Atlantic Crossing, St Lucia, St Vincent and Grenadines

Beer of the moment : Hairoun (St Vincent), Piton (St Lucia), Carib (Trinidad)

Cocktails : Pina Colada, Banana Daiquiri

Monday 1st December 19.40N 29.05W

1000 miles completed. Spoke to another yacht this morning which has crept up behind us - Eumenides - the smallest boat in the rally at only 31ft. It confirms we are going very slowly.

Bad weather still not with us. I think they may have overstated the conditions, but we have still got a long way to go....

The daily ARC SSB net has been a frustration. They hold it on channel 4C, but I get almost round the clock ssb modem traffic on this channel and cannot hear the weather forecasts or other traffic. I have arranged a catch up with "Meander" tonight on a different channel so maybe we will just do our own thing from now on.

We had mince and mashed potatoes for lunch today, probably the best meal we have had all week. Still no alcohol consumed, we must be going for some kind of record now, but I was hoping we would reduce the weight of the boat by making a dent in the 200 or so cans of beer onboard.

Tuesday 2nd 19.22N 31.23W

The drought is over ! Two cans of San Miguel were consumed over lunch by the skipper.

Bev is now well enough to do some cooking but she is still not 100%. Bill has been updating his diary in preparation for a talk he is giving back in Redcar when he gets back.

It’s been an uneventful day, lots of lounging around and listening to music. I have now finished all the sailing magazines I brought with us so am going to have to get into the more serious literature aboard. 

I downloaded the position information for the race last night and I reckon we are in about 180th place before handicap adjusted times are calculated, so probably worse than that then :) as multihulls have generally terrible handicaps. Our "race" is really with some of the other boats around us and that’s how we will judge our progress. The leading boats are only about 700 miles (or three days) from the finish, by then we hope to be at the half way stage.

Wednesday 3rd 18.58N 33.39W

Weather continues to get warmer. It’s great to be back into shorts, today it was too hot even for a t shirt. The water is also warming up - 25C now. Bev and Bill have been sunning themselves all day in the cockpit.

In an effort to get more speed on, we are flying the gennaker and jib, goosewinged, today. The wind is fairly light though so we are still only making about 5.5kts. Just done some calculations and it shows us arriving on the afternoon on the 15th or possibly the morning of the 16th. We'll see how it goes.

We found our first flying fish, dead on the deck today, poor thing.

Flying Fish  

We "flogged" the clock yesterday so we are now on UTC - 1. It has been a bit confusing because other things I have arranged to do, eg catch up with Matt on the radio are in UT (GMT), so constantly having to think what time it really is ?!? It gets light about 8am and dark at 7pm - not bad for December.

I've now read all the sailing magazines I had been hoarding and a couple of books on Sailing Confesssions. I guess it’s now time to tackle some of the novels onboard as Bev has hidden my XML book from me...

Thursday 4th 18.37N 35.35W

It was a frustrating evening and day on the sailing front. The wind has been less than 10 knots all day and we are currently crawling along at only 2.6kts of boat speed. It means that we didn't pass the half way stage today as hoped, in fact we are about 40 miles short. We spoke to Matt from "Meander" on the SSB and conditions are the same where he is.

We spotted a school of pilot whales today, but no sign of the transatlantic rowing boat which is in the area. It would be nice to see one and say hello. 

The beard growing competition continues. Allan’s early advantage of a couple of days pre-rally growth seem to be paying off and it’s likely he will lift the Captain Birdseye trophy when we arrive at St Lucia. Bill is thinking of auditioning for the part of Santa when he gets back to Redcar but I'm not sure his wife, Joyce, will let him keep the beard that long.

Beards on the Atlantic

We have started to fantasize about what we are going to do on arrival. Consensus seems to be lots of beer in a frosted glass, rum cocktail chaser and a cheeseburger and chips.

