Wild, beautiful Atlantic

Water, water, nothing but water

There is an English saying: The best in crossing an ocean is the beer on the other side. True, the first thing I did when we had finally arrived in St. Maarten, N.A., was to buy 2 cans of icecold extremely expensive Heineken. It had taken us 28 days to cross our first big ocean and it definitely had not been boring. In the Azores everybody had advised us to take as much Diesel with us as possible because we would be sailing from one calm into the next. Well, we ended up with a total fuel consumption of about 5 gals. And we had only one calm that lasted about 12 hours. We had been watching Atlantic wheather patterns the whole summer and found that the classic calm zones simply don't exist anymore. So, we thought, we could take the risk of setting our course from the Azores straight to the Bahamas. To us, this area of the Atlantic seemed to be one of the loneliest places on earth: we saw five ships, 2 in the first 2 days, 3 in the last 2 days, no whales or dolfins, we didn't catch a single fish, but sometimes we sailed through fields of garbage. We fell in with the rhythm of wind, waves and clouds, were enchanted by the most dramatic sunsets and rises. In a clear night we watched stars move we hadn't even known existed.

On the 24th of November we had a last beer with all our friends in the marina of Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores and then set sail for our biggest adventure yet. The first few days, everything went fine and we slowly adjusted to the rhythm of 3 hours on, 3 hours off. Then the wheatherfax started spitting out the really good news: Hurricane Olga, the last one of the season, was on it's way and would pass a few hundred miles to the north of us. This would put us in it's most dangerous quadrant. For our area they were predicting 50kts plus of wind and 30 - 40 ft of seas, seastate confused. So, the only thing we could do, was head south and hope for the best. After dark, things started getting furious: howling wind and towering, breaking seas from all directions. Soon we had our first knockdown ( angle 100, spreaders and masttop in the water). We stowed away the last bit of sail left and were still running at 5 kts under bare poles before the wind. The windvane couldn't cope anymore and we had to steer by hand for the next 20 hours. The storm lasted 3 days.

And that's how it went on: one day of peace(20-30 kts) was followed by three days of gale force winds, week after week. We finally found the trades 200 nm east of the Leewards and they were blowing like hell. At a certain point we had to give up the Bahamas, the atlantic lows had been pushing us too far south. St. Maarten looked easy and was only 5 days away. On the 20th of December we arrived in St.Maarten. Besides being a little tired and having lost considerable weight, we were in good shape, and so was our tough little boat...

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