My brief glance on Formula 1, Sao Paulo

My father was a fan of Formula One. He read same-name magazine, knew all pilots – old and new, and studied schemes of tracks all over the world. Day of race had been always a specail day for him, and he was awaiting for it long time before.

I didn’t share this passion, as that was with interest to soccer. But when I ended up in Sao Paulo, actually, the only thing I really wanted to see was a track of F1. This trip was devoted to my father.

All that I’ve heard about Sao Paulo before hardly raised curiosity.

“… the largest city in Brazil, the largest city in the southern hemisphere and South America, and the world’s seventh largest city by population”, with 11 million people, according to Wiki. By the way, Moscow is on the sixth position. And Sailnt-Petersburg – only on 40th (thanks Gods!).

In Sao Paulo business and money are concentrated. And it’s logical that this city was chosen to build a track for F1 race.

We went to Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on Friday, when practice has started. Sao Paulo never sleeps, so traffic is pretty heavy on all hours of the day. Going in a thick car stream, we had heard squeak of F1 bolids long before we saw the autodrom itself.

Pre-race mess has already overwhelemed the place. Road policemen whistle, regulating a mass of cars. We’ve been searching for a parking place for about 20 minutes. Not only all of them are occupied – mostly by police and services, but also it’s prohibited to stop in an area close to the autodrom.

No parking!

Car dealers prepare their stages along the road, girls from support teams crowded nearby. Vendors sell earplugs and tickets on ridiculous price, probably, fake – 50 reals against 150 reals of official price in a ticket office. (150 reals = about 70 euros). That’s just to see practice. Tickets on a race itself go up to thousand reals and are sold long time before the event.

Ferrari team goes for free

Cars sweep behind the wall with deafening swish. Despite high prices, people wait in line in order to buy a ticket. We pass  them, and head to policeman.

– Is there a place outside to have a quick glance on a track?

Police is nice and doesn’t send us to hell straight.

My team has found a hole in the wall to have a glance on a circuit

 Unfortunately, all holes that were made by curious citizens and tourists do not give any decent view. Moreover, dozens of policemen all around apparently do not encourage this kind of activity. So we went home.

The race is today at 14:00 Brazilian time. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) got his 15th pole position after qualification in Brazilian Gran Pris – and with that has beat a previous record of 1992. Pilots will make 305,909 km on a 4309 m long circuit – and that’s 71 circle. This is the last race of 62d World Championship Formula 1.

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Atlantic crossing: the last dash

Day 12, 11h of November 2011

11-11-11 – symbol readers would point out that this day is special, ‘coz happens once in 100 years. Along with 10-10-10, 09-09-09 and so on. Hollywood’s been even faster: they have already released a movie “11-11-11”.

Despite its symbolic significance, the day is nasty. We go 8 knots. Final ETE (time left before arrival) – 83 hours. This number drops, when wind picks up and the boat accelerates, then GPS shows that we’ll reach land in 3 days. That’s impossible, of course.

But we have a slight hope to reach Recife at Monday’s night. And that’s more optimistic prognosis than before. In Recife we’ll have no troubles with arrival at night, Chris has been to this port before.

We need to go 230 but take the course 10 degrees to the right. Otherwise, waves are pushing the boat too hard. They still hit the board from time to time, throwing flyfishes on a deck. When big wave comes, the yacht digs in it with her starboard, scooping poor creatures like a spoon. I just picked up and threw back to the ocean a small family of them. But I’m afraid, too late…

In the morning a huge black cloud came from the east. When I crawled to the deck, it was pouring rain, and Chris in waterproof jacket was waitng for sky to clear in order to return to the course.
Now clouds are gone but ocean’s still anxious, and I hear terrible noise of waves, spliting by the hull and crushing behind the poop.

I recall my cruise in South Africa. We went to see Great White sharks in Gaans bay. The weather was fresh and waves high. Despite that wasn’t my first time in Atlantic, that was the moment, when I first seriously thought about crossing it one day…

We’re both a bit fed up with crossing. Despite our attempts to keep the boat tolerably clean, it grows dirty from day to day. While such a waving it’s impossible to give it more thorough care.
What really makes me mad is taking shower while waving! Even despite small size of a bathroom, each time I get plenty of bruises. After that I usually slip on a floor – and it doubles my madness.
I do not even complain about normal sleep and shower – I just dream about them.

