The Babelfish - A Sailing Catamaran Goes Transatlantic

The Babelfish took off across the Atlantic from Norfolk, VA at about 10:00 a.m., May 18, 2005.
26 days 15 hrs 36 minutes later, we made it to La Rochelle, France.

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(end of day)
Nautical Miles
Average Knots
May 18 (10hr 52m)
37 24N 075 06W 64
May 19
38 00N 072 24W 137
May 20
37 18N 069 27W 159
May 21
36 39N 065 32W 202
May 22
36 28N 063 19W 119
May 23
36 12N 060 47W 127
May 24
36 06N 058 35W 109
May 25 36 03N 056 06W 123
May 26
36 08N 052 21W 183
May 27
36 14N 048 34W 183
May 28
36 21N 044 39W 190
May 29
36 34N 040 55W 182
May 30 37 11N 037 00W 193
May 31 37 42N 033 27W 174
June 1 38 12N 030 06W 163
June 2 (12hr 55m) 38 32N 028 37W 64
Norfolk to Horta, Azores 2380
June 4 (9hr 23m) 39 00N 027 21W 74
June 5 40 07N 024 22W 158
June 6 41 36N 021 46W 150
June 7 42 47N 019 13W 140
June 8 42 04N 016 18W 144
June 9 41 57N 013 17W 141
June 10 42 40N 010 07W 153
June 11 44 00N 007 17W 150
June 12 44 38N 004 31W 128
June 13 45 50N 001 29W 153
June 14 (4hr 35m) 46 08N 001 10W 27

Trip Totals
Total Nautical Miles: 3793
Total Time: 26 days, 15 hours, and 36 minutes
Time at anchor (Horta, Azores): 49.7 hours
Average Speed: 6.43 knots
Direct Distance, Norfolk-Horta-La Rochelle: 3530 nm
Average "Velocity Made Good: 5.98 knots

Photos from Babelfish

Photos at Horta

Photos from the Mast Top (Horta)

More Photos from the Azores

More photos from Babelfish

June 14
06:39 a.m. local (11:39 p.m. Oklahoma time), position 45 01N 003 13W


      Mike Lied about the Pirates.

We have made it to France, safe and alive. The boat is still above water also. 'Twas a long journey but it only seems like we left a few days ago. It was fun while it lasted, having nearly unlimited reading time and no phones and television. Also, never worrying about the time except for sunrise and sunset and being able to sleep during the day and see all the stars at night, without city lights hiding most of them. In other news, my potato farm disappeared. I suppose someone was tired of potatoes growing in the kitchen. There was a whale swimming alongside our boat the other day and many dolphins have been around the boat. In a few hours we will be standing on terra firma.

Mike's exiting arrival at the other side of the Atlantic update!

Why the heck did we do this anyway? Well, consider that you're talking about people that climb mountains. For what reason? I've never been sure about that either. Bob has climbed a lot more than me, maybe he knows why.

Bob and I started talking about this around five years ago. Why? I have no idea. To begin with we didn't know much about any boat bigger than a bass boat. The internet made it easy for us to look up a lot of stuff about all kinds of boats.

Our initial plans (did I use the word plan? oops). Our initial thoughts were about a power boat of some sort. We looked at power boats of all sizes. Two engines with a messload of fuel appealed to us. There were some Norwegian trawlers that seemed to fit the bill. But they were sure slow. We had already flown ourselves across the ocean a couple of times. It was hard to comprehend traveling at six knots for weeks.

We would talk about boats and things for a few days, or maybe even a week or two -- then we'd forget about it for a few months. We were in the middle of building an airplane for goodness sake. We didn't have time to do too much boat research. Or at least we didn't spend much time doing it.

Eventually we discovered that there were some power boats with small sails. That sounded kind of good in case we broke our engines. Or ran out of gas. But they were slow, too. By this time a couple of years had passed. The slowness of all "ocean crossing" boats was surprising to us. In 1996 we had taken a 15-foot red boat from Muskogee to New Orleans. We took Serge, too. That boat went about 50 miles an hour. We spent a lot of time at 50 miles an hour, too. It sure was rough (ask Serge!). But at least we were moving.

More time passed without us doing much of anything. Then one day in January, 2003 we came up with the revolutionary idea of using sails as the main propulsion for crossing and having a motor to back them up. We were beginning to come to grips with the fact that any boat was going to be slow. Since neither of us had really been on a sailboat, and only small ones at that, we decided we should spend some time on one.

So we called up and chartered a barebones sailboat for four days in Marathon, Florida. The next morning we loaded up our plane with goodies and headed down to see how we liked sailing. After a shopping spree at K-Mart for more food, fishing poles, and lures, we headed to the marina. The boat was a 46' monohull. They wouldn't let us go alone, so we hired a captain for three of the four days, per their requirement. It took us at least an hour to load all of our stuff in the boat. Then off we went. Less than 24 hours after the sails-for-propulsion idea struck us we were sailing!

We spent the next three hours tacking, jibing, and learning how all the stuff on the boat worked. Bob and I were used to flight training and we peppered the poor guy with constant questions. We wanted to know every emergency procedure, every what-if, why this, and why that. All the time we were constantly tacking and jibing. Both of us, then one of us, then the other. "How was that one," we would ask, "what should we do differently?" We must have tacked 50 times and jibed 30 times.

At the end of three hours the guy basically said "uncle." He told us that he thought we knew enough to sail safely, and he would turn us loose if we felt alright with that. We tempered our enthusiasm and replied coolly "that would probably be OK." We headed to the dock to drop him off. We were free! We were free and in temporary possession of a sailboat!

As soon as he was off the boat we took off for Key West and the Dry Tortugas. Four days later we returned to Marathon. We reached a number of sailing mileposts in that trip. We ran aground, we dragged an anchor in a storm, we ran the boat batteries down to almost nothing, we bent a winch (no, not a winch handle), and we drew a crowd while trying to dock in Key West. Also noteworthy, we didn't use 90% of the things that we took with us. We were becoming seasoned sailors. Sailboats seemed OK with us.

About a year and a half passed. Our families were on an Alaskan cruise. This is noteworthy because it made for a lot of reading time. Kenny, Bob, and I had been reading Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle (a three book series) by Neil Stephenson. We regularly discussed different parts of these books because they are really funny and interesting. Part of one of those books talks in detail about Daniel Waterhouse sailing across the Atlantic in the early 1700s.

When we talked about this it occurred to us that we really should get on with this sailing across the Atlantic thing. We kind of set a goal to do it the next summer. With Bob's son, Brian, getting married on July 9, and my daughter's high school graduation exercises occurring on May 16, that pretty well determined our sailing dates. All we had to do was get permission from the bosses.

I was a little bit worried about this part. However, Patty has been excited along with me and for me. In other words, she didn't exercise her right to veto. Yay! I'm not quite sure yet how much shopping this is going to cost me.

Cathy gave Bob the OK, too (I've made that assumption, although I have no proof to back it up).

So backing up to last July, decision to go made, dates picked, permissions granted. All we needed was a boat. By then we were pretty much set on a sailboat. We wanted one that had a good engine and a BIG fuel tank. We spent a lot of time looking on the internet at sailboats between 50 and 60 feet long.

We read a lot of material. We learned a lot of things. The more we read and the more we learned, the more we were able to understand some of the differences in sailboats. We even started to understand some sailboat terms. But not many. There is an article by Philip Berman somewhere on the internet that discusses the advantages and disadvantages of multihulls over monohulls in sailboats. Bob found it, read it, and told me to read it.

By that time we were mostly swayed toward a catamaran. For the most part that article convinced us. In particular we liked the extra room, the extra engine, and the better ride available on a catamaran. We also liked that if they tipped over they didn't sink. We figured riding on the bottom of the hull waiting to be rescued beat sitting in a small life raft a few thousand feet above a sunken monohull.

Bob found out that Philip Berman had a company called The Multihull Company and he emailed him. Finding out that Philip didn't seem to favor email, he called him and asked him a bunch of questions.

During this time Bob and I were looking at specifications of countless sailing catamarans. We were learning about weird things like "bridge deck clearance." That, by the way, is how high the middle of a catamaran is over the water. That's important because although a catamaran has a better ride in most conditions, one condition where the ride suffers is in high short waves where it slaps (the bass-boat-full-speed-over-white-caps effect). The higher the "bridge deck clearance," the less likely it is to slap.

Philip pawned Bob off on Dennis Bixler who agreed to show Bob a bunch of catamarans for sail on the east coast. Bob took off and looked at them. Bob called me regularly after he had looked at different models and sizes. Usually that resulted in us ruling out boat after boat. Bob went on to the Annapolis boat show and looked some more.

We ended up thinking that a Fountainne Pajot 56' catamaran looked the best for us. Then Bob looked at a Fountainne Pajot Bahia 46' and thought that was big enough. So we hunted for those for sale. The ones in the Caribbean didn't seem to be either very well equipped, or in very good condition. Some on the east coast looked good, but were kind of pricy.

So the question became: did we pay a lot and get a decked out one, or did we get a fixer-upper? We chose the fixer-upper. There was one in San Diego that looked like a good candidate at a good price. We decided that if it looked OK we would make an offer. Bob went from San Diego to Annapolis.

Bob located David Renouf, of Yachtfinders, and asked to see the boat. He looked at it. It looked OK so he made an offer. There was a little bit of haggling over what needed to be fixed and stuff like that. About 10 days later Bob and I went to San Diego and on October 28, 2004 we officially bought the Babelfish.

We had fixing up done on the boat in San Diego and hired Glen Herman to sail it through the Panama Canal to Florida. It left San Diego in mid-November. Bob and Serge joined Glen and company for a week from Acapulco to Costa Rica for fun and experience. Glen and crew got as far as Grand Cayman by the end of the year. Bob and I got restless and decided that we wanted to take over at Grand Cayman and sail to Florida ourselves. That was fine with Glen so we immediately started planning the second unsupervised sailing experience of our lives.

Naturally we began by asking all our family members to join us. Out of the thirty-five or so we invited, we only had five takers. Bob's daughter Melinda, my wife Patty, my daughter Amy, our brother-in-law Mike, and his daughter Janet.

Somehow all seven of us ended up in Grand Cayman together. After a monster grocery-shopping spree, we ferried dinghy after dinghy and loaded seemingly endless supplies to the Babelfish. That evening we motored out about halfway to the reef and anchored for the night, preparing to leave the next morning.

The next morning we headed out. The ladies began fixing a large breakfast. There was bacon, eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, and helpings enough for a dozen hungry men. We were just crossing the reef into the open sea when breakfast was announced "ready."

Sometimes fate and fortune laugh heartily at us. In hindsight it's really funny. Flying in the previous day I noticed whitecaps on the ocean from pretty high up. The forecasts predicted lessening wind and seas over our course for the following days so we weren't too worried. We were expecting 6-8 foot seas with a nice quartering wind. But ...

Before we knew it we were in what we estimated to be 10-14 foot seas. We hardly had time to start eating before the wind came up and we were busy reefing the sails. By the time we were reefed we had our first admissions of squeamishness. The ride was not particularly rough, but it was especially unstable. Soon the green faces gave way to hurried trips to the bathrooms. Yes, we had a boat full of sick people.

Personally I was having a difficult time. My problem was simple conflict. Patty was really seasick, and I hated that. Some of the others weren't much better. But in the cockpit, I was having the ride of my life. The temperature was perfect, the wind was just right, and the ride was thrilling. In the troughs it seemed like we were surrounded by enormous walls of water. On the peaks we could view glistening waves as far as we could see. But I could hardly enjoy it while Patty and others were inside ailing.

Moving along, the seas calmed over time and by the third day we had pretty smooth ride. All the sick people lived. The seas continued to lessen until we motored the last 30 miles into the Dry Tortugas in virtually calm seas. We continued to Miami. Everyone but Bob headed back for school and work. Bob drove the boat up to Fort Lauderdale.

We kept the boat in Fort Lauderdale on the New River for about three months as we prepared it for the Atlantic crossing. We added a sail bag, a new bimini, new color moving map displays (chartplotters), a more instrument displays, and some odd safety equipment. We also repaired the windlass, some rigging hardware, the main sail, and all kinds of other things.

During the time in Fort Lauderdale we also assembled a large list of spare parts that we wanted to have with us crossing the Atlantic (the list did not include an extra wind-o-meter). This involved a lot of research, looking, and some disassembly of parts of the boat. And we made lots of trips to boat stores.

We also inspected virtually the entire boat and every working part on it. This was time consuming and also very worthwhile. In doing this we discovered a lot of things needing attention and we learned a lot about sailboats.

We never did learn many terms for sailboat parts. An example of boat part naming can be shown with common pulley. When you put it on a boat it becomes a block. Block makes me think of a city block or a chopping block, or a building block, or even a play in football.

And sailboat people are proud of their peculiar names. I went into West Marine (a popular boat store in Fort Lauderdale) with a broken pulley and asked the lady "could you tell me where your pulleys are?" That was a mistake. It took a couple of minutes of discourse before she made it clear that until I called the pulley a block, she wasn't going to tell. Eventually I found the pulleys on my own. She was still pouting when I left 10 minutes later.

Matthew, Kenny, Serge, and I took the boat from Fort Lauderdale to Hilton Head on spring break. We sailed day and night for most of six days winding through the Bahamas on the way. This was a good trial run for a lot of the new stuff we put on the boat. It was nice sailing weather for most of the trip. We had our first live MOB (man over board) drill on this trip. Matthew fell in while he was cleaning the dinghy. It was really funny, too.

We left the boat in Hilton Head about a month and completed most of the preparations while it was there. Mom and Dad were there and supervised the mounting of the periscope at the top of the mast.

Bob took the boat from Hilton Head to Norfolk where our official journey began.

Eventually we ended up in France. No major damage to the boat. And the only major injury was my fingernail. Our first Atlantic crossing is now over. I don't know why we did it. But I'm glad we did.

June 13
12:18 p.m. local (5:18 a.m. Oklahoma time), position 45 01N 003 13W
110 miles to La Rochelle!

We should arrive tomorrow morning! We sailed last night, about 30 degrees to the right of our intended course, but the wind died and now we're "motor sailing." We're running the motor and add about 1 or 1.5 knots to our speed by having the sails up.

Weather: Water 64F, air 72F, light wind from the north, partly cloudy, no snow.

Mike seemed rather delirious and nonsensical yesterday, even moreso than is normal for him.

The next update should be after we arrive, unless we get lost or slow down a LOT. I hope to have some pictures and stats for the trip.

We still have toilet paper!

June 13
12:18 p.m. local (5:18 a.m. Oklahoma time), position 45 01N 003 13W
110 miles to La Rochelle!

We should arrive tomorrow morning! We sailed last night, about 30 degrees to the right of our intended course, but the wind died and now we're "motor sailing." We're running the motor and add about 1 or 1.5 knots to our speed by having the sails up.

Weather: Water 64F, air 72F, light wind from the north, partly cloudy, no snow.

Mike seemed rather delirious and nonsensical yesterday, even moreso than is normal for him.

The next update should be after we arrive, unless we get lost or slow down a LOT. I hope to have some pictures and stats for the trip.

We still have toilet paper!

June 12
11:45 a.m. local (UTC+2), position 44 21N 006 18W
242 miles to La Rochelle!

Ce n'est pas une journee qui restera dans les annales de la traversee comme excitante. Peu de vent, un peu de soleil mais une houle tres courte et tres cassee qui secoue le bateau de facon tres desagreable : ca tangue, ca roule, ca monte, ca descend et ca tape violemment sous la coque toutes les 20 secondes.

Chacun en profite pour dormir, lire ou pianoter sur son ordinateur. Fidele a l'objectif que je me suis fixe durant cette traverse de parfaire mes connaissances nautiques, j'avale le Bloc Marine Atlantique qui est un recueil recapitulatif d'informations necessaires a la navigation ; technique, reglementation, marees, caracteristiques des ports, etc...

Bob plus courageux, redonne au pont sa blancheur initiale en le nettoyant et le brossant.

En fin de journee, le vent forcit mais toujours de face. Nous deployons nos voiles et bifurquons au plein Est ce qui nous permet d'avancer a 6 noeuds.

Pour le diner Melinda cuisine des pates avec des legumes, aussi bon que dietetique.

Apres le diner Mike, contrarie de ne pas avoir recu de message, s'enferme dans sa cabine avec son ordinateur en marmonnant des propos confus. Nous l'entendons delirer tout le reste de la soiree.

After dinner, Mike, being upset at not receiving any messages, locked himself in his cabin with his computer mumbling confused talks. We heard him being delirious during the rest of the evening.

Mike's exciting Day 26 update!

A motoring we will go, a motoring we will go, high how the merry owe, a motoring we will go. Yes, more motoring today. The wind was varied from light, to medium, to fairly strong, but was consistently from La Rochelle.

Bob got a burst of energy and cleaned on the deck today. He spent a couple of hours brushing and rinsing, brushing and rinsing. It was nice. A couple of hours with him out of the living room was refreshing.

We finally got to use the sails late in the afternoon when the wind shifted. Yay! This time Bob got to enjoy the entertainment while Serge and I struggled to raise the sails.

Melinda cooked us some more spaghetti tonight and it was good again. Our freshwater level remains just below 3/4 full.

Life on the Babelfish: Excitement

I drink a lot of water and tea which causes me to spend a lot of time going to and from bathrooms and a fair amount of time in them. About 120 miles from Spain I had been downstairs reading a book for awhile when had the familiar urge to spring a leak again. We were motoring on the left engine, which makes it pretty loud in the left bedrooms and bathroom. The seas were rough with some pretty loud pounding on the waves, too. I finished pumping the toilet and noticed the sun was circling the boat again and the motor was idling.

Did that mean we had good winds? I thought that Bob must be raising the mainsail again, so I put my book in the bedroom and headed upstairs to attend the entertainment. When I got half-way up the stairs I was shocked to see two other men onboard. There was a smaller motorboat tied to and dragging just behind our starboard steps. No one was inside the living room and I couldn't see Kenny, Bob, or Serge from where I was.

Before I could much wonder what was going on, I noticed that the smaller of the two had a gun. Viewing from behind, I noticed that the gun was a black-gripped pistol in some sort of holster partially hidden by his unbuttoned shirt. These two did not appear to be members of the law. They were wearing old, ragged shirts with faded denim shorts and no shoes. Then I spotted Kenny in the corner of the cockpit with his hands tied to the bimini frame above him. I quickly slinked back down the stairs, my mind racing.

The back bedroom has a tinted window that looks out at ankle-level into the cockpit. Carefully peaking I could see Bob in the other corner of the cockpit, his feet were tied together and his hands were over his head, probably tied like Kenny's. From the looks of his bloody, torn shirt, he didn't get that way without a good fight. I could see that Kenny's feet were free, but he also looked like he had been involved in a struggle. The two men were now yelling to a third person someone in what sounded to me like Spanish or Portuguese. This was serious. There was no sign of Serge, and I hoped and expected that Melinda was still in bed.

Then the men started back toward their boat, giving Kenny a wide berth as they looked to avoid his untied bare feet. I took this opportunity while there backs were turned to rush into the living room and grab our emergency knife (a large serrated folding knife) and, for lack of anything better sitting around, a large frying pan. I wished that the pan was heavier, but it would have to do. With the knife in my right hand, blade out and locked, and the frying pan in my left, I crouched as still as possible inside the living room behind the door. I could hear their voices getting louder and see some occasional images through the reflections on the windows. They were coming back.

By now Bob had seen me, but Kenny had not. As I waited, unsure what to do, I saw a third man leaning over and tending to something in the on the deck in the front of the boat. His back was to me and from the waist up he looked to be smallish. He was wearing a worn-out white muscle-shirt that featured well-defined shoulders and large, tattooed biceps. Not an encouraging sign. I raised up and could tell he was working on tying Serge's feet to the mast. Serge's hands were already bound behind him.

On the Babelfish we have no guns of any kind. Bob and I decided that it would be a lot safer to just give in and cooperate if we had any problems with pirates or the like. But we never expected things to get out of hand like this. Had we made the wrong decision?

A plan was forming in my mind now. I would get to Bob or Kenny and cut them free. Then ... well, that's as far as my plan had gotten. At least it was a plan. To do this I would go back downstairs and climb up a forward hatch onto the port deck, and sneak around behind the outside of the living room. It wasn't a very sensible plan but that's what my spy-novel-reading mind was telling me to do.

However, before I could take any action on my plan, they were back just outside the door and I was stuck. The armed man, now with gun out in his right hand, stepped into the living room, carelessly turning back to say something to his cohort.

My mind works too slow to think of what to do next in a situation like this. Luckily some deeply embedded barbarian instinct caused my right hand to lash out with the knife. It was pretty cool seeing my arm react that way. Kind of like when the doctor pounds on your knee. But "cool" only lasted a split second.

The knife went deeply into the guys forearm and hit something hard. The gun went off and a bullet careened off of the top of the door frame and ricocheted with a thud into the cutting board outside that we clean fish on. Everyone flinched in unison, and the all activity stopped for the shortest of moments as we all took a mental inventory of our body parts.

The guy dropped the gun and started screaming loud, shrill, ear-splitting cries. The noise alone was enough to startle us all. He was backing up and trying to pull his arm free of the knife. I still had the knife in my hand and was not particularly amenable to letting go. I guess it was stuck in a bone or something. Our tug of war ended when the knife pulled free in my hand. He fell back, with his arm slinging blood across the cockpit, and cracked his head directly on the corner of the table. He went out cold.

As soon as the gun went off, the big guy shuddered and stepped back. Bob kicked out with both feet and connected with a knee, and the guy tumbled over towards an angry and waiting Kenny. Kenny kicked at him vigorously and landed some solid heel shots to the ribs and neck. The hulk was grunting and groaning as he turned toward Kenny, shouted something fierce directly at Kenny, and then lunged with his hands towards Kenny's throat.

I tossed the knife towards Bob (it was a useless gesture since his hands were still tied up), gripped the pan in my best two-handed-backhand grip, and swung hard to brain the guy. I whiffed. The boat was rocking pretty much now and I slipped down flat on my back as I completed my swing. My elbow hit something sharp and I dropped the pan. Luckily Kenny's knees and feet were keeping the guy busy.

I crawled back to my knees, now with no knife or pan. I grabbed the guys shorts and started pulling him away from Kenny. He turned and kicked at me, missing, and then launched a vicious haymaker towards me. My eyes were big as the huge fist approached faster than I could move. Fortunately Kenny had connected squarely with the side of his chin mid-swing and his arm went high. During the clumsy thrashing of the hulk, Kenny, and myself, Bob had managed to get his hands free and located the frying pan. He whacked the hulk squarely on the side of the head and the guy collapsed.

By then the muscled guy from the front was on his way back. I grabbed the pan. My adrenaline was running strong. My anger was heightened. I was looking forward to laying into him with the now broken-in pan. Of course it helped that Bob was backing me up now and Kenny would be soon. I stepped up on the deck preparing to go at it with the tattooed muscleman.

I took one look at him ... and wait! It was a girl! Very plainly a girl. This was a complete surprise and caught me totally off guard. I couldn't belt a girl with a frying pan. So I threw it at her, I guess subconsciously hoping it would knock her off the boat. She dodged it effortlessly and seemed to growl like a dog at me. Some disjointed part of my brain thought that her feminine attempt at a scowl was kind of funny. But the governing part of my brain was thinking "what do I do now?" She solved that dilemma quickly by running right at me like a linebacker.

