Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) 2008
Transatlantic Sailboat Race
This is the year for epic journeys. While I was on my Appalachian Trail hike this summer, I got a call from a UK friend looking for crew to help sail his boat across the Atlantic this fall. I jumped at the chance and departed 11/18/08 for the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain where I joined my boat and crew. We cast off 11/23 and hoped to make St. Lucia by mid-December, but actually finished the race on Dec 17th. I was the designated blogger for our crew and I posted a short blog update from the boat almost every day via satellite phone. It was available on the race website during the voyage but we were unable to post pictures due to issues with bandwidth and sat. phone costs. I have updated this blog with photos and a bit of extra commentary and provided it starting with the introduction below. Enjoy!!
Well, I've done it! I accepted the invitation from my UK friend, Chris Horseman, to help crew his 42 foot Lagoon catamaran in the 2008 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). The race leaves Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain on 11/23 and it will hopefully take us 15-20 days to make St. Lucia. The web site is http://www.worldcruising.com/arc/index.aspx.
Now I've got to get ready. I've downloaded the manuals for the boat, and have spent a good bit of time studying its systems. This is one of the new hybrid electric versions. You can read about and see pictures of the boat at the Lagoon website. here's a link: http://www.cata-lagoon.com/420_pres_uk.php
Three of us(Ken/Mick, Liz, & Graham) arrived Wed. afternoon and Gareth arrived Thursday. We’ve been extremely busy with last minute boat preparation, provisioning and ARC training briefings.
We’ve had our share of challenges: getting the sat-phone to link with the computer aged Chris several years, and we have a problem with one of our battery chargers that we’re just going to live with as there is no time to get a part from France. This will slow our speed under power by several knots. Finding a place to put food and beverages for 5 people for a month has been fun as well.
We’ve got food stuffed in every corner and even have fresh fruit, veggies and a whole Parma ham hanging in the shower stall. Even so we have much more room than most of the mono-hulls.
We had a test sail Friday afternoon, and figured out how to rig our new asymmetrical spinnaker sail. It took a cell phone call with the sail-maker from the UK, but we got it done. We’ve had our share of social stuff as well.
There was a costume party for ARC participants on Wed, and a Lagoon Owner's dinner on Thurs. The dinner was great but I'm not used to Spanish dinner times: it didn't start until 10PM and the entree was served at 11 PM. I'm lucky I didn't put my face in the paella.
We all skipped the farewell party thrown by the town of Las Palmas last night. Tonight there is another party at 11 PM and fireworks at midnight. (probably won't make it either...) Tomorrow is the race start. Boats will start lining up at 10:30 even though our start is not until 1300. With 225 boats at the start and 2,800+ miles to run, we’re not going to try to be first across the line, but it will definitely be interesting….
Day 0 23/11/08 log 61nm miles; towards destination 57nm
Note: we will show each day's mileage in 2 ways: "log" = the total miles traveled, and "miles toward destination" = how much closer we got to St. Lucia. Quite often the log miles will be quite a bit further than miles toward destination as we are mostly at the whim of the prevailing weather and may not be able to travel directly toward our destination.
Sunday dawned clear and bright – a lovely day for sailing…. Although boats weren’t supposed to move into position for the start until 1030, quite a few started heading out of the marina by 0945. We waited for Papillion, the 65 foot catamaran just astern of us, to leave first so that we could more easily exit. While we were waiting I ran out to the mini-mart to pick up a couple of bottles of champagne to celebrate the half-way point, but they were sold out; we had to settle for Spanish tinto roja (red wine). There was a send-off from the Las Palmas marching band just as we were preparing to leave the marina lagoon.
We cast off about 1130. We had reason to appreciate being in the lagoon rather than in the main marina, as there were many, many boats trying to exit at the same time along narrow fairways. The start line was very, very crowded as all the boats were jockeying for position. It got even more crowded when a large, ocean-going ferry had to get into the harbor. Although Capt. Chris had said we were going to hang back at the back of the pack, his natural competitiveness crept through and we ended among the first 25 or so boats across the line.
It was amazing how quickly the crowd thinned out. Within a couple of hours there was plenty of room to maneuver, and by nightfall you could only see a dozen or so boats.
Day 1 Monday 24/11/08 log 113nm miles; towards destination 104nm
Last night was our first rotating 3 hour watch schedule. It’s a big, dark ocean out there! For the first few nights either Chris or Gareth are standing watch with those of us who have minimal night watch experience.
We made it through the night fine and Monday, 11/24, is a beautiful sunny day. Winds are still relatively light and probably will be for several days. Seas are only running 3-5 feet and this boat is so stable that you can leave full glasses on the table without spilling a drop. No signs of mal-de-mer (seasickness) among the crew.
Even though the winds are supposed to be light tonight we dropped the spinnaker at dusk and are sailing with the main at reef point one and genoa unfurled.
Just before dusk we were joined by a large pod of about 30 bottlenose dolphins. They swam with the boat for about 15 minutes.
Ken and Gareth are on galley duty tonight and made a chicken and tomato concasse pasta dish. The pan got licked so folks must have enjoyed it.
Day 2 Tuesday 25/11/08 log 72nm miles; towards destination 62nm
Several large commercial ships passed within a couple of miles of us in the night. We are obviously in a shipping channel. Aside from these ships, we could see the masthead lights of about 10 other sailboats in the distance.
Tuesday morning dawned bright and sunny. Winds are still quite light. We really need at least 10 knots to move this heavy boat, and it may be another 150 miles south before we hit the primary trade winds and can really accelerate our speed.
