For the first few hours we are slipping by the brightly lit but quiet island
of Malta. There are many fishing boats, most at anchor, but some moving around,
all to be avoided! We have the radar screen up and operating. It spots the
small boats as blips on it's screen and then we can acquisition these
blips as targets and track them. The radar tells us the course and speed
of the targets and whether we are on a collision course.
We silently motor past the boats and the quiet island.
The bays are well-lit and the main roads are lined with street lights. And quite a few churchs are glowing silhouted on the tops of the hills.
We hoist the main to add about 1 knot of speed and motor-sail through the quiet night. I keep John company until about 4:00 AM and then decide that I should try and get some sleep that night. We have watched the coastline of Malta and then Gozo slip by. We have acquired and tracked all the targets that concerned us. Now it looks clear. The coastline of Gozo falls behind and to the side of us and the Mediterranean opens up in front - no boats on the radar. I go down and crawl into the bunk and am asleep in 5 minutes.
The boat interior.
In the morning, when I wake up, the engines are off and we are picture
perfect sailing. Speed of about 6 knots on a calm sea. The boat lightly
surges eastward with the wind tugging at it's sails and the motion is smooth.
A few large boats are in the distance and we keep out eye on them, both
with the radar and visually. We are tracking a large freighter behind us.
It seems to be going the same course as we are and is gaining on us.
But the radar is tracking it. The CPA - Closest Point of Acquisition
ranges between .7 and .9 miles. So it seems that we are not on a
collision course. And now, visually, it appears that it will pass by
on the port side.
Down below on the charts I notice that the huge island of Sicily is just off our starboard side. Sicily fills the entire chart and we are but a speck sailing past it. We will be sailing past it for most of the day. I go topsides to look because I realize that Sicily is dwarfing us to the north. But, up top, there is nothing but ocean stretching to the horizon toward Sicily - and one lone freighter, which is now steaming by us to port.
Sailing - 24 hours a day, non-stop for 4 days and nights - 650 miles to Palma.
Off the coast of Africa, the port of Tunis seemed to be funneling the hot winds of Africa in our direction. It seems I can smell the dust of the Africa deserts. I have noticed a few flying fish breaking the surface in front of us. Nothing spectacular at all, but it is always nice to see the flying fish for some reason. John is asleep below after his all-nighter. Wim is taking a nap on the bow. I am sitting in the back pulpit seat watching the sea go by at a smooth gallop.
The back of the boat. Our dingy raised on the davits. The blue rectangle tied to the top of the davits contains the gangplank. To the left is a white box containing our Avon survival raft - basically a tough self-inflating dome tent that will fit 6 and contains everything we might need if the boat goes down.
It is 12:00 noon. I will be spending almost 2 weeks in the sun with many days wearing only a pair of shorts all day. So I worry about getting too much sun too fast. I have on my wide brim straw hat, and it is clipped by a shoestring to my pants pocket. Quite a nifty invention of mine I think.
So, right now I am sitting on the far back of the boat, on the teak deck, under the shadow cast by the dingy on davits. It's quite a comfortable little hideaway. Shady, and I sit down next to the sea as it churns a trail off the back underside of the boat.
The cockpit also offers shade, but it is enclosed from the wind - a little too still for me today. Here on the back of the boat I have the wind flowing across me, the shade, and the churning gurgle of the sea as it roils by, just a couple of feet under my left elbow.
Cruising along at night. The diesel is purring at a constant and comforting 2500 rpm. Some winds have picked up to about 14 knots from the southeast and we have thrown the foresail out wide to catch them. And the boat surges constantly forward in a smooth motion as the waves roll by underneath.
I find that cowboy music seems to go well with the night sky and the stars as they slip by overhead. I have played my Mavericks CD at least 3 times over and over again. It is 3:00 AM, my shift is ended and Wim has woke up to come topsides. Does he wants me to pull the CD as I go below to catch some sleep? He says no, to leave it. I ask him if they play country music over here. He says yes, that some stations do.
I got a dollar in my pocket, there ain't a cloud up above.
I got her picture in my locket, that says baby I love you.
