Hmmm…it smells fishy here

We continued with the good weather and peaceful sailing and generally made good progress last days. We hoisted all sails we could for a while, then we switched to sailing just with our headsail as this allows us to sail at a better angle even if this means sacrificing some speed. All in all, we just passed the point where we have less than 1000 nautical miles to go (probably about 7 days to destination).
At night, winds drop, and sailing is slow, with sails flapping with a loud bang when they get filled again by the wind. Almost depressing πŸ™‚

And so were the three fish we missed during the last two days. I told you about the like-scissors-cut, lucky lure, in my last post. I gave it another chance and another fish took a bite but I lost it trying to get it on board. And again…and again…

I changed the lure to one which was labeled as “tuna waster”. Some combination of burgundy feathers and red plastic “tentacles”.
One hour later, I got a strike (as it’s said in fishing terms) and after not too much fight I had on board a nice, 70-80 cm wahoo fish (I believe slightly below 2 kg). I never had one, neither fishing or in a restaurant, so I was looking forward to it. We gutted, gilled and chopped the fish and Alina wanted to cook it in he oven with vegetables and serve it with polenta.
I reluctantly said yes, as she was dreaming of cooking the fish this way for some time already. And maybe because yesterday was the national day of Romania and a polenta would have been appropriate :).
As the fish was small, I cast the line out again with the “tuna waster”. It is true, I am dreaming of a tuna, made sashimi or our favorite Peruvian style ceviche, right then and there. Ceviche is basicaly raw fish with a lot of lime and lemon juice, some red onion, coriander leaves, salt and a touch of olive oil. Yummmmy!
Another half an hour or so, another bite. I went to pick up the rod and I could hardly hold it. A monster! And this started the toughest fight I had with a fish until now. I don’t know how long it lasted, maybe 20-30 minutes, maybe more, but I know that I was exhausted and my arms were hurting like hell. A couple of times I’ve put the rod in the holder and the fish managed to almost get snatch it.
Two years ago, on my first rod and fishing experience, I caught a quite big tuna and managed to bring it near the boat after some really long fight. But, as I didn’t know much about fishing, I asked Alina to get the camera, take photos, etc. while I’ve put the rod in the holder and let the fish in the water, by the boat. Big mistake! Revived by getting back in the water, he snapped and broke my holder and gone were fish, rod, reel, holder to the bottom of the sea. For the rest of the trip, I felt like the main character in “The old man and the sea”.
Back to our fish, this time the rod was tied to the boat with a string, so I was less worried about losing it. A few more episodes of reeling-in the fishing line and we see the monster: a quite large dorado (or Mahi-Mahi) but definitely much smaller than I thought judging by the fight. I would have preferred a tuna as this was the 4th dorado we hooked since we left Gibraltar.
After a bit of action and we managed to get it on board. It was about 1 m long and I weighted it, just to be surprised that it was only 11kg. I am wondering, if I fought so much for a 10 kg fish, how do those people manage to catch a 50 or 100 kg tuna or marlin?
Gutting, cleaning, filleting were tedious jobs and at the end my back hurt terribly. My new, clean, clothing – as I had the other day my mid-Atlantic shower – are all stained and smelly. I took an aspirin fro my back pain and rested for a while while Alina cooked the “fish on a vegetable bed served with polenta”. Which was delicious, by the way.

Paul doesn’t want to eat anymore meat and fish as he realized that one has to kill the fish or animal in order to eat it. So part of the fishing procedure is to distract Paul’s attention from the on-boarding of the fish and what follows.

This would be the fishy stuff of the last days and as we have enough fish for a week or more, we stopped fishing. Keep your fingers crossed for the winds to be good, for us to arrive well and in time in Martinique.

This is Seven Seas! Over! (to you).

PS: I would like to hear you after the “Over!” but untill we get on land there’s very little way to read comments if there are any).

Another shitty day in paradise

We had some almost great sailing days since my last post. The wind is a bit too weak (only 10-12 knots) and sometimes from the wrong angle, as I explained in my last post, but overall great sailing. Seas calmed down to 1-2 m waves, the sun shines and it’s a lot warmer. At night we don’t need anymore our sailing clothing but just a t-shirt and maybe a thin jacket.

