It was a stark reminder of the dangers at sea. After a harrowing start to this adventure, cleansed by the recent few days of calm waters, downwind sailing, and traversing a canal under power, as if out for a Sunday stroll, it’s easy to let your guard down. I know there is a life lesson floating somewhere in there. I don’t want to live in fear or constant alert of danger, but in a minute’s time our trip to the UK could have been cut short by entangling our shrouds and spreader (the tall cross sections of our mast) and absolutely ripping our boat apart. Had one of us fallen between the two ships we would have been crushed. “Great work, boys, but let’s stay alert. We have the most dangerous section of the passage ahead - busy traffic, unsteady seas, and strong winds all the way from the North Sea down through the English Channel” Andy reminded us.
So much for finishing my chai tea and getting some shut eye until my 4am watch. My adrenaline is still pumping, an hour later as I write this. I had to capture this in real time. I’ll finish my entry tomorrow when I have something interesting to report on.
Time stamp: 9:01pm, Monday.
As if he just learned it was last call at a Madrid discoteca, Alejandro came bounding out of his room, adorned in his black thermal underwear with a concerned look mixed with productive intent. “What’s going on?!” he asked, as all who were assembled in the saloon wondered out loud about the incessant beep that suddenly alarmed us something was amiss.
After an uncomfortable delay given the certain demise of us all, Andy came sauntering into the cabin in complete unconcern, letting his panicked crew know that the bilge alarm was sounding. We lifted the floorboard that exposes the bilge and confirmed the water level had tripped the alarm. With the flip of a switch, the water was pumped out, the alarm stopped, and I was reminded once again that I wasn’t waking up in my own bed. As if the last several hours of restless tossing (literally), while the boat pitched and rolled, slamming down onto each wave that the North Sea threw into our bow wasn’t a clear reminder. Well, I guess it’s time to get up, thinking with mild amusement how absurd it is that we casually dismiss one perilous danger after another.
And so that is how today began. It’s now 3:45 in the afternoon on Tuesday, 12 hours after my abrupt wake-up call. I’m sitting on the floor of the cabin because, well, you have no fucking idea how hard it is to do anything when the floor below you is shifting between a 15-20 degree angle below you, while rocking back and forth with the consistent slamming down, like we are running aground every 15 seconds. I imagine this is an enhanced version of what are friends in California feel when they endure the 100-year earthquake…every 30 seconds.
I’m really not complaining. At this point, everything is pure amusement, keeping any boredom one would expect to feel out here at bay. I’ve been sleeping soundly all day, interspersed with a handful of pages in my novel. The “lee cloth” that creates a secondary wall around my bunk is a life saver. On this tack, I’m no longer snuggled into the couch back like I had experienced in the Baltic. Now I’m saved from rolling off my bed onto the cabin floor by a 6-foot long piece of fabric tied up at both ends. I now understand why hammocks were in vogue during the privateering days. The modern day set up leaves little comfort for hooked appendages or wooded stumps.
As I was first dressed for our shift at 4am, I asked Alejandro to make the coffee and warm me up one of those cinnamon rolls from Kalmar. Yes, dear, he responded. We’re such a playful couple.
As soon as I sat down at the helm, I was overwhelmed by the starry night. The Big Dipper pointed brightly to the Northern star, just off to Starboard, which confirmed our GPS-led pathway to the West. The waves were much less noticeable in the cockpit, though Ice Bear continued her forward assault of each one. We were motor sailing, which meant we had 2/3 of our main sail raised, no jib hoisted, and we were running the engine. The decision to do this was a precaution against the constant cargo ship traffic to our port, and the offshore wind farm to our starboard. We didn’t have much room for error, so for safety, running with the motor gave us an option to move against the wind in an emergency. And, if you’ve read anything in the last five minutes, you don’t need a reminder that danger lurks everywhere.
We're the Zimmerman Family!
Home Base | Denver, CO
A family of six that
LOVES to sail !
Follow our crew (Royce, Tara, Avery, Charley, Nora & Ruby)
as we blog our sailing adventures
Set Sail 4.22.23 | Las Palmas - Across the Atlantic - Island of Antigua
Set Sail 9.22.21 | Sweden - Germany -
Set Sail 7.18.19 | Newport, RI -
Martha's Vineyard, MA -
Nantucket, MA -
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