Quest Flies the Coop

Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Antigua and Barbuda  ,
Thursday, February 2, 2006

Many of the cruisers waiting in Las Palmas to cross the Atlantic said the weather would be good on Friday the 13th, but superstitiously wanted to wait until Saturday. We chose Thursday the 12th because we were ready and anxious to go. We had done our "final" shopping several times before and really just wanted to get on with things. Our friends on Gilana had also chosen the 12th, so it seemed very right. We were ready to leave the dock and head on over to the fuel dock to top off our tanks before crossing the "Pond". I stayed on the dock, ready to walk to the port police to pay our final fees and then would meet everyone at the fuel dock. Engine on, Med-mooring lines dropped, dock lines tossed. Whoops. The Med-mooring lines had not dropped all the way and we ended up with them wrapped this time. Mike from Gilana said it wasn't fair, that was his trick. Another cruiser said he'd done it twice.

Oh well. Dock lines retossed, boat secured and ever-ready-to-go-in-the-water Jeff, jumped overboard, uncoiled the line and we were once again ready to go - after a quick shower to remove the harbor gunk. We headed over to the fuel dock and Chris noticed that something wasn't quite right with one of the throttles. Lucky we have two engines. We tied up to the fuel dock and filled our tanks. Once again, ever-ready...Jeff was back in the water trying to figure out what was wrong with the prop. It wasn't happening, so we hobbled back to our old neighbors on pontoon 18. This is a not very rare occurrence, boats leaving and then returning (some after a day or two). We were welcomed back, called Gilana on the VHF radio and told them we had a problem and hoped to have it fixed soon. It was late in the day now, and the boat yard was closed. After a fitful night worrying about a) how long it would take to repair; b) how much would it cost to repair; and c) would we EVER get going, Friday the 13th turned out to be a much better day. Chris and Jeff went in search of a mechanic and I went in search for some last minute, really "final" shopping items. When I returned, the mechanic had been there and gone and the repair cost us 50 Euro. We left the harbor within an hour of my return.

Water water everywhere

The trip started out smooth and calm. Perfect. Finally we were on our way. After the first two days, the seas picked up and I, for one was not a happy camper. We made good time, but the seas were very confused and we were pitching and rocking like crazy.

Around day three we had a large pod of dolphins play with Quest. Seeing these magnificent creatures play and jump is such a pleasure.

On day four (or so) we had the privilege of seeing a rainbow being made. Every other rainbow I'd ever seen in my life had been more or less, fully-formed. This one started out on the horizon stage left. There the colors started up in an arch and ended at a fat cloud, as the cloud moved across the sky, the colors pulled up and filled in the arch. As I watched, I had a conversation with God. It went sort of like this:

On day five, our mainsail blew out. It was an old sail and the stitching simply parted. The winds were light at the time, and that was that. After lowering the sail, Chris calmly said, "Well, now we'll have less sail handling to do." I looked at him and thought to myself, "OK, who are you and what have you done with my husband?"

Our average daily runs now dropped from 150-170 miles down to 130. It was gonna be a long trip...

On day seven, Jeff caught a yellow fin tuna. We had the freshest sushimi for a snack - (an hour out of the water) and Jeanne cooked the rest up for dinner. I will be spoiled for tuna for the rest of my life.

We've had flying fish all around us which are quite fun to see. Over the course of our passage at least six have been discovered on the deck in the morning. I wanted to pick up their rigor mortised-scaly bodies, give them a shake and ask "What, could you NOT see us?"

I had another image of a conversation between some delinquent flying fish. It went something like this:

Well, you can tell that there's not much to do on board. Actually for me the biggest frustration was my lack of ability to read or do much of anything while the waves are crashing about.

Around day 10 or so, Chris and I were on deck figuring out how to rig the spinnaker pole for the genoa. As I was waiting further instruction, looking in the water, I saw a bright blue spot of color. It passed and I thought it might have been someone's torn sail cover just below the surface of the water. Then I saw it again - a beautiful, bright sky blue color in the water. This time, I eloquently babbled, "did you see that - color?" The third pass, I realized it was a whale! This beauty checking us out no more than six feet away. The blue was actually the white of its belly showing through the blue water. Incredible. We believe there were three or more whales that stayed with us for about one and a half hours. We're not sure what type of whale they were, but they were about 20-30 feet long, white-bellied with gray topsides. They made another appearance the next day, but didn't stay around for quite as long.
The refrigeration acted up for most of the trip. Chris had to baby it to keep things cold.

Finally -- on day fifteen, the winds and seas calmed out and the sky was cloudless. We flew the asymmetrical spinnaker and with around 10 knots of wind, we were able to make around 5 knots of speed. Amazing. We weren't able to sail the asymmetrical until today because of all the motion in the seas.

This crossing has not been at all what we'd believed as typical. We headed out hoping to catch the trade winds and really didn't have anything steady or reliable for the entire passage. The seas were steep, confused and rocky. My stomach had a rough go of it.

One of the days that Jeff had fishing lines in the water, I noticed a splash of color in the water indicating a 3-4 foot fish. We watched this fish as it circled the boat twice and then took off. I could almost hear it saying: "Uh, huh, uh huh, I remember this from Life Skills 101 last week. 'You see a wooden fish with hooks in its butt and a line coming from its mouth going to a big floaty thing, -- you just say NO!'" Now there was a fish that didn't skip school! No fresh fish for us that day.

Land ho

We arrived in English Harbor, Antigua almost exactly 20 days to the hour after we left Las Palmas. What a welcome chore it was to drop the anchor amidst all the other boats. We brought out the champagne, popped the cork and toasted our incredible journey. I wanted to shout to the other boats, "Yup! We just crossed the Atlantic!"

My next missive will detail Antigua and some of our experiences here in the islands. For now, I'm really looking forward to sleeping through the night and not having to hold on every moment of the day and just kicking back and enjoying Island Life. We'll be seeing ya, mon.
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