Day 9 –December 3rd – I did the 1:00-4:00 shift and despite a handover from my dear Dad who said “There is nothing much going on up there tonight Dulce!”, it was a busy shift. Our AIS alarm kept going off with a message saying that there was a boat in close range that was a dangerous target. Despite close inspection, I could see nothing around the boat at all. I wondered if there was any possibility that it was a whale?! I knew of course that a whale couldn’t come up on the AIS alert, which is based on radio frequency. But by myself on deck, in the middle of the night with an alarm going off and an image of something described as a ‘dangerous target’ coming up underneath the boat, it did cross my mind! Then what looked like a star began to flash a bright torch again and again at our boat. It was another boat with just the steaming light but no navigation lights on – I signalled back to acknowledge that we had seen them & realised that our Sat Nav was so zoomed out that it looked like they were right underneath us!
We saw Dolphins today! Only 3 of them and just a brief visit but they swam super fast back and forth in front of our boat, much to our delight! How our spirits lifted at the sight of them! We then treated ourselves to a salt water shower and hair wash on the bow. Ooooh how luxurious to be clean! Never before have we noticed how radiant clean skin feels – something we simply take for granted at home.
As we sat drying in the sun, Jay and I had a lovely chat with dear Alex & Dad. Moments like these are to be treasured!
Day 10 – December 4th – Halfway today! Halfway party begins. Yay! Good food all day and celebration!
We are now officially in the middle, one thousand five hundred miles from anywhere. Whoaaaaa. That is bonkers! I took a pano shot of the beautiful sunset tonight and sat a while on the flybridge soaking up the moment. We are truly in the middle of nowhere and yet the fact that we are here is momentous. I have never felt so tiny in all my life. I feel humbled by the vastness that stretches all around me. For the first time on this trip I feel at peace. I breathe it in. Here we are on our little boat, floating on a sea that is part of the Earth, which itself is spinning continuously around the Sun. What else can we do but surrender to Life’s flow?
As we start to get closer to the Caribbean there is increased likelihood of local squalls, which are unforecast and blow up quickly with the potential to cause havoc. Jay briefs the night watch crew about these squalls, so we are ready to take the right action when they occur. The wind is behind us so that is where we need to watch out. We have set up our Sat Nav with an additional Radar page, which can spot the squalls to give us time to take action. The plan is to point the boat so that the squall is directly behind us, call for help and reduce the sails if the wind is too strong.
Ruby, Liberty and I make flapjacks for a yummy afternoon snack. Then we create a feast for dinner to celebrate being half way! BBQ steak with sweet potatoe chips and veg. Scrum.
We call our family today to touch base. It is heavenly to speak with them all – we are missing them dearly. How incredible that our little sat phone can put us in voice contact with them – it comes at an extortionate price but it was truly worth it to hear their voices!
The seas are pretty horrid still as we have swell coming from across the boat and the wind is behind us. The motion of the boat is very confused. Sea legs come and sea legs go and we surrender to the flow.
Day 11 – December 5th – I am on the sunrise shift and turn to face the back of the boat and watch the sunrise in its entirety. A real delight. Preceded by the sliver of the crescent moon appearing as a smile behind our boat.
Ok, so today is the day, the calmest sea that we have had so far and a mighty 5000 miles deep – time to swim!! We took the sails in entirely, but even so the forward momentum of the boat, just on these ‘calmer’ waves was 4kts! It was definitely a case of face and embrace your fear for each and every one of the crew. Jago was the most keen, which at 8 years old is impressive to say the least. Liberty on the other hand, had no interest in going in whatsoever and remained resolute. The rest of us, approached the opportunity gingerly. Jason led the charge, bless his soul, I have a vision of him sat at the stern, looking out at the sea and the loop rope that he had made to hold us, assessing how wise a prospect this was to invite his entire family to swim in the deepest seas we have ever encountered…. Then he was in, head under, vitalised! Jago was next and Jay stayed in the sea as the safety net. Jago was thrilled by the experience! Ruby and Rex followed suite and both whooped in jubilation at the exhilaration! Then, my turn….. having been a Jaws child (ie: saw the film as a youngster and have heard the der d, der d, der d der d der d der d music in my head when swimming into the unknown ever since), I never thought I would dare do this swim. I surprised myself by throwing care to the wind and actually relishing the moment! The most peculiar sensation was the amount of drag caused by the forward momentum of the boat, it was as thought the sea was trying to suck you in! My Dad was next and he dunked his head under and looked quite at home! Alex was last, saying that he “had put it off as long as he could” as he stepped down the ladder – his face said no but his body said yes and he was in! We sat drying in the sun and revelled in our encounter with the deep blue.
