Atlantic Island Voyage: Tobago 1999

Shifra's Log, January 30, 1999
Anse Bateaux, Tobago.


We've been here in the tropical paradise of Tobago for a couple weeks now, I figure it's probably about time I checked in with y'all. Since we are in the Caribbean I thought I would take advantage of the crystal clear water, well preserved reefs, and our multiple sets of dive equipment to finally learn how to scuba dive. It just so happened that the hotel overlooking the bay where we are is not only situated near some of the best diving on Tobago, but it is a "Five-Star PADI Resort". I'm not sure what that means (other than that they can charge more for lessons and we get a GOLD certification card rather than a SILVER one), but they are only a miniscule dinghy ride away so once we got here the entire crew of the Good Ship Tammy Norie started in on dive camp. Each morning at nine o'clock we putted in to the dock with our PADI manuals tucked under our arms, Advanced Open Water Diver course for them, ordinary Open Water Diver course for me. After an excruciatingly boring 3 days of classroom work, not to mention the HOMEWORK (I thought I had finally escaped school!) I was ready to "see the fun and adventure diving offers". Sadlly enough the course didn't offer a ritual torching of the PADI manual, because really, there is nothing I would like more than to see that thing go up in flames. Anyway, despite the cheesy writing in the textbook, diving is incredible. The feeling of being underwater and just hovering is...amazing. I feel like the reef is sort of an added bonus, just feeling the water all around me and watching my bubbles ascend to the surface is enough to give me chills.

Nonetheless, the reef is there and what a bonus it is! I've become accustomed to creatures that have previously only existed in photographs. I've learned that parrotfish aren't just blue, they glow, and trunkfish are even stupider looking in 3D, but most importantly I've learned that no photograph and no drawing could ever hope to capture the mindboggling grace of a manta ray. On my final training dive I had the incredible luck to be visited by one of those exquisite creatures. He/she/it was...wow. The only way I can describe their movement is like the most fluid and graceful bird, but without bones. This manta was about 6 or 7 feet from wingtip to wingtip and seemed just as curious about the 5 oddly colored noisy things that had descended into it's world as those bizarre things were about it. I spent most of my air in a gleeful ten minutes of communing with the manta, we followed it up towards the surface, then down again to the depths. We petted, tickled, and caressed it's back and belly until it got sick of us then followed it around until it was ready for more. It was strange, even from close up it looks like mantas would be velvety smooth, like an eel, but they're not. Their skin is rough, like a cat's tongue or a 5 o'clock shadow, and when you touch them you can feel and see the muscle twitch under your hand. It was such a beautiful experience, the woman who was diving with me came to the surface at last when her tank was completely empty and screamed at the top of her lungs out of sheer joy, even the dive masters were feeling giddy.

Hopefully while we're here I'll get a chance to see another one, keep your fingers crossed for me. 'Till next time,

Shifra T.

Atlantic Island Voyage: January 1999

Captain's Log
0200 hours, 9 January 1999

 Mike, navigating

Mike, navigating

Position is 11d34m north, 59d31m west by a very satisfactory fix using the moon, Capella and Canopus. Conditions are the best they have been for celestial navigation, with seas running not more than 10 feet, perfectly clear skies, and a half moon giving enough light for a clear horizon, but not so much as to blank out the stars. The stars are a bit different down at this latitude: Polaris is very low on the horizon, and we can see both the Southern Cross and Canopus, neither of which is ever visible in Maine. This fix is consistent with yesterdays sun fix, and within 2 miles of our GPS, and puts us 57 miles west of Tobago, in good position for a mid-day landfall today, which is ideal. And a very welcome landfall it will be, although it is almost sad to watch the glass run out on this best of all possible passages, 2200 miles in 14 days, with a steady wind all the way and the proverbial flowing sheet, no significant gear failures and no injuries. Almost too good to be true; no doubt something nasty is waiting for us in Scarborough, which is where we will go to clear customs.

This run has been an interesting laboratory for observing our adaptation to motion. There was no gentle transition this time: we went immediately into steep 15-20 foot seas and 30 knot winds, which moderated only in the second week. We experienced the usual spectrum of nausea and more or less difficulty spending time below at first, which is always the case. But I was particularly struck by the more subtle effects of motion this time, not very original observations I am sure, but fascinating to contemplate nonetheless. There are other physical effects besides nausea; headache is common, as is lassitude, both in the sense of sleepiness and in the sense of great mental effort being required for tasks which are normally easy. Sleep is more fragmented and less restorative, with all of us needing more daytime sleep in the first few days. One is more susceptible to fear, and to a sense of feeling overwhelmed by it all and unable to cope with new challenges. These are particularly poignant impairments in weather conditions where frightening things occur, and crises requiring masterful coping and quick action are likely to arise. Other fairly subtle psychological effects occur, including a sort of deadening of the higher human traits: sense of humor is strikingly diminished, as is the capacity for pleasure and delight, and for creative or imaginative thought. The parallel with clinical depression is irresistible. The best description I can come up with to describe the entire constellation of changes would be "dogged coping". To be sure, some of this is purely physical challenge. For example, to heat up and then eat a can of soup in a seaway, without flinging it all over the boat or yourself, and without grievous bodily injury, is a kind of epic gymnastic feat, not unlike what the ancient Irish warriors had to pass through to join Cuchulain's band (minus the requirement to memorize poetry).

The motion-induced changes come into sharper relief as we begin to emerge into our normal states of function. The nausea improves, to be sure, but far more than that. One begins to hear spontaneous laughter again, flashes of wit. The log entries become funnier and more articulate. Appetite improves, and the food both gets and seems much better, not just fuel, as if a Norwegian palate had become French overnight. Undone tasks start to be tended to in an increasingly brisk fashion. And one begins to hear phrases like "Hey, we should try ..... sometime"; imagination returning, like spring. It is so much like what people describe as they emerge from depression or chronic illness, there must be some neurochemistry in common, although the time frame is far more compressed. Perhaps it is just that motion, like any other stress, has an depressive effect on mental function, but one that most people can adapt to and overcome in a matter of days.

And more than overcome. Perversely, motion itself can become a source of pleasure. Take the case of Bernard Moitessier, the famous French singlehander. After sailing once around the world in the Globe race, well ahead of the other competitors, he amazed the world by forgoing the prize and continuing on for another 10,000 miles to Tahiti, most of it in the rough seas of the high southern latitudes. In part, he did this because he loved the sensation of constant motion; he described a kind of hypnotic joy, and dreaded ending it by going ashore. Any lessons here? Probably not, just some random reflections from a mind reawakening to what passes for normality aboard this here barky. I hope you all have a week that is moving, but not too moving. 

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage: 12deg 28min North- 55deg 25min West - 1999

Crew's Log- January 7, 1999
Joel Rowland (nephew etc.)
What shall we do with the Drunken Sailor?
Position- 12deg 28min North- 55deg 25min West

My last entry and news from home about the huge snowstorm got me thinking (ouch) and I entertained myself for the duration of an entire 4 hour night watch pondering these two questions...

What would be worse to be hit by than a flying fish?

a flying cow
a frying pan
a snowstorm
the Mafia
an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
a flying fish wrapped in a lawsuit
a wet cat
a truck driver
What are things I'd rather be hit by than a flying fish?
beer
ice cream
a thrown kiss
a biscuit
a flying fish wrapped in a hundred dollar bill
a revelation
(this has got to end somewhere)
(truck optional)

Believe me the list goes on, but 4 hours of things that make me snigger at 4 o'clock in the morning probably isn't what ya'll were hoping for when you logged onto this website.

Onward and upward---

Mother Ocean and our galaxy have been putting on a spectacular show for the past week and a half. At night when the sky's clear the moon and stars have been spectacular- a few days ago when the moon was full it was so bright that I couldn't look directly at it without hurting my eyes. Sunrises and sunsets have also been of the religious experience order and I'm lucky enough to be on watch from 4-8 morning and evening, so I see them all. The other evening there was a particularly amazing one which inspired me to write in my neglected journal, here it is... Before I start I'd like to point out the lack of references to beer and ice cream- thank you very much.

