Rum Sodomy and the Lash

sailing around the world on our yacht, Ruby Rose

Month: December 2015

Our First Christmas Onboard

First thing’s first: Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

We hope that your Christmas’s were full of love and joy wherever you are, however you choose to celebrate. Nick and I aren’t religious in the slightest, but Christmas is definitely steeped in tradition for Nick especially, and celebrating in a reasonably traditional fashion is important to both of us. So it was difficult to spend this year away from our families, who we are both very close to, and no matter how many Christmas decorations we covered the boat with, it just didn’t feel very festive around here without experiencing the usual run-up of pre-Christmas catch-ups and parties with friends, pre-Christmas theatre (The Nutcracker has become a tradition for every year we’re in London), and the never-ending Christmas adverts on television or the radio.

Peeling veggies on Christmas morning

Peeling veggies on Christmas morning

Christmas eve is normally spent preparing for the day itself and seeing family or friends, but this year it was fairly low-key. In fact, apart from the odd waitress wearing a santa hat, or a bit of tinsel in the shops, it didn’t really feel like Christmas at all. Nick baked some home-made sausage rolls and we did the last-minute supermarket run, but it was pretty quiet. The marina has emptied out with only a few ARC boats left, most of which are locked up, their owners obviously staying in land-based accommodation or back home for the holidays.

My favourite Christmas sweet!

My favourite Christmas sweet!

However, Christmas eve night we had Magda and Tim over for a drink, and we quickly decided that we ought to go out and celebrate properly. We dinghied over to the village, and found a microbrewery for a couple of beers. Very pleasant, except I was getting savaged by mosquitos and Nick and Tim were becoming quite vocal about their sudden and intense need for jerk chicken. We had planned to head down to the beach, but we were distracted by a bar that Magda assured us had good BBQ’d meat (despite being a vegetarian, she seems to be very keen on sourcing good quality meat wherever she goes!), and it looked pretty lively so we decided to give it a go. We ended up drinking cocktails and eating awesome slow-cooked beef brisket, chicken and pork ribs with macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and roasted veggies. God, it was good! Excellent way to celebrate Christmas eve!

Christmas day dawned with a hangover, pancakes and lots of peeling of vegetables and steaming of puddings. Tim and Magda were doing the turkey and we (okay, okay, NICK!) were doing everything else. Seems like a fair trade- the success of a Christmas dinner hinges on having a delicious and moist turkey, after all!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

So, you know how I was saying how it didn’t feel like Christmas at all? Well, that was until the moment the turkey was unveiled on Christmas day at lunchtime, and the cockpit table was suddenly laden with perfectly roasted potatoes, carrots braised in butter and honey, red cabbage with sultanas, cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing and, of course, the turkey itself. Suddenly all four of us were like, “Oh my God, it’s CHRIIIISTMAAAS!!”

The big moment!

The big moment!

Yuuum

Yuuum

Magda and Tim, very happy about our feast

Magda and Tim, very happy about our feast

Christmas dinner was hugely successful- possibly one of the best I’ve ever had, and that says a lot considering my mother-in-law makes an absolutely cracking Christmas dinner- and followed it up with pudding (that my mother-in-law made earlier this year), brandy butter, cream and mince pies. In-keeping with tradition, we all over-indulged and almost fell asleep in front of the television, watching The Germans episode of Fawlty Towers and the Christmas Blackadder special.

While I’ve got you here, I’ll also provide some photos of our walk up to Pigeon Island and the view over Rodney Bay from the lookout at its pinnacle, where an old fort stands from the 18th Century.

View from the top

View from the top

Soaking up the view. And recovering my breath from the climb.

Soaking up the view. And recovering my breath from the climb.

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Fort Rodney

Fort Rodney

Nick’s parents are arriving today and we’ll stay here with them for the next week or so before moving on to explore some other parts of the island. Bye for now and, as the North Americans say, Happy Holidays!

 

Beautiful Saint Lucia

It’s been about a week since I last posted, but what can I say- I’m working on Caribbean time!

Our beautiful boat approaching the finish line! Thanks Miles for this awesome pic.

Our beautiful boat approaching the finish line! Thanks Miles for this awesome pic.

The moment we crossed the finish line!

The moment we crossed the finish line! Yes, we had a couple of reefs in… kinda wish we’d shook them out just for the photos!

Life has definitely taken a turn for the… slow. We’ve been in Saint Lucia for over a week, and we’ve not even left the Rodney Bay area yet! We’d feel bad about that, but our friends from Belafonte only yesterday inflated their dinghy- they haven’t even made it to Rodney Bay village yet, which is a 2 minute dinghy ride away.

