Sailing past the Venezuela Coast – 09 56 North 056 57 West

It’s 0237. I’ve been sitting up on deck – the sky is incredibly clear and
cloudless with a sliver of moon. The stars are so bright they come all the
way down to the horizon and merge with the sea – its hard to tell where the
sky ends and the sea begins – it all blurs into one making it nigh on
impossible to distinguish ship lights from stars. For the past 3 nights its
been like this and I’ve spent hours on deck with Bluebell and Columbus
staring up at the stars and using the star gazing app, we have been
identifying constellations, galaxies, messier objects, planets and stars.
Favourites have been Jupiter which is very bright to our starboard side, the
Leo constellation next to Jupiter, Sirius, Orion and the various Messier
objects which Columbus is becoming expert at spotting. For an hour on deck
tonight Columbus was utterly absorbed reading out to me description after
description of different things he was learning of the night sky. Learning
by immersion definitely works for him and you realise that the night sky is
available to everyone of us every night to appreciate and enjoy.Bluebell and I reflected on whether there was a little girl and her Dad
sailing around their world some millions of miles away on another planet
looking out at the dots in their sky and wondering if there were others like
her out there. We spoke of how the world had been here for millions of years
before us and how the world would be here millions of years after us and
just how vast it was out there and the different galaxies and solar systems
of which we knew so little. Food indeed for thought and time to appreciate
that we really are here in this world for just a heartbeat in the context of
the universe and that its for each of us to make the most of the time we are
given here – to enjoy life and to contribute to others.

Three nights ago, I was on deck and in similarly flat calm conditions off
the French Guyana Coast I spotted what I thought was a flare. My immediate
thought was who could it be, is someone in trouble, make sure the radio is
turned up to listen out for a call for help. The light though intensified
and moved across the night sky with increasing intensity – more than you get
from a flare. Ah, a shooting star – wow – this is a huge one. It kept going
and after 20 seconds was burning more brightly than ever in the shape of a
large elliptical object in the sky. Maybe its a comet I wondered. It kept
burning and was now flying overhead over the top of Aretha.

The penny dropped. I remember reading that in Kourou in French Guyana is the
European Space Centre. It must be a rocket. It kept burning and moving fast
until it disappeared behind a cloud. Exody, one of the other yachts was some
20 miles away from us – I called up Peter to see if he had seen it as well
and to confirm he had the same idea about what it was and that it was a
rocket rather than a comet or UFO. He’d been watching it too and came to the
same conclusion. It was absolutely stunning and chatting to the other boats
the following morning, some had seen it drop their after burners into the
sea as it continued skywards. I’m glad we weren’t underneath that.

The past few days have been flat calm seas, flat decks and gentle trade wind
sailing with the wind largely on the beam. Its civilised indeed and very
enjoyable. We are all settled into life at sea and enjoying the passage
immensely. It’s not lost on us that this is the last long passage of our
circumnavigation for some time and certainly until we finish the World ARC
in St Lucia. After 18 months at sea its strange to think that we only have 2
more nights sailing, tonight and tomorrow night until we circumnavigate in
Grenada and then day sail to St Lucia.

This afternoon we shared some magical times with our very good friends, Luc,
Sarah and Kai on board Makena. They sailed close to us – within 100 metres
to take photos of the boats. As we closed, we were surrounded by dolphins –
a large pod of regular dolphins playing between the two boats and also
spinner dolphins with the characteristic spins as they leap out of the
water. As we settled into sailing in parallel 100 metres apart, Luc launched
his quadcopter, a flying drone with Go Pro cameras on board and flew around
the boats taking video and stills of the two of the us sailing mid North
Atlantic ocean surrounded by dolphins. All five of us were on deck and the
children were bouncing up and down to wave to Kai who was equally excited
and wanted Sarah to launch their dinghy so he could come over to play. The
light was incredible and we sailed in close company to sunset while Luc
launched the drone for a second time to get more footage. As the sun was
setting, the clouds and skyline were intense colours – reds, oranges, blues
and greys with a vastness that a camera can merely only hint at when viewed
through photos. Mesmeric and enchanting – truly an amazing moment to share
between the two crews. After we watched the sun burn into the skyline Sarah
called us on VHF to watch their mainsail. They had turned their mainsail
(and then genoa) into an enormous cinema screen and were projecting video of
Columbus birthday from when we were in South Africa. I challenge anyone else
to say they have been to a drive through(sail through) cinema 250 miles off
the Venezuela coast!

We now have just over 300 miles until we reach Port Louis in Grenada and
where we cross our outbound track – we’ll likely be there late on Saturday
evening or if this wind stays light as it is then early on Sunday morning.
We have some bubbles in the fridge ready to celebrate. That said we are now
in pirate waters and our final 300 miles need us to be super vigilant and to
maintain our offshore course. It’s nice to sailing in company with Hugur
some 50 miles ahead of us, Makena now 4 miles to port and Exody some 20
miles behind us.

There is plenty of wildlife out here – we’ve been spotting the most unusual
jellyfish we’ve ever seen. They have what looks like a pinky/ red sail on
top of the water and the jellyfish below the surface. We have no idea what
these are (welcome ideas from any budding ocean biologists). Lots of
dolphins – some small, some large which may have been short finned pilot
whales. Our one bird visitor turned into two bird visitors who simply
hitched a lift overnight, used the aft deck as a poop deck and then left us
in the morning. Even at 200 miles offshore, there are other occasional birds
out here.

Schooling continues apace and the introduction of 12 pence a day pocket
money for tasks completed on board, schoolwork and good behaviour seems to
be working well. The money is spent in the afternoon at the Aretha Tuck Shop
which the children love.

The wind has just dropped again and we have only 7 knots of true wind. It’s
good we have current with us giving us a speed of some 4 knots over the

Have a lovely day everyone,

Team Aretha sailing past Venezuela, Out.

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  1. What a trip ! Your stories are amazing, Mainsail cinema & rocket launches – whoohooo !
    Your kids are so lucky & don’t know what a head start they have against everyone else. Well done all of you.

  2. Just loving your blogs they are so inspiring and make me feel so humble when I read about the simple things in life which we take for granted like looking up at the sky at night and reflecting about this wonderful planet xx

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