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Life Afloat Part 2: Q&A with Jimmy

Last week I posted a number of questions sent from students at Kurtzebarri Secondary School in Aretxabaleta, in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa. Here are the answers to some more questions.

What do you do when a storm approaches?

I normally reduce the sail area by reefing, so that when the storm arrives the boat can cope with the increased wind. I did that in a storm we were caught with Aventura Zero off Mallorca last December.

As the wind strength reached 45 knots, we dropped the mainsail completely and continued with only the reefed jib.

Surviving a storm at anchor can be more challenging, as happened in a storm with hurricane-force winds, which struck Aventura IV in the Northwest Passage.

Did you feel scared while in a storm at sea?

I have been in many storms but cannot ever remember being scared. Whenever possible I avoid bad weather, and certainly being caught by a hurricane. The cyclone seasons are known in different parts of the world and cruising boats try to avoid such places by spending the dangerous seasons in a safe area. I have survived storms because all my boats were well-built and I had confidence in them. Also, as my experience has improved, I have been able to cope with whatever weather we encountered. But I have always been well-prepared, with good sails and equipment. I am also fortunate in not getting into a panic in a dangerous situation. This has also helped.

Have you been scared at some point?

Very rarely, but I have been once while on passage across the Bay of Biscay from England to Portugal on Aventura III.  I was sailing with a friend, and during my night watch a big ship passing close to us suddenly changed course and turned into our direction. I changed course quickly and it passed about 50 metres in front of us. I could see men on deck working and clearly with nobody on watch. I suppose that the ship had reached its waypoint and the automatic pilot had changed course into a new direction. It was a very close thing and it happened so suddenly that I only got scared when we were already safe.

Bird’s eye view of Aventura III

Have you ever put your life in danger?

It depends how you look at it. While at sea you are always in some potential danger by just being there. Being aware of this, I am very cautious and would never put our lives in danger, as that would be foolish. This is probably the reason why I managed to sail over 200.000 miles on my five boats and have never been in real danger.


What do you do with the pee and poo?

Good question. On all my boats the rule is to always go to the toilet, never pee over the side and sit down whether for number one or number two. This is a basic rule and I absolutely enforce it. On Aventura Zero, and also on my previous two boats, I have electric toilets so the discharge is pumped into a tank that can be emptied when we get into a marina or, if we are on a long passage, it has to be pumped into the ocean. On Aventura IV I had a special system for the effluent to be treated before being pumped either into the black water tank, or the sea.

Aventura IV in the Northwest Passage

How many animal species have you seen in the oceans?

 A lot, especially in my early days of sailing: birds, whales, fishes, turtles, dolphins.

Unfortunately there has been a noticeable change in recent years and on every voyage I am shocked to see fewer animals in the oceans. Many areas have been overfished, others have been badly affected by pollution and the effects of global warming, such as the coral reefs. 

An absolute disaster is the massive reduction in the number of sharks, mostly because in some parts of the world tasty dishes are prepared with shark fins, an expensive delicacy. This has resulted in the deliberate extermination of sharks. It is also happening to turtles. Whales seem to have fared better as some species have recuperated, but the overall situation is still disastrous.

A curious humpback whale pays us a visit in Antarctica

The last batch of questions will be answered in my next blog.

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