Day 4, 19 of June 2007
Since I am online and the comp seems to be dry, will fill you in on the current state of affairs. Its our fourth day out here, and the first where I could sit on deck with my little computer and upload video and get in touch with the outside world. We just escaped from a violent storm the pulled into Cape Town the night of the day we left. It was brutal out here, with waves bearing down on us from the very first night. We were headed directly into the wind, and had relentless tacking and powering along with both sails and the motor. Diesel spilled ithe he cabin, no one slept for more than a couple of hours at a time, and the whole boat pitched and rolled violently for three days. Yesterday we hit the trade winds, that blow across the Atlantic towards St Helena, our first destination. The swells and rolling waves from the storm are even now pitching us about but the sky is clear and an albatross has been following us for the last few hours. We are about 160 miles off the Skeleton coast of Namibia, and now running a dircet line for ST Helena with a stiff 17-knot winds on our left rear quarter. There are fluffy white clouds in the most pastel blue sky, you can imagine. What a pleasure. All our rain gear is scattered about the top deck drying off. I am going to get something to eat, now that I seemed to have acclimated to the boat and dont feel like throwing up every time i go below. I am hungry. We arent making great time because of the variable winds. But maybe tomorrow they will get a bit better. I think we are still feeling the cold. I am looking forward to covering some of the science from St Helena and meeting the folks from airport project there. Regards from the South Atlantic!
Day 4 June 19, 2007 7:06 pm
‘I am curled up in my bed at the front of the boat. It was a good day today. As you can see from my post erlier in the day, there was enough good weather to get the satellite system out and connect to the internet. Thanks goes to inus in helping me to set up my inbox with a filter on it! I am about to snooze a bit before my watch at 10. We have really just started this trip and now it is beginning to sink in on all of us how far it truly is in a sail a boat. Andre the captain is talking about meeting his wife and child in Fernando when we get there and then letting us carry on to the Azores and meeting us there. It is far, and its still early days. I have a feeling we will get so used to this that it will just become our reality. It is already. The weather has improved, I can use my computer without having to hold it down, but its still very cold at night, and very windy. Even now I can here it humming through the rigging. The wind changes a lot, requiring constant attention, and Deon and Andre really need to assist e when things get complicated. Deon managed to sleep today for about three hours. I think its his longest sleep in the past days. He looked happier for it. Better snooze now. If its good weather we might fish a bit tomorrow. I am looking forward to being on St Helena. I think the best way to not get too stressed about the journey is to just take each day and each destination at a time. This will all be a memory someday, as long as we don’t end up at the bottom of the sea! - and I I want to enjoy the challenge while its here.
Day 5, June 20th, 2007 8:14pm
Last night was a tough watch. I was cold, tired, and just could not keep my eyes open! We are set up on watches of two hours each, starting at 8pm and going to 8am the next day. If I do the 8pm to 10pm watch, then I sleep for four hours and do the 2 to 4am watch. That way every guy gets about 8 hours of sleep a night. Sitting there, alone on the dark deck is perhaps the most introspective I have ever been. The world is made up on only sea and sky, and yet I am struck how stuck in my head I am. Worried about seemingly small things, like sleep, and food and where we are going, and the project and all that stuff which will take care of itself just fine in good time. There is magic out here. Last night the phosphorescence in the water shined green light like swirling stars passing by the boat. This light is caused by (as I understand it) a type of algae that lights up in the friction of water molecules rubbing against each other. The moon has been waxing from a sliver our first night to a fine sight for about 2 hours after sunset. Tonight I am going on watch at midnight to 2am, then again at 6am to 8am. In fact though, Deon probably does more staying awake than any of us, he always seems to wake up when there is a hint of course change or trouble. He seems to do ok with it, and we are lucky to have him on the boat. Andre is more technical and very exact. Thank goodness, since he has built a very fine and well made boat that we all have our lives depending on. Gorgeous day today. It started out a bit grey, but we clowned around, took pictures, worked on the boat a bit and listened to music. Deon put his fishing rod out today and hopefully we will get a fish in the next few days. Would be nice to have some tuna. We eveb brought ginger and wasabi mustard for sushi! Maybe I mentioned that in an earlier posting, but that just goes to show you that like on any expedition, food looms large in the minds of the crew. Around 2 in the afternoon I was out on deck and saw what looked like a large brown plastic bag in the water. It was a huge turtle, paddling along like he was just out for an afternoon stroll among the hedgerows. It looked like a Leatherback, which I have taken pictures of in the Indian Ocean, but the glimpse was so quick and we were making such good time that I cant say for certain. They do travel through this area though and many are hatched on Fernando De Naronha, where we are going in a few weeks. I hope to catch up with some of the researchers there and find out how they are doing here in the Atlantic.
Day 6 8:45pm 21st of June, 2007
Wednesday I think.
