Day 17

Wed 15 Jan 2014 11:32
14:43.0N 57.53.6W

It is our final full day at sea. Only 176 nautical miles to go until we round Pointe de Salines (the southern tip of Martinique) and head towards our first port of call: Le Marins. I've been lucky with the last two watches - 10PM - Midnight yesterday and 6AM - 10AM this morning. It is just coming up to 7AM local time (11AM GMT - we haven't yet decided whether the Caribbean is 5 hours behind, although my money says it is) and at this point tomorrow we should have set our eyes on Terra Firma. We still have about 5km of ocean below our keel and within the next 24 hours this will rise to plus 1,100 meters, approximately the highest point on Martinique. I imagine that the windward side of the Island will have quite a spectacular swell as a result.

We have talked about how we are likely to feel when we sight land. Given our jubilation at seeing our first (and since, only) vessel yesterday, I expect that milestone to be emotional. Two of the crew are looking forward to grilled fish (our fishing never really got off the ground, especially after our rod holder doubled as an emergency grab rail and snapped off). Stephan and I are looking forward to a coke. We are all looking forward to a shower, fresh food and fresh clothes. The skipper, though, summed it up when I asked this question. He is mainly looking forward to landfall! Well said.

We are of course all anticipating seeing our wives and children again. Even having the first conversation on our mobiles fills us with anticipation. Christian will see his wife in Martinique, Papi and Stephan in Antigua a few days later. I'll have to wait until I arrive at Gatwick some time next week.

There are a great many things we will miss once we round Pointe de Salines. We will miss the uncomplicated rhythm of life on board. Our routines and our needs are really simple and it is a great way to spend two and a half weeks. Not being subject to any real time pressures or any outside influences is calming and liberating. We will certainly for the first few days at least, miss the motion of the boat and it is not uncommon for people to need some time to readjust and not stagger around as if too much Limoncello has been consumed. We will miss watching the sunrise, from its first discoloration of the night sky to a large, fiery, orange ball rising above the horizon behind us; we will miss the sun sets, sometimes spectacular in colour, always quicker than you think. We will miss lazing about reading back issues of GQ, the Economist, Yachting Monthly and seeing who can complete his Sudoku first. I will miss some very simple, but cracking meals: apple pancakes by Stephan and left over spaghettig with scrambled egg and tomato ketchup (who knew!) cooked up by Christian. I won't miss making dough by hand - I have built up an impressive set of muscles in my right arm! I will also miss receiving some very amusing emails, whether from Wherwell Primary School where I believe part of the playground has become a virtual Carpe Diem (mathematics or geography lesson - I'm not quite sure), being taunted by Ralf about how the Atlantic Rowers are getting on as well as another yacht, Starchaser, apparently gaining ground on us, and from other good friends offering words of encouragement and promises of pints when I get home. As long as it's not Heineken, that's great. Need to give Heineken a break now, as much as I do love it.

I will miss the company of my father with whom I have not spent this much time with in 20-odd years and of my two new friends - people who until very recently I had spent the grand total of probably six hours with each. Come tomorrow we will have formed a bond that is only possible when living in such close proximity to each other for this amount of time, doing something that - whilst not the most extreme of adventures - is certainly out of the ordinary and challenging in its own, sometimes, unexpected way.

It's a funny thing to be nearing the end of something you have been planning for a long time and dreaming of even longer. I suspect that given time, I will only look back at this trip with fondness. At the moment, though, we feel almost sad that we no longer have this to look forward to. We all consider ourselves incredibly lucky, though, to be able to undertake something like this at all. I am immensely grateful to be given the opportunity to pursue a genuine. One of my hopes is that my children will take my little sojourn as inspiration that they should follow their own dreams and explore the world or themselves. Life can be very dull and serious. It should also be a huge amount of fun and adventure.

Some of us came away with empty diaries, expecting to write volumes about life, ourselves, our desires and how to be more successful in what we do! I think I speak for everyone when I look back at my own diary and see how my entries have become shorter over the days. There is a particular note, around day 9, I think, where I realise that this desire of philosophising, understanding, explaining and planning is bunkum! We're here for the ride, so let's enjoy it. And nothing is going to become clearer just because there isn't a mobile signal.

With this off my chest, matters will become more serious now in preparation for landfall. We will need to swap photographs before Christian leaves Carpe Diem tomorrow. Granted, there are only so many photos you can take of the sea, the boat, each other, the food you're cooking, our medical kit etc, but I am still hoping that someone will have captured me with the air of the blond-haired-skinny-tanned-adventurous-looking wanderer-gaze. Failing that, I'd be pleased to see the photographs of the great Atlantic Bake Off (Jamie Oliver's pizza dough was the clear winner as you ask). We will also start consulting our pilot books and plan for the approach to Le Marin (similarly to most motor accidents happening within, it is said, a 2-mile radius of your own home), the most dangerous place for a boat to be is near the coast!). We will figure our what customs formalities to follow when we get there - no shower until the man in the smart uniform tells us that we're cleared to hop ashore.

We will also have to figure out how to stretch the last 1/2 litre of milk and whether to break into the second salami. And can I kill the ship's battery by charging this laptop just one more time... Important decisions, indeed.

Until landfall,