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Cassiopeia - Episode 4/6 - Ten days on the Ocean. Almost halfway

I didn’t felt inspired and didn’t had much to say. Then I got a message from home: “Ovidiu, people are waiting for the 4th episode!”. I smiled like I just heard a good joke, but suddenly the title crossed my mind - 10 days on the ocean. And so, here I am trying to put the words together.

I am in the bow cabin, lying on the bed, wearing only a pair of shorts. I just finished my 8.00 to 12.00 watch split with Cătălin. It’s hot, we’ve descended below 18th parallel and the butter melted for some time in the saloon. I felt myself pushed into the cabin walls while the boat was dancing on the waves. It’s Andreea’s turn on the helm, it’s her's and Blondu’s watch.

We sail with a speed of 7,5 kn in straight line to Santa Lucia. We keep our schedule on the watch, rigurously as we planned on the shore. “There is no need to turn shifts on the watch, we’ll split the watch as it goes. Myself for example, I am able to hold the helm even for 8 hours without any problems, I did that before”, said one of us with conviction. But it’s not about endurance, but more of the exhaustion management during the 20+ days. From the time we established the watch schedule, everyone finishing their shift crashed into their cabin bed to take a nap. And we are not talking about a full night shift, not even 6 hours. No one stayed more then the 4 hours on the watch. And if you’re unfortunate and miss a few hours of sleep between your watches, because it’s to hot or the waves are moving the boat, you’ll get up on the deck, pale, with little pied-eyes, tossing and wondering how you’ll get trough your shift.

And while we were thinking how tiring is the 4 hours watch, we receive a bad news. The autopilot broke. The same one who worked perfectly for a week and got us pass through two storms, suddenly broke as soon as we got to treadwinds. 

And we said to ourselves that could’ve been worst. It could brake in the first day or in a storm. We could’ve been only three or two people on board. But in 6, we stay only 2 hours on  the helm every 10 hours. It’s bearable. Even though the 2 hours on the helm pass slower then the 4 hours on watch or the 8 hours of rest. 

For you, the hours on the watch and the helm go slowly, for the ones resting, the hours go by really fast. Between watches you sleep, read, watch a movie or play on the phone. 

Sometimes you make a snack or help with the main course. No worries, we have lots of food. For about 3 boats and each for more than 3 weeks. One of us came with the idea that we should all go shopping, in case we have different preferences on food. The result? We could live 3 weeks with any of this food categories : 3 on canned soup? No problem. 3 weeks on deli meat? Without even to rationalise. Chicken/porc/beef in the refrigerator enough for 3 weeks... if it doesn’t go bad. I was thinking to use the chicken meat for tikka masalla... I brought garam-masalla specially for that! Ah... and tinned cans? 2 big suitcaises. After one week you can’t even tell that we ate. So we’re doing great on food supplies. 

So, being on the watch, sleeping and snacking in between, the days just pass one after the other. There is night shift and day shift. When you’re on the 4 to 8 am watch, starting with 6 o’clock you’re already smiling. It’s 8 am in Romania. Maybe the messages will start to arrive.

We have this technical gem Iridium Go, where we connect our mobiles and receive the messages. We all receive with joy all the messages. A message from Andreea’s father can cheer all crew, and when Cătă gets a sign that his girls are well, I feel as much joy as when I find out my daughter Eva is well.

Sometimes the messages contains the ranks in the fleet, the distance to the shore or more detailed weather forecasts. Here, Vali and Dana are our guarding angels who send us a whole bunch of relevant messages.

In the meantime the boat is travelling, mile after mile. We go trough 100 miles, then 500, then 1000. Further and further away. As I am writing this journal, we’re 1778 miles closer to  Santa Lucia. 

We’ve been told to take pictures. But there’s no point. The view is almost the same, there is no major change in the scene. The same water all around, as if you are crossing the Black Sea to reach Istanbul. The difference being that it takes only 30 hours till you reach the shore, and here it will take more than 500. 

This doesn’t mean that we get bored, only the pictures comes out to be boring. For us, the surface of the water has million sides and shapes. It changes every second. From the clear, calm, flat mirror to long, high waves resembling the mountains, we called them “Subcarpathians” they are that high.

We saw dolphins, one time we even saw a herd of 100. We all loved a particular one, it seemed to be a little dorky, he was jumping to one side, and while diving into the water he was hitting the surface with his belly. After the fourth jump, he gave up, we believed his skin started to sting.

I checked the surroundings to see any whales, their vertical stream have always been a reccurent theme in sailing tales and nautical novels. I got content for the moment with few small orcas.

And after we got below 20th parallel, flying fishes came along. I remember somebody told me to stop mocking about this, "there isn’t such thing! How can fish fly?" "Well, let me explain you, they have wider fins and they defend from their predators by diving into the water and gliding long distances." "C’mon man, you’re lying to me", came the answer. And now I can see, that not only they glide, but they flip their fins effectivelly, and rapidly and they can change the direction into the air. They are quite a show. I am waiting to see how a flock (well a shoal) of flying fishes, takes off, running away from their predators. And no, I haven’t seen any sharks by now...

We caught some fish also. Well actually Cătă did. He is the passionate fisherman of the boat. Most of the times he catches and releases, but we kept a 10 kg tuna and a 5 kg yelow-green fish. 

We turned them into sushi, steaks, chevice and homemade tuna patè. What do I mean with tuna patè? You take the remaining parts of the fish that were left from the steaks & sushi and chevice , you fry them in a pan with olive oil, onion and finelly chopped garlic. We season with salt, pepper and a pinch of smoked paprika. Put the mix into a bowl, add butter generously and with a vertical blender mix everything into a paste. At the end add a table spoon of capers. We serve it on slices of bread with green onion chopped on top or even with pickled cucumbers. As you wish.

I’ll tell you a little secret: our captain Liviu declared himself a big fan of fresh tuna patè. Alex ate most of the sushi, Cata and I ate all the cheviche and all, even though they were not so fond of fish dishes in generally, they all enjoyed the tasty boneless fish steak. 

So, there is no room for boredroom. Every mile passed is a reason for joy. And every sign of attrition is a reason to worry. We are all concerned to reach our destination safely without any major damage that can slow us down or change our lifestyle onboard. 

Before we left, most advices we got were about living together as a crew during this time and not about sailing or handling the boat. You realise just after a third of the distance has passed that everybody was right and you are lucky to have such a compatible crew. You imagine an issue, an altercation, a rebellion onboard and you realise how much tension and unecessary negative energy could bring and what impact can have on each member, long term. 10 days have passed on the ocean and everybody is in a good mood (even though the autopilot has broken) and smiles are everywhere.

You have faith in your crew fellows and a big satisfaction when you know that the boat travels  day and night towards its destination led by trustful hands. 

Today we passed over 30 degrees longitude. We have 30 degrees more. We hope that means no more than 2 weeks until we can shout out loud : “Laaaaaaaand”!

Good watch ahead to all!

Ovidiu Drugan/Cassiopeia


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