Friday 5th 18.18N 37.11W

The wind has all but disappeared leaving a baking hot day and a smooth glassy sea. The thermometer in the cabin reads 35C and the sea temperature is 26C.  We put the motor on this morning, and it looks like staying on, while we slog westwards in search of wind. We finally passed the half way mark at breakfast though, which is something to celebrate !

We had a visitor in the shape of a long legged white bird (the feathered kind) that dropped in on the front of our boat and spent a couple of hours catching its breath. I don’t know what it was but it looked like a coastal wader of some sort. We also heard another non-ARC boat on the VHF but have only caught the briefest glimpse of them on the horizon.

Bev aided by Bill surpassed herself at lunch and we had a lovely ham and cheese salad with homemade coleslaw. To be washed down with a couple of cans of San Miguel, of course.

Saturday 6th 17.51N 39.21W

With no wind we decided to motor the whole day. Things were going swimmingly until just after dark, when, with a loud bang, the port engine stopped.

Allan knew instinctively that we had fouled the propeller. Sure enough, reaching down with the boathook revealed lots of rope and fishing net wrapped round the prop. It was too risky to try anything in the dark, so in the morning Allan stripped off, put his snorkel and mask on, and jumped into the water armed with Bevs best sabatier bread knife. The water was surprisingly warm given the chart indicates its 5,464 metres deep here.

It took a good half hour of sawing with the knife to release the net and we were at last able to continue our journey. We have now reached the limit of what is prudent to motor with our diesel reserves, so we are just going to have to sit it out and wait for the wind to return.

Allan frees rope from prop

The little white bird has revisited us and seems to want to stay. Allan has decided its a "yellow-eyed Egyption eagret", but we will need to wait to consult a book to know for sure. Bill has decided its name is Lucy – named after our destination St Lucia.

We had a great lunch of mashed potatoes, peas, carrots and M&S steak in gravy. Bill doing the honours in the kitchen.

Sunday 7th 17.30N 41.19W

Finally found some wind and have set a full main and gennaker, reaching at up to 8knots, but a bit lumpy because of the wave size and direction.

A quiet day after the drama of yesterday. We turned back the clocks to GMT -2 hours. The little bird stayed with us during the night but left this morning, we had tried feeding it so perhaps that’s why its decided to move on :) It has sat exhausted for most of the time at the front of the boat (ignoring the sails) and on the solar panels apart from a couple of hours when it paced up and down staring at its reflection in the windows.

We are hoping to get down to 1000 miles to go tomorrow and arrive a week on Tuesday or Wednesday. It remains warm but can be a little cool in the breeze at night. Everyone well although Bill isn't risking any spicy food or beer at the moment in case it upsets his stomach again.

Monday 8th 16.51N 43.28W

A cracking days sail today. We sailed hour after hour at between 7 and 10 knots with a double reefed main and a gennaker. The boat fizzed along and the speed was intoxicating. By nightfall we reefed down as usual and our speed fell away, but by then we needed the rest from the noise anyway. There is a lot of crashing, banging and slapping when you are down below. Bill described it as being in a washing machine.

We spotted a couple of pods of dolphins today and also a large shoal of tuna fish keeping pace with the boat alongside. There is no sign of "Lucy" today but we did discover she left us something to remind us of her - all over the front decks !

Bill turned his hand to some poetry and came up with this rather impressive effort:

A Cat's Tale

With the wind in our hair and the smell of the sea

We are sailing along in "Bagpuss", we three

From Canaries to St Lucia where we are bound

Lots of adventures on the waves to be found

 

The flying fish scatter as they see our bow

We're not to be eaten by that monster they vow

Now the dolphins as they see us, they come alongside

Their tricks and their skills they don't want to hide

 

When the engines stop quickly, there's a problem you know

There's a fishing net wrapped round the propshaft below

its almost dark, so difficult to see

we'll leave it till morning to set ourselves free

 

Early next morning, thankfully calm

Skipper, Allan, goes over to save us from harm

He cuts and he saws for thirty minutes long

Its a blessing to us, he's so fit and so strong

 

Here is to St Lucia still ever so far

With dreams of sitting with a beer in a bar

When people ask us from where do we hark

"We've travelled the ocean, crossed the Atlantic with the ARC"

 

Tuesday 9th 16.07N 45.37W

"Oh were did our wind go" as the songs goes, or was it "Love go"?

