|Ships Log - Ruling Angel Sailing Yacht - Chapter 25
It never stops blowing. The wind around South Africa just never stops. It's blowing 40 knots right now... anchored in the most protected
harbor on the entire coast. But, I'm not worried. It's New Year's Eve and we are going to a party!
Anchors Aweigh! I actually said that.
"Is the anchor away?"
"Yes, anchor's away."
And we let the wind turn us from the shore... from the mountains dotted with vineyards... from the beaches heaped with dunes... from the
desert carpeted with wild flowers... from the harbor crammed with malls... and push us out to sea once again. The Captain estimates 22
days@ 7.2 knots to Brazil. Yes, I think I have enough food stowed aboard to cross the South Atlantic. It should be a classic sail: fair winds
and flat seas and a gentle current going exactly where we're going.
I settle down in the cockpit and watch the African continent disappear from my sight. We made some sweet friends in South Africa and we
will probably never see them again. Or maybe we will. Most of them are leaving their country for distant shores as the long repressed black
majority takes the reins...with vengeance. Perhaps, rightly so.
Rousted from my thoughts, I see swarms of seabirds skimming and diving. They organize in clusters and cascade over each other looking
like splashing white caps, then regroup into long languorous lines. A seal floats by... snoozing on his back with his flippers sticking out of the
sea. He could be using it as a rigid sail... or maybe he is camouflaging himself to look like a hunk of floating kelp. Swoosh! That hunk of kelp
dives as soon as he gets a glimpse of our hull. Sorry, to disturb you!
Over There! What's that commotion? The sea is alive with creatures. I grab the binoculars.
Hundreds of seals in a frenzy of fishing. No lolling around for these guys!
My mind drifts back to far away shores. David's Birthday is today. He would enjoy an Atlantic crossing. I smile as I remember our trip up
the river in Guatemala... and the time we rammed the dock in Norfolk. Yes, he would enjoy Carnival in Brazil. Monica, too. It promises to be
The nights are the hardest. My 12 to 2 watch is the hardest of the hardest: pitch dark, chilly and lonely. The cockpit is a bit eerie with the
green light of the radar glaring at me. The dark clouds are covering up the bright lights from the heavens. I can't penetrate the darkness. I
just can't see in front of me. I pull my wool watch cap down a little snugger and listen to the howl of the wind.
My 4 to 6 watch is better. The horizon to the East is starting to brighten. The undulating water looks like a desert that goes on forever. I am
riding the sea dunes on the back of my ship. That a girl.
The sea is big. Bigger than expected. It is rocking us from side to side unmercifully!
The waves come from behind lifting us up and smashing us down. The boat shudders... recovers... only to be knocked down again. We are a
toy boat. Two specs on a toy boat. The awesomeness of the sea is beginning to frighten me. No, I'm mad... at the sea's total disregard for
consequences. It's wild abandon. Wave upon wave of reckless boy solders. No place to hide. Not for 21 more days. We are committed to this
path. Turning around and smashing head on into the waves would be even more ruthless. No place to hide... except, maybe St. Helena Island
out there in the middle somewhere. Napoleon was exiled there. I'd go for being exiled right now. Anything to make it stop.
Calm down. I follow Jack below. We wedge ourselves in and watch the entire final season of Friends... as we wait for the smooth sailing part
of the glorious South Atlantic crossing. We're going to Carnival!
Jack has attached a drogue anchor to the big orange fishing buoy and half-hitched it to the aft rail... to throw overboard in case one of us
falls off. I checked out the man-overboard button on the Northstar GPS. You have to hold it down for five seconds. Five seconds is a lifetime
in that situation. An instant waypoint would make more sense.
But, even with that... it would be a miracle to find someone in that mass of waves and that foaming cold water. The orange buoy is a good
idea. Surely, one could see that.
"It would be a miracle," the Captain reaffirms.
Last night the jenny halyard gave way. The sail is still up there but not actually attached to anything. Jack gingerly rolled it up and
wrapped it as best he could to keep it from ripping away. We'll have to get it down. He'll have to go up the mast to reattach it... in the middle
of the S. Atlantic Ocean in the raging wind and rocky sea. Yes, Jack at the top of the mast will swing radically... just like in the pirate movies,
We'll wait for a calmer day.
