2 to 12 December 2021
… Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia, 14 08 14° N 60 96 27° W, 3200nm, 23 days
It is fair to say that the second half of our crossing was much less dramatic than the first although not, it turned out, completely without its challenges…
Finally the wind has started to ease and happiness is on the horizon. I have tried to think about how to describe the last days in a few words but it is difficult. Here are some memories.
My toes hurt so much from having to grip with my feet. I can’t put any part of me on a hard surface without feeling my bruises. I just cannot bear to think how this would have been without the autohelm. Those walls of water, as big as houses, how does the boat get over them? Five very long days and nights. No hot tea and coffee for all of that time. What a great team who, whilst really tired and pissed off, held it together. Roll on tomorrow – a big day as we will be half way and a big day as I can have a shower.
Yesterday finally started to see the end of the storm and we were able to sit on deck and have our evening together – the first in days. A big milestone too as we reached the halfway mark so only have 1400 miles to go! I also had my first hot drink in five days today. It’s nice when you don’t have things regularly. It makes you appreciate them more. Sleep deprivation is becoming a real issue now. Alfie and I went to bed at 6pm expecting the first good night’s sleep for a while. Although nice winds were forecast we’ve had gusts of 40 knots all night. Hopefully it will calm today.
We are all making sealed guesses on our arrival hour to Saint Lucia but fingers crossed it will be on or close to 12 December. The only other news is that the autohelm is holding. We are still inspecting it every two hours. Fingers crossed it holds. The thought of hand steering for ten days is unimaginable.
I am starting to find it hard to be positive. The nut on the autohelm won’t stay tight. This means that for safety reasons two people are on watch in case it fails so I am starting to get really sleep deprived now. On top of this the water maker is not working and we are on rations. We think it is due to the bumpy sea we’ve been through. The good news is that the sea has calmed and we are sailing nicely. 1300 miles to go which sounds like a long way but I remember when it was 2200.
Lovely day sailing today. We’ve been goose-winging for two days now. I caught up on some sleep as we have finally returned to our old watch routine.
We are running worryingly low on drinking water. I have managed to bypass the sensor which has got the water-maker going, the only issue is that the salt content in the water is dangerously high for drinking. At least we can have showers and wash up with it. Hopefully we can get the water sorted tomorrow and another thing not to worry about. We have talked about going into Barbados as it is a day closer if we are going to run out of drinking water.
A good night’s sleep at last although I have been worrying about the bolt on the auto helm. However, when I came on watch I have learnt that it has hardly moved for the first time in days so fingers crossed.
We have below 900 miles to go now. The nut on the autohelm is starting to work loose again but very slowly. Hopefully I can manage it until the end. I tried an hour hand steering yesterday and that hour was about all I had in me.
I made artichoke pasta tonight. I think it was well received. Everyone is in a good mood today as two significant things have happened. One, the sea has calmed to the extent that we are not getting thrown around and two, we all got some sleep.
During the storm last week someone got thrown on the saloon table and ripped it from its fixings on the floor. As the weather was calmer I got the chance to take it apart and rebuild it. It’s all good now.
It’s been a pretty chilled day as the seas have calmed and the wind is behind us. The boat is steady which makes moving around and doing things much easier. We haven’t been able to fix the water-maker so are still on water rations for drinking. I was able to do some handwashing.
Great day today. We are broad reaching in 20 knots of wind on what will hopefully be our final course to Saint Lucia. We have just over 500 miles to run. The day has been pretty chilled. It’s amazing what boat stability does for morale. Just to be able to put something down and to walk around the boat. I think everyone is catching up on their sleep. The other good news is that my autohelm repair has held in place for 2 days. There is far less pressure on the steering as the weather and waves have reduced. I am quietly confident that I have made the final adjustment to the repair. Water is low. We are on full rations now but at this speed and with two emergency crates of beer we should be ok!
It is really warm now and very difficult to sleep in the daytime. We now think we should arrive in Saint Lucia on Monday afternoon or evening. Water rations are now critical. Monday might just be milk and beer. I just want it to end now. This will always be a big memory in my life and I have learnt a lot – how to deal with fear, tiredness and boredom. But I want it over and I want to be back home with Emma.
Another great day sailing – 7-8 knots most of the way. Bacon and egg sandwich for lunch and a quiz in the evening. Woeful result for me – 8 out of 20 although Del and Yvette only got 9. Fortunately Alfie was reading the questions although he did admit they were hard.
It really feels like the end is closing in now. We should see Barbados on our port side soon. (We didn’t!) We need to get somewhere soon as we start our last litre of water today.
The last thing is that I have a hernia – lots of straining with various tasks has caused it. We have been in contact with a doctor who has highlighted any negative things to look for but as it has popped back in I am to take things very easy. I am very excited to be speaking to Emma when I get in to Saint Lucia and fingers crossed I may be home this time next week.
Hopefully this is our final few hours of darkness before our final run into Saint Lucia. Only 70 miles to go as I write. We are now out of water so are going to be reliant on milk.
The nut on the autohelm has now held in position for 4 days. It doesn’t really matter if it fails now as hand steering in relatively light winds for the last 70 miles wouldn’t be an issue. It genuinely scares me to think what it would have been like if we hadn’t got it fixed. Pintail will be getting some upgrades so we don’t have the same issue or at the very least limit the risks.
I am very excited about getting some quiet time in a room that doesn’t move and has a shower and air conditioning. It is so hot here now on the boat, not helped by the 30 degree sea temperature. Both my pillows are soaked in sweat!
As we rounded the tip of St Lucia, we radioed race control. ‘Arc Race control, this is sailing vessel Delite, making our final approach to Rodney Bay’. The message that came back brought all sorts of strange emotions. ‘Delite, this is Arc Race Control, we have been tracking you, continue your final approach. You have just crossed one of the world’s oceans, congratulations’. And that was it. All over. As if that was not bad enough in the holding back the tears department, coming into Rodney Bay was too much. Most of the other boats were already in as we had slowed down to protect our steering and had learnt of our issues. 100s of air horns sounded and people were cheering as we made our way to our berth.
One of the race directors came aboard soon after we docked, for a chat. Fortunately I had not had enough rum to forget what she said and it hit us all like a bolt. ‘Do you know that when you were in the middle, you were closer to the International Space Station than you were to land?’. With that, she wandered off and I continued with my rum!
Before flying home, I spent four nights in an AirbnB overlooking Rodney Bay to give Yvette and Derek their boat back but also to decompress and digest the experience. These were my thoughts…
As I sit here in my apartment looking down over Rodney Bay, I try to reflect on what I have just been through. Although only three days ago, it feels like a different life. How three weeks went so fast I don’t know. I feel very emotional, from elation to sadness. I often think of the guy who lost his life, what the crew must have gone through in those ferocious seas. I think about the cruise ship that came to their rescue and stood too for 24 hours to try to give them shelter from the relentless waves. I can’t believe it’s over and I am counting down the days until I am back with Emma. I’m not normally good at being on my own but these three days just sitting and thinking have been lovely.
Would I do it again? Certainly not now, my bruises are still too fresh. The autopilot failure really scared me. As I sit here my thoughts turn to Pintail and our future with her. When people look at a sailing boat they see a mast and a shiny boat. As with cars, every boat is very different, built for different budgets and uses. Pintail is certainly above average in terms of quality; the Moody brand is globally respected but after this crossing I will be making some changes. I will add a second autohelm so we have two completely independent systems. I will make some changes to our water maker and get a second generator. Finally, as weather forecasting is so important I will fit a satellite internet system. With these upgrades I feel that we will be in the best possible position to make our own safe passage across.
So, maybe next year…