'The sunset tonight was long and slow and beautiful. I was enjoying steering the boat, wind shifty enough to keep it entertaining. I was focused on the seas coming up behind us, wheel in my hand, our sails winged out in front of me and the boat moving and alive beneath my feet, hardly noticed the sun was setting. My mind drifted and I became aware of the sky, first the colors pulled me in, pretty sunset colors shimmering orange and pink against the blue, then the texture of the clouds, all at different altitudes and distances- Tall, billowing cumulus clouds- distant and sweeping black and gray squall lines, high cirrus wisps and tiger stripes of stratus, and I noticed that one side of each cloud was dark- they had a day side and a night side. The sky behind the clouds was a deep blue with a hazy silvery sheen- For a moment all my senses opened up and I felt like I was on the outside looking in at the vast sky above me- I saw the line where day and night meet- Twilight- I could feel the Earth moving through space and sensed the planet spinning beneath me. I watched the twilight line move westward. We are over a thousand miles in the middle of the Atlantic and I know we shared this sunset and this twilight with no-one on Earth, the colors of the clouds darkened, the sky became azure and stars began to appear and to sparkle and the night began.'

So that's it, things are well. We are now within 350 miles of Tobago. Next island, next party. Quality, Mon.

Peas Ruv, Joel

Atlantic Island Voyage: 13deg 00min North- 44deg 40min West - 1999

Crew's Log January 3, 1999
Noon Position- 13deg 00min North- 44deg 40min West
Joel Rowland (Nephew extraordinaire)

You know, it sure is nice to have a screen and keyboard that don't wave around in front of you so much that you end up bouncing your nose on the [[ key when you meant to hit the q. These boisterous but benevolent Trades are finally blowing like the Pilot Chart says they should and, dare I say it, the Milk Run has begun. We passed halfway last night, 7 days out exactly- 1050 miles...!!!!!! I did the math for you- that's averaging 150 miles every 24 hours and 6.25 knots per hour!!!!! And that doesn't even include all the damn up and down. Granted, a small amount of that is current, but I think our average speed through the water is at least 6 knots!

Man, this first week we had all sorts of visitors aboard- among the unwelcome we've had numerous waves- from the great big bucket of water in your face kind, to the kinds that spit in your lap, soak your back, run up your pantleg or drip down your scalp (that was a fun sentence to write). The uninvited but not necessarily unwelcome flying fish have been pelting boat and crew at night, sure they're just as surprised to run into a wall of Gore-tex as we are to be smacked by a fluttering, stinky fish. They litter our decks every morning- from 6 inches long to the tiniest sardine. I've been putting them on fish hooks in the mornings and trying my luck. And up until just the other day we had a chicken aboard!

It wasn't some fancy pelagic chicken or anything, just your ordinary barnyard rooster. Wait, I take that back, he was no ordinary rooster he was a right salty bird from Ilha Brava, Cape Verde. He couldn't wait to get back on the water, in fact, when I brought him aboard for the first time he flapped out of my grasp right into the sea, and the little bugger started swimming! Took him a second to remember how, but once he did he was gone, pulling like Mark Spitz with a little more neck action. I have absolutely no idea where he thought he was headed (maybe for Sydney 2000), but I thought that the deck of our boat would be a little more comfortable, so after I recovered from my initial shock and swearing routine and after almost laughing myself overboard I went and fetched him in the dinghy. He was a real seafarer- he strutted our poop deck in his little chicken oilskins- smoking a pipe, daring those giant squid to come after him. He was looking the wrong way. And unfortunately for him he got his crow back, not to mention his pecking and biting instinct- right around New Year's, so the three of us wrestled him to the deck and somehow in the process his head got chopped off (fine way to treat a guest), and so help me, the very second that I threw it into the sea, a wave washed it right back on board and completely soaked me while it was at it...Ewwww. Do any of you believe in chicken Karma??

 Chicken on deck!

Chicken on deck!

Anyhow, we roasted him to perfection and celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's in one big gravy covered throw down. And you can believe that we gave thanks to the spirit of Freestyle, beloved, late rooster of the Good-ship Tammy Norie.

So we're Caribbean bound with a bone in our teeth, knocking down waypoints one after the other and celebrating each with a toast to Neptune and a Mint Milano (thanks Felicity). Yep, all's well on the water. Til next time!

Sea ya- Wouldn't wanna be ya (brrrrr), Joel

Atlantic Island Voyage: 14d 34m North, 34d 33m West - 1998

Captain's Log
30 December 1998, 1600 hours local time

Position: 14d 34m North, 34d 33m West

Day 4 of our passage to Tobago, and we have covered 580 miles, a little over 1/4th of the way; outstanding progress for the old barky. Still contending with a very boisterous trade wind, up to 40 knots at times last night, but moderating some today. The tossing and heaving is mostly done, but we are still rockin' and rollin'. A few bruises and some minor wear and tear on the boat. Lots of flying fish aboard during the night, with the occasional fish in the face while standing watch: that wakes a person up! Still flying single jib, reefed down most of the time. While crude, this has the advantage of being able to reef and unreef quickly and safely from the cockpit as squalls come and go, so no one has to venture out on the exposed foredeck. If the wind ever drops, we will try some more creative sail plan. The poor rooster that we picked up in the Cape Verde's doesn't know what's happening, and has taken to biting the hand that feeds him, although he let out a good crow at dawn today; Joel will be providing a full report in upcoming logs. Happy New Year to all our friends and family.

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage: 260 miles West of Brava - 1998

Captain's Log, 28 December 1998
Position: 14d 42m North, 29d 08m West (260 miles west of Brava)
Wind 20-30 knots, northeast
Course 264 degrees true, speed 6-7 knots

The "Milk Run" to Tobago has begun as more of a Milkshake; lots of wind, 15-foot waves, lots of water aboard, and caked salt has now replaced the harmattan dust on our decks and persons, arguably an improvement. We are making fine progress, 144 miles in the past 24 hours, and happy to be moving purposefully again, though we could all do with a bit more modest motion. 1900 miles to go--New World, here we come!

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage: Brava

Note from Shifra, Christmas, 1998
Brava

We are now on Ilha Brava, the smallest and western-most island of the Cape Verdes. I don't know how much you know about the Cape Verdes, but they're essentially little pieces of Africa floating on the ocean. Actually, this island and the one next to it (Fogo- it's an active volcano!) are a little more Portuguese than the first ones we visited, but not much. Anyway, the anchorage that we're in now is incredible. There's a small black pebble beach fringed by brightly painted stucco houses which give way almost immediately to steep hillsides. The hills rise into steep jagged peaks all around us, but near the shore it's pretty much your classic paradise (a bit drier than usual though, they're just starting to recover from a 3-year drought).

 Brava - Cape Verdes

Brava - Cape Verdes

Apparently there are a lot of Cape Verdeans who live in America, but come back here to Faja de Agua for vacations. We met one of them, Henry Rodriguez, who has been showing us around, he has a pretty sweet piece of property. Up behind his house there are terraced fields of sugar cane which he uses to produce his own Groque/aguardiente/rum/moonshine in his little backyard distillery. He showed us how he makes the rum (110 proof), it's all the old fashioned way too, he uses horses to run the press for the sugar and has basically all the old Okie bootlegger equipment to process the cane syrup. It's really neat. On top of that he has a few fields of white sugar cane for eating, palm trees for coconuts, mango trees, and a few scattered banana trees that look like they're only a few years old. Walking through the shades groves of mangoes with this loud semi wealthy American I could almost forget that the rest of the island- even the rest of the country- lived in a state of pretty god-awful poverty.

Shifra T.

 

Atlantic Island Voyage: Cape Verdes - Faja de Agua 1998

25 December 1998

Christmas Day
Faja de Agua, Brava, Cape Verde Islands

Merry Christmas to all from the shores of Africa, where there are no Christmas carols on the radio. On the other hand, Christmas trees and turkey are in pretty short supply. We are winding up our tour of the dry dusty barren Cape Verde archipelago, in a village described by everyone as the greenest, wettest place on the greenest, wettest island at the extreme western edge of the Cape Verdes. That is to say, if you drill deep enough, you can find water, enough for the 100 villagers here and the 8,000 inhabitants of the rest of the island to drink, do laundry, and even irrigate crops in a limited way. There are even a few flush toilets on the island. And in Faja de Agua palm trees and papayas can find enough water to grow, which gives the eye a small patch of green on which to rest, amid all this expanse of brown rock and dust. At one time, we are told, there was even a stream here running down from the mountain, year-round. Now there is a brief flow of water after a brisk rain, all of which is carefully diverted to reservoirs and cisterns, lest it be squandered by running uselessly into the sea.We actually had rain here last week, for several hours, which completely cleared the Harmattan dust out of the air. Hallelujah.

