Sailing in the ocean
For us, accustomed to the overflowing puddle of the Mediterranean, the thought of the ocean inspired fear. Endless spaces, vast distances, the inability to stop if necessary, the thought of arriving in distant and mysterious places, all this together created a feeling of complexity and difficulty.
Now, after many years, we can say with confidence that sailing in the ocean is no more difficult than in our sea, although it is very different. First of all, you need to get used to the idea that you will have to be at sea for a very long time, for weeks. The first days are always difficult physically and psychologically. When the land disappears, you feel uncomfortable and uncomfortable, seasickness is possible. The boundless expanse of noisy waves, their endless incessant movement makes even simple things complicated. In the early days, everything is difficult: it shakes a lot, unityAnother place where it is relatively comfortable is a bunk, but even there you have to be constantly in suspense. Any action, even just to rise, requires a sacrifice. Every time it takes an effort of will to force yourself to go out to check the sails, cook a meal, make a pad or put a dot on the map, even go to the toilet. The nights are long and dark, the watch seems endless, everything is immersed in the black sea without the lights of the shore and even without the friendly light of some other sailboat. So it will be on the first day, and so on the second. But man is an animal thatexcels in the most extreme conditions and the ease with which it adapts to life in the cramped, rocking environment of a sailboat in the middle of the ocean is proof of that. A few days later, morning comes when you wake up and notice that the pitching no longer bothers you. You look at the endless series of waves and it turns out that they no longer cause fear, on the contrary, they enchant, and you stand clinging to the guy, looking and wondering how a landscape consisting of nothing can be so beautiful.
After a week, physical difficulties disappear, or almost, psychological ones are muffled. Of course, you still want to see the earth, but this is already a distant nostalgia that does not cause suffering. In the meantime, our body itself has learned to live in conditions of constant pitching. Muscles have learned to relax when lying on a bunk and follow the movements of the boat. Without noticing it, we find a comfortable position. Do you want to know what position you sleep in most often? On the stomach, half-bent leg on the leeward side. Resting with the knee every time the roll increases. Podnhaving sunk in, we find that we move with ease constantly holding on to something, quite naturally from the handrails above the bunk we pass to the galley handrails, from the handrails of the gangway to the helm stand. Hands instinctively find support, leg muscles and abs keep the body in balance without our participation, while the brain begins to perceive the concept of a constantly moving house in the middle of an endless panorama with an empty horizon around.
So far there have been emotions. Let's move on to the technical and practical aspects of navigation, how to determine the location, how to choose a course. At home, when you think about it, imagining the vastness of the ocean, the thought of being there in the middle, everything can seem very complicated. In fact, navigation during an ocean crossing comes down to simple things. There are no lighthouses to take bearings, no coasts to follow, no reefs and shoals to get around. You just need to know where you are and all the work with maps consists in drawing on it once a day a point with a coordinateand taken from GPS. It's incredibly simple.
But not so long ago, things were completely different. Sailors of the distant past took great risks when traveling from one continent to another, since the location was determined only by reckoning. Each day the number of miles traveled was determined from the speed measured by eye or by a rudimentary log of plank and line, and the segment of the distance traveled in the direction of the course followed was plotted on the map. So, segment after segment, the route went deeper into the ocean, but errors gradually accumulated, and after a week the reckonableIt had little to do with reality. In such a situation, the land could appear at any moment, day or night, and only a constant watch of lookouts or a successful measurement of the depth with a lot made it possible to avoid a collision.
Then, in the eighteenth century, came the sextant, an amazing instrument, compact and simple enough to be used on a rocking boat deck, and accurate enough to measure the height of the sun above the horizon. Measurement of the height of the luminary, accurate clocks, instructions, tables, a little addition and subtraction. And a position line appears on the map. It is not yet a point, but several lines taken at intervals of several hours, one in the morning, one at noon and one in the afternoon, gave the final point, with an error of several miles.