Well if you didn't look then boys, then fellas don't go lookin now.
Well, here she comes a walkin..., all that heaven will allow.
(Song by Bruce Springsteen and done very well by the Mavericks)
I hear him humming the words as I pass by on my way downstairs. I want to stay up but I'm also tired. I should sleep because tomorrow will come soon enough.
We had a favorable wind so we put up the spinnaker sail. Ran with it for all of the afternoon and until about 9:00 at night. It was a great ride, many times hitting 9-10 knots for long stretches. As the night wore on, the winds started building though. 25 knots was supposed to be the magic number where we would take down the spinnaker. But it was night time, and we had been cranking along all day, so we revised the 25 knots to be an average of 25 knots, and then a low end average of 25 knots. But, after a while, we were hitting 30, 33, then 35 knots. Night time or not, we could no longer ignore the building winds.
We turned on the deck lights, fastened on our safety harnesses, clipped our tether to the tether line running forward and lurched our way forward to where we could work the lines to bring down the spinnaker. In coordination, in 35 knots of wind and spray, we started to reel in the spinnaker. My job was to pull the sock down over the spinnaker, effectively compressing the fabric from a wide sail into a long thin sock of material. As I sat and squirmed on the heaving deck, pulling with all my strength to tug the leading edge of the sock down over the sail, I also kept untangling loops of rope from around my legs. It was scary to be feeling all the forces at work and look down to realize that there was a thick coil of rope wrapped around my thigh. I pulled and John and Wim loosened ropes to let the bottom corners of the sail to be collapsed into the sock.
Finally done and stuffed away. All in the highest winds of the trip. The winds peaked out at about 35 knots, then died down and eventually changed direction.
Sleeping, sailing, doing our 3 hour watches at night and watching the blue sea pass by. Mostly it tends to be a little close and warm below decks trying to sleep at night. With a hatch open it is fairly comfortable, but when the seas are up and the hatches closed it borders on uncomfortable to sleep. But I always manage and I feel rested. The days are comfortable - shorts only, warm and breezy.
Fishing - catching Tuna.
As we passed over some shallower banks between Tunis and Sicily, Wim started to catch some fish with the line he had been constantly trolling. Small Tuna. The first three we threw back into the sea. They seemed a little small to us - I don't know why, maybe because it's such a large sea. Then we started to realize that if we caught enough we could make a nice dinner out of them. We caught another 5, three of which we kept. Cleaned them on the spot, stuck them in baggies and into the refrigerator. That night, in a sauce of olive oil, garlic and spices, we ate one and-a-half of the fish between the three of us. Excellent!
Wim caught the big Tuna today. Everything else we had caught up until now had been small and caught over the shallow banks. Today we were in open ocean. The line screeched out and Wim ran back to his pole. I could quickly tell from the action that this was a much different or larger fish. So I ran below decks to get my camera as Wim fought with the fish. After about half an hour it got close enough to the boat to see it. A large Tuna, beautiful and about 2 feet long - and these are pretty wide fish also. We brought it all the way up to the side of the boat and half out of the water. But then what? We had no gaff or net... Wim actually reached down and grabbed the 100 lb. wire leader line. I think that he decided to pull it half way up out of the water and tie it to the side of the boat. We're not sure what happened then. Either the hook ripped out of it's mouth or the fish thrashed up and spit it out. Either way, shortly after I got a picture of the fish half way up, it escaped. What a fish! It could have fed the three of us for days - caught on a plastic purple squid.
Last day to Palma. Just sailing. All day, just sailing. We caught another small Tuna. We had a small bird land on our boat and it looked tired. For half a day it stayed with us. Sometimes clinging to the ropes, and then just when I would think it was gone, I would see it hopping up one of the sidedecks.
We finally came up on the island of Mallorca. But then it was another 2 hours of sailing over to the Bay of Palma, and then another 2 hours down the Bay of Palma to our marina - Marina Real - pronounced Marina Ree-al. We arrived at the marina at about 11:00 PM, guided in by the lights of Palma, the flashing lights at the harbor entrance, and the huge lit-up church at the end of the harbor.
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