Alina and Paul started working on Christmas surprises for family and friends and life is good except that it seems we will run out of milk and juice before we reach the Caribbean. I lost yesterday a fish. The bite was strong but not the strongest I’ve had so far and I didn’t see the fish so I can’t tell you more. Just the lure, in the shape of a squid looks now as if was cut with scissors. This was the only byte since we caught the two dorado.

So, what’s wrong with the title? Well, this is the dark side of long distance sailing: breakages. We had a number of breakages since we left Barcelona, some requiring sailing tricks which you learn in school and then you forget as you think that this could never happen to you in reality. I’ll tell you more in about this in my next post. For now, the last thing that broke was one of our waste pumps, that pumps…now you know what.
Boats discharge their waste water, the water from the toilets with everything that goes in the toilet, and galley (the boat’s kitchen) into a tank and then a pump empties the tank from time to time. This is in order not to discharge your dirty water when you are in port for example, but use some pump out facility of the port. Some boat have grey water and black water tanks, some can bypass the tanks when offshore discharging directly in the seas. Seven Seas has two tanks, one that serves he kitchen and our toilet and another one for the front toilet, and has no bypass feature. The pump for the kitchen and our toilet (that serves three people) is broken and doesn’t pump anymore. In the last two days, we tried to repair the pump, or better said to see what’s wrong and that meant dismantling the pump and get a lot of sh%& on our hands and in the bilges (the part of the boat that’s under the floor). We’ll give it a try again today, but until then we’re left with one sink, that’s in the forward heads (the marine term for toilet) and making cooking and washing dishes a difficult task.

Before I finish this post, let me introduce you to marine radio and Hollywood stupidity. You’ve all seen those war movies whee some actor talks on the radio something like: “This is StupidActor, over and out.” Well, there are a number of keywords in radio conversations: one is “over” which means “I’m passing the microphone over to you” and another one is “out” tha means “I’m outta here”. So over and out means “I’m passing the microphone to you but I’m outta here, I don’t give a damn on what you will say”. On passage we are required to always listen to the emergency channel (channel 16). In 14 days we received just one call from a buddy yacht but the signal was weak and we couldn’t chat. We only visually saw one boat and about five on our radar/transponder screen. On an overnight passage from Palma to Barcelona we usually see 10-20 and one night I had to contact three of them to agree how to avoid hitting each other. You know, us 14 m sailing boat, almost the highest priority (i.e. the others should go around us) against a 200 m tanker or container-ship. It’s always a tradeoff between the rules and the priority of the biggest.

Thanks for listening! This is Seven Seas, Over (to you)

Is this the weather in the tropics?

I mentioned the other day the squalls that come with a lot of wind and rain. Well, they’ve been more than a nuisance yesterday when we’ve been hit by two before breakfast (literally) and another 7 or 8 until the night. If this is the weather in the Caribbean, I might change course to Brazil πŸ™‚

Today, so far, we were not hit by any squall nor did we got any flying fish. We see the squalls to the left and right of us, but miraculously they seem to avoid us. Maybe they don’t like my smell.
The sunny weather makes everything more bearable, even if the seas mounted to 5 meter waves again and the boat rolls a lot.
The wind blows straight towards our destination which is not so good news for us as we are not equipped with the right sails to sail with the wind straight from behind. So, we’re zigzag-ing (jibing, in sailing terms) along the straight line, keeping the wind on one side or the other, this reducing the VMG (velocity made good, i.e. the speed at which we approach our destination). Mathematically, our_VMG = our_speed*cos(30 or 40 degrees), depending on what the boat likes…I personally like 30, but girls (all boats except military ships are girls) could be temperamental at times.

The person who seems to be the less affected by the constant rolling of the boat is Paul. He seems to take the things as they are and I can’t stop being amazed at how skillfully he moves around the boat, climbing as usual on whatever furniture he can and playing with his toys. And yes, he’s still doing the watches with Alina and there’s no way to stop him. Seven Seas, fortunately has a very well protected cockpit (living area on deck) that keeps us dry and away from the elements.
Our weather routing software tells us that we still have 11-12 days to the finish line.