This is embarrassing. Without the jenny for power, we are bobbing around like a weightless cork... all 73 tons of us... a herd of elephants.
Jack has rigged the lines to catch the sail as he brings it down. We are going to take advantage of this slight lull in the wind. Not calm at all...
just a slight lull. Everything is in readiness. I am at the helm to keep the boat into the wind. If I let it catch, it will rip the sail away and
probably snag Jack with it. Hand over hand he pulls the bucking sail down and quickly lashes it to the deck. Done.
The day emerged overcast and gray. I scoured the horizon for signs of clearing, Over there... dazzling spotlights from above! Wow, a few
sunbeams are piercing a small patch of blue and creating a wondrous stage setting. I stand transfixed... waiting for the show to start. Will it
be jumping dolphins or spouting whales, or synchronized swimming mermaids?
"Barbara, you're going to have to haul me up the mast. I've got to replace that broken shackle at the top."
It's not that calm, yet. But, Jack is ready. I start him up. The boat catches a wave and sways radically from side to side.
"Hold it," he gasps as he clings to the mast. "OK. Keep going"... and he's at the top... 115 ft off the deck swaying precariously... just like in the
script. It's a quick job: remove the broken stainless steel shackle and replace it with a good one. Done. "Bring me down, fast!"
As the hero descends the tossing mast, I glimpse the sun's spotlights starting to fade. He is down in triumph. The curtain closes. I feel like
applauding. I guess we were the show. Bravo!
Now the grand finale. The entire stage is lighted from the sun. Our hero goes forward to the sail lashed to the bow and with determination
grabs the leading edge. His co-star... that would be me... takes her place at the mast and with equal determination turns the winch as
Captain Jack feeds the sail back up through its slide. Up, up it goes. The wind keeps grabbing it; but he is stronger. It's tense. He's done it! He
flashes a gorgeous smile at his beaming co-star, Print.
There will be no sequel.
We've crossed the Prime Meridian. So what? Well ... , it is where time starts. It is that arbitrary line that is theoretically drawn around the
globe from north to south through the poles. These days, it goes through Greenwich, England. At one time it was drawn through Rome... then
Jerusalem... Paris.., and even Philadelphia. What a coup.
So, just now, somewhere on that prime line, we changed from going east to going west. No wall, no gate, no sentries. Not even a bump. We just
sailed over the line: 0000.000. I did, however, get a hug.
That line and it's succeeding parallels is the key to knowing where you are on the sea: longitude. Latitude is easy to calculate: you just
measure the angle of the sun at noon and you know how far north or south of the equator you are. But, longitude... how many hours you are
away from the starting line... now that was a problem. Newton thought so, too. But John Harrison figured out how to make a clock that could
keep really accurate time on the blasted sea... no pendulum. You set it to the time on the Greenwich line... and you just counted the number
of hours to your ship's time... converted time to distance and... a fix!
Grandmother Henrietta Harrison is proud of good old relative-in-the-closet, John.
Our ship's quartz chronometer still keeps great time... and it chimes on the hour and the half-hour. Our state-of-art GPS, which gives the
boat's exact position accurately and continually, does not chime.
Gaiety has left our ship.
"You cannot enter Brazil without a visa in advance," blurts the Brazilian official in reluctant English on the other end of the sat phone.
"But, we are in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean... and we didn't know. Can't we arrange it when we get there?"
"You cannot get off your boat." That was clear.
I put away my gay carnival skirt and we altered course... and headed toward... St. Helena Island. We were banished from Brazil.
Now St. Helena Island is an historic spot: a rocky outcropping alone in the sea. You can only get there by boat. The waves crash so violently
against the harbor walls, a local comes out and ferries you in. Napoleon died there. It doesn't call for a gay carnival skirt.
We are wary of the anchorage at St, Helena, It is, after aft, unprotected. It is hardly in a bay at all. It is anchoring on a shelf in the ocean. I
guess that's why they stuck Napoleon there. No chance of escape.
"Land, ho!" The Captain spots it first.