Wind died during the night and we resorted to a little motoring. A little is all we can afford as we are down to 1/4 tank of diesel and we need to keep some for charging and for getting into the marina at the other end. More than 2/3 of the way there now.

We saw a couple of yachts last night, the first for ages. Could only raise one of them on the radio, a Dutch boat on its way to Barbados. They had made good time though, having left the Canaries 4 days after we did.

It was beautiful and warm today though, hopefully a taste of the Caribbean. The water is over 26C.

We have been thinking about the top 10 things we want to do on arrival, the votes are still being counted, so an update tomorrow.

Wednesday 10th 15.40N 47.19W

"Starry, starry night....." After a fairly windless day the light gave way to a beautiful cloudless, moonless night and we had front row seats in the biggest planetarium in the world. About 8 o'clock the moon did rise and it was just as spectacular as a sunrise. The moon seemed to rise a big quicker than the sun, but was a yellow colour as it peeped above the horizon and you could look at it for longer than you could the sun on its way into the sky.

Bev’s been marching through her novels. she completed one on a Geisha girl yesterday and finished off another about peasant life in Italy today. Bill has started on the Branson autobiography Allan has just finished, who in return has made a small dent in a Tom Clancy novel which has the dimensions of a house brick.

 As I write this at 4am, the GPS shows 734 miles to go, so depending in the wind about 5 or 6 days left :) But no worries we have enough food to last us till Christmas if needed :)

Thursday 11th  15.31N 48.33W

Another day with light winds. We have been "Bob, bobbing along.." at about 2 knots in the sunny high pressure system, conserving our diesel in case we need it. Looks like an arrival next Wednesday or Thursday now.

Lots of books being consumed and can now report that all the crew have imbibed some alcohol, Bev was the last to give in.

The nights have been clear and afforded spectacular views again. It makes it really easy to spot the satellites rushing across the sky and the odd shooting star. The latter are a very personal event, they flash and disappear so quickly there is never enough time to point them out to someone else.

Our onboard poet, Bill, has been busy again:

 

 Sleepless Thoughts

 As I lay on my bed last night ,thinking

 Strange thoughts kept entering my head

 Did I turn off the tap in the garden?

 or, did I leave it dripping instead?

 

 Did I water that plant in the kitchen?

 The one that looked droopy and sad

 Did I post off that last Christmas card?

 The one that’s for Mum & my Dad

 

 Did I cancel the milk with the dairy?

 If not, there's 30 odd bottles by the door

 And I'll bet that old postman is laughing

 As he puts bills upon bills on the floor

 

 How's my favourite football team doing?

 Scoring goals, winning games, as it should

 And how, oh if how, I could oak in the bathtub

 I wish with lots of bubbles I could

 

 Now there's a shout from above, time to get up

 Your turn to do breakfast, stop wailing

 The winds getting up, suns started to shine,

 Its a wonderful day for Ocean sailing

Friday 12th 15.02N 49.57W

And the winds came, and there was much rejoicing amongst the crew..........

We had a good day, running downwind with the headsails goosewinged and 5-6knots hour after hour. We are all making good progress on the novels, so much so that the only thing unread might soon be Allan's book on Advanced XML programming. Somehow I still don't think it’s likely to see any daylight on its pages :)

Spoke to "Meander" on the SSB. They are a little behind us, probably the only ones. Matt tells me they are down to their last two cans of beer, clearly a provisioning error. Is that mutiny I hear ?

We still have over 130 cans of beer, mind you we estimate its still 5 days to go, so it might be touch and go for us too.... We did consider leaving them some beer tied to a fender.

