On the ARC in 2012 Kim brought with him a gift from Dr James Ashby, a close friend of his from Cornwall. If you have ever fished for crabs as a child you would recognise it immediately: a wooden frame wound with heavy monofilament fishing line, a large brass swivel impregnably attached to the end. When Mitchel, our grumpy fishing reel, gave up and cast all my best lures to the deep on our last Atlantic crossing, it was this hand line that came in to its own; we wound it onto Mitchel, despite his sulky protests, and hooked a big Dorado that we were able to winch in with no fear of the line breaking.
Well get this! I have been invited from below decks to sit in the authors’ chair of the eloquently written Juno blog. This is surprising, given that my vocabulary stretches to that of an average ten year old, but perhaps the intention is to attract a younger readership.
We have been sailing on a broad reach all day, making reasonable progress and hitting our target of 200 miles in the past 24 hours, despite one hour of the day when we were almost stationary, all eyes focussed on the action at the stern of the boat.
Yesterday started badly when I took over from Paul at 3am and he said ‘you might need your foulies’. This was an understatement. Rain was lashing the cockpit as he bade me goodnight and scuttled off to his dry cabin, leaving me sitting in puddles of water in the cockpit. Then things got worse: the wind dropped away leaving us rolling drunkenly in the swell, and still the rain fell.
With all this talk of the difference of having two girls as part of this crossing compared to two years ago (clean heads, delicacies for supper etc), I thought I might correct any impression that Fatty and I spend our time cleaning and cooking. In truth there is a very fair division of labour, with Paul a more than dab hand in the galley and Frewie was even caught yesterday baking bread.
We have now covered almost 1,500 miles since we left Las Palmas a week ago, around half way to St Lucia. We celebrated this milestone last night with Dark and Stormies at happy hour, followed by chicken curry served with accompaniments created by Thermo, our high tech galley slave. This tropical mood has been brought on by a marked rise in temperature as we work our way south towards to the equator.
It is 10pm Juno time and I am on watch until midnight. We are on a broad reach and I have rigged a new sheet on our big genoa that reeves around a block on the port quarter, allowing the clew of the sail to rise, opening up the slot between the mainsail and the genoa, improving our downwind speed by a precious fraction of a knot.I have realised that ocean sailing is a long game, not won by short sprints, but by sustaining above average boat speeds over the length of a passage.\
It is perhaps the wrong approach but I can’t help drawing comparisons with my previous Atlantic crossing on Juno in 2012. It all comes flooding back – the bruising of various part of the body, sprained wrists from grabbing a rail at the last moment as we twist off the top of a wave and the plates, food and other accompaniments that are one moment securely placed on a table or work surface, are launched into midair on a port or starboard trajectory the next.
We continue our fast passage across the Atlantic today, tracking just south of the greater circle route, with another 24 hour run of over 200 miles.All is well on board with everyone settled into the watch system and the routines of offshore sailing; and then we had a minor drama.
After a night of rolling downwind, the wind has backed to the North today, allowing us to stow the spinnaker pole and broad reach across the Atlantic in 20 knots of wind at 9 knots of boatspeed, reaching 11 knots in the gusts.Our decision to head south yesterday was a good one as we avoided the wind hole that others endured.Broad reaching is one of the great points of sail as we lean on the mainsail for stability while the genoa gives us drive, making for fast progress.
We are underway at last. Our mainsail is set on our port side, our big genoa poled out on starboard and our smaller jib sheeted in to give us that extra half a knot, a new innovation suggested by Eddie at Oyster that we like a lot.Half a knot over two weeks could get us to the rum punches in St Lucia almost a day earlier.
This is my third ARC and the second time that the
race has been postponed on my watch.Last night the wind howled through the marina, shrieking in our
rigging.Yachts in the bay
outside the marina dragged their anchors and one boat was on the rocks by the morning.
In the nearby Santa Catalina hotel a car was crushed by a falling tree. Angry black
squalls charge down off the hills and as they hit, they unleash wind and rain
that bounces off the sea, whipping up the surface.Despite our initial disappointment it’s a
great decision to postpone until tomorrow.
Its the night before the start of the ARC and a gale is blowing through the marina making every one feel slightly jumpy. In fact the forecast for the start is very good with 20 - 25 knots from the NW, slowly veering and decreasing over the next few days. The elusive Azores high is becoming well established over the mid Atlantic which should bring us those perfect trade winds for the crossing.
We have finally made it to the start line of ARC 2014. Phew.
The ride down to Las Palmas from Lanzarote was fast. We left
at 4am and covered 100 miles in 12 hours arriving at the reception pontoon in
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria at 4pm. We filled up with fuel, spilling smelly diesel
all over the decks as usual, trying to squeeze an extra few litres into the
tank: this despite the absorbent pad fashioned ingeniously by Fatty from a
personal hygiene product. We head for our berth and in the falling light we tie
up next to our friends Mervyn and Amanda on El Mundo.
At 0100 local time we round the breakwater in the pouring
rain, into the calm and sheltered setting of Puerto Calero marina.My prediction that we might outrun the
weather front was premature and we have spent the last 8 hours dodging squalls
in a wild ride down to Lanzarote.
