We set off from Sebenik at 1550 on 2nd November on what would be the longest single leg of the journey so far, hoping for good seas and no Bora. As we were exiting Croatian waters we had to move into international waters at the earliest opportunity which meant sailing some 12 miles offshore. Several people were following us on the Findship App and I’m sure they were starting to wonder why we were heading off to Italy!
Alan had organised the watch rotation so that we had two hours on and six hours off, which was not too taxing. We had initiated the watch rota in the ill-fated first leg from Portoroz but the Bora put paid to that so it was not until this point that we were really able to put the rota into practice.
Alan was first on watch and did the stint from 1800 to 2000, followed by Jon who did 2000 to 2200. I did 2200 to midnight, followed by John from midnight to 0200 and so on until the 24 hour cycle was completed. In the next cycle the idea was for everyone to march forward two hours so that I, for example, would start my first night watch at midnight rather than 2200, and we would then follow on in the same rotation as before.
All in all it worked quite well and the two day journey to Corfu passed without much incident. The duties of the person coming on watch were to take a briefing from the person going off watch, make the entry into the ship’s log and mark the chart, as well as making the tea/coffee as appropriate. By this process we kept a two-hourly record of progress so that if for example Mr Bean managed to take all of our electronic navigation system off line we would at least know where we were no more than two hours before and would know also the direction in which we were traveling and our speed. Nobody was in the mood to trust Mr Bean!
We would also enter into the log any events worth noting, such as marine wild life, shipping traffic etc. On 3rd November for example Alan spotted on the radar a couple of vessels off our port side some several miles away. They seemed to be together on the AIS system and we could not quite work out what was going on. By the time I came on watch at 0200 we could see that they were some distance apart, probably half a mile, and moving very slowly. One was a large tanker and the other a tug boat and the obvious conclusion was that the tanker was under tow. In the dark it is not easy to work out what is actually going on and it was not until we got to within a couple of miles or so of the two vessels that we could see from the tug’s towing lights that the tow line was in excess of 200 meters, way in excess of 200 meters! Alan left me with instructions to give both vessels a wide berth and I was only too pleased to comply.
For me the best watch was 0600 to 0800. Sunrise was usually around 0615 and it is a glorious sight to watch the sun pop up over the horizon. On land it is difficult to experience this because normally there are hills or high buildings in the way. At sea there is only the horizon and in all of our journey we hardly saw a cloud so every dawn was bright and clear. And when I say the sun just pops up that is exactly what it looks like. One minute nothing, the next it is there, like a beach ball bobbing to the surface of a pool. As I say, we had experienced clear skies all the way, even during the Bora, and that meant not only sudden dawns but also spectacular sunsets. Shooting stars became ten-a-penny in reds, greens and white lights and at night the stars covered us like a blanket – very little light pollution in the middle of the Adriatic.
I had never seen the Milky Way in real life and assumed it was something that you viewed through a telescope. I have now seen the Milky Way and it is wondrous. Just to spite Mr Bean we actually started to navigate using the stars. Keeping to a fixed heading with nothing to aim at in an empty sea is very difficult, particularly if the sea is tossing you around. Lining ourselves up to a star, any star (as long as it was in front of us!), made the whole process much easier and more interesting. Unfortunately, none of us knew the constellations in any great detail, except The Plough but that was behind us as we were heading generally south, otherwise it could have made the night even more interesting. Actually I have an App on my iPad which displays the night sky above you and maps out the key constellations. Unfortunately I only remembered I had it when I got back to Cyprus!
Boredom was always a concern and we all brought with us books, games, DVDs and of course the ubiquitous smartphone or iPad to help pass the time. As it happened we spent a great deal of time on our phones and iPads (even in the remotest part of the Adriatic we managed to get a signal at least temporarily), read a bit and mostly slept. The watch cycle interrupted normal sleep patterns and usually we were glad to get our heads down at any opportunity.
We did have some in-flight entertainment. The boat is equipped with a very fancy hi-fi system and everyone had their own music library with them. Alan and I did manage to get our respective tastes in music to intersect at some points but the diversity was always exciting! I recall Alan coming on deck threatening to slit his wrists after a night of listening to one of my music compilations. I’m sure he was just exaggerating ! Alan also has a good line in chat and kept us entertained with quizzes and “interesting facts” throughout the voyage. But however you slice it sailing a long uninterrupted passage where there is no sight of land and very few passing ships is boring. We made the best of it.
After five days and twelve hours since leaving Portoroz and having covered 541.4 nautical miles we reached Corfu at 2130 on 3rd November. The log said “Dinner and Beer!” We all could have done with a wash, but that could wait.