What is Wild?

It is becoming more difficult these days to determine what is a truly wild experience. I am thinking about this after a day swimming among sea turtles in the Exuma Islands.

The Navionics charts aboard Flying Fish have a notation that indicates a nearby bay known for its population of green turtles. I love turtles, wild sea turtles. (I am unsettled when I see them on display in enclosures). So, without delay, I grab a mask and snorkel, my underwater cameras, and navigate up the Exuma island chain in my dinghy to find the green turtles.

They find me instead.

Moments after I flip over the side of my little rubber boat, I feel something close its mouth on my upper thigh. It’s nothing dramatic; just a little nip and it lets go. When my mask clears, I see that the nip came from a green turtle the size of a garbage can lid. Adult green turtles only eat grass. Perhaps this one thinks taking a little taste of my ham hock will get my attention. It does.

Quarreling green turtles. All is not perfect in paradise. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

Unlike a mature green turtle, I’m not vegan. I love seafood. I have memories as a kid eating green turtle steaks in the old Compleat Angler Inn at Bimini (before it burned down during the drug years). Many years before that, Key West also had a thriving green turtle trade. The A. Granday Canning Co, manufactured Fine Clear Green Turtle Soup in Key West in 1930 and claimed that its turtle meat came from the waters around the Florida Keys. “Caught in the neighborhood,” the marketing said, but by the 1930s the green turtle population “in the neighborhood” was already diminished and the turtles arrived in Key West on schooners, captured primarily in the nets of turtle hunters from the Cayman Islands.1

Turtles were easy targets to net or spear, and their eggs–sometimes 100 in each clutch–were stripped from beachside nests. By the middle of the 20th century, the green turtle population worldwide had crashed.

With the passing of the 1973 Endangered Species Act, the US joined international conservation efforts to stop the trade in endangered species, including green turtles. (In the Bahamas, it took another 36 years before the harvesting of green turtles was finally outlawed.) The population of green turtles rebounded. There were fewer than 300 nests in 1989 at 27 of the main beaches in Florida where the animals come to lay eggs. In 2019, that number reached 41,000.2

A juvenile green turtle, fearless at a young age. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

For a couple of hours, I snorkel alone with the green turtles. This particular bay is not a part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. There are a few homes and docks here, but the water is clean and clear. Mature turtles spend most of their time in shallow, coastal waters like these with lush seagrass beds. The turtles here are unthreatened by my presence. In fact, they swim directly toward me and nudge my camera. They are fearless in their curiosity, making eye contact with me, occasionally rising to the surface for a breath, and then lowering their heads to see if I am still there. I hover motionless as at least 10 different individuals come calling. I resist an overwhelming temptation to reach out and touch them. Most of the turtles are in perfect physical condition, although some have scratches and wear marks on their carapaces, and one has a scalloped bite mark deforming its shell. Tiger sharks are the only creature, other than man, known to eat green turtles.

A pair of remoras hitch a ride on the plastron of a green turtle. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

I am surrounded by turtles as I float in this wonderland. But what is it that makes them so tolerant of my presence? And why are they here and not in other places?

Then, the first tour boat arrives in the bay. Two more follow, and I have the answer to both questions. The boats are filled to capacity with tourists holding bottles of Kalik beer and gyrating to onboard hip hop music so loud that I can hear it underwater. The guides on these boats have plastic bags of lettuce and squid parts that they fling like confetti into the water. The green turtles suddenly leave me as if I am toxic. They swarm around the tour boats instead. It’s a party to which I suddenly feel uninvited.

I quickly realize that the turtles were not hovering around me because they thought I was interesting; they thought that I was going to feed them. What seemed to me to be a wild experience was nothing more than being in the presence of once-wild animals that have now been conditioned by human behavior to beg for food. It’s like seeing brown pelicans waiting for handouts at a fish cleaning table. Or, tarpon being fed processed food pellets at a marina dock. These creatures do not need to eat handouts… until, of course, the day comes when these creatures forget how to forage in the wild.

