The ARC 2013 Blog
24th November 2013 - Day 0
So here we are. All crew joined, food stored and ready for the off. The weather forecast reinforces the old adage of "sail south til the butter melts" so it looks like we will be pointing at the Cape Verde islands before we turn towards St Lucia. Only 2700 miles to go.
The crew will introduce themselves over the coming days but we are 9 on board so the watch system is a thing of beauty and a joy to behold. It has been a great week of parties - sorry, preparation - and many thank to the ARC team aka the yellow shirt for all their help. We are already missing the Sailors Bar.
No fish caught yet today, OK we havent actually left yet. The fish count will be a daily feature so start as we mean to go on.
25th November 2013 - Day 1
Sun, shorts, and Duran Duran "Her name is Rio" on repeat, the weather this morning is great after a night of different wind forces, now the sun is up and so is the cruising chute, the great big wave hammering machine called Skyelark of London is skipping along with 9 knots of speed, the crew is happy and enjoying themselves.
No fishing though, hope tomorrow will be the day when we haul Moby Dick in on my lucky lure, yes mine is of course the best, I named it Horatio the squid. Time's up and I don't want to waste any more time talking to you when I could sit in the cockpit sailing away! Bye!
- Blog entry by Peter
26th November 2013 - Day 2
Skipper promised, and Skipper seems to have a good strategy. We got a good start and kept nice wind a little by staying a little offshore. Though most of the yachts took more Southwesterly course from Las Palmas, we are heading South..South.. South towards the Cape Verde Islands. Nice downwind sailing almost from the start, except a few hours motoring last night due to little wind, we are now cruising 8.5 knots at 2.5 m waves. Almost Goose wings. Great!
Fishing is so far nothing to write stories about. As the Norwegian onboard I must regret it, but today There was no bite at all. Food, by the way, is excellent onboard.
We are optimistic heading for our way point at Cap V somewhere, to go straight towards St Lucia.
- Blog entry by Wiggo
27th November 2013 - Day 3 - Writing the Brochure
Gentle downwind sailing, barefoot, shorts and t-shirt, lazy days in the sun, cocktails on deck at sunset, daily dolphin shows and fresh fish for lunch. That's what the brochure promised and that's what has been delivered over the last 24 hours!
You may have noticed if you are following our location that we have opted to continue to head south. The idea is to keep the wind behind us and avoid the windless area to the west of us. I am happy to report that we are gently gliding along on a beam to broad reach in a flat calm sea.
Shorts and t-shirts are the norm in the afternoon sun and I don't even know where my shoes are stashed away, as I have not needed them since Las Palmas. Life on board has been good. Mom, you will be pleased to know that I have not suffered from any seasickness and as far as I know, the same is true for everyone else.
Yesterday afternoon we received the first progress report and we were please to find that we are ahead of all our friends on other boats. The decision to keep to the southerly route was promptly celebrated with a bottle of Rioja at sunset, complete with nibbles.
We feared we may lose our wind during the night, but we have managed to hang on to it and we continue to sail reasonably well. Our efforts were rewarded this morning at dawn when a group of dolphins joined us on the bow. Bob has video footage for those who are interested.
We were enjoying our lazy day at sea this morning, when things kicked into action! Just when we thought things could not get any better, Dan landed a small Dorado! I have never been fishing, so all of this is very new and exciting to me - one minute all was calm, the next I saw a splash behind the boat and within minutes Dan was pulling a beautiful green and blue glistening fish from the water. Loftus and I (fairly unsuccessfully) tried to throw some alcohol down its gills, but Dan came to the rescue by chopping its head off. Within minutes Amy (we have decided to name our catch) was gutted, cleaned and in the fridge, ready for a lunchtime snack.
P.S. Just when you think we couldn't pack anything more into one day, the wind died and it was overboard for a refreshing swim. It's not every day you get to swim in 3.5km of water! And to round it all off, most of us had our first shower of the trip!
- Blog entry by Melindie
28th November 2013 - Day 4 - Sweet Sailing off Africa
So, yesterday we got all cleaned up and had our first fishing success from which Dan prepared an excellent light lunch of baked fish and couscous salad. Just beautiful. This morning we woke up to yet another amazing calm day off the Moroccan coast enroute to the Cape Verde Islands. An impromptu rebuild of the fishing rod for improved stability and the reading of several pages from several novels by various crew members filled the morning, with Kit even getting the sextant out and having a play.
