North Atlantic Crossing

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
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.

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