08:31am. Sailors Bar. Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.
Its cooler than usual today. The sky is grey and the wind is gently ruffling the flags on the hundreds of yachts here in Las Palmas. Everywhere there is an air of focus – crews and skippers doing final preparations, packing food, checking weather and running through long check lists.
Tomorrow is the big one. It’s the start of the Atlantic Crossing. Some 180 boats will leave here and sail south and then west towards St Lucia. It’s 2,900 miles taking the more predictable Southerly route, 2,700 miles taking the more direct and Northerly route. We are working on averaging 150 miles a day so that should see us taking 20 days or so on the Southerly route.
It’s our biggest passage and although I’ve done plenty of long crossings you’re not human if you don’t get the tingle of adrenaline that there is something big ahead of you. For Nichola and the children this is their first big crossing and of course there is the unknown – how will they find extended life at sea.
I don’t think we could be much better prepared. We have been blown away by the Oyster support team here. A crew of 6 red shirted engineers with an incredible depth of knowledge. They first arrived on Aretha a week ago and have been through the entire boat with us teaching us and helping us fix rigging, engine problems, broken autopilots, watermakers making sea water rather than fresh water. They have provided us with what I consider to be the best customer service I have ever experienced. As a business owner there is much to learn from how they look after their customers and its easy to see why they keep customers for life. That and they have the best cocktail parties!
So, we are fixed up and good to go boatwise. There is always an ongoing jobs list but we are down to small things now.
The past 2 weeks in Las Palmas have as always cantered through. The days have been full and busy. A mixture of boat prep, catching up with family and friends – we’ve loved having my Mum and Paul join us here, Nichola’s parents Sheila and Laurie and Rachael. The kids and us have loved seeing them all and we’ve loved having some free time to catch up on all the essential items – admin and preparations.
The ARC have provided superb support – there has been a programme of lectures on topics such as weather and routing, managing emergencies at sea, provisioning, astro navigation and many more. The lecturers are at the top of their game and we are leaning from the best.
There are some 30 -40 children in the fleet and we are on the family pontoon – Pontoon S. The children are totally at ease hopping between boats and have made many friends in a short space of time. It’s lovely to see and they are becoming true boat kids and are at ease in our new lifestyle. The ARC have run a kids club all week and it’s been like school for them – visiting local museums, learning about the culture and sailing optimists. They are thriving.
We’ve made a lot of friends here and are sharing stories and experiences It’s a great community and we have friends who are following the same path as us through the Panama and into the Pacific.
So, it’s almost time for the off.
You can track our progress via the ARC website at http://www.worldcruising.com/arc/eventfleetviewer.aspx
We have a yellow brick tracker on board which reports our position every 4 hours. We will be blogging on the ARC website as we go and will be updating FamilySailing when we arrive in St Lucia.
Today are the final things – Skippers briefing at midday – on board briefing for the crew at 2pm and childrens briefing at 3. Final meal ashore tonight and then we’re good for a midday departure and 1pm start.
12th November. Las Palmas. Gran Canaria. Another milestone reached. We’re in Las Palmas for the start of the ARC (that’s the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). Still can’t quite believe we’ve ... Read more
6:34am. 26 degree, 36.1 North; 16 degrees 29.3 West. The light is just starting to come up. The sea lollops us around and waves bubble along either of the hull. ... Read more