Unknown to me until now, there has been much published about feeding Exuma’s green turtles. And it doesn’t happen only in the Bahamas. Human interaction with sea turtles is big business wherever turtles thrive. In Exuma, the island industry bills itself as Eco-Tourism. “Come experience wild sea turtles in their natural environment,” one company advertises. The website Exuma Online writes: “The local sea turtles are a must see. Where else can you swim so close to these wild animals? (my italics).

“Keep your fingers in check,” the tourist website continues, “bring some squid, and get ready to take some amazing photos! Just be sure that you respect these animals and the surrounding environment.”3

Could anything be less respectful of these “wild animals?” Green turtles don’t even eat squid in the wild4 –they’re herbivores–but these “Eco-Tourism” turtles have been conditioned to eat this bait like there’s no tomorrow. And for some of them, there may be no tomorrow.

Dutch scientists of Wageningen University & Research used Turtle Cams5 to see how ecotourism affects green turtles in the Bahamas. The cameras were mounted on the shells of five turtles and disconnected automatically after five hours. The footage shows people in the water feeding the turtles, and the frenzy that ensues. There is aggression and biting among the turtles (which may explain the turtle nip on my backside). Green turtles are seen in the video dodging the thrashing arms and legs of squealing tourists as they battle each other for squid and floating lettuce.

I understand that for some people this may be the only way they will ever have a close encounter with a sea turtle. But does that make it right to participate in changing the diet and behavior of these animals? There may not be any fences or walls in this bay, but these hand-fed green turtles are no different than those that are captive in zoos or aquariums.

As I drift away from the hip-hop Eco Tourism boats, I see a solo green turtle has also eased away from the melee. I keep my distance, and for 30 minutes I slowly follow it into the bay. This is odd, I think. Is this turtle healthy? Why isn’t it behaving like the other squid-and-lettuce junkies? It is clearly aware of my presence, but the turtle ignores me. Then it sinks down to the sea bottom. Oh God, I think, please don’t let it die right here!

Instead, the green turtle extends its neck, opens its finely serrated jaws, and takes in a mouthful of grass. Turtlegrass. This lone green turtle chews with what I interpret as a look of contemplation and satisfaction. Suddenly, all seems right in the natural world.

It is gratifying to finally see a green turtle foraging naturally in a wild environment. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

Resources:

1 Image credit: Monroe County Public Library of the Florida Keys

2 Index Nesting Beach Survey Totals 1989-2021–Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

3 7 Recommendations For Swimming With Sea Turtles–Exuma Online

4 Green Turtles–World Wildlife Fund, WWF.org

5 Caught on film! TurtleCams show how tourists feed (and influence) turtles–Wageningen University & Research 


Thanks for sailing along with Flying Fish.

As always, Sailing is not just about the wind and the sea; equally important are the places, the flora, fauna, and people encountered along the way.

Please click “Follow” at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update,- and please consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish. I welcome your commentsand I will always respond when I have an Internet connection. I will never share your personal information.

You can follow the daily progress of Flying Fish, boat speed (or lack thereof), and current weather as we sail into the Atlantic by clicking this satellite uplink: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish

To see where Flying Fish has sailed since leaving Key West in 2017, click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish.

Instagram: FlyingFishSail
Facebook: Jeffrey Cardenas

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2022

Let this be a time of grace and peace in our lives   – Fr. John Baker

Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park

A spotted eagle ray feeds along the bottom of the Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park in the Turks and Caicos — Photograph © Jeffrey Cardenas

Does it really matter that the Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park is named for the wrong guy?

The short answer is no. Not considering the extraordinary beauty resulting from inspired marine conservation on this isolated corner of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Designated in 1992 and only 480 acres in size, the Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park supports one of the world’s few remaining healthy barrier reef systems. It is also a wetlands site important in maintaining the wild conch, lobster, and fish populations on the Caicos Banks.

A no-take zone has been established here for conch and lobster, and it has been effective. Under the hull of Flying Fish anchored off South Caicos today, there are hundreds of queen conch in the grass beds, and spiny lobster antennae stick out from under nearly every rocky ledge. I saw a mature Nassau grouper today for the first time in decades. I swam with a spotted eagle ray that was more interested in eating crustaceans than it was fearful of my presence.