From that point it all happened in slow motion for me. I simply replayed the hundreds of times people have tried to throw me in pools and lakes. We were on the starboard deck with the water on my right and the cockpit on me left. As she was speeding toward me I leaned right just at the last moment and she thought she had me, putting herself on the cockpit side of me and turning to push me forcefully overboard. But her momentum allowed me to grab her as she went by and kind of sling-shot her right over the lifelines into the water.

Her guttural snarls turned into cries of "help me" in broken English. Bob had kicked the knife over to Kenny, who with deftness of foot got the knife into his hands and cut himself loose. Bob tossed a seat cushion out to musclewoman and I headed up to check on Serge. It took me some time to get him untied. When we got back to the cockpit Bob and Kenny had the two semiconscious goons duct-taped and tied up with monster knots. We tossed a rope to musclewoman and she held on but thankfully was not approaching the boat.

Serge ended up calling the Spanish equivalent of the Coast Guard and they headed our way in a big boat. We dragged the goons to their own boat and left them tied up. We helped musclewoman aboard and Kenny and Serge tied and taped her up like the others.

The big guy had a huge knot on his cheekbone in front of his ear and looked bad. Kenny duct-taped the other guy's arm to stop the bleeding. They had both run out of fight and were no further problem for us. The woman still had spunk and continued to kick and struggle even after she was tied up. She never did stop talking. It must have been Portuguese since none of us could understand a thing.

Bob cut the wires and the fuel lines to the outboard engine. Then he lifted the cover and proceeded to hammer away. He homed in on the spark plugs but I noticed gear teeth, plastic parts, and other chipped and broken parts flying around too. We dragged their disabled boat behind ours on a long rope as we started towards Spain at six knots.

It took the better part of an hour to clean up the blood and mess from our boat. About that time the effects of our heightened adrenaline levels had ebbed and we actually were making jokes. The bullet is now a permanent part of our fish-cleaning equipment. The frying pan, although used, was no worse for the wear. Melinda slept through the entire affair and when she awoke she thought we had another "Cooky" in tow.

It was about three hours later when the Spanish authorities met us. The "pirates" were still tied up in their boat, about 200 feet behind us. It took almost two hours of reports and questions before they headed off with the goons and musclewoman in cuffs and the disabled boat dragging behind them. We were free to go.

We thought the gun had ended up in the sea during the melee. The next day Kenny saw it when he was checking the ropes on the dinghy. It had fallen underneath the gas tank in the dinghy. We made the right decision again. On the Babelfish we have no guns of any kind.

We're in the Bay of Biscay. In the past 3-4 days, we stayed south of the northwest corner of Spain so it would block the wind and waves coming at us out of the Bay of Biscay. At one point they were gale force winds, but they've lessened a lot since then. Yesterday we rounded that corner of land into the Bay of Biscay. The wind picked up last night a bit (direct headwind), and should gradually die between here and La Rochelle. It's at 5-10 knots at the moment. We're motoring now, because we can make a lot more progress that way unless we run out of diesel. We've only averaged 4.8 knots since midnight.

I poured the last 6 of our 5-gallon "gas cans" into the fuel tank yesterday. Kenny toted the cans for me because I'm inherently lazy. We only bought 40 gallons at La Rochelle. Mike thought we shouldn't buy any diesel there, which would have been good because then we could have stopped in Spain.

There are waves here even though there's not much wind. That must mean either that the wind has been blowing here recently, or that the wind is blowing near here. Or maybe the wind was blowing near here recently.

Mike, Ken, and Melinda are in bed. Serge is listening to an Andy Griffith audio. A freighter just passed us a mile or two off our left side. We saw several small boats near the coast of Spain, some fishing, some sailing, and there were two guys in a rubber boat going pretty fast, about a mile offshore.

We saw these strange looking fish near the surface in the water yesterday. I brought the boat around to look at one. In fact, I brought the boat around twice to look at two, but the first time I couldn't get very close without tangling the fishing lines we were dragging behind the boat. The weird looking fish are (we think) sunfish. We took pictures and will post them when we get internet faster than 2400 baud.

We headed close to shore at a couple of places yesterday. There were come really cool lighthouses up on the rocks. Photos of those also coming "real soon now."

June 11
04:23z, position 42 57N 009 37W

Durant la journee de samedi nous longeons les cotes espagnoles du Cap Finistere. Le temps est maussade, la visibilite est reduite a 1 ou 2 milles a cause de la brume et il ne fait que 15 C. Quelle difference avec le grand soleil et les 23 C de la veille. Nous avancons au moteur car le vent est nul. Pas un temps a mettre un voilier sur l'eau.

En fin de journee, la brume se leve et le soleil apparait. Nous en profitons pour nous rapprocher a quelques centaines de metres des cotes. Le paysage est sauvage avec des cotes qui tombent a pic dans la mer avec des recifs a leurs pieds et des dents rocheuses emergent.

En fin de journee, nous quittons les cotes espagnoles pour bifurquer en ligne droite vers La Rochelle. Le vent se leve mais il est tres faible et vient exactement de l'endroit ou nous allons : nous continuons au moteur.

Kenny suit les traces cullinaires de Bob et nous prepare un cassoulet-potee-goulash, mélange de plusieurs boites de conserve de legumes et de soupes mélange. C'est bon et consistant.

Mike's exiting Day 25 update!

The doldrums continued today. We motored all day long.

As the day began (midnightish) we were nearing the northwest corner of Spain. They have a shipping channel for big boats along there. We saw lots of boats as we crossed the shipping channel. When we got past it early this morning, it was not quite foggy, but certainly hazy. Most of the morning we had 1-2 mile visibility. We could occasionally see the shores of Spain, but only as a shadow in the haze. This made watching for other boats a chore.

After we were all five awake at the same time (early afternoon) and first time we noticed we could see land as a group, we had a formal ceremony celebrating the seeing of land across the Atlantic. It took about 10 minutes to gather everyone on the back porch. It took about 15 more minutes for Melinda and Serge to get their cameras set. By then we were all getting plenty tired of waiting. Luckily, after all that time the land was still visible through the cloudy mist. Finally Serge opened our bottle of champaign (Californian) and the party began. We toasted "to cameras" and everyone went back to what they were doing.

By mid-afternoon the skies were clearing and we were able to see the Spanish coast clearly. It's very striking and scenic and there are some neat lighthouses. It reminded me of parts of the rocky mountains in mid-western Colorado. Except for the water. I think it would be fun to drive along the coast and look around in more detail.

Noteworthy today in the bellyaching competition: we had a strong and consistent leader all day long. Melinda broke into a clear lead as soon as she arose, yammering about bruises all over her stomach (allegedly from a fishing pole). I personally never did see a bruise, but I do acknowledge that from beginning to end, Melinda did, plainly and fairly, out-gripe the rest of us all day long. Also noted were her grumblings about her sore muscles.

Kenny was a cooking maniac today. It began when he discovered multiple cans of refried beans. He cooked burritos in the middle of the day. After rave reviews he cooked even more burritos in the evening. We were all stuffed.

By night La Rochelle was less than 300 miles at bearing 064 (east-north-east) when the wind began to stir. The breeze was a welcome sight since we were tired of motoring. Over the course of a couple of hours the light wind increased and eventually we were enjoying strong, steady wind. Unfortunately, the wind was coming at us from bearing 064 (east-north-east). Poseidon and company were laughing with gusto tonight. Blah.

Life on the Babelfish: Generations

On this particular Atlantic-crossing trip we have a variety of age groups (two) onboard. The elderly and the little kids.

The elderly, over the age of 25, include Bob (49), Serge (47) and me (26).

Each being under the age of 25, the little kids, are Melinda (19) and Kenny (20).

In many things the two groups complement each other. For instance, most of the time the elderly cook and the little kids eat. The little kids regularly complain at the same time the elderly ignore. And sometimes the little kids are awake when the elderly are asleep. It is nice when harmony exists.

In other things there is little less balance to the relationship, but there still is a distinct cause and effect. When an elderly person says something really funny, the little kids, like zombies, don a silent, blank stare. It is like some sort of temporary hypnosis. Also, if an elderly folk asks a little kid to do something, an immediate language barrier emerges out of nothingness and paralyzes the conversation in an instant.

And there are some things where there seems to be no relationship between the age groups. Language is the most glaring example of this, with fashion and culture also noticeable.

On the Babelfish there are a few things that span the generations. One hundred percent of the Babelfish crew, elderly and little, have no attention span. One hundred percent of the Babelfish crew like the three B's (Bach, the Beatles and Beethoven). One hundred percent of the Babelfish crew not named Bob think Bob is a dodo head. One hundred percent of the Babelfish crew dislike moldy oranges. And one hundred percent of the Babelfish 2005 Trans-Atlantic Crossing crew, elderly and little kids alike, enjoy sailing across the Atlantic.

Okay, okay, okay ... maybe I meant 46 instead of 26.

We continued to motor all day yesterday and through last night -- no wind. We're now 14 miles from land, almost swimming distance! We can't see it yet, though. We plan to pass by the northwest corner of Spain, cross the Bay of Biscay, and head to La Rochelle, France.

We've been having signs of land since yesterday -- bugs, radio traffic, birds, and the air smelled "normal" to me. Everybody else thought I was nuts. They might be right. A wren (or something like it) stayed on our boat for a while yesterday. It was very friendly. Melinda caught a 10 lb tuna yesterday. We let it go. I cooked yesterday evening! Last night, Kenny cooked brownies, cinnamon bread, and croissants.

We saw mainland Europe today! I got up sometime after noon and saw dirt!

June 10
08:32z, position 41 59N 012 05W
Less than 140 miles from land!

Samedi 9 juin 2006 ( a l'aube )

Jeudi un peu de vent quasiment de face : nous avancons au pres a faible allure, 5 noeuds. En fin de journee il tombe completement et nous avancons au depuis.

Nous arrivons pres des cotes d'Espagne et nous dirigeons vers le Cap Finistere ( pointe Nord Ouest de Espagne pour ceux qui nous croiraient arrives a Brest ). Nous venons de passer le rail de la Corogne dans la nuit qui un est chenal de navigation obligatoire pour les cargos et autres tankers et nous avons croise une trentaine de bateaux. Apres nous traverserons le Golfe de Gascogne en ligne directe vers La Rochelle... si la meteo nous le permet, bien sur. C'est le gros avantage du voilier, on peut changer d'avis a tout moment sous pretexte de meteo !

Ce matin la brume a reduit la visibilite a 2 a 3 miles. Nous devons redoubler de vigilance bien qu'etant donne la brume et le peu de vent il n'y pas beaucoup de bateaux sur l'eau.

Comme nous sommes pres des cotes le telephone portable fonctionne et j'en profite pour donner et prendre des nouvelles.

Hier en fin d'apres midi, nous avons eu de la compagnie. Un oiseau de la taille d'un moineau s'est pose sur le bateau. Il a du trouve cela bien agreable car il y est reste plusieurs heures, faisant des virees a quelques centaines de metres du bateau pour attraper au vol des insectes. Au debut timide, il se contentait de se tenir a distance sur les cordages puis il est devenu moins farouche et a commence visiter le cockpit, nous permettant de prendre quelques photos amusantes : sur la barre a roue, sur l'epaule ou sur la main qui tient l'appareil photo... Il a fini par s'endormir sur un cordage suspendu sous le moteur de l'annexe au dessus de l'eau. Ce matin, il etait parti.

Hier soir, grande premiere : Bob fait la cuisine, enfin disons, plutot a manger. Il met dans la marmite tout ce qu'il aime et qui se trouve a sa portee: resultat entre la goulash et le cassoulet, avec entre autre des flageolets, de la soupe au champignons, de la moutarde, du beurre, du lait, de fromage... Pas mauvais, meme bon, certains en reprenne. Digestion agressive qui rapelle precisement le parcours de la nourriture dans le corps humain.

Moins de 400 miles pour La Rochelle, nous devrions arriver dans 3 ou 4 jours.

Mike's exiting Day 24 update!

We finally got beyond the headwind this morning. Whew!

Unfortunately, there was no wind. None. There was still a mix of swells of all difference sizes and directions, but the surface was glassy. The engine was roaring. Or purring, depending where on the boat one was. We were heading eastward at 6.5 knots.

It was sunny and in the mid-70s all morning. What a nice day. We had some occasional cloud cover in the afternoon, but by evening the sun had returned. We took this opportunity to spend more time outside. It sure makes the boat bigger when we use the outside part too.

We also opted to do some cleaning and maintenance. Amongst the outdoor jobs enjoyed were washing the cockpit, cleaning out the engine rooms, sewing repairs on chafe guards, and touching up some taping jobs. The lifelines were full of towels and clothes.

We caught another 10-pound tuna today. Melinda was elected to land (boat?) this one. She whined and griped a fair bit to start with, but in the end I think she might have enjoyed it. As we were discussing whether or not to clean it, the thing flipped a bit too much and went back to the sea.

Over the protest of Melinda, Kenny, Serge, and I, we decided to change our boat clock to France time yesterday. That's two hours later than UTC. I was just starting to get used to UTC. Now I'm lost again.

One thing that I have not missed is the hassle of insects. For weeks now, we have not been bothered by ticks, chiggers, flies, crickets, wasps, or any insect for that matter. In fact for weeks, I have not seen, heard, or felt an insect. We have been completely insect-free. Then yesterday Melinda spotted a moth. And today I was sitting on the porch and a housefly was buzzing me. I have no idea where these things came from.

About an hour before sunset (I have no idea what time that might have been), a small bird joined us. It looked like a wren. It landed on the back of the boat and was eating insects, moving from rope to rope. It seemed almost tame. Melinda and Serge spent quite awhile looking at it and taking pictures. I think the best picture was when the bird got on Serge's hand between his palm and his camera. It also posed on his camera and shoulder for Melinda's camera.

Bob cooked mush tonight. Honest. We even have a non-digitally-altered photo of his cooking in action. We are not certain of all the contents, but it was better than the Azorean mush. An added plus ... no bones. Afterward I overhead him bargaining with Melinda over dishwashing.

As we got closer to land we could smell it. Around 50 miles from land the air seemed a little bit different, but it was hard to tell what the difference was. Eventually the humidity dropped enough that we could feel the dryer air. Before long we were able to smell dirt and leaves. Then came the coastal smells of surf, waves, and fish. We were getting close.

Life on the Babelfish: Hardships

Some of you may be under the impression that we are aboard a floating paradise (those of you that know the crew very well may not be of that opinion). And yes, most of the time it is. However, there are some limits to our bliss. Let me try to paint a picture of some of the adversity we are forced to endure.

To begin with I'll mention some personal examples. Today, for the second time on this trip, someone got some sticky stuff on my mouse cable. My patience was wearing thin already at the time; Bob had kicked my feet twice under the table within the hour.

Another difficulty I have had to suffer is people making fun of me. These people laugh at my clothes. They laugh when I talk. They laugh at me every single day when I spill tea on my shirt. They still laugh at my fingernail (it's a little better now, thank you very much). They even laugh at me when I tend the sails! It's not easy for a sensitive individual like me.

Others on board have hardships, too. There is the issue of temperature control. We don't have heaters or A/C so temperature control is limited to the door and windows. It's simply amazing that in the last 24 days not a single person has wanted it the same temperature as I did. It sure makes them uncomfortable!

And there some hardships born by all of us. Bathrooms, showers, and hot water come to mind. Our toilets are saltwater-flush, hand-pump models. It takes 25-30 pumps for the normal, everyday number one. A person can work up a pretty healthy sweat pumping on a number two. It's doubtful that any of us will take automatic flushing toilets for granted in our future.

We run a watermaker that makes fresh, drinkable water out of saltwater. It's some sort of alchemy I'm guessing. But anyway, we get about 4 gallons an hour out of it. That supplies us with about 90-100 new gallons each day. Our tanks hold about 200 gallons.

Keep in mind that, as crew, we have all agreed to take "sailor showers." Those are the ones where you wet down a bit, then do all the soap business, and finish up with a quick rinse. A reasonable "sailor shower" is supposed to take about a gallon of water. Two at the most. Superduper sailors claim to shower in a quart or so. Somehow we have to struggle to keep the freshwater tanks 75% full. I did the math and personally I think that Bob, Serge, Kenny, and Melinda are cheating.

I must admit, there are some other uses of our fresh water. We go through about a gallon each day for tea making. Cleaning up after cleaning a fish probably costs about 20 gallons, not counting the required shower for the fish cleaner. And I'm beginning to wonder if dishwashing has a freshwater cost. Having not yet experienced dishwashing first hand, I can only speculate.

The result of this is a constant awareness that if the watermaker breaks, we are going to experience a huge change in lifestyle aboard the Babelfish (and probably a noticeable change in aroma, too). It's just like living under the sword of Damocles, this fear of watermaker failure and the severe shower-water rationing that would follow. But we go on.

We have a 10-gallon hot water heater. It gets really hot and gets hot fast when the left engine is running. It heats slow and doesn't get too hot when the generator is running. When we are lucky enough to be sailing fulltime we run the generator for about an hour a couple of times a day. That means there are long periods when we are either sailing or motoring on the right motor when we have no hot water.

I have found a very unusual phenomenon regarding hot water on the Babelfish. If I happen to take a shower after Bob, Serge, Kenny, or Melinda take their one-gallon "sailor shower," the remaining hot water in the tank comes up missing. It must be peculiar to this boat.

Hardship is simply a part of life for a Babelfish 2005 Atlantic crosser. It's not all roses.

Fantastic Update Number... 6? (Melinda's)

Okay we're still at sea--which is good. Very good. Today I opened up a map to discuss the navigational route with some of the crew. First off, I located Spain. Found it; good. I noticed two areas encircled by some dotted lines that our route went through: submarine exercise area & firing practice area. I questioned the purpose of these areas to the first mate, Dad. He explained that the submarine exercise area is a place where submarines practice shooting their torpedoes at passing sailboats; the firing practice area is where the navy practices firing at the remaining sailboats. He assured me that our boat was fast enough to outrun these attacks so we're still set to our Eastward destination, in search of gold or something.

Surprisingly, the last book I read provided many answers to my current situation. It described how the Sydney to Hobart yacht race got caught in a hurricane. A statement from one of the wrecked crewmembers said something about never bringing bananas on board because they are "very bad luck." It all made sense now. I might note that the Babelfish crew brought on board more bananas than we knew what to do with. Personally, I will never eat banana bread or banana cake, let alone a banana, for at least 25 years.

Yesterday, millions of little jellyfish covered the water. I concluded that they were "Sailor-by-Wind" jellyfish & most importantly, they didn't sting. So like any normal person, Dad went fishing for one by throwing a bucket out in the water behind the boat, trying to scoop one of the critters up. After several attempts, he succeeded! & we got to have a pet for the day. It was slimy, but lovable. After the lucky catch, I handed Dad a hammer & a coconut to keep him busy for a while. I've learned that it's best to keep certain crewmembers busy to prevent further injuries/broken equipment from occurring.

Other news: we're still floating & getting closer to land, we've seen no pirates, I finished another book, we saw lightning last night, we've seen dolphins, I caught a fish, Mike tried putting icing in my hair, Serge has cooked a lot, I caught a moth, I cooked dinner for the first time, Ken is still doing night watch, we broke the boat radar, I rolled in the jib a few times, & everyone has been taking showers successfully. I think that's about it. Next stop: Ascension Island!

Cloudy, water temperature: 63F, air temperature -46F, wind is light, the ocean has a few swells. Ken is reading. Serge is thrashing around in the kitchen. Mike and Melinda are sleeping.

We have been motoring since last night. Yesterday we motored and sailed off and on, depending on the wind. We saw some lighting, but there wasn't any strong wind to go along with it.

The boat is on France time now, which is the time zone for most of Western Europe except Britain. It's two hours ahead of UTC. There is one clock a clock on the boat, and I changed it yesterday. I don't think that affected any schedules, though, because most people aren't looking at the clock much.

We Mike caught a tuna yesterday. I caught a jellyfish. There were thousands of small jellyfish floating by in the water, so I took a bucket with a rope, threw it into the water about 87 times, and finally nabbed one. They're bright blue.

Tonight we get to go through the shipping lanes around Spain without radar. I guess we'll have to use our eyes for a change.

June 9
11:28z, position 42 01N 015 01W

Mike's exiting Day 23 update!

Today was wind off, motor on ... then wind on, motor off ... then wind off, motor on ... wind on, motor off ... windoff motoron ... windonmotoroff ...and so forth. The sails went up and down a lot today.

We were still battling a headwind, when there was wind. That caused us to sail 20-40 degrees away from our destination the majority of the time.

We are getting spoiled. We caught another tuna today. It was only about 10 pounds so we let it go.

We got within 200 miles of Spain late in the day.

Kenny started out the day by cooking a pound cake for breakfast. We all got a taste before Bob polished it off. He sure is skinny for someone that eats so much cake. Some things in life are just not fair.

"The rain in Spain falls mainly on the Plain." Indeed that song was in my mind off and on today. And yes [Trish] it was sung on board today. I never knew it was a German song. We have no idea who sent the text message in German to us [Trish]. We should be able to see Spain on Saturday. Then we will check out the Spanish weather pattern of song. Unless the weather messes with our plans.

We brought a bottle of champagne for formal and ceremonial toasting when we see the mainland of Europe. I'm not real clear on what counts for seeing the mainland. If it's night and we see lights on shore do we wake everyone up and celebrate then? Or do we have to wait until morning twilight and have an eye-opener for breakfast? If anyone could get a ruling on this and send us a message it would be appreciated.

[warning, the next few paragraphs may interest even less people than the previous few]

The Babelfish crew regularly refer to Chapman's Piloting and Seamanship for reference and general boating info. It's one of the most well-written books I have read on any subject. The first edition was published in 1917. This was during World War I. A guy named Franklin Roosevelt (then Assistant Secretary of the Navy) asked a guy named Charles Chapman (editor of Motor Boating magazine) to write a manual of instruction in small boat seamanship for young men who were joining the navy.

"Chap," as he was known throughout his life, created the book in three days. It was originally 144 pages in a 5-inch by 7-inch format. While the information for the manual came from various places, most of it was from instructional magazine articles. He also gathered information from government sources and transatlantic steamship deck officer training material.

Our version is 927 pages in an 8.5-inch by 11-inch format. It's heavy. Noteworthy is that over 9 decades, more than three million copies, four publishers, and two publishing companies, the book has had only two principal authors (Mack Maloney being the other).

There are a number of things that are first-rate in this book. First and probably most important of all, the language is clear and easy-to-read. That's rare in reference/instructional text. Some of the topics are very complex, yet all I've seen are simple to follow. Another thing is the superb organization of the book. Topics as various as anchoring techniques, navigation rules, emergency procedures, chart reading, weather divining, electrical systems and even knot tying are all stuffed into the book in a well-organized manner.

The breadth of information makes it satisfying when we pick it up to find out something. About the only thing we have not found in there was a phrase from another boat book using the adjective "buttock" in it. I'm thinking it might have been slang.

