Another exciting 24 hours have certainly proved that it’s not over until it’s over! Funny how 17 days of smooth sailing can culminate in 2 days of drama.
Date: 30th January 2017
Position: Anchored in Five Islands Harbour, Antigua.
Crew: Disappointed at another night without beer and showers.
Boat: Anchored happily, but skipper wishing we could anchor in daylight for once.
Having got Jetsam flying beautifully again after all the drama of the previous day, we settled in for a casual night of relaxing sailing, as a nice wind down to the ocean crossing of Discoverer. Obviously not! A night of rather intense sailing ensued, with a building sea state and wind gusting up to 35kts making it very hard work for both watches. I was doing my best to get as much sleep as possible before the Antigua arrival, but it’s quite hard when sleeping kitted up, within jumping distance of the deck, while the boat roars on beneath.
As you might have noticed by our track, we really needed to gybe to avoid heading too far north. However, gybing in those conditions at night was going to be a potential recipe for disaster, so we pressed on, painfully aware that the fast speeds would mean we were going in the wrong direction long before daylight.
Dawn heralded the preparation for the much-awaited gybe, but this was complicated by the fact that being so hard pressed over night had damaged several of the lines, and even detached one spinnaker sheet entirely. Alex made a trip up to the end of the spinnaker pole to remedy this, and everything was finally rearranged on deck. The end result was a gybe two hours later than intended, by which point we were then too far north to hold the spinnaker on a course to Antigua! My sense of humour failure was in full swing by now…
All hands were called on deck, Jetsam dropped for the last time on the open Atlantic Ocean, and the unfamiliar sight of normal ‘white’ sails adorned the foredeck for the first time in over a week. By this point everyone was truly knackered, the watch system in tatters, and the boat an uncomfortable product of the now upwind leg back down to Antigua. We pressed on like this, with various snoozing taking place all over, slowly putting the boat back together after several days of non-stop activity.
The sea state had now picked up considerably, and with the boat on the wind again the environment now resembled a hostile battlefield in which life still needed lived as usual. This manifested itself in a particularly large wave tipping the boat right over to leeward, and an otherwise secure perch in the cockpit becoming anything but that, with the crewman perched there taking a rather alarming flight through mid-air towards the awaiting ocean. Luckily, a combination of guard-wires, the boat bouncing upright quickly, and some fast movement by those close-by, meant that nothing more serious than a couple of scrapes and bruises resulted, but it was certainly an alarming moment, and one that reminded everyone that we can’t afford to relax until we are safely tucked up in port.
The rest of the afternoon was spent with many sail changes and evolutions – snoozing by many slotted in where possible. We sailed through the gap between Barbuda and Antigua, the depth sounder springing to life for the first time since we passed close by the Cape Verde Islands – a different side of the ocean. The sun was setting as we made our run down the western side of Antigua, and the perfect green flash was had – a first for many of the crew aboard. It has been a point of serious contention for many who hadn’t previously seen it, so had decided it couldn’t possibly exist. This evening saw that number whittled down to a mere two non-believers. They will see the light (no pun intended…) soon.
Sails down and boat sorted, darkness was in full effect, and an entrance into the unfamiliar marina was not on the cards. We are currently anchored in the entrance to a small bay adjacent to our intended marina, and plan on making our grand arrival first thing tomorrow morning.
All thoughts of steak and beers have been put on hold until then, and the boat is relaxed. I sit at the nav station to the noise of good music and a fiercely competitive game of Uno underway in the saloon. Nothing makes a skipper more content than a boat somewhere safe with a happy crew next door.
Our first ocean crossing with Disco is complete, and it has been a truly rich experience for all involved. Many have got a life first from it, various ambitions realised, Disco given a new lease of life, and a huge amount of information and experience gained to contribute to making The Longest Swim a success later this year.
Joe has just worked out that since we left Lymington, someone has been behind the wheel steering the boat for 744 hours. Since leaving Gran Canaria there has been some on the helm 24/7. Sailing an ocean is always a privilege – to see, live, and share an experience that will always be unique to that particular time, place, boat and crew, and never repeated in the same way again. This one has been no different, and it’s been a privilege to work with the team on land, WRI, MSOS, sail this boat for the first time, with this crew, and get one step closer to our end goal. Bring on the next ocean.