What is there to say about the third and last leg of this epic trip across the ocean? It was a fun five days, the more time we spend on board the less time is spent stressing about things, small and large, and instead we have learned to roll with whatever comes our way.
Just an hour outside the Azores we were confronted again with a diesel leak, it seems we've been there, done that. Tony is always so confident he has fixed the problem, all the covers to the tank have been replaced and tightened and just to be safe we did not fill the diesel tank to the top before we left for Portugal. But as we sailed on a port tack with the boat heeling, we started to smell diesel down below, again. Determined to get to the cause of the problem once and for all we heaved to, which is basically back winding the sails so that you come to a stop in the middle of the ocean, and we got to work. All the canned goods that are stored under the seats were once again moved, and gallons of diesel were mopped up. We were happy to have the extra crew on board with steel stomachs and engineering degrees to help. Once everything was out of the way, they realized that the leak was caused by holes that were drilled through the tank when the AC was installed. By removing the AC unit and reaching through the diesel Tony installed bolts through the tank with internal gaskets that stopped the leak, at least temporarily until we reached Lagos. Not a pleasant job to do at sea, but it's such a good feeling to fix a problem underway, knowing that the days ahead will be so much easier.
And it was smooth sailing for the next four days. This seemed like such a short sail now, funny how our perspective has changed. We all fell into a routine pretty early on. Having two additional crew that like to cook and eat, our days started to revolve around meals. Anyone familiar with the Schmidt family will not be surprised by that, we were raised to love the time spent cooking and sharing meals around the table, it was like family dinner every night. Everyone took turns in the kitchen chopping and sauteing to the music playing in the background (well except Tony, he thought his contribution was eating the meal). To say we ate well is an understatement. The biggest challenge was trying to fit in three meals a day between everyone's sleep schedules. All those meals I was so determined to freeze before we left remained in the freezer.
Our time not spent in the kitchen was filled with days on deck checking the fishing line and watching for dolphins and whales. Those infamous radio shows were now filled with announcements by other boats of the number and size of the tunas they had caught, the fishing competition was on. Our line remained conspicuously empty though. We were so confident each day when we changed the lure and put the line back in the water that today would be the day we would be eating sushi for lunch and grilled tuna for dinner, unfortunately those are two meals we did not enjoy on this passage. There was a small squid that landed on the deck one morning, but since there was no way it was going to feed a crew of four we decided to let it return to it's life at sea. We started to believe that the five fish swimming in the ocean with our lures still stuck in their mouths from our last passage may be bad karma. Luckily the dolphins still greeted us at dusk and a few whales spouted near the boat at night, so we consoled ourselves with the knowledge that not all marine life was avoiding us.
We had gotten complacent thinking every day would be sunshine and flat seas, funny what a difference a day can make. As we were closing in on the last couple hundred miles we were hit with winds of 30 knots and 10 - 12 foot seas. Preparing simple meals in the galley now took hours and those frozen dinners were suddenly a welcome alternative. We bundled up with all the layers we had for our watches on deck under grey skies and brisk winds, it was freezing. Hard to imaging this was June. So much is determined by the weather at sea, days go by unbelievably fast when the sun is shining but time seems to stand still on those dreary, rough days. Suddenly everyone is anxious to end this trip and arrive on land.
It was so exciting to round the tip of Portugal early in the morning on our fifth day at sea. The wind and seas suddenly died down as the sun came up over the land. We had finally succeeded in timing our arrival during daylight hours, seemed a perfect way to end our journey as a new day began. Arriving in Lagos marks the start of our time exploring Europe, but also the end of our long passage. Ships are sailing in different directions from here, some traveling back to their home ports, others are being taken out of the water as the owners return home to family and friends, crew are leaving to go back to the life they left behind, and Tony and I have our eye on sailing the Mediterranean along with some new friends that will be heading that way as well. The euphoria that we shared when we reached land was slowly replaced by a feeling of melancholy as we said our good byes, exchanged contact info and promises to stay in touch.
I am so thankful for all this trip has taught me, that water can cure whatever ails you, headache? drink water, seasick? drink water, tired? drink water, feeling down? chocolate is the only cure for that, that the body is an amazing thing and can withstand being pretty uncomfortable however the mind takes much more convincing, that clean clothes, warm showers and hot cookies from the oven are some of life's simple pleasures, and that everywhere we go we bring a little of home with us through the routines that help keep us sane and the reminders of family and friends that surround us. And I've learned that it is the people we meet on the journey that enrich the experience, sharing it with so many different age groups, nationalities and personalities has given us a whole new perspective on the world.