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 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: Tenerife. 28 November 1998

28 November 1998

Tenerife

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I went fishing a few days before we left Gomera- Piled my tackle and fishing-pole, snorkel gear and speargun into the dinghy and took off around the island. My unspoken goal for the day was to spear a squid, but I would have been content with spearing a big fat grouper or hooking something fat with my line as I drove around. It was a fine sunny day and I probably ended up motoring almost 15 miles out around the island before I found a really sweet spearfishing spot up in a little bay with an abandoned settlement. So I chucked the anchor over and hopped in, puttering around in the water looking for yummy fish to bring home for dinner. There was plenty to look at, but everything I saw was much too small.

Suddenly out of the gloom below me I caught a flash of white, reacting instinctively I twisted and dodged while firing my spear over my shoulder. The death struggle with the ferocious hammerhead began- No, just kidding, no sharks in the real version, hope I didn't scare you. For real I was just diving and looking under boulders in good hiding places, when all of a sudden this completely strange creature just sort of materialized in front of my eyes, about 3 feet from the bottom. It was the length of my forearm (wrist to elbow), and sort of a mottled brownish purple, it had a big fat body with a translucent skirt around it, and short, stumpy arms/ tentacles. We both surprised each other and backpedaled a bit, then hovered and stared at each other. It took me a moment of staring before I realized it was a cuttle-fish. So I raised my spear and popped him. He squirted ink everywhere, man. It was a 5 minute trek with flippers back to the dinghy and he still had some ink in him when I loaded him aboard. I decided that he was close enough to a squid to count so I headed home.

Took me a little while to get back but it wasn't too bad in the sunshine. And this fish just kept changing colors, he ended up being white with brown tiger-stripes. Pretty cool. The coolest part though was cleaning him. And I'll spare you the details of that. Never did get to taste him though- I was literally on my way from the dock to the frying pan with him and I slipped and flung the huge plate of fresh Calamari into the harbor. Uggh.

Curse of the Devil Fish. I hate anti-climax, but sometimes life is just like that, eh.

Joel

 

Atlantic Island Voyage: South of Tenerife, 29 November 1998

29 November 1998

Position: 26d 3m North, 18d 33m West 120 miles south of Tenerife
Steering 210 degrees, for Ilha do Sal, Cape Verde archipelago


Wind is the NE trade, dead aft, 20-25 knots, occasional gusts to 30.
Barometer is rock solid and the weather is fine.
We are tearing off the 780 miles to Sal with a bone in our teeth: 
6-7 knots under double-reefed mainsail and poled-out genoa deeply
reefed.

Ashore on Gomera

Ashore on Gomera

After a furious last-minute round of negotiations with Pirahna Brothers Press, the threatened launch of the tactical thermonuclear device was called off and the missile rolled back into their garage. Their parting observation was, "we wouldn't throw away a good piece of equipment on this piece of #@&*!".We believe that was intended as an insult, but it appears that we once again have the freedom to write whatever pops into our waterlogged brains. Our apologies if you were among those many readers hoping for a direct hit.

The Canaries are among the islands now referred to as Macaronesia, very loosely translated as The Fortunate Isles. This group also includes the Azores, Madeira, and the Cape Verdes. While there is controversy about the exact sequence of their formation, there appears to be consensus that all these islands began with great volcanic events, in some cases combined with either uplifting or separating tectonic plates. The high islands, like Flores, Madeira Grande, and Gomera have been able to capture moisture from the clouds which form high on their upwind slopes, resulting in deep valleys where streams occasionally run. (Think Grand Canyon). The lower islands, like Porto Santo and Lanzarote, look more like the Sahara just over the horizon. The high, "wet" islands are suitable for farming, with some difficulty: terraces have to be made on the very steep hillsides by building stone walls and backfilling with dirt, and water has to be brought to the fields somehow. The levadas of Madeira are the highest evolution of this process. In Gomera, the more popular strategy is to impound water in reservoirs created by building dams in a stream bed to catch all of the occasional rainfall. The fields are clustered in valleys below each reservoir. During the 1930's and 40's, there was a sudden drop in the population of Gomera, from 30,000 to 20,000: the old-timers we talked to said it was partly due to men going off to fight Franco, but more because the climate became gradually drier, forcing many farmsteads to be abandoned.