Water is a central theme in the Cape Verdes. The first island we visited, Sal, is entirely dependent on a desalination plant (ironic, since the island used to make and export salt), and there is no excess for fields or even family gardens. Apart from the tenacious acacia trees, there is simply no vegetation on the island, not even cacti, and the island generously contributed to the load of red Harmattan dust from Africa whenever the wind blew hard, which was almost every day when we were there. (Actually, we shouldn't make too much of this dust business: overall, the climate here is delightful, with no mosquitoes and the breeze quite cool except in the middle of the day.) Palmeira, the town off which we were anchored, had one source of water, a building called the Fontaneira, with 4 taps, connected to the desalination plant. For a few hours each day, the gates were opened and people streamed in with whatever battered plastic jugs they possessed to pay 1 escudo/gallon (about a penny), and then stand in a long line until the battle axe superintendent admitted them to the communal faucets. One false move, or any wasted water spilling over, and she was in their face, screaming. Mad Max, Tank Girl, Waterworld and all the other post-apocalyptic movies we have seen had nothing on this scene, played out daily. We did get some water there, but believe me we didn't spill any.

 De-salination plant and water supply on Sal

De-salination plant and water supply on Sal

Sal had other redeeming features, which kept us there almost a week. We went to a wonderful concert by Cesaria Evora, the queen of Cape Verde music, held in a large concrete amphitheater with walls and doors, but no roof. (Why bother, with rain once every 10 years). People were also very friendly, and we felt like we had really made human contact, not just as tourists and not just with crews of other yachts, for the first time since Flores. We also enjoyed meeting crews of some of the other boats: at one point there were 35 of us in the harbor, which is the most protected anchorage in the Cape Verdes. Very few American and British boats, almost all we have met are French, Belgian or German. As in all the islands, we were able to get excellent, fresh-baked bread at 5-7 cents/loaf, and our grand total for harbor and entry fees for the entire month in the Cape Verdes was $10. Overall, a very inexpensive place to cruise.

The Cape Verdes are an interesting mix of Portugese and African culture, in proportions that vary from island to island. The first 2 islands we visited, Sal and Santiago, were much more African in terms of dress, color, and language, speaking mostly an African/Portugese Creole. The islands of Fogo and Brava have been much more Portugese in flavor, more like the Azores, with a more recognizable Portugese being spoken. Here we are seeing more intensive cultivation with irrigation levadas and terraces, houses that tend to be more of finished and painted stucco, and lighter-skinned people with more European dress. Still quite the rainbow of skin color compared with Maine. All the islands are appallingly poor, with an economy based on low-technology fishing from small boats, subsistence agriculture (where water can be had) and lots of informal aid from relatives abroad in lieu of exports. Tourism is talked about, and there are apparently a few small hotels on the nice beaches, as in Sal, but this is in the fetal stage at best. There are about 300,000 inhabitants of the Cape Verdes who actually live here, and another 400,000 or so abroad, mostly in the US. Brava's population is even more distorted, with 8,000 on the island and 37,000 in the US. This was a major port for the New Bedford whalers, with an excellent protected harbor in Porto da Furna, and close ties have been maintained between the 2 communities ever since. We have had a royal welcome here on Brava simply because we are the first American yacht anyone here has seen in a long time.

While we were in Porto da Furna, the other harbor on Brava, the Prime minister of the Republic of Cape Verde came to the island to visit. There is a tiny airport but it is almost never used because it is so dangerous, so he arrived aboard the Cape Verde navy, which is a 100-foot patrol boat with no guns. He went ashore in a rowboat rowed by local teenagers, like every other cargo which arrives here including cars, and walked into a political hornets nest. It seems the Bravans are chronically unhappy about the fact that they get more public works accomplished using dollars from New Bedford than with Escudos from the capital in Praia. I met the minister of state the next day, and he was still a little shaken up. So Bill Clinton is not the only one who don't get no respect.

 Cinder cone on Fogo - a rugged hike to the top!

Cinder cone on Fogo - a rugged hike to the top!

There is much more to say, especially about Santiago and Fogo, and one of us will get around to it soon. The boat is ready for the next big jump, probably starting tomorrow, weather permitting of course, although there isn't much weather here other than the northeast trade winds this time of year. All that's left to do is have Christmas Dinner, get a few eggs, some fruit, maybe a chicken, and we're off to Tobago, 2100 miles to the westward. So it's out with the Old World and in with the New.

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage: Cape Verde Islands - Sal 1998

13 December 1998

Joel's Log, December 13, 1998
Sal, Cabo Verde

Hello Everybodeee!!! Welcome abored (sic) the Tammy Norie. I realize that it's been awhile since you've heard from us. We've been too occupied lately defining our new roles on the boat to give ya'll an update. Thanks to all of your good input we know that one of us is a turkey, one of us is a dodo and one of us is a slacker but there's some debate as to who's what. Hmmm...

This island, Sal, is quite a place. I've honestly never seen anything like it. If ever there was a landscape that I could paint, this is it. Just a flat line with a three spiky hills, a few patches of scruffy acacia trees and surround it with ocean. Bob Ross eat your heart out. The people are very cool everyone makes eye-contact and greets you. My first few steps ashore, I was taking it all in, I admit I must have had a guarded expression on my face, feeling a little like a sore thumb- But I passed a small group of little boys, the nearest one to me and I locked eyes, I think he was mirroring my expression- Sort of furrowed brow curiosity, an ambiguous face. But after we passed he reached back and touched my arm very lightly, I turned around and he gave me a goofy grin and a thumbs up. I laughed, and gave him thumbs up back. It was such a neat thing for him to do, and amazingly perceptive of the little guy. I relaxed so much after that. I think that this is an inherently good place, despite its bleakness...

 Sal landscape

Sal landscape

Yeah. We're in the Cape Verdes. What does that mean to you? To us it means, Africa and lots of it. 350 miles off the coast of Senegal, the islands had been a Portuguese Colony since the mid- Fifteenth century, they peacefully won their independence in 1975. But Portugal hasn't exactly been a financial superpower in a really long time and these islands seem to have been left to more or less fend for themselves. And they seem to have done a fair job of it from what I saw. They are completely different from anywhere that I've ever been. I'm sure the U.N. classifies them as a 'Developing Country', as in people are really poor- Please understand that this is only my impression of things from what we've seen thus-far, which amounts to two of the ten islands and the second-largest city in the group, I've heard no numbers, or done any research, basically, I'm just spouting- (WHALE!) All of the houses are cinder-block and many of them have pigs, chickens, goats- you name it milling around their doorstep.

 Tchiede and Tidan with Joel and Shifra with a bottle of grog aboard Tammy Norie

Tchiede and Tidan with Joel and Shifra with a bottle of grog aboard Tammy Norie

The streets and roads are cobblestone, and everybody's wearing last year's styles. The island of Sal our first stop was really dry, one of my friends there said that it hadn't rained in two years- I have no idea what they did for water before they opened the de-salination plant. The island is basically just a desert of red dust and rocks- the wind is constant and blowing hard enough that all the stunted acacia trees that have managed to survive are all bent to the Southwest, it seemed to me like the whole island was being relentlessly blown into the sea. That's the other thing- the wind has a name- it's called the Harmattan. It blows from mainland Africa and is filled with fine red dust, that fills the air and plasters everything it hits- It's more passive than a sandstorm- the air feels heavy but you can't actually feel the dust on your skin- but you can see it on everything- the boat is covered with it. Anyway I must say that the people of Sal were welcoming and friendly- Very rarely would I make eye contact with someone who didn't say Hello- or Hola or the equivalent- And I met some really good guys there who were my age they spoke English well enough that we could communicate fairly well, and Rum, the universal translator is only 30 cents a glass here, so conversation flowed. Anyway I was really impressed by how content these guys were, they had their family and friends, their health, most of them had jobs- and I think they realized that was really all they needed and were thankful for it. None of the dispossessed confusion that seems to affect a lot of people my age at home, receiving mixed messages about their responsibilities and roles in life from our over materialistic and pseudo- spiritual culture. Ah but enough of that.... Here we are on our way from Santiago(beautiful harbor, nice beach, sweet fishing boats painted Rasta-style) to the island of Fogo. And how appropriate for me to be making this entry as the name Ilha do Fogo means- Island of Fire- in Portuguese (remember my last entry??). How they keep it lit surrounded by all this water remains to be seen- because even though our chart tells us that it's only 3 miles away, thanks to the Harmattan (cough!), we have yet to see it. Supposedly there's an active Volcano on the island somewhere that last eructated in 1995- We hope to go check it out, cause we're that hard-core. We've also heard that people who go all the way to the top of the cone have to sort of hop, prance and dance in place because the ground's so hot- So wish us luck- Hopefully we'll live to tell about it. And if you hear about any explosions in the Eastern Atlantic any-time soon, remember this- we didn't touch nothing.

