Crossing an Ocean – Chapter III., Cape Verde – Martinique

Diary Entries:

December 6, Saint Nicolas Day (Day 8)
I woke up around 7 to the sound of the girls showing me what Mikulas brought them overnight! We were all overjoyed to have received some sweet surprises, especially as we had by now run out of all the chocolates. A nice, lengthy breakfast began with antler headgear crowning the girls head.
The boat is starting to look more and more festive …
Fried mahi-mahi with rice was served for lunch. Noon meeting: every noon all crew members gather to hear the captain share the most important information of the day: e.g, our position, our plans; you can ask the captain questions, and this is the time when we set our clocks to the new time zone if needed.

By midnight we will have covered half the distance; we sail around 140 nautical miles/day on average. In the meantime our plans for the Caribbeans and the Pacific are shaping up nicely! How exciting!
It’s raining, clouds moved in to cover the sky…
Around 7 we noticed rain ahead of us in three different patches on the radar, and in the widest strip right in front of us a storm was brewing with lots of rain and winds of 35-40 knots. There was no way we could avoid it. By the time it hit, we got more or less prepared…
It lasted for three hours, we stuck it out, it wasn’t easy. Luckily, in the darkness we did not get to see how big the waves were, but we had to hold on tight. Then we had a little break, the wind eased off to under 20 knots… we felt a bit of relief, thinking maybe it’s over when about a half hour later the second wave hit us: another 2-3 hours of storm theater. The girls took it really well, even the discomfort of sleeping with their lifejackets on did not seem to bother them.
When we spotted the storm we realized why the other two ARC boats turned south (until then they had been sailing parallel to us further north); they got caught in the storm as well.

It’s midnight, time to go to bed. Finally, I can get out of my storm gear. I carried Katika over to her bed from the saloon where she had fallen asleep. I took the lifejacket off Boró to make her feel more comfortable in bed. The weather has calmed down by now. Before crashing into bed, I make some sandwiches, as, due to the storm, we could not have dinner. Noémie relieved me a bit before midnight. There is a lot of water in the girl’s cabin, it seeped in somehow.
I have another hour or two, then I’ll be on duty again. Poor Domi totally exhausted himself as he had to stay focused throughout the storm. He did a great job steering! I’ve been fighting a strong headache, it comes and goes. Time to sleep!
04:40 I’ve been on duty for an hour. We changed sails; the staysail is supported by a pole, and the jib is also out. The mainsail is reefed to 1/3 its full size.

The wind is 12 knots, our travelling speed is 4.7 knots. We almost landed a catch twice, but both times the fish got away, the bait stayed on.
The sky has cleared out by now, lots of stars out, even the Moon stuck out half of its face.

In the morning we caught a strange fish with spikes on its back, might have been poisonous…in the end I cut it off the with the bait, it was so tough I couldn’t even cut into it.

Monday, December 7 (Day 9)

A nice, clear, sunny day with tropical heat, with almost no wind, 3-6 knots.
A real bummer: our IridiumGo got damaged yesterday in the storm. So now we can’t make phonecalls or look at the weather forecast plus Domi cannot work as effectively as usual without it. He tried to fix it all day long, but most likely both the motherboard and the modem are damaged.
Most of the seawater is out from the bottom of the boat. I tried to figure out how it got in but no real clue yet. There is an incredible number of stars in the sky, I am not bothered by the moonlight, as there isn’t any yet.
Far to the right we can spot occasional lightning. The waves are relatively small.
04:27 Domi is taking over from me now. Lightning struck right next to us, we managed to avoid it. We put the laptops, tablets, telephones and the portable VHF radio into the oven and the microwave for safekeeping. This storm didn’t hit us. Domi asked for some assistance from Alex (@seethelittlethings), a friend we got to know in La Linea, Gibraltar, who also uses this device, to change our subscription for the little Garmin Inreach. He kindly helped us, and whenever we asked for it, he sent us the weather forecast several times during our trip.