Food problem doesn’t exist for me – I lost my appetite at the beginning of the crossing. Still sometimes it shows signs of life. Like this morning. I was trying to adjust the course, and my stomach started to complain. I hadn’t ate for 18 hours.
– Well, – decided I. – Before I eat weather goes to hell.
And made myself a sandwich with cheese and Nutella.

Again we had feathery passengers this night. This time they brought “a friend”. That last one had troubles with landing on a tent. His companions made it even more complicated, stretching their necks and trying to bite him. I heard their grumpy, creaky voices above my head. As if that were crows of the sea.

Day 13, 12th of November 2011

After choppy and cloudy previous day the sky cleared up at night. Recently full moon lit out way like a giant streetlight and didn’t give me a chance to admire starlight.

New moon goes down already after the sun wakes up. I has just turned the engine off – and my ears are filled with sounds much more pleasant: waves’ splashes, wind, murmuring in wind generator, and gentle slides of jars in a cupboard. Still – it’s almost silence after engine’s roll.

GPS keeps the same number of hours for the whole day – 38. That shows that our speed is not stable. We’re already not so “fast and furious” how we were a couple of days before.

Today we saw the first ship in last 10 days. It was “Krystal” from Panama, cargo ship. She passed very close to us. Soom there’ll be many of them – back to big human’s world.

I asked Crisa:
– How do you feel, coming home after 4 years journey all over the world?
– Very good, – just was the answer.
It’s hard to understand, when you’re not there yet.

My mind is chameleon, it adapts any situation I get into. There’s no alien in this world for me. Just more or less favourable.
I was always extremely curious about how other people live, what do they think about, what do they feel. And what would I – if I were them. If I were you.
That’s why couchsurfing – it’s not only about sharing and making friends. It’s like trying someone else’s skin. I hope I do not scare anyone: I’m eager to share mine if something : )

Being comfortable everywhere and with anyone makes me feel somethimes that there’s no special place for me…

Day 14, 13th of November 2011

I feel as if my memory has been erazed. I can’t recall even the last months of my life. I exist only here, in this moment, between ocean and sky.

Night was beautiful. Wind that had been growing in strenght for the previous day went to rest. We turned the engine on again, its whir accompanied charming night. The moon, still full and noble, borrowed its mysterious whine to ocean waters. Trembling and shimmering, they hid some unknown life underneath.

At day wind picked up again. Chris has unreefed the mainsail, and we go 6 knots.

Just a moment ago we passed an unknown object in water. These hardly defined things that due to ruthless fate found their way to the ocean make me anxious: I feel – they shouldn’t be here.
Well… should I?

Today I saw dolphins again. And even made a photo – frist one in 4 months of sailing. I was standing on the fore. They went in front of us: as if “Vagabond” was a truimph carriage and they were four strong chargers.

From time to time I inspect th deck and throw back to the ocean flyfishes that occasionally ended up here. I still hope I’m not too late to save someone’s little life.

GPS points 21 hour till arrival.

Day 15, 14th of November  2011

…12 hours before arrival.
The last day of the journey is the hardest one. It’s as if you have already stretched your arm but lack a couple inches to reach desirable aim.

The tricky part is that the finish line of one journey is always a start point of a new one.

…3 hours before arrival.
– Brazil! – said Crisa and fingered a thin strip of land on the horizon. From here we can already see high buildings on a coast.

Happy Captain : )

…30 minuted before arrival.
And hour ago I took a nap. When I was back to the deck I almost dived in halo of colour. Dark cloudy sky and turquose water of a shallow bay created an incredible ansamble.


…Arrival, around 14-00.
So here we are. After 15 days and 2000 miles behind we arrived to Recife, Brazil!

Ocean is like life: if you’re in, you’re not able to quit. And you keep going.

Atlantic crossing: equator and good luck

Day 10, 9th of November 2011

And then I’ve started to count: days, miles, knots. Feel tired, even tho I have enough sleep. But the more I have, the more I want. Wish just to wake up in the morning and stay in bed, knowing that there’s no need to hurry anywhere, till moment, when it will be already too boring to stay…

So… it’s 7:05 in the morning, 9th of November, and we have 764 nautical miles in front of us (in case: 1 nm = 1852 m). That means that with average speed of 5 knots (in case: 1 kn = 1nm/h) – 120 miles a day – around 6,5 days till arrival.

