After 7.5 days at sea, we arrived on Bermuda, an overly expensive but nice island. Sijmen went to see a doctor in relation to his stomach cramps and was sent home to visit a specialist in the Netherlands. It seemed that after visiting the doctor, his health quickly got better.
I myself was debating whether to continue or not. Although I felt really bad of having to leave Jim by himself, in the end I decided to have to call it a day. We would need to find a replacement crew. I needed to go home by plane.
When I was a kid, I had the utmost fear of being on a boat. The first boat trip I remember, a 2 hour ferry ride to one of the Dutch island, resulted in my not being able to sleep for weeks before the trip. I was completely overcome with fear that the boat would sink with me trapped inside. The fact that if the boat would sink, half of it would still stick out of the water because of the waters in Holland being so shallow, didn’t help. Rationally, my fear was based on nothing at all. It was only the comforting words of my mum and my decision that I wouldn’t leave deck during the trip allowed for my being able to board the ship and, of course, nothing happened.
Over the years, my fear for the sea slowly mellowed, although for years, every time I would go on a boat, I would feel a little bit anxious as to what could happen. I guessed it was a bit like some people’s fear of flying they manage to overcome, over time. I was wrong.
The first point the ocean scored was making me seasick. Jim later confirmed that we had quite a rough sea on the first couple of days. Nothing bad, but rough, and even Jim himself didn’t feel completely at ease with his bodily functions during those first two days.
It took a full two days, but I did recover and I was able to return to a regular schedule of three meals a day. Later in the week, after an evening of heavy drinking, I had one more day with an upset stomach, but it was more likely that it was rum-induced not sea-induced.
After two days of not being able to do much but moan and wait, life returned to reasonably normal. Almost immediately after that, the ocean was able to score another big point: boredom. â€¨
There truly is totally absolutely completely nothing at all that makes an ocean sailing trip, on average, interesting. Jim admits that for him, out at sea, 75% of the time he’s bored. The relative high quality of the remaining 25%, however, does make up for it. Supposedly.
â€¨I seem to disagree. Not only does it seem it’s more like 90-10 configuration, the 90% not only is mightily boring, it’s can also be downright terrible. I think that, if I would have had the time, I would have been able to beat the boredom. It is what I prepared for and I had brought a number of things to try and beat it: Some 20 books, a laptop to do some writing, music and a language course.
After a couple of days at sea, we entered an area with almost no winds and a shiny, mirror like, sea surface. Through phone contact with “home” (praise to Iridium), we learned that this lack of winds could continue for some three days. Later, in Bermuda, when we met another group of Dutch sailors, a situation like this was commented on as being “the ultimate sailing”. Right.
I didn’t really like it, but didn’t really mind either, the largest issue being the loss of time. Although I had freed up a number of weeks to allow for this trip, I still had clients to think about. I couldn’t come back weeks later as planned. We decided to use the engine to maintain some speed. There was enough diesel on board so, if necessary, we could use the engine for a couple of days on end. Only fifteen minutes later however, the engine broke down. I freaked. We were in the middle of the Bermuda triangle with no winds and no engine. No engine makes it impossible to generate electricity. No electricity means no navigation, no lights, no RADAR, no toilet, etc. We were halfway St. Maarten and Bermuda. I freaked. When I was in my early teens, like most kids my age, I was very interested in “the unexplained”. Stuff like UFOs, Egypt, Nasca and, yes, the Bermuda Triangle. Now being stuck myself right in the middle of it, thoughts of our boat becoming a statistic kept on going through my mind. Later, I learned that every year, “60 boats and 4 planes still disappear”
During one of my watches, shortly after the engine had broken down, we were floating around, not being able to do much of anything. I looked up, at the mast, and realized that I was sitting below a huge cross, the boat being like a floating coffin. However, I survived, with reasonable sanity, so I guess I countered the point.
The worst was still to come. After the period with no winds, winds slowly returned and, some two days, later we were getting 30 knot winds straight from the back. Still using the Spinnaker (a huge sail), we occasionally got over 10 knots! Then, very suddenly and with little warning, the wind turned a full 180 degrees. So we were on a sailing boat and the wind was coming from the exact direction we were headed. Not good. In addition, the current was still going north, which resulted in significant waves rolling in from the North.â€¨
The only option you have when the wind is coming from the direction you’re heading in, is to make a zigzag like motion, each time making sure the wind comes in at about 40 degrees, alternatively on the left and on the right. It increases your travel distance significantly, but it’s your only choice. This was going to affect our travel time too, of course, but that wasn’t the worst. With the wind and waves coming from the north, we were alternating between NE and NW, meaning that the surface of the hull on which the waves could break was maximized. Every time we would hit a wave, and this was every 5 seconds or so, a very loud “THUD” was followed by a drop, as we would clear the wave. Additionally, since the wind was strong, the boat was hanging on a 50 degrees or more angle. This went on for some 30 hours. During the night, the wind also occasionally suddenly shifted from NNE to NNW. If you’re not quick enough to alter your course when this happens, the sails can get “blocked”, where one is bent one way and the other sail the other way. If this happens, the boat isn’t propelled anymore by the wind and you’re just afloat, riding the waves any which way they prefer to take you. I was terrified.
The 30 hours that the storm lasted were easily the scariest part of the trip, if not the scariest part of my life. I thought I was over the fears I had for the sea as a kid. Apparently I was wrong. It took a couple of days for me to make the decision, but did call it a day. I was going home.
A rematch? Most certainly, but not anytime soon.