November 25, 2000
At Sea, Less than 100 Miles to Tenerife, in the Canary Islands

Until the Butter Melts
By Lois Joy      

I've been watch the container of butter, sitting on the shelf to the right of the cupboard, wedged between our night watch snacks--Nescafe, hot chocolate, and ovalmatine-and our morning jams and tea. It has been getting a little softer every day, but today was a landmark day.  No, it had not melted yet, but we decided to put it into the fridge. 

It seems incredible to be traveling in the wake of the early navigators in their search for an eastward sailing route to the spice islands.  The captains of Prince Henry the Navigator had founded the Canary Islands, but were unable to conquer them, so Portugal left their conquest to Spain.  It was Columbus, who-after Prince Henry's death--had convinced King John, the Prince's brother, that one could reach the East by sailing west.  Then that entire scheme fell apart after Bartolemeo Diaz sailed around the tip of South Africa, proving the eastern route feasible.

King John then decided to pursue the sure thing, the eastern route, leaving Columbus to find alternate sources of funding.    Columbus' theory and his subsequent discovery of the New World thus went to the Spaniards.

On his first voyage, Columbus left the Canaries and sailed due west.  The charts displayed in the Nautical Museum in Barcelona depicted how his thinking progressed.  On each of the three subsequent voyages, he headed farther south before turning west.  He may have been looking for new lands, but most likely, he was searching for better trade winds each time.  Now, thousands of vessels follow his path south to the Tropic of Cancer, almost to the Cape Verde islands, and then turn west.   Or, as the sailors put it, "South until the butter melts, and then west into the sunset."

A common refrain during our voyage 1 has been, "south until the butter melts."  We have a summer clothing duffel that we dubbed our "Til the butter melts" bag.   It has been stashed underneath our bunk, with the cold weather gear taking up every inch of our cubby and hanging locker space.  Every time we complained about the cold weather of the Med, we toasted, "Here's to the tropics, where Pacific Bliss was meant to sail," inevitably followed with another toast, "Here's 'til the butter melts." 

Today, we began to shed some of that cold weather gear.  The first sign of this metamorphosis was during my pre-dawn watch, when I took off my polar fleece gloves and red West Marine cap-the kind that comes down over the ears, and attaches underneath one's chin.  I unzipped my trustworthy Pacific Bliss jacket (fleece inside and waterproof outside) given to me by David, our broker.    I had already decided not to wear my navy polar fleece socks.  Still remaining was my fleece top, long underwear, and foul weather pants, which I shed after my watch.  When the sun came out, we changed from pants to shorts for the first time.  Wow! Does that feel good!

For lunch, today, our last day before arriving at port, we went all out.  Christian and I prepared pasta with a special French sauce containing meatballs from Gallerie Lafayette's grocery (and frozen) garlic, green peppers, tomatoes, and French spices.   For the first time since Spain, we had wine with our meal.  "Live like Gods in France," we toasted as we savored some of the last of our France provisioning.





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