I used to count sailing legs by the hour, now I count by the day. Is it a two day, five day or four thousand nautical miles perhaps? Oh, how things have changed- in the early days of life aboard Miss Catana, a 50 nautical mile journey was considered a big day of sailing. Then there was my first overnight journey which caused tears and trepidation. http://misscatana.com/stupid/
As we did our last sail, I couldn’t help but compare this journey to my first overnighter. No fan fair, no fuss just let’s get going so we can begin the journey to the Pacific Ocean. The weather wasn’t perfect but based on long term predictions, perfect was never coming. One day was as good as the next to begin.
Back in the “old days” I was anxious regarding the weather, the waves, the time, the departure, the night, the moon cycle, the finish. In the first year of sailing I hung on every word of other sailors. I doubted and questioned our boat, my captain and most of all myself. I was on a journey of fake it until you make it.
Yes I can say in truth that my early sailing is very different to the sailing experiences of now.
So What’s Different Now From That First Sail
The boat is the same
The Captain is the same
Me, I’ve changed
I look the same, (ok a little more brown leather handbag look) but now I am a true believer. I trust the boat, the Captain and most importantly myself, to do what is needed.
What hasn’t changed is my respect for the sea and knowing who is the real boss of our adventure.
Advice received on our final night on Curaceo before we set sail towards Panama, reminded me of this fact, a local sailor warned us that the waters we were about to cross are considered one of the most treacherous sailing regions in the world. In fact considered in the top five most dangerous in the world.
The words of caution raised the anxiety a notch or two, but forewarned is forearmed and we departed with a second reef in the main and not too stressed. Weather reports indicated up to 35 knots of wind and large waves. The weather hadn’t changed for weeks so we knew there was no point in waiting for the perfect window, we just had to start sailing toward the Canal.
It certainly wasn’t the worst weather we have ever been in, but it was a constant 5 days of strong wind and seas.
If you doubt me regarding the top five classification, it was on this trip I did the highest speed ever on Miss Catana. I was at the helm when I looked over my shoulder to see one of the biggest waves of my sailing life. Holy mother of God, Peter, John and Paul this thing was huge. I held the wheel and couldn’t help myself but call out Whooo Hooo as we hit 19.4 knots surfing this great monster. I called out to the Captain but he was downstairs and missed out.
It was a thrilling ride even if it only lasted for seconds. I was chuffed that it was my good fortune to be at the helm at this time, holding the fastest speed record is mine once again. (There is a nice little glow saying that don’t you think?)
Everything Is Now Gearing Towards Pacific Crossing
The travel from Martinique to Panama was an ideal time to look at systems on the boat, management of time, sleep and what provisioning was needed before we cross the Pacific. My only issue was my constant sleep deprivation.
Lack of sleep got me asking the question, how we would handle the 4000 nautical mile leg to Marquesas and do we get an extra person to travel with us for this leg.
Crew Or Not Crew
Based on our two experiences of crew, I know that crew aboard can work one of two ways.
Horror or Delight….
Mike our first crew member was a man who was such a pain in the arse that if we had crossed an ocean with him, I probably would never sail again. In fact I probably wouldn’t cross a street again as I’d be in jail for pushing the bastard overboard. If however, I could be guaranteed crew like Gael and Carole who crossed the Atlantic with us, then the decision would be easy.
It is all a matter of perspective.
My mother thinks me crazy for taking on this foolhardy irresponsible journey. I have the same thoughts when I think about sailors who go solo around the globe. Are they mad? Are they so unpopular that no one will travel with them? What is the appeal of being on your own for so long, that makes the risk of solo sailing worth considering? On this subject I struggle to understand the motivation that drives a man or woman to sail around the world alone, hence I understand mum.
The Case For And Against
The Positives Of Having Crew:
1. You get to sleep as a couple rather than one sleep while the other is on watch.
2. Crew share the responsibility and workload. When the shit hits the fan, extra hands make a huge difference.
3. Crew bring a new outlook, experience and dynamic to the boat. As a human being it is good to share your experiences with others. We learn more by sharing.
4. My mother thinks crew is a good thing and tells me so on every occasion we speak.
Crew = Happier Mother.
The Positives Of Having No Crew:
1. You get to be naked both physically and emotionally when there is just the two of you. If the Captain doesn’t want to wear his underpants for days on end, that’s fine by me, less washing comes to mind.
2. More room, more energy, more leftovers, less hassle emotionally and more time to read.
3. No small talk, no music you don’t like and not adjusting to people who don’t fit your way of life.
4. Captain tells me just two is best, on every occasion. No Crew = Happy Captain
How Not To Win Catamaran Friends In Panama
I have a story from our short time in Panama, I did promise the star of the story that I would share so here it is.
It was day two in Panama, I caught the complimentary bus from Shelter Bay Marina to the shops to get some fresh supplies. Whilst on the bus I sat next to a pretty young Hungarian/British girl called Veronica who is in Shelter Bay looking for a berth en route to the Pacific, NZ or AU. We got chatting and I mentioned our boat was a catamaran. Her response sat me back in my chair. She said all her associates, friends and fellow sailors agree with her analogy that the action of a catamaran is akin to a boat raping the ocean. That Catamarans were just NASTY.”
Was she for real?
I was so stunned I sat back and said nothing just listened to her justify her position.
Twenty something Veronica, continued to tell me about how she funds her sailing by insisting that she pays no contribution to the costs, just exchanges her time and experience as crew member for bed and board. Her aim is to make enough money to cover the basics such as shampoo and personal items. I suggested that as she seemed to have such a way with adjectives she may like to try her hand at writing for sailing magazines. Veronica asked me if I was a writer to which I answered no, but I still manage to get the odd article published.
I was trying to hold the high moral ground and then I thought bugger that and told her that her comment re catamarans and rape was both offensive and inappropriate. Rape is such a heinous crime it leaves no place for casual jokes and throw away lines. Then her view of all catamarans seemed just wrong to me.
I had broken my own rule, I was offended.
I asked Miss Veronica how many catamarans and of what pedigree she had sailed on? The answer was one. If she had asked me how our boat sails, I could have told her Miss Catana is a sailing dancer and a kick arse one at that.
I started to pull my head in as I needed to.
Instead of arguing I changed the subject to a more congenial matter like finding out more about Veronica. She seemed to be very nice just on a very different page regarding how catamarans handle. Nothing wrong in that,in fact if we all agreed life would be a much less interesting place to travel in.
Life on the ocean continues to keep me entertained!
In just a few days we go through the Panama Canal and the excitment factor is rising (tempered by Panamanian heat and provisioning.
PS So where was the Captain while I was smashing our boats speed records? He was on the toilet and it is for this reason he is claiming some credit. According to the Captain it was his motion on the ocean that allowed our boat to go so very fast for such a brief time.