Day 17 – 11th December – 191 miles sailed in the last 24 hours – wow, a record day & just what we need at this point! 2 more days to go! 48 hours is still the longest passage prior to the Atlantic that I have ever done, but it seems small fry now and is all that lies between us and land!
Jago and Liberty were keen to do the sunrise shift this morning, so Jay woke them at 6am and they enjoyed the sunrise with him – snuggled up with hot chocolates! We had a peaceful day with great wind and we are galloping along still. We all have various aches and pains because our bodies need to move more than they have been able to! I have my trainers with me and am dreaming of arriving in St Lucia and running to launch my body into action again!
There is a huge and increasing amount of peculiar seaweed in the water, it looks gelatinous, almost like frog spawn. It is playing havoc with our fishing lines so we have given up for now.
The ARC sent out a message today saying that an ARC boat has lost it’s mast and only has enough fuel to cover 100 of the remaining 400 miles. They appealed to any boats close by to help by giving them any spare fuel. We aren’t anywhere near them to help but are wishing them well!
Day 18 – 12th December – The wind has died down so the motors are on for us to get to St Lucia as planned. It is doable, we are keeping the faith. We begin to plan what needs to be done on arrival and make a list- the first for nearly 3 weeks, prior to that we had prep lists coming out of our ears!!
It has felt properly hot for the first time today. The Gennaker was set to the starboard side for most of the day and we realise what a sun shade that has been for the boat! We have our last salt water shower which is pleasantly warm at 32 degrees – an increase in 7 degrees since we left Las Palmas. Sitting together, we enjoy our Penultimate Sunset at sea. The last before we see land. It strikes a chord in us all.
Our food rations have served us well. I make a French Onion soup for lunch with the last of the onions and Beef Pie for tonight. Homemade flapjack for pudding, yum! We have lots of tins left in our stock but the fresh food is practically gone. If we needed to survive on tinned food for the next few days then we could, but we are very glad that we don’t!
The last of our night watches tonight and I have my favourite – the sunrise shift. These watches have by and large been magic. Keeping watch whilst listening to music under a blanket of magnificent stars is a great way to while away the night hours. Catching up on sleep during the day has made it possible. There were a few livelier nights where the flybridge was an action station for sail changes etc but in the main, the nights have passed peacefully.
Day 19 – December 13th – We launch into action – today is the day, we will have landed before the day is out! Much cleaning and boat prep to do, sorting washing (loads!) ready for the laundrette, tidying away the things that we needed for the crossing and getting out the things that we need for cruising eg: paddleboard! There is much excitement on the boat. We all work hard and treat ourselves to the first fresh water shower – a warm one too – divine!! We are a clean, mean floating machine!!
We see land! Liberty is the first to spot it, she squeals and shouts “Land Ahoy!” as loud as she can! We all leap up on deck and join in with the squeals and shouts – then we stare in wonder – land, beautiful land. We are so relieved, feel incredibly grateful and very happy indeed.
We are bedazzled by the lights as we near shore. We radio in our arrival and are met by the ARC team who welcome us with a basket of fruit, a bottle of rum and a rum punch for all! We jump off onto the pontoon and kiss it with delight!!
I ask each of our wonderful crew to sum up in a few words their experience of the last 3 weeks. Here goes:
Jason – Un unforgettable slice of wild and free family time!
Alex – Invaluable lessons learned, sea legs definitely earned. The journey of a lifetime, always follow the sunshine!
Dad – Land at Last!!
Rex – An adventure I will never ever forget!
Ruby – An exciting adventure that few get to experience. I am so glad that I am one of them!
Jago – One of the best experiences of my life!
Liberty – A fun and exciting adventure!
Dulcie – Wow, what a challenge with many beautiful moments amidst the very best of crew. We surrendered to the flow, and are feeling humbled by the whole affair and utterly euphoric at the sight of land!
Day 20 – December 14th – The balloons are out & the birthday boy is delighted to have his birthday on arrival! The day begins with pressies and cards, followed by a delicious breakfast ashore. We clear customs and check in with the ARC office and then enjoy a pizza and ice cream lunch – heaven! Then we are free to set sail again – just out into the bay where there is an awesome Wibits water park. The kids have dreamed of swimming and we all indulge merrily! We return to the boat, hungry and happily tired and enjoy every mouthful of Rex’s birthday cake! The day is topped off with a meal ashore with Dad and Linda. What a day, everything feels novel and extra glorious after life at sea. Rex declares it to be the best birthday he has ever had!