So last Sunday was a bit of a blur. After the initial boat-side hysteria, we got ourselves sorted and spent the rest of the day in the bar. I’m not kidding. I’d already had a champagne and rum punch by 10am, so I was happy sticking to one beer, and then iced coffee, but Neil, John and Nick are obviously made of hardier stuff and they celebrated in a predictable fashion. We logged onto the internet for the first time in 3 weeks, realised that we’d missed absolutely nothing of importance, and by 6pm we were ready for bed. We forced ourselves to stay up a bit longer, but by 8pm I was curled up in a bed that wasn’t rocking at all- not even a little bit!- and we enjoyed our first night of unbroken sleep in 3 weeks.

Boy, it was good.

The rest of the week passed in a blur of social activities. Every night- and most days- we had something to do or someone to see. For the first few days our body clocks were still a little messed up- we were craving our bed by sunset and waking up with our watch system, which effectively meant being wide awake at 4am and enjoying the sunrise from our cockpit.

The Rodney bay lagoon

The Rodney bay lagoon

Thursday night was the ARC 80s party night (complete with a reggae band…?) and although Nick, Tim and Madga got dressed up and went to the party, I went on strike. I was knackered and hadn’t had a quiet night since we’d arrived. So, after four consecutive nights of drinking, eating out and socialising (all of which was great fun, by the way!), I stayed in, made myself spaghetti carbonara, watched Stardust and polished off half a bar of chocolate. It was amazing. Although, perhaps not quite as amazing as Nick and Tim in 80s drag…

ARC 80s party (this photo courtesy of the ARC Facebook page!)

ARC 80s party (this photo courtesy of the ARC Facebook page!)

John flew to Florida on the Thursday to see his sister, and on the Friday we took in a couple of Aussie strays, Bel and Stephen who crewed for another ARC boat and were now, after much wooing, crewing on Belafonte for the World ARC! They were a lot of fun, and listening to the four of them talk excitedly about doing the World ARC in January, Nick and I came pretty close to throwing caution (and sense) into the wind, and signing up ourselves! Okay, we’d had a few rum punches by this stage… and in the cold light of day, we realised that cruising the Caribbean for 6 months was probably just as good a plan as anything else! Next year, maybe…

We also got our paddle board out and inflated, and have been gradually teaching Sandra to use it. The first lesson was in the marina (ostensibly because it would be easier for Sandra to hold onto the side of her boat while learning to stand up on the board, but I have it on good authority that Nick was feeling a little fragile that morning after getting stuck into the rum punches the night before, and couldn’t quite face the trip to the beach in the dinghy), and, as predicted, it featured Sandra spending more time falling off the board than standing on it. Her shrieks could be heard from all four corners of the marina- and probably much further afield- and before long she had an audience who had rushed over to see what all the fuss was about. Truly excellent entertainment.

However, she’s improved greatly over the past week, and we had a memorable afternoon having a late lunch at Spinnakers on the beach, then a group swim and paddle boarding session with another couple who we bumped in to, Chris and Helen who also did the ARC and were on our pontoon in Las Palmas. They were at anchor in the bay, and we hadn’t had an opportunity to catch up since arriving in Saint Lucia, so it was awesome to spend some time playing in the water with them.

The beautiful water at Reduit Beach.

The beautiful water at Reduit Beach.

Friday night we went to the Jump Up street party- a weekly event in Gros Islet, the nearest town, which involves a lot of loud music, street food and home-made rum being sold by the cup-ful. We went with Bel, Stephen, Tim and Magda, but bumped into many familiar faces. It was a great night and we’ll definitely be going again.

Saturday night was the prize giving ceremony and official closing of the ARC 2015. We didn’t win anything of course, so we were basically just there to cheer everyone else, listen to the somewhat tedious speeches, and enjoy the free booze and nibbles. The next morning we woke up feeling a little wooly headed to the sight of a mass exodus from the marina. Suddenly the ARC is over and boats are leaving in droves, off to explore other parts of the island or moving south to St Vincent and the Grenadines.

So, first impressions of the Caribbean and Saint Lucia in particular are extremely positive. There’s plenty to do, mostly watersports which suits us just fine! We’re finally learning to kite surf after Nick’s impulse purchase of some equipment in Lanzarote, and we’re hoping to get some diving and snorkelling done as soon as our wallets recover from all this eating out and the kite surfing lessons!

 

Our Atlantic Crossing- We Made It!

Well, the title says it all really. We have completed an Atlantic crossing. Wow!

