December 18, 2019

Friday the 13th - The Finish Line

My final evening watch was everything I could of hoped for as I said my goodbyes to Mother Ocean. The moon was full. There were no clouds and a perfect sprinkling of stars across the sky. The air was warm and the wind was enough to push us along at a reasonable speed and so smoothly. I remember wishing for just a couple more days but alas everyone had been in “race” mode for a few days now. Ps. Final results for who won aren’t in yet since they need to calculate how many engine hours and different handicaps for boat size. We are thinking we are in the top four though :-). 

It is pretty apparent I am not the person you want on board if you want to be continuously tuning the rig for optimum performance. I prefer to set the sails for comfort and gaze off into the endless blue remarking on nature’s beauty and beginning my journey of self reflection. Lol. 

I did my best to step up and be ready and willing for changing out sails, shaking out reefs, playing with the Genoa, experimenting with different sail configurations for speed but my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to spend my three hour watches studying how the squalls moved across the water and the changes of the ocean, watching for dolphins, pondering how humongous the waves were, feeling the exhilaration of surfing down them, and don’t get me started again on the sun and the moon. I paired all this with a music playlist that filled me with joy. Soooo ya...I wanted a few more days out there. ;-)

There was one little pesky jester though who was determined to jolt me from my joyful bliss. On that last watch as I sat with face to wind and eyes on the moon a black sharp beaked bird came right at me out of nowhere. I screamed and grabbed the sleeping bag we had in the cockpit all rolled up and began flailing it around. Graham thinks I’m nuts at this point. I'm screaming bird, and terrified it’s going to come into our enclosed area which only has one open side where I am sitting. Graham hasn’t seen the bird at this point and is laughing hysterically and then all of a sudden it comes straight at me again. I continue flailing and quickly zip up the door so he can’t get in and I am totally on edge. I realize there is still one spot he come come in through so I’m agitated and looking everywhere for him. That’s when I turn around and would you believe that little bugger was sitting right behind me on the solar panel. This was my queue to head to bed and close my door. 

Hours later we were pulling into St Lucia in the dark and rain. For the journey across we stayed on Canary Island time so now it was four hours earlier in St Lucia, in the early morning hours. As we made our way through the channel and onto the dock I looked to my teams faces and I could see happiness, excitement, relief, pride, and strength. We all brought to this experience a unique aspect. People bring color to your life and enrich your experiences. You learn new things, they inspire and they provide opportunity for self reflection. I am very grateful for my time on Mareas and to have been a part of their first journey across the sea. 

Here is a link to a photo album from some pics from our crossing. Enjoy! 

Pss. Odd fact is that 7 years ago to the day on Friday the 13th of 2012 we completed our first Atlantic Ocean crossing and arrived in the Caribbean on Salty Ginger. 

December 12, 2019

It’s not all popcorn and Jimmy Buffet

The last two days we have had huge swell and erratic wind waves in varied directions with white tops. In addition, the wind has been gusting constantly from about 18 to upwards to 30 knots. Huge spread in speed making for all sorts of crazy. Often a very large rogue wave will be accompanied by a huge blast of wind which takes you careening sideways down into the crevasse of the wave. The auto pilot then tries to correct your course and sometimes in these corrections it takes the boat to a point of sail that could lead to an "accidental gybe". This basically takes the loaded up main sail which is leaned way out to one side of the boat and even tied off with something called a "preventor" and with a tremendous amount of force it swings hard to the other side of the boat. The preventor should basically prevent these accidents but if the wind gets on the other side of the sail and you don't catch in time there is no stopping it.

Unfortunately this happened to us and the force was enough to snap the preventive line in two. The noise sends chills through you and the boat bucks in all the wrong ways. It's very hard to stay calm and level headed in these circumstances but we did all manage and after only about 30 minutes a new line was on and we were back on course. Luckily the preventor did ease the force of the gybe even though the line broke.

