Alone at Sea

Tuesday

I am writing this as we sail across the Gulf of Venezuela. We lifted anchor off Aruba yesterday morning in the dark and the island is now over a hundred miles behind us. We headed north west to keep well clear of Venezuela and, after rounding the Penisular De Le Guadjira, turned more southerly heading to Santa Marta on the coast of Columbia.

It is now over twenty four hours since we saw any sign of land or humans – except a solitary plastic bottle floating past. No ships, no planes; just the sea around us and the sky above us. Last night was a new moon and overcast but there was lightning all around us which provided a non stop spectacle. Over towards Columbia the lightning bolts were jumping from cloud to cloud and occasionally we saw them discharge in to the sea.

The weather forecast was variable and was absolutely correct. We are not even half way to Santa Marta and have experienced everything from dead calm to a passing squall. We have proved that we still know how to change the sail plan every hour and twice before breakfast. The wind changes and we change or adjust the sails accordingly and it is a source of wonder to head for a new continent driven only by the wind.

People ask if this “loneliness” is not frightening but we both agree it is anything but. It is beaufiful, inspiring and a great joy. How many other people have the privilage of two or maybe three days alone and undisturbed with nothing to do but work the wind and enjoy the vast empty spaces and our time together.

Wednesday

Almost as soon as I finished writing yesterday the wind dropped and we were left drifting at just over a knot with the current. At about one in the morning we felt a small breeze and tried setting the genoa with little effect. Before breakfast we tried the Parasailor which added a half a knot but flopped every where.

A sea bird spent the night on board and three starlings. One starling just died after sitting staring listlessy at us all morning. A second one understood Heidi’s offer of water and was back flying before we had the luncheon meat out of the tin for its lunch. So far from land and with no wind or drinking water is obviously not good for small birds.

Fish eagle sat on Artemis

Just now we were swimming surrounded by fish who seem to enjoy the shelter of our boat. It is cooler and refreshing in the water and you don’t notice the two thousand meters of water below you. As we got out a few dolphins swam lazily past with a small one showing off by jumping completely out of the water.

And now we can just sit and wait for the wind to return before the current takes us on to Panama.

Thursday

Yesterday a breeze eventually picked up and, with the parasailor, we could very slowly head south-west. Just after dark it increased to something that could be called a wind so we changed back to just the genoa out. It is a good thing we did as, at about one in the morning, we found a huge black squall hiding between the thunderclouds. The wind speed increased to thirty knots, the bow buried in to the sea sending plumes of spray across the deck and it chucked rain down. I called Heidi from sleeping and was, as always, totally impressed as she calmly knotted her hair out of the way before entering the fray.

We are now some fifty miles from Santa Marta and finally look like every one imagines our life to be. The sky is blue without a trace of thunderclouds, the wind is just the right amount from exactly the correct angle. Breakfast tasted great and a huge bird of prey is sat above us in the spreaders which is good as it keeps the “shitty birds” away who, eat fish and then spread their remains as white goo over the deck.

Friday

The previous evening finished with another squall that had us soaked through. The final day didn’t start any better. We rounded the last cape to meet a wind on the nose. We tacked continually to port and then to starboard but as the wind increased we started to lose ground and go backwards. Things were made more interesting by trying to avoid a ship and hoping the lightning wasn’t going to come any closer.

Eventually, 12 miles before Santa Marta, we switched the motor on and fought against the wind making 0.8 knots in the correct direction. Just before the port, the wind abated, the rain stopped, we docked in the marina and fell in to bed. It was 04:30. We had taken four days and one hour.

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