Making a landfall is always exciting, especially when you
have been at sea for two to three weeks. It gives both a sense of
accomplishment and relief. You have sailed in the wake of Captains
Cook and Columbus, and survived, and if you are lucky, your yacht arrived
intact without any broken gear. Most yachties have shallow pockets and
they sail in damage control mode. Rather than rocketing across and
ocean like a bat out of hell, they truck along at a conservative pace that
insures they arrive at the other side with their bank account still full of
Crossing an ocean is a bit like roulette, but in this
case, you own the roulette wheel and the odds are stacked in your favor.
You give the wheel a spin, and if you sail a well-found yacht, you don't
strike a whale, a ship doesn't run you down. or an out of season storm
doesn't pummel you, the jackpot is yours. You make it to the
Caribbean, the Marquesas, or New Zealand. The truth is, if you know
what you are doing, and you use your God given common sense, the odds are in
your favor, and you end up a winner almost every time. If that were
not the case, no one would be out here sailing on the ocean of their dreams.
So what does it feel like to arrive on the other side.
Awesome! My first big offshore passage took twenty-one days to sail
from the Galapagos Islands to the Marquesas Islands of French
Polynesia. When the rugged volcanic spires on Fatu Hiva and Nuku Hiva
appeared on the horizon on schedule, I knew beyond all shadow of a doubt
that I was a real ocean cruiser. I was no longer a wannabe. I
was the real deal and was sailing on the ocean of my dreams. You could
pinch me as many times as you liked, and it wouldn't matter, because I wasn't
asleep and I wasn't dreaming. I was actually in the South Pacific
living my dreams.
The same thing happened when we sailed to the Land of the
Long White Cloud - New Zealand. I knew that sailing from Fiji to New
Zealand involved more than a little risk. The twelve-hundred mile
passage south went through a weather hole, a meteorological no mans land
that swallowed up yachts. The problem was that there existed a large
area of ocean that belonged to no one. Meteorologists in New Zealand,
Australia, and Fiji all disavowed knowledge of what happened inside that
patch of ocean. When you sailed into that hole, you might be the first
to discover there was a serious weather disaster getting ready to happen.
It's not an accident that yachts perish with great regularity in that area,
because there is no way to know ahead of time that trouble is brewing.
Go the the internet, and do a search for the Queens Birthday Storm, and read
the harrowing tales of people caught in this vortex of destruction. We
sailed twice from Fiji to New Zealand, and when we arrived in the Bay of
Islands and put our anchor down, we knew that we had cheated death one more
time. On both trips south, there were yachts or people lost at sea
making the same trip. Suffice it to say, arriving in New Zealand
unscathed was a RELIEF. On both trips south we made it in to safe
harbor just before gales struck.
In December of 2005, we made a transatlantic passage
taking sixteen days to get to the other side. Although the trip was
long, it was relatively easy because it was windless for the first half of
the trip. We motored on flat seas, photographed a giant pod of
dolphins cavorting with the yacht, and enjoyed the company of pilot whales
bodysurfing in twelve foot seas. When the trade winds finally kicked
in halfway across the Atlantic, we deployed our double headsail trade wind
rig, and we ran downwind covering 150 to 170 miles west each day. A
few rain squalls washed the salt off our decks, and thunder and lightening
never became our unwelcome guests. We caught so much mahi mahi that we
were eating fresh fish nearly every day. We ate so much fish, prepared
in so many new and delectable ways, that we actually gained weight during
the trip. It's the first time that ever happened on passage. And
no one got sea sick. And then we arrived in Barbados, fit as a fiddle
and raring to go. And now I need to go on a diet.
What was it like to arrive in Barbados? I was fat
and happy and surprised. I already told you why I was fat and happy.
So why was I surprised? Simple. When we were still about three
miles offshore from Bajan Paradise, a man on a windsurfer came streaking out
to Exit Only. We saw him coming, and debated whether he would windsurf
so far offshore to check us out. He kept coming, and coming, and
coming. This guy better know what he's doing, because if he doesn't,
the next island is one-hundred miles downwind. He wasn't bothered by
the choppy seas and twenty-five knot winds. He just kept coming.
He was on a mission, and that mission was to welcome us to Barbados.
He zipped by our stern, performed a quick jibe, and as he zoomed past Exit
Only he said, "Welcome to Barbados." It was Christmas day, and his
welcome was a gift that would warm the coldest heart of the most crusty and
Welcome to Barbados, and welcome to our new cruising
home, the Caribbean. It's great to be home.