Crossing the Atlantic…what can I say? It’s a very surreal experience. In some ways it’s similar to when you fly across the ocean – logically, you understand that you’ve traveled that distance, but since you didn’t really see it, it doesn’t seem quite so far. It’s a little unbelievable. Except when you sail, you do see it – miles and miles of nothing but ocean. Sunrise, sunset, and lots of waves. The sheer magnitude of what we’ve done is just overwhelming and a little emotional. We know we’ve arrived in St. Vincent, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet, how far we’ve come. And we’re not done yet! We’re headed north to have some service done on the boat, while we head home for a quick holiday visit. A lot of our blogs have been written in more of a chronological, diary style, but since the crossing is a lot of the same, I’ll share some highlights and more of my reflections on the journey instead.
When we left Cape Verde, the B&G navigation system indicated that the trip would take 2,103 miles. Considering our best sailing would be about 160 miles per day (with round-the-clock watches), we hoped to make the journey in 14 days. We left Sunday November 25th, and that would put our expected arrival on Sunday December 9th. Once we got away from the shadow of the islands, we expected to hit the Tradewinds, and spend most of our time sailing downwind ‘wing-on-wing’ using the jib and Code Zero spinnaker. This would make for a relatively smooth and easy sail. With a full freezer and cabinets, we set out eager to conquer the ocean! Seas were a bit rough at the start line, but we managed to sail across and for quite a few hours before dark. At dinner, we reviewed the weather and set our sail plan for the night – the idea here is to keep it somewhat conservative, with only mainsail and jib (no spinnakers or colorful sails at night), and set things up in a way that no one needs to make any changes to sails in the dark. Bob and I had an early morning watch so we went to bed. We woke up a few hours later to chaos. Someone decided to put up the Code Zero sail and it blew out (tore), and was partially submerged in the ocean!! With a few extra hands, the sail was pulled onboard and stowed to be reviewed in the morning. This was a major downer. It totally altered our sail plan, making things more complicated. Instead of being able to sail in a straight line dead downwind, we had to tack and jibe, sailing a zigzag pattern along the rum line to our destination. Our total miles for the crossing from Mindelo ended up being 2,274.
With our brand new sail ruined, we were pretty bummed. After the initial shock wore off, Bob and I decided we wouldn’t be defeated – we took the sail out of the bow locker, dragged it back to the rear deck to assess the damage. The sail was nearly torn in half, but we worked in small sections, first taping it back together on both sides and then stitching over that with thick sail thread. Bob taught me how to cross-stitch! Who knew all that time spent with mom and grandma would be useful to him in sailing! Our post-op test flight was successful – Frankenstein lives! Crown Royal shots all around!! Although we were able to fix it, we didn’t end up flying it after our initial testing – the winds were too heavy and our Code Zero halyard was also chafed pretty badly, so we didn’t want to risk a disaster. The stronger winds allowed us to fly our mainsail and jib with good ‘velocity made good’ toward our destination for most of the trip. Up until the end, we had only motored a few hours in the first couple of days and then for sail changes. In the last few days, when the winds started to fall, we decided that we were ready to motor and just get there! In the end, we put on about 45 total engine hours during the whole trip. I’d call that a success!
We're determined to fix this!
Megan learning to cross-stitch
It lives! And it flies!
Just four days in, we woke up to thunderstorms during the night. Heavy rains and winds rocked the boat with loud creaks and groans. It brought me back to the storms and gale force winds off the coast of northern Spain, so naturally I was up all night listening anxiously and hoping it would pass. Just before we got out of bed, the winds picked up again and a rogue wave came crashing into our cabin, soaking everything in its path! Down into the vanity table, into the cupboards, puddling on our floor. Nooooo!!! Turns out, one of our tiny cabin hatches wasn’t closed all the way, and as the boat continued to rock, the water sloshed in from the deck. The day before we left Mindelo, we had gotten all our laundry done, but hadn’t had a chance to put it away yet, being trapped upstairs due to seasickness. All the clean laundry soaked in sea water had to be rinsed out with fresh water in the shower and hung to dry on deck. The guys managed to set up a nice laundry line for me to dry everything out. Ah, sailing life!
We thought we’d see lots of dolphins and whales and catch lots of fish, but we only saw dolphins in the first couple of days and saw no whales at all. Though there were a few times we saw what we believed to be whale blows in the distance. As for fishing, the Italian skipper and his brother were our resident experts. Since we’re not super experienced fisherman, we decided to wait on the big rod and reel and stick to hand-line fishing. We lost a fair amount of line, lures, and rigging, but had some decent fishing success as well. Throughout the trip, we had 13 fish on the line. Two puffer fish and a small mahi were caught early during the trip and released. We caught three mahi and three king mackerel (one of which we released because all three were caught in the same day!). We also caught a skip jack, but at the time we couldn’t identify it, so we released that as well. There were three near catches, where the fish got away before we had a chance to reel them in.
Click photos to enlarge for a better view of our fish!
