With Ty and Suzanne making the trip, and extra crew as well, all of us are bound to have different perceptions of this adventure. As a woman, Suzanne’s thoughts probably differ from the others’ most of all, but she’s also the most likely of this group to write her thoughts openly. No offense guys - it’s a girl thing. So here are some excerpts from Suzanne’s journal to give you a feel for one woman’s view of crossing an ocean. It’s “stream of consciousness” writing without regard for paragraphs, proper grammar, etc., but it gives a good feel for what the passage was like, complete with all the ups and downs.
Beaufort to Bermuda
Sat. June 4th. Underway enroute Gibraltar! 1st stop -- Bermuda! All up at 0600, showered, big French toast breakfast, then left pier at 0818. All very excited. Fishing lines out right away. First 20 miles too close to wind to sail. Winds SSW 8-10 knots. Wind picked up and we sailed for a while. Played Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” at full blast. Good training today when RORO (roll on - roll off cargo ship) on CBDR (Constant Bearing Decreasing Range = collision possible) course didn’t answer calls at 4, 3, and 2 miles. Had to tack and go astern. Caught 15 pound mahi mahi with great excitement - Doug reeled and Ty gaffed. Huge mess. Made 15 steaks. Just as Travis and Doug had cleaned up the last mess the line sang out again! This time it was a 25 pounder. Wow! Grant fought her well and Doug gaffed. Rudy threw up several times - think it may be more the Dramamine than the motion. All the guys had to shower after fishing and sweating and being covered in fish blood. I’m surprised by how at ease I am with the whole idea of just heading farther and farther from land. I know it’s because I’ve become so used to being offshore and I know our boat. Hope I get into the routine, though, because it’s hard to think of the days ahead. I need to live only for this moment. Cooking dinner was a disaster - winds had picked up to 19 knots and we were wallowing badly. There was so much fish, so I cooked a batch on the stove and a batch on George (our George Foreman grill). Mistake! In spite of non-skid, he slid back and forth, spewing fish juice everywhere. I cursed like a sailor and was very iritable. Stove was swinging wildly. Tried to heave to, then batt car nut came off. Lowered sail and motored all night.
Sun. June 5th. My 0000-0003 watch was horrible. I was nauseous (Relief Band level 5) and had to fight sleep the whole watch. Travis stood watch with me since he’s under training this leg. Got to call a merchie and arrange crossing. Motored 99% but seas much more comfy now. Still nauseous until 1830. Yuck. Highlight was coming upon pod of sperm whales twice! Big excitement with lots of up-close views. Looked like floating redwood trees. Gave everyone their crew shirts today. All were very pleased. Ty made mahi mahi tacos for lunch - I was too nauseous to handle the galley. Rudy is so much better. He is a gift from God. Yesterday when I was out of sorts he snuggled with me in bed, kissed me like crazy and I felt we really comforted each other in this rocking and rolling environment. Drew cards after dinner to see whose watch would be shortened as we set clocks ahead to Bermuda time. Doug won and gallantly agreed to shorten his watch by half hour so I could shorten mine by half hour as well.
Mon. June 6th. Strange contact on Doug’s watch -- looked like an oil rig -- very tall with four aircraft warning lights. No contacts rest of night. In a.m. was standing at salon table when I felt a strange thumping under my feet. Alerted Ty who felt it and grew quite concerned. Shut off water maker and engine and Travis prepared to go swimming. Then he asked if he could videotape the hull instead. Nice to have a professional videographer aboard, watertight camera cases and all. Great idea. Got incredible footage of entire hull. Determined vibes were from water sloshing in water tank. 3 years of sailing Liberty and never felt that! Earlier as we imagined the worst, I thought, “Hmmm... we’re 300 miles from land. If this turns out to be bad news, we could be out here in the liferaft -- and I was calm! Grant wondered if the keel could have come unbolted. Ours is integral. Travis’ footage gave incredible peace of mind. Rest of the day was slow and uneventful except for a pod of playful porpoises. Motoring is getting old, but wind is under 5 knots and on the nose. No contacts all day. Shower felt great!
Tues. June 7th. Slow day motoring into headwinds and lumpy seas. Grant and I felt sick again for awhile. Ty concerned all day about fuel. Around 1700 turned off motor and SAILED! So peaceful! Calzones for lunch were big hit as was ham and green beans. Are now sailing 90 degrees off our intended course making little progress but am so happy to have engine off and the motion is great. Didn’t last long enough though.
Wed. June 8th. Felt lousy in a.m. - lethargic and crampy. More motoring and fuel concerns. Guys very happy and joking as Travis taped silly stuff. Made bread and Doug made sugar cookies. Finally at 1600 were able to sail again. Phew! Ty put together crew list and I did stores list and grocery list for customs. Enjoyed a great mahi mahi dinner fixed by Travis and Doug as I was nauseous again. While cleaning up, the depth alarm went off. Grant joked, “must be a whale. Ha ha.” Ty looked out the galley port and yelled, “Whale! Starboard side, 100 feet!” The guy surfaced and looked back at us as if to say, “What was that I just swam under?” Amazing! Our closest encounter yet - 47 miles from Bermuda. Had cruise ship pass by - 1st time for crew to see one at night. Old hat for Ty and me. Looked like a space ship. I had 0000-0300 watch. Raised sails at 0200 and shut off engines, starting the best sail for me of the passage. Exhilarating tweaking the sails for max speed. Totally different motion under sail and no worries about fuel. Stayed on an extra hour to let Ty get some sleep. Spoke with Bermuda Harbour Radio - very professional. That one watch made all the others worthwhile.
Thurs. June 9th. Arrived in St. George’s Bermuda at 0640. 5 days/5 nights. Gorgeous! Cleared customs and anchored next to Concerto. Exhausted after compensating for boat’s motion all week. Wanted to rest, but Ty discovered leak in water maker... Dinner aboard Concerto joined by crew of Kunjani. WHERE ARE ALL THE WOMEN? 4 men and Rudy on Liberty, 3 men on Concerto, 3 men on Kunjani, etc. I told Ty it’s because the women are smart enough not to get bounced around for weeks on end! But also, I’m much more brave than I used to be. Rudy is quarantined on boat with the possibility a vet may approve his going ashore. Sure hope so! Took him to Concerto for a change of scenery. He was very well behaved. Note: a little sad to leave the U.S. for who knows how long, but exciting, too. Bermuda is so much wealthier than the Bahamas. A real cacophony of colors after nothing but blue/gray sky and water for five days.
