If you are closely following The Longest Swim, you already know that there is a large geographic difference between the crew who are in Lymington, and Ben who is training every day in Austin, Texas.
The first challenge for what we’ve dubbed the Discocrew or the Discoteam – the residents of Disco – us – is to cross the Atlantic to join Ben in the USA, this beautiful place far, far away (where the story begins)!
By now we will have already left Lymington, so here is a detailed plan of our journey across the Atlantic Ocean and to San Diego.
First step: Lymington – Canary Islands
Around 10 days
Lasting 10 days offshore, the crew will leave Lymington and the Solent, cross the English Channel, travel along Brittany and across the Bay of Biscay. In particular, the Bay of Biscay may be a very difficult part of our crossing; the area is well known for its turbulent nature due to unstable weather, especially at this time of the year. But in the middle of the changing winds and bitter cold there will also be confetti and glitter, because we will be celebrating the New Year! Typically Disco is a ‘dry boat’, meaning we aren’t allowed to consume alcohol on board, but the new year is one of very few moments where this rule is broken, as we pour out the champagne (only a little though, of course). And we will have a lot of things to celebrate! 2017 will be the year of The Longest Swim and the start of our exciting story with Disco and her crew.
Hopefully, after a cold New Year’s Eve in Biscay, the climate will become warmer once we are travelling along the Portuguese coast and closer to the Canary Islands.
Second step : Canary Islands – The Caribbean
Around 3 weeks
When Discoverer is moored in the Canary Islands, we ideally plan to stay there just one night and one day to allow all of the crew to rest and prepare for the Atlantic crossing from the Canaries to Saint-Lucia. Skipper Scotty will look at the meteorological conditions and evaluate if we can leave directly the day after. We then set off and confront the vast, deep ocean. No more coast beside the boat, just the sea, the horizon in front of us, and Disco.
Our goal at this point will be to hook up with the trade winds after Cape Verde, the regular northeastern winds that occur near the equator, where we’ll be travelling. Throughout history, ships have used these stable conditions to travel to the Antilles and Caribbean. As well as the trade winds, we’ll also be following the Azores current as we go towards the African coast, then joining the Antilles current until finally arriving in Saint-Lucia.
At this point, we’ll be saying goodbye to some people in our crew, and welcoming a few others, who will come to join us as we continue our adventure.
Third step : The Caribbean – Panama Canal
Around one week
The Caribbean: an eagerly awaited stopover by all of the crew, it should be much warmer than the UK and we also have to admit, the Caribbean brings on dreams about relaxation, jerk chicken, and maybe a bit of rum. The Caribbean Islands consist of the Greater and Lesser Antilles, including countries such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago. To put it in a nutshell, we will be at the door of the Americas. We will stay here for a few days to rest and get ready to continue the journey.
After that, we’ll set sail across the Caribbean Sea, then follow the Venezuela and Columbia coasts. After a week of sailing, we will at last arrive at the entrance of the Panama Canal, the beginning of a famous and infamous step for sailors, because going through it is both incredible to see and incredibly slow.
Being completely man made, the Panama Canal sits as testament to the prowess of modern and historic engineering, and there are many sights to see. We will be going across the Gatun Lake and passing the Soberania National Park. It will take some time to cross, because of the (usually quite long) wait for each of the 3 locks of the canal: Gatun, Pedro Miguel, and Miraflores before we can set out into the Pacific Ocean.
Fourth step: Panama Canal – San Diego
Around 2 weeks
By travelling along the Mexican coast, we aim to arrive in San Diego within 2 weeks. Finally, Disco and her crew have reached the Pacific Ocean, where all of the action is due to happen! This will be the first time for Disco and much of her crew to sail in the Pacific, and just the beginning of our love story with this great ocean.
This last part is also due to be one of the most difficult, as our Skipper Scotty said “This will probably be the most difficult part to manage because we will always have a headwind.” To fight against the wind coming from directly ahead of us, the boat will need to steer in a zigzag pattern, tacking so that the wind is coming from a good enough angle to carry on sailing. This can make the journey longer, more exhausting, and uncomfortable. It will be a good test of our crew’s skills and training and we will get to see the white shark migration area during this trip, which will be an important part of The Longest Swim.
And finally after 55 days of travel with our super-vessel Discoverer, we will set foot on land in San Diego to meet Ben (and have a well-deserved rest)!