Just offshore of the small fishing village of Cockburn Harbour is a reef that shows new growth of live coral and masses of tropical fish, a rare sight these days in rapidly warming seas. This coral outcropping off Cockburn Harbour is known as the Admiral’s Aquarium. The only problem is that the Admiral had nothing to do with it.

Admiral George Cockburn, who commanded ships in the Napoleonic Wars, and was responsible for the burning of Washington in the Wars of 1812, appears to have had no connection to the Turks and Caicos. His younger brother Francis, however, a Lieutenant-General in the British Army, played an important role in developing these islands. Unfortunately, Francis never received the honorarium for his efforts. History apparently confused the two men. The reef should be called the Lieutenant-General’s Aquarium.

Regardless of who deserves the credit, South Caicos and its Land and Sea National Park is a treasure, and its health and vitality is a testament that marine conservation works.


Postscript: I cannot resist noting that Admiral George Cockburn and Lieutenant-General Francis Cockburn were distant cousins of the self-proclaimed anarchist Alexander Cockburn, a radical writer who also enjoyed talking about fishing and music. Alexander Cockburn was my next-door neighbor in Key West. He wrote about Admiral George Cockburn burning the White House in his collection of essays, Corruptions of Empire.

Admiral George Cockburn burned Washington but he didn’t have anything to do with the spectacular maritime national park in South Caicos that bears his name.

This week, Flying Fish will continue its passage around the world and toward Key West. Once I’m underway, check out the passage notes on this page. Click on the box labeled “Show Legends and Blogs” for daily musings and observations at sea.


Thanks for sailing along with Flying Fish.

As always, Sailing is not just about the wind and the sea; equally important are the places, the flora, fauna, and people encountered along the way.

Please click “Follow” at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update,- and please consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish. I welcome your commentsand I will always respond when I have an Internet connection. I will never share your personal information.

You can follow the daily progress of Flying Fish, boat speed (or lack thereof), and current weather as we sail into the Atlantic by clicking this satellite uplink: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish

To see where Flying Fish has sailed since leaving Key West in 2017, click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish.

Instagram: FlyingFishSail
Facebook: Jeffrey Cardenas

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2022

Let this be a time of grace and peace in our lives   – Fr. John Baker

Transatlantic

Quarantine and courtesy flags for the West Indian island nation of Antigua are raised to the spreaders as Flying Fish enters territorial waters. Photograph: © Bob Cardenas

There is a story from every leg of the journey as Flying Fish has traveled around the world. The story for this passage across the Atlantic is one of brotherhood.

My brother Bob and I are salt and pepper, and I don’t just mean our hair color. Bob is an analytical thinker; I look at clouds and think they resemble dogs. Bob sees something broken, and he repairs it; I see something broken, and although I try to repair it, I inevitably make the problem worse. Bob is gregarious; I am a social misfit. Bob sells dream houses; I sell dreams.

We have just completed a 2,500-mile passage from Cape Verde to Antigua aboard Flying Fish. This is not our first transatlantic passage together. In 1976, we sailed with our sisters and parents from Florida to Portugal in a Cal 43 named Free Spirit. Two years later, our parents allowed Bob and me to sail Free Spirit from Gibraltar back to Florida. That’s when things went sideways. That voyage led to a weird estrangement with my brother, lasting over 45 years.

Those many years ago, I had been caretaking Free Spirit in the Mediterranean. Bob was writing his thesis on the sexual behavior of clams at Florida State University. When our parents asked us to bring the boat home, they gave Bob $500 for provisions. Bob arrived in Gibraltar with two buddies, an Israeli hitchhiker named Dadi, and a Moroccan rug. Bob had made a side trip to Tangier and used the $500 to buy the rug. There was no money remaining for provisions.

“How are we going to eat, Bob?” I asked.

“Haven’t you ever scavenged behind restaurants and grocery stores?” he answered. “They throw away a bunch of really good food.”

