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Date: 2002-05-10

By now Wildlife is back in France, but last week it took Wildlife's 3 crew and JF Thye approximately 32 hours to sail the 130 miles down to Barcelona, which is quite a long time considering that the boat can average 10 knots (11 mph) at sea. The reason for the extra time was a lot of heavy weather, right on our nose. It seemed to us that where ever we sailed last 2 weeks, the wind has shifted into exactly the direction where we were going, forcing us to sail hard on the wind and tack back and forth continuously to work our way up-wind against the waves. The weather has been very unpredictable and unstable and we've had many Buford Force 10 (55 mph winds with 15-foot waves) Warnings. The waves in the Med are notorious for their short fetch (distance between wave peaks) and their square shapes. The wave faces are steep and the boat drops off their backs with a giant crash, pounding into the next wave like a wild bucking horse. The motion on board can be so jerky that you can literally be lifted off your feet and bounced overboard in a flash, especially during the night sails, when you can't see the oncoming mountains of water. That is why we fastened jack lines all over the boat. Jack lines allow us to secure our harnesses to the boat with strong stainless karabiners. The rumor about the Med among the sailors is: 'Forget everything you ever learned about weather, as it doesn't apply in the Med, stay out of Golf de Lion, and make sure you have a strong boat.' I can attest to all three points. Of course Wildlife's boat yard is in the heart of the notorious Golf de Lion, were harsh hurricane strength winds build quickly as they come flying down the Rhone Valley and spill into the Sea. It's been a great testing grounds for our kitty-cat.

The moon has been covered by clouds for much of our night sails and gallons of rain have cleaned our sails and decks from the thick layer of salt that had been building on the equipment, as well as our skin, from evaporating seawater. After our first rough night sail, where many massive waves blasted us in the cockpit after they exploded off our razor thin bows (the front of the boat) I looked at my crew and noticed that their faces were white with salt-residue.

Here a few comments on the pix I've included:

You can see, I look a bit weary. I have not slept since getting up at 6 a.m. the day before. We've been sailing all night, and the heavy weather required my full attention, as my 3 terrific crew (Kevin, Kaspar, and Lynn) are new to cat-sailing, and so I'd take brief intermittent rest periods in the 2nd watch birth, always ready to assist in maneuvers, such as sail changes, shaking and taking reefs (making the sails bigger or smaller). Was great being able to close my eyes once in a while and warm up inside the boat. My crew was outstanding, with lots of passion for sailing and knowledge about boats. Kaspar is a professional boat architect and Kevin and Lynn just bought their own 43-foot cat. Shortly after the sun rose, as seen in the back of the picture, it began to rain again, luckily the waves stayed rather tame for the rest of the passage, but our big surprise present was a 3 hour visit by a pod of 6 Med-dolphins. They love catamarans because of their speed and play around our boat like little children. I climbed onto the bow of the boat and the dolphins jumped out of the water right under me one after another, their blow hole just inches away from my outstretched hand. I sung to them, and it seemed like they liked it, especially the U2 stuff!!

Here is a good picture of Kevin and Lynn and a thundery front moving toward us as it pours into the Med off the Pyrenees Mountains. We sailed through a very intense lightning storm with thunder so ear deafeningly loud that the boat was shaking like a washing machine in spin cycle.

Finally, our arrival in Port Vell, only quarter of a mile from the new famous Olympic Port, in the heart of Barcelona. Kaspar and Lynn are standing next to Wildlife, she attracted a lot of attention when we arrived in-between all these huge luxury power yachts. That day we were the buzz of the dock.

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