Most people aren’t conscious today about how big the world really is or how small a we are a part of it. And in the 21st century- where the king of all transportation venues can fly across an entire ocean in just over 8 hours- this is still a very difficult perspective to contemplate.
We’ve been sailing for about a week, 24-hours-a-day, and in looking at our position on the nautical charts we are amazed at how far we still have to go in this voyage! Our sailboat is not of carbon or fiberglass and it most certainly cannot fly over waves at 25 knots! However, we do savor a form of navigation that is much more pure and classic. And with an average of 150 nautical miles a day we should be able to arrive to Puerto Rico in about 15 days.
Through this first week -as you can imagine- the weather has given us our due respect, but that is of no surprise. We are experiencing prevailing winds of about 15 knots on average and broad reach waves of about 1.5 to 2 meters in height. Now us navigators are always friends to the good weather and so we always take good measures to avoid storms whenever possible.
We are also coursing through the parallel at 17 degrees north. Many of you may wonder why we are sailing in such low headings if our objective was to cross “the pond” yet the Canary Islands were already at latitude 28 degrees north? The answer is a simple one- on one hand, the earth is round so the shortest distance to cross it is a curve (try to trace this on a globe with your finger).
On the other hand, there’s the tradewinds “highway”- a blessing of winds that are stronger and more stable around these very latitudes. Columbus did not know of this as he stubbornly stayed his course during his first voyage at 28 degrees north parallel, making his journey a little longer. Meanwhile, the sailor’s routine continues… Our shifts keep to working on maintenance; some climbing to mast heights while others dig down to the ship’s bowels.
You would probably be surprised to figure out why a boat of less than a year -as our replica is- needs so much care. The answer is in how the sea exerts such unimaginable wear and tear upon it so you must constantly fight against corrosion, friction, moisture, materials fatigue, etc. We go through an average of at least 22,000 ship balances and trimmings a day! At midday we hoisted the top-sail that goes over the main sail- that’s called the ‘gavia’ and it has rendered the ship a little more stability lately. But even so, the ship still lists for about 10 degrees (the softest) to 45 degrees whenever the sea wishes to play with us.
Yesterday we performed a “man-overboard” exercise. It’s one of the worst situations we can face in navigation. This ship moves via sails, thus turning around to rescue a man could be a very slow and complicated proposition. Also, as the distance increases between man and ship the chances for rescue quickly diminish. It literally becomes a needle-in-a-haystack situation to find a person and that comparison is no exaggeration! That’s why our captain reminds us daily how cautious we should always be.
We are all very aware of this, however we must remember that the carrack has very high side-boards and only when we leave them do we run a risk of falling on water. This is why we always wear harnessing and run safety exercises that are essential during this trip. In the meantime, fishing on-board has given us many “Dorados” or Dolphin fish- what we call in Mallorca “Llampugas” but much larger than typical “Mahi-mahi”. Fishing involves cleaning it and preparing it, a task that is not much fun but still necessary.
Today we saw at dawn about two specimens of about 6kg each so no doubt there will be an abundance of fish to eat! All fresh, all very cool. As for me, here I am enjoying the Atlantic and the company of my sea mates. The sea truly gifts you with magical moments: I enjoy watching the waves, the Flying gurnard fish, the stars, and the sails carrying-on as they still do for more than 500 years now…
Hugs to my family and friends and I hope everything is well back at home in Palma de Mallorca.
Latitude: 17 09
N Longitude: 29 30
W Course: 260º WSW