And so Free Spirit was provisioned for a long ocean passage with sacks of rotting produce obtained by dumpster-diving behind Gibraltar’s restaurants and grocery stores.

Bob is three years older than me. Before he arrived in Gibraltar, I sailed Free Spirit for months through the Mediterranean. Once we met up, Bob and I each assumed that we personally had the responsibility as captain to bring the ship safely home. Our parents never made the designation. They probably thought that their two boys were mature enough to work it out for themselves. Apparently, we were not.

We fought about everything from sail changes to course plotting to who slept where. It got worse as we got hungrier. Not even the fish cooperated by taking our trolled lures. We began rationing food (Here’s a quarter of a rotten potato for your supper.) To make matters worse, we had sailed into a high-pressure ridge west of the Canary Islands and were becalmed for days. Free Spirit’s engine didn’t work. The battery had no power to start the engine, and there was no way to charge the battery. It was an ill-fated voyage. I kept thinking, “This is going to end up being a sea-going Lord of the Flies.”

Halfway across the ocean, the fishing line we trailed behind Free Spirit finally came tight. A marlin had become entangled with a white rag lure we had been trolling behind the boat. Bob and I battled to reach the rod first. He strong-armed the marlin to the side of the sailboat. Then, with savage appetite, the crew of Free Spirit descended upon the marlin with knives, cutting fillets and eating some of the fish raw.

After 30 days at sea, we made landfall in Tobago. I left Free Spirit soon after that. Bob and his two buddies continued onward. (The Israeli hitchhiker vanished, much to the wrath of local immigration authorities.) My brother and I never fully recovered from the acrimony of that trip. Our lives went in different directions. We were always polite when we saw one another, but for nearly a half-century, there was a distance between us that we had not found a way to bridge.

Rain? What rain? Bob Cardenas, reveling in the elements aboard Flying Fish. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

Late last year, as my wife Ginny and I were en route from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean aboard Flying Fish, we encountered a serious issue that jeopardized not only the completion of that passage but our safety as well. We had communication via satellite phone. I called on my family for help–including my brother, who was quick to respond. Bob stepped up and, at all hours of the day and night, he helped work the problem. Ginny and I diverted to Cape Verde to complete repairs. Bob’s efforts over those difficult four days were the catalyst that reactivated our brotherhood. Sadly, Ginny’s trip was over, but Bob agreed to join me aboard Flying Fish for another shot at the transatlantic.

This 2,500-mile passage across the ocean with Bob was fast–15 days in sloppy weather with spitting rain, wind speeds to 35 knots, and steep swells from different directions that rolled the boat from gunwale to gunwale. We split our time into four-hour watches, but when one of us needed more rest, the other was happy to pick up the slack. Bob did more than his share of feeding us. This time the fish did cooperate, and Bob exhibited his culinary skills, including a creative dish of fried sargassum weed (no rotten potatoes.)

Our night watch conversations aboard Flying Fish danced around the fateful voyage of Free Spirit 45 years ago. But, because of our selective memories, or for the simple desire not to dredge up ill will, we chose instead to focus on the present. On this passage to the Caribbean, I think my brother and I both understood that we were experiencing something that far transcended just another sailboat ride. We were strengthening our brotherhood and rebuilding the bridge.

Passage completed with no squabbles and minimal bloodshed (a gaff wound to the wrist). Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

For the daily details and observations of our passage from Cape Verde to Antigua, check out the notes on this page. Click on the box labeled “Legends and Blogs” for the daily passage notes.


Thanks for sailing along with us as Flying Fish resumes its passage into the Caribbean and toward Key West.

As always, Sailing is not just about the wind and the sea; equally important are the places, the flora, fauna, and people encountered along the way.

Please click “Follow” at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update,- and please consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish. I welcome your commentsand I will always respond when I have an Internet connection. I will never share your personal information.

You can follow the daily progress of Flying Fish, boat speed (or lack thereof), and current weather as we sail into the Atlantic by clicking this satellite uplink: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish

To see where Flying Fish has sailed since leaving Key West in 2017, click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish.

