En Route Bahia Torgougas to Puerto Magdalena

by Leslie Godfrey in

*Warning:  This post may not be suitable for vegans.*  

We set out from Bahia Tortougas on Thursday afternoon (because a sailor can never start a voyage on Friday) with full sail and some apprehension.  Prior to leaving, I read some inspirational text on discomfort to set my mind in a better place: 

Much of your pain is self chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore, trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.
— Kahlil Gibran

Ok, ok, ok.  I committed to focusing on whatever is beautiful, relaxing with discomfort, and waiting it out in “silence and tranquility.”  Silence and tranquility are my middle names.  

Our passage started out better from the beginning.  We charted a course that would take us crosswise to the waves for a short stint, but then, when we turned Southeast, we placed the waves to our stern. Sonrisa would ride them up and down like a sled rolls up and over snowy hills.  It worked.  

As night fell on the first evening, the sunset was beautiful.  There was no moon at all, and the stars were revealed, thick as fog.  You could not look to the sky and see darkness for all the stars in the way.  When I came up for my watch at 2:00 a.m., Andrew said “lean over the side and see the phosphorescence.”  

I have been waiting for years to see phosphorescence!  I leaned over the side and watched the green sparks spread over the surface of the water as Sonrisa’s hull breaks through each wave.  Amazing.  Phosphorescence is a tiny algae that grows on the surface of the ocean.  You can’t see it during the day, but if it is disturbed at night, it makes a green spark in the water, like a million little aquatic fireflies. Ah!  Now this is what I have been waiting for!

I took over my watch.  All was well until at 3:00 a.m. (because everything crazy happens at 3:00 a.m.) I think hear someone hailing “Sonrisa, Sonrisa, Sonrisa” over the VHF on Channel 16.  Were they hailing me? I wasn’t sure because in the dark of a night watch, I hallucinate things.  I look at the GPS screen and see nothing in our vicinity.  I go below to the secondary chart on Andrew’s computer, and sure enough, the Carnival “Miracle” is on a direct collision course with us in 19 minutes.    

I scurry back upstairs.  I look around the horizon, and I see nothing.  Where is he?  Why isn’t he showing up on my GPS screen on deck?  Where should I go to avoid him?  My heart is racing, and now the VHF radio cord has tangled itself around the second VHF radio cord that is strapped to my life jacket. I’m tied up too tight to go back downstairs to look at the screen again.  I figure if I start the engine and divert 90 degrees in either direction, I should be fine.  I hail Carnival “Miracle” and inform him that I am diverting, to ensure he continues to hold his course.  We don’t want to divert together in the same direction.

I start the engine and turn off the autopilot.  I still can’t see him anywhere.  The sound of the engine wakes Andrew up, and he comes to the companionway to see what is going on.  I explain, and he looks at the GPS downstairs.  He informs me that just beyond and parallel to the Carnival is the Princess cruise line.  What are the chances in this giant ocean that we would be on a collision course with the Miracle in the first place, and then when we divert, there is a second cruise line running parallel with the Miracle? There is no way for me to motor across in front of both ships in time, and I can’t now turn around and motor the other way in front of the Miracle.  Uhg. I untangle the VHF radios from each other, and ponder what to do.  We decide to split the difference between the Miracle and the Princess.  We will pass approximately 2.5 miles away from either ship in the middle. Andrew guides me from down below while I steer.  Soon, the giant ships come into view.  As they get closer, they grow from tiny lights on the horizon to horizontal skyscrapers, lit up like a city.  Then, as quickly as they appear, they recede to a tiny light on the horizon behind me again.  

