sitting at a small hotel bar now, having our morning coffee - we ran
out of propane two days ago, so have been consisting on tuna and
cereal until we can get it filled in Cork, where we're headed
tomorrow. Thanks for the list of questions - I'm going to do my best
to answer them, and I'm also going to post this email on my blog,
because I think it will be of interest to others…so, here you go! Hope
all is well back home.
Uncle John's Email, from our landfall, 23 August 2011:
Congratulations on making landfall in Ireland….both Dan and I agree
that you both have "balls" to do what you are doing….I wouldn't know
where to start. I've passed your "Spottings" along to the rest of the
family (Dan and Tobie, Tim and Mindy, Kristen and Mark, Mart and Larry
and Kathleen) as I've received them. I wish I could sit down with you
and debrief….among the questions I have for you:
1. Was the crossing what you expected?
Yes and no - we expected much worse weather. Thanks to my dad who was
doing some 'amateur' weather routing from back home (and in touch with
us every third day or so via satellite phone) we managed to avoid
winds over 30 knots, which is almost unthinkable that far north. The
reason for taking the route we did is the westerly winds normally
expected at that latitude. The Gulf Stream, combined with the Azores
High and the Icelandic Low create a 'highway' of sorts for low
pressure systems coming off the Eastern Seaboard. Just south of this
track, you'll normally encounter westerly winds, and fairly steadily.
In 2008, my friend Matt Rutherford (who is currently north of Alaska,
having just completed the NW passage - solotheamericas.org),
experience SIX full gales (winds over 40 knots), and deployed his
drogue several times. We were more concerned about making the boat
sail fast when the wind picked up, and were instead BECALMED ten
times, having to furl the sails because they were banging around so
badly in the swell. On the other hand, I'd conservatively estimated
we'd be able to average 100 miles per day (which is about a 4 knot
average) and we managed 90 miles per day, not too far off. When the
boat got some wind though, we were able to do 140 miles, which we did
two or three times. This, obviously, would have made for a much
2. Would you do it again?
If you asked me this during the first seven days I would have said no
way. But now? Absolutely. The first week was extremely frustrating -
we only made 360 miles in 7 days, with three days UNDER 40 miles,
which is horrible progress. And in the wrong direction - SE, due to
the light easterlies we experienced. I was nervous about the boat,
anxious about the trip and generally depressed. And had no patience
for the calms at all, letting the weather get the best of my mood.
Almost as soon as the wind picked up and came from the right direction
- west - everything changed. We got into a nice routine at sea, and
the boat performed wonderfully once we learned her niggles. Mia, Clint
and I got very good at sailing her by the end of the crossing, which
instilled confidence tremendously. And I realized everything I'd done
to refit her for the passage actually worked. We had no breakdowns,
and the worst problem was a tiny tear in the mainsail near the foot,
that we still haven't fixed because it's that minor. Mia and I already
started discussing future cruising plans. Our next big hop will be
back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal
and across the Pacific. We have a strong desire to return to New
Zealand, and next time it will be by boat. As for the northern route
across the pond, I'd love to do it again to see how the weather is
really supposed to be!
3. You seemed to have all the details worked out before you left
and were confident in your planning. Did you learn anything new?
We were very pleased with the work we did to the boat, especially what
Mia had made for the bookshelves down below. She'd sewn up some
lightweight netting material and attached them with bungie cord across
the book shelves, and not a single thing went flying in the cabin,
even in the heaviest of weather (which, admittedly, wasn't very
heavy). I was most concerned about the rigging work I'd done, as
keeping the mast up is the single most important aspect of sailing
(perhaps behind keeping the water out, which is obvious). Each time
the boat heeled hard I'd wonder if I really did put every pin in
correctly. I did. In Lunenburg, we decided to buy turnbuckles for the
shrouds, as the old-school lashings we were using looked cool but were
extremely annoying to tension. I spoke with John Franta from Colligo
Marine (the guy who helped us with the synthetic rigging), and told
him as much. We found galvanized turnbuckles at the hardware store at
$13 a piece (as opposed to nearly $100 for the shiny stainless 'yacht'
turnbuckles). We fitted them in Baddeck, and it was the best change we
made. Once I tuned the rig, we hardly touched it all the way across.
Our watch rotation changed several times along the way. We started out
doing 4-on 8-off, with a split watch around dinner time. Two people
would share a four hour watch, taking turns cooking and washing up.
This also staggered the shifts, so you always had a new time each day
instead of always having the night shift, for example. This worked ok,
but Mia and Clint had a habit of waking my in the night to make sail
changes, and it was hard for me to get any rest. We switched then to
four hour watches for Mia and Clint - Clint had the 2000-0000, and Mia
the 0300-0700. Since I was usually up anyway, I took the 0000-0300
watch, for only three hours. Then I did a long five hour watch in the
daytime, since I was usually up then anyway also. With only three
hours at night, I was more rested if they needed me before or after.
This worked great, and we only changed again once we spotted land, to
three-on-six-off for the last day.
