Ahoy Dear Reader
Position: 07*05N 053*35W, 640nm from Martinique
This is a seriously long trip. Our 24th day at sea with an expected five more days of this self imposed captivity. We figure (and hope) this will be our longest passage ever. It’s a mind game really. We fully expected to take a month so the best approach was to settle in with a routine and just do it. Now that we’ve cracked 650nm with landfall on the far horizon, I’m starting to come out of hibernation, fantasizing about the rewards at the end of such a mammoth voyage.
The sail across the territorial seas of Brazil and French Guyana was around the fifth latitude north. Heavy squalls in the ITCZ kept us busy over the past few days reefing, etc., and winds were consistently 15/25knots beam on; a less comfortable angle and an even less comfortable time preparing meals and bathing. Forget about having a deck wash in these conditions; one slip on a dropped bar of soap, a large wave, and you’d be over the side in a shot! As we head further north (COG 307deg), the squalls are lessening, the clouds are less threatening and the winds are stabilising. Breaking the monotony, last night on dusk we heard a strange ‘boom, boom’ followed by a trail of white smoke heading upwards into the heavens. I’d just gone down for my sleep so Wayne called me up for a look at the amazing sight. Unbeknown to me, but known to Wayne, rocket firings associated with the space program are carried out at the Centre Spatial de Kourou off the coast of French Guyana. I don’t recall hearing any radio alerts on channel 16 and had a horrible feeling that after sailing so far we were going to end up with a rocket crashing down and blowing us into oblivion! Zooming in on the echart the English words ‘Dangerous Area’ are sub texted in French with a warning of said rockets. Our old paper chart has no warning. Luckily the coast of French Guyana wasn’t long, and now we’re less of a target in the territorial waters of Suriname. Sticking to the seaward side of the 200m contour since the northeast coast of Brazil, we’ve managed to ride the entire distance with a good current helping us to reach our destination much faster. We had no choice but to enter the shallower (70m) depths along the coast of French Guyana, and it seems the Courant de Guyane is slightly stronger, around 2knots, giving us a much needed swift transit across these waters, around 7/8knots. Ahead of us at latitude eight north the ocean drops back to 3000m deep and the seas will hopefully not be so short.
With beam on seas and the boat heeling at an awkward 20degrees, there’s not much crew activity except reading, hanging on, cooking (which is a challenge in itself) and resting. It will remain this way for the rest of the voyage. With conditions much like our trip from Chagos to Rodrigues – deep troughs, waves crashing up and over us, heavy rain – our cockpit storm cover keeps us dry and we have no need to venture outside once the sails are trimmed. We never thought of putting our storm cover up while in the Indian Ocean and it only dawned on us to fit them while in South Africa. The only problem is air flow, or lack of it. After three weeks at sea the cockpit ambiance is a little whiffy to say the least! But when the sun shines the blinds go up to allow fresh sea air to blow through. Below decks is another matter. The hatches are closed to keep the ocean out but trapped in the humidity is a mix of sweaty bodies, curry, sandalwood air freshener, homemade yoghurt, and something reminiscent of school lunch-boxes at the end of a hot Australian summer day. That’ll all be remedied in a few days when we reach land. I’ll get this place cleaned up, shipshape and it’ll be smelling like croissants, freshly laundered sheets, and roses in no time!
With no direct access to what’s happening in the world, Wayne is having ‘news’ withdrawal. Some afternoons we can pick up the BBC West Africa on HF; although the news is not comprehensive, it’s enough to hear important headlines. We still have our afternoon sked with the other boats, but it’s getting harder to hear everyone now as we’re all so scattered across the ocean. The nearest boat to us is now 700nm east of us.
Not long now until landfall, fresh veggies and fruit, news, calls to loved ones, plentiful fresh water, and a swim in the blue Caribbean waters… 100 hours remaining… [end]