We saw a number of very extensive ghost settlements and terraces which looked fairly recently inhabited, a depressing sight when one considers the heroic effort of carving out terraces in the hillside to begin with (not unlike what happened in New England in the 1800's as better land opened up out West and people got tired of growing rocks). In the case of Gomera, people emigrated to Venezuela and Tenerife or shifted into tourism-related work. Agriculture is far from abandoned, however. Where water can be gotten, there are banana groves, large vineyards, citrus groves, and lots of goats (we encountered one herd of nearly 200).

Although it is too steep and craggy for anything more than a small landing strip, tourism has also found Gomera, with crowds of Germans (and other pasty-faced white people like ourselves)arriving by ferry from Tenerife. For the active hiker/masochist, the island offers a dramatic, vertical landscape, with walking trails through either desert, mountains, or the lovely laurel forest which grows on the northern slopes of the island. This is a carefully guarded treasure, being one of only 2 remaining examples of this type of forest which used to cover the entire Mediterranean basin. Madeira Grande has the other.

The Canaries have had more in the way of human history than either the Azores or Madeira, both of which were unpopulated at the time of Portugese discovery. The original inhabitants are genetically African, blue-eyed Berbers from the west coast of Africa. This stone-age culture, known as the Guanches, were "discovered" and subdued (i.e., exterminated, mostly) by the conquistadores in the 1400's. On Gomera, some traces of that culture can still be found in the form of unique foods such as almagrote, a whistling language known as "silbo", and some folk music and dance that is primarily rhythmic and not very Spanish-sounding. One of the early visitors to the island was C. Columbus, who almost didn't make it to the Caribben because of his obsessive attachment to Beatriz de Bobadilla. Some speculate that he made 3 more voyages as a pretext for visiting Gomera again.

These islands for centuries marked the Western border of the known European world, giving rise to numerous legends. They have been variously called Atlantis, the Garden of the Hesperides, the Elysian Fields, the Fortunate Isles, and one of them was probably St. Brendan's Isle. (Gomerans make a pretty good argument that is was Gomera itself). It is imaginable that the Tir na Nogh of Irish legend, the enchanted place to the west, was one of these islands, perhaps in the Azores, which actually look a lot like parts of Ireland. We found some ancient maps while we were here, one of which gave Flores (westernmost Azores) as the prime meridian (now Greenwich), and the other Hierro (westernmost of the Canaries). In the pre-Columbian mindset, the end of the earth would not have been much further west. 

We ended up staying for 3 weeks in Gomera, which included a wonderful visit from Connie, who also brought along some much-needed supplies and equipment. Then on to Santa Cruz, Tenerife, for final resupply, topping off of propane, diesel and water tanks, and food supplies, before pushing on for the Cape Verdes, where all these things will be harder to find. This passage should take about a week, and our itinerary is still up in the air: we'll clear in at Sal, and we'd like to see the volcano on Fogo, but the rest we'll play by ear.

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage: Gomera. 19 November, 1998

19 November 1998

Gomera

Okey dokey, here ya go, it's the BRAND NEW (trumpet fanfare), NUMBER ONE (choir of angels), episode of FLOSSIE THE FLYING COW (Madre de Dios!!). Nope, actually, sorry to disappoint you but this is really just Shifra's first Lubber's Log -quick mom, get the camera!- and if any cows show up they're going to get REALLY hungry here on the southern slopes of Gomera. Well, following in the brave, stinky footsteps of my dear cousin I'm going to take you for a brief jaunt around the North Atlantic.

