Night before last, Eddie’s watch, the 12-4 broke the speed record –9.9 knots…I heard Eddie laughing with joy on the helm. Today we are doing 5.2 knots, mostly due to the wind, a force 6 and good sailing with 5 points behind the beam. The ‘leano-meter’ shows a 10-15 degrees angle. I admit our obsession with speed- of course faster means arriving somewhere earlier or relaxing and swim stops when there is no wind…Yesterday one of the battery chargers and converters stopped working and the SSB fuse blew- Claus and Rio communicated with Freddy and solved the problems. Just a reminder to appreciate technics…
A school of squid squirted past the ship, some landed on deck for potential snacks, small ones, 4-5 cm. Other than that a storm petrel keeps circling us and sargasso grass.
We are slowly going to move out of the center of the gulf stream, to stay with stronger winds-
The Day BEFORE departure, June 18, 2010
It’s time…The crew was really ready to go! This was supposed to be the day of departure from the North American continent to North Africa and finally Europe….but…when Eddie tested the engineering systems, he discovered that our trusted winch had sprung a major hydraulic oil leak at one of the fittings. We could not depart without replacing it.
Across the majestic North Atlantic Ocean, which is where the great history of the expansion of Western Sea People began, with the Vikings and maybe others before.
Claus put all vectors in motion to resolve the problem and was hoping to either find or fix the part the next morning. Greg Howe helped with precious advice. He was running the dockyard in Bradford Marine and had met the Heraclitus when she was built in San Francisco in 1974. And then again in 1989, he helped pull the Heraclitus off a sandbank, when she got swept onshore during a gale in Florida. He is an accomplished free diver and continues to be a great fan of the Heraclitus.
In the evening, Claus and I went with a couple of, hopefully, last Bahamian “Sands” beers to a bottle strewn but nice beach. Overlooking the dark open sea and starry sky and the oil terminals, we shared contemplations about departures, voyages, love, life this that and the other.
A voyage at sea is always a new beginning or an end to something. Only the truly significant remains. The echo of the past grows faint and the future becomes a place to go…the next port, and we become the ship in between, leaving only a quickly disappearing trail.
Day 1, June 19, 2010
All night each deck check sprayed WD40 on the fitting that was seized. Before the general wake up call, Claus and Gilson managed to extract the fitting and went off to the shipyard in search of parts. Miraculously, they got an appropriate piece of hose from a neighboring barge and on a back shelf in the depths of the engine room, found a fitting that worked.
Then off we go…
Heraclitus left Freeport at 16:00 hours on June 19th, a quiet Saturday afternoon. Captain Claus skillfully turned the ship
around in the narrow creek, a delicate maneuver because the super yacht Helios had docked very close behind us.
And then…. off to Tangiers/Spain via the Azores, 3,150nm.
Once we passed the fare way buoy, we raised the sails. Once it got dark, we could see the glow of Florida on port – orange
and very bright – a phenomena which will probably accompany us for a while or at least as long as we are so close
to the US East coast. The water is clear and clean, no rubbish in hours, except a large white piece of plastic, and
there are streaks of pine needles from the pine tree plantations of Grand Bahamas floating in patches.
Day 1, June 19, 2010 by Rio
REFLECTIONS ON THE FIRST DAY
Today we commenced the Atlantic Crossing Voyage, the next major leg of the Coral Sea to Mediterranean Sea Expedition. Our trajectory will take us from Freeport in the Bahamas to the Azores, Tangiers, and then to Spain. The crew enthusiastically cast off from our dock at Bradford Marine late in the afternoon. With this journey, we have the opportunity to bask in the blessed simplicity of life at sea. Did the sages who encouraged us to simplify our lives receive their teaching from the early Sea People?
Christine, veteran of a 152-day voyage, recalled that a long time at sea stimulates the welling-up of memories from deep within. I recalled the challenges and stresses of the 36-Day Survival Voyage during the Around the Tropic World Expedition. For that expedition, such a long voyage had not been planned. Every day was a fight for survival, so I personally am looking forward to a long intentional voyage. Claus commented that while a long voyage on the Heraclitus is communal by design, the experience is ultimately individual. He commented that after about two weeks at sea, he begins to feel a oneness with the ocean, a new found and rare freedom, and perhaps most importantly, the enjoyment that comes from spare time for reading and reflection. The Captain said that he enjoys the truly rare luxury of leaving behind the concerns of the land and entering the world and life of Sea People.
We often hear of the challenges that long voyages presented to early sailors, and while we know we may have our fair share, rarely do we hear of the pleasures of long passages- the time it affords one for conversation and companionship, for reading and writing, for reflection and for contemplation of the universe and life. These are pleasures that have all but disappeared from our everyday life, crazy with the latest twits and tweets of the moment, the horrors of the current economic situation, and the never-ending battles of politicians who promise us peace but fail to deliver it. This peace is something that several weeks at sea can magically provide.
After months of discussions by Christine and I with numerous individuals who considered making the historic passage, our crew of eleven lucky persons, settled into our new world. They are: Captain Claus Tober, Germany; Expedition Chief Christine Handte, Germany; Voyage Photographer Rio Hahn, USA; First Mate Eddie Zuna, Solomon Islands; Second Mate Gilson Nagel, Brazil; Third Mate Juan Campos, Argentina; Galley Manager Abi Shapiro, USA; Librarian Gabriella Daris, Greece; Assistant Rigger Mo Yip, USA; and Crew Members Lyn-Li Torres Pugh, USA, Carlos Vindel, Honduras and Expedition Chief Christine Handte, Germany.
Robert “Rio” Hahn is an explorer, photographer and organic farmer who hails from many ports, including the RV Heraclitus and Bonsall, California.
