Atlantic crossing 19

Wed 20 Dec 2006 14:04
Big delay due to arrival kerfuffle and change to hotel mode. Pictures will

Penultimate report from bunk 7.30 gmt Sunday. 44 miles to go !. Not sure
how I'm feeling. Long distance sailors always seem reluctant to come
ashore and I feel the faint glimmerings of why. Its peaceful out here, no
one crowding you for space, no need to smile or placate, no traffic pressure
or needing to find a place to park. Just a wonderful feeling of being part
of and not fighting against. If it were not for the privations, just
on by would seem like a very attractive proposition, maybe to Panama and on
into the mighty Pacific where a person could dream forever.
Been thinking about all you folks up there doing Christmas and felt a stab
of nostalgia. Bracing cold, shops all aglitter, kids singing carols,
shopping for last minute presents, going to Church for carol services and
having a noggin with friends afterwards. Past Christmases have been truly
wonderful family affairs, the memory of which I would not exchange for
anything Haven't really missed it all till now though.
Vic called me on deck to see some lights up ahead, craft under 300 tons,
fore and aft lights, showing port. My guess is a fishing boat crossing our
bow right to left. Vic is keeping an eye on him. Wrong, the AIS just beeped,
ship over 300 tons, no name available, heading 095 at 14 kts. Alex saw a
glow on the horizon that can only have been Barbados far to the south of us.
The new chart is all keyed up, sea as flat as a lake but for the surges
rolling us along. The engine has been running all night, no wind to speak
of. Reckon we have enough fuel to go all the way after struggling to put the
last 25 litres in the tank yesterday. More lights coming up astern Vic just
shouted down, red and green. We have final instructions from the ARC to
comply with, three radio calls to the finish line, one from 5 miles, then
two and one final as we round the point of Pigeon Island. Also waiting to
get in mobile phone range to cue up the family reception committee. I had
planned on unloading a lot of thoughts this morning but events are already
starting to overtake which is destroying it all. Reckon it wont be long
before we see Marquis lighthouse, another radio call required when we are
within 5 miles of it. The wind that has literally blown us here, the little
remaining of it, is starting to come from all different directions, the
twistle rig will definitely have to come down at first light. Amazing really
that we haven't needed to change the set-up for over 2500 miles, a great
to rig the boat for downwind sailing, I thoroughly recommend it.
Will have to finish this later, lots to do.
As it turned out we didn't get close enough during the hours of darkness to
see the Marquis lighthouse. I was up at first light as usual and planning
the next move. As soon as Alex appeared we set to dismantling the twistle.
It took us a good hour of hot work under the rapidly rising sun to strip and
stow all the gear we had lashed together, it had held up very well. We set
the boat up again in the conventional way and tried to get her shipshape in
case we were in for a blow as we rounded Pigeon Island.
Distant clouds were slowly clearing where they appeared to touch the water,
was it my imagination or could I just make out a hump shape amongst the
Land ! The first sight for three weeks and exactly where the chart
predicted. I waited another ten minutes and then delightedly gave the
traditional holler, Land Ho ! Vic and Alex were lolling below and didn't
believe me, one look at my face brought them up at the double. A low black
mountain could by now be clearly seen, what a feeling. The wind was too
light for sailing so we increased the revs of the motor, we wanted more,
much more. We did our flag plan, St Lucia courtesy flag the most important
one, followed by the Cornish and finally the two big ARC flags were soon up
the mast. While we were rigging them a small squall blew through and
gave us a wetting for the road. 60.50 degrees was the start of the new
chart so I quickly refreshed my memory and settled into photographing the
scene. Three hours later it all started to happen, exotic buildings in
cleared spaces in the tropical undergrowth started to appear clinging to the
sides of the
mountains facing the sea. St Lucia is very mountainous, great volcanic
escarpments and pointed summits, needle-like hills pointing skywards, all
dressed in vivid green jungle. The huge swell rolling in from the Atlantic,
which was now giving way to the Caribbean sea, bursting against the cliffs
in great rainbows of spray. Some lower cultivated areas could also now be
The bright sunshine. shocking blue of the sea, the deep green of the wet
forest, all against a backdrop of roiling clouds and squally rainshowers in
the distance was quite breathtaking. Feeling very tired, trying to keep an
eye on our course,
attempting to comply with ARC radio instructions, (no reply), we closed on
Pigeon Island. Not exactly an island but joined to the head by a narrow
isthmus, a perfect tree covered cone rearing up towards the sky, its feet in
the water. Alex was busying himself setting up his music to accompany our
triumphal flypast of the two for one. Vic flashing away with his camera, me
worrying about hitting a reef or worse. We finally stopped the engine and
proceeded with Genoa only which made it all perfect. In the distance I could