Saturday 13th 14.49N 52.20W

Crews patience is being tested by the lighter winds today. The skipper is calm as usual which just makes aforementioned more infuriated. Wednesday is till our goal, and that's a full two days before the arrival party.

We are gradually munching our way through the M&S canned food we brought. Today was the Chicken Tikka, and it was surprisingly nice.

To keep amused we have developed our own top ten things to do on arrival at St Lucia

 

Arrival Top Ten

 Swapping tales of our adventure with other ARC boats

 A gentle stroll along St Lucia’s sun-kissed beaches

 In the marina, tied up, no sails flapping and no boat rolling underneath us

 No night watches and no long passages (for a while)

 To have a burger and chips, our Atlantic dream meal

 

 Large beers, all round, in chilled glasses

 Usual thing we used to take for granted, like a shower, shave and haircut. Clean at last

 Clean the boat top to bottom (Mums due)

 Inform family and friends, with pride, that we've made it

 Ave a few more drinks than usual at the ARC happy hours to celebrate our safe arrival :)

Sunday 14th 14.35N 54.20W

It’s not long until Santa comes and today we had our own sleigh ride - scorching down the big Atlantic swell with the gennaker and jib goosewinged and the wind right behind us. We regularly made 7 or 8 knots, eating into the distance that lies in front of us. As I write this at 02:30 the GPS says 281.5 miles to go, and the anticipation is mounting..

Another sure sign we are getting closer to the islands is that, for the first time, we have seen lots of aircraft during the night, in slow procession to and from Europe.

We caught up with and spoke to Des Anges today. Their rolling motion made us grateful we have a catamaran, again. They told us that a boat with 8 people on and some 300 miles behind us was running low on food. Forget what I said about running out of beer, that really would be a nightmare. I guess they could always eat whoever was responsible for their provisioning :)

Monday 15th 14.29N 56.42W

"We were only 24 hours from St Lucia..." as Gene Pitney might have sung....

The last few miles were always going to be slow, like watching a kettle boil or paint drying. The crew have both cabin fever and are stir crazy, but nothing that won't be cured by getting into Rodney Bay marina. The GPS says 142.5 miles to go, but of course it will be a little further than that in real money.

Good to speak to Jim on Helice today. For much of the ARC he has been in front of us, but we must have passed him in yesterdays blistering run. Turns out he is down to his last two cans of beer, I think he should be in charge of provisioning next time :) Bev was also reassured that Jims wife and daughter were still feeling a little queezy after more than 3 weeks at sea, so its not just her...

We'll put as much sail up as possible tomorrow, even tie the tea towels to the guard rails, and god speed !!

Tuesday 16th 14.20N 59.03W

It’s into our last evening now. We are expecting to make landfall at about 04:00. The moon has been late to rise in recent days and is on the wane so it will probably be pitch black as we close in on the coast - that should be fun :) Luckily there are not too many hazards on the northern coast.

To celebrate our landing we are each going to have a shower today. The second time on the crossing. I guess we may not realise how bad we smell to people not sharing the crossing with us. 

The other thing I've warned Bev and Bill about is the landsickness. I don't think it’s as bad as seasickness, just a bit like being drunk, but I can tell its going to hit them hard.

About 2 hours to go we were hit by a huge squall – gusting 35 knots, big seas and lots of rain. We ran with it for a while and decided to motor the last bit rather than spend several hours tacking as the wind was now on our nose. We were very grateful that the finish line boat flashed us in as it was very hard to see the Marina in the squalls. 

As we crossed the finish line, very bedraggled it was great to hear the committee boat sounding its horn that we had finished and the celebration could begin.

Crossing the line

We were met by an Arc representative who helped us tie up and brought us cold rum punch and a basked of fruit. He was a nice chap and really did make us feel welcome.