Life on the Babelfish: Entertainment

On the Babelfish 2005 X-Atlantic Voyage we have a plethora of options for entertainment. I have yet to even approach boredom, and I don't think the others have either. Actually the trip so far seems to have gone by in a flash.

We brought the following to aid in our entertainment: A baritone, scrabble, lots of books, a piano, a guitar, bunches of movies, chess, all kinds of music to listen to, maps, a stationary bicycle, fishing poles, dictionaries, educational videos, dominos (still unopened), playing cards (still unused), four computers, a kitchen with cookbooks, foreign language courses, and multiple cameras.

Other things also randomly occur to aid in our entertainment. For example, today we got to watch Bob raise and lower the mainsail a bunch. A lot of times we can tell when this is happening because the shadows cross the room in unusual patterns. You may be wondering what's entertaining about that. We never know what will be entertaining about it ... so maybe it's the suspense. Today for instance I got to reel in a fishing line from underneath the hull during the process.

It's also usually entertaining when Serge, Kenny, Bob or I try to talk to each other. I'm not sure why, but our conversations usually require a lot of the following questions: "what did you say," "are you daft," "were you listening at all," "did you say something," "how stupid do you think I am," "would you speak English," and occasionally "would you speak French." We seem to do a little better using osmosis for communication.

We all enjoy the peace and quiet on the boat. The boat is a confined area and even when we are in the same room we are usually doing our own thing. Most of the entertainment is personal entertainment, not group entertainment. We even have headphones for the piano. It's completely silent to the room when the player has headphones plugged in. The baritone is an exception.

Reading is by far the most popular pastime on this trip. Without exaggerating I would say that most of the time at least one person is reading. And often two or more are reading. Books are good.

Cloudy, cool, water temperature: 64F, air temperature 65F, wind is light from the east-northeast, the ocean has some swells but the ride is pretty smooth most of the time.

From Baypoint Marina, Norfolk, VA to the harbor at Horta, Azores is 2237 nautical miles, by the most direct, great-circle route. Our average speed was 6.6 knots, and our average "speed made good" was 6.2 knots. Since the Azores, our speed until midnight was 6.3 knots, and our direct-line speed was 5.7 knots.

There are jellyfish outside. There were lots of Portuguese Men 'O War (the animals, not the boats) around the Azores. We are about 260 miles from the coast of Spain. Tomorrow night we may see the lights of the European mainland!

I haven't read or heard much news on this trip. At the Azores, I took a look at the CNN web site to see if there was anything exciting. Some bombs killed some people in Iraq, and Michael Jackson's picture was on the front page. In other words, no news. (I have a policy against reading anything about Michael Jackson.)

June 8
10:32z, position 42 25N 018 11W
3 weeks since we left Norfolk!

Mike's exiting Day 22 update!

It was rough this morning. A lot rough. Not rocking around rough. This was bass-boat--full-speed-over-white-caps rough. The front of the boat rose up and crashed down relentlessly. Sometimes it would bang down really loudly. And sometimes it would mush down not quite softly. It was actually kind of fun, except when we tried to do something. It's tough to do anything in the constant pounding.

We were sailing as close to the wind (straight into wind) as possible. That's about 45-55 degrees off of the headwind. It's hard to tell exactly without our missing wind-o- meter. The waves were kind of tall, but very steep. The swells were averaging about eight feet high. Every six seconds we whammed into another one. Our speed was 7-8 knots. Someone out there could probably tell you what all that means in sailor talk. In lay speak it means "it's dangblasted rough out today."

Later in the day the waves settled down. After dark the wind died for an hour, then it came back up stronger.

Serge made some bread this morning. Tonight Kenny and I cooked spaghetti.

Radar status today: broke.

Life on the Babelfish: Neatness and Cleaning

Consider that the Babelfish overall is not a large place for five people to cohabitate. Factor in that we have enough stuff on board for ten people for about two years. It is normally quite crowded on board.

There is a large amount of storage space in numerous holds all over the boat. Most of them are close to full. We have things well organized and everything has its place. Without the organization, it would be a losing battle. With the organization, it's merely a continuing battle.

It reminds me of playing with tinker toys. It was great until Mom made me to pick them up when I was done. Here, we have to pick up after ourselves after we do just about anything. (Yes, Cathy, Bob CAN actually pick up after himself.)

Cleaning. Blah.
Another continuing battle we have is that of keeping things clean. It's amazing how dirty the other four people on the boat are. Keep in mind that there's not any dirt around for hundreds of miles! Somehow it accumulates fast. I think crumbs are the biggest enemy.

Generally things only get to a certain level of grime before someone gets after the cleaning. That certain level of clean varies. I'm still studying but so far it seems directly proportional to the state of the seas. The rougher the ride, the higher level of grime tolerated.

There is one good thing about the limited size of our floating palace. It cleans up fast. I'd say a complete going over takes about 1.25 man hours. That's about 15 minutes with all five of us cleaning in unison. Of course that's never happened, but in theory...

Suis-je sur un cheval sauvage qui se cabre et rue de toutes parts ? A Disneyland dans une des ces attractions dont le but est de transformer en milk-shake le contenu de votre estomac ? Dans un 4x4 sur une piste d'Islande conduite par mon fils Matthieu ? Non je suis bien dans ma couchette, mais c'est tout comme. Ca remue et ca tape dans tous les sens. Aucune logique, comparable au mouvement Braunien des electrons autour de l'atome, on ne sait pas de quel cote va partir le bateau tout ce que l'on peut faire s'est de se tenir a tout ce qui est fixe.

Dans la cabine tout le monde est reveille, (sauf Melinda bien sur, 12 heures de sommeil sinon rien), les traits sont tires, les os douloureux et les humeurs pas tres legeres... Tout le monde a mal dormi (sauf bien sur Kenny qui etait de veille). Heureusement nous sommes amarines, personne n'est malade, mais personne n'est vraiment tres en forme, les mouvements du bateau sont fatiguants. En plus il n'y a pas beaucoup de vent et il est face a nous : nous alternons voile et moteur en les combinant parfois. La houle n'est pas tres importante, environ 2 metres, mais tres courte et croisee : elle s'est formee lors des forts coups de vent qui on eu lieu aux alentours.

Cuisiner releve de l'equilibrisme pour les jambes et du jonglage pour les bras : il faut tout tenir ou caler sinon c'est directement renverse ou par terre, le tout en restant sur ses pieds. Les positions assises ou allongees seront les plus populaires durant cette journee.

J'approfondis mes connaissances sur les secours en mer : quand un helicoptere envoie un filin pour helitreuiller, ne jamais le toucher avant qu'il ne touche l'eau ou le sol afin qu'il se decharge de son electricite statique. Mon Allemand progresse : " Eine Reise nach Italien ist schon"

En fin de journee cela se calme un peu. Le vent forcit et nous devient favorable. Nous nous reconfortons avec une farandole de pates accomodes en sauce avec les restes de viande de boeuf et de poulet du refrigerateur : delicieux.

Water temperature: 64F, air temperature 67F, wind is 20-25 knots from the east-northeast, clouds. Waves are bumpy!

Yesterday we caught two tuna. This morning when I was raising the sail a notch, it wouldn't go up very well. One of the ropes came off a pulley last night. I fixed it with the well-oiled hammer.

We headed northeast from the Azores until yesterday, when we gradually turned southeast so we could sail instead of motor. I think we're going to Ascension Island now.

June 7 - Happy Birthday Brian!
11:26z, position 42 26N 020 39W
864 miles to go!

Mike's exiting Day 21 update!

We should get to France today, according to my prediction. Unless Bob took a wrong turn.

According to Serge's GPS, today is the best fishing day of the year. So we started out fishing.

As noted yesterday, we had some radar jamming issues with other boats. Kenny and I noticed another large ship pretty close this morning. We talked to it on the radio. It was a cargo ship with four huge cranes sticking up in the air. The captain told us it was carrying steal coils. They didn't mention anything about radar jamming so we started messing with our radar. It seemed like we should be able to pick it up for sure.

The seas were pretty calm so I volunteered to hoist Kenny up to look at the radar dome. He swung around on the rope as I raised him and he looked it over. The plastic cover and the wire going into it looked in good condition. There is very little to look at on the outside. If it gets calm enough we will pull the cover off and look inside. He came down and we turned the radar off and on a few times, messed with the settings a lot, and got nothing in return.

So our radar is officially out of order for the time being. That means we have to look around outside more diligently now. That's convenient while we are catching fish. Shortly after I showered and put on clean clothes I dragged in a 16 pound Albacore tuna. I cleaned it, and then cleaned up after cleaning it. The cleaning up after cleaning the fish takes a lot longer than the fish cleaning itself. First thing this morning I had thrown out our last remaining tuna, not sure how long the stuff lasts. But this gave us a nice supply again.

In the afternoon, Serge brought in a 15-pounder. We didn't clean it. It was kind of a group decision that 16 pounds was minimum cleaning size (when we have fish in the frig already).

We had motored through most of the previous night. Mid-morning a very nice wind came up and we were doing 7-8 knots. About noon it turned into a steady wind. A headwind! We lowered the sails and drove straight into it for most of the day. We were expecting this headwind, but hoped it would change before we got to it. It looks like the weather forecasters were right on target.

There is a low northwest of us and another one southeast of us. We are in the high between the lows and had a very high barometer reading today. We also got into bigger waves today. I think they are being generated by the lows but don't really know.

We all enjoyed an afternoon of pancakes. Tonight we ate baked potatoes and fried tuna.

About midnight the wind came up strong. The waves, while not all that big, were short, steep, and rough. We turned 30 degrees right and made good speed. At 2:00a we reefed the mainsail from the first to the third reef (from 75% up to 25% up). The angle and period of the waves made it very rough and uncomfortable. These were smaller waves than we had early in the trip, but they were rougher.

Radar status: still broken.

Well, we didn't make France today. Maybe I should stick to horoscopes. They're always right.

Life on the Babelfish: Eating

On the Babelfish we eat with irregularity. We have a healthy stock of food; and a good variety, too. Most of the time we fend for ourselves. On average someone cooks something about once each day. Usually most of us eat what is cooked. Sometimes people skip out on a cooked meal if they just ate a lot or are sleeping.

Among the most common things eaten are apples, chips (usually with salsa), cereal (dry in the little boxes), bread, cheese, precooked tuna fish (Bob mainly), cakes, cookies, crackers, and soup to mention a few.

We brought a lot of cases of Coke, Diet Coke, and bottled water. We drink mainly water. Serge (and occasionally Melinda) drinks coffee occasionally. Most of the time there is iced tea available. I drink a lot of that and Bob has quite a bit, too. We have a lot of milk but I haven't seen anyone drink it. We cook a lot of things with milk, though.

We brought a bunch of rice and everyone likes it. But we've only eaten it once. Our potatoes are sprouting. We have eaten them a few times.

It seems like the most sought after cooked foods are Serge's bread and yellow cake.

Eating on the Babelfish isn't a big deal for anyone. It's just something we do when we're hungry. Sometimes we do it when we're not hungry. And we usually cook when we are looking for a change of pace or it sounds fun. Or when we get a hankerin' for something different.

Temperature last night: 67F, water temperature: 67F. Our radar seems to have died -- either that, or there are a lot of stealth ships around. It shows normal noise, but no boats. Last night a large ship that may have been a military ship came by, but didn't show on the radar. It changed course about 60 degrees and passed behind us, going pretty fast. That's what is looked like, anyway, but we could only see its lights. Now I guess we'll have to look around with our eyes occasionally.

This morning about sunup there were a bunch of boats (Ken counted 17) with a lot of lights a few miles away. Some of them had bright flashing lights. I think this was a mob of fishing boats, along with some processing ships. This was around 42N 21W.

Mike just caught and cleaned a 16lb albacore tuna. Serge thrashed around with the boat. I watched. Melinda and Ken laid in bed.

We have some wind from the east, which seems to be the direction of La Rochelle. We're going northeast at the moment. Or is that southwest? I have trouble with directions. Are there supposed to be a lot of icebergs near France this time of year?

Update Number 5 from la Capitan

We are at sea! And we have many more sea-faring days ahead of us so there should be some interesting updates to come. We successfully left Horta, although it seemed a little tricky getting out of the islands yesterday. It was pretty entertaining to watch Mike, Dad, & Serge scramble all around, trying to get the sails right in the wind which changed constantly because of the islands & pressure system. All of them later concluded that it probably would have been best if only one person had done a single thing instead of three people doing three different things at once.

Dad, Serge, Ken, & I managed to go exploring during one of our days at Horta & found neat stuff! Dad was driving so we ended up going to some interesting sites: some old cannon/gun places, a few cliffs, a caldera, & a grocery store with a lot one-way streets (keep in mind dad's driving). Supposedly there is a lake at the bottom of the caldera but we didn't see anything because of the clouds. Hence, no pictures either. I was cold! However, we did find some picture-worthy places around the island where huge waves broke against the cliffs. Impressive! I'll have you all know that there are Portuguese man-of-war (jellyfish) in the Azores; we've seen quite a few on this trip too.

Anyway, we spent the rest of our exploration day shopping for boat parts, food, laundry, & other miscellaneous items. But that night we went out & socialized! Mike & I went shopping while everyone else headed to the Navy Club. Dad ordered for everyone so we definitely had no idea what we were eating except that it was Portuguese or Brazilian, or maybe both. Everyone had a chunk or two of bone on their plates--I had 4, gross. All in all, we got worn out from so much socializing that we came back to the boat. The next day I woke up around 2:00 p.m. & about ten minutes later we left Horta. Next stop: France if we're lucky!

June 6
18:44z, position 41 14N 022 15W
961 miles to go!

Mike's exiting Day 20 update!

Day 20 was an uneventful day. It started out with low wind and medium waves. It ended up almost completely calm seas and low wind.

We did quite a bit of cleaning today. And some repairs.

When Matthew, Kenny, Serge, and I were sailing in between the Bahamas and Hilton Head a couple of months ago, we noticed one morning that the front few feet of the boat was covered in some kind of oily mess. It came off the boat with minor scrubbing. But the bottom of the jib didn't clean well with water alone.

In Horta we bought some sail cleaner to use on it when a calm day arrived. That calm day was today. We located the sail cleaner, some brushes, a bucket, and a sponge and Bob attacked it. He spent quite awhile working on the sail. Then he continued even longer, using a variety of different cleaners. It didn't seem to make any difference. But it was kind of fun for us to watch him rubbing and brushing on the sail wearing rubber gloves and a frown.

Today was also a "no fish day."

The day was Monday. The date was June 6, 2005. We experienced a first on the Babelfish. Melinda cooked! We had spaghetti with chickened red sauce for supper. It was good! Now we just need her to cook more often.

Just as it was getting dark Kenny spotted a whale. It came up a few times before it disappeared in the dusk.

When it got dark we watched a movie. It was a wholesome musical that, after success on Broadway, was made into a movie. It had good, melodic songs that stick in your head, talented singers (including Burt Reynolds), and choruses that moved everyone. A good musical is hard to beat.

Even though the water was calm and it was quiet on board, we connected the external speakers to the computer for the movie. The music sounds a lot better that way. It's a little bit crowded in the living room with five people crowded around a laptop computer. But for this kind of entertainment everyone stayed until the end.

After "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," we noticed boat lights off to the side. That was odd since we didn't see anything on radar. We were all out on the porch looking at the lights and trying to figure out how big the boat was, how close the boat was, and why in the world it was not showing up on radar. We spent a lot of time adjusting and resetting the radar, but it never did show up, even when it got close.

Bob guessed that it was a small, wooden boat that was close. Serge spent a lot of time with binoculars. He finally decided that it was a large navy boat (no idea what country) that was using radar jamming. As it got closer we were able to make out the light configuration. According to our documentation it was larger than 50 meters. Bob was still making the "close, wooden boat" claim, but not as strongly.

It turned and went behind us. Serge was eventually able to make out 5 stories on the large ship. He has some knowledge of radar jamming and we all thought that was really neat.

Late in the night, Kenny also noticed about 20 more boats that did not show up on radar. Obviously, radar jamming is common in these waters.

Life on the Babelfish: Maintenance

We have learned some things about sail boats. We learned that there are a lot of moving parts. We knew that moving parts normally last longer with lubrication. We also learned that saltwater is not a particularly good lubricant. But it IS a good cleaner. It removes oils and greases from all kinds of places that we put them. These new revelations might be related to the fact that we seem to have continuing maintenance needs as we sail. It might even be the saltwater that makes the ropes wear out!

Several times each day we look all over the boat for anything that is broken or in the process of breaking. Usually we find some (yes, some is plural) each day. Some are as simple as the rope that keeps the dinghy from swinging around too much chafing and fraying. Some are a little more challenging, like a hole in the middle of the main sail.

Most of the things that we find that we can fix easily and immediately. For instance, the chafing on the anti-dinghy-swinging rope was cured by cutting a 3" piece of fuel tubing, splitting it, and putting it around the part of the rope that was rubbing through. For the main sail hole, we had to wait for calm day to lower the sail and put sail-repair tape on both sides covering the hole.

Now the broken radar (see above) is a different thing. We have found that although the radar thing is rotating, something is broken. I'm not sure if saltwater was that cause, but when I find out I'll try to pass the word.

We have a lot of spare parts on the boat. We have duplicates of all the pumps on the boat. One duplicate we have is the freshwater pump. Serge and I discovered a lack of water pressure one morning. It appeared that the pump was working fine, but the attached pressure switch seemed faulty. Bob spent well more than an hour working to replace it with the new one. The fittings were different so he spent quite awhile (more than another hour) putting the original one back in. No luck. I took a couple of minutes to clean out the strainer on the end of the faucet and our water pressure was as good as ever. Bob sure was cranky for a long time.

The Babelfish has storage holds all over the place. We have a two-page (two columns per page) inventory of spare parts and tools and their locations on the boat. It includes things like "electrical tool box," "fishing stuff," "engine parts and filters tub," "glue box," and "autopilot replacement arm." Most of the time things are where it says they are. Some things, like wood putty for example, are still hiding somewhere on the boat. If anyone remembers seeing the wood putty on the boat, we would appreciate a text message ...

Ce matin Petole. Force 0. Rien dans les voiles. Eole nous boude.
Nous avancons au moteur. La mer est plate.
Pas de poissons. Pas de dauphins. Pas d'oiseaux. Pas de bateaux.

Heureusement il fait beau. Nous en profitons pour bouquiner-lezarder sur le pont, les plus courageux ou desoeuvres bricolent ou nettoient. Nous redigeons longuement notre journal de bord.

Pour le diner Melinda nous mitonne des spaghetti avec une delicieuse sauce au poulet et aux legumes puis nous regardons DVD qui s'intitule "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" qui est un classique comique americain des annees 80 avec Burt Reynolds et la chanteuse de country Dolly Parton contrairement a ce que le titre pourrait laisser croire.

Apres le film, vers minuit nous sortons sur le pont admirer le ciel etoile, nous apercevons les lumieres de ce qui nous semble etre un cargo en parfaite route de collision avec notre bateau. Probleme , il n'apparait pas sur le radar. Nous sommes perplexes, est-ce un grand bateau en bois ou polyester sans metal ni deflecteur radar? est-ce un bateau militaire qui brouille son echo radar ? un sous-marin ? des pirates ? Finalement, il change de cap et passe derriere nous, nous apercevons a l'arriere du bateau les lumieres des 4 ou 5 ponts. Nous allons nous coucher dans l'expectative.

We are back at sea now after a few days in the Azores to repair our boat. The wind did not come with us. There were many neat things to see at Faial. The marketplace had a very large eel among other fish, meats, vegetables, and plants. The land was divided by think bamboo growths instead of fences, although there were some barbed-wire fences around. Cattle grazed the land or there was food being grown on most of the land. Along the sidewalks and concrete walls were paintings people had drawn of their boat, which usually included names of the crew, dates, and a location of where they came from. In the city the streets were narrow and every building was connected on each side to the next one, it was like one long building extending from on block to the next. Most buildings were at least two stories high and some looked about to crumble. The road was made out of bricks mostly. The beach was black because of the volcanic nature of the islands. Portuguese men-of-war, bamboo, oranges, and other miscellaneous objects littered the beach. There is a lake at the top of the island.

It's D-Day, or at least it was 61 years ago. The significance of this is that it's Brian's birthday tomorrow. He'll be really old!

Today the wind is light, it's sunny, and the ocean is pretty smooth. We're motoring, with the sails up, doing about 5 knots at the moment. But we're doing closer to 6 knots over the ground -- we have a tail current.

Melinda is playing Bach's Invention Number 1 in C-major on the piano. Ken just woke up. Serge and Mike are outside playing. They put the sails out, take them in, put them out, over and over, kind of like skulling in the air. It doesn't help the boat go faster, but it's entertaining to watch.

We're headed north of course in the hopes of avoiding a gale and some strong direct headwinds. We bought fuel in the Azores, though, so we can motor to Oslo or Reyjkavik if we decide we want to. Well, maybe not ALL the way there, but we can get to Spain or Land's End.

The distances and speeds in the table above are based on distance traveled over the ground. It's not point-to-point, and it's not water distance. This is so it will seem like we're sailing at blinding speed.

June 5
18:16z, position 39 46N 024 52W
1109 miles to go!

Mike's exiting Day 19 update!

The wind decreased with every mile we put between us and the Azores. The opposite should have been the case. I guess the change from normal weather conditions is to be expected when we have a Te'veran aboard.

Since the wind was dying (and kind of from behind) we put up the spinnaker. Actually Bob put up the spinnaker. After he got it up, and the rest of us tinkered with its trim for what seemed like an hour, our speed went from about six knots to 7-8 knots. The spinnaker is a lot of trouble, but it sure can make a big difference in the right conditions.

It looks like the next strong wind we will get will be headwind. Dad told us that it is not possible to sail into the wind, so maybe we will end up back in the Azores. They are friendly there at least.

Serge cooked green beans and hamburger for supper. It was good with ketchup.

Kenny has been cooking breakfast regularly now. Of course it's kind of supper for him. He's very good at eggs of almost any persuasion. And his "brown sugar biscuits" don't last long.

Melinda has promised to cook something tomorrow. We are all eager for this first occurrence!

Life on the Babelfish: Sleeping

Sleeping is pretty much a non-issue on the Babelfish 2005 Atlantic Crossing. Other than the 2-3 days of rough weather in the beginning we all sleep whenever we are tired. Sometimes even more than that.

The Babelfish has three bedrooms and a skinny bed in the left hall. One bedroom is on the right, one bedroom is in the back left and one bedroom is in the front left. The skinny bed is in the hall between the left bedrooms.

Let me try that again using sailor talk. One stateroom is starboard, one stateroom is aft port and one stateroom is foreword port. The skinny bed is in the hall between the port staterooms. It sure takes a long time to think about how to say things in sailor talk.

Melinda and Bob sleep in the right, Serge sleeps in the back left, and Kenny and I sleep in the front left.

One time on this trip Kenny and I slept at the same time in the same bed. After an hour or so Kenny got up. He said I touched him (I think he was dreaming since I never move in my sleep). Anyway, now we hot-bunk. Patty, that means that we sleep in the same bed but not at the same time. If we want to sleep at the same time one of us, usually it's him, sleeps on the skinny bed in the hall until the front bedroom bed is empty. Most of the time we just sleep at different times. This works out pretty well since he stays up late.

