Cape Town to the Caribbean

Our home for 37days

Day 1 on the ocean

My sister asked me to write about how it felt as we sailed away from land. I didn’t think I’d have very much to say; I didn’t think it would be a very significant experience. In reality it was. As we sailed farther and farther from land I watched in my mind’s eye my previous life drifting away from me. It had suddenly hit me, it was real and I was literally about to sail across the Atlantic to live on an island I know almost nothing about. I was scared. Before that moment the whole thing had simply been a great topic for conversation.

I didn’t have very much time to have pathetic feelings though because my mother wanted to use up my last while of network coverage talking on the phone.

While on the phone with her, looking back towards the mountain I spotted a huge rock sticking out of the surface of the water. Mid-speech I realised what it actually was. “Is that a rock? It’s a whale!” said I, because you can only be so stupid to believe that a rock just popped up from where you just sailed over, for less than a second.

The first day didn’t give me much for funny material. I was miserably sea-sick all day. If I wasn’t on watch duty I was in bed; I went to bed four or five times that day. Lying down was the only time I didn’t feel sick. Other than making me sea-sick the waves are actually comforting; I feel as if they rock me to sleep.

That night on my shift, Maria and I saw a group of dolphins that followed alongside the boat for a while. Well, it was actually too dark to see the dolphins. What we saw was the phosphorescence that clung to their bodies as they torpedoed through the water.

View of Table Mountain, leaving Cape Town

Our cabin

Day 2

By day 2 I was already miserable about not being able to use the shower; for obvious reasons we were limited to washing with a bit of fresh water out of the basin. If we wanted to shower we had to use salt water. I couldn’t manage to stay in the heads for long enough to do that though. Being inside a tiny bathroom + big waves = very sick me. If I could’ve used the shower I would have turned on the taps and lied down on the floor of the shower.

Being sick was starting to make me depressed in general. I was already feeling something similar to regret about getting on the boat but you have to make the best of an experience; at least that’s what Jason told me.

So I started a compilation of good advice for you if one day by some crazy coincidence you happen to address the universe and you say, “Please Universe, please send a little bit of excitement my way.” Just as I did, idiotically, but instead of a “little” she dishes you out a whole truck load in the form of your boyfriend asking you to sail across an ocean with him and you say ‘yes’ even though you’ve never been on any type of vessel on the ocean, ever, not even for a minute. Then to top it all off it turns out you get very seasick or even just moderately. What a mouthful. In any case here’s my list of probably good advice.

  • Lying down will most likely give you relief from seasickness. It works for me and for everyone I’ve spoken to about it. Maria did have one crew member who got seasick even when he was in bed, no matter how many ginger cookies he ate.
  • Drink lots of water, unless it’s a new boat and you didn’t bring your own bottled water. I suppose that’s bad advice but nothing makes you want to throw up more when you’re seasick than water out of a new fibre glass boat’s water tanks, with the exceptions of coffee and parmesan.
  • Anything other than fruit and noodles will probably upset your stomach in the beginning, particularly ginger; oh, wait, that’s just me.
  • Take ear-buds; I don’t want to talk about it.
  • If you have to do any cleaning or cooking don’t look at what you’re doing. I look out the window, look at the horizon but as soon as I put my head down to concentrate on small details I start to feel sick. Maybe I’m just allergic to cleaning though.
  • No matter what you do though, whether it’s taking medicine, eating ginger or praying, I do believe that if you are prone to seasickness you will get sick. Fortunately though it doesn’t last long.

I know it looks like over-kill but I was seriously cold.

Day 3

Sick, unhappy and I’d lost a bit of weight.

Found on the deck

Saw a whale again, in any case its fin.

Day 4

Wild waves made me sick.

View from our cabin window

Day 5

Jason had to help me cook dinner because I was so ill.

Day 6

I was still feeling depressed. Every now and then I see an albatross surfing on a wave and I think to myself, “Ha ha, there goes a giant duck of the ocean” and that cheers me up a little.

Day 8

Maria gave me the last of our Cape Town tap water, precious Cape Town water in a bottle. Jason nearly turned green when I told him but of course I shared with him.

Day 9

Finally writing; the sea is as “flat as a pancake” as Maria says which is great for my stomach.

Flat sea, see!

Day 16

Nice weather today with a jelly sea but unfortunately no wind. I’ve just started my three hour day shift. Doing day shifts is much better for me now that I don’t get seasick from reading and writing, at least when the sea is calm.

Night shifts are different. You’re not allowed to do very much else other than exercise. Sometimes I do a few yoga stretches and sometimes I sing but mostly I just stare at the waves praying something cool will jump out. Night shifts can get pretty boring.

The worst part about night shifts is waking up, especially when I have two night shifts which happens every three days. It can be very confusing when someone walks into your room with a red torch and calls out your name. Sounds like a thriller.

In the first week when Maria woke me up for one of my first late night shifts I asked her what the time was, as if I were accusing her of waking me up at the wrong time. Now that my body’s used to it I usually sit up automatically and give a thumbs up to say, “Ok, I’m coming.” At this point my mind interrupts, “What? Where are we going?” Or it thinks something like, “Hold on! I’ve already done a shift, what’s going on?” and then a second voice pipes up, “Oh don’t act innocent, you knew this was coming.”  After that a third voice, the voice of reason: “Oh shut up you fools! If we don’t get out to the deck soon we’re going to be seasick.” So I grab my layers of clothes and sprint up to the saloon; I am so looking forward to warmer weather.

