Endgame Transat May-June 2020

Sat 20 Jun 2020 13:17
As always, the main thing is we got somewhere with the same number of crew (4) as we had when we set off. It's a bonus that the boat is mostly in one piece, too.

Lots of things went a bit wrong though. We ran out of some food things, I had the usual fuel worries, and over the last 24 hours the topping lift shredded, the nav gear went squiffy, the windex broke, and at one point it seemed we were shipping water - the port (First Class) guests were found drying out a bag and some shoes so I said Er Just A Moment - the water should be on the outside, remember Rule 1 of boating? Lifting the floorboards showed maybe 200litres of water slooshing around as the boat banged along at 8knots over 2m swell. Jeez, not good.

We pumped and emptied the water from the bilge which is a good sign - if you can empty the water it can't be coming in too fast. I think it might be a leaky escape hatch, not serious but needs sorting really. This morning there is a tiny bit of extra water, hardly anything, and the bilge was dry at the start of the trip, so no big deal, phew.

Running out of food or anything is ultimately my fault of course - I planned a 2-maybe-3-week trip, probably-surely to Horta, and which has taken only 2 weeks in the past from SXM. Eastbound transatlantic I've made landfall at France, Portugal, Spain and Gibraltar, but always with a stop at the Azores.

I suppose also that we had only a couple of days in SXM before Better Get Going - with more time I would have known more about what we like doing/eating as a crew. But there's actually loads of tinned stuff yet, breadmaking got into full swing so not really a problem. Most things don't seem to be too much of a problem with this crew.

Fuel is another issue I kinda didn't handle as well as I might have done - with almost 1800litres ("loads!") I often motored through the night during the first two weeks using 130+ litres a day to motorsail at 7+knots rather than sail at 5knots, almost feeling we're doing the right thing to get rid of carrying all that weight. But we didn't get the usual solid wind to take us north from SXM on sails alone, and the Hurrah We're Sailing At Last days were often on a long tack - not direct to the waypoint and sometimes even away from it. The winds have not been too kind, always turning against us from the East, and with overcast days more recently I needed at least 20 litres a day to charge the batteries.

But the fuel issue has only really affected things over a couple of days in the third week when we could have used a more luxurious position to motor through instead of being miserly and waft along at 3-5knots. We used 1200litres so still have a full tank of 600litres.

I suppose both the food and fuel has been kinda hindered rather than assisted by my past experiences on similar trips. A trolley load of food or more per person has ALWAYS been easily enough and likewise 1500+litres of diesel was always Just Loads. It was reasonable to assume a faster and hence shorter trip, 60 foot catamaran for crissakes etc. But even now we're still far from in any sort of dire position, plenty of tins, Ampi plans more pizza today, bacon sandwiches this morning at anchor so maybe I'm being a bit harsh on myself again. Hm.

On the flip side, there are quite a few things I think I did a lot better than usual. I was flexible and guessed right to take extra/unknown crew at the last moment, turning a possibly gruelling trip into a rather lovely one, without too much of the utter exhaustion thing or sailing without anyone On Watch.

The safety stuff is also more nailed down than usual- I'm now sailing with two Iridium satellite phones after an un-nerving experience a few months ago: the MRCC who co-ordinate offshore rescues contacted me to say that they had a distress signal from Mojomo, a previous boat which I sold over 5 years ago. Okay, I said - not my boat any longer - what is the location of the signal? Maybe it's something on the boat, maybe it's other gear? The MRCC said they "Didn't have a position." Hmmmm... I didn't know that was possible - to get a signal to ID the boat ... but no position? I thought the epirb stuff was Utterly Reliable - certainly the impression given by most authorities. But the MRCC seemed unfazed that they could ID the vessel, not its whereabouts. Its whereabouts is the whole reason for using it though?

So perhaps more than anything else, I felt I needed a satphone to actually call the MRCC (and/or others) if Bad Stuff happened, and if automatic emergency distress gear now apparently might or might not work - I'd better take a spare satphone.

With a satphone I can make a call and speak to someone and hence KNOW that someone else knows the situation. Not merely let off some contraption where the light comes on with flashing and beeps etc...but Who Knows if it's really working? I wonder how long I'd had the thingy from a previous boat that gave ID but no position?