December 8 (Day 10)

Alex (@seethelittlethings) sent Domi the weather forecast: 2 days of no wind, average wind for the weekend. No sign of storm, hurricane, cyclone. Stable weather. Local showers are still possible.
Gorgeous sunrise, breakfast and a cup of coffee just Domi and I, flying fish in the background.
Now I have 1.5 hours to sleep before lunch and the noon all-crew meeting.
Noémie and Domi are pulling up Codezero, a sail for light wind. When they started it, we still had wind at 9 knots, now it’s just incredibly hot … and no wind, we need to take the sail down…
Today called for a laundry day as we have gathered tons of solar energy and water. Also, a wonderful surprize: the radar turned on, for quite a long time. As a matter of fact, just in time for us to detect a storm chasing us at 60 knots/hour. It would have caught up with us in two minutes, but we could steer away from it as the radar showed us which direction it was moving.

I helped Kati with her schoolwork, then we played “Coffeeshop” (made cookies from all sorts of materials: wooden blocks, paper wads, beads…)
Lunch: veggie cream soup, roasted chicken breast file with couscous and lemon-butter sauce.
I baked banana muffins in the afternoon. The girls and I lit the second candle on our advent wreath and sang some songs. (long overdue from two days ago, then we had the storm and yesterday I forget why we didn’t do it)
I could not sleep during the day, but I will try now… Awake again, it’s gotten dark in the meantime. I had such a deep slumber that can’t believe it’s only 9PM. The girls are sitting on top of the boat with Domi, looking at the stars and singing songs. It was the first time for Boró to see a shooting star, two to be exact!

No radar yet again. I could not go back to sleep at night, tropical storms were coming and going around us. For a while the radar came back on, we quickly checked out what’s happening around us … and now just the black screen again.
Most of our electronics are hiding in the oven, lots of lightning recently…

Midnight just passed. The starry sky in the middle of the ocean is unimaginably beautiful; especially in good weather. The Moon came up some time ago.

December 9 (Day 11)

As far as storms are concerned – we had a warm, uneventful morning. The clouds kept changing shape, new ones were born out of nowhere and grew into gigantic towers, then disintegrated. There was almost no wind. In the afternoon we had a visitor, a white seabird moved in with us and settled down under the solar panels. Not scared, rather curious. I’m only hoping it was looking for a resting place not a deathbed.

23:33 after a long while we could see a boat again. Probably it is a fishing vessel, it is moving very slowly.

Thursday, December 10 (Day 12)

06:22 At last there are no storms around us, we even have wind, 14-16 knots, so our travelling speed is 5-6 knots. I slept all night. Domi took mercy on me so I can catch up with the most needed shut-eye. We caught some weird snake-like creature, about a meter long, with razorsharp teeth.
08:35 there’s a rainbow in front of us; Domi went to rest. Our guest bird soiled its resting spot then flew away. We hope it was a farewell gesture and it can continue on its way after a pit stop on our boat. Pasta with tomato sauce and tuna was our lunch today.
I baked my very first oven-baked bread (oven and not breadmaker!) Noemie is preparing some chocolate cookies, a treat for the movie we are going to watch together to celebrate our “2/3 of the way done” milestone!

Friday, December 11 (Day 13)
A bit of schoolwork, movie for the girls, lots of rest for me, then at night pancakes using the last of our eggs. Domi is fixing the radar, he figured out last night that there’s something wrong with the cable. He stabilized the radar using two ropes so that the cable doesn’t break when the boat is tilting. Seems to be working just fine this way.

December 12 (Day 14)

460 nautical miles to go…Absolutely clear skies. This morning we had school for the girls, Kati is enthusiastically learning how to write, Boróka is reading and analyzing texts… A loaf is baking in the oven. The waves are getting bigger and bigger, but are coming from a friendly direction. In the afternoon we chowed down on some canned peaches and freshly baked bread with jelly. The bread was gone in a snap, next time I should double the recipe.
There is a boat on the radar, we can see it on the horizon. A bit of a strange bird: lots of cranes and a tower on it. For three days we’ve been keeping the same sail settings, making nice progress, five to seven knots in a 12-19 knot tailwind. It’s a real steamer today with not many storms around us. The girls and Domi went up stargazing after dinner.