One hundred miles to run to Lanzarote and we are sailing
fast, consistently over 9 knots in 11 knots of wind. It is impressive that a
fat cruising boat (sorry Juno) weighing 32 tons can convert wind into boat
speed so efficiently.
We are sitting in the Waterfront Café in Queensway Quay marina, Gibraltar. Three meals a day, it has replaced the galley on Juno while we prepare for our trip down to the Canaries.There is a large cloud that hangs perpetually over the Rock, casting its shadow over the marina while all around bright sunshine blazes down on the Spanish mainland.The European summer is definitely on the wane and we are looking forward to sailing south to warmer climes.
The List is almost done, the engine has been serviced, the
sails are back on, crew covers have been fitted over the gleaming white leather
upholstery: finally its time to leave Palma. Looking back at the magnificent cathedral
dominating the skyline I wonder when we will next return. All romantic thoughts
are quickly dispelled by the large swell that hits us the moment we leave the
shelter of the breakwater. Despite there being only 10 knots of wind, a short
chop has developed in the bay of Palma.
Another directorship resigned, another tie severed. It is
now the start of October and only days until we leave the shores of Europe.
However, I don’t feel excitement or relief, but instead butterflies in my
stomach, reminiscent of the feeling of going back to boarding school on a
Sunday evening. Despite my best efforts, there are still a thousand things to
do before we leave Palma de Mallorca. But when I consult my list, I reassure
myself that the important items will be completed and the rest aren’t essential
to crossing oceans.
The saying goes that sailing in the Mediterranean largely
involves motoring from storm to storm, but as we motor across the mirrored
surface it’s hard to believe that a big Mistral is on its way. We slide through the shallows of the Fornelli
Passage in the flat calm of dawn, saving us a 30-mile journey around the
northern tip of Sardinia, and enter the harbour at Alghero to wait out the
Mistral in the marina at Ser Mar, owned by the charismatic and charming
Sailing around the Mediterranean on our beautiful boat, not
a care in the world; a number of people have commented that we are ‘living the
dream’. And so we are, but this phrase has developed a new meaning on Juno. I
don’t expect any sympathy from those who are reading this standing on a
commuter train, but life on a boat isn’t always as you might imagine.
Rome looks like any other European city as the taxi turns
off the motorway and trundles through the outskirts.The usual mix of apartment blocks rubbing
cheeks with suburban low-rise cubes is like so many others. Everywhere there are signs of under-investment:
another victim of La Crisis, now six years old and with no signs of improvement
– worse if anything.Then out of the
corner of my eye, high above, something catches the suns rays.
We leave Ischia behind as we sail north towards Rome, a
large swell running from the south, pushing us on our way. We stop briefly for
lunch on the remote island of Ventotene, and swim in the deep clear water before
motoring the last twenty miles to Ponsa. From our last visit I know that a long
southerly swell creeps into all the anchorages so I head straight for the port
and anchor in the protected main harbour with twenty other yachts who have also
been here before and experienced the Ponsa roll.Once the ferries stop for the night the water
is thankfully calm and the wind dies away; a blanket of hot and humid air
settles over the boat.
The urban sprawl of Naples, and its one million inhabitants,
spreads across the horizon, from the green slopes of Vesuvius down to the bay
of Naples. We are in the middle of the city where our friend and hotelier,
Paolo, has secured us a berth at the marina in Santa Lucia, positioned under
the battlements of Castel dell’Ovo which takes its name from the the legend
that it was built over an egg placed here by Virgil in Roman times: it is
believed that if the egg breaks, Naples will fall.
We are on the Costiera Amalfatana, just outside Salerno,
working our way north along the Italian coast towards Naples and then onto
Rome.We are berthed in Marina d’Arechi,
a brand new marina that isn’t even on my chart, where we spend the day cleaning
Stromboli ash from the decks.Hertz
delivers a car which Fatty dubs a Fiat Ugly, and we set off in the hot
afternoon sun, air conditioning on full, through Salerno and onto the coast
road that runs along the south of the Amalfi peninsula. Our destination is
Ravello a small town up in the hills above Amalfi, but first, that crazy coast
We are in the Aeolian Islands off the north coast of Sicily. Not far from mainland Italy, yet too remote for most. Grouped by name but each resolutely individual: the isolated brothers, Alicudi and Filicudi; the bohemian and glamorous sister, Panarea; the wooded and fertile mother, Salina and the moody and unpredictable patriarch, Stromboli.
Cefalu is a medieval town on the north coast of Sicily, perched on a rocky promontory under the dramatic backdrop of La Rocca, a huge rock that towers over the town. It is so picture-perfect that it was used as the setting for the famous Sicilian film, Cinema Paradiso, and tourists from all over Sicily flock to Cefalu to stroll the narrow cobbled streets. We anchor in milky blue water outside the small marina and wait for the wind to back to the west to take us to the Aeolian Islands. It also give me a chance to catch up on admin after a frustrating few days in Palermo where we suffered more gear failure than in our entire three years afloat.
As we approach Palermo the shoreline turns from soaring cliffs and wooded slopes to dusty roads and bricks and mortar. The urban sprawl of Sicily's largest city reaches out through the valleys and stretches its fingers down to the sea. The wind is still gusting at over twenty knots and we rocket into the bay of Palermo at 10 knots on a broad reach with Fatty testing the cockpit cushions for comfort.