It will be Wednesday or Tursday the next week, 17th or 16th of November. My 4-months’ sailing anniversary.

And 5 months out of Russia. They are felt like 5 years.

Around 7:30 am today we crossed the equator! It was my watch but I noticed nothing: no signs, no poster “Welcome to the southern hemisphere!” Kidding : )

First ocean, first equator =)

We’re too relaxed here to celebrate somehow my first equator. It’s Crisa’s forth: he crossed it before on way from Brazil to Carribean, then – south to Galapagos, then – north from Australia to Indonisia.

Now we have constant trade wind from the south-east. Average speed of “Vagabond” grew up to 6-7 knots. We use engine only to charge batteries.

Nights are not that bad. Maybe, even better  – for movie geaks like me. The only disadvantage is humidity. Dumb, sticky and salty pillows, deck, doghouse. When weather station shows 89 percents inside the boat, I realise – there’re just 10 percents that separate us from water.

Day 11, 10th of November 2011

I start to understand and share passion of bird watchers.

Birds are only alive souls here (except dolphins, butterfly and flyfishs) we see for many days. Yes, two days ago we spotted a red cargo ship far behind us – it crossed to the east. But that was far away.

This night we had two passengers. First we noticed them, clumsily trying to land on a yacht, against fresh wind:
– They might be exhausted, – dropped Chris.

At the beginning of my night watch I’ve found them, sitting on a tent, wind fiercely fuzzing their feathers. In the darkness they were not more than two shadows. They stayed till morning, and after sunrise I got chance to have a more thorough glance on our guests.

Their dark feathers were amazingly contrasted by white foreheads – as if someone has gently touched them with a brush of bleach.Their beaks impressed – long, straight and very strong. Surprisingly, their feet portraited that these were not birds of prey but swimming species. And I envy their perfect sense of balance: without sharp claws that they could thrust into cloth of a tent they stayed on a boat comfortably, madly swinging on waves.

With the first sun beams they, as if negotiated, set off and landed on water. Time for breakfast 🙂

In the morning I saw a big bird over the ocean. He was hunting: proudly hovering in stream of wind, thoroughly looking around. Then suddenly spinned down in one precise speedy drop, like an air jet. Few minutes of enjoying pray and – up in air again.

Wandering Albatross. Photo is taken from bochkavpechatleniy.com

That was albatross – sailors’ legendary bird. Two words I find to describe his flight in harmony with wind: noble and graceful. Remember Charles Baudelaire’s poem…

At times, the mariners, afar from hankered ports,

Catch for a senseless fun, impaling ocean roads,

A dainty albatross, a leaden-footed bird,

That follows alongside the quest-aspired boats. 

And when he’s on the deck, tied there to flagschtoks,

The Master of the skies, now graceless, in despair,

Tries, not succeeding once, his gentlemanly walk,

And paltry are the bulky wings he wears.

 Why is he so gauche, that wanderer of skies!

That comely bird is but a lamentable joke!

Hey, touch his funny beak with your worn-out pipe,

And, stepping over, do the crippled flier mock. 

A poet is like him — the lord of curvy airs:

Not fearing poisonous darts, the tempest his sole bride,

In the exile on earth, through laugh and shame he bears,

And bulky wings impair his formidable stride.

At times of James Cook sailors used to hunt these huge birds, the superstition didn’t exist yet. Later sailors started to believe that killing of albatross brings bad luck on ship and the whole crew.

Trade winds sing songs of freedom and almost make us fly: 8 knots in average instead of usual five. Winds bring some rain but it’s joyful pour that gave birth to a rainbow on the north.

I try to recall phrases of my childhood that helped me to remember colour order – each colour starts with the first letter of the word in a phrase. This one I still use:

Каждый охотник желает знать, где сидит фазан

Every hunter wants to know where sits pheasant.

I liked the other one too, tho it was always harder to remember it (in English translation I a bit rephrase it):

Как однажды Жак-звонарь голубой сломал фонарь

As once Jack – bell-ringer broke blue lantern.

Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Dark blue. Violet.

