Captain's Log

One random day in the life of a passage across the Mediterranean


By Tom Vaughan

The crew consisted of Oliver, Chris, Pete, Vics and Kate (Kate on her first trip with 'BooToo'). The amateur crew consisted of me, Jan Scudamore and Orlando Bridgeman.

Yet another 'hellish' day in paradise - sunshine, calm seas, light breeze, cloudless blue skies! Not much good for sailing perhaps, but in such beautiful surroundings, comfortable conditions and otherwise perfect weather it is hard to miss the sailing aspect too much. At least we look the part as we do have the mainsail up, if only for the purpose of stabilising the boat! A little more wind and surface texture to the sea today than yesterday, but only marginally so.

Thankfully, 'BooToo' has a very strong, smooth engine that can move her along without din or fuss.

Running along the bottom (i.e. the sole) of the 'boot' of Italy all night. Have almost passed the big natural bay (the 'instep') and are approaching the 'heel' at the end of our morning watch at 10.00am. Saw lots of small open Sicilian fishing boats during the night.

Vics and I had an easy cockpit watch as, thankfully, the fine red Sahara dust is no longer reaching us on the hot desert winds we had been experiencing earlier. (More time for a leisurely breakfast up on deck!)

One of the more unusual aspects of life at sea in the Med - particularly noticeable when sailing through the night on passage - is the frequent exchanges that take place between vessels on the VHF radio frequencies. These of course range from the necessary navigational warnings, requests and helpful information, to the extraordinarily bizarre. The latter, more often than not, being rather basic references that one has to assume are borne out of a level of night-watch boredom, generally reached only by the severely intellectually challenged!

The clear favourite amongst such nocturnal exchanges would seem to suggest a very graphic and obviously inappropriate activity, involving incest and mothers!

Two particular 'characters' of these wee hour broadcasts on the airwaves go by the handles of 'Mario' and 'Phillipino Monkey'. For those forced to overhear the dialogue, the chief interest quickly becomes that of trying to count the frequency of use of a certain well known four letter word that dominates the otherwise limited vocabulary of what is a peculiarly constrained form of English. (The latter being the de facto internationally accepted language of marine navigation). Last night I counted up to 15 before getting lost in one particular torrent of abuse, directed by 'Mario' at the hapless 'Phillipino Monkey'!

Earlier this morning, I discovered the importance of always keeping a good attentive watch in the Med. Chatting away to Vics during our cockpit watch, I had ignored the radar for what only seemed the briefest of interludes, when, on re-checking the screen with only a casual glance (expecting nothing much) I saw an 'object' clearly indicated dead ahead and at close distance. I looked up just in time to see a small tanker crossing our bow en route to Algeria. Not quite dangerously close, but I should have been aware of its presence a lot sooner. Had the tanker's course been at a less divergent angle we might have had to concentrate our minds on an anti-collision strategy, rather than the infinitely more agreeable prospect of breakfast in the morning sunshine!

As part of his evident desire for new experiences and adventure, fellow amateur crew member, Orlando Bridgeman, volunteered his willingness to be winched up in a Bosun's chair to the top of 'BooToo's' 125ft mast, perilously dangling a bucket of water tied to his waist. This in order to wash off the red Sahara dust that had settled in all the most inaccessible parts of the boat. Parts so inaccessible that it would be no exaggeration to exemplify them as the parts that normally ³only a Heineken could refresh²!

It being still and flat calm it seemed the ideal day for such an undertaking. The flaw to this thinking only became evident when a rather large oil tanker unkindly decided to hurry past within half a mile of us, at a nautical speed of which even Mr Toad would have been proud. This the 'toad' like tanker captain did without any regard for Orlando's precarious perch, dangling atop the hapless yacht he so contemptuously ignored in his headlong rush to one of the Arabian oil ports.

To those of us with feet firmly planted on the solid, reliable decks of 'BooToo', the sight of the huge wash left in the wake of the already rapidly disappearing tanker, served only as a reminder to brace ourselves for the inevitable onslaught of a rolling motion that might require evasive action to avoid any disturbance to the morning coffee in our cups. However, to poor Orlando, now hanging from a rope 125ft in the air, the perspective of his imminent fate was amplified into a vision of multiple tidal waves, about to render his already uncomfortable position one into which a large dose of blinding terror could justifiably be added!

Ignoring his danger, he tightened his grip on the mast and quietly endeavoured to get on with the job he had promised to do. His bucket however, and the water therein, was altogether less disciplined and after swinging wildly about in its attempt to dislodge both itself and Orlando from their perch, it finally crashed against the mast and jettisoned most its contents onto the deck below. Without expletive or complaint he simply asked to be lowered back to the deck, where, after a fortifying lunch, he refilled his bucket and calmly, if a little determinedly, asked to be hoisted back up to finish the job. What a hero!

It having been such a hot day, and in recognition of Orlando's perspiration inducing adventure, we made a deliberate swim stop with the idyllic backdrop of only a small volcanic island at about 30 nautical miles distance, in an otherwise deserted and empty ocean. A photograph taken from the boat of the lovely girls on board, Vics, Kate and Jan, swimming with only the silhouette of the cone shaped island behind them, lent a very James Bondesque feel to the moment!

A delicious gourmet dinner, prepared at Kate's skilful hand, signalled the end of another very happy day on board 'BooToo'.

Photo library...