We had no idea what it would be like sailing across the Atlantic Ocean on a sailboat. We crossed with 200+ other boats organized by the World Cruising Organization with the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) – Las Palmas to St Lucia.
If you haven’t already read ‘Preparing to sail across the Atlantic Ocean – Gran Canaria to St Lucia,’ and ‘Crossing the Atlantic Ocean – Gran Canaria to St Lucia‘ give those two articles a look-over first as they explain the lead up to our Atlantic Ocean crossing in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria (islands off the west side of Africa). Those articles will give you a feel for all the preparations we made, in addition to the amazing buzz we enjoyed during the lead up to the rally start.
Also note that there are three videos on our YouTube channel about the crossing. To view the videos click here: VIDEO Atlantic Ocean Crossing. Finally, if you’d like to read this and many other articles found within this blog, grab a copy of my book, ‘Changing Lifestyles – Trading in the Rat Race for a Sail around the World‘ You’ll find this article within the book.
Aside from my husband, Simon (British), and our five-year-old daughter, Sienna (British-American) and me (American) we had four other crew members (all pictured above):
– Eve Parker, a lovely 21 year old New Zealander with only a couple months sailing experience.
– Andrew Meadows, a hometown friend of mine, who is a 37 year old American with no sailing experience.
– Kenny Jones, a super funny 41 year old American who owns a catamaran and has been sailing full time for the last couple years. He also has a history of chartering bareboats.
– Murray Basingthwaighte, a very resourceful 58 year old British/New Zealander with a lifetime of sailing experience. Murray is also a full time sailing cruiser and currently based in the Mediterranean.
The one thing I didn’t mention in the previous articles was how amazing the pre-journey (and now post) activities have been in both Las Palmas and St Lucia
The World Cruising Club, organizers of the ARC, are amazing people. For over 200 boat loads of people, they set up parties for weeks before the event and weeks after the event. For three weeks I went to a party or event every day/night. We planted trees, enjoyed educational seminars, had meals, experienced local entertainment and more. My daughter went to a kids club every day enjoying dingy sailing, a trip to the beach, science museum, the pool and many other activities.
Just yesterday, my family and crew helped to plant 1000 trees here in St Lucia – I’ll have to write a whole article on that, but let me tell you about the crossing first!
Many people choose sailing across the Atlantic (2,800+ miles) before or after the ARC rally instead of with it
Some people aren’t interested in the social aspect and many feel the rally price is prohibited. I have to say that the money we spent to cross with ARC has been well worth every penny. The ARC helped to provide us with valuable information, enabled us to meet new friends, assisted with safety and security checks and provided an amazing variety of events to mix and mingle with hundreds of like-minded people. Our experience of the World Cruising Club has been nothing short of fantastic – a 10 out of 10.
That aside, let me tell you what it’s like to sail 2,800 miles across an ocean on a 56’ sailboat with five adults and one five-year-old
And the race has begun!
Atlantic crossing day 1 – 22nd November 2015
The rally started off with Britican being amongst many other boats at the start line (see picture above). Thankfully many of the 200+ boats held back. We were right up on the line before the starting cannon went and I felt there were too many boats in one spot for my comfort.
The swell was so large that it took extreme concentration to make sure we didn’t hit another boat. We were all yelling to Simon, at the helm, as to what boats were where. Talk about stress city!
Fortunately for us, we crossed the start line without any bumps or bruises
We had a military ship fire a canon to get us started (Above is a picture of the ship going out before the race started). The buzz in the air was tense excitement.
I think I stopped breathing on a few occasions
After a couple hours the boats started spreading out more and more. We spent a few hours neck and neck with one particular boat so time seemed to go quickly. Eventually, however, by nightfall I was amazed at how quickly we lost sight of most contenders.
From the start, we had high seas and high winds with a very a substantial swell
The wind was blowing over 40 knots and at times we were sailing at over 10 knots (see the swell and 10.3 knot speed in the above picture). We were all happy that the journey started, but the first day was not relaxing.
All us crewmembers were being tossed all over the place and all sorts of problems came flying at us!
We had an accidental jibe, or sometimes referred to as a ‘crash jibe,’ that pulled one of our safety rail stanchions over (bent). An accidental jibe is when the boom swings violently from one side of the boat to the other. When sailing with the wind behind you, if the boat is incorrectly positioned, wind can get on the wrong side of the sail, or a swell can cause the boom to shift. If the wind hits the main sail from the wrong direction, BAM, the whole boom shifts sides and there’s a terrible crash sound while the boat shutters in dismay. Although we had a rope fastened to prevent the jibe, it couldn’t content with the power of too much wind hitting the sail. The boom pulled the jibe preventer so hard that it bend our stanchion.
Aside from our accidental jibe, our compass was discovered to be off by 50 degrees
Fortunately we had our backup navigation system on an iPad and noticed that we were heading for Africa instead of the Caribbean. After thinking things over during our sleep, we woke the next day and decided to look at the compass control. We realized our new camping gas grill was leaned up next to it causing magnetic errors. At the last moment the grill was tucked away without consideration to the compass. (Later on during the trip we laughed about our compass issue but at the time it wasn’t funny).
TIP: If your compass gets out of whack it can often be down to something metal that’s too close to the compass control box. Our box is located under the aft bed. I’ve heard stories of knitting needles causing issues, so with compass issues, start with a good look around before doing anything else.
Our AIS, a position reporting system, went down leaving us blind to seeing boats on the plotter (other than using the naked eye)! Of course, we always use our eyes to navigate but AIS comes in hand by giving information about when another boat will cross our path and how close we’ll get to it. (The picture above shows AIS working – you can see all the boats in the harbor before the race started. When it went down, we couldn’t see any boats on the plotter).
When avoiding ships this information is very valuable
Unbelievably, at the same time our daughter Sienna puked, we accidentally jibed, had to bring down a pole, change our jibe preventer, all the boat alarms went off (we went off course), AIS went down, the compass was found to be off and the seas tossed us around like tiny specks of dust on a windy day. There were so many issues that I couldn’t even consider how I thought or felt – we were just working together to get the boat going in the correct direction as safely as possible.
By nightfall we could still see around 10 to 15 boats
Eventually everything felt manageable considering the heavy conditions.
Fortunately for us, we heeded the advice from one of the ARC seminars on provisioning to make our lunch and dinner ahead of time for day one. If we didn’t have quick food to grab I’m not sure if we would have eaten.
For lunch, we had sandwich meats (ham, salami, etc.) on fresh baguettes that I purchased from the bakery before leaving. I made the sandwiches up before we left and boy did they come in hand. Instead of having to mess around on our first day, I just went down to the galley, grabbed the bag of premade rolls and handed them out.
Kenny, who was on dinner duty, also made his meal before we left. It was supposed to be a chicken curry but the chicken was off. The final meal became an excellent vegetable red Thai curry using curry paste and coconut milk.
Food tasted excellent
During the evening on day one, Eve fell out of bed and ended up in the hallway. Kenny helped her get off the floor and put her lay cloth up (a lay cloth is a strong piece of material that has ropes so to create a wall at the edge of the bed)! It took Eve a while to figure out what happened – she lifted her head up in a daze wondering why she was on a floor. We all laughed about it the next day.
Unfortunately, I had a fall too
During my night watch I fell out of the cockpit seat and hit my head on the corner of the companionway. It happened so fast – one moment I was sitting on the seat with my legs stretched out and the next I was on the floor. Afterwards, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was going to die of a brain clot…I found it hard to be positive in such strong conditions. We were being tossed all over the place and my mind was spiraling more to the negative side.
But…after all is said and done, we survived day one!
Would you rather read this article in book form (paperback or Kindle)? Our Atlantic crossing is in my book ‘Changing Lifestyles – Trading in the Rat Race for a sail around the world!‘ The book is almost 400 pages long and details our life on land before we sold up and sailed away, our transition from living on land to living at sea, our voyage around the Mediterranean, Atlantic Crossing and our sail up the Caribbean. It’s a great book for anyone that has ever dreamed of sailing around the world.
