"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist waits for the wind to change. The realist adjusts the sails” (William George Ward, 1812-1882)
The feeling of standing guard on the high seas would be like being on top of a mountain. A solitude that integrates one in nature to the rhythm of the wind and the waves. Contagious thoughts slip slowly and distractedly, until a warmth difficult to describe invades everything.
These are moments of tranquility, although watch out for any change in the direction of the wind. Closing your eyes, and letting yourself be carried away by the senses, its slightest variation is perceived. If the skin of the face does not notice it, it will be the ear, alerted by the indecisive fluttering of the candles.
Any incident will be communicated to Toni, the captain, who will solve any unforeseen event on board. "A good sailor is someone with a total lack of initiative." It is the golden rule. The captain is already there to make decisions. Or at least, this is what they repeat continuously.
With the arrival of December, once the hurricane season is over, it is time to embark on the journey to America. Our allies, the trade winds, blow from East to West and wait somewhere between the Canaries and Cape Verde, at latitudes between thirty and ten degrees.
We are aboard the Onas, a sailboat 14.5 meters long by 4 meters wide, with about 200 kilos of food and just over 300 liters of water. The Canaries are left behind as we sail south. Without seeing any coastline, this trip becomes an adventure that will not go back.
That is why it is important that the navigators have made a journey of at least three days to familiarize themselves with the guards, navigation and bad weather, even. Apart from that, it is not necessary to have an unusual physical condition. On the third day of navigation, having reached 26 degrees North latitude and before glimpse of Cape Verde, the trade winds ask to turn to the West.
Like cotton. This is how the clouds are in the middle of the Atlantic in the middle of December. Small and rounded, with a flat base, they develop upwards, becoming whiter and fluffier. Whim of the trade winds. Toni Cases, like a good sailor, would know where he is just by looking at the sky. At the age of 56, and after climbing the highest peaks in the world -as a young man he was a mountaineer- he knows all the corners of the Mediterranean.
With Onas, where he lives, he organizes one-week trips in summer as well as shorter outings and courses during the rest of the year. Behind him he has 14 Atlantic crossings, both outward and return.
For this type of journey, due to its uniqueness, he is accompanied by clients who can afford to take the necessary time (the exact time it will last is not known) and who are willing to live the associated adventure: storms, rotating guards throughout throughout the entire journey, coexistence in a relatively small space, etc. Some people do it for a personal challenge, to fulfill a dream, perhaps for a promise. Everyone has their reason and lives it in a different way, but they are all united by the love of sailing.
The freshness of the first days disappeared a few days ago. The usual showers that accompany us reach us from the stern. And the waves, which easily reach five meters and seem to want to bite us, almost always without success, turn the ship into a walnut shell in the middle of the ocean.
That is why we are insured with a harness whenever we move on deck. A fall into the water would be fatal. At 8 knots of speed, and with the huge waves, it would be a miracle to recover someone, even during the day.
Much of the time is enjoyed on deck. Time to read, chat, laugh, look for something on the horizon... The night is a time for solitude: write, think, feel. Since time is what you have the most, cooking is a good way to occupy it. Accustomed to the ups and downs, culinary tasks are done more normally than it might seem.
Hardly any dish is impossible, and from time to time, if luck is with you, the menu changes unexpectedly. In a matter of nothing, some macaroni can be replaced by a golden, illustrious and tasty inhabitant of the Atlantic.
Personal relationships are often intense. We share many hours of little occupation and a state of mind that is favorable to being intimate. But this does not mean that a lot of time is not dedicated, too, to enjoying solitude. And to attend to sporadic visitors, such as sulas and terns, dolphins, and occasionally turtles and some distant sperm whale, if lucky.
Crossing the Atlantic is taking a long journey. It's 2,866 miles. Surrounded by salt water, knowing that there is no going back, that riding this wind and the waves that accompany it is impossible. But no one thinks of going back. In a very short time one gets used to the waves, which appear from the stern two meters above, but as they approach, they crouches to pass under the hull. There are 4,300 kilometers in which Toni has to choose the appropriate latitude to take better advantage of the wind and try to avoid storms, adapting the sails at all times.
17 days, 408 hours of navigation..., almost three weeks in which the furthest the eyes can see is 12 miles. All of water. Three hundred and sixty degrees around. As if the ship were still and water and clouds were spinning around it. Where nothing is left behind and nothing appears that can be reached.
Seventeen days of a trip that, more than in distance, should be measured in time. As if it were an inner journey. A time that ends when one improbable morning we see land. It seems then that the hands of the clock, of another clock, with another cadence, begin to run again.
And they have already given three. Relief time. While Ana puts on her wetsuit, due to the imminent downpour that she seems to want to reach us, it's time to write down the incidents in the logbook. And take one last look towards the bow. Despite the blackness, somewhere to the west, the island of Martinique awaits us, the end of this trip.