By Patrick Wilson
© November 3, 2013
The Hayes family had hoped to check out Olde Towne during their week at the Ocean Marine Yacht Center, but the Canadians had too much work to do getting their sailboat ready for an ocean voyage.
They were among about 30 participants in town the past week for the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers Caribbean 1500, a 1,500-mile journey that began Saturday in Portsmouth and will end at Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. The 24-year-old rally departed from Hampton last year; this is its first year in Portsmouth.
Despite the nerves of preparation, many of the sailors explored Olde Towne during the past week, dining at restaurants such as the Bier Garden and watching “Captain Phillips” at the Commodore Theatre. Because of the weather, they left Saturday afternoon instead of a planned departure on Sunday.
The journey to Tortola will take seven to 12 days. Prizes will be awarded in a variety of categories, and although the cruise is not a race, the first boat to arrive will be recognized.
Andy Schell and Mia Karlsson, a husband-and-wife team who run the event for the World Cruising Club, flew to Portsmouth to coordinate activities and safety inspections.
Like runners in a marathon, many sailors are simply challenging themselves, Schell said.
“Everyone here is stressed and nervous, especially the people who have never gone offshore before.”
Sailors will stay in radio contact on the voyage.
David Hayes, his wife, Isabelle Tremblay, and daughters Rebecca, 13, and Demi, 8, are sailing about half the distance – to The Bahamas – because this is the first offshore passage for the children. They will cruise the Caribbean this winter and hope to sail to Europe.
“For the next year, this boat is our house,” Tremblay said Friday as the family sat down for an interview below deck on their 41-foot boat, Morning Haze.
Hayes and his family, who live in the Quebec city of Saint-Jean-des-Piles, expect to sail six to eight days. The couple are leaving behind hectic lives.
He is a professor in the chiropractic department at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivieres but will research offshore sailing injuries during his family’s travels. Tremblay is a financial planner who quit her job so they could sail. They will homeschool the girls.
The couple first dreamed of such a journey about 10 years ago. The family has been sailing together since 2008. They’ve spent years working on the Morning Haze.
They also hunt as a family and killed a moose, whose tender meat is packed in the freezer for family meals that are cooked on a stove that would remain secure even if the boat capsized. Water is stored below the floor, and the ship is stocked with canned food and dry goods. Each daughter has her own room. Rebecca Hayes made a YouTube video promoting the family’s journey in the style of a movie trailer.
Hayes’ father died last summer, and a close family friend died of cancer in the fall. That’s a reason why he and his wife, appreciative of their health, made the decision to sail.
“Life is today,” Hayes said. “Hopefully, what we’ll learn from our trip is to slow down a little bit more.”
Patrick Wilson, 757-222-3893, firstname.lastname@example.org