Tropical nuisances

We’re getting closer to the tropics with their warmth but nuisances as well.

First, the flying fish. Usually when the first flies through the air and lands on your deck, most people say cute little fish and throw it back into the water. But then when this happens tens of times and maybe one gets hit while at the helm they become a nuisance. I remember the blog a friend that crossed the pond recently and was amused to see the change in the tone of the posts from amusement to despair regarding the flying fish. And they also stink πŸ™‚

The second a bit more serious: the tropical squalls. Not sure about the proper wording but they are some sort of mini storms when the wind goes up 50-100% and changes direction by even 50 degrees (which both are a lot and you need to be prepared). The good part is that they are visible in the distance, a dark cloud that goes down into the sea. So we get a lot of rain too. They only last 30-40 minutes and then everything goes back to normal.

Speaking of which…we’re out of wind, crawling at 2-3 kn (when we should do t least 6-7 kn or 12-15 km/h). I’m not decided if to start the engine or just wait. We need to save the fuel for later if we need it (e.g. in case of a serious breakage in the sailing systems).

We also got our share of accidents. Today the boiling coffee pot fell off (my mistake it should have been in the sink) and Alina got a small burn on her right hand. Nothing serious but we all know how annoying burns are…and I have to cook again πŸ™‚

Better weather. Some bad news from Cocojet.

We finally got a break from the heavy winds and big waves. Winds settled in he 15-20kn range (25-35 km/h) and waves down to 2-3m. Also, we’re sailing on a more comfortable downwind course (i.e having the wind from behind). Peaceful sailing, the kind I’ve been dreaming since we decided to cross the Atlantic.
Yesterday we started fishing and we brought a fish as close as 2 m from the boat when it snapped and broke free from the hook.
Today we had another one who managed to escape but at least it was further from the boat so we didn’t feel so frustrated. But then luck was on our side and we had a 2 kg dorado (mahi mahi) for lunch. As we thought we could fish for tomorrow too, I asked Huw to pick a lure and we cast the line just to catch another dorados lightly bigger. 2-2 fish versus us, we declared a draw and stopped fishing.

For those who don’t know the Seven Seas Adventure team: it’s just me (Liviu), Alina, our son Paul, who today had 4 years and 6 months and Huw (a friend who offered to help us with this crossing). It would have been to tiring for just the two of us to sail so long with Paul. When you have a kid of his age on a boat, you are 2.5 persons eating but just 1.5 sailing, as you need to give him a lot of attention.

We left Lanzarote almost a week ago one day after the other boats in the rally left due to technical problems we had to solve on the boat. We found out today, with surprise and joy that we are currently the 12th out of 35 boats judging by the distance remaining to Martinique. Not bad at all.

Paul is coping very well and I am amazed at his skill of walking, playing and jumping around in the boat even when the boats moves in all directions. Since two or three days, he is going on watch together with Alina and there’s no way to convince him not to. Of course he mostly sleeps, but it is promising…isn’t it.

We found just minutes ago, that the captain of the french boat with 4 kids (Cocojet III) and with whom Paul played a lot in Lanzarote, broke his ankle and was evacuated by the coast guard so we will not meet them at finish. What a shame. Paul and their daughter Atenais really enjoyed playing together.

The third wave

(I remember this title of a famous book when I was young, one of the few contemporary western books to be printed during the communist era in Romania. However the book has nothing to do with the waves that were upon us these days.)
There were three waves of weather (frontal systems) going over us in the past days and that kept us busy and at times grumpy because the relentless motion of the boat, seasickness, tiredness.

