The following story is entrusted to me by my friend and mentor Cal White (WF5W). Cal, his friend T. O. (the author), and Roger skippered a Golden Hind 31 named The Penguin across the Atlantic, from England to Barbados in the spring of 1981. “The Penguin” is a matter of fact, humorous, and informative journal chronicling the adventures of these three men in a boat.
A letter to Cal from T.O.
Calvin, Dec. 25, 1997
Merry ho ho ho Christmas. Well, here I sit, in my snug little cabin in the woods, finally having retrieved my computer from the swamps of Louisiana. Jan has gone to New York to see her daughter and I am left here in the cabin, all alone (well, except for Red Bear), and, being left to my own devices I find I am my usual jump out of bed, up early, go-getum first thing in the morning fireball self, to wit, it is shortly after 11:00 am and I have not put my pants on yet.
You know someone once said there are two kinds of people in this world. The first kind jumps out of bed at first light, runs. over to the window, throws open the curtain and exclaims “Good Morning God!”. The second kind slinks from under the covers, crawls to the window, peeps through the curtain and says “good God, morning.” Well, it was a rotten miserable cold wet rainy overcast blustery kind of winter day yesterday but today has cleared up, the sun is shining, wind calm, temp in the mid 50s and hell its a fine day.
When I was in Louisiana another thing I picked up besides my computer was a file cabinet containing among other things some old papers, one of which being, as you will note, a typed rough draft copy of the log I kept on the Atlantic trip. I no longer have any idea where the original log is. The draft, as you can see, is rough indeed. When I was in Glenco, I had my secretary type this draft (no, not on government time–after hours, and I paid her per page to do it), and I went back and made penciled corrections. However, as this was pre—computer, there is no way to just go in and correct it, it would have to be typed from start, and I am not sure I am ready to do that. I suspect you read it back when I had first written it, or shortly after the trip, but I don’t really know. You will find that, besides the usual day to day log type entries, I on occasion made some psychological type observations of the crew and the interactions therewith, which you may or may not agree with, but what the hell, I am right anyway.
Long ago I actually started writing an article based on this log and I had gotten as far as Madeira. I then wrote a second article about Madeira itself, called Madeira Wine. I may at some point try to complete the entire article without the Madeira section but I will not do the Madeira Wine article at all. I just reread it and it is one of the worst pieces of writing I have ever seen. I guess writing is like anything else, sometime you turn out good product, and sometime you don’t. I don’t know, maybe I was under the influence of that wine when I wrote it.
Well, I just reread my log and I sometime amaze myself that some of the things I write are actually interesting, even when I do it in a spontaneous day to day type log. I think you may find it amusing. I probably should sit down and type it again, with the corrections, etc. Perhaps I will try to condense it and make an article out of after all. Who knows. Anyway, I will take it to town tomorrow and have a copy of it made and send it on. By the way, Cal, did you keep a log, or diary during the trip? If so, I have never seen it. I would like to see it if you did.
Until later. T.O.
The symptoms: A queasy upset feeling in the pit of the stomach; a half dizzy light headed feeling. A general nausea that makes one feel generally lousy, and wonder just when he may lose his last meal. I had been fortunate to never be bothered with sea sickness before, especially not while still in the Pan Am departure lounge, 7 days and 4,000 miles from the start of the voyage from England. It occurred to me on the way to the airport; I’m starting out from Houston, paying for a trip to England, losing two months’ work, going to spend 40 plus miserable days bobbing around on the ocean for the ultimate goal of ending up exactly where I started. Several friends told me I was nuts. Maybe I should have listened.
April 25, 1981 – Am sitting on the sailing vessel Penguin in Portsmouth Harbor, England. It’s Saturday night, one week after I arrived in England. The last week has been hectic, outfitting and loading the boat. The boatyard owner is a total ass, and has been giving us all kinds of trouble, and is most uncooperative. The weather has been incredible. This is supposed to be Spring, but this morning we had hail and right now we have snow, about one inch. We are now planning on leaving Monday morning, if everything is finished. Roger has misplaced his passport, and we may be delayed by him having to get another.
April 28, 1981 – Roger found his passport and we left Portsmouth Harbor at 9:00 a.m. local time Monday, April 27th en route to Plymouth. This is to be a shakedown leg. After motoring out of Portsmouth Harbor we raised sail as we passed the Needles and immediately ran into a minor gale. We started off by ripping the new #1 jib, and when reefing the main, we ripped one of the cheek blocks off and ended up using the roller reefing and putting up the storm jib. Have been having hell trying to get the wind vane working properly but when it does it makes life beautiful for the helmsman.
Stood my first night watch last night – cold as hell. Today the wind has virtually died and what little there is is coming directly from where we want to go. Looks like we may be another full day getting to Plymouth.
Saturday, May 2 – Day 1
We were another day, and then some, and didn’t go to Plymouth but on down the coast to Falmouth. We spent the better part of two days tacking back and forth trying to pass one point of land, (Start Point). We arrived at Falmouth at daybreak Thursday morning. Falmouth is one of the prettiest, most picturesque towns I have ever seen. We spent Thursday and Friday in Falmouth taking care of last minute rigging items, buying more food and, not least, sightseeing and enjoying the hospitality of the people, who were very friendly. I also ate a fish dinner of baked North Sea Sole, which was probably the best fish dinner I have ever eaten. We also hit several of the local pubs, which, unlike the pubs around London, were more my idea of traditional English pubs.
In Falmouth we were tied against a dock right next to downtown. It was actually a stone wall and we were tied next to the ladder leading down to the volunteer life boat. In these English sea towns they have a life boat manned by volunteers akin to a volunteer fire department which are used for search and rescue missions at sea. The boat is financed by contributions and is something the pride of the community. To be selected for the crew is said to be a considerable honor. They are very rugged boats and doubtless very expensive. The boats are all part of the Royal National Life Boat Institution (RNLI).
We pulled away from the docks at Falmouth at 8:10 a.m. this morning (Saturday, May 2) and passed Lizard Point at 11:00 a.m. heading due West. The wind is almost behind us on the starboard quarter at about 15K. We were doing about 7 -8K, which is fantastic for this boat, but we are reefed down to a storm jib and reefed main and are making about 5K now. I personally think we are reefed down too much, but Cal is on the helm and anytime the wind goes over 10K or the boat over 5, he gets white knuckles and yells for the storm jib. Oh well, we are moving o.k., en route to the Canaries, approximately 1,300 miles away. We are going to go West for a couple of days and then turn South. We will pass Land’s End in a couple of hours and we will officially be out of the English Channel and poke our nose into the North Atlantic. We have a good weather report but it is currently cloudy, spotty showers, 15K of wind and about 40 degrees F.
Here we go.
Sunday, May 3 – Day 2 – Well, here we went all right, right into the middle of a full blown North Atlantic gale. Wind 40K’s, seas 10 feet and building, barometer falling; we are being blown into the Bay of Biscay and there is a leak over my bunk – and the bad news is, the wine was not a very good year. We have not been able to hold our Westerly heading as planned because of the wind and are bearing instead due South. We are expecting some shift in the wind and if and when it does, we will shift Westerly again.
The cockpit is amazingly dry, what with the dodger and weather cloths, even though we are beating to windward and the boat, fat cow that she is, has a smooth even motion (most of the time) instead of the violent pitch of some of the lighter boats.
Monday, May 4 – Day 3 – God, what a night. We were in winds in excess of 50K’s, seas 15 to 20 feet high with the wind blowing the tops off of them and in to your face with a feel of stinging bullets. As long as one hid behind the dodger you were fairly well off, but it was virtually impossible to stick your head up.
