… A retrospection of the previous post (08.10) as seen by Mr. Shushtari
Day 0 – 08.10.2017 (Sunday)
Today is time to leave the amazing Vanuatu. All living in the mission are dressed formally and the girls have beautiful flowers in their hair. It is Sunday, time to go to church, so no one is working, people visit each other and walk around the town. We on the other side are quite busy with laundering, packing and helping Father Berry to dismount his chainsaw.
Saying goodbye to the archbishop’s family is quite emotional. They don’t want to let us walk and we go in the body of a pick-up together with twenty kids. Alabama is in the further part of the bay as, where we were previously anchored, there were strong currents and the boat was dragged by the currents and the waves.
People on board are excited and anxious. The crew worked hard for the last few days. All sails are sewn and rearranged. Before we leave we perform a special Taiwanese ceremony to appease the god of the sea offering different gifts (flowers and food) that were arranged in different parts of the boat 🙂
Alejo has made a delicious dinner. When it is finished everyone says their prayers and we leave at 18:45 p.m. It is already dark. The plan is to sail northwest (330 degrees) and there are 1400 nautical miles to be crossed till reaching The Caroline Islands in the Federal States of Micronesia. Then there are 2400 more to South Korea itself. After the incident with Magy, cutting part of her finger, there are few “talking circles” where everyone listens to what each one has to say and then expresses their opinion on the subject discussed. This helps to harmonize the energies on the boat and there is calmness and creativity in the air.
The wind is very favorable – northeast. All sails are set. The speed is stable 8 knots on full sails. Alabama is a great yacht and a real wave breaker. Everyone is doing something, shouting, going up and down the deck. Ropes are being loosened and then tightened, the positions of the rolls are being changed in order to get the sails in optimum position. In the evening we celebrate the beginning of the Big Sailing north with a bottle of rum.
Strong wind blows from the east, we calculate it should be at least 20 knots but we don’t have anemometer to measure it properly. Waves are two meters high. Alabama flies tilted to one side. The day doesn’t go without hardships. The ring of the boom of the back sails, which holds all the ropes gets torn. The giant metal boom, which is 5-6 meters long and weighs around 100 kg, is now unattached and it swings more and more threatening to swipe away everything and everyone on its way. People start running and shouting: “Lower down the boom”. Luckily we manage to do so without anyone being hurt. Even the solar panel is untouched and intact and just one of the air conditioning systems is slightly damaged. The flying boom was really a fearsome thing to watch. We tie all the ropes to it and soon the back sail is on the mast again.
Alabama sailing – the boom is on the right
We steer the boat with the tiller – the manual system, in order to not hear the noise from the generator when we use the normal rudder. We cross 140 nautical miles with a medium speed of 5.8 knots – this is quite an impressive speed for such a big and heavy boat. We are being gifted by the the sea and the Force a giant king fish.
Aska is steering the boat with the tiller
The night shift is tough. The sails are not balanced well and steering with the manual system is hard. In order to maintain the course one needs to pull the ropes constantly – I get callouses on my hands even. At 1 a.m. the wind is getting too strong. Alabama flies with 9 knots and the French pirate Sebastian decides it would be wiser if we lower the back sail (mizzen).
The wind continues blowing strongly. We cross 160 nautical miles (medium speed of 6.7 knots!!!) As we fish a giant fish eats through the metal rope of the bait, but later we catch a smaller one – 3 meters long. It is a beautiful Oahu fish. We eat Japanese sashimi.
Today’s surprise prepared by Alabama for us is that the engine compartment is being filled with water quite fast and we can’t find where this water comes in from. The new member of the crew Alex, captain Tom and I finally manage to uncover the mystery – the hoses, through which the water is being pumped out, are clogged. The day is spent in the engine compartment where we fix the problem and get machine oil all over us in the process.
Our daily dosage of warm sunset colors
Today is time to change the bandage on Magy’s finger. It grows fast, it’s getting itchy and at night becomes naughty and wants to grab things 🙂
In the evening the crew gets crazy and people raise and lower the sails and even install a new one in the middle till 4 a.m. Finally the wind subsides and we need to lower the sails and turn on the engine.
The wind comes from the east today and it is not as strong as yesterday. The sails are properly set and the speed is 6 knots. Everyone is occupied with the usual activities. Some tighten the ropes, others cook (delicious cacao cookies), read, write or sleep. The wind changes directions often. We go through some small storms. In the evening one of the ropes is torn and the front sail starts flapping wildly.
All around us is an endless blue-ness. Beautiful dark clouds resembling mushrooms could be seen at the horizon and behind them is a veil of grey rain. The Alabama’s surprise of the day is that the engine won’t start. Accumulators are replaced, the cables are cleaned and insulated – a capricious princess is this Alabama. The problem is fixed when we disassemble and clean the starter. Work in the engine department reminds me of Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. One needs a zen-level of patience and slowly one works, rearranges and replaces. It is a pleasure to work in the underground engine compartment, or better said in the underwater compartment…
In the afternoon I go at the deck and run to lower one of the sails. I am a little careless and accidentally unroll the rope from the pulley. When I grab it it pulls me 3-4 meters up in the air. I let go and land properly but my palms are “on fire” from the friction. The crew experiences the first symptoms of “Big Brother” – people are nervous and quarrel for nothing.
