Ante meridiem

Fatigue at sea is a dangerous mistress

They say that 21 m/s wind can be described as strong gale and is given nine on Beaufort wind force scale. Beaufort scale is based on empirical measure and as the senses are the primary source of empirical evidence then it’s not easy for unaccustomed observer to say anything exact. Naturally if one has an anemometer, wind speed measuring device that is, then it is easy if one is also familiar with equivalent Beaufort scale wind speeds. The expected wave height with nine Beaufort wind may be up to 10 meters. But I can tell you they feel like hundred feet tall for plain cruiser. I’d rather use definition of cruiser than sailor as long as describing in terms of experience about the marine life of yours truly. Not too much of a sailor but I can still tell the difference of sloop, yawl and ketch; and cutter rig. The differences are interesting for a landlubber like me. One can end up discussing further which of them is the best without truly knowing the facts. I would say that to me it really does not matter, since the best rig you can play is on the boat you are at and at that moment it is definitely the most interesting one.

We left Royal Lymington Yacht Club five days ago for fetching more crew from little Scoil Mhuire (Schull) seaside village on west Cork’s atlantic coast in Ireland. It was mostly pleasant passage towards south-west, west and north-west. Occasionally offering changes for asymmetrical spinnaker tryout. Schull harbor has relatively secluded basin and we went mooring there overnight. One crew member was happy to get ashore and visit Schull dental clinic for acute appointment. He had an issue that started to develop as we more or less followed it with repulsive interest. The dentist had drilled up an aching tooth, cleaned it and put temporary patch on it. This however started to generate pressure that within a few days developed into one hellish toothache. We had already got used to the idea that the patch must be removed at sea but now the poor fellow was lucky enough to get decent treatment onshore. There are countries where social safety net will provide the substantial amount of these dental services practically for free. Well, there may be a nominal cost but it’s 10 times less that on the open commercial market anyway. Sounds great but has only one notable shortcoming. The waiting time can be troublesome and sometimes even impossible. They give out appointment times three to four months ahead. So if one is able to wait then there will be pretty low expense required for keeping the teeth in good shape. I once realised that there are practically very few occasions when a man can have such affordable yet professional treatment by one or possibly even by two ladies.

While the sailor had his tooth renovated, the rest of us had dinner around the corner at The New Haven Restaurant. Afterwards he joined us with swollen cheek but relived. Some of us went across the street to pray in St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The captain had an old wooden pulley he took out of his backpack and it was given as sacrifice on the altar. Then afterwards as there was a bit of a walk around the village area and when we all had ensured the latest impulse purchases from local Eurospar we had a pint or two at Hackett’s Bar while waiting the additional crew members finally join us.

Since leaving Schull we have been sailing south-east out of Hibernia towards Genoa, Italy in a sail vessel registered for CE category: A – Unlimited ocean voyages. Genoa (AKA La Superba) is the capital of Liguria and second largest seaport after Marseille, France. It’s the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and his statue in there is looking at far away lands standing high at the railway station square. This town is also the place where our sail vessel was born. I had never visited Genoa but more was expecting to see the small town of Rapallo, near Genoa. This is naturally due to Göran Schildt, writer and art historian that used to have his boat survive the winter in the shelter of Rapallo shipyard. He went sailing around Mediterranean multiple summers with wife and occasional bosuns. Several books he wrote about these magnificent explorations remain his historical legacy for anyone inspired by sailing on open seas and exploring unknown remoteness.

During last 24 hours the barometer reading had dropped down till 960 millibar. While the average atmospheric pressure at sea level, on earth is 1013.25 mb, our current reading is regarded for extremely stormy conditions. The crew under continuous and unusual pressure is shortly running out positive attitude and jokes hear during first days of the voyage. I notice a dangerous amount of fatigue creeping in the crew members. Even most members onboard are experienced seafarers they still need decent share of food and sleep. The conditions have been against us for several days already. The ship chef is fighting kettles and pans in the rolling galley with a demonic touch. It’s a blessing that he has been able to keep up the appetite of men. But we all need sleep even there is no chance for it. Occasionally I notice nodding seamen here and there. Myself being among them. I vaguely recall that once being at sea in a terrible storm Columbus wrote to his journal that the men were so worn out that they longed for death to end their dreadful suffering.

“Patience required!”

It is April 21st. All I could previously remember from this specific day in history was that town of Rome is celebrating its birthday today. Most likely I shall utterly forget that fact and replace the given memory slot in my storage capacity with the events of today. If I ever live so far. Insisting against the use of Dramamine I have sure consumed pretty considerable amount of different ginger products during the last day. Pure canned ginger root and multiple portions of ginger based drinks. Fascinating how ginger works for me. It does not prevent my motion sickness symptoms completely but yet saves me from asking an anchor and kind permission to jump overboard.

Our yacht is a wooden classic 59ft Bermudian cutter that at the start of nineties belonged to famous guitar smashing rock legend. Naturally, as soon as I had received this piece of information, I filled up the old iPod Nano with all possible tunes from this exquisite group in order to honor one of the previous boatmaster. Now, in the middle of steel grey roaring sea, I comfort my shivering body with gulps of ginger root beer accompanied by “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.