One wave broke into the cabin and shorted out the light over the sink and smoke bellowed out scaring us considerably. Sometime during the height of the storm the forestay went when the turnbuckle snapped. We lost the use of the jib but luckily we didn’t lose the mast. We still had up a triple reefed main but it acted only as a steering sail, so from the middle of last night until about 5 this evening we have just been lying dead in the water riding out the storm. We finally re-rigged the inner forestay and put the storm jib back up, but as we are still beating to windward we are only making about 2K’s. The wind is calming now and we are going to put up more sail right after supper, which Cal is cooking in a pressure cooker on a gimbaled stove. The stove, by the way, works beautifully, and is gimbaled so well that we were making hot coffee in the middle of the storm.
We have not been able to take any sights but we got a position fix by radio from a passing freighter, and we have been blown considerably East, towards the Bay of Biscay. We will have to keep pinching into the wind to try to make any Westerly progress.
Wednesday, May 6 – Day 5 – We got sights yesterday and we have been pushed further South than we wanted but we are heading Southwest, we are not too bad off. Yesterday things just sort of leveled themselves out after the gale. The wind calmed and Cal and Roger put up the large genoa and took the last reef out of the main. The winds have shifted to the Southeast and we are on a port tack for the first time.
Thursday, May 7 – Day 6 – One of the amazing things about sailing is where all the time goes. I put that one paragraph in this journal yesterday and had all kinds of things I was going to write, all of which I have forgotten now, and something came up, and that was as far as I got.
The winds are now from the Southwest, we are still on a port tack but again under storm jib and reefed main. We are headed West Northwest, but we want to go Southwest, not North. We are still skirting around the outside of the Bay of Biscay, which we want desperately to stay out of. It is one of the most treacherous bodies of water in the world. This is because, as I understand it, the land shoals rapidly in that bay and the winds try to force the entire Atlantic Ocean into that rapidly shoaling body of water, creating tremendous waves.
I am still having to suit up for my watches, i.e. , put on heavy winter clothing and full rain gear, as it is either raining or blowing spray almost the entire time. Yesterday was one of the exceptions. The sun came out and it was actually warm and dry in the cockpit. I am writing this now on my morning watch (8 a.m. – l2n) and we are taking an occasional spray over the dodger. It is a typical gray overcast North Atlantic day. I am going to try to get a sun sight if it should peep out. I am highly frustrated with my navigational efforts. I just can’t get it to work. I need time to study and work on my tables and plotting, and every time I get started something interrupts me. Roger tries to help but he is so far above my plain that he just confuses me. I think he is getting frustrated that I can’t help him.
The boat on certain points of sail sails very well but on others, it has a tremendous weather helm. Part of that is due to the turnbuckle on the inner forestay breaking and our jury rig is such that we don’t have it tightened down like it should be. We have to keep fiddling with sail combinations and reefs, etc., to balance it enough for the wind vane to hold it. When it is set up properly, however, we can go for hours and hours without touching the helm. One of the problems is that to balance the rig we often have to be under- sailed (i.e., too little sail) and we don’t go very fast. In fact, we are making lousy time, coming nowhere close to 100 miles a day that we want. Our average speed is usually around 3 knots and we are making 75 – 80 miles per day. But we are moving some.
Friday May 8 — Day 7
Becalmed. Not only have the winds been blowing from the wrong direction, now they are refusing to blow at all. A little movement before noon – none since (8pm now).
However there can be silver linings to even no clouds at all. Calvin, our resident gourmet, used the occasion to turn the evening meal into something of a fiesta – coon-ass style. Cal had soaked a pot of red beans overnight and had cooked them this morning in a pressure cooker. I made a pot of rice, Cal made broiled broccoli and cold slaw with a sour milk sauce. A picante sauce – (hot) was added to the beans (with ham, of course), and rice and the meal was complemented with a port wine. Dessert consisted of diced pears in brandy, followed, of course, by coffee and brandy with cigars on the fantail. Cal naturally got on his ham radio and proceeded to tell the whole world about it, calling it, of course, coon-ass food.
Saturday – May 9 – Day 8
The good news is, the wind has finally started to blow – started about 6:00 a.m. Bad news is, yesterday’s run, noon to noon, was 25 miles. I have been going nuts trying to figure out my navigation. Little by little I am catching on. Today, for the first time, I actually took, reduced and plotted morning, noon, and evening sun sights. I think I took and reduced them o.k., but I am not at all sure I plotted them correctly. I have not even started to work on star sights yet, but I have tried to use the calculator, with total negative results.
Sunday, May 10 – Day 9
Lying ahull again in another gale. Reefed main up for steadying but we are going nowhere. We did, however, make over 100 miles yesterday, for the first time. Not today however. When the wind blows correctly for this boat, she moves amazingly well. For something over 24 hours we were on a beam reach and we were averaging 5 – 6 k. We had her balanced perfectly, the vane was set and I don’t think anyone touched the helm for 48 hours. It‘s strange, all of us sitting inside the boat, no one steering, eating supper and drinking wine. Roger baked a cake – not from a mix, but from scratch. Roger and Cal both like to cook and they try to out- do each other. I think I should write an article on how to gourmet your way across the Atlantic. Since my fanciest dish is a tuna sandwich, I have been doing most of the KP.
I am getting somewhat lethargic. The original excitement has worn off and we are settling into a day-to-day routine with the days beginning to sort of fade one into the other. I am, for instance, sitting here in my bunk writing with a full gale blowing outside and it seems the most normal thing in the world.
Wow — a gigantic wave just broke into the cockpit and like to have drowned Cal. It soaked the book he was reading. That’s the way it is. I am writing, Cal is reading, and Roger is asleep, while we are lying ahull in 25 foot seas, and 45 knots of wind. I personally think we should put the storm jib up and try to make some progress, but then, it was me who argued not to take it down right before we lost the forestay, so I have been out voted this time.
We have used 50 gallons of water and have about 70 left, but we are not even one third of the way to the Canaries yet. The books say you should use a gallon a day per man and we have been using about two gallons per. Must watch it.
Other conditions: Of the four sails Roger bought for the trip, we have so far ripped three, including the main. The only reason we haven’t ripped the fourth, I guess, is that it is the large light weather drifter which we haven’t put up yet.
Progress report—I may have to use my other three weeks leave just to reach Barbados.
Tuesday-May 12—Day 11. Barbados hell—to reach the Canaries. And speaking of the light weather drifter, we put it up yesterday and it is currently flipping loosely in windless airs on a totally becalmed ocean. And that’s the way it is—lying ahull going nowhere in a gale, or bobbing up and down in total calms. We are eleven days into what was supposed to be a 13-day trip and we are not yet halfway.
Weather—much warmer—Yesterday we were sitting in the cockpit shirtless soaking up the rays. The wind is still cold and at night one still has to dress warm but I have put away my long handle underwear and I am down to one sweater instead of two, and I spent all yesterday wearing my deck shoes instead of my sea boots.
We were mostly calm yesterday, so we spent it making repairs and adjustments etc. And, of course, we put up the big drifter, which is one of these cruising, or poleless spinnakers. Damn nice sail. Even in a very few knots of wind it moves you. Unfortunately, we don’t have a few knots of wind.