Since all sleep about anytime we want to it has allowed Melinda to average a phenomenal number of sleeping hours per day. I think she's stocking up for some really late nights in the future. Probably for studying I would guess.

Serge and Bob and I have been able to keep mostly normal hours.

I think Kenny has outsmarted the rest of us. He gets 3-5 hours of peace and quiet every night.

Or maybe Melinda is the one who has outsmarted the rest of us. She can get up to 20 hours of peace and quiet in bed each day!

Durant la nuit le vent a forci nous obligeant a reduire la voilure. Dans la matinee, il faiblit et passe au portant ce qui nous permet d'envoyer le spinnaker que nous conserverons jusque tard dans la nuit.

C'est vraiment un dimanche ordinaire, il ne se passe pas grand chose d'exceptionnel. Nous nous rabattons sur la patisserie : je fais un gateau au chocolat et Mike des croissants et des rouleaux a la cannelle. Bob nous en laisse un peu.

Je reprends mes cours d'Allemand et Bob ceux de Français. J'entame un nouveau livre sur les naufrages en mer et Bob en termine un sur les martiens.

Radio France Internationale m'apprends que Nadal vient de gagner Roland Garrros.

La circulation est fluide pour un dimanche soir : pas d'embouteillages !

Wind is from the SSW, about 10 knots, and we have the spinnaker up. No damage yet. Serge lost a fish. Mike cooked cinnamon rolls. Serge cooked a chocolate cake. Melinda is washing dishes. Ken is sleeping. We hooked a fish today, but it got away.

Dolphins are swimming around the boat occasionally. They got up under the tramploline yesterday.

I almost caught a bird on the fishing pole yesterday. There were several following the boat, thinking that we were fishing. We were, in fact fishing, but the birds were in error by assuming that we were catching fish. One bird made a dive at the lure, and got tangled up in the line. I reeled it in close to the boat, a rough ride for the bird, and cut the line. The bird flew away with a bruised ego.

The island of Sag Jorge has some great cliffs and rocks on the west end. We are now out of sight of land again, for a few days. We'll come close to the northwest corner of Spain, then head on to La Rochelle, France, which is on the west coast of France inside the Bay of Biscay. We may have a headwind in a couple of days, and possibly a gale if we guess wrong.

June 4
22:12z, position 38 55N 027 41W
1251 miles to La Rochelle

Le vent souffle a 20 nouds et il pleut. Nous consultons la meteo et nous hesitons entre partir aujourd'hui avec un vent fort et une mer calme ou demain avec moins de vent et une mer formee. Le plus sage est d'attendre.

Vers 10 heures Kenny depose Mike a quai avec l'annexe mais au retour il n'arrive pas a demarrer le moteur et revient a la rame, contre le vent : physique.

A midi, Bob, Melinda et Kenny rejoignent Mike pour se promener dans l'ile. Je reste a bord et j'en profite pour bricoler-ranger-nettoyer et apprecier un peu de solitude.

A 15 heures, tout le monde revient. La meteo s'ameliore, Bob et Mike ont effectue les formalites portuaires et nous levons l'ancre sur le champ. Une demi-heure plus tard nous louvoyons entre les iles des Acores en direction de La Rochelle. Le ciel est encore couvert, il ne pleut pas et la visibilite est suffisante pour apprecier le magnifique paysage des pentes volcaniques qui plongent a pic dans l'ocean.

Des dauphins nagent autour du bateau et une nuee d'oiseaux nous suivent. Ils y en a vraiment beaucoup : c'est inhabituel, et nous y regardons de plus pres. En fait un des oiseaux s'est emmele dans les lignes de peche que nous trainons. Nous les ramenons un peu, et en coupons une. L'oiseau se retabli et s'envole, il ne semble pas blesse. Instantanement tous les oiseaux disparaissent. Ils n'etaient la que pour assister voire nous signaler la position perilleuse de leur congenere.

Le vent vient sur notre arriere, nous en profitons pour mettre les voiles en ciseaux afin de mieux capter le vent et de nous permettre de prendre de jolies photos. Une saute de vent nous rappelle a l'ordre avec un debut d' empannage (passage violent, et non maitrise, de la grand voile d'un bord a l'autre). Nous revenons a une allure moins pittoresque mais plus stable.

La cote de l' ile de Terceira disparait a l'horizon, les prochaines cotes que nous apercevrons devraient etre celles de France dans 1300 miles et une dizaine de jours ou peut etre celle d'Espagne si la meteo nous oblige a modifier notre route.
Mike's exiting Day 18 update!

We got underway today after 48 hours in the Azores.

The Azores are part of Portugal, kind of like Hawaii is part of the United States.

We anchored in the harbor of the city of Horta on the island of Faial. The population of Faial is about 15,000. The population of Horta is about 6,500. The high temperature during the days was in the upper sixties. The low temperature during the nights was in the upper sixties. The islands have a lot of cliffs and are rugged. I didn't see any beaches.

All of the Azoreans that I met were very friendly. They speak Portuguese. Lucky for us, most of them speak pretty good English, too. I'm always amazed that Serge can speak with people in Italian, Spanish, English, and even French. But not Portuguese -- get to work Serge. We ate some Azorean food. It was different ... not bad, but not very good either.

Driving around the island, I noticed several interesting things. 1.
The landscape is extremely mountainous and hilly. The highway is a series of serpentine curves. 2.
They tie cows (some with calves) next to the highway to eat the grass. They were also tied up and down mountainsides away from the highway. I guess fences must be impossible. There were neatly defined circles of eaten grass along long parts of the highway. 3.
They have windmills. Along one mountain ridge there are three "Dutch-like" windmills. They are built out of large bricks, painted red, and very substantial. They are out of service since there is no fabric on the blades. Along a parallel ridge there are several modern windmills that are turning. 4.
Almost all of the buildings have the same color orange roof. 5.
There were a lot of race cars on the highway. I probably saw a dozen or so. I could tell they were race cars because they were covered with decals, they were loud, the drivers were covered with clothes covered with decals, and some of them passed me really fast around the curving highway. In places where they were stopped there were cars and people gathered around them. The main highway is in good condition except for a section along the north part of the island.

While we were anchored it got windy. Since our wind meter is missing we don't know how windy, but we guessed maybe in the 30s (knots). Since the wind was blowing at os over part of the island it was less than it would have been otherwise. It also caused the wind to change directions all the time and the boats (all of the 30-40 anchored boats) regularly swung back and forth through 30-40 degrees and up to 60 degrees sometimes.

The swinging, coupled with the strong wind, made us (and probably most others in the harbor) nervous. If one anchor pulls loose, it can cause havoc with a lot of boats. We mostly hoped that our anchor would not move. But we also were scared of the other boats. Most of them were upwind from us.

Friday night was the windiest. I woke up Saturday morning to see a sailboat being towed by another sail boat right outside the bedroom window. That seemed familiar. It was kind of scary to have a boat that close to ours in all the wind. I went out on deck to get a better look. It continued past our boat (upwind). Then it stopped. Then it dropped its anchor. As its anchor chain was let out it moved downwind until it was right next to us. We talked to them and they had no engine. It would have been dangerous for us to try and re-anchor. By then there were three of us on deck getting bumpers out and putting them along the side of our boat. Luckily we were saved when their anchor started dragging and they ended up quite away behind us. I think they were having a bad day.

By noon the wind had eased. At one o'clock we decided to take off. Bob went to turn the rental car in and I went to check out at the marina and with customs. Both were closed for lunch. A 2.5 hour lunch seems to be standard for many Azoreans. By 2:30 we were checked out and headed back to the boat on the dinghy. We closed the hatches, raised the anchor, and drove out of the harbor. I, for one, was glad to get out of the crowded, windy harbor.

Soon we had both sails all the way up. And we went fast. We stayed on the north side of the islands best we could since the wind was from the south. That made the wind lighter, but more importantly made the waves a lot smaller.

As we were leaving we began fishing. There were lots of dolphins and birds were swarming behind the boat. We thought for sure this would mean good fishing. Then Bob caught a bird. Not with the hook, but tangled in the fishing line (which was tangled in the other fishing line). We ended up cutting both lines, the bird got free, and fishing was over for the day. The birds all left as soon as the lures were gone.

We got to see some amazing scenery on the way out of the Azores. Wait for the pictures.

Last night (about 3:30am) I was sleeping like a baby and Kenny decided that we needed to lower the mainsail. We had been discussing the possibility since nightfall and he finally decided it was time. Mainsail reefing is something that we don't want done alone at night (see safety stuff below) so he rousted me. He sure seemed happy about the rousting part!

We decided we would lower it to the second reef (halfway down) and let the jib out some. We started the motors and turned into the wind. It was dark, and windy, and waves were crashing into the front of the boat (and the constant spray was making my glasses messy). It was pretty darned windy. We did all the stuff, and finally got the front of the sail tied off at the reefing grommet. When we started to tighten the back of the sail, we noticed that we had actually gone to the third reef (25% up). Oh well ... we left it and the boat speed worked out well. That was the end of my day 18.

Some questions and answers:
Q. How did we know that the Cooky wasn't a pirate ship?
A. We didn't know. But we thought they were not because, as you suspected, no patches were observed on any eyes. We did set up the rope pulling arrangement so that we could let the Cooky go quickly and dependably (in case they tried to take our women or Bisquik -- or in case we started to smash into them).

A. Gill is gainfully employed.
Q. Yay! Which McDonald's is she in with?

Q. What's the punishment for falling asleep at the helm?
A. If we find someone asleep in the living room (helm), we immediately talk a lot to them. I know it's severe, but this is a tight ship!

Q. What if the Hokey Pokey IS what it's all about?
A. We are operating under the assumption that it is.

Q. What are your helm rotations?
A. Autopilot starting at 9:00am continuing until 8:45am. At 8:45am we usually argue and change things for 15 minutes. Then back to Autopilot for another 23 hours and 45 minutes.

Life on the Babelfish: Rules and Safety

There are two main safety issues. One, keep the boat floating and upright. And two, keep the people on the boat.

In order to keep the boat from breaking, we need to avoid harmful collisions. To avoid collisions with other boats or land, we use radar and look around too. The radar is setup to start beeping irritatingly when something (usually a boat) gets within a chosen range. Normally we see the boat (on radar usually) before it gets into alarm range. We have a radar display in the living room and on the porch.

Avoiding land has not been a frequent issue with us so far. We have succeeded in not crash landing in Norfolk or the Azores. Now we have to avoid Spain and England so we can attempt a crash-free docking in France.

The other harmful collision we have to avoid is with water. If the waves are too big and we are going too fast it can break of the boat. The boat weighs a lot of tons and doesn't stop fast.

Keeping the boat upright is also necessary. This boat's most stable position if floating upside down. The boat's second most stable position is floating upright. It's made of floating material so it won't sink. However, in theory it will go faster with the sails in the air than it will with the sails in the water. As a group, we have decided to accept the validity of this theory and will not attempt any tests of it. On purpose, that is.

About the only way to flip the boat is to "surf" down a wave at high speed and dig the nose into the next wave. It's called pitch-poling. If the wind and waves get bad enough where we feel there is a risk of this, and we can't slow down enough by reefing, we will drag a "drogue" behind us to slow us down. A drogue is like a small water parachute. Ideally we will never be in weather that would require the use of this, but we have it on board just in case.

To keep from losing people we wear harnesses which tie us to the boat. If we fall in with a harness we merely get bruised and beaten against the side of the boat, not lost forever.

Rules: 1.
Don't hit anything with the boat. 2.
When on the deck always wear a harness. 3.
At night when on the deck always wear a self-inflating harness with a light. 4.
Don't sleep in the living room (or we will talk to you).

Other than that, pretty much anything goes.

We're sailing again! Our sails are repaired and all the way up. Weather is cloudy, wavy, and the wind is dying a little. It's about 15 knots at the moment. Waves are 10 feet or so. Clouds are dark. From Horta We sailed by the islands of Pico and Sao Jorge , and are headed out to the open sea. Some of the photo files are incomplete. I decided to upload 1280 resolution photos over the cell phone at Horta, and didn't get quite finished.

When we got into Horta on Thursday, a small boat came from the Marina to tow our towee to the dock. They didn't have room for us at the docks, so we anchored for two nights. The second night was pretty windy, but our anchor held.

Horta is a pretty nice place. We rented a car and drove around. There's a big cauldera we drove to, but it was in the clouds and we had about 200-yard visibility up there. There are some nice cliffs along the ocean.

Serge's wife Marie-Laure took charge over Fedex and got them to deliver our new traveler for the mast on time. I think they were planning to ship it by rowboat. Thanks!

We got that, the reefing lines, and a few other things. We didn't buy much food. In fact, I think we could have opened a grocery store with our extra food.

We ordered a new anemometer for the top of the mast, but it was not there. They tried to email me with a question about which model I wanted, along with a photo. However, I limited our boat email accounts to 10K and their emails to me bounced. So we bought a hand-held anemometer. The wind broke 30 knots when we were anchored last night.

The forecast was for 30+ knot wind today and tonight, but it eased up this morning so we took off this afternoon. There are a lot of big waves, but the wind is pretty nice. We're going 7-9 knots in 10-20 knots of wind.

June 3

Nous sommes au mouillage dans le port de Horta. Le temps est maussade et bien qu'il soit abrite, le vent souffle accompagne d'une legere bruine.

Nous passons la matinee sur le bateau a bricoler et a verifier en detail l'accastillage. Mike me hisse en haut du mat avec la drisse de grand voile. J'effectue consciencieusement mais rapidement les verifications necessaires : c'est haut et ca bouge. Kenny y va a son tour pour contempler la vue et prendre des photos : il semble tres a l'aise, lui.

En debut d'apres-midi, profitant d'une eclaircie, avec Bob, Melinda et Kenny nous allons a quai. Nous finissons les achats necessaires au bricolage et nous passons au bureau de la marina vers 16 heures : miracle le chariot de latte est arrive, sinon nous aurions du attendre lundi. Nous allons pouvoir reparer la grand voile.

Nous louons une voiture afin de visiter l'ile de Faial. C'est une ile volcanique superbe. Melange de roche noire et de verdure avec des pentes tres abruptes. Nous montons au sommet de l'ile voir la caldeira, l'ancien cratere du volcan situe au centre de l'ile. Nous sommes a 1000 metres d'altitude, il fait 11 °C, et la caldeira fait 400 metres de profondeur. Il n'est pas possible d'y descendre car c'est une reserve protegee. De toute facon nous ne voyons rien car depuis l'altitude de 500 metres nous sommes dans les nuages et la visibilite est limitee a quelques centaines de metres.

Nous allons ensuite au a la laverie recuperer les quatre sacs poubelle de linge donne a laver et puis nous effectuons un bref passage au supermarche local pour quelques provisions. Nous retournons au bateau ou Mike a apprecie le plaisir de quelques heures de solitude.

L'installation du chariot de latte sur le mat se revele beaucoup plus facile que nous ne le pensions mais nous prend quand meme plus d'une heure. Ca y est nous allons enfin pouvoir hisser a nouveau toute la grand voile.

Vers 20 heures nous retournons a la marina pour diner au restaurant. Comme il n'y en a pas a proximite, nous nous rabattons sur le club de voile local dote d'un immense ecran qui diffuse un match de football et frequente par les marins du bord de la fregate de la marine portugaise ancree dans le port. Nous avalons rapidement une specialite bresilienne et nous rejoignons le bord juste avant le debut de la seance de karaoke.

June 2
11:01z, position 38 29N 028 47W
Land Ho!

Kenneth Lee
On this trip I have learned a few things, among them how to cook a few speshalties. I cooked my first omelet and first bisquit. They both turned out edible, and even delectable. I also learned that the sun is a very unforgiving source of energy when the light from it comes in direct contact with your skin for an extended period of time. It turned me red. I also have started to grow potatoes in a cup on the boat, just incase we get lost. The Azores, specifically the island of Faial and city of Horta, is really neat. There are lots of old buildings and dwellings, and what appear to be forts and places where cannons used to reside.

Nous avancons au moteur depuis la veille au soir car le vent est tombe comme c'est generalement le cas a l'approche des Acores.

Vers 7h00, nous sommes à 20 miles du port de Horta dans l'ile de Faial quand nous depassons le voilier francais "Coky" d'une dizaine de metres qui progresse tres lentement avec la grand voile seule. Ils nous saluent d'abord d'un bras, je reponds gentiment, puis des deux bras au dessus de la tete : soit ils sont vraiment tres chaleureux, soit ils ont un probleme ! Je m'approche et ils nous expliquent qu'ils sont en panne de moteur et nous demande de les remorquer jusqu'à Horta. Ce que nous faisons avec le sourire surtout Mike, reveille en plein sommeil. Ils sont partis de Martinique depuis 3 semaines et leur moteur est tombe en panne dans le mauvais temps depuis une plus d'une semaine (donc pas de possibilite de recharger leurs batteries). Comme ils avaient prevenu la marina de Horta de leur probleme un batiment de la marine portugaise vient a notre rencontre ou et nous escorte durant la derniere heure.

Tierra Ferma !!!! Vers 9 h00 nous apercevons la superbe ile volcanique de Faial, melange de falaises volcaniques qui tombent a pic dans la mer et de verdure. Nous debouchons avec enthousiasme la bouteille de Coke que nous avions reserve a cet effet. Et vers 13h00 nous mouillons dans le port qui est plein a craquer de bateaux de plaisance de toutes nationalites. Nous nous rendons en annexe a la capitainerie pour effectuer les formalites d'arrivee et d'immigration ou des fonctionnaires debonnaires nous accueillent dans la bonne humeur.

Mike qui nous attend a l'exterieur rencontre nos amis du voiliers Coky qui lui propose de l'indemniser pour le remorquage ce qu'il decline gentiment. Afin de nous remercier, ils lui offrent deux bouteilles de rhum des Antilles : ils ont reconnu en Mike un fin connaisseur ou a tout le moins un consommateur !

Nous allons ensuite au magasin d'accastillage de l'ile pour prendre livraison de l'anemometre de rechange que nous avons commande mais ils nous indiquent qu'ils leur manquait une precision pour le commander et nous confirment qu'ils peuvent nous le procurer pour le lundi 6 juin, ce qui est un peu long. Nous nous en passerons probablement et nous achetons un anemometre portable qui nous indiquera la force du vent : pour la direction nous nous servirons de la girouette. Nous appelons Fedex pour savoir ou en est la livraison du chariot de latte que nous avons commande en France. Il est arrive a La Rochelle et nous devrions le recevoir... lundi au plus tard ! Decidement tout est fait pour nous retenir dans cette charmante ile.

Nous degustons a la terrasse d'un cafe (et non pas de MacDo a Horta) les seules specialites locales disponibles : hamburger frites pour les uns et sandwich ou quiche pour les autres. Meme pas de Coke : nous nous rabattons sur des Sprite. Le choc culturel est rude pour Bob et Mike !

Nous retournons ensuite au bateau. Petit souci de moteur avec l'annexe a l'aller : impossible de revenir au point mort. Ce qui nous avait valu traverser le port a vive allure sous le regard reprobateur de tous en calant le moteur pour s'arreter une fois arrives a destination : discretion assuree.

Bob plonge sous le bateau pour retirer les bouts de cordages qui se sont enroules dans les helices : et il y en a bonne quantite. Mike sort sur le pont le contenu integral de sa cabine afin de le faire secher. Kenny et Melinda emportent a la laverie automatique l'equivalent de 400 litres de sacs poubelles de linge sale. Nous passons les reste de la soiree a bricoler sur le bateau. Un avis de coup de vent (30 nouds) est annonce pour Samedi, nous partirons probablement Dimanche.

Mike's exiting Day 14 and 16 (between Bob and I it was my important and exciting update for day 14 was missing for two days which is naturally Bob's fault) update!

Some day 14 stuff:
So there we were, Kenny, Serge, Bob, and myself, sitting around the breakfast table debating the possible effects of a sail change to boat performance. It was a brisk conversation. There were lots of people talking at the same time (everyone sure of their differing opinion), some pontificating, and quite a bit of babbling.

It was windy and wavy, with sea water spraying and washing across the decks. The day was cloudy and grey. It was misting occasionally. We were sailing about six knots with the mainsail at the second reef (about halfway up) and the jib only about 15 percent out. Going much faster than six knots was too rough. The autopilot was giving the boat constant left rudder in this configuration. We had arrived in this configuration by reefing the jib multiple times to reduce the boat speed as the wind increased.

It's easy to reef the jib. Just let out one rope and pull in another. It can take less than a minute for minor changes, and it's done from the porch. There's no need for a harness.

To reef the mainsail we have to start the engines, turn into the wind (to take the pressure off the sail), let out the main sheets (mainsail tighteners) put on a harness, go out on the deck, remove the reefing line from the winch, lower the sail, remove the reefing strap, lower (or raise) the sail to the desired location, climb up on the roof to put the lower, loose part of the sail in the sail bag, fight to hook the reefing strap through the grommet and onto the clip, raise and tighten the mainsail, tighten the new reefing line, stow all the loose ropes (during this time some procedures may need repeated), then return to the cockpit, tighten the main sheets, turn back on course, and adjust the sail to the wind. This can take from 5-10 minutes for one person. It takes from 5-20 minutes for two or more of us. Today this procedure meant getting pretty much soaked with sea water.

So there we were, Kenny, Serge, Bob, and myself, sitting around the breakfast table in silence. We don't talk all that much. The sail-setting conversation, which had lasted longer than most -- probably almost two minutes, was over. I had used my best efforts to persuade someone to lower the main and let out the jib to see the effects. I had failed.

The debate was over the unbalanced nature of our sails and how it might or might not be affecting the autopilot rudder deflection. We all had reasonable and thoughtful guesses as to what effect the wind, waves, and sails were having on everything. And we had the same guesses as to what a change might do. But none of us actually knew. There was no compelling reason to change anything; the boat was sailing just fine.

Then I got up and went to the bathroom. While in the bathroom, I had a deep thought. I thought: how many times in the future I would wonder how changes might have affected things. Yes ... that's a deep thought for me. I then proceeded to put on some dirty clothes and make sail changes.

Donning a harness, I started the engines etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. and voila, less than 10 minutes later, the mainsail was on it's third reef (about 25 percent up). I turned back on course, let the jib out to about 30 percent, and roughly trimmed it. Since it was messy outside I went ahead and started the water maker and put both fishing poles out.

To finish up, I cleaned up all the loose ropes around the cockpit and began to make final trim adjustments to the jib. With the winch handle in my left hand I started to step up to the step below the winches. The boat lurched as a wave smashed into the side. Almost falling down into the cockpit, I reached and smacked the winch handle against the winch with my left hand. I pulled myself up, surely preventing a nagging bruise. The winch handle absorbed my weight and momentum as I pulled and righted myself. The only problem was ... precisely and squarely between the winch handle and the winch was the center of the fingernail of my left middle finger.

At once my entire existence was focused around one tiny solitary fingertip. There was no real damage, just a ridiculous amount of internal screaming coming from that spot. I tried to carry on as if nothing had happened. My brain would not allow it. All I could think about was that stupid finger. I just wanted to finish the jib trim and crawl away to a room alone for awhile. Yes, alone for maybe quite awhile.

