Day 1 – 27th November
We departed our pontoon at 10:30 along with around 150 other boats, so as you can imagine it was chaos in trying to keep your boat from being blown it another whilst making your way to the start line. I have never seen so many boats on one place vying for the pole position. We went out, past the press and photographers for a final salute before our epic crossing, we then raised the main and listened for the horn to mark the start of the cruising mono-hull division.
The weather was not to be kind after clearing the breakwater the wind piped up to 25-30 knots with a horrible rolling sea. We put two reefs in the main and brought in the genoa and tried to settle into a downwind sail but it was uncomfortable.
The weather did nothing but get worst. The rain started after leaving and the sea state only got worst. We decided to have some stew in a can instead of cooking something that took any effort. Tim was already feeling the starting effects of sea sickness so went for a snooze.
The rest of the night was miserable. We were only under main so Hydrovane was not coping with the boat trying to pivot to port and corrections needing to be made on the tiller to counteract the movement. I needed to sail downwind but could not risk putting any more sail up. At 21:00 the wind picked up to 41 knots; it was pure hell on the first night and I hate to think what the others made of their new world for the next 21 days.
Day 2 – 28th November
We were welcomed by easing conditions in the morning. I had not been able to sleep all night but made a hearty breakfast to start our day. We continued to run under main solely as the only other option would be to head north, which was no option. Later in the day we poled out our genoa and this seemed to have a marked effect on the amount of rolling we are experiencing. It has to be said the our first day saw us break two records; one for speed (13.02 knots over ground) and 143 nautical miles in one day.
We are still heading south and have decided to head to Cape Verde before picking up the trade winds. It is hard to realize just how little progress you make on a large scale chart.
We had Fajitas for dinner, which managed to role every-where and then watched some ‘Peep Show’. Rafiki is not too far as we heard them on the VHF so thankfully I am not on a completely poor course.
I AM SO TIRED!
Post Written – 04th December 2012
I have decided not to list each daily event as to not bore the reader. We have managed to settle into some sort of routine. The seasickness has passed all and we are fairly happy with our position and down-wind sailing. I am still having great difficulty in sleeping with every noise I hear I wonder what may go wrong and how to deal with each situation as it happens.
Our watch systems now start from 22:00 with the first watch person standing post until 02:00 and then the second person standing watch from 02:00 to 05:00 and finally 05:00 to 09:00. We rotate this daily so as to be fair and I have not received any complaints yet.
The days go quickly and we were lucky enough to have some great weather plus two separate displays from dolphins. We have now seen 4 flying fish dead on the deck but they were way too small for dinner.
We had been making a good course of 270 degrees but the low pressure system was moving us to the north and away from the rhumb line so we decided to head south to move away from the low pressure system and establish ourselves fully in the trades at around 16 degrees latitude. Unfortunately for us we have just had to endure 30-40 knots of wind for two days on a beam reach, which has been nothing short of miserable. The cockpit continues to have swathes of water coming in from a fierce sea, I have lost my Kindle to one of them. We are currently sitting at 17 degrees and will turn west tomorrow on a bearing straight for St Lucia and with the North Equatorial Current and 15 knot trade winds we should have a great down wind run and regain use of our cockpit without getting doused with salt water.
Our speed has been very pleasing with Troskala achieving just short of 150 miles a day. In a week we have averaged 144 miles, which I did not expect but hope we can maintain this for the rest of the journey.
Troskala is holding up well to the strains, especially from the last two days. Nothing yet has been damaged. We have ran the engine an our each day to maintain electricity but for the past two days and with the wind generator doing most of the effort we have not had to run it.
In regards to food, we have been lucky enough to have only just run out of fresh meet and fruit. We still have some peppers and onions left. We did have to throw out some sausages and mince meat but have utilized most of the food we brought; we now have tinned food and pasta for the rest of the journey. It looks like we will run out of milk before the end of the journey but that is not the end of the world. Our water supply is around 250 liters and we are mostly drinking 3 liters a day.
