Arriving at Lanzarote Airport I still can’t believe I’ve made it. A suitcase full of malt loaf, bars of chocolate, 2 minute rice and John West tuna pasta ready meals and a backpack with a few clothes in and my deck shoes, I’m feeling ready for the adventure.
Clio is much bigger than Id imagined. 47 foot in length with a large galley and the sleeping quarters are generous. I’m literally shown the ropes and Captain John gives me a safety briefing. My Dad gives me a ‘Crews Handbook’ and tells me to learn some knots. We head out for our last supper, king prawns, baked fish and Canary potatoes followed by ice cream, washed down with a couple of jugs of Sangria. Our bellies are full.
After a last workout on land and a quick shop we have an early lunch before setting sail at midday Monday 4th November. We have a wager on how long it will take to reach Barbados. Captain predicts 24 days, Dad 20 and me 19. Ever the optimist. We motor the first hour then pull up the sails. Wow, feels great to be sailing. A few hours in we all feel sea sick as the waves rock us from side to side. The boat is moving up, down, left and right or should I say the bow, stern, port and starboard are constantly moving. It’s like being on an amusement ride that doesn’t end. Faster faster. High winds come from nowhere. The rain beats down, the sails flap and my Dad shouts orders to get the sails in. It’s a struggle but eventually we regain control. I stay up until midnight with my Dad, watching and learning then manage to sleep 3 hours.
Captain John and Dad cover the first night shifts while I get my sea legs. I sail the boat for a while, it’s so much fun riding the waves, but takes a lot of energy and concentration. Thank goodness for autopilot, which is on 23 hours a day. Our first game of scrabble, half a movie and lots of listening to music. We’re excited for the trip ahead as we sail through the Canary Islands. Who knew there are seven of them. Captain John cooks a lovely meal. Unfortunately my Dad can’t keep it down. We have our first heart to heart, I’m sure there will be more.
The midnight until 4am shift was eerily dark as it was cloudy. It felt surreal especially whilst listening to Tale of Us on my Bose Noise Cancelling headphones. Wouldn’t leave home without them. Captain John put out his fishing line in the morning and within 5 minutes he was intoxicating a 2 foot, 2 kg Mahi Mahi just as he had seen on YouTube. It worked a treat and I shallow fried the flesh for our lunchtime wraps. So tasty. Our first rainbow was special, anything to break up the vast ocean scenery. A tanker in the distance kept us entertained for a few hours until a very tired looking sparrow dropped in for a visit. Some breadcrumbs and a few hours later it was in its way.
All hands on deck! That was the frantic call my Dad made at 2am. We were in the middle of a squall and Captain John and I got into our foulies as quick as we could and spent the next hour wrestling with the wind. This was our first taste of bad weather. Pitch black, heavy rain, high winds around 30-35 mph, ropes and sails making loud noises. My Dad did a great job at the helm and Captain John and I followed his orders bringing in and letting out the sails. The rest of the night I kept watch with Dad backing me by keeping his foulies on downstairs in case I needed help. It was a long night as the winds were high around 25-30mph and I had to keep my wits about me. I felt so relieved when the sun came up. Later that day two large dolphins jumped and swam around the boat. Awe inspiring.
My 4am to 8am shift was greeted by a strong coffee that Captain John made. It was much appreciated. The winds were 25-30 mph and the boat was travelling along at about 5 knots. The nights sky is particularly bright when the moon goes down, which was around 6am. It’s been the best time to reflect on life as the sun rises from the East on the horizon at around 7am. Staring into the sea most of the day is mesmerising and fascinating and I’m yet to get bored of it. Today we had swells as high as a house. It was marvellous. But what I’ve noticed is I feel most awake when I see change. Sunrise, sunset, seeing the moon for the first time in the day and watching it go down. Birds, yes birds, flying out here seemingly a long way from land break up the monotony. We haven’t seen a ship for two days now. I spend an hour sitting underneath the sail reading as the sun beats down on me. The rest of the time we have the canopy up to keep a constant shade and to keep dry if it suddenly rains. Although I have to say we haven’t had much rain. Yet..
Today was all about the fishing. We caught four fish but only managed to reel one in, only for it to slip out of Johns hands as he was covered in its blood. The largest catch, likely to be a yellow fin tuna apparently, was just too big for the line and hook so that got away. We were excited and nervous about meeting it. The scrabble competition between Dad and I is going well for me, I’ve won every game, although most have been close. Mams sausage and lentils from the freezer went down a treat and was second to the chicken curry she had prepared in Lanzarote before she departed. I feel very lucky to have a Mam so good at cooking but who also has given me the opportunity to do this trip. I know she and the girls will get as much out of spending time together as I do being away. I’m grateful none the least.