Cal just got a bucket of water to flush the head with. The head has been one of these sources if irritation that one has to live with on a boat. It doesn’t work, or, it does work, but only partially. It is on the starboard side, and with the boat on a starboard tack, the intake is out of the water and it won’t flush, which means one can’t use it to take a shit. The port tack is all right, which has led us, of course, to rename them the shitty and shitless tacks. We have become somewhat adept at the use of a bucket in the cockpit, and trying to sit on a bucket on a freezing cold rainy night, in a half gale, trying to communicate with nature.
How quickly we forget. Last night I slept like a baby on a nice calm boat. The night before, in the gale, we were being beat around to the point that I could barely stay in my bunk, even with the lee cloths up. Cal tells me that on one particularly large bounce, he saw me completely lifted out of my bunk and hang suspended in mid-air. I didn’t sleep too good that night but the amazing thing is that I slept at all, but I did. We do adapt.
The water is full with literally thousands of what I think are miniature Portuguese men-of-war, which is somehow appropriate, as we are off the Portuguese coast. They have their little sails up and they are only one to two inches long, in comparison to the ones I am used to, about 6 to 8 inches in length.
I believe I will study navigation some more. It still is not going too well, though, I can do sun lines and a noon sight. Roger got a good star fix last night, and since it is cloudy right now, I am not going to worry about the sun. My problem is still plotting the running fix. I’ll get it though, sometime.
Wednesday-May 13, Day 12
Becalmed again—still. We have motored most of today. We are trying to use the big drifter again but we are just barely moving. Cal just got the weather report via the short wave and they say no wind predicted for several days yet.
Perhaps I should be giving a daily position report. Right now we are off the coast of Portugal, just north of Lisbon. We have been out 12 days on what was to be a 13-day trip and we are still not half way.
Sat in the cockpit about noon today shirtless, with hat and sunglasses and almost got sunburned. Of course there was no wind. It is still sweaters, coats and gloves the rest of the time.
Another big lunch today. Took Roger about an hour to fix it. A baked tuna casserole, green beans in a sauce, baked potatoes, and applesauce made from fresh apples. We will be out of “store boughten” bread by tomorrow, but we have been supplementing it with fresh baked bread which is great. One simply adds water to a premixed flour mix, then we knead it for about 5 minutes and it rise for 45 minutes. Bake it for about 50 minutes and voile, fresh bread.
We are moving so slowly, we are thinking of altering course to Madeira, which is north of the Canaries and closer to us.
Thursday, May 14-Day 13
It is amazing how ones’ spirits on a sail boat are tied to the wind. It’s blowing!!! Hallelujah, amen, it’s blowing and the big drifter is pulling like a Missouri mule. Blue skies, calm seas, sunshine and the world looks great. Snow, rain, gales, high waves—I don’t remember such things. We look something like a Chinese garbage scow, what with all our wet, moldy laundry hung off sails, flag poles, halyards, and the like. I dig my long handle undies out of a locker last night and the smell damn near gagged me. They are currently tied to the reefing lines on the main sail. I fear they may rot a hole on it.
It has been decided to alter course to Portuguese Madeira instead of the Canaries. Madeira is about 200 miles closer. It is not the developed tourist spot the Canaries are, but it’s land.
Didn’t sleep well last night. We were virtually becalmed sitting flat and level, no motion, and I couldn’t sleep. During the storms, I slept like a baby. Wonder if there is a lesson there.
And speaking of storms, how quickly one forgets. Was taking and working out sights today, and there was a nice level horizon, a steady table to work on and it seemed perfectly normal. However, when we were trying to take sights in 20-foot seas and trying desperately to find a horizon between the valleys and mountains of water while locking ourselves in the nav station trying desperately to hold on to the books, paper and pencils, that seemed to be normal too. The navigation station is situated such that, in a storm, one takes his life in his hands to try to sit or stand, at it. And you can’t really decide what you are going to do, half sit on the steps or half stand bracing against them.
Friday-May 15 –Day 14
Damn, where does the time go? You stand your watches, eat, take a crap and the day is gone. I try working on celestial navigation in the meantime and it’s coming—slowly. Sun sights, that is. I haven’t even tried the stars yet.
We have decided on Madeira, instead of the Canaries. Knocks off something over 200 miles. We have had three days of good steady winds and, if they last, we could be in Madeira late Monday or Tuesday. Fourteen days out and we are already short of water and we have long since run out of munchies, candy, cookies, etc. The trip to the West Indies could easily be twice as long. We are planning on getting about 20 gallons of the wine that Madeira is famous for. Well, we have to supplement our water with something.
The weather for the past three days as been beautiful. Warm days, cool nights, calm seas and steady winds. We are below 73 degrees now, and we made 120 miles yesterday. There is a big beautiful moon out now and Cal got so moved by the scene that he wrote poetry during his watch last night.
One loses track of time. It appears incredible that we have been at sea for two weeks. It seems like 4 or 5 days.
This traveling by self-steering vane is great. I adjusted it (the vane) once on my watch yesterday at about this same time of day (10:00pm) and I don’t think anyone has touched it or the tiller since. It’s the only way to fly.
Think I will make myself a midnight snack before waking Cal for his watch.
Sunday May 17—Day 16 34⁰ 31’ N/14⁰ 03’ W Two hundred miles SE of Madeira
No entries yesterday because all my writing was in the form of a letter to brother Bob. Nothing much to say anyway. Made about 60 miles. Light winds from the SW, which is, of course, the direction we want to go. We are just kind of making our days, hoping we can reach port—any port. Weather is beautiful, blue skies, chilly wind, warm days, cool nights. Just trying to keep moving.
Monday May 18—Day 17 33⁰ 41’N/14⁰ 17’W
Got something of a shock this morning. The winds have been from the SW but we have continued going south, though we were afraid we were being set something east. Roger’s morning star sights showed us a full 60 miles further east than we had thought. That put us as far from Madeira this morning as we were yesterday morning. I immediately took a sun line and my position put us back where we thought we were in the first place. On checking we found that Roger had worked his sights from yesterday’s nautical almanac date. So my piddling navigational efforts have finally born fruit. We are perhaps 150 miles out and the winds are pushing us due west for the first time. With luck, which we haven’t had much of, we will see the lights tomorrow night.
The other tack—For 16 days, except for very brief periods, we have lived with our world tilted to the left. Today we went on the port tack and we all have to learn a complete new way of living. Everything that over the days we have found little nooks and crannies for now come out of hiding and fling themselves unceremoniously across the cabin or crash to the cabin sole. The clevis for my coffee cup has mysteriously disappeared; I now have to walk uphill to reach the sink and the navigation books and instruments keep sliding downhill away from me. We no longer know where the hand holds are because they are not the ones we have been using, and Cal is complaining because he is now rolling out of, rather than into, his bunk. But there is conciliation—the head works—we are on the shitty tack.
Tuesday – May 19 –Day 18, 17:45 hours—land ho
Isle de Puerto Santo, 3 points off the starboard bow. Roger made first sight. This is the first island in the group and we are probably 35-40 miles off it, so our anticipated landing on the Island of Madeira, at the town of Funchal, is mid tomorrow. It’s actually exciting to make a landfall, just like you read about. It’s a high mountainous island that just jumped out of the ocean. Beautiful sight.
Sunday, May 24—Day 23—Day 1 from Madeira.
Well, my world is back to normal, everything at a proper 25-degree slant, sails up, fair skies, and good winds, with the island of Madeira sinking slowly astern and our nose pointed for the West Indies. We weighed anchor at 9:45 am, landed 4 inches below our water line, after taking on food, fuel, water, and 30 liters of Madeira wine. Don’t know if it’s going to be a fast crossing, but it should be a happy one. But I must digress and fill in the last few days.