Incredibly enough I have been sitting in front of a computer all day! I spend most days taking pictures, making food, learning to sail and shooting video, then every two or three days (so twice in the last 6 days) I sit down for a whole day and edit the images and video to send out to my good buddy and colleague Jurgen. He is a computer fundi who is a specialist in the equipment, in particular the software, that people use to shoot and edit video. He teaches video editing at AFDA, the film school of South Africa, but he is originally from Holland. He came up with the special encryption program that I am using to get my video out to the rest of the world in a highly compressed format that nevertheless looks good when you view it. Hopefully. I mention all this cause its on my mind as I sit here on the deck, where its not really warm but certainly a lot warmer than recently. The is a feeling out here of grand expansiveness. The sea is calm and a soft wind mixes with the thrum of the diesel. I am sad to say that we are motoring again. The wind s just enough to flutter the sail rather forlornly, so we are cruising along with the asymentrical sail up and it rattles a bit behind me. It’s the first time I dared to bring my computer on deck furing a watch. Watch has not been the kindest way to spend a freezing cold wet evening, getting lashed by rain and ready to call Deon or Andre at the slightest hint of trouble. So we are going very very slowly on our way to St Helena. The newspaper there is meeting us at the dock when we get in. I think the radio too. News of any sort is clearly a very rare event on that isolated island, because of our modest press release about our project, the newspaper seems to have cottened on the idea that we are news. I usually try to search out the news myself, so to actually be it will be a bit different. Before you think I have gotten all high and mighty though, keep in mind that I will remember the little people who have gotten me here. Har har. I am practicing my pirate speak. I think I will need something to fall back on when my celebrity fades. So we pass beneath this huge sky, slipping between 4000 meters of water and …. infinity I guess. Its there above us….I am remended that the bushmen of one area of the Kalahari believe that the stars actually sing their light down on to the earth. That’s a much more pleasant thought than thinking of a one way trip to the bottom of this sea with a large stone. That’s a a very chilly thought indeed. I jumped into the sea today, as we were sailing along. There was a drag rope attached to the back and I grabbed it after I jumped in. Just before I got in the boat again, I looked under it, with my eyes open in the salt water. It shocked me. The water was so clear and blue and there was our little tiny boat…hanging there all alone in this big..DEEP -blue sea. Below it was that colour of the upper atmosphere from a plane window or in photos of Everest: Dark blue fading to black. What an amazing place.
Day 7, Friday the 22nd of July, 2007
Here I am back in my rodeo cabin after a long day. They call it the rodeo cabin because it goes up and down a lot. Its in the front of boat, and I can hear the water rushing past the hull on both sides of me. We still have no wind, now for the third day. Let me correct that. We have wind but its blowing directly from the place where we need to go. Today it started blowing harder. So we are driving, at a fast walking speed, to St Helena. Th engine is a verye connimocal diesel and the boat is fast and light, so we sip fuel and move at about 5.5 miles per hour (roughly 9 km/hour) I walk at about that speed. It seems we should be in St Helena at around … next Friday? Maybe Wednesday? Its ok with me, I have nowhere else to be. I keep my schedule clear for work, and work in South Africa lately has been slow. Being a freelance photographer is not for people who like long term, or even short-term planning. Today was about the fastest day I have ever had. I don’t say this lightly. I guess I got up a bit late, around 9:30, but still the day flashed by. The sea was like a large swimming pool this morning, so we pitched a tent on deck, dragged the carpets up there and lazed around for 20 minutes before Andre got bored and decided to launch the rubber duck (a zodiac) off the back of the boat. So off we went, blasting around the boat on the zodiac taking pictures and shooting film and whooping it up. I spent the afternoon editing video and putting together the next chapters of the film for the viewing public out there in the big wide world. We really enjoy connecting to the net, and getting email from fans and friends and most importantly our loved ones. Hopefully we will get the web-site organized and running nicely in the next few days. We need another crew-member and asked an old friend of mine from Holland who is a sailor to join us. She is very outgoing and always good company. It will be nice to have her on board, not only because we are three men alone and its good to have variety in the mix, but because she can pull an extra watch at night and we can all get a decent night’s sleep. Hopefully she will join us on Fernando. I just heard the chaps drop the sail, must have been slowing us down. Now we are on power alone and the sea is picking up. When we were in the calm waters today we saw hundreds of jellyfish. The fisherman from Namibia who work these waters have seen the collapse of their fishery, supposedly due to overfishing from unregulated foreign vessels. Instead they have been hauling huge nets full of jellyfish from the sea. WE haven’t caought a fish for three days of trying, so I have to assume there is something to their argument. Sad to think that there is more life on the skeleton coast than here in the sea.
Day 8, Saturday 23rd of July 2007
I am bone tired. We have been beating intot he wind all day and all night, and finally started cruising under sail only (turned the motor off) about 3 hours ago. I had been fairly upbeat until a few hours ago, but everything hit me at once. Seont about 3 hours last night sleeping, the rest getting hammered by waves and swell so badly! What a rodeo ride. This morning, after Andre and Deon both stayed up clear through the night, I went to the mast and helped set down the sail is a blasting squall. I knew what to do, held on tight and got it done. I even got some good footage an hour later once the sun kind of rose. I say kind of because it was still dark with heavy heavy storm clouds! So nice to be back in my bouncy bunk and know we are finally moving in the right direction under some slightly more decent wind. The clomp clomp of the swell whacking the boat is still with me but I think it will just lull me to sleep. Its 8:22 pm and I have to get up at 11pm to do watch. No rest for the wicked. Someday soon I will sleep the whole night through. That will be the best thing about being in St Helena. Pretty colours for photos with the storm clouds this morning. Even saw a rainbow.