Talk to ya later- Joel

P.S. To the second-graders- We just saw a pair of whales, a big one and a little one, the little one was playing and leaping out of the water! We think they may have been Sperm whales.

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Madeira, 24 October

October 24, 1998 
Crew's Log 

Madeira Grande, Portugal
Joel Rowland, Nephew extraordinaire 

Hope you all have V-chips 'cause here comes Joel's adventures on Madeira (ma darlin')- No, no, you can uncover the kids eyes, the only dirty stuff in this entry are my feet, which you should count yourself lucky are on the other side of the Atlantic.

Anyhow, I just finished a couple day stint tromping around this island, pack on my back, boots on my feet, eyes wide open and a song on my lips (for the scary parts). I started from a mountain pass called Encumeada, it gave me a head start of 3000 vertical feet, and on this island the bus ride up is half the adventure. The busses themselves are ultra modern, no old school busses with chickens and pigs in your lap here. But the roads, now paved smooth, were built for horse carts, and Madeira probably has a bus system in the first place because the horses refused to work on such roads. 

Anyway, if there have been any horse/bus tragedies in the past they're keeping them quiet, though that would make a great museum.... So I hopped off the bus at Encumeada, and bounded the 40 feet to the cafe at the top of the pass. There is no shortage of places to spend money on Madeira, and this particular place had really good empanadas. So three empanadas and a Coke later, I started up my trail, contemplating the concept of 'independence'. That didn't last too long though as I had also bought a pack of malted milk balls at the cafe, trail food ya know, and as the trail got steeper and hotter I became engrossed in how quickly they disintegrated in my cheek, and how much further I had to go before I could have another one. A pack of malt balls will only last for so long under such strenuous circumstances and eventually I was forced to concentrate on the task at hand. This trail was intense, flight after flight of stairs either carved into the rock or built onto it, there were sections that had been built outward from a sheer rock cliff, I stood back and tried to figure out how it had been done but the only thing that I could come up with was, "Damn, whoever built this was crazy.". They must have gotten a special deal from the malt ball factory, too.

Eventually the stairs ran out and the trail became a normal dirt and gravel path. Slowly but surely I gained altitude, stopping often to take in the beauty of the mountains around me and the valley way, way below me. I groaned a little when the trail would descend to traverse a ravine or skirt some impassable terrain, but it always continued back up. Up and up, switching back and forth, sometimes looking over the dry, hot South side of the island, and sometimes over the green and lush North, always with the sea in the distance, a reminder that I was a little guy in the middle of a small island that's in the middle of a big ocean (at the end of a long sentence, ed.). It was on this walk that I perfected my Ba-aa-aaa. The computer really doesn't do it justice, ask me next time you see me. There were lots of sheep along the trail, some of them quite conversational, of course, I had no idea what I was saying, and it scared most of them away.

That's funny, that pretty much sums up the majority of my conversations with the people on this island, too.

Anyway, as I am, after all, the hero of this entry, I eventually found my way to the top of Madeira's tallest mountain, Pico Ruivo at 6200 feet. The climb was well worth it, from the top I had a 360 degree view of the island. Clouds as far as I could see had surrounded its perimeter and from my elevated vantage point it looked as if Madeira was floating in a sea of clouds. And then, as the sun sank lower, and the land cooled, the clouds swirled below me and engulfed the island, cutting the tops of the tallest peaks adrift, including the one on which I stood. The sun began to set, and that settled it, I was sleeping right there. I set up my tent and lay with my head outside for awhile and watched the stars come out, sipping wine (trail juice) and eating olives.... It was a good night, not too cold up there, just enough to make me feel that much more snug inside my sleeping bag. I woke up and once again the island was clear of clouds. I soaked up the morning sunshine and marveled at the scenery while I ate breakfast. Packed up and started down the hill towards Caldeirao Verde, the Green Cauldron!

It took me a little while to find the right trail down into the valley- Yeah, so there was a big, huge carved sign pointing to the trail, but sometimes you have to look just a bit deeper than the obvious, to go out on a limb, to explore the unexplored,to seek out new life and new civilizations....to get lost. I found a trail. I wasn't sure if it was the trail I was looking for, but beggars can't be choosers (I think that's the moral of this entry), so I followed it. This time it went down, down, down. It practically plunged into a valley of ferns and laurel trees. Oh man, the air down there was so cool and fragrant. I half hoped a giant butterfly would come land on my shoulder. I had left all my sheep friends far behind though, so I decided that I had a perfect opportunity to try talking to myself. We, I and I, that is, talked about all sorts of incredibly boring stuff, in the end I decided it would be best if I just shut up and enjoy the walk down. It was quite nice, like I said, thick with plants, and such a nice change to be going down. After an hour of continuously walking downhill I started thinking about how much quicker it would be if I could roll down, Joel Rowland, nephew extraordinaire and pioneer of the sport of rolling down steep hills with a big pack. Everybody follow me!!! In the end I decided not to risk breaking my precious bottle of trail juice and I rode the slow train down.

Lo and behold, I had managed to find the right trail, a fork in just the right place with all the right landmarks, the world looked shiny and new. I even stashed my pack in the bushes to skip up the fork I didn't want, just to check out the view. Continuing on down MY path I came to the Levada do Caldeirao Verde- Canal of the Green Cauldron- which sounded pretty good, but what truly got me stoked (ha) was knowing that at the end of the Caldeirao Verde levada another levada began, which ended at the Caldeirao do Inferno- The Cauldron of Hell! Maybe I would never come back or wanna come back, but this I had to see. So I started stepping, and promptly came to a tunnel bobbing with flashlight beams, headed my way. I stepped off the path at my end of the tunnel and allowed the group to pass, they were Germans, led and caboosed by two obviously Madeiran guides with stout walking sticks, which no doubt could quickly become weapons if I didn't give way. It was plain to see that they had turned back before Caldeirao do Inferno, they didn't look the least bit tormented or charred. I hurried through the tunnel and carried on my way.

The levadas are not very demanding physically, for the most part they remain fairly level. The thing is that sometimes to obtain this nice level run, the builders had to remove sections of cliffs or dig through solid granite. So not only do they meander by some spectacular scenery, sometimes they are the spectacular scenery. There were many times along this walk that I would like to have stopped to scratch my head and say "How'd they do that?" but I was too occupied with putting one foot in front of the other. The times that I was able to look up and around I saw that I was in one of the lush ravines that I had feasted my eyes on at the top of Pico Ruivo that morning. I was looking down on a now dry, thanks to the levada, riverbed, maybe 700 feet down. The walls of the levada and the sides of the ravine were covered with vegetation and sometimes dripping with water and waterfalls. As I walked I passed another unsinged group, and was shooed off the path once again by a Madeiran with a big stick, fair enough, they were working, I was playing. In a few more minutes, walking along some particularly inspiring levada work I came to the Caldeirao Verde. A 300 ft waterfall with a series of pools at the base of a half-round shaped cliff that gives the impression that its surrounding you. The entire cliff face and the area around the pools is absolutely blanketed- carpeted- covered with ferns so thick that they look like scales. I was dazzled by green.