More than two and a half centuries have passed, but the sextant has changed little at its core, and all these years has been the only available method of determination. And admirals in lace, on warships, and captains of commercial transatlantics and small sailboats like ours, all used a sextant. We, too, during the three years of the first circumnavigation of the world from 1988 to 1991 performed a daily ritual of measuring altitude and calculating in the cabin. The lines of position were applied with a sharpened pencil, obtaining a result of unknown accuracy.
Then came the GPS.
No more lines and calculations, no more doubts when the land gets close, when the sun is not visible, when it is dark. Thanks to the GPS, the position of the boat is visualized and recorded continuously with an error of a few meters, and it is enough to look at the instrument to know where you are.
So no more problems?
Certainly. But somewhere in the far corner of consciousness, you need to keep the idea that GPS is an electronic device, and as such is subject to breakdowns, malfunctions, corrosion and various vagaries. In addition, its work depends on the operation of electrical equipment. And what should we do if, in the middle of the transition, the GPS will die and we will find ourselves in the same situation as Columbus, that is, we will go in the direction of the mysterious land, having no idea where we are? For such an occasion, many keep a spare GPS on board, small, portable, battery-powered, so as not to depend onnetwork from on-board electrical equipment, stored in a sealed, well-protected container. Others hold a sextant, and we were among them, until one day the GPS actually broke down. The screen suddenly went blank and the device began to emit a sharp sound, which stopped only when the power was turned off. We were in the Pacific Ocean between Vanuatu and Fiji and were on a tack. Waves four meters high, strong winds and other delights. And then we realized that it was not the easiest thing to resume work with a sextant after a break of many years. Renderedthe axis is that it is very difficult to take measurements while balancing on a wet deck during rolling and splashing, that when you do calculations in the cabin, nausea rolls in, that the numbers in astronomical tables are very small and easy to confuse, the calculations are too long and the sun is not always visible, as often hides behind the clouds, that our vision is no longer the same as before, and the resulting point is very approximate. Of course, we fully experienced the magic of this antique action. After many years of hassle-free, already banal approaches to land, we again experienced horror and excitement.expectation from its approach, when the earth is not yet visible and you are waiting for its appearance, hoping that the calculations are correct, when you need to recognize the islands and capes by their appearance in order to decide which side to approach correctly.
In the end, everything worked out, and after five hundred miles we managed to get exactly to the passe of the Lautoka lagoon. But from a security point of view, you still need a second GPS. If there is also a sextant, so much the better, because the GPS network is not one hundred percent guaranteed and in the event of wars or disasters can be encrypted, perhaps even partially, as happened during the Gulf War, when the signal in the Red Sea area could accept only American warships and aircraft.
The height measurement with the sextant is processed to calculate the line of position. This still requires, in addition to finitely accurate clocks for timing, astronomical tables, which change every year, and tables of direct calculations for the latitudes in which sailing takes place. The latter are always the same.
Even in terms of boat handling, ocean crossings are easier than they seem. If the time is chosen correctly, for many days and weeks sailing takes place with constant and fair winds. No need to twist turns. Sometimes the wind intensifies and you have to reduce the sail, sometimes it weakens, and you need to add sails, but it often happens that you don’t need to touch anything, the boat goes by itself for many days in a row, all the time at a constant speed over the same sea all the time. Even fine adjustment of the sails no longer matters much. Pull the sheet a fewmillimeters to win one-tenth of a knot, it makes little difference on a long transition, and after a while you no longer look at it. And you forget all these arguments about orthodrome and loxodrome, which seemed so important when you studied at the courses. In fact, this is all the result of a misunderstanding. People who teach courses and take captaincy examinations, captains or former captains of ships that have never sailed across the ocean.
For a ship that sets a course before leaving and follows a strictly defined route with the help of an autopilot, the calculation of great circle can be important. Saves time, distance and fuel. For a sailing sailboat, there are too many factors influencing course selection, and they change during the passage, inevitably taking her away from this theoretical great circle arc.