We set 2 fishing lines today and got one strike, but lost the fish before we could get him to the boat. Most of us took a turn sunning on the bow today. We could see several boats on the horizon. By dark we had no boats within visual or radar within 10 miles. It’s really amazing how quickly the fleet has spread out. Gareth and Liz had galley duty today. They prepared chicken fajitas for lunch and a corned beef and potato casserole for dinner. We also cut into the huge Parma ham which is hanging in the head. We’re eating very well.
All systems are working other than the one charger issue and the crew is doing well. We now have only 2,500 miles to St. Lucia.
Day 3 Wed 26/11/08 log 80nm; miles towards destination 49nm.
About noon we sailed through a school of dorado/mahi-mahi. Two of them hit our lures and we landed them both. Gaffing them along side is harder than it looks. Each of the fish yielded about 2 lbs/1 kilo of fillets and we’re currently cooking them up for lunch. It would be hard to have much fresher than 15 minutes from line to pan.
Winds continued to be very light through the afternoon and evening. We landed another Dorado which was quickly filleted and put in the freezer. We also had a strike on our portside rod & reel but didn’t notice it until all the line was run off the reel. Ken put on the rod harness and worked the fish in for about 15 minutes. It seemed like there were 2 miles of line on the reel and the fish struggling added to the forward momentum of the boat under sail made it a lot of work. When the fish was finally landed it turned out to be a large blowfish of some type which promptly inflated itself. We took its picture and let it go.
Given that we need to get further south as quickly as possible before the current winds off the coast of Mauretania shift further offshore, Chris decided to take the calculated risk of keeping the spinnaker up after dark as long as we could see the horizon. There is no moon at all, but without the shore light pollution the stars sill give quite a bit of light.
We flew the spinnaker until 2200 when we could see a bank of cloud approaching the boat. As we had no way of knowing whether there was a line squall accompanying the cloud, we doused the spinnaker and flew the Genoa for the remainder of Wed. evening. Winds continued very light and variable until 0630 when the wind picked up to 10 knots. About 1100 on Thur. we hit the 15-20 knot winds we have been driving toward for the last few days and are now doing 7 knots for a change. Hopefully we will get a sustained wind of 25 knots soon which is a great wind speed for this boat. Motion at this speed is very comfortable with none of the rolling of a monohull. We will continue driving down the coast of Africa for another day before heading west.
Day 4 27/11/08 log 117nm, miles towards destination 86nm
Winds continued to mount through the evening. By 2300 we were up to 28 knots true and had 2 reefs in the main sail on a broad reach. The seas were extremely choppy and the ride was very noisy and bumpy, especially for those trying to sleep below. Even with 2 reefs we were doing 7-8 knots. This was a big improvement from the 2-3 knots of the past few nights. This was the first night when we really felt like you needed to be strapped in whenever you ventured on deck. We changed the watch schedule to ensure that 2 people were on watch together. Skies were overcast and the night was pitch-black, but at least it didn’t rain. No boats were within visual distance, although we could see a couple of commercial craft on radar.
As of 2400 we had done 330 miles and only 2370 to go. We are one of the slower boats in the fleet. Our rating prior to the race start was 191 of 225. We are somewhere in that range currently, but hope to improve our position with the trade winds unlike some of the racing cats with their streamlined hulls and rotating carbon fiber masts, we’re quite a bit heavier and less stream-lined, but a lot more comfortable.
Day 5 28/11/08 log 151nm, miles towards destination 110nm
We’re running under a reefed main and genoa today. We’ve shifted our course westward and are running rather than doing a broad reach. It’s much more comfortable for the crew. We hope this wind holds for the next 2 weeks! Ken and Liz prepared lunch today. They made scrambled eggs with sausages, baked parmesan tomatoes and freshly baked banana-nut muffins. Ken made chili con carne (the mild version) and rice for dinner. No ill effects have been reported.
The spinnaker was doused and dropped at sunset and we sailed through the night with steady winds averaging about 5 knots. We had one eastbound sailboat pass us within 1/4 mile about midnight on my watch. We could see his masthead light but he didn’t show up on radar. We were close enough for me to shine our spotlight on his hull and sails. Since I got no response, they most likely had no watch on deck.
Day 6 29/11/08 log 134nm, miles towards destination 140nm
Saturday dawned clear with slightly diminished winds. They have continued to drop through the day and are only running about 8 knots as of 13:15. We had a scare with the spinnaker today. We thought we had torn it, but when we lowered the sail, what we thought was a tear was only a dirt mark.
We just downloaded our weather report from the ARC HQ and it looks like we need to go even further south to catch the heavier trade winds at this time.
Capt. Chris fought a large fish on the rod for about 15 minutes before losing it. Unfortunately, the fish tangled itself in the other trailing line and made one h*** of a mess of the lines. As we don’t have spare line, we spent a couple of hours untangling them.
Gareth had galley duty tonight and made a chicken curry that made some of the crew run for the yoghurt to cool their tongues.
Crew are well with the exception of Ken (Mick) who has a head cold that has stopped up his ears and made it difficult to hear. None of us thought to bring decongestants onboard and it’s a bit far to the closest pharmacy.
Day 7 30/11/08 log 135nm, miles towards destination 134nm
Winds picked up for a few hours overnight but then dropped back to 8-10 knots. At least we are making 130-140 miles a day rather than the 80 of the first few days. We have a small drip leak in the port stern gland, but it should be no problem as long as it doesn’t get any worse. We also got a twist in the spinnaker when we gybed a bit too quickly yesterday afternoon so we’ll be laying it out around the boat shortly to sort it out.
