Jehol Transat 2012 – 12 days, 15 kg of potato, rice and pasta, 3 pairs of underwear, 1 shower and 2000 miles

On the 8th of december at noon we set sail from Sao Vicente, Capo Verde and left with 15 knot winds pushing us in our direction towards Barbados across the Atlantic.

Our crew consisting of Skipper Phillippe Nagelmaker, his brother-in-law Emmanuel, Russian Pirate Mihail Sherman and me the Danish Viking, had used the previous days to stock up for the crossing. A long shopping list had been made to ensure the 4 of us would be happy and full at the sea.  The list contained among many other things:

Beer
Wine
Coca Cola
5 kg of potato
5 kg of spaghetti
5 kg of rice
2 kg of carrots
2 kg of onion
100 eggs
15 liters of milk
5 packs of oatmeal
6 cans (big) of beans
Tofu
12 bottles of tomato sauce
100 liters of drinking water
….

Everything started great but as darkness approached and dinnertime was up, so was the funny feeling in my system called seasickness. After a few bites of the dinner I had prepared for the crew and myself and a drink of cola I threw up in the toilet for the first and luckily the last time on this trip – though the funny feeling stayed with me for more than half of the trip.

And calling the seasickness a funny feeling is quite an exact description as you constantly feel a bit dizzy, nauseated and sleepy. In your mind you want to do something, be active, but your body rejects much motion and your concentration is lacking and sleeping feels like the best option. The most disturbing thing though is how ones taste for things change. Things you would eat or drink anytime on land would suddenly be the last thing you would ever want to have while others things such as freshly squeezed hot lemon juice would be the best ever. The digestion seemed sometimes to have come to a complete halt and sour things would help kick start it back to life again.

The crossing was quite without drama as the Alizee tradewinds was most of the time blowing us across at 15-25 knots as we were staying between the 12th and 14th northern latitudes. After a few days the forecast was promising us a little depression which had us heading a south of our bearing to avoid being caught up in the middle of it. Though we changed our course, one night gave us winds of 30-35 knots along with 3-4 meter waves, which was nothing crazy still 3 reefs were taken on the main sail and the tringuette was on the jib.  After the depression had gone its way more quiet days came about with low winds and calm seas. The calm days allowed for taking dips in the Atlantic 1600 km from the nearest shore with only the deep blue ocean beneath us.

Sailing across an ocean is something else. In a matter of hours (depending on the speed of your boat) you will lose sight of land and for the next many days there will be nothing else to see but the open ocean, the few boats which you may encounter and the marine life.

The nights were divided among us and rotation in shifts was implemented. Some shifts had glorius sunrises, others required reefing of the main sail in complete darkness with waves rocking the boat, but mostly the night watches were passed with Interpol playing through the speakers, biscuits, yogurt and tea with the only activity being looking for other boats every 15 minutes.

When conditions are stable there is plenty of time to burn and if doing nothing the hours can become long and tiring. Most hours (and days) are passed by thinking, eating, sleeping, dreaming, playing guitar, writing songs, reading books, cooking and washing dishes. Sometimes washing the dishes would be liberation from doing nothing and with many hours of sailing to go it was easy postponing everything even brushing your teeth. The excess of time and limited ingredients allowed for experimental culinary – some very successful others less but the fresh air to sea always guaranteed some kind of appetite. Doing nothing allowed for thinking and thinking led to recollection of the past and new perspectives were born – so doing nothing can be good for something.

However romantic and liberating an ocean crossing may sound it can at times feel quite the opposite. Being on land we at most times have the option of physically moving our body to where we desire while on the ocean we are restricted to stay on the moving boat limiting our freedom in one way expanding it in another. In addition resources are limited at sea with everything from drinkable water to gas, food and diesel. Especially the question of water is bizarre being afloat on a massive body of salted water only good for floating the boat – unless you “cheat” and have a watermaker – but what if it breaks? Sailing is a good way to feel and practice to live with the scarcity of resources which exists in some parts of the world. Live with less if more does not create value. Showers can seem wasted when it is only a matter of short time before the salty sea air once again makes your skin sticky and your hair tangled and greasy.

Trying to fish for dinner was a passive pastime with which we had none success as more tackle was lost than fish hooked. The ocean though felt pity on us as it would, during the nighttime, spit out up to 10 flying fish making them land on our deck left to suffocate when they would not be able to jump back into their element.

After 2000 nautical miles we could see the lights of Barbados through the darkness of the night and we knew we would soon have solid ground beneath our feet again. The Atlantic had been crossed from east to west – congratulations Jehol, Phillipe, Emmanuel, Mihail and me.

 

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