Day 3, June 21, 2010
It is cloudy all around- low nimbus clouds, waiting to unload. Not much wind. No more pine needles, but now Sargasso grass- orange bushels with tiny grapes on them (I wish…). I remember 24 years ago on one of my first voyages, Duarte Camara cooked Sargasso grass for hours – though I don’t remember who ate it, not me, but I tried and…it was very tough. There are not so many ships compared to the traffic of many specific passages in Asia in the past. I would have expected more ships here as supposedly we are sitting in the middle of the gulf stream. Floating along nicely with 1.7 knots just now, no wind and no engine. It’s Solstice today, the longest day of the Northern year. Dancing on deck with the late setting sun and under the stars. It was a good one…
Day 4, June 22, 2010
Gilson and Eddie are untangling a fishing line. There’s a school of Mahi Mahi fish following us, but they don’t bite, no matter what hook or what type of line Eddie puts out. In the meantime, the 8 -12 watch, Abi and Carlos are busy inspecting the fresh produce for foul items. It’s hot- already in the morning it is too hot to walk on deck, we have to run from one shady place to another or get the soles of our feet seared…
Tonight is the traditional salon evening onboard the R/V Heraclitus and the theme is ‘The gulfstream’, the biggest river in the world. I observed turbulent areas in the sea today, irregular currents or eddies- just like in a real stream, rough water, white caps. Claus is setting our course according to a printed line on a US navy chart from 1966, which supposedly marks the centre axis of the gulf stream. He is of course meticulously integrating Freddy’s reports and updates. We are fast- 6.2 knots. Almost every time I scanned the surface of the water today I saw pieces of rubbish. But also- a pod of a dozen of bottle nose dolphins rode the bow for an hour.
Herclitus is now 110nm East off Charleston. This afternoon we passed a field of wild turbulent water, the sea looked white with spray, as if in a force 6. Amazing, I could even hear the water splashing. Also, huge swells overtaking us from the stern. It is still calm, but now the ship is rocking from side to side, gently tossed about by those hills of water from afar. They probably are a precursor of the good wind which is predicted to arrive tomorrow.
Voyage from Tangier to Valencia, September 10th 2010
Morocco was all worth it and beyond.
Thank you Manno, Gordon, Pablo, Omar – the fine gentleman that caught the lines upon arrival, just after sunset 3 weeks ago after a rough crossing under reefed mainsail across the legendary straits of Gibraltar.
Tangier was so very civilized and colorful and different – maybe even more so during Ramadan.
At the end of quay no.2 next to some giant cranes and rotting fishing vessels from other times, right at the rough and busy entrance to the port we tied our mooring lines – Heraclitus permanently watched and protected by police in uniform, Heraclitus somehow at home.
We felt the magic of another world, the magic of ancient rituals and beliefs that had been alien to most of us:
Breaking the fast on the market, haggling prices, feeling the gentle touch of pick pockets or learning to smile away hustlers….Marveling at great architecture, snake charmers delicate craftsmanship, hard working people and the enchantment of the ancient Medina.
The magic calls for prayer…
A real port – dirty but organized, windy and very busy with ferries and a huge local fishing fleet, the packing and loading of hundreds of sharks, giant blue fin tuna or many dogs and thousands of cats gave no chance to rats – all accompanied by the typical stench of a working fishing harbor.
Heraclitus radiated its magic in the harbor and beyond:
French Captain Varaillon Laborie of the Biladi became a fan, Tahir Shah and his beautiful wife Rachana hosted and spoiled some of us with good company and great conversation in Casablanca. We felt the power of Jajouka and found an unusual team of mooring men in the chief of police and the manager of Comarit, when finally taking off our lines from the African continent four days ago.
A crew of nine set out to sail the last leg of a great voyage.
We had a westerly gale forecast and that is what we got. Heraclitus took it with humble endurance and was flying towards the east with up to 9 knots in a short steep Mediterranean sea under blue or starry skies. Very difficult to hold a course that night and we saw plenty salty water shooting all over the deck and loads making it into synesthesia creating some never seen swimming pool action – to be bailed and pumped in the middle of the night by the happy crew.
We made radio contact to Jean Robert from Biladi in the first stormy night and yesterday to everyone’s excitement we even rendezvoused some 30 nm miles east of Cabo de Palos. All of us on deck, jumping up and down while 20.000 tons of Biladi was racing past with 20 something knots, honking her horn on her way to France.
Now we are just 60 nm away from Valencia Spain and have stopped the engines in very calm seas to take a breath and marvel at the outrageously beautiful silhouettes of the Spanish coast at Cabo de San Antonio. The new moon is diving into the horizon while Camaron is singing to us a welcome welcome of his latitude……
Voyage from Azores to Tangier, August 20th 2010, day 14
Heraclitus is working hard into a force 5 easterly wind.
Sails are pulled in tight, we have just changed to a starboard tack to get again closer to the Spanish coast, to find protection from a windward shore. The ship is only doing 2.8 knots on 1200 RPM. Heading for Cabo Trafalgar at the moment – kiss me Hardy….
We are back on a port tack now and are heading straight for Tangier, bearing is 140 degrees and distance only 25 nautical miles. .
Speed is averaging on a meager 2.5 knots.
Don’t know how big the swell will be when we finally have to cross the open straits of Gibraltar,. The east wind might also gain in strength when being funnelled through the high mountains on either side. The rigging is not happy, but the sails are needed to keep a straight course. The bow is starting to dive….
Generally the current sets with 2 knots to the east through the strait and that will hopefully carry us nicely towards Baie de Tangier.
Tangier tonight or shelter of the coast of Spain – the next couple of hours will tell.
A helicopter of the Spanish Guardia Civil is circling us right now…..