The following post was written by Richard Abbott (pictured below) after spending two weeks sailing with us from Palma, Mallorca (Balearic Islands off of east coast of Spain) to Gibraltar and then onto Las Palmas, Gran Canaria (Islands off the east coast of Morocco, Africa). Discover the answer to ‘what is it like to sail on Britican’ – Over to Richard…
I have just returned from Las Palmas having spent my last 2 weeks with the Britican family.
I rarely choose to publicly express my opinions and experiences with the world but having spent a fortnight in a floating bathtub, I have chosen to recount my adventure to those who may be pondering whether or not to join the Britican owners, Simon, Kim & Sienna Brown, for a week or so.
Having known Simon & Kim for around 10 years I have kept abreast of what they were doing with interest. Oddly, knowing someone and classing oneself as a friend is quite a different thing. We had a business relationship over the years but I can count on little more than one hand the times we physically met and spent any time together.
I would, however, say we had mutual respect for one another’s values and so when the “advert” was placed on Kim’s Facebook asking for crew mates to join them for either a 3 day/night sail or a 5 day/night sail, I decided to jump on a plane and join them.
My previous experience would surely come in handy. I had once been on a yacht from Southampton, England to the Isle of White as a guest of Abbey National (a Bank in the UK) for a jolly.
That should be enough experience I thought…
I joined the Britican in Palma and was soon introduced to the second mate, Sienna. I’m sure she found the appearance of a total stranger a little odd but after a few hours I feel she had warmed to me. We became buddies for the duration of the trip with the two of us going on two expeditions on land. Sienna became extremely found of sitting on my shoulders, which was tough at times when you have shopping, laundry and various other items to juggle. Thank the stars she is only 5.
“So Richard, lets get you familiar with the boat”
Simon started reeling off information so I could assist with the sailing. Sheets (I thought you slept in them), halyards, spinnaker, genoa, mainsail the list went on. There is so much to take on board (scuse the pun) in such a small time scale I knew I would just have to be told what to do when I was needed.
We set sail but clearly sailing was not always what this journey was about.
We found ourselves in need of motor power for what was the majority of the trip. We seemed to have a headwind for much of our journey. As a result we had a short visit to Ibiza for fuel.
By day 2, I was settling into the job and felt comfortable with the prospect of my first solo night watch. 3 hours of peering into the darkness looking for anything that the AIS (shipping gadgety thing) failed to pick up. Well blow me if the wind didn’t get up to 38 knots change direction and turn the boat around with a bang.
I felt terrible this had happened on my watch but Simon and Kim were on deck within seconds.
I sheepishly watched as Kim donned her life jacket to walk out on the deck to drop the main sail. ………………. “I guess I better go with Kim” I piped up to Simon as he turned the boat into the wind. “Yes mate, and don’t forget to tether”.
Needless to say we dropped the sail and got back on course.
No sooner had the wind arrived it was gone and we continued our trip under motor. That was my first awakening to the sometimes hostile nature of sailing.
Much of the trip was calm however and we spent quite a bit of time playing Rummikub (a tile game) where the final score left me shamefully beaten by more points than I care to remember.
So we are 2 days out of Gibraltar, my leaving point, when Kim subtly asks if I would like to stay on to Las Palmas.
You remember, the 5 days and night sail on offer? No one had volunteered for this shift so that left Simon & Kim shorthanded for their first Atlantic nonstop sail. You must all be aware that Kim gets sea sick. They were moderately concerned that being miles from anywhere with Kim, unable to pull her weight, could leave them in difficulty.
Well I just wanted to say NO.
Not because I wasn’t happy in the company of my hosts but I just wasn’t sure if I was really up for more sailing. I had arrived with some trepidation, been half scarred out of my skin night 2 and was missing home. My girlfriend was also uncomfortable with me being on a boat in the first place for personal reasons. On the other hand, I felt an obligation to my friends, yes we had moved into that category, and felt that I should not abandon them in their hour of need.
I called the Boss. After a few choice words I was granted an extra 3 days leave to continue my trip and I shared the news with the crew. I could see Kim’s sense of relief and appreciation and that was reward enough for my decision.
