We departed the lagoon near Faro Portugal, on Sat the 5th of October. We awoke in the morning ready to catch the early tide out from the anchorage but many factors gave us pause. Would our passage friends make it through the Straights of Gibraltar? The current conditions for them were challenging. My brother CP, our extra crew member, had in the early morning hours developed symptoms of food poisoning.
The weather window was good enough, with well suited winds for sailing but the forecast swells were intimidating for this being our first open Atlantic transit (predicted 15-24knt winds, and 7ft on 8s swells). However if we waited for an alternate window a week later getting CP to his flight out of the Canaries could become impossible. Around noon we solidified our plan. With CP’s encouragement to depart, and Vesna making it through the Straits of Gib we caught the next tide out. This began our crossing. The large but gentle Atlantic swells carried us out to sea and we sailed in what we call champagne sailing conditions. Nick and I alternated watches the first night and the next day.
That afternoon I was awakened from my siesta to Nick’s urgent call for help. Upon inspection of our new water maker he had discovered 3 bilges of freshwater!!! Fack!! The freshwater output hose had popped off in a minor glitch of pressure management.The process of cleaning up had made me feel a bit queasy, but with the bilges now dry, all was good again.
CP was feeling improved health-wise and even reckoned that he felt good enough to take a watch. Despite feeling queasy myself I rallied to make everyone dinner so as to keep everyone on schedule and feeling good. Coming up the companionway to take my 11 to 1 am watch Nick told me that he thought the “chicken was bad” in the meal I cooked. Read accordingly. For the next two hours, he ran back and forth to the bathroom to avoid changing his shorts. But the writing was written on the wall when we heard Cado call out from her room. By the time we reached her, she had sprayed the inside of her bunk room with projectile vomit. If you find this description gross by all means stop reading, but be glad you weren’t there on rough seas of an open ocean passage. We began to realize that Cedric’s food poisoning was a virus and that we were all going down.
It was one of the toughest nights at sea. Since I could be nowhere other than deck I took my watch. I alternated tracking the AIS, holding kids as they puked, holding myself as I puked. The 3 hour shift was an eternity. Nick emerged already weary and took over. Cycling trips below to “drive the porcelain bus”, check the AIS, check around, repeat. By the time CP took his next shift at 4 am we were all shattered. Thankfully due to his rest, his level head, and ability to step in was just what was needed. I collapsed into a restless sleep on the day bed and Nick tried to sleep in one of the aft cabins (more comfortable boat movement). CP took watch and nursed his sick nieces. They are bonded for life now.
If the tale could get worse, it did. Nick occasionally suffers from tremendously debilitating migraines. On land this can be a 12-24hr ordeal. Whenever he gets one I feel so helpless watching my strong rock of a husband crumble into a ball of pain and despair. I wish it on nobody ever. So when he emerged from the bunk in the morning and announced that he had developed a migraine it was a bleak realization. I felt at my worst and out of my depth.
Day 3 had only a few log entries. Only what was absolutely necessity got done. We drank water and ate no food. Midday the swells calmed for a time and I wearily took the opportunity to move fuel from the front deck reserves and siphon it into the tanks. We had been motoring with a main out for stability and simplicity in trying circumstances. Running under genoa would have surely been more comfortable and had less weather-helm, but the genoa would have snatched too much due to light winds and heavy swells. Rigging the whisker pole to pull it out was too much for my current state. I digress. Though we were only 1/2 a tank down I forecast little change in physical ability in the coming 24 hours and was nervous to allow the tanks to sloosh fuel in such rolly seas. I can siphon fuel but cleaning fuel filters and bleeding fuel injectors was not something I wanted to try for the first time under such conditions. Around 3 pm, a delirious looking Nick appeared in the companionway saying the boat needed fuel transferring. I may have been sick, but informed him with a wifely smugness that it had already been done.
It was still many hours before he saw improvement, but in the evening Nick finally managed to push back his migraine and quickly returned to the land of the living. By morning, the girls and I were feeling improved and could hold down basic food. Energy levels were still low but improving. The sunrise brought with it a renewed feeling of contentment having passed through something awful and seeing the other side. I could breathe again knowing that the Captain was back and I could go back to being the world’s best wing gal. Cheer returned. Otoka caught fish and squid, or at least found them on deck. We spotted whales and porpoises. Miss T entertained everyone with her charm, except her sister who is immune to charm. Our final overnight approach into Lanzarote was a quiet affair, save a small amount of faffing on my part when the winds picked up and wind angle changed. Happily I called on my captain to come sort it out for me. After all, that’s what captains are for…. Right?! 😉
Arriving into the Lanzarote marina we almost immediately received a text from Nick’s Nanna, she must have been glued to her computer and our satellite tracker. She said it was in 1976 that she, Ted, and their youngest son Chris sailed into Lanzarote harbour on the Lizard of Woz, their home built trimaran. It was a special moment of connection.
In the end it was a terrible crossing, yet somehow being on the other side of it, all I can see are the lessons and the gifts.
My girls learned about resilience in the face of adversary.
My brother and I teamed up again, first time since we were children.
I felt such joy watching him build bonds with his nieces, chatting about the silly things in life that they love.
I learned about myself. That even though I feel vulnerable I am beyond strong and courageous. Also when the chips are down I still give it everything.
For Nick, letting go of the ability to help in any way was humbling. Usually the fixer, he had to ride passenger.
Sailing is not always the dream it is billed as, on any given day you can leave port and get your ass kicked; and the reward is that the lessons are priceless and worth every penny.
PS. HUGE shout out to Nick’s uncle for being our weather forecaster on land to our inReach sat phone. Those positive forecasts were just what this girl needed.