|As a Brit might say "in actual fact"
we've completed the crossing, been home for nearly two months
and are now back on board Sister in St. Lucia. I have no excuses
for waiting this long to produce the final report of the
millennium so I won't offer any. As you probably know by now this
is a long report. I tried to break it up into a couple of smaller
reports but I didn't like the way it worked out. Soooo, sorry
about the tome, but then you can pick and choose what you want
to read. (Subsequent to writing the original report I did in fact
break it up for the web site).
|I won't bore you with many details regarding
the final preparations for departure, except to say that the last
week or so in Las Palmas was a real pain in the butt. It seemed
like we were never going to get enough food on board. We bought
most the food at a local supermarket who conveniently delivered
it in boxes directly to Sister in the marina. We bought fruits and vegetables
at the Las Palmas central market; ripe stuff for short term consumption
and green stuff, including an entire "pinion" of green
bananas, to have later in the trip.
|Since cockroaches lay their eggs in cardboard
we decided not to take any aboard. We took all the groceries out
of the boxes on the dock and packed them onto the boat in their
|Since all kinds of disgusting things live
in and on some fruits and vegetables we unpacked and washed, sometimes
with a bleach solution, every piece of fruit and vegetable. We
did this on the dock before loading any of it on to Sister. Our
friends whom we'd met in Las Palmas and who have been circumnavigating
for the past fine years brought groceries in cardboard boxes on
board and brought their fruits and vegetables right on board without
washing. They were so efficient shopping and stowing that they
had plenty of time to come over to Sister and be entertained by
us as we jumped through all of our hoops.
|FINALLY! November 21 and time to go. FINALLY!
|The start of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers
is run much like the start of any sailboat race. Check it out
here then use your browsers Back button to
|Go south! That's what Stokey told us at
the weather meeting. Stokey has crossed the Atlantic 24 times
so he should know. Stokey said that one has a better chance of
picking up the easterly (blowing from the east) trade winds if
one goes south a few hundred miles before turning west (or southwest)
toward St. Lucia. Well, ol' Stokey looked and sounded like he
knew what he was talking about so we went south. Actually quite
a few boats went south. South, south, south, until we were almost
on the west going African coast near the Cape Verde Islands. The
sailing was great, we were making 150 miles/day even if we weren't
pointed in the right direction.
|Everyday at a predetermined time, some of
the ARC boats conducted a roll call via medium frequency radio.
Each control boat was responsible to poll boats in their "group"
and each boat in that group was obliged to report it's position,
weather and the number of hours and miles they had used their
engine for. Early on people were madly recording the position
of every boat in their group to determine just how they were doing
in the "race".
|So, each day we observed that as we headed
south most of the boats in our group headed southwest more or
less directly toward St. Lucia (they were following a "rhumb
line" to St. Lucia). Playing the wise skipper I assured the
crew that we were headed south to pick up the "trades".
As long as we were making such good progress the crew sort of
went along with the program.
|On or about the fourth day the wind went
away. I was determined to sail the entire voyage without using
the engine so we drifted. As we drifted Marilyn got out our chart
of the Atlantic and observed that we were virtually in Africa.
The daily position/weather reports indicated that the rest of
the fleet was without wind and wallowing as well. However, since
they had followed the rhumb line toward St. Lucia they were wallowing
a couple hundred miles closer to St. Lucia than we were. I noted
the first signs of crew discontent.
|We had drifted a couple of days more when
I noted signs of skipper discontent. Then, "To hell with
this wallow-drifting we're gonna motor". The daily reports
indicated that more and more of the boats had come to the same
conclusion. For the rest of the voyage we had no compunction about
starting the engine. By the time we reached St. Lucia we had motored
a total of 88 hours.
|As we progressed I noted that crew discontent
was pretty much inversely related to the amount of progress we
were making. The more progress, the less discontent and vice versa.
It didn't matter how well fed they were, how nice the weather
was, how good the fishing was or how cool it was to be out there.
What mattered was to make progress toward our destination. We
definitely had not yet embraced the "the journey is the objective"
philosophy. We never did.
|Due to the lack of wind all the boats took
longer that anticipated to make the crossing. Many boats ran out
fuel, food, water and, perhaps worst of all, beer. As many as
5-6 days from St. Lucia we heard boats begging for fuel. Several
boats had to be towed into the marina at St. Lucia because they
had no fuel. Sister has significant fuel capacity and, as the
gauge neared the quarter tank mark we got pretty miserly in terms
of fuel consumption. I wanted to arrive in St. Lucia with something
near an eighth tank of fuel left and we did.
|Finishing the crossing was Awesome! About three days from St. Lucia we began
to get a few hours of sailing each day. As we got closer the wind
got better. The last 15 hours or so we were on a mission. Sister
was smokin ... like a horse returning to the barn ... like a dog
chasing a cat ... like a salmon returning to the river ... like
a homing pigeon returning home, she ate up the miles ... it was
|At noon on Sunday, December 12, I estimated
that we had 24 hours to go. Later that day it really got good.
Sister took a bone in her teeth and headed home. By 0300 on November
21 the lights of St. Lucia were in sight. By 0330 or so everyone,
except Dave, was on deck. Dave appeared an hour or so later. Wanda
the wandering autopilot was steering and Andy and Marilyn both
were convinced that she was going to steer us on to the rocks
at the north end of St. Lucia. Wanda's wandering course often
makes you think she's lost her mind but, in the end, she always
hits the mark. For me, approaching St. Lucia at that time in the
morning, after 22 days and some 3000 miles at sea was sublime.
A very personal experience, one that I don't think I can adequately
|As per event rules we contacted ARC personnel
by VHF radio to tell them that our arrival was eminent.
|We passed the north end of St. Lucia at
approximately 0530, ran off a mile or so to make sure we cleared
the island then jibed to point Sister south and east, directly
at Rodney Bay. A few minutes later, Sister still straining her
rigging, we crossed the finish line. One end of the finish line
was a buoy. The other end was a sailboat with a couple of ARC
employees on board. These folks, or their substitutes were there
24 hours a day to ensure that every boat that finished got a proper
finishing horn as they crossed the line. We took the horn, sailed
on toward the entrance to the marina then dropped the sails and
motored into the marina. Inside more ARC personnel were waiting
to direct us to a slip and, most importantly, to deliver rum punches,
a liter of St. Lucian rum and an assortment of other goodies.
As we passed the ARC boats in the marina who had already finished,
the sailors, at least those who were awake at this hour, cheered
|December 13, 1999 at 0600, a full six hours
earlier than our estimate just the day before, we were tied to
the dock in Rodney Bay Marina drinking rum punches and feeling
pretty damned good.
|Before we left home, Lee and
Mary Sue Pendleton gave us a bon voyage party. We took a chart
of the North Atlantic to the party. On the chart we had traced
our planned route and estimated dates for various legs of the
trip from Sweden to Portugal, the Canaries then across to St.
Lucia. Our estimated date for arrival in St. Lucia? December 13,
|Some 244 boats participated. We were the
121st boat to finish ... right smack in the middle. For the five
days that we stayed in St. Lucia before coming home for the holidays
there was a steady stream of boats finishing the crossing. Except
for those that finished at ridiculous hours, each and every one
got the same reception we did. Finishing horn cheers from the
sailors that had already finished, a welcoming committee at the
dock with sirens, rum punches and gifts. When we left Saturday,
December 18 here were still more than 40 boats at sea.
|Epilogue: In order to make this report a little less tome
like I made separate pages of portions of it. Press the following
links to read about.
Chuck and Andy glad to be aboard Sister
in St. Lucia - Simply Beautiful, West Indies