About this time, Serge came out to see if I needed any help. "No," I said trying to sound normal, but I'm sure coming out emphatically. He noticed the blood was dripping from the end of the fingernail. Probably he noticed an ashen face trying to smile, too. In mere seconds, Kenny and Bob joined Serge erupting in enormous amounts of laughter. The taunting questions were endless. The laughter and jeering continued. It's not often the three of them get whipped into that kind of frenzy.

It took everything I had to ignore these buffoons and finish winching the jib in. I proceeded to take my second shower of the day, ate a lot of chili with a lot of cheese for breakfast, and drank a coke. Within 30 minutes all was well. The only thing left as a reminder was a minor throb and a black fingernail with a scab on the end.

Sometime it would be nice to have someone explain the part of human nature that makes these people gleeful in my misfortune. Is it related to the part of human nature that caused me to spend this much time typing up a recollection of it?

[half hour later]
So there we were, Kenny, Serge, Bob, and myself, sitting around the breakfast table in silence. The autopilot had the rudders mostly centered, the boat speed was up to 6.5-7 knots and the ride was slightly improved. The sun peeked out occasionally and the rain and mist stopped. The weather was getting better.

The weather kept gradually improving. By late in the afternoon the weather had turned very nice. It was sunny, the waves were less bouncy, and the temperature was in the mid-70s. One thing noticeably different was dry air. The low humidity was refreshing. It also helped dry out some damp spots in the boat.

Serge and Bob made the mistake of raising the mainsail to the second reef. The mistake they made was doing it together. It took almost 20 minutes. The good thing for the rest of us -- it was entertaining. Their communication was impressive. We could hear them yelling things a lot. I think some of it was French (je ne se pa). I especially liked the part where the sun circled completely around the boat.

No fish today.

Tonight we began watching the movie "The Order." After about five minutes, we changed and enjoyed watching the movie "The Italian Job."

Life on the Babelfish: Personal Space
Probably the biggest single difference aboard v. not aboard is the lack of personal space. We all have convenient places to go to be alone. And some of us use them a lot. On the Babelfish we have bedrooms, a small living room and a porch. The porch is only usable for significant periods during warm days with low wind and low waves. On very calm days (like day 2) we can go to parts of the deck without being splashed, but that is not normal.

Therefore, most of us spend most of our non-sleeping hours in the living room. The living room is also where the sat phone, the navigation instruments, the kitchen, the piano (when it's out to play), normally at least one computer, and most of the tools and stuff are.

It gets crowded. It's not only crowded with people, but also with stuff. Everyone does a good job of removing their stuff most of the time. Every now and then the living room somehow turns into a storage room.

On the boat there are sometimes cries of "quit crowding me!" And the occasional "hey, he touched me!" But most of the time there is not that much talking.

We have music playing in the living room about half the time. Our CD repertoire includes Beethoven, Mozart, the Beatles, Wagner, Deep Purple, Bach, Suppe, Verdi, the Who, Broadway tunes, Rossini, Mussorgsky, Ravel, Bruckner, several "little kid" groups from Melinda and Kenny, and a lot more. Luckily we all like about everything.

Some day 16 stuff:
Today started with Kenny waking me up at 4:00am Oklahoma time. It was 9:00am local time, but it still seemed early. I went outside and talked (yelled boat-to-boat) with the guy on the broken boat, Cooky. He needed towed since his engine was broken and the wind was light and getting lighter. We were 18 mile from Horta so we towed him. It took us a long time to get things ropes hooked up properly and safely.

We found later out that the two people on the broken boat were from France. The broken boat had been had been without an engine for 10 days. There batteries were almost completely dead and they had no way to recharge them.

They hat started out from Martinique on May 8. They proceeded toward the Bermuda area and then went north for better wind. It turned out that they were farther north than we were. They went as far as 40-41 north looking for better wind. We stay south around 36-37 to avoid the rough wind and weather to our north. I guess we are a lot more chicken than them.

After we got here, we went to check in at customs. The guy from the broken boat came by and thanked, thanked, thanked, and thanked some more. He wanted to pay us for helping.

Finally he insisted that he give us a bottle of rum. So I walked a long way to his boat, got a tour of his 33' mono-hull, and came back with 2 bottles of rum (one for Bob, haha).

The owner and captain of the Cooky is from near La Rochelle and sails on a big 180' sail boat (that is 104 years old) for a living. His friend is a French marine officer. The Cooky left France in January and went to the Canary Islands to Brazil, Venezuela, and ended up in the Caribbean.

After that, we walked around awhile, checked a boat store for parts, and ate. Then back to the boat. Then some work on the boat. Then I took Kenny and Melinda to shore on the dinghy to do some laundry. Then back to the boat. Then Serge and I took the dinghy to take trash to shore. Then back to the boat. Then work on the boat till dark. Then I cooked grilled tuna and Serge cooked some vegetable (similar to grits). Then more boat work. Then I baked a cake. Then Kenny cooked some biscuits.

We can see land! The Azores island of Faial is 3.2 miles away! It's about 12 miles to the harbor. About an hour ago we picked up another boat. A boat called the Coky that left Martinique on May 9th asked for help on the radio, so we are now towing them to Horta. Their engine died and the wind died.

Yesterday we had chess. Serge beat Mike and I once, I beat Serge 3 times. Mike edged out Ken after Ken gave away his queen.

We caught a 25 lb. albacore tuna yesterday. It tasted good. Mike and I each had a fish on at the time time. Mike's broke the line, and I caught mine.

We're not sure how to clear customs, so if you never see another update on here, someone please check a Portuguese jail. Actually, we'll be docked for a day or three, so their may not be an update for a little while.

 June 1
12:06z, position 38 00N, 031 42W
149 miles to Horta, Azores

Mike's exiting Day 15 update!

This morning was still rough water. We are all at the point now where we will welcome calm water for a change. We had clouds and rain most of the day. The sun teased us a bit this evening. By night we saw stars in the sky.

About 75 miles from the Azores, the wind died and we started motoring. Serge predicted this from the beginning of the crossing. There is a "high" over the Azores most of the time. It's called the "Azores High." Being in the middle of a stationary high means ... nevermind, you've all watched enough weather on TV to know that stuff.

We played chess today. I don't want to talk about it.

OK, OK Serge beat Bob in chess today. And he beat me, too. And I thought the French were just lovers and sailors ...

Bob and Serge both caught Albacore tuna fish today. It was raining when Serge caught his so he threw it back in. Bob's was 25 pounds. Serge cleaned it. We had fresh sashimi with wasabi for an afternoon snack. Then fried tuna for dinner. If we don't start eating more fish or start catching smaller fish, we will run out of room in the refrigerator.

Tomorrow we will arrive in the Azores. In addition to some boat maintenance (and laundry maintenance) there is a 3000 foot high volcano-looking mountain with a lake in the middle of it that may need observed.

Life on the Babelfish: [postponed but not forgotten]


Ces deux derniers jours nous avons subi un vent de 25 nouds environ avec une houle forte et courte qui secoue le bateau dans tous les sens. Nous avancons entre 6 et 8 nouds mais nous sommes quelquefois obliges de limiter notre vitesse afin de maintenir la stabilite du bateau.

Les vagues explosent sous la coque centrale du catamaran avec une force qui donne l'impression que la bouteille de gaz vient d'exploser et qui propulse en l'air et renverse les objets poses en expulsant les liquides de leurs recipients.

Nous croisons chaque jour 2 ou 3 bateaux : des navires de commerce ou des voiliers et meme un superbe yacht de 20 metres environ qui nous depasse a une vitesse proche de 20 nouds.

Mike decouvre une nouvelle activite : l'ecrasement d'ongle avec une manivelle de winch. Cela parait interessant au premier abord car generateur de sensations intenses et d'images nouvelles avec une superbe gamme de couleurs allant du rouge au noir en passant par le violet. Mais la douleur et le handicap qui s'en suivent ne feront pas d'autre adepte pour l'instant.

Nous poursuivons les activites habituelles avec quand meme plus de succes a la peche : j'attrape un thon de 12,5 kilos mais comme il pleut et que cela remue beaucoup personne ne veut le decouper ( cela doit etre effectue sur une plage arriere car tres sanguinolant et fort en odeur... de poisson ). Un peu plus tard Bob attrape un thon de 12 kilos seulement , je le decoupe quand meme ce qui m'oblige a me laver et me changer de la tete au pied.

Nous approchons des Acores et depuis le temps que j'entends les meteorologues mentionner son fameux anticyclone, je m'attendais a y trouver un temps superbe. Et bien pas du tout : le ciel est couvert de nuages et il pleut. Les bulletins meteo indiquent que l'anticyclone s'eloigne en direction de la France...

ENGLISH (meant to be)

These two last days we had 25 knots of wind with a strong and short swell. We cruise between 6 and 8 knots and sometimes we have to slow down in order to keep the stability of the boat.

The waves explode under the central hull of the catamaran with a strength that gives the impression that the gas tank has blown and that throw in the air all the objects mainly the liquids in their recipients.

Everyday we see 2 or 3 boats : commercial or sailing boats and even a nice 60-foot yacht that cruises at almost 20 knots.

Mike discovers a new activity : crashing a finger nail with a winch handle. This seems interesting at first sight because creating intense feelings and new images with a nice color range from red to purple and black. But the pain and the handicap will not do anymore follower.

We keep on our usual activities with more success in fishing : I catch a 26-pound tuna but as it rains and shakes a lot and nobody wants to prepare it ( this must be done on the back steps of the boat as very bloody and with a strong smell... of fish ). Later Bob catches a 25-pound tuna only, but I decide to prepare it which forces me to shower and change completely.

We are near the Azores and as I have been listening the meteorologist mentioning its famous High, I was expecting a nice weather. Nop, the sky is overcast and it rains. The weather reports show that the High is going towards France.

It's raining! Light rain, water temperature 66F, air temperature 65F, and wind is from the south some unknown number of knots (15 or 20?). The boat speed ranges between 6 and 7 knots a the moment, with occasional excursions over 7. Waves are around 6 or 8 feet high.

Yesterday's position was the same as the day before's in this update. Since we did not (by sheer luck) spend one day going in a big circle, I corrected the position for May 30.

The Azores high is a big high-pressure system that normally stays over the Azores and causes good weather. Now it is raining and the Azores high is moving to France just as we arrive!

Yesterday a reef line chafed so we pulled it through a little bit so we could chafe it in a different place.

A big motor yacht passed us yesterday, coming within about a mile of us. It was BIG.

Not much exciting, relative to the rest of the trip, has occured for the past few days. A rope almost broke, the GPS broke, and my fathers finger nail broke. We've been traveling fast, but the waves and wind were so large and strong that we had to slow down a little. A bird has been playing around our boat for a few days now. We are headed to the Azores. I expect we will arrive there Thursday morning (local time). I have read four books so far: The Confusion, by Neal Stephenson, Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Hienlien, The Magic of Recluce, by L. E. Modessett Jr., and The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.

In Bed.

May 31
12:35z, position 37 28N, 035 08W
314 miles to Horta, Azores

Mike's exiting Day 14 update!

So there we were, Kenny, Serge, Bob, and myself, sitting around the breakfast table debating the possible effects of a sail change to boat performance. It was a brisk conversation. There were lots of people talking at the same time (everyone sure of their differing opinion), some pontificating, and quite a bit of babbling.

It was windy and wavy, with sea water spraying and washing across the decks. The day was cloudy and grey. It was misting occasionally. We were sailing about six knots with the mainsail at the second reef (about halfway up) and the jib only about 15 percent out. Going much faster than six knots was too rough. The autopilot was giving the boat constant left rudder in this configuration. We had arrived in this configuration by reefing the jib multiple times to reduce the boat speed as the wind increased.

It's easy to reef the jib. Just let out one rope and pull in another. It can take less than a minute for minor changes, and it's done from the porch. There's no need for a harness.

To reef the mainsail we have to start the engines, turn into the wind (to take the pressure off the sail), let out the main sheets (mainsail tighteners) put on a harness, go out on the deck, remove the reefing line from the winch, lower the sail, remove the reefing strap, lower (or raise) the sail to the desired location, climb up on the roof to put the lower, loose part of the sail in the sail bag, fight to hook the reefing strap through the grommet and onto the clip, raise and tighten the mainsail, tighten the new reefing line, stow all the loose ropes (during this time some procedures may need repeated), then return to the cockpit, tighten the main sheets, turn back on course, and adjust the sail to the wind. This can take from 5-10 minutes for one person. It takes from 5-20 minutes for two or more of us. Today this procedure meant getting pretty much soaked with sea water.

So there we were, Kenny, Serge, Bob, and myself, sitting around the breakfast table in silence. We don't talk all that much. The sail-setting conversation, which had lasted longer than most -- probably almost two minutes, was over. I had used my best efforts to persuade someone to lower the main and let out the jib to see the effects. I had failed.

The debate was over the unbalanced nature of our sails and how it might or might not be affecting the autopilot rudder deflection. We all had reasonable and thoughtful guesses as to what effect the wind, waves, and sails were having on everything. And we had the same guesses as to what a change might do. But none of us actually knew. There was no compelling reason to change anything; the boat was sailing just fine.

Then I got up and went to the bathroom. While in the bathroom, I had a deep thought. I thought: how many times in the future I would wonder how changes might have affected things. Yes ... that's a deep thought for me. I then proceeded to put on some dirty clothes and make sail changes.

Donning a harness, I started the engines etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. and voila, less than 10 minutes later, the mainsail was on it's third reef (about 25 percent up). I turned back on course, let the jib out to about 30 percent, and roughly trimmed it. Since it was messy outside I went ahead and started the water maker and put both fishing poles out.

To finish up, I cleaned up all the loose ropes around the cockpit and began to make final trim adjustments to the jib. With the winch handle in my left hand I started to step up to the step below the winches. The boat lurched as a wave smashed into the side. Almost falling down into the cockpit, I reached and smacked the winch handle against the winch with my left hand. I pulled myself up, surely preventing a nagging bruise. The winch handle absorbed my weight and momentum as I pulled and righted myself. The only problem was ... precisely and squarely between the winch handle and the winch was the center of the fingernail of my left middle finger.

At once my entire existence was focused around one tiny solitary fingertip. There was no real damage, just a ridiculous amount of internal screaming coming from that spot. I tried to carry on as if nothing had happened. My brain would not allow it. All I could think about was that stupid finger. I just wanted to finish the jib trim and crawl away to a room alone for awhile. Yes, alone for maybe quite awhile.

About this time, Serge came out to see if I needed any help. "No," I said trying to sound normal, but I'm sure coming out emphatically. He noticed the blood was dripping from the end of the fingernail. Probably he noticed an ashen face trying to smile, too. In mere seconds, Kenny and Bob joined Serge erupting in enormous amounts of laughter. The taunting questions were endless. The laughter and jeering continued. It's not often the three of them get whipped into that kind of frenzy.

It took everything I had to ignore these buffoons and finish winching the jib in. I proceeded to take my second shower of the day, ate a lot of chili with a lot of cheese for breakfast, and drank a coke. Within 30 minutes all was well. The only thing left as a reminder was a minor throb and a black fingernail with a scab on the end.

Sometime it would be nice to have someone explain the part of human nature that makes these people gleeful in my misfortune. Is it related to the part of human nature that caused me to spend this much time typing up a recollection of it?

[half hour later]
So there we were, Kenny, Serge, Bob, and myself, sitting around the breakfast table in silence. The autopilot had the rudders mostly centered, the boat speed was up to 6.5-7 knots and the ride was slightly improved. The sun peeked out occasionally and the rain and mist stopped. The weather was getting better.

The weather kept gradually improving. By late in the afternoon the weather had turned very nice. It was sunny, the waves were less bouncy, and the temperature was in the mid-70s. One thing noticeably different was dry air. The low humidity was refreshing. It also helped dry out some damp spots in the boat.

Serge and Bob made the mistake of raising the mainsail to the second reef. The mistake they made was doing it together. It took almost 20 minutes. The good thing for the rest of us -- it was entertaining. Their communication was impressive. We could hear them yelling things a lot. I think some of it was French (je ne se pa). I especially liked the part where the sun circled completely around the boat.

No fish today.

Tonight we began watching the movie "The Order." After about five minutes, we changed and enjoyed watching the movie "The Italian Job."

Life on the Babelfish: Personal Space
Probably the biggest single difference aboard v. not aboard is the lack of personal space. We all have convenient places to go to be alone. And some of us use them a lot. On the Babelfish we have bedrooms, a small living room and a porch. The porch is only usable for significant periods during warm days with low wind and low waves. On very calm days (like day 2) we can go to parts of the deck without being splashed, but that is not normal.

Therefore, most of us spend most of our non-sleeping hours in the living room. The living room is also where the sat phone, the navigation instruments, the kitchen, the piano (when it's out to play), normally at least one computer, and most of the tools and stuff are.

It gets crowded. It's not only crowded with people, but also with stuff. Everyone does a good job of removing their stuff most of the time. Every now and then the living room somehow turns into a storage room.

On the boat there are sometimes cries of "quit crowding me!" And the occasional "hey, he touched me!" But most of the time there is not that much talking.

We have music playing in the living room about half the time. Our CD repertoire includes Beethoven, Mozart, the Beatles, Wagner, Deep Purple, Bach, Suppe, Verdi, the Who, Broadway tunes, Rossini, Mussorgsky, Ravel, Bruckner, several "little kid" groups from Melinda and Kenny, and a lot more. Luckily we all like about everything.

Life on the Babelfish. Enough facts and figures, I'm going to ramble about different aspects of life on the boat (from my point of view, of course). I'm thinking of some different topics.
Life on the Babelfish: Sleeping
Life on the Babelfish: Eating
Life on the Babelfish: Personal Space
Life on the Babelfish: Entertainment
Life on the Babelfish: Cleaning and Maintenance
Life on the Babelfish: Rules and Safety

It was windy and wavy last night! In fact, it still is. It's been raining off and on in the past several hours. Water temperature has been ranging from 67F to 72F, and the air temperature is currently 71F.

Mike just lowered the mainsail to it's lowest position (other than all the way down). He smashed his finger in the process. We enjoyed that, but he wasn't quite so entertained.

We slowed down the boat last night 3 or 4 times buy bringing the sails in, because it was too bumpy. We're going almost perpendicular to the wind. The waves are coming across the boat, and occasionally we get a good bump. We're going between 6 and 7 knots at the moment.

We're supposed to get into the "Azores High," a stationary high pressure center that often resides over the Azores. That should mean less or no wind and clear or mostly clear skies.

We have harnesses that we wear when we go out on the deck. Some have built-in inflatable life vests and flashing strobes. We almost always wear harnesses when we go outside the cockpit area. It is scary to think about falling off the boat and the people on the boat not knowing for a minute or two -- you could easily be lost. A big wave just washed across the cockpit and doused Mike and Serge, so we may wear harnesses even in the cockpit today.

More to come! We're gathering up photos to upload onto this site when we get to the Azores, if possible.

No comment.

In bed.

May 30
12:45z, position 36 53N, 038 50W
Less than 500 miles to Horta, Azores


Nous avons de la compagnie ce matin : un voilier sur babord a 5 miles, un cargo sur notre arriere qui nous depasse a moins d'un demi mile et un autre cargo qui vient face a nous et nous croise a moins d'un demi mile lui aussi. Ce sera tout pour le reste de la journee pour ce qui concerne les bateaux.

Le vent a forci a 25 nouds et nous avancons a 8-9 nouds. Grand soleil et toujours beaucoup de houle qui remue le bateau dans toutes les directions de l'espace et l'arrose de toutes parts nous obligeant encore a fermer les hublots et rester dans le cockpit ou la cabine.

La nuit derniere la bosse du premier ris a casse vers 3 heures du matin. Nous sommes passes au deuxieme ris. Pour reparer, nous attendrons les Acores qui ne sont plus qu'a 500 miles, c'est a dire 2 a 3 jours. Notre programme de reparation commence a etre charge : remplacement de chariot de latte de grand voile, enrouleur de genois, dechirure de genois, accroc dans la grand voile, remplacement de l'anemometre, remplacement de la bosse de ris. Avec, bien sur, la verification de tous les elements importants avant de reprendre la mer pour les 1300 miles qui separent les Acores de la Rochelle.

Apres avoir vaque a nos occupations quotidiennes, en fin de journee nous regardons le DVD "Captain Ron" avec lequel nous nous decouvrons beaucoup d'affinites quant a la manouvre du bateau !

ENGLISH (meant to be)

We have company this morning : a sail boat on port at 5 miles, a cargo from behind that passes us at less than half mile and an other cargo that comes in front of us and cross us at less than half mile too. That will be all for the rest of the day boat wise.

The wind is stronger and we cruise at 8-9 knots. Sun and always a lot of swell that shakes the boat in all the directions of the space, sprays water everywhere and forces us to close all the portholes and remain in the cockpit or the cabin.

Last night, the first reefing pennant broke around 3 AM. We had to go to second reef. We will wait to be in the Azores to fix that. As a matter of fact our repairing program is pretty busy : replace the traveler for main sail batten, genoa furler, genoa tear, main sail tear, replace anemometer, replace reefing pennant. With, of course, checking all the important elements before returning at sea for the 1300 miles from the Azores to La Rochelle.

After attending at our usual daily occupations, by the end of the day we watch the DVD "Captain Ron" with whom we feel many affinities boat sailing wise.

Mike's exiting Day 13 update!

Today was windy. Most of the day was too windy. It was too wavy, too. Everyone is used to the motion so no one got sick (yay). We get tired of the big waves anyway because they make everything a lot of work. There were times during the day when the waves were smaller also. It seemed odd to me that it became rough off and on all day.

We had a friend most of the day. A red-billed tropicbird lazily circled the boat almost the entire day. It is a bright white color with small black highlights on its wingtips and ears. It also has a distinctive tail that is longer than its body length. The tail is very thin and ends in a point. It's really pretty.

Our Field Guide to Seabirds of the World says: "Solitary at sea; occasionally follows ships." If it shows tomorrow I think we will need to name it.

The Babelfish is crippled. With the broken traveler at the bottom of the mast and the broken reefing line we don't expect to raise the mainsail past halfway until we limp into the Azores. So far, it's been too windy to raise the mainsail any higher.

Tonight we ate boneless fried chicken and fried potatoes. There's nothing like greasy cooking to make a person feel at home. If you're from Oklahoma, that is. I'm not sure that fried food makes Serge feel at home.

Life on the Babelfish. Enough facts and figures, I'm going to ramble about different aspects of life on the boat (from my point of view, of course). I'm thinking of some different topics.
Life on the Babelfish: Sleeping
Life on the Babelfish: Eating
Life on the Babelfish: Personal Space
Life on the Babelfish: Entertainment
Life on the Babelfish: Cleaning and Maintenance
Life on the Babelfish: Rules and Safety

Last night started like any normal night. I was reading a book and being the helmsman for the night. After furling the genoa (making the small sail in the front smaller) as much as was appropriate, the boat was still traveling faster then I was comfortable with. I decided it was time to reef the main sail (take the large sail down a notch). I went to get my father for help, since it is formidable job alone (for me at least!). We strapped on a harness each and went outside and started an engine. While the engine was warming up Bob ventured outside for some entertainment. Moments later we heard a loud snap. I was anticipating something to break sooner or later because of the long streak we had gone without having any problems. We quickly noticed that it was only a reefing line that had snapped. The solution to that problem was to reef the main sail until daylight, which was our plan anyway. Bob drove while my father and I went to the front of the boat to reef. I was holding a rope that was flapping about rambunctiously in the wind when suddenly I noticed my vision was impaired. My glasses had gotten knocked off by the rope. We searched to no avail, finished reefing and cleaned up the ropes that were lying about and then went back to our books. My glasses are now a league (perhaps less) under the sea.

