Sunday 28 December 2014

Happy Christmas from Juno

We finish the ARC at around 11pm on Tuesday the 9th December, 15 days after we left Las Palmas. Our final gybe as we round Pigeon Island is now well-practiced and for the first time for two weeks we are sailing up-wind into 20 knots with a reefed mainsail. Just as we approach the finish, a large motor yacht drops anchor ahead of us, completely obscuring the line so we duck behind it and come up hard into the wind, shooting the line and barely missing the committee boat – now that would have been a bad way to finish.

What makes the finish even more memorable is that our friends Nick and Claire are on a speedboat in the darkness cheering us as we cross the line. The ARC camera man is darting in front of our bows on his rib with a large floodlight and we are trying to navigate the bay, pose for photographs, excavate the lazarette for fenders and avoid hitting anything; all in the pitch black. The entrance to the Rodney Bay lagoon is a narrow cut barely 100 metres across and its quite confusing at night amongst all the lights on the shore – particularly when these are the first lights we have seen after 15 days at sea. We make it through the cut and tie up to the dock without incidence. The customary landing drinks from the ARC welcome committee go down a treat and we are all elated.  Several rum punches later we finally retire to bunks that seemed curiously still, so used have we become to the roll of the Atlantic waves.

I must say that Paul, Kerry and Caroline have all been amazing. Paul is his usual happy self, enjoying every moment and turning his hand to everything from galley work to wrestling the spinnaker to the deck with equal enthusiasm.  His capable, upbeat and positive approach is infectious and greatly contributes to the atmosphere on board. Kerry is a charming, bright and willing student, learning fast and so obviously enthralled and enlivened by the ocean, the sunsets and even the squalls. She manages her solo night watches with great care, giving me confidence knowing that she would wake me if she felt out of her depth – which rarely happens.  Having been anxious about the trip, Fatty eases her way into offshore passage making like a pro.   The combination of the simplicity of ocean sailing, lots of sleep and a lack of alcohol suits her. Thanks to her, we eat like kings, with fresh fruit and vegetables lasting the whole journey. She also has the natural intuition of a talented sailor. Although she might not know the technical terms she picks up immediately on the issues. When we were broad reaching one day she remarked ‘shouldn’t that sheet lead over there a bit more’. She was in fact describing a barber-hauler, a block that changes the sheet angle for different points of sail. Not a simple concept but one that seems obvious to her.

Two days after we finish, Mervyn, Amanda, Bob and Lincy arrive on El Mundo, better known as the Trawler, with its huge catch of fish including a Marlin which snapped the rod as it was nearing the boat. It has been such fun sharing the ARC experience with Mervyn and Amanda and we shall miss them on our next leg into the Pacific. Every day more boats cross the finish line and each new arrival is greeted with cheers, applause and the blast of foghorns from all the boats in the marina.  Aretha arrives next with Caspar, Nichola, Bluebell (aged 9), Columbus (aged 8) and Willow aged two and the youngest crew member on the ARC.  I think the ARC is a great institution: it is the largest offshore sailing rally in the world and the formula works well because the unique atmosphere is created by the participants. From seasoned sailors to young families; for many it is the culmination of a life-long ambition.

The ARC celebrations continue in St Lucia with drinks parties, suppers on the beach and in the marina. Kerry’s family arrive shortly after our arrival, staying in a villa nearby, and we have a great days sailing down to Marigot Bay in convoy with El Mundo: dinner in the Rainforest Hideaway to celebrate Fatty’s birthday then back to Rodney Bay. Then slowly our party disbands: Paul leaves first, to attend Jess’s wedding in the UK, followed by Bob and Lincy, then Mervyn and Amanda and finally Kerry, Pete, Tom and Jen head home for Christmas. However it’s not for long because Kerry, Andrew and Saz join us in January and Paul and Consuelo in February for the trip to the Panama Canal, the Galapagos Islands and then across the Pacific to Polynesia. 

Meantime Christmas is here and Tom and Jamie join us for a short holiday. We sail to Martinique for a night and we are reminded that sailing upwind into the Atlantic swell is hard work. We anchor in the bay off the lovely village of St Anne and eat ashore in a restaurant owned by two Neapolitan brothers from Procida, a beautiful island near Capri on the Amalfi coast where we anchored during the summer with Jamie and Lucie.

We check into Le Sport hotel for a week of large comfy beds, delicious food and all sorts of indulgent treatments at the SPA. The hotel has a marvellous relaxed atmosphere where the staff are encouraged to chat with the guests and certain staff members, known as ‘body guards’ lead the dancing in the evenings, their natural rhythm and fluid gyrations inspiring even the most leaden footed of guests to shake a well-fed leg.   It is great to have the boys with us and to see them visibly recuperate from an English winter as they soak up the sun, play tennis and graze the endless restaurants and bars.

As I sit on a lounger in the beach, the surf is crashing against the shore, a nice waiter brings me a cold glass of water, and Fatty and I are planning the next leg of our adventure. We have loved having the boys with us and we will be sad to say goodbye until we see them again in Tahiti, Fiji or maybe Tonga?

When I talk to other yachts in the marina their biggest problem seems to be finding crew. It makes me realise that we are very lucky to have so many great friends who want to come sailing with us and we cant wait to see you all over the coming months and to share our adventure with you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on another wonderful Arc crossing! Love the reminiscing and photos galore! Happy New Year and Bon voyage and much love from the Naylors in Trevose xoxox