Settling into our floating home
Atlantic crossing day 2 – 23rd November 2015
A large part of the day was spent with Kenny and Andrew working on our AIS system (the contraption that tells boats we are around and let’s us see who’s around us). We had our first dolphin visit. As always, my whole body smiled when I saw them. I yelled out my regards and watched them until they decided to head a different way.
A few of us watched the movie ‘A Knights Tale,’ on my laptop in the saloon.
Everyone had a nap so to get enough sleep to make it through night watches
Regarding the night watches we had a rolling schedule so that everyone did every shift (9pm to 12pm, 12am to 3am, 3am to 6am, 6am to 9am) and each watch had an overlap of people. So, if I started off at the 9pm to 12pm watch with Kenny, Kenny would go to bed at 11pm and wake up Simon to do one hour with me and then I would go down and wake the next person up to do 2 hours with Simon. For most nights we all did two night watches.
It might sound confusing but by keeping someone on during a watch change it reduces the amount of sail/navigational fiddling that happens when a whole set of new crew come on. It also breaks the night watches up – you know that you’ll have an hour with one person and two hours with another.
Obviously, this kind of system only works if you have several people
At all times we had one experienced member of crew with one inexperienced crewmember. During the day we were relaxed on watches – usually the majority of us were in the cockpit playing games or relaxing anyway.
But let me get back to day two of our Atlantic crossing. For lunch we had baked beans on toast (a very British delicatessen). And for dinner, we pulled out chicken Parmesan from the freezer to be served over spaghetti.
We all lazed around quite a bit and since there were so many of us we only ever had one task each day
The task schedule included: vacuuming, cleaning the heads (bathroom), general cleanup and trash duty, engine/generator checks (when necessary), lunch and lunch cleanup, dinner and dinner cleanup, and rigging checks.
With AIS working intermittently we knew that there were a few boats around us – over the VHF radio we called El Mundo, another 56′ Oyster, for a chat. It was nice to touch base with other people. In fact, throughout the entire crossing, whenever we came within VHF range of any boat, we called them to say ‘hi.’
Sienna kept all her food down and seemed to come back to life
Aside from watching movies she did one Thanksgiving decoration (American holiday), played with the others and snacked. (Crewmember Andrew flew in from America so he as able to pick up some fun Thankgsgiving crafts to occupy Sienna).
The swell was still very large but we were able to run with it hitting us from behind the boat so the side-to-side motion didn’t cause everything to crash as much.
I noted in my diary:
I don’t feel strong enough to move much so am laying in bed. No, I’m not sick, it’s just so hard to move due to the severe side to side motion of the boat. I did my first watch with Kenny from 7 to 10 (Having Simon for the first hour). We had a nice chat. There was a bit of rain, a couple boats on the horizon and that was it. Haven’t had a clear night for stars yet – been cloudy with the moon appearing occasionally. The sea doesn’t smell like anything – no strong smell. There’s a hint of the Caribbean in the air but that might just be wishful thinking. Still in full waterproofs and using my hot water bottle to stay cozy. I don’t feel any urgency to get to the other side. I feel rather complacent.
Hearing from home
Atlantic crossing day 3 – 24th November 2015
After doing my second night watch (during the same night) with Kenny from 4am to 7am, I slept until 10am. I wasn’t feeling good – a bit bunged up and head still hurting from my fall. I didn’t die from a brain clot so that was good news.
After the seasickness and painkillers kicked in I was fine
Kenny and I worked together to successfully receive email reports regarding weather, ARC updates and personal messages. For communications, we purchased a Red Box router from Mailasail that had a port for our Iridium satellite phone. Wirelessly, I’d connect to the Red Box from my MacBook Air and tell the phone to dial up a connection. Once connected, we’d request the weather reports via and automated emails system. By placing the name of the report we wanted in the subject line we’d simply need to send the email and a report would come back within seconds.
For our first attempt, at sea, we received a weather report, an email from my brother, Bryan, and another little note from my dear friend, Becks. Bryan wrote a message to me in Morris code thinking I’d find it funny… I didn’t even attempt to figure it out. If I had access to the Internet, I would have Googled it. That wasn’t the first time I wanted to Google something but realized that wasn’t going to happen. Using a satellite phone is like using the Internet back in 1980. It’s slow and you have to do everything with the smallest file size possible.
Sending or receiving a large image file would be fatal
During our email hook up, Kenny and I also received a position report on all other boats. This report came out ever day around noon UTC, or Las Palmas time. We could also request a position report as a one off. I think the report was updated every four hours.
Little did I know that the position report would be come the main discussion topic every day
It’s funny because I assumed that we’d spend most of our time on the weather, but we rarely spent more than five minutes looking at the forecast. For the most part we’d look at the grib file (an image that shows where the wind is and how strong it is) and aim for wind.
Regarding the position report… Simon and Murray started off by plotting the longitude and latitude of our main rivals on a map. Later Kenny developed an insane excel spreadsheet to allow deep analysis! We noticed that some boats went north and others went south. The suggested route was to go south until the butter melts and then head west to get the trade winds. The North route is most direct however there’s a higher chance of missing the winds and becoming becalmed.
Looking back over the whole trip, our main points of discussion included: how we were doing against our main rivals, whether or not we should change sails and what’s for our next meal.
Day three also included a lesson on map positions from Murray
He showed our newbie guests how to find and plot a position on the map. Eve and Sienna later made thanksgiving decorations and I defrosted beef stew I made a few weeks ago. Simon, Sienna and I all went to bed and watched a movie – Despicable Me 2.
I wrote in my journal:
For many moments during the film I felt ‘normal’ or ‘at home’ – I lost sense of the back and forth rocking. I lost sense of being in a boat in the middle of the Atlantic.
During my night watch (with Simon) I couldn’t believe it when we had to navigate between two ships and one sailboat. Simon called one of the ships – a research vessel to find out if they could see us on AIS. Unfortunately the guy that responded said we were weren’t on AIS. Bummer. We were now seeing ships but they weren’t seeing us. Ho hum.
Having the best shower ever
Atlantic crossing day 4 – 25th November 2015
Day four started with more dolphins. We were so fortunate to have several greetings from them.
Around midday, all of our bowls slid out of a cupboard and smashed to little pieces – thankfully we had plastic bowls as a backup. I had regrets for not securing things in cupboards better – everything was clunking and banging. And the time and effort to clean up the smashed bowls was crazy. Heck, I’m still finding bits of porcelain around.
In the previous 24 hours we did 190 miles making it our best 24 hours yet
Every day, throughout the whole trip, we bet on the distance traveled in 24 hours – By day four, Eve was in the lead. Aside from discussing our distance, we also played our first match of Rummikub, a game that’s similar to Rummy.
For lunch, we had ham and cheese toasties and for dinner, chicken jambalaya (a meal I made and froze before we left). The Jambalaya was rated the best dinner yet but there wasn’t enough for seconds.
For the first several days none of us made quite enough food
We were all accustomed to cooking for two people rather than seven. Eventually, we started making enough rice or pasta to bulk out the meals. The above picture shows baguettes with egg and bacon – after each of us had one we could have eaten two more at least!
Remember: you could be reading this article in book form (paperback or Kindle). Our Atlantic crossing is in my book ‘Changing Lifestyles – Trading in the Rat Race for a sail around the world!‘ The book is almost 400 pages long and details our life on land before we sold up and sailed away, our transition from living on land to living at sea, our voyage around the Mediterranean, Atlantic Crossing and our sail up the Caribbean. It’s a great book for anyone that has ever dreamed of sailing around the world.
Sienna, Simon and I had our first shower and it felt great – feeling clean is such an amazing sensation!
Standing in the shower while moving side to side was such a difficult feat! I had all the soap bottles sliding around my feet while I wedged myself into the most comfortable corner. I couldn’t help but think, can’t I get five minutes of stability!?
We also watched BBC Blue Planet Part one – I thought it would be educational for all of us to learn about the seas while sailing across one of them – especially for Sienna’s benefit. Previous to the trip I downloaded the whole series. Unfortunately, we only made it half way through the second part. I think Sienna was so immersed in sea life that she didn’t have the tolerance to learn about coastal erosion, global warming or anything too heavy. She was more interested in playing, watching kids movies or eating.