Instagram: FlyingFishSail
Facebook: Jeffrey Cardenas

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2021

Let this be a time of grace and peace in our lives   – Fr. John Baker

I’ll Try Anything Twice

The 6,500-foot peak of Tope de Coroa punctuates the island of Santo Antāo, Cape Verde. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

Remember that feeling of seeing your house from the window of an airplane? It looks so small, and so familiar. I remember that feeling now as a pilot banks over Sāo Vincente on his final approach to Cape Verde. Under the wing, 1,000 below, I can see Flying Fish moored in the harbor of Mindelo. I am returning to make another attempt at bringing Flying Fish home. I’ll try anything twice.

The first attempt to cross the Atlantic in Flying Fish ended in disappointment six weeks ago. My wife Ginny had joined me in the Canary Islands for a pre-Christmas passage to the Caribbean that we expected would take 20 days. The sailing was spectacular, until it wasn’t.

Trouble seemed to happen all at once: a broken mainsail halyard, contaminated fuel, and then a complete DC power blackout that left us hand steering in the blind through a nasty gale. With only a compass and an iPhone for navigation–and despite a collaborative family effort of troubleshooting via satellite phone–the safest decision was to divert 500 miles to the Cape Verde Islands for repairs.

My brother Bob will join me aboard Flying Fish for the upcoming passage to the Caribbean. We have a history of ocean sailing together that dates back nearly a half-century. Bob was with me at the beginning of this voyage aboard Flying Fish four years ago, on the first leg from Key West to Panama. Our father also joined us on that 1,000-mile passage in 2017. We will try to convince Dad to sail with us again once we reach the Caribbean. It won’t take much convincing. At age 95, Dad says he already has his bags packed.

This strength of family is the flood tide pulling Flying Fish toward home. For much of these past four years, I have sailed alone around the world. It was a voyage in pursuit of self-centered freedom–no obligations, no compromise, no schedule. I learned, however, that it is a lonely person who follows that route.

As I get closer to closing this circle, I feel my priorities shifting. Despite my aimless wandering, the love and encouragement I have received from my family has never wavered. While they may have questioned my motivations, my family was never judgemental of the time I spent alone at sea.

In the novel To Have and Have Not, Hemingway’s character Harry Morgan, on his deathbed, struggles to say, “One man alone ain’t got. No man alone now. No matter how a man alone ain’t got no bloody–chance.” The quote resonates with me.

I am looking forward to sailing to this New World with my brother.

The Cardenas family in 1976, preparing for our first transatlantic crossing from Florida to Portugal aboard the Cal 43, Free Spirit. From left to right: Cathy, Susan, Jeffrey, Alvina, Bob Sr., Bob Jr.

Top banner image: Farol do Ilhéu dos Pássaros marks the strait between Sāo Vicente and Santo Antāo. The lighthouse is connected by exterior stairway to the keepers house halfway down the rocky slope. It was built in 1882, and named after King Luís I of Portugal. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas


Flying Fish will resume its passage toward Key West in the next week or so, depending on the weather.

As always, Sailing is not just about the wind and the sea; equally important are the places, the flora, fauna, and people encountered along the way.

Please click “Follow” at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update,- and please consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish. I welcome your commentsand I will always respond when I have an Internet connection. I will never share your personal information.

You can follow the daily progress of Flying Fish, boat speed (or lack thereof), and current weather as we sail into the Atlantic by clicking this satellite uplink: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish. A Bonus: Click the “Legends and Blogs” box on the right side of the tracking page for passage notes while we are sailing offshore. 

To see where Flying Fish has sailed since leaving Key West in 2017, click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish.

Instagram: FlyingFishSail
Facebook: Jeffrey Cardenas

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2021

Let this be a time of grace and peace in our lives   – Fr. John Baker

2021 Year in Review: Flying Fish Images

Eastern Mediterranean to The Cape Verde Islands

“To live is the rarest thing in the world…” -Oscar Wilde

Life aboard Flying Fish in 2021 featured a year of obstacles, astonishment, and kindness.