We just had a great treat. We had a visit from a school of 7 Risso’s dolphins that played around the boat for close to ½ an hour. This is the largest type of dolphin and is almost as big as the orca/killer whale. They were great fun to watch and the entire crew was hanging off the bow trying to catch them with cameras as they broached.
Winds were steady at 15-20 astern and we were able to untangle the spinnaker from the previous day’s oops by trailing it through the cabin, around the cockpit and down one side of the boat. The twist ended up being in the middle but not at the ends of the sail. Once we got it up we were able to make 6+ until the winds dropped during the evening. As per normal procedure, we put a reef in the main and flew the genoa overnight. Unfortunately for a quick trip, the winds are predicted to be very light for the next 36 hours.
Robinson device from a funnel, tubing and duct tape, to
channel water from the leaking port stern gland directly to the
bilge. The stern glands were replaced in Malta a few weeks ago and obviously, the workmanship left something to be desired. If we had not done so, the leaking water could have gotten into the electrical systems. We needed to do this since the boat manufacturers neglected to put in some of the drain holes to the lower bilge and we couldn't drill them without removing a lot of installed equipment.
Day 8 01/12/08 log 116nm, miles towards destination 116nm
All was quiet on the weather front overnight. Winds have dropped to about 10 knots and are predicted to drop even further. This makes for a very comfortable trip, but a slow one. However we’ll take comfortable and slow any time over the ARC boat from the racing fleet that was dismasted yesterday in heavy weather west of us, and which is currently limping back to the Azores. We raised the spinnaker at about 0715.
As of 0900 this morning, we have traveled 800 miles and have 2,000 more to go. We are starting to see schools of flying fish, and have had to more clean dead ones off the deck the last couple of mornings.
There is an impending crisis onboard as it is predicted we may run short of toilet tissue/paper before the end of the voyage if the winds continue to abate. There is a rumor that certain members of the crew are hoarding several sheets a day just in case….
Gareth made an excellent fruit yeast bread on top of the stove this morning for breakfast. He mixed 4 cups of flour, 1 tsp yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt and a handful of chopped dried fruit with enough water to make a soft dough. He placed the dough in a medium non-stick sauce pan and let it rise for about 45 minutes until doubled in volume. He then cooked the bread on low heat on a small burner about 20 minutes until the bread firmed up to the touch everywhere but in the middle. He then dumped the bread onto a plate and put it back in the pan topside down for another 10-15 minutes. The resulting loaf was light of crumb, had a good crust and was very flavorful. He had previously made another loaf without the fruit which was also excellent.
We had light winds through the afternoon and early evening. There were times when we barely had steerage. Even though we were moving slowly, the spinnaker managed to move us past a couple of other ARC boats within visual distance during the afternoon. It was predicted in our weather forecast that these light winds could last as long as 36 hours, but luckily winds started to pick up around 2200 and have continued to creep up overnight.
Tuesday’s dinner was a lamb tagine with couscous prepared by Graham. Other than the burned pot from hell (10 hours soaking and 1+hour scrubbing!!), it was excellent.
We’re nearing the end of our fresh fruits and vegetables. The tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, peppers and bananas are gone and we only have a few oranges, onions, potatoes, a cucumber and one head of lettuce left. We’ll then be eating from the cans until they run out as well. Capt Chris is not a big fan of veggies in any form so we suspect they were not high on his provisioning list (His favorite “vegetable” is chocolate – we must have 10 lbs of that!).
Day 9 02/12/08 log 147nm, miles towards destination 145nm
We crossed the 1,000 mile mark last night and we now have only 1,872 miles to St. Lucia.
Flying fish are getting more and more common. Gareth cooked one that landed on the deck this morning and we all had a taste. It’s a bit strong and has a lot of bones. It’s not nearly as good as the Dorado we’ve been catching. None of us would bother to do it again unless we were REALLY hungry!
We continue to have a few challenges with the boat. We’re now having problems with the automatic bilge pump on the port side. Naturally, that is the same side where we have the stern gland leak. Troubleshooting continues apace. We do have large capacity manual pumps that we can use as necessary.
We managed to repair both bilge pumps with epoxy putty this afternoon. We initially tried Henkel Unibond All Purpose 1 minute epoxy. Even though this epoxy had a fancy nozzle that was supposed to premix the epoxy and hardener, it didn’t work. After an hour the epoxy was still the consistency of silicone. We removed it and replaced it with a 2-part epoxy putty which seems to have done the job. Both pumps are now working.
Capt Chris had galley duty as well as chief mechanic. He prepared poor man’s cassoulet, (e.g. sausages and baked beans) for our dinner.
Day 10 03/12/08 log 144nm, miles towards destination 128nm
If weather gets really rough you may call for the help of the skipper and/or other crew members for a sail change, otherwise you’re on your own for the next 3 hours. In some ways it’s as if you’re sitting in the cockpit of an airplane with the instruments laid out in front of you. It is easy to allow them to mesmerize you, but this could be very dangerous. Not all ships are caught by radar, especially smaller boats which might not have active radar on or be flying a radar reflector. To see them on a dark night you need to leave the helm station and its lights, dim though they may be, hook your tether to the boat, and move out on deck to let your eyes fully adjust to the dark. Once there, you take a good look around for mast and/or running lights. Even on dark nights, you can also usually see the horizon. If not, there may be a squall approaching for which we might need to further reef our sails and/or change our course. The race boats will steer to the starboard side of a squall to pick up the highest winds, we usually steer to the port side where the winds are generally less. Once you’ve checked the horizon from all sides of the boat (to make sure an approaching boat is not masked by a sail), you can go back to the helm station.