Bermuda to the Azores
Tues. June 14th. Took on 100 gal water and 400+ liters of fuel for a staggering $600! Back to clear customs and out through Town Cut at 1100. Sails up and engine off by 1230 in light winds (8-10) making 4 knots. This time, for the 1st time there’s no rush! 13-16 days is so far “out there” that what difference does a knot make (a lot, but...) Seas were ok -- just big swell. Wind was dead astern so rigged whisker pole - had to rig topping lift and guy, but once set it worked like a dream. Ty’s take on weather and winds has us heading east, unlike all others going more north. Later discussions with Herb (Hilgenberg, the Weather Guru) said “Go east!” Way to go, Ty! Routing from Jennifer Clarke said go south to pick up favorable currents, even though it adds 100 miles Decided to go for it. As of this writing, at 0100, have one knot current in our favor! Pork udon at lunch was big hit, as was jambalaya, salad and rolls for dinner. So relaxing and perfect sailing. On watch now at 0100 and in my glory. Had fun doing some pilates all alone out here. Nice to be alone with my music. I like this time. Lots of differences between last week and now: last week was motoring into headwinds or no wind., rough and rocky. Nausea. No moon. Noisy for sleeping with engine. Ship traffic. Nerves. Tonight: steady winds 11-13, beam reach, silent but for waves, no contacts for miles, no nausea, moonlight, sailing at its best. No worries! And hey - there’s another woman out here... Carol, on s/v Laga. She and her FOUR children UNDER EIGHT! The thought of 1800 miles to go is daunting, but I’m looking at it as one day at a time. I’m amazed at my serenity and total lack of “I don’t want to be here.” I’m glad to be a part of this -- very proud. I like my role as cook - bringing variety to everyone’s day, and I truly want meals to be the ONLY variety! But we will handle whatever we’re given. Winds now 13-14 and making 7+ knots. Fantastic! This really is a whole different feel from coastal cruising. “Epic” comes to mind. Biggest differences: no contacts for days, steady sailing, no “go-go” to get there feeling, and the knowledge that a totally foreign port awaits us with other voyagers there -- and we are just like them! 0200: sitting here listening to tunes is awesome! Stars... sound of waves... it’s almost spiritual. Munching peanuts. Light jacket over shoulders. Sweat pants - just put on socks. Just did my hourly checks/log entry: lat/long, barometer reading, battery levels, bilge check, wind speed and direction, boat speed. All this in addition to horizon checks, keeping on course, watching wind speed and direction and sail trim. Lara Fabian is singing now. I danced -- overcome with emotion -- I feel so alive! Got choked up to be out here doing this. 8 knots! Did one unit of Portuguese on CD - fun, but makes me sleepy. Back to music. 0245 - having such a great watch I told Ty to sleep another hour. Squally weather brought steady rise in wind from 16-20, then gradually back down to 16-17. Speeds up to 8 knots and above, touching 9.2-9.4, but still felt very controlled in the cockpit (maybe not below!). Note: Travis stood his first solo watch - under sail and at night to boot. Did great. Found out that what felt great in the cockpit didn’t do much for sleep below. Winds stayed 18-20 from 0400 on and waves got very sloppy with lots of rolling to both sides. Yuck. Relief Band time. Very little sleep for all hands.
Wed. June 15th. Took 3 hours to get the computer to boot up. Worried the whole time that Mom and Dad would be worried if I couldn’t email them. Breakfast and lunch were serve-yourself -- too rough to do anything. I threw a bunch of stuff in the sink to keep it from sliding off the counter and told the guys to take what looked good (leftover jambalaya, hot dogs, or PB&J). Now I know where all the women are -- they’re in their nice cozy homes while the men do all the macho stuff!!! I still know I couldn’t stand not being a part of this, but can I stand being a part of this? 🙂 One minute at a time... All things pass. Winds have been 18-20 since 0400. Wind waves are disgustingly sloppy and big. Toaster fell off shelf. Condiment rack slid. Rudy carried a wine glass that had fallen off the rack into his kennel. 150 miles in 27 hours. Too hard still to look at the big chart - so FAR to go. I knew last night when I was so euphoric that it wouldn’t last as I remembered that “cruising is a series of really high highs and really low lows.” Here’s hoping to have more highs! Nobody got any sleep last night. All keep trying to doze today, but then a big wave comes and dumps us way over. Rudy is faring far better than the rest of us with his stable four-legged stance. Ate his food but seems to know not to ask to play. Have a huge bruise on my hip but no idea how it got there. Relief Band is great. Glad I have a spare battery for it.
Thurs. June 16th. Seas are calming down a bit. Phew. During my 0300-0600 watch checked radar at 12 mi. Nothing, just like entire time we’re out here. Wondered if there was anyone within 24 miles and sure enough, had a contact at 12 miles. Yeah, but it probably wouldn’t come anywhere near us, right? Within minutes it was on the 12 mile screen, then I picked it up visually - a big ship. Woke Ty to tell him the ship was CBDR at 8 miles. He couldn’t believe it - all this water and the two of us are headed right for each other! I contacted the ship at 7 miles and Tanker Venezia agreed that I would alter course to starboard and pass astern. I came right until the sails started flogging. Told the ship it would be better if he altered course, instead. Ship came back and “informed” me that he had the right of way. Wrong! I told him I was a sailing vessel under sail and he still insisted. Ty took the radio and quoted him the COLREGS verbatim. Ship got testy and would not alter course. I got worried he’d come left on purpose. Who would know? As it was, CPA was 1 mile, directly ahead. I woke Travis and told him to pop his head out his hatch. He did and said, “Holy smokes!” Did the same with Grant. That was one big tanker to be 1nm away - and looked even bigger in the dark. Had I not altered course, CPA would have been far less than 1 mile. Amazing. That’s why you can never get complacent.... Seas are calming down. Thank you, God! But winds are dropping. Raised spinnaker - love that sight. Had it out for about 4-5 hours, but could only make 3 knots. Started engine at 1700 - nobody minded... it’s progress.