A bumpy night shift led me to split my shifts with Dad. It was occasionally raining but it was a stray wave that really got me wet. The whole wave coming into the cockpit and drenching me from head to toe. The best thing about it was how sudden it happened. One minute I’m sitting there staring at the ocean, the next the ocean is staring at me.
Yay! John catches his second fish and we have fish wraps for lunch. Super tasty. We also find a flying fish has hit our main sail mast and knocked itself out, falling into the galley. They look a bit like sardines although none of us fancy frying them. They tend to fly between 10-20 metres and seem to be in small groups. Very impressive watching them glide over the waves.
The days are going fast now as we are settled into a routine. I’ve finished two box sets and four movies. I’ll never get the two hours I watched El Camino, the Breaking Bad movie,back. Also continue to listen to techno mixes on Soundcloud, so glad I paid the subscription to access downloads offline best £12.99 I’ve ever spent. I continue to be mesmerised by the waves and the night sky whilst listening. Haha I had my first instant noodles dinner tonight as no one was in the mood to cook.
We’re half way! Time flies when you’re sailing. We’re celebrating with some Sangria for tea. My Dad has made the decision not to sail the Pacific Ocean with John. He is missing Mam too much and with the Ocean sailing being so bumpy it’s not as enjoyable as he had hoped. He also wants to fly home with me. Hasn’t helped that he has tooth ache. John understands and there’s no hard feelings.
John decides that he is going to store the yacht in Grenada, a further 150 miles and a day further from Barbados. Dad and I will help him get the boat cleaned and closed down for storage until March then fly from Granada to Barbados to catch our flight to Gatwick. Unfortunately my Dads tooth ache has turned into an abscess. Poor man, in the middle of the Ocean and in tremendous discomfort. This changes the mood on board as Captain John and I try to help him by covering his duties. Although he insists on continuing his watches. We’ve done a count and only have 24 paracetamols left. We should have brought more.
I read up about Grenada and am shocked to learn that in 2004 Hurricane Ivan destroyed 90% of the houses, buildings and boats and destroyed 60% of the Nutmeg that they produced. Up until that day they were the second largest producers of nutmeg in the world only behind Indonesia. English is their first language and by all accounts the people are supposed to be friendly, the food incredible (it’s lobster season) and the main beach by the marina is supposed to be a quintessential Caribbean beach with white sand and palm trees. It’s also the longest beach in the Caribbean. I can’t wait to walk on it, to feel the sand between my toes and take a swim. Do you know how frustrating it is to be surrounded by sea and not be able to swim in it? As my good friend Mark Tomkins said, “Nezzie don’t go for a swim in the middle of the Ocean!” And he is right. It’s too dangerous. But that hasn’t stopped me wanting to.
Haha so it’s probably worth saying that I had envisaged doing yoga every other day and a workout every other day. Guess what? I’ve done neither. What I hadn’t realised is how constantly bumpy it is in the Ocean. Of course I’ve been sailing lots of times but the waves had been a lot smaller which meant the yacht carved through the waves and was relatively stable. But on this voyage it is impossible to stand in the same position for more than 1 second before being hurtled from side to side or back and forth. It’s like being in a washing machine. It’s relentless. Now and then a big wave or gust of wind smashes the boat and this sudden movement jolts us into life. So holding on to something at all times is crucial for our health and safety. Suffice to say we have all had falls, including me falling backwards into the toilet not once but twice then there was the time I went to open the chocolate drawer and nearly broke my pinky. I still can’t close it properly, the finger that is. The Fry’s Turkish Delight was worth it though.
I started watching Peaky Blinders today which was the highlight of the day. I’m starting to enjoy my food and drink less and less now. I’m craving fresh fruit and vegetables. I’m over tinned fruit, over cake, over chocolate, over crisps, over part baked bread rolls and over juice. Fuck I’m so over potatoes. I’ll never be over custard though. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is most evenings when we’re having dinner (that sounds so civilised but the truth is we eat out of a bowl and as quickly as possible so not to spill it over ourselves) (tonight we’re having spag bol and I’m almost certain that’s not going to go well) ask Captain John and Dad about their experiences in the Royal Navy. Dad served 27 years and Captain John 30. I couldn’t possibly share all their stories with you as due to the Official Secrets Act I’d have to kill you, which would be terrible for company morale. But I’ll give you some clues. Prison for 32 days, the actual hunt for Red October and meeting Margaret Thatcher, getting drunk with the Chief Constable of South Wales Police and getting reprimanded by the Captain after inviting him on to the Submarine, and sitting next to the Queen for lunch to name just a few. Simply fascinating.