4. Were you in a shipping lane and seeing other vessels during
At the outset, crossing the Grand Banks, we were in fog most of the
time, and wouldn't have seen any if they were there. Our AIS system
worked well, and we heard a foghorn close by in the night one time,
but it soon moved off, to our relief…we never saw the ship it came
from. We did spot a Portugese battleship who steamed out of the fog
quite close (and did not appear on AIS). I hailed him on the radio and
had a friendly chat for a bit, though his English was very broken. We
got pushed far south of what our intended course was, due to the
Icelandic Low not really being in place. All the low pressures were
tracking farther south than usual, so we had to go south to be on
their 'correct' (southern) side for westerlies. For the first half we
didn't see any signs of shipping (but did see loads of life - birds
followed us the whole way across, and it was a rare day that we didn't
see dolphins). By the second half, once we gotten north again, we were
back in the shipping lanes and saw ships regularly. This was actually
a nice feeling, knowing that if the worst happened we'd likely get
passed by sooner rather than later.
5. How did the boat hold up to the rigors of ocean sailing?
The boat performed beyond expectation. She was very fast when there
was wind, and more importantly, felt very solid. I compared it to a
Mason 43 we delivered to the Bahamas a few years ago, one of the
sturdiest boats afloat. Arcturus felt like a mini Mason to us. She did
not go to windward very well when there was any sort of sea running -
we were only able to tack through about 110 degrees, which is abysmal,
but expected. Once the wind freed, however, she flew. We had some
surfing runs with the wind aft and the sails set 'wing-on-wing' with
the jib out on the spin pole, and regularly saw speeds over 12 knots
for short stretches. The best night watch of the trip came around Day
20 - I was outside, the half moon was shining very brightly and there
wasn't a cloud in the sky. The wind was blowing 25-30, dead astern,
and we had the full main up on one side and the small jib out on the
other, with the pole. The wind had been steady from the WSW for two
days, and had built up a very friendly sea, big, but which Arcturus
easily surfed on. We were probably over-canvassed, but I let her go,
as I was having too much fun. Every second or third wave we'd just
zoom off at 10, 11 and 12 knots, the whitewater streaming around the
hull and making a sound like a jet taking off. It was exhilarating
sailing. I went forward in the dark with my harness on, and climbed up
on the spin pole and just hung on for about 20 minutes enjoying it
all. I finally did take two reefs in the main before Mia came up, so I
could sleep better, and we were still doing more than ten knots,
though admittedly more under control.
6. What was the worst part of the trip?
The first week, easily. I managed to learn some patience by the end,
and when a calm came, we just furled the sails and went to bed to wait
for wind. At the beginning, I couldn't stand not being able to move,
and was very frustrated. Combined with the foggy weather and my
feeling of general uneasiness, that first week was miserable.
7. What was the best part of the trip?
Smelling land as we rounded Mizen Head coming into Crookhaven. I'd
forgotten about this. Clint had tears in his eyes. All three of us
were taking short gulps through our noses soaking it up, as we knew
we'd soon get used to it and it wouldn't last. Smells always seems to
evoke the strongest emotions, and the smell of grass, dirt and smoke
from a nearby chimney was absolutely enchanting.
8. What kind of meals were you eating?
We actually ate very well, and didn't run out of fresh food until
almost Day 21 or so. Our normal routine was to cook one hot meal per
day, taking turns cooking and washing up. Mia had made a seven-day
menu, based on the food we ate at Broadreach, when we were in the
Caribbean working with teenagers. Monday was 'Mediterranean Pasta',
Tuesday Chili, Wednesday Hawaiian Stir-fry, Thursday Tuna salad and
roasted veg, Friday Curry, Saturday rice and beans and Sunday pizza!
We baked an enormous amount of bread, thanks in part to the calm
weather. The pizza was a big hit, and we made the dough from scratch.
We had lots of garlic, onions, cabbage and turnips on board, which
lasted the whole way across. We also had farmer eggs from the market
in Reading, that lasted a full six weeks - in six dozen, only two or
three went bad. They had never seen the refrig, which was key. We had
many cans of beans and tomato sauce, cans of pineapple and a basket
full of apples and oranges. We had peanut butter. Oatmeal (though only
for a few days, as we'd stored it in the bilge and all three
containers got wet and moldy - this was the worst part of the trip for
Mia, as she lives on her oatmeal for brekky).
9. What does the cabin below deck smell like after 3-4 weeks at sea?
Surprisingly clean! We'd take bucket showers about once every three
days, and the weather was so nice that we never even got out our long
underwear. Yet it wasn't hot enough to sweat, so we felt pretty clean.
Every few days we'd take turns cleaning the head and sweeping the
floor, and we were very good about cleaning the galley after each meal
and putting things back in their proper place. Our hair was a bit
messy due to the saltwater, but it really didn't smell bad at all!
10. Did you take photographs during the trip and are you going to
post them on FB?
Mia took nearly 1000 photos! Check out her blog at
miatravel.blogspot.com. She posts some of them up there, and I'll have
some on my site. We don't put photos on FB, but we'll send you the
good ones. There are loads!
11. When do you sail for Norway? And are you taking the western
route or the eastern route through the Irish Sea?
We're heading up the east coast of Ireland, in the Irish Sea. We're
only 30 miles from Crookhaven at the moment, where we made our
landfall. Our friend Ullis, who was the photographer at the wedding,
is flying down tomorrow to Dublin, and taking the bus down to Cork,
where we're taking the boat tomorrow, about 50 miles further up the
coast. She'll sail with us up the Irish Sea and through the Caledonian
Canal in Scotland. Then it's a dash across the North Sea, about 3-400
miles to Kristiansand in Norway. From there we enter the Baltic and
plan on leaving the boat on the west coast of Sweden for the winter.
Hope that answers your questions! Keep in touch!
+Andy & Mia