Pink elephants on the Atlantic
We desperately want to leave again and of course that has a reason: we know how it feels to sail the world. Once tasted and messed up forever. To me it’s a process to grow into this kind of life as you are faced with many challenges.
Without being too epic here is our history of our journey from Valencia to the anchorage in the Carlisle Bay in Barbados. In 2015, we urgently needed a break – from the job and the established life. The brave Ka spoke from an Atlantic crossing and took 3 seconds to persuade me. We exchanged our 40 ft for a 50 ft Monohull and signed for the Barbados 50 Atlantic Rally, organized by Jimmy Cornell. In 2016 we left our homeport Valencia with the Canary Islands ahead to start the rally in Lanzarote. On a bar stool in a pub in Gibraltar, we slowly realized that the Atlantic was damn big. It’s even bigger for two on board. There was no nice welcome in the Atlantic when we turned portside after Gibraltar. The route along the endless coast of Morocco was tough. Big wave never under 3 meters, strong wind and no rest, 24 h a day. Not really funny. After arrival in Lanzarote, after sleeping, eating and talking with other sailors in, we wanted to continue. I remember well asking the catamaran sailors in the fleet why they did not sail a “real sailing vessel” for heaven’s sake. The wise and forgiving smile of Garry – sailed with his lovely wife Louise from Australia to Lanzarote with a catamaran – I do understand very well today. I was still young and stupid, blinded by the beauty of a Monohull. In the rally with 35 ships we met fantastic people. There were plenty of good and inspiring conversations and we learned a lot. It was our entry into the community of long distance sailors, which is really a great heap. In Lanzarote we started our upgrading of our new and well-prepared ship, which was allegedly reliable equipped by the shipyard. Six Canary Islands, a new autopilot and new AIS later, it went course Cape Verde. Compared to the route along Morocco these 5 days were quite uneventful. After two weeks Cape Verde it was getting exciting: untie the lines in Mindelo and over the Atlantic. Today I am grateful that I was not aware about the upcoming events.
The crossing had it all. No romantic long Atlantic wave and relaxed sailing. 2 weeks living in the slope, transverse wave, endless squalls and one disaster after another. From day 2 the (brand new) autopilot resigned regularly (shipyard: never happened before). Repairing an AHDS patient at 3-5 m wave is not really fun, but is more convenient than the time from night six on. It might get hard at night, when squalls shorten your sleep. Once again a squall and I (overslept) put my hand in an electric winch and transform the cockpit into a pool of blood. As I figured out later, a finger with torn ligaments, a simple fracture, an open fracture and all fingers are 180 degrees off. But still all fingers onboard. Restrain, shines and liters of disinfectant to prevent blood poisoning. I also had to do what James Bond did in “Casino Royale”. The next doctor was probably on the ISS, otherwise 2,000 km horizontally. From there, no spinnaker went up any more and we slowed down. But it was getting even more unpleasant. 600 nm (about 1,100) km from Barbados tore our steering cable (controlled in Lanzarote), the ship could not be controlled any more. (Shipyard: never happened before). Steering a 16-ton ship with an emergency tiller feels like pushing a truck in a parking spot. We only managed 1.5 hours of watch each of us. Ka looked like abused and I looked like my grandfather, trying to deal with one hand only.
Because of the strong wave, one had to stand constantly at the emergency tiller, otherwise we immediately turned towards Suriname. We hardly ate and I saw pink elephants on the compass. Both of us were total mentally and physically exhaustion and we had no idea how to survive in the rough sea. Do you remember my comment on the community of sailors above? By satmail we received encouraging messages from an Australian ship in front of us (we will wait), a German ship behind us (we are coming) and finally a British friend sailed to us. At the rendezvous, the incredible brave Ty jumped into the rolling Atlantic Ocean at dusk and came aboard. We were able to sleep for 5 hours and the elephants were gone. Isn’t it amazing? We knew Ty for three weeks and he does not hesitate to jump into the Atlantic, risking his life to help us. Ask a relative for help. The three of us sailed the last 2.5 days to Barbados sang Bob Marley at the approach and were looking forward to the first cold beer.
After 10 days our ship was repaired and in much better shape than delivered from the shipyard. After the hard time, we were done with sailing. Did we just had bad luck and caught a hard weather window on our crossing? Did we made too a poor preparation, was the vessel crap? A few weeks later I met a sailor of the ARC. He asked shy: tell me, what is a squall? Obviously it can come over as well. The result of our rally: A guy had to undergo therapy for clinical depression, others did not dare to continue and others stopped sailing completely. Scars have left many with this. But scars are sexy and Captain Sparrow sure has more fans than the official in the traffic department. Anchoring at Carlisle Bay in Barbados was the best therapy we could get. There was a welcome or farewell party on the beach every day when sailors from the rally arrived or sailed on. We were not aware of that at the time, but we grew by meters and the most beautiful part of our journey began. But this is another story. / HB