ARC -1

Steve and Lynda Cooke
Mon 23 Nov 2015 17:00
It's one day to the off, and all minds are focused on final prep.

Peter, Frank and Mike head up early to the supermarket for the very last shop, this time for fridge-fresh dairy items: cheese, yogurt, butter.

Back on the boat, Steve takes Nina over to the fuel dock to top up diesel. As we arrive back, Mark's Mum and her partner arrive to bid farewell. Cups of tea are brewed and pictures taken.

It's almost as if Nina, quietly caring for us all until now, starts to look for attention from the six hairy gents she is about to bring to the Caribbean. Shore power has curiously stopped working. Not that we will need it in the Atlantic, but there is a 240v circuit on the boat served by the generator, and breakers keep tripping for some reason. Also, inexplicably, the gas solenoid which serves the cooker stops co-operating. No cooker.

Much head scratching and theorising follows. Turn everything off, then progressively back on one by one. With the main engine to charge batteries, we could live without the generator -- but it's worrying nonetheless. And why won't the cooker work even after changing the gas bottle? Suddenly the nets full of apples and bananas begin to make sense.

The local Sparks is summoned. While we're waiting, Skipper does his two-hour safety and sailing briefing. Liferaft procedures are explained. Grab bag is opened and examined: flares, thermal blankets, radio, torch, CD. CD? For signalling with the sun. We elect to include Mars bars and water.

Nighttime watches mean clipping on, reefing (reducing) sail and keeping a good lookout. Radar will point up squalls ahead, when winds can double in minutes. Life jackets all have spray hoods and lights: if an MOB happens, there are well-drilled procedures to follow to get him back aboard.

Next it's around the boat in detail. Rigging is examined, reefing plan confirmed, cockpit explored. Sailing downwind, we will be flying main and poled-out Genoa wing and wing. Steve loves his cruising chute and shows us its operation. Quite a versatile sail, but one for lighter airs only if we get them. We go over the procedure for daily rig checks.

The comms guy from Yellowbrick drops by. Our tracker, a small yellow gizmo linked to satellite, has a nifty smartphone app which lets us Bluetooth-in and send/receive short sms and email messages on a pay-as-you-go model. With our Iridium satphone and three separate EPIRBs aboard, looks like we won't be off the grid after all.

Now the electrician arrives. Quick diagnosis shows that our water heater is tripping the system. No time to fix before the off, so it will be cold showers all the way. Meanwhile the gas cooker appears ok again.

It's off for steak and chips and our last few beers ashore. The chat is about past sailing destinations: Scotland, the Balearic Islands, cruising around Cork and Kinsale. Much banter and craic: we elect to have an early night.

It's the last blog we'll submit by land-based comms. From here on, updates will be going out the Iridium red box to a satellite, then down to the 'regular' Internet.

We're ready for this, we really are. Strong winds predicted for tomorrow: bring them on...