Perhaps influenced by faeries and despite the possibility of a thwacking by a stout stick I went swimming under the waterfall. It was cold but I got away with it, and being cold I felt even better prepared for my next stop at the Cauldron of Hell. On I went, at one point climbing a crumbling and heaving stone stairwell 350 ft.. I felt sort of funny ascending when I thought I should be descending, but who am I to question where Satan puts his crockpot, so I went with it. 
When I got within a few minutes of the end (of the Levada), I ditched my pack in some bushes, confident that I would collect it upon my return. I came to a series of tunnels, a couple of them had sharp bends so that I couldn't see any light at the other end. One had a small waterfall at the entrance which left me no choice but to get wet in order to continue. I started to feel a little like a glutton between getting doused and the anxiety I felt in the bending tunnels. Finally I came to a particularly long tunnel, that had a strong breeze and a faint rumbling at the entrance, as I plunged deeper the rumble became louder and louder until I came round the final bend, and the tunnel opened up to a waterfall in a dark ravine, this was actually the head of the ravine I'd walked down into and had been walking along on all day. I stood on the edge of a spillway, collecting water from the falls and shunting it down the levada. The path carried on over a couple of sturdy wood and steel bridges, built not only to dodge the waterfall, but to cross the now dry gully 100 feet down. Man, you'd think I'd have been tired of all the crazy scenery and stuff, but no, there was more to see, I hadn't even reached my Ultimate Destination. But I was close, I could practically hear the water boiling. More tunnels, and I kept expecting to be blasted by steam at every bend, but alas, the anti-climax, which I will spare you all from.

All I'll say is that I've been to the Portuguese Cauldron of Hell, and it wasn't that bad. No flames, no horned beasts (besides me), no otherworldly maniacal laughter, all in all a fairly benign place. The coolest part was that I got to walk back along the same path that I walked earlier that day. Which had everything I could have asked for in a path. Adventures, ah yes.

This entry is long enough. Hope you all are good, as you can tell, I'm having all sorts of fun, and now we are on Gomera, a whole new island to explore. Quality, Mon. - Joel 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Madeira, 18 October

Captain's Log
18 October 1998
Funchal, Madeira

It has been 3 weeks since the last log entry, and it's time to write before there is so much to say that it becomes impossible. Our "brief stop" in Porto Santo, turned into 11 days. As anchorages go, it was almost ideal: perfectly protected, water clean enough to swim in, excellent inexpensive moorings, and a large and friendly community of other sailboats from all over the world. Here we finally joined the annual southward migration from Europe which occurs every fall. At one point, there were 30 other boats anchored, moored or tied to the dock in Porto Santo, a sort of United Nations flotilla, with crews from the four corners of the globe. In this case, however, the 4 corners would be Alaska, South Africa, Israel and perhaps Norway. We don't see many boats from places like Pakistan or Ethiopia. So far, in decreasing order, we have seen boats from England, France, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, South Africa (they all say "the NEW South Africa"), Italy, Ireland and Israel. And of course the USA. And conveniently for us, whenever groups of several nationalities get together to socialize, everyone speaks English. So while we are working on our Portugese, our German, French and Spanish are gathering dust. The Pax Romani is long gone, and in its place, the one-two combination of the Pax Britannica and Hollywood has moved into the vacuum. The Brits, of course, don't like to hear us say we speak "English". They like the quip that England and the US are "two nations divided by a common language" (Oscar Wilde?, Mark Twain?)

Porto Santo is most notable for its 3 miles of perfect sandy beach, almost completely undeveloped, although that won't last much longer. Until fairly recently, this small island was accessible only by small ferry from Madeira Grande, and scratched along on subsistence agriculture and fishing. Now there is a jet airport, a daily car ferry, and a fine harbor created by the building of a mammoth breakwater, while tourism has quickly eclipsed all other economic activity. So far, this has meant mostly visitors from Madeira Grande, which is cooler, wetter, and without any sandy beaches. But the wider world is discovering it as well, and hotels are starting to spring up. The EC has pumped money into development there as well, enlarging the harbor, and funding a huge desalination plant. My theory is that the EC is preparing the island for the day when drug-resistant Tuberculosis spills out of Russia, and thousands of people have to be isolated somewhere warm, dry and pleasant, sort of like the US Public Health Service did with Leprosy patients on Lanai. Naturally, no one will fess up to that. It is a volcanic island, but none of the peaks are very tall, so it doesn't catch rain in the way Madeira Grande does. There is enough moisture at the higher elevations to grow trees, which they are doing, but the rest is desert. One of our favorite walks was up Pico de Castelo, a perfectly symmetrical volcanic cone, the top of which has been terraced, with stone stairs for walking, and a huge arboretum with all sorts of native and exotic trees. The top is a beautiful herb garden, with 360 degree views of the whole island.

We did tear ourselves away from the very relaxing anchorage at Porto Santo just as we began to feel ourselves becoming invertebrates. The night before departure, all the crews got together for a barbecue in honor of Shifra’s 16th birthday. A brisk 8-hour run to Madeira woke us up a bit, and we arrived in the harbor at Funchal on the 11th of October, birthday of Cristobal Colon and Shifra Adler. The inside yacht harbor was completely full, as it always is this time of year, so we spent the night rolling wildly at anchor in the outer harbor. Next day the weather improved, about 20 boats which had been penned in by the strong easterly winds left, and we rafted up against the sea wall where we had stayed in 1995. The sign we painted on the wall then is still there. We started out on the outside of a raft-up of 6 boats, and have steadily worked our way closer to the wall as others have left. At the moment, our raft up includes a 38' British boat owned by a former GP who got disgusted with medicine and went into computer consulting, a 33' British boat owned by a semi-retired pilot who is sailing alone, a tiny French boat sailed by 2 lunatics, Ziggy and Bimbo. And taking up the outside is another American boat a little smaller than ours. Other good friends who have just left included STREET LEGAL, a British boat sailed by a couple of MBA dropouts, and ALVA, a burly little wooden boat from Norway, crewed by 3 completely inexperienced but delightful young men: "a computer expert, a mountaineer, and a philosopher (the owner)". Almost everyone is following a route similar to ours, but some are continuing on around the world, and others will come back to Europe in the spring.

Funchal is as delightful as we remembered it: a clean, beautiful city, which somehow manages to be both sophisticated and friendly. It reminds me a little of Victoria, or Seattle before all the skyscrapers went up. And this time we have gotten out to explore more of the island, which is spectacular. The main attraction is the system of Levadas, which are concrete and stone irrigation channels carrying water from springs in the mountains to fields on the dryer parts of the island. There are a total of 1400 miles of levadas, and all have trails alongside which make perfect hiking, since they are almost level. They also include tunnels of varying lengths, some as long as 2 miles, which provide an unusual hiking experience. Others are carved into the sides of cliffs (this was done by slaves hanging down in wicker baskets), which is also pretty exciting. And there are regular mountain trails which connect the levadas. As if that weren't enough, the place is green year-round, with lush forests and flowering plants of almost infinite variety.

It's the sort of place that could turn even the most craven techno-geek into an ardent botanist; even to the ignorant eye the vegetation is impressive. There are dense laurel forests, some of which flower in the fall, groves of huge pine, cedar and eucalyptus trees, and areas of painstakingly terraced farmland. Yesterday we walked along the cliffs on the north side of the island, in some places with a 1000-meter almost-vertical drop to the ocean. To give some idea of the terrain, the trails are rated on a scale which begins with "potential for vertigo" and "danger of vertigo", on up to "terribly vertiginous" and "horrendously vertiginous". Yesterday's walk was in the latter category. So we kept singing and didn't look down until we got to wider spots in the path. There are, of course, very sedate walks which are equally interesting in their own way, and all quite beautiful. Like the Maine Coast, one could easily spend months, or even a lifetime, exploring the place. We have decided to extend our stay to 2 weeks, to savor it a bit more.

I apologize for the excessive use of words like "beautiful", "lush” and "delightful" in this entry. Winter is coming on back home and a little restraint would be tactful. If I can, I'll tone it down a bit next time. Perhaps the Eastern Canaries will be better; Lanzarote was just described to me as "the ashtray of the North Atlantic".