That was more excitement then necessary, I think to myself.  I am angry that the AIS wasn’t appearing on the GPS screen. We try to fix it, but in the dark it wasn’t working, so I position myself in the companion to see the screen down below better. Everything is fine now, and I go back to my watch.  Andrew goes back to sleep.  I am disappointed in myself for feeling the panic I felt; I really hate who I am when I am anxious.  It makes me irritable, irrational, and quick to be angry.  I feel ashamed, but I am focusing on the positive this passage.  I sit for a while on the cockpit combing and look over the side.  Sonrisa is still riding her magic carpet of white foam and green sparks.  I tell myself, “It’s ok. You are learning, and it is getting better already.  Don’t be too hard on yourself.”   The morning treats me to a sunrise with God-rays.  

From there, the passage continued to be nice.  We have stronger sea legs, and neither of us were feeling seasick.  We made excellent speed in the direction we are trying to go. Sunset is nice again, and we both go through our second night watch without incident.  

The next morning, around 5:30 a.m., I find myself surrounded by fishing boats.  We need to throw out a pole, I think!  We are smack in the middle of some of the best fishing grounds in the world.  Once Andrew is awake, we send out a line to see what we can catch.  I go down below for my morning nap.  

Pretty soon, I hear “fish on!”  

I scurry out of my bunk and on deck.  Sure enough, Andrew is fighting a fish and reeling him in ever so slowly.  I go back down below and grab some Malibu Rum, fishing rum!  The waves are still big, so the boat is swaying back and forth quite a bit as Andrew pulls the fish out of the water and tries to hook him with the gaff hook.  Finally, that bit of unpleasantness is accomplished, and Andrew grabs him by the tail.  The fish is still flipping around a bit, so I serve him up his “last cocktail.”  Did you know, if you give a fish a little shot of alcohol to the gills, it kills them almost instantly? I like this strategy because it seems more humane than other options. 

The fish is absolutely beautiful.  He is a yellowfin tuna, with a bright yellow stripe down the center and spines around his tail.  He is a perfect size for Andrew and me.   

Now to clean him. This process is yet another reminder that to get to anything truly good in life, one must push through something painful.  Now, it is Andrew’s turn.  Andrew is not very good around blood.  In years prior, just the thought of blood was sometimes enough to make Andrew pass out cold.  He has worked on this particular issue, mainly because it was pure torture to try to do blood tests when Nalco was first deciding whether to hire him.  So, now, he doesn’t pass out as often.  

What’s the big deal, you say? It’s a fish.  Well, cleaning a big ocean fish is nothing like cleaning a little trout.  These guys are closer to big game than a little fish.  As Andrew sliced him open to fillet the meat from his bones, a fair amount of bright red blood began to run out into the cockpit sole.  Andrew had to lay down.  

“Oh, no!” I said “Don’t pass out!  Breathe!  Are you breathing?”  I was not sure what I would do if Andrew passed out.  I would probably just leave him there until he came to.  But, did I mention that I am not very good around vomit?  I envisioned Andrew waking up, vomiting into the cockpit, and then we would be a real mess.  Andrew held it together, though, and he did not pass out.  He went back to cleaning Mr. Fish, while I held the fish steady.  Sonrisa rocked back and forth from gunwale to gunwale.  

After a while, we had two big beautiful filets about 2.5 lbs each.  We thanked Mr. Fish for the nourishment he was going to give us and threw his spine and head back overboard for other ocean creatures to enjoy.  I took the meat down below to rinse off in several baths of salt water.  I sliced up a few pieces and squeezed lime juice over them for ceviche.  The freshest sushi available, right here on my boat!  

After that excitement, we finished the sail Southward until the water turned from deep blue to green.  We sailed along mountains that, again, look just like Lake Mead.  At sunset, we arrived at Port Magdelena, set the anchor and took a hot shower.  

We make more ceviche, some jasmine rice with butter, and sear some tuna steaks with nothing but salt and pepper.  We open a special bottle of Sanford Pinot Noir, 2012, from the La Rinconada Vineyard to enjoy along side.  We had bought this bottle in Sta. Rita Hills District of Santa Barbara during our shakedown cruise Northward in April of 2015. We had been saving it for just such an occasion.  

Now that is the kind of passage we have been waiting for.