Seaworthy: Hell is cold and wet, part III

Ready for more of Capt. John’s written refuse?

This is the third installment of passages from my log of a North Atlantic Ocean crossing I undertook at the tender age of 24.

05/27/93 0-5 3-5 0045GMT 38.21n x 26.53w

Somewhere between Tercerira and Sao Maguel Acores. One hour into my first watch of this second day of cruising. Yesterday started off fine with N.W. winds at 20 knts, had the jenny poled out and moving along nicely in the six-foot following sea at 9 kts. Around 2000h it died and we went to engine. This does not bode well, as we only have diesel enough for four to five days motoring. Listened to the weather last night. It said to expect a moderate low pressure S.E. of our position.

05/27/93 0-0 0840gmt 38.16n x 26.02w

Where is the wind? Plenty of rain but no wind.

We sailed to Gibralter from Horta Acores

all we got for our trouble was salt water sores

The wind was on holiday, the sea was like glass

in fact, the whole thing was a pain in the ass.

I’m going fishing see ya later.

Ask and you shall receive. We got wind all right, forty knots worth of wind. Feast or famine, I always say. Yeper 45 knots right up the backside coupled with, of course, 16-20’ wind driven breaking waves. This is confirmed, by the way, by Magna Magics’ B&G computer, so don’t just take my word for it. This fun and excitement lasted about 24 hours with the wind and waves gradually receding. Spent the 27th and 28th looking at a storm I had seen before and truthfully didn’t want to see again. Especially on my first day out of port.


So that brings us up to the 29th, well the 29th was simply beautiful with 15 kts out of the west, 3-6 foot following seas, great. We had the main and mizzen boomed out hard to port with bow and spring lines. Also we had the genoa stuck out the spinnaker pole to stbd (jinniker). It was too easy. Making 10 kts with almost no sense of motion.

Today, all that is but a memory. No wind, but no rain either. All in all it is a beautiful day. It has to be at least 78 degrees and not a cloud any where. I am wearing shorts and no shirt as opposed to yesterdays long underwear, jeans and sweatshirt.

I would love to invite you all to dinner, but I’m afraid that would be a tad inconvenient. We are having fresh swordfish steaks with baked potatoes and a tossed green salad. That’s right 3,500 miles of fishing and nothing. Today it was so nice I had to try again. Of course, my hopes weren’t too high of anything biting a cheap plastic lure at seven knts. But a young swordfish (83”) decided it looked good to him. It took 20 minutes to land him as I was taking no chances on 30# line and spinning gear. By the way, I saved the bill for all you doubting Thomases.

We should be in Gib by the second.

Well I guess the time has come to enlighten you with greater detail of my exploits during the last several weeks. As you have undoubtably gleamed, we are two handed sailing*

*Note literal translation; “no sleep, pissy mood”*

Four hours on, four hours off, you can bet your sweet hinny I have the auto pilot working better than its manufacturer ever dreamed. Its not all bad though. As I write, I have Hanah Boel cranked on the stereo, jamming up. Geoff, if you’re listening, you must buy this tape. Make you break down and cry man.

I digress. As I was saying, the three paying charter guests, as well as the captain, jumped ship in Bermuda (maybe they knew something). Willi, C.P.T. Willi, now, and I hung out for two days waiting for a replacement charter that never showed. We then had some grief trying to get money out of the owner. Eventually, it was worked out and baby bunting went a hunting. The first couple days were pretty routine. Then the wind went S.E. at 18 and we got to really sail the boat. For a week straight we had her heeled to twenty degrees at no less than eight knots. A hard pounding stbd tack. Before, with captain and company, seven was pushing the hull speed to God help you if they spilled a beer. 135 miles a day was really moving to them. So we were sailing our brains out for a week, great.

I never want to see another whale as long as I live.

I had made radar contact with two other boats and then talked to them via VHF radio. After inquiring as to their positions and date of departure from Bermuda, we found that we had left a day later than both boats and were passing them at 9 knts like they were in reverse. Naturally I asked them to race, the loser buying a round of drinks at Peter Cafe Sport upon everyone’s safe arrival. And that is how the International Drinking Team was established. From the crews of three boats we have one yank, two English, one Swiss, six Norwegians and six Swedes.

A description of the boats: S.V Nordkap, 102’ steel ketch with a square sail and everything, absolutely gorgeous. She hails from Denmark and is owned by Stephan, One of the nicest guys you could ever meet (she was in New York for the tall ship parade). I can’t say enough about her crew, twelve very extraordinary people, it takes team work to run that boat. Lady Christine a 48’ ketch from Norway skippered by, no kidding, Thor! a crew of six crazy guys all my age who belong to a Harley club in Norway. And you thought hanging out with South Africans was fun.

Anyway, no sooner had I made the bet than The Storm (the center being 42 degrees n by 46 degrees w and having a radius of 400 miles. That is a diameter of 800 miles for you dropouts.)

Norfolk weather reported barometer readings of 991 millibars, winds in excess of 65 knots and wind driven seas greater than 35 feet proceeded to land on our poor white heads with both feet. After having our port genoa sheet (3/4”) blow like a shoe lace and take the sail with it. The odds were somewhat evened.

About the whales

Every time I saw a whale the weather turned lousy. And just my luck those harbingers of disaster were in good attendance. Scary big, scary close. 20 meter sperm whales as close as 5 meters from the boat. Losing sleep in a big way. Even as they were awesome to watch, one couldn’t help thinking of the consequences if one of those big rascals decided to scratch his ass on our rudder or center board. Finished, game over, cash out John and Willi.

After the third day of getting the living (explotive) beaten out of us we came to the obvious conclusion that we were traveling the same rate and direction as that bully that was picking on us. At this point, discretion heavily out-weighed valor. I voted to turn south and Willi was in ready agreement. We really didn’t think it would work and it didn’t. The seas and winds were pounding us twice as hard after the bow pulpit twisted and the port forward port-hole literally blew in, bringing in a few hundred gallons of wet stuff with it. We decided to hove too, you know the rest.

We lost the bet. Lady Christine beat us in, by two hours, oh well.

Stay tuned.

If you would like more, it’s a simple thing. E-mail the Eagle and ask for more submissions. Its no work for me as I’m cutting and pasting from a dusty old floppy.

You may e-mail Capt. Campbell with questions, comments and ideas for topics you would like to see him address at or 389-9769. Campbell AMS is an Accredited Marine Surveyor associated with the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors, The American Boat and Yacht Council and the Collier County Marine Trades organization.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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