Photo by Eneka Stewart Photography
The following post is by a crew member, Loryn Bennet…my amazing cousin:
Since March 21st I have visited 6 different countries, the United Kingdom, Gibraltar, Algeria, Tunisia (for only a couple hours), Malta, and Sicily. I still can’t even believe this is happening. In each country not only have I learned the history, culture, different languages, food specialties, and much more, but I’ve learned something new about sailing and the sailboat.
Arriving in the UK on March 21st initiated the start of our new adventures
Kim and Simon talked about things we need to do on the boat once we get to Gibraltar and a kinda game plan how we were going to utilize our one week stay there. Common sailing terms were brought to my attention like there is no such thing as a rope on a sailboat. Each item on a boat has a designated term, for example, the bathroom is called the head, each sail has a different name, the kitchen is the galley, a bedroom is a berth, and many more. Along with all the sailing terms, Kim showed me a booklet of checklists she prepared for all the checks we need to complete before going anywhere. I never in a million years thought sailing could have so many things you need to check before you even set sail.
So here we go – let’s start in Gibraltar!
We arrived in Gibraltar and found our way to the boat. After finally getting the passerelle (gangplank) situated we could carry on with our day. I got a grand tour of the place, settled in, and quickly began tearing up floorboards in search of all the items we needed to check. OMG… there is not a place under any floorboard or in any corner that does not have something filling its space.
There’s stop cocks (levers that allow water in or out of haul), strainers (capture materials from seawater), grey and black water pipes (to eliminate fresh and soiled water), many water pumps, freezer pumps, bilge pumps, electrical components, batteries, and fuel lines. I’m sure I’m omitting other items but there’s just so much stuff, not to mention a ginormous Diesel engine and generator to do checks on.
I got introduced to all the mechanics of a sailboat right off the bat. I was reassured that there was no way I would be able to remember everything, but in time it all would become second nature. I just took a deep breath in relief that I wouldn’t be tackling any of these things on my own for a bit. With that being said I have made many mistakes alongside getting a few things right.
Getting hauled up the mast!
We prepare to set sail to Malta when I was asked if I could get hoisted up the mast to sew a piece of leather around the spreader that protects the sail from getting caught on it. I thought yeah sure I can do that. Little did I know I was being hoisted 40ft in the air, to then pull myself to the end of the spreader, wrap my legs around the outside post, and somehow sew this thing on.
If you only knew the thoughts that were going on in my head
I was so scared! I was worried about swinging off the mast or being thrown into something. Thirty minutes later the job was completed. I was let down and upon looking back at the task, it didn’t seem as scary as I thought at first.
Things I’ve learned on the way to Malta
We were anticipating a smooth sail lasting 6-9 days. A force 8 storm hit us that made daily operations very difficult. I learned if a gallon of milk gets thrown from the counter on to the floor really make sure there isn’t a crack in it before placing it back in the fridge. Teaching yourself how to drain a fridge, flush it out, find all leaks and clean everything in a force 8 storm is really difficult.
I learned that trying to cook eggs while the boat is rocking like a washing machine may not be the best choice for a breakfast option. My fried eggs sandwiches were a disaster to look at, but Mike the skipper, and Simon were just thrilled to have a warm breakfast.
Helming (driving) a boat seemed to come quite normal and natural for me until I was asked to take the helm in the pitch black during a force 8 storm. I was told to keep the compass between 6-7 northeast. Well the normal, natural feeling I had during the day flew right out the door. The compass was turning way out of control that I didn’t even know which way was which.
I just yelled, ” Mike… Mike… HELP”
I was so nervous and scared that I didn’t want to helm again until it was daylight.
I learned that it is very difficult to sleep in a storm or any kind of rough water. I would be so exhausted, really anticipating laying in bed after my three hour night shift, finally settling in only to realize my body was actually coming off of the bed and landing as if I was on a roller coaster ride. You had to lay on your back with your legs and arms spread out as if you were in the middle of a jumping jack and hope for the best. If you tried to lay on your side you just got thrown off the bed. I began to think will I ever get to sleep??
