BD Atlantic Crossing / Under Orion’s Belt – Day 7

Bodacious Dream and I are moving along quite nicely in these brisk northeast trade winds, finally traveling in a somewhat southwesterly direction. Today, at 15:15 marked the end of day seven, the first week of this Trans-Atlantic solo sail – significant for a couple of reasons. First of all, it marks the longest solo passage of my sailing career, eclipsing my two solo Super Mackinac Races, which were each 600 miles long. Those races started in Chicago and ran to Port Huron, Michigan traveling through both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Both of those races took six days. Since leaving Cascais, Portugal we have sailed over 1050 miles in seven days … including the quick stop for more fuel in Madeira.

The other significant thing going on is that this trip is somewhat of a stepping-stone to the larger dream I’ve long had, of single-handedly sailing around the world. Sailing alone across the Atlantic was the first of my boyhood sailing adventure dreams. I actually remember the time and place that gave birth to that dream. It was a green cloth-covered book, a compilation of sailing stories, that I had pulled off the shelf in the Middle School library in Chesterton, Indiana. One of the stories in the book was about a man named Howard Blackburn.

A fisherman in his dory.Howard Blackburn was a Gloucester, Massachusetts fisherman, back in the late 1800’s. In those early days of commercial fishing, larger sailing ships would take onboard a number of fishermen, along with their dories (a dory is a shallow high-sided boat about 20 feet long used by fishermen – like in the image here.) These “transport” ships would then sail a number of days out to the fishing ground. Once there, the fishermen and their dories would be lowered from the ship to fish for cod with hand-lines – long lines with multiple hooks on them. The laborious task of rowing to an area to fish, setting your line, following back on the line and pulling up the fish over and over was the business of commercial fishing in those days.

Howard was one of these sturdy fishermen. As often happened, the weather would change once out on the fishing grounds, and fogs would set in so that fishermen would be lost, unable to find their way back to the ship. This happened to Howard one day, and his only option for survival was to row the many, many miles back home through the harsh North Atlantic weather. In the process, Howard lost his mittens, which forced him to cinch his hands to the oars, so that he could keep rowing despite his frostbitten fingers. Somehow, Howard made it home, but ended up losing all of his fingers and some of his toes.

That didn’t stop him though. From there, Howard went on to sail single-handed across the Atlantic, and spent a very full life at sea. Sailing alone across an ocean is no small feat, requiring determination, strength, preparation and skill (mixed with a heavy dose of luck) – but I still remember the amazement that I felt as a lad, imagining Howard’s courage in doing what he did minus fingers, and in an era when even what we would call “basic” technology was unavailable.

So, back to today … it’s late at night here when I’m writing this … 2:30am, and BoDream and I are sailing along quite quickly under jib and mainsail with winds at around 20 knots. For the past day and a half, I’ve been sailing with the A3 (the large asymmetrical spinnaker,) but with the winds forecasted to increase to 25 knots, and realizing that I did not have the A3 optimized for solo handling, I prudently chose at dusk tonight to take it down and put up the jib. We are now flying through the night sea at speeds of over 10 knots on a heading for the south by southwest, and locked into the trade winds.

When “Otto” (that would be our automatic pilot) drives the boat, I know he’s using the compass and wind instruments to fine-tune his course. When I drive, I get to mix in a bit more romance with it all.

The constellation OrionPresently, the constellation Orion, the hunter is directly over the mast. I sail my course by keeping the mast aligned with one of the stars in his belt. As you know, the stars move through the night. Orion begins the night just above the eastern horizon, and slowly moves into position for me to steer by him. Soon enough though, Orion will be off to the west, and I’ll have to find another star to steer by.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of stars.

Until the next story, enjoy!

- Dave and Bodacious Dream

@ (+ 23.4800 – 22.0100)
Wind Speed – 20-25 knots
Boat Speed: 9-10 knots w/ surfs up to 14.
For the GPS-inclined -
SOG (speed over ground) – 10.5
COG (course over ground) – 226 degrees)