Thrice around the world: incredible mission of “Scorpius”

I’m sorry for interrupting my narrative about Atlantic crossing. But this encounter is worth telling and sharing.

To start with… I was never happy to meet my fellow countrymen abroad. The only reason for that: they usually appear to be “turistus vulgaris”. Preoccupied mother, shouting at naughty children, and half-drunk father. They take vacations once in a year and make a trip, thoroughtly planned by travel agency. They visit common see-sights and regard themselves extremely experienced travellers, when they get a bit further than Finland or Ukraine.

So I guess you understand why I didn’t jump from excitement, when Chris returned and told me that he met a Russian from Saint-Petersburg. But this was completely different case…

In Cabanga marina, where we stay, Sergey was searching for a yacht shop. Unfortunately, local administration doesn’t speak English at all. Chris found him, desperate in fruitless attempts to get any information from them.

Sergey was a sailor from a Russian yacht “Scorpius”. Her genoa got splits while Atlantic crossing. So they made out-of-schedule stop in Recife, Brazil, to fix it somewhat before solid repairments in Rio. Sergey was sent with a mission to find lines for trimming. Chris borrowed him ours, and this is how we met and I learned the story of “Scorpius”.

"Scorpius". Photo is taken from the site of "Scorpius" http://www.nizovtsev.net.

Crew of 30-meters sloop “Scorpius” makes the circumnavigation that, if successful, will become the longest in time and distance in history. Their route started in Sochi and lies through:

  • Mediterranean,
  • Atlantic ocean;
  • goes around Antarctica with possible entry to the Ross sea (!!!),
  • crosses Pacific ocean from south to north,
  • goes around Arctica, including Great Northern way (!!!)
  • crosses Pacific from north to south till French Polinesia,
  • Indian ocean,
  • around Africa through Mediterranean and back to Russia.

Ambitious? I bet you couldn’t imagine more than this! But only setting great aims, we can reach significant results, don’t we?

The owner of the boat and “father of a mission” is Russian ex-businessman, sailor and skydiver Sergey Nizovtsev. His business was “traditionally Russian”: he’s a fan of banya (Russian sauna) and organized production and destribution of… banya switches.

The captain of "Scorpius" and ideologist of the expedition - Sergey Nizovtsev. Photo is taken from the site of "Scorpius" http://www.nizovtsev.net.

When I asked Sergey, how the idea of expedition was born, he, with typical Russian modesty and sense of humour, answered: “Just once was sitting and thinking, what to do”. The further we dream, the further we get!

The crew of “Scorpius” is half-Russian, half-Ukranian, that practically all the same. Among members – experienced sailors and skydivers, some of them have been to Arctica and Antarctica before. Pleasant to realise that world is full of adventurous and courageous people.

Photo is taken from the site of "Scorpius" http://www.nizovtsev.net.

At day of departure Chris and me made a visit on board. The boat is modern with spacious deck and cockpit. Cozy living room, bedrooms and kitchen with microwave and a big freezer. Of course, the boat is equipped with all necessary electronics. Sails are rolled automatically too.

To track expedition and find more information you can here: http://www.nizovtsev.net/ – Official site of “Scorpius” expedition. It’s in Russian.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/OnlyScorpius

“Scorpius” and his crew made me recall that my motherland is a country of Semen Dezhnev and Ivan Kruzenshtern, Faddey Bellingshauzen and Mikhail Lazarev. Here in Brazil, I feel proud to be Russian.

Good wind and open ways to you, Scorpius!

Maybe, the next time I will feel happy to meet Russians abroad.

P.S. Semen Dezhnev – in 17th century opened the straight between Asia and America, 80 years before Vitus Bering;

Ivan Kruzenshtern – the head of the first Russian circumnavigation;

Faggey Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev – admirals, whose expedition opened the continent of Antarctica.

Atlantic crossing: pirates of Atlantic

Day 7, 6th of November 2011

I’ve been watching perfect creation.

Brazilians poetically call it “nascer do sol” – “birth of the sun”. It was a birth, solemn, gorgeous. Birth of a God.

The ocean is smooth. It’s not a “mirror”, as we expected downdrums to be, but like a huge piece of noble-grey leather, wrinkled with slightly noticeable tucks.