Day 18

It’s perfectly hot today. Sunlight crept into the bimini and beat down on the back of my neck. I had to use a little bit of our bundle of sunscreen for the first time. More than two weeks and we hadn’t used any of our bottles and bottles of sunscreen. Everyone told us that we would need so much sunscreen and I had to convince Jason to buy less than he’d been advised to buy. Now I know we won’t even use half of our collection. At least we’ll have sunscreen for the BVI beaches, I guess.

Day 19

Today was a special day for me. We’ve reached half way and we saw a whale jump right out of the water, twice. Maria says it was a Killer whale but I couldn’t tell; it was too far away.

Most importantly though today is Jason and my third anniversary. So for the first time on the trip we had some alcohol; a little bit of sparkling wine in plastic cups.

On Jason’s night shift I brought out a picnic plate of biltong, Mini Cheddars, an orange and some chocolate. I also poured a cup of juice and shared it all with Jason to chat away his two hours of shift. How different things are when you’re living on a boat.

Day 20

Today after many complications I finally got my first email from my mom. She told me she’d been arrested for accidently driving on the wrong side of the road. Her cell had filthy graffiti and she assured me that she did not get a tattoo.

Jason and I were told off this morning because there was coffee all over the counter in the galley. Jason and I shrugged and had to admit that neither of us has drunk coffee since before we set sail. Of course Jason cleaned the counter anyway and I wish he hadn’t. It was quite amusing but would’ve been more so if Jason wasn’t so bloody nice; a most infuriating trait of his.

Day 24

Last night was full moon. For some time I’ve romantically thought that interesting and exciting things should happen on full moons. Last night did not disappoint.

We had just finished eating dinner and I was about to make pancakes when Maria spotted them. A whole family of dolphins, I counted six, came swimming up to the side of the boat. We followed them to the bow of the boat and Maria and I lay down so we could be closer to them. They kept just ahead of the boat zooming up and down. Occasionally one of them would roll onto his side and I am sure he was taking a look at us.

I was completely mesmerized. I was thinking about how they have the same size brains as we do.  I wondered what they might think of us, if they cared about the size of our brains. Knowing that they most likely have no concept for such things makes me even happier though. Their interest in us, unlike ours in them, must be innocent if emotive. They surely don’t care about how we breed, if we’re endangered or whether or not we can be trained to catch fish in our mouths.

The excitement didn’t end there though. After washing dishes I decided to take a nap before my 10 to 12 night shift. Jason and I had both fallen asleep when were woken up by a loud bang. It’s not an unusual thing to hear on a fibre glass boat; you can even hear the waves hitting the boat. This bang, however, woke us up which hasn’t happened since about day 5. We both knew something was wrong. Jason climbed up out of our hatch to go find out what had happened. I was too tired to be curious and knew that I would be called if it was an emergency and went back to sleep.

When I went up for my shift later Maria, Jason and Karl were sitting around the deck table looking quite frazzled. In layman’s terms, otherwise I wouldn’t understand, the loud bang was made when the main sheet’s (the rope that adjusts the boom which holds the main sail) shackle snapped off the boom and whiplashed down towards the deck and hit right above our cabin.

Jason and Maria had to bring the sail down quickly while Karl steered the boat into the wind. If wind came in the sail on the wrong side after the boom had been let loose, the force could break the batons (rods that keep the shape of the sails). At least that’s how I understand it. I actually have no idea what I’m talking about so if that sounds like rubbish to you then it’s Jason’s fault. That’s my disclaimer.

We caught a Dorado on the hand line this morning. He was massive and almost a meter long. While Karl was pulling him out you could see his bright green scales and a forehead shaped like a dolphin’s, which is how the Dorado got its nickname “Dolphin fish”. After a couple of seconds on the deck the fish started changing colour to a pearly white and blue around the edges.

I don’t eat fish and therefore don’t take a culinary interest in them. I had no idea people ate such beautiful fish. Jason loves fish though and is cooking some for dinner, much to my dismay. I’ve promised him I’ll try a bit.

Day 27

Last night Jason and I crossed the equator for the first time, into the Northern Hemisphere. Maria initiated us first-timers by smearing a concoction of sauces on our foreheads and talking to us very sternly with a broom in her hand.

This is what the equator looks like, more or less.

We all drank a plastic cup of almost-champagne to celebrate.

Being initiated

Day 30

It seems we’ve hit the doldrums.

We just had dolphins swimming alongside the boat.

Day 31

We had rain for the first time on our trip. We were surrounded by dark squalls, all seemingly coming closer but we had to wait for what felt like hours for any of them to reach us. Jason and I were eager for it to rain to cool us down a bit; it is scorching hot coming around Brazil but the closer the squalls got the colder the wind became. By the time the rain reached us we weren’t hot anymore.

Being very brave, we both stepped into the downpour. When it didn’t stop raining but got heavier we got excited at the prospect of a fresh water shower. I ran down to the heads to get our shampoo and shower-gel. We lathered up and stepped back into the rain.

I looked over at Jason, he on the other side of the boat, in disbelief at what we were doing. He looked at me, knew what I was thinking and we both began to laugh. We laughed at our silliness, laughed because it was so cold and laughed because we were having a large amount of fun.  No matter how cold it was though, we couldn’t help appreciating this simple and natural shower. Somehow it beat cleaning out of a basin.

Things I didn’t write about


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