Location: Underway to Tarragona

Our Argo crew has entered the final phase of their odyssey, the Mediterranean Sea. Yesterday we put out in an easterly direction with the last views of Africa, the Gibraltar Straights, and the great leveler, the North Atlantic slipping below the western horizon. A calm night and heavy air fall on the cool waters. Visibility became limited, and watch members’ eyes strained into the soft moonlit night to make out shapes and lights as we traversed the Spanish south coast. During a quiet 12-4 am, a blinding white flash exploded across the deck, a spotlight drenching watch team 1 in daylight from astern. We kept our cool and welcomed our illuminators to make contact by putting on friendly smiles and waving a handheld radio overhead. The Spanish Coastguard Patrol matched our speed alongside, abated the blinding sweeps, gave a single toot of the horn, then switched on their nav lights before bearing away and disappearing once more like an apparition into the night. Once we were sure we had not been sprung by a sneaky pirate attack, we supposed the coastguard was on a routine patrol, protecting their coasts or even keeping an eye out for the frequent refugee vessels making the perilous dash from North Africa or East Europe. We had much to be thankful for after this encounter.

This morning brought clearer air, lighter in the lungs and on the skin, the sun rising like a bull’s eye pegged by the end of the bowsprit. The wind had freshened up too, and we began a zig-zag course of tacks to keep a modest speed against the headwind. By the afternoon, with Alex’s marvelous stir fry well settled, we found ourselves on a parallel course with several other sailboats also making a duck into the shelter of Cabo de Gata before trying to round the Spanish southeast Cape. Now, as my dad always says, “Two boats going in the same direction can only mean one thing it’s a race.” So we set the flying jib, trimmed our sails to get the absolute most out of our rig, and fine-tuned our course to windward to beat them in the race around the Cape. Over dinner, we tasted the sweet success of victory (and Alex’s incredible mac’n’cheese huge thanks to his mum’s recipe), overtaking sloops Blue Roger and Calypso, with catamarans Celius and Flying Wave left churning in our wake. Indeed we were not exactly blistering along, 4 knots is nothing to write home about, but it was enough to take the cake, and now the current has set a more favorable course to whisk us along rather than slow us up.

We all gave our best Batman impressions for the squeeze question, “In Batman’s voice, what is your favorite ice cream flavor?” Challenge for our readers explain to somebody, anybody in a gruff Batman voice, what your favorite ice cream flavor is, and try to keep a straight face. We took an opportunity to take watch team photos with something new in the background scenery coastal cliffs! Sammy remarked that it’s nice to see SOMETHING while we make passage after nearly a month of combined passage time, looking out at nothing but empty sky and horizon.

Tarragona is about two and a half days away, and the time before the end of the program is waning. The students have been showing keen interest in the finer runnings of the vessel. Santana and Celia learned yesterday not to check the generator oil level while it’s running splat! Others have taken on the water maker or main engine, the mainsail or the jibs, and even navigation. So it was decided time to announce the coming student lead passage, the penultimate stretch from Sardinia to Civitavecchia, 24 hrs for the students to take the yoke and show what they’re made of as the staff takes a back seat in getting the boat from A to B, nominating their own shipmates to fill the positions of captain, chief mate, engineer, and navigators. Do they have what it takes?

Photos from left to right: Watch team 3, watch team 2, head rig, Will, Charles, Lily, and Gabe distracted from their jobs by the camera, Maya loves having her photo taken, and again, Argo truckin’, watch team 1.