Fleet updates indicate that our strategy of going south fast and direct might pay off in the long run so we are quite pleased with team Bower on the strategic front as well. Light winds overnight forced us to proceed under engine until midday at which point Skyelark spread her wings once more and we are now coasting along gently at what we believe is the correct speed for landing more Dorado. Keep those fingers crossed!
Happy hour is just around the corner and tonight the crew are being treated to Brazilian Ceshasha to sip while chewing on South African biltong and droewors. So "gesondheid" to you all.
- Blog entry by Loftus
29th November 2013 - Day 5 - A Fishy Day
The weather is getting ever warmer as we approach 1000nm (hoorah!) and continue to head south under light winds and on a calm sea, we should pass Cape Verde to starboard some time tomorrow evening and then Captain Em's plan (the crew have complete faith!) is to turn right to St Lucia!
The crew are in relaxed spirits, reading and fishing! In fact it is fishing that has certainly produced both the highs and lows of the day so far! Horatio (a fine blue Danish fishing lure belonging to Peter) succeeded in attracting the first Dorado of the day which was subsequently made into an excellent Norwegian fish soup by Wiggo. Sadly and much to Peter's sorrow Horatio was then taken by a monster from the deep on the next cast never to be seen again! Gloria (my fine pink lure) was then deployed only to attract a small Dorado we named Camilla which we returned to the sea to swim happily away!
Have to go now as the great British tradition of bangers and mash being served on deck!
- Blog entry by Bob
30th November 2013 - Day 6 - Go West!
We finally turned the corner and are now heading west. After six days of mostly going South in search of the trade winds, we reached the Cape Verde Islands and done all the southing we need to do to get to St. Lucia and will now shoot across the pond straight westwards.
We celebrated the event with a good Spanish bubbly at sundown, the spirits are high, but no fish today. Life is good.
- Blog entry by Erico
1st December 2013 - Day 7 - Christmas has Arrived
Said goodbye to the Cape Verde Islands and started our westward flight. Overnight we had a lesson in the points of sailing with the wind going from dead astern to a broad reach, a beam reach and a close reach all within 6 hours. We must have passed the overnight sail changing exam as today has been a great beam reach towards St Lucia - just as promised in the brochure.
First tuna of the trip was landed using a lure named Maximus. The fish currently holds the record interval between swimming in the sea to being served as sashimi of just 15 minutes. Fresh or what?
Realised that today is 1st December so decided to celebrate Christmas just a little early. Danish Christmas beer was followed by some schnapps, the recipe of which should be sent to the people at Porton Down for analysis. A roast chicken dinner was accompanied with Christmas Carols by Annie Lennox: for the avoidance of doubt, we haven't smuggled an extra person on board just listened to her excellent CD 'A Christmas Cornucopia'. Do get a copy.
As the sun sets on a perfect day's sailing, we are preparing for the night watches that will speed us on towards St Lucia.
- Blog entry by Kit
2nd December 2013 - Day 8 - The One That Got Away
To celebrate the start of the Christmas season on 1 December, we cracked open some Danish Christmas beers over sundowners last night and put some Christmas music on. We hope and believe that we will reach St Lucia before Christmas! But the weather gods have not been kind to us and we keep on finding ourselves in a wind hole. Hopefully that will change soon.
Over the last 36 hours we have had 3 lures on the line. Yesterday afternoon saw Loftus and my lure, Maximus, catch two fish. The first was a small tuna, called Donnatella, which was turned into sushi and the second was a catch and release we named Ethics. Loftus and I both felt that it was right to set this small fish free. After lunch Danielle, Kit's lure, was deployed.
Another week, another swim in the sea! After a day of motoring we were treated to another swim this afternoon. It is so refreshing to hit the water, as its getting pretty hot so close to the equator.
Soon after our swim the wind picked up and we were able to sail again, on a gentle broad reach. We must be in Poseidon's favour, as shortly after hoisting the sail we were treated to our first dolphin show and almost at the same time something was biting our fishing line. It turned out to be a massive marlin, trashing about. To my relief the line was not able to hold it and after a short struggle the line snapped. I am told that the hook in its mouth will rust away quickly. Fingers crossed.
And then the final treat of the day was the second, spectacular dolphin show. A large pod of dolphins followed us and played around our bow, just as the sun was setting.
And on a final note, we have now moved to "boat time". As we are so far west, the skippers have taken the decision to move our watches our hour back. I believe we will do this 3 more times by the time we get to St Lucia.
