ARC News, 22 Dec 2006:
ARC2006 saw one of the fastest passages in recent years, with a new course record set and non-stop trade winds for virtually the entire duration. In addition to some of the best sailing ever, the full force NE trade winds caused more than a few dramas this year, the big seas contributing to the toll of damaged yachts arriving in Rodney Bay, St.Lucia, and providing a pre-Christmas bonanza of spinnaker repairs for the local sail makers.
Tough but memorable
There is no doubt that ARC2006 was one of the hardest ever, but it will also be remembered as one of the best ever. An Australian participant, Caylie Jeffery, summed it up nicely: "Thank goodness it’s over but hey, what an amazing experience!"
During the crossing we posted daily updates on our web site in Norwegian under the tab LOGG. In addition we wrote a short story in English some of the days and posted it to the ARC site. Below we have gathered the Logs from Sailabout posted on the ARC home page.
We soon discovered that the best music to play when you stand at the helm in rough conditions were Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler. The daily logs were drafted in my mind when I was at the helm. Thus, each log entry was given a heading from the song that best matched each day’s happenings.
Date: Sailabout Log 27 Nov 2006
Log Heading: "Down To The Waterline"
It was great to sail out of the Las Palmas harbour surrounded by a huge crowd that had come down to the waterline to watch the ARC fleet starting its journey across the Atlantic.
What a start we got! Mathias, 16 yrs, are used to tight starts from dingy sailing and as our helmsman he had no problem of being right on the start line with good speed just as the gun went off and we suddenly were off well ahead of the rest of the crowd in the cruising division who were in the back blocking the wind from each other. It was a great fun to be fighting in the front for a while, but when we took our oversized light wind asymmetrical down at the end of Gran Canaria we were passed by most of the boats and it gave us an indication that it will be hard to defend the hdc. of 0.940 given to us by the ARC. However, we are not really racing anymore, now we are focusing on a safe and pleasant crossing.
The only major problem so far, is that someone has eaten all the pink Mentos.
Date: Sailabout Log 28 Nov 2006
Log Heading:"Les Boys"
During the first night we went rather far to the east, because that gave us most speed. Thus, we ended up close to the African cost and the second day (yesterday) we saw no other boats the whole day. We were approached by some cost guard twice, but as we did not look like any illegal immigrants they let us pass. As we sailed to the west today, course of 240, we suddenly were in a crowd of boats. We could see eight boats at most. A very nice day at sea, but at dawn we got the mega waves from the storm in the northern Atlantic and it is quite bumpy right now.
In the marina in Las Palmas some of our neighbours were a bit surprised that our boys were up most of the night and slept till late in the afternoon. Now we have got our pay back. The boys took the whole night watch. Their parents got eight and ten hours of sleep last night, and that is luxury, as we seldom get more than three hours of sleep in a row when we are at sea.
"Les Boys are glad to be here."
Date: Sailabout Log 03 Des 2006
Log Heading:"So Far Away"
How does it feel to be 1000 miles offshore in a boat that is a lot smaller than the last wave….and with another 2000 miles to go?
Being an ordinary family and not fearless heroes, it is essential for us to focus on safety and give comfort the priority over speed. The last 36 hours we have had winds of force 6 and in between force 7 (near gale). The wind is really no problem as we have put two reefs in the main and taken inn a bit on the headsail. With the wind comes the waves and they are a bit harder to control. Thus, it is quite bumpy for the time being. We are concentrating on holding on to the boat. The school onboard is postponed until further notice, which is not necessarily bad news for all onboard. The good thing about being a family is that we can be a bit flexible about the duties onboard. Mum and Dad can always order the youngsters to take watches and doing the dishes when ever it suits the adults. The kids will normally protest anyway. Right now we are a bit more organized as we in the present conditions have two on watch in the cockpit at all times and one has to either steer by hand or be ready to take the helm whenever the autopilot fails to steer the boat through the waves. The good thing is that is it warm and sunny during the day and we have full moon through the night and the temperature never falls bellow 25 C.
There has been a lot of talk about fishing among the boats in the ARC fleet. Fish is not on our menu yet, as we have to empty the fridge which if full of meat. Thus, Mathias is going for a shark by using our biggest hooks. He thought he would use a lure that were modern and appealing to young and trendy sharks. Thus, he took an iPod and attached the hooks to the end of it. Something seemed to make a go at it, but it went away with the hooks, but not the iPod, unfortunately for the shark (?).
Unfortunately for Mathias, just as he had sent his old iPod in the water behind the boat, the new one slip out of his hands and fell down the companionway and broke.
Back to the initial question: How it feels? Well, the horizon is reduced to a radius of 50 meters around the boat, we concentrate on the next wave and trust the boat will hold together for another 2000 miles.
"Where are you when the sun goes down?
