Posted by: Sailing Camelot | February 23, 2011

The Overnighter!

We enjoy a light and tasty dinner consisting of Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad and Focaccia bread while watching the fiery sunset. With a full belly and darkness falling, Tom gets sleepy. He settles in the cockpit to take a nap, wishing to keep me company, but after a couple of hours spent turning and tossing I suggest he goes down for a more comfortable sleep. With serious eyes and pointing a finger at me, he makes me promise to wake him up in three hours. “Sure!” I say, fully knowing I’m lying thru my teeth… I so enjoy traveling in the dark, the only way for me to sleep during an overnighter is to be totally exhausted and that would certainly take more than just three hours.

There is a full, bright moon, casting the sea in a silvery shimmer; it never gets totally dark. I can clearly see the outline of the coast in the distance, the occasional fishing boat far away. For a few hours everything is so quiet, to the point of almost boring. Every couple of hours Serendipity and I take a radio-check, just to make sure everything is all right and to break the monotony. Around midnight, however, I’m about to get all the excitement I can handle…

My radar screen is alerting me to the presence of three large cargo ships heading down the coast, their course directly on my nose! The first is 18 miles away, the second 24 miles, the third 28 miles; one after the other, in single file. It’s true that we decided to stay well off the coast to avoid fishing vessels and nets, putting ourselves close to the shipping channel frequented by cargo and cruise ships, but Jesus! It’s a big, blue ocean out there and I have three behemoths aiming straight at me. Playing around with our trusted electronics I discover that they are travelling at a speed between 18 to 20 knots against my 7.5. I’ll just have to keep an eye on them, there’s quite some time before I have to take any decisions or make any adjustments to our course.

A word on our electronics that I LOVE so much: We have radar, which is great, my seeing-eyes in the night; then we have AIS, which is a God sent marvel, supplying enormously helpful information. AIS stands for Automatic Identification System. All commercial vessels carry it, and some pleasure crafts too –we are one of them-. What it does: it spots vessels around you, signaling their direction in relation to yours. It provides their name -in case you need to hail them on the radio-, length and width, type of vessel (cargo, cruise, oil tanker). It reveals their speed, destination and most of all it tells you in no uncertain terms in how much time it’s going to intersect your course, and at what exact distance you are going to pass each other (closest point of approach). Basically, it provides you with every piece of information you need about the other vessels around you, short of what their Captain had for dinner and the color of his underpants. This piece of equipment is worth every one of the many thousands of pennies we paid for it. AIS is my best friend!

So I’m just mildly nervous as the first cargo ship gets closer; “she” is named Hammonia Express, is 762 feet long  and directed to a commercial Mexican port a few hundred miles south. I decide that if she doesn’t change her course within 4 miles from me, I’m going to hail them on the radio. In the unlikely chance they won’t answer me, at 2 miles’ distance I’ll change my course. There, I feel better already, knowing what to do… But there’s no need, as I see that they change their course just a smidge. We’ll be passing each other port to port (left side to left side) at a distance of 0.680 miles. A little closer than I’d like, close enough to smell their burning fuel but safe enough, no need to do anything. Of course these ships are so big and very well lit, and I see them clearly coming up closer. It’s quite a fascinating sight!

The next one is called Bonny, a mere 546 feet long, going to the same destination as the previous one, travelling at a faster speed and starting to alter her course just enough to avoid me. The Ocean Belle is right on her tail; this is a big one at 986 feet of length, going to Panama and going fast! Just as I’m relaxing, I see there’s also the Canberra Express coming up pretty fast behind me and to my right, going to Yokohama. All of a sudden I feel like the cream in an Oreo cookie! A smidge of alarm rises, my eyes stay glued to the screen to monitor every move, every change of direction. I don’t have much space to maneuver, surrounded like this! Frustrated I yell “PEOPLE! For Chrissakes, have you no sense of personal space,!?!”.  ‘Course not… But they are all true professionals and eventually stay far enough away from me without any need for me to alter anything. They all pass me by, leaving Camelot bobbing like a cork in their massive wake. Tom is blissfully unaware. It’s about 1:30, time to break out the Nutella and maybe make some coffee.

The rest of the night is quiet, with just a couple of mysterious big fins flapping about VERY close to Camelot’s port side. Tom comes up at about 3:00, greeting me with an accusing “you shouldn’t have let me sleep this long!”. Yeah, I love you too, dear… My turn to sleep, but I wake up just after an hour and a half. We spend the rest of the trip enjoying each other’s company, overloading on coffee, dodging more tankers and cargo ships, until at sunrise we arrive at destination. Las Hadas, finally! The trip lasted less than 26 hours, much faster compared to the 30 plus hours it took us going in the opposite direction just a few weeks ago. Ah, the difference a benevolent current can make!

I’m beat, my head is fuzzy for lack of rest but if I have to sleep, I better do it sprawled by the POOL at the resort. And that is exactly how I spent my day, alternating snoozing and swimming!-

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Responses

  1. Hey Lori, great read. I do envy you guys. Say hi to Tom and keep up the blogs.


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