Almost there - Land Sighted

Phil Pascoe
Sun 14 Dec 2008 18:06

12:57.6N 58:57.0W
35 miles to go, 14 Dec, 13.00h (UT - 4).  Tony has just sighted land, let's hope it's Barbados, not Africa.

Phil's bit: Still Blogging, but running out of ideas. Nothing new to photograph apart from a rain shower, and you all know what those look like (this one was warm - almost). Nothing new to say apart from we're counting down the miles and all looking forward to a few beers in a bar, a meal cooked by someone else and a restful nights sleep, in a bed that doesn't move (as much).

I suggested that we all put down a few lines to describe how we might be feeling at the moment as we near the end of a 3 week Atlantic Crossing in a relatively small boat. I imagine whatever we might be feeling will change as soon as we arrive and again rapidly after that as memories fade and the rose-tinted glasses make an appearance. I must admit that I'm a bit numb, or my brain is. Perhaps that's one way of dealing with the 'ordeal'. Forget about the philosophies, just do what's necessary until the job's done. I'm thinking back now to my e-mail I sent to family and friends before we set off and the rhetorical questions I asked then.

So there we are - would you like to spend 3 weeks out of sight of land, with 3 'old' men? Will we come back as different people, will we find the 'meaning of life', will it put me off sailing, will I become a sea gypsy, will it all be a pain in the arse?

Different people? The others seem to think that life will never be the same. I tend to think, it'll make no difference at all, apart from having achieved a self-imposed goal and I can now tick that one off the list.  Perhaps our spouses will be better placed to answer that question - if we have changed, will it be for the better?

Meaning of Life? I'm still searching, but hope to be nearer to it by the time I've spent 5 months in the Caribbean (hopefully most of it with Paula) and returned to the UK. Perhaps the answer is 42 after all.

Will it put me off sailing? Probably - I can imagine bureaucracy, boat-boys and life on a boat in a hot and humid climate, combined with the constant concern of keeping it seaworthy and ready for all weathers will cheese me off after a few months.

Sea Gypsy? Unless something changes dramatically in the next few months - No, I can't see myself living on a boat and cruising around the world.

Pain in the Arse? Yes, literally, as without women onboard, we haven't used the cockpit cushions. Those seats get harder!
Overall, I think we've coped pretty well with the sailing, the weather, the sleep deprivation, the cooking, and each other. My crew have been very willing and dependable throughout and I'm sure we did better in this respect than most boats. Three 'alpha males', three weeks at sea, and only one beer a day - how did we do it? I wonder how different the dynamic might be if three females did it - no problem or, hide the sharp knives? I guess by the age of 50+ plus, the 'alpha' factor has slid to somewhere between beta and omega (depending on how much fish we've eaten), but we've done very well considering that we didn't really know each other in terms of living or holidaying together - and we all know how difficult that can be! I'm sure we would all change a few things if we did it again, and we all probably subscribe to the view: 'I don't see anything wrong with democracy, as long as everything is done MY WAY!'

Would I do it again? No I don't think so, well, not unless I was paid. One more Ocean crossing to get home will be enough for me. I'll be dusting off the golf clubs at Christmas and perhaps checking out the local Bowls Club.

OK, that's it from me, next blog will be from Barbados - can you hear the Steel Band?

Tony: Well, here we are, a wet Sunday morning with light ENE wind, 35 miles to go and baring unforeseens, we'll be in Barbados tonight. That makes the 2700 mile crossing from El Hierro in the Canaries something like 20 days and 12 or 16 hours. Pretty good going for what has seemed to be lighter weather than we were expecting. Phil wanted some honest thoughts on the passage written down by all of us before we got ashore while all aspects are fresh in our minds. For me the passage has seemed like one of the best books I have ever read. Every day has been focussed on getting to the end of the book as quickly and efficiently as possible, and now, as we get to the last few pages, I have become so wrapped up in the story and characters that I don't want it to end. Tomorrow we are going to have to step outside our self-contained little lives and grapple with the real world of bureaucracy, transport, economics and all that stuff. On the positive side, I'll be returning to my wife and family. The reality is that a small boat is a sheltered, cossetted existance and real life is much tougher.

The book itself has been a great read. Phil runs a well-organised yacht on democratic principles in that all the major decisions get discussed and agreed. Saftey has always been important, the catering has worked extremely well - many thanks to Phil and Paula for getting most of the provisioning done in Las Palmas. Despite none of us being particularly competent cooks we have eaten well every day and with a mostly varied fare. Perhaps the tinned squid were not such a great idea. The fruit and veg lasted well and we had apples yesterday and there are oranges left for today. The only food which has spoiled, and that was trivial, were packages which were opened and only partly consumed. The entertainments department has been top rate and we have watched three DVD films and played a lot of Cribbage. We also celebrated my birthday and a number of voyage milestones (half way, 1000 miles to go, etc.) with an extra beer or a bottle of wine with dinner. All in all, a nice blend of responsible sailing and appropriate reaxation. I also had time to read a couple weighty books that my daughter let me have.