A jagged rock-of-an-island. We circled it from behind to keep the wind in our sails.
The closer we came, the more jagged the aspects appeared. Weatherworn turrets jutted out. Long slick places slanted down the sides with
gray veins wandering aimlessly.
Boulders perched., . ready to fall. Crashing surf No beaches. Nothing growing. Everything gray.
We circled the headland and Jamestown, the only town, came into view. It was wedged in a rift in a valley. One long, thin street... fronted by
a moat. A stone fort perched above.
We anchored on the unprotected ledge at the edge... and let out our breath.
The Harbor Master greeted us warmly. He actually met us at the dock and walked us to his office. We chatted as we walked. It was quite
civilized. Not threatening at all. And, so far, the boat was steady in her anchorage.
It was after hours, but he unlocked his door and ushered us in. He set up the computer for me while he chatted with Jack.
"We'll need 50 pounds sterling from each of you whether you stay a day or a month.. You can do Immigration on Monday... and they have a
fee. You will have a lovely meal at Ann's Place and the Bank will be open in the morning."
No need for nasty officials with devious ways. Just pay the fee! This was the British way. I liked it. We had a local cheeseburger and a cold
beer and got ferried back to our boat. We snuggled down for the night in our completely calm anchorage. Napoleon could have escaped... if
he wanted to.
We were ferried in at 7:00 in the morning. We wandered across the moat through the old fortified gate. The town square was surrounded by
the original old buildings: the castle and the castle gardens, shops and the oldest Anglican church in the world. Everything needed repair,
but it was historically wonderful. The main street was lined with the original guesthouses and more shops. The Earl of something slept there.
Prince Andrew came for a visit, too. They wrote his welcome across the rock up on the mountain wall. We walked all the way up to the end
where the road turns off to wind up the ridge to the top plateau. The town was gay, but the hills were gray.
"Getting an early start," nodded a fine looking local of very mixed ancestry.
There were just 5 people in line at the bank. We had no problem getting English Pounds. We wandered back down to the local coffee shop
that boasted the best coffee in the world... grown right up on those hills. There's green growing things up there? We decided to take a look.
The local mini-bus turned the corner by the hospital and started up the cliff. It was lined with an ancient stonewall... all the way. We could
look back over the sliver of a valley below and see our boat resting in the historic harbor. She looked good. Masterful.
We turned our attention to the top. Green foliage was emerging... slowly. Only when we got to the Governor's House did the lush forests and
"The trail got a little steep," huffed an elderly gentlemen as he boarded the bus. "I'm Arthur. I'm revisiting... was here in'41. We picked up
survivors from an American boat that was sunk by a German U-boat off this coast. I used to be able to sprint up these cliffs."
We pointed out our boat down on the sea.
"Jolly good show!"
And we went our separate ways.
No response from our pleading e-mails to the Brazilian Consulate. So, we turned our back on Brazil and our attention to Venezuela. We hope
the recent accusatory talk we hear on the BBC re: drug trafficking won't sour Venezuelan relationships with Americans.
Surely, the lucrative yachting industry won't be affected.
The Caribbean should be a fine sail from here. And we can get some badly needed work done on the old Angel by our Spanish neighbors. We
barely did the country justice the first time around... 5 years ago. Actually, we never did check in.! But, now we will check in, get hauled out,
and fixed up. And, Si, Senor... my little carnival skirt will do nicely in party-time Venezuela! Cha, cha, cha!
We sailed off the anchor... past the HMS St. Helena ...headed out to sea once again... and hooked a marlin.
I had read on the Internet that crime in Venezuela is still being perpetrated against yachts. Aye, the pirates of the Caribbean are still plying
So, getting work done in a yard on the Spanish Main could be a challenge. But, we are up to it! We've eluded pirates from around the world.
Surely, we can fend them off right there in our own backyard! But, we have to get there first.
It is consistent... day and night for 3 days straight... 8 knots of wind and only 4 knots of speed. Not good enough. The Captain figured 21 days
@ 8 knots of speed to Venezuela. So, if we continue at our current rate, we will be at sea for 42 days. I don't have enough eggs for 42 days.
