Dear blog, This is Jake and Sophie, checking in via email through the sat-phone, from the deep blue international waters of the Atlantic, off the coast of Namibia, around 22 degrees South, 006 degrees East. As I write it is the evening of our eighth day of sailing, en route from South Africa to the Carribbean islands. Every day is warmer. The sea is warm, the sun is warm, and the wind is blowing us calmly but surely northwest towards St. Helena. We have covered over 1000 nautical miles of our 1700nm leg to our first port of call, the tiny island of Napolean’s exile, the mysterious meeting place of majestic whale sharks, a rocky and isolated settlement accessible only by sea since its volcanic birth. . The first day sailing from Cape Town was the toughest. Horribly hungover from our last night in the city, I would have felt awful no matter where I was. They say its good luck to start a long sea voyage with a hangover, but it certainly didnt feel like it to me. After more than twenty hours of suffering I took the plunge – that is to say I plunged my fingers down my throat – and soon was basking in the few minutes of releif that always follows such an action. After a few hours of tuning into the rhythm of the sea, eating in forward and then reverse, in and out like the tides, it settled down and I started to notice the world again. But by the next morning, just as I thought I had never felt worse, I can’t remember ever having felt better. In fact the only lasting pain from my day and night of suffering is the regret that I missed our boat being joined by four or more Southern Right Whales, swimming right next to us for a time, sending us on our way with some last good memories.
Despite being hundreds of miles away from land, and several kilometres above the sea floor, there is plenty of wildlife to keep us entertained. We have already gained a following albatross, as well as watching all kinds of seabirds, including a majestic arctic tern. We have seen flying fish, and even ended up with one in a bucket, who we named Tobasco and watched, enchanted for a few hours before setting him free again. Every morning we find squid lying forlornly in some corner. It is a puzzle how they end up on deck, as I had never thought them capable of jumping from the water - certainy not as high as one 30cm specimen that landed all the way up by the flying bridge, a jump that would make a dolphin blush. We can only guess that they are accelerated in their flight by the waves on our bow, though even that seems unlikely. Without google we are left to savour our speculations for a while. But whenever I lie down for a nap there is a shout for whales, a shark, and even a 3m oceanic sunfish which glided past us only a few metres off our port hull. We have kept a fairly steady but unimpressive average speed of around 7knots, and have all settled into a routine to match it. At 0400 I start my morning watch, taking turns at the helm focusing hard to keep us on course against the swell or an unbalanced mainsail turning us into the wind. We keep the logbook updated and plot our positions on the chart, check and double check everything from bilges to turnbuckles, and prepare breakfast. After sunrise we furl the jib and hoist the more delicate screecher or spinnakerin its place, manually, to get some morning excercise. I nap in the day, make food, talk and read and trim the sails, and at 1600 I start my evening watch, taking turns steering into the sunset. When we don’t have too much speed we trail a lure behind us on Dario’s fishing rod. We have already caught four beautiful fish – two skipjack tuna which we ate, one small yellowtail which we released, and one 50kg Bigeye tuna which is still filling our freezer. We lost two even larger fish, and lures, that were too big for our speed and our line to handle. Even the smaller fish were enough to feed eight of us, and Dario’s Bigeye will feed us for weeks, and the prime fillet will be useful to trade and give to customs.
So far I adore yachting, though perhaps this boat is spoiling me. The whole time I have been writing this post my tea has been sitting on the beatifully veneered coffee table, and its now cold, which is amazing, because on most boats, especially sailing over 12 knots, it would not still be there.
Aside from the squid, sharks, whales, albatross, terns, other seabirds, tuna, sunfish, and every other day or so a fishing boat on the horizon we are alone. I thought that fact would impress me, perhaps even frighten me, but it hasn’t yet. It is so comfortable here. We have a nice kitchen, plenty of space, hot showers, privacy when we like, shade or sun to lie in, books, music, and even a guitar. The horizon doesn’t look too distant, and the deep blue is comforting. Aside from a few squalls we have had perfect weather, and never too much swell. I suppose that could all change, but the last weather update shows more of the same. It looks like another five days of plain sailing, heading straight downwind with no mainsail, watching the spinnaker to keep our course with the wind. For now we could not feel further away from life and work and car insurance and facebook. Like our fishy neighbours our biggest concern is what to choose for our next meal.
Like with most adventures, I seem to learn more in a week than in years of schooling. And still we are less than 1/7th through our journey. It is surprising that there is so much to tell. I cannot fit much more, with our limited satphone data, but I could go on for hours about what I have seen and learned. Sail changes are becoming smooth and efficient, we are all becoming more expert at the helm. This morning I even managed to take sights of stars and planets with the sextant, and puzzle through the process of turning time and angles into an area on the plotting sheet unaided (though it took me a few hours I am proud nonetheless) and produced a fix which was passably close to our GPS location. It already feels as though we have always been here. The sea is the same every day – it is like sitting on a treadmill on a movie set. The stars, planets, sun and moon all follow their paths like clockwork. More than that, we not only watch them for pleasure each night, but steer a straighter course by the stars than we manage in the day. I am starting to see how people end up addicted to this. We have returned to a simpler time, without deadlines or Mondays or compulsive facebook checking. Time passes smoothly, urging us to notice and appreciate the small things. Each bird is exciting and fascinating, inducing wonder as we watch its effortless skill. We are small again, properly in perspective, and there is comfort in it, as though returning home. „