The trade winds are still holding steady. It is a grey overcast, humid day that feels like rain, but we’ve had none since leaving Las Palmas.
We’ve caught two fish today. Gareth landed a small fish that we can’t identify but which looks edible, and Liz landed a good-sized 6-8lb dorado after fighting it for 20 minutes or so.
We’ve now done approximately about 1,200 miles and have another 1,720 to St. Lucia. With any luck we’ll be able to say on the same tack the entire way.
Winds have held steady through the evening. We kept the spinnaker up until after dark today to try and stretch a few more miles. If we had moonlight we would have kept it up even longer.
Gareth fixed a tuna and cheese pasta dish for dinner tonight. We all skipped our 1 beer as we had to be on deck to get the spinnaker down.
Day 11 04/12/08 log 106nm, miles towards destination 106nm
• The VG has 30 participants; the ARC has 224
• VG is 26,000 miles the ARC is about 2,800
• The fastest VG has been 87 days, 10 hours in 2005. I’m estimating that the fastest ARC boats in the race division this year will cross the finish line in about 14-15 days; much slower than last year’s time. This year’s winds have been much, much lower than normal. We’re pushing for 23 days and an arrival on the 16th. But that could be jeopardized if the trade winds continue to be disrupted.
• A VG boat has a crew of 1; ARC crews range from 2 to 10+. We have 5. It is nice to have some one to talk to and to call on for help.
• VG boats are 60’; ARC boats range from about 36’ to 80+
• The fastest 1 day leg for a VG boat is 501 miles. That’s 20.9 knots average with some speeds of up to 30 knots (35 mph). Our fastest ARC leg to date is about 140 miles; an average of 5.8 knots.
• Our ARC boat has 2 refrigerators, a freezer, 3 gas burners, a gas oven, microwave, water-maker and 3 heads (bathrooms). A VG boat has 1 gas burner and a small sink. No frigs or heads. You go in a bucket or directly into the cockpit where your waste is quickly washed overboard.
All in all, I much prefer the ARC, although we could certainly use a 500 mile day or 2 at this point….
Sailing was miserable this afternoon and evening as the winds dropped to less than 5 knots. We had to motor to even make steerage way. At this low speed the boat rocks and is much less stable than at speed. It must be really miserable aboard the monohull sailboats which rock much more than we do.
We put a preventer on the main sail for overnight or when we are close downwind (A preventer is a line which keeps the sail and boom from accidently swinging from one side of the boat to another and potentially damaging the boom.) Tonight we noticed that the main sheet (A line which controls how far the boom swings) was very difficult to adjust. There were several twists in the sheet between the traveler (A device which enables further adjustment of the boom based on the point of sail/ which direction you want to go based on the wind) and the boom. When Ken climbed onto the top of the bimini (hardtop over the cockpit) to untwist the sheet and the blocks, he discovered that one of the blocks through which the sheet runs was broken with sharp edges that not only made the sheet bind, but could cut it as well. This necessitated a replacement of the block at midnight and totally rerunning the main sheet while under sail. It took us a couple of hours and a bit of a balancing act. It is amazing how much stress the various components of the boat are under during such a long voyage, and grahically demonstrates just how important it is to do constant rigging checks. It is also very, very important to remember that if something doesn’t move as easily as normal, DO NOT try to force it! When you do so, a simple problem can be compounded. We were once again successful. Capt Chris and Gareth are great mechanically and you really need that aptitude onboard.
Day 12 05/12/08 log 92nm, miles towards destination 104nm
Winds continued very light until the middle of the night when squalls started to appear on radar.
Between midnight and dawn, we reefed and un-reefed half a dozen times (reefing makes the sail area smaller and you do so in anticipation of high winds). We were able to use the radar to dodge most of the bad weather, and it did give us a bit of a break with some higher winds so that we have been moving along at 5-7 knots since dawn. The green blobs you see on the radar image at left are rain squalls.
Unfortunately, the morning winds did not hold through the afternoon. We did not even have enough wind to fly the spinnaker as it needs 7-8 knots to keep it inflated. The sailing almanac says that the trade winds can be very light up to 20% of the time. We’ve had them light to non-existent for 75% of our voyage thus far. This could go on record as the slowest ARC to date for the entire fleet.
Graham whipped up braised pork chops with apples for dinner just before our 2nd gas bottle ran out of gas. As we only have 3, we'll have to ration our stove usage for the rest of the voyage. We will no longer be using the oven, and are limiting ourselves to one hot meal a day. It also looks like we may be running out of milk, which is a definite problem for all the tea drinkers on board.
Lots of time to rest though!
Day 13 06/12/08 log 83nm, miles towards destination 80nm Half Way!
We passed the halfway point this afternoon. Chris brought out a bottle of champagne to celebrate, but the celebration was much muted by the obvious fact that we had planned to be at this point 3-4 days before. We motored for a while this afternoon trying to chase an area of higher projected winds. We were able to ride these winds of about 15 knots for a few hours but they died as well.
