Anne's Blog, "not doing the ARC"
Having made the decision not to do the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) I looked for accommodation on the island. Not easy, but eventually found an apartment in Playa del Ingles for two weeks. And then will have to go via Gatwick for St. Lucia.
Have enjoyed the old town in Las Palmas seeing the statues of the dogs after which the Canary Islands are named (Latin: canis = dog). Also good shopping.
The ARC's social programme continued apace as departure loomed closer. An endless round of official cocktail parties, canapes and unofficial parties between newly formed friends. Most boats are 'dry' during the crossing, which is just as well. The last three days prior to departure were mad. I spent three days pre-cooking and provisioning the boat. The girl who does the lectures on provisioning for the ARC is interested in my vacuum packing method so have photographed the whole process for her. A little concerned at the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables that were delivered, as they may not be enough. On the journey Jan Erik will be in charge of fishing (Fresh Produce Procurement Manager) and Martin the Master Baker. Gordon also worked out a duties rota and we devised an 'activities' timetable.
People who cook as they go were having huge boxes of produce delivered to their boats. Ours were small in comparison since cooking for the main meals was pre-done. The local system for provisioning was very efficient since the major supermarkets all delivered directly to the boats within a few hours of purchase. It seemed impossible that some of the boats could absorb the amount that was being delivered but on the opposite side one 6-berth yacht with 14 crew on board seemed a little light on the provisions. Hope they have a short crossing or they may be hungry. Also, some boats are taking huge amounts of bottled water on board. We've tested out water capacity on many trips now and even allowing for raised temperatures reckon the main tanks, reserve tank plus on-deck containers will be more than adequate.
Possibly because I'm not going I feel extra anxious about the crews comfort on the crossing (guilt).
Spent the night before departure having dinner with Liz & Gordon plus friends and crew of 'Sunbird', a 60 ft Bordeaux, great fun!
The day of departure dawned and the buzz in the marina was amazing. Made sure all crew had good breakfast, cleared up, topped up water again, all rigging checked and then I realised it was time for me to come off the boat. It hit me quite hard since I've been such a part of the run-up, and now could do no more.
At 1045 I untied 'Equinox' and off they went. I stood on the pontoon until they disappeared round to the outer harbour (they did not look back once!) Then I quickly went round to the harbour wall to watch all the yachts head out to sea.
The send off was fabulous with bands playing, fireworks and thousands of spectators lining the harbour walls. The boats quickly became tiny dots on the horizon.
I will leave Gordon to relate the ARC crossing, of course.
I then made my way around the marina to collect my luggage and the difference in atmosphere was incredible! Empty pontoons, silence and gone were the fluttering flags of overall dressing, which had made such a spectacle from the previous two weeks.
Caught taxi to Playa del Ingles and after much searching found Apartamentos Carmen, within a complex providing a pool and a little café. Although I had spent a week in the area in the past I had no idea where I was in relation to the beach or anything familiar. So once unpacked I set off to explore and came upon the beautiful sand dunes and touristy beach restaurants within ten minutes walk of the apartment - so a great location! There was also an internet facility in the hotel and a supermarket within two minutes walk so I had everything necessary to live and keep in touch with 'Equinox' for the next two weeks before flying out to St Lucia.
These proved to be a strange two weeks since most tourists were German or gay, or both. However my new 'best friends' are two very talented drag queens who performed nightly in a local bar. I even got invited to their home for Sunday roast.They were English, of course. They proved to be excellent pals, looking after me and just being great company. Otherwise it's a soulless kind of a place with endless huge shopping malls all selling the same tasteless tat with aggressive touts trying to tempt you in. The food is generally to German taste so I was glad to be self-catering since I don't really do sauerkraut & sausage.
I emailed 'Equinox' daily and learned of their adventures as they happened although as you will hear, they could have done with a few more adventures, at times seeming to be static due to lack of wind.
My life toddled along pretty much in this mode for the time there, and I managed a bit of Christmas shopping before catching my flight to Gatwick in the 8th December.
Oh my golly gosh was Gatwick cold!! I had forgotten that feeling but after a good night's kip caught my flight to St Lucia the next morning. Strange being briefly so close to home and yet so far.
I arrived at St Lucia at 1530. Immigration was easy - just say 'ARC' and your through. I then picked up my transfer taxi.
The Journey was fascinating as we passed through dense rainforest which covers the whole of the islands interior. There is also evidence of great poverty shown by the shanty towns that lay dotted about, however once you reach the north side of the island and the Caribbean sea appears things change very quickly. The whole beach area being lined with hotels from luxury to modest.