After exactly 3 weeks- almost to the hour- at sea, we finally crossed the finish line at 9:51 local time yesterday morning. As the foghorn blew, and the voice came over the radio saying, “Congratulations Ruby Rose, you have completed the ARC!” I think it’s fair to say that although we had mixed emotions, relief was a definite front runner.

Is that land I see?!

Is that land I see?!

Our first glimpse of land!

Saint Lucia!

But let me start at the beginning. I’m warning you, this could stretch out into a fairly long post- but I’m hoping my captivating prose will hold your interest.

So, the night of Saturday the 21st (my god, that’s a long time ago now), we went out for pizza and pasta at the local bar, and then retired to bed early. Nick and I had gone past nervousness, past dread, past excitement, and were now like, “Right, can we just get going now?” I think the fact that we slept like babies all night indicates just how relaxed we were feeling. Unbelievable, really- I thought I’d have a sleepless night for sure. But no, after weeks of planning and stressing, it seemed that we’d reached our limit, and we just passed out.

Sunday morning: the Big Day! We woke up to rain, which wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for, and although the sun started to shine through during the morning, it looked like a cool and blustery day. We knew we were looking at about 20-25 knots of wind, so we were prepared for that.

Up and down the pontoons last minute preparations were taking place and everyone was slowly getting ready to leave. We’d been told to leave the marina between 11 and 1pm, and so Nick and I decided to wait until the majority of the boats cleared out before dropping our mooring lines ourselves. This gave us a great opportunity to wave off Eurpaxia (John and Sandra) and Belafonte (Tim and Magda). There was a real carnival atmosphere as a band was playing and foghorns were… hooting?… and everyone was grinning like maniacs and wishing everyone else good luck, and we’ll see you on the other side!!

Eventually, Nick and I looked at each other. “Shall we go, then?” Hell yes!! It was time to depart on our Atlantic crossing.

We motored out of the harbour- no turning back now, this is it!!- and suddenly the atmosphere was less jovial and more… grey, wet and windy. And choppy. Lots of chop.

Nick: “So that’s why Chris (the ARC meteorologist) had his wet weather gear on…”

200 boats were crammed into the outer harbour, trying not to hit each other and negotiate the swell and wind at the same time. It was a relief when 1pm rolled around so we could get our sails up and turn so the wind was coming from behind us. We barely registered that we’d officially began- we were too busy holding on and desperately trying to think if we stowed everything correctly!

Well, that day was a bit of a doozy. Our previous record for speed was 11.6 knots. We smashed that within a couple of hours to a fairly impressive 15 knots as we surfed down a particularly big wave. Now, I hate trying to guess swell height, but I’m going to go ahead and say the waves were probably around 6 metres. We also lost some fruit out of the nets in the cockpit, and, devastatingly, our bean bag from the side deck! How was I going to do all my lounging around on the foredeck now!?

After about an hour’s sail we entered the aptly named ‘wind acceleration zone’. Yep, the wind accelerated alright! 40 knots to be exact. We just kept holding on and hoping that once we were away from the islands (which wreak havoc with the local weather conditions by popping up out of a thousand meters of water in the middle of nowhere), everything would just settle down.

Well, it took about 3 days for the weather to settle, but that first day was definitely the worst. We kept 3 reefs in for those first few days (and still managed to do about 160 miles per 24 hours), and when we were suddenly becalmed on day 4, it came as something of a relief.

Day 2- we've got a long way to go!

Day 2- we’ve got a long way to go!

Finally, we were able to sleep!! Finally, we were able to cook a meal, have a shower, put the fishing line out, drink a cup of tea without it going everywhere. We were making very little progress, but who cares! The water was the most amazing cobalt blue, we had dolphins (briefly- they didn’t really seem too fussed by our presence), we could finally shed out wet weather gear- life was good!

We- and by ‘we’ I mean Nick- took advantage of these benign conditions to rewire the hydrogenerator. After all that fuss getting the thing delivered to Las Palmas, then installing it, then having the Watt and Sea guy tell us we’d installed it wrong and spending a day with Nick fixing it, it was only putting out 4 amps instead of the expected 10. So, Nick, John and Neil spent a few happy hours with their heads in the nooks and crannies where the wires go rewiring the thing. Basically the regulator needed to be moved so it was right next to the batteries, and a different (er, thicker? I don’t know) wire needed to be used. Nick was like, “Oh, it’s so good to have someone on board who knows how to do wiring!” Knock yourself out, boys.

Always something to fix! This time- the bin latch.

Always something to fix! This time- the bin latch.

