Well, to be truthful it was a couple of days ago, but we have had a lot of recovery time and also Nick, deserved to enjoy Martinique as much as possible before he had to disappear off back to New Zealand.
Nick, came to be the third crew member on the boat and for the “Epic” Adventure. Not sure if we managed Epic but we certainly managed adventure and nearly 3000Nm (5556Km) of open ocean sailing.
He proved himself so very useful and reliable and despite suffering some seasickness during the first few days, he was always there and able to be relied upon.
Thanks Nick!!! Hope the whole thing gave you as much as you gave us.
It was great to spend so much time together and building memories.
So 11pm local time (GMT-4) at night on the 10th of Jan, we arrived into St Anne Anchorage in the dark after 15 days at sea and some solid offshore sailing to get us from Mindelo to Martinique.
We had originally intended to depart Mindelo earlier but the weather held us there, whilst boats kept arriving and staying at Mindelo. The day we left, a few other boats left and even more in the following days as the weather settled down more and more.
We had a plan and it involved pushing the weather envelope a bit, early on, so that we could get Nick to his flights out of Martinique on the 14th.
This meant we would have a rougher 4-5 days to start and then it would settle down a little for the remainder of the trip.
We had planned on sailing the Rhum line until the swell and winds were too much and then heading south for a while to put them behind us until they passed and then return to the Rhum line.
This would mean we would sail the shortest distance, very important on a 2100Nm journey and also would allow us to “have room” to run south if need be.
It pretty much, went according to plan.
Sailing out of Mindelo it was quiet and peaceful for the first hour or so and then in the distance we could see galloping white horses charging across the horizon from the north toward us and sure enough a short time later we were in very strong winds and building seas.
The seas were confused and getting bigger and bigger. Mostly around 3m in height a few exceeded 5m in the first few days and on the 4 or 5th day we turned south as they got really big (upwards of 6m for some of them) and put them behind us.
This mean we were surfing our fat arse girl and hit 12kts often, sliding down the front of these waves as they forced their way underneath us.
The noise this made was horrendous, as waves broke under the boat, triggered either by one hull and breaking on the other, or by both hulls and breaking under the bridge deck creating a sort of slap under our feet. Sleeping was a real problem. Poor Nick with a combination of seasickness and not being used to the noises a catamaran can make at sea, was struggling with sleep but we all were to some degree.
But the really big stuff only lasted a day and we were back to 3m swells which were moving around behind us.
Those first few days the winds were too strong (20-30kts continuously) and on our rear quarter so we only had the Genoa out and left the main tucked away in its bag. We had no desire to get caught with too much sail up or get pressed, which is pretty easy to do with a catamaran, and were still making good speed and time.
We expected to be slightly slower in those first few days because of the swell and because it was not actually pushing us in the right direction to start with.
Back to the Rhum line
Then as it eased off it also came around to the East and therefore behind our passage. It eased off and we were able to get out our Asymmetric spinnaker. A light wind sail that tops out at about 15kts AWS, we had to be careful with it as the AWS was always around 10-13kts with our boat speed pulling the TWS down from 18-20kts.
We even sailed wing on wing a reasonable amount but again we had to be careful the wind didn’t get up too quickly and we had to de-power all this overnight as the Squalls would march through and randomly double or triple our wind speeds.
It became a mantra of the captain, who regretted not being able to buy a parasailor or other high wind spinnaker for the trip, that we could have cut 3 days off easily with such a sail and been more relaxed as the watchful eye had to be kept continually on the Asym and the AWS and some days it was up and down like a Hawes draws!!! Credit to the crew who became so well practiced at setting and dropping complex sail plans in minutes!!!!
But we were getting along ok. The swells were still quite “robust” and the boat quite noisy because the sea was not a single swell but a confusion of swells and a side swell, in particular was bashing into the hulls and occasionally crashing up between the hulls.
Freak Wave Alert
About 4/5ths of the way across we had another short period where the wind and swell got very excited and we had to endure some bigger waves. Less than before with only a couple getting above 4m but they were shorter period and so a little less comfortable. This only lasted for 24 hour or so and we were back to reasonably comfortable sailing again.
We were well warned of these by our shore crew; thank you guys!!! and so were prepared for the mayhem that ensued.
But right in the middle of that 24 hour period we had our only real fright. THE FREAK WAVE!!!
We were sailing, quite comfortably in 3m swells directly behind us and we were all sitting down stairs, I think having just finished a meal. Then suddenly the sky went dark like the sun had set and a moment later we were thrown off our seats and poor Waiata was tossed up onto an angle never before achieved and things went flying.
I rushed up to the Helm, although in truth it was a crawl rather than a run and just as I arrived I saw the wave moving out in front of us as we slide down into the trough. Fortunately it was then that it started breaking and crashing into white water. We had missed the worse of it, but caught it at near its steepest.
