It’s a funny how time flies.
Seventeen months ago we were hanging out in Reading on the sofa with our homemade cocktails on a Sunday evening, feeling like smug shits after entering ourselves into this rally. Back then August 2018 seemed like such a long way off. Back then we thought it was a bit of a laugh. Let’s pack up our lives and sail off to the Caribbean we thought. August has come round rather too quickly and we’re far from feeling like smug shits right now.
More thoughts on Biscay
I’ve been asked a few times if we’re not scared about crossing the Bay of Biscay and then I remember, last time I did this trip on Oliver’s boat I didn’t have a poo for 6 days as the weather was horrible, so technically I didn’t shit myself then, and probably won’t this time either.
We’re not expecting to enjoy this Biscay trip. We’ve talked about vacuum packing 6 days worth of dog food, stash the cockpit with trail bars and chocolate, coke and chewing gum to mask the taste of vomit and get on with it. Anything other than a vomit induced, sleep deprived trip will be a bonus. On a plus note we’re getting plenty of sleep deprivation experience just getting ready for the trip.
Insuring a 30ft sail boat to cross the Atlantic
Turns out to be pretty challenging!
First we spoke to Topsail. Topsail would not insure us because:
The decision is due to the vessel being built in 1987, being 30ft in length and the intended cruising that you are planning on doing is very extensive for this size of boat.
I’m planning on sending Topsail a postcard from every country we sail to.
Admiral will insure us for the princely sum of 1.5k, and are quite happy to insure boats that comply with the World Cruising Club’s safety standards for the ARC Rally, but it’s more than we can afford.
Most insurers say:
- The boats too small
- The boats too old
- The skippers to old (that ones a lie)
- They won’t insure a boat with only 2 crew
- They won’t insure a boat without a recent survey
I called up 15+ companies, most in the UK and a few in the Netherlands. At least two insurers didn’t know what the ARC rally was, and one even needed me to spell it out for him.
My current insurers (CETA) who had previously said would insure us down to Morocco and the ARC crossing spoke to the underwriters AIG today, and the response from the underwriter was shock! He was shocked anyone at AIG would insure a 30 year old boat, especially for this type of crossing, and has retracted the £33 extension that would have covered us from the UK to Morocco. So effectively we’ve now poured thousands of pounds into a boat that, if sinks, is lost forever and we’ll have lost it all. I guess that’s the gamble we have to take. If we loose the boat, the campervan will have to come out of hiding! Though it’s buoyancy properties are untested, so not sure how suitable it’ll be for the high seas.
Finally we settled with Pantaenius, who couldn’t fully insure us but will insure us Third party for £350. This Is a great relief as one of the prerequisites for the rally is to have liability insurance, without this we wouldn’t be able to participate in the rally which is half the fun. They also get bonus points for having Rod Stewarts ‘I am sailing, I am sailing, home again, across the sea’ on repeat, not the entirety of the song just those lyrics, repeated again, and again and again. Presumably because the next lines ‘I am sailing, stormy waters’ doesn’t promote safety and security, which would be the feelings you’d want to emulate in your customers as an insurance company.
Sailing from Gillingham to Ramsgate.
The evening before a sail I have a checklist which includes weather and tides and engine checks among other things. I sat in bed thinking through all the systems on the boat one by one as a lot’s been done on the boat over the last month. I was glad I did that, as I remembered I hadn’t tethered the liferaft to the boat, which needs to be done as otherwise the raft won’t inflate once it hits the water, and will sink to the very bottom of the ocean! along with our only chance of survival I’d imagine. Nice one Tim!
The next day went super quick. I had a couple of drinks with Ola and Richard, got some ham and cheese rolls from Penny and said my goodbyes. Gillingham has been a real surprise. My stay in Gillingham was short, but I felt I’d been there much longer. The marina felt very homely, everyone talks to one another and people are always willing to help their fellow sailor. God bloody bless Gillingham! I’ll miss all the faces that have become so familiar.
Leaving the marina was quite surreal, with Bertie taking pictures from above, Charlie on his boat taking pics, and Ola walking along the pontoon also taking pictures. Quite a send off!
Richard gave me a hand getting into the lock and onto the fuel pontoon. As fate would have it, Richard and Alice are leaving at the same time as they’ve found a buyer for their boat. We came to St Kats at pretty much the same time, both had never sailed before, both arrived in Gillingham at the same time, and now we’re both leaving! There must be something in that. It’ll be a long time til we see them again, so I wish them all the best as they move to Scotland and start a new chapter in their lives.
