An Atlantic crossing requires skill, pluck, a decent boat, some wind… and most importantly of all, a great crew. Harmonious crew dynamics when living together in such a confined and rocky-rolly space for so long are obviously the key to a good crossing. On the Princess we had to pull together, look after each other and live with each other’s endearing foibles for weeks on end. We had to show tolerance and support for each other 24/7 without a break in a way that is rarely ever demanded on land. I would like to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to our amazing crew for taking part in this venture with us, for all your support and good humour, for mucking in and cheerfully rolling up your sleeves no matter what the task, for going up the mast, under the hull and to many chandleries, for your 24 hour a day reliability on watch, for forgiving the Skipper for his sleep deprived grumpiness, for being such a good laugh and great company. Together we have come through the doldrums and managed gale force winds, learned a lot, got the best out of the boat and literally crossed an ocean. You have made it a once in a lifetime experience for us.
We can be proud of what we have achieved together as a crew.
On this trip we celebrated three birthdays, one (my 50th) at sea. Thank you for the lovely presents and the birthday hugs, for singing happy birthday to me in a very choppy Atlantic swell (not many people have had that experience) and for letting me sleep a bit late on all my night watches for the rest of the crossing! I’m going to say that was a birthday present rather than just my laziness…
Together we visited four islands and with John and Roger on this trip we visited six ;Porto Santo, Madeira, Gran Canaria, Santo Vincenzo, Santo Antao and Saint Lucia. We sailed for a total of 19 days together (from Gibraltar 26 days, almost a complete month at sea). We sailed 1000 nautical miles from Gibraltar to the Canaries and a further 850 nautical miles to the Cape Verdes. Finally, we crossed the Atlantic, a voyage of some 2,115 nautical miles.
We dealt with winds of 35 knots, gusts of up to 40 knots, handled cruising chute and poled out genoa, rigged preventers and positioned fore and aft guys, came through squalls and handled choppy waves.
Many grateful thanks to our crew for such wonderful dining on board, especially to John and Cathy for taking the initiative and organising the provisioning in advance and to Ron for his expert cooking lessons and divine baking. I have since made banana bread and focaccia and thanks to his lessons, it wasn’t half bad! They will become staples in our life cruising around the Caribbean where pastries are hard to come by. Everybody excelled themselves with delicious meals and our half-way meal will always be a party to remember.
We saw some fantastic natural sights on board including two whale spottings on our second day of the Atlantic trip, one which John managed to miraculously capture on camera, and one which was unforgettable; the fluke of the whale descending in front of us. I will always remember the water spout (mini tornado) and rainbows on our approach to Funchal, Madeira, which I came to nickname the island of rainbows. The shearwater bird colony over the Savage Islands on our passage down to the Canaries was also impressive and we managed to catch and free one of these energetic birds which was attracted by John and Roger’s fishing lures. On our Atlantic trip the flying fish were always incredible to watch at sea, although I didn’t enjoy finding them thrashing around in the cockpit or on the armchair in the cabin. All the sea birds on our Atlantic crossing were an event. It was amazing to see any bird in the middle of the ocean.
Having heard other skippers’ tales of irregular watch systems and of crew leaving mid watch to catch forty winks simply because the skipper was around, we realise how lucky we were to have such a conscientious crew regarding the watch system. Everybody (with the exception of the first mate who needed a fog horn wake up call) was scrupulously on time and faultlessly responsible with their watches, staying alert (or at least awake) in the cockpit at all times of day or night. It was pure luxury to be able to relax off watch, knowing that the next team were in charge. We knew we could always count on you, and that meant everything.
The difference between the dream and the reality is always the difference between the romantic notion of adventure and the reality of living with other people. Although it always gets a reaction when you tell someone that you have sailed across an ocean, people rarely think of a four hour shopping expedition to a Spanish supermarket or picture drilling holes into twenty wooden bungs and leaning under floor boards to tie them to sea cocks. However, these experiences for me were as important a part of the trip as
the exciting sailing moments and are certainly times when I was grateful for the help and team work of my fellow crew members. They were also what made the difference between our experience and that of those paying members who walked onto a ready organised boat with a professional skipper. We did it ourselves. Sometimes it was fun, sometimes it was frustrating, often it was hard work, sometimes it was even relaxing and sometimes it was routine, but the important point is that it was our trip and we achieved it together, all of us bringing different skills and experience and doing our level best. And in the end that was the real adventure. We were lucky to have you as a crew. Bravo to us all.