Atlantic Safari – Into the Cold, Dark North

I’ve never been intrigued by the ocean. The sound of the waves doesn’t soothe me, white noise. I’m not interested in swimming with the fishes in that salty water; I’d prefer any fish watching to occur in dry, climate controlled aquariums. And wouldn’t it be a glorious view to watch a sunset accentuate the peaks and curves of the purple mountains instead of squinting across a blank canvas with hopes for a milli-second, minuscule flash of green? I’ve not been lured onto a boat by the all-powerful, mystifying ocean (nor by my dashing and adventurous husband). I was lured onto a boat in order to travel; to experience far off lands. For this ocean passage I mentally prepared myself for the boring landscape and anticipated discomfort with a bit of good ‘ol positive self-talk. “It’s totally worth it…there’s plenty of chocolate on board…”

We set our iron sail (Perkins, specially designed for wind conditions ranging from zero to nil) and blazed a bioluminescent trail as we departed Bermuda during the night. The ocean seemed determined to befriend me during this passage. Already, I was oohing and ahhing more than usual seeing thousands of florescent green orbs outline the waterline as it rippled away from the piercing hull. From a moonless sky above reflections of the stars danced atop the water’s glasslike surface. We had anticipated light winds per our GRIB forecast and swapped out the jib for the genoa; a gamble, the larger sail area usually prompted heavy winds and we’d long ago agreed it was not best for passage-making. Soon, though, we hoped we could raise the sails and silence the iron’s rumbling.

The forecast held true and the genoa was the perfect selection. Rode Trip moseyed along through 5-12 knot winds and 0-3 foot seas. We went about our days as though the boat were anchored; cooking, eating, cleaning, reading, watching movies, playing iPad games all the while marveling at the calmness of the ocean. The days grew longer, sunset was fast approaching 9:00pm, and the nights grew cooler, comfortable sleeping weather. Evidence that the ocean was coming alive, increasing numbers of birds, (Shearwayers and Guillemots) we observed as we continued farther through the Northern Atlantic. How did this cold water appeal to life? I’d already retrieved a long-sleeved shirt from the bins of warm clothes I’d hoped to not ever need again. The cozy Caribbean was slowly slipping away. On day four, I was joined on my morning shift by a pod of dolphins. These seemed swifter than our familiar Bottle Nosed farther south; these were White-Sided dolphins and they’d come to escort us at the bow for a while.

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Later that same afternoon, day four, I was roused from a nap to Brian’s yell, “Steph! Whale! HUGE splash!” A sight neither of us had yet seen, Brain had actually spotted a whale mid-breach. The huge splash resulting was approximately two miles away. Our eyes scanned the water following mists from the whale’s breaths. Our lucky day! Yet again the whale breached and we saw what we think to be the head of a Humpback lunging out of the water. It was breathtaking; we smiled at one another, speechless.

Rainclouds encircled us and we put one reef in the main, “Just in case”. Twice we hurriedly took down the genoa as blasting, winds filled with pelting rain knocked the boat toward its side. Both times the sail was set again within 20 minutes once the gust had passed and both times we resumed our stagnant sailing. On day five I was entertained on several occasions by White-Tailed Tropicbirds who’d taken a liking to our windvane. The tell-tail on the windvane was flipping and flapping and the birds were apparently attracted to this would be mate. They circled close and danced with the windvane. Sadly, no amount of fluffing their tail feathers could entice the steel-hearted windvane into action. The rejected White-Tailed Tropicbirds eventually flew away toward more hopeful prospects.

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On day five, gloom lurked nearby. Gloom creeped and crawled along the horizon disguised by a veil of sunlight, clouds, and mist. The wind was light and variable, the waves nonexistent. We were soon tricked by impending gloom; it decorated our view with a mirage of mountain ranges. Yellow, grey, and navy blue colors of sky and sea blended as the gloom inched nearer and we were awestruck by the landscape before us. When we’d realized it was all smoke and mirrors, the fog had already settled.

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Rode Trip bobbed, frustrated being unable to reach teasing patches of blue sky. The fog remained like a smudge on a charcoal drawing, smearing our vision, and there we remained in a sea of gloom. I’d added sweatpants and slippers to my newly developing summer wardrobe. The ocean, still trying to make friends with this non believer, had a few more tricks up its sleeve…

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6 thoughts on “Atlantic Safari – Into the Cold, Dark North

  1. Have been waiting with baited breath for your latest blog from Maine. Congratulations on another successful journey. Very impressed and thus curious about your tracklogs. Do you have a spot on board or otherwise and how do you use it? You guys inspire me!
    Cheers and thanks Peter

  2. Wow Stephanie. This is a book in the making. I love your thoughtful writing.

  3. Peter,

    Thanks for your comment. We are excited to be back in Maine, although our blood has thinned out considerably since last time we were here. We have two ways for tracking Rode Trip. We use a spot for position updates every 12 hours while we are on passage. The e-mail goes to our web admin, Mark, as well as our families. Mark updates our passage page with our location.
    For the tracklogs posted on the site we use our iPAd to collect a track in the .gpx format which our Mark posts for us. These tracks have a lot more detail than just the spot updates. We experimented with using the SPOT for actual tracking, but we went through too many batteries.

  4. We use an app called GPS Tracks HD – I’m sure there are other options, we’re happy with this app and haven’t tried any others.

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