We also caught some fish. After we landed our first dorado we had a quick conference and decided to never leave John alone with a hammer and a fish ever again. Perhaps he’s got some pent up anger he needs to work through, I don’t know, but after Nick stunned the poor little fishy, he asked me to go and grab his filleting knife. At that moment the fish gave the most feeble twitch imaginable, and John’s response was to take up Nick’s discarded hammer and bring it down on the fish’s head with all his might. There was a moment of stunned silence, then:

Nick: “What the hell…!”

John: “It was still wriggling!”

Nick: “It was stunned! I was just about to chop its head off!”

John: “I was helping…”

Nick: “Geez, it looks like something out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre over here…”

Me: “Uh, Nick? You’ve got some fish blood on your face. And your neck. And all over your t-shirt.”

We also caught a massive dorado, it probably weighed at least 10 kilos, probably more, but Nick and John were so trigger happy with that knife that they were half way through filleting it before I had the chance to emerge with my camera. They offered me a shot of its head, which I declined, so you’ll have to make do with some pics of the filleting process instead.

Filleting fish off the back of our boat!

Filleting fish off the back of our boat!

The first day of lighter winds we decided to bring out The Beast- i.e., the Parasailor. Before leaving Las Palmas we had (okay, okay, Nick had) changed the run of the spinnaker lines through the mast on the advice of the Parasailor Man, and what do you know, 3 hours after hoisting the thing there’s a shout from on deck. I look out the window to see our huge red kite slowly toppling backwards into the sea like a felled tree. Panic ensued, but we miraculously got it back on board without any tears, back into its snuffer sock without it getting all twisted up, hoisted and then flying again all within a couple of hours. Turned out that the line had chaffed through. When we got into Saint Lucia we accosted Parasailor Man only moments after jumping off the boat.

Parasailor Man: “Hey guys! Congratulat-”

Nick: “You!! Your advice was absolute shit. Our spinnaker line chaffed through in 3 hours thanks to your advice!”

Parasailor Man: “Er… huh?”

Nick: “Yeah! 3 hours it lasted! Thanks very much!”

Parasailor Man: “Well, it would have chaffed through the way you had it originally…”

Nick: “We flew the Parasailor for 2 years like that without any problems. 3 hours!!”

Parasailor Man just kind of backs away. I mean, what can you say? We’re just grateful that we were able to retrieve it without any tears (the type that rhymes with bears, not the type that rhymes with cheers… although that too!).

Sunset sailing with our Parasailor

Sunset sailing with our Parasailor

Sooo, Parasailor worked well after that. We flew it for a couple of days, including leaving it up at night, but once the wind starting building to 20 knots again a few days later, we took it down and just poled out the jib. We ended up sailing goose winged for most of the crossing, actually. The winds were just too strong most of the time for anything else.

So, what did we actually DO during the Atlantic crossing? Well, we’d usually do a gybe once a day, especially during the final week. We realised that we couldn’t actually sail directly downwind with our sail configuration: the main wouldn’t tolerate deeper than 160-170 degrees to the wind, which was a pain when we wanted to go west and the wind was coming directly from the east. But, having looked at our track now we’re in, we didn’t do too badly. We think we added about 100 miles to our course, which is the equivalent of about 16 hours.

Day 4- still in our wet weather gear but smiling!

Day 4- still in our wet weather gear but smiling!

Anyway, where was I? So, generally the day would start at 12am. Yes, am. I would be up for my watch until 2am, sleep til 8am, then another 2 hour watch. The first week or so, it would be light by the time I got up. By day 21, the sun was rising at 10am.

After cereal and instant coffee for breakfast, we’d generally sit around doing some reading, or I’d put the bread on for lunch, or Nick would start on his list of things to fix. We’d usually do emails in the morning, and receiving correspondence from my mother and sister was a boost- especially as they were keeping us up to date with our position in our group. (We finished 6th out of 18 in our class, which we don’t think was a bad effort considering how conservatively we were sailing most of the time.) At 12pm we would have the SSB net for about half an hour which gave us an opportunity to check in with the surrounding boats and discuss any issues, ask questions, compare notes and get advice. Then, lunch. Then, a few hours of fixing things, or, if we were lucky, reading and working on our tans. Dinner started off being just stuff we could reheat, but depending on the weather and availability of provisions, could get quite complicated at times. We had Sunday roasts, home-made chicken pie complete with home-made shortcrust pastry (that was mine… never again on a moving boat!), sweet and sour dorado, shepherd’s pie, breaded veal with ratatouille (the look on John’s face when I presented him with a vegetable stew… bless!), as well as a couple of cakes and freshly baked bread once we got the hydrogenerator up and running.