Winds are forecast to continue to be very, very light for the next few days. This has much more than just an impact on our arrival time and flights home for the crew. It has major impacts on diesel fuel, propane and food. Since we have had to motor in the first half of the trip, we will not be able to motor as much for the rest of the trip, even though we could be becalmed. The fuel issue goes far beyond a simple issue of propulsion, however. If we don’t have diesel, we can’t run the generator to recharge the batteries (with this electric boat you run a generator rather than an engine to recharge the batteries and we use a lot of power). If the batteries are not charged, you have no electricity to run the navigation instruments, autopilot, bilge pumps, water maker, or refrigerators. Not a good scene at all!
Day 14 07/12/08 log 128nm, miles towards destination 121nm
Winds continued to abate overnight. I was on the midnight to 0300 watch. When I came on the winds were about 6-8 knots, by the time I went off they were down to 1+ knot and I could not make steerageway without the engine. The frustrating thing was that a large thunderstorm emerged around us very quickly about 0230, but there was very little wind. Although it rained and there was a lot of lightening, the winds did not rise above 3 knots until dawn.
Capt Chris emailed Chris Tibbs, a weather strategist, yesterday to see if we can get some expert advice. We should hear something today.
Luckily as I enter these words, winds have come up and we are currently moving at 7-8 knots with the spinnaker. May they continue for a long time….
We were indeed lucky with the winds today. We were able to sail at 6-8 knots all day with the spinnaker. We had a small issue late this afternoon when the Dyneema strap securing one of the spinnaker guy blocks parted. Luckily we were quickly able to secure and snuff the spinnaker and were able to save the block before it was lost overboard. We stowed the spinnaker and will do a complete inspection before raising it again.
We’ve been trying to drive south as quickly as possible this afternoon and evening to try and catch the trade winds which are predicted to be re-establishing at a specific latitude. Our overall mileage for the day was 120+nautical miles; much better than the 87 of the previous day. This was accomplished with no motoring as well. The crew keeps busy, each in their own way!
Day 15 08/12/08 log 100nm, miles towards destination 98nm
We had several small squalls through the night and had to put reefs in and shake them out several times. We’ve been able to hold 5+ knots through the night. We actually have another sailboat within visual distance a couple of miles to our stern. It is the first boat of any type we’ve seen in about 4 days. The boat turned out to be German-crewed, number 209 Blue Pearl.
We also had both of the primary electric bilge pumps fail. You may recall we had repaired them both earlier in the voyage, but apparently moisture had also gotten into their electrical components. We spent several hours troubleshooting to no avail. We still have back-up manual pumps. We have initiated a procedure to manually pump out and log the bilges each hour.
The only bright note in the afternoon (other than our game of Cribbage with the board Graham laboriously made out of one of our wooden doorstops) was the landing by Gareth of a 15 lb Dorado. We now have enough fish in the fridge and freezer for quite a few meals.
Winds remained calm until around 0500 when they started to pick up a bit. We at least have enough wind to fly the spinnaker and the trades are supposed to hold steady at 8-15 knots today
Winds continued to pick up through the afternoon and remained relatively steady through the night. We had one small squall but didn’t need to reduce sail.
Graham and Liz made a fish stew with rice for dinner. We’re enjoying a hot dinner for as long as the stove gas holds out….We’re estimating 3 more days.
The fastest boats are starting to arrive in St. Lucia. As of this afternoon I believe that 7 boats had arrived. Even the fastest are sefveral days behind last year’s time.
Day 17 10/12/08 log 145nm, miles towards destination 141nm
We had a bit of fantastic luck this morning. About 0630 we were hailed on the radio by another ARC boat, Blue Beyond. We chatted with them for a few minutes. They had taken the more easterly route initially and caught good winds but were then partially dismasted in a 40+ knot blow. They detoured to the Cape Verde Islands where they spent a couple of days repairing the mast. Just as a long shot, Capt Chris asked them if they had a spare bottle of Gaz for our stove. They did indeed have one and were willing to share it with us. They dropped all their sails and we dropped our spinnaker. Both boats came relatively close to each other under power and Ken trailed a floating line astern. Blue Beyond picked it up, secured the gas bottle and a fender/float to the line and we pulled it in. We now at least will be able to have cooked food for the remainder of our voyage. We shall return their bottle with a bottle of wine in St. Lucia.
Unfortunately, with good luck often comes some bad; a couple of minutes after re-lofting our spinnaker, a 2x2 foot panel blew out of the sail. We immediately had to drop it and are taping and sewing even as I create this blog. With the winds we are still doing 6+ with the genoa, but would prefer 8 with the spinnaker.
Gareth and Chris initially repaired the rips in our spinnaker with sail tape,
By 1400, the sail was repaired and back in its sock in the sail locker. We didn’t need it immediately as the trade winds continued very strong throughout the day and evening. We’ve been averaging 6.4 with a reef in the main.
Ken built upon the previous night’s dinner with a fresh fish curry combining dorado and some fish whose species we haven’t been able to identify; after which most folk’s retired to their bunks as it was too rough on deck for socializing. At 2100 we put 2 reefs in the main and reduced the genoa by 50% as high winds and squalls were predicted through the night.
Day 18 11/12/08 log 158nm, miles towards destination 151nm
During the squalls we had gusts of up to 30 knots, and averaged close to 20 all night. We kept an average speed of 6.5 overnight and did over 150 miles midnight to midnight. Waves have also increased dramatically and are now averaging over 2 meters with occasional 3 plus. The boat handles them extremely well.
Wind is continuing this morning but the squalls have abated for now.
We are flying our full genoa, but the spinnaker is staying in the locker for now.
