I have learnt that there are different intensities of blue beyond bright blue. I have watched dolphins play and whales breach from arms length. I have seen sunsets, which look graphically enhanced. I understand the differences between “rolling” and “pitching” in heavy seas. I have lost the concept of time. I have sailed the Atlantic Ocean.
For me, the moment you step outside your comfort zone is when adventure truly begins. Perched on a rather large rock, known as Gibraltar, with the world’s second largest ocean stretching out behind me, I can comfortably say I have stepped out of mine. I have been a victim of the ever-famous and pesky travel bug from a young age, suffering from its irritable symptom of itchy feet; working on a sailing yacht experiencing ever-changing surroundings is currently the perfect remedy. As a result of my floating “job” (some disagree it counts as work) adventures and opportunities are aplenty.
Lacking in any real sailing experience, gearing up to cross “the pond” – which happens to be the biggest colloquial understatement ever – was nail biting. Something about this large (and somewhat empty) expanse of ocean unhinged me. Leading up to the crossing, I found myself battling between overthinking everything that could possibly go wrong outweighed with soaking up the Bahamas sunshine ignoring what lie in front of me. Leaving West and heading East we stopped in Bermuda and again in the Azores for various weather systems, fuel and food top ups.
The first couple of days of the crossing were surreal. Our ‘watch rota’ meant we took 4- hour watches during the day and 3 hours at night, allowing us enough time to rest. This new daily routine hosted in the middle of nowhere meant throwing our body clocks out of sync. Crossing multiple time zones without actually stepping foot on a plane introduced “sea-lag” (note: a severe addiction to sleep at the weirdest times, non-scientific – I made this up). The days merged into each other, typically starting with colourful sunrises, broken up with various momentous events. Events, which would span from watching whales breach, dolphins playing in our wake to other less eventful moments; the last chocolate cookie left, a riveting chapter in your current book or a deep ‘life’ chat with your co-watcher. Daily conversations about weather were no longer classified as ‘small talk’ in this ocean world; they were ingrained – determining our comfort and safety for the on-going journey. Mother nature has a tendency to flip out and unfortunately she did, luckily only a couple of days towards the end however this time felt like an eternity with dread flooding (no pun intended) through the boat. The days tended to close with picture perfect sunsets, which morphed into enchanting starlit skies undimmed by light pollution. These hours on watch at night were mesmerising and at some low points insanely dull.
Our first stop was after a short 4 days after leaving the Bahamas where we stopped in Bermuda. Waiting for bad weather to pass we ended up being here a week, allowing us to explore this strategically placed little island. After a further 8 days we stopped on the island of Faial in The Azores, a collection of pretty, volcanic islands jutted out of Europe belonging to Portugal. This was a convenient rest stop allowing us to enjoy land for a few days (again waiting for a weather window) before the final stretch.
Undeniably crossing the Atlantic and experiencing endless horizon for days on end has an epic dimension to it and of course we have the first colonists to thank for making it achievable. On the one hand, it provides you with the feeling of total zen, on the other, it gives you that eerie feeling that there is nothing else around you to prove that our world still exists. With only five other crewmembers for company, you realise that you are on your own out there if anything was to happen, boat sightings were extremely rare and after 8 straight days of nothing it began to build some justifiable anxiety. When that anxiety completely eases is the moment you see land, which was more surreal than the previous endless horizon. Arriving into Gibraltar in the late hours guided by bright lights and the promise of a cold beer on stable ground rounded of this adventure perfectly.
Looking back on this journey seems like an eternity ago but luckily all in all from dolphins playing in our wake, days where the sea resembled a millpond, breaching whales and shooting stars made it all worthwhile. It is safe to say I am open to all sea based adventures which contemplates such vastness in one go again…so onto the next.
June, 2015 (Gibraltar)