We sighted land on Tuesday afternoon and pulled into Madeira harbor Wednesday morning. The evening before arrival, however, while still perhaps 20 miles at sea, a small bird with black wings and red markings, something like a robin, landed on our tiller and hopped from place to place about the boat. He was a land bird, obviously exhausted and downwind of the islands. He was so tired he completely ignored us and just rode on the boat. He then flew down inside the cabin and started bashing himself into bulkheads, fixtures, and what not. I caught him and put him in a bucket that I lined with towels, hoping I could keep him safe until we neared land. No luck, he died during the night. It’s amazing how something like that can sadden one.
After we anchored, our first thought was to get a hotel room and a shower, but we decided we would clean up some before going ashore and after taking a good sponge bath in the unrationed water, we decided we were perfectly clean and quite content to continue living on the boat, which we did. Rowed ashore, stepped on land and felt no instability, no rolling motion, nothing. Perfectly stable.
Madeira is a mountainous volcanic island and Funchal is one of its only natural ports. It’s a beautiful city of about 100,000 people, who, as I shall describe later, are some of the friendliest, most helpful people I have ever met. We flew the Q flag before going ashore but no one bothered to check on us and we never had any contact with officials. We first cashed traveler’s checks, mailed letters and then walked around town scoping out the various shops to see where we might purchase the various items we needed. It is not a sailboat town, so it took some doing to find the parts we needed, most of which we got in hardware stores. Something like a bilge pump, we just didn’t get. We did get one of the sails repaired at an umbrella shop, we got laundry done, which was curiously, the one relatively expensive items we came across. As for food, Cal found a vegetable market, bakery combination and we loaded up the day before we left with potatoes, snacks, apples, oranges, carrots, cabbage, avocados, limes, and whatever. The man also baked about a dozen loaves of bread at the last minute for us. We got canned goods at the local supermarket and some of the items we are not totally sure what they are.
Going back; after dinner the first night we went to the Club Barbarella, the local disco. Or rather, we went by it, decided it was a waste of time and effort and we never went back, nor did we try any of the other tourist spots on the island. For the rest of our time, we confined ourselves to local restaurants, bars, and people.
Our second day, in the afternoon, we went to the wine district, not in town—in the mountains. We took a bus to the town of _______. The bus was one of the “people buses” that was as ancient as the hills, themselves and rivaled a booming volcano in noise. The town we went to was about 20 miles away and the price was 24 escudoes, or about 40 cents. Incidentally, a taxi ride around town generally cost about 45 escudoes or about 75 cents. The bus followed the coast for about 10-12 miles and then turned into the interior, ascending this narrow, steep winding mountain road, billowing smoke and grinding gears at every turn. The first thing one notices, besides the breathtaking view, was the terraced hills, every square foot of which were in use for crops. The grape vineyards were the most noticeable, but, depending on altitude, they also grew bananas, carrots, potatoes, and other vegetables. The soil was a beautiful deep red-brown and everything was irrigated by a stone or concrete duct which ran at a slope through the fields. I noticed several road gangs and several of the workers were apparently no older than 12-14 years.
We had our maps in our laps and were excited as we could be, looking at the panoramic vista. Several people on the bus appeared to be as happy as were were that we were enjoying ourselves so much, and one man, Johnnie, took a particular liking to me and just babbled away incoherently in Portuguese, not a word of which I could understand. Johnnie we found, was going the same place we were and he took it on himself to be our local tour guide and goodwill representative. He immediately took us to a neighborhood bar, really just a hole in the wall type place, and we got a glass of wine, some bread and cheese. Bought him a glass of wine as well and this is when we were introduced to the local method of wine drinking. Drinking, not sipping. He simply took the glass and upended it. Our idea was to buy several 5 liter jugs of wine and we tried to get the tavern owner to sell them to us. Nothing doing. After a glass or two more of the wine Johnnie herded us out to a local taxi and an odyssey began. Up the road we went, local music playing on a tape deck at full volume with a stop every mile or so at another tavern, more wine, a church, a stop at every pretty view on the road for pictures, and finally an old winding one-lane cobblestone and dirt road trail going higher and higher into the mountains. The car finally stopped (I say finally stopped, it stopped intermittently at every tavern along the way) and Johnnie and the driver ushered us out along a footpath until we came to a sheer cliff where we were overlooking the crater to the volcano that formed the island. The drop was 1,000 to 1,500 feet, and nestled in the valley, or floor of the old crater was a small town. It was one of the most ruggedly beautiful sights I have ever seen, rivaling for majesty and ruggedness the mountains of Colorado and Alaska, and they took us there simply because they knew we would enjoy it. Pure egregious friendliness. Then back down another winding dirt path, stopping every mile or so at, not taverns, per se, but more like country stores, completely in the middle of nowhere, no signs on them, no way of telling if you didn’t already know, thinking they were stores, they just looked like someone’s house. The houses, incidentally were all masonry with red tile roofs and appeared to be substantial. At the very highest elevations, these were a few thatched roof houses, but by in large, the natives did not appear to be a poverty stricken lot. The higher elevations, incidentally, grew large trees, which appeared to be some type of pine. Anyway, we finally wound our way back to the main road after having gone through I don’t know how many glasses of the local vino en route. By now we were getting into drinking the wine the native way, in one gulp. One reason for the quick gulping of the wine, I speculate, is that some of it was not very good. I can’t say how young some of the wines were, but at least one or two doubled in age that day.
Wednesday, May 27-Day 26 (Day 4 from Madeira) 28º 48’N/ 21º 40’ west
I am getting lax in my diary entries. It’s interesting that my last entry (above) was about the wine we bought. We drank some of it yesterday—ye gods, it’s not bad, it’s horrible. We must have been stoned out of our minds when we bought that stuff. And we have 30 liters of it.
To continue my saga, our taxi driver took us to first one and then another small family winery, which is where we purchased the five liter bottles. I really don’t understand it. At the time it seemed like good wine. Anyway, we must have gone to five wineries, because we ended up with five bottles. The cabbie took us back to the dock, and we rowed him out and showed him the boat, had a couple more glasses, rowed him back, and showed him on his way. Rowing back to the Penguin, I stopped by a boat that had docked beside us a couple of days before and invited its occupants over for a drink. They were an interesting couple from Denmark, name of Lars and Helena Jensen, who were cruising with twin four-year-old girls named Anna and Pia. Lars recently finished medical school and Helena is his nurse wife. They had just come from the Canaries and were bound for well, wherever one who cruises is bound for. We had a lovely evening.
The next day we spent provisioning. Cal and Roger bought groceries, picked up the laundry and we took the boat to the fuel dock for diesel and water. Cal, bless his soul, has a way of making instant friends, and the foreman of the boat yard somehow became our personal benefactor. While we were loading water, Cal had a least a half dozen kids aboard showing them around and making friends with them. Roger mostly stood by with a rather strained look on his face, sure, I’m certain, that half of his boat was either going to be broken or stolen.
Speaking of Roger, he is such an intense person. Sharp, well-educated, but still young in so many ways, and he so desperately wants to be captain of his ship. But his is still subject to some very human errors. For instance, when pulling away from the mooring en route to the fuel dock, he backed over the anchor line and got it tangled in the prop. He had to go over the side to clear it. Then, when reanchoring—yep—again, and back over the side. That prompted the comment that while we fancied ourselves as Drake, Magellan, and Columbus, we functioned more like Larry, Curley, and Moe. Cal said he was going to use than analogy in one of his articles.
