Wednesday 27th January
The sun is rising behind us and even on a relatively benign night such as we have just had, the appearance of the sun is always welcome. We are 25nm north of the San Blas Islands and the point in our heads, where, throughout all the years of planning, the real adventure begins.
Bonaire to San Blas my route plotter informs me is 670 miles The San Blas are a group of small coral islands and to enable us to safely navigate the reefs it is important to arrive in daylight. This meant we either had to go fast or much slower and the high winds that are common off the Columbian coast have ensured this trip has been really quick. We have made really good time averaging about 7.5kts. The winds have been lively we have often had all the sails deeply reefed with gusts of over 50kts.
It’s not been the easiest of passages, we are all feeling a little jaded. Until this morning, when the sea has calmed down we have had a large swell, luckily mostly behind us. The middle days were the windiest and particularly rough with 4m waves looming up behind the dingy on the back of the boat. They seem to hang towering above you for a moment, before lifting the stern of the boat and if you are lucky, cause the boat to surf at great speeds, we broke our surfing record this trip with a top speed of 16.2kts! Not many waves catch you straight on of course and the further to the side they get, the more you roll and the more uncomfortable it is.
Even in a small roll life can be challenging, take two examples. Firstly cooking, the cooker is gimballed, that is, it rocks with the boat and therefore is always on a flat plane. It does take a big leap of faith to feel comfortable with a pan of hot food that is leaning dramatically towards you, looking like it will topple at any moment but of course the food is in fact flat and the surroundings and you are the things that are tipping over. Nothing you put on any other surface stays still, next time you cook even something simple just notice how many bits and pieces you have around you. Now try to imagined you are having to wedge yourself against the counter to steady yourself and that everything you put down is sliding back and forth, constantly – that is cooking at sea. We have overcome some of these problems by cooking in short stages, keeping as much as possible in the lockers till needed and we have numerous nonslip dishes, boards and mats that in most conditions keep things relatively still. We have deep bowls to help keep the food from spilling while you eat and a drinks rack to keep mugs and drinks upright. On short trips or when it’s very rough we resort to something pre made from the freezer, beans on toast or a sandwich but even for this trip, of just under four days, with three meals a day, that’s twelve meals and you can only eat so many sandwiches or tins of beans.
Then think of taking a shower, again if we are sea for one or two days we don’t bother. We are lucky, Raya has a large water tank and an efficient watermaker, so we can shower when we need to but if it’s at all rough it’s not easy. Firstly you need to undress, try taking your clothes off while you are clinging on to stay upright. Then into the shower, the soap, shampoo, conditioner etc won’t stay still, I put mine in the sink and step precariously out for them as necessary. To wash your hair takes two hands – again just try it with one, so I keep myself upright by planting my feet wide apart and pressing my bum against the wall, washing quickly. It feels great to be clean but still you need to dry and again you need two hands, comb your hair or whatever and then get redressed. This is not an elegant life.
One returns to the cockpit from the galley or the bathroom hot and bothered and in need of a rest. We are reminded yet again that the sailing is often the easy bit. But on the days when the sea and wind are feeling kind to you and when you arrive at somewhere as unforgettable as the San Blas Islands it is all definitely worth it.