Later on, Eve and Sienna watched Brave while the boys spent time in the cockpit talking
I wrote in my journal:
“I feel like I can’t stop eating. All day long I’ve been munching on stuff. I manage a tiny bit of homeschooling for Sienna today – I will work hard tomorrow to get through a whole lesson. So far everything has been fine – been going with the flow and the whole day seems to progress without me forcing anything. I thought I would be bored but I haven’t been once yet. My night watch was uneventful. Not one ship or boat we did sea. Simon put up the American flag in honor of thanksgiving (tomorrow). I had one hour with Simon and two with Kenny. Kenny immediately noticed the flag. With Simon I read my book and with Kenny we chatted about religion, Atheists and our thoughts on his the world works. We also discussed our Thanksgiving Day plans.”
Thanksgiving Day on the Atlantic Ocean – what a treat
Atlantic crossing day 5 – 26th November 2015 Thanksgiving Day!
The day started with American pancakes and a discussion on whether or not to change sails
The sail configuration was set to a genoa (head sail) and staysail (also a sail on the forward part of the deck) poled out on either side. We were heading a bit more North than we wanted. I pulled off a grib file so the team could look for wind.
The most pressing discussion topic was about handling night watches as we crossed the time zones
We didn’t know what to do with our clocks. Should we put them back as we go or keep boat time? We assumed the total difference between The Canaries and St Lucia was five hours but we later discovered it was only a four-hour time difference.
Otherwise, Sienna and Eve spent time in the cockpit chatting and laughing
The guys discussed weather and I laid in bed. The pace had slowed so I was able to have the hatch window open – the fresh air was incredible. Until then all the windows on the boat had to be kept closed so it was nice to air out the boat.
We received an email from our friend Kent, skipper of El Oro, who was also sailing across. He indicated a lack of wind until now…I responded that we’ve had excellent wind and are thinking of heading south. We all then had a discussion as to whether Kent was being sarcastic and did, indeed have wind. Later we found out that the crewmembers on El Oro wondered if we were telling the truth about the wind too! It’s funny to consider how small things turn into big discussions when there’s no TV, news or other interruptions around.
I also heard from my brother again. Thankfully it wasn’t in Morris Code!
It was great to hear from people on the outside world. Based on the wind and our weather reports, we decided to change our sail configuration.
Just as the sails were all pulled in, can you believe one of our fishing reels started to spin?! It was the first day that we put our poles out.
Kenny rushed to the back of the boat and started reeling in
Everyone was so excited. Andrew assisted with the catch and eventually we pulled up a Mahimahi using a gaff. The fish was amazingly colorful.
Before Kenny killed the fish I expressed our gratitude – especially on Thanksgiving. Kenny filleted the fish, used half for ceviche and we decided to bake the other half for dinner on the following day.
The evening meal was already set for a T-Day turkey dinner!
The wind died and our progress went from 8 to 9 knots down to 2 to 3 all through the night. The temperature of the air started to warm up however at night were all still wearing out waterproof sailing gear.
Thanksgiving dinner was outstanding!
Turkey breast steaks with homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, bean casserole, cranberries and gravy! There were barely any left overs and what was left I ate during my night watch! During the night I spent 2 hours with Simon and accidentally spent 2 hours with Kenny (should have been only 1 hour with Kenny). Kenny and I got into a deep discussion about the meaning of life and time flew by. Simon didn’t wake me for my early morning watch and let me sleep in – it was lovely.
Sitting on the foredeck reflecting on the trip
Atlantic crossing day 6 – 27th November 2015
At the beginning of the trip I made notes on my phone to remind me about what we did each day. My notes were mainly in bullet form. As the trip progressed I started to write more and more about our experiences.
So..from this point on you’ll read what I thought and noted exactly as I noted it:
I am sitting on my beanbag on the forward deck shaded by the genoa (poled out) and the gennaker blue and white sail (also poled out). Our main is down and I’d like to keep it that way – those accidental jibes are terrible. We’re going around 3 knots and the larger sail is flapping quite a bit (not enough wind).
Kenny and Andrew are doing the rubbish – cutting plastics into tiny pieces and cramming the scraps into used plastic water bottles. They push the trash into the bottles with the end of a spoon. Last night I saw no boats. Today I can see two with cruising sails out. This morning I played with Sienna for a while, cleaned the saloon, and managed a load of laundry (hand towels and sticky matts) while the water maker was going.
Today we’re having left overs and ceviche for lunch – that’s coming soon!
I might even shower today as it’s so calm. The boat is still rocking side to side but not as drastic. It’s day six and I have to say that my expectations have seriously been surpassed…I’m enjoying every moment of this experience. The 360 view of different shades of blue, the smells of fresh air, the sounds of wind, sails, waves, the bubbling wake, conversation in the background, THE FOOD, interacting with all my crew mates, playing with Sienna… Do I miss not having internet, news or contact with other people?! No. When Kenny caught the fish a wanted to post a picture on FB but otherwise I haven’t even had the urge to use the Internet!
I started reading the book Dove. It’s about a 16 year old boy that set out to sail around the world
Just noticed… For days now I have not seen a plane of the trail of a plane. I have however, seen loads of flying fish (one pictured above – they landed on our deck every day).
We were going 8 to 9 knots and now that we’re down to 2 to 4 knots moral has slightly dipped
Everyone had hoped that we’d fly across. For me, however, I feel indifferent. Getting to land a day or two sooner doesn’t seem a worthy focus.
Andrew and Kenny are working AIS again trying to get both plotters working. Currently there is the only downstairs on. We saw a boat on the horizon, looked them up on AIS and discovered it was s/v Skylark, an ARC participant. Simon gave them a call on the VHF and we enjoyed listing to the skippers from both boats discuss weather, sail configuration, general wellbeing of the crews and of course, the menu for the day. It was great to hear that both boats were enjoying fresh fish!
Still reading? You could be reading this article in book form (paperback or Kindle) and gain access to many of the other articles within the website. There are over 400 🙂 This article about the Atlantic crossing is in my book ‘Changing Lifestyles – Trading in the Rat Race for a sail around the world!‘ The book is almost 400 pages long and details our life on land before we sold up and sailed away, our transition from living on land to living at sea, our voyage around the Mediterranean, Atlantic Crossing and our sail up the Caribbean. It’s a great book for anyone that has ever dreamed of sailing around the world.
Homeschooling and more Mahimahi
Atlantic crossing day 7 – 28th November 2015
I’m sitting on my beanbag on the foredeck… It’s so peaceful here. I keep looking for spray coming from a whale’s waterspout but nothing seen yet. I have the ability to stare out over the water for ages. And while I’m staring my thinking slows. I have the capacity to watch my thoughts rather than get involved with them.
My attention is directed to the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of the moment rather than being lost in a thought of the past or future. I find it remarkable that I’m on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic and I have absolutely no urge to get anywhere.
After 7 days I’m feeling great. I wondered how I’d cope with a lack of Internet connection, constant swells, seasickness, living in close proximity to 6 other people, ensuring my daughter was ‘entertained’…
All my worries have thus far been completely unfounded
I enjoy keeping in touch with friends/family over the Internet – social media, blogging, emails but I also enjoy not having it. The back and forth side-to-side swell motion has only caused me a bit of angst during the night when I can’t fall asleep. I’ve learned however that the best position to combat the movement is to put a pillow between my legs, hug another pillow, go into a fetal position and angle myself so that my head and feet are swaying back and forth rather than my body going side to side.
I’ve had a strange side effect to something – perhaps my seasick pills?
My tongue has swelled and feels like it’s got cracks all around it. When I eat anything my tongue burns and I can’t use it to scrape food from the area around my teeth. Simon told me to try taking an allergy pill so I gave it a go. So far it seems to have reduced the swelling.