We had a quick whale sighting this morning. One broached off our starboard bow, but by the time we got our cameras it was too far away to shoot. Oh, I almost forgot; when were were getting our gas from the Blue Beyond yesterday, we also go an unexpected passenger.
Bread is gone other than some frozen baguettes; cereal and yoghurt are out as well. Given that we have gas, pancakes are on the menu for brunch.
Ken's pancakes stuffed with sour cherries and crisp bacon and served with blueberry syrup was a hit for lunch.
Winds continued to be good for the third full day. We’ve averaged 6+ knots with a reef and genoa. The ride is quite bumpy but worth it as we see the miles melt away toward St. Lucia.
We had a brief sighting of what we thought to be a killer whale this afternoon. It breached twice as if it were charging upwards through a school of fish. It was too far away to photograph. We also had a brief visit from a pod of very small dolphins. Unfortunately, we were fully occupied in getting a reef in the main before a squall to pay them much attention. We haven’t put our fishing lines out for a couple of days as we still have fish in the freezer from our last catch.
Intermittent squalls were a part of life this afternoon and evening. Gareth whipped up spaghetti Bolognese for dinner.
We’ve done 150+ miles for the last 24 hours. If this continues we could still get in by the 18th.
Day 19 12/12/08 log 150nm, miles towards destination 140nm Three quarters of the way!
We took a more southerly tack overnight which made it a bit easier for sleep below decks but cut a knot or so off our VMG (voyage made good) mileage.
This morning winds continue at 15-20 but are now projected to be lighter with squalls over the weekend. If winds drop, we’ll fly the spinnaker to hopefully make up the difference in boat speed.
Winds and seas continued moderate through the afternoon and evening. We could see quite a bit of squall activity to the north, but our weather advisor had earlier recommended that we drive southward which we have done so we missed most of it. As the winds moderated we put up the spinnaker for its first test run since the latest repair and it worked well. We made great speed until we dropped it at dark given the possibility of squalls overnight.
Capt Chris was our chef today. He served pate, bread and cheese, red wine and chocolate cake for lunch (his idea of a balanced meal) to celebrate passing the ¾ voyage mark. This evening, he prepared breaded pork cutlets with rice and mushroom gravy (sauce for you UKers).
Midnight to midnight mileage was an excellent 140 miles with no significant problems to report. For the last 3 days, we’ve averaged over 6 knots even though reefed for most evenings.
Day 20 13/12/08 log 122nm, miles towards destination 133nm
Raising the spinnaker at night is a decision for the boat’s skipper, as it involves more risk than doing so during the day. This is one of the myriad of decisions the skipper must make each day. The skipper is ultimately responsible for the safety of the boat and its crew. He/she must be a combination of coach, judge, engineer, and mechanic.
We have about 560 miles left to St. Lucia….
The wind gods deserted us again today. Winds lessened through the late morning and stayed at 6-8 knots through the rest of the day and evening. Given the past 4 days of good winds we had been in hopes of making flights for 3 of our crew on the 18th. Now those flights are in jeopardy. These light winds would be beautiful for those wanting to enjoy a day of snorkeling and puttering around the islands, but are definitely not what you want for a transatlantic voyage.
Graham made his signature tagine for dinner.
We broke the 500 mile point to St. Lucia about 2100 this evening. We’re getting there….
Day 21 14/12/08 log 122nm, miles towards destination 133nm
I’d like to take a few paragraphs to further introduce our crew given that most of our readers only know one or two of them. Here is our roster:
• Skipper & Owner – Chris Horseman
• First Mate – Gareth Owen
• Second Mate & Bosun – Graham Marchand
• Purser & Sergeant at Arms – Liz Odell
• Cabin Boy & Blogger – Ken(Mick) McClung
Now a bit about each of this mottely crew:
• Chris Horseman(50) is an entrepreneur and electronic learning specialist taking a break after years of building several learning companies with his wife, Kim. He purchased Hakuna Matata in May. Although he didn’t have a lot of sailing experience prior to this purchase, he has been sailing and learning from some very experienced crew for seven months. He has several goals for this trip:
o Plan for and complete a transatlantic voyage
o Skipper a larger crew on a more complex voyage
o Get the vessel to the Caribbean for an extended family trip to celebrate his 50th.
• Gareth Owen(40) is an electronics engineer by trade but hopes to make sailing his life’s work. He did a transatlantic crossing eastbound earlier this year, and has previously crewed for Chris in the Med. Gareth hopes to start his own sailing school in the near future. His goals for the trip include:
o Deepening his long distance sailing portfolio as a qualifying passage for his Ocean Yachtmaster certification
o Expanding his celestial navigation skills
o Having some fun!
• Graham Marchand(63) is a (twice!) retired Engineering Company Director who has been sailing for 40 odd years and has recently obtained his Yachtmaster qualification (despite being seasick during the practical test!). He owns ‘Allegra’, a 35’ Starlight and has cruised and raced various boats but previously never crewed a catamaran. His goals for the trip are:
o Doing has first transatlantic crossing
o Getting away from the UK weather in November / December.
o Getting a taste of the ARC and deciding whether to do it again in his own boat. (Yes!)
• Liz Odell(50) is a stockbroker and financial adviser who is relatively new to the world of sailing, her previous experience being limited to crossing the Channel. This is her second big achievement this year having conquered the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in September 2008. Her goals for the trip include:
o Increasing her knowledge of sailing in preparation for taking the day skipper qualification.
o Getting away from the stress of daily life for 4 weeks to reassess and formulate her life plans and goals for the next 5 years.