In the evening I do a 5 hour shift in the calmness and coolness of the night.
Map of the sailing described in this post
Alabama leaves a trace of glowing plankton. In the morning we find dead flying fish on the deck and even the vegetarians decide it is a sign from the universe and join the feast. Wind subsides and we advance on engines. One of my eyes got exposed to too much light while I was “flying” with the rope yesterday and now even the smallest light irritates it. For this reason I need to spend the whole day in the cabin. Magy is a little sea-sick but her finger grows as a mushroom after rain.
We cross 120 nautical miles. There are 300 more left to the equator and 680 to the Caroline islands. I do another 5-hour night shift steering with the manual rudder and using compass. I am alone with the ocean. What a silence and beauty!
Day 6 and 7
The wind is weak, coming from southeast. Days are long and we continue existing in our micro-cosmos as usual. The sky and the sea envelop us in blue. The wind stops and we lower the mizzen sail, but… here comes another Alabama surprise. The engine won’t start again. Princess Alabama needs care and attention. We clean all the cables and the engine starts. Today new lights are installed in the engine compartment.
We are just fine 🙂
In the evening there is a small storm with heavy rain. We go in it and take a shower naked, screaming under the warm rain. Long sails are not good for the mind. There are 540 nautical miles left to reach our destination. The crew sews torn sails.
Early next morning there are four super-fast military cruisers passing by. We turn on the radio so that don’t start shooting at us by mistake. The wind is weak, the waves are small and we are not rocking much. Sails are lowered, but the engine fails to start again. There are some sparks coming out of the cable connecting the starter. After a careful examination it finally starts.
The navigation and steering system in the captain cabin
Today’s clouds are amazing, covering the whole sky. This kind of scenery one can see only in the open sea. The hardships with Alabama continue. We install a filter for the drinking water as it started getting rusty and respectively the engine failed to start again. All the parts connected to the starter are disassembled and cleaned carefully. Princess Alabama doesn’t tolerate halfway attendance.
Advancement is slow because of the weak wind. A new game is invented – one needs to jump in the ocean while the boat is sailing and then needs to manage to grab on the rope that other people throw and to go back to the deck without being eaten by sharks. The water is crystal clear and one can see the whole keel of the yacht even without wearing a diving mask. The rays of the sun penetrate the water to unknown depths. We find ourselves on the map and discover we have just crossed the equator and are back in the northern hemisphere after spending almost an year going around the Pacific.
The dinner is garbanzo with pumpkin and Indian chapatti. 🙂
Sea, sky, sun and clouds
The wind is moderate, northeast, 90 degrees starboard – perfect for the sailor. The fact that there are no waves makes sailing even better and smoother. All sails are set. The crew works as a team now and things get done fast and with no fuss. Everyone know their job and acts with unison with the others without much talking. The side ropes are arranged perfectly. Alabama tilts to one side and starts sailing with 5.5 knots.
The wind subsides in the evening and we turn on the engine.
There are 170 nautical miles left to Kosrae Island, part of the Caroline Islands, Micronesia. We spend the afternoon reading a Bulgarian book, which makes us cry and feel strong nostalgia. While I steer with the manual rudder a movement in the corner of my eyes catches mu attention. I start looking and after a minute a blast of water shoots up and I see the back of a giant whale coming up from the water. I see a whale for the first time in my life – and it is so close! My heart starts beating fast. The engine is stopped. Every one go on the deck and people start looking at the magnificent view. The whale puffs and comes out of the water. Then it splashes back. The view is colossal. We gaze at the mammal for a long time until we lose sight of it at the horizon. The sea is smooth. There is no wind. The silence takes us over and we decide to just drift into the sea for some time, watching the violet sun-set…
In the evening the boat is surrounded by thousand of blue and green eyes. They belong to fish that swim around the boat, drawing three dimensional pictures resembling snakes that then explode in giant mushrooms – which are the fish trying to avoid the octopuses shooting their bodies at them like bullets. Marcello wants to kill an octopus and runs around like a mad man, leaning dangerously over the handrails. He couldn’t catch any octopus -much to our delight. Instead he pulls some creature that glows in blue and can double its size. We look at it and let it go back in the sea.
We are in the middle of the ocean. Time and space seem to be still. We jump and swim in the warm equatorial sea swinging our limbs over the crystal abyss.
It is a silent and starry night. Alabama rocks slightly.
The silence of the sunrise is broken by the song of Jimmy, as we call the engine (it comes from General Motors). Alabama slashes the mirror-like surface of the ocean. We were drifting yesterday and it turns out the current moved us 25 miles in the desired direction and now there are 120 miles left.
There are batters for breakfast Little by little this became the most favorite breakfast of the crew. People are engaged in various activities – Alejo perforates ears and noses with sharpened twigs made of black palm tree; other people draw mandalas; some disassemble and fix the pulley…
I witness the birth of the wind for the first time in my life. The mirror-like surface is furrowed on some spots by the newborn wind. Two-meters long tuna fish jump around chasing fish or maybe they are being chased by a bigger predator.
We finally see the coast of Kosrae Island. Land!!! It is our first time in Micronesia. The jungle and the island look quite different than any of the Melanesian islands.
We anchor in the quiet lagoon. What miracles await us on this small land in the middle of the ocean?!
Discussing the route using a paper map