The breaking crest of the wave was about my body length above our Radar dome that is fitted on our first spreaders. This is quite a long way up the mast and a good distance up from sea level. This was definitely the biggest wave we had seen let alone sailed across at any time. We would guess 7-8m but it would be a guess.
The mast height of Waiata is 23m from the waterline and the first spreader is about 1/3 of this distance, perhaps a little more. So conservatively, I am guessing, 7m to the radar and then my body length is almost 2m above that. It was enough to make all of us a little nervous.
Freak waves occur when multiple waves converge to create an even bigger peak, and they are a peak not a rolling wave, so being hit by one is a little like winning the lottery, you have to be in exactly the right place at the right time, or is that wrong place? anyway, we consoled ourselves with the fact that our once in a lifetime event was unlikely to ever happen to us again and we were still afloat and undamaged.
Parker (as in the Chauffeur from “The Thunder Birds”; our autopilot) had steered us through it without help and had managed to keep us in the right direction, mostly, at 14.4Kts (our speed recorded as we surfed the first part of the wave!!!!). We had done nothing other than roll around and observe that Parker had it all under control.
But life aboard was not all drama and big seas!!!
Shortly after this life returned to normal for the remainder of the passage and the winds and swell settled down into the 15-20kts range and 2-2.5m. It also cleaned up and life got a lot quieter onboard.
We managed to get some fishing done and there are some great fishing stories to be told and stretched I am sure, but here you can see that not all of them will need exaggerating. This was one of two, with me and Nick having both hooked up with Mr and Mrs Mahi Mahi of the same size at the same time!!!!
Party and relax
Nick is a DJ part time and couldn’t do a trip like this without sounds, so had brought along some cool mixing gear and in the quiet times we had a DJ party rocking along through the boats sound system and were well entertained.
We also have a NAS (Network Attached storage) on the boat, full of movies and TV series as well as a bunch of DVD’s that Nick had brought along so life was not all hard work on our crossing I can tell you!!
I just want to be still
But you are travelling, across a big ocean that is known for its weather and you are never still, never able to just stand and get dressed. “boat tattoos”, bruises from bashing into door handles or such like are common. its does get weary and you do long for the movement to stop.
Being a member of the silly walks brigade and not knowing, at any time, where you might stop once you start walking, are all part of the very challenging environment and that first sight of land is longed for because it means you’ll soon be still and able to sleep a full nights rest.
On the afternoon of the 10th land was finally sighted and it was only about 8 hours later ( yes 8 hour final arrivals are all part of sailing) that we rounded the final turn and in pitch black with all our skills at full volume, our radar scratching out a picture, forward looking sonar warning us of changing depths and both Connie and Nick on “watch” into the darkness to avoid unlit boats, we finally scrabbled into St Anne anchorage and let Bertha (our Anchor) together with Bobbie our Anchor buoy off the hook and out into the wild for the first time in 15 days.
Anchor beers, conclusions and debriefs.
We of course were exhausted, but we were also relieved and had a great sense of achievement. We were never going to rush off to bed and grab seriously needed sleep, we instead broke out the beer and Kiwi dip and chips and indulged in an Anchor beer, a tradition on Waiata, and an informal debrief of the journey.
The consensus was that it was NOT a walk in the park, but also that the Atlantic had been kind to us. Throwing us alot, but never more than we or Waiata could cope with. We were also filled with pride at how well Parker (The autopilot) and Waiata had carried us through 15 days of swell and wind without any breakages or failures and in safety even when challenged.
More importantly there was a feeling that the journey had been more as a family than as a distance and Nick, Connie and I had grown and built deeper understanding of each other and a sense of pride in each other. Nick was very proud of what his mother was capable of and her adventurous spirit. I was very proud of Nicks abilities and how fast he learnt, but even more in his calm ability to push through alot of seasickness, stay peaceful and be great company. Connie was just proud of her men and thoroughly spoilt us all with amazing dinners cooked in the most turbulent of kitchens.
But most of all, I think we all felt a deep trust in each other and that will last beyond a little ocean crossing , hopefully across a whole life time.
We’ve Arrived, what next???
Well first thing is a BIG THANK YOU TO OUR SHORE TEAM. They really did us proud and it was so lovely to have their support and for them to join us, albeit virtually.
Matt, Roger, Mike and Alex, we are forever indebted to you and look forward to the next time we get to share some beers with you all.
As for us? what now? well there is the Caribbean to explore and also we had some wonderful news upon our arrival and that might really change our plans.
Stay tuned as we spend the next wee while. working out where to now. The world seems a smaller place now we know we can cross an entire ocean and not even start an engine the whole way!!!!!
May your lives have as much fullness as our own and joy be some thing of the norm in your own journey through life and the occasional ocean.
Congratulations and well done to the three of you – what a trip!
Thanks Chris. It sure has been one helluva ride so far, but grandparenting is also a gift.
We hope to see Waiata in a short time frame head on home for real face time.