We crossed the Atlantic Ocean
I hear the wave roaring like an unstoppable avalanche behind us. In the darkness of the night, and completely without help from a very small new moon, I can not see it. But then all of a sudden, in the glow of the stern navigation light, I sense the white foam top, a little higher up than the boat, when the wave begins to break. And it is one of the waves that does not follow the direction of the other waves which otherwise come rolling in directly from behind, but which mysteriously find their way across the other waves. BANG it says when it hits the side of the boat, and pushes the boat to now sail 30 degrees more towards port. It can be adjusted back to the correct course. More annoying is the amount of water from the wave that is sent in over the cockpit and hits us who are on duty, soaking the cushions that were almost dry and maybe even finding their way in through a window and down into a bed. Those times one of us was hit it was thankfully taken with a good sense of humor.
We have spent 21 days and 10 hours crossing the Atlantic. We have crossed the Atlantic !!! It still takes some time to get it to sink in. But perhaps much of it has sunk in along the way. After all, it’s 3 weeks where not much happens. With a speed of 5 to 7 knots (9-12 km / h), you arrive very slowly towards the goal of 2850 nautical miles (almost 5300 km) from the starting point on Tenerife.
So how is everyday life on a boat that is far far from land over such a long time. Some premises first:
- The boat is fully packed with provisions so space is limited.
- The boat is in constant motion without any pause. A large part of the movements are quite large where it is not enough just to tilt counter but you have to have a good grip.
- The temperature rises and reaches 30 degrees during the day and 25 at night
Under those conditions, one does not come to anything easily. Not even to sleep.
Therefore, the meals on board also take up a lot of time. On the other hand, we cut these down pretty quickly to breakfast and dinner, the rest you snack your way through.
I woke up at about 7 every day after a night shift that typically ended at 4 o’clock. First job as a skipper: to adjust the amount of sails that the last night watch team had set in their attempt to break various speed records. This was their, Laura and Leas, declared goal, right after they had gotten are couple of chocolate biscuits at dawn. My main interest was rather that the equipment held all the way over, so a couple of times I had to ask to have some sails rolled in. Then new weather forecasts downloaded via satellite phone had to be checked.
Breakfast, oatmeal or porridge, sometimes even buns, were eaten late in the morning where everyone was awake. Here, today’s projects could be agreed upon. But not too many projects. Preferably only 1 project in addition to the meals as we were otherwise under time pressure. A project could for example be refueling the generator or finding cans with food from the bilge The dinner, typically the day’s big project, should preferably be ready before it was dark around 6 pm as we otherwise got into the night shift roll before washing up was done.
Some days the Atlantic presented us with extra projects, like waves that made everything wet or jars of food that broke in the bilge. Therefore, it was a good idea getting a nap when the opportunity presented itself. The night shifts were divided so we took 4 hours each and with overlap so we managed to be with 2 different. It could bring a little new energy into the shift when changing crew. We also managed to watch a few movies, celebrate Christmas with duck (Confit de Canard), sugar potatoes, sauce and red cabbage – and ‘Ris a la mande’ for dessert, and 2 baths in the large bathtub with 5 km of water underfoot . We also caught fish, but carefully considered when we could do so as it was a major job preparing it. We caught 3 fish, all 3 Mahi Mahi, which was a success rate of about 50 percent compared to how many times we had the line out.
Moving in on the Atlantic
You can focus far when sailing on the Atlantic. There is water all around the horizon and the waves, no matter how annoying they are, also have a fascinating and mesmerizing effect. You can really immerse yourself in thoughts when you sit and look out at the horizon. For me, it was probably a little less of this kind than I had expected, but I practiced to not spend too much time checking wind, electrical power level, equipment, etc. but also relax and be in the present. Previously, when sailing a longer distance, I have had a lot of focus on getting to the destination. The Atlantic crossing is far to long to do this without me getting (more) crazy. As our good sailing friend Claus on Papaya said: now we are moving into the Atlantic Ocean, and settling there. That part I succeeded quite well. Then I must get better at reading a book next time we do this. By the way, I put a ‘For Sale’ sign on the boat a few times along the way when the constant movements in the waves became too much, but that sign has been taken down again. So there wil be more long stretches.
With a broken arm across the Atlantic
“Come on, we ride on the wave in” I shouted. No, it was not the last wave into St. Vincent, but a swim on Fuerteventura 2 months before, that ended fatally. June broke her arm very thoroughly, and had to be flown home to Denmark for surgery. Not optimal at all. Most of all for June but also in terms of getting ready for the crossing. Did we now have to postpone the rest of the circumnavigation or wait until January to cross the Atlantic?
The surgery went well and we got June back in late November. The trip to Tenerife was a test trip. It went well. June could be safe on the boat and with help transported around. So the plan was for June to sail across the Atlantic. We have had 3 very cool guests with us so we were enough to sail the boat and help June along the way. For June, it was a big challenge not to be able to contribute as she would like, and at the same time be completely dependent on help all the time. The mental challenge in this clearly became the biggest.
In Quarantine at Saint Vincent
None of us fully understand how quickly the days passed. We had a great team work where everyone contributed and the mood was high even though we also got tired and exhausted. We were in a lot of wind most of the trip over, and every time I could report that the weather forecast promised declining winds, and thus a small break with less movements in the boat, well then it just kept being windy. But it did not break anyone. Nor did the amount of bruises that Maria in particular collected after a trip halfway up the mast after a rope had run out of a block.
And finally the wind was decreasing and more calm, and we could sail by motor to St Vincent where we were received in the most amazing way by the other Danish boats that were quarantined here.
We were quarantined from 29/12 to 5/1 where the result of our PCR test finally came. It seems silly after we have been in quarantine on the Atlantic for 3 weeks. But that’s how it is. We had the most beautiful view, 28 degree hot water we were allowed to swim in and help from locals (for a fee of course) when we needed something. It was now quite a luxury.
We have now visited more of the Grenadine islands south of Saint Vinvent. It is amazing here and different from where we come from. You’ll hear about it next time.