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Azores, 29 September

Captain's Log, 29 Sept 1998, 1200 UTC
Position: 33d 30m north, 19d 14m west

We are now closing on the Madeiran Archipelago, with the island of Porto Santo, our destination, 150 miles to the east. The remnants of Tropical Storm Ivan passed about 350 miles north of us on Sunday, giving us a nice westerly flow of wind for the first day or so, but nothing over 20 knots. We covered 154 miles in our first 24 hours out of Santa Maria, which is our record for this trip. It was a little strange knowing that a tropical storm was in the neighborhood, but having only fair winds, blue skies, and no dip in the barometer. There weren't even any high cirrus clouds, which invariably precede a low pressure system of any kind. All we really got was about 24 hours of oppressive humidity, like summertime in the Caribbean. Now we are alternately wafting along under cruising spinnaker, and motoring through the lulls, just enjoying the fine weather. Yesterday, we hove to in the heat of the day for a swim. The bottom of the boat is remarkably free of growth, for almost 3 months in the water. It is always strange to swim in mid-ocean, with miles of water beneath you; none of us strays very far from the boat. It is a bit like the sensation of being at great height.

Reflections on the Azores: Due to my work schedule, we ended up arriving much later in the season than we would have liked, but got enough of a taste of the islands to feel they would be worth a real visit in the future. July and August would be the ideal time, with lots of festivals, and more settled weather. It would also be good to come back with more fluent Portugese. There are a remarkable number of people under 40 who have lived in the US or Canada, and we mostly communicated with them. It is quite common for young people to work outside the Azores for a time to accumulate some capital, then come back and buy land and perhaps a fishing boat. Many of our impressions are therefore filtered through people who have lived much of their lives in North America. With true natives we had very little contact.

There is a kind of small town syndrome at work in all the islands, something like what we see in Maine. Young people bemoan the lack of action, long for the stimulus of city life on the continent, and go to Lisbon or Boston or Toronto; many come back regretting they ever left. We saw other examples of this phenomenon: we had heard that there was an excellent Azorean wine made in Graciosa, but whenever we asked about it people would laugh and say, no, no, you should get wine from the continent, not these local wines. Finally, we did manage to find some, and it was excellent. Sort of reverse marketing. Even on Flores, which easily rivals Maui for charm and stunning physical beauty, most of the people we talked to were a little bemused that anyone would come out of their way to visit the island, which to their eyes was nothing special.

There is an interesting east-west gradient as well. In the west, there is lush vegetation, lots of moisture, a more simple and open friendliness, and villages with houses which are neat, well-maintained and fairly uniform in style, none very opulent. Fishing and farming are active, and appear to dominate the economy. As one goes east, the islands get drier, more tired and exploited-looking, the people more urbane and less friendly. And class differences seem more blatant, with well-demarcated rich neighborhoods and more dilapidated obviously poor neighborhoods. Faial suffered a major earthquake a month before we got there, and people were pretty preoccupied with getting their lives and homes put back together, so it is difficult to say what Faial is normally like. This may account for Horta being less welcoming than usual. And even in Santa Maria, we encountered unexpected warmth and friendliness. The port captain there is keen on having more visiting yachts, which he views as a mark of prestige for the island. He was 
ludicrously cordial, even to the point of saying I spoke excellent Portugese--Ha,ha.. So, generalities are dangerous. But, overall, a fascinating place, and we are glad we were able to at least scratch the surface.

MR 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Azores, 24 September

Captain's Log, 24 September 1998
10 miles West of Santa Maria, Azores

We've had a very pleasant run from Horta, 190 miles in just under 48 hours, wind with us all the way. Spinnaker halyard chafed through and parted during the night, with all hands on deck in a hurry to fish the spinnaker out of the water. I guess that problem isn't solved yet. Will have another go at it when we are at anchor. The wind is now building to low 20's, and forecast to increase to northwest force 7 (28-33 knots) tonight, due to Hurricane Ivan, which will pass about 800 miles to the west of us. No real threat there, but we will sit it out in Vila do Porto until settled weather returns, hopefully in a day or two. This will give us a little time to explore Santa Maria, the first of the Azores to be settled, but now something of a backwater, eclipsed by the larger and more populous islands to the north and west. At 37 north, 25 west, we should now be pretty well south and east of the major storm tracks (lots of wood to knock on around here).

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Azores, 22 September

Captain's Log 22 Sept 1998

All repairs completed, left Horta marina at 1400 UTC. Now rounding the island of Pico, bound for Ilha de Santa Maria,180 miles to the southeast. This will be a very brief pit stop en route to Madeira. Wind is gentle, northeast, barometer preposterously high. We are on the eastern edge of a large high, and should pick up the northeast trade winds between Santa Maria and Madeira. All systems and crew doing fine.

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Azores, 18 September

Captain's Log, 18 Sept 1998
Horta Harbor, Island of Faial, Azores

Bom dia:

If you are a reader in search of calamity and epic feats of stupidity at sea, read no further. We have nothing of the kind to report (this time). We had an uneventful passage from Flores to Horta, aside from the fact that the wind was dead against us, making a 120 mile trip into a 200 mile, 2 day slog tacking back and forth. However, the blessed anemometer never went over 25 knots. We enjoyed the bonito caught by Joel, which provided 2 dinners en route. By the way, for those who have asked about the toxicology reports on the famous swordfish, we actually stopped eating it when Joel caught the first dorado. At that point it had been in the reefer for a week and was quite fresh; probably about as fresh as what we buy at Shop'n'Save. And the signs of delirium seen among the crew were, in my professional opinion, baseline--not due to mercury toxicity.

Horta is legendary on several counts: It has, since the great age of exploration began in the time of Prince Henry the Navigator, been a stopping place for European and American ships going in every direction across the Atlantic. Because it is nearly mid Atlantic, it was a stopping place for Amphibious planes going from New York to Europe. More recently, and for the same reasons, it has been THE stopping place for sailboats crossing the Atlantic, and has long had the most protected harbor in the Azores for small boats. This was the first rest stop for Joshua Slocum, who brought SPRAY here in the late 1800's at the start of the first solo circumnavigation of the globe. Since then, virtually every famous sailboat has stopped here as well. The sea walls are covered with the painted logos of hundreds of cruising boats. And the equally famous Cafe Sport, watering hole for the crews of said boats, is also covered with flags and memorabilia from boats passing through. Horta has been reputed to be one of the friendliest ports in the world as well. We haven't seen so much of that: I think the locals are shagged out after a long season of boat people, and ready for the lot of us to go away for a few months. Perhaps this is only by contrast with the atmosphere on Flores.

For us, it has been an excellent place for repairs, as there is a good supply of marine hardware and other essentials. In the 4 days we have been here, we have steadily worked down through our list. Sail repairs are done, the new spreader is made, winches are working again after removing great clumps of salt. Numerous changes have been made at the mast head to reduce chafe, and a new inner forestay fitting is being fabricated. Our old fitting was showing some cracks in the welding, and we decided to have a completely new one made. The heroic parachute sea anchor has been lovingly rinsed with fresh water, dried and carefully repacked, ready to save our bacon again. Joel has torn down the propane cooking stove, cleaned up all the salt water and old cooking schmutz, and got it back in tip-top condition. Shifra has painted our logo on the sea wall, and so we join the long tradition. We have also found a fine bakery and pastry shop, which we are generously supporting.

We are quite late in the season here, so the marina is far less crowded. Rather than rafting up 10 deep along the sea wall, we have been 1-2 deep, first alongside a South African boat, and now alongside SEA BEAR, a steel boat from Bath, Maine. Aft of us is a British boat, DOVE, with a BBC film crew filming whales and sharks. Among other things, they have a huge cage for filming sharks on their foredeck; quite a sight on a 60' boat. Hard to imagine them actually sailing. Forward of us lies a sad tale in the form of MAREBLU, a 72' German charter boat which has been sold and is en route to its new owner in France, but has been laid up here for 2 months with a broken propeller shaft and twisted roller furling rig. It is already very late in the season for heading to Europe, and they will probably break lots of other things before they make France. A friendly Canadian aboard FREDHEIM gave us a fine piece of close-grained western red cedar to make our new spreader with, in exchange for a cup of coffee. It had been looking like we'd have to use some of the oak we have aboard, which would have been heresy.