We sat sipping rum punch at 4.00 in the morning feeling a bit numb that it was finally over. Only Bill ventured ashore to stretch his legs and feel the ground before we tumbled into bed.

We were all elated to have done it and very relieved to have arrived safely.

Wednesday 

HANGOVER

Much of the day was spent chatting with other arrivals and swapping stories. Lots of people had caught fish or had close encounters with sharks, the sharks especially got bigger every time the stories were recounted.

Lunch was the much awaited hamburger and chips – washed down with plenty of beer. It was funny that our legs felt tired after just a little bit of walking.

In the evening we went to a Jump Up at Pigeon island, there were lots of bands playing and stalls selling food and beer. In the end we decided on dinner at a cellar bar in the park, very atmospheric and great food.

Thursday 

We found an Indian Restaurant called Razamataz in town. Matt & Mel arrived so we all went for a curry. It was fantastic and worthy of a second visit next time we pass by.

Friday

Still a few boats arriving, including the smallest boat Eumenides, which got a great reception.

Allan hired a jeep to go to pick up the boys and Bev’s mum from the airport, which is handily at the opposite end of the island, about an hour away by twisting mountain road. We had a quiet evening in preparation for the final ARC party and prize giving on Saturday. We were surprised that quite a few boats had not stayed on in St Lucia but if people have limited time then they wanted to cruise and see as much as they could after arrival.

We also acquired a long plank of wood to make it easier for Joyce and the boys to get on and off the boat.

Saturday

We thought we might be in the running for a prize – either last place or perhaps “wittiest daily logs”. Alas we were robbed on both counts. There were 18 catamarans in the fleet of 225 boats and 4 of them were in the last 5 places on adjusted time. The “Girls for Sail” boat Ostara just pipped us, then after us it was Pascal & Pascal on Imagine, some other boat (which I can’t remember) and in last position Matt & Mel on Meander.

We were especially delighted for Jim McDonald and his family in Helice who won the coveted “Spirit of the ARC”, they were surely worthy winners as they really got involved in every aspect of the event and are a really nice family.

There was free Rum Punch, Beer and buffet all night so a great night was had by all.

Sunday - Tuesday

We took a couple of days to do some washing, buy shopping and let the kids settle in. The local beach is nice and we also took a day trip in to the capital Castries. I can’t really say that I liked Castries. Apparently a big fire in the early 50’s destroyed many of the original buildings and the place seems a bit soulless. That doesn’t seem to stop the cruise ships arriving though – sometimes two at a time….

On Tuesday night we left the marina at midnight for the 70 mile sail to Bequia. We thought we would try to get some miles in while everyone was asleep to try to limit any seasickness.

Wednesday

The early part of the morning was quite light winds but by the time daylight came in the St Lucia / St Vincent channel we had 30 knots of wind and the boat was flying along at 10 knots. We got to Bequia nice and early in the afternoon and picked up a spot close to the main restaurants in only 3m of water over the so called “Bareboat Reef”. 

We had a BBQ on the boat of chicken and huge steaks. A special event as it was the first time we had used our new barbeque.

Thursday Christmas Day

The boys were up early, as you might expect. We bought Callum a remote controlled helicopter and James a hovercraft. We also bought them both some snorkelling gear so they could get the best out of the holiday. Joyce and Bill bought them some air rockets, water pistols, a selection box, top trumps and books, whilst they got some money from Allan’s family. Callum has decided he wants to save up to buy a sailing dinghy and is trying to persuade James to also invest in the scheme…

In the evening we went to the long awaiting Christmas Dinner at the Gingerbread restaurant. It was the eating highlight of our yacht charter two years before (in fact we had booked the restaurant over a year earlier to make sure we didn't miss out) and it didn’t disappoint this time… They had a band on this time too.

Boxing Day

Another glorious day on Princess Margaret beach, every Christmas should be like this.