Example? Crossing the Atlantic from the Canaries to the Caribbean. The shortest route would be on a West-South-West course. But after a few days there is a risk of getting and getting stuck in the calm zone of the Sargasso Sea. Therefore, sailing sailboats first go to the South-South-West to the latitude of Cape Verde, where the trade wind is more stable, and only then turn to the west. This route is 250 miles longer, but shorter in time. And even after turning west, when you go directly to the goal, the great circle, which involves changing the magnetic course a few degrees every day, iswhatever you think about. If the wind comes due astern, they are driven a little, even at the cost of deviating from the general course, because this way the boat goes faster and there is less risk of spontaneous gybe. If the wind gets stronger, they roll away to make the wave less felt, if it gets too strong, they try to go up a few degrees in latitude, maybe it will be calmer there, and so on. All these things are not taught in courses, you learn them on the road or in ports, chatting with the crews of other boats.
Some time ago it was fashionable to mount double staysails for ocean crossings. Two staysails were raised on two stays specially set for this, or on one, snapping the raks in turn, and set like a butterfly on two spinnaker booms. With double staysails it was possible to go full gybe with the mainsail removed and theoretically even without a wind helmsman. Today, when all boats are equipped with a furling, the fashion seems to have passed and boats make transitions as usual, under the mainsail and staysail, without any special equipment.. What should be special is the constant, exaggerated, almost maniacal attention to the friction of sails and sheets against shrouds, spreaders and lifelines. With a jibe, the mainsail is completely rattled forward and rests on the shrouds. If he had just leaned, nothing terrible would have happened, but moving on the waves, deformations and gusts of wind, swinging the boom, all this leads to the fact that the canvas rubs against the metal, and if you are not careful, it can be worn out in a short time. To avoid this, you need to control all the guys and cruspies before the exit.tsy, eliminating all protruding points, and wrap the contact points with leather, plastic, canvas or just a cord. The same applies to a staysail that rubs against the bow pulpit or lifelines and to sheets of a staysail passing near the lifelines.
Every time we organize meetings with sailboatsmen, this question always pops up: — What about storms? How to be? Have you ever been scared?
Good news. Trade winds, constant winds, usually of moderate strength, sometimes strong, but rarely stormy. The only thing to worry about is thunderstorms that can form at certain times when the air gets too hot and humid.
When crossing the Atlantic, for example, the first half of the voyage is calm, because the trade wind coming from the east consists of dry air from the African continent. Gradually, with the miles traveled, it becomes more and more humid and thunderstorms begin on the second part of the transition. Usually they can be seen from afar and you can’t confuse them with anything: a huge black cloud with a dark line along the base. Sometimes they are stretched and occupy the entire horizon, other times they are small, sometimes there can be many of them, several dozen, some increase, others melt, alternatingbig chunks of blue sky. The first thing you learn is to identify danger based on their location relative to the boat. Squalls move with the trade wind. Those that are under the wind are removed, and even if they are very threatening, they are not taken seriously. Those from the windward will surely catch up with the boat, or pass alongside if they are a little to the side. The peculiarity of these squalls is that you do not hear them until they cover you. When blackness approaches, the wind does not change, but increases instantly as soon as the black line reachesour vertical, and we should expect a jump of two points on the Beaufort scale. If you were sailing with a wind of three points, when a black front appeared, get ready for five, if it was already five, get ready for seven. Usually the sails are reefed early and strongly, especially the mainsail, the staysail is smaller, since with a twist it can always be reefed quickly.
Usually squalls do not last long but can be accompanied by a terrible downpour. You need to close everything, including vertical openings, put on storm clothes and humbly sit in the cockpit. Water will flow in streams from the hair, from the ears, drip from the nose. Looking around, you see little, the downpour greatly reduces visibility, sometimes you can’t even see the bow of the boat. In the worst case, all this can be accompanied by thunder and lightning, which are terrifying, because at sea it is difficult to judge the distance and the lightning always seems too close.
