Before this trip it was hard to fathom the reality of three weeks at sea on a constantly moving boat and at mercy of the weather – would I be in awe, tired, sick, irritable, scared? What did the Atlantic Ocean have in store for us on our late and delayed February passage? Weather forecasts are generally only good a few days to a week out, what the second and third week would bring was anyone’s guess.
On this third and final week of our trip, stronger trade winds have settled in and with it has brought plenty of excitement. We’d sedately motored for several days in a mid-Atlantic calm zone, now we’re in the company of a lumpy 4 – 5 metre following swell, 15 – 25 knot wind and grey squally skies. These are the conditions we’d expected, though are quietly grateful are not more severe. And, as we run uncomfortably low on diesel, they could not have arrived sooner.
We are finally taking full potential of our downwind Parasailor, creaming along for hours on end at 7 to 9 knots in 20 knots of wind. The ocean swells are growing longer and we saw a top boat speed today of 15.8 knots surfing down a wave (impressive for a 15-tonne boat)! The wind has also brought squalls. They can be seen with the eye by day and generally with radar by night. Sometimes the clouds have rain and no wind or wind and no rain, but more often both. The massive Parasailor is lightweight material so at first sign of gusts to 25 knots there is a dash on deck to snuff. Difficult when it’s full of wind, but releasing both sheets on the leeward side dumps the power and allows the sail to be snuffed into its sock. There’ve been many occasions this has happened over the last week and Mike and Doug have the art mastered. Sadly ‘big blue’ (Code 0 sail) is out of commission after it was torn a few nights ago when flogged on retrieval in a wind shift. Fortunately it should be repairable. Now we are travelling slowly at night under foresail, as it’s too risky to fly the Parasailor after dark in these conditions. On this final day the seas are the biggest we’ve seen yet. There’s so much movement as the boat surfs on the crests and wallows in the troughs; the Parasailor forgiving as it dances above the bow. Thank goodness it’s like this at the end and not at the start. I would not have been prepared.
After our dolphin encounter off Cape Verde, the guys manufactured an underwater dolphin CAM with GoPros on the end of extended poles. Little did they know they’d serve a greater purpose as whale CAM! On day 17 a small (about 15 foot) grey and white-finned whale was spotted from the bridge deck. The graceful creature was solo and inquisitive, circling the boat and surfing, surfacing and diving beneath the hulls. It shadowed us for several hours after that, surfacing each side of the boat and blowing air to remind us he was there. I’d said all along I wanted to see a whale and my wish was granted!
I’m proud of our provisioning efforts and can arrive knowing the crew were well fed throughout the trip, if not overfed in the snacks department. Fortunately ample storage space is available on a catamaran. To ensure we didn’t eat through key ingredients or favourite treats early on, I utilised three storage compartments under the saloon couch and three shelves in both the freezer and galley fridge into ‘week one, week two and week three’, sorting items to our three week menu. Purchasing snap fresh (unrefrigerated) green produce from a Tenerife farmers market ensured we still have fruit and vegetables in the last few days. I’ve learnt some valuable tips in selecting and storing produce to ensure length of life and plan to change our shopping habits on arriving to the Caribbean – taking greater advantage of local green markets; preferably buying more and shopping less often. Items on the Atlantic crossing menu have included lasagne, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken schnitzel, shepherd’s pie, Moroccan chicken, hamburgers, spaghetti bolognaise, vegie stir fry, fish tacos, ceviche, quiche, quesadillas, homemade pizza, bacon and eggs every Sunday, cheesecake and apple crumble to name a few. Another new favourite – thanks to our friends on Penny Lane – is five-ingredient beer bread. Who needs an expensive bread maker, obscure recipe items or lengthy kneading? Seriously you should try it!
After a 21 ½ day passage, it’s hard to believe we are less than eight hours from landfall. The celebratory Verve champagne is chilling in the fridge, Bob Marley on the surround sound and we anticipate arriving just after dark tonight (Wed 17th February). The thought of the boat calmly moored and the first uninterrupted night sleep in three weeks is dreamy. Departing Tenerife three weeks ago, our final waypoint in Martinique was marked with a cocktail glass on the Raymarine chart plotter. It’s the carrot dangling at the end of a very long trip and by goodness we’ll be ordering a few when we arrive. Bring on the famous island rum punch!
Once settled we’ll jump straight into a spring clean in and outside the boat with the start of what we anticipate being a busy few months welcoming guests in the alluring Caribbean. Doug’s wife and William’s Mum Michelle will join us from the UK tomorrow, a few days later Pammy Darling is returning from Australia and early March Mike’s Mum, Dad and brother are flying in from Nova Scotia, Canada for a two-week escape from the winter chill. All guests were forced to re-book their travel following the torn mainsail. But we can’t wait to see them and enjoy cruising from island to island, bay to bay, and balmy nights at anchor.
Tech savvy 13-year-old William has been busy editing a video that I’ll share here sometime over the next week so please check back.
Heartfelt thanks for following along and all your wishes for a safe journey. It’s a surreal and rewarding feeling knowing we’ve successfully sailed in excess of 2,800 nautical miles across the vast Atlantic Ocean. I’m so proud of our lady finally my darling and her hard-working autopilot – they’ve performed beautifully and tirelessly carrying us across the sea. And to Captain Col, Mike, Doug, young William and myself, we’ve been couped up together for three weeks but the company has been fabulous and damn we’ve made a great team. There have been a few tense moments, but we’ve loved every minute.