At the hotel I spotted a bunch of women I recognised from Las Palmas so introduced myself and suggested we all meet up in the morning to head for the marina in Rodney Bay to find the ARC office. They all agreed and duly the next morning we 'WAGs' (Wives And Girlfriends) as I decided to call us, set off walking the road between hotel and marina, some 35 minutes walk in 35°C. Phew!
When we found the office, there were only ten arrivals listed on the board, and I was told that at current speed 'Equinox' may not get in before the 20th December! Of course this ETA changed daily according to wind or lack of it, but I realised I may have to find other accommodation since my hotel is only booked from the 9th - 15th December.
As we were sitting in 'Scuttlebutts', a bar/restaurant next to the ARC office, having just delivered the first WAG to her boyfriend (off 'Incisor'). I realised that 'Sunbird' was just entering the marina (Gordon Tourlamain and Liz Kelly) so went running down to the pontoon. We welcomed them in in the traditional manner, ie rum punch, fruit basket, Caribbean steel drums and lots of cheering and hooters - a great reunion.
Since 'Equinox' was not here yet I felt duty bound to attend the various functions on offer on their behalf, beginning with the finishing / welcome party. This was held on the beach at the Royal hotel and consisted of a great steel band, amazing dances and acrobats, fire eaters and gallons of rum punch (unfortunately not suitable for diabetics). We danced ourselves silly until 11pm and it was great to catch up with all the friends who had made it in from Las Palmas by this point. A shame though that so few boats were actually in Rodney Bay to enjoy it all.
My days awaiting 'Equinox' became a busy round of meeting with the other WAGs, emailing the boat, hanging around the ARC office to the point where I was a fixture, and welcoming any boat I was around for and of course the odd party or three! I also met up with Anna (Martin Edge's fiancé).
Oh incidentally I met the Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Mr King, while on my way to the internet café. They were holding the opening ceremony for the superyacht part of the marina and I was called over to shake his hand, very nice guy.
I eventually had to make the decision on the 14th December to find accommodation until at least the 19th since it was now looking likely that 'Equinox' would be coming in on the 18th or the 19th December. So ably assisted by the St. Lucian girls in the office I acquired a room at the Royal St. Lucian at a discounted price thinking it would be lovely if Gordon got in on time to enjoy at least one night of luxury after the crossing (I had been in a party in the presidential suite there which was beautiful - thanks Malcolm and Irene for that!).
I transferred to the Royal on the 16th and suddenly the news came through that 'Equinox' had made a huge advance in the previous 24 hours and may now arrive on the 17th! I could hardly sleep a wink in spite of my new found luxury and was up and ready at 6am to head up to the marina. I got a phone call from Gordon at 7am to say that they were not expected in until 0930 so I called Anna to tell her we could hold off for an hour but she was already sitting in the marina, so I went to join her. Thanks to 'Sunbird' Anna and I had a home to wait aboard while listening in on channel 77 for 'Equinox's' 5 mile call. The waiting seemed endless and everyone did their best to keep me calm with little success. Many of my good friends had come along in support to see them in so we had a large welcoming committee on the pontoon. Gordon rang on the mobile again to say that they were about one hour away and the 5 mile call came straight afterwards at 0845. By now I was beside myself and Anna was pretty excited too.
At last the immortal words from the finishing line boat "congratulation 'Equinox', you have just crossed the finishing line and have completed your Atlantic crossing". However Martin immediately came on the radio saying "I think not, we are still some way off". The volunteer on the finishing boat had misidentified the boat crossing the line! So once again we waited in silence and five minutes later - "Congratulations 'Equinox', you have now definitely crossed the finishing line!" So 'Equinox' is the only boat to have finished twice!
At last 30 minutes later she entered Rodney Bay Marina to a tumultuous welcome. The time was 09:41:04. So total journey time was 24 days, 0 hours, 41 minutes and 4 seconds. The crew looked a bonny sight in their matching "Equinox Round the World" t-shirts and had apparently had enough fresh water left to have a shower prior to crossing the line - Thank goodness!
Once we got them tied up and force fed them the welcome rum punch Anna produced the beer on ice which had been their only request on arriving. We had huge hugs all round.
I'm pretty proud of Gordon and will now pass over to him for the first hand account of his Atlantic crossing.
Gordon's Blog "doing the ARC"
Five days before the start we had listed all existing provisions, emptied all cupboards and boxes ready for the big shop tomorrow. I have also contacted some boats that are going through the Panama canal to pool resources and contacts.
Four days before start we did a big shop at a local supermarket who were well organised and delivered the goods to the boat that afternoon. That night we went to fancy dress "Caribbean night" party / disco, but left early.
Three days before start, Anne started cooking for vacuum packing of 21 meals for 3, at least we will have one good meal a day. Jan Eirik, whom I sailed to Spittzbergen with, arrived at 1600.