We have seen heavy traffic on the ocean lately. Currently I can see two boats in view, a sailboat and a freighter. Yesterday we saw a boat and the day before we saw two, that I know of. Not only that but there has been more bird activity and even some dolphin sightings. I started a book that I think will be good called Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter.

Finally! After a few days of nothing breaking on the boat, we finally broke something last night. A reefing line, a rope that holds the back corner of the mainsail back and down when it's partly down, broke. It happened just as we were getting ready to lower the sail another notch. The ropes chafe at the back of the boom, and we were in the same reef position for days. I guess we should have relieved the pressure with a temporary rope.

In the process of lowering the sail a notch, a rope flew around and knocked Ken's glasses off. We think they are about one league under the sea.

Dolphins were playing around the boat yesterday. We're trying to determine what kind of dolphins. I think they're mammals.

I put some deodorizer in the bilges yesterday. I used holding tank deodorizer instead of bilge deoderizer. Oops. Now those whiners are complaining just because their eyes and noses burn.

We passed a sailboat and two freighters today. The freighters go fast. Maybe we're nearing civilization.

May 29
12:48z, position 36 20N 042 40W
682 short miles to Horta!


Nous croisons a 7-8 nouds avec un vent de quart Sud-Est en direction des Acores qui sont a 600 miles. Le ciel est couvert et nous subissons quelques averses. Dans l'apres midi le vent forcit nous obligeant a reduire le genois, nous avons deja un ris dans la grand voile. Une courte houle de travers de 2 metres provoque un roulis important et des gerbes d'eau sur l'avant du bateau, nous obligeant a nous tenir dans le cockpit ou la cabine.

Nous apercevons un voilier sur notre babord qui croise vers les Acores. Bob essaie de le contacter par radio sur la BLU (radio longue portee) mais comme il n'est qu'a quelques miles nous lui conseillons d'essayer plutot la VHF. Ce sera notre seul voisin de la journee. Enfin tranquilles...

Au petit dejeuner, Mike decide de faire des crepes en quantite suffisante pour que nous n'eprouvions pas le besoin de faire un autre repas de la journee.

Mike dessine les plans de sa nouvelle maison, Bob analyse les donnees du GPS, Kenny dort (il assure la veille de nuit), Melinda se reveille de temps a autre pour lire ou jouer de la guitare et je finis mon livre sur les naufrages en mer.

Dans l'apres midi nous croisons un groupe de dauphins, des dizaines sautent et jouent autour du bateau pendant environ d'une demi-heure. J'essaie de prendre des photos mais ils sont plus rapides que mon appareil (ou moi) et les seules images que j'arrive a capturer sont celles des remous qu'ils creent en plongeant dans l'eau. Je leur propose de nous accompagner jusqu'à la Rochelle en leur promettant que ma niece Tiphaine leur fera plein de gateaux au chocolat mais finalement ils preferent rester jouer dans l'ocean.

ENGLISH (meant to be)

We cruise at 7-8 knots with a South-East wind in the direction of the Azores at 600 miles. The sky is overcast and we get some rain. In the afternoon the wind gets stronger forcing us to reduce the genoa, we already have a reef in the main sail. A short 3-foot swell from the side creates an important rolling and splashes of water that forces us to stay in the cockpit or the cabin.

We see a sailing boat on port that cruises towards the Azores. Bob tries to contact it on the radio with the SSB (long range radio) but as it is only at few miles, we recommend him rather to use the VHF. This will be our only neighbor during the day. Quiet finally...

At breakfast, Mike decides to cook pancakes, enough so we don't feel the need for another meal for the whole day.

Mike designs his new house, Bob analyses the data of the GPS, Kenny sleeps (he does the night watches), Melinda wakes up from time to time to read or play guitar and I finish my book about shipwreck.

In the afternoon, we cross a group of dolphins, dozens jumping and playing around the boat for more than half-hour. I try to take pictures but they are faster than my camera (or me) an the only pictures I can get are washes that they create in the water when they dive. I offer them to follow us to La Rochelle promising that my niece Tiphaine will cook them plenty of chocolate cakes but finally they prefer to stay and play in the ocean.

Mike's exiting Day 12 update!

Trish sent us a text message wondering how we measured the waves. It's really easy to do. We just stand in the boat. Then we guess how high our feet are above the water. On the deck that's about five feet above the water. In the porch (cockpit) it's about three feet above the water. Then we guess how high the waves are below or above our eyes. We do this by looking at the horizon and guessing how far above the horizon the waves are. Then we do the addition.

It's common practice to multiply the resultant sum by a factor of 1.3 if it's really scary. Then it makes for a much better sounding story.

We know that if the waves are above the horizon from the porch, they are more than eight feet high. Today there were a lot of them much higher than the horizon. It got pretty bumpy late this afternoon. It rained lightly off and on all day.

Last night we watched the fifth Star Wars movie (episode two). This one is my favorite so far. I didn't follow all the political stuff, but the action and effects were good. Kenny and Bob both think the first one (episode four) is the best. But they are wrong.

We saw dozens of dolphins today. They were smallish. One time there were lots of them all around the boat. Some of them were swimming in between the hulls and came up for air under the trampoline. This went on for several minutes. They were mostly dark and Melinda saw some spots on some of them.

We have had good speed now for a few days in a row. The wind has been consistently from the south. The wind speed has changed, but has always been fast enough to keep us moving along pretty fast.

We've come about 1600 miles so far. La Rochelle, France is about 2000 more -- 682 to Horta, then 1310 to La Rochelle. That should put us in France sometime in, let's see..., December?

With the boat on autopilot, we don't have to worry about steering very often, at least when the wind is nice. We look around for other boats, ships, and continents on the radar and sometimes with our eyes.

Some sailing books have detailed sections on how to make a "watch schedule," with tables of sample watch schedules for different numbers of people. Making a watch schedule seems simple enough to me, but we don't have a watch schedule. We just make sure someone is up all night so the boat doesn't run into anything big, and so we don't accidentally turn around and go backwards. Probably the most common things for the watcher to watch for are wind and wave changes that necessitate sail and heading changes.

Kenny usually stays up all night. Serge gets up early. Mike, Melinda, and I goof off. Maybe that's why I like the idea of no watch schedule. Actually, I think it's better our way if you can manage it. With a schedule, you may have to wake up someone who's sleeping at the end of your watch, even if you're not sleepy. And if you're sleepy on watch, you still have to stay awake even if someone else is not sleepy. The best part of not having a watch, though, is the lack of structure. I don't like rules.

We've been making good time in the past few days, and our mainsail isn't all the way up. Since one of our travelers broke (the slider that holds the sail to the mast), we've been operating at the first reef, which is about 3/4 up. We've ordered a replacement and should be able to pick it up at the Azores. We hope to get an anemometer there too.

We saw dolphins yesterday. Two of them jumped clear out of the water beside the boat, just 5 or 10 feet away. I think that's a sign that we're about to run off the edge of the world.

We just saw a boat! The 36' monohull Durk is 2.5 miles north of us. We talked to them on the VHF, since they wouldn't answer the weatherfax frequency on the HF. That's the first boat I've seen since just outside the U.S. Ken saw a ship one night, but I was snoozing at the time.

May 28
16:15z, position 36 21N 45 53W

May 28, 2005


Depuis deux jours nous sommes au pres, tribord amures, avec un vent de 20 noeuds environ. Nous faisons route au 80° en direction de l'ile d'Horta aux Acores situee a environ 800 Miles. Nous filons entre 7 et 8 nouds et nous devrions y arriver aux alentours du 3 juin.

Une houle de Sud de 2 a 3 metres provoque un tangage et un roulis auxquels nos metabolismes sont suffisamment habitues pour que nous n'en ressentions aucune gene. Ce matin, en pesant 500 grammes d'ingredients avec une balance, j'ai constate que la valeur affichee oscillait entre 300 et 900 grammes, ce qui donne une idee des mouvements du bateau.

Hier, apres plus d'une semaine de silence, une voie retentit dans la VHF : "Ici le voilier Jonathan, nous nous adressons au voilier qui fait route vers l'Est", et il indique une position situee a environ une dizaine de miles. Comme la VHF n'a qu'une portee de quelques miles ce ne peut etre que nous. Nous repondons, c'est un bateau francais qui vient des Bermudes et se dirige vers les Acores. Ils nous voient depuis quelques heures, pourtant nous ne voyons rien a l'horizon ni sur le radar. Quelques minutes plus tard un autre voilier "Seawitch" se manifeste sur la VHF : c'est celui auquel etait destine le premier appel. C'est fou ce qu'il y a comme monde au milieu de l'Alantique, a plus de 600 miles de la terre la plus proche.

J'aurais pu craindre de m'ennuyer durant cette croisiere ou, a tout le moins, d'avoir l'impression de perdre du temps, surtout quand l'allure est etablie, qu'il n'y a pas de manouvre a effectuer et que, en plein milieu de l'ocean, le spectacle est uniforme. C'est probablement pour cela que j'ai apporte de quoi m'occuper : livres, CD, DVD, methode de langue, ordinateur portable. En fait, pas un seul instant je ne m'ennuie, au contraire je suis oblige de selectionner les activites que je souhaite privilegier.

Ma favorite est d'apprecier de ce dont je ne pourrai profiter que durant cette croisiere : le spectacle environnant et le bateau. Les sujets sont nombreux : l'observation de la mer, des vagues, du ciel, des nuages, du vent ; le fonctionnement du bateau, le reglage des voiles...

ENGLISH (meant to be)

For two days we have been on starboard tack at close reaching with a 20 knot wind. Our heading is 80° in the direction of the island of Horta in the Azores located at nearly 800 miles. We cruise between 7 and 8 knots and should arrive there around June 3rd.

A 6 to 9 foot swell from the South creates a pitching and a rolling that our metabolisms have been used to enough to feel no disturbance. This morning, using a scale to weigh 500 g of ingredients, I could see that the value displayed would vary from 300 to 900 g, which gives an idea of the movements of the boat.

Yesterday, after more than one week of silence a voice screams out of the VHF :"Here is the sailing boat Jonathan, we talk to the ship that cruise towards East" and he mentions a position located at 10miles. As the VHF works only within miles it can be only us. We answer, and it is a French boat that comes from Bermuda and that cruises towards the Azores. They have been seeing us for a few hours, however we cannot see anything on the horizon or on radar. A few minutes later, an other sailing boat "Seawitch" talks on the VHF : it is the one to whom was directed the first call. It is crazy how crowded the middle of the Atlantic is at more than 600 miles from any land.

I could have been afraid to get bored during this cruise or at least to have the impression to loose some time specially when the settings are established, when there are no maneuvers to accomplish and when, in the middle of the ocean, the sight is uniform. It is probably why I have brought things to keep me busy : books, CD, DVD, language course, notebook. In fact, I never get bored, at the opposite I have to select the activities that I want to favor.

My favorite is to enjoy what I can have only on the boat during this cruise : the spectacle around and the boat. The subject are numerous : the observation of the sea, the waves, the sky, the clouds, the wind; how to operate the boat, to set of the sail...

Melinda's update of Today I think we are over half to the Azores, hoo'ra!! The weather has been exceptional-- I noticed today that we were mostly going between 7-8 knots, which is pretty darn fine with me. It's been nice & sunny too so we cleaned the boat today. I win?

I thought it might be nice to give everyone a complete play-by-play description of what I do during a normal day at sea.

First, I wake up to strange noises of things flapping outside & merry laughs & shouts from the crew. Then, I turn over & go back to sleep. A few hours later, I am usually summoned by my father, "Rise & shine! You should be bright-eyed & bushy-tailed!!" ...Or something along those lines. By this time, I think it may be 2 or 3 in the afternoon & I'm still laying in bed, contemplating whether or not I should risk taking a shower. So far, I have shaved 3 times-- and only 2 with success. Eventually, I decide it is better to be clean than to carry around an awful stench like some crew members...(not pointing). So I head for the shower. Showering on a wavy day usually resorts to longer time periods on the floor in the fetal position or being knocked around while grasping for hand rails that do not exist. After the daily battle in the shower, I usually wander upstairs for some treats, like banana bread. I nibble on food here & there throughout the entire day. As Serge as quoted, "I have never seen someone eat so much, except maybe in the movie Seven." After eating, I usually spend quality time with the guitar, which I'm growing rather attached to, the piano, or a book. But when the sun is just right, I prepare for another adventure. I put on a hoodie & intentionally leave my flip-flops behind (rebel) & grab a book. I head outside & make a nest in the cushions on side seats of the boat, right in the sun. I nestle in comfortably (it takes a lot of nestling to do this) & prop up my flip-flop-tan-lined feet in the sun. I eventually get wore out with so much work from the day that I return inside & find dinner being close to done. We feast like kings & a queen in the evening & join in festivities such as deciding who is going to watch star wars each night. Eventually, I retreat back to my cabin with pajamas & a book and sink into my lovely bed. I sleep. Now repeat.

The weather has been nice in the locations we have traversed through, therefore we have been able to move at a reasonable speed for a few days. This has also allowed some games to be played on board. We all participated in a Scrabble game which I won. Bob beat me in a game of chess, and I whipped my father in a game of ghost. We managed to catch a thirty-seven pound tuna fish (well, my father caught it) and were rewarded with cooked tuna and raw tuna to eat. Because the tuna is not prone to the same syndromes as we are (there are no exoerythrocytic stages of malaria, for example), we had no threat of eating raw fish, fresh from the ocean.

The waves on the ocean are interesting, to say the least. Waves are produced from many sources and we happen to be in one of several locations where waves do not come from specifically from one storm, front, pressure system, or any other phenomena that produces waves. Instead the waves are produced from any number of these phenomena in any given direction at any given time. This, of course, causes the waves that we see not to simply look like the waves you would see on the beach (i.e. coming from only one direction with a height and period that is constant, for the most part). The waves, at first glance, look confused because they are coming from all directions with different sizes from each direction. Sometimes there are large waves from the North, smaller waves from the South-East, and yet another set of waves coming in directly from the West. When these waves interfere it causes constructive and destructive interference, also known as the principle of superposition. In other words, if two waves are coming directly toward each other, in phase (at a minimum and a maximum at the same time, synchronized), you simply just add the two waves together to get the resulant wave. If there were two four foot waves, one from the North, one from the South, moving toward each other in phase, when they overlapped with each other, it would make the maximum eight feet, instead of four feet. Because of the prinicple of superposition, you can easily see how the waves can become confused when there are many sources producing these waves at directions and periods that are always changing. The wind also must be taken into account when trying to calculate how the waves will look at your location. If the wind is blowing in the same direction, it will flatten the wave some, if it is going against the wave, it will make the waves taller, which in turn will change the period of the waves slightly. There are still more variables (velocity and acceleration of the waves, the depth of the sea, &c.) you must consider also. These are just a few of the observations I have made about the waves on the ocean.

Mike's exiting Day 11 update!

Last night we watched the fourth Star Wars movie (episode one). We watch these on a laptop computer. Last night the wind and waves were so loud that we ended up hooking up external speakers to the computer so we could here it. We started the movie at about 1:15am GMT. It was 8:15pm in Oklahoma then. For where we were at, I would guess it to be 10:15pm or so. It was about three hours after sunset.

After about 10 minutes of the movie, the wind picked up and the boat started going faster than we wanted it to. So we reefed the front sail. That means we made it smaller. On this boat, we call this sail, in order of frequency, the jib, the genoa, the foresail, the front sail, or the flapping one (when it gets too loose it flaps and makes noise). It's officially called a genoa. A genoa is a kind of jib. Just like a sousaphone is a kind of a tuba (a marching tuba).

Webster's defines genoa as "a large jib that overlaps the mainsail and is used esp. in racing." I'll try to describe this better. The Babelfish has one mast. It is held up by three guy wires. Guy wires are called "stays" on boats. Two stays are on the sides and a little bit behind the mast. One is on the front middle of the boat. This is called the forestay (fore = front on boats). The mainsail is attached to the mast. The foresail (jib) is attached to the forestay.

On most newer boats, the jib us rolled up around the forestay to store it. It has a pulley at the bottom of the forestay that is attached to a sleeve that runs up to the top of the forestay. To roll up the jib, we pull on a rope that winds it up. To reef the jib, we roll it up part way. There is another rope attached to the trailing point of the jib. Each time we reef or unreef, this rope needs to be tightened or loosened accordingly. The way we do it is to loosen it until if flaps. Then we tighten it until it stops flapping.

The ropes to adjust the tightness of the sails are 14 millimeter diameter. That's about as fat as a finger. The sails pull really hard so the ropes are wrapped around a winch and we crank the winch with a handle. When the wind is strong we have to crank really hard to move the ropes a small bit.

The jib has dots on it to show how much it is reefed. The Babelfish has an owner's manual that tells how far to reef each sail depending on wind speed and direction. Since our wind speed and direction getter is missing from the top of the mast, we just have to guess about reefing.

So there we were, 10 minutes into Star Wars, Episode One, when the boat speed went over nine knots and we were really bouncing. We rolled the jib in about 1/6 (for anyone geometrically challenged, that reduces the sail area by about 30%). That slowed us down to 8-9 knots and it was noticeably less rough.

I always thought the term "reef" was a funny way to talk about making a sail smaller. So I looked it up. The first two definitions in our dictionary (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate) are about shortened and shortening sails.

Star Wars Episode One has really good graphics. I thought the pod racing was especially well done. I also liked the sword fights with light sabers. The effects that they use for space ships are good in every episode in my opinion. The things I like about it are (1) all the different ship designs that they have, (2) the way that they get across the hugeness of some of the spaceships, and (3) the way that they portray 3-dimensional space. I thought they were as effective in Episode Four (which was made about 20 years prior) as they were in Episode One.

Kenny, Bob, and I are getting ready to watch the fifth Star Wars (episode two). Episode Five is still my favorite of the four we have watched on this trip so far.

This morning Serge was making some bread and we noticed that the bananas were just about done. So I made two more loaves of banana bread. Yes, we have no bananas.

We ate boat-made burritos tonight. They were very heavy on the onions.

Weather is still good! South wind, about 20-25. Mostly sunny, lots of bread, banana bread, croissants. We talked to two other sailboats on the radio yesterday, both headed to the Azores. We weren't close enough to see them, though. We also saw a freighter (or some kind of big ship) on the radar last night.

When we asked another boat their position, they had to turn on their instruments to find out. They normally only kept their VHF radio on. Then I looked around our boat. We had on lights in the living room and below, music playing, all the instruments on, the sat phone, two computers, the HF radio, two extra GPS's, the stove, watermaker, some fans, and probably some things I forgot about.

I cooked tuna steaks last night. Melinda said this was the first meal she's ever eaten that I cooked. I think she must be wrong, but I can't recall...

I spent some time this morning organizing, manipulating, matriculating, and masticating the GPS data to find the longest and shortest 24-hour periods on out trip so far. Longest is 203 miles, beginning a few minutes after midnight the 21st. The shortest 24-hour period began on the morning of the 24th, when we were working on the foresail, when we covered 101 miles.

We covered 183 miles two days in a row! I re-checked that a time or two because it seemed likely to be a mistake, but it is correct.

There are birds still flying around here. I think they may be petrals or pterodactyls.

On a more serious matter, we have not yet run out of toilet paper.

May 27
16:47z, position 36 15N 049 44W
Distance to Horta, Azores: 1000 nautical miles (in 3 hours)

Mike's exiting Day 10 update!

Today there was very nice wind and the waves were mostly comfortable. The temperature was in the mid-70s. Some things began to become routine. This is a good thing compared to either gales or doldrums.

We might end up with our second 200 nautical mile day. That's kind of a goal for sailing. Getting the sails set just right and keeping them that way yields the best speed. Of course, the bigger the boat, the faster you can go.

Do we need a bigger boat? Hmm.

Last night Kenny, Bob, and I watched the third Star Wars movie (episode 6). Tonight we are going to watch the fourth (episode 1). Of the three, so far I think episode 5 is the best.

Late in the afternoon our VHF radio started talking. We were shocked. The radio had not made a sound for 7-8 days. On the radio was someone asking for the boat near such and such latitude and longitude. We were kind of near that spot. We looked on the radar and couldn't see anyone. We looked around the horizon. Nothing.

So we answered. It turned out to be a nice French couple on the way from Bermuda to the Azores. They were just saying hi. Serge got on the radio and talked in French to them for quite awhile. It turns out that they were actually trying to talk to a third boat. Here we are in the middle of the Atlantic trying to get a little peace and quiet. Now it's crowded!

No fish today. I think the crowd has scared them away.

The Babelfish engines run on diesel. The fuel tank holds 100 gallons. We have about 70 more gallons in plastic five-gallon cans (some of them hold six gallons). We get between five and seven miles per gallon, depending on the speed. We already used about 75 gallons motoring in the doldrums and headwinds (yes, we brought a LOT of fuel). Now we can break the masts and lose all the sails and still get to the Azores using the motors.

We also have a diesel generator. It uses about 1.5 quarts per hour. We use a lot of electricity on this boat. We normally have all of the boat instruments on. There are a lot of boat instruments. In addition there are usually some fans, computers, and radios on. Also some GPS's, the periscope (camera at the top of the mast), and often a piano. And we have been running the water maker 24 hours a day lately. The water maker uses a lot of electricity. And let's not forget ... the electric hot water heater (Melinda and I require hot showers!).

During the day, we get electricity from four solar panels located on the roof of the porch. We get more on sunny days. This lowers the amount of electricity we have to generate using diesel. When we are motoring, the engines produce plenty of electricity. Otherwise we have to run the generator for an hour or so occasionally to charge up the batteries.

True sailor people talk about conserving electricity, taking a two-quart shower, turning off boat instruments when not absolutely necessary, and stuff like that. We flatlanders just brought extra diesel.

The motors, the generator, and the water maker are all loud. Sailing is much nicer when none of them are running. In a lot of wind (like today) the noise of the wind and water drowns out most of the water maker and generator noise.

Tonight we ate steamed squash (thanks Melinda), pan-fried tuna (thanks Bob), and fresh-baked whole-wheat bread (thanks Serge). It was good.

Good weather! South wind about 15 knots, sun, and it's about 70F or 75F outside. Our sat phone internet died yesterday, but the satphone still worked. We could still get weather over the HF radio on the weather fax stations. Today Mike called the phone people and they 'fessed up that it was their fault -- a "network problem." It works now.

Last night I was getting ready for bed, and heard a strange noise outside. I headed up, and Kenny was battling a really big fish on the fishing pole. Before I could get the boat slowed down, it had broken the line.