- Blog entry by Melindie
3rd December 2013 - Day 9 - Sunny Sailing
Gently sailing during the night and the first part of the day, the spinnaker was raised in the afternoon. All in all bringing us another 150 miles west towards St Lucia. Only another 1600 miles to go! Though the lure Gro Harlem Bruntland, named after the famous Norwegian prime Minister and President of the WHO were fishing all day long, we had no catch today. Hopefully she will do a better job tomorrow.
We have kept our Christmas celebration alive with reindeer sausage, "flatbroed" and a little red wine as a sundowner, followed by Dan and Em's superb Chilli Con Carne. We have had a beautiful, warm day at sea, followed by a deep purple sunset and a bright, starry night. Life onboard is good to us!
- Blog entry by Wiggo
4th December 2013 - Day 10 - Half way!
Nice sailing with medium winds and good progress, today we have been fishing and catching two Dorados, Frida and Gertrud, Frida was rubbed on the back with garlic and put in the oven serving as a feast meal to celebrate we are halfway to St. Lucia, only 1550 miles left....because we took the scenic route.....to not see the Cape Verde islands, and off course giving the other boats a chance to see how it feels to be in front in the race.
Enough of this babbling, now I will go on deck enjoy a cup of tea and the sunset, and just let the days pass while we continue to close in on St. Lucia and a Ice cold beer.
- Blog entry by Prince Mishkin
5th December 2013 - Day 11 - Half way again!
Today's sailing involved gybing to get a better wind angle for our chosen route to St Lucia. This involved some pole dancing around the mast for some crew members and a lot of pulling and letting ropes go on both port and starboard side of the yacht for others. Winds are still slightly on the light side but we are making good steady progress.
Yesterday we reached our halfway point based on the route we chose whereas today we reached the factual halfway point based on the remaining distance to St Lucia being 50% of the direct distance between Gran Canaria and St Lucia. This was celebrated with a bottle of bubbly and the most amazing lamb shank you can imagine prepared by our onboard chef disguised as co skipper Dan.
On the fishing front we enjoyed the rest of Frida in Thai fish cakes format for lunch, Gertrud is still awaiting an appropriate application in the fridge, but a coronation fish dish or maybe curried fish is on the cards for tomorrow. Erico had another go with his lure, Fabio, with limited success consisting of 3 confirmed bites but no landings. Some repairs to the lure were done after it was recovered looking a bit unloved and it is now back in the water. Soon my lure, Maximus, will make a return and be victorious.
Otherwise life on board is pleasant with lots of sunshine and time to relax during the day. Night watches are flying by while we stare into the brilliant starry skies that you only get when 1500 miles away from light and other pollution. Just fantastic.
Best wishes to all our readers and good night from Skyelark.
- Blog entry by Loftus
6th December 2013 - Day 12
It's very hard to believe that we are in the middle of the Atlantic, the ocean is very calm with only a slight swell. After good progress last night with winds up to 24knts today has provided only light winds resulting in slow progress and a small amount of motor sailing.
Fishing continues to be good source of both entertainment and food and the South African lure Maximus succeeded in catching a fine Tuna (Honeysuckle) which will provide a great lunch for tomorrow! Unfortunately as has been the way with a number of the lures he was taken from us on the next cast by yet another monster from the deep!
We have all secretly written down our anticipated arrival date and put them into a sealed envelope which will be opened with 900 miles to go and the one who has ultimately guessed the time nearest to our actual arrival time will receive a special prize!!!! Captains Em and Dan are excluded!!! And I fear sadly my date will already not be meet due to the latest lack of wind that we have encountered!!!
I am about to go on watch now and enjoy the most fantastic star light sky. We have no moon at the moment and the sky is just full of very bright stars and planets and shooting stars!!!! We watch the constellation of the Plough with its beautiful stars rise in the northern sky and point to the North Star and Venus is so big and bright that it casts a brilliant reflection on the ocean and stays with us nearly all night.
Very best wishes and good night from all on Skyelark.
- Blog entry by Bob
7th December 2013 - Day 13 - Where are the Trade Winds?
We sailed all the way down to St. Lucia latitude to get to the trade winds but they are not here. The wind we have is varying in strength and direction, last night for a while we sailed NW then gybed to sail SW, then straight downwind going west, but with barely with enough wind pressure to keep the wing-on-wing sails filled. Steering in these conditions on a moonless night required your full attention to avoid the sails from banging.