Well, we worked all day like hell, it was our last night on shore, and Saturday to boot. We showered in the cockpit with our two gallon sprayer (all three of us, and there was still a gallon left), put on our clean clothes and hit the town. We had dinner, decided we were really too tired for anything and were back on board by 8pm. Well so much for the wild raping and pillaging sailors. But then, there is still Barbados.
We have had four solid days of beautiful following winds and we are finally making our 100-mile a day average. What this old sea sow lacks in going to weather she makes up for going down wind. We have been wing and wing the whole time and there are times when she passes 8 knots going down waves. Hell to steer, though the vane just doesn’t work that well in following winds.
Thursday, may 28—Day 27 (28º 08’9 W n?22º 16’ W
My last entry was about how good the winds were. They died yesterday and have been light and variable ever since. We motored several hours today and made only 60 miles, noon to noon, our last run. And speaking of light winds, I have discovered that torture more miserable than anything the Chinese ever thought of. Trying to run a sailboat in light variable winds with large following seas. Just enough wind to flap the sails back and forth, back and forth, never coming from the same direction with the seas coming from behind, rocking the boat left and right, left and right. You can’t steer, you can’t go, can’t stop and you roll and roll and roll. It’s the most frustrating experience in the world. I took down the jenny, put up the drifter and in trying to get the whisker pole down, lost a halyard up the mast. Spent 45 minutes trying to get it back with the boat hook and it always stayed inches away. By the time my watch was over, my blood was about to boil, I was so frustrated. And in 30 minutes I go on watch again and still no wind.
Cal has a radio contact named Doug who is in the Canaries, who is on a 38’ wooden sailboat coming from who knows where and going the same place. Doug has been tantalizing us with references to his crewmembers, or friends, or whoever, all of whom are women. Today he had all three of them on the radio talk to us. I shaved, cleaned up, combed my hair and set around looking for a passing freighter going to the Canaries. But alas, I have to go stand watch instead.
Friday May 29—Day 28 (6 from Madeira)
Well, I feel bad. Not only has it been a blah windless day, most of which we have motored, (as we are doing now), but I’ve apparently got us lost as well. Roger has not been able to take stars for the last few days and I have been doing the fixes each day using the sun. Well, it’s a clear evening and at sunset Roger set up to take star sights. Only none of them are where they are supposed to be, which translates into we are not where we are supposed to be—or at least where we thought we were. Damn, its been a blah day. Don’t know why—weather is beautiful—warm days, cool nights, calm seas—boat is flat and level—of course, there is no wind. But I haven’t felt like doing anything. I obviously still haven’t started trying to do stars. I brought several books and I don’t even feel like reading them.
Cal has met some interesting people via his radio. There is a couple who are currently about ¾ the way across the Atlantic on our same course to the Caribbean who are in a 24-foot rowboat, named Excalibur. They are from Rhode Island and started the trip in Casablanca, then the Canaries, are going to Antiqua and on to Rhode Island. They are unfortunately too far ahead of us for us to catch but it would certainly be interesting to do so if we could. They are scheduled to make landfall about a week ahead of us.
I feel better. Roger found the mistake and it was his—not mine.
Sunday—May 31—Day 30 from Falmouth; 8 days from Madeira 25º 24’ N/23º 54’ west
30 days from Falmouth—Jesus, and that doesn’t count the week previous from Portsmouth. Winds have been light to calm. We have been making 60-75 miles a day, some of it motoring. Some statistics: we have gone 560 miles from Madeira and have 2,137 yet to go to Barbados. This is direct miles, which of course we won’t go. We keep looking for the trade winds, which we hope to pick up any day, with good luck. Don’t know why we should plan on good luck concerning winds, we haven’t had any up to now. Roger is on watch right now and he stated the winds are shifting more to the north. They have been west, which is, of course, the direction we want to go. We have planned a southern route, adding several thousand miles to the distance, just to insure that we got following winds, and we have been beating into them for the majority of the way. The trade winds are form the NE and perhaps we are picking them up.
We went swimming yesterday. Damn it felt nice. Boat was sitting dead still in another calm. Spent most of this afternoon rigging an awning over the cockpit. It’s getting downright warm. I hardly wear anything but shorts except on the night watch when it is still pleasantly cool.
Cal learned today via his short wave radio that his oldest daughter, Cathy, had her second baby last night—an 8-pound boy. It’s the first boy in Cal’s family, and they named him Calvin Jamison Dane, named of course after Cal. He is beaming, of course. I talked to Frank Chadwick on a phone patch and got assurance that he would grant me whatever leave I needed. I knew he would, of course—what else could he do. However, I was pleased that he was very cordial about it—makes me feel better.
Monday—June 1-Day 31 from Falmouth—Day 9 from Madeira 24º 35’N/25º 38’W
Winds have stayed from the NE -15-18 knots. I think, I think, we have finally found the elusive trade winds. We are running right down wind. The good news is, we are making good time (106 miles yesterday). The bad news is, Gertrude (the self-steering vane) doesn’t steer worth a damn down wind. Our solution has been to take down the drifter, though I hated to—she pulls like a mule—and put up twin jibs polled out to either side of the forestay. The sheets are run back to the tiller and its steers like a dream down wind. But, we have lost about one knot of speed. We have two large genoas which I think we are going to try to rig. Will see.
Wednesday Jun 3 Day 33 from Falmouth—11 from Madeira 22º 38.6’ N/28º 52’ west
We have been running with the two jibs poled out wing and wing since we put them up. Wind has increased and we have not put up the big genoas. Made 122 miles noon to noon yesterday to today.
There is an interesting phenomenon happening from the navigator’s point of view. We are going south and the sun’s declination is moving north and we are about to cross paths. The sun has been rising each day so that at local noon it is getting closer and closer to vertical. Vertical of course is 90 degrees and today noon sextant reading was 89 degrees 42.3’. Tomorrow or the next day it will pass 90 degrees and go from south of us to north. This makes for interesting sight taking. Since the sun is always due east or due west of you, morning and evening azimuth lines run east and west and the only north south lines one can get is at virtually noon. To get a fix then, one takes a sight at local apparent noon (LAN), and about 30 minutes before and after LAN. Within the space of an hour one gets and E/W latitude line and two N/S intercept lines 30 minutes on each side of it. It makes a nice fix, but it is the only time during the day you can get a good sun fix.
Concerning the noon sight. When one starts taking the sight shortly before noon, you are facing due east. Than at LAN, the sun swings within a few seconds from east to south to west and there is no pause at the top that one generally associates with the noon sight.
Cal talked to his brother Tom in Ohio via short wave this morning and phone patched through to a friend in California at the same time. D’Wayne Jernigan was phone patched to us through a friend of his in Miami, so we were talking on two phone patches to Ohio, California, and Miami at the same time. Ah, the wonders of modern communciations.
Calvin and Roger are engaged in their perennial argument of government vs. private industry. Cal, the good government man, extolls the need for government to control the excesses of big business while Roger, the company man, waxes long and hard at the need to get government control off the backs of private enterprise. This argument lasts generally for about an hour every day, never, of course, to be resolved.