In Algeria, I learned that having a properly operating generator was really important
And…that a force 8 storms can rip a sail – that’s exactly what happened to the genoa sail (sail on the bow of the boat). And…that there are really nice people wherever you go and my mind shouldn’t just think of the worst. Also that a rainstorm can carry sand from the Sahara desert and dump it on your boat leaving a horrible mess to clean up.
On our way to Tunisia, I learned that if the pulley at the top of your mast breaks and your mainsail can’t go up or down then that is a big problem
I remember Mike looking over at me discussing how he could hoist me up to the top of the 85ft mast to evaluate the problem.
I just stared at him dumbfounded thinking is he on crack?
Thankfully I didn’t have to go to the top since the conditions weren’t good, hence the stop in Tunisia. Simon, god bless him, volunteered to go up the mast and get the sail down.
We finally made it to Malta having to motor most of the way since we couldn’t put up the mainsail and the genoa was ripped. What a relief to know we would be at the port for a week or so to get some much-needed repairs done. Mike and Simon fixed the generator, the genoa was taken down and sewn, the mainsail pulley was fixed and a metal piece fabricated to eliminate that problem ever happening again and a much-needed cleaning happened.
The day before we left Malta those checklists came out.
I learned first hand how tedious checking the 23 stop cocks and strainers on board can be
The stop cocks get exercised so that they don’t seize up. It’s a job done a couple of times a month. Doing WOBBLES checks, which stands for check water, oil, belts, batteries, leaks, electricity, and start the engine on both generator and engine got completed. I learned how to put the genoa back up and clean all the teak wood.
Falling in the lazerette
When leaving Malta for our 9 hr sail to Sicily, I quickly learned to make sure you have a good footing when on deck and putting fenders (items that protect your boat from banging other boats) away in the lazerette (compartment on the back deck for storage). I found myself face first in the massive compartment just laughing out loud as I couldn’t believe I did that. Kim and Simon just giggled at me… I also learned how to furl out the genoa and properly put up and take down the mainsail.
On the plus side taking a nap on the back deck, under a blanket baking in the sun was just amazing!
We are just about to port in Sicily when 30-40 kt winds hit us. It’s amazing how conditions can just change in the blink of an eye. This is when I learned what keel over in a sailboat meant. I just held on for a bit until Kim and I were summoned to furl in the genoa and take down the mainsail. Wow…… we made it!!
Now for my big mistake that I will never live down
We are about to moor up (park the boat) and the marina guy is waiting for me to throw him the line. As we approach closer, I throw the stern warp (aka rope) and then watch as it falls from our boat into the water. Omg I never tied it off to our boat. Thank god he caught the other end or else we would have lost the rope. He threw it back to us quickly. I got us tied off on both sides and then heard Simon laugh and say, “ you owe me a beer for that one.”
I just shook my head in disbelief and said, “yes I do!”
Ahhhhh we made it to Sicily!! I still can’t believe it. The best part is Simon called ahead and mentioned we love cannolis!! The marina people went out that morning and got us 10 freshly stuffed, Sicilian style cannolis…. That just completed our day. We all sat down and enjoyed our treat in complete happiness. Big thanks to Simon and the Marzamemi marina!!
To carry on reading about our journey, your best bet is to buy my book, Trading The Rat Race In For A Sail Around The World. The book will take you all through the Mediterranian, across the Atlantic Ocean, up the Caribbean Island chain all the way to the USA.
From here on out my updates are now broken down into journal-type entries and destination/passage updates. If you like reading about our passages and the places we sail to, visit: Sailing Britican Destinations & Passages
If you enjoy the journal-type offering of what we think and feel, start with this post and just click, next at the bottom to carry on through all our journey updates: Living the Dream of Sailing Around The World – Month One