15th april – the Atlantic crossing

A month since we arrived! Already! About time I put into words our journey here. The epic to end all epics? Hmm…well we have definitely arrived. And in rapid time. There were no medical emergencies. No collisions with a whale. No boat failure. No injuries or sickness. No fouled water or insufficient food. No catastrophe. We made it! But it almost feels irrelevant now that we are here, launching into the next phase of our other-side-of-the-pond lives. Job done.

And what a job it was. Successful, but hard. We finally left the Cape Verde Islands at 12 noon on Monday 2 March. As always, we had assumed a daily run of between 100-120 miles a day and had thus given ourselves 18-21 days to sail the 2110 miles to Antigua. As it turned out, our lowest days run was 124 miles though typically, we did 134+ per day. One day we recorded 153!!! We rocketed by. Oh that wind! The crossing took 16 days and 4 hours. Our average speed was 5.5 knots-fast for this old banger. Comparable speeds to plastic light production boats. We arrived at 1600 hours on Wednesday 18 March.

The crossing was fast but tough. The trade wind, balmy, blue sky sailing which I had been led to believe typified the best of Atlantic sailing, was not ours. At least not until the last week. For the first ten days we had strong winds, big seas, mammoth swell. We had exactly what we hoped we would not have, endurance on the edge sailing. That is not to say it was not worth it. We learnt much. Mainly that we are a family that can. That we have a boat that can. I am proud of this.

As to our expectations being met? From the day we left the UK, my mind was fixed on this crossing. My main concerns always were firstly how cranky the kids might be for three weeks at sea and how would we keep them entertained and sail the boat etc. Secondly, how rolly and uncomfortable the motion would be. As it turned out we had happy kids (phew) who entertained themselves mostly. As for the motion, the rolling did not seem to be an issue (thanks to being on a broad reach with our storm jib, put high and sheeted flat). Or maybe I’d just become immune to such motion. Who knows. All I can say is the things I worried about, we’re not an issue at all. The things I gave no thought to, were huge issues. Water. Salty water. On deck, in the cabin, everywhere. Wet bed, wet bedding. Salty, sticky, damp. Arghhh!

The headline for this passage reads ‘strong wind, big waves, heavy swell, wet boat’. Funnily enough despite this, I never really felt fear or frustration about the situation as I had on previous crossings. I do recall very vividly that for the first ten days the words rumbling through my head were ‘no one can get hurt, no one can get hurt. I was acutely aware that we were entirely on our own, should anything ‘bad’ happen as I moved about the boat clearing toys cum trip hazards cum missiles that could cause a problem.

The forecast we left port with, promised 15 knot wind for at least 7 days. It was the forecast we wanted. Else we would never have left. I had accepted that at some point during the three week crossing we could be hit by strong winds/waves/swell, regardless of the forecast. I’ve learnt that forecasting can only get you so far. I took the view that sailing such a distance was in many respects a leap of faith. I was mentally prepared for a strong blow at some point. However I never imagined that the first weeks forecast would get it so wrong and that that blow would come so soon. Neither perhaps had the other four boats who left port the same day as us.

We knew the first day would be a bit blowy as we passed between the islands’ accelerated wind zones. We assumed that once through those zones, we would enjoy the 15 knot forecast. We had sun, a good breeze, white caps. All was ok. I felt huge excitement and pride. As I read to Ben all the good luck messages downloaded at the last wifi moment, wishing us love and luck, an enormous surge of emotion hit me and spilled out of my eyes…I can pinpoint this emotional torrent to my reading aloud the good wishes of one friend who described us as ‘the bravest little family’. No sooner had those words exited my mouth did my throat seize and tears prick my eyes. I felt she was right. As I blubbed happily in the cockpit I had this overwhelming feeling that this brave little family would rise to the challenge. I couldn’t believe we were doing what we said we would do. Backed by all our family and friends. Every second was poignant and vivid.

Within 3 hours we got a reality check. We were slammed with 25 knot wind (gusting more). That was poignant and vivid too. Big waves. Gale force seas. We had wind switching from north east (trade wind) to fluky south west. Wind against wave…I could see waves being blown backwards! Spray everywhere. It was very blowy indeed. We had to reef quickly which I found difficult as I tried to cling to the boat with my feet whilst my feeble hand tried to pull down the main sail to the reefing point. Then soon after the storm jib broke free of the lashings securing it to the piston hanks (clips used to attach sail to rigging). It was intent on losing itself to the sea. Ben arm wrestled it back on deck whilst I dropped it via the halyard. Not easy as I was more concerned with trying to avoid the sheet (another rope tied to the jib), which was wildly and violently flying around where I was crouched. All I could see was a malicious snake of a rope jumping S shaped, with force, hissing and threatening to take my eye out. As I looked up from my position forward of the mast, on all fours, all I could see was a wild sea, growling. Whilst the wind cast giant fluid ripples on the sea’s surface reminding me of marbled paint. Then a wave crashed over the deck, snapping me out of my ponderings. This was to be the first of many, setting the mood for the next ten days.