Fri. June 17th. Woke up to seas like glass and 1-2 knots of wind. Enjoying books on tape on watch. At this point I’m still in the “this is only the fourth day? Oh my God!” stage. Remember, just enjoy being here and doing this. Winds picked up late morning and our speed did too, albeit slowly. 4.5 now seems great. By dinner 5.7. Yay. Listened to Herb talking to Laga and got a good forecast so far. Lots of lying around, but it’s a treat to be lazy and nice to be comfortable. Still wearing the Relief Band for short periods daily. Made bread today for tomorrow’s French toast. Grant wanted some hot out of the oven with molasses like they eat it in Nova Scotia, and I actually had some (molasses). Is the water maker working? While motoring we ran it long enough to top off the tanks so much that it pressed up the floorboards so that the head door wouldn’t close right! I’d say it’s working just fine!
Sat. June 18th. Ride worsened thru the night, but we were zipping along at 6.5 knots close-hauled. 1st time sleeping fore and aft wedged against cabinets. Then Ty got off watch and joined me and squashed me. Dreamed of pancakes (flat, like me squished against the cabinets) and had to move to the settee. I am so attuned to the movement of the boat -- at least my energy and moods are. The harder it is to move, the more irritable or lethargic I become. Made bean soup with a rocking stove - a little scary, but Ty said conditions would be like this for three days and we have to eat! Got off watch at 1400 and slept for an hour. Awoke lethargic and listless. Suddenly it started to rain - freshwater wash down! Cockpit has been gross, as were all the enclosure panels, as was I! Banished the guys to their bunks and Ty and I showered in the cockpit, giving it a full rinse, too! What a mood lifter. Also great to put some of the throw rugs out in the rain after they got a salt bath when we took a wave over the bow and discovered the 2 overhead hatches weren’t dogged down right. So glad our upholstery isn’t cloth. Earlier on our 0900 SSB call on 4045mhz with Kunjani and Laga, Carol asked to speak with me. She asked how I was doing and offered reassurance and a woman’s voice! So nice. Wished we could have chatted without 7 guys listening in. Nice steady winds all day, 10-15 at about 60-90 apparent wind angle. I’m amazed how Liberty moves out at 5.5-6.0 knots in only 10-11 knots of wind. Rudy was as lethargic as the rest of us until late in the afternoon, then perked up while Travis played with him. Funny to hear Travis say, “Where’s Mr. Sheep?” just like Ty does. This intermittent, but persistent nausea is a real drain, mentally and physically. This is the Atlantic Crossing Diet! I’m eating, but far less than normal, which is probably good, considering how little activity I have.
Sun June 19th. Midwatch. Incredible sailing. Steady 14-15 knot winds, averaging 7.0 - had to let out the main to lessen the heel. Wearing shoes for the first time in 5 days due to sores on feet from salt. Have never done so much continuous sailing at such great speeds. What a great boat! Ever since my shower earlier I feel like a new person. Nausea and lethargy are gone. Am well-rested. Was able to sit at the navsta and later read on the settee in spite of the amusement park ride. Am really hoping I’ve turned a corner as far as seasickness and acclimation, because until now I was not a happy camper. 5 days to acclimate??? and all over again after the first leg! Sheesh. Don’t want to go thru that again on leg 3, but at least I know it won’t last. Ty spoke with Herb for the first time yesterday, along w/Laga and Kunjani (100 miles in front/75 miles behind). Laga told Herb we 2 boats were “desperately trying to reach Herb” -- much to Ty’s chagrin! What a great service, though, and very comforting to know someone’s looking out for us and routing us around potentially bad weather. Actually, a lot of people are looking out for us, but we are truly on our own. Amazing that I can deal with that. I feel such confidence in the boat, but also in Ty. Had a cup of tea (a double) when I came on watch. Makes a huge difference. I may be a bit jittery, but I’m not fighting sleep, which is so miserable. I think and wonder about the constant stress on the boat and on our bodies. First 1-2 nights of both legs I make a head call every 30 minutes and get stomach cramps. I guess it’s nerves, even though I’m not aware of being nervous. Then there’s the constant clenching and adjusting to the motion. No wonder it takes a while to adjust. Can’t wait to share a drink at Pete’s Cafe Sport in Horta with the crews of the other four boats making this trip. 0210. I must look like a nut out here dancing in the cockpit but this is such great personal time. I’m riding the waves, just me and the boat hurtling through the dark. Dawn will bring day 6 at sea - a new record for Liberty and her crew. Out here in the middle, this is a whole new ball game - continuous sailing and far less worry about ships. They’re still on my mind, but nothing like the coastal and Gulf Stream sailing we’re used to. Now we put the radar in standby for periods of time instead of constant surveillance. Today I inflated our inflatable globe and drew our track so far. All I can say is, “Gulp.” What a long way! It’s one thing to look at a flat chart covering just the area we’re crossing, but it’s another thing altogether to see it in “global perspective!” I look at our “Atlantic Crossing Guide” and and remember how I felt when Ty brought it home, and how I very slowly warmed up to the idea. Now we’re doing it! Made chicken tortellini soup from scratch. Am totally used to the motion now. Yay! Assumed watch at 1400. As Travis went below I said to Ty, “Watch this...” then said, “Travis, what’s this contact at 8 miles?” He jerked around and asked, “Are you serious?” No! So what happened? Half hour later I took radar out of standby after 10 minutes and saw nothing at 12 miles, so increased range to 24. There was a ship contact on the 8 mile range ring! I zoomed in to 12 miles and watched him coming towards us. In the haze couldn’t see him until 6 miles. Reached him on 16, hoping for a friendly chat, but he wasn’t in a talkative mood -- simply agreed to stay well clear. Enormous tanker. Only the third contact in 6 days.
Mon. June 20th. Will make 1/2 way mark this pm so had fun sending out a big email. Enjoyed showering then reading on the aft deck for a while. Dragging a bit after poor night’s sleep due to slapping sails then big rolls. Advanced clocks one hour.