Gibraltar was interesting. If you have never been, take a weekend there. Nuff said.
We left Gibraltar 1pm Tuesday afternoon having booked a new flight home from Gran Canaria. An odd feeling came across me as if I had just turned down the last stage out of Dodge. I/ We were entering unknown territory with no safe haven should we need one and my plane was leaving without me.
I pondered what makes a couple trade the safety and comfort of life on land for that of one on a boat.
I didn’t really see the appeal at this point. Every detail of any journey has to be thought out and prepared for. The boat… well she is like a petulant child. She needs constant attention. On 2 occasions she decided to stop working and throw her toys out of the pram. I know she is currently getting lavished with wet wipes and new toys so she will go out to play with all the other boats when Britican goes West to the Americas. If she doesn’t get loved she just doesn’t love you back.
And that’s the biggest challenge that Simon and Kim have taken on.
The second, I guess, is managing life on board with a 5 year old headstrong and very clever young lady. Sienna seems to take to life on the high seas like the proverbial duck to water. Home schooling is at best challenging and at worst impossible when at sea. However, when I spent a day with Sienna the Pirate (she hated me calling her that) (and that was our quiz team name in Gib) when she got on with her work she was as capable as any school child of her age.
The second night in the Atlantic doing the deadmans shift I began to get the appeal.
Even with no land for 100 miles and 3km of water below me, I began to enjoy the tranquillity of the ocean and the lack of day to day stress during the journey.
We sailed, we played, we ate incredibly well (I did a few shifts in the galley) including pan fried Toad in the Hole. Only done in the pan because yet again the boat spat its dummy out and the generator packed up. Limited battery life means turn off everything that uses power including the oven.
Panic over as Simon & I found and fixed the recurring fault and we were restored.
So, back to the appeal of sailing. Thursday we were making fine time cutting 8.7 knots in a broadside wind and on course for our destination. We were due in Saturday morning at this rate.
The wind was in my hair and it felt great.
We knew the weather was unpredictable so we reduced the mainsail and put out a small front sail (the name of which escapes me) before dark. We didn’t want a repeat of my second night and a wind shift on full sail. The wind did indeed shift and we were moving further west than south west than we wished to but we had little choice as to tack would send us in a worse direction. We pressed on waiting for enough distance to allow a tack on course but by 9pm wind speed was in the 40s and the option to continue the direction we were heading seemed futile.
We tacked and were able to set a course for Lanzarote, 100 miles NE of our destination.
We were still in the storm though and with 80 miles to sail to the nearest land I took a deep breath and headed below for an attempt at sleep. I was due back on shift at 3 am but I had little sleep this night.
Imagine every time you close your eyes someone kicks in your front door, smashes up your house and then leaves having made as much noise as they can.
Then imagine that happens every thirty seconds for 5 hours.
I muttered under my breath “come sailing with us… it will be fun “ on more than one occasion.
For Simon & Kim, the noise of the boat hitting the oncoming waves as it dropped off the one before didn’t seem to bother them. The vibration of the entire contents of the boat fittings and the lack of sleep seemed to have little effect on my crew mates. They hid their concerns well.
This was Kim’s worst sail and Simon had genuine concerns for our safety due to technical issues. He did his job of Skipper well. He gave me confidence and belief in our safety regardless of how he was feeling. He also did my 3am shift allowing me to do the 6am. What little sleep I had was enough and the storm had died down and by 9am I could see land.
What a night. Did I like it ? NO. Am I glad I experienced it? Weirdly yes.
Our plan to seek refuge became redundant as the weather had improved and following some calls we decided to take the 100 mile trip through the night and arrived at our destination battered and bruised at 7am Sunday 18th.
I took this day off and Sienna and I travelled to the south of the Island for a day out while the proud parents stayed in port to cosset their adoptive child Britican.
When we returned she looked refreshed clean and ready for another day out.
What’s my take on the time I spent with Simon, Kim and Sienna.. well as I was leaving I was asked if I would stay a little longer. I genuinely considered that I would.
I am sure I will be on the boat again and as I left for my plane on Monday morning I choked back a tear. I arrived on the Britican as an interested acquaintance who fancied a week on a boat. As I drove off I was leaving my family.