11 January 2017. 13:00 UTC
30.6°C / 67% humidity / 1009.7 hPa
The skin at the bottoms of my feet is flaking off. I have started
monitoring the humidity level. Pierrick read that temperature and humidity
level are more indicative to weather changes in the Atlantic than
atmospheric pressure. For the past 2 days humidity has been at around 78%.
The deck and the floor in the galley are humid. My boating shoes have
developed dark patches at the toes of condensed water; I leave them in the
sun during the day to try to dry them up. Whether barefoot or shoed, the
undersides of my feet are constantly in a state of wet-raisin-wrinkly
skin. When I rub them together to tidy them up, a sprinkle of dust, hairs,
kitty litter and flaked skin assembles on the floor, which I then clean up
Nobody mentioned to me the effects of excessive humidity on skin while
When I imagined crossing the Atlantic, I thought of clear sunny skies and
warm days. The Alizées would push us out and when we happened to be in a
patch of weak wind we would search the sky for clouds, indicators of
heavier weather. I’m pretty sure most people who care for me and who do
not sail envisioned a rather opposite perspective of our adventure, with
dark stormy skies, waves of at least 5 meters high and never a steady
foot. The reality is somewhere between those 2 visions, though so far it
leans closer to mine.
We are in an El Niño year, which means the weather patterns in the
Atlantic are inversed. In other words, the Alizées are weak. We have been
receiving weather reports via our satellite phone, which are off by about
5 to 10 knots of wind. The winds are weaker than the forecasts. Slow
Motion has a very large and heavy main sail that needs a good 10 knots of
wind to resist its weight and push it along. So far, most days we are
lucky if we have 10 to 12 knots of wind. The first days we were sailing
towards waypoints on a route that’s a bit more South than the usual one.
With winds coming from the North to East, we would rig our sails for a
broad reach and move along at a speed of 3.5 to 4.5 knots. Meanwhile, the
main sail would flap around, its weight resisting the wind. A day or 2
like that put both Pierrick and me on edge: the sound of the sails
flapping is annoying, our slow advance was worrisome, and I became very
concerned about whether we would have enough food to sustain so many
(large) appetites over an extra week at sea. And then our captain had the
good sense to conclude, “Fuck it! We’ll follow the wind.” We now follow
our waypoints in a roundabout way, favoring speed over destination. With
this in mind, Pierrick noticed that when our sails are rigged with a broad
reach, the main sail – being so large – hides the geneker and in turn
reduces our speed. We’ve opted to crisscross the main sail and geneker and
sail with a full hind wind, which has been easterly for the past day or
so. This means we must pay closer attention to the winds and any changes
to avoid jibbing, but has the added benefit of greatly increasing our
speed. In the past 24 hours we’ve averaged a SOG of 5.6 knots. The day
before we averaged 4.1.
With our speed settled (for now!), my main concern is our energy level.
When we bought Slow Motion, the previous owner told us that the boat is
self-sufficient thanks to the solar panels. This is not exactly true. Or
rather, it would be true if the night did not last 12 hours, clouds never
blocked out sun rays, and the panels were fixed directly towards the sky
or could be rotated in some way to follow the sun. As we’re traveling from
East to West, our panels are positioned in a way to absorb sun rays from 8
AM to around 2 or 3 PM, but the sky is so cloudy that we only have strong
sunshine only from around 11 AM to 5 PM. This gives us a 4 hour window to
stock up on sun energy, and even if that’s enough to fill up the batteries
(that should never be below 70% capacity), the remaining 20 hours of the
day have the batteries discharge at a rate of 6 to 30 Amps. To recharge
the batteries we must turn on the motors, and this we do more frequently
than I would like as we are using up fuel that we might need to motor in
case of an emergency. Also, the electrical box that starts up the motor is
bust on one side. We can use the good one for both motors one at a time.
This involves opening up the motor and interchanging the part. Not exactly
something you do on a whim. What’s more, whenever we make water with the
desalinator, which we need to do about every second day, we must turn on a
motor in order not to drain the batteries.
Traveling with a crew definitely causes stress for me and, especially,
Pierrick. There are more variables to take into account and Pierrick has
more lives under his responsibility. More people means we consume more of
everything. The boat is heavier, so moves slower. Energy wise, this is an
inversed desired effect. It also puts Pierrick and me in a position of
teacher (how to set the sails and so forth) or parent (“Don’t leave water
on the counter after doing the dishes”). I like the teacher part and hate
the parent one. Luckily, our crew is a good one. We have a couple onboard
that we hardly knew before leaving and nobody is family, all big no-nos
when it comes to sharing a confined space in a potentially stressful
environment for a good number of days. Even if the crew members sometimes
do things that they shouldn’t (like forget to close the window in their
bathroom, effectively creating a hole in the hull and a potentially very
dangerous scenario), and even if the boat is never as clean as Pierrick &
I would like it, they are all smart and enthusiastic people who do their
best to pull their own. So far we all get along very well and this is a
great relief for me.
For the past 4 nights we have been doing our alternate night watches. It
seems like everybody is tired all the time. I hope this will pass as we
get used to the schedule. Hugo and I are clearly the only morning persons
on this boat. It’s 11:30 AM and everybody is asleep except us 2. I don’t
mind a long morning watch so long as I get to take a nap in the afternoon.
In some ways, I find that the night shifts that Pierrick and I had devised
between ourselves to be easier. But now, when I finish a shift, I get to
climb into bed next to Pierrick, who’s body heat warms up the sheets
almost to a crisp, removing most of the humidity. I get to cuddle up next
to him for an hour until he starts his next shift. These nighttime hours
are some the best parts of my days.
Here are some highlights of the past few days:
– We finally caught a fish!! Yesterday. A “corifène.” I don’t know what
it’s called in English. The creature put up quite a fight. It took a team
to kill it. Pierrick and Hugo brought it in. I helped in not letting it
slip away. Clément doused its fins with vodka. Pierrick knocked it out.
Hugo cut off its head – back to the water! Pierrick cleaned it. I cleaned
the deck. Pauline filmed the whole event. Lunch will be sushi – yay!!
– Two days ago (Monday), we did a Man Overboard drill. We wanted our crew
to be aware of what must be done in case of such an emergency. When the
drill was done, the boys went for a little swim around the boat. Now how
many people on this planet can claim having swam in the middle of the
– Pauline has started to use my stepper. I knew that’d be a good idea!
– We have started making our own yeast bread. A bit tricky. “The Boat
Galley Cookbook” has been an invaluable guide for me. I must say my first
attempt was a good success.
– We’re writing a boat story. At every night shift, the next person adds
a chapter. It was Hugo’s idea and it’s fun. I might post it here once it’s
– Some of the meals we’ve prepared: lentil soup, potato fritters, tomato
& mozza salad, garlic & olive oil pasta, papaya, banana & orange smoothy,
and rice and vegetable salad. Nothing else comes to mind at the moment.
The bananas are almost all ripe (too soon!) and the tomatoes have turned
red. I’ll need to store everything in the fridge to try to keep them