COVID still raged worldwide, but vaccines kept many people from dying. Generous souls in Malta found a way for me to receive a vaccination from one of the country’s thousands of unused doses, despite a bureaucratic edict prohibiting foreigners from receiving the jab.

As climate change accelerated, storms became more potent. Sahara Desert winds filled the sky with sand. Voyaging sailors banded together, helping one another with repairs and brainstorming solutions for staying safe in the changing conditions at sea.

On shore, despite another year of pandemic and political uncertainty, many people found solace in nature and creativity. On the salon bulkhead of Flying Fish, I kept a crayon drawing by Charlie Vialle, a spirited six-year-old French girl who was sailing the world with her parents. The drawing is of Flying Fish skipping across waves under a bright sun in the company of birds and porpoises. Charlie said, “Flying Fish is a good boat.”


Mid-Winter Departure

Mid-Winter sailing in the Mediterranean is for the (snow) birds

The 2021 sailing itinerary for Flying Fish was ambitious: I would depart the Turkish coastline in the eastern Mediterranean and sail to America. This was the beginning of my fourth year en route around the world, and it was time to think about closing the circle. To accomplish this, I would have to get started early.

The Eastern Mediterranean in January is cold. Temperatures dropped below freezing. On the first leg of the journey from Turkey to Malta, I encountered sleet onboard for the first time in my tropical life. I didn’t like it.

Shipping traffic in the Mediterranean backed up because the massive container ship Ever Given was stuck sideways in the Suez Canal, blocking the passage of 369 ships and causing billions of dollars of world supply chain delays that continue to affect global trade. Flying Fish dodged the traffic and bypassed the lovely Greek Islands, which remained closed to tourism because of COVID.

After 750 miles, Malta was a welcome landfall, but a series of storms known as gregales reminded me that it was still mid-winter in the Mediterranean.

Click a photo in the gallery below and scroll for captions and high-resolution images © Jeffrey Cardenas


Places of Wonder

The engineering feat of Porto Flavia, Sardinia, cut into the sheer rock, made it unique at the time of its construction in 1923

I was continually in a state of wonder at the history surrounding this leg of the passage around the world.

I sailed in the wakes of the ancient Egyptians, Julius Cesar, and Admiral Horatio Nelson. In the Middle Sea, the Hellenic ruins of the Eastern Mediterranean were gradually replaced by surviving relics of the Renaissance and the ascension of Europe. At Malta, 2021 Easter services in the stunning St John’s Cathedral were cancelled because of the pandemic, but a generous security guard opened a side door, allowing me a glimpse of the cathedral’s Baroque grandeur.

I continued to Sardinia from Malta, and welcomed my sailing mate Ginny Stones aboard Flying Fish. We savored the food and wine and the rugged anchorages from Cagliari to the Gulf of Orosei. Ginny’s visit was brief, and after a month, I sailed onward to the Balearic Islands, mainland Spain, Gibraltar, and finally to the Atlantic Ocean islands of the Canaries and Cape Verde.

Click a photo in the gallery below and scroll for captions and high-resolution images © Jeffrey Cardenas


Joyful People

Charlie Vialle, age 6, takes the helm of Flying Fish at Cala Teulera in Menora

From Turkey to the Strait of Gibraltar, the people of the Mediterranean welcomed me as I journeyed into their towns and villages aboard Flying Fish. Despite my vaccination, I still needed COVID tests at every landfall. None was more enjoyable than in Sardinia, where a lovely Italian doctor came aboard Flying Fish and stuck a swab up my nose.

The cafes were full of life, and Ginny found herself surrounded by Italian schoolboys. Three men, all named Mehmet, helped make repairs to Flying Fish in Turkey. I swooned to Flamenco in Grenada, ate fresh tuna hand-caught by Italian fishermen, swayed to a drum circle on a dark beach in Ibiza, and watched a man exercise his swimming horse in the harbor of Marsaxlokk, Malta.

The world was still in the midst of a global pandemic, but you would never know it by the smile in the eyes of the people I met in the Mediterranean.