Tues. June 21st. Crossed 1/2 way to Azores mark, then all progress slowed dramatically. Looks like it may be the halfway point distance wise, but not time wise. Was on watch in a.m. when big line of squalls passed. Had to bring in jib fast. Winds went from 7 to 22 in a flash. This was the frontal passage of a low that then dogged us. Low brought east winds, so headed NNE to get around it, but couldn’t. Deep asleep at 0200 when Travis yelled with great urgency, “All hands on deck, NOW!” I thought Ty had gone overboard - my biggest fear. Heart in throat I bolted out of bed and flew for companionway. Tripped on step by navsta and went down hard on knees and sprained left thumb. Relieved beyond words to see Ty on deck, albeit struggling with the jib. Seems a clevis pin had broken on furling swivel. Ty looked up and discovered 8 feet of jib in the water! I slacked main and pulled in jib sheets while guys wrestled jib onto deck, folded it, and strapped it down to handrail. Shook reef out of main and continued rest of night on main alone. Turned N and motored much of day -- waste of fuel! Too rough to go up mast. I was very nauseous on my 9-12 watch - sat there with a barf bag retching. Discouraging making 2 knots in wrong direction. Couldn’t read or do anything all day thanks to the lousy motion.
Wed. June 22nd. Grant’s birthday. More of the same weather/same problems. I am discouraged, but our crew is taking this all in stride. Grant doesn’t seem to mind that this trip may take longer than expected. Travis is enjoying it so much that he wants to find a boat to sail back! Made calzones for birthday lunch since everyone loved them so much the first time. Lowered main, thinking Travis could go up mast to lasso the swivel, but winds increased to 18-20 again and very rolly. Just wouldn’t be safe. Raised main and continued to cut ruts, not getting anywhere. Grant asked to use my Relief Band. Baked a wacky cake. Came out slanted due to the swinging oven, so Travis called it a “port tacky cake.” Band helped Grant, so for dinner “party” put on music and served a much appreciated southwest marinated rib eye dinner . If only the WINDS were from the southwest! Knees and thumb very sore from fall. After dinner seas down to 6-7’, so Travis climbed the mast in a truly heroic display of nerves and strength with the boat rolling quite a bit. I taped it while Ty belayed him from winch and Grant sat on foredeck ready to pull down the headstay car. Very slow, tense evolution. Travis wasn’t sure he could make it, but he persevered and got a line attached to the car. Cheers when down it came. Will save raising the jib for tomorrow morning rather than wrestling with it in strong winds in the dark. By the time he got to deck Travis’ forearms were spent - trembling and useless. All gathered in cockpit euphoric and joking. When all had settled down I came up with the birthday cake decorated “Happy Birthday Grant, you OLD sea dog” (Someone had sent him an email earlier calling him that) complete with red maple leaf like on the Canadian flag. All sang and enjoyed the cake. Travis went below and stepped in a pile of doo doo left by Rudy after his box fell on its side in rolls! So good to be laughing and smiling. I heard a crackling sound from the engine room at 2200. Told Ty just as Travis noted an increase in water in the bilge. Ty discovered a through-hull that was leaking sea water! Inserted DC plug and put duct tape around it with hose clamps. Had to jibe to get through-hull above water. The repair looked good. Ty is exhausted. Seems like one thing after another. He’s been unable to relax. Much earlier Travis spotted a sailboat -- it was Storm Along who left Bermuda two days ahead of us without a mainsail after theirs was shredded in a 50 knot storm enroute Bermuda. We sure are on our own out here -- we voyagers.
Thurs. June 23rd. So much for our anniversary dinner in Horta on the 29th. After 48 hours of no progress are discouraged. Have been out here a week. I am so tired of the constant motion! Tired of chasing things around the galley and tired of getting dinged and bruised. Lurching and rolling. Can’t write or draw or read very much. We’re stuck in Atlantic Ocean Purgatory.
Fri. June 24th. A horrible day at the start. Motored to get south of the low, then spoke with Kunjani at 1000 who said they’d gone north and now had favorable winds. Talk about a blow to morale. This low was to have dissipated. Ha. Winds would NOT go below 17, staying at 18-20 ALL DAY with waves growing to 9 feet. I feel BUFFETED. By 1600 the motion of motoring - jerky -- was making me sick and crazy. We’d been waiting for the winds to decrease (NOAA said they would. Right.) so we could try to put the jib up. When it was obvious the winds weren’t decreasing we turned downwind to see how the motion was. It wasn’t too bad so Ty went forward, but he didn’t have a shackle that would fit. Too windy to wrestle the jib anyway. But we found we were making good speed under main alone and could head due north. Made a very simple lamb stew for dinner, then tried to rest, but the motion was terrible - rolls > 30 degrees that knocked all the books off the aft shelf a la Cabot Strait experience. Motion in aft cabin was downright scary, so I went and sat next to Ty at the helm. Not so scary there. Too awful to sleep in aft cabin so took pillow and blanket to couch. Achy. Moved back to aft cabin and it felt so soft, but only had 2 hours until watch. Rudy is such a comfort to me. He knows just when I need to snuggle. It is absolutely awful trying to move around in this rolling. It’s exhausting. I see why crews give out before boats do in storms. So now we’re heading north on Herb’s advice, at which time we’ll head east This means that in the past 24 hours we have made ZERO progress eastward! All this discomfort for WHAT?! The 45N 1/2 way across the Atlantic waypoint has been taunting us for FOUR DAYS! We just can’t seem to get there and we’re not even halfway across this ocean yet! All other boats are ahead of us because of the jib casualty and this blasted low, but we can’t motor - have to conserve fuel. How am I supposed to maintain a positive attitude in THIS?! It will get better -- that’s how. One minute at a time. Ty came out at 0430 and relieved me. Told me to go to bed. I didn’t argue. Didn’t really sleep, but at least my body wasn’t fighting the motion. At 0700 Ty got everyone up. Winds were down to 10 knots. He fixed the jib furler and had the jib up in one hour with all hands helping. We are a sailboat again! Seas are sloppy and winds are light, so sails are banging and we’re only going 3.7 knots. Seas decreased throughout the day but so did the wind. We limped along very slowly, but today it didn’t matter - the sky was blue, seas were calm, and I was comfortable for the first time in four days. I’m so resigned to the fact that we’re out here now for a LONG time, that I just didn’t care. Baked bread. Fixed a dinner that was super pleasing to the eye as well as the palate. Lots of colors. Put out whisker pole just as the wind died. All ate the last of the cake, then enjoyed the sunset. Seeing a “moment,” I put on Kenny G and sat in the cockpit and played my flute along with him. So peaceful. Moments later dolphins showed up. It was so perfect that Ty relieved me half hour early so I could enjoy a rare glass of Chardonnay.
