The Atlantic crossing
Day 212 - 238 Las Palmas to Bridgetown - 2926 nm
The evening before the big day was spent doing the last preparations. Then we woke up Sunday morning November 26th and were very exited on what the day would bring. In the morning hours we took a walk and said goodbye to the other Norwegian sailors and wished them a safe journey. The atmosphere in the port was very tense, the people were full of adrenalin and ready for the big ocean. We left the port 11.30. Then there were already many boats on the way out to make themselves ready for the official start of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers 2006 (ARC). We were not participating in this regatta, which have a minimum limit on 22 feet, but wanted to see the 250 boats starting their journey. We took the engine into the cockpit and secured it there, while we waited outside the port to see the start of the ARC. It was amazing to see all the boats setting their sails and crossing the start line to be of for the Caribbean.
We sat the course and the wind fane, from now on called Njord, held steady course. The crew started then on the shift arrangement, with 4 hours shift each all day through. While one had the relaxing job to spot for ships and watching the sail and the wind fane, the other person lay in bed. The one awake used the time to listen to music, reading books or look at the ocean, the stars or the beautiful sunsets. Njord held a steady course day and night, the man on watch only made sure that the course did not change because of changes in the wind direction and make sure that the sails was set alright. At most times we made the food separately when we was on watch.
The hour of the day was 12.00 UTC. Then we listen to the ARC-reports on the shortwave radio. There we got the positions of the other boats, the weather forecasts and reports of special episodes that had occurred. It was very entertaining to see how far away we were from the closest yachts, but as expected we were left more and more behind.
The wind direction was usually eastern, northeast or southeast and the force ranged between 5-15 m/s. We had hoped for a more stabile wind and from one direction, but we hat to take what we get. The waves were never very high, but consisted of an incredible amount of water and were very forcefully. This gave us good surf down the waves. The top speed was logged to 16,4 knots, something that feels pretty fast in our small boat. The swells were somewhat bigger, but with long wavelengths. They came from all directions, which resulted in a very messy sea.
We had covered over half the distance after 12 days and had held an average speed of 4,9 knots. When the moon appeared at the 13th night the weather changed. The wind got unstable and sometimes there were no wind at all. We spent 24 hours without wind and the ocean surrounding us was as calm as a little lake. At this point the current brought us 11 nm northwest. Afterwards we got some wind, but not the solid trade wind that we had the first weeks. But we were satisfied as long as the boat went the right direction and the remaining distance decreased. We realized early on that there is no point of getting irritated by the forces of nature.
Something new happened every day. One sunny morning I saw the back of a huge whale that slowly passed our boat. It is an amazing sight to spot a mammal on the size of a small bus. It was a good thing that it did not decide to play with the boat. We had a fishing line towed after us, and one morning Vidar woke me up and told me we had caught a fish. We dragged in the line and realized we had caught a Mahi Mahi. It put out a big fight, but we managed to get it onboard. This fish is very colourful and good for food. A little piece of it ended up in the frying pan and it tasted first-class.
November 30th was Vidars birthday and he turned 25. On my night watch, when he was asleep, I made the preparations for a big birthday party. I inflated balloons and decorated the cockpit in nice colours. I also tried to make chocolate mousse and lemon jelly. The problem is that the boat is rocking from side to side and nothing can be left unsecured, so it took quite some time to make it. Under these conditions you have to be aware of every movement, not leave anything unfastened and make sure yourself doesn’t fall over. But with all the time in the world to do the task, I enjoyed the challenge. Vidar thought well of having his birthday in the middle of the Atlantic. We made taco for dinner and were ready for the desert I had prepared. Then I realized that the movements in the boat had made it impossible for anything to coagulate. The jelly was just as liquid as when I made it. I had slightly more luck with the mousse, which had coagulated a little more. We had a lot of fun watching what supposed to be jelly and mousse, and Vidar was able to blow out the candles in the mousse right before the candles fell over in the fluid mass. After the dinner we opened a bottle of champagne and could celebrate the birthday in an honourable way.
In almost 2 weeks we did not see any signs of civilization, even not a plane. Only some birds who constantly followed the boat, and Vidar started to believe they where spying at us. What else would a bird be doing so many hundreds of miles away from the shore. We also had a lot of visits from flying fishes. They came as projectiles out of the surface, and had probably not calculated that there was a small Norwegian boat in the way. Sometimes they were not able to change their course and ended up in the cockpit. After a long time only seeing fishes and birds, we spotted a couple of commercial ships and a couple of sailboats. We could then confirm that we were not the only human beings in the middle of the ocean.
We had very little problems during the crossing. The first day we lost a halyard up to the top of the mast. This was brought down a day with calm seas, so we again had the opportunity to increase the sail area if wanted. Another day we had some water on the floor which came from a little leak in the toilet, but we find a temporarily solution. The cooler had a short shutdown, but started again by doing the complex work of disconnecting and then connect the power plug again. The spreader got some small defections after a heavy wind session, but was still workable. When you are so far from land and equipment, you only got the few items onboard and imagination to help you.
After a while we both got pretty bored of the can food and pasta. It is very limited what you are able to make in a constantly moving galley with limited space and equipment. But we managed to consume a big share of food every day. The menu usually consisted of can food with meatballs, beans, sausages and ham. These were mixed with corn and champignon and a lot of ketchup and oregano. In the mornings we had long-lasting bread with chocolate spread.
We had heard that there were a lot of showers out at the ocean, but we had very few. The ones we had were very short and not very heavy. We both longed for some fresh water to wash away all the salt on our bodies. And our saltwater washes did not help on that. The temperature in the sea lay around 28 degrees, and 30 degrees in the air.
The night to December the 23rd we could spot some light from the shore. Finally we had Barbados and the Caribbean right in front of us. After such a long time at sea, it became an incredible feeling to conclude that we had done the big crossing without any problems. The adrenaline rise more and more as the shore rise in front of us. It was still dark when we entered the port in Bridgetown, the capital on Barbados. The sound of the chain cable pouring out and the anchor finding a grip was as music to us after 27 days at sea. The target was achieved! We could heave a sigh of relief and congratulate ourselves with a successful journey full of adventures. We are very satisfied with having the crossing behind us and are ready to experience new adventures, cultures and people. The Caribbean will now be explored on our way to Panama!
Pictures from this leg can be seen here.