Day 13 – December 7th – Rex and I did the 10:00-1:00 shift and it was lovely to share the shift with him. We talked about anything and everything under the starlit sky. We saw an incredible shooting star which shot right across the sky. The glorious peace is one of the most magical things about night shifts. That, the twinkling array of stars and the phosphorence which sparkles in the wake alongside out boat. It feels like there is magic all around.
We awoke to the glimmer of a Rainbow to the starboard side of our boat. She came in the wake of a couple of squalls, which hit the later night shifts. Today we are in between squalls and calm. In a moment of calm, Rex proposed that this was the most settled weather we would get and it was time to fly his drone and take some aerial footage of the boat. We had discussed him flying his beloved drone on a day where we were becalmed, yet that day hasn’t come and neither is it forecast. So, we agreed that a calm window today looked like the best bet. We were still doing 3-4kts and so landing the drone back on the boat (an essential) would be the dicey part. The plan was for Rex to aim it as best he could and Jay throw a blanket over to smother it when it got close, shutting off the motors on first contact. Rex got the drone flying with some concern about landing it on a moving target. He had previously only landed it on a stationary target in light winds. I held him steady as the boat was still rockin’ and rollin’ – his body was shaking with the nerves. He took the footage as best he could and then it was landing time. It was much harder than he thought and in the end a crash landing was all that was possible – the drone hit the fly deck, then skidded down the port side of the deck before coming to it’s final landing place right on the front edge of the port bow – it was scooped up just in time by Alex! Phew! Jubilation! The photographs are excellent and the video footage just amazing – nothing but BattPack, a whole lot of sea and sky – the vista is so vast that it appears as thought you can actually see the curvature of the Earth! Well done dear Rex and a special mention to how well you handled the stress darling boy!
It is Friday, or fri-yay as little Liberty calls it! Whenever we are onboard it is a particularly excellent day for the kids because a little pirate called Little Jonny Naughty hides sweets for them around the boat. He first came into play in 2008 when we bought our first boat BattCat. Jason’s Granny, the legendary Granny Batt came onboard and before we knew it there were gold coins hidden in the cabins – much to 3 and 4 year old Ruby and Rex’s delight! This started a tradition and the kids are thrilled that he still manages to find our boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean! Liberty is convinced that the magical phosphorescence has something to do with it! Happily aboard with his sweetie treasure haul, Jago has just declared that “Life is brilliant!”
Day 14 – December 8th – A peaceful day, not much wind but the calmest seas we have had. Not really ideal as we are all keen to get to St Lucia at this stage and despite enjoying the more relaxing motion, we want to increase speed! Our ETA is 5 days time – we expect to arrive by mid afternoon on Thursday 13th December. Just in time for Rex’s 14th birthday on the 14th December!
Jago’s tooth came out today – it has been hanging on a thread for a while! He wonders if the tooth fairy will find him in the middle of the ocean?!l
We have the 3rd shower of our trip this afternoon. Heavenly to be clean! Never again shall we take a luxurious daily hot shower or bath for granted – never!! We dream of the things that we shall enjoy in St Lucia – hot showers, pizza and ice-cream top the list! For tonight a Thai Curry will have to do!
157 miles covered in the last 24 hours. 5 more days to go…..!
Day 15 – December 9th– I did the sunrise shift which passed smoothly until 05:50, when what looked like a bright green light, similar to a firework, shot out across the sky from behind the headsail and then petered out. All I could think was that it was a flare. I leapt out of my seat, took a note of our position, could see nothing more on the horizon and switched on the VHF to Ch 16 to listen out for an emergency call. I woke up Jay to see what else we could do. We shone a bright torch in the direction of the light, but could see nothing else. We sat and pondered what on earth it could be – apparently not a flare, they don’t come in green and they would travel with the wind whereas the arc of the green light I saw was across the wind. We wonder if any other ARC boats saw it? We will investigate more in St Lucia!