For a food lover this condition is not ideal but then again it’s not a deal breaker
Last night I didn’t do any night watch – Simon knew I wasn’t feeling well so he didn’t wake me up. He didn’t ask me if I wanted time off so I feel like I’ve let the team down a bit. On the flip side I’m grateful that Simon was looking after me.
Everyone just gave their guess for how many miles we’ve done in 24 hours. I estimated 120 miles. To date, Eve, the 2nd most inexperienced sailor is in the lead. Aside from our daily competition we also look forward to getting the weather reports (Kenny and I fetch them through email over the Sat phone once a day) and the position report indicating were a the other 200+ boats are. The positions come in alphabetically rather than distance from St Lucia so we pull out all the other Oyster 56’s and our friend on s/v El Oro (we have a friendly bet with the crew as to who is going to get to St Lucia first) and we plot them in the map.
The sun is shining and we’re all in shorts and t-shirts
Sienna had a series of wobbles yesterday – she wasn’t impressed with me instigating a homeschooling lesson and she didn’t want to go to bed. It was the first full blown outburst for ages.
Today, however, has been much better – homeschooling was done in the morning – Andrew did it with Sienna! It went very well. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll ask Eve or Kenny to give it a go.
One thing I find interesting about my expectations versus reality is my speculation on feeling insignificant amongst the 360 view of blue expanse.
In reality I don’t at all feel small
The sea doesn’t feel overwhelming like I thought it would. Perhaps it’s easy to feel this way in calm conditions?! Maybe I’d feel differently in a F10 storm? I feel so relaxed and peaceful. I’m not harboring any fears.
Even when I’m lying in bed getting ready to sleep I don’t have my usual pre-sleep worries. Previous to this trip I’d worry on overnight sails about hitting something, taking on water, the night watch person falling overboard, or tipping over. I can only assume that sailing for 7 days has allowed me the ability to normalize night sails. In the past night sails were few and far between.
Furthermore my longest stretch was only 5 days
When speculating about this trip I had no feel for how I’d react to such a long trip. Becoming seasick and incapacitated was a worry. I just didn’t have a clue as to how I’d feel. The pills have worked exceptionally well and if I’m overwhelmed by anything it’s my unexpected love of this experience. I’m not in a constant state of bliss nor am I enlightened by the journey. I am however a different Kim. I often write about how sailing forces me to be present… This journey is thus forcing me to be present for a duration that’s longer than anything I’ve experienced thus far.
There’s nothing around to trigger thoughts of my past and for some reason my future isn’t in my focus at all
I have no idea where will go after the ARC festivities finish in St Lucia. I have no idea where I’ll be in a few weeks time nor do I know who I’ll be around? Heck, I have no idea who might be sailing with us! Because my future is so unplanned I don’t feel the need to ponder anything further than my next meal.
That aside, our sail configuration thus far for today is the genoa and staysail poled out. We are doing around 5 to 6 knots. There are loads of flying fish and we’ve had two squids on our deck. I saw only one bird today.
Amazingly, we caught two Mahimahi at the same time!
Eve and Simon reeled them in. We threw the smallest back. The one we kept provided ceviche and a lovely dinner of fish stir-fry. There’s one more meal that we’ll enjoy for lunch tomorrow.
After a lovely dinner around the saloon table the boys all went upstairs for a chat and Eve, Sienna and I put on the Christmas move, ‘Polar Express’. I couldn’t help but feel so homey and comfortable with our temporary family. Life seems so easy going and natural. Everyone helps, contributes and gets involved. I’m so peaceful.
Laundry, games and chilling out on the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic crossing day 8 – 29th November 2015
Our first week in now behind us. My night watch was easy going. I spent an hour with Kenny and then 2 hours with Andrew. It’s the first time I was with Andrew.
The first week we made sure Eve and Andrew, the least experienced crew, were matched with the most experienced crew. The second week we mixed everyone up. During the watch we used my night sky app to name stars, planets and constellations. Kenny and I talked about random things and Andrew and I discussed the American economy. Watches go so fast with 2 people.
I went to bed around 2am – climbed in with Simon and Sienna. A few hours later I heard the engine turn on. We motored south for four hours due to a complete lack of wind.
I seriously can’t believe how mild and calm the Atlantic Ocean can be!
There are no white caps and the swell is barely noticeable. In the morning Eve did homeschooling with Sienna. I spent hours cutting up our trash and smashing it into a plastic bottle.
We did 5 loads of laundry – clothes and all our sheets
Simon made fresh fish fingers and they were excellent (Mahimahi dipped in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs and Britican Galley Seafood Blend) and I helped him out by making a chick pea, red onion, celery, balsamic vinegar, oil, and one of my Britican Galley blends.
We all ate in the cockpit amongst laundry hanging everywhere
Four of us played Rumikub and then started playing Eucre (card game). I was tempted to miss my seasickness pills due to the calm conditions but decided against it. I just don’t want to be unwell. That being noted today seemed to be the first day that dragged for me. I didn’t feel bored but I didn’t feel lively either.
Some of the crew took naps and for quite a chunk of the day so the boat was quiet
Eve gave Sienna a mud mask with cucumber eyes and the pair giggled quite a bit. I’m so thankful for others helping me with Sienna.
Right now there are four people in the saloon watching a Harry Potter. Murray is cooking dinner – roast chicken, brussel sprouts, stuffing and potatoes.
We are eating so well!
No fish yet today – we didn’t put the lines in until a couple hours ago (around 3 pm). I managed to read a bit of two completely different books – Dove and Sam Harris book.
I have seen a few birds off and on all day. Sailboat Tantrum appeared on our horizon and called us over VHF. We had a good chat and shared some laughs about lack of wind and our strategy on getting to St Lucia – Simon shared that our compass was off at the beginning and we initially were headed to Africa! We’ve been averaging about 3 to 4 knots all day – we have the gennaker and genoa poled out. Everything is very slow.
When getting the weather I got an email from my mom – that made me smile
I just moved from the cockpit forward to the starboard foredeck with my beanbag. The sun is dropping (it’s 5:15pm but who knows if it’s really 5:15pm – we’re guessing on what time zone we’re in) and I’m partially shielded from the rays by the sails.
Today was HOT – the first day we were all were perspiring
We’re not even half way yet so I wonder how hot it will get. I love sitting on the foredeck. I’m alone with the sounds and sights of Britican and the sea. It’s pure bliss. There’s nothing to do, nothing to think, and nothing to be. I simply am.
Dinner was excellent – a lovely roast on a Sunday
We had quite a few laughs about what others do when we wake them for their night watch. Kenny jumps up as if someone is about to tackle him (he has older brothers), Murray puts his head up quickly and yells ‘okay – I’m up’ and apparently Eve has to call my name 15+ times and rock my leg to get me up. We laughed through dinner. I then put a movie on and Andrew and Sienna watched it – Chronicles of Narnia. The next I new Kenny woke me up saying, ‘I let you sleep – you only have an hour shift to do with Andrew.’ I was very thankful. I did my hour shift and then went back to bed.
Grab a copy of my book ‘Changing Lifestyles – Trading in the Rat Race for a sail around the world!‘ You can find this article and many more like it in the book 🙂
I landed my first Atlantic Ocean fish!
Atlantic crossing day 9 – 30th November 2015
We have more wind today! Finally out of the 3 to 4 knots and into the 5 to 6 knots. And more wind should be coming tomorrow. At this rate we’ll hit St Lucia in 11 days. I think we’ll get more wind and be in sooner.
In the morning I took the boiled chicken carcass and removed any left over meat. I made a stock and found some more chicken in the freezer to add to a soup. Then I did some homeschooling with Sienna – we did a cutout exercise on ‘Where is the Atlantic Ocean? Not only did we find the ocean but we plotted our latitude and longitude on it! How many kids get to do that?!
Just as we were working on the letter ‘F’ I heard the fishing pole go
I leaped out of the saloon and up through the cockpit to the starboard aft pole. Murray helped me pull the pole out of the holder and gave me instruction. I let the fish run and run and run. Eventually I could reel it in. I saw it jump from far away and thought it was a Mahi Mahi.
