours drags by. So much time. So little human interaction. I miss anyone of you who would sit down and share a moment of your life with me. I’ll provide the coffee, wine or delicious meal. I crave human interaction. I am glad to listen or talk, or any combination. Maybe I should invent an App. It will just be called “Friend”. You can use a slider to set the  “listener - talker” level. Set topics - American Politics, Brazilian Soccer, whatever. Then the app will let you talk and will answer you. It can just say uh-huh, while you talk and leave spaces for you to say really or wow, when it talks to you. Ok, I am officially insane. Finally climb into bed and lay awake unable to sleep because I am so overtired, and then wake three hours later ready for my old shift that my body had spent so long getting used to. 

My delicious breakfast I made myself each morning. 

20 June, 2015 - Day 14 - Saturday

The wind dropped off a bit and Jon decided that we can motor - we have enough fuel to make it from here. We motored all day and all night. Jon is being really nice to me today - not sure why. Maybe his stress is lowered since we are motoring, maybe he knows he needs to be nice to me

21 June, 2015 - Day 15 - Sunday

Jon announced that we were going to stop for fuel in St Martin (or Sint Maarten). We motored and arrived around 2pm. The fuel dock was closed. I went to get internet and Jon said that if I wasn't back in ten minutes he would leave without me. I asked him to please leave my stuff on the dock if he did that. I connected with Greg and he booked me a flight home. He said there was a flight at 4:20pm if I could make it. I told him most probably not. But we tried. Jon ordered a steak dinner and I told him I was leaving to go home. He was actually quite nice about it. I got my things off the boat, and locked up the boat. I found a nice little taxista (I like that word for taxi driver - can't remember what country they say that - it’s like barista) and he took us to the immigration office at the cruise ship dock. They said they couldn't do it there, so we raced to the other side of the island and the woman there processed me through and said I could leave. The taxi driver raced me to the airport, but it was too late. If I had not had to check bags, I might have been able to do it, if we had gone straight, if if if. But hey, I mean, I am stuck in St Maarten for 24 hours - how bad is that?? 

Land Ho!

First view of land was St Barts.

Coming in to St Maarten.

My final look back at the ocean I have crossed. The end to one adventure,
and the beginning of the rest of my life