ARC 2015 - Day 23-Dec 16th – The EpiBlog

Steve and Lynda Cooke
Fri 18 Dec 2015 11:51

14:04.68N 60:56.89W

Day 23-27 – The EpiBlog

We made it!

Keen followers of this blog (and we've learned there were lots) have been in touch to say how much they missed our random ramblings. Some have even suggested that we turn round and do it again – perhaps not! So here's our very last update!

We last left you out at sea, converging on our destination, with distant lights ashore teasing us that the three weeks in the Atlantic were coming to an end. Those last voyage hours seem to take forever: eventually at 11pm on Saturday, the Skipper called for white crew shirts as we nosed our way towards the waypoint we've been staring at on the plotter for weeks.

The VHF call is made, per ARC instructions. Slowly, the northern tip of St Lucia emerges in the starlight. The instruction is to pass Pigeon Island, then watch for a green flashing light signalling us to turn to port. The big Genoa is furled and replaced by the self-tacking jib as we come up to weather. Everyone is wide awake: seeing ANY shape in the water around us is a big novelty after three weeks of endless sea in every direction.

We nose up to the finishing line between the committee boat and the buoy. Steve's on the wheel. ARC Finish crew are on the VHF making welcoming noises. A light 12 knots or so is nudging us toward the line. What a fantastic moment… then out of the night an outboard buzzes and we see our 'real' welcome committee. Wives on Tour:- Lyn, Karen and Nicola have come out in a water taxi to escort us in. Another outboard buzzes into view, this one driving a RIB with three bright lights and a photographer. Our friends Steve and Annemarie Westwood from Freebooter (ARC Portugal) have also come out on their rib to welcome us home. With boats buzzing around as flashguns pop, the girls are shouting their welcomes and all in the cockpit are waving like maniacs. Everyone on board is making a mental movie right now.

The hooter blows. Cheers, applause, high fives. Six minutes after midnight, just under three weeks and the Skip has won the arrival-time sweep. We get our berth instructions on the radio: now the Engineering Dept kicks in as we relay engine instructions manually to Mark and Pete below. Slowly, marina shapes form around us as we edge our way into our spot bow-to at the end of Pontoon J, right beside the Pearl (yes the Pirates of the Caribbean one).

Warps and fenders, lines ashore, springs… the ARC team is waiting with cold rum punch, beer and a basket of fruit. Wives are hugging, flashguns are popping, big silly grins are on all faces… Nina is at rest now as the crew celebrates 2,960 nautical miles under her keel since leaving Europe behind. Did the party start then? Did it what.

Next morning, as Steve logged our arrival with passports and documents, we awoke to the novelty of Nina not flinging us across the galley, spill our coffee or leap at our foreheads as we put clothes on.

We are in the Caribbean. We have reached a new continent.

We have crossed an ocean, under our own sailpower.

If you haven't sailed before, it's hard to appreciate the sheer romance of this. We have followed the voyages made over the centuries in trade winds by galleons, frigates, sloops and schooners. We have completed a voyage originally made by Columbus, in the Santa Maria, the Pinto, and (how appropriately) the Nina. And we have arrived just a day before St Lucia celebrates the arrival of Columbus. It is hard to describe how we feel about our achievement – at times hard going, at times euphoric, at times a challenge that we have taken pride in meeting. But always an achievement shared between a fantastic crew and a great skipper.

We are here, and there is nowhere else any of us would rather be right now.


The Epilogue

Since then, here in Rodney Bay marina, life is a happy amalgam of the Nina fix-list, swapping voyage experiences with other boats and generally slowing down to the Caribbean pace of life. The marina is alive with skippers converging on the chandler: we are No. 15 on the Raymarine guy's list; the Volvo guy comes around to look at the engine issue; our own Engineering Dept gets stuck into fixing toilets, the Hydrovane and the myriad of small jobs that bubble up.

There are ARC parties to attend. Laundry to be done. Cupboards to be rearranged. Sun lotion is applied liberally: not only is it really hot, it's Christmas! The sheer surreal bit of this is only sinking in: as we eat dinner one night, a guy playing a steel drum is entertaining us with Oh Holy Night. In the shops, the background music is Jingle Bells reggae-style.

Mike is the first to head home: not before a day on the beach where he and Frank (big kids, basically) spend an hour climbing around the inflatable slides and structures in a floating water park. Steve and Lyn are now visibly relaxed into the start of their round-the-world adventure.

What a truly amazing three weeks of sunrises, sunsets and sailing. Gran Canaria seems like a year ago, another life ago. To Nina, Steve and Lyn, your faithful crew wishes you nothing but fair winds, following seas and the experience of a lifetime.

Blog ends (for now...)