We were treated to a magnificent pod of dolphins this morning! At least 50 of them! They were so sociable and playful. They danced and leapt around our boat for a good hour! We sat on the bow, with our feet hanging over the edge, almost touching their bodies. What a delight to behold! We were all captivated. Dad played the harmonica throughout and we were whooping with joy! We had all been wishing to see a big pod since day one and our wish was granted! We have some incredible photos, videos and memories of this day!
We thought we had a big catch on both fishing lines this afternoon, but in both cases it was a large clump of heavy seaweed. If that is such hard work to pull in, then god knows what a fish would be like! Have lamented the lack of fish in the catch again, we had a surprise at dinner. Quite out of the blue, during our spaghetti Bolognese meal in the cockpit, a flying fish flew in, hit Liberty in the forehead, Jago on the arm and landed in the middle of the table. We were all so shocked, there were many screams and yelps as it flippered about speedily. After several attempts, Jay managed to pick up the slippery fellow and throw the startled fish back into the sea. Jago and Liberty both promptly collapsed in my arms, sobbing with shock! Bless them! Once they recovered, we all had a good laugh about it. Not many people have been whacked by a flying fish, which tried to leap into their dinner! Holy Moly!
We have 700 miles left to go. Some strong winds forecast, so a lumpy last few days looks likely. But St Lucia is an ever increasing reality!
Day 16 – 10th December – We are galloping along! Great job because we absolutely need this pace to get to St Lucia in time for Rex’s 14th birthday on the 14th December. The dear boy has been a total star onboard, but another day at sea for his celebrations simply isn’t top of his agenda and I am wholeheartedly with him!! He will make the best of whatever situation we are presented with, but certainly getting to St Lucia, eating pizza, swimming and enjoying a change of scenery will be just what the doctor ordered!!
184 miles in the last 24 hours- 535 left to go! We are on a direct course of 280 to St Lucia. The wind is high 25-30kts and the forecast remains as such for the next couple of days. The seas are huge again and after a couple of calm days, everyone is feeling dicky. We are down to the last few sea sickness tablets which are being rationed out according to need! Various squalls hit us and we race inside to escape the thundering rain. They only last a few minutes and soon the sun is drying everything out again.
The food supplies are drying up but we are still creating delicious meals each day. Our attempt at a Wagamama Cha Han tonight – less of the usual fresh vegetables, instead tinned asparagus and sweetcorn will have to do! With a douse of sweet chilli sauce, the crew will be happy!
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.
Day 5 – 29th November – I wake at 4:00 for the sunrise shift. I listen to music throughout and the sunrise doesn’t disappoint! The sky shifts through a glorious ensemble of colours, from dark grey, to orange, yellow, then through pink, purple and blue! The rest of the crew join me about 8:00 for a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs.
The wind has been blowing over 20kts all night and we have covered 165 miles in the last 24 hours. Gaining good ground. We are now catching the Trade Winds as hoped and they continue to blow above 20kts. The waves have increased notably in height – it is a good job we have all got our sea legs. I think that mine have finally arrived today, thank god for that! Feeling nauseous for the whole passage was certainly not my plan!
It is day 5 and we have all decided that not another day can pass without a shower! Wet wipes have been our friend until now but this is officially the longest I have ever been without a shower or a bath and it is really not my thing!! I am craving full body cleanliness! The salt water hose is working again so we don our swimwear (a brave move given we have been in long sleeves and trousers until now) and head to the bow of the boat. God it felt good to wash my hair – all done with salt water, with a frugal dose of fresh water right at the end. The sun shone but did little to stop our bodies shivering in the wind!! How can we describe it? Utterly invigorating! We stopped to check ourselves as we washed, looking around us, thinking that we certainly haven’t done this before and it is something we won’t forget!! The towels felt delicious as we wrapped them around us and we sat and brushed our hair dry in the wind, which by the way is an excellent hair dryer!
Today is the first day that we are all barefoot. We are feeling the pull of the Caribbean! It will be time to move our clocks forward soon – how wonderful to be sailing through time zones!
We haven’t seen any marine wildlife yet, despite 8 pairs of keen eyes! We have seen 2 birds swooping low to check us out but no sea creatures. The fishing lines remain untouched and the wish for BBQ for dinner remains unanswered! The lines have just gone in again this afternoon – we are keeping the faith.
