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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Epilogue

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We arrived at Fort Lauderdale after motor-sailing through the night. The extra diesel that we got from the passing ship helped us to keep up a decent speed. All of us were relieved that the voyage was over. It was a long haul mentally, the stretch from St Maarten to Fort Lauderdale. You start to wind down mentally because the end of the voyage is near, then most of your troubles come to the fore. However, we overcame these mental blocks and sailed safely into harbour. The funny part was that we observed proper protocol by calling the harbour master and asked permission to enter harbour. We got a somewhat terse reply. Then we realised that nobody bothers, they just enter and leave as they please. And our puny little 39 ft (12 m) boat appeared to be one of the smallest ones around. We were dwarfed by the larger motor yachts and super-yachts playing around on the sea and in and out of harbour. This while big ships were entering and leaving harbour.
Perhaps we have much to learn.
The mosquitoes devoured us in the marina, which is dredged out of the Everglades. Luckily these are not the Anopheles that carry malaria. I am still nursing a gazillion mosquito bites. I am taking an anti-histamine to relieve the itching. Something to remember in your planning; plan for conditions at your destination as well.
In retrospection, we have had a good trip. Lots of opportunity to learn something new. We took along a Spanish course on CD and progressed some way. But you need an opportunity to speak the language, else the learning goes for a six. You also need some decent discipline in the group aboard to keep it up. One person will have severe difficulty in keeping the practical exercises alive.
I took my sextant and reduction tables along yet again. This proved to be somewhat therapeutic, the open sea navigation. Gives one a sense of where you are. In addition, I think the dead reckoning skills that you develop by doing this will stand you in good stead in coastal navigation on shorter voyages. It keeps you alert and whelps a lot with situational awareness. Something that you tend to lose when looking at a computer screen only. Remember, you are on a boat, it helps to look outside from time to time. And not just for the proper lookout thing either. Vaal dam sailors will be very aware of this, as you can beach your boat quite easily over there.
You also need something to keep the group together on board. We took a pack of cards and another pack of UNO cards. These were quite popular and we would have a league for the whole voyage. The card game provides some way of letting off steam, so the crew tend not to get 'cabin fever' and lose their sense of decorum.
This time around we took along a backgammon board. This works well, as we were three people on board. So, while one would be preparing dinner, the other two would play backgammon. Another game allowing you to exercise your aggression.
Reading is quite a big pastime on board. This time I had a Kindle, an e-book reader. This is a boon, as it enables one to have a lot of books but little weight. On the first trip I had to ditch all my books at the destination, as it constituted too much weight to fly back. Remember, you fly back. The e-reader also gives you the opportunity to read at the airport while waiting for your flight.
On this trip I managed to wade through Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence (of Arabia, that one), Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need, The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene and Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. Three books by Chelsea Handler, one of which is about her one-night stands, a start on The Prince and The Pauper by Mark Twain and some of the Magician's Nephew, part of the Tales of Narnia, nogal.
I also perused extensively the book Classic Sourdoughs Revised by Jean Wood and Ed Wood. This one gave me the inspiration and helped me out of trouble when I almost had some mishaps with the dough.
Heavy reading, perhaps, but you have sufficient time to digest what you read. I also got through a major part of The Power of Now by Eckhard Tolle towards the end of the trip. This helped me to overcome the mental and psychological fatigue of worrying over sufficient fuel and food and the planning associated with that. You need to stay sane and on the ball.
Then there is the music. You need a lot of music. We had quite a variety on board, ranging from opera to heavy metal and pop. Don't forget the classical stuff and classic jazz, not to mention Piaf and some of the more modern soft vocal jazz artists. BB King and Gary Moore. Jacques Brel, Bruch, Beethoven and Mozart,Handel. Led Zeppelin, Amanda Strydom, Laurika Rauch, Cindy Lauper, Cliff Richard, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joan Osborne, to name but a few. You need variety, else you get bored by your own music. Fifty-nine days at sea is a long t ime.
People nowadays use an MP3 player and earplugs.
Personally, I have a problem with that when in confined waters with lots of traffic. I think it is distracting when on watch, but then I am getting long in the tooth anyway. A caveat then, perhaps. But you need music. It is quite an experience to be listening to Edith Piaf or Maria Callas while surfing down the swell at fourteen knots. We played music on the sound system in the afternoons when everybody was awake. The sleeping hours tend to diminish after some days at sea, as your body clock grows into the routine and you chill into the quiet atmosphere of the boat and the sea.
The sprout growing is also a good pastime. It takes up very little time and provides good fresh food. And eating fenugreek sprouts will help keep your blood sugar levels down.
The bread making was the highlight of the trip. I nursed my wild yeast sourdough through all the weather and used the last of it for the last leavened bread. I could not feed it and did not need to anyway, as we were at t he end of the voyage and the stove had been decommissioned and polished for hand over. The bread tasted wonderfully delicious and was a lot heavier than commercial bread. Being heavier it lasted a longer time and we got the idea that it is a lot lower in GI (Glycemic Index.) It means the bread is a lot heavier than the ones you buy in the shop. We had the opportunity to try out various combinations of flour and preparation methods, giving us a reasonable experience in what works and what not. For example, sweetcorn in the dough does not taste overly good, but the bread is edible. You need a different combination of flours to make it worthwhile. Dawid had a bash at making bread as well, a useful skill to have at home. So we had some transfer of technology, so to speak. Perhaps we are now slightly better house trained. I shall certainly do this again. You don't need an oven, as most of the bread can be made in a dry pan, lightly oiled pan or deep oil. Take your pick. The vetkoek-style flatbread is quite handy on board, as you don't need a bread knife, thereby easing the logistics of handling food during adverse weather. Deep oil in a pan is dangerous, so do keep it in mind when cooking on board.
The storm that we encountered in the last two days at sea transpired to be the tropical storm Isaac. To me it felt like a huge thunderstorm. It built up for a long time, clouds thickening on the horizon, the humidity growing to unbearable levels in the oppressive heat. Then it lasted for about two hours, blowing us around like a leaf in the wind. This catamaran is not built for these conditions, being square from various angles. But the boat is quite sturdy and we made it without much ado. I got very wet, but that's sailing for you. It is a water sports after all.
Fishing is always on the cards. Make sure that you know how to handle the fish when you want to get it aboard. Or remove the hook to release it. We caught several snoek, queen mackerel to some people. These have teeth. We also caught a billfish or two. These things are dangerous, especially the bigger ones. We talk here about the ones that only just did not manage to snap the line and get away. They are big and heavy, as in over 40 kilograms (or 90 pounds), and you may sprain your back getting them out of the water.
Having said all this, the question remains: will I do it again? The answer is an unequivocal yes. The open ocean provides an environment for a complete cleansing and detoxing of the soul, not to mention the clean air and quiet solitude. And the beauty of the little Caribbean islands amongst which you sail, quietly taking in the sights and fragrances wafting in from the land as you pass.
Well friends, this is all for now. Another voyage over and the jail doors slamming shut behind you as you go from the freedom of a seaward existence back to the land and its bureaucratic institutions.
I do not know what the future holds for me, but stay in touch. Perchance I shall sail some more and discover new places and more of the inner nooks and crannies of my soul and share it with you.

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-12

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