Sat. June 25th. Wind died completely the previous evening, so motored all night. Result: terrible sleeping, but 5.5 speed. Depressing looking at the chart in the morning. So little progress all week. Made blueberry muffins at 0550 before assuming watch. Travis called a ship which altered course to pass astern at 1.5nm totally unseen in a rain squall! The ship asked, “You are a merchant ship?” When Travis told him we were a sailboat he said, “A sailboat?!” Yep, way out here. Saw sperm whale 50 yards off port beam. At 0740 winds increased to 13-15 and we were off -- surging with perfect motion on a great beam reach at 6 knots. Why can’t this last? Really fun tweaking sails to get the most speed. Unbelievably the wind stayed a steady 13 and we picked up to 6+ knots all day. The boat’s motion is perfect. The silence is so wonderful. I went forward and sat on top of the dinghy for the longest time, actually loving being out here. These past few days have shown me how similar this is to running a marathon: the painful parts make the accomplishment all the more sweet. Was re-reading some of Beth Leonard’s “Voyager’s Handbook”. She summed this up perfectly: “For many, (for me!) the most difficult part of passage making can be the psychological effects from lack of privacy, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, boredom, and underlying stress.” ALL OF THE ABOVE!!! I really don’t do well without enough sleep and the lack of exercise makes me lethargic. Plus there definitely is an underlying stress thinking of things that could and do go wrong. For example, today Ty noticed smoke in the engine room while running the generator. Bad juju! He quickly diagnosed and fixed the problem. He is so good! I can’t believe it’s a weekend “back home.” This is our second weekend out here. Janice emailed me about all the neat things she’ll be doing this weekend... going to outdoor concerts, etc. What will I be doing? Keeping the boat moving. Feeding the crew. Same, same, same. Watched some of the footage Travis taped so far. So funny to see me presenting Grant’s birthday cake with my legs bent and braced wide just to remain standing. Gee, doesn’t everyone stand around like that? Some of the scenes of us working on deck in gray skies and rough seas make this look so adventuresome... and then I realized it is! When you’re out here living it, you “just do it” without thinking.
2000: our 13th day at sea. Travis declared, “I have a contact at 12 miles.” Then he joked, “We haven’t seen a Navy ship yet...” We all smiled and commented how cool that would be, but earlier in the voyage we’d discussed how slim the chances were of seeing one out here. At 8 miles Ty picked up the binoculars and said, “You know... I think that IS a Navy ship!” Talk about a rise in the excitement level aboard! At 6 miles Ty keyed the VHF mic as we all stood around the cockpit watching the ship grow larger. It was headed right for us! Ty hailed him, saying “Navy warship in approximate position 38-10N 42-45W, this is sailing vessel Liberty, 6 miles off your port bow.” Right away a voice came back and said, ”This is Navy Warship 8.” Boy, did we hoot and holler! Ty greeted the officer and told him that he was a retired Navy captain and the former Commanding Officer of USS John Rodgers, and his wife was a retired Navy Commander and former aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After a brief exchange, Ty asked who the CO of the ship was, as he might know him. The voice came back and said, “Stand by, we’re sending someone to get Charlie Oscar.” (Phonetic for C.O./ Commanding Officer). Next thing you know, the CO comes on and says “This is MCINERNEY,” meaning, CO of USS MCINERNEY. “Ty said, “McInerney! I steamed with you several times in battle groups in the Med! They had a nice CO to CO chat. The ship had been in the Med and Northern Atlantic and we were the first vessel they’d seen in days, and here we were, so close! The ship continued towards us and crossed our bow at one mile! Ty had raised our big US flag and our over-sized Navy and Marine Corps flags so they were silhouetted perfectly against our mainsail. We all went out on deck and watched the ship run down our port side. What a magnificent sight, so full of emotion for us. Then the ship turned on its Restricted in Ability to Maneuver lights, turned astern of us and launched it’s helo! The helo flew off, then flew back and did a fly-over. Next thing we knew a voice came over channel 16 saying, “Sailing Vessel Liberty, this is Venom 512. How do you read me?” I picked up the mic and said, “This is Liberty. Read you loud and clear.” Venom replied, “Just wanted to check out your boat. Your sails are looking pretty good down there.” Knowing everyone on the ship’s bridge was monitoring 16, I replied, “Roger. We were wondering when the airdrop of the ice cream was going to be.” He laughed and said, “Roger. I’ll have to check with my SUPPO (supply officer) on that. We’re getting kind of low on ice cream.” I said, “Thanks for the thought,” and signed off. What fun! Go Navy!
681 miles to go. Mileage hovered between 800 and 900 miles for DAYS, so 681 seems like a walk in the park! 2340: Twenty more minutes til Ty relieves me. Had to go below and wash my face to wake up. I’m so ready for bed! Winds are down to 7-8 and we’re only making 3.8, BUT it’s so quiet and the motion is so pleasant. I’m not on watch again until 1000 so I think I may actually sleep tonight. Grant and Travis have accused me of putting something in their food because they’re sleeping so well and having really vivid dreams. What dreams?! I haven’t slept deeply enough this whole trip to have a dream! ...This new autopilot (W-H brand) is the best investment we made for this trip. It has steered flawlessly day after day. I’ve found it especially helpful when holding the boat either into the wind or downwind with the waves when working on deck. It’s far more steady than a human at the helm. Oh man - just had the scare of my life. Looked to starboard and close abeam had a huge light come out of the darkness just above the water. Doggone moonrise! Got me again! Phew! I’ve been monitoring the radar closely and knew no one was around for miles, but that got my attention as it poked through the clouds like a stealth contact. I’m awake NOW!
Sun.June 26th. Winds light in a.m. so raised spinnaker at 1000. Doing 5 knots with only 8 knots of wind. When winds picked up to 10 we were zipping along at 7+. This is more of a giant jib than a spinnaker, as it works best at an 80-90 degree apparent wind angle. Skies are gray and everyone is pretty subdued. What a difference blue skies make... Just saw our 3rd sea turtle... It’s funny how we joke around about doing normal things. Grant just stepped out of the cockpit and said, “I think I’ll go for a walk.” Ty said, “Are you going left or right?” I said, “Pick me up a paper, would you?” and Ty said, “Yeah, and a couple of donuts....” This is our 13th day at sea. I know there’s land out there somewhere!
