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April 30
25 degrees north, 70 degrees west

It is now day 5 of our passage from Santiago to Bermuda, and we have crossed the Tropic of Cancer. The sun is now 11 degrees south of the zenith at local noon, and drops by about 2 degrees daily. Soon we will need to wear clothes again, god help us. It was sad to leave Cuba; it left more of an impression on me than any other island we have visited, and we're all glad we took the risks associated with going there. I would like to go back; Cuba doesn't actually need more doctors, but there may be some useful role in the transition that is about to happen. Mostly, I love the warmth and energy and spunk of her people.

We had a bit of a fight to get around the eastern tip of the island, motorsailing dead upwind against a strong easterly wind and current. But we got through the Bahamas in good time, and managed to dodge both US Coast Guard and DEA; these are the bane of small boats sailing in this area. They will board and search for drugs at random, and have been known to tear boats apart, even drug-free vessels like ourselves. Not true, actually; we still have a few bottles of antibiotics in our kit.

Bermuda is about 500 miles away, 4-5 days sailing under normal conditions. This is a funny stretch of ocean this time of year, with frequent calms and lots of squalls and thunderstorms. It is the middle of the Bermuda triangle, after all. Bermuda will be a brief pit stop for us, time to go over the boat and get all systems ready for re-entry into the cold, wet, windy waters of home. Our thermometer is still giving the water temperature as 104 degrees, as it has since the Azores. Perhaps the Labrador Current will knock some sense into it. All is well here, and our love goes out to friends and family, who we hope to see very soon.


Lubber's Log Sunday, May 2nd

Weather- how to adequately describe natures most powerful omnipresent force? Should I start with a historical anecdote? A fitting quote? Or should I start with the colors: picture the cornflower blue sea (get out your crayolas if it will help) flecked with white horses and overhung by an even, viscous, billowing green-black wall of cloud looming straight up from the horizon. Colors which, in retrospect, were eerily similar to the colors of the spinach fettuchine that I had gobbled out of my blue parmesan flecked bowl only moments earlier. If I go this route I will have to continue with white as those ordinary, poetic white horses turn into swirling churning solid fury tumbled over beaten down and carried aloft by the tangible wall of wind that tries to hurl itself upon us the same way. Next comes gray when the innocent blues and whites of the water mix with the unforgiving black of the sky and the steel rain. For what seems like an eternity the only relief we have from this lethal grey is the even more lethal, and indescribably beautiful, blinding pink violet flash of lighting. Like some insane God's discotheque the clouds are lit for miles around in a soft blush of light. Quite unlike the creeping blue tendrils of fire we later see dancing across the back of the receding storm these are anonymous pink bursts, completely unidentifiable. Not only is our visibility limited to a hundred yard haze of whipping rain and spray but the sound of thunder never reaches our tortured ears above the vengeful scream of wind and the drum of rain on our hoods. As the fury dissipates the next color emerges as a mysterious orange ball sinking slowly over our shoulders. All that infinity of weather and still the sun has not set? No, it stays long enough to spread it's own color over the green and white foaming backs of the waves as they race east in an attempt to find a less hardy boat to wreak havoc on.

It's this final soft orange glaze that put this need in me to express what I saw. Words are hopelessly inadequate to show how I felt, but the beauty and power of it awed me so much that for the rest of the night and all this morning I've been speaking over and over the words that sprung into my head with that final softly diffused sunset. I've tried as best as I could to show you honestly the beauty and terror I felt, or perhaps the chaos of clear heady adrenaline that I saw.

Yet I'm sure that just these bits and snatches, though they may bring emotions to you accurately, can't give you the solid information needed to put the emotions into context. So- recreate the scene of the crime:

It's dinner time, we've been watching this green cloud oozing towards us for the last half hour and suddenly, it hits. Simultaneously the bimini collapses around Joel's head as he stands at the wheel and the wind guage jumps up from 20 knots to 50. Only a split second later the rain comes as a solid sheet and helps the wind to push our sails over until the entire leeward deck is submerged. Joel immediately heads the boat up into the wind and just as quickly Da runs up to the foredeck to transform the sheet metal sails into some sort of safer form. As soon as I can get the bimini down I take the wheel and Joel runs forward to help get the whirling chaos of rope and cloth under control. Soon all is in hand and the three of us stand in the cockpit with the rain drumming on the backs of our hoods. After what seems like an eternity, but was probably only 5 minutes the rain stops and we watch the storm recede. Once the wind has moderated to "only" 30 knots or so we put up the jib again and return to course to wait for the next squall.

