….An introduction to the next adventure
I had been laying down for a half hour or so listening to a podcast when I decided it was time to get some sleep. I pulled my earbuds out, turned off my phone and literally within 60 seconds of relaxing my body and turning my focus towards sleep my entire body was hurled off the bed and with a big THUD I found myself on the floor.
About 10mm of fiberglass separated me and the Atlantic ocean that plunged below me to a depth of one and a half miles. Outside a bright full moon illuminated waves that reached 5 meters in height at times. I had by this time already been sailing for about 24 hours in these huge waves, ever since we pulled anchor from the southern tip of Portugal. I was on a small 45 year old 33ft/10m monohull sailboat bound for the Canary islands. It would be another 5 days before we would spot any land.
“Throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the tradewinds in your sails. EXPLORE. DREAM. DISCOVER” – Mark Twain
So another adventure has begun! I had been preparing for a big Africa trip all year. Much of the planning had already been done, the rough itinerary, visas, even a review of what vaccinations I was due to renew. The idea had actually been conceived of a couple years ago and had already been shelved once in lieu of the Siberia adventure (more on that here) The plan was to fly to Rwanda in late December of this year, buy whatever little Chinese made motorcycle the locals were riding and attempt to ride it overland across Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia, finishing in Cape Town South Africa. Wild camp along the way, and explore a part of the world I don’t know so well.
The VERY rough itinerary would have looked something like this:
However this plan fell apart when I learned that security issues in Sudan have improved some since the last time I had considered a long overland trip in this part of the world. That opened up the possibility that perhaps I was thinking too small. Maybe I should instead be planning to just do the whole thing overland….that is to say starting in Barcelona with a motorcycle and going all the way overland to Cape Town. Once the seed of this new plan was planted it grew like a weed and the decision was made. But a trip like this requires much more planning and money, not to mention I wouldn’t want to set off driving through Europe in the middle of winter. So the Rwanda trip was scrapped to make way for the bigger and better plan that would come to fruition later…perhaps next year.
Maybe something like this…
But I already had my heart set on some sort of adventure to escape the winter in Europe so I decided to make some new plans. I had become more and more interested in learning to sail in the last couple years. Having familiarized myself quite well with land travel it just seemed like a natural evolution to want to tame the seas as well.
One might ask, “But Jordan, didn’t you already try that back in Colombia 8 years ago? Didn’t that end in a near-death shipwreck experience”. Yes…and yes. For those who became readers of my blog after that feel free to read the story here. But I once heard someone say that there are only two sailors who have never run aground on a boat. One never left the port and the other was an atrocious liar. So I have got that out of the way.
So as a first step back into the world of sailing this last summer I joined several sailboat hitchhiking groups online that are meant to connect sailboat captains with able-bodied crew. I wanted to spend a chunk of time on a boat, gain some experience and also just to see if it was even something that I had an appetite to do more of. I ended up with a misfit group of sea pirates lead by a couple of young Italians who had scraped together some money to buy an old 31ft. boat named Mon Amour. There were six (yes SIX on a 31ft. boat) of us onboard this little boat for the 10 day sail from Rome to Sicily.
The atmosphere onboard was all “Summer in the Med” lots of fun, beers, snorkeling, swimming, great food (one of the captains was a chef), stopping at every beautiful little island along the way occasionally hitting up a pizzeria in some small port town. Beautiful blue skies and a perfect 80°f/28°c daytime temp with water temperature about the same. There was even an active lava spewing volcano to spicen up the adventure. The crew were all young enough to be my kids but we were all like-minded life-hogs and despite being 6 of us on a tiny boat we all got along swimmingly (sorry for the pun). It was basically hedonism with some sailing involved. I already knew I had a taste for the former, and I learned that I also enjoyed the latter. So this is what sailing can be like? I had a feeling it’s not always like this but I my interest was piqued. I began dreaming about buying my own boat in the next couple years to set off on a long ocean journey.
For more photos from the summer sailing trip CLICK HERE
So when Africa got delayed I turned all my attention to the seas. Perhaps I could take a more serious crack at learning to sail and turn it into a great adventure, my Plan B for escaping the winter. So I signed up to take my RYA Day Skipper Theory Exam….kindof the first step towards becoming a licensed sailboat captain and as I worked through that I was scanning every website, Facebook group, and forum that exists to connect crew with boats. I first found a couple boats in Asia that were interested in taking me onboard. But I’m trying to fly less nowadays to keep my carbon footprint down so Asia was not my ideal option, it would require two long-haul flights to get over there and back. The ideal plan seemed to be to hitchhike across the Atlantic ocean. A carbon zero ride to the other side of the world so I’d only require one long flight home.
When I told my parents about my idea to hitchhike on a sailboat across the Atlantic they were not surprised, they have long since ceased to be surprised by my ideas, the first thing they said was “Ahh well, then you will not be so far from home, you can pass through for a visit before returning to Spain”. The original idea was simply to cross the Atlantic, spend some time tooling around in the Caribbean jumping on other boats gaining some more experience, and then head back to Europe just in time for the arrival of spring. But a visit home added the possibility of a new dynamic and objective to the trip. The objective….Barcelona to Las Vegas without stepping onto an airplane. If I could just get myself to some Central American coastline by sailboat then I could travel overland through Mexico and into California. Et voilà! It would all depend on what opportunities I could find once in Caribbean, but it’s a worthwhile objective.
“I can’t wait for the oil wells to run dry, for the last gob of black, sticky muck to come oozing out of some remote well. Then the glory of sail will return.” -Triston Jones
Anyways, first I have to get myself to the other side of the pond hitchhiking on a sailboat and the problem is I am not the only one with such ideas of hitching rides across the seas. Especially nowadays with more and more people who have a lust for travel but an aversion to flying. Basically there is competition to get on boats. A LOT of competition especially for the Atlantic crossing. Cute experienced girls get picked first, then cute non-experienced girls, then super experienced sailors next, and then it gets harder and harder for each demographic with non-experienced couples and vegans at the bottom of the list. So at least I have an edge on some.
All boats follow more or less the same route across the Atlantic and there is only one window of time during which the weather conditions are favorable for an East to West crossing, late November through February, with most boats choosing to sail late November or early December in order to reach the Caribbean in time for Christmas and to minimize any time having to endure anything resembling a winter. The route is Europe to the Canary Islands where most boats leave from directly to cross the Atlantic, those that don’t leave from the Canaries will instead continue further south to Cape Verde to start the crossing from there, this somewhat shortens the crossing.
In any event I focused all my attention on the online resources to find a boat. After about 6 weeks of scouring every website, online forum, and Facebook group I finally found a captain sailing a 33ft/10m boat named La Fortuna from Portugal to the Canaries and eventually to Cape Verde. He didn’t have plans to cross the Atlantic but like any hitchhiker you take whatever ride will get you closer to your destination.
So on December 9th I left my home in Barcelona and boarded an overnight train to Lisbon (opting out of what would be a much cheaper flight) where I would meet Captain Richard, his fiancé Ivy, another crew/hitchhiker named Maksym from Ukraine, and La Fortuna….the boat that we hoped would get us all safely to the Canary Islands. And that is how I ended up dumped onto the floor of a boat in the middle of the ocean surrounded by giant waves tossing us about in the sea. I’ll leave you there for the moment and will try and get out another update in the next days to describe the journey in more detail.