Sister's Journal

Date: 13.February.2000
Location: Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
Position: 14 degrees 05 minutes North, 60 degrees 57 minutes West
Crossing the Atlantic
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 individual containers.
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! 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 return.
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 fantastic!
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 describe.
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 our arrival.
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, 1999.
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. 
The Weather we had during the crossing
The Start of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers
Answers to questions people ask us
Man overboard

Chuck and Andy glad to be aboard Sister in St. Lucia - Simply Beautiful, West Indies


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