Although I haven't gone for three day hikes into Cauldrons of Hell, I think I've come about as close to seeing hell as any human can. While mum was here last week (no, no, no, that wasn't hell) we decided that we'd take a day to go see Tenerife since Da and Joel had already been there (and done that). Well, at six o'clock on Thursday morning I staggered out of bed with bleary eyes and a slight sunburn itch tugging at my fingers from the day before. Well, we got on the ferry over to Tenerife just in time to see the sun rising over Teide. The tallest mountain in Spain, Teide is the crowning glory of Las Canadas del Teide National Park, and probably one of the coolest words ever thought up -at least, it's really cool to say. As the ferry pulled out of the dock the mountain was still silhouetted against a slowly lightening orange sky, which blended to yellow and pink. Then BAM! the first rays of the sun hit the upper slopes, bathing the faint covering of snow in rosy light. As the sun crept higher more of the mountain and the jagged peaks surrounding it were revealed, until finally the sun freed itself entirely and shone down without mercy upon the west coast of Tenerife and our destination, Los Cristianos. Los Cristianos could be kindly described as Miami's soul sister of the eastern Atlantic, or less kindly, as, well, I'm supposed to be a role model for the second graders (hi Ms. Larsen), so I won't repeat the descriptions we thought up while driving through.

After the ferry dropped us off in Los Cristianos we headed toward Teide and the Park. I swear it was some of the most incredible scenery I've ever seen. As we entered the park jagged teeth of rock jutted out all around us. The early morning sun backlit the thin pine trees struggling to thrive in the sandy, volcanic soil. The road wound around a bend and all of a sudden we were in a valley where the trees were stopped abruptly by an ancient flow of lava. Teide dominated the landscape to the right of us while cliffs -ancient caldera walls perhaps?- rose out of the dust to our left. Cascading down from Teide's slopes were rivers of tormented red rock overlapped by one long line of black which emerged about halfway down the mountain and ended a few hundred meters later, as if some twisted God had wanted to play traffic controller and said "Okay, that's enough for today, stop here." Well stop it did and God must have gone on to his coffee break because since that day in the late 17 or 1800's there hasn't been a single eruption. Well, that wasn't the only incredible part of the valley. Where the tortured flows of spiny lava hadn't reached, orange and yellow and red sand formed a base for broom bushes, a plant unique to Las Canadas. The bushes looked like tiny green alien spacecraft resting on the perfectly flat sand plain. Across this barren paradise the road rushed on, hedged in only by the cliffs which rimmed the valley in striations of red, brown, orange and the occasional splash of lime green- proof of iron ore deposits.

Our mad race across the valley floor, sadly, could not last forever. Soon we found ourselves threading our way slowly upwards between bizarre, twisted spires of rock -aptly, but not originally, named "Los Roques"- towards the base of Teide. As we approached the peak we could see the cable car swaying up to the top from it's base station before us. Since we were there for the full touristic experience mom and I parked the car in the immense, but still empty parking lot at the gondola's entrance. It was only ten in the morning, yet somehow a tour bus jam packed full of Germans had managed to arrive before us.

Nonetheless we got our tickets for the ride up and -just barely- got onto the next car. There were just two cable cars and so at any given time there was one going up and one going down. The ride only took about 5 or 10 minutes, but when we bounced our way over the support poles (ahh, memories of ski lifts back home!) it seemed like we would never live to see the top. Well, we got to the end of the line and stepped out onto the snow covered path that led to the very top. We scrambled our way around rocks and signs reminding us to "Keep Teide Tidy!" until we came to a small outlook roughly three quarters of the way up the mountain where, inexplicably, the path stopped. Friendly signposts told us -in 5 equally disappointing languages- that no one was allowed to go to the actual top because they feared erosion and such. It made sense, but I couldn't shake the feeling that we had just been thoroughly shafted. Not only that but we had skipped our chance to get our pictures taken with the traditionally dressed Canarian girl. Oh well. It was nice for me to be cold again though, I guess that little dose of snow will have to last me for a while.

When we came back down from -not quite- the top of Teide it was almost noon and the parking lot and road leading up to it were clogged with frustrated tourists and busses full of people just waiting to get on top of the highest mountain in Spain. It was a perfect day for it. Coming around the side of the island we had been able to see 3 of the other islands floating of in the distance. Even from only part of the way up Teide the view had been incredible, still, the sheer volume of tourism in that area switched all of my mental breakers to "cynical". Nonetheless, we were unwavering in our quest to "see the sights" and proceeded to take on the challenge of .... the Visitor's Center. Actually, we had timed it just right and were able to actually spend some time finding out more about the Guanches while everyone else was eating lunch. The Guanches were the people who had inhabited the Canaries before the Spanish came along. They were a fairly primitive people who, surprisingly, had no nautical interests. As far as I could tell they didn't have boats at all (yet they must have gotten there somehow!) and centered most of their existence around goat herding rather that fishing. Well, personally I'd rather sail than herd goats, but I guess to each his own. Anyway, after we'd conquered the visitor's center we decided that our work in the park was done and it was time to head back towards the water and home.