A catamaran doesn't heel over but it does buck and bounce and rock side to side. In these two days it was very difficult to walk about. My outer thighs have bruises on them from knocking into things. You can't count on the motion like you can on a monohull and I seem to guess wrong often. It basically feels like you are in a washing machine. The motion feels so wrong that the first night of these conditions I kept getting up and checking on the other crew thinking we were in dire straights. Graham in his exhaustion, as we had just come off our shifts barked out, "if you are going to keep getting up and checking than sleep in the cockpit"!

Surprisingly we all manage to mostly keep our wits and humour. You can imagine the challenge in having 5 people on the boat with varied opinions on tactics and changing opinions based on how much sleep we have had and if we have read the latest ARC boats position reports. Even given all this we have all gotta along surprisingly well. We really lucked out with both boat and team.

We are now about 1-2 days away from arrival. The seas have eased way back and the wind is down. It's 1am and Graham's watch. I'm up with him in the cockpit and we just finished a bunch of popcorn and are listening to Jimmy Buffet sing Mother Ocean. It's a full moon tonight so really light out and the air is warm and the breeze is beautifully filling our light wind sail.

Seems everyone is itching to arrive but I'm sadly realizing tonight that I only have two more sunrises and one more sunset over this big beautiful sea. Man I'm going to miss this.

December 09, 2019

Ocean Inducing Meditation

Day after day of staring off into the deep blue sea. The endless rolls of the waves as far as the eye can see. The repetitive sounds of waves and splash. The sound of the wind gusting up and down. The comforting sound of water swooshing against the hull. The deepest blue sky. The puffy clouds. The smell of the ocean. The feel of the wind on my face and skin. The rising of the full sun over water and the triumphant radiance of rays streaming through the morning clouds. The closure of a day with sunsets that take your breath away. Living in the elements, so aware of the cycles of the moon, the weather and the sun. Mmmmmmmmm. Deep breath in and all of life's pressures escape on the exhale. Ahhhhhh

Yes this is day 16 at sea and the one that comes after hours upon hours of deep thought, reflection and ocean inducing meditation. ;-)

Soul Cleanse seems the best way to describe this feeling. The last few days I've been thinking a lot about perspective and how much joy perspective can bring to your life. I've been thinking that I need to vary my experiences and try new things to gain this perspective. Sometimes Mother Nature helps with providing me this. We can have 9 days of beautiful dependable steady sailing and then she reels up and shows you her teeth and all of a sudden the next sunny smooth day is so much sweeter.

This leads to my next train of thought regarding challenges. Walking towards my fears has always allowed me to reap huge rewards with personal feelings of success and satisfaction. In the moment though I sometimes question "Past Julie" for getting me into hairy situations but in the end the achievement of the goal is always so bloody sweet I forgive her.

Oh god I'm now talking in third person. Lol. Well I couldn't let this course of blogs end without one deep thoughts post.

We are now about 4 to 5 days from arrival and I'm savouring these last few days. Life is good and I am grateful.

December 06, 2019

Treasures of the bilge

From the kitchen I hear Graham call out, "Fish on both lines". He mans one of the huge rods off the back of the boat and begins reeling. I am full into cooking with pots on stove and can't leave my station. Berry emerges from down below all business and ready for the task at hand. We have lost 5 fish thus far and I can see determination in his eyes. We won't be losing this one.

By the time he reaches his rod the fish on Graham's rod has broken free. We are starting to wonder if the swell we surf down which causes huge fluctuations in our speed, is perhaps the problem? Perhaps causing varied tension on the line. It also could be how fast we are going. ;-)

Regardless we have all placed our hopes on the one fish remaining. As Berry reels we prepare for its arrival. Gaff, bucket, and rum to kill quickly. As it nears, Graham assumes position on the step with rope around waist and gaff in hand. It was a bit unsettling watching the video after of the ocean so close to him and us going so fast but for some reason at the moment I was just focused on the fish ;-). As it came out of the water we all saw that it wasn't that big and agreed we should let it go but unfortunately it's cheek was quite torn and end of life of was near so we decided best to land it. It was still about 2 and a half feet long. It didn't take long for Berry to gut, fillet, clean up and have it into the fridge ready for the next evening.