Morning brought a passing rain squall then a scorcher of a day. The shade under the bimini was disputed by all. We are slowly making progress towards St. Lucia and the spirits are high. Yesterday afternoon we caught a nice medium sized tuna, it seems that the 4 to 5 in the afternoon is our lucky hour to catch fish. The tuna became this evening's dinner, masterfully prepared by chef Peter, served with a soy sauce based dipping sauce and wasabi. Desert was a delicious lemon pie made by Dan. We may not be going fast to St. Lucia, but we are certainly eating very well.
I am off now for my 1900-2100 watch. Fair winds to all.
- Blog entry by Erico
8th December 2013 - Day 14 - The Breeze is Back
At long last a breeze. A long day of motoring in the sun is at an end. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Last night a particularly heavy shower drenched the on watch crew making them look like drowned rats. Sadly no shampoo was available so the opportunity for a free shower was lost. Sadly also, with the rain went the wind and hence the day of motoring.
Further sad news from the fishing team involving a major loss of fishing gear including the lure Gloria. Apparently, according to the fishing team, a monster from the deep, with a mass equal or greater than that of a killer whale, snatched the lure and dived deep, dragging all the line to Davey Jones locker. They were powerless to intervene against such a creature and gloomy faces were the order of the day. Much searching took place during the day until a jury rig was set up though no fish has yet obliged.
Ever in search of providing guests with the true ARC experience, the skipper decided on temporary water restrictions so we could see how they did it in the early days without water makers. The water pressure system is off and hand pumping is the order of the day. I seem to remember from my school days that the correct course of action in these circumstances is to throw a horse over the side: cant quite remember why but it was a long time ago. Sadly despite diligent searching, no horse can be found on board so we must continue to suffer these privation.
The appearance of a sailing breeze an hour ago has changed all that. We are now sailing along at 8 knots towards St Lucia and their famed rum punches.
A peaceful night to all.
- Blog entry by Kit
9th December 2013 - Day 15 - Write Your Own Blog!
After a night of shifting force of winds and a lot of rain we are steadily sailing towards St. Lucia, only 850 nm away. With good winds from north north east we are doing 8.5 kts steadily.
1. Fast sailing
2. Heavy rain
3. No fishing
4. Big swells
6. Meat balls
Put the words together, making a little story about sailing, and send it in to join the sailing story writers challenge.
Send it to: Skyelark of London, 13 34.4 N 46 23.4 w, Atlantic Ocean.
The best story will be published in the galley and the winner will receive a bottle of the finest saltwater from Skyelark's own cellar.
- Blog entry by Prince Mishkin
10th December 2013 - Day 16 - Three Quarters
With another night of fine sailing behind us I came on watch with good 22 knot winds at 06h00 this morning. The sea settled down nicely during the day and we are now flying along poled out in true ARC downwind sailing tradition. A lovely sunrise greeted us this morning with no clouds or rain and that stayed for the day and will hopefully last all night as well. Remaining nautical mileage to St Lucia now stands at 690m of the 3100m our route is working out to be, so well over three quarters done. We are all getting quite excited about the prospect of arriving in St Lucia over the weekend and enjoying some rum punch, ice cold beer and whatever else the place offers.
Sundowners tonight entailed a taste of Norwegian Aquavit that has been aged while travelling around the world in casks. Very nice accompanied by curried herring. We also revealed crew estimates of our arrival time in St Lucia. These estimates were made about 10 days ago and sealed in an envelope which was opened today.
On the 13th we have the optimists, Erico at 03h00, Peter at 12h13 and Bob at 21h00.
On the 14th we have the realists, Loftus at 03h14, Dan at 04h00, Emily at 16h00 and Kit at 21h07.
On the 15th we have the pessimists, Wiggo at 09h50 and Melindie at 10h00.
Anyway let us know what you think based on current forecasts.
- Blog entry by Loftus
11th December 2013 - Day 17 - 500 miles to go
Dear friends and family,
As you will remember, I promised you that we will be in St Lucia on the third Wednesday after leaving Las Palmas. As you can see on from Skyelark's Location, we are currently NOT in St Lucia, in fact, we have another 500 miles or so to go.
Remember to enter our competition for the best prediction on our arrival time and date. The closes time wins a rumpunch! (T's & C's apply, prizes cannot be exchanged for cash, prizes must be collected in person from the ARC office in St Lucia before 25 December, competition closes 21 December)
Before leaving Las Palmas, I had a list of items that I wanted to see or be able to do during this trip. My list is coming on pretty well!