Oh, if I were a bird, I would love to fly here alone and listen to silence, not interrupted neither by sound of engine, nor scream of a wind generator.

Horizon is fringed by dark clouds – guards of night. The sun infuses them with dozens of goldens spears, and they step apart, not able to bear its power.

No king ever wore these colours in his royal robe. And never will.

Under the sun, surrounded by thunderclouds, – light puffs, creatures of heaven. If angels were born, it would happen this way.

In response to this eastern beauty, north-west covers itself with tender pink flock. Sky and ocean, painted in the same colour, are contrasted by clouds. Another birth takes place there – birth of a rainbow.


… Some moments – and it’s gone. Beauty can’t be caught or fixed in time. It lives in a moment, free flight of a feather in wind. And that’s so sad for us, human beings, who tend to imprison everything we love…

In my rest time I was watching a movie in the cabin. Crawled out to get some water. And heard Chrisa’s whisper from a cockpit:
– Look to the kitchen!

There sat a small bird. Chris told me that little guy was searching shelter from rain. Without ceremonies the bird landed near the entrance to the cabin.
Chris, who had breakfast, offered him a piece of his sandwich. Little one ignored the gift, and, after short inspection of Crisa, went downstairs.

So there I found him. While he was exploring the room, I was hecticly guessing what our unexpected guest perfers from breakfast.
– He has long thin beak. Should be insects.
Unfortunately, we ran out of them yesterday.
– Maybe – berries?

I created “an offer of the day”: dry plum, piece of watermelon and fig. I put all gifts on a plastic bag and placed it in front of him. The bird didn’t pay attention. “Ok, baby boy, I’ll feed you” – I stretched my finger, giving him a ride. It was accepted eagerly.

Perking on my finger, he ignored watermelon, was scared by plum (and I understand him! It looked like a big cockroach) and found fig interesting. He tried a sticky seed. After a short fight he got it. He ate some seeds, had some water from a plastic cup and continued exploration.

He liked to sit on my shoulder: so I pretended I was a pirate with him, pretending to be a pirot’s parrot. I just lacked a wooden leg and had too many eyes.

He flew to my computer and landed on a keyboard. Me and Crisa, sitting on a deck, wondered, why he’d been staring on a screen so long. I went downstairs and discovered that the bird had just fallen asleep on a warm keyboard.

Soon he left. And now I miss this little bird and want him back. An hour together with little one was enough for me to get used to him. I’m just endlessly lonely creature deep inside.
Not to feel sad I imagine how little one flies freely above the ocean. His feathers are dry, stomach is full and I hope he found some rest on the boat. He’s free and hurrying now to his date or whatever : )

Pride costs much but only warmth and trust touch hearts.

When I returned to the deck I saw dolphins. There were eleven of them. They swam in front of yacht, crossing our way from side to side. Breezing air out with loud sound and fountain of drops, they jumped out of water. I heard their voices, they talked to each other.

Or, maybe, to me – too?
Day 8, 7th of November 2011

Night is charming. I feel myself inside the painting that is combintaion of Aivazovsky and Kuindzhi. The moon has been maturing, and soon will be full. It wakes up here early, and till the moment, when the sun goes down, already climbs half of its way through the sky.

Dark clouds slowly stroll, separated, each with its own dignity. In tandem with the moon they created an effect of patrol, poured on the sky canvas, – rainbow nimb around a yellow ball.

Clouds of incredible shaped as if carry a message:
…could be: “Guess, are we blessing or doom?”
…or: “Do you still believe the key to happiness is here?”
…as a variant: “Looks like your lucky star is absent tonight…”
…or, maybe, just: “You still bet it’s going to rain?”

I don’t. I CAN answer the last question. I am watching “Angels and demons” on the deck. And that’s provement I don’t.

Soon after the sunrise the sun starts to burn. If not a wind from the south that we has have the last two days, it would be hot as in oven. The sun is so bright that I can’t stay outside without sunglasses. White paper is painfully hurting my eyes.

In daily life and even while sailing I try to avoid wearing sunglasses. For me eyes are a source of meanings not less important than speech. Talking with a person in sunglasses I get him only partly, missing nuisanes. But on the south it’s different: the sun is ruthlessly bright here, and use of dark glasses is a necessity.