Day 6 – November 30th – The wind blew up over night and continued into the day – circa 30kts. We are going across the swell so the conditions are more difficult to weather. It feels as though we are on a bizarre rollercoaster that simply won’t stop. The kids are dealing with it very well but the best way for me to stomach it is lying down. Even then with such a strange motion, my internal compass simply doesn’t know which way is up! We are going up and down big waves and being thrown continuously from side to side. Our insides are constantly compensating for the irregular shifts. This is not a motion that I am keen on. At all. It is akin to being trapped inside a washing machine.
We had a lovely family chat in the saloon after lunch. Everyone hunkering in, swapping stories and entertaining each other. This is the highlight of the day. Until we get the fishing lines out. We have caught something! Much excitement in the cockpit, then someone exclaims that it looks like a sea snake! Indeed it does, a long sea snake wiggling and fighting its way toward our boat. Alas it as a long piece of heavy rope! Dismay!! Vegetable pie for dinner it is then!!
Jason does a boat check and is mystified why our water tank has gone from 7/8 to 5/8 in 24 hours. Not good news and no-one understands how as we have all been so frugal. Jay manually checks the level of the water tank and checks for any leaks. It must have come from a tap not being turned off properly. We must all be vigilant going forward otherwise we will run out of water way before we get to land. Crikey!
Day 7 – December 1st – I did the Sunrise shift and dear Ruby woke up to join me for the last hour, where we watched the multi-hued sky with pleasure. When Jason woke up, he took over at the helm and I grabbed another hour’s sleep. I awoke to the delightful smell of a fried breakfast. Utterly delicious and devoured by all. It is the first of December – advent calendars! Much delight amongst the kids!
Another ARC boat, which we had seen in the night, sailed up close to us and shouted their hello’s! It is comforting to know that there are other boats in the vicinity of this vast Ocean!
The winds are still high, between 20-30kts which is between a Force 6-7 and the sea is still churned up. Infact, that is exactly how I would describe my stomach too! By now, day 7, I should be at one with the motion of the waves. Alas, I am not and by mid-afternoon I decide to take another seasickness tablet – a different brand this time, which hopefully won’t make me feel so sleepy. Hurrah, I perk up and enjoy the latter half of the day far more than the former.
We head to the bow of the boat for a different perspective and find a flying fish that had flown onto the deck and got stranded. Poor thing died in it’s struggle and is inspected by our fascinated crew. So we have caught 1 fish, just not in the traditional sense!
Today marks the day, 1 year ago, that my dear Grandpa died. We have swapped our favourite stories of him all day and feast on a delicious meal of Beef Black Bean and a pudding of home baked chocolate shortbread. God bless his soul!
We have sailed a record 181miles in the last 24 hours. Yay!
Day 8 – December 2nd – Bliss! A night off from watches last night for me. On Dad’s recommendation I popped my earplugs in and got some decent sleep! What a world of difference that makes. We woke up to the sound of Jago & Liberty giggling in their bunk – both excited about day 2 of their advent calendars!
We decided it was time to get a little more festive. The kids made a yummy gingerbread house which was made, decorated and demolished in an hour and a half! We bought some festive window gel gems and the kids stuck them onto the windows in their bunks. Jago and Liberty both decided to write Christmas stories – some very sweet creation going on! They are becoming increasingly inventive about how to while away the hours.
Alex is getting on so well with his cousins. He has brought a wonderful fresh dimension to the boat. Such a gorgeous boy and a total joy to have onboard. When he sits with the kids there is much merriment and some fabulous accents! Dad and Jago have been strumming away on their guitars together. We are all enjoying quality time with each other & are reminded how important it was to get the right balance of people on this adventure.
There has been sunshine for most of the day, which we have all enjoyed. The wind has come off a bit and the seas are a bit more settled. We have covered a respectable 179 miles in the last 24 hours.
Day 1 – 25th November – We leave Las Palmas as part of a grand parade. We all dress in Rainbows and Dad plays the Rainbow song on his guitar whilst we sing along. The sun is shining on us and the boat is loaded with anticipation of what lies ahead. She is also loaded to the rafters with food – we have a very impressive net in the cockpit which is fully laden with fresh fruit and vegetables.
