Sunday, June 26, 2011

Crossing The Gulf

Like any experience, the Gulf crossing had its ups and downs. The journey took exactly three days – 72 hours at sea, most of which were out of sight of land. Because there are two of us onboard, we had to take turns at being on deck for the entire time. This meant that we were both sleep deprived. I've decided to list the good times and the not so good times of this trip rather than setting it all out chronologically.

The Good Times
* Watching billions of sparkly phosphorescent lights in the disrupted water around us and in the waves (is this phenomenon the origin of the mermaid myth? It certainly seems magical!).
* Spending hours reading. I too, got sucked into Stieg Larsson's novel, 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' and am now into 'The Spice Islands Voyage' by Tim Severin.
Sleepy music bliss on watch.
* Laughing as two big brown Booby birds try (unsuccessfully) to land on Anima for a rest – they're so clumsy! One of them settled for sleeping on the water, head under wing, after a close encounter with our wind generator while the other landed on another boat, Armido, for the night.
* Listening to music on my iPod and allowing it to be the soundtrack to my life.
Some great synchronous moments so far have been Florence and the Machine (strong female vocals with harp and rock) to the clear, star-filled night sky with a cool, tropical breeze pushing us along through a hissing sea. Sigur Ross, 'Svefn-g-englar', to an amazing patchwork of clouds at sunset with rays of sun shining down over the Torres Strait.
* Watching the sun rise after the third day of constant grey cloud-cover. It's amazing how closely my state of well-being is tied to light and colour. The deep blood-orange of a rising sun under a peach, pale blue and apricot painted sky. Ahhhh!
First hint of colour in days.
* Seeing our progress on the chart plotter. Every mile closer lifted morale.
* Enjoying a feast prepared by Rene of baked Mackerel and pototoes. Enough to feed a big family (or us for the next 4 days!).
* Drinking herbal teas again. Coffee is too strong on the stomach at sea.
* The mixture of excitement, relief and anticipation upon seeing land (Wessel Islands on the horizon) after three days at sea.

The Not So Good Times
* Being in contstant motion. Simple tasks – like walking, preparing food, going to the bathroom etc. are rendered into complex tasks. Consequentially, it was impossible to do yoga (let alone stand up without clinging onto something!).
* Sleep deprivation. Having to take watches in shifts means not getting a full night's sleep. Trying to sleep in a bed that's constantly in motion is also disruptive.
* Isolation. Our HF radio chose this moment to break. Our only contact with the outside world was with an American yacht, Armido, who was about 10 miles ahead of us. Bob kindly relayed our progress to the HF radio net that we log into daily.
Feeling grey.
* Rain. The weather was gloomy and overcast. When I took over watch at 2am on the second night, it began to pour with rain and didn't stop until dawn. Having to do watches every 15 minutes involved me putting on a rain-jacket, clipping on my harness, clambering out into the pouring rain on deck. Ani was pitching around on waves in the pitch dark. I would peer out into the black, trying to see lights or other hazards whilst clinging onto something to avoid being tossed overboard. This process was repeated four times an hour, for five hours. In between this ordeal, I crouched in the one corner of the cockpit that was only slightly damp (not soaking wet), in the pitch dark, being dripped on from above. Not my idea of a good time!
* Developing Tinea under some of my toes from constantly having wet, salty feet. Gross.
* Nausea. Though to be honest, I only felt sick three times and it was short-lived.
* Variable wind strength and direction. Sails banging and sheets (ropes) whipping about and hitting me.
Grey days at sea.
* Feeling as though I'm wasting my time. There's so much I want to do and sailing across the sea is not high on my list! Due to the sleep deprivation, I wasn't able to do anything except read, try to sleep, eat and look after Anima. I barely even took any photos! Most of my energy was used in simply trying to stay awake and upright.
* Lonliness. Sea crossings mean that when one of us is awake, the other is asleep. There has to be someone on watch at all times (I wonder if yachts who have AIS and Radar can relax more?). There's usually only one of us on deck. That's a lot of hours alone with only the sea for company. I much prefer coastal, day cruising to this!

I like coastal cruising. Crossing seas and oceans is not really me. I love the land (and sleep) too much! Not being able to see the land for days made me sad. I don't like being isolated – I feel complete when I am in contact with other people – with friends, family and the internet! We have to make a few more sea crossings before reaching Singapore, the biggest of which is Darwin to Kupang, Indonesia next month. At least for that trip we'll be with about 100 other boats and Penny will be with us as crew so it won't be so lonely. If we continue cruising beyond SE Asia, I think I'll leave the big ocean crossings to Rene (and any crew we can rustle up). I can think of hundreds of things I'd rather be doing than sailing at sea for days on end. I'm happy with coastal cruising thanks! I don't know how Jessica Watson did it for 8 months on her own. I have even more respect for all those hardcore sailors out there (past and present) making their way across the seas. WOW. You guys are hardcore.
Sigur Ross Sunset.

1 comment:

  1. Accidently came across you're blog with Google search looking for one of my posts in a cruising forum. My boat is Armido, and last time I saw y'all was in Fanny Bay, Darwin, Australia. Hoping your voyage into Indonesia went well. Don't know where you were going after the rally. I completed my second voyaging almost 'round the world in May, 2013 when I arrived in Galveston, Texas. Had my boat trucked to Sausalito, Ca. and have tentative plan to leave southward again in March signed onto the Pacific Puddle Jump.