GPS shows 43 hours till we turn. That will be near the equator. Then – other 6 days of sailing. And – oi, Brazil!

I still kinda enjoy. Sure I will cross other oceans in some hazy future. Except Arctic. I prefer to be burnt than frozen. Poetically speaking : )

Sure I want to sail around glaciers of Iceland and Canada. But I suppose several days there will be more than enough for me.

Crossing in couple is not that bad, even pleasant. I’m happy to meet good people in my life, even better than I expect them to be. Sincerely speaking, I has never met bad people. And here’s the question: is it a matter of an attitude or luck?

Our picture of the world is black and white. We call it – statistics. We know well how many assaults or murders took place in last time, how much cheating or ignorance is around, but who ever counted values or compassion or help of people? Many bastards around, we know numbers, but who has counted good people?

We has entered a cloud and got some wind. Course 195. Some rain drops are falling. Little one, hurry up back on board, we miss you here!
Day 9, 8th of November 2011

Toady is my sister’s birthday and I can’t even call her…

Happy birthday, dear Masha!

This night was turbulent. Wind picked up on the evening before. It came from the south but was cold. And unstable: it’d been frequently changing from 10 to 20 knots. Wind brought waves against us. “Vagabond”‘s fore was jumping on them as a basketball ball. Landing back to the wave’s spine, the hull made a terrible noise.

The sky was low and full of clouds. They looked ominous on a dark grey background. Every time the fume passed above us, wind got stronger. We both couldn’t sleep. Downdrums are left behind.

It became a bit better, when Chris changed the course. Before we went to the south along African coast. Now we made a turn in the point that lays more to the west from the first plan:

01°24,3665N, 021°23,2031W.

Now we go straight to Recife, Brazil.

Atlantic crossing: birds of prey

Day 4, 3d of November 2011

…Night shift seems fun!
It’s calm outside: wind is insignificant so we keep going with engine. We haven’t changed sails for two days.
Perfect time for enjoying movie session ; ) From a back cabin I brought to the deck a long wire that is connected to a yacht’s battery.  It’s dark so there’re no blinks on a screen of my computer.

I wrap myself in a blanket. It’s not a mean of survival anymore, but of comfort. Nights are amazingly warm here, so I can stay the watch in light summer clothes. We’re getting closer to equator!

I watch Japanese cartoons and started a serial about a dead girl, who helps souls to get to heaven. It’s called “Dead like me”. And it helps me to kill time.

So at night in the middle of the ocean I’m sitting on a deck, wrapped in AirBerlin blanket and watch a movie about dead people. Could sound ridiculous but it’s fun!

… It’s 6:00, and the sun is up. It takes it not more than an hour to climb ¼ of the sky.  It wakes up early, right at the beginning of my morning watch. And goes down with the end of my day watch – 18:30.

This night I unexpectedly felt asleep. Now I have a slight hope that my sleeping habits will adapt to new conditions. Humans, not alike other animals, can get used to any way of living. That makes human kind so widely spread. Rats, cockroaches can do it too.
And we have hope that dies the last : )

…It’s still calm – just 5 knots wind. Perfect for that limited list of activities that are available for me here: sleep, eat, watch movies, write, study, take a shower. You say, perfect being? That one you have always dreamt about?  You kidding me!

Day 5, 4th of November 2011

The moon is so bright that stars are barely seen. A huge dark cloud crawls on it: first it looks like a caterpillar, then – like an old crooked man, and the moon itself turns his only eye. I imagine that the cloud is a fume from a burning battleship, which crew needs help and looking for SOS signs.

The rest of the day made me the most amazing present I could dream about here. Excited?

Unfortunately, I guess, all of you will be disappointed with the further story. But for me it was a miracle.

This morning I was bored: with endless water, studying, movies on a small screen, reading, nuts and chocolate and even sleeping (my organism finally adapted to a new schedule, thanks gods!).

I switched on my dull sense of humour and tried to figure out some fun. Idea to jump from a board with a rope around the waist was rejected by Chris categorically. Boredom continued. I took a sunbath.

Around 3pm we noticed a dark curtain of clouds on the horizon in front of us.
Looks like it’s going to rain…
“All right, some fun” – was my first thought. Tho I left it without being said aloud. Chris as the owner of the yacht and experienced sailor wouldn’t share my excitement.