It takes excellent boat, experienced crew and some serious patience to come over gale wind waters of Bay of Biscay. History can tell that the designer once described, one keys of his design philosophy, that a yacht should have the utmost docility and sureness of maneuvering at sea, both in good or bad weather. At least for now I’m confident that the given design specifications were properly filled on this sail vessel. There is nothing but a spitfire jib up as we travel under uncomfortable swell that would make round the world sailor Bernard Moitessier smile. He went solo around the world in his 39′ steel ketch, Joshua, in 1968-69. Rather than completing he instead abandoned the actual first Golden Globe Race after seven months at sea. He was a human not after personal fame and a record but rather sailed on ending up in Tahiti after total of 10 months from his departure. Moitessier also wrote several fascinating books about his voyages and sailing. In his book “The Long Way” for example, he writes very descriptive his own conception about money. “Alas yes, money… for all our picking up butts and living with a reasonable amount of brains, more or less money is necessary, depending on ones temperament. In any case, one thing is certain: one can go very far and lead an interesting life with very little money to start, because one always makes out once underway – provided one is underway.”

Being a boatswain on a sail vessel this size gives one opportunities to learn a lot. Crossing Atlantic ocean north to south differs from maneuvering your own half sized craft on safe and warm coastal waters. I finally got the overhaul of Daphne’s Lullaby finished before March 15th as it was the shipyard deadline. Then, as I was still alone at Kalavarda I decided I could do some traveling. Started by going to Athens. What a marvelous place it is for a visit after our tiny village at Rhodes. All that splendid chaos of art, masses of hectic life cycle and history. One never quite gets over it as a visitor. I know that native people seldom appreciate these arguments while living the everyday life as we all do. It’s often extremely difficult to see the forest for the trees. Athens in magnificent but i would not wish to stay too long. Too many personal memories in that town. Then it was time for Paris with more than 12 million inhabitants. That is over twice the people in Athens. Paris is hard to pass or exceed by any measurement. It is the true European center of architecture, history, monuments and landmarks as well as entertainment and performing arts. I could move there for life only if it wasn’t the twelve million others. Paris as a source seems endless supply of inspiration. But it’s also darn expensive city, full with elegant yet rude and sourpuss Frenchmen not to mention non-existing vacant taxis. This all reveals that I’ve spent way too short time in the City of Light.

Eurostar got me traveling between Gare du Nord in Paris and Waterloo International station in London with less than 100€. London is amazingly different from the previous two metropolis. The world’s leading financial centre, if New York City is excluded, will soon reach the limit where less than half of residents are white Britons, being a minority in the city. Being such multicultural place with more than 12 million residents in the metropolitan area it is even more fascinating that Paris or Athens. It’s unfortunate truth that if Athens didn’t have the significant climate advantage over the others then it would not be mentioned here. Treasures of London include numerous museums, galleries and libraries. I wish I had all the time in the world to wander and explore all the exquisite historical and cultural gems of London town. Usually it never happens due to this and that. It’s always too busy schedule for any proper touring. Maybe I’m just too hungry. Too eager and greedy for such endless explorations as I honestly believe no human has an opportunity to go thru it all anyway. I will limit myself to my fate and try to do my best out of it since living is more than wandering in dusty galleries or in dark basements. While in London I got a hint that there might be an open enlistment for a bosun within sail vessel traveling back to Mediterranean and Genoa. At first I did not believe my chances but things kind of developed with help from an old acquaintance and I soon realized that it would be more than 2400 nautical miles long journey ahead of us. The estimated time for making it was around 12 to 15 days as I had golden images of silver blue sea and warm sunsets in my head.

Now I was just too busy to regret my decisions while performing the ever ending list of tasks given. It was soaking wet, freezing cold and pitch black. I guess that was the best practical situation that kept me going since it would not have made any difference anticipating improvement of weather. Hours crawled and exhaustion was inevitable. I was seasick up to the bones and far from pretty sight as i was told afterwards. It’s a mystery how we all kept going thru the night. Eventually, as always, the barometer started showing sings of going upwards and by the time we saw pallid glimmer of the morning from the east the wind had eased around 15 m/s. I had no clue about our location except it was open sea and nothing else on sight but clear horizon all around. What I understood, however, was that we had slightly changed our course towards French coast since latest from given weather report suggested favorable weather in that direction. I looked fascinated delicate sun rays ripping the cloud mass in far. Couple of mugs of sailors tea and I was ready to hit the hay after having generous share of offshore excitement. I felt safe and saved but it was no religious feeling rather that confidence that had grown towards one old sail boat and its crew. I felt pretty fortunate landlubber that morning.

I woke up after sharp six hours of sound sleep. They must have let me sleep longer than expected. D’Alembert’s paradox and Hohmann transfer orbit were in my dreams at some point even I’m far from being mathematician or expert on astrodynamics. These things just pop up from somewhere at the back of my mind. Most likely something I’ve read lately. The last I actually have read was “Hunting With the Eskimos” by Harry Whitney, sportsman, adventurer, and author. But I guess that has very little doing with mentioned sciences despite it is an excellent reading.

This chapter is an example from yet unpublished volume
currently identified as "The Fast and Slow Rays"
by Yumatzuga (2011 - 2013).



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