Less than a thousand miles to go and likely another week. I’m starting to feel the effects of cabin fever. Where’s James Warner’s uber positively when you need it. I seriously can’t wait to get onto dry land. This is tough. I was pondering whether I’d prefer to be sent to prison for 22 days if it wasn’t for the social stigma. Haha.
The winds have dropped and were struggling to come up with a way to get to Granada without having to sail many more miles. The wind is king in the Ocean. It dictates what options we have in terms of direction. The sea feels warm and the sun is hot. Surely we must be nearly there. At least I have 4 seasons of Peaky Blinders to watch. It’s worth noting that I’ve seen a rainbow almost every day since we left. Amazing ones that come out of the sea and into the sea. Beautiful. I also saw two shooting stars. Wow they really do take your breath away. Looking up to the thousands of stars, being in this tiny boat, does make me feel rather insignificant.
Low winds today paved the way for Dad to build a contraption, using his superb engineering skills. The foresail was flapping so he created a temporary boom between the main mast and the corner of the sail to keep it in position. Worked a treat. It was all bums on deck for showers in the pouring rain in the afternoon. I have to say we all needed it. Both Dad and I have shaved off our sailing moustaches so that we don’t have white upper lips when we get back. Not sure either of us suited them anyway. Captain John decides to motor all night at a steady 7 knots.
Now there really is no wind. Where did it go? How we going to get to Granada some 500 miles away when we only have 350 miles worth of fuel? We take the decision to push our flight home back to Friday or Saturday. Thursday is looking too risky. John downloads the latest weather a few time a day and like all weather forecasts they change so quickly and are difficult to predict. The current forecast is no wind for another day. We turn off the engine and it’s all hands to bathe. Alas we swim for the first time. The water is warm and there’s still a swell so we run a rope with a bouy off the back by 20 metres so we can pull ourselves in. I put the flippers and mask on and swim round the boat. It’s actually quite difficult. We had a bit of a fishing line incident a few days ago when we needed to change direction suddenly due to a squall. I was sent under the hull with a penknife tied to my finger to try and cut the tangled line from the propela. I did my best but the rest will need to be removed when the boat is lifted in Granada. John bakes his second loaf of soda bread and we have it with boiled kippers. So tasty especially with a cold beer. An inventory check shows we have lots of beers and crisps and 2 minute noodles left. What I’d give for Sunday roast tomorrow. 36 hours of motoring let’s hope the wind returns too..
300 miles to go and not much wind around. Dad decides to make the Sunday roast and we have Frey Bentos finest chicken pie, mash, peas and carrots. Turns out the tinned carrots had been labelled incorrectly; they were peaches haha. We have ginger cake, custard and peaches for duff. Yummy. I can almost taste home.
7 porpoises playing in front of the boat today. Wow, so beautiful and really brought a smile to my face. Loved the end of season two of Peaky Blinders. We nearly there yet?
A mix of motoring and sailing today with a few squalls thrown in for good measure overnight. I managed to sleep through it as the Officers were on watch. My final night shift was a calm and clear night sky. My two favourite positions on the boat are right at the front sitting on top of the anchor and standing at the back looking over then sunroof and across the boat and up to the sky. It’s the best vantage point and having not seen a ship for many days we see three 200m cargo ships. Activity at sea. We must be near land. Although we’re 50 miles from Barbados we can’t see the land but when the night sky comes you can see the light pollution in the distance. We’ve booked a flight for Friday afternoon via Barbados and Frankfurt – 18 hours. Can’t wait to see my Mum and the girls. I’m going to give them the biggest and tightest hug EVER!
We motor the last leg into Granada. Omg we’ve made it! Woo hoooo! That was definitely an experience and a half. An ordeal to say the least. An achievement. Once in a lifetime. I’m never doing that again! Now two days to help Captain John clean the boat, walk barefoot in the sand, snorkel, eat lobster and drink rum punch. We deserve it! 14 v 11 to me in the Nesbitts Atlantic scrabble competition. Dad can pay.