Sailing goose winged

Sailing goose winged

SSB time

SSB time

It was funny, the first week I was quite bored. Our pace of life had been so hectic in the lead up to our departure, and I was thinking, “What the hell am I going to do on this boat for 3 weeks?!” Interesting that my main concern was how I would entertain myself rather than any issues that we might encounter with the conditions or our boat. I just had faith, I guess, that we’d done so much preparation and had considered how we would cope if certain things went wrong, that we’d be able to just deal with any problems. And we did! We didn’t thrash the boat, we just sailed comfortably without much consideration given to speed. We had a standing order that everyone wore lifejackets and were clipped on at all times if they weren’t down below. We reefed down most nights in case of squalls, especially after a few memorable early-hours encounters with all of us up on deck trying to reef the main and jib, bleary eyed and trying to communicate primarily with grunts.

Dolphins!

Dolphins!

Reaching half-way was a momentous occasion and we celebrated with steak and a small glass of red. The next milestone was less than 1000 miles to go, and time really started to slow down at this point. We started getting word that ARC boats were starting to arrive in St Lucia and we were suddenly desperate to get over that finish line ourselves.

Squalls on the horizon

Squalls on the horizon

Sunset at sea

Sunset at sea

Chillin'

Chillin’

Sunrise at sea

Sunrise at sea

I woke up for my 8am watch on Sunday morning (which is really about 4am Saint Lucian time) and was greeted by a double glow on the horizon: Martinique and, just beyond, Saint Lucia. The sun slowly came up and the sky went from black to deep blue, to grey, to lavender, then finally a golden blue as the sun peeked over the horizon. The lights from the islands disappeared, to be replaced by a faint mountainous outline in the distance. Slowly that indistinct shape solidified into green-capped mountains and we were delighted when we finally heard a reassuring Canadian voice over the radio saying, “Ruby Rose, this is the ARC finish line…”

Our last sunrise

Our last sunrise

After 3 weeks at sea, what's the first thing everyone does when we spot land? Get their phones out, of course

After 3 weeks at sea, what’s the first thing everyone does when we spot land? Get their phones out, of course

Putting our flags back up before our arrival

Putting our flags back up before our arrival

My expression when we sighted land!

My expression when we sighted land!

We rounded the northern tip of the island and saw the yellow buoy and orange flagged boat that marked the two points of the finish line. We had all changed into our crisp white polo shirts, and were looking pretty smart if I do say so myself. As we crossed the finish line, we heard the foghorn and erupted into cheers.

Rounding the northern tip of Saint Lucia

Rounding the northern tip of Saint Lucia

Nick's smiling!

Nick’s smiling!

A dinghy suddenly appeared and it was John and Sandra with their crew Miles and Phil! I just wanted to leap right into that dinghy and give them a hug, but I managed to restrain myself for a few minutes more: they led us up the channel leading to the marina and locating our berth was easy- there were a few ‘yellow shirts’ waving us in and, to our surprise, a little welcoming committee! Neil’s wife Viv was there with her sister-in-law and her husband, our friends from Belafonte were there and by the time John and co had clambered out of their dinghy, they were also waiting on the pontoon. Usually we check all our lines and fenders before jumping off the boat, and ensure we’ve got everything in its right place- not this time! I just trusted that the yellow shirts and Neil and John had done everything correctly and, as soon as the transom was within leaping distance of the pontoon, I was off! Lots of hugs and well wishes ensued and once we were all off the boat Nick got the champagne out of the fridge and we celebrated properly. Rum punch was soon thrust into our waiting hands- I nearly choked it was so strong, but boy did I need a stiff drink- and we babbled incoherently (or maybe that was just me) for an hour or so with our mates before getting on with the process of checking in.

I cannot put into words what a sense of achievement we all feel for crossing the Atlantic ocean. Just to put things into some perspective, among the many incidents that took place amongst the ARC boats, the most serious include a medical evacuation, an amputated finger, a dismasting and a boat that actually sunk. The crew were thankfully rescued by a cargo ship a couple of hours before the boat went under. That doesn’t include the plethora of broken equipment and boat parts, ranging from the annoying (i.e., broken autopilot) to the more serious (i.e., masts coming down, goosenecks breaking, sails tearing, etc). There are as many problems as there are boats. So for us to have no issues that couldn’t be speedily fixed at sea, and for everyone to arrive safe and happy is an achievement that shouldn’t be understated, and I feel mighty proud of all of us, especially Nick who worked twice as hard as anybody else on board and took on all the stress and responsibility in addition to that.

So, the obvious question is, would I do it again? That was the first thing Viv asked me as I jumped off the boat, and even I was a little surprised at the strength of my answer: “ABSOLUTELY!!”

Just need a little rest first. Oh, look, we’re in the Caribbean! This will do nicely.