I’ve been trying to write our final log of the Cape Verdes for over a month now. It’s not that I can’t remember what happened, and it’s not that I don’t have a story to tell. I experienced some of the most magical days of my life in those dry islands off the west coast of Africa and I’d like to describe how that feels.
A few days before the tsunami hit Japan and the horrors that followed life on board Discovery seemed to be almost on autopilot. Cape Verde had been serving up heaping platters of wind and waves and while my list of projects had grown beyond the boundaries of our “to do” whiteboard, none of them were all that critical. Well, other than replacing a prop, which had mysteriously fallen off. A three thousand dollar rather critical component vanished to the sea floor.
The Cape Verdes lie in the path of this hazy swath which resembles the locust swarms we’d seen in Madagascar- thick and inescapable. But as soon as we left port on that first trip before the fall of the New Year another place and country began to take shape. … On the way to the guests’ hotel I made one final effort to find a portable generator I could run on deck (previous attempts had come up empty), struggling to communicate my need to the taxi driver using a mix of Spanish, English and very poor Portuguese, which was all he spoke.
The paradox of being at sea for a long time is that you do not get more comfortable as time passes, but more scared. You get more competent, and that helps with controlling fear, but competence can only carry you so far. With each passing year out here I feel smaller and more at the whim of the ocean; more humbled, more afraid. People who come on board who have not spent time at sea often tell me they want to see a storm, they want to experience what it’s like. I know immediately that I am dealing with a novice if these words leave a person’s mouth. Storms at sea are not the same as on land. Land lubbers cannot possibly comprehend what it’s like to know the dread and physical stress that an approaching deep low pressure system causes; they cannot comprehend what it’s like to battle 70 mile an hour winds; to be in seas several times larger than your boat; to be completely at the mercy of the weather, your ability, and the frailty of your vessel.