see a small brightly coloured boat plunging through the swell in our
direction and remarked to Victor how strange it was to see so many Cornish
flags fluttering all over it, big ones too. As it came nearer the penny
dropped, we could see madly cheering and waving passengers, their hair and
clothes fluttering in the now brisk breeze whipping around the headland, a
wonderful reception committee made up of, wife Sue, sister Maria and her
partner Chris, Vics partner Clare, and, heavily pregnant and glowing,
Victors daughter Helen, plus the two crew of 'Thy Rod and Staff' The sight
brought the three of us to instant tears, we had arrived, and to prove it
here we were. The girls had figured out our whereabouts during all the
mobile chatter earlier and had come out to meet us. The perfection of their
timing, the bizarre colours and name of the boat, the surreal backdrop to
their plunging approach, their smiles fit to burst, madly waving and
snapping with their cameras, a true one off and unreproduceable scene, you
couldn't pose smiles like that if you tried forever. Alex had his music
playing through a speaker rigged up on deck, Curtis Mayfield playing 'move
on up' which was the song I had chosen for the trip, plus many other
favourite and emotive songs we had been playing and listening to all our
lives. We were totally overwhelmed. They came right up close and tossed over
some bottles of the local beer, after three weeks of total abstinence one
sip was too much for us all. I managed to keep the boat going in the right
direction through all this and identified the finish line, managing to just
pinch up enough to squeeze inside the committee boat, the blast from their
airhorn signalling the end of the voyage. I thought I would burst. ARC
Berthing called us up on the radio and gave us approach instructions and
where to come alongside, informing us at the same time that we had quite a
reception waiting.
The narrow canal past the Two for One was full of boats coming and going,
the yacht crews giving us the 'well done' thrusting fist gesture which made
me glow with pride as only they really knew the true reality of a small
boat Atlantic crossing. As we passed the bar, friends and acquaintances we
had made along the way were cheering madly, also there were Rod, Sandra and
daughter Catherine, crew of 'Moonshine' Son in Law Dave and Alan who had
sailed in during Friday night.
Others were embarking on little water taxis to accompany us all the way into
the inner harbour. I'll never forget the sight of little Chesten, James and
Catherine's little daughter, standing in the little boat waving her Cornish
And that was only the start of an overwhelming reception, as we passed the
bigger boats that had arrived days before us, they gave us a royal
welcome, horns blowing, bells ringing, people banging and cheering, one man
playing a trumpet, receiving such obvious respect was very humbling. As we
approached our allotted berth we started to identify other family
members among the mob of people waiting for us, more Cornish flags waving
madly, who had decided the Two for One was not for them and wanted to be in
the thick of the action at the Marina. I could go on describing this scene
for a very long time, our Mum, Theresa Cockle from Moresk Truro, standing
there holding her flag, tears streaming down her face, no doubt thinking
of her Dad who had started this all those years ago by courageously
abandoning the safety of home, to make his way alone in the world as little
more than a boy, with all that that entailed for a young innocent St Lucian.
Torpedoed twice during the war, he lived well into his nineties and is
by their four children. Now his grandchildren and great-grandson, sailing
under their own steam, one can imagine what she must have been feeling,
quite apart from relief. Also there was Victors wife Olive, Son Peter and
his girlfriend Maria are still in London unfortunately but due to arrive on
Boxing day.
Never done so much kissin and huggin, me lips were sore. Felt a bit funny
walking on the jetty as well. The ARC crowd do a great job of smoothing the
way through the tangle of buraucracy so all was soon sorted. Thisbe, loaded
down as she was with rubbish bags and fuel cans etc. still looked
wonderful, clean from the ocean and racy looking. I was very proud of her.
If the Queen had come ashore she couldn't have had such a wonderful
reception, the love and affection we received was embarrassing and humbling.
We have met many interesting and interested people, and fulfilled a lifelong
dream, Sue (for two weeks) and me, are intending to explore the windward and
leeward islands during the next 5 months, most of which I will spend on my
own. As yet have no crew for the return journey so who knows ? I only know
that hiding the things we value the most away from the light, and that
includes our lives, is a mistake. The feeling of being truly alive can only
come from taking some risk, done in an intelligent way it can be achieved
and survived. Many of the others who have done this trip for the first time
can hardly begin to tell their tale without tears appearing in their eyes,
they know, and the only real way to begin to understand is to do it. Happy
Christmas to the whole world. Manny

The Nic 32 is rated bottom of the handicap list and was expected to arrive
last, I think we were around the 190th boat home but that is yet to be
confirmed when the handicapping is worked out and published.