We were making good time motoring, doing about 7-8 knots, and that put our estimated arrival time in St. Vincent around 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. Since the marina wasn’t open, we knew we’d have to anchor just outside it and sit there for several hours in the middle of the night waiting. When we caught side of Barbados (about 100 miles before St. Vincent), we changed our plan and headed to the south end and found a nice spot to anchor out in the middle of the afternoon and kill time. Swimming, snorkeling, and a fish feast followed. It was so nice to be near land! We wanted to swim ashore, but the current was too strong, so we just got to look at Barbados. Since the anchor was touching their sand, I say it counts as having visited the country itself! 🙂 Our fish feast was cornmeal crusted pan-fried mahi, mahi sashimi, grilled mahi belly, and grilled mackerel! It was fantastic! It was a perfect break and morale booster after 13 days at sea. Cell signal reached us and we were able to get in touch with some family and friends, check emails, etc during our little break. It definitely gave us the energy we needed to face that last night of watches before crossing the ARC finish line, sailing the jib!
During our time on the Atlantic passage, we hit both the 3,000 and 4,000 mile milestones on the ship’s log! It was a great feeling to see those numbers, and gave us a true sense of accomplishment after all the challenges we faced just to get going. By no means are we now experts, but we have learned so much! With fewer people onboard as we travel from St. Vincent to Anguilla, it will be easier for me to be more hands-on, learning more in the process.
The first few days, I’m always pretty seasick, despite our Sea Bands and Meclizine tablets. It makes the first few days a little challenging – I stay on deck, if not at the helm, as possible unless sleeping. That means no reading, phone, computer, tv, etc. Unfortunately, carbs seem to be one of the best ways to settle a seasick stomach. I’m not a carbo-phobe, and I’m not typically a gluten-free eater, but I don’t consume a lot of carbs at home because they don’t agree with my digestive system. My stomach hasn’t exploded from the mass influx of carbs, but it certainly hasn’t thanked me for it! Looking forward to cruising and day sailing where mass amounts of carbs are no longer needed. In addition to digestive woes from carb overload, my hair, skin, and nails have also suffered. Constant sea water definitely takes a toll, despite our fresh water showers. The struggle is real, ladies! I’ll be looking forward to a good hair conditioning treatment during our holiday visit home! Speciality beauty products, good razors, etc., have been impossible to find, and if found, are unreasonably expensive! I plan to stock up on really good lotion and hair, skin & nails vitamins, and a few other essentials to bring back with me to the Caribbean.
A few other mishaps occurred during passage: our topping lift snapped – this is the line that holds the boom up when the mainsail is down. So you know, kind of important. Fortunately, our main was up at the time, so no boom crashing down onto the cockpit roof. We found a lemon-sized hole in our port side engine compartment that was allowing sea water in near the engine and water maker. This is VERY BAD and can cause serious damage. Fortunately, we found it and the guys managed to seal that up with sikaflex, but it will need to be professionally reviewed when its taken in for service. And a rogue wave sent my fabulous bridal shower/wedding gift Miss to Mrs. cup crashing to the floor. Good thing I’m handy, a little electrical tape fixed it right up. It now shows how well loved it is! <3
I kept track of all the cravings I’ve had on all the passages we’ve taken, but the Atlantic crossing was longest, so I’ll share those here. When we get home for the holidays, it is GAME ON for all these delectable things that I’ve been missing! No judgments!! 🙂
- Taco Bell Mexican Pizza
- Pre-made frosting in a plastic tub
- Bloody Mary
- My mother-in-law’s amazing pickles (in or out of said Bloody Mary)
- McDonald’s French fries
- Domino’s Pepperoni and Mushroom pizza
- Old Fashioned from either Wish or Pinewood
- Peppermint stick ice cream
A few more thoughts to share on the crossing. While we’ve been traveling we haven’t had consistent internet, so I’m keeping notes along the way and transferring thoughts into the blog whenever we can. Here are a few things I wrote during watches on the crossing trying to describe the experience. Truly, it’s one of those things that words really just can’t encompass. These are totally unedited thoughts.
The sheer nothingness around you is amazing. It’s weird to think about where we are and how far away everything else is. There’s one sailboat on the distant horizon behind us and that’s it. You keep expecting to see land but it’s just not there. The water is a kind of blue I haven’t seen, deep blue, but with a shimmering quality. Then the sun is out the waves are almost turquoise. When it’s cloudy, it’s more of a menacing grayish blue.
When I imagined the ocean crossing, I saw it so differently than it truly is. I thought I’d have more time for things like yoga, and making videos and blogs. In truth, there’s not enough time but also too much. The waves and the movement of the boat doesn’t allow you to do much. It’s hard just to get out of bed without bumping into the counter or the door or a wall and fromingba new bruise. We would have to be in some serious doldrums for me to be able to do yoga on deck – the risk of falling over and hurting myself is too great. And there’s also the risk of falling overboard. We definitely don’t want to risk that in the middle of the ocean.
When the sun hits the waves they look like they’re sprinkled with sapphire dust. Occasionally a clump of yellow-golden seaweed floats by just under the surface of the water.
Pulling into the marina, we were greeted by ARC crew with rum punch (yesssss!!!!), a few local gifts, and assistance in docking. We were the 6th boat overall to arrive out of 18. Not bad at all!