The start gun sounds at 12.30 and we are off! The first day is spent in the company of other boats but as the day draws to a close we realise it may be the last time we see any of them and any land until we get closer to St Lucia. Jay has made up a delicious pasta sauce in advance and we feast on a yummy prawn pasta. Liberty says she is tired, I take her to bed and she is promptly sick on her duvet. Urghhh! We have all been taking sea sickness tablets since a couple of hours before we set sail. The idea is to take them for a couple of days and avert the perils of sea sickness. Alas, with dear Liberty it didn’t work! Happily the sickness was shortlived and she went to sleep shortly after.
We divvied up the night watch – I did the 9.30-1.00am, I woke up my Dad and Nephew Alex for the 1.00-4.00am and they woke Jason for the 4.00-7.00am shift. The night passed fairly smoothly apart from the fact that Dad mistakenly locked a very cold Jason out of the boat so he couldn’t come in and make a much-needed mid-shift cuppa! Brrrrrr
Day 2 – 26th November – Oh my we are all sleepy! A combination of the anti-sickness tablets, sea air and night shifts has meant we all feel shattered. We rise for meals, take it in turns to doze in between, and repeat! We are all finding our sea legs. It apparently takes about 4 days for people to settle into life aboard doing 24/7 watches – we are in the adjustment period. By the afternoon we have more energy and set up our first afternoon of fishing. The best time is an hour before sunset. We have done much research into the best ways to catch fish – the most likely catch in the Atlantic is Mahe Mahe and Tuna. Alas no joy tonight! We shall resume our efforts again tomorrow.
Rex and Jago both cut their feet onboard today – a regular peril with boat life. There have been various knocks and bumps to as we adjust to the constantly bobbing motion. We all need to hold on wherever we move and it is easy to forget! As the day draws to a close, we are treated to a spectacular sunset where the sun literally melts into the sea – how does that happen?! Such a thing of great beauty!
I cook a meal of tasty beef with rice and veg and it is devoured enthusiastically by the crew! We settle in to watch another half hour of The Karate Kid and then we settle the little kids and the night shifts begin. Rex and Ruby take on their first night shift, holding the fort until 10.30pm. Jason takes over until 1, wakes me for the 1-4, for the last hour of which I am struggling to keep my eyes open, then Dad and Alex take the sunrise shift. We pass the odd container ship and occasional sail boat but largely the sea is ours. The boat is gaining good ground, winds of around 11 knots giving us a speed over ground of around 5.5 knots over night.
Day 3 – 27th November – Waking to the sound of waves lapping the boat is now a comfort rather than disconcerting. For the most part, we have our sea legs. Liberty and Jago are running around the saloon and cockpit like little monkeys. We are greeted by beautiful sunshine this morning. The ocean looks a glorious deep blue and the sky is perfectly baby blue.
After breakfast, a brave few of the crew decide it is time to try the salt water shower. Do you know that the average person in the UK uses 150 litres of water per day? Onboard we have 8 litres per person per day and we are fortunate enough to have a boat with 900 litres of water storage, on our previous boat we had half that amount and much less is usual on a monohulls! It is a lesson in frugality. Water is a precious resource onboard. Where we can, we use salt water, which is of course in abundant supply! The salt water shower head needs fixing, so it is a bucket over the head, wash with soap and a frugal rinse down with a sponge of fresh water. The kids decide that baby wipes are the way to go for the next couple of days and when they might brave the shower!
Everyone on board has a job to do. It is important to keep crew focused. Today Jago is our rigging checker. Liberty is checking and turning the fruit and vegetables in our net in the cockpit. We divvy up the tasks so that everyone is involved and has purpose.
Rex says to me today, “It is so much nicer than I thought it would be Mummy, floating around in the middle of nowhere with nothing much to do!” We are all surrendering to the moment, winding down from the pace of our lives at home, recognising the benefits of physical and metaphorical space.
I kicked off the watches tonight, with Jago snuggled in beside me. He was in awe at the stars – you can literally see the whole milky way. A sight that neither of us have never enjoyed before. The night passed smoothly with Alex doing his first solo night watch and Rex and Ruby joining Jason for the sunrise shift!
Day 4 – 28th November – I awake to the smell of Eggy Bread – yum! The sun is shining and everyone is in high spirits! We are amazed to have sailed passed the Sahara desert to our left. We are coming up to the Cape Verde Islands and are steering West in advance of them. We have reached a milestone, we have sailed South until the butter melts (as was the case many moons ago when boats sailed the old trade routes) and now it is time to head towards the Caribbean.