Graham has been talking of our amazing Mahi Mahi bites from our past voyages. We would typically batter and fry in a fry pan. You then dip in assorted sauces like sweet chilli. Berry hears this and emerges with a "Treasure from the Bilge"......wait for it......A DEEP FRYER!!!

I am pretty sure that if the ARC safety committee had thought that someone might deep fry mid ocean it would have been rule #1 "No deep frying while underway". (To our credit though it was electric so no open flame with hot grease.)

Lucky for us Mei had also provisioned with tempura batter and we were now in the deep frying business! As Mareas surfed down swell hitting speeds of 10+ we all sat around the table with various yummy sauces and Berry served up plate after plate of the most delicious Mahi Mahi bites ever. With taste buds peaked we were all like, "What else can we deep fry?". Well onions of course. Next round of tapas were delicious onion rings.

This is 100% never happening on a monohull and perhaps some may argue shouldn't have happened on a catamaran but regardless we weighed the risks and reaped the benefits. EPIC memories.

Now fully satisfied, we are left wondering what other treasures of the bilge lay deep within Mareas?

December 05, 2019

It’s only a race if we are winning

When we found Mareas and heard they were part of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers we were interested to learn what their $3000+ Cdn entrance fee got them. We had always "poo poo'd" the idea of paying to cross an ocean and being a part of an organized group. Graham spoke of his NARC group often with pride "Not the ARC".

A few things we were skeptics about was that we thought it would give Cruisers a false sense of security. At the end of the day you are on the ocean alone. You need to be self reliant, skilled and knowledgeable. If something was to go terribly wrong for an ARC boat or a NARC boat for that matter they would both be calling the same coast guard. We also didn't like that they left on a planned day without consideration of the weather. This struck us as odd since picking the right departure day was often half our battle. Lastly an organized large group which cost money to join is the exact opposite of "Perry Style"! ;-) Needless to say we joined The ARC with some trepidation.

We have learned now that the ARC really serves as "Cruiser Education". Many folks are just beginning their on water adventures and the workshops and safety rules and on board safety checks serve valuable learning that I am sure will return its value 10 fold over their cruising careers. The social activities leading up to departure allow everyone to quickly form close ties with people who they will most likely see on and off for the next few years in various anchorages, beach bbques and happy hours. They also allow them to feel a sense of community which I think is important when your new home has no fixed address. As far as self reliance on the ocean it is true for the most part we need to be self reliant but the ARC does provide daily position reports to the entire fleet and they include if anyone has issues. I guess I'd like to believe that if someone had problems the ARC could contact boats close by and see if any help could be provided. Might not be as easy if you weren't part of the ARC. The other factor not to be undervalued is how special they make this adventure seem. The send off and I'm sure the arrival are everything I always wanted in doing something so far out of my comfort zone.

Now all of that is great but the last factor makes it pretty damn cool, the ARC is basically a race for Cruisers. You should know that there are basically two kinds of sailors "Racers" and "Cruisers". Cruisers are the kind of people who reef down at night for comfort and err on the low risk side of the equation for most decisions. The ARC allows us all to informally race across the Atlantic. Leading up to departure most folks are saying things like, "We are going to take it easy", "We aren't racing", "Comfort will be winning".

Then on about day 5 as sea legs return and a bit of boredom sets in the crew starts to pay more attention to the position reports downloaded each day at noon via satellite. Boats are divided into divisions and we are part of the "Multihull Under 48 feet" group. Once we see that we are in the top three in our division suddenly we are racing ;-). Out comes the paper chart and we are plotting our position and placing sticky notes of our close competitors. Oh what fun. It's pretty hard not to get into it given crossing this ocean is our primary focus and conversation topic.

We are now about 9 days away. I look forward to checking out the YB Racer app once we arrive and see how it all looked as we crossed together.

Would be pretty cool to finish in the top five for our division but if we don't it won't matter because we weren't racing anyways ;-).