So I stopped watching my serial and started to look forward thoroughly, awaiting for thunderstorm – big waves, strong wind and rain.

We were entering dark area…

Reefed sail was flopping annoyingly without wind. In Russia we say “Quiet before storm” – I almost rubbed my hands like bad heroes in cartoons          ( – What a stupid girl, welcoming nasty weather! – everyone thinks now. I do not deny))

And here he came… No, not a storm : ) A big bird crossed the sky above me.

She tried to cling on a stay. Circle, attempt, another circle. It was a birg bird, much bigger than all those we saw before. It was definitely a bird of prey.

At that moment I felt myself an acient priest, receiving blessing from Gods. I was a priest, as natural wisedom and power is what I believe in.

The bird was a hawk. What did he do in the ocean? Watching him returning from another circle, I rushed downstairs. He noticed empty cockpit and landed on a railing.

It was light rain outside. In order to escape water, he moved under “doghouse”. He perked on a winch and from there inspected me, frozen downstairs in fear to scare him.
In this silent position 10 minutes passed. Then he slipped from a winch and moved on a railing again. For a while we continued to watch each other.

My uncareful movement made him leave. Another round above the water. I climbed to the deck. He wasn’t afraid and returned to the railing. I pretended I read book. The hawk stayed calm, silently swinging from side to side with a boat. I turned to look forward – he didn’t mind.

Now it’s night, and he’s sleeping on top of the mast. Not the most convenient place but the bird of prey wouldn’t risk his freedom for comfort. Unlike most of people – they sell their freedom for much less…

Even if the hawk is not a sign, as a Greek prophet would tell us, but just a tired traveller who had found some rest on our boat – doesn’t it make all this meaningful?

Day 6, 5th of November 2011

All the night “Vagabond” is followed by thunderstorm. Light bolts are so frequent that interrupt each other.  It’s coming…

When I start to distinguish twists and curves of the lightning, I reef genoa. And wait.

It doesn’t happen. The wind from the south comes and throws clouds backwards. They continue chasing the boat, but she slipped from their sparkling fury, thanks to the southern wind. Keep your paws away of “Vagabond”, thunderstorm!

My happy hawk was sleeping on the top of the mast. I saw his tail swinging above navigation lights. In the morining he left. I wish him safe flight.

Light southern wind that accompanied us at night, at dawn turned into the wind “to the face”. Massive raincloud has arrived from the south-east. Waves rise, sails tremble hysterically.
This wind makes us to go almost 30 degrees to the right. Boat’s fore hits wave that comes with clouds. After 3 days almost without wind that doesn’t make us happy.

– Damn, we’re in downdrums, what a f*k is that?  – I thought (sorry for my French).

I turned off the engine. For half an hour we made 5 knots with wind. I tried to find the most painless course against messy wave.

Go 190.

This day my desire for swimming was fully realised. And who cares that I was already completely out of mood of jumping to salt water?

Chris wakes up and asks if I hear that sound of the engine has changed. Well, I would lie if I say I notice that. But the reason is: we wrapped a seaplant on the propeller.

So we roll genoa, Chris turns the boat against wind and I jump under the hull. It takes me 5 minuted and 2 dives to clean the propeller and check all screws.

Thought of the day: beware your dreams – they can come true.

Atlantic crossing: tet-a-tet with Orion

I can’t say I’ve ever dreamt or planned to cross Atlantic ocean. One day life exposed me to the question:

– Would you if you have chance?

– Why not? – I asked back.

So life gracefully threw an opportunity to my feet. And I picked the challenge up.

Here’s the diary of the crossing Cabo Verde – Brazil that took us 15 days.

Day 1, 31st of October 2011

It was sad to leave Cabo Verde:  almost unexplored, unlived. I felt my being there undone and neglected. But it’s time to go, the journey should continue.

The way between northern and southern groups of islands Cape Verde takes more than a day. We will pass between Bravo and Fogo.

First 24 hours comes to the end, but I still didn’t sleep a minute. Can’t even describe how I feel. And that’s only the first day of crossing.
We sleep in the back cabin. It’s impossible to stay in the front one: from time to time the boat hits the wave and its fore jumps madly.