But, I'm thinking that this could turn out to be a pleasant voyage! I break out the bikini and grab a book. I'm reading a scientifically
credible work that advocates a diet according to your blood type... and neither of us should be eating that many eggs, anyway!
I'm type "0": The Hunter Gatherer. I knew I craved red meat and berries! Jack is type "A", we think. His blood can defend his system best on
grains and vegetables. After intense comparative study, I find that the only thing we have in common is that neither of us can tolerate
kidney beans. Easy. No chili tonight!
I turn over and close the book.
The pace is so relaxing. Jack, of course, thinks he is stuck in first gear. I think it is divine. The biggest disturbance on the ocean as far as I can
see from horizon to horizon is the bobbing lure trailing from the stern of the boat.
I watch the jellyfish drift by and raise their tiny pink translucent sails. They are taking advantage of the calm sea to get a little push. Their
maximum speed is two-and-a-half times the square root of the waterline... , the same formula for our boat. However, their waterline is two
inches max. I hope they don't have to cross the Atlantic to spawn.
I know there is always a storm lurking. I can wait. These few days of vacation from the howling wind is merited. A vacation from a vacation.
I am reading James Hardy's, Far From the Madding Crowd: a classic. It is so well written... I want to linger at every word. I don't want to
turn the page.
The roar of the Big Dipper rising out of the east is tumultuous compared to the quiet of the sea tonight. It is so quiet that I can hear the groan
of the rubber dingy as it rubs in its davits. The surface is so smooth I can see the puffy white reflections of the puffy white clouds in the
We are strategically too far south to be in the Doldrums. But, the lack of wind is suspicious. We are drifting at 1 knot. We have 3000 miles to
The little spiky clouds on the horizon catch fire just where the sun will come up. The glowing cinders spread. It's 6:04. There's the rim. Within
a minute it is completely out of the water... above the horizon. And now it is too bright to look at. But, for that moment... a ball of
We are sailing along at 6 knots, We've finally found the wind. I'm glad we grilled the steaks out on the deck last night. It will be too windy
Now my worry is whether or not we can sail fast enough to make up enough time... to get to Carnival. I know we gave up the idea a long time
ago. But as we get closer to the coast of Brazil, I'm thinking: what could they do to us if we showed up without a Visa... slipped in for a day...
joined the merriment... and slipped out? They could fine us, confiscate our boat and make us crazy. Cuba invokes the right to sink
unauthorized ships off their coast.
The watermaker isn't producing any water. Now, that is a problem. Immediately, we go on water rations. Jack brings me a bucket of
seawater for washing the dishes. I fill up our water bottles with the precious fresh and secure them in the refrig. And we vow not to take long
showers... just a rain shower. The sky is blue with puffy white trade wind clouds. Now I am hoping for rain. Vacation is over.
Rain... ,more than we wished for.., more than we need. The decks are washed... the clothes are washed... the dishes are washed... I'm washed.
The tanks are full. Stop, already. And the watermaker started making water again.
The Captain has got his hand in the dragon's mouth: the UPS is dangling out and he is up to his shoulder in the black hole. This is trouble, if
we don't get it working by the time we near land...
A satellite passed over and fed the dragon. It burped and started calculating. Lucky Jack got his hand out in time.
A ship! A ship! We haven't seen a ship, a plane or another boat for weeks. Not even a small fishing boat. Not even a raft with a palm tree tied
to it. Nothing.
We've been at sea for over a month since South Africa... and we are barely halfway across the Atlantic. I've settled into a domestic routine.
The boat is rocking continually... and I am vacuuming. It's an aerobic workout just keeping my balance. Juggling the pots and pans on the
stovetop requires swoops and lunges, too! Even while sleeping my muscles grab and release as I try to hang on. I'm getting used to it.
Pouring coffee, however, needs practice.
I'm listening to the raspy BBC. Will it be Ms. Clinton, black Obama or prisoner-of-war McCain? Who will head the greatest democracy on
earth? The world is wondering.
The continent of Africa would be pleased to have the United States of America run by an African American. He could join in all their talks...
and contribute to all their solutions.
