The trip from Isla Mujeres, Mexico, to the Dry Tortugas in Florida is about 350 nautical miles, in a more or less north-easterly direction. For the week we were in Isla Mujeres, the winds were strong, coming straight from the direction we wanted to go. Even though we knew we would get a push from the north-flowing current along Mexico, and another one from the Gulf Stream flowing east along the southern edge of Florida, we definitely didn’t want to bash into the wind for 350 miles. So we waited for things to settle down. A lot of other boats did too.
By the time the forecast was more favourable for a crossing, there were about 10 boats hanging out in the harbour at Isla Mujeres waiting to do the same thing. The day before we left, we consulted with Chris Parker, a Florida based meteorologist who provides forecasts for sailors around the region. He confirmed it was time to go, and gave us suggested way points to use in order to make the most of the currents we would encounter.
|Another passage. Yay!|
The myth I am referring to is that of a beautiful, euphoric time out on the ocean, enjoying the wind and waves, the sun shining gloriously overhead, while your boat glides gently along. I am pretty sure every TV show or commercial showing a sail boat at sea makes it look like that. In our experience, breaking it down mathematically, passages look more like this:
60 % Boredom. Most of the time you are pretty much just sitting there, watching the miles very slowly slip by. There is not much to see. Really just water and sky. After a while, seeing a freighter 10 miles off in the distance becomes a big event that can captivate you for an hour or more. For most of us on Monashee, it is hard to read, or watch a video, or do something else to relieve the boredom, because that usually induces sea sickness.
You can get an idea how dull it becomes based on the fact that the kids are really keen to go to bed every night, since they know when they wake up, the little picture on the GPS that shows our progress will actually appear to have moved somewhat. So they spend a lot of the day asking us if it is time to go to bed yet, and they are very keen to take a Gravol (Dramamine) to help knock them out for the night.
As the passage wears on, the boredom starts to be replaced by general fatigue.
|Oooh, something to look at!|
20 % Discomfort . This number varies a bit depending on the direction of your passage and the direction of the wind and waves. It can be higher if you are going upwind, and lower if you are heading downwind. Which is why when people sail around the world, they tend to take the downwind route, riding the trade winds from East to West. On the passage from Mexico to Florida, the seas got fairly confused at times due to the different currents interacting with the shifting wind. This added some extra bounce to the boat, which increased the discomfort. For the most part, we try to minimize this by waiting for the right weather before we make a passage.
One important point regarding discomfort, specifically with respect to sea sickness. On our first few overnight passages, the degree of discomfort was a lot higher. But then we learned about the sea sickness medication Stugeron (generic name Cinnarizine) from some experienced sailors (thanks Terry and Tove!). It has made a huge difference for all of us, essentially eliminating any sea sickness. It is way better than the Gravol (Dramamine) that we were using, and doesn’t make us drowsy at all. Definitely a huge improvement.
|Waiting for time to pass.|
5% Euphoria at sailing the open ocean, free as a bird. Maybe less. For me, this usually comes early in the morning, as the sun is just coming up. It only happens on relatively calm days. At these times, I have generally just come on watch, so am relatively rested. On average, it lasts for probably about 15 minutes before I slip back into one of the other modes.
0.001% Dolphins!!! Still never gets old. We love when these guys come to visit us.
|Dolphins! Big, American dolphins! I could watch these guys for hours. But they never stay that long.|
|Sunset at sea. One of the spectacular moments.|