In a few hours the stars are out in surreal glory and the terror flows out of my memory faster than rain pouring out of our scuppers leaving me staring at the lightning flickering in the distance and saying, "Whoa, what was that?"

Shifra T.

Captain's Log

9 May 1999

We had a bit of a time getting to Bermuda, but managed to limp in with a bit more dignity than we did in 1995. Shortly after the last log entry, we entered a twilight zone of intense thundersquall activity which lasted 2 days. Strangely, this was not predicted by any of the weather forecasts, although it was clearly visible on the satellite photos, and Herb Hilgenberg of Southbound II, meteorologist extraordinaire and friend to yachties everywhere, commented on it in his daily radio rounds from Ontario. We were hit by several squalls each day, from various directions, several packing 30-40 knot winds and one 50 knots. We fairly quickly mastered the drill of stripping all sail with the approach of any suspicious-looking clouds. I've never seen so much lightning so close, but somehow we managed not to be struck. Perhaps the big copper straps we had run from the masthead shrouds to the keel bolts protected us, and perhaps we were just lucky. We did, however, sustain a lot of sail damage, including tearing off the reinforcing tape on the leech of the genoa, and a 1 foot tear along the front of the mainsail, which deprived us of our 2 big workhorses for the last couple of days of the passage. As it turned out, there was no wind anyway, so we would have motored the last 300 miles in any case. Fortunately, we had plenty of diesel, and little Weetabix, trusty diesel engine, ticked over like a champ the whole way in. We arrived on the evening of the 5th, only a day later than we had expected, averaging just under 100 miles a day for the 1000-mile passage; quite respectable, but not our finest run.

We got the sails off to the sailmaker for repair first thing next morning. Then Joel, by some uncanny intuition, insisted on inspecting the masthead for damage, which we usually do just before we leave on passage. There he found one of the 2 plates holding up the forestay snapped clean off. That the fitting had not gone altogether, and with it the forestay, roller furler, and upper 1/3 of the mast itself, was nothing short of miraculous. We wasted no time finding a crane and rigger, got ourselves to the St. Georges Boatyard, and next morning I was dangling from a crane at the masthead pulling off the fitting and taking it down to the local welder for repair. We would have liked to completely re-engineer the fitting, which is an odd and archaic design, but the welder insisted that anything which had lasted 30 years must be of fundamentally sound design, and would best be re-welded and restored to its original condition, which he promptly did. A few hours later the crane was fired up, the fitting bolted back on to its rightful perch, shrouds and stays re-attached and rattled down, and Bob's Your Uncle--we were a going concern once again. Thank god it hadn't happened in Cuba, where finding someone to weld 316 stainless steel alloy would have been about as likely as encountering a unicorn.

Mostly, Bermuda has been a rest and repair stop this time, and we have all been busy getting all systems in order. Shifra has re-sewn the foot of our spinnaker-snuffing sleeve and changed the engine oil, Joel has scrubbed and inspected the bottom, put the finishing touches on the various masthead attachments, freshened the nips and cut away chafed ends on all the running rigging lines. The diesel cabin heater has been repaired and put back in service, and all the bilge pump intakes have been cleared and the forward pump repaired and put back into service. We've gone over the rigging with a fine-tooth comb for any potential problems and found no other lurking surprises. Today, Sunday, is a day of rest to write letters and see a bit of the island. The weather here now is delightful, clear and dry, down to the 60's at night and no bugs. Also, no wind to speak of, being in the middle of the Bermuda high right now. A number of the friends we have made along the way are also passing through Bermuda now as well, on their way to Europe or New England, so we have gotten in some good ship visiting. Tomorrow, we hope to pick up our sails, lay in some provisions and head north, even if we have to use the engine for a couple of days. Our tanks are full, and Weetabix's 38 horses are champing at their bits to be back in home waters, as are we.


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