From my perpective, the main characters have worked well together. I can't imagine an easier group to spend three weeks in a confined space with; I expect I was probably the least gregarious but I hope I pulled my weight. Everyone did more than their share and no one ever balked at turning out for their watch or if extra help was needed on deck. We all three have very similar standards in catering, safety and yacht management, even things as basic as keeping the toilet clean and washing the cockpit floor before breakfast. I thought the watch system worked well and mostly everyone got a seven hour sleep period unless you were on the 12-4 when you got two by four hour sleep periods. However, the watch and catering responsibilities rotated every day so, over three days, everyone did each watch and cooking duty. Don't ask me to explain it, it worked! I'd need access to a powerful parallel-processing computer to be able to create it from scratch, but Peter did it with ease.

For me, keeping a limited supply of shorts and T-shirts dry and hygenic has been one of the tricky factors. Fortunately I only got completely wet through once (on deck without FWG in a gale - but it was warm) and mostly the weather was dry and fine. If we had had more extreme weather, it may have been difficult to keep, or wash, enough clothes to have something dry to put on. I can highly recommend the military spec wet-wipes.

In summary, I have enjoyed the passage and the company enormously. I have made notes and taken picture but I don't think I will have any problem remembering these three amazing weeks.

Pete's Blog: As we reach the end of the 'second half' of our voyage, and with no extra time or penalties in prospect, resident plaudit Pete Sizer profers his latest 'brain dump', on whether the trip has provided the answer to the meaning of life...

I agree that, it was certainly a time to reflect and gather ones thoughts together. Maybe put them in some semblance of order and completeness. But, if you want the answer to the meaning of life - forget it... the thoughts from this trip are unlikely to be able to help you.

The sailing has been all about 'meeting the challenge', on the basis of 'no pain, no gain', a bit of a man's thing, you understand. Nevertheless, the 'second half' did provide us with the missing ingredients, which were lacking in the first half. These were necessary, nay welcome, to make the voyage all that it is cracked up to be. The winds finally came with a vengence, and a variety; as we had been promised in all of our pre-trip reading. It started with a force 7 / 8, when we had no alternative but to go onto half hour watches, whilst cat napping on the cockpit floor. Just because the autohelm struggled, we could not. Then we found ourselves in the middle of the most spectacular electric storm, and wishing we were somewhere else, all at the same time. Eventually, the trade winds did arrive, and gave us the 150 miles a day we needed. Even then - and nearly in spitting distance of landfall - there was a sting in the tail. Three or four violent rain storms / squalls, served as a reminder of, who's boss out here.

There will be many things that I will take with me from this journey but I guess that the camaraderie will steal a march, above all others. The forces of nature come a close second, with sheer beauty everywhere you look. You cannot help but be in awe of the power of the sea. From mountainous walls of water, which threaten to engulf you, one moment, to a sheet of glass, as far as the eye can see, the next. Whilst I never for one moment felt alone, the solitude was all around, for everyone to see and feel. We didn't see another ship for nearly a week, nor the vapour trails of an aeroplane, for the entire three weeks. I will also remember the food (cuisine would have been more apt), beer o'clock, rationing, stocktaking, sleep deprivation, the metronomic timing of meals and watches, wet underwear every day, clean underwear every three days, the unrelenting heat, a shower once a week, and much, much more.

But the answer to the meaning of life... most certainly not. Each time I managed to think through the life changing consequences of what we had done, and what I intended to do next, there was something missing. Was it my border collie, Zeb? Possibly. Was it my daughters, Ellen and Lynsey? Quite probably. Was it my grandchildren, Skye, Jay and Lily-Ann? Almost certainly. Or was it my wife, Gail? Without a shadow of a doubt. It is clear to me now, that you cannot find the answers or take these decisions, on your own or in isolation. Without the support and encouragement of those close to you, you will be operating in a vacuum, and destined to fail.

All that said, I would recommend that you treat the innermost thoughts of this author with a large helping of caution. After all, I still cannot figure out why I have only seen flying fish landing in the water, and never taking off!

... and signing off in the words of one of our many ardent blog fans, 'the boys done good' (sorry Harry, or was it Pluhums of Yealm?).

A few Pics of the final 2 days:  The prize coconut turned out to be rotten.  Tony in 'No Country for Old Men' mode. (We're still debating the ending). Skipper at the Helm. look 'No Hands'.  Have I lost weight? The facial hair comes off tomorrow, I promise.