Shifra T. 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Canary Islands

17 November 1998
La Gomera

We're still here. We like it. A lot.

MR

.....Editors note: We apologize for the sad decline in the quality of the recent Captain's Logs. We have revoked funding for this pitiful expedition, and a tactical thermonuclear device has been launched, which should remove the literary blight known as "the crew of Tammy Norie" once and for all. We hope you will enjoy "The Adventures of Flossie the Flying Cow", which will be taking over this web site shortly.......-Pirahna Bros. Press

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, 25 August

Captain's log, 8/25

Position: 40 degrees 15 minutes north, 59 degrees 24 minutes west
Heading: 130 degrees (southeast)

We have now entered the Gulf Stream, which should boost us by up to a knot over the next few days. Fortunately, the wind and current are both southwest, which avoids the unpleasant condition of wind against current. That is the situation which causes the nasty, vertical seas the Gulf Stream is famous for. We will soon be turning eastward to follow the 40th parallel for most of the passage to the Azores. Yesterday was a rocky, wet one with winds to 30 knots, and a contrary current due to a back eddy off the north wall of the gulf stream. We are back to moderately reefed sails now, in a brisk but pleasant SW wind at 20 knots.

Shifra is on watch now, and keeping an eye on Fleming, the wind vane that does most of our steering for us. He's a wonder, but takes more tending than Otto, our electric autopilot which we only use when under power because of the current consumption. Wind-powered steering is also more elegant in other ways, being quiet and more in harmony with the ethos of working with the wind.

It looks like we have dodged Hurricane Bonnie. Even if it turns northward at this point, we will be far to the east. For once, we can say that a hurricane blew safely ashore. Sorry, Miami, nothing personal.

MR

 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: First Passage, 22 August

Captain's Log, 22 August

Position 42 degrees, 07 minutes north latitude
65 degrees, 16 minutes west longitude

We are now off the continental shelf, depth of water about 8000 feet. We spoke with a fishing vessel from Nova Scotia this morning, the Derrick and Stephane, who offered us a "little piece" of freshly caught swordfish. We offered some beer in return, and got about 30 pounds of fish, most of which we've crammed into the icebox. We also baked some up on the spot, and it was stupendous. So it's swordfish for breakfast lunch and dinner for the next 2 weeks, or however long we can keep it. We've cranked the little reefer unit as low as the thermostat will go in hopes of stretching it out.

By now we're pretty well adapted to the schedule, which is 4 hours on watch, and 8 hours off, with Joel and I taking turns backing Shifra up until she feels OK about standing watch alone at night. She does 8-12, Mike does 12-4, and Joel takes 4-8, the graveyard watch. He likes to watch the sun come up. No one has been seasick yet, and we are pretty well done being cautious about spending too much time below decks.

Weather has been very cooperative, now sunny with a gentle 12-knot breeze directly behind us. We could use more of it, having motored about 10 of the last 48 hours. But no one is whistling yet.

Saw a large sunfish lolling on the surface yesterday, about 6 feet in diameter. Strange creature. The usual small whales and occasional dolphins, but not as many as we expected on the banks.

Thanks for the e-mail messages. We do mail call around noon each day and greatly enjoy hearing from home. Keep those beeps and squawks coming!

 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: First Passage, 20 August

20 August, 1998

Departed Monhegan Island 1200 hours EDT.
Wind is light, southwest, and we are reaching along under cruising spinnaker and all plain sail. A delightful day, not a cloud in the sky. Course is 140 magnetic, our first waypoint is the cut between Brown's Bank and George's Bank, 185 nautical miles distant. Thanks to all the McDonough family of Monhegan for their generous hospitality and great food. (Thanks for the cookies, Judy)

MR