Swim Mid Atlantic – 5000 metres deep – not for the fainthearted!!
The wind blew up throughout the afternoon and we varied between our 2 sail configurations. We switch between twin headsails when the wind is directly behind us and our Gennaker which gives us a bit more leeway round to a broad reach. This sail combination has been perfect so far for any winds that we have experienced. We have covered 179 miles in the last 24 hours.
Rex spots the glimmer of a rainbow off the stern this afternoon and it slowly expands to the most incredible rainbow that we have ever seen. It is a full arc of magnificent intensity, it melts into the sea, almost looking like a full circle of glorious light! The kids are so excited, no-one can believe how gorgeous it is! Then a second arc develops above it. I am literally in heaven. Rex’s sunglasses have polarised lenses and they intensify the colours beautifully – I need these sunglasses in my life! Rainbows are a sign for me of love from above. Even more perfect today because on my watch last night, with my head in an excellent book called ‘The Universe has your Back’, I was reading about signs from the Universe and that you can ask for them to appear. Considering our current adventure, I wanted to know that the rest of the journey would go smoothly and we would arrive in St Lucia in one piece. So I declared out loud “Thank you, Universe, for offering me clarity. Show me my sign if I am moving in the right direction.” Lo and behold, the very next day I get the most supercalifragilisticexpialidocious rainbow possible!! A definite blessing for us on this journey. Oh happy day!!
With the rainbow, comes the rain and in this case our first squall. Having just seen the rainbow, we knew we would be alright despite the squall coming in thick and fast. Heavy rain, high winds and crazy seas. Squalls usually push through in about 15 minutes but in the wake of this one, strong winds remained throughout the night. It was my night off duty but the boys were up on deck in their full wet weather gear, braving the elements. Sails were reduced and the wind rarely blew above 30kts, but it was a helluva ride for the night.
Before bed, Jay checks the forecast and there is a message form the ARC saying that one of the boats has hit a whale, their rudder is damaged, they have steering issues and are taking on water. They issued a Pan Pan emergency call. What a shock for them all. They are pumping the bilges to stay on top of the water intake and another boat is in close proximity to them to be of assistance when & where required. Sending out blessings to them that they are all ok.
Day 12 – Dec 6th – I awoke at 6.00 to crazy sounds in our bunk, I was on immediate full alert as it certainly felt like the wind speed had got above 30kts and I wanted to let my nephew, who was doing the sunrise shift, know I was awake to help if he needed it. He was in control, pretty chilled and said he could handle it. What a dude! On my way back into the boat, my bare foot stepped on something slimy, urgggh, a flying fish – thank god it was a light step and slide vs heavy step and squish!!
I snuck back to my bunk and marvelled at the sounds that the crew sleep through. The best way to describe it is a high intensity crashing, clunking, sliding, bashing, whacking, snapping, slam dunking kinda ensemble!! Many noises that would ordinarily make you jump right out of your skin, we have become practically immune to. Earplugs help for sure, but the kids don’t use them and they have been sleeping like babes! Case in point, Jay and Rex have just emerged from their bunks and Jay said “Hey, that was a noisy night Rex eh?” and Rex replied “Was it……?!”
Alex and I were chatting today about how we had both underestimated how big a mental challenge this Atlantic crossing would be. There is a healthy mix of fun, fear, excitement, boredom, and vastness of sea which can either feel liberating or interminable! It is definitely a case of mind over matter. The days are long, the awkward motion is constant and we are within a microcosm of life. At the same time, we are cut off from our lives at home and miss the rest of our nearest and dearest. Whilst I had dreamed of this trip, I recognise that the dream is my creation of how I thought the trip would be. In many ways the dream lives on but much of the reality is different and I attempt to reconcile the two. Also, I recognise the element of the ‘grass is greener’. How I had longed for the escape on the sea and yet, at this stage, even the simple idea of going for a walk sounds like a heavenly proposition! Our bodies want to move, we are generally fast moving creatures and have necessarily had to slow right down on the boat. This brings with it both relief and also resistance. We are used to much doing and surrendering to much being. In general the overriding feeling is one of surrender. We are aware of it all and watching with interest, soaking up the many and varied joys aboard whilst knowing that life ashore is only days away.
Dad got his guitar out this afternoon and strummed through some classics as we sang along happily – all completely rooted in the present moment. I have such fond memories of singing along to him playing the guitar throughout my life. Just wonderful to share with my kids too.
174 miles covered in the last 24 hours.