Squeezing into a ball in the cockpit under a heavenly flood, flashes and thunder, you feel small and defenseless in front of something huge. In reality, there is no danger. These thunderstorms do not even have time to excite the sea, since they are too short to create their own excitement, and the rain, on the contrary, reduces the waves due to the pressure exerted by the drops and also by the fact that a layer of fresh water with a different density is formed on the surface than that of the underlying salt.
Sometimes during a thunderstorm, the wind starts to change direction unpredictably. In this case, it is better not to even try to keep the course, because you would have to go in close-hauled, make turns, still reduce the windage: a lot of work with an insignificant result. It is better to follow the wind, keeping it all the time from the stern, even if you have to go at random, since the thunderstorm will pass quickly and the lost distance will be compensated by the forces saved by the crew.
And at night? How to be a dark moonless night? Good news again. Strange, but true, squalls are visible even in the dark, because the black edge of the impending cloud clearly looms against the rest of the sky. It is enough to glance at the sky from the windward side every quarter of an hour. If a black line is visible, you need to run to reef the sails so as not to be taken by surprise.
There is always land at the end of the sea, and after many days, finally the arrival. A low, dark, very distant line appears on the horizon, so faint that it can hardly be distinguished from the clouds, but it is the earth, and it is always a great commotion. A few hours later, a silhouette appears, mountains, valleys, capes appear, and you need to prepare for the arrival. It is necessary to determine the position of the port, shoals, reefs, buoys and channels on the map. The first call in a new country should always be at the customs port. And since this is a port for ships, the entrance is usually marked. With a choice, beaming withThe strategy is to be ten miles from the port at the end of the night, then the beacons, if any, are still visible and will confirm your position. Three or four hours before the actual arrival will allow you to enter the port in the light, at the height of the day, when the sun is still high, the visibility is the best and, most importantly, all the offices are open. Night arrivals are best avoided. Even if the port is theoretically well marked, you have a good map and the GPS shows exactly where you are, calling at an unknown place at night is always a big risk. It is better twenty miles from the coast to lie adrift and underwait for the right moment.
Arriving in the Maldives, it is necessary to pass the channel between the capital, the island of Male and the island called Vilingili. We arrived during the day and there were no problems, but passing near Vilingili found that the large-scale map of the British Admiralty had a half mile error on the longitude scale. If we had come at night, trusting the GPS and the map, we would have ended up on the reefs.
Another time we came to Sri Lanka, to the port of Galle, which we already knew since we were there several years ago. We knew that the entrance was marked with luminous buoys, and following them, the entry did not cause problems. At midnight we saw the first buoy and remained in indecision for a long time.
- Let's go to? It's simple. We already went in.
However, we decided to stay true to the decision made many years ago - never enter the port at night.
They removed the staysail, reefed the mainsail and mizzen and lay down to drift. The boat was chattering on the waves and was slowly drifting to the southeast, but the main thing was not to approach the land. The southern tip of Sri Lanka is like a kind of buoy, all ships coming from Asia to Europe are forced to bypass it. The traffic is very busy and we had to keep watch all night.
At dawn, we moved along the chain of buoys in the direction of the city. Near the port we saw a boat that moved across, from one breakwater to another. On a boat, about a dozen people wound a metal net around a huge pole. It was later explained to us that it was an anti-terror net, which is pulled every evening before entering the port so that no one can enter it at night. If we tried, we would end up in this network, and god knows what bureaucratic troubles with the police.
But we decided to enter Port Sudan. We knew the port because we had already been there and there were three lighthouses on the map that were supposed to lead us straight to the place. They approached very slowly, but the lighthouses did not appear yet, there were no lighthouses, only the lights of the city, cars, buildings, and then suddenly two bright purple lights, like in a night club. It took us a few minutes to understand that these two lights were right on the line of the canal leading to the port, that is, it was a target. We followed him and entered safely, but how frightened we were! The gate made unnecessary mayaks and they were turned off. But we did not know about it, and it was not marked on the map.