Two days before start Anne completed the pre-cooked meals and Jan Eirik and I went to the Fruit Market to order fresh fruit and vegetable for delivery tomorrow.
One day before start, bought fresh bread and milk. Fresh fruit and vegetable arrived early in the afternoon, but now looking at it, it doesn't look enough. No time to get more now! Went to skippers meeting and we were briefed on start procedure, finish procedure, daily reporting procedure and weather. It looks like light winds with maybe more reliable easterly trade winds further south. I had set 'Equinox' up with twin headsails ready for 15-25 knot easterlies with ability to reef very quickly for 30 - 40 knot squalls. This weather forecast of light winds would not suit us. Martin arrived and final preparations were made on the boat.
Start day, topped up the tanks with water which hold 500 litres in three tanks plus deck containers. Anne packed her bag and Martin took it up to the "club" for Anne to pick up later with a taxi. Left pontoon at 1045 waving to Anne on the pontoon, lots of people waving on the harbour walls and local boats accompanying us. We sailed out to sea for a few miles getting the boat together and waiting for all competitors to exit the marina. We judged our start well and started in mid fleet amongst all the boats who were jostling for position. Everyone was well mannered but some local boats were getting in the way. The sight was spectacular but I could not lose concentration once. Most boats were heading well offshore towards Morocco to get the forecast higher winds, while we headed 236° for Cape Verde islands. The boats gradually spread out and by night we could only see about 45 lights on the horizon, mostly to the south, east and north of us. Our twin headsails were working well so that we could sail directly down-wind while other boats were zig zagging back and forth all the time. Our Hydrovane wind steering system also meant that we had nothing to do, the boat was steering itself.
By day one we had covered 134 miles and in 122nd place (out of 212) but then the wind dropped and on day 2 we were only doing about 2-3 knots. We decided to move the baby stays on the mast further forward and anchor them at the bow to get a better pole position, hence better sail shape. This worked very well.
Jan Eirik was put in charge of fishing and had bought some pretty impressive heavy duty line, large lures and hooks, which were 6 times bigger than I had! This was serious stuff so today, day 3, Jan Eirik started fishing. Day 4 and no fish yet and also no wind.
Last night was a moonless night and the phosphorescence was very bright. Dolphins visited us and the glow of the bright lights around the two dolphins was like a star burst rocket firework displays, but in the sea. Wherever they swam the fine pin p**** of bright lights followed them, quite spectacular. Later during the day about a dozen dolphins visited us, for about an hour, with a dazzling display of playfulness.
Due to lack of wind and slow progress our towed generator could not charge the batteries so had to start the engine, in neutral, to charge the batteries. Then the wind immediately picked up so turned off the engine.
On the fifth day we crossed the Tropic of Cancer. Made better progress, but moved back to 176th. The watch system we have adopted is 4 hours on and 8 hours off, with two 2-hour dogwatches in the afternoon. This gives a three-day cycle and we each take turns to cook, clean and undertake boat management. This is working very well and we were well into the swing of this routine now.
I have to report my position to ARC control at noon GMT every day by email. At the same time we also send and receive emails to and from friends, especially Anne, Anna, Elizabet (Jan Eirik's wife) and other boats. These emails helped keep moral up (however we were pretty horrified to hear about the Mumbai terror attacks). I use a satellite phone via my computer to get emails and can also receive weather reports. The latest weather reports show that there may be more wind further south. So we changed from twin headsails to main and genoa and headed further south for a few days. We are now getting more wind with daily runs increasing to 132, 136 and 134 miles per day.
On the 7th Day Jan Eirik caught our first fish. It was landed, at least 18 inches long, released from hook but then flapped so much it went over the side! It would have been a welcome dinner however we celebrated St Andrews day with whisky truffles and shortbread instead.
On the 9th day caught 3 smaller fish which Martin duly cooked in tin foil with herbs and spices and served with rice. We started catching fish more regularly now and on the 15th day caught a very large (about 1 metre long) Kingfish, which was in the pot within the hour and lasted us for 5 dinners cooked in various styles. Martin was also baking bread now producing various tasty rolls and loafs.
On the 7th day we saw our first flying fish, about a dozen, flying (or gliding) close to the water over long distances over 30 metres or more. From a distance they look like a flock of small birds. They are in fact from 6 - 9 inches long, look like sardines with upper fins shaped like wings. They go from wave crest to wave crest and waggle their tails in the wave crest to get more speed. They regard the boat as a threat and launch themselves out of the water to avoid the threat. We often found them on the deck in the morning and one morning we cooked one. It tasted very good - like sardines! During one night I was on the helm and was hit on the back by something. Thinking it was something that had fallen off the boat I turned my headtorch on and saw a flying fish flapping about in the seat! Another time during dusk I heard a "ting" and saw a flying fish bouncing off out BBQ and right over the boat into the water. If only it had been lit!