Callum and James in Bequia

In the evening we went to the famous Franjipani restaurant, owned by the former Prime Minister of St Vincent and later had a drink in the Whalebone pub where they had some excellent live music on. They used to hunt whales from open rowing boats in the the Island, and there are plenty of relics on display in the pub. Each of the bar stools is made of the vertebrae of a whale, nice….

Saturday

We stopped off at Canuaon on the way south. The wind and swell were in opposite directions so it was not a particularly comfortable anchorage, but at least they have reopened the hotel since we last visited and built up a new Moorings charter base. The beach is of course marvellous and we had the chance to try out Callum’s helicopter.

Sunday

We had hoped to go to either Tobago Cays or Salt Whistle bay on Mayreu but the conditions were not good. So we decided to get down to the “Anchor Yacht Club” at Union Island where we figured Joyce and the kids would be able to get off the boat more easily and wander round.

Last time we went to Union Island we had hated it. A Taxi driver (called Secki) deliberately tried to run us aground so we would have to pay a $2000 salvage fee to get off the reef. This time we took no chances. Unfortunately the Yacht Club marina proved to be a rickety old single pontoon where you had to tie stern to. After a bit of hassle we managed to get secured but then we found that lots of charter boats were constantly going on and off the pontoon to drop off guests or to get water. Inevitably they were going to damage our boat so reluctantly we cast off the anchor elsewhere. We anchored but found ourselves too close to a mooring buoy (they are everywhere and always in the best spots), when we pulled up the anchor we had snagged a huge ships mooring chain. It was amazing that the windlass was able to raise it or we would have had to find a diver to release us.

We then moved to a spot about a boat length in front of the reef, Then the wind began to pick up and the exposed anchorage began to look very dodgy, not helped by the number of boats crowded in or the two charter boats in front of us which seemed to dance from side to side on their moorings, sometimes quite violently. There was nothing else for it, we would have to stay up all night on anchor watch.

Monday

The wind continues to howl. Or we would have moved on.. We decided to make the most of it and went looking round the town to see if there might be anywhere we could stay for a New Years Eve party, but nothing appealed. We spend some time on the beach and Callum and James both collected large pink Conch shells.

The highlight of the day was finding the Happy Island Bar. Basically a guy has used reclaimed materials to build a tiny bar on part of the reef around the harbour. It is only accessible by dinghy, has about 10 plastic chairs and drinks, any drinks, are 5$ec (about 1 pound). The walls are made of conch shells and the roof of thatch over an old sail. Very Cool !

Happy Island

That evening on anchor watch, we were both awake at 04:00. Bev pointed out a boat that was leaving in the dark, presumably because of the conditions. Allan sussed out what was really happening and shone a torch on the boat to see it racing backwards through the harbour having lost its anchor. It smashed hard into another boat before the owner could get control of it and avoid it being cast onto the reef. We decided to leave in the morning.

Tuesday

We decided to play safe and give Carricou and Greneda a miss. Besides it would mean checking in and out with customs and immigration and some expense. Instead we headed back North for Salt Whistle. Salt Whistle was too crowded and rolly so reluctantly we headed back up to Canuaon, Mustique would have been too exposed in the unusual North Westerly swells.

We got a good secure spot in the big bay at Canuaon but the swell was awful and the gusts in the bay quite unnerving. Worse the Moorings base was telling its customers not to try to land their dinghys because it was too dangerous. We were trapped on the boat and were going to have to stay there for a while. The coastguard came by to check we were all OK. We heard tales of people on the Moorings boats booking flights and leaving their boat wherever it was.

Wednesday New Years Eve

Bev was feeling a bit seasick as the sea was still rough and very rolling so went to bed for a bit at 8.00. Joyce and Bill shortly followed.  It was a shame because we could see, hear and smell the party at the Tamarind Beach hotel but couldn’t get there. Allan, James and Callum decided to watch “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” on DVD and managed to stay up for the bells. We heard the next days that Allan’s mum had 17 people round her house for her traditional all night karaoke party !

© Copyright Allan & Bev Dornan 2004