Nine days until we cross the Atlantic on the ARC. But who’s counting?!
I realise that for some people, especially those who have done ocean crossings before, the prospect of 3 weeks at sea may not be so daunting. But- and I don’t believe I’m alone here- no, I know I’m not alone!- for us, the stress and anxiety levels are steadily rising, albeit in an uneven way. Sometimes we feel totally cool about everything. Other times we’re seriously questioning our sanity taking part in the ARC.
I had a moment last night during one of the nightly ‘Sundowners’ that the ARC hosts. I suddenly looked around at all these other people I’ve only just met, and thought, “What the hell are we doing!? What were we thinking? Are we really, truly, actually, seriously going through with this!”
And then I started chatting with a Swedish girl about my age who is taking her 2 year old across the Atlantic with her, and I was oddly reassured. It’s a comforting thought that no matter how much of a struggle the crossing may be for me and Nick, at least we don’t have a toddler to contend with as well!
In 9 days, Nick and I will either be so excited that we’ll be literally jumping around like a couple of energiser bunnies, or we’ll be face-down on the pontoon, holding on for dear life, screaming, “Please don’t make me go!” I don’t think there’ll be an in-between.
Anyway. Onto the preparations themselves!
I barely know where to start. Our to-do lists have reached epic proportions. The thing about lists is that, as you work through them, they’re meant to become smaller. Not so with ours! No sooner than we tick one item off, several more are added. We attended the first of the ARC seminars yesterday, and left with several more pages of things to do or check! A little snapshot of our to-do lists is as follows:
- Service the engine- DONE (not without spilling oil over pretty much the entire saloon!)
- Fit hydrogenerator- DONE – wait, no, as I write this a rep from Watt and Sea has come by to check ours and informed Nick that he’s not followed the installation instructions properly. Nick is currently showing him the instructions we were given and, sure enough, there’s two different versions! Rep now folded himself into the shape of a pretzel inside aft starboard locker trying to fix the problem.
- Get new spinnaker pole- DONE
- Modify sprayhood- DONE- we now have a lovely breezy cockpit!
- Buy spare halyard- DONE
- Clean teak and cockpit- DONE
- Get diesel and gas- (half) DONE- need to get gas day before we leave
- Buy oil filter- DONE
- Set up ARC log
- Pre-cook meals- (kind of) DONE. Hope everyone likes spag bol!
- Download books onto kindles and tablets
- Order Christmas present for the niece and nephews (just in case we drown or something… I’m kidding, mum!)
- Make up flour bags for bread (yes, really)
- Write up and print out watch system/checks/chores to be done on passage – DONE (I get exactly one day off! Woo hoo!)
- Order meat and fruit/veg from market (this is made relatively easy because there’s several stalls with large posters saying things like, “ARC yachts welcome! We will help you provision!” Lord knows I need all the help I can get.)
- Supermarket provisioning (Gah. Can someone do this for me as well?)
- Check all rigging – DONE
- Buy roughly a billion spare parts from the chandlery (don’t ask me what this list entails. It’s long and expensive, put it that way!)
- Check all communications- SSB, sat phone, laptops, yellow brick tracker and check email set-up for weather reports
- Buy courtesy flags for Saint Lucia and other Caribbean destinations
- Thoroughly clean the entire boat from top to bottom (slowly being done in a fairly ad hoc way!)
- Do test sail to check all systems, especially hydrogenerator and SSB radio
- Get EC Dollars
- Sort out medical insurance
- Check hull, rudders, prop, seacocks
- Buy a bottomless supply of Nespresso capsules
- Do MOB and fire drills with crew
- Buy new binoculars
Okay, that’s enough. The actual list is about 3 times that long. At least we’ve ticked a few off!
We also had our safety inspection, something that you have to pass in order to participate in the ARC. We duly got all our safety equipment out and the young guy who came and went through the checklist with us told us that it was the quickest inspection he had ever done- which made Nick very happy indeed!
We’ve also been pretty flat out with attending all the ARC events. They host evening drinks every night, often sponsored by someone we want to talk to (such as the butchers at the market who offer a vacuum packing and delivery service- and they were giving out free food!), so we’re heading along for those. Okay, drinking free beer and eating free food is not particularly arduous, you’re right!
We’ve also started the seminars. Those we went to yesterday were Management of Emergencies, Rigging (during which it was made clear by the presenter that we would all die a slow and horrible death and then spend an eternity in hell if we didn’t check our rigging about a thousand times every day on passage… needless to say, Nick and I went straight to the chandlery afterwards to buy spares and Nick spent the afternoon up the mast checking every last bolt and screw!) and Route and Weather by Chris Tibbs who is the ARC meteorologist and has done something like 20 trans-atlantic crossings before. Happily he and his wife are also doing the ARC this year, and their boat is about the same size as ours. So we have a cunning plan to simply follow Chris and Helen across the Atlantic and copy every tack and course change they make!
There’s also a fairly full-on social calendar. We’re pencilling in drinks evenings left, right and centre (mainly thanks to Sandra, social butterfly that she is!), not to mention the various parties hosted by the ARC. Tonight is the Welcome Fiesta. If it’s anything like the ARC + Farewell Party, it’s sure to be a good night. Tomorrow is a sombrero hat party, apparently. Sunday, during the day, is a welcome parade. Not sure what that entails, except that lots of flags from different nationalities are carried around the marina to much fanfare. I tried to snab the Aussie flag only to find it had already been claimed! Where are you, fellow Australians?! Who are you?
Tuesday night is our yacht supper (sadly we have to pay for this one!). Wednesday night is 80’s movies dress-up party. Nick and I have our costumes sorted, and I won’t give anything away except that there’s been gold glitter scattered around the boat for a couple of weeks now! Fear not, photos will be posted on this blog. Trust me when I say you don’t want to miss that entry.
And then next Friday is the Farewell Party.
After that… Well, you know. 3000 miles of ocean and all that. The actual crossing is almost paling into insignificance amongst all the other activities piling up.
I feel exhausted just thinking about it. Thankfully we get a nightly email reminding us what we’re doing the next day, without which I probably wouldn’t have a clue.
All of that said, we are genuinely excited and full of anticipation. Of course we’re nervous too- we’d be crazy not to be. But we’re adventurous souls at heart, and we’d rather be doing this than anything else in the world- even if it does mean a few sleepless nights.