Sunset diminished in a thick layer of clouds near the horizon. Sea is choppy and uncomfortable, and everything’s shaking. Waves try to invade the cockpit. Everything’s wet, including this notebook and my blanket. Salty drops on my glasses.

We go side-wind. Wind’s a bit stronger than forecast predicted: around 20 knots. We steered in order to save autopilot from excessive stress.
At the beginning of the trip I loved to steer. This way I involved myself in interaction with the boat and sea: watched the yacht response, wind and waves influence. I enjoyed feeling how one gentle move of a steering wheel return the boat on a right course.
I guess steering a boat somehow can get us feeling that we can control nature, make it serve, wherever we go. Dangerous state of mind! Fedor Konyuhov, Russian yatchsman who cruised around the world many times, once said: “When I lost my fear to the ocean, I quit. Otherwise, it would kill me”.
After that he switched on desert safaris, I guess : )

Vagabond in Atlantic

Day 2, 1st of November 2011

Night is half starry, half cloudy. I see a moon, it’s dim. But being veiled by clouds, it doesn’t obscure starlight.
Chris is practical, he prefers moony nights: moon acts like a torch that lights the ocean and all its dangers. I’m romantic, I love nights without moon, when stars are brighter.

Orion accompanies me for the whole night. It doesn’t happen in the northern part of the Earth – it appears only near dawn.  He’s my guardian, and even clouds can’t veil the shine of his bright three-star belt.
The legend says that Orion was a glorious hunter. Once together with his hinds he was chasing a deer. They ran through forests, fields and mountains, and no one of them was going to surrender. But Orion didn’t know: that wasn’t an animal he’s been chasing, it was a god under a guise of a graceful deer.  Divine creature jumped to the sky and continued his run among stars. Even then, in rush and ardor, the hunter didn’t stop and reached the sky after his aim.
So Orion is still there, chasing a deer in his infinite run.

In the light of uncertain sunrise we passed the island Fogo. It’s far away, I can see only silhouette of it. I hope one day I will return here: to explore the national park and climb the volcano that gave its name to the island. Now we go to the open ocean.

After midday wind and waving have calmed down. Now it’s hot outside and so is inside the boat. And, finally, not too wet.

Before going to bed in the morning I took a pill from sea-sickness. One of its side affects is desire to sleep. And that was I counted for. And – hooray! – attempt to fall asleep was successful. On watch 2pm-6pm I feel gorgeous. On the place of exhausting desire to sleep comes appetite. To delicious lunch, performed by Crisa, I added cake, some fruits and nuts.

Later I will discover that pills don’t really work in my case. I had been already too exhausted on the second day to stay without sleep longer.  Pills didn’t make any significant difference and I gave up.
I just need to accept the fact that I’ll have little sleep on this crossing, despite opportunity to stay in bed for 12 hours (4/4/4). Just keep going. I don’t care anymore.

Day 3, 2nd of November 2011

No wind. Little wave swings the boat. We reach zone of downdrums – latitudes close to the equator and known for absence of wind. We hope that waves will calm down too. In previous time Chris crossed downdrums, he said, the ocean reminded a swimming pool.

In the ocean even far from a shore there’s life. Birds are hunting fish, virtuously maneauvring in gasps of wind above waves. Bunches, flowerbeds and even fields of brown seaplants drift silently with tide.I’m watching flyfishes, hovering above waters. Huge groups, hundred maybe. They rise in front of the boat, moved by fear of unknown “sea creature”. They fly against the wind too, using a wave as a trampling.

But ocean carries not only life but death too.
At night Chris found a dead calamari on a cockpit: wave ruthlessly threw him from an ocean depth. At day I noticed a big flyfish on our starboard. She was already dead. I waited for Crisa to wake up and throw the fish away – he’s more courageous in “dead fish question”.

At night the moon rises. Here it’s turned upside down. Unlike in Russia, it grows up from bottom to the top. Now it looks like a bowl of ananas juice.

The moon doesn’t stay longer. But when it sets down, stars come on stage. There’re many of them tonight! For 30 minutes, while listening for Portuguese course, I “picked up” shooting stars and made wishes between “Escucha e repete” practice. Facing the sky, backed  by “doghouse” (a tent that protects cockpit from wind), I swung on a bench, murmuring Portuguese words. My beautiful shift time.

… To be continued ))