St. Kitt’s to Curacao Part 3: Sailing, eating, and sleeping   Leave a comment

Finally, I’m getting to the part where we actually go sailing!

Lee, his dad Kurt, and I left Basseterre in the early morning on Monday March 18. It wasn’t that early, really, more like 6:30-7am by the time Lee replaced our head pump, which had randomly failed overnight. We had food, water, and fuel but not much wind. That meant a day of mostly motoring after some brief breeze mid-morning.

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Windless days are the worst. Without the breeze the temperature is unbearable. Luckily, motoring creates a little bit of airflow over the boat. The boat’s motion through the seas isn’t much fun without wind either. Kurt and I both took our Marezine but I still felt seasickness come and go. Sometimes all I could do was stretch out on a bunk and wait for the feeling to pass. This state of affairs continued for the entire sail, despite my usual ability to overcome seasickness after 24 hours or so at sea. I had to limit my time down below and snack constantly, since my stomach seemed to feel much worse when empty. Fortunately, I could still read. I don’t know what I would have done without a compelling book on my Kindle!

Sailing-wise, our first day was pretty crappy. There was nothing to see, no other boats. A Coast Guard plane did buzz us at one point.. It flew past and then circled back to fly right over us and take a look at our transom. I think it was from the Netherlands Antilles Coast Guard.

The three of us sorted out the first night’s watches without much thought. Kurt is an early riser so he took the 3-6am shift. I volunteered to take the middle shift but Lee actually wanted that one so I ended up standing the first watch. We continued to motor though my watch that night but the wind had picked up enough to sail by the end of it. Lee and I hoisted the main and the MPG (lightweight genoa) and I went below for a peaceful 6 hours of sleep to the sound of water whooshing past the hull. That was the end of motoring, We wanted to save the rest of our fuel for emergencies and for arriving at our destination.

This is where the days all start to blend together in my head. I know we switched to the working jib on day 2. It’s extremely difficult to judge wind speed when you’re sailing downwind, even with wind instruments. I don’t trust our true wind speed indicator one bit. For the most part, we saw somewhere between 10 and 18 knots once the wind picked up on the first night. Once it started hovering above 15 for longer periods of time, we switched to the working jib. Pirat cavorted through the swells that lifted her from behind, pushing her down their faces with a whoosh and then sliding out from under her bow.

We maintained as broad a reach as we could hold and still keep the job full. Our only tactical decisions were which jibe headed more in the right direction and which brought us to where there might be favorable current. Sometimes the current was against us, sometimes with us. It was frustrating to predict.

Night 2’s watch was my favorite. The stars were bright and there was intense phosphorescence in the water. I sat on the cockpit floor right behind the whee, put on my ipod, and watched Pirat’s sparkling wake for most of my shift. Various freighters passed, night and day. We used AIS to track them.

I think I started going crazy on day 3. Okay, not really, the sun and the prospect of more days of the same were getting to me. We weren’t sure whether we’d arrive in Aruba, our intended destination, on the fourth of fifth day. The lack of wind in the beginning of the passage and some unfavorable currents had hurt our pace. I couldn’t stand the thought of a fourth night and a fifth day. I was sooooo tired and bored. My book kept me occupied but there was only so much reading I could do. Seasickness and general lethargy kept me from doing much other than sleeping, reading, eating and just sitting and staring at the water. Conversing with my crew mates wasn’t too appealing any more.

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At last, we made it through the final night. A freighter passed very close right when my watch was starting. It was close enough that Lee stayed awake to make sure the ship would pass safely. A giant mass of lights did go by and then the ocean got darker and darker again. I could barely stay awake. I had to move around constantly and fight to keep my eyes open. This was the hardest time I’ve ever had staying awake. Finally, after only 2 hours of my shift, I had to wake Lee up to take over. He and Kurt finished off the night’s watches with only some mild exhaustion-induced hallucinating on Kurt’s part.

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Day 4 brought the dramatic weather that I think we’d all been waiting for. Even though the Caribbean is known for it’s steady, strong but not too strong trade winds this time of year we were experiencing relatively mild conditions. The waves weren’t 6-10 feet and very steep like the could have been. The wind had been steadily increasing on us and on the last day little rain squalls blew over one after another. The first few tricked us into thinking they were no big deal. Similar rain had come and gone throughout our passage. Then a grey wall came up on us from the direction of Bonaire. The wind instantly increased by 8-10 knots, I’d say, and we were very overpowered. Lee and I acted quickly, roller-reefing the jib and then tying two reefs in the main. The waves hat gotten bigger too but with the reduced sail area we lasted through the worst of the little rain-spitting storm. By that time, we were off the end of Curacao, which we had decided to make our destination.

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Skipping Aruba was a difficult decision. I made it, in the end (hey, someone had to decide). Aruba would have added another night to our journey and Lee and I would only have 1 day on the island before we’d have to turn around and sail 70 miles back to Curacao and get the boat ready to haul. Lee’s mom was waiting on Aruba and Lee and I hoped we might be able to find a way to see her without sailing there. We did have to return Kurt, which we did by plane the day after reaching Curacao.

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Some time in the late afternoon on that fourth day, we pulled into Fuik Baai on Curacao’s South coast. A couple other cruising boats shared a peaceful anchorage with us. It was breezy and the land smelled like California. There were cacti and other desert-type plants all over the hillside and I awoke to countless loud birdsongs the next morning. It felt incredibly good to swim in the water and wash off some of the sweat/sunscreen coating. I washed the dishes for the first time since our first day out and threw our remaining vegetables into a stew for dinner. We made it!

Posted March 29, 2012 by Rachel in Uncategorized

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