¡Vamos! Islas Canarias

Flying Fish charging into open water. The challenge, risk, and pure joy of being underway on another ocean passage. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

Into the blue again, into the silent water
Once in a Lifetime / David Byrne, Brian Eno

Thousands of sea miles have passed under the keel of Flying Fish since I set sail from Key West nearly four years ago. Still, the expectation of a new ocean passage remains as exhilarating as it was on the first day. The next leg of my journey begins soon, from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands, some 700 nautical miles southwest and five days en route.

There will be challenges; I will be 66 years old in a few months. I don’t move as quickly onboard, and I have lost some mobility and balance. These are ordinary issues associated with aging, but they are extraordinary when put into the context of a solo offshore passage.

There will also be risk; the passage along the West African coast is unforgiving and mostly without shelter. I will be traveling on a dark moon. Small Moroccan fishing boats setting nets must be avoided — as well as other boats emerging from the African coastline that may have more sinister intentions. And, in a bizarre twist of nature, there is an issue with aggressive killer whales intentionally colliding with sailing vessels just outside of the Straits of Gibraltar. Since March of this year, there have been more than 50 verified reports of orcas ramming sailboats. Biologists don’t understand why, but half of these encounters have been serious enough to disable boats and require towing to repair facilities ashore.[1]

Regardless of the risk, the pure and absolute joy of setting out on an open ocean passage cannot be overstated. In a world of rapidly diminishing nature, ocean voyaging allows access to one of the few unaltered places remaining on this planet. It is a world of silence and isolation. There can be long periods with no organic sound, generated light, or evidence of other human beings. The ocean provides a sense of timelessness. This is why I go.

I have been landbound for the past month in Gibraltar, but the time ashore has provided a much-needed health and wellness stop for both boat and captain. The sails went to a sailmaker in Tarifa for re-stitching. The captain went into a gym to address added kilos of body weight accumulated from epicurean excesses while cruising Sardinia, the Balearics, and the Costa del Sol. A Hungarian physical trainer in Gibraltar named Rita worked me back into shape.

The passage to the Canary Islands will be one of the final legs of this COVID-interrupted trip around the world aboard Flying Fish. The pandemic took hold of my itinerary two years ago. Now, I am slowly moving again as I anticipate the end of the Atlantic hurricane season. It is an above-average year for tropical cyclone activity. Rapidly warming sea temperatures are spawning stronger and more frequent storms.[2] Most late-season tropical cyclones form over Western Africa, south of the Canary Islands. I will monitor the weather (and the recent volcanic activity) carefully. My favorite sailing partner, Ginny, will join me on the passage from the Canaries to the Caribbean when the hurricane season ends in December. I hope to return home to Florida with Flying Fish in 2022.

Ironically, it is the return home that causes me the most uncertainty. As I sail toward the end of this journey, I wonder how difficult it will be to reckon with life after Flying Fish. In these four years, I floated in a bubble of unreality, immersed in the rarefied air of freedom and privilege while many others around the world could barely hold their heads above the water. I think of the anthem of entitlement, Once in a Lifetime, by songwriters David Byrne and Brian Eno:

“And you may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?‘”

While I may not fully understand “how I got here,” I am grateful for this time at sea. At the end of this journey, the transition from water to land will be my choice. There will be new challenges ashore during this time of uncertainty; re-socialization, commitment to faith, family, home, and community, and prioritizing my personal health. For me, a greater risk than any danger at sea would be spending the rest of my days in a chair in front of a TV with a cocktail in one hand and a bag of chips in the other. I will not succumb to that life of mediocrity.

I’m getting ahead of myself… For now, it is time to focus on the immediate passage forward. The boat is ready, and I am ready. The weather to Lanzarote looks good. I have route planning to avoid Moroccan nets, and contingencies in place for potential collision with whales. I will keep a sharp mind and maintain situational awareness. And I must stay onboard.

These are days that will sustain me.

Goodbye Gibraltar. The Rock is dissolving into the fog. Photography: © Jeffrey Cardenas


[1] Iberian Orca, Atlantic Orca Working Group, www.orcaiberica.org

[2] NOAA National Hurricane Center

[3] Once in a Lifetime, David Byrne and Brian Eno, https://youtu.be/5IsSpAOD6K8

Sailing is not just about the wind and the sea; equally important are the places where Flying Fish carries me.

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 comments, and 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 once I am en route to the Canaries. 

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

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Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2021

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