A year later in Mombasa the same story, the lighthouses did not appear. But this time we did not enter and remained at sea. The next day they explained to us that the lighthouses on the entire Kenyan coast had not been serviced for many years.
The moral is, it’s better to resist the temptation and wait at sea, because there you can always admire the stars in the end.
Off the coast, the risk of collision with another boat is sometimes very high, because in third world countries myriads of boats sail in the coastal zone and often do not have lights.
Once off the coast of India, we found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of invisible boats. The wind was weak, a breeze was blowing from the shore, the sea was very calm but nothing was visible at all, because when there is no moon, even if the sky is clear and full of stars, the sea remains black and only objects emitting their own light are visible. We sailed in silence, straining our eyes uselessly, because in such conditions hearing gives more information. We heard the voices of the fishermen talking among themselves, absolutely all without lights. At times we even distinguished the splash of the oars and the perioda black vision physically materialized, forcing us to frantically maneuver while they greeted us joyfully.
And this happens not only with boats and boats. Another time, while sailing south of Flores, we were frightened by a strange sound coming from the boat, some kind of rustling, as if the hull was sliding on seaweed or silt. The GPS showed that we were eight miles from the coast. There was a moon, a light breeze and a smooth sea. Our boat, under full sail, inflated by the wind, with a slight heel, for some mysterious reason, stood motionless. We illuminated the sails, the hull, the water, and here it is, some kind of white cloud swaying under us. We were caught in a net that entangled the keel, rudder and propeller. What to do? Climb in inand cut the net with a knife, despite the darkness, the fear of sharks and the unwillingness to spoil the equipment of unknown fishermen? Wait for dawn and do everything in the light, hoping that during this time the wave will not rise? While we were trying to make up our minds, a light appeared, which, approaching, turned out to be a fisherman's flashlight on a rough wooden boat. Behind him sat another six or seven with lanterns, thug-faced, or at least it seemed that way in the moonlight.
From the point of view of maritime law, we were right, since this network, eight miles from the coast, was not marked by anything. However, for these poor fishermen, whose net we wound, it represented valuable capital and a means to feed their families. One of them gestured for us to understand that he needed a snorkeling mask. So with our masks, with the assistance of the moon and a calm sea, in two hours of maneuvers under and above water, the fishermen untangled their net, and we went on, but in order not to repeat the incident, we headed for the open sea.
It is enough to move a few tens of miles from the coast to find yourself in an absolutely empty sea, where meeting people is a very rare event, because the oceans are huge, they are much larger than our consciousness can imagine, and, in general, there are not so many ships and they are all concentrated along lines corresponding to the great circles (that's where they reappeared) connecting the main points of trade routes, such as Panama, Suez, Torres, the Cape of Good Hope. Outside of these routes, the sea is completely empty.
To get an idea of the movement of ships in the navigation area, it is good to look at the map of the main routes of ships, which can be found in the issues of Ocean passages for the world published by the British Admiralty.
But although the sea is empty, the rule of prudence requires that someone constantly keep watch, both day and night. Unfortunately, when you keep watch and see nothing for days, weeks and months, you relax and start to get distracted. Someone just does at some point stops keeping watch and goes to sleep, leaving the boat to go by itself. We did that too, and always managed, and loners always do it, they can’t not sleep at all. But we would not recommend this to anyone, as accidents always lie in wait.
We were in the middle of the Indian Ocean, four hundred miles south of the Maldives, in a zone of tropical calm, where there are no islands, no commercial routes. For several days now we have been dragging ourselves like a snail along the motionless calm sea, only occasionally a light breeze blew or a thunderstorm swept by. Lizzy was grilling the tuna we had caught that morning and went outside to the cockpit to splash oil into the sea when her scream lifted me out of my bunk.
- Ship!!! Huge!!!