We will finish up our refitting work in a day or two, with luck, and then will look for a good weather window for Madeira, possibly with a brief stop in Santa Maria, the southeasternmost of the Azores. There is great turmoil to the north of us, with poor old England getting one deep low after another. Here we get the southern edges of these systems, with brief episodes of rain and strong westerly winds. As time goes on, however, they will get closer and closer. The general wisdom is that late August is the deadline for getting safely to northern Europe, and mid-September for Spain and the Mediterranean. For Madeira and the Canaries, late September is OK, but not later unless one is a masochist. Interestingly, it is mostly Americans who are left here. Is this because we think we are immune to the forces of nature, or because this weather seems quite delightful compared to what we are used to in New England? I would compare this weeks weather, for example, to a fine July in Penobscot Bay, without the fog.

I notice, as I look over this and previous logs, that weather occupies the bulk of the discussion. This is peculiar to sailors, and perhaps people who fly. This may be why books about voyaging hold so little general interest, and generally fail to qualify as literature, except perhaps for those authors who deal with psychosis at sea, like Melville and Conrad. Among seafarers, even those able to feign normalcy by land, there seems to be an inversion of priorities, with weather dominating all other topics. For example, people will sometimes open a conversation with an innocuous weather comment, such a "Hot today, isn't it", en route to what they are really interested in discussing, such as, "I notice you have an amputated leg...". Among sailors, by contrast, such a conversation might begin like this:

"Nice wooden leg you've got there, mate". 
"Ar, shark bit off me leg". 
"Did he now, well that's a pisser. What sort of wood is that?" 
"Ar, teak that is; carved it me'self. Won't never rot, that leg." 
Haven't primed the conversational pump, they would quickly move on to the real meat of the discussion. "Hell of a blow we had coming down here; force 10 for 36 hours, barometer got down to 980 millibars in the middle of it....." And they're off for a good hour, reviewing in minute detail the weather of the past month, storms they've seen, high-pressure ridges, 500 millibar prognoses, the 96-hour surface prediction, equinoctal gales, etc., etc. It's best to avoid discussions like this if you are a truly normal person: they can induce coma within minutes, even death in artistic or literary persons......

Well, perhaps next time we will have some actual news. Until then, we hope you have really good weather wherever you are.

MR 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Azores, 12 September

Captain's Log, 12 September 1998
Position: 39d 36m north, 31d 7m west (passing between Corvo and Flores)

We have spread our wings again, after a delightful stay on the island of Flores. We had intended to make a brief pit stop here, but it was so beautiful, and the people so friendly, that we stayed 5 days. The harbor of Lajes is nestled within 300' cliffs to the north and west, hence our inability to get any kind of radio signal out.

Flores is one of those end-of-the-earth kinds of places, the westernmost point of Europe. 3000 people live here, on an island so craggy and wildly volcanic in origin as to be almost unbelievable. Tiny communities, some with as few as 50 people, have sprung up wherever there was enough of a flat spot for dirt to form. In 3 places, rudimentary ports huddle behind breakwaters, providing just enough shelter for fishermen to launch small boats. Seven large caldeiras, each with its own beautiful lake, crown the top of the island, which is almost permanently shrouded in a cloud cap. Those who do not fish, eke out a living raising cattle and goats. The cattle are genetically adapted to the 45 degree slopes on which they must graze, some with shortened left legs, who munch counterclockwise around the hills, and some with short right legs, who go the other way. Ha, ha, gotcha!

It is a magical place, just being discovered by Europe, but still holding on to its unique identity. There is now a small airport, and the port of Lajes is being enlarged, courtesy of EU funds. So, eventually, it will become a major tourist destination. But we were one of only 2 visiting boats, and if there were tourists they were well hidden. The other vessel, belonging to an American couple, arrived in July, intending to stay a few days. They never left, have bought a house and land, and are in the process of "going native". It is a place that exerts that kind of magnetism.

None of our crew has jumped ship, thankfully, and we are all well rested and fed. We hooked up with a local fisherman, Jose, who showed us around. Joel went fishing for tuna with him one day. Joel has become our resident fisherman; he caught a fine dorado a couple of days out from the Azores, and today caught a 10-lb bonito which we will have for dinner. Blackberry picking was at its peak while we were there, and Shifra made some outrageous blackberry tarts, which we shared with our boat neighbors.

Now we are headed for Horta, where we will visit the legendary Cafe Sport, get some sail repairs done, and hopefully get the hardware items we need for our other repairs. There was a major eruption and earthquake elsewhere on the island of Faial a month ago, and we should also get a chance to see the effects of that. Probably we will head south to Madeira after that, as the weather in the Azores gets pretty unsettled toward the end of September.

MR 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: First Passage, 6 September

Captain's Log, 6 September 1998


Position: 39d 37m North, 32d 29m West. Flores 62 miles, bearing 93 
degrees true.
Wind SW at 15 knots, we are holding our speed to 4 knots to make an 
early morning landfall.

Last entry was several days ago, and it is difficult to know where to start this one. For certain, we will not book with this cruise line again: the steady diet of humble pie is becoming monotonous. After Bonnie passed, we had 3 nice days in which to regroup. We cleaned up the terminals on the electric ram, which got that autopilot back in action. That bought us time until the wild, random post-storm seas subsided enough to allow us to work, at which point we hove to and replaced the frayed steering cable. 

By that time we were getting very frequent radio weather bulletins from the NWS and a daily set of fax maps to track Danielle's progress. She, too, had originally been predicted to track much further north, but each update put her track closer to us. Our basic game plan was to turn more southward now, rather than follow the 40th parallel along to just before the Azores. We also drove the boat harder than usual to widen the distance as much as we could. That produced a casualty, in the form of a broken upper spreader on the mainmast, caused by winching up the mainsail at night, not seeing that the halyard was wrapped against the spreader. We normally do not do that maneuver in the dark if we can avoid it. This was my goof, so at the same time we hove to to fix the steering cable, I went up the mast to clear the pieces of spreader. At 40 feet up the mast, backing off screws between 10' arcs, and periodically whacking up against the mast, out of the depths of the dumb song and jingle neocortex, came "There's one thing can revive a guy, and that is a piece of rhubarb pie/ Serve it up, nice and hot, maybe things aren't as bad as you thought./ Momma loves rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb, Be-bop-a-re-bop rhubarb pie." When Garrison Keillor sings it, everyone laughs, and the show goes merrily on. Didn't work for me, somehow: I still had to get those damn screws out, and eventually did. Then on we ran, lickety split, looking over our shoulders.

This time, Danielle's path put her about 300-350 miles north of us, and winds of up to 45 knots were predicted. We’d heard that before, and figured we'd better assume worse. As Tristan Jones said, there are 4 kinds of sailors: dead, retired, novices and pessimists. Even though our steering system, and the boat in general were perfectly up to actively running with a gale, as we did the other night, we felt it more prudent to ride it out under storm anchor, which would be easier on us and the boat.

Once the barometer had clearly begun its dive, and the wind hit 30 knots and climbing, we deployed the 18' nylon parachute and 550 feet of chain and 3/4" nylon rope. The parachute is a heavy ballistic nylon, designed for just this purpose. If you jumped out of a plane with it, it would hit you on the top of the head. It took about 2 hours to set, and another several hours of fiddling until we had things just right. While a "passive" tactic, it actually took a lot more work to set up than simply dropping sails and running, as we did before. However, it is a much more controlled situation, and it was miraculous to be at a dead stop, watching the bow cleanly part these huge breaking crests, while we sat dry in the cockpit eating bonbons. It did feel unnatural somehow, and the tradeoff was that the motion was quite horrible: pitching, yawing, rolling, corkscrewing in every combination, especially later in the storm as the wind swung from southwest to northwest, and we got waves from different directions. The wind did indeed get into the mid to high 40's around midnight, and by daybreak was dropping below 30 at times. We spent about 2 hours hauling in all the gear, and were back under way by noon. Aside from some scrapes and bruises, the only casualty was a chewed up rail forward where the anchor chain jumped out of its roller. We will rig a pin there for next time (if there is a next time), along with a few other improvements, but overall the system worked as advertised, and we spent a somewhat better night than before. On a comfort scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being Eating Cherry Garcia ice cream by the pool, and 0 being public evisceration and beheading at the Tower of London, I would put this one around a 3. What we did the other night was perhaps a 1. Night shift in the ER would be up around 5 perhaps. 