So on day three the radio continued to call every hour for a lookout for a wooden boat departed from Africa, with 21 people on board that never reached the Canary Islands. Later in the night, while I was on watch the wind started to pick up and a sudden change of direction announced the first frontal system which we expected, but 12 hours later.
I changed course to follow he wind change and soon after that I heard a terrible noise coming from inside the boat. Given our previous bad experiences with the engine I immediately suspected our workhorse but strangely the sound came from the front part of the boat.
It stopped before I could figure out the source. The boat suddenly lost 30% in speed.
As the wind increased, I called Huw to help me reduce the surface of the mainsail (to put a reef in the main, in sailing language).
After that, and afraid that either we’ve hit something or hooked a fishing net, I walked to the front of the boat just to see the surprise: our anchor, that was fixed with a bolt and a rope was hanging free at the end of its 70m of chain. We stopped the boat (not an easy think in the 20kn of wind) and hoisted the anchor.

Day 4. Another night, another frontal system. The wind continued to increase and we had to go for our smaller head sail. Another front passed on top of us with the typical rain and wind gusts. This time with thunderstorms. It was somewhat interesting, somewhat frightening watching the lightning in the distance and hoping it won’t get too close. It didn’t . Seas mounted up, as forecast, to 5 meter waves. It was just a gentle and sometimes annoying rolling motion of he boat as the waves came from our starboard (right side).

Day 5. We gout our forecast for the day and braced for the third wave (front) that announced winds in excess of 30 kn (60 km/h or force 6 to seven in marine language).
And it came, with lot of rain, wind gusting to 40 kn … a sleepless night. But at least it only lasted 6 hours and we’re now sailing happily along towards the tropical latitudes which we expect to reach in 3-4 days. Everyone is happier now!

Sailing is funny. It reminds me of playing golf, when after a miserable day you wanted to throw away your clubs and never to play again, but it was enough to hit one good shot, just one to become a happy player. I found the same with sailing: after a few miserable days one may wonder what’s the point of being in a shaky boat, wet and cold, but one good sunny sailing day and all doubts vanish.
My watch is starting now and I look forward to a silent night, watching the stars and the waves.
Back soon! Seven Seas Adventure out and standing by on channel 16. (standard marine lingo).

Day 2

20 knots of wind. Really upwind. This makes boat movement uncomfortable.
The radio shouts every hour about a wooden boat with 21 people on board, that left Africa towards Canarias and probably didn’t arrive.
Wind direction should change tomorrow morning giving us a more comfortable allure. When you sail upwind the boat is leaning away from the wind due to the pressure on the sails. You also from time to time fall of the top of a coming wave with a loud bang and a lot of spray on deck.

Thursday and Friday we expect 4-5m waves. It’s a long time since I’ve been in such high waves but the good part is that they will be 11 seconds apart so hopefully will be just a nice and spectacular dance up and down, up and down….

Maybe I’ll still have mobile connection in the evening.

Internet at sea

The last post and this one are written possibly in the last minutes of mobile connection.
After that the only connection to the Internet will be our satellite phone that transfers data at 2.4kbps roughly 3000 times slower than the average lowest home Internet connection.
So we use this mainly to get our weather forecast and send sorry updates.

A small weather forecast takes about 5 minutes to load and costs 6 $ airtime.
A small small photo would take probably at least 10 minutes.

The boat at its best goes at 8.5 knots (roughly 15 km/h) Θ™i one could say life at sea is really slow paced.

At least I have a long time to think and read.

Here we go!

After years of waiting and changing course… After 5000 staples removed and 5000 shot back….and a lot more which I’ll try to write down in the weeks to come, we finally left.

I’m now on watch cruising along the SE of Fuerteventura headed W across the pond as an English expression says.

If you feel like sailing with us I’ll try to update a (currently almost empty blog) atΒ www.sevenseasadventure.net/blog

And you can track our progress across the Atlantic at :

http://cornellsailing.com/sail-the-odyssey/atlantic-odyssey/2014-15/track-the-boats/

If you’re brave enough to try the bad Google translation you could check Alina’s blog (Romanian only πŸ™ but funnier than mine) at:Β ocoboco.WordPress.com

In the end we joined a small rally organized by an old acquaintance of mine Jimmy Cornell. We did that to give Paul a chance to make friends and speak some french and english. And he already did.

That’s a lot to tell… From sailing into and anchorage at night with no engine to the agony and ecstasy of boating.

The next one or two days are not so good with respect to winds but hope that it will get better.

More soon….

sent from my tiny mobile. apologies for typos and brevity