• Ken/Mick McClung(61) is a learning psychologist and performance consultant who has been puttering around in boats for 30+ years, and is the proud owner of a 32’ Nimble Motorsailer. He is also a long distance cyclist, hiker and marathoner. His goals for the voyage include:
o Completing a transatlantic voyage
o Expanding his sailing and marlinspike seamanship skills
o Continuing to enjoy life every moment to the fullest extent possible.
Winds continued light through the afternoon and early evening. We were struggling to get 4-5 knots. At one point Liz and Graham hung their feet in the water and tried to see if kicking vigorously would move us toward St. Lucia any faster. I will have to admit that it had a limited effect on anything other than our sense of humor.
Ken whipped up a chicken stir fry with noodles for dinner and then we watched a very enjoyable fantasy movie, Stardust, on the DVD. We may not be the fastest but we know how to enjoy the trip….
Day 22 15/12/08 log 162nm, miles towards destination 156nm
We did have another gear challenge about 0230. I was on watch when I heard a loud pop and the sound of something falling to the deck. Somehow the topping lift (the line which secures the boom to the mast), had chaffed through and broken. We won’t know what caused it until we go up the mast and check the blocks and fittings. We are okay as long as we don’t have to drop the sail or lose the main halyard. We can no longer go wing-on-wing/gullwing (genoa on one side and mainsail on the other)as the topping lift provided supprt. We have figured out some emergency strategies and just hope for no other problems in the next few days .
Do you know the origin of the nautical terms: port and starboard? Prior to rudders and wheels on the old sailing vessels steering was accomplished by a board mounted on a long oar. This “steerboard” was normally mounted on the right side of the vessel’s stern. Eventually the term evolved from steerboard to starboard, meaning the right side of the vessel. When entering a port and coming alongside a pier, vessels would approach on the opposite side from the steerboard to minimize chances of damaging their steering mechanism; thus the left side of the vessel became the “port” side.
Since I’m defining terms, what about the origin of the term “posh” meaning fancy or upper-crust/class? During England’s long rule of India, there was a constant flow of aristocratic bureaucrats and military officers taking the ocean voyage on the East India Company ships. The voyage was long and hot, and the most favored cabins were those on the shady side of the ship. This was the left/port side on the way out and right/starboard on the journey home to England. Since the upper crust tended to get these cabins the crews began to refer to them as P.O.S.H. or port out and starboard home….
Winds continued to lessen through the day and evening. We had built up our average earlier while winds were stronger. Luckily those long, long days &
nights of almost drifting at 2-3 knots have given us enough of a fuel reserve that we can use some of it to speed us toward St. Lucia a bit at
this stage if we need it.
Gareth fixed bangers and mash(sausages & mashed potatoes) with peas for dinner. Chris, who doesn't like mashed potatoes or peas, was lucky enough to find a can of sweet corn in the cupboard.
Day 23 12/16/08
The entire night was clear with a full moon and calm seas gently rocking those lucky enough to be in their bunks. Thankfully, no new equipment failures to report other than the battery chargers seeming to not charge the house batteries completely.
Ken used the last packets of banana nut muffin and biscuit mix to make breakfast breads after coming off watch at 0600 while Liz made a fruit salad from the last of the apples and oranges. We're also on our last liter of milk.
It will be very interesting to see what our final position in the crossing will be. Although we'll be crossing the finish line toward the end of the fleet approximately near our estimated finish placement of 191, our adjusted placement after consideration of our handicap should be much higher. The ARC officials won't be able to figure out final placement until after all the boats are in, but to give you an example, our handicap is roughly one and a half times that of the boat (A Swan 82) that arrived in St. Lucia first last week.
As we near the end of this epic (.for some of us, at least!) voyage, those of us on the crew have to make a number of difficult transitions:
a.. Wearing more clothing than that nominally required to maintain a modicum of modesty ( Asyou can see by what we're wearing as I work on this blog and Capt. Chris downloads the weather. The big question is whether Chris is wearing anything at all?)
b.. Walking in a straight line without staggering (unless leaving the pub)
c.. Reassuming life's responsibilities
d.. Being inundated with Christmas "specials"
e.. Reading, listening to and watching media coverage of the latest disaster be it an act of God or man.
A much easier transition will be being re-united with loved ones, whom we've missed very much.
As the sun sets on our voyage, it can be rated as a resounding success based on a number of factors:
a.. No major injuries or sickness among our crew
b.. No boat failures that we could not overcome or work around
c.. Provisioning and fuel were adequate for even our prolonged trip duration
d.. Wind velocities that, although much lighter than we would have preferred, did make for a comfortable trip 90% of the time.
e.. Squalls were quick and dealt with efficiently
f.. The crew interacted well together, responding with the energy, enthusiasm and humor required of a long trip in close quarters with minimal privacy.
g.. We've each enhanced our boating skills, picked up a few recipes, established new friendships and renewed those of longer duration.
h.. Hakuna Matata is extremely comfortable and will make an ideal Caribbean home for the Horseman family vacation.
Most of our day was spent scrubbing the boat. I will say that scrubbing toilets and showers has never been my favorite form of physical activity.
We had an uneventful afternoon and evening, other than needing to finally drop the spinnaker and raise our gennaker (another type of sail) due to a wind shift which made it necessary to sail with the wind on our beam (90 degrees to the boat) rather than from astern. The gennaker is a much more colorful sail. Hopefully we can sail through the finish line with it tomorrow.