The weather has steadily moderated since then, and we are caught up on our sleep. Now we are cleaning up and preparing for landfall tomorrow, at which point the "is it worth it?" meter will go more positive. We are still looking over our shoulders at Earl, but at this point it looks clear.

Now, of course, we know why the hurricane tracks go up to Newfoundland and trail off, and we really did get past the true hurricane track on about day 4. However, there is still 
the matter of these ex-hurricanes, embittered by their failure to wreak devastation in Florida, and looking for one last chance before they are completely spent. God forbid we should ever encounter an actual hurricane in its prime. 

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: First Passage, 1 September

Captain's Log, 1 September, 1300 utc

Position: 40d 28m north, 42d 54m west
Heading due east, 6 knots. Wind SW at 20 knots.

Update on Extraterrestrial storm Bonnie;

We have now almost fully recovered from the effects of this most unusual storm which is just now finally breaking up over the Azores. We were somewhat surprised when she turned away from Miami last week and headed ashore in the Carolinas; we were very surprised when she headed back out to sea, contrary to polite hurricane behavior. We were a little concerned about our friends when she turned toward New England, still at the very stately pace of 200 miles or so per day. We continued to feel pretty smug about our own position, 1000 miles to the east, in a zone which has seen only 1 low pressure system of this kind in august in the past 25 years. Needless to say, we were astounded to learn on Sunday afternoon that she had not only turned our way, but had covered 800 miles in 24 hours and was still packing a wallop: 50 knot winds predicted for our area. This had not been on our agenda for the evening. As it turned out, it was not a direct hit. The storm passed 200 miles to the north of us, but with a 900-mile diameter, the difference was academic.

So we battened down the hatches (literally), removed all extraneous canvas, lashed everything down, and went through our pre-storm checklist, at which point we discovered a seriously frayed steering cable, which would not be reliable under the kind of loads we expected. This required setting up our emergency tiller for steering, which is fine in a pinch, but not the easiest way to handle a 40 foot boat in a storm. We had a choice of 2 tactics: the passive one would have been to put out a storm anchor, an 18-foot diameter nylon parachute which is designed to hold the boat head-to-wind. Its main advantage is that the crew can get out of the weather and rest somewhat. The active approach would be to sail with the wind under storm jib, then bare masts only above 40 knots or so. This seemed preferable to us, since it would keep us moving toward our destination and Joel and I had successfully done it on the trip to Ireland in similar winds for several days, albeit with a steering wheel. It should be easier here, with much warmer water and a shorter exposure time.

We decided on the active tactic, and it worked, although there were times during the night as the wind built to 60 knots and beyond, that I cursed me'self for a worthless lubber. It was quite the scene, in retrospect; wind shrieking, 25-30 foot waves exploding into foam and spindrift at the crests. At times, all 3 of us were steering, one hauling on the tiller and looking aft to be sure we were dead perpendicular to the next wave, the second adding oomph where needed, and the third hauling on the wheel on the side with the good cable when the boat threatened to broach, (turn sideways) on the face of a wave. We knew that the previous owner had managed this trick in a 60-knot storm in the Bay of Biscay in 1969 on Tammy Norie's maiden voyage, which gave us additional confidence, and once into it, in the middle of the night, it would have been pretty tough to change tactics and try to rig a storm anchor. Fortunately, we got away with it, in large part due to Surfin' Tammy Norie and her uncanny ability to swim through just about anything, god bless her.

No doubt it was all very cinematic, but not much fun, and needless to say, no one slept a wink. The fortunate part about the rapid eastward movement of the storm was that it moved off quickly. By daybreak the wind was down to 40 knots and 1 person could steer, although the motion was horrible for about 24 hours due to seas coming from various directions. This was Shifra's first real storm at sea, and she hung in there very bravely, despite getting pretty motion sick toward morning. Joel, being the strongest, bore the brunt of hauling on the tiller, and was equally brave and tireless. No one was injured, just sore arms and backs. Some of our electronics, including the electric autopilot, were out of commission for a while, due to the amount of salt water which came aboard, but all of the essentials are back on line now after some judicious cleaning with fresh water and weasel piss. I'm waiting for a calm to get under the cockpit and replace the steering cable: for now we are fine with the combination of tiller and electric ram. We are catching up on sleep now, praising Neptune and whoever else will listen for our deliverance, and slowly scraping the layers of salt off ourselves. Most amazingly, we turned in a nice 24-hour run of 110 miles in the right direction, and are that much closer to a snug harbor and a hot shower. At which point, we will all begin to endlessly embroider the tale. This may be the last truthful version anyone will hear.

Lunatic irony is at times helpful in such situations, and I kept humming this old British broadside during the night; I've written down what I can remember:

One night there came a hurricane, the seas were mountains rolling,/
When Barney Buntline turns his quid, and says to Billy Bowline,/
"A fine norwester's blowin' Bill, Hark can't you hear it roar now./
God help em, how I pity all unhappy folks ashore now.

Foolhardy chaps who live in towns, what dangers they are all in/
Right now they're quakin in their beds for fear the roof may fall in./
Poor creatures how they envy us, and wish as I've a notion/
For our good luck in such a storm to be out on the ocean

And as for those who're out all day on business from their houses/
And late at night are coming home to cheer the babes and spouses/
While you and I, Bill, on the deck are comfortably lying/
My eyes, what bowls and chimney pots around their necks are flying.

And very often have we heard how men are killed and undone/
By overturns of carriages, by thieves and fire in London/
We know what risks all landsmen take, from noblemen to tailors/
Then Bill, let us thank Providence that you and I are sailors." 

A warm bed and dry underwear to you all, and god bless you.

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: First Passage, 28 August

Captain's log 29 AUGUST, Local noon

Position: 40d 23m North, 49d 21m West; 1050 miles down, 830 miles to Flores, as the cow flies.

Bit of a respite today. Yesterday was a Twilight Zone kind of day. We stopped counting squalls after about #20, beginning around midnight. No "white squalls", whatever those are, but lots of gray ones, a couple of pink ones around sunset, and some really black ones during the night. Some just had a little wind, some a little rain, some lots of both. Our beloved cruising spinnaker tore in a sudden squall to 30 knots. A small tear, fixable in the Azores, but that's out of the repertoire for the moment. We also spent the day caught in another back eddy off the gulf stream, and had to get way north to get out of it, which we are now. We really miss having the Gulf Stream fax maps from NOAA, which are no longer broadcast, so we are just guessing at the location of the stream based on historical data, water temperature, and which direction we seem to be getting pushed at the moment. Fortunately, we have now pushed east of the Grand Banks, at which the Stream begins to widen, diffuse and hopefully quit boxing us about the ears. We almost hove to for a rest last night, we were all so tired, but the prospect of the remnants of Major Depression Bonnie nipping at our heels kept us doggies moving right along. 

Swordfish day 7; headaches, manic behavior, slurred speech. Do we dare try another dose? Tune in tomorrow for another exciting episode of "Toxicology at Sea"..........

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage: First Passage, 27 August

Captain's log, Local noon, 27 August

Position: 40 North, 53 deg. 33 min West
Now 800 miles out from Monhegan, about 1000 to go to Flores, easternmost of the Azores.

Presently running due east along the 40th parallel under cruising spinnaker and mainsail, with wind from the SW and the Gulf Stream in our favor. Speed through the water 5.5 knots; over the bottom, a blistering 6.5. The Concorde it's not.

Bonnie is pretty well out of our picture, and hopefully Maine's as well. However we have had some busy weather, with a parade of lows to the north, squalls and frequent wind shifts over the past 2 days. That translates into lots of sail changes and lots of "all hands on deck" in the middle of the night. Through all that, we've managed to keep moving in the right direction, and are happy with our progress. It has been appallingly hot and humid, which makes sense, since we are traveling on 85 degree water that came from the Caribbean in July.

The swordfish is holding out; no crawly things yet. It is difficult to know, given our baseline, if mercury poisoning has set in yet.

MR