You are so far away from me,"
Date: Sailabout Log 04 Des 2006
Log Heading: "Sailing to Philadelphia"
Another day at the helm. The wind and waves were a bit less tiring last night and today, but they are increasing again as it gets dark tonight. We just rushed down a big wave and broke one of the solar panels and got the cockpit sprayed with water. Those huge waves are coming from another direction than the ordinary wind waves and are difficult to predict.
We studied the ARC position reports for the first time yesterday and were pleased with our eight place position in our group of twenty boats. We do not want to be the last and are pleased that we are not in the leading pack, as that might lead us to start racing. We are not out here to make it more unpleasant than it has to be. For the time being we would prefer some more calm conditions.
At the moment we are sailing at a course of 280, and are going to the north. We will hit the US coastline in a couple of weeks if we do not alter the course. But this is the most comfortable course at the prevailing conditions, and we all have visas to the US.
"Sailing to Philadelphia – to draw the line."
Date: Sailabout Log 06 Des 2006
Log Heading: "Southbound Again"
We had a gybe at noon yesterday and started to go southwards after sailing straight west for five consecutive days. We found it to be favourable with regard to comfort to sail westwards with small angel to the ENE wind. But, we felt a bit lonely up north of 20N as we had not seen or heard from any other boats for seven days. From the position reports it seemed to be no other boats around. So from a safety point of view we decided it was time to go south.
It has been a very special night with us surfing along in force seven and eight. No one told us it would be this windy and bumpy in the trades. Downstairs it is hard to do anything but keep a position in bed, and even that is hard enough. We brought with us 850 sea sickness tablets from Norway and they were meant to last for a year, but if these conditions continue we might need a new shipment fairly soon.
If there was no fun inside the boat the boys at the helm found the conditions really challenging and drove the boat like crazy in the middle of the night. Mathias at 16 years thought he was in the Volvo Ocean race and driving a Volvo 70. He was hunting a new speed record. In the gale he got the heavily loaded family cruiser to make 12 knots in the water. We were running along with two reefs in the main and just a fraction of the headsail out. In an attempt to set a new record he found the opportunity to unfurl the head sail when the skipper fell asleep. In 35 knots of wind the boat behaved wildly and before the skipper managed to furl in the head sail a new record of 13.8 knots was on the log. Mathias was a bit disappointed he hadn’t got the boat up to 14 knots. Later in the day however and again when the skipper was asleep, his older brother Fredrik managed to reach 14 knots of boat speed. I think we leave it at that. Surprised we want to stay closer to other boats?
Heading south we suddenly got in contact with Nano, another Norwegian ARC boat. We spoke on the VHF and could see them in the horizon at night.
In the evening we celebrated the passing of our half way position today with balloons and apple-pie. We hope for a more relaxing second half.
I am gone keep on tryin"
Date: Sailabout Log 12 Des 2006
Log Heading: "Six Blade Knife"
On our way down the European coast from Norway we made a stop in Kiel. In Kieler Hafen a group of youngsters were demonstrating against Norwegian whale hunting outside the quay where the ferry to Oslo lies. They had a banner where it was written: "Norway kills whales." This was not news for any of the Norwegians who left the ferry, as we have been doing this for generations. Another banner said: "Stop the killing" and two youngsters dressed in costumes supposed to look like whales were swimming around and giving out pamphlets. Those costumes would be great for the carnival in St. Lucia, I thought.
When we later on our passage down to the Canaries were in the middle of Biscay, we suddenly had whales all around the boat. None was really close, but as night was approaching we were a bit scared. I took the Norwegian flag and went to the bow of the boat and while I waived the flag in the air I shouted: "Norway kills whales!" My wife asked me to stop and come back as the whales might see that we were unarmed and use the opportunity to strike back. We had white antifouling underneath and might look like a big fat 38 feet whale from down below. If a horny male whale spotted us we could be in big trouble. When we arrived in La Coruña the boys were given permission to go of to a diver shop and buy the harpoon they had asked for. Take the biggest one I shouted when they left for the store.
When we took the boat ashore at Lanzarote to prepare her for the Atlantic crossing we thought about painting a Norwegian flag on the keel to scare the whales away, but it was not possible to get hold of any white antifouling. We then thought it would be a better idea to write the message: "Norway kills whales" by letters on the hull below the waterline. It is not obvious however, that the whales we could meet in the middle of the Atlantic would understand English. So we had to write the message in many different languages to be sure. We started to write the message on different languages on a piece of paper. After a few lines we wrote in Swedish: "Norge dødar valen". We then realized how ridiculous this was. Have you ever heard about a Swedish whale? They might think they see whales on the Swedish coast, but that is more likely to be Russian submarines.
We settled for a more defensive approach and painted the hull with blue antifouling. The colour of the sea. We hoped we could cross the Atlantic without being spotted by the whales.
