Part 1 from the Chris Hart Blog
The crossing from the Cape Verde’s to the Azores has proved to be somewhat of a challenge. We set off in fine weather from the barren sandy port Palmeria, but unfortunately the weather had changed over the next few days. The sudden taste of salt filling my mouth mixed with a wash of dusty rain from the direction of the Sahara was invasive, even while having to concentrate at the helm on keeping the ship on course.
All that could be seen, apart from acres of the cold ocean was a blurred horizon where the rain was building. The sea was a deep greenish-blue with whisps of white streaks where our trail was left behind us, dark clouds rose into a bruised and brooding sky, broken by the occasional splinter of moonlight that dazzled the tips of the ocean.
It was my responsibility to go to the chart house to complete my hourly log, checking temperatures, course and distance traveled, and of course making sure my watch were warm and not too fatigued. Oddly our friendly stow-away cricket hiding away in the flag cupboard on the bridge provided a tropical chorus as soon as dusk set in.
11 days without seeing another soul in this vast open stretch of desolate waters apart from the odd occasional pod of dolphins dancing through the bow waves and an isolated bird here and there apparently blown off course, why else would they be there? Anyway off to bed now at 4am into my little wooden bunk, cold, wet and hoping to catch a few hours if the rolling swell will oblige.
Part 2 from the Chris Hart Blog
The story continues . . . after the evening supper the captain gathers the entire ships crew to announce the news that storm Emma, racing in from the north, will unfortunately block our passage to the Azores and the new destination of the Canaries has been chosen. Everyone expresses their disappointment but understands the reasons for the change in a bid to keep us all safe. I’m then on the midnight till 4 am watch which seems to drag, probably because the buzz of the watch has turned to the thought of our change of course. The following morning I awoke early, my eyes slowly opening like a shy tortoise, still sore from their pounding the night before, coupled with the lack of sleep. After a hearty bowl of porridge, happy hour is announced and we get to work on the upper decks scrubbing and cleaning. One of the tasks is to clean the vegetable locker where unfortunately the cook lost 30 eggs in the rolling swell . . quite a scramble! Squall after squall comes rushing through thoroughly drenching those working on deck, and for some reason those assigned the job of polishing the brasswork continue to rub away.
The voyage crew meanwhile frantically receiving emails and messages like teenagers on their mobiles, the first chance of having a signal in 11 days. Now that we’re within reach of the island a tour is also booked for the following day. As I move through the lower decks, crew members are dotted around frantically trying to sort their onward connections once we hopefully reach our new final destination of Las Palmas.
Our watch commences again at 16.00 so I choose a skeleton crew due to the relentless wind and rain to assist upon the bridge, however all but myself and a cadet are retained by the mate. The Bosun plus one have already climbed the main mast in an attempt to prevent further damage to the sails but by this time the winds are exceeding 60 knots and steadily building and the captain seems to suddenly switch to autopilot taking control of the helm. The captain steers away from the island and decides to abort any attempt to moor alongside la palma today, instead he beats a retreat to Tenerife where hopefully the weather will be kinder.
Supper is a somewhat quiet affair as the crew below have also endured being tossed and turned as if in a washing machine! Everyone settles down for the night hoping a new dawn will bring better weather.
Up again on the bridge at 4 am, this time to the sight of the shores of Tenerife, where we stooge around outside the port before we’re provided with a berth in the safe haven of the harbour. I’m still alive. . Phew!