After 25 to 30 minutes I finally got the fish in
Both Kenny and Murray were guiding me with what to do. Murray used the gaff and pulled the fish up. My arms were aching so bad – mostly my biceps. And I had the pole jammed into a towel over my stomach.
I was a bit worried that the fish would be a tiny thing when it arrived and I would look like a wimp
Fortunately, it was a really nice sized fish. When I measured it, the Mahimahi was 92cm – around 3′. It may not sound like much but it will feed all of us for dinner. I’m thinking of doing a fish fry with coleslaw and perhaps some potatoes.
Once the fish was aboard we took a picture and then Kenny instructed Simon on how to fillet the fish. It’s great to think that I caught the fish, hubby filleted it and I’ll cook it. The fish doesn’t have a strong flavor…it’s so neutral – it’s so fresh. There’s absolutely no fishy smell or taste to it. Sienna is loving it.
The great thing about catching fish is that we’re not doing much to get them. When you go out on a fishing trip you sit and wait for ages. For us, we’re living life, sailing, etc and only when a fish is on the line do we have to put our fishing hats on.
I hope we get a tuna… Andrew is the only one left to pull a fish in, so the next one that goes has his name on it
Today, for lunch we’re having pesto pasta with fresh baguettes. I am starting to worry about the food. We are one day away from having no fruit or fresh veg left. On the other hand, due to the fish meals we’ve had we have more frozen meals left. Food, food, food – that’s all I think about!
For dinner I took the very clean fillets from Kenny and Simon (from the fish I caught) and cut them into large serving sizes. I then rolled the fillets in flour, egg and then a combination of breadcrumbs and Britican Galley Seafood blend. I fried them all (10 large chunks) in oil and lemon.
There were some small bits left so I made fish fingers for Sienna
Also, a made a salad with cabbage, carrots, red onion and oil, vinegar and Britican Galley spices. Finally, I heated up two cans of peas. This being the first time I’ve cooked fish all by myself I was very worried about overcooking the fish.
Fortunately the Mahimahi fillets came out perfect
There was not one left over. So – I caught the fish, Simon filleted it (with help from Kenny) and I cooked it! I felt so proud of us. Sienna doesn’t often eat what I cook so I was super happy to see her clear her plate.
After Simon and I cleaned up we grabbed Sienna and all hit the sack
Around 1am Simon woke me up and I had an hour with Kenny and two hours with Andrew. I enjoyed my conversation with both. At 4am I woke Murray and went to bed. The morning started out as usual. I got up, poured myself some corn flakes, got cuddles from Sienna and entered the discussion about our position, how far we’ve come over night and where the other boats are located.
From what I gathered it seemed that we have dropped more South than most other boats however we had more wind and were therefore gaining on everyone. For the past two days we had very little wind – down to 2 knots at times. When looking at the positions of other boats we had to assume that many boats decided to use their engines (allowed in the race but must be declared) due to their progress.
We used our engine for four hours in the wee hours of the morning due to getting no wind at all. So…. It’s hard to say where everyone is positioned. We have a feeling that we might pass a lot of boats now as were South enough to get the winds.
Boats that are North of us seem to be making very little progress.
Any way, Kenny set the poles up, I sat around for a bit and played with Sienna. Suddenly the fishing reel went crazy! At 10:45 the reel started and by 11:20 three grown men got the fish reeled in.
Andrew started off and then it became a combined effort
We furled the gennaker in and the genoa to slow the boat down. During the geneker furl the top half of the sail doubled over and furled over itself – disaster. And I mean disaster.
That sail will have to be retired for the rest of the race
I’m not sure how we fix it – perhaps on land we can unroll it and furl it properly. So – half the team was holding down the geneker (we lowered it to the deck) and the other half were preparing for the fish.
In the end, Simon, Andrew and Kenny took turns reeling it in. Kenny gaffes it and lo and behold it was a great big tuna. I couldn’t believe it! A tuna – just what I ordered.
Once the Tuna was put to sleep we put it in a bag and all helped to bring the gennaker in and put out our staysail. Once we were back up to 7 knots Kenny filleted and cleaned the tuna.
We eagerly awaited our first taste of sashimi (raw fish) garnished with wasabi, ginger and soy sauce.
It was amazing!
For dinner Simon promised Sienna ‘daddy’s special carbonara’ (pasta with a creamy cheese bacon sauce) so that’s what we’ll have tonight.
Tomorrow will be tuna steaks 🙂
Otherwise the other thing to note is the fact that it’s day two of not taking my seasickness pills. How do I feel? Part of me thinks they are still wearing off. I’m more tired than I have been (pills had caffeine in them) and I feel a bit lethargic. I don’t want to do anything. Even though I took a nap and still feel blah. I just vacuumed down below and that went fine.
Looks like we might just watch a film that’s not a cartoon!
I watched part of the movie ‘Chef’ with everyone and then played Barbie’s with Sienna.
I was feeling a bit nauseous so I took my seasick pills at bed time. An hour later I woke in excruciating pain – my left ear was blocked, ringing and full of pressure. I couldn’t put my head down. I tried everything to clear the blockage. Nothing worked. I was up until 3 or 4 pm. After taking some ibuprofen I must have passed out. The guys sorted out my night shift. When I woke the pressure was gone but the blockage remained.
Down for the count 🙁
Atlantic crossing day 10 – 1st December 2015
No entry – in bed all day.
Still down for the count!
Atlantic crossing day 11 – 2nd December 2015
I’ve been in bed most of the day. I got up for our half way party. Each crewmember purchased something special, before we left the Canaries, to share when we made it to the halfway point of the trip. We had fruitcake, jamon (cured Spanish ham), Canary Island cookies, tuna sashimi (a bonus), special pate, homemade chutney (from our lovely friend Karen), Aloe Drink and pirate party favors. There we lots of laughs and despite my ear issue I managed to have a great time.
Feeling pathetic but getting better…
Atlantic crossing day 12 and 13 – 3rd and 4th December 2015
I haven’t been able to lift my head. Blockage remains. Simon found eardrops for an ear infection in our first aid bag. I’ve been putting them in and living off ibuprofen.
I’ve dropped out of doing everything – night shifts, cooking, cleaning
The only time I get up is when I go to the bathroom. The team just got the geneker fixed and up again! RESULT.
They spent the morning unfurling it and furling it. We’re doing over 8 knots which is great to see. I think everyone wants to get to land sooner rather than later. Yesterday I spent the whole day in bed. My left ear is blocked and the pain comes and goes – I think the drum is under pressure. The headache I have is terrible. I’m taking painkillers as often as I can. I took 1/2 a Stugeron (sea sickness pill) yesterday and have yet to take more. I fear the pills might be causing the problem. It’s as if my body thinks I have a head cold and keeps producing solid mucus. I don’t think I actually have a cold at all.
My body just doesn’t like medicine
I’ve moved up into the cockpit. I’m lying along the seat by the wheel with the beanbag propping my upper body and head up. There’s loads of seaweed in the sea.
I just gave my number for distance in 24 hours – I gave 178
I’m second from last in this running pole so there’s no hope for me to win. I think Kenny is in the lead and Andrew is last. Simon is cooking bacon sandwiches. I just heard him yell ‘I’m catching up to you Kenny,’ so he must have got closest on the distance. I was only off by one mile!
Kenny is teaching Sienna a new game on his iPod. Eve is watching a movie. Andrew and Murray are sitting around the saloon table calculating scores for the distances.
So – what have I missed being sick?
Tuna steaks, conversation, movies… I’m so frustrated about my ear! I can’t hold my head up – it has to be resting on something. My hearing is gone. I can’t take my seasickness pills. I don’t know if I feel rough because my ear or lack of seasickness pills. At least my tongue is no longer swollen! Last night I cried to Simon. Crossing the Atlantic was my big test. If I could make it across the pond without wanting to die (becoming seasick) we could then push through to the Pacific.
These past couple days I’ve wanted to die
The Phaia Bombers were my ticket to sane sailing. Unfortunately I didn’t consider that I’d have a bad reaction to them after prolonged use. I must take this as the final sign. I cannot put myself through this agony again. Here I am 1000 miles from land and I can’t hear, lift my head up or contribute.