Friday Jun 5—Day 35 from Falmouth -13 from Madeira 21º 07’ N/32º 53’ west
Have been running with the twin jibs poled out since we first put them up. Making a consistent 5-6 knots. I think there is a giant conspiracy plotting maliciously to keep me from taking start sights. I was all geared up to take them last night but we had to eat first. Calvin broke out the Madeira wine and we sampled the one bottle we had not tried. Believe it or not, that one bottle is drinkable. So, we had a little drink, and another and then we had coffee and brandy after dinner, followed by Wild Turkey and water. Somewhere in all of that, sight taking got lost. We had spent the day working on boat projects, braced the dining room table, rewired and moved the light that the big wave shorted out, moving one of the kerosene lamps, etc. Anyway, it was all that work that gave us reason to relax so much at dinner. We got bombed. Then Cal got on his radio and we called half the universe, got phone patches to everyone, and invited most of the free world to join us in Barbados. And they just might do it. But was are making good time. In fact, we have made 243 miles in the last two days, or 125 miles each day. At this rate, we will make Barbados in 13 days, meaning, timewise, we are half way. We may make it by June 18, but this is very optimistic.
Saturday June 6-Day 36 from Falmouth-14 from Madeira 20º 31.6 minutes n/34º 36’ west
Where is the mustard?
I just took a cursory count and the boat has in the neighborhood of 40 separate lockers, drawers, shelves, bins and other sundry storage areas aboard, with about 28 of them in the main cabin. Stuffed in these various crevices are spare parts, tools, nautical supplies, clothes, blankets and a 30 day (minus some) supply of food. The things that one uses every day, like clothes, and the things that have specific areas of residence, such as tools, are no trouble keeping up with. But what does none do when one decides he needs a can of mushroom soup? But worst of all are those items that one uses periodically, like mustard, which was on the table day before yesterday but which mysteriously and maddeningly moved, apparently from locker to locker, by themselves.
“Where is the mustard, Cal?” “Dunno. Wasn’t it in the forward port locker over your bunk?”
“Yes, but you were using it yesterday, and I don’t know where you put it.”
“Me? I didn’t put it anywhere. I thought you put it back on the shelf behind the flour.”
“Where is the flour?”
“The middle locker beside your bunk, behind your t-shirt.”
“Oh. No, it’s not there. Roger, have you seen the mustard?”
“Yeah, I think someone put it in the ice chest under the table.”
“I looked—not there.”
“Well hell, where did you put it?”
“Look, if I knew where the damn thing was, I wouldn’t have asked.”
“Well, you should be more careful about where you put things.”
“Where I put things? Calvin is the one that had it.”
“I didn’t have it, you…”
We ate in silence for the next three days.
Man, are we getting lethargic. The wind has been steady from the east. The twin jibs have been steering us on precisely 240 degrees true, right on our line; we have not been standing watches, we all go to sleep at night and we have all fallen into a sort of mañana attitude. I put on a pair of short pants when I get up and perhaps a t-shirt late in the evening. I’m not even sure where my shoes are. Cal has not even bothered to zip up his shorts—says it’s a waste of motion to unzip them. I baked bread this morning and considered that a major effort of the day. Even navigation has ceased to be a great challenge. I take about 3 or 4 sights a day, all around noon, and lazily plot them whenever I get around to it. Cal always gets up earlier than Roger and I and makes breakfast and coffee and Cal or Roger usually make supper in the evening. I do the dishes, we have a drink sometime in the afternoon and go to bed at night. Hell, aint’ nobody minding the boat. It’s more work sailing in Galveston Bay. But I guess that’s what trade wind sailing is all about.
Monday June 8 -38 days from Falmouth 16 from Madeira 19º 13’ N/38º 15’ W
I guess I really should have started dating this log from Portsmouth rather than Falmouth. To do that I would have to add another 8 days, making this 46 days out. In Houston, we saw a four-day trip as a major event. Here, we just treated it as a shakedown in preparation of the actual start of the voyage. Saturday night Cal go on his radio again and we tried some telephone patches to the states. We called, I think, eight people, of which only one answered. We all got to feeling kind of low because no one wanted to talk to us. You know, the old phenomenon of getting all dressed up for Saturday night and no place to go. Then Sunday came and we decided to honor our regular tradition of a light lunch and a large Sunday evening meal, with wine, port and brandy on the fantail. So we had crackers and hors d’oeuvres at lunch, along with the last of the good bottle of Madeira wine. One small glass—7 ounces. Then we opened a bottle of the wine that was left—two small glasses. All three of us lay down, half plastered and slept until about 9pm. That’s not wine—that’s poison. But this morning we all got up in fine moods, beautiful Monday morning, fine weather, good winds, Cal fixed biscuits and gravy and black eyed peas for lunch. One can have this fancy food just so long, then you need to get back to basics to fill your gut. Damn I feel good.
Oh yes, I was supposed to be back at work at 8am this morning.
Tuesday, June 9-30 days from Falmouth, 17 from Madeira, 47 from Portsmouth 18º 29’ N/40º 00’ W
Nothing really new. The days just melt, slowly, one into the other. The first leg, from Falmouth to Madeira, was 19 days, but we were much busier what with standing watches, fighting storms, agonizing over calms and fighting the bitter cold weather. The trade winds are steady, warm and tremendously monotonous.
We are almost out of beer. For some incredible reason we left Portsmouth with only two cases for a 60-day trip. Hell, we used to take that much for an afternoon trip to Red Fish. We have been splitting one can of beer between the three of us about twice a week, and sipping it like good wine. The wine, on the other hand, has to be gulped like water in order to stand it. I think the world is turning backwards.
Wednesday, June 10—4 days from Falmouth 18 from Madeira 48 from Portsmouth 18º 02’ N/40º 35’ W
Heard on the radio today that Curtis and Kaltheen Saville in the rowboat Excaliber arrived in Antigun this morning from Casablanca, after 49 days, 20 hours at sea. Now that is some record. They will probably have a baby due to this, and if it is a boy, will doubtless nickname him Wart.
We are still on our first tank of water, and are in our 18th day on it. We used one tank the first time in 10 days. Other than that, there are not a hell of a lot of things different. Cruising has got to be the ports one goes to and the things one sees. The passages in between can be boring as hell.
Thursday, June 11, 41 days from Falmouth, 19 days from Madeira, 49 from Portsmouth 17º 23.5’ N/42º 15’ w
The boat: a Plaque mounted on an inside bulkhead reads:
Golden Hind 31 No 39 9 Ton bilge keel sloop LOA 31’0 LWL 26’9 Beam 8’10” Draught 3’6” Built at Plymouth April 1967 by Hartwell Boat Builders, LTD Mayflower House, Armada Way, Plymouth, Devon, England
She is hard chined, long keeled, high sided, shallow draft, narrow beamed, short rigged and plywood planked. Auxiliary power is a 10 horse, one lung Saab diesel pushing a two-bladed variable pitch prop.