Mon. June 27th. The 7 knots of speed with the spinnaker lasted a whopping 40 minutes or so, then the wind just puttered out. This is so frustrating. I was thinking today that sailing is like golf -- you just keep hoping for that perfect swing -- or wind -- but in between is a lot of frustration. The times when the sailing is great are far less than when it’s frustratingly slow or the wind’s on the nose. But when it’s great, it’s so good that you keep hoping for more. The problem with a long passage like this is you can’t motor whenever you feel like it and slow speeds mean you’re out here that much longer. Ok, so we’re out here to sail and enjoy the passage, right? Well, unfortunately, I’m not like the voyagers in the books we all read. I’m disappointed that I don’t just LOVE all this solitude and all this “whatever” it is that holds so much allure for blue water sailors. I’m really glad Grant and Travis are enjoying this as much as they are, but after a few days of constant motion, salt-soaked everything, etc. etc. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! My moods are so mercurial. So ok, maybe I won’t look back and say, “I loved the whole experience.” I didn’t hate the whole thing either. “Adventure” or “ordeal?” I’d say a little of both for me, leaning more on the adventure side. Yeah. But the best part of all: Was I scared of being so far from land? NOT ONCE! Amazing. That one day of 9’ seas was a scary motion with lots of “sound and fury”, but I knew we were never in any danger. As for the underlying stress, how can there not be some when the liferaft and ditch kit are staring you in the face day in and out? They wouldn’t be there if there wasn’t a possibility we might need them. But I prefer to look at them as a comfort -- just one more thing we’ve done to prepare for anything. Preparation and experience are the keys to conquering fear. Oorah! And talk about preparation... so far every time something has broken, Ty pulls out just the right thing to fix it. Yesterday the alternator bracket for the generator cracked. What does he do? Pulls a spare bracket out of his box of goodies. Amazing! You need a shackle? A bolt? A cotter pin? Any size in particular? Ty’s got it! ... So why am I out here if I don’t totally love it? Because it DOES have its moments, and they are grand... TO JUST DO IT - to experience an ocean crossing... To push myself to do something beyond my comfort level...To get our boat to the Med!... To “get the t-shirt!” 🙂 To be able to think of myself as “an accomplished sailor.” Man, that moon is like a giant spotlight. It got me again tonight - popped right out from behind the clouds and stopped my heart for a second there. It looks so neat with the clouds around it. The other half of the sky is full of stars. There’s no doubt I love certain moments out here, but I can experience those moments without doing it 15 nights in a row!!! Gaaaaaaaa!!! Ty asked me earlier if I’d like to make landfall in Flores vs. Horta, our original destination. We’d chosen Horta because you have to anchor out in Flores and our outboard engine died in Bermuda. In Horta we’d be at a marina and everyone could just step ashore at will. But what he hadn’t told me until this evening was that Flores is an entire DAY closer! And we can take poor Rudy for walks that much sooner. What a trooper he’s been! So Flores it is. When we told Grant and Travis, they were equally thrilled. Travis is more than willing to row the dinghy! (with four people and a dog?!) Started reading about Flores and had no idea it was so neat... “The isle of flowers... not to be missed for its spectacular beauty.” Well, ok! so Ty re-did the track in Nobeltec and entered the new waypoint in the GPS. Our mileage instantly dropped from 500 something to 486 miles. Alright! Our anniversary dinner will still be delayed, but not by much now. Not so fast, Suzanne... this is sailing... don’t set any deadlines. We’re not there yet!
0230: Been motoring since 1800 with no wind. Night orders were to raise the sails when wind reached 8 knots. Reached 8 knots at 1300, but it was a teaser. I didn’t want to wake Ty til it was a steady 8 for over 10 minutes. By 0220 it was time, with even occasional 9 knot puffs. Woke Ty and told him we could sail, but told him I wanted him to stay in bed and Grant would help me. Per our “standing orders”, if the watch stander needs help, he calls the person two watches away so the person who just got off watch and the one coming on next get more rest. I didn’t know if Ty COULD stay in bed with me out there on deck, but he agreed. Grant came up and I turned on the foredeck light, snapped myself in and went up and raised the main. Grant unfurled and trimmed the jib. Together we trimmed both sails until we were making 4.5-5.0 knots. Great teamwork. We’re sailing! I knew Ty wasn’t sleeping, so I went below and reported all was well and that I’d stand an extra hour of watch so he could sleep -- Lord knows he needs it. Ok, come on wind! Gosh, this crew has worked so well together!... Ok, what was I writing earlier about frustration? Not ten minutes after Grant went back to bed the wind dropped to 7 and then SIX knots. Son of a gun! The main started slapping and the boom slamming, which I know keeps Ty awake. So I strapped my tether to the cleat aft of the helm and stood on the aft deck and rested my hand on the boom. I kept my elbow bent to reduce the strain. Since the winds were light, there wasn’t much strain or any danger of getting hit with the boom. How cool to stand up there with a totally different perspective, ghosting along in the dark. When the sun came up, furled jib and raised spinnaker. Ty and I did the foredeck work together. Fun! Moving along nicely with only 8 knots of wind. Beautiful sunny day and I am loving being out here. Days like this are starting to tip the scales to the point where I will be able to say, “It was a good passage.” Not sure I would have said that last week!!! Had cheeseburgers for lunch, then all four sat around in the cockpit joking, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Now moving out at 6.3 kts in only 9 kts of wind This spinnaker is really paying for itself. 1400: Assumed the watch with a large container ship 4 miles off the port beam - a Turkish ship going from Baltimore to Barcelona. Fun chatting with him on the radio.
Tues. June 28th. Assumed watch from Travis at 0300. Winds now occasionally 12 knots - time to douse the spinnaker. Got Ty up. Everything went perfectly. Discovered the halyard had chafed through 80% at the mast head! Yikes! Good thing we didn’t wait until daylight to douse it! Next we unfurled the jib with the whisker pole for a wing on wing run to bring us back on course. This is all great “sailor stuff” -- spinnaker... whisker pole... gear that coastal sailors don’t get a whole lot of use out of because they’re not up long enough to make it worth the effort. Sitting here sailing along, it’s neat how you can tell the slightest change in speed by the sound of the water rushing past the hull.