I jumped out and saw a rusty sideboard less than a hundred meters from us. It was not huge, just a dry cargo ship, and it had already passed by, but looking at its empty deck and bridges, at first simply, then through binoculars, we realized that they did not see us either. The cargo ship was moving slowly, in an incomprehensible course, a little in zigzags, as if there was no one at the helm. We tried calling them on the radio, but no one answered. Twenty minutes later, he disappeared behind a veil of thunderstorms, heading south, where there is no land. Who were they? Where were they heading? Why was no one on duty? INrequests without answers, because the sea is large and even today inexplicable things are happening there.
So it happens that you sail for months without seeing anyone and suddenly, one fine day or night, you find yourself face to face with a huge ship. Or it may happen that once you get used to sailing in the ocean, you forget to be careful when the land is near.
We were finishing a difficult journey, 400 miles, all against the wind, with rain and thunderstorms, from Madagascar to the Seychelles. It was morning, the ground was already visible, the weather had improved and we had a quiet breakfast in the cockpit. The boat was steered by a wind rudder and we behaved exactly the same as during the transition, kept watch, but not very carefully. Suddenly we heard screams. The boat with the two frightened fishermen was right in front of us, motionless, straight ahead. Run to turn off the helmsman ... we passed very close to them, lowering our eyes in shame.
There are other meetings, more natural and less predictable. In 1999 we came across a herd of sleeping whales near Sumatra. It was daytime and the weather was calm. We approached cautiously and saw about thirty immobile, apparently sleeping humpback whales, each about fifteen meters long. What would happen if we met them at night?
Seven hundred miles from Panama, far from land, we came across a steel cylinder, about ten meters long and three in diameter, most of its volume was hidden under water. It was a tank, like those that are mounted on road trains for transporting liquids. She had been at sea for a long time, judging by the algae and growths on the bottom. We approached her and even had fun catching fish that found shelter under her, but then again, what would happen if we met her at night?
In the same year, we almost ran into a driftwood, so big that if we hit it, there would certainly be serious damage. And after another eight years, fifty miles from the southern coast of Irian Jaya, we had to cross a stretch of sea with so many logs, bushes and all kinds of garbage that it was simply impossible to go. We were on the open sea, but on the map we saw that seventy miles from us was the delta of a large river. Perhaps the river overflowed and carried all these trees into the sea. Retracting the sails, we slowly walked all afternoonunder the motor, one on the nose, signaling large logs, the other on the steering wheel to get around them. At sunset, we were very exhausted and stood at night, as nothing could be seen. The boat drifted under the influence of the wind and current, but it was not dangerous, since the logs also drifted with us.
Collisions with whales and drifters are potentially more dangerous than collisions with ships, since ships have lights, while whales and drifters do not and have no way to detect them. And it's useless to stand on deck with your eyes wide open, you can't see them anyway. Fortunately, they are very rare, so rare that it is not even worth worrying about.
You constantly need to worry about the autonomy of the boat. In the middle of the ocean, you can’t count on anyone’s help, and the fragile boat that holds our lives becomes our whole world, and its lockers, the only source from where you can get something if necessary, from headache pills to spare impellers for water pump, from dental cement to steel cable clamps to repair a cable that showed signs of failure. It is clear that before the release, you need to scrupulously control all the mostimportant structures: mast, keel, rudder, propeller shaft, pumps and hold, electrical equipment, to be sure, at least on departure, that there were no surprises lurking there. But you need to be prepared for any situation that may happen along the way.
Do you know what aircraft designers do to avoid accidents? Analyze one by one all the components of the engine and structure and for each of them the question is asked:
- If this mechanism fails, will the plane fall or will it continue to fly?