Furthermore I feel very unwell. To make matters worse it’s getting hotter by the day and I’m sweating. I can’t stand long enough to shower and the sea teases me with its dark blue coolness. Maybe I can lie on the back deck and Simon can run the hose over me.
Boy do I feel pathetic
After talking to Kenny a bit it seems like everyone has a bit of the blues. Kenny said that yesterday was a good day to sleep through – the sky was overcast, there were squalls and everyone was a bit down after the climax of the half way party.
Now that I look at things it is a bit depressing – once the half way party is enjoyed there’s not much until our arrival in 7 to 10 days. We’ve broken all there is to break, we’ve all caught a fish, we’ve all done our jobs. I hate to admit it but the newness of the voyage has worn off and the excitement has dampened.
Considering my condition if I had the choice to moor up in St Lucia tonight, I would. I am, however, feeling better. Just being on deck watching all the flying fish pop up and down has a therapeutic effect.
There’s still loads of seaweed too. At first I thought it was blown out this far by a storm but Kenny thinks it might just grow on the surface.
Sienna and I just made a button Xmas tree (above picture) and now Eve is decorating ornaments with paint with her.
It feels weird preparing for Xmas while crossing the Atlantic
It feels weird that is hot out. Ironically, this will be Sienna’s 2nd Christmas in St Lucia. We celebrated the holiday with my brother’s family and our mom and step dad 4 years ago. Back then I had no idea I would become a live aboard sailor let alone cross the Atlantic Ocean.
Still reading this very, very, very long article? You could be reading this article in book form (paperback or Kindle) and gain access to many of the other articles within the website. This article about the Atlantic crossing is in my book ‘Changing Lifestyles – Trading in the Rat Race for a sail around the world!‘ The book is almost 400 pages long and details our life on land before we sold up and sailed away, our transition from living on land to living at sea, our voyage around the Mediterranean, Atlantic Crossing and our sail up the Caribbean. It’s a great book for anyone that has ever dreamed of sailing around the world.
I hate you sea…no, no, no…I love you sea!
Atlantic crossing day 14 – 5th December 2015
Woke up and want to die again. I just took an ibuprofen and that’s given me enough strength to type this. My head feels like it’s going to burst – liquid mucus is sloshing back and forth at every swell. My left ear is once again fully clogged. And I’m constantly fighting bouts of feeling nauseous. I’m tempted to put a Scopamine patch behind my ear (seasickness option) knowing from past experience that it will burn my skin and cause my eyesight to temporarily decline.
I’ve been trying to treat my ear infection ignoring my need to avoid full-blown seasickness. What a mess
I managed to get up in the cockpit. After eating a bit of food I had Simon put a patch on me. Instead of putting it behind my ear I put it in my back. Perhaps it won’t burn my skin there. So far I feel like I’m on another planet. I can’t stand for long. Can’t keep my head up. Okay. Enough.
The sun is hot. Flying fish are everywhere I look. The sea is full of a yellow green seaweed. Lately I’ve been thinking that nothing seems to matter anymore. Not in a bad way. I use to be so caught up in my old life about who I was, what I did, what my purpose was and on and on. I was so full of thoughts, opinions, goals and plans.
Right now I feel like a simpleton
I don’t have any strong thoughts, my opinions are more like slight preferences that can easily be changed and I have not one goal (other than get across this Ocean but that’s more of a matter of time than something I have to work to achieve). I have no plans for the future. Nothing. I have no idea where I’ll be this time next month.
Is this a good thing?! I don’t know. It feels normal now but I’m not sure if I’m a better or worse person for it. I suppose it is what it is and ultimately it doesn’t matter. I’m in the middle of the ocean and nothing matters. No drive, no future (other than sailing), no purpose. The only thing I feel strong about is helping my little girl to learn to read, write, do Math and understand how to make the best out of life…or at least impart anything I feel that’s transferable.
Damn you sea!
I just looked aft at the slate blue sun soaked rolling Atlantic and overheard myself think, ‘I love you… I love this.’
What is wrong with me? How can a person ensure such miserable seasickness and yet look at the disruptive source with loving eyes? Am I like a battered woman that goes back for more or a prisoner that falls for her capture? It couldn’t be the same, could it?
Perhaps in a past life (not that I’m necessarily a believer) I was a sailor and in this life I’m drawn to the sea despite my allergy to swells. It’s just that I look out to the sea and I become lost or perhaps mesmerized is a better word. I watch the White crests powerfully break into being and then quickly disappear. I look through the turquoise transparent swell tops that reach to heights above the back of the boat. And all those peaks and troughs effortlessly dancing to natures tune. I’ll have to ask someone if wave movements/patterns are fractals. I bet they are hence the attraction.
(Later) It’s 5pm so I’ve managed another day
Aside from one nap I’ve sat in the cockpit all day. The boys did my trash duties for me. I’ve been in good spirits as long as I keep my head down. For 20 minutes I managed to sit at the front of the bow with Simon and Sienna. We hung our feet over the side and let them hit the water.
The temperature felt so warm – just like bath water!
I got a kick out of Sienna. She said, ‘we only have 4 days left?! Why did everyone tell me it was going to take ages to cross the Atlantic?’ I explained that we’ve been on the sea for two weeks – did she think it went fast? Sienna’s response was, ‘yes!’
So there you have it – people were worried about us bringing a five year old across the pond and from the looks of it she’s faring much better than her mother 🙂 so there are no worries about Sienna.
Murray is below cooking two pork fillets wrapped in dried apricots over a bed of roast potatoes. Sienna is holding court by explaining how to play a game. Simon is sleeping. Simon has been such a trooper. With me unwell he has to look after me and Sienna and still be the captain of the ship. I do hope we fare well for the race results – for Simon’s sake.
This is a once in a lifetime event and it would be nice to finish with a top score
Boat owners are allowed to use their engines as long as the time/mileage is noted. So just because other boats cross the line before us doesn’t necessarily mean they were faster. Many used their engines during our couple days of light wind. We’ve used our engine for a total of four hours. The boats in the racing division, however, are not allowed to use engines at all.
The smell of potatoes wafting up the companionway is divine
I’m very excited about dinner tonight. Sienna is now arm wrestling Andrew. Kenny came up to read next to me. Eve is watching a movie. We’re all one big happy family. Today I chatted with Eve a bit. I think she’s got a lot to think about. I admire her courage to get on a boat headed for the Caribbean not knowing if and when she’ll find work. At least she has us to help her out and provide a ‘home’ for her to stay in.
We broke the 200 miles in 24 hours!
Atlantic crossing day 15 – 6th December 2015
Only four more days to go! Woo woo. I woke with an unblocked ear. Unfortunately as soon as I lifted my body up it blocked again. That aside I felt like I could move about without getting sick. The Scopamine patch must be having a positive effect.
At 5:30 am Sienna was in the cockpit watching a movie with Simon. Simon was on watch. Normally Sienna is not up that early – every few days we’ve had to put our clocks back. St Lucia is 5 hours behind the time it is in Gran Canaria (Note: later we discovered it was only 4 hours behind).
It’s been funny trying to determine when to change our clocks
We’ve based our decision on when it gets dark and boy does it get dark quickly. The sun sets and before you know it the sky is pitch black. Apparently dusk doesn’t last long when you’re close to the equator.
That aside let me tell you about our disaster of the day
We attempted to get the gennaker up despite the fact that the last furling went unwell.
As we made a human chain to guide the sail up the lower furling unit (attached to the sail) came loose, went flying out of our hands and the wind took it out to sea. Imagine a sail attached to the top of the mast but nothing holding it to the boat.
What’s worse is that at the bottom lose end there was a big metal furling unit – essentially a large heavy metal box.
The unattached slightly furled sail became a wrecking ball as it flew back and forth around and in front of the bow.
I yelled out for everyone to protect himself or herself
After a few flights Kenny grabbed the rope trailing from the sail only to have it pull right back out of his hands. Like an angry monster the sail was twisting and fling its heaviest point all over. Eventually a dangling rope was retrieved and tied to the boat.