She is rigged with a low aspect short mast with a single spreaders and a long boom supported by 6 shrouds and twin fore and aft stays. She has a deep, high combed cockpit, a large lazarette, and high stainless steel pulpits fore and aft. Sail inventory includes the original main, and number 1 and number 2 genoas. The primary sails are now a new main and a new No. 1 and No. 2 genoa. Both the new main and the No. 1 genoa have been fitted with reef points even though the boom is rigged with roller reefing. Also included are a storm jib and a large drifter which is attached at the tack, head and clew but does not hank to the stay. These are the number of things that have been done to turn the basic boat into an offshore ocean passage maker. A dodger has been added as well as weather cloths to the sides of the cockpit. Safety net has been strung on the lifelines from the fore pulpit back halfway the length of the deck. Heavy lines have been added to the cabin top, just outboard of the hand rails, for the attachment of safety harnesses. The unusual life ring is attached to the stern pulpit. Inside, hand rails have been attached at numerous places and lee cloths have been fitted to each bunk. Besides the usual electric lights, four kerosene lamps have been added. Several doors, a 50-gallon water bladder has been put under both the port and starboard settee bunks, which supplements the normal water compliment of 3 five gallon (English) water cans, plus one in the head. A gimbaled kerosene stove was moved from the port side by the sink and placed on a platform built over the end of the starboard bunk, leaving a space underneath for a sleeping person’s feet. An oven was placed in the space the original stove occupied (correction: the kerosene stove was replaced by a propane stove with the propane bottle being tied town on the lazarette.) A place was made in a locker in the kitchen for each pot, pan, skillet, and cooking bowl. The navigation table is over the starboard quarter berth, and folds down to become a backrest at that location. Instruments are a Palistimo compass (French), a Seafarer depth sounder and a Stow trailing log. Both the depth finder and the log operate off independent internal batteries. There is a quartz chronometer and a barometer. There are also a handheld radio direction finder and a handheld UHF marine radio. There is also a Panasonic multiband receiver. Electric power is provided by three batteries, charged by the engine generator, a wind generator and a solar panel. What else? A Taylor’s paraffin (kerosene heater) is in the main cabin, three dorade vents on the cabin, a spice rack near the stove, and of course Cal’s ham radio with its antennas hanging all over the boat. Oh yes, we should not forget the star of the show, a QME wind vane.
Friday June 12 42 days from Falmouth, 20 from Madeira, 50 from Portsmouth 16º 48’.2 N 45º 08’ W
One hundred thirteen miles noon to noon, 860 yet to Barbados. It’s a long way to Tippiriary—and across this pond. Couple of minor items of interest today. Cal ran down one set of batteries while talking on his radio, then switched to the second set—and rand them down also. To be fair, they were probably run down mostly with the running light we leave on at night. However, we had to hand crank the engine to start it and the water pump went out and almost burned it up. Took the pump apart and found a piece of plastic—like a BB shot, jammed in one of the valves. Works fine now.
Getting hotter at night. Sweating a lot in the bunks. We emptied the first water tank today. Cal calculated that we used 3 quarts and one cup of water a day a piece. They say that one gallon a day per person is ample and so it is.
Still anticipate landfall on the 20th—Saturday, one week from tomorrow. Early Saturday, if we speed up—late if we slow down. My sights are getting much better. Out of five, I usually only have only one that is really bad, and I make much fewer mistakes in working them out.
We have seen virtually nothing out here. Two sea birds, one turtle, several flying fish—nothing else. No boats, no airplanes, no cars, no trees, no hills, no buildings, no litter, no people—no—well no anything except water.
Saturday, June 13—43 days from Falmouth, 21 from Madeira, 51 from Portsmouth 16° 19’N/46° 52’W 103 miles noon to noon.
Well, that is the last time I am going to complain about not seeing anything. We were contentedly eating a midmorning breakfast when the boat crashed into an object with a loud thud and large shudder. We sprang on deck and about 20 yards behind us saw a whale kick his tail up and disappear into the depths. We have apparently suffered no damage, but to all of our minds, came the thought that of all the Golden Hind boats that have crossed the Atlantic, the only one that didn’t make it was hit and sunk by a whale. That boat sunk in 20 minutes and the family ended up spending over 100 days in a life boat. We sat here contemplating the odds of our particular boat hitting that particular whale at that particular instant in the specific spot in the ocean. Cal and my instantaneous reaction was a response conditioned by 20 years each in law enforcement. We instantly got the shotgun. Roger is at a loss to understand that. Why not the sextant he asks, or the water cans, or anything except the gun. I don’t know. I guess you would have to ask Pavlov. But it may go deeper than just police training. When one comes into conflict with something, I think it is human nature to try to fend it off, or stand against it with whatever tools, weapons, or means one has at his disposal. It is just that with police training, the gun is the first weapon, or means, that comes to mind.
We passed two psychological barriers today. One, it’s Saturday, and as we are planning on a Saturday landfall, each succeeding day from now on will be the last of its kind, i.e., Sunday will be the last Sunday, Monday the last Monday, etc. And another barrier, more subtle perhaps but equally important; we came to the fold of the map, and are now on the other side.
Sunday June 14—44 days from Falmouth, 22 from Madeira, 52 from Portsmouth. 15°52’N, 48°47’W
We start the morning, right after breakfast, with Roger and Cal’s argument between Government vs. private industry. Sometimes this gets very tedious. The more they argue, the deeper they become entrenched in their various positions. The subtleties of the relationships on board are somewhat hard to capture. Cal, for instance is a great BSer and he likes to razz people, and goad them and in general try to get a response, a rise, out of them. This in turn, leaves him open to counter attack, which he fends off with great enthusiasm. I attack him about his snoring and he kids me at great length about my navigation, etc. But these are the more obvious interplays. Others are more subtle and more serious. One that goes on and on almost daily is what I would call the fight for electricity. If we are not standing watch at night, Roger mandates that the masthead light be burning. This uses a lot of electricity which Cal sees as being in competition with the amount he needs for his radio. Roger is not very keen on the radio and views it at best as tolerable and at other times a complete nuisance. It drains, in Roger’s view, an inordinate amount of power from other, more important systems. It also lets the world know all about what is going on the boat, which to Cal is absolutely great. Roger, however, would prefer that the world went away and left him alone. Since Roger won’t come right out and say he doesn’t like the radio, the battle takes place over the electrical drain and the need to run the engine to charge batteries, and Cal’s needling both Roger and I about leaving the cabin lights on, or not turning off the masthead light soon enough.
The radio is Cal’s one weak spot. He takes it very seriously, and sometimes spends several hours a day talking on it. I’m afraid I side somewhat with Roger. I don’t understand why someone would want to spend hours talking to total strangers about whatever comes to mind. I mentioned to Cal that amateur radio made as much sense to me as amateur telephone, in which one dials a number at random and talks to whomever answers about nothing in particular. Cal takes rather violent exception to that, though I’m not sure I understand why. I guess, in Cal’s case at least, there is a large amount of ego gratification involved. It would take a certain amount of ego, I think, to blindly broadcast one’s voice onto the airways of the world in the expectation not only that someone would respond to you, but would give a damn about what you had to say. Cal appears to take it for granted that the world is very eager to hear from him and he often goes into some detail describing our day-to-day lives. But the real proof of his ego is when he turns the radio off and beamingly explains how much he has made so and so’s day with his contact with him.
Monday June 15, 45 days from Falmouth, 23 from Madeira, 53 from Portsmouth 15° 29’N/50° 27’W 99 miles noon to noon 544 miles to Barbados.
Tuesday, June 16, 46 days from Falmouth, 24 from Madeira, 54 from Portsmouth.
Roger is sitting cross-legged on his bunk, Cal is drinking his coffee standing up and I am sitting on my legs writing. We all have a bad case of the sore arse. We have been sitting too long.
Man, we did it again last evening. Three more glasses of that Madeira vino tinto and it wiped the entire crew. Recalling how awful I said that wine was after we first tasted it, we have somehow managed to do in about 23 of the 30 liters. But, as Roger says, we haven’t gotten scurvy.
My sights are concerning me a little. I take 5 or 6 around noon, starting about 30 minutes before LAN to about 30 minutes after, as well, of course, the noon latitude sight. For the last several days, the line of position for all the sights have crossed about four miles below the noon latitude line. I don’t really understand why. However, I am confident of the position to within 5-10 miles, which, they say, is perfectly acceptable for celestial, especially with using just the sun. One other thing, Roger has taken no sights at all and he says he is going to let me take it all the way in, which means I will have in actuality, navigated the boat completely across the Atlantic Ocean. Assuming of course, that we find Barbados.