December 13, Name day for Lucia (Day 15)

We had great wind all night long. The storms are moving along parallel with us. When I woke up a half hour before I was going on duty, it took me a while to figure out (with eyes wide open) where I was, and I couldn’t. I thought I was in the cockpit, but in reality I was in the cuddy cabin.
I saw more than 50 shooting stars (once I started to count them) even though I wasn’t really consciously looking at the sky during my 4 hour duty at the wheel. I would love to see a dazzling dolphin or ray at night, if not a whale at a safe distance. I should not be greedy though; this has already been an unparalleled experience.

December 14 (Day 16)

This year we won’t plant wheat on Luca’s day as we usually do at home. (it’s my mom who brings us the wheat seeds usually). The heat was hardly bearable today, we even turned on the AC it was getting so bad. At night two boats passed us. One farther away, the other at about 6 nautical miles. Our new IridiumGo is on its way to Saint Martin. Many thanks for all those involved in making it happen! (Daddy, Szapi, Edit, the support team at IridiumGo)
Domi and I can barely keep our eyes open. 6:40AM we had another 159 nautical miles to go until Martinique. No wind all day. The girls were such sweethearts, played nicely, did some art projects (made a newspaper, cut and glued stuff), watched some fairy tales. For lunch we had garlic soup and pasta with mushrooms and bacon! It turned out pretty good! In the afternoon we took a big nap, Noemie was in charge. We set the sails (it took an hour to take down the supporting rods). This is our last night. Domi and I switched duty so I can sleep a bit more. I only need to take over at dawn. The wind is blowing at a slight 9-10 knots/hour.

December 15 (Day 17)

Land ho!!! Domi spotted the lights of the island, Martinique, around 3AM. A couple of fishing boats showed up here and there at times. I came up on board around 4 to look around. When I noticed the lights on the western horizon I asked – though I knew the answer well: What’s that? It was hard to believe at first that finally we were reaching land! After a long break our VHF radio came on again. Katika woke up somewhere between 6 and 7. Imagine, you can see land now! – we told her. Wow! Quick change of clothes, lifejacket on, and already at the top of the stairs. ”But it’s only an island, and there is another small one”. “and that’s not enough?” we asked “Sure it is! Katika, we have just crossed the Atlantic Ocean, how about that?” “Oh, so soon. It seems like only two days have passed! I wanna cross it again, one more time!” “Why, was it that good?” “Not really, I just want to sit with Papa and look at the stars at night! There were so many beautiful stars every night!”

9:20 We have less than ten nautical miles to go til the finish line! We are in a sort of ecstasy as we approach the bay in front of Sainte Anne. We hoisted the yellow and the French flags on the right. We still have some popcorn, a real feast.

(UTC 16:20) We have arrived! Sainte Anne, Martinique. There are hundreds of boats anchored in the bay, but there is still plenty of space left for us. As we are coming into port giant turtles greet us, we’ve seen lots of them ever since! By noon local time we finished anchoring.
Hurray!!! Clinking of glasses, patting each other’s shoulders, we did it, we did the last 2080 nautical miles. We can’t quite grasp that we are here at last. We jump into the sea, but stay near the boat, as we can’t see anyone else in the water. We cannot really see much commotion anywhere in the bay, everything is unusually calm. You can only hear the birds chirping on the shore, interrupted by the loud breathing of the turtles. Is it siesta time? As far as we know, the quarantine restrictions have been lifted on the island today. We are trying to find out where and how to register. There is a place nearby which is open for just one more hour (till 2PM). Tomorrow, on Wednesday it will be closed. Domi and Noémi quickly get off the boat to set things in motion.
The registration takes place in an internet café, the waiter is the official administrator. You need to fill in a form on a website (name of the boat, data of crew members, captain etc.) You don’t need to present any papers, only 3 Euros for using the internet. He prints out the form, puts a stamp on it, and informs us that we have now officially entered Martinique. We need to keep this piece of paper on us in case we are asked for it. Otherwise, that’s it… We don’t really get it, but we don’t mind. True, we had an official entry permit from earlier which they had accepted, but we didn’t need to show that now either. We don’t need to go into quarantine as the 14 days on the boat crossing the Atlantic count as such, so we don’t need to get tests done either. Here on the island, we can even make cell phone calls and use the internet at European tariffs (just like at home).
What we see is like a dream. It’s hard to believe that it’s exactly like on the postcards!