Crossing an ocean with minimal crew is a fantastic way to find out what you’re truly capable of. Thankfully, we didn’t have to test ourselves to the absolute limits of survival, but I can assure you, we still encountered our challenges.
Along the many challenges faced, we were also constantly treated to the raw beauty nature provides and some of the most humbling moments that make it all worth it!
This month I thought I’d share some of the bizarre and favourite moments we experienced being out at sea for a total of 30 days during our crossing from the Caribbean to the Azores and then to Ireland.
After a few days of settling in to our sea legs, we began to find peace with being so far away from anything and everything. There is an overwhelming feeling of emotion that you can only describe once experiencing it for yourself. The only way I can put it; there was no better way than to feel your soul, and it was an emotion I’ll never forget.
Our first bizarre moment was about seven days out during a dark, windless night. A blood moon illuminated the sky with a red haze and the distinct smell of sulphur filled the dewy air. The surface of the water was blanketed in thousands, if not millions of baby Man O War no bigger than three inches in length. You couldn’t find one square foot uncovered by these beautiful venomous creatures. It was a spectacle of sights and smells. Being days away from any land or ships, I couldn’t account for the sulphur scented air and have never smelt anything like it on the water since.
When we were about 10 days out, we were right in the middle of the Atlantic, with our heading pointed directly for the Azores, we decided it was time for a swim. There was one thing holding us back from jumping in. We observed an old foam buoy with a little red flag erected from it. It was floating roughly a few hundred yards off our port side and it seemed to follow alongside Jibsea for about an hour or so. I thought it could have been a current or the wind pushing the buoy along. However, the winds were light on our beam and the current was almost negligible so it still baffles us to this day how the buoy followed us. Once the sun came out, we put the bizarre buoy out of mind and decided to jump in for several minutes. At this point , it was obvious we were no longer in Caribbean waters and it was freezing to our standards. We climbed back on board, dried off and proceeded onwards. I thought I should check on our mystery buoy but it was nowhere to be seen and never to be seen again.
The best sail of our lives to this date. Who would have thought it was going to be in the middle of the ocean. We had 7 to 9 kts of wind just off our nose on a starboard tack at 20 degrees apparent with minimal ocean swell. Our boat speed was 6-7 kts but it felt as we weren’t even moving. I have no idea how we managed to move at this rate since 20 degrees is quite close to the wind, but somehow, we found a magical point of sail. The boat’s movement was calmer than most anchorages we’ve been in. The boat didn’t make a sound and we were in a groove that has yet to be replicated. I took advantage of the conditions and had the prefect sunset BBQ and even treated myself to a beer. A day we’ll never forget.
One of the wildest visuals was the first sight of land. To see the colour green was something special, after only seeing various shades of blues for the past 20 days. The green of the Azorean islands seemed exceptionally vibrant. What made the sight even more special, was the fact that the land seen was the Azores, a spectacular archipelago of volcanic islands that shoot straight out of the ocean, thousands of miles from any thing else around. With mild temperatures all year round and some of the most unique plant life we’ve ever seen, it was almost as if these islands were meant to be the first sights of land, something out of a fairytale.
With its ups and downs, all in all the first long leg of our Atlantic crossing went better than we could have imagined. However, we were not across yet and the next 10 day leg put us to the test. We sustained 30-40 kt winds for four and a half days which created some pretty epic visuals out in the middle of the water.
As the winds increased over the first few days, the ocean swell began to build 10-15 feet high. Throwing 30+ knot winds into the mix, we were in 10-15+ foot waves amongst the 10+ foot swell. It was exactly what how I’d envision what “big ocean waves” are like. Something everyone wants to see but doesn’t ever want to be in. As magical as they were to watch, my stomach felt a slight unease, especially knowing the darkness of night would soon follow. Our first night of winds into the 30s, I did not sleep a wink. The seas were the nasty kind, huge and from all directions. As day broke, the sustained wind speed and direction of the seas started to become uniform to the point where we could settle the boat into a more “comfortable” state. In those four and a half days, we experienced some of the most uneasy yet peaceful moments of sail. The rest of the passage with winds of 18-25kts and 8+ foot seas didn’t seem so bad anymore.
Once we finally made landfall in Ireland, it was an unreal feeling. Knowing that we had crossed the Atlantic to get there. Not only did we cross the Atlantic to get there, but we did so in our own sailboat bringing our home with us!
Join us for more fun next month as we are now experiencing new lands and every changing landscape as we continue North.
Fair winds and calm seas fellow Sailors!
Steph & Travis – Sailing Jibsea
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