Saturday 8 December 2012

ARC Day Ten guest written by Steven Rose

Dear Avid Reader. A circa 19 day potter across the Atlantic broken by decent meals, much gin and tonic and the odd watch – as shown by these daily blogs.

Your intrepid reporter has delved, at some personal risk, to expose the ARCS’s darker side (with due reverence to Rudyard Kipling), this is no ambling cruise down the great grey green greasy Limpopo river all set about with fever trees.

Boats and crews
Dearly beloved despite the arc being billed as a cruise rather than a race, each day boat plot sessions take place, weather is digested, weather patterns forward are considered, routes, distances and figures are discussed in detail before the route is agreed upon. Most crews want to win at least their class, so the arc from day one is not a potter. The best course is set and then the boat is driven, coaxed to go faster, sails are constantly fussed over, helming assumes great significance, current course, apparent wind speed, velocity made good, the other boats positions on the daily reports become major matters, 24 hours a day for the whole race

This means a boat in the arc is never ever still, the Atlantic being a large place (see below) there are seemingly an unlimited number of waves and weather to crash through, so crew comfort is of secondary importance to THE COURSE

A bijou flat with terrace
We are blessed as crew of Juno, think of a very small flat in Kensington, recently decorated, all mod cons, new appliances, three very compact bedrooms, two very compact shower rooms, a combined sitting room and kitchen, there is also a mezzanine open air terrace. That is the extent of your world for the race, the view outside can be lovely and the property is certainly conveniently located close to the sea. Suggestion, choose your new flatmates carefully, you will get to know their foibles very well. Oh and the phone and TV reception is non-existent so do bring a book

The sea moves, the Atlantic is very big
The Atlantic is never still, its’ waves come in many different sizes some of frightening proportions, they are MUCH bigger than those you were shown by the RYA on the Solent. This means that coupled with THE COURSE the boat is never ever still dearly beloved, and all tasks become much much more difficult than at home. Once the arc has finished its first day you are unlikely to see another boat or ship until St Lucia, to date we have seen one freighter on the horizon and one other arc competitor about four miles away, note to self – choose your flatmates very carefully and there are no corner shops at any point en route.

Everything needs to be cleaned or stowed (or both) all the time
Dear reader the appendix to the holiday brochure concerning much of daily life on a yacht was omitted. Yacht skippers are strange creatures, they speak in code, never sleep and are constantly fiddling with parts of their boats to no obvious but hopefully for a vital purpose. Skippers are important, you may have learnt the names of three or four items of equipment on your particular arc boat but you need him or her to actually get you there. Hence always ensure the skipper has an unending supply of warm tea and food to keep them going, they will still constantly need the crews help to wash, tidy, tighten, loosen, stow, move, erect, take down and then re erect arcane items around the boat, humour them, it seems to work

The heads
Boats do not have loos they have heads. Normal humdrum tasks take on a completely new dynamic. As you saw in the estate agents particulars above Juno has a shower (many similar properties do not have this luxury), use of he heads involves crossing the saloon which given the boats incessant movement becomes the most treacherous part of the vessel, cannon off both walls up the short corridor, you will invariably receive more bruises on this journey, hit at least one sometimes both door jams and then you are in. Undress, but this must be achieved with both feet placed flat on the floor, brace your back on the wall and hold the basin opposite tightly, now try to take clothes off. You will find that once you enter the head the Atlantic will immediately worsen its sea state and the entire vessel will always start to pitch and roll even more

To shower enter cubicle, adopt brace position and wash yourself with one hand either water or soap, you must restrict water use so switch off shower between stages, a shower takes at least 20 minutes to complete but is most definitely worth it, remember when drying never ever lift a foot off the floor, you will invariably fall and add to the tally of bruises

As for other tasks in the heads i believe those not worthy of examination in a family blog and will leave you to consider them at your leisure

The most onerous task in your mammoth undertaking is the mother watch every four or so days, you will provide all the meals for the entire boat for 24 hours. In a small flat in west London this is readily achievable, however given the Atlantic is never still and waves are very large dear reader, to produce a standard breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast with coffee for five people, allow at least 60 minutes

Stand in the centre of the galley, at all times have both legs out firmly in a sumo like stance, lean against the work surface behind you, grasp the work surface to your front with one hand. Remember the galley is very very hot and you will be bathed in sweat whilst working – under no circumstances drop sweat on the food

Once the cooking stance is mastered you begin, but beware of some additional rules, any item placed unblocked on the work surface will automatically jump on to the galley floor; any item taller than three  inches will automatically jump on to the galley floor;  remember you only may only have one hand free at a time; also remember dearly beloved that most items you need to cook are buried around Juno in storage bins under the various floor panels

The most grumpy machine on your boat is most definitely the fridge, any opening of the fridge will result in at least two items throwing themselves across the galley. Cooking on the gimballed cooker is fairly straight forward but please remember to keep your finger tips away from the gimbal slot at the front when the boat rolls as she always does – the first aid kit is at the foot of the companion way stairs.

Supper is a marathon, allow 120 minutes to prepare, cook, deliver then wash up, the saving grace is the crew are always  really hungry, will eat pretty much anything and are pathetically grateful if you produce a meal that is vaguely edible. Once complete fill water bottles for the crew and then retire to you bunk, mother gets a night off  without watches - wooppee

So finally dear reader we move to sleeping - sleeping off watch is very important, however it needs to be worked on. To get undressed follow instructions as per pre shower routine, once in bed you become perfectly aware of the boat and her every move. The Atlantic being huge  and the waves enormous you will now feel the following from Juno

Stern up 10 to 15 feet
Pitch to port 30 degrees
Pitch to starboard 30 degrees
Bow down  - insert same distance as bow

Then start again, all night

You will have four hours before your next watch so you MUST sleep, there is a lee sheet on one side of your bunk, a piece of sail cloth about 2 feet high roped to the ceiling the length of your bunk, it keeps you from being thrown out. Lie part in that and part on the bed, put your pillow lengthways so you pillow is under your head and between your head and the bulkhead top, brace your feet against the remaining bulkhead, attempt to stabilise yourself a wee bit

Stern up 10 to 15 feet
Pitch to port 30 degrees
Pitch to starboard 30 degrees
Bow down  - insert same distance as bow

And on and on, after a few days of this and not sleeping you will dear reader magically fall asleep through sheer exhaustion and after that you become acclimatised

The gin and tonic
Here the advertising has departed far from the truth, one small can of Spanish beer a day...

Finally, the Why oh why oh why
Because dearly beloved, The dawns are amazing, Sunset is lovely, The Atlantic is truly awe inspiring, You will get to know and respect your crew as well as parts of your family

I wouldn’t have missed it for the world


  1. Well done Rosie! An hilarious description of life on board - another day nearer too! 'Suelo x

  2. What a great experience!

    I think the Rum cocktails, of all colours, will taste special after all that Spanish lager.

    You will be shocked at the frozen wastelend of England that awaits you.

    So pleased you made it safe and sound.

    All the best mate