Crew wise. Tim managed to damage his hands on an exercise rubber band of all things so we are a man down when it comes to washing up and strenuous rope work but apart from that he is holding up well. Will is also doing well. We both tried to quite smoking but after the past two days all has reverted back to the usual. There is no doubt that this is a challenge for all of us and certainly one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my life-time. To be in small space, cook, keep entertained and exercise are all hard tasks and there have already been moments where we have had to try and calm down but all has been in good humor.
The constant worry and the need to believe in your course tactics and planning, not to mention worrying about food, water, disasters with the boat, lack of sleep and so on are enough to drive any one crazy but the first week is up and we have 1,800 miles to go.
Additional Personal Thoughts:
I do think it is important to highlight my personal thoughts about the trip so far so here we go and sorry if some of it does not make sense.
We have now been at sea for 7 days with another 13 ahead of us. It is hard to describe the rate of time at sea. I have previously mentioned how we do our shifts but that does not seem to matter much any more. We exist solely to move West. The Sun rises at 08:00 and sets at 19:00 with the moon rising at 01:00 and that defines what is day and what is night. Time is now used for navigational purposes but not to stipulate when we go to bed or eat dinner.
The nights are stunning especially with a full moon and the days likewise but our scenery does not change. It is strange to imagine that the great sailors of the past such as Columbus, Chichester, Knox-Johnson would have all experienced the same landscape on a daily basis and similar challenges. We are in an untouched part of the world where no human can change the landscape. Looking out tonight on 5 – 6 meter waves in pitch blackness with the noise of just the rigging and the boat occasionally slamming off waves is all we have to accompany our thoughts, which makes our existence pretty simple but thought provoking.
During our working life and personal life we never find time or have time to actually sit and think about our lives, mistakes and successes we have made in the past. Try sitting on a 32 foot boat for 8 days and you will easily find the time to re-live your memories, plan your future and analyze mistakes. I believe all three of us will do some soul searching on this voyage and I recommend all to try and experience such solitude in such a vast expanse of water it really is difficult to get your head around it.
Do I think I have made the right decision so far to seek adventure and give up my career at 30; I have no idea but I do think and strongly believe that it is an experience worth undertaking and so far this has proven very true. We could have waited until we retired to live the dream but you never know when it is too late; would we have our health, the money and the want to carry out such an adventure.
Many people have said since we left London that we must be having the easiest life in the world but in fact I find it has become more of a challenge and therefore more stressful. In our daily working lives we knew what to expect: you would wake up, commute into work, have some lunch and then commute back, all very predictable and stressful on occasions of course, but your day rarely changed. Since we have left, every passage has had unknown challenges and dangers. If you get it wrong you may not only loose the boat but your lives and even now sat out in the Atlantic these dangers are not far from our mind on a large scale. To put it in perspective we are 1,000 miles from any help or assistance currently. We are 2-3 days away from search and rescue so if something does go wrong you are the only person who can deal with it -scary. Some body I met before we departed summed up the sailing experience nicely by saying: ‘With sailing the highs are much higher and the lows much lower than that of a ‘normal’ life style’. That comment does sum up our experiences completely, we have already experienced horrific times due to weather but we have also been in paradise on other occasions.
Our daily thoughts are of our destination and looking at the mileage to St Lucia decrease day by day, the rest for now has been pretty straight forward apart from the last two days driving winds and high seas. We should count ourselves lucky as already 15 boats have had to retire due to mast failure, rudder failure etc.
So, that is as personal as it gets for now unless you want to hear about our cleanliness. We all smell. 3 guys who have not had a shower for 8 days we are bound to smell. Will managed to make use of a squall two days ago so stripped naked in the cockpit and waited for the rain to wash the soap off; he is the cleanest out of all of us. There is salt every where and nothing dries so my shorts have the texture of card-board but plenty of talcon powder sorts out and chafing. If we have enough water by half way we will treat ourselves to a shower but that does not look promising.
11th December 2012
We are currently sitting at 1,909 miles with 1,189 to go. We celebrated the half way mark in true style with some champagne and a great dinner of lentils and Spanish meats. Today also marks two weeks at sea. As mentioned before the days come and go and the time in between is spent cooking, sleeping and eating.
Troskala has still experienced no issues to which we are thankful. We heard from Carlotta that our friends in ‘Quickly’ accidently gybed causing their boom to be severely damaged and thus they are now running under a small tri-sail and genoa. I do hope we can survive the next 9 days without any breakages.