Click a photo in the gallery below and scroll for captions and high-resolution images © Jeffrey Cardenas


Bizarre Nature

The natural beauty of the Mediterranean is unique in the world.

There are no multicolored coral reefs as in Polynesia. The fish population in the Mediterranean has been feeding people for eons, and in many areas that resource is depleted. There are, however, plenty of two-legged animals (usually wearing thongs in the summertime), especially in the chichi beach resorts of the Mediterranean.

I was more fascinated in searching out the unusual lifeforms. Jellyfish intrigued me. The Fried Egg Jellyfish is being researched for properties to treat cancer patients. I had always loved eating octopus, until I became friendly with these hyper-intelligent creatures living in the Mediterranean. Octopus is no longer on my menu. In Gibraltar, I met the famous “Rock Apes,” macaque monkeys that suffered no fools among the thousands of tourists who visited there. Tease the monkeys with people food, and you are likely to get bitten. In Lanzarote, a volcanic island seemingly without shade, I spent days wandering among the exotic cacti that flourished there.

The basic tenet of nature is adapt or perish. It was a lesson that I would be reminded of during the final passage aboard Flying Fish this year.

Click a photo in the gallery below and scroll for captions and high-resolution images © Jeffrey Cardenas


A Memorable Passage

The year’s final passage aboard Flying Fish was the most memorable.

Ginny again joined me in Gran Canaria for the transatlantic passage to the Caribbean. We fueled and provisioned Flying Fish, and then waited for a perfect weather window to make the 3,000-mile crossing to the Caribbean. I had made this passage before. The Atlantic hurricane season had ended, and the forecast called for a 20-day downwind sleigh ride to Antigua.

What we thought would be an idyllic sail became challenging in unexpected ways. Early on, the mainsail halyard parted, requiring a jury-rigged topping lift to get the sail back up. The weather intensified beyond its forecast, but the good ship Flying Fish is solid, and it handled 30-knot winds with ease. Suddenly, all DC electrical power quit (the result of an uncrimped battery cable, we found out later.) We were sailing traditionally with no autopilot, no navigation, no engine, no electric pumps, no lights, stove, or toilets. The wind increased to gale force near 40 knots. (A sailboat in the ARC Rally departing Gran Canaria at the same time suffered tragedy; a crew member was killed by a boom strike, another was injured, and the remaining crew member abandoned the boat at sea.) Our situation was not life threatening, but it was complicated to manage.

Rather than hand-steer our 22-ton cutter with no navigation except dead reckoning for the remaining three weeks to the Caribbean, Ginny and I decided instead to divert Flying Fish 500 miles to Cape Verde to sort things out. It was a difficult but correct decision.

Here’s the thing about undertaking and overcoming unexpected challenges at sea; the tough part is temporary, and when it is over the resulting feeling (endorphin rush, or whatever) is exhilarating–unlike anything ever experienced. Despite the hardship and disappointment, this memorable passage left me feeling vital, energetic, and present. It made me want more. Remembering the words of Oscar Wilde, I lived in 2021.

###

Click a photo in the gallery below and scroll for captions and high-resolution images © Jeffrey Cardenas

The 2021 route of Flying Fish from Didim, Turkey to Mindelo, Cape Verde

Flying Fish is being refitted in Cape Verde and will resume its passage toward Key West early in 2022.

As always, Sailing is not just about the wind and the sea; equally important are the places where Flying Fish carries me, and the flora, fauna, and people I encounter along the way.

Please click “Follow” at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update,- and please consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish. I welcome your commentsand I will always respond when I have an Internet connection. I will never share your personal information.

You can follow the daily progress of Flying Fish, boat speed (or lack thereof), and current weather as I sail into the Atlantic by clicking this satellite uplink: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish. A Bonus: Click the “Legends and Blogs” box on the right side of the tracking page for passage notes while I am sailing offshore. 

To see where Flying Fish has sailed since leaving Key West in 2017, click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish.

Instagram: FlyingFishSail
Facebook: Jeffrey Cardenas

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2021

Let this be a time of grace and peace in our lives   – Fr. John Baker