S/V Sea Ya – 20 Januari 2015. Somewhere along the West African Coast. From the pen+book diary.
“Wake up, little Suzie, wake up!” Noor sings me awake. It’s time to start my night watch.
I’m used to this rhythm by now. I had a good six hours of sleep, so no problem waking up. It’s getting warmer now after a few freezing cold nights; I only need one sweater and pants today. I enter the cockpit. On the horizon, we spot a boat! Exciting! This is the first vessel we’ve seen in three days. Rudy and Noor call them on the radio. It’s another sailboat named Kalibu, also heading to Mindelo. We overtake them easily with our two head sails. Noor goes to bed. The first two hours of my shift are with Rudy. The clouds disappear and there is the starry sky again. In the last few days I’ve seen more shooting stars than I have wishes to be made. With my Sky Guide app, I’m scanning the stars and learning about the universe. The phone is on flight mode with the battery still half full after five days. I don’t think that has ever happened before. The Big Dipper constellation is passing from east to west every night. I’ve also learned now where the name Orion comes from (the Greek hunter!). The nights are as black as they can get. There is no moon and I cannot even differentiate the sea from the sky. The night watch involves a lot of staring at butterfly shaped sails, the meters, and the compass ball. We are sailing with the compass at 220 degrees. Now we’re ’only’ going 6 knots. For five days we have had 18-25 knots of wind, straight from behind. It can’t get much better than that! At one point we even reached a speed of 11.4 knots, when surfing a wave! Every day the numbers go up. We have travelled 760 nautical miles so far. Water temperature is now 24.5 degrees – an increase of 2.5 degrees since leaving Las Palmas. Tropics, here we come!
Rudy jumps into bed and Goedele and I make up the next watch team. I hope she slept well. Last night she literally flew out of her bed when we surfed a wave! She and the wooden thingy ‘preventing’ her from flying out of bed, ended up in the mess of the boat. We have no boats on the horizon, AIS, or radar. I make some tea; I have already mastered the art of tea-making in a swinging boat – always a fun task! My sea legs are back, so I don’t need seasickness pills anymore. This is my last night shift, for now. We should arrive in Mindelo, Cape Verde, tomorrow evening! With a warm tea in my hand, I watch the sails taking us over the ocean. I observe the tri-coloured head of the mast swaying from left to right, admire the bio-luminescent plankton, feel the ocean breeze on my face, and look around for shooting stars. It’s a beautiful, peaceful, relaxed night. At this moment, I would be happy to just skip Cape Verde and keep going all the way to the other side of the Atlantic. I’m loving it!
Time for a shift change. I wake up Noor and collapse into my bed, falling asleep immediately. I have already figured out the perfect sleeping position in a swinging boat: on the belly, with one leg up and pillows on each side. In this position, no waves can rouse me from my sleep.
Sometime in the morning…
“Suus, Suus! Wake up! There is a huge school of dolphins around the boat.” They were little spotted dolphins, jumping in the waves, playing around and making their famous Flipper noise. What a wakeup call! I jump out of bed to meet my idols. It’s around 9am, my second start to Day 6. I’ve only slept for a few hours, but apparently it’s enough; I feel fresh and excited. We have 60 miles to go. The wind has picked up since I left my night watch. The sun is shining. Water temperature has increased to 25 degrees, the air temperature to 26 degrees. Goedele announces that offshore sailing is not for her, and she will leave the boat in Cape Verde. A pity. The four of us have made a great team. Hopefully we will find a replacement crew member in Cape Verde.
The rest of the day
I play around with my action camera, read a book, try some yoga on a swinging boat, wash my feet in the ocean, run a few rounds around the boat, take water samples, and do some breathing exercises to improve my freedive skills.
5 PM- ish
Noor is turning green, coming out of the mess after her cooking session. It is a rocky boat. Every day around this time we have dinner. It’s the one moment of the day we are all together. Today we eat something simple. We (the girls) have given Rudy too much ‘exotic stuff’. It’s becoming too much for him. So it’s plain old rice and ketchup for the captain. The girls slaughter a fresh Canary Island pineapple for a tasty touch. Rudy does the dishes today and comes back up with a tint of green in his face as well.
I see land!!! It’s quite euphoric to see land after 5.5 days of nothing but ocean. The sunset is spectacular. 20 more miles to go!
I attempt to take a little siesta, but I’m too excited to fall asleep.
We have arrived in Mindelo, on the island of São Vicente in Cape Verde! It was quite a challenge to manoeuvre into the bay, the sky being pitch-black and the lights too dim. But we did it! In the pilot, I read that it’s ‘day of the hero’ in Cape Verde today. Perfect timing, right?! I feel like one! I cannot wait to touch shore and explore!
I cannot wait to touch shore and explore! Mañana…
This was a casual day on the Sea-ya at sea! The trip was the appetizer for the big pond!
Apologies for the bad ass English. I’m talking too much Dutch and don’t have/make time to proofread.
Up for an ocean hitchhiking adventure? Learn all there is to know about boat hitchhiking the Atlantic Ocean in the book Ocean Nomad.