The wind and waves pick up and we are reaching speeds of 13kts down the crest of the waves. It feels like we are surfing but in a 24 tonne boat! This is exhilarating sailing.
We baked today and all luxuriated in the warm chewy sultana squares – they seemed extra delicious at sea! Thank you Linda for the recipe!
We are all already sharing so many more conversations than we do at home. There is so much time to simply hang out together with no distractions. We have all agreed that the passage will be device free. There is no Wifi but the kids still have games etc on their devices and it would be easy for them to slip into the habit of playing games on them intently! Instead we have an hour or so of DVD watching all together at the end of the day. The rest of the time we are interacting, playing card or other games, colouring, sewing, playing music (guitars and keyboard onboard) telling silly stories, cooking, reading books – a generous list of activities to pleasantly pass the time, whilst being connected to the present moment and each other. Tonight we play an enjoyable game of Stop The Bus, much loved by us all!
The sea temperature is slowly increasing from 25 degrees in the Canaries to 27. We debate who is brave enough to jump in and swim once the seas get a bit calmer!
I have always wanted to sail across an ocean. The prospect has long appealed to me. My free spirit loves the idea of sailing off into the blue, being self reliant and trusting what the ocean brings.
In 2009 when we had a year aboard our first boat BattCat, the time drew nigh for our Atlantic Crossing. Our eldest 2 kids were then 3 and 4 and after much discussion we decided that them being largely being confined to the cockpit of the boat for 3 weeks, could be more gruelling than pleasurable. On that trip we went ashore most days, the kids could stretch their legs, run around and let off steam. We swam and snorkelled every day and the sea was like a playground for them. They became adept at diving down for shell treasures and loved their sea adventures. The longest passage we did was a forty eight hours from Croatia to Corfu and the kids had cabin fever enough by then! Also an Ocean Crossing means someone keeping watch 24/7 and we needed more crew than just Jason and I to facilitate that. My Dad and Jason’s brothers were keen to join us, but to accommodate them comfortably we needed an extra bunk. So the decision was made that I would fly home with the kids – spend 3 weeks in the UK catching up with friends and family and Jason would sail across the Atlantic with the boys.
I knew it was the right decision but felt bereft at missing such an opportunity on our lovely boat. Jason and I are equally qualified sailors and he offered up the idea that I could take the helm and he could fly back with the kids. For a millisecond, I entertained the idea – it was an option – how wonderful, I could do it! In the next instant I realised that I simply couldn’t be away from my babies for that length of time. I was suddenly overwhelmed by an animal need to protect them. If something happened and I was mid Atlantic, I wouldn’t be able to get to them for at least a couple of weeks. I simply had to stay with them and would hold onto the dream of us sailing an ocean when the kids were bigger.
Well, life got progressively busier, we moved to Poole after our year of sailing adventures and had two more babies. We held onto the dream of a family ocean crossing but had to find the right window. We agreed that ideally our youngest would be 5 (enter the lovely Liberty age 5 and a half right now!!) and the eldest Rex wouldn’t be ensconced in exams! That time is now – Liberty is old enough to listen to instruction, amuse herself for stretches of time and she has largely grown out of the tantrum phase. Rex is in Year 9 and missing study time won’t affect his GCSE performance.
We agreed that we would make the crossing with the ARC, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, where at least 200 boats make the crossing at the same time. It may be that you don’t see another boat after day 2 but you will have boats within at least 20 miles of each other and thus contactable via the VHF. Every day at midday there is a call on the VHF to neighbouring boats to check all is ok and if anyone needs assistance. This incredible support network was vital to me as Mother of 4. The decision was made to sign up for the ARC 2018, leaving November 25th.
Next stop was to convince the schools to agree to the length of absence required for the trip. No mean feat when it comes to State Schools for whom it is particularly important to meet the local education authority requirements for absenteeism. Initially when planning this trip we wondered whether we would be able to take a year out, like we did in 2009 and this was our initial proposal to Rex’s school, for us to home school for the year and hold his place for our return. The feedback was that despite his great progress, the school would have to take him off the school register, this would be enforced by the Local Education Authority as the school is in high demand and there is a long waiting list. The kids would be put to the end of the waiting list. After discussion with our kids and understanding that they love their schools, have worked hard to get there and didn’t want to jeopardise their places, we had to revise our plans. We went back with a 6 month, then a 3 month option and the answer was the same. We researched further and found that 20 consecutive days is the maximum number that a pupil is able to take off without being taken off the register. The ARC leaves on the 25th November which required 19.5 days off before the kids broke up for the Christmas Holidays – surely meant to be!! So the decision was made to pepper our lives with sailing adventures rather than taking a huge chunk of time out. This particular trip will be 6.5 weeks.
