Tears on the Dock. 14 00 North 062 01 West

Its 20:11 and all is quiet on Aretha apart from the purr of the engine and
occasional clank of the mainsail. The sea is flat calm and the half moon and
stars fill tonights sky with a lovely warm light. It matches the temperature
on board – a warm comfortable evening below decks. The wind is light at only
7-8 knots and occasionally pushes us further on our way at a little over 6
knots.We slipped lines from Rodney Bay in St Lucia this morning a few minutes
after 10am and are settling back into life at sea. The team is different and
it feels strange – especially as we are sailing a stretch of water, the 1200
miles of the Caribbean Sea to Panama that we sailed some 15 months before
meeting the World ARC Fleet in the San Blas Islands. Back then, we were
still a relatively rookie team. We had the 5 of us (Nichola Bluebell,
Columbus, Willow and myself) on board and were joined by Caroline as we
sailed those 1200 miles with the whole of the world standing in front of us.
This time, we have a very different adventure ahead of us as we sail to
Panama and then head North once in the Pacific to set up a new life in San
Francisco, a new business, new schools and to set up our charitable
interests.

We are all missing Bluebell. After circumnavigating the world and having
been onboard for every sea mile since we left England, sailed the Atlantic
to St Lucia and then all the way around the world back to St Lucia, she
decided she wanted some time on land and catching up with her friends back
in England. She left yesterday evening flying on her own and feeling very
grown up and responsible and arrived in London safe and sound with Nichola’s
parents this morning. Columbus and Nichola took her to the airport. Willow
slept on Aretha whilst our new crew victualled and stowed the boat with
fresh provisions.

I took the opportunity to walk the marina and have an hour with just my
thoughts. As the sun was setting over St Lucia looking towards Pigeon Island
I was overcome by emotion. The tears flowed readily as I reflected how
grateful I have been to have spent the last 20 months every day with my wife
and three children. The experiences we’ve been through, the people we’ve
met, the highs, the lows have flowed thick and fast with no time for
reflection as we’ve lived life to the maximum and as my friend, Paul Covell
would say, we have squeezed every drop of juice out of the lemon. It was
only 30 minutes since Bluebell had gone and already the space it had created
was real and she is missed deeply. Of course we have new adventures to look
forward to and we’ll all be together as a family again in some 6 weeks time
but it felt a massive milestone – the first time we’ve been separated in 20
months.

Spending so much time with our children and Nichola has been the
unquestionable highlight of what we have done together. Way back when we
planned our trip, the reason WHY we went to extreme lengths to create our
adventure was to create magical life changing experiences for us and our
children. I recall the daily routine before of work and school and barely
seeing the children during the week – half an hour a day if I was lucky and
usually when I was tired from work. What was I teaching our children about
what I knew of the world and what I believed to be important? Precious
little was the answer. As I look up at the stars tonight, I think of the
nights I’d lie on deck with Bluebell and Columbus and debate what was out
there, to learning about the planet – the stars, the sea, the weather. To
experience different cultures, to meet people from different walks of life –
to share time together and to laugh, play and see the world. They were tears
of happiness that we’d done so much together and this plan than once seemed
so distant and so hard to achieve had actually been achieved and we’d done
exactly what we set out to do. It was a moment where I wished my Dad was
with me to share a beer and to swap stories.

So. One adventure closes. Another begins. We have new crew on board who we
have hand selected from the World ARC fleet and we have a stellar line up.
In addition to Nichola, Columbus and Willow, we are joined by Mindy from
Wayward Wind. Mindy circumnavigated with her Dad, Pete on Wayward Wind and
has already settled into life on Aretha taking charge of the provisioning
and organising all the provisions. We are in for perhaps some of the finest
dining we’ve experienced on our travels. David crossed the South Atlantic on
board Exody and brings some highly prized engineering skills and a Scottish
sense of humour. Our new rig monkey, Galen completes the new look crew and
when not playing with the kids is happy to dive in Rodney Bay marina to find
my sunglasses which I carelessly dropped in the water. It’s the first day
out as a crew and much time has been spent on safety briefs and walking
through boat procedures.  All is settled and we have a happy crew – we had
pineapple and beef stir fry for supper watching the sunset while Columbus
posed todays evening question: “What have I learnt today”.