The fighting men around the globe could hang their hopes on John McCain. Perhaps he would end all their wars and bring all soldiers
home... even the ones without uniforms. But, I am wondering... who would benefit if Hillary Clinton were to occupy the White House? Bill.
Suddenly, I'm not alone on my watch. The sea is alive with darting, dancing, diving dolphins. It's a jamboree. What fun. They swarm from
all sides. I can hear them laughing.
They arch in unison. The rising sun catches them... and they glitter like gold. Then, just as suddenly... they are gone.
The squall was terrifying. I could see it raging from behind as it kicked up gray water and blotted out the horizon. I quit looking back.
I'm preparing limejuice cocktails! Our gums hurt. We could be getting scurvy. We've been out of fresh fruits and vegetables for so long. But, I
do have limes. We need only a teaspoon a day to ward off the dread disease. So, I cut the pieces small and squeeze them dry. Then we suck on
the skins to extract every last vitamin. Feel better already...
This cocktail hour is coming early... we cross the equator in 2 minutes! I'm looking for a sign, a line, a bit of commotion... something. But, the
ocean just keeps on going. Ah, there... the GPS latitude changed from S to N! It's official. We've crossed the equator at 15:22:35 GMT... for the
fourth time. I watch the South Atlantic recede behind us... then I turn and look forward to the North Atlantic... and all that we know and
love. That calls for another limejuice!
Like magic the NE wind shows up and we are on a power reach!
The squalls are blipping across the radar screen like mad dogs, They morph into different shapes as they advance howling and foaming. I'm
gripping the helm with intensity as I stare into the attack on the screen. Although reality is just a few feet away, I cannot penetrate the
darkness. I gape back at the virtual screen for comfort.
Another line of attack is forming. The howl outside just three feet from my ear is real. The waves crash and lap and slap the boat. They are
out for blood. I hold on tighter and widen my stance. I don't even notice the downpours. The gauges advance: 10 knots of speed, 60 degrees of
angle and 28 knots of wind. I could call Jack. I take a deep breath and grip tighter.
As dawn breaks, Jack emerges for his watch and flashes me a smile. He shuts off the radar, adds some sail, adjusts the course and nods as the
speed increases a couple of knots.
I glance upwind. The mad dogs have scattered. And just like that a dolphin leaps in front of me. My fear has turned to delight. I go below and
With this Force 6 wind, we did 206 miles today. Not a record, but nice.
I used 6 pillows to bolster my bouncing bunk, We have no main... we blew the outhaul fitting again... ball bearings everywhere... so we are
rolling along with the jenny and stays'il, Every wave takes us. We are doing 9 knots... and there are a lot of waves. So six pillows it is. Nicole
and Danielle's flowered ones work best.
What is the matter with the moon? It is all hazy and reddish. Looks like it is going out.
Aha! It is a lunar eclipse! Imagine that. The last lunar eclipse I viewed was from the swimming pool with Kelly.
Another equally splendid event occurred today: Hen's 95th.
I think we've done it. Yes, indeed. At exactly 4:05 in the wee hours of this morning... we crossed the straits of Trinidad and entered the
Caribbean Sea... once again.
We just sailed around the world. Imagine that.
That's a tough act to follow. But, there is a whole universe out there. Where would I go?
Certainly not to the Seven Sisters Cluster which is actually 1000 young stars spinning around... mass confusion. Unless, of course, they
strutted to the music. Maybe Sirius, the brightest star in Earth's southern sky... if being seen from Earth were still important to me.
Not the star Altair: it has this ungainly equatorial bulge from spinning so fast. No red dwarfs, either. They are about to burn out. And I must
be very careful not to be drawn toward the red super giant, Betelgeuse. It's famous... but destined for a supernovae explosion into a black
hole. Unless the black hole was the canal back to precious Earth. More likely, it would end up in Sierra Leone. No, I'11 just wander on
through the far reaches of the Milky Way and see what I can't see now. Yes, a cruise.
An eternal around the universe cruise. I like it. Jack would like it if the winds were right.
I'll be sure to bleep back a log. Keep listening.
Or, I could arrange a column called, "Bleeps from Beyond." And it would appear mysteriously in every daily newspaper... after the paper
went to press... in gold glitter.
Or, we could sail to the Med.