Things I learnt about ocean sailing…

  1. How hot it gets below deck. I think I sweated more in the last five weeks than I did in my life up to departure. With 22 bodies (sun-tanned bodies), a galley churning out bread, cakes and excellent meals all day, not to mention a generator running most days for power – it gets ridiculously hot even in cooler latitudes like the UK. Let’s not even talk about equator temperatures. We basically lived on the sun terrace above deck or in the sauna below deck.
  2. Ocean helming (driving) definitely has more things to think about than coastal, primarily because of the bigger waves. Trying to keep the wind angle just right for the highest speed, remembering to bear away (i.e. turn away from the wind) on the tops of waves to avoid the boat slamming down into the next trough, keeping an eye on wind shifts, trying to keep to our course… concentration is definitely required. No talking to the man at the helm!
  3. All the wildlife. So many flying fish in their flights above the waves, sometimes coming aboard and ending up in our frying pan. A large yellow-fin tuna following our boat for a day. Frigate birds, petrels, gannets and other bird life abound (small birds taking refuge on our yacht for a time). We passed a sea turtle at high speed – just enough to recognise it and then it was left behind. Regular dolphins in shallower waters. The occasional spout from a whale, but we didn’t get to see the whales themselves.
  4. The stars. Not only do they make night helming much simpler (I spent one night watch just keeping the entirety of Scorpius right in front of me), but you see so many stars, clouds, galaxies, meteors and satellites. Of course sometimes you have nothing but cloud and driving by the compass is the only way to keep on course (unless you are Gaƫtan and draw on decades of ocean experience to just drive in pitch black by feel!).
  5. How quickly the wind shifts under clouds. You don’t tend to get that effect on land, but in the ocean if you see a cloud coming you are in for some changing winds for a time. Small clouds just give small shifts (in direction and speed) but big clouds can give – as well as rain showers – dramatically changing conditions. We went from 5 knots to 35 knots in less than 30 seconds. One gorgeous morning watch we went under three separate front systems – winds changing by 180 degrees, tacking every few minutes just to keep on course for Punta.
  6. How good a shower, a drink and a huge breakfast feels after 33 days of essentially not washing… glad all the future legs are – in theory – shorter than this one!

Punta del Este is a great place, but most of all the yacht club and mayor’s office have been so welcoming! This is definitely the low season for Punta (population goes from 200k to 1 million from January to Easter) so we are a big attraction. With the huge welcome BBQ the other day, a free tourist day yesterday, and the welcome we have all time at the yacht club, I doubt many places will beat this stopover.

Welcome to Uruguay!

After 33 days at sea, and experiencing flat calms, light winds and 30+ knot breezes both upwind and downwind (the really difficult sailing will come later), we finally made it to Punta del Estes in Uruguay. Yay! 

I found the whole month fairly challenging; this may have something to do with being a watch leader and having a load of extra responsibilities as well as trying to figure out how everything works on the yacht, this whole ocean sailing thing and experiencing ocean helming (driving) too. I could still use that week off…

…But now we have 10 days here to fix the many boat issues that crop up, and with me also being bosun means I have lots of work to do. On the other hand Clipper and the Yacht Club Punta del Este (our hosts here) have organised plenty of activities; we have a BBQ tomorrow, I have a guided tourist day later, so hopefully it’s not all work.

This is my first time in Uruguay (or in South America, or even in the bottom half of the world) and so far it’s pretty great. Lovely people, nice weather and good facilities – and great bars and great wine. Although Punta is clearly an out-of-season fancy holiday resort and possibly not indicative of the rest of the country.

Here are some of the photos I took during Leg 1 – I didn’t take many due to the aforementioned responsibilities pushing things like cameras out of my mind. I did at least remember to take it up the mast during the spinnaker block check and mainsail check.