Within seconds the sail dropped into the sea and went under the boat.
Then came a ‘bing, rip, rip, rip, rip, woosh’
The sail ripped apart and was lodged under the forward part of the boat. We secured as much sail as we could, furled in the genoa and turned the boat to relieve the pressure of the sail under the boat.
Within a few minutes we retrieved everything. What a nightmare. Thankfully no one got hurt and the furling unit didn’t bang into (and hole) the boat. Or worse, take someone’s head off.
Murray escaped with the worst of the bruises
So there goes our geneker. I don’t want to know what the replacement cost of that one is…In fact, I don’t want to think about the geneker or what could have happened right now. Aside from that entertainment we were hit by one squall – lots of rain but no heavy winds.
Simon stood watch while we all controlled the music in the cockpit for him
To make him really suffer Kenny and Murray piped country music up for him. Simon, a non-lover of country, was not impressed.
For lunch Andrew used the last of the tuna in a tomato, garlic and peppers sauce. Lunch was followed by canned fruit and it tasted great. All but our potatoes and onions are gone regarding our fresh fruit/veg.
Everyone said I did a good job on the provisioning. We still have loads of food.
Right now we’re flying along at 9 knots with the genoa and staysail out
Eve is napping on the adjacent cockpit bench and most of the others are taking a nap. Perhaps I will start doing my night watches again tonight?!
It’s my turn for dinner so I pulled out cabbage and sausage stew. I’m actually getting tired of eating. I never thought I’d say that but I am. It might be from the heat – it’s getting hotter. We’re on the 50 degrees line west and 15 degrees north line so we’re almost due east of St Lucia.
I’m feeling much better now so life doesn’t seem so bleak
I’m okay with still being at sea. I am a bit tired of the ceaseless rocking motion during sleep time and I’m annoyed that I can’t play with Sienna more. Otherwise I’m okay. There are enough people around for entertainment and frankly I actually do love to simply sit in the cockpit and watch the sea dance. I really love the feeling of being high on the crest of a swell looking back down the navy blue and white frothed slope and then gently easing into the valley. And then repeating over and over… Every so often we catch the swell at an angle and the boat slides over to its side quit harshly. I feel these swells are here to keep us awake!
Design your own hat contest
Atlantic crossing day 16 – 7th December 2015
Sienna woke at 5:30 local time 9:30 Las Palmas time. She’s been getting long sleeps – we all go to bed once the sun sets and dinner is done – sometimes as early as 7pm. That is, all of us that are not on watch. Last night was quite wet – Simon said his watch was full of rain.
While lying in bed I thought up an idea to have a ‘design your hat’ contest. I pulled out colored paper, glue, scissors, string, stickers and other odds and sods. I placed everything on the table and said the judging will be at 5pm before dinner.
Everyone spent quite a bit of time doing the hats. Andrew, however, took all day
At 5 we all met up in the cockpit. The hats were all fantastic (see pictures). Kenny won the competition with his fisherman fishing entry with Murray coming in second place with his hat housing a replica of Britican made from a plastic bottle, tissue paper, string and pipe cleaners.
Everyone enjoyed the task and there were lots of laughs
Kenny won a much sought after Twix candy bar and was as happy as could be. Just before the hat competition we came across another boat. It was the first boat in 18 days that we got close enough to see the crew, wave and take pictures.
Before our meeting on the sea Simon called the boat on VHF to say Hi. The crew were Italian so we all shouted Bonjourno, come sti, etc. The Italian boat left Lanzorate (a Canary Island) on the 18th (4 days before we left),
They were only flying a genoa and had no poles so progress for them was slow. I think they mentioned an average of 100 miles per day. While passing we all shouted our hello’s.
I just had a fright!
I’m on night watch alone (I’m letting Kenny sleep) and after getting up to survey the horizon for boats (there’s one coming up on our port side) I turned around to see a large line of orange on where the sea meets the sky.
When such a splash of color makes an appearance in an otherwise black backdrop one takes notice.
In fact, any time something out of the ordinary happens a sea I seem to get a little surge of adrenalin. In this particular case it’s the moon coming up – it’s 3:31am local time.
I do love being alone on a night watch
The stars, constellations, planets, satellites and comets truly come alive. The amazing thing I’ve noted that’s different in the Atlantic is that stars appear just above the horizon.
In the Med you’d have to look up quite a distance above the horizon to start seeing stars. I wish I could take a picture of the moon for you right now. Venus is just above it and it looks as if the crescent shape of the moon is chasing the planet so it can eat it. The planet is big, bold and solid. The moon is soft, small and yellow-orange.
The air is humid – I’m in shorts and a t-shirt and am very comfortable
The breeze is perfect. We’re sailing at 6 knots with our genoa and staysail poled out. The sea is so calm. There’s still a swell and a substantial rolling back and forth motion but overall it’s such an easy sail.
Have missed anything from the days occurrences?
Well… Eve made pancakes and bacon for lunch, Simon heated up a curry he made before we left (and froze), Sienna and I did a Xmas painting decoration, Sim did Sienna’s home schooling (letter ‘g’ and Ocean occupations), sails were swapped around due to the changing direction of the wind, discussions were held about whose winning and losing at the ‘guess our mileage in 24 hours game,’ and I finished the book ‘Dove.’
I just got up to check the position of the boat on our port side
At first I couldn’t find them so I stood up higher and found relief in a faint white light. The boat is not on AIS (shows up on out navigation screen) so I like to keep an eye on it. It’s much more comforting when there’s other boats to look at. Otherwise it’s just darkness for 360 along the horizon.
We had one cargo ship pass us today so it’s been a busy day for spotting’s. Also the guys saw a whale – they think it was a pilot whale. Murray and Simon saw a dorsal fin and a blowhole blow. I was so disappointed when I came on deck to find nothing but waves 🙁
After our curry we all sat up in the cockpit for a chat
In the darkness we enjoyed taking about the trip and how well everything has gone. Even though I had various issues, and did want to die a few times, overall this trip has been an exceptional experience.
I couldn’t have asked for a better mix of crew – everyone has been kind, helpful and fun. Our daughter Sienna has been amazing. In two weeks she’s only had one breakdown and that was due to her being over tired. Aside from constantly wanting to eat or have a sweetie, she’s been busy with homeschooling, crafts, games, movies, playing and helping with some chores. Over the weeks I’ve watched her gain more confidence with everyone around her – she contributed to discussions and is treated like a little adult.
(It’s 4am and I should wake Kenny but he’s been very tired lately. I want to let him get more sleep). Before my battery dies is there anything else to comment on? Nope. Going to play on the iPad for a while…
Our Spinnaker makes and appearance!
Atlantic crossing day 17 – 8th December 2015
We got our Spinnaker up today!
It was, however, all over the place so we only flew it for 5 minutes. Conditions need to be perfect to fly that kite! (See video). We had to run the engine to keep the boat steady while hoisting the sail.
After an engine check we discovered that the engine coolant has gone from a green color to a rust color. Furthermore it’s leaking. Ho hum 🙁
For lunch we broke open our Canary Island cheese and smoked ham
It was lovely. There’s a weird feeling in the boat today. I think there is a desire to get to land but also a sadness that the adventure is coming to an end. We’re all such a strong team now – a family unit. It’s sad to think that we’ll be parting ways soon not knowing if or when we’ll see each other again. And interestingly none of us know what’s in store for our future… We’re all going back into the unknown.
None of us have jobs or set plans on what’s coming next
Dinner was yummy – curry is such a comfort food. After we ate, I put the movie Pitch Perfect on – Eve and I really enjoyed it but Sienna talked through most of it. She kept saying, ‘I don’t get it.’ I agree that the movie was a bit too old for her but we’ve all had enough Disney and Pixar movies! When the movie ended Sienna and I brushed our teeth, put pj’s on and read a book. She picked a chapter on volcanoes and another on earthquakes.