On the 11th day we saw five or six long finned pilot whales very close to the boat, so close that we raised the towed generator out of the water to prevent damage to whale, or generator. They only stayed for ten minutes then left. In mid-Atlantic we also saw five Egrets, which we identified as Cattle Egrets. They flew low over the boat and then off west.
One day after dinner Jan Eirik announced that he always appreciated a good rape after dinner. We were aghast, what does he mean. It turns out that in Norwegian rape is the word for burp. So the Vikings have really had a bad press, they didn't accost our women at all they just burped around the world!!
We reached the halfway point on the 13th day but due to poor winds we were down to 180th place however we celebrated the halfway point with a can of beer. Although this sounds rather meagre every small luxury is important for morale.
We were now starting to get squalls which would last up to two hours. These squalls were easily seen by day so we could steer to avoid them, and at night we could spot them on the radar. The wind would suddenly rise in the squall within a few seconds so you had to be prepared. With our twin headsail arrangement one person could shorten the sail within seconds but with the main and genoa it took minutes so preparation was more important. However use of the spinnaker with squalls around was very risky since this sail cannot be reefed and is difficult to take down quickly and impossible to take down by one person. We learnt afterwards that a number of boats shredded their spinnakers and some boats also shredded genoas and main sails in sudden squalls. Some squalls were reaching 60 to 70 knots. One boat was knocked flat in a squall.
The 16th and 17th days were very depressing with very little to no wind and we covered only 46 and 38 miles per day with about 15 miles of that due to the ocean current. Also we have run out of potatoes. However it was sunny and hot so Jan Eirik and Martin jumped in the sea to cool down. Since we were charging the batteries with the towed generator the lack of speed meant that the batteries were very low. We turned off everything that we didn't need including chart plotter and GPS. The solar panels helped to keep up charge but eventually we had to start the engine (in neutral) to charge the batteries. My aim was to get across the Atlantic without using the engine for charging or motoring but with no wind this is difficult. On day 19 the towed generator shaft broke which meant we would have to use the engine to charge the battery now. I phoned the towed generator manufacturers and ordered a new shaft to be delivered to our house which Rachel and Chris could pick up and bring to St Lucia when they visited us at Christmas.
On day 18 with low winds and depressing progress we decided to motor so we turned on the engine for 1hr 48m and suddenly the wind picked up for the next four days, but coming from all directions. We made good progress. Then the winds dropped again so we started the engine for 6hrs 48m until the wind increased. That was the last time we ran the engine to motor. We decided for the first time to risk raising the spinnaker which we flew for 24hrs including overnight. The spinnaker is so unstable that the boat has to be hand steered all the time. Steering is like trying to balance a pencil on the end of your finger but we made good progress overtaking 'Blue Beyond', a Moody 54, during the night and 'Blue Tarn' during the day. Later with higher winds we were able to revert to twin headsails again which is as stable as a marble resting in a bowl by comparison.
We had changed our boat clock by minus one hour, three times, so that each crew had an extra hour watch. We changed the clock the final time just before arriving in St. Lucia.
On day 24 we were in sight on Martinique and St. Lucia and we contacted Anne and Anna with our ETA. We were getting good 12 - 15 knot north east winds so could come in on main and genoa in good style.
I estimated that we had only used about 180 - 200 litres of fresh water - that is about 2.5/2.8 litres per person per day (out of 500 litres carried). We washed dishes, washed ourselves and cooked potatoes in sea water (but only 30% sea water for rice and pasta). We drank at least 1.5 litres of water per day. So just before arriving at St. Lucia with enough fresh water left we all had a welcome fresh water shower!
We turned round Pigeon Island (north St. Lucia) and approached the finish at good speed, crossing the line at 09:41:04 on the 17th December - 24 days 0 hours 41 minutes and 4 seconds. We took down sails, tidied the boat and entered Rodney Bay marina to a tremendous reception of fog horns and waving crowds of friends - amongst them Anne and Martin's Anna. We tied up and had a rum punch and cold beers to the sound of a Caribbean steel drum band. That's it we have done it!
Later after the prizegiving we were to learn that on corrected time we came 9th in class out of 18 and 61st overall. Considering conditions we faced and being the third smallest boat I am quite satisfied with this result.Congratulations go to 'Sunbird' for winning their class. But the biggest surprise of the night was that the overall winner was the smallest boat 'Madonna', a Beneteau 31, crewed by a couple with two small children and a 7 month old baby on-board!
Spent Christmas day BBQing on the beach and swimming in the sea. Will fill you in on details in next blog.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our family and friends.