If the answer is Fall. – the mechanism is designed according to the highest safety standards, controlled at certain intervals of time or even duplicated, another spare part is placed next to the working part, which automatically comes into action if necessary. When controlling a boat, similar criteria would have to be followed. Let's take the mast, if it falls, it's a tragedy. Therefore, shrouds, stays, lanyards, cable terminations, shrouds, pins and plinths, everything should not be in doubt. Gotta keep them clean and in controleach one separately at certain intervals. Signs of future failure can appear much earlier in the form of broken cable strands in the termination, small cracks in the turnbuckle body, or broken thread ridges. And you do not need to be experienced to carry out this control. Enough attention and common sense. We have compiled a list of things that need to be controlled and we do it both, first one, then the other, independently of each other. So, during our first round-the-world trip on the Alpan, there was none of that... we heard about people replacing the seam cable.comrade, pulling it with hoists.
After the shrouds, the rails are controlled. Because if the shroud bursts, the mast will fall, if the handrail bursts, you will fall into the sea. For the same reason, the topenant is controlled, including its attachment to the boom. If it breaks while leaning on the boom when taking reefs in high seas, you will also fly overboard.
Next, we move on to the steering wheel. We stand behind the turret and turn it all the way, first in one direction, then in the other, several times, controlling the backlash, possible squeaks or friction. If they are, you need to determine the cause. The cables and pulleys are then checked below deck for wear and tear. We continue to check the hold, bilge pumps, kingstones, propeller shaft, its seal. Finally, the batteries, the state of charge, the cleanliness of the terminals. Now it's the turn of communication and security equipment: raft, EPIRB, radio station, GPS. The control criteria is the same.
What would happen if this thing broke unexpectedly, at night, in stormy weather?
If the answer is: — Catastrophe! - increase control, use Loctite if it's about pins or nuts, replace the thing if it doesn't inspire confidence, in short, do everything possible to prevent this from happening.
There is one question that we are often asked and which is very difficult to answer. Many people ask how to understand if you are ready for ocean sailing. What experience do you need to have? What books to read and what courses to complete? In short, how to become an ocean navigator?
When we went on our first circumnavigation, Lizzy almost never went on a sailboat and I had sailing experience during the holidays.
We'll learn along the way. - We said and gave the mooring lines. On the first leg, from Italy to Gibraltar, we thought we would get used to the boat and learn something.
We made the first measurements with a sextant from the walls of the fortress in Bastia, in Corsica. They recorded the time and the height of the sun. Then they returned on board and made calculations. The first time the results were absurd, but after some time running from the boat to the castle wall and back, the calculations became accurate and we were ready for the determination at sea.
It took three weeks to get to Gibraltar, and during this time we bent the spinnaker boom, as we forgot to hook the topenant, almost sawed the staysail sheet in two, leaving it to rub against the rail all night, wound a pendant around the reef screw, forgetting to collect it after the next reef capture and drowned some of the things in the sea. But when the Pillars of Hercules appeared ahead, we felt ready and we were itching to go out into the Atlantic. Of course, this is our personal experience and there is no criterion that is valid for everyone.
Of great help are books on voyages and ocean crossings, such as the books of Muatissier and Chichester, they help to get acquainted with the atmosphere of navigation and distant places. There are also more technical books that can be a useful source of information on various aspects of sailing. Finally, it was in response to the many questions that were asked to us by e-mail, questions very similar to those that we once tried to ask the experts of the time, that we jokingly developed a small test for the future ocean sailor.
Here are his questions:
- Are you able to go anywhere in the Mediterranean regardless of the weather forecast?
- Get somewhere with a sextant or other methods?
- If the hold is found to be full of water, do you know your boat well enough to find a possible leak, even in the dark?
- Do you know your engine well enough to change the water pump impeller, even on the high seas and in bad weather, change the alternator belt, check the propeller shaft?
- Do you know how to use Pilot Chart and read weather charts?
- In an emergency, can you navigate the boat alone, at least on the high seas?
- Do you know English enough to carry on a simple conversation on the radio and understand English directions?
- Do you know the anchoring technique?
- If there is a wound in front of you, blood, a person vomits or he is writhing in pain, are you able to provide first aid?
If you answered yes to all questions, you can go anywhere.
However... Don't take it too seriously.