I’m often suggesting that we read Madeline, Green Eggs and Ham, or Guess How Much I Love You (and 50 others story books) but more times than not Sienna wants me to read one of her educational or encyclopedia style books. After the book I put on our Binaural Beats on my iPhone and set the program for ‘dreamy sleep’ with a forest background. Binaural Beats are supposed to be used with headphones and they help to get your brain into a sleepy mode. It seems to help Sienna settle down so I’m happy to play them.
Ironically, the other night she set the background music to ‘waves.’
WE’RE ALMOST TO ST LUCIA!
Atlantic crossing day 18 – 9th December 2015
If the wind keeps steady or increases we’ll be in St Lucia tomorrow! Wow.
This morning I woke around 4am and laid in bed thinking of writing this blog and making a video. I’m excited to capture the journey so that we all can share it with friends and family.
Around 5am I joined Simon in the cockpit
He was watching Bad Boys 2 so I made him a coffee and joined him to watch the sun come up. For some reason I can’t drink coffee while sailing. I just don’t desire it. Nor do I desire wine or any alcohol. When I’m on land, however, consumption of both coffee and wine are a daily ritual. Interestingly, I can drink tea so I’ve enjoyed a couple hot teas.
Sienna is up now too – the three of us are all in the cockpit playing on our individual devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook). Aside from Minecraft all of Sienna’s apps are educational. And even Minecraft is a great learning platform – social too! At Las Palmas all the kids got together and hooked up their devices so to play Minecraft together. Some parents limit the time children use the iPad. I’m very fortunate with Sienna as she’ll play with it usually as a last resort.
Her first option is to play with others
As I sit here on what might be my last full day, I feel relaxed, grateful and full of peace. The sense of nothingness that has been pervading my spirits most of this trip is _______. I cannot find a word for it. It’s not a ‘bad’ or ‘good’ feeling. It’s beyond bad and good. Perhaps peacefulness gets close to how I feel. I feel nothing yet at the same time I feel everything.
Maybe it comes down to the lack of thoughts I’m entertaining?
Never in my life have I been able to simply be rather than do. Never have I felt what it’s like to be devoid of past and future thoughts. I read ‘the Power of Now,’ by Eckhart Tolle several years ago and was inspired by the concept of living in the present more often than not. But until I started sailing I just didn’t get it. Now I do.
The way I feel is fleeting moments of bliss that come over me again and again. I think that what happens is I have a thought, momentarily get caught up in it and then I am able to drop the thought and just be for a few seconds – that’s when the blissful nothingness comes in. I stare at the waves, move my body to the undulation of the ocean, listen to the water hit the hull and feel a tingling bliss.
Even when I’m seasick I can still find peace at sea. Amazing, isn’t it?
Onto other things… For lunch we had my butternut squash coconut soup (made and froze before we left) and Murray made some lovely focaccia bread. We’re all obsessing about when we’ll arrive, what we’ll do and the food we want to get.
There’s a bet on regarding the time we’ll arrive – I guessed 5pm local time but now think it will be earlier. I’m definitely getting more and more excited about walking on land. The past few days I didn’t let my mind wonder as far as arrival. I didn’t want to get excited and then have to wait. When I consider that I’ll be able to get off the boat, walk, have a coffee/wine, and move without caution or trouble I get butterflies.
Many people think sailing is about freedom and in many respects they’re right
After a long voyage, however, freedom can often be the act of getting off the boat!
After lunch everyone dispersed. Simon is on the cockpit seat across from me sleeping. Andrew went for a shower. Eve and Sienna are watching ‘Into the Woods.’ Kenny is watching a movie about a submarine. And Murray is cleaning up. The sun is hot. The sea is calm with big swells hitting us once in a while.
How about saving this last part for when you get my paperback or download my digital book? Proceeds from the book enable me to keep writing and reporting about our experiences – good and bad. By purchasing ‘Changing Lifestyles – Trading in the Rat Race for a sail around the world‘ you’ll be helping us massively. The book is almost 400 pages long and details our life on land before we sold up and sailed away, our transition from living on land to living at sea, our voyage around the Mediterranean, Atlantic Crossing and our sail up the Caribbean. It’s a great book for anyone that has ever dreamed of sailing around the world. Get your copy today 🙂
Today is the big day! We’re going to see land
Atlantic crossing day 19 – 10th December 2015
Around 6am in the morning I overhead Simon and Murray shout, ‘Land Ahoy!’
All of us jumped up into the cockpit and took our first gaze upon a hazy green mass of land off our portside bow. We all yelled, ‘woo-hoo’ and felt the excitement in the air.
After enjoying a cup of tea I decided to start cleaning in preparation for our arrival. I was so excited I needed something to distract me from watching the ETA (estimated time of arrival). I couldn’t believe that we had only hours to go.
Our daughter Sienna became overexcited and started driving us all nuts
It was a case of too much energy and no way to allow it to flow. Fortunately, Eve offered to watch a movie with Sienna and that allowed both girls to bide time until arrival.
I cleaned our bathroom, started to work on the mess between our bed and the sofa – over the course of our journey the area filled in like a skip/dumpster. Anyone viewing our room for the first time wouldn’t realize that there was a walkway along the side of the bed nor would they see a sofa!
Once our room was tidy I started on the kitchen. With so many people cooking and cleaning all the pots, pans and kitchen accessories where in the wrong place. We had one cupboard that when opened it wasn’t a question of whether something would fall out or not – it was more of a question as to how much would fall!
While sailing along St Lucia heading for our Rodney Bay Marina destination, we heard boats in front of us call the ARC finish line on the VHF. Our excitement grew and grew as we knew our VHF call was imminent. We rounded the top of St Lucia, called the finish line and prepared our sails for a change. We had to bring the staysail down, remove the pole, bring the genoa in, remove the pole and then put the genoa back out and raise the main.
Our sail change went without a hitch
I couldn’t help but think, ‘it’s official, we finally know what we’re doing to a competent level and we’re quick.’ I also thought that it was a shame the trip was ending.
It felt as if we finally had the sail set-up down to a science
With the finish line in sight, we did the sail change while posing for the photographer. Most of the crew had beers in their hand and stood on the foredeck as we crossed the line. I could finally say, ‘WE MADE IT ACROSS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN!’
For the past several years I’ve found it difficult to get excited about anything. I was excited about getting the boat and all our adventures but I didn’t have any particular moment that brought absolute excitement…until we crossed that finish line. With my stomach full of butterflies and tingles we prepared the boat and made ready to enter the marina.
The rum punch, fruit basket and many of the friends we met in Las Palmas were in sight!
Simon backed the boat in perfectly while friends clapped on our arrival – we had lines going astern to the jetty and along the port side. No more slime lines now that we’re in the Caribbean. (Slime lines are ropes anchored in front of the bow that act as an anchor that you wrap around the forward cleats. They’re usually very dirty, smelly and full of barnacles that cut your hands!)
We immediately received our rum punch (Sienna got a juice) and fruit basket. And many of our friends came up to greet us and ask us how things went. The buzz was incredible. We all swapped stories – did you break anything? How did your seasickness go? Did your child/children do okay? How many fish did you catch? Did you use your engine? And on and on it went.
By the time we were tied up the marina was so flat I didn’t feel any need to go running off to touch land
After an hour of socializing we started to clean and get rid of the rubbish/trash. As the day progressed more boats came in and everyone cheered. Around 2am we all stopped what we were doing and went out for lunch. I had a chicken roti and it was the best darn chicken roti I’ve ever had. I also had a nice cold Sprite – I can’t tell you how amazing it tasted! First of all, it was cold. Second of all it was something other than milk, water or apple juice!
So…how do I rate my Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) Atlantic Ocean crossing?
Although I was down for several days, I have to give it a 10 out of 10. The easiest way to equate my experience regarding my sickness is to say that like child labor, once it’s over you seem to forget how bad it was.
The ARC people have been amazing. The crew was exceptional. The journey was monumental and looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I keep saying this often – this journey will definitely go in my top 10 of life experiences. I’m so proud of my family, crew and me for making it happen.
Now it’s time to recover, enjoy some rum and figure out what’s next…