Yesterday we got a sad and terrifying message from the ARC office:
The crew were successfully evacuated at 06:00 UTC today (10 December) from their Bavaria 35 Arnolf at approximate position 19°45'N 34°43'W. The rescue took place some 48 hours after losing their rudder in a collision with a submerged object, possibly a whale.
We had passed the same area a few days ago and it could have been us. Maybe the blue antifouling had saved us. The night passed and this morning we suddenly had two whales swimming alongside our boat. A big one, about the size of our boat, and a smaller one by her side. For a while they were swimming ten to five meters away on port side before they suddenly appeared on the other side of the boat. Then they were back on the port side again. They were gracious in their movements and our daughter of ten expressed her admiration. "They are so beautiful, and the baby whale is so cute. How can anyone kill such animals?"
Then suddenly the smaller one took a turn right at us. It wasn’t really that small, it was at least twice the size of our dingy. It wasn’t really that cute either. It seems to be not more than a meter below the surface when it went between the keel and the rudder. I just had two thoughts in my mind: "Where the hell is the big one?" And "Why aren’t more nations hunting these wild creatures? Then I ran to the bow and while I was lifting the harpoon in one hand and waiving the Norwegian flag and a six blade knife in the other I shouted: "Norway kills whales!" and then: "We are armed!"
The whales got the message and disappeared.
"Six blade knife, do anything for you."
Date: Sailabout Log 14 Des 2006
Log Heading: "Money For Nothing"
Some days ago my wife looked up in the cockpit just after she woke up in the morning. To her amusement she could see the captain dancing behind the wheel and "Bangin’ on the bongos (read wheel) like a chimpanzee". She wondered how it was possible to stay there with a big smile all over the face when I had been at the helm for almost eight hours in 30 knots of wind and ridiculous huge waves all around.
I loved the sailing and the challenge these conditions gave. The boat behaved marvellous in the big seas and we were surfing along under full moon, and not at least, I had the whole family there with me. At the same time I was playing Dire Straits on my iPod at full force. When my wife looked up it was playing "Money For Nothing" and it will be hard to not rock along. Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler are definitely force 7 music and it even works well in force 8 in the middle of the Atlantic. Ask me, I know.
"That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it."
The title reminds me of a comment another sailor gave in Las Palmas. He left on the same day as the ARC fleet, heading for St. Lucia or maybe directly to Bequia. He could see no reason for joining the ARC. "I am not paying money for nothing" he said. "I am going to do the same crossing for free." We have talked a lot about this and could not disagree more. Even if we had not done the crossing the fee was worth all the money. It took us 40 days to sail from Oslo along the European cost until we were setting across Biscay in the beginning of August. We felt a bit lonely as we had not met any other boats on a similar voyage. When we reached La Coruña we raised the ARC flag and suddenly we were part of a big cruising family. We got new friends in most of the harbours we from then on entered. When we joined the ARC fleet in Las Palmas we felt we knew half the boats already. The program and community we were a part of for the two last weeks before the crossing was fantastic and even made us looking forward to get going. The family aspect of ARC was one of our objectives to participate. It is a bit exaggerated to call ARC a kids event as there were no more than 26, or so, kids among the 1100 sailors. But all the kids were brought together at different activities and for the children 26 are a lot more than what they meet any other places on this circuit. Thus, all members of our family, being 10, 16, 19 or 45 years old, agree that the two weeks in Las Palmas has been the best part of our Atlantic circumnavigation so far.
The crossing itself, is another story, but it means a lot to be part of a large community when you are out here.
"Money for nothin’ and chicks for free"
If you are with the ARC fleet in Las Palmas and are considering taking on additional crew for the crossing you definitely get chicks for free. I tell you, the chicks are queuing up and some are wild. - "Lemme tell ya them gays ain’t dumb"
Now as we are approaching St. Lucia we are a bit sad that the crossing soon will be over, even if it wasn’t exactly the milk run the add had promised most of the crew. We have in particular two teenagers on board that are very eager to get ashore. They have in fact been very eager to get the boat moving all the way.
"I want my MTV"
We passed the finishing line at 13:49 GMT on Friday December 15. It had taken us 19 days and 49 minutes to cross the Atlantic. We ended up as number 10 among twenty boats in our croup and as number 88 over all. We were not racing against any other boats and were deliberately sailing as slow as possible during most of the crossing. Thus, it seems like the boat is coping well with the conditions we had.
We had no damages to neither the crew nor the boat. When we met the other boats of similar size we realized that we were among the few that had not suffered material damages that had influenced the sailing performance of the boat and the wallet of the owner.
When we arrived in St. Lucia all the skippers had to name the five most useful items during the crossing. Our answer was:
Iridium satellite phone and PC modem
We should have mentioned the fridge which kept the food frozen for the hole crossing and enabled us to eat meat for dinner till the very end. The most amazing experience however, was that the five of us used less than 200 litre of water.
If the wind generator, Aero6gen, had been working it would have given us most of the electricity we needed, but instead we had to run the engine to charge the batteries.