Position: 38°35’01″N 28°42’04″W
Captain’s Log, Supplemental*: Our Atlantic Crossing was magical. I tucked a reef in the main when we set off from Marigot Bay, St. Martin, and never bothered with it again until we reached Horta, about 2,200 miles distant. Rolling the jib in and out was enough to control Aleta’s heel and keep her balanced in the steady 18-20 knot breezes. At one point I confidently deployed the staysail and we picked up another half knot. Six hours later in the middle of the night, when the wind heeled us over a little too far for comfort, I sheepishly rolled it back in. We ran the engine for only five hours during the 15-day passage. Our wind generator and solar panels more than kept up with the batteries’ demands.
The crew complement included first mate Marlon, chief engineer Tai, bosun Keeley, post-captain Carol and me. Keeley joined us at the last minute, sandwiching the crossing between her nomadic gigs. Almost as soon as we landed, she took off to guide a bunch of high-schoolers around Iceland. Such a life!
Shipboard routines fell into place quickly. Running on three-hour watches gave everyone (except the always-on captain) a full nine hours off to rest, read, or repair things. At the end of each watch each crew member logged our lat/long, distance covered, time, and barometer reading. Each morning I would download a new weather forecast for our Predict Wind routing application. I’d spend 30 minutes poring over the implications, run several models and scenarios and changed nothing. This was truly the best sailing I had ever experienced. At one point ten days in we picked up an eastbound current. Aleta surged forward at nine knots. Fantastic!
Having prepared vast amounts of food three days ahead of departure, dinner was easy-peasy. An old salt suggested to Carol that we rent an apartment with a good-sized freezer and cook our buns off. Three weeks’ worth of burritos, lasagne, and enchiladas were lovingly cooked and frozen. We then filled Aleta’s freezer with enough thermal mass to last the trip.
Every evening, at the start of the second dog watch (18:00hrs UTC), we gathered in the cockpit and compared notes on how things were going, and how the crew was holding up. So we could better coordinate with weather forecasts and anticipate the time at our destination, we set our ship’s clock to UTC a day out of St. Martin. It seemed easier than shifting it an hour every other day. For after dinner entertainment each day I read a chapter from Brian Doyle’s luminous book The Plover. We made such good time we didn’t quite finished it. We’ll save the end of the book for our westward return to the Caribbean.
My Dad passed away a week into the crossing. It wasn’t a surprise. The decision to leave knowing he would pass any day wasn’t taken lightly. As an adventurer himself, he would have appreciated that while our thoughts were with him, there are times when you have to move forward. I spoke with my step-mum via sat-phone as soon as we got the email. The long up- and down-link delays reminded me of my father’s own frustrating telephone calls across the Atlantic in the mid-1960s.
The worst shipboard incident was a blocked head. While not a fatal blow, (after all what are taffrails and poop decks for?), the crew’s comfort always comes first. As you’ll see in the video a little handiwork and several hours of scraping salts put it back in action. Marlon poo-pooed all the fuss. All he needed was his little green mat on the side deck and a quick heave to and he was set for the day. Speaking of personal hygiene, while we were incredibly frugal with our fresh water, the captain allowed the crew a couple of brief showers. Not because they needed it. But because they demanded it.
Hand steering 24x7x15 is out of the question. Our Raymarine autopilot is a trooper, but it draws power constantly and such a long passage accelerates wear and tear on its hydraulic ram. Fortunately, Aleta’s previous owners believed in redundancy, and we put our Monitor windvane, Tinman, to work. Ken from Huskabean reinforced the benefits of using a Monitor. “If we’re sailing, we’re using the windvane,” he said. No electric power required; the windvane does a fantastic job of steering, especially as you lean further off the wind. On a broad reach with a following sea, it will do better than any skilled helmsman.
Having set a spectacular pace crossing the Atlantic we had little time for mucking about with cameras and such like. Here are a few edited highlights from our trip. The revelation looking through the video is how happy the crew seems after 13 days at sea. Thank you, Neptune. Thank you, Poseidon. Thank you, crew!
*There are times we tell our stories and realise we left a gap in the blog’s narrative. Consider this post a bung.