The schools are now fully behind our voyage and the kids have work to do enroute to keep them up to speed. The belief that this Eduventure will be massively educational is understood by all. We will be taking our children out of the bubble of western living, out of comfort zones into a highly connected, family bonding experience. One in which we will all reset and be able to draw reference to for the rest of our lives. Into a world where there is no wifi, no modern distractions, where we will need to pull together as team, each of us with vital jobs to do. A world where there is so much space, endless sky and sea, sunrise and sunsets like no other and stars which can be appreciated in all their glory in the absence of any light pollution. The kids will take their part in the 24/7 watches, fishing for their dinner and learning new life-long skills.
For all our mid Atlantic updates please click here: Mid Atlantic Blog Updates and enter choose BattPack from the drop down list of boat names.
Life Aboard vs Life Ashore – We wake up naturally vs with an alarm. Jump into the sea for a morning swim vs morning shower. Fruit & yoghurt for breakfast all together vs separate breakfasts. Galley overlooks the sea vs Kitchen over the driveway. Home sails to a new place each day vs our house as a stationary base. Exploring new places and adventures each day vs familiarity and known quantities. Anchor vs park. Dinghy rides to the shops and out for dinner vs. car. Siestas vs coffee break and pushing through. Watching the stars vs watching TV. Made up stories on the bow vs stories from a book in bed. Early eve watersports vs playing in the garden. Wearing swimmers vs clothes. Skin on skin hugs vs clothed hugs. Spending half the day in the sea vs the odd swim. Warm seawater that feels like silk vs cold sea that gives you chills. Bare feet vs shoes. Al Fresco showers vs showers inside. Morning meditations on the bow, sun and breeze on my face vs morning meditations in my room imagining I am on the bow! No WIFI vs WIFI central. Family card games vs computer games. Freedom vs routine and conformity. Perfect sea view and open vista vs garden view and limited vista. Boat time ruled by our natural rhythms vs Home time ruled by our schedules! Relying 100% on us and each other vs relying on others as well ourselves. Close family bond vs frequently disconnected unit. Daily shared ice cream moments vs the odd shared biscuit moment. Long to-do lists vs list-free Being. W.O.N.D.E.R.F.U.L
Life Ashore vs Life Aboard –Our deliciously wide range of friends and family vs constant immediate family. Evenings with my husband vs 24/7 with the kids. Known quantities vs daily adventure. Our nest, haven, bricks and mortar which shelters us from any storm vs our cosy floating home that is very weather dependent. Toilet paper into loos that flush vs toilet paper into bins and pumping loos! Binmen who collect rubbish vs discarding own rubbish in each town. More of your own space & headspace vs constant close proximity. Wide variety of foods vs food of the country you are in. Running vs swimming. Our pets vs stray cats. Electricity and water on demand vs limited electricity and water. Long showers and deep baths vs quick showers. H.E.A.V.E.N
We seek a natural balance of life. Part of the human experience to crave something different to what you have. When we are home we will dream of the boat. When we are on the boat we will dream of home. We will enjoy both and work to be present in both, we will always look forward to moving from one to the other and appreciate each for the benefits they give us. The boat answers our need for escape, freedom, disconnection from the hubbub of life to gain deeper connection with each other and ourselves. Our wonderful home is our family Headquarters, suffused with love and gives us a plethora of opportunities to grow and thrive.
Now, we are busy, packing, planning and manifesting the next stage. It is soon time to leave our nest at home and get aboard again. The Atlantic Ocean Crossing awaits us – we are excited, a little daunted, but absolutely ready for this next adventure! All sailing blogs will be posted here and you will be able to track our progress as we cross the Atlantic. 6 Batts, my lovely Dad and nephew, our lovely BattPack and a whole lot of sea and sky ahead!