Running with the wind... Grenada to Los Roques
We successfully completed our first offshore passage! This passage involved sailing with no land in sight for three days and two nights. Chris, myself, and our friend Ross Hansen left Grenada on January 30th at 4pm and we arrived in Los Roques, Venezuela on February 1st at 11:30am. What a stark contrast to our first overnight sail from Guadeloupe to Martinique that I previously wrote about. Instead of pouring rain, winds gusting to 30 knots and two meter swells we had three days of consistent wind, sunshine and moonlight to help guide the way.
Prior to leaving, I think the three of us were all a bit nervous as this was the first time any of us would be sailing with no land in sight for multiple days. On top of that, we would be off the coast of Venezuela, whose political unrest had led to rumours of pirate attacks. It was recommended, by other cruisers, that we stay 100nm off shore and put our AIS on silent mode, so that’s what we did. We also decided to sail without our navigation lights on (which comes with its own set of risks, as we would not be visible to other boats such as large tankers).
Despite the fact that we were roughly a day’s sail away from land and there was a small but real chance of a pirate encounter, it was two of my best days at sea to date. 12-18 knots of wind from the east with a swell of 1-1.5 meters and a full moon. Not just any full moon, but a blue moon and a blood moon! I was amazed at how bright the moon is when away from the city lights. At times, the reflection of the moon on the water could almost fool me into thinking it was daytime.
With the exception of having to negotiate the boat around a floating fridge that we thankfully saw as the sun was setting on the first night, the the sail itself was pretty uneventful. We had a bird who was looking for a rest join us on the pulpit of the bow the first night, some dolphins swimming at our bow the first morning, no fish were caught, and most importantly, no pirates! I feel incredibly lucky that it was so pleasant and enjoyable. Luck had something to do with it (no pirates) but it was also enjoyable because of some careful planning. We purposefully waited a bit longer in Grenada for a good weather window. If all offshore passages were like this one then I think more sailors would do them.
Sitting alone in the cockpit during my shift it was hard not to reflect. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would find myself here. The thought of being in control of the boat, especially at night while Chris slept, used to scare me. It still does at times when I let my “what if” thoughts creep in, however I can’t help but feel anything but incredibly lucky. The mind is a powerful tool and I’m slowly learning to find peace and pleasure in the moments that would have previously scared me.
For those of you who don’t come from a sailing background, this is what my overnight shifts looked like. I woke up, peed, put on my glasses, grabbed some water and a snack (night one it was peanut M&Ms, and night two it was granola, yogurt and a sliced apple). Then I put on my harness and life jacket, grabbed my iPad and Chris’ wireless headphones and headed out into the cockpit. While letting my eyes adjust to the light I would get a little handover from Ross (i.e. was there anything out there, for example a freighter, that I should keep my eye on in case I need to change our direction). Next I checked the navigation equipment. What is the wind direction, wind speed, and our speed? I looked at the GPS chart plotter to make sure we were still on course, and the AIS to make sure there were no ships in our path. Once that was done I did a 360 visual inspection of our surroundings. Finally, I checked the sails and adjusted them as needed. This routine was repeated every 10-12 minutes. In between my duties, I settled in and listened to some podcasts. The ones from this particular passage were: “Science Vs” (ie. Vitamin supplements are they worth it, organic food, meditation, the g-spot) and “Strangers” (ie. dumb shit we do #2: rob banks, Franky Carrillo life). During my two hour shift I’d listen to approximately 4-6 podcasts before waking Chris up for his shift and then back to bed so I can get up in four hours and do it all again.
Overall, this was an amazing experience that I’m incredibly grateful for. It’s has given me confidence to know that I do have the ability to mentally conquer the South Pacific where there will be endless overnight shifts.