Wed. June 29th. Fifteenth day at sea and our ninth anniversary. No dinner out tonight! Fifteen days and zero change in scenery: 46 feet of boat, water, water, water, and sky. The water is blue or gray. The sky is blue or gray. The clouds are white or gray. Flores, “The Isle of Flowers,” is going to be a shock to our systems! Yesterday while doing his daily walk-around inspection Ty noticed that 4 or 5 of the grommets on the foot of the mainsail that attach to the sail slides are 90% pulled out, so that the bolt rope is the only thing holding the sail to the boom. His solution was perfect -- put one reef in the main to take the strain off the foot. We may lose a little in speed, but we still have a mainsail! Somebody back in Bermuda told us “everyone has sail repairs to make in the Azores.” Chose to motor all night with only 5 knots of wind. 15 nights and not a single good night’s sleep. I’ve never slept well on our shorter passages, but thought I’d settle into the routine on an ocean crossing. No such luck. Wind now 5-6 knots and sailing out of necessity. Only about 12 gallons of fuel in the tank and don’t want to touch the jerry jugs until we’re much closer. 165 miles to go. Naturally, the wind is almost on the nose, so we have to sail 25 degrees off course. This is so typical. Advanced clocks two hours to be in time with the Azores, which are the same as GMT. Raised spinnaker mid-afternoon, but not even enough wind to fill that. Doused it after 15 minutes. Ty emptied 2 of our 3 five-gallon jerry jugs of diesel into the tank Not enough to motor the rest of the way, so will turn off the engine in the morning and sit here if we have to. So near, yet so far! At least without wind we’re not heeling, so for our anniversary dinner I set up the cockpit table, complete with fancy tablecloth. Poured everyone just enough wine for a toast. Very nice.
Thurs. June 30th. Motored all night in no wind. Ty is very concerned about fuel. He just said to me, “You know, there really is a huge difference between cruising and passage making... The wear and tear on the boat, the systems, and the people... fatigue and constant stress of worrying about what might break next.” We’ve had more things break in the month since we left than in two years of cruising to Canada and the Bahamas twice! I had breakfast then went below when suddenly Travis called out, “Land Ho!” I thought he must be kidding, since we were still 50 miles from Flores. I looked across the bow and couldn’t believe it -- a mountain, clear as day! Talk about excitement! I got so choked up. After 16 days of “sameness” - to have such a beautiful sight on the horizon is very emotional. Just after seeing Flores a dozen or more porpoises gave us the best show ever, riding our bow wave in crystal clear water for about half an hour. The perfect welcome. Can’t wait to see the color GREEN! Grant asked, “What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get there?” I answered without hesitation, “Walk Rudy.” Grant’s going to buy a phone card and call his wife. As it should be! Had to turn off the engine for fear of running out before we got to the harbor. Sat here making 1 knot of speed in 2 knots of wind. Very discouraging. Ever so slowly the wind picked up until we were able to fill the spinnaker. Finally we got a steady 7-8 knots and enjoyed a perfect spinnaker sail all the way to Flores under a brilliant blue sky. As the island got closer could see why we’d seen it so early -- gorgeous, lush 3000-foot high cliffs all around. Entered the little harbor at 2015. About a dozen cruising boats from all over the world are in the anchorage. The feeling of accomplishment and pride is almost overwhelming. We’re here. We’ve crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Oh, man. Time to go ashore.
The Azores to Lisbon
Sat. July 16th. Underway from Terceira at 1120. It’s amazing what a little experience does for the confidence level. Here we are setting out on an 850 mile passage, and I feel like it’s no big deal. The apprehension is totally gone! I know the possibility of breakdowns, storms, etc. are still the same, but having those two long legs behind us I’m so much more at ease. I know what to expect now. I’ll probably get queasy. I know I’ll be sleep-deprived (they use that as torture, don’t they?), but I also know I’ll get through it. And after the fun we had in the Azores, I know there are some really cool adventures ahead of us! Really excited about trying this new watch rotation. Before, with a constantly rotating schedule, it was nice that a different person got to see sunrise or sunset each day, but my body could never get into a pattern. It also didn’t take into account personal preference, like that I’m a real morning person and the hours of midnight to 0400 are torture for me. Now, even though we’re down to three of us, I’m hopeful that it’ll be a lot easier. 1800: Well, the first day couldn’t have been more perfect -- moderate seas (2-4 feet), winds steady 12-15 on a beam reach making 6-7 knots all day under beautiful blue skies. I love the Azores High! Sad to watch Terceira recede into the distance. Now it’s back to nothing but water for the next week. Ty just showed me the latest weather fax. There’s a giant low that could push down this way and cause misery half way across. We should know more in the morning. We may have to double back to Sao Miguel. Boy, would that be a blow after getting the “final leg” mindset -- but it would be better than weathering a storm. The day to day uncertainty of not knowing what we’re going to have to face is something land-dwellers never even think about. Had fishing lines out all day but the only thing we caught was a seagull. Luckily he snagged his wing on the line and not the hook. Ty reeled him in and I held the line til he cut it. Saved the bird and the lure. Good to see the bird fly off. All his buddies hung around til he was free, then they disappeared in a hurry.
Sun. July 17th. Forecast is looking better so we press on. Hooray! Lots of good wind but a little close to the bow. Pinching, but making progress. Pretty steady winds all day and seas are very comfortable. I’m not used to this! Was able to work on my book without getting (too) queasy. A nice day at sea - wish there were more of these. This leg is so much more relaxed than the first two. Ty is actually reading a novel!! So good to see him chilling out. Making only 5 knots now, but that’s not too bad. It’s funny to think that I could run faster than this. It’s like running all the way across the Atlantic... 2230: On watch in the dark again -- this is my 44th night of night-sailing aboard Liberty. Am thoroughly enjoying listening to CDs and will always conjure up the emotion of this trip every time I hear certain songs from now on.
Mon. July 18th. Winds died and clocked to the NE so started motoring in the a.m. A pleasant, comfortable day. What a difference this has been so far from the first two legs. Anybody would enjoy this!