Winds have picked up a bit through the evening. We are augmenting them to get us in as soon as possible. Liz fixed an excellent baked fish in a cream sauce with pasta for dinner. The only thing it lacked was a bottle of good white wine.
We did over 150 miles midnight to midnight so our goal, once seemingly unattainable is now almost within our reach. Liz was the first to spot the lights of Martinique (just to the north of St. Lucia) at 0245. We had several other sailboats on visual and/or radar most of the night.
It was quite a feeling to watch St. Lucia’s land mass slowly appear as the sun rose about 0700. We can now see it approaching rapidly to our bow while a cruise ship going very fast will soon be passing our stern enroute to St. Kitts. We should cross the finish line (if our fuel holds out) about 0900 and be tied up by noon. Poseidon has been kind to us by not unleashing the full powers of the Atlantic, Zeus has shielded his thunderbolts, and Apollo has provided us with plentiful sunshine…a truly great trip.
Here are some comments from Capt. Chris:
Skippers Log. Saint Lucia and the end of the 2008 ARC adventure.
On the 5th day of the trip my wife emailed to ask if we’d be in St Lucia when she arrived on the 20th and not many days later Ken’s wife asked him if he’d be home for Christmas. If we’d been in the competitive side of the ARC we wouldn’t have garnered any laurels.
But we weren’t in this as a race, we were a relatively inexperienced skipper and crew who’s only negative consequence of a late arrival might have been the cost of changing a flight. From the point on the first evening when it got dark and I decided to reef through the long-long slow tedious no wind days where I would only allow use of the motor when we were below 2 knots I have tried to make decisions that gave us a pleasant safe crossing and left margin for error.
Over the course of the journey everyone’s individual strengths have become apparent as well as our strengths as a crew and everyone’s skills have developed. This has allowed us more latitude in the amount of sail we carry at night, how close we will allow a squall to come before we reef or change course and how many and which people need to be on deck for a sail change. In turn we’ve speeded up and completed the second half of the trip three days faster than the first half (and I’ve been able to get a lot more sleep!)
I’d like to thank all my crew for making my job possible and pleasant. Gareth, already a competent seaman has now become an effective mentor and coach for other crew members particularly in Astro navigation. Ken, (our excellent blogger) the best kind of example of his countrymen – always positive and encouraging, always ready to help and always capable and striving to do his best. Graham’s (usually) quiet sense of humour and fun, his perspicacity and persistence (240 accurately drilled tiny holes to make a crib board on a moving boat) has contributed much to the social side of the trip. Finally Liz, our least experienced and therefore probably bravest crew member has been avidly learning and handled her male counterparts and every situation thrown at her with wit and patience – she can now hold her own as a crew member with anyone. I’d also like to thank everyone for their tolerance and forbearance with me and one another that has meant that in fair and foul weather with good luck and bad we have been able to work as a team, maintain positive relationships and continually learn from one another. I’d also like to thank Chris Tibbs who’s weather advice over the last week helped us get out of the “doldrums” and into some better sailing wind.
Welcome to St Lucia everyone, this has been a great adventure and it has been a privilege to be the skipper. Now all we’ve got to do is get those sails down safely (without our topping lift), berth without bumping anything then I’m off duty and if anyone wants to buy me a drink…
Rodney Bay Marina St Lucia 12/18/09
Crossing the finish line yesterday morning was exciting (23 days, 23 hours, 54 minutes) with horns blaring and a photographer’s boat circling. The winds shifted and we had to do a last second sail change from the gennaker to the genoa almost in front of the committee boat. We managed to execute the sail change in less than a minute without embarassing ourselves, crossed the line, then dropped sails and motored into the marina at Rodney Bay. Getting into our slip was a bit of a problem in that someone had tied their dinghy in our slip. While they tried to find someone to move the dink, we were slowly drifting toward shore. Luckily, we threw a line to someone on the dock and were able to hold position until the dink was cleared.
Now that the smoke has cleared and we are safely in port, there is a strangely anticlimactic feeling among all our crew. Even though we were all straining for the first sight of land, life ashore seems a bit staid and boring.
Rodney Bay Marina is quite large but not particularly attractive in an island sense. There is nothing particularly quaint about it.
There was an ARC party scheduled for a local microbrewery last night. We missed the shuttle bus and made the mistake of taking a local water taxi (e.g. an old fishing boat). They dropped us about a mile from the brewery and charged us a small fortune for the privilege. Of course we didn’t realize the mile+ walk when the driver said,“It’s just up around the corner, Mon.” Eventually, we got there, had our free rum punch and a dark lager beer, and then retired to their restaurant for dinner. We had a very good blackened tuna for dinner, but it was no better than our cuisine onboard, and one heck of a lot more expensive. Our land taxi back was 25% of the water taxi charge and got us a whole lot closer to our boat.
Our slip is right next to the highway and a karaoke bar. A couple of us had planned to sleep on deck last night, but were driven below by a caterwauling cacophony of noise which didn’t (to our crew ears at least) in any way approximate music. Thank goodness for my I-Pod.
Graham, Liz and Gareth head back to the UK this afternoon. Ken had originally planned to depart this morning, but changed his flight when it appeared as though we would not be in early enough to make his original one.
The rest of today and tomorrow will be spent in last minute clean-up, packing and departure procedures, so we will bid you all adieu. This is our final official blog for our ARC voyage, although I’m sure the informal tales will continue for years (growing a bit along the way). Thank you for taking the time from your busy lives to follow our adventure along the way.
P.S. from Ken/Mick. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it....