We've made good time over the past couple of days. Well, it's not too good compared to an airplane or a car or a bicycle, but it's not bad for a sailboat. We were lucky to turn right instead of left early on, and we've missed most of the bad weather lately. It looks we'll even have enough fuel to motor to the Azores if the wind rips our sails off any time after tomorrow. Until then, we'll have to motor to Canada if all the sails blow off.

May 26
13:44z, position 36 04N, 054 03W

Mike's exiting Day 9 update!

We had very good wind that allowed us to go 8-9 knots most of the time. The waves were docile. Some of the swells were pretty high (I'd guess occasionally over 10 feet), but they were far enough apart that they were not steep.

Since it was fairly smooth with a steady wind, we (Serge mostly) spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to make the boat go the fastest.

My first sailboating experience was with Barb (my sister) and Mike (her hubby). They sailed an 18 foot catamaran in a lot of races in the Gulf of Mexico. Legend is they won a lot of those races. Their boat went fast and was fun. Barb and Mike would make the boat tip up on one pontoon. They had to control the rudder AND the sail just right to do this.

The Babblefish weighs a lot of tons. I don't think it's possible to get it up on one leg. The Babblefish also has an autopilot. The boat is on autopilot almost 100% of the time. So the only thing we have to do is get the sails set in the right place and we go. The righter we are, the faster we go. So we end up adjusting the sails off and on all day long and all night long trying to get them a little bit righter. About half of the time we mess with them we go a bit faster. The other half of the time ... well, the trip gets longer.

We enjoyed a rip roaring game of scrabble. Kenny won. The rest of us are mad.

I'm surprised that almost every day we have seen at least one bird. How do they sleep out in the middle of the ocean?

Today we lost our internet. It didn't really affect anything boat-wise. We were able to get our weather information with our HF radio and fax receiving software on our computers. But I sure did miss the emails.

More good weather! The wind is still from the southeast, 10-15 knots. The prevailing westerlies are a legend. Last night we got the weather forecast for the western north Atlantic, and there was only one gale warning! There have usually been 4-5 since we left Norfolk. This morning there is a new storm warning, but neither affects us.

Yesterday we had 3-6' swells coming from the northeast, 3-6' swells coming from the west, and some small local waves coming from the south. I've seen swells meeting like that from the air, and it makes a nice geometric pattern. From down here, however, it's hard to decipher which way the waves are going. It's not important for the boat, just for curiosity. And if we didn't have weather forecasts, it might be a warning of strong winds in the distance. Sometimes swells from the two directions would coincide, and a water "mountain" about 8 or 10 feet high would form and move off to the southeast. These sound big, but the distance between the waves is so large and their slope so shallow that they don't affect the boat much.

I gathered the track data from Serge's and my handheld GPS's. The expensive boat GPS doesn't record as much, and I don't know how to download from it. Serge's GPS was set to UTC, mine to central time, and my Mapsource software was set to translate the time a certain number of hours for some odd reason. Between that and my own stupid mistakes, it took a long time to get the data in one piece. Both our GPS's had some missing times that we either overran the memory or accidentally turned off, but combined they cover the whole trip, but I've merged the data into a single track. I may put a map up if I can do it with a small file. Anyway, we have the distance and speed for the trip so far, in case you missed it above. The distances are actual distance covered over the ground, not point-to-point at the end of the day.

Nothing on the boat has broken in the past 24 hours! (Except my great fishing lure thant Mike and Serge "retired" from the tacklebox for losing too many fish.)

Water temperature is 70.8. Air temperature is about the same. Water depth is "very, very deep." We did cross some sea mounts, but didn't see them because their tops were  more than 1000 feet below the surface. The color of the water is a very deep blue, I would guess RGB(0,89,179).

May 25, One week on the water!
13:13z, position 35 57N 57 22W
1259 quick nautical miles to Flores, Azores!


Une tres belle journee.

La route choisie se revele excellente. Un vent etabli nous permet d'avancer au bon plein (a 60 degres du vent) a une vitesse oscillant entre 6 et 7 noeuds. Soleil avec quelques nuages epars, temperature de l'air de 20 a 23 C, temperature de l'eau 21 C. Les trains de houle qui nous talonnent nous indiquent l'origine des depressions ce que nous confirment les bulletins meteo que nous telechargeons via le telephone satellite : pour l'instant le mauvais temps est derriere nous. Profitons-en !

Auparavant nous avions les yeux rives sur l'anemometre qui nous donnait precisement la direction et la force du vent. Maintenant qu'il a ete emporte par un des coups de vents precedents, nous sommes revenus a des methodes plus traditionnelles : la girouette en haut du mat ou les pennons que nous avons accroches aux haubans et aux filieres, l'aspect de la mer, et, bien sur, les sensations personnelles.

Cette allure nous laisse le temps de vaquer a diverses occupations. Et, meme si elles sont nombreuses, comme elles ne sont pas illimitees, nous les savourons. C'est fou ce que l'on gagne comme temps ! Tout est a proximite, pas besoin de prendre la voiture pour faire les courses, le menage se fait en quelques minutes a coup d'eponge et de sopalin, exceptionnellement 5 minutes d'aspirateur pour tout l'interieur du bateau. Quant a l'exterieur, la prochaine pluie s'en chargera.

Bob rassemble les differentes traces de notre route provenant de son GPS et du mien. Cela indique, a intervalle de temps regulier, notre position, notre vitesse, notre cap... La difficulte pour Bob reside dans le fait que nous n'avons pas les heures locales sur chaque GPS : Oklahoma, Paris, Norfolk, UTC.

Mike a choisi de cuisiner : des cookies, deux gateaux a la banane, un gateau au chocolat, deux pains... assez pour inviter tout le bord du Queen Mary 2 si nous le croisons.

Melinda et Kenny sont plonges dans leur livres.

J'en profite pour effectuer un nettoyage et une lessive complete de ma cabine, effectuer quelques bricolages et parfaire mes connaissances dans le reglage des voiles.

Juste avant l'heure du diner, nous entendons cliqueter les lignes de peches qui trainent a l'arriere du bateau. C'est une belle prise ! Au bout de 20 minutes d'efforts intenses, Mike remonte un thon de 17 kilos qu'il decoupe ensuite dans une ambiance tres gore.

Le diner est tout choisi : sushi en entrée suivi de steaks de thon au barbecue. Pour les desserts nous avons le choix.


Very nice day !

The chosen route seems to be excellent. With a stable wind we progress at close reaching (60 degrees from the wind) at a speed between 6 and 7 knots. Sun with some clouds, air temperature 68 to 72 F, water temperature 70 F. The swell that comes behind us shows the origin of the low confirmed by the weather bulletin that we downloaded via the satellite phone : for the time being the bad weather is behind us. Let's take advantage of it!

Before we used to have the eyes fixed on the wind meter that displayed the direction and the speed of the wind. Now that it went away with one of the previous gale we are back on traditional methods : the wind vane that is at the top of the mast or the tell tlaes that we hanged to the stays or the lines of life, the aspect of the sea and, of course, our personal feelings.

This cruising let us time for various occupations. And, even if they are plenty, as they are not unlimited we enjoy them. It is amazing the time we can save ! Everything is close, no need to drive the car for the groceries, the housework is completed in few minutes with a sponge or paper towels, exceptionally 5 minutes of vacuum cleaner for all the inside of the boat. For the outside, the next rain will do.

Bob is gathering the tracks of our route from his GPS and mine. This shows, at regular periods of time, our position, our speed and our heading... The difficulty comes from the facts that we don't have the same local times on each GPS: Oklahoma, Paris, Norfolk, UTC.

Mike was in a cooking mood: cookies, two bana breads, his Mom's yellow cake with chocolate icing, two breads... enough to invite everyone from the Queen Mary 2 in case we pass it.

Melinda and Kenny are in their books.

I take the opportunity to clean and laundry all my cabin, make some work on the boat and improve my knowledge in the setting of the sails.

Just before dinner time, we ear the fishing pole whizzing that are dragged behind the boat. It is a good catch! After 20 minutes of intense efforts, Mike pulls out of the water a 37 pounds that he then cut out in a very gore atmosphere.

The diner is set up: sushi as a starter and then tuna steak BBQ. For desert, we have choice.

Mike's exciting Day 8 update!

The evening before we left for France, Melinda requested that we eat at a restaurant. We all thought a drive-thru sounded convenient, so off we went. We ended up at some place that required us to sit down inside and wait a long time before they would give us food.

While we were waiting we made some predictions.

Number of Fish Caught (currently, 6):
Ken: 4
Melinda: 14
Serge: 18
Mike: 28
Bob: 47

Most Nautical Miles in a Single Day (currently, 202):
Ken: 175
Bob: 187
Melinda: 193
Mike: 228
Serge: 240

Highest Boat Speed (currently, 11.8):
Ken: 12
Serge: 14
Mike: 14
Bob: 15.5
Melinda: 17

Maximum True Wind Speed Observed (currently, 41):
Bob: 34
Mike: 45
Melinda: 46
Ken: 52
Serge: 55

Days Till France (currently, infinity):
Mike: 21
Ken: 22
Bob: 27
Serge: 29
Melinda: 37

This morning I finished a book and felt like a change of pace. Before I knew it, I had a hankering to cook. Bake! I was in a baking mood. Coincidentally, baked stuff is what sounded good to eat. So I set out to bake.

Due to the continuous ripening (over-ripening?) of our banana supply, and since nobody had any better suggestions, I started with banana bread. Chocolate chip cookies were next. Then a yellow cake with chocolate icing. Then a couple of loaves of bread. After the proper amount of sampling and taste-testing, I was stuffed!

The kitchen on the boat is in the living room. There is a sink, an oven, a stove with 3 burners, a refrigerator, and two sinks. In addition there are several storage holes and cabinets. It's very functional. One peculiarity of this kitchen is that the only "work surface" is on top of the refrigerator. That (coupled with an inherent disorganization of goods when Bob is around) caused some ... let's say inefficiencies in the preparation process. It reminded me of trying to do a small job around the house. You know the ones where it takes more than an hour to do a 4 minute job due to "tool and part locating."

Cooking on a boat is different. Even when it seems calm there are surprise waves that will cause surprise lurches. If you set something down in a way that could possibly spill, it will. Therefore, everything has to be deliberate. This was a relatively low-spillage baking session. It was a very low-speed baking session. But it was fun.

Back in Fort Lauderdale several weeks ago, Bob, Patty, and I went shopping for boat stuff. You know, things like toilet paper, magazines, spare parts, and pop tarts. We also picked up some fishing lures. Bob picked out a monster plug. It's one of those that goes under water and wiggles back and forth a lot. I'm pretty sure it slows the boat by at least half a knot when we troll with it.

We were fishing with no luck all day again today, with the monster plug on one pole and a big hook with a bright yellow and green plastic skirt. About 3 hours before sunset the monster plug pole started screaming. Serge grabbed it and I started to slow the boat down. Before I could get there the other pole went wild. I grabbed it and Bob was out there to slow the boat by then. Thirty seconds later my pole was still screaming and I was losing line. I figured it must be a really big tangle of seaweed to pull this hard.

After what seemed like 7 hours later, Kenny gaffed a 37 pound yellow-fin tuna onto the boat. It was BIG.

Bob's monster plug, for about the sixth time, hooked a fish and let it go. The hook-and-skirt combo worked like a charm. We have plans to retire the monster plug.

We cleaned the tuna using the crappie-fillet technique that Dad taught us. We had sashimi as an appetizer. We then over-ate on a main course of grilled teriyaki tuna. It was yummy. We have about twenty large tuna steaks in the refrig now. Someone that knows how to clean a tuna fish would probably have twice that.

I was unaware that these crossing the Atlantic trips were so hard on the waistline.

Kenneth Lee
Last night part of the sail boat fell apart but we fixed it quickly, in doing so we found what appeared to be either a haustorium or possibly some other part of a living organism. It was hastily cleaned. This afternoon I awoke only to  the captain (who was marching around the catamaran with a woomera) threatening keel-haul. Good food is being cooked by my father (Michael), books are being read (Robert and the captain), and of course the boat is under constant repair (Serge). It is just a normal day in the middle of the Atlantic.


It is the "8th" day. Melinda's update. (Still new & improving)

Finally, we have sun, surf & even some wind too, which is nice for laundry. Which brings me to: We finally have clean laundry!! Thank ye to the crew & captain. =D

I'm starting to realize that this trip isn't just about trying to survive on the ocean for perilous weeks, but rather, trying to survive with male crew members for perilous weeks. Times have been hard, especially when the males develop a distinct stench within the cabin during unreasonable times for any windows to be open. For the record, Dad, waves do not "make" those kind of noises, especially at 7 or 8 in the morning everyday. Well...I will stop with the horror & move on to more uplifting, sanitary stories. A couple of nights ago, we had an ingenious jam session of blues with a mighty fine piano finger player (Mike), a beautiful baritone blower (Dad), & a uh...a truely unique guitar picker (the Captain). Let me tell you, there had never been such wonderful music in the world until then; we could have easily replaced the Sirens' tunes with what we magically performed. Ken & Serge were struck with awe at our playing/singing abilities. To tell you the truth, I think Mike, Dad, & I actually were struck too, with awe that is. We just flat-out wailed the oceanic blues. Fortunately, Serge recorded our glorious sound. When it gets posted up on this site, each & every one of you will discover that there is no hint of exaggeration to the beauty that will reach each lucky ear of yours.

The beauty of Mike's, Dad's, & the Captain's music is subjective to others' hearing.

With "fishheads, fishheads, rolly-polly fishheads..." echoing throughout the ship, I fear the crew is going insane. Mike is making bread for the first time, Dad & Mike posed together for a picture, Ken is awake, and most shocking, Serge just told me that laundry is not a woman's privelege. I can only pray the insanity continues...

We've come about 910 miles, straight line, from Norfolk. All these miles are nautical miles, which are equal to 1/60 of one degree (1 minute) latitude, and 1/60 of one degree longitude at the equator. One knot is one nautical mile per hour. A nautical mile is about 1.15 times a regular (statute) mile, and so 10 knots is about 11.5 mph.

Good weather today! High clouds, wind from the southeast I'd guess 10 or 15 knots.

Last night we heard an acorn fall on the roof during Star Wars. Since there are not many oak trees out here, we went outside in a valiant attempt to catch aliens in the act of harassing us. But the noise turned out to be a nut that came off a large bolt between the boom and the mast. We looked around for a while, and finally found the nut lodged in the first row of holes on the trampoline. Lucky! There are two nuts holding the bolt, but double-nutting doesn't work well with stainless steel because it doesn't bend much. So we put some gasket sealer on it because we can't find the lock-tite.

While we were out and about, we noticed some brown stuff that had splashed onto the front right boat. We never could figure out what it was or where it came from. It didn't have much smell, so it probably didn't come from an airplane toilet. Maybe a whale regurgitated onto our boat when we weren't looking.

Mike barbecued steaks and Serge baked potatoes last night on the grill. We flew the spinnaker yesterday, and didn't do any visible damage! We caught no fish yesterday.

Keep the messages coming! If you send us a message, remember that everything past 127 characters gets cut off. We've gotten a few that weren't complete, and we usually don't know where those came from because people say that at the bottom. Receiving messages is free, but replying costs a lot and we don't get a return address in the messages, so don't expect a reply.

May 24
16:35z, position 36 08N 059 12w
1455 quick miles to the Horta, Azores!

Update number one: We sailed on smooth seas for a few days and saw dolphins, sharks, and whales. We caught fish and ate them (I caught the largest fish, for the record). After the nice weather it got a little windy and had some bigger waves. We have had a few difficulties but nothing that has caused the boat to sink or anyone to fall overboard. We are all scurvy because of the choice of foods we brought aboard. Everybody is merry and jolly.

Update number two: We ate pineapple, dried the boat out, fixed a few things, and grilled chicken in the nice weather. We are now stuck in the duldrums. I have stayed up at night and read while everyone slept.

Mike's exiting Day 7 update!

It was another nice day, sunny with calm seas. We would prefer a bit more wind, but it's nice to relax. Looking at the weather we expect 3-4 calm, dry days ahead. We might really by wanting wind by then.

Our early luck fishing has waned. Since our five fish bonanza, we have not had a single bite. Today there was a dark gull-looking bird flying around the boat. It seems that it would eat small fish. It seems that big fish would eat those same small fish. It seems that those big fish would eat our lures. They didn't.

Today is a record setting day! It marks one week's passing since I have seen my wife, Patty. That's our longest time apart as a married couple. Tomorrow will also be a record-setting day. And the next day, too. And the day after that... Well, you get the idea. I'm pretty lucky to be able to take off like this for a few weeks while still a newlywed. (Surely she didn't want this much time away from me!)

The satellite phone, although pricy, makes it easier for us. We have been able to talk a couple of times each day. But ... that all ended when Patty left cell phone range with her mother on a Caribbean cruise ship yesterday. I've been looking south, but haven't seen her yet.

We hoisted our spinnaker for the first time on the trip today. Spinnakers are large sails that tie onto the front of the boat when the wind is light and steady and mostly from behind. They are kind of like a huge kite. Our spinnaker is a big triangle that attaches to the mast at the top, and a rope on each bottom corner ties to the sides of the boat. By pulling the left and right ropes to just the right length, the spinnaker flies. Spinnakers make the boat go faster by getting blown on by more air. They are usually colorful and pretty. Ours is.

Spinnakers these days are made of very thin nylon-type fabric. Ours is about 65 feet tall and 40 feet wide at the bottom. It weighs about 30 pounds. By contrast, our main sail is probably 250 pounds and of similar size. Being so light makes the spinnaker blow around a lot if it's not set just right. In wind that is just right. Being attached by only 3 points makes it difficult to get set just right. Finding wind that is just right isn't too easy either.

After we hoisted the spinnaker, Bob and I changed the ropes about a hundred times and finally got it kind of flying ok. Then Serge looked in some of our "how to sail" books for pictures of how spinnakers should look. Naturally we changed the ropes about a hundred more times after looking at the pictures. We ended up increasing our speed from about 3.5 knots to around 3.7 knots.

So Bob and I were sitting on the porch in the light breeze, content with ourselves and our sailing savvy, looking at our flashy spinnaker. We were talking sailing talk.

"So how do people tear up spinnakers anyway?" "I heard about a guy that wrapped his spinnaker around his forestay." "How'd he get it off?" "Dunno. Another guy ran over his." "We almost did that earlier" "I read that one way to douse (lower) a spinnaker is to block the wind with the main sail"

I looked up and was thoughtful. Then I spoke. "Hey Bob, if we turn right 10 degrees you reckon it would let more wind on the spinnaker." He turned 10 right and the spinnaker started looking more like the pictures. Then he turned 10 more right. Before long we were speeding along at better than 6 knots.

We have a lot of very ripe bananas on hand. Other than banana bread, any ideas for use (no smoothies) are welcome.

Plans for tonight include book-reading (the allies are just about to win WWIII) and watching the second Star Wars (episode five).

Today is sunny too! The boat has officially changed to UTC, zulu time, Greenwich mean time, or possibly local solar time. 16:35z is 11:35 a.m. in Oklahoma, and 4:17 p.m. in Arkansas. I plan to gather up the distances per day sometime and put them on this page. Our current speed is 5-6 knots. We have a light wind from the south, the engines are off.

I have read about wave period, and wondered who cared about that. The NOAA Wave Watch model has wave height, period, and wind speed. I have ignored the wave period. Yesterday, some of the waves were about 10 feet high, but it was really smooth because they were smooth swells with long periods. The deck of the boat stayed dry all day. I guess those large wave periods make a difference. Today it was even smoother.

I went up the forestay (the big cable from the front of the boat to the top of the mast) to fix the furler (the thing that rolls up the front sail), and there was a LOT more motion up there. I went clear around the forestay once, and I was doing my best not to. It's fixed now, and we can put the front sail all the way out again.

Last night we had a lot of piano music (Mike, Melinda and I), some guitar music (Melinda and Mike), and a piano-guitar-baritone trio for a while. Then there was Star Wars, episode 4 (the first Star Wars movie).

On the boat there are 136 books, 27 piano books and pieces, 3 language courses (2 French and one German), 3 dictionaries, 3 language dictionaries, 56 movies, about 100 music CDs, and some magazines. We haven't completed all these yet.

Serge is throwing out some rotten fruit. I guess we didn't eat fast enough. The food on the boat will now only last until we get to Australia.

A brown gull-sized bird just came and circled the boat a time or two. What's he doing out here hundreds of miles from land?

May 23
8:51 a.m. EDT position 36 06N 061 41W

Mike's exiting Day 6 update!
Wow, how things change. Today, after expecting to wake up to clouds, occasional rain, and semi-unfriendly waves, I woke up to ... SUN. I never realized that 4-6 foot waves would feel so relaxing.

Backing up for a day, yesterday afternoon/evening was actually pretty relaxing most of the time. But it was still 5-10 foot waves off and on all day. And rain. Cold rain actually.

Reading the weather last night, it looked like we were going to end up closer to a rather big storm north west of us heading east-north-east, than would be desirable. So we battened things down and expected a fairly rough day; possibly really rough depending on the path of the storm.

Returning to today, my mom always told us "a clean ship is a happy ship." Well ... she didn't really say that, but it sounds like something she would say. The point is, we spent a lot of today cleaning up the boat and doing minor maintenance things. It's amazing how messy and dirty a boat can get in 2-3 days of foul weather with 4 out of 5 people seasick (oops, did I say that out loud). Now we are clean, showered, mostly shaven. And happy.

By mid morning we had the deck fully laden and scattered with things that needed drying. Tied onto the lifelines, bimini (porch cover), and most anywhere we could attach stuff were clothes, bedding, cushions, mattresses, shoes, coats and other damp and wet things.

Melinda washed a whole bunch of stuff. She made the mistake of offering to wash things if wanted. More than an hour later (and about 100 gallons of water later) she emerged with all kinds of clean, wet stuff.

By evening, or maybe late afternoon ... about 2.5 hours before sunset (We don't actually know what time it is here so we refer to time by (1) "Oklahoma time," where we live and where my watch is set to (2) "eastern daylight time," where we left from or (3) "GMT," "UTC," "zulu," where the clock on the boat is set. Our GPS tells us what time the sun will rise and set for where we are in "UTC" time. Therefore we don't really know what time it is, but we usually know when the sun will rise or set.) we were all outside in the cockpit (back porch) and it was really nice. We had a tail wind, the sun was 2.5 hours above sunset. We ate fresh pineapple and move drying clothes and misc. around on the deck. It was nice. Although I don't like pineapple too much.

One thing we spent a lot of time fixing was the bottom slider thing that holds the sail to the mast. It broke a few days ago. And then yesterday IN THE RAIN it broke worse. There are 7-8 of them and this is the on one the bottom. Serge, Bob, and I spend a few hours deliberating (arguing), engineering (dremeling and filing), and fitting (fiddling with it via trail and error) our repair. It really worked well and we were pretty pleased with ourselves. It broke again this evening in light wind. Tomorrow we plan to tie the bottom of the sail to the mast with a rope.

As I mentioned, per mom, a clean ship is a happy ship. And tonight we were all so durned happy that we sang the blues.

Melinda on guitar, Bob on baritone, Kenny and Serge on percussion, and me on the piano, we were rockin' (and the boat was rollin').