I waved goodbye to Gillingham, Richard and Ola and headed off to Ramsgate. I listened to The leaving of Liverpool and Dirty old Town as I passed through Queenborough, which isn’t the prettiest of places.
I had an uneventful evening motor to Ramsgate. Just me, Excalibur and a beautiful sunset, oh and Penny’s ham rolls.
Two rather intoxicated guys called Morris and Paul took my lines as I touched down in Ramsgate just before midnight.
I left at HW Dover.
Ramsgate to Gosport
Our trip from Ramsgate to Gosport was also pretty uneventful.
We departed at 12am, which was 30 minutes before LW Dover.
We zipped through Goodwin Sands under the darkness of a red blood filled moon, finally feeling a tinge of excitement as we start to put some sea miles behind us.
For me this coastline is filled with memories as we pottered along. I remember smashing through Goodwin Sands with Oliver and Mattis in winter. Coming out of Dover with Oliver in horrendous weather and turning back. Making a total arse of myself again coming out of Dover mixing up my East and West entrance. Returning to Dover in thick fog with Oliver and Carlotta from Bolougne. Come to think of it, Dover hasn’t been awfully kind to me. Anyhow the list goes on, Brighton in a force 7 as the waves crashed up against the harbour walls, and Gosport where I came in on a wild and windy night on my ownsome as the wind screamed through the rigging. So many memories.
I took the first watch and Trina went down below at 2am for her 4 hour nap. This is the watch system we’re looking to adopt for our crossings. We’ll split the night into 2 x 4 hour watches, and nap in the day when we feel like it.
We don’t often get the chance to be bored at the moment, so I just sat in silence for 4 hours and zoned out. The autopilot started working half way through the night, so I could stop hand steering and take a few 5 minute naps.
By 4am it was starting to get light, and come 6 O’clock the sun had risen and it was time to swap over with Trina.
We opened Ola’s leaving present. Thank you very much for the dry bag Ola! Really nice of you! Expect a bottle of rum direct from the Caribbean if all goes to plan 🙂 I’m looking forward to returning next year and seeing your high-tech off-the-grid abode.
We had a large glass of cold white wine as the sun beat down, and felt like we were on holiday for a few hours.
Later we listened to the England vs Sweden match on the radio.
We arrived in Gosport at 9pm, 138 miles, 21 hours later.
We wanted to get a rig check before crossing to Spain. Excalibur had new rigging in 2012. The rule of thumb is to replace the rig every 12 years or so, or after one circumnavigation.
Jerry the rigger came over with Sean his apprentice and checked the boat out. I was already aware of a few things, but here’s the sort of stuff that was picked up.
Jerry also found a long pin at the base of the mast had come out somewhat.
He advised wiping the midship shrouds with diluted bleach, as they’re covered up with plastic tubing which sometimes comes up as the genoa rubs on it. When it does this, it reveals the shroud which is often dirty and then coats your brand new genoa with black dirt.
There’s also a black knob on the furling genoa with an arrow on it, he advised sticking some cord through the front and back one to stop them popping off. I’ll attach a picture later.
We’ll see Jerry again in November in the Canaries, where he’ll inspect the rigging on all 200 boats before we depart for St Lucia.
Other boat jobs
North sails then came over and took away the main as it needs to be shortened to stop the boom hitting the sprayhood.
I vaguely recalled having some letter about my SSR (Small Ships Register) number, so called them up and found it had expired. Apparently this is required in some foreign countries to prove ownership of the boat. So luckily I nabbed that. Always seems to be something waiting to catch you out!
Jerry the rigger is also going to take a few jobs off our hands as we’re running out of time.
He’ll replace a cracked cleat on the mast, rivet a cleat and a block to the boom for our external outhaul, and flip the tri colour mast head light 180 degrees as some idiot put it on back to front….(me)
Our job list is getting smaller as August closes in.
Our main focus now will be:
- Buy satellite phone airtime and setup our sat phone wifi box to download weather reports
- Paint over where trina reparied the deck
- Drill and install new genoa track and stanchion
- Move fuel line and cap to inside the cockpit for easier use
- Clean the fuel tanks
- Install jackstays on coachroof
- Adjust float on bilge pump
- Fit catches to cockpit lockers.
With these things done I’ll be happy for us to set off.
….and finally here’s to Dave, who had to endure a very drunken Tim who staggered back from the Dickens to pick up his stuff after the England vs Columbia match. Apparently I cried and told him I loved him. I love you Dave!