Things that I have seen:
3. Dolphins swimming through phosphorescence (this was not on my list, but it was amazing to see!)
4. Flying fish (yes, they really do have wings and they glide)
5. The night sky, the Milky Way and the Southern Cross
Things that I have done:
6. Surviving being on a boat for more than a week
7. Feeling ok while being on a boat for more than a week
8. Enjoying being on a boat for more than a week (this was not on my list)
9. Taking a shower
10. Cooking a meal (Loftus had to help me out a bit!)
13. An Atlantic squall
14. Assisting in catching a fish
15. Eating a fish that we have caught ourselves
Things that I have not seen, but hoped to see (there is still time yet):
16. A whale or an Orca (sadly, no whales so far, but I invite you all to Cape Town for some whale spotting in October)
17. Being hit in the face by a flying fish (I am glad this has not happened, in fact, I have not seen any flying fish in the cockpit)
I trust this will be the last blog I write before our arrival over the weekend. I wish you all well and will be in contact with you next week.
- Blog entry by Melindie
12th December 2013 - Day 18 - Counting Down the Miles
It's 18.00hrs on Thursday the 12th of December and we have 300 miles to go!!!
We have good winds of between 20 and 30knts from the East and are making excellent progress under a poled out head sail. Current projections have us arriving in St Lucia early afternoon on Saturday and considerable excited debate has already commenced about how good the first cold beer will taste!!!
Last night saw the occasional squall having to be managed by furling the head sail but overall a comfortable night was had sailing with 3 reefs in the main and a partly furled and poled out head sail. Between the squalls we were once again treated to another wonderful starlit night with the most amazing shooting stars some of which were so bright they looked like white flares falling through the sky to earth.
Going on deck now for a cup of tea and to watch yet another magical sunset and dream about that first cold beer! Good evening and very best wishes from all aboard a happy Skyelark.
- Blog entry by Bob
13th December 2013 - Day 19 - Final Night at Sea
Here we go, 118 nm to St. Lucia, our final (hopefully) night at sea. The mood is festive, everybody joking around, asking "are we there yet" to the helmsperson every few minutes, the perennial question asked by kids the world over to their parents on long car trips. Not that we are not having fun, we are, but the proximity of land is leaving us anxious to cross the finish line and make land fall.
For our last sundowner of the trip we had popcorn, Spanish sparkling wine and a round of Danish aquavit. To top it off we had a whale sighting.
I wanted to conclude by saying that last night was, for me, the best experience of the crossing - clear skies, no squalls, good wind, the boat sliding down the swells under jib alone, and I steering the boat down the silvery path illuminated by the moon, feeling the wind on the back of the neck, just focusing in the present moment, taking it all in. It was sailing at its best.
I wanted to conclude by thanking my wife for allowing me to indulge in these extravagant adventures. Ba, I love you.
- Blog entry by Erico
Final Blog from Bob
What a great experience! We went South until the butter had well and truly melted and then turned due West. Sunshine, swimming mid-Atlantic, dolphins, whales, shooting stars, and a stress free 20 day crossing of the pond! A credit to the planning and skill of our skipper Em and first mate Dan. I signed up to gain experience prior to making the trip in my own yacht Samatom an XC45. I definitely choose the right boat and skipper to make my first crossing and greatly enjoyed the company of my fellow crew members. Merry Christmas and a happy new year.
Final Blog from Kit
A really big thank you for such a memorable crossing. I gained so much from the experience as well as making new friends. I shall treasure the memories.
So. Farewell then ARC 2013,
Cross the Atlantic to the
No mention though, of Africa. Our close companion.
For so long
If you sail South 'till the butter melts
Take it out of the fridge first.
(with apologies to E Jarvis Thribb 17 1/2)
A Great time. Was had. By all
Roses are red
Violets are blue
The crew's all dispersed now
But Skyelark's tickety boo.
Final Blog from Loftus & Melindie
Reflecting on an ocean crossing takes a few days and having now discussed our experience after the event while sitting in comfortable stationary chairs brings further insight into lessons learned and what we can take from this. On the face of it there are 3 things I want to share.
Firstly how vast the ocean is and that no matter how far from land you are it is filled with living creatures. Secondly, given a bit of time 9 people from varying age, ability and background can form a very efficient team and live together in absolute harmony on a 51f yacht for 3 weeks. Thirdly, knowledge and experience is priceless. When you charter Skyelark on an ocean crossing, Dan and Emily brings vast amounts of experience with them on the yacht and it all makes the journey exceptionally pleasant from a sailing, socialising and catering perspective.
We cannot recommend this experience enough and if you want to do it in style, do it on Skyelark.