The final weeks of the World ARC have been relaxing in the Caribbean. The
first 10 days were in Grenada where we crystallised our plans for the
future, toured the “spice island” to see the spices, cocoa bean plantations
making the fabulous Grenadian chocolate, music on the beach and relaxing by
the marina pool. Nichola’s parents joined us for a week and we escaped the
boat to spend time away from boat jobs for a while.

There was one thing that grew as a theme of our time in the Caribbean. For
the past 15 months, we’d lived with our boat family, our World ARC friends
day in and day out. On land we shared countless experiences – the Panama
Canal, the Galapagos, the fast hip shaking dances of French Polynesia, the
warmth of the people in Vanuatu, Tonga, and Fiji, the raw beauty of
Australia though the Indian Ocean, to the wildlife in South Africa, and the
fast paced life in Brazil. At sea we shared twice daily the storms, the
sunsets, the fish, the medical emergencies and boats that needed fixing. All
part of life at sea. The depths that these experiences have forged in the
tempests of the sea are something you just cant experience in normal life at
home. These are friends for life and we’ll forever share a common bond that
needs no words to explain it – you just know its there.

Our final weeks were spent together in Caribbean islands we knew from before
– the beautiful Chatham Bay in Union Island, Bequia, Marigot Bay and Rodney
Bay. We all knew goodbyes were just around the corner and we all sought to
make the most of our time and many glasses of red wine flowed. Already a
reunion in Iceland and a sailing adventure around Cape Horn are in the air.
Before we knew, the farewell parties, the final parade of sail and the last
drops of red wine were gone and it was time to go. Victor, our Rally Control
yellow shirt who has been in every port to meet and look after us was first
to go after a moving presentation summing up the whole event. It was lovely
for me that my Mum and Paul joined us for the final week and got to spend
time with our World ARC family and experience and appreciate the bonds and
camaraderie we have all developed. Lovely also that my Mum who taught me how
to sail helmed us from Marigot Bay to Castries (her first time sailing on
Aretha) for the Parade of Sail. We also had the unexpected surprise of Team
Aretha crew and rock star Chef Jani meeting us in Marigot Bay with his wife
Michelle to celebrate with us.

One by one boats left, A Plus, Exody, Luna Quest, Garlix, Makena, WayWard
Wind. The tears on the dock flowed thick and fast as each boat was waved off
leaving an ever smaller number of boats behind.

Clearly fate has a sense of humour too and last night as we were doing our
final checks, we discovered a very stinky blocked forward head (toilet). We
worked until midnight – Nichola draining the head, me with my head down the
back of it taking the pump apart. We couldn’t fix it and in the morning we
had 2 final jobs to solve. Stefan from Ayama advised me on the head and
fortuitously we had the parts we needed to repair things but only after I
had to blow down the toilet pipe testing for blockages. Note to self. Do not
breathe in. Only blow out. Nothing like a shitty pipe to snap you out of the
emotion and get focused on the job in hand.

We fixed it and Luis, our resident surgeon operated on Davids foot to remove
a large haemotoma – he’s now strapped up and on anti-bios. Finally. Ready to
go. The final crews of Allegro, Hugur, Chat Eau Bleu, Starblazer and Ayama
slipped our lines and with lumps in our throats we headed to refuel with
some 700 litres of diesel and set back to sea on our own once again.

Our next adventures await and we need to focus now on sailing – we have some
5000 plus miles and a lot ahead of us.

From an emotional Team Aretha, Out.

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Comments
  1. Wow, what a read – I am emotional too !
    You have done so much, & I am so proud to know you guys.
    Wish you all the best in your next adventure & look forward to reading all about it.

    Suerte
    The Peruvian Bear

  2. Gosh – six weeks without your big girl! Very brave of her and you! Caroline West and I were talking about you when we saw each other on Friday and thinking how much the children had grown up and matured. Good luck to Aretha and her refreshed crew especially Mindy and happy sailing to San Francisco xxx

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