Concerning our electricity problem: last night, instead of burning the masthead light, we hung a lantern in the rigging. Worked ok.
Wednesday June 17, 47 days from Falmouth 25 from Madeira, 55 from Portsmouth 14° 44’N, 54°19’ W, 126 miles noon to noon, 316 yet to Barbados.
It’s afternoon, we are sitting in the cockpit, listening to rock music from Barbados, relaxing after a mid-Atlantic swim, eating crackers and drinking next-to-the-last bottle of this delicious Madeira wine. Amazing how good this vino has become. This is the bottle, if we recall, that was three bottles worse than the one we labeled cooking wine.
We got in a real spendthrift, go-to-hell attitude yesterday, and we each drank a full beer. One whole beer each. That leaves us with exactly one. Oh well.
I’ve been busy as a little beaver. I have spent the last two or three, I forget, days sewing a new cover for the windless from canvas. Hell of a nice job, if I do say so myself. First time I ever used a sail palm. Thoughts: This is probably the first time since I left Kountze, 29 years ago, that I have gone 25 days without putting on a pair of shoes.
We only have about 2 ½ days left to go and for the duration of this voyage and the length of this diary, I feel I have yet to capture the true essence of the trip. The interplay between the three of us and the boat, living in roughly 80 square feet of space, day after day, week after week; the things we do that get on each other’s nerves; the ways we accommodate each other so that we can continue to get along; the ribbing that we give each other; the perpetual argument between Cal and Roger; Cal’s continual kidding me about my navigation; the subtle interplay over the use of electricity; the sitting in the cockpit, in the evenings, sipping progressively better wine, watching the marvelous sunsets, not really worrying about anything, our moods controlled by the weather and the winds; and the interplay between us, the boat and the sea. Oh, the sea, how she influenced man’s life through the centuries. The tempest she can be when she decides to be a bitch, the loneliness she can be when the waves are gentle, the breeze steady, and the moon shimmers over the water. There really hasn’t been that much sailing in the sense of running a sailboat, changing sails, handling the tiller—we have pretty much set it up and left it alone.
Thursday-June 18- 48 days from Falmouth, 25 from Madeira, 54 from Portsmouth, 14°18’N/56°00’W, 101 miles noon to noon, 215 to Barbados.
On this date, in the year of our Lord, one thousand nine hundred thirty-seven, in the Midwest American hamlet of Dumont, in the state of Iowa, was born to the proud and honorable parents of Calvin G. White, a baby boy. May God have mercy on their souls.
Cal has had several memorial experiences, or should I say, way points during this trip. His 2nd daughter turned 21, his first daughter had her second child, and he turned 44.
Well, we are getting close to landfall. We are anticipating this one a great deal more than we did in Funchal, largely I think, because the first leg of the trip was so difficult that it kept us constantly busy while this leg has been extremely monotonous. We haven’t changed the sails in about three weeks. We should make Bridgetown around noon Saturday, if all holds well.
A flying fish about 7” long landed in the cockpit last night. Had him for breakfast. They are damn good eating.
My sights for the last few days have been peculiar. The lines of position were all crossing about 5 miles away from (below) the noon latitude line. I checked my watch and found a several second error and the sights I have taken since have been right on. Today I got some of the most consistent fixes I have had so far. I can work a sight out now in 10 minutes. Contrast this to when I started when it took me half a day.
I have been looking at the chart. Damn, Barbados is a small island. We are only 200 miles out, yet an error of only 2 degrees in either direction will cause us to miss it. Two degrees, and our self-steering rig often wanders 10 to 15 degrees each way. The straight line distance from Madeira to Barbados is 2604 miles. Add to that probably 30% for us not going in a straight line and we have covered around 3385 miles of ocean.
Friday June 18—49 days from Falmouth, 26 from Madeira, 55 from Portsmouth 13°52’N, 57°18’W, 78 miles noon to noon, 135 to Barbados.
As could be predicted, 2 days out and the GD winds dies. A 78 mile day. At this rate, we are looking at midnight tomorrow night. Saturday night. Damn, what a rotten time to get in. We will miss being able to go to town on a Saturday night, and Christ, do we need to go to town. Hell, we can’t ever get Customs clearance during the night and may not be able to get off the boat until who knows when Sunday. And channel fever is building up a rapid pace. They did, finally, finally put up the big sails after we slowed down to two knots. Hell, I would have had them up three weeks ago and we would be in town right now.
It’s hard to believe how antsy everyone is getting. They kidded me about my navigation today, as they have very day since we left Madeira and I got just royally pissed. Calvin is already packing his bags and gathering up his radio gear and Roger, as usual, is painting. He has repainted half of the boat since the start of the trip. And now I have to worry about having to hit this speck of an island in the middle of the night. Damn I wish we could speed this so and so up. I have a feeling I am going to be taking sights all day long tomorrow. On top of everything else, Roger has friends waiting to meet us in Bridgetown and they will be getting bored or worried about us being late. It’s going to be a long day tomorrow, and if we don’t see the island before dark—a longer night.
Oh, we saw a ship last night. The first sign of man we have seen since we left Madeira.
Saturday, June 20, 50 days from Falmouth, 27 days from Madeira, 56 days from Portsmouth-13° 10’n/59°30’W
1310 hours—LAND HO!!! Two thousand six hundred four miles, great circle, probably closer to 3,000 actual from Funchal, Madeira to Bridgetown, Barbados, 27 days at sea and at precisely 1310 hours an island 12 miles wide and 18 miles long popped out of the ocean exactly where it was supposed to be. And with a plastic sextant and a 30 dollar watch, I navigated every foot of the way. It’s a 20-year-old dream come true.
At sundown we were paralleling the south coast of the island en route to our anchorage when we caught a small rainstorm. The sun came out and a beautiful full rainbow formed off the post side with the ends hitting the water—apparently several hundred yards away from the boat. As we watched, the rainbow’s ends tightened together and moved nearer the vessel until they finally came to rest on the water only about 10 feet off the bow and stern of the Penguin. None of us had ever seen the end of the rainbow before and now we had both ends virtually within touching distance. We took it, in good sailor fashion, to be an omen.
We had not a good chart of Bridgetown harbor and the one we had showed an anchorage by the yacht club with the police pier nearby. We dropped anchor about 10pm, not really knowing if we were where we were supposed to be and rowed the dinghy toward shore, looking for the police pier. We didn’t find it but landed on the beach, took a breaking wave and soaked the fresh clean clothes we had just put on. I also lost my only good pipe. We inquired of the first person we saw where the police pier was, and then followed his point. In another 100 yards, we came to the yacht club and again inquiring about the police pier, or police station. A porter offered to call them for us. We thanked him and waited. I only wish I knew what he said, for in about 10 minutes a station wagon load of plainclothed police descended on us, and instead of helping us find customs, scooped us up and whisked us to the station in a totally unfriendly and accusatory manner. We were thoroughly questioned and then detained in the police station until 10am the next morning when we were taken by rubber dinghy out to our boat. They then escorted us from the anchorage to a pier, where 15 police, Customs and Immigration officers boarded us. It was only after we were able to talk to Customs and Immigration that we were able to satisfy them that we were not whatever the hell they thought we were in the first place.
They finally left in a fluster of apology but they ruined about 14 hours of our time. To be fair, they were never anything but polite and proper and in fact, while we were at the station, we went out for Kentucky Fried Chicken and then had the friends who met us on the island bring a bottle of gin and tonic which we and the police proceeded to partake of.