The ARC - we loved it.
As we crossed the start line of ARC 2018 just outside the harbour of Las Palmas with 189 other yachts, a huge lump welled up in my throat – we had made it to the start! 25 years ago I read an article about the ARC and decided one day I would do it, now crossing the line with my daughter Emma, Patrick and CJ – it was a huge moment for me.
We left the dock in beautiful sunshine to the sound of reggae bands and hundreds of well-wishes waving us off. After crossing the start line the boats started to spread out, and after only three days it became a very rare event to actually see another yacht. We went for days without seeing anything except for blue sea, stars and flying fish, - and if it hadn’t been for the radio calls at 1300 each day you would have thought we were totally by ourselves, or had gone the wrong way!
Emma announced on day three: – “When I get to the Caribbean I am going to get a tattoo on the base of my foot with the symbol for -NOT MACHINE WASHABLE”. We all related very well to this statement. After a gentle 24 hours we started to get into the Atlantic swell and boy did we roll. Inside it was like living in a washing machine and even simple functions needed advance planning.
Getting on clothes became a “dressing dance” – balancing carefully between rolls to prevent being flung across the boat.
It did make for some interesting games - extreme yoga, extreme genja and extreme cooking. And dodging the flying knives and forks., which if not secured down, became deadly weapons. Thank goodness we have bungy cord straps every where and sticky mats. By week three our bodies had learnt to compensate for the motion and the bruises started to fade.
The first week was incredible, we were a a novice uncoordinated crew, with CJ and Emma suffering from feeling yuk downstairs, ropes just looking like multi-coloured spaghetti, with some very intermittent sleep for all of us, and a lots of bruises. By week two we were more like a well oiled machine, with reefs, pole jibes, cooking and sleeping all becoming normal and a lot easier to do. We had settled into the watch rota, cooking rota and showering rota - with happy hour producing some inventive treats (we were running a dry boat – so brownies, crisps, cheese, pate, olives etc became a focus for the day).
After months of not being comfortable helming downwind, it really made me smile to see CJ sitting at the helm happy as larry downwind sailing as if it was second nature, proving you can do anything if you out your mind to it. Emma proved to be a crack helm and a whizz at sorting out ropes for sail changes supporting Patrick and I on the foredeck. Patrick was great at sorting out the foredeck and solutionereing -we had a bit of chaff and had find ways of preventing the wear and tear of downwind sailing.
Each night we were gifted an amazing sky – the night watches went quickly with our own panaromic vista to absorb, along with the phosphorous speckles in the sea and fabulous swish noise of SAORSA cutting through the waves. Just magical.
During the day between balancing sails, wind, swell with speed and direction we found time to relax and absorb the amazing journey.
Emma – determined to have a perfect suntan by the time she reached St Lucia and objecting to the lifejacket which was covering most of her upper body, quickly found the climbing harness and became the ships Sun Lizard, to be found strapped on basking wherever the sun was strongest on the boat.
We ate very well, with our fresh fruit and vege lasting until day 12, and the highlight has to be when Patrick caught a fish – which he cooked for dinner and it was yummy.
After 18 days of just sea we spotted land - St Lucia emerging on the horizon - we had made it!
We were fortunate with the weather and the sea state - which made it an amazing crossing, in 18 days , 5 hours and 35 minutes. We only used the engine twice for a few hours and had 437 hours and 2923 miles of pure downwind sailing. SAORSA looked after us well - with just a bit of chaff - she had taken it in her stride. We are converts to Blue Water Cruising, it was an amazing experience as we SAILED the Atlantic.