Tues. July 19th. Still motoring! Wind is on the nose. No real complaints because the motion is so tolerable. I’m settling into this sleep pattern and am actually dreaming for the first time this entire voyage. Got a really funny email from Janice relating all the things that went wrong in her day -- one thing on top of another -- the typical frustrations of life ashore: people, crowds, chores, etc. Made me very glad to be out here away from it all. My only frustration right now is lack of wind! Ty had to climb the mast to replace a burnt-out steaming light. Luckily seas were pretty calm and it was a nice, safe evolution. Mid-afternoon we reached mile 418, the half-way point, so I surprised the guys with ice cream bars I’d stashed in the freezer. I was amazed how excited they both got! Ty has decided we may read on watch. This is monumental for Captain Ty to make such a pronouncement! He said he’s so used to making over 15 knots out here on Navy ships where you come up on things much faster, but out here we’ve gone days without a contact. What a difference it makes to not just sit there at the helm for 3-4 hours. I feel like I’m getting away with something by reading! But I’m also very much aware of checking the radar, horizon, and GPS at least every 5 minutes. No surprises!
Wed. July 20th. Sailing again after motoring the last day and a half, but we haven’t taken the main down since we left the Azores. There’s been a good bit of chatter on channel 16 since this morning, even though we’re just under 300 miles from land! It’s amazing to look at Nobeltec on the computer screen and see our boat symbol on the same page with the Iberian Peninsula which keeps getting bigger and bigger! Been mildly nauseous for the past day, and very lethargic. The lack of sleep and exercise really takes its toll. Ty and I were talkijng that this crossing is like driving across the USA 5 times in a row non-stop, 24 hours a day, but with no change in scenery. There is nothing else that compares with this 28 days of sameness -- well, maybe a Bedouin walking across the Sahara!
Thurs. July 21st. Got off watch at midnight so tired that my eyes kept crossing. Knew I’d be asleep in two minutes. Wrong! How frustrating to be over-tired, yet not be able to sleep because the boat was in washing-machine mode again. Wind would shift astern and just when I’d drift off -- WHAM! the boom would slam -- not in a gybe, but just the sail lifting then filling all night long. Am now back on watch at 0600 but don’t want to drink coffee because then I’d be overtired and shaky, too, like yesterday. Exactly 200 miles to go. 1700: It’s been a blustery, gray day... big waves. Steady 18-20 winds but at 120 degrees, so we are surfing. Yeehah! Challenging moving around below, but we are used to this by now. The thing that has marked this leg of the voyage is the total lack of sail changes and far less need to go to the foredeck... main and jib the whole way. Nice. 1840: What was I saying about not doing deck work??? I should know better than to make such statements!!! Had just finished dinner. Winds gusting to 23 so prepared to take a reef before sunset. Guys started partially furling the jib so we could heave to for easier reefing. As Ty winched in the furling line, the securing screws for the turning block on the stanchion parted under the strain. Before he could attach a spare turning block to the toe rail the jib hour-glassed around the forestay and started beating itself to death. I pictured a friend’s jib that had gotten shredded in just this type of situation. I was at the helm and following Ty’s helm orders when I saw a piece of metal fly by and go into the water. It was the bail at the end of the boom to which the main sheet was attached! Suddenly we had a higher priority than saving the jib -- the boom was all the way out against the shrouds -- a loose cannon. First thing: get the main down! A wonderful feeling to know exactly what had to be done instead of panicking. I brought the boat into the wind through some pretty big waves while the guys worked the mast. Felt like a mother hen shouting “Hold on! Snap in! Watch your head!” Ty went aft and once the main came down, secured the boom to the boom gallows. Thank goodness for that great support for the boom! With sail ties securing the main, I drove the boat in circles, rolling quite a bit as we’d go beam to the seas, while Ty and Travis worked the port and starboard jib sheets until the jib untangled itself and flew perfectly. Continued on under jib alone making great speed. Ty attached a new furling block and got out some webbing to jury rig a bail in the morning. As he was securing the boom with more line I looked at Travis and said, “You watch: Ty’s going to come back to the cockpit, sit down, take a deep breath, and say, “Wasn’t that special?!” And that’s exactly what he did, much to our amusement. Do I know my husband, or what?! All in all we handled both crises just right with no injuries nor damage to either sail. Really glad to have a third person to help. Despite all the sound and fury everyone remained calm and just did what had to be done. There was shouting, but it was only from adrenaline and to be heard over the wind and flogging jib. It’s amazing looking at the boom where the bail just sheered off in two places from metal fatigue. (See the photo under “From the Azores to Lisbon”) So the boat’s as fatigued as I am after days and days of sailing! Midnight: Had just turned over the watch to Travis when I heard a very American and very military voice on the VHF talking to another ship. Listened intently to find out who it was -- USCG tall ship Eagle! Been aboard her! I hailed her and spoke to the OOD who told me they are also pulling into Lisbon tomorrow morning and will be in port 4 days. Told us to come aboard for a visit. Before signing off he mentioned that the carrier USS CARL VINSON will also be there. Yes! What timing!
Fri. July 22nd. Not on watch until 0600 but poked my head into the cockpit at 0500 and Ty said, “It’s getting busy out here.” What an understatement! Looked at the radar screen and there were SEVEN big ships scattered around it. After never seeing more than one contact at a time all the way across, that’s a heck of a change! We were about to cross the north-south traffic lanes and it was literally like a highway. We’ve crossed traffic separation schemes like this plenty of times off NYC, Boston, Halifax, Miami, etc., but never saw more than 3 ships at once. This time, as soon as one would travel off the screen, one or two more would pop up! Very hazy out so didn’t get them visually until under 3 miles off. Seems one guy didn’t get the word that they’d moved the traffic lanes 10 miles farther west and he was heading the wrong way - like driving west down the eastbound lane of the highway! All the other ships kept calling him to tell him, but there was obviously a big language problem there. I assumed the watch at 0600 and had ten contacts at one point. To keep them straight I drew diagrams every 10 minutes with vectors showing their course, distance, etc. What at first was intimidating was now a fun puzzle! 0800: 5 large ships within 6 miles of us! Can only see 2 through the fog. 0909: Land ho! Woohoo! Not nearly as emotional as when we spotted the Azores, but still very exciting. Jjust a great feeling of satisfaction to have made the entire crossing. Total time at sea, not counting time in port Bermuda and Azores: 27 days and nights - LONG days and nights!! 🙂 . Looking forward to catching up on sleep, enjoying a nice glass of Portuguese wine, and walking Rudy -- not necessarily in that order! WE DID IT!!!!!!