All crew are fine but you can tell that there are happy days, sad days and frustrating days for all of us. Today we introduced a no criticism day, which seemed to work well especially as we mostly slept all day so did not have time to criticize each other; tomorrow is a no sarcasm day so we will see how that goes. Tim has unfortunately lost his lap-top to a cup of tea and I nearly did the same with my computer today but thankfully I revived it. Will has lost his computer to battery failure and my hard drive seems to have issues with the salty atmosphere.
We have been fishing but still with no success, which is a shame, as we would love some fresh food. My squid lure (Sushi) got chewed by something with ferocious teeth and all that was left was his bitten metal head so it was probably a blessing we did not bring on board. We did catch a tuna but he got away before we could bring him in. We are now trailing another squid and using flying fish as bait, which seems to make a difference.
Water and food supplies seem to be doing well. We have used water from our main tanks but still have 50, 1.5 liter bottles and 60 liters in containers so have no worry about water although food may be an issue as we are down to tins and pasta with no fresh food apart from 6 onions 7 eggs and 1 pepper.
We are all desperate for showers; I have not changed my clothes for 4 days. We have not seen another ship for 8 days. I think we all agree that two weeks at sea is enough and the strains are beginning to show.
In regards to our course, we headed more south than on our first attempt to reach more settles wind. It is quite a balance to set the boat on a course that will not only take you where you want to go but also not strain the boat or the crew too much therefore a direct approach was needed and a heading of 210 – 180 was made in order to gain the more advantageous winds earlier. I had not gone south enough and we were still too north and managed to sail straight into a calm patch so we motored for a day to get ourselves back south and continued this until we reached 14 degrees latitude. We now have 25 knots winds from the East and hopefully this will stay with us throughout the rest of the journey.
We have noticed a vast improvement in the temperature. We can now undertake our night watches in shorts and T-shirts as the temperature at night in 27 degrees and in the day it is rising to 33-35 degrees.
There is nothing more to report for the time being. We have another bottle of champagne saved for when we hot the 999 mark and have less than 1,000 miles to go; hopefully this will be by Wednesday. We anticipate to be in St Lucia by the 19th all being well.
13th December 2012
So our hope of completing this journey unscathed has not happened. We have just finished a challenging 48 hours of breakages, torrential rain, zero visibility and a loss of the ships mascot (molly). I awoke to the sound of the main sail gybing with Will on watch. The block preventing this from happening literally exploded with the force of the gybe. We prevented the main using the cleat on the bow instead of another block.
The weather looked pretty ominous behind us but we were making great speed with both main and genoa set full. Just when I did not expect it the wind increased suddenly from 25 knots to 35 apparent, which would have been 41 knots of true wind. Troskala, being over powered turned faster than I could correct and we experienced an horrific gybe. The kicking strap that is designed to keep the boom from riding upwards snapped letting the top of the main sail twist over the shrouds. I quickly raised the crew and we managed to get the main down with difficulty. In the day-light we also noticed the fair lead had pulled out of the deck as well and is missing. During our gybe our boat mascot (Molly), a large ugly looking doll managed to jump ship, which for me was a blessing but for Will and Tim loss as they had brought the ugly thing.
We motored the next day in order to repair the damage, which we have succeeded in doing. The rain we had yesterday is like nothing Tim or I have seen before. We are all wet, the boat is wet and there is now no wind to speak of. On a good note we are now less than 1,000 miles away from St Lucia, which is a great incentive for all of us.
Over the next few days all went well and we were making good progress but we ended up becalmed for two days, which meant we had the chance to swim in the Atlantic, which we did. Words cannot describe the feeling of swimming in water that is 5,000 meters deep looking at the boat in the midst of just sky and sea. We all had a go at swimming round the boat with one person always on deck to stop the boat should any wind start pushing her away from us. After a twenty minute swim we were all back on deck before any sharks came to visit.
The time is going slower and although the days pass quickly, time at sea goes slowly, or maybe it is just because we have now been three weeks in the Atlantic. We now have no more fuel spare for pure motoring and have saved 20 liters to get us into the harbor at St Lucia should we make it.