I also have a massive CO2 fire extingusher, two liferafts, and a petrol-powered seawater pump as Ultra-Bilge-Pump (or another fire extinguisher) to avoid using either of the liferafts if at all possible. Super-experienced sailing friend James calls them Death Rafts, perhaps more accurate. They are very last resort.

There's almost no limit to the safety gear that one can carry, but I'm up to and including a quite hi-tech portable angle grinder with stainless steel cutting discs, in case the mast comes down: at that point I need to be able to cut the whole thing clear so it doesn't hang over the side and punch holes in the boat. The rigging has special pins to "knock out" to facilitate this, but if they don't shift or are bent or aren't accessible (and you can't really try them to see else er, the mast would come down...) then the wires need cutting, check.

I don't need to harp on about the safety stuff ad nauseam, but I thought it worthwhile to illustrate just some of the issues, and there are dozens.

I was chatting with Sam a few days back and he was quite clear that his main criteria in deciding whether to come on this transat sailing trip was - Has the skipper done it before? And although Yes I have, a dozen times, each time is different, always something to learn and little or no option to learn by making mistakes, or not Big Mistakes at any rate.

Maybe that's part of the attraction of this Transat Sailing Caper that I repeatedly find myself doing. The same goes for other adventures that the crew have chosen in the past, and again in joining this transat trip - a valid challenge, something worthwhile yet not so easy? Or, as the crew shout in fun at each other during card games, sail changes and rainstorms - "PRESSURE!!!"

It's one thing being able to "handle pressure" as so many claim on their neatly typed CV - perhaps quite another to actively seek it out. It's fine if some don't, of course. But it's not fine to query the motives and actions of those of us who do - even when they're part of your family, and I know that this applies to at least some on board who had all sorts of adverse reactions to their decisions to come along as crew.

But maybe the logical alternative is to hide in a cave, and although fashionable of late, for some of us that's simply not an option: if there's some fun or even quite crazy-sounding stuff to be done then (as safely as possible) we'd like to be amongst the ones doing it, not watching others do it, and it's a Choice.

Making choices (good and bad) is perhaps otherwise called freedom, and we all get to choose our own flavour of adventure, like ice cream, or the colour of your clothes, or how you drive your car. There are some misguided drivers who loudly declare that everyone overtaking them is a Raving Lunatic, and everyone going slower is a Moronic Slowcoach. But everyone is free to choose how fast they go, and whether not to go by car, or by plane, or by wing-walking and parachute. Some options might seem only for Lunatics - but saying so might automatically make you one of the Slowcoach Morons, right?

If the actions of others (which doesn't actually impinge on you - they're just doing something you think Mad or Dangerous) makes you anxious or worried ... then the fact is ... that's ENTIRELY your problem, not theirs. Even though you might call your feelings "justified concern" or "protective instinct" or even "love", expressing it can cause problems and solves nothing. The very best option is to be (vocally at least) as positive and supportive as possible. Voicing your frantic worrying is counter-productive, because instead of checking things and making best preparations, the target of your concern will have to attend to your worries instead. The Vocally Very Worried might be loving, but they are also the opposite of Helpful.

We've had lots of Congratulations since arrival and although it's lovely... for some it's only easy to be supportive after the event. But supporting someone after they've succeeded is conditional support - conditional on the success by then already achieved, held back in case perhaps "Told You So" applied. True Support is given before, during and Always, regardless of whatever Mad stuff is planned, and regardless of whether or not you'd try the same yourself. Perhaps that's how we choose or become best friends - when support for whatever we/they plan to do is unconditional.

I'll be doing some more transat trips, and I'm sure the crew will be doing lots more adventurous things in the future, too. I hope everyone will be very pleased for them, and next time not only when it's over and Tarah! another success.

Of course, almost everyone has been super-supportive throughout this trip, many with good wishes from afar and lots with material help too. So our Big Thanks go out again to SimonR for weather texts, Mike/quinn for satphone and sorting/condemning computers, JamesP for email help, RenéT for the last-minute gas and games ideas, TonyB for helping the Great Lagoon Escape, and many others who came to our last-before-leaving party in SXM and/or messaged us along the way. Thanks!

Although (aside from moving into the marina tomorrow) this trip is over, the blog has hardly started. I will update with our various plans from time to time... and there'll be new trips in the future. Mojo stays in the Canaries over Caribbean hurricane season - sailing back there by Christmas 2020 is the current Next Plan.