It went a little bit like this: Ba da dat da dah ... In fourteen ninety two Ba da dat da dah ... Columbus sailed it blue Ba da dat da dah ... It's time for our cue Ba da dat da dah ... Cuz we're gonna do it, too Ba da dat da dah ...

(Melinda wails a guitar solo)

Ba da dat da dah ... It's easy as can be Ba da dat da dah ... Crossing the deep, deep sea Ba da dat da dah ... But there's not much to see Ba da dat da dah ... Ba da dat da dah ...

(Bobs like Al Hirt, only a couple of octaves lower)

Ba da dat da dah ... Jingle jangle jingle Ba da dat da dah ... Let's eat a lot of Pringle(s) Ba da dat da dah ... There's a funny tingle Ba da dat da dah ... We're all gonna mingle Ba da dat da dah ... dat dah ... dat dah ... dat dah ... dat da da da da da dooo...


Aujourd'hui sOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOleil !

D'apres les statistiques de meteo marine, au mois de mai il y a 3% de chance d'avoir Force 8 et 5% de chance d'avoir des vagues de quatre metres : avec ce que nous avons eu en 5 jours nous devrions etre tranquilles pour le reste du voyage.

Une houle de 3 metres persiste mais de periode suffisamment longue pour etre presque plaisante. De toute facon avec le traitement que nous avons subi les jours precedents rien n'aurait pu etre plus desagreable. Si peut etre la tempete dont nous ne sommes passés qu'a 10 miles nautiques au Sud d'apres le bulletin meteo. En contrepartie le vent est tres faible et nous n'avancons pas. En fait la navigation se resume a trop ou pas assez de vent, de la mauvaise direction, trop de vagues, trop courant. Jamais contents ces marins direz-vous, c'est probablement pourquoi si peu de femmes pratiquent la voile !

Les sourires reviennent sur les visages aux traits tires et les plaisanteries recommencent a fuser. Apres plusieurs jours d'humidite et de fuites dans les cabines, nos affaires courantes sont trempees. Nous en profitons pour tout aerer et faire secher sur le pont qui ressemble a une foire-a-tout locale.

En quelques heures nous recreons ce que la civilisation a mis des siecles a instaurer :

- Melinda fait la lessive et recouvre les lignes de vie d'une surface de textile superieure a celle de notre voilure.

- Kenny dort du lever au coucher du soleil.

- Bob apprend le francais avec une methode intitulee en toute modestie "Maitriser le francais" et repete pendant plus de deux heures "jeu neu ses pas" (avec l'accent mandchourien) qui constitue la premiere lecon probablement par ordre de frequence d'utilisation.

- Mike vide toute sa cabine sur le pont, matelas compris, afin d'essorer l'eau imbibee dans chaque particule elementaire.

- Je regarde un DVD sur "Comprendre le reglage des voiles" afin d'essayer faire decoller le voilier des 4 noeuds auquel nous sommes scotches depuis ce matin.

Nous entreprenons de reparer un des coulisseaux qui maintient la grand voile sur le mat et qui s'est casse. Nous commencons par decouper le manche d'un ouvre-boite mais le diametre etant trop faible nous nous rabattons sur la tige d'un tournevis et en moins de trois heures a trois personnes nous effectuons la reparation qui aurait probablement pris 15 minutes a un technicien stagiaire.

La journee se termine par un poulet au barbecue prepare par Mike, un diner au soleil couchant, un lever de lune rousse et un concerto de piano de Mike qui souhaite prouver a Bob que ce morceau de Chopin est vraiment facile a interpreter.

Fin de soiree : session de Blues avec Mike au piano, Bob au tuba et Melinda a la guitare.

Nous avons deja parcouru plus de 700 miles, plus que 1600 miles Acores.

ENGLISH (meant to be)


According to the nautical, weather forecast, in May there is 3% chance to get Force 8 and 5% chance to have 4 meter waves: with what we had in 5 days we may be fine for the rest of the trip.

A persistant 3 meter swell, but with period long enough not to be almost pleasant. Anyway with the treatment that we have had in the past days nothing could have been more unpleasant. May be the storm that we have been only 10 miles South and that we discovered on the weather bulletin. As a counterpart the wind is really weak and we are going really slowly. In fact navigation is all about: too much or not enough wind, from the wrong direction, too much waves, too much current. Never happy these sailors would you say: that is probably why there are so few women practice sailing.

Smiles come back on tired faces and jokes are flying. After so many days of humidity and of leaks in the cabins our current things are wet. We take the opportunity to ventilate and to dry everything on the deck that looks like a local garage sale.

In few hours we recreate what took centuries for the civilization to setup:

- Melinda is doing the laundry and covers the lines of life with a surface of textile superior to our sails.

- Kenny sleeps from sunrise to sunset.

- Bob learns French with a language course named in all modesty "Mastering French" and keeps repeating for more than two hours "jeu neu ses pas" supposed to mean "I don't know (with the Manchurian pronounciation) and that correspond to first lesson probably by order of frequent use.

- Mike pours his cabin on the deck, mattress included, in order to remove the water inside in every elementary particle.

- I watch a DVD on the "Understand the setting of the sails" in order to make the boat from the 4 knots on which we have been glued since this morning.

We start to fix one of the travelers that maintain the sail along the mast and that got broken. We start by cutting the handle of a tin-opener but the diameter being too small we go for the blade of a screw driver and in less than 3 hours we accomplish in 3 persons the job that would have been done in less than 15 minutes by a trainee technician.

The day ends by a chicken BBQ operated by Mike and diner at sunset, a red moonrise and a piano concerto performed by Mike that wants to prove to Bob that this piano piece of Chopin is really easy to play.

Late night Blues session with Mike at the piano, Bob at the baritone and Melinda at the guitar.

We have already gone for 700 miles, only 1600 to the Azores.

It's sunny this morning! Towels, bedding, and shoes, and etc. are hanging around outside trying to dry. We finally have a westerly wind.

May 22
1:36 p.m. EDT position 36 29N 063 43W, only 1548 quick miles to the Azores.

Melinda Anne Webster's 2nd update on Day 5 perhaps? *New & Improved!!*
I didn't realize today was Sunday! Wow, time must be flying by. Or I must be sleeping way too much. Probably the latter, but I did manage to finish 2 books. Now my only two concerns are: (1) will I run out of books to read? (2) Will we run out of toilet paper? The weather has improved a tremendous amount, well, according to my stomach. We deviated away from this enormous killer storm that was after our maiden ship while pirates were trying to come aboard to steal the French chocolate & other fine bountiful goods we had... like beany weenies & what-not. Then, gigantic piranhas attacked the ship, breaking through the windows, trying to bite our legs off. The Lochness Monster was there too. Fortunately,... we successfully stayed out of harm's way & ate spaghetti for lunch. Whew. I did happen to see a rainbow today, double one in fact, so that was pretty neat. Other than that, I was wondering why we're going south-west instead of east for a while until I was informed that we're avoiding bad weather. We just saw lightning so I think we're going to go south so'more. In a nutshell, the trip is fantastic!

Melinda, May 21
(I missed this one Melinda wrote yesterday... Oops!)
Day 3 from what I know. I think someone gave me a bad apple today & got me sick this morning. Sick enough to be accused of being sea-sick. Anyway, I have been cured! Serge brought my favorite chocolate so everything is fine & dandy. I'm quite happy. Yesterday was very nice, there was hardly any wind & the ocean was completely smooth. You could see ripples in little windy patches all over the ocean. Neat, but I don't think sailors usually like this no wind business. We saw a lot of dolphins, sharks, & whales (this update is kind of old, due to the busy-ness of the captain, herself). I really liked this enormous shark that looked like it was about 30 ft long; unfortunately, we didn't go swimming at all yesterday. Instead, I got to play around in the hammock & read a book. That thing can really swing you around if you're not careful. I decided not to play in the hammock today; it seemed a little too unsteady. Mike estimates 8-10 ft waves, not to mention enough wind to mess up my pretty little hair. So I stayed in bed & slept all day. Maybe I'll finally get to finish the last 8 pages of my book! I ate chocolate & cheese for dinner, I'm tuckered out.

Update number one: We sailed on smooth seas for a few days and saw dolphins, sharks, and whales. We caught fish and ate them (I caught the largest fish, for the record). After the nice weather it got a little windy and had some bigger waves. We have had a few difficulties but nothing that has caused the boat to sink or anyone to fall overboard. We are all scurvy because of the choice of foods we brought aboard. Everybody is merry and jolly.

The wind went away! I'm not sure how much, because our anemometer died. It came loose or bent at the top of the mast. We haven't missed it too much, we just have to look outside to see where the wind is coming from. Two days before we left we put up a weathervane to replace the one that I broke a few weeks ago, and I thought we'd never use it.

I just spent what seemed like 17 hours worked on the freshwater water pressure pump, but it wasn't ever broken. That was exciting! It is really hard to get to. Mike and Serge tricked me, accidentally they claim. We have some missing set screws from the genoar furler, but that will have to wait for smooth water or the Azores to fix them.

The wind is now 0 knots from every direction, in my estimation. We had nice wind a few minutes earlier, but we've hit the doldrums. Or maybe the eye of the hurricane. The barometer is rising. I think that means it's going to snow.

I might clarify -- the leaks on the boat are from above, not from below. The bilge pumps haven't come on this trip at all, except for when the switch for the one in the right engine room bounced loose once.

Serge cooked bread this morning! Mike cooked cinnamon rolls. Melinda found a hair in hers. Mike admitted that he dropped them on the floor upside down, but it should be OK because that was after he vacuumed.

Apres le jour des mammiferes marins autour du bateau, avec l'apparition du vent et des vagues commencent, dans le bateau, les jours des mammiferes non marins : nous.

Force 7 a 8 et des vagues de 3 a 5 metres. Nous passons ces deux jours dans le tambour de la machine a laver atlantique. Les conversations se font plus rares et a part quelques breves apparitions dans la cabine principale, chacun tente de rester en position horizontale, plus reposante pour les sens. Quand a la cuisine elle se restreint a quelques fruits ou snacks. Ce phenomene de mal de mer est normal et persiste durant quelques jours le temps que l'oreille interne s'habitue aux mouvements violents du bateau : le fait de ne pas le ressentir ne serait que le signe de malformations ou de dommages au cerveau ce qui semble etre le cas d'un membre de l'equipage.

Cote voile c'est la "salade de ris". Nous passons notre temps a prendre et a larguer des ris pour adapter notre voilure a la force du vent. Un des chariots de la grand voile s'etant bloque le long du mat , Bob grimpe le long du mat avec un marteau pour le debloquer avec succes en subissant mouvement proche du saut a l'elastique a l'horizontal.

Nous commencons a nous demander si c'etait vraiment le seul moyen de passer quelques semaines de vacances sans nos epouses.

After the day of the marine mammal animals out of the boat, come the days of the non-marine mammals in the boat : us.

Force 7 to 8 winds and 9 to 15 feet waves. We spent the 2 following days in the Atlantic washing machine. The conversations become rarer and except a few appearances in the main cabin, everybody tends to remain in a horizontal position, more relaxing for the senses. The cooking is restricted to fruits and snacks. This phenomenon is normal and last for a few days, the time that the internal ear gets adapted to the violent motion of the boat: not feeling that would be the sign of malformations or damages to the brain which seems to be the case of one of the member of the crew.

On the sailing side it is "reefing salad". We spend our time reefing and un-reefing to adapt our sail to the wind. As a cart that leads the main sail along the mast was stucked, Bob climbs along the mast with a hammer to fix it with success but submitted to movement close to a horizontal bungee-jumping.

We start to wonder if this was the only way to spent a few weeks vacation without our wives.

Mike's exiting Day 5 update!

We have spent most of the last 48 hours in strong winds and big waves. No wildlife, no fishing, and not much sun.

Instead of these things we have been occupied with, naggy water leaks. My favorite leak is in Melinda and Bob's bedroom. The beauty of this one is that it drips salt water right on Bob's head every 5 minutes or so. He's been sleeping with a towel wrapped around his head ... therefore he's a "towelhead" by night!

As mentioned, the waves are quite big. They were regularly 8-12 feet high, and often we went through areas with many 15' or more.

It's really exhilarating to sail through these seas, plowing through one, rising on the next, and crashing down into the next. However, after about 30 minutes or so, some of the novelty wears a bit. And after an hour, the new is almost gone completely. And after 2-3 hours, it started getting old. And after 4-5 hours, each relentless bang started to get really annoying. At 6-8 hours we were all plain tired of it. Not only was it monotonous, it was physically draining. And ... it's hard to get things done. Simple things like moving around the boat, bathroom using, and eating take a lot of energy. Showers were a real challenge. We compared notes and bragged about "shower bruises" for entertainment. Where was I? Oh yeah, at 6-8 hours we were all plain tired of it. After 12 hours of continual waves crashing and wind blowing, we were all really looking forward to something smoother. At 24 hours I began to notice all the others were getting edgy and really short on patience. Myself, being naturally patient and tolerant, it's always been interesting for me to observe others become less patient than normal. So here I was blessed with the opportunity to observe much!

Anyway, the wind and waves continued for most of 48 hours, we survived, the boat didn't sink yet.

Today we have light winds and 3-6 foot seas. But the day's not over yet.

May 21
4:45 p.m. EDT position 36 52N 065 59W

It is windy! Since yesterday we've had 30-40 knot winds and giant ocean waves. For some reason we haven't done much fishing today. The waves are pounding the outside of the boat, and we have discovered a lot of leaks -- just enough to get things wet. Everybody is fine, some a little sea-sick, and we haven't sunk yet.

A few weeks ago, David Renouf pointed out some bad bearings in a slider than holds the sail to the mast. I intended to get it fixed, but forgot about it. Yesterday when we were taking the sail down to the first "reef" position because of the wind, that slider stuck. Even though it was only 8-12' up the mast, I entertained everybody swinging around on a rope in the waves. I didn't do any major damage to the boat when I smashed into it a few times. Our well-oiled hammer loosened the slider. The sails are now down at the bottom position, and it looks like they'll stay there a few days.

A few days ago, Michael Hering pointed out a radar reflector that wasn't mounted very well. Today it did a spontaneous dismount, along with the flag halyard it was attached to. We'll put that back up if the wind and waves ever die down.

There are allegedly prevailing westerlies in this part of the ocean, but we haven't seen one yet. The wind is from the southeast at the moment, 34 knots. The water is about 17,000' deep here. The temperature has gone from 57F to 76F currently, and we've see as high as 79F. This must really be the Gulf Stream.

May 20
8:13 a.m. EDT position 37 50N 070 53W

Mike, 1:37 p.m.
Mike's exciting Day 3 update!

Day one highlights:

We caught 5 large Bluefish (6-10 pounds) on the first day. Several others got away. We (me, that is) cleaned four of them (boneless filets, the only way I know -- therefore not all that much meat). Since our refrig is full, we let the 5th go. Just like Mom always did, I fried them with cornmeal, salt, and pepper (and added garlic salt, and lemon pepper cuz it sounded good). The other people said they liked it. Probably this was just "first day" politeness. Serge made a salad, too. It was good.

I made a gallon of tea today. Bob and I drank it.

We saw lotsa dolphins mostly in the morning but off and on all day.

There were big airplanes (looked like C-130 Hercules) with paratroopers jumping out into the water. They also dropped a large thing by parachute that had 3 chutes on it.

Bob and Kenny put telltales all up and down the mainsail as we raised it. These are small 5-inch ribbons that adhere to the side of the sail and show us how the wind is going over the sail. This should help us sail more efficiently, thus get there faster. Yay!

Much of today was spent organizing things. The boat is really full of mostly junk and junj food. We have enough food I'm sure for 12 people for 12 months. The living room is quite full when all five of us are in it -- which is not very often. I think it will be even less often as we go, due to people sleeping in different patterns, tired of me, etc.

Everyone took some small naps. Me included.

I have almost finished my first book.

Day two highlights:

I woke up to a sunny, calm day. It was durn cold in the bedroom, but it's reasonably warm in the living room

Kenny then Serge drove the boat from when I went to bed till I got up.

We used the motors, as there is very little wind.

I made another gallon of tea today. Bob and I drank it.

We have seen several sharks here, along with several dozen dolphins. That makes me think that we will have luck fishing again today.

The water has been completely glassy most of the day. Although we want more wind for sailing, it has been beautiful. We have seen whales off and on all day. Also sharks, a variety of birds, an some dolphins.

Looks like the wind will be picking up tomorrow. Possibly tonight even.

Some of the whales were amazing today. They just laid on the surface for long times, occasionally breathing a big spout of mist. I suppose they were sunning. I didn't know they did that. There were a variety of them, too. I think some of the bigger ones were minke whales. Maybe humpbacks, too.

In my life I have never seen a single shark swimming on the surface. Today I have seen probably 150 or more. Never in a large bunch, just almost always within 1-2 minutes of looking around outside, there has been a shark or two. Sometimes we could see 5-10 at the same time on different sides of the boat. In the evening we saw an enormous shark. My estimate is 30 feet long, about 2/3 the length of the boat. It looked like 2 sharks from a distance it's fin and tail being so far apart, and then when it got closer it was all the same shark!

We were wondering if there is always this much wildlife around us in the ocean, and we never see it because it's hidden by the wages ...

Day 3: It's almost noon, Oklahoma time as I'm writing this.

This morning I woke up to ... WIND AND WAVES! We finally have some decent wind. Early this morning we turned off the motors, and reefed the sails (lowered some to deal with the higher winds) and the boat is definitely in motion. We have been averaging about 9 knots the last few hours. Motoring speed was about 6 knots.

We entered the Gulf Stream mid-morning, and the ride has gotten much rougher. We could tell when we entered the Gulf Stream by watching the water temperature rise from 57 to 66 degrees in about two hours. The waves are not all that high, but very unorganized. Sailing books call this "confused seas." Waves 4-8 feet sometimes can be fairly smooth if they are in nice, organized swells. These 3-5 foot waves are a choppy mess.

I cooked bacon and eggs this morning, expecting that greasy food would separate the weak from the strong. And we have some seasickness aboard already as a result! WOOHOO! (okay ... maybe it was just the waves)

We are currently heading southeast to stay a reasonable distance south of a low pressure system that is heading northeast behind us. Staying a reasonable distance south of these lows will give us tailwinds, since weather systems at these latitudes circle counter-clockwise around lows. The "reasonable distance" (250-400 miles) also keeps us out of bad weather near the center of the low pressure systems.

I think I will make another gallon of tea today.

Hmm ... I think we have 6-foot waves now!

Bob, 8:13 a.m.
It looks like we're going to trade the doldrums for some windy weather over the next couple of days. We saw lots of whales and giant sharks yesterday.

May 19
10:27 a.m. eastern time Position: 38 00N 073 33W

Mercredi après midi, les poissons se ruent sur nos hamecons : de nombreuses touches et au total quatre prises qui finissent directement dans nos assiettes au diner. Nuit calme. Toujours trop peu de vent pour naviguer a la voile : Force 1 et vent de face. La surface de l'eau est un miroir. En attendant, nous continuons au moteur. Jeudi, jour de promenade chez les tres gros poissons. Nous en apercevons des dizaines. Nous operons une classification relativement basique : le dauphin est facile a reconnaitre, quand la nageoire est triangulaire c'est un requin et quand c'est tres gros c'est une baleine.

Wednesday afternoon, the fish rush on our lures: numerous bites and a total of five catches that end directly in our plates for dinner. Quiet night. Always not enough wind to sail: Force 1 and head wind. The surface of the water is a mirror. In the meantime we go on motoring. Thursday, a traveling day for very big fish. We can see dozens. We operate a basic classification: dolphin is easy to recognize, when the fin is triangular it is a shark, and when it is really big it is a whale.

We motored most of the day yesterday and all day today so far. We expected this our first day and got some extra diesel cans in the cockpit. It looks like we may get two days of motoring, though. We get about 6 miles per gallon at slower speeds. We'll keep enough diesel in the boat to make it to land by motor, in case Mike loses the mast. The longest distance we'll be from land is 650-700 miles.

Leaving Norfolk yesterday we saw people jumping out of an airplane into the ocean. Luckily they were wearing parachutes. When we were out of sight of land, a bird that looked like some kind of ragged songbird landed on the boat and rested a while. We made about 140 miles in our first 24 hours, and used 13 gallons of fuel. I think a road bridge across the Atlantic would be faster.

We caught 5 fish yesterday. Naturally, I caught the biggest one -- 9 lbs. We're not sure what kind they are, but they taste good. Today the wind is calm and the water is smooth and glassy. We saw dolphins, sharks, and whales this morning. No alien spacecraft yet.

May 18


It's 6:30 Tuesday morning, day one. We are all excited. We are all giddy. We are all fully animated with anticipation (except Melinda and Kenny who are still asleep in bed). Actually, Bob and Serge have gone to McDonalds, so I'm the only one awake here. Hmm ... maybe that's why I'm excited?
5/18/05, 10:27 a.m.
We're Off!  36 57.3N, 76 08.6W, headed to the the Chesapeake Bay bridge. We'll cross the tunnel and then head out into the ocean. We have enough food for 6 months, if we eat a lot. We're debating on which way to go. I think East.

We got some fuel without doing any boat damage, then took off to the baritone tunes of Anchors Away (a-Weigh?) and Stars and Stripes. Melinda played a little Bach and Beethoven on the Piano, but is sleeping now. Kenny's driving at the moment.

Serge Ca y est, c'est le grand jour : nous largons les amarres ! Nous avions prevu de nous lever a 5h30 ce que je fais, Bob opte pour 6h30 et le reste de l'equipage pour 8h00, c'est pour le moins flexible !!! Une derniere douche chaude et confortable dans la marina. Un dernier petit dejeuner au McDonald's (Bob est tres emu : plus 3 semaines sans McDonald's... meme pas sur qu'il y en ait un aux Acores). Apres un detour a la pompe pour le plein de fuel, a 10 heures nous sortons du port de Norfolk en passant devant les batiments de guerre US pendant que Mike joue au tuba l'hymnes de la Navy et des USA. Ils ne nous torpillent pas malgre l'interpretation "personnalisee" de Mike, c'est bon signe.

Here we are, that's D-day. We decided to wake up at 5:30, what I do. Bob opts for 6:30, and the rest of the crew for 8:00. Flexible isn't it !!! Last comfortable and hot shower in the marina. Last breakfeast at McDonald's (Bob is very moved: more than 3 weeks with no McDonald's, not even sure that there is one in the Azores). After a quick stop at the fueling dock, we exit the harbour in front of the US battle ships while Mike plays the Navy and the US anthems. They don't shoot at us in spite of Mike's "customized" interpretation: that's a good sign.

Here are GPS tracks of the entire trip:

Garmin Track File

Garmin Version 1 Track File

Text Track File

DXF Track file

Most Excellent Baritone Music (by Mike)

Day 1 Photos

Day 1, Periscope 360 -- Last sight of land and maybe the last photos for a while. (We're leaving cell phone service, and will be limited to the HF and sat phone.)

Babelfish Specs

Here are Some Miscellaneous Babelfish Photos

Babelfish November 2004 Photos

Here are Some Interior Babelfish Photos

The Babelfish Trampoline

The Babelfish Windlass