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The middle of the Atlantic

Written on: Wednesday May 21st, 2008

A journal entry from: Exploring the Baltic Sea by Yacht

What's it like to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a boat?

Without land references, or cues from the ?real world,? you lose all sense of time, and your place within a week. The sun tells you when its day and when its night, and of course there are clocks all over the boat, but other than that, there is no other sign of life giving you a hint of what time or day it is.

In fact, a week doesn't really exist anymore. Saturdays don't mean anything; where can you go on your 'weekend'? We go to the ?beach? (the top deck), or the ?cinema? (the room with the biggest tv to watch movies)... but thats about it. The only reason you know its Saturday or that another day has passed is because there is a schedule to keep for watch. Each day, I am responsible for spending three hours each night staring out into the black, scanning for anything in our path. Lights, a sailboat, a container that has fallen off a container ship, a life raft... there could be anything. Those three hours pass more slowly than any other time during the day.

The strangest part of being at sea is that suddenly none of us can sleep. We keep irregular hours because of Watch duties, but when we do get a chance to lie down, no one can fall asleep. I am exhausted yet haven't been able to sleep for days. And if I do, I have terrible nightmares. I think it has to do with the constant movement (which today, can be likened to the feeling of being put in a washing machine). That, and the fact that when you lie your head down on your pillow, you start thinking. Thinking about how there have been no other boats spotted for 4 days. Thinking about how you are 6 days from land. Thinking about Titanic, or the Perfect Storm, or Castaway... Things you shouldnt worry about, especially not as you are trying to fall asleep.

That said, there are some fantastic things about being in the middle of the ocean too. Its a very humbling experience. You begin to grasp the reality of how gigantic the ocean is. How small you are. How big the world actually is. Its a much different experience of travelling: as travelers, we usually hop on a plane, and then 12 or 15 hours later, we are somewhere on the other side of the Earth. You don't really gain an appreciation for how far you are actually travelling. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean by boat definitely changes that. I left from West Palm Beach, Florida, and after 5 days of cruising at 13 knots, we were still due south of Newfoundland, Canada. We weren't even in the ?middle? yet!! It will take us an estimated 9 days to reach the Azore Islands. Nine days, and we're not even in Europe yet! For those of you complaining about a 9 hour flight to London, you now having something to put it in perspective.

The other fantastic thing about being in middle of the ocean for days is the scenery. I know, I know, it seems like there would be NOTHING to see out here. But there is: there are beautiful sunsets and sunrises. There are stars, like you wouldn't believe. There is a full moon that is so bright it creates an eerie sense of daylight at times. And there is time, too. Time to read, time to think, time to rest. It's relaxing. And the constant movement on a nice, calm day is kind of like being rocked to sleep.

That said, I am still VERY excited to reach land and put my feet in some soil again. Next stop: The Azores, Portugal. I will post more photos soon!