September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II

By Tom Morkin

Into the second week, things got decidedly tropical as we dropped down below 20 degrees north latitude. It must have been at this latitude when butter melted on the early sailing ships that sailed from Northern Europe and turned right when making for the Caribbean Islands. Only this far south could they be assured of avoiding the north Atlantic gales and be well ensconced in the northeast trade winds. From this time, T-shirts and sheets and bed sheets became the exception rather than the rule. Keeping cool was harder than keeping warm.

Day after day, night after night, Feel Free bowled along at five to seven knots propelled by those same wonderful winds that moved the early explorers, pirates, privateers, traders and navy men. We felt linked to those earlier characters in a very elemental way. Sure, we had a whole lot more toys aboard but the main driver remained the same. In a way, we were as much in their world as we were in the modern age. This heightened our appreciation of their voyages without maps, and with only rudimentary instruments and minimal creature comforts.

By this time, we had gotten used to not only our watch system, but also our cooking schedule. A long time ago, Liz established that she wanted the galley to be an equal opportunity work place, meaning cooking and cleaning is equally shared aboard Feel Free. This meant that not only is galley duty shared, but also that the crew is guaranteed a more varied menu.

In our case, each of us had only one main meal to prepare every four days. That gave each of us lots of time to think about putting together something decent to eat. Our crew really got into the spirit of it. Gus even packed 2 recipe books from Vancouver. A sampling of our meals included: plum dumplings, breaded fish cakes, blood sausages, grilled mahi mahi, linguine mahi bechamel, spinach and cheese lasagna, Spanish omelettes, lentil and vegetable curry, black bean soup.

It was into the third week that an unusual weather event took place in the North Atlantic. Without going into a lot of meteorological detail, let’s just say a series of big low pressure systems invaded the area that is usually occupied by the Azores High and its smaller partner the Bermuda High. These lows pushed these highs much further south than is normal for the winter months. The good news is that the weather was very settled; the bad news was that the boats that left some days after we did ran out of wind. In our case, we still had wind but not as much as before or as much as we wanted while the boats ahead of us managed to hold the wind and keep on truckin’.

Every evening we tuned the SSB radio to the frequency of 12359 kilohertz to listen to the cruisers’ patron saint. His name is Herb Hilgenberg and he operates a free weather service from his home in Burlington Ontario, Canada. Every day at 2000 hours UTC he reports and forecasts weather to mariners in the Atlantic and Caribbean.

We were grateful that we just managed to keep ahead of the parking lot, an area only 400 to 500 miles behind us where our fellow cruisers were either stopped for lack of wind or resigned to using their diesel engines. Day after day we heard complaints of no progress or boats altering course 90 degrees to chase the slim prospect of some wind- anything to get their boats moving again.

Although Feel Free managed to stay in the wind, we encountered a problem of our own. On the morning of the 13th day, while bringing in a hooked mahi mahi, I looked down behind the stern and reported- Hey, we’ve got another big fish following the boat! No such luck. What I thought might be a huge mahi mahi turned out to be a large piece of polypropylene fish net that we managed to snag around our keel or skeg or rudder or propeller or, heaven forbid, all of the above. This was not good.

Not only did this slow us down, we didn’t dare start the engine and turn the propeller. That could result in damage to the propeller, strut, cutlass shaft bearing and even the transmission.

That net definitely had to go, but diving under a pitching, yawing and rolling boat in even a five foot sea is not my idea of a good time. Furthermore, the thought of all the fish carcasses we’d tossed over the side recently and the reports from another boat who had just lost a nice tuna to what must have been a shark, set my already hyperimagination into overdrive. If that weren’t enough, I learned a long time ago that large pelagic sharks not only occupy a place at the top of the food chain, they are hard wired to view all the ocean critters as food, and that would include little ole’ foul tasting me!

On the plus side, as long as we didn’t turn the propeller, it wasn’t doing any harm and it didn’t slow us down too much. Maybe we could just wait until we were just outside the anchorage of Barbados and I could jump in and cut it away. So we let it be for two days.

We dragged that cursed net until the wind and seas moderated to the point where I donned the mask, snorkel and fins and we dropped the sails and turned into the wind. Just as I prepared to jump in, Dave exclaimed Hey look- the net is drifting away!

Sure enough, it dropped away and drifted to leeward. I quickly jumped in anyway to be sure none of it remained and was happy to report that we were well and truly free of it. What a relief.

Our last week at sea provided none of the dramas of the first two weeks. It appeared that everything that was destined to break was broken already. Here’s a list of our gear failures: 1 IPod, 2 lost lures, 1 snatch block, 3 jib hanks ripped out, 1 broken bolt on spreader, 1 winch, 1 genset, 1 bent whisker pole, uv cover stitching.

The crew was totally functioning with all the main procedures and systems of the boat. Routines were firmly established and we all had plenty of time to engage in personal interests. For the most part, that meant a lot of jabbering. David would regale us with tales of the 12 years of sailing the Caribbean with his wife Eileen Quinn, while I’d tell Dave and Gus more than I’m sure they wanted to hear about Liz’s and my sailing past. While Gus would politely listen, he’d wonder out loud how he could persuade his wife Angie to sublet their townhouse and set sail on their 27 footer to Mexico or the Caribbean.

 

After exhausting ourselves with talk, we’d usually find a shady corner of the boat and read, often to be alerted by someone calling out Fish On! or Lunch is ready! or Dolphins off the bow!

One afternoon it was a pod of Minke whales that chose to hang out with us for a full 15 minutes. These magnificent creatures have the unfortunate nickname “Stinky Minke” resulting from their hellacious halitosis caused by decaying pieces of fish and seafood that become trapped in their baleen for extended periods. This situation would give any critter seriously bad breath!

The effects of the Azores High descending to 20 degrees north latitude and the resulting windless ridge was beginning to affect our speeds to the point that, for the better part of two nights, we resorted to the iron jib (our trusty 70 hp Isuzu diesel engine.) Although we weren’t in a hurry to end our passage, whenever the boat speed slowed to less than three knots, there wasn’t enough wind to keep the sails filled, so as the boat rolled, the sails would slat and flog, both hard on the sails and definitely hard on the nerves.

Fortunately, as we got closer to Barbados, the wind filled in and we were well and truly on a sailing boat again, and I finally got to fly the twin head sails, alas, though only for half a day.

Dave had taped a “golden dubloon” to the mast (actually, a Canadian loonie) and, as in the old sailing days, it was to be given to the sailor who spotted land first. It was in the morning of our 19th day at sea that I took possession of that prize. It was after seeing a cloud bank that was clearly associated with land that a definite outline of hills emerged. That night, we anchored off Bridgetown Barbados.

After 10 years aboard Feel Free and with Dave’s and Gus’s help, we were back in the New World. So what was it like crossing an ocean with a crew of four rather than just the two of us? Well, pretty darned good actually.

We really appreciated the extra hands during sail changes and it was a real benefit when things on board needed to be repaired to bring extra hands and brains to the job. There were more people to stand watch, catch and clean fish, cook, tidy up, talk to, listen to, laugh with, laugh at.

We were also fortunate enough to have the right crew. Dave and Gus had never met before the trip. Not only were they competent seamen, they got on like gangbusters. Moreover, Feel Free, being 51 feet overall, meant we weren’t in one another’s way and each of us had enough privacy and space.

So, will we have crew again on the longer trips? Absolutely. Hopefully, they’ll be as good as Dave and Gus, or better still, if we’re lucky, maybe it will be those two again.

Barbados Stamp