Little things now matter and we look forward to our chart plotter reading 699 miles, then 599, 499 and so on; there is not much more to think about. The wind has picked up and we are back heading in the right direction doing 6 knots; if we can keep this speed we may just be able to make the party but there are doubts that we will make the finish line before it closes.
21st December 2012
WE CAN SEE LAND. We are only 80 miles from St Lucia and can see the tips of the Pitons. We have cleaned the boat and are steadily sailing on with the island becoming clearer we every hour that passes. It must be one of the most frustrating things to see an Island but know that even with only 80 miles to go it will still take 7 hours.
We picked up the ARC finish boat on our VHF at 16:00; what a relief. It is sure that we have missed the finish line but there was still to be a celebration for our arrival as the smallest. Once we rounded Pigeon Island we were greeted with an ARC rib with Carlotta, Tim’s Parents and Emma all onboard with some beers. It felt so strange to have the rib plus photographers and a myriad of boats around after being so alone for nearly a month.
We were escorted in and welcomed by other boats. A special thanks to Katie and Lyle for organizing a welcome party but also thanks to Andy from Rafiki and Hannah from Peregrine who sorted us out rum punch and cigarettes.
Once tied up we had half an hour to sort the boat out and get a lift over to the ARC closing party; there was no time for a shower but after several rum punches it did not actually matter. We made the party, gave a speech and picked up our hamper of rum given to us from the ARC to celebrate the last arrival. It was a euphoric feeling and a very proud moment. To be in the company of Carlotta and so many other kind people, making a speech to 1,000 people was a feeling I doubt I will ever experience again and it is all thanks to Troskala, Carlotta and my crew, Will and Tim.
- Our total trip was 3,150 miles, 300 of the miles could have been saved if I had better weather routing on board. My thoughts were to head more south and pick up the trades but this year the trades were not in place and due to my more direct route south I put more miles on and did not benefit from the wind.
- I Sat Phone Pro) Inmarsat – I think all crew would agree that the worst bit of kit on the boat was the Satellite phone. Not only would the phone not work with ‘Mail A Sail’ it would not work on the Atlantic. Voice calls were always cut but the phone loosing the Satellite, Emails would not all come through and test messages were limited to only a few characters. The first thing I will do is sell it and get either Iridium or Yellow Brick. Maybe we got something wrong whilst using it but I very much doubt it. My advice would be to stay clear of the I Sat Phone if you are sailing.
- Hydrovane – He deserves another mention as being the best kit we had on board. For nearly a month the Hydrovane steered the boat flawlessly although did need some tweaking occasionally.
- Our ‘Down Wind Rig’ was a poled out genoa and main. If the wind picked up we would reef the main by 1 or 2 depending. We did not role much and whilst sailing down wind we found it pretty comfortable, maybe this is due to having a heavy displacement boat but I would have expected more rolling than we had.
- Chafe was not a problem. Other boats did suffer greatly but we were fine. We checked all ropes and the rig daily for any signs of wear and changed anything that looked like it needed it.
- Crew – We worked well together but I can see how fragile a relationship between crew and Skipper and crew & crew can be. I do think that it is important to sail before hand as much as possible with crew before an Atlantic passage. It is important to make it clear to all what is expected in regards to boat maintenance and the day-to-day responsibilities and running of the boat. Laziness does not work on a boat and only infuriates other people so make sure you have someone who will pull their weight and not have to be asked to do everything.
- Food and water worked very well. We were left with 4 liters of water but we did consume more as we reached land. Food worked very well and even though we were on tinned food on the last week we still ate well and looked forward to dinner.
The first words I said to Carlotta when arriving into St Lucia was that I found this one of the hardest challenges of my life. The constant worry and decisions that need to be made not to mention the lack of sleep all took their toll; then we heard of other yachts that suffered far more adversity than we did by losing masts, rudders, main sails, engines and personal injuries. This made our journey seem pretty straightforward and I have to be thankful that nothing serious happened to any of us during the passage.
Another big thank you is to all people who sent such kind emails and comments on the blog during our trip; they were all very thoughtful.
Happy 2013 to you all.