It’s been 64 hours since we arrived and the trip already feels like a dream, so whilst things are still sort of fresh in my mind I thought I’d get a quick blog post in. I’ll have to write up the trip itself over Christmas once the swaying stops.
Right now our bones feel heavy, a result of not walking much further than a few feet for 18 days, and for me I can only sleep for 8 hours and no more, a result of never sleeping for more than 4 hours at a time whilst on the crossing.
On the day before our arrival we wished a non ARC boat who we had sailed in company with for 5 days a fond farewell over the VHF, cleaned the boat and squared up.
We celebrated that evening with a bottle of wine knowing we were only 70 miles from land. The only hint that we were almost there was our position on the chartplotter, everything else looked the same as it did for the last 17 days which was a strange feeling.
We saw land for the first time as the sun came up on the last day, and I got drenched by some terrific squalls.
Two miles from Pigeon Island we radioed up the ARC to let them know we were coming round the corner, and once around the corner a chap in a RIB came thundering out of the bay like a Gillet or Davidoff super model and sped around us taking pictures, jumping off waves with one hand on his outboard and another on the camera. Unfortunately we won’t be buying any of his pictures as he charges $100 per digital image.
Then came another RIB driven by some of the ARC organisers and my parents onboard, pleased as punch with a big smile across their faces, zipping around us this way and that.
The Finish line had closed the previous day, but we’d been given directions to where the finish line lay. The sodding wind was coming from the same direction as the finishing line, and with just the genoa up we tried tacking back and forth to sail across the finish line. Though with every tack we just couldn’t get the speed up to avoid two strategically placed expensive boats. I turned from Jackly to Hyde and regrettably gave Trina an earful for not winching in the genoa like an America Cup Olympic champion, to the sound of my folks and the ARC staff cheering and clapping. It was all too much and instead of veering into a 3 million pound super yacht we put the engine on and crossed the finish line at 12:18 St Lucian time. I wasn’t a popular man for my outburst. If anyone has any tips on how not to turn into an arsehole of a skipper in stressful situations can you please let me know. We all want to be that couple who work in complete synergy, barely talking to each other and just exchanging nods, but in reality the decision making is so fluid in some of these situations that all that comes out is a barrage arseholeness. Sorry Trina.
Anyway….we followed my folks in through the entrance to the marina and saw a group of people on the end of a pontoon waving and honking horns which we thought was nice, and waved back. We rounded them and as our berth came into view we saw about 60 people all yelling and waving on the end of our berth. I prayed to god that I wouldn’t cock up our landing, and probably had a little bit of a shake on the tiller as we glided onto the pontoon. The crowd absolutely erupted as we stepped off the boat. Two shell shocked sailors stepped off Excalibur to the welcoming crowd. Lots of handshakes, hugs, and pictures were taken, a boat we’d spoken to on the way over threw us a packet of super noodles (an in-joke as they were on a luxurious yacht and we were sat in our onesies at the time, their dinner was to be steak so we said we were having beef super noodles as they passed us in the middle of the Atlantic). Neil from Gillingham handed us two cold beers, rum punches were hand to us by the St Lucian staff, and then a basket of rum. From being at sea, with only the sound of the elements to a raucous welcoming was overwhelming. We didn’t expect such a welcome and were blown away. After pictures and handshakes and hugs had taken place with parents and friends we’d made on the ARC, a torrential rain downpour soon cleared away the crowds and we hopped back on the boat for a drink with my folks.
Chat soon came round to Trump and Brexit, bizarrely! After that we rushed to get all the immigration and and checking in procedures done before the closing party.
The closing party was a fairly formal but fun affair. 85 prizes were given out over a couple of hours. We collected a prize for being the smallest boat in the rally, had a group picture with the other double handed crews, and were requested to have our picture taken with another boat that was captioned ‘Fastest meets the slowest, The Kid & Excalibur’ on Facebook…yay. I wish we could relive the day again as it all happened so fast and we were completely overwhelmed by the amount of attention we received, and there just wasn’t enough time to speak to everyone we wanted to catch up with. I don’t think we’ll forget arriving in St Lucia any time soon.
We’ve received a lot of praise for being the smallest boat and being double handed, which is nice but I don’t think we’ve done anything that ground breaking. I think because we’re in a an environment where the average boat size is around 48ft we’re a bit of a novelty here.
We’ve really enjoyed participating in the ARC and definitely don’t regret taking part. The ARC organisers have been amazing throughout the whole journey. I think doing the ARC twice is enough. The first time is great as it’s all new and having the support of the ARC is reassuring, as crew I remember enjoying all the social events and the lectures. The second time as skipper was great as I knew roughly what to expect, and enjoyed the camaraderie and newly forged new friendships with other boats that we felt we’d missed on the way down from Spain. I wouldn’t do it a third time though, as it’d feel a little bit like a mature student going back to uni for a 3rd degree.
I think the ARC’s great if you appreciate a bit of extra support, or if you want to be a part of a rally and meet people like you and revel in the excitement leading up to the departure, and the warm welcome at the other end.
The next post will be a brain dump of all the things that worked and what didn’t work, which I hope will be helpful to anyone looking to do the crossing in the future, or help jog my memory for the next time we go sailing offshore.
Merry Christmas all and a Happy New Year
Tim and Trina xxx