Counting the miles

Saturday, Feb 19, 2022
Current Position:

Latitude 15o 05’ N
Longitude 51o 05’ W
579 to St Lucia

Counting the miles

We how have less than 600 miles to go to St. Lucia. Even at a respectable speed of five knots that means at least five more days of rocking and rolling. While that’s much better than the original 21 days estimated to cover the 2088 NM from Cabo Verde to St. Lucia, it’s still too many days to consider all at once.

Like driving across Kansas or from Alabama to Maine, it’s best to mentally break up a long trip up into smaller increments. One of the first actions in the morning is to check the Garmin over the navigation table to see how many miles we’ve covered during the night. Selected mileposts become the destination. Each century gets heralded as a major event. The next one will be the 500 mile mark which, depending on our speed, will occur sometime between midnight and 3 AM tomorrow morning.

And the watch schedule also becomes a means to measure and check off the passage of time. We take turns being the cook and bottle washer every four days. On the day when it’s one’s turn in the galley you’re relived of any watch between 9 am and midnight, which creates a shift of three hours in the schedule each day. Brimmer is the chef today, so the only watch he’s had was from 6-9 AM. Tomorrow, Sunday, he’ll have the 3-6 AM and 3-6 PM watches. The following day, Monday, he’ll stand the Midnight-3 AM and noon-3PM shifts. And on the fourth day, Tuesday, he covers the 9-noon and 6-9 PM watches, before starting the cycle over next Wednesday. If all goes well, he should be able to count Monday as his last midnight watch.

As we measure our progress , even small changes in the daily routine are disproportionately exciting. Even unexpected repairs have the benefit of making the day go by faster. And lately it seems as if every day we’ve passed the morning replacing a nut or bolt on the self-steering rig. Meals are also a welcome break in the routine, to see what the chef of the day has managed to create in a hostile cooking environment. Add to that pastime the inspirational sighting of flying fish and pelagic birds.

The most exciting day recently was last Wednesday. The day started with a small school of dolphins playing about the boat followed by a double rainbow. Then a repair of the bolt in the gooseneck (the fastener connecting the boom to the mast) occupied two hours of the afternoon. Just as tools from that project were being stowed, Brimmer shouted out that we had a fish on the line. Burke pulled it in, hand-over hand. I cleaned it and Dwight filleted it.

1st catch … and yes, the water is that blue

We would grill it later that night but not before the excitement of seeing a triangular icon appear on our chart plotter indicating that a small vessel traveling the speed of a sailboat would cross within half a mile in approximately forty minutes. In crossing the North Atlantic back in July we would often see cargo ships appear as they traveled the shipping lanes from the US to Europe. But here in the mid-Atlantic the AIS system indicating traffic has remained virtually quiet, to the extent that we began to wonder if it were working. We are alone. Imagine our excitement at having another soul out here, especially another sailboat, and one that would pass so close, more than 900 miles from the nearest land.

We turned on the VHF radio, which can only transmit and receive when it is in sight of the other radio. Within minutes Yoshi Franke of the Dayo Solo Sailor hailed us. He identified himself as a German sailing solo on his way to Martinique, the island immediately north of St. Lucia. We took several photos of his boat highlighted by the setting sun, as she crossed our bow. We promised to e-mail him a copy and a wished him a safe passage. Then we had our fish for dinner.

Dayo Solo Sailor crossing our bow

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