That first night was a night of firsts. Shelves that had never been emptied, were. Three times the nav station shelf crammed tight with all our reference books was dumped on the floor. BAM went the wave and CRASH went the books. Both Ben and I stared at the floor in utter disbelief. Then at each other. That first night the portholes in the foc’s’le started leaking. Streams of water coming through onto the bed. Highly unnerving. This had also never happened before. The portholes were as tight shut as they could be and yet the water insisted on bedding down in our bed! We were firefighting so soon after leaving port. Everything we did not want, we got. Even Ben felt queasy, another first.

By the following morning the theme was decidedly ‘wet’. Foc’s’le soaked. A third of the boat, the playpen, simply out of action. Alfi’s car seat, drenched from sloppy waves which gave themselves up on our deck. A wave even splashed on my head whilst cooking in the galley. Never had I considered we would have water inside the cabin! In total over the next ten days I got three galley dousings, (the galley taking five)! Wet hair, wet clothes, salt salt salt-bah! Enough to elicit instant aimless fury which could only boomerang back on me. The sea cares not that it spilled itself on you, silly you for putting yourself in its path.

Even poor Olive got a bedtime soaking. One night during my watch, around 3am, I heard her cry ‘water water’ and I saw her sat bolt upright dripping wet. A wave had somehow forced its way in through the (locked) skylight and sploshed plumb on her head. We washed her down with warm water and within minutes she cuddled up with bunny and daddy in the saloon behind a lee cloth. That kid is no sissy…she was asleep within minutes and never complained. Meanwhile, I tried to silence the maternal guilt washing over me with some logic and reason…wasn’t a bit of water inside the boat inevitable? I mean to travel over hundreds and millions of tonnes of water, a bit of water here and there…? Logic 10 – Maternal guilt – 12.

As for the wind, well it remained at a steady 20-25 knots for ten days straight! My personal journal entries up to day 10 make repeated reference to it. Day 2 journal entry is typical of how things were; ‘…still gusting. Now doing 7 knots. Holding course. Staying below reading Trafalgar. Nelson is done for.’

Day 5 entry reads ‘Night watch. 2230 hours. Ben still up, he shouldn’t be. Wind gusting. Doing 6-7 knots. Boat rocketing by. Bit on edge. Cautiously nervous. Reluctant for Ben to go to bed but keep telling him too. We depend on him being rested. Girls fine, as always.’

Day 7 journal entry ‘Still 20 knots of wind. Boat holding her own. No new leaks. Old ones leaking less. Waves crashing on deck. Feeling edgy, nervous. Forecasting-pah! 15 knots they said…’

We didn’t need a gadget to tell us the wind speed (not that we had one of course), our flag told us everything we needed to know. For ten consecutive days it was ironed flat against the sky having not a ripple in it. It was as if it was made of cardboard. As I scrolled through all our photos of the first ten days, the flag is a red rectangle, with all four corners sharp and equidistant from each other. A visible reminder of just how unflagging and indefatigable that wind was.

The sea was big. I’m not bragging, it is just how it was. There were times I’d be looking up to waves, as expletives filled my thoughts. Not to mention the physics which also mess with your head. You know that boats will float but…my journal entry for day 7 reads ‘I looked up today at a cresting wave. My head was bent backwards.’ Frequently the waves lifted us up and skewed the boat around like a spinning top which then surfed down the wave. I just held on and hoped for the best! Nonetheless with lively white caps as far as the eye could see it was difficult for either of us to relax. We never spoke of being tense. We acted like everything was ok. We got on with it. But it wasn’t really…day 9 journal entry reads ’25 knots and more. Strong wind. White caps all around. Feeling edgy. Can’t relax.’ And later ‘Saw some of the biggest swell today. 4 metres. Towering above us. Went below saying ho hum, literally…’

As for those waves, they were big and loose and rebellious. They loved our deck. Journal entry day 9 reads ‘Not too many waves on deck today. Though one licked its way over the transom and casually yet with precision, splashed neatly down the companionway on to my back. I would like it if this did not happen. Infuriating.’

The waves were also noisy. I’ll never forget their sound. As they slapped the hull they literally made a bang and a crash at which Ben and my eyes would meet whilst we waited either for a splosh on deck; the splosh to enter the boat; the boat to skew wildly under the forces involved or for all of the above to happen at the same time or for nothing startling to occur. Day 9 journal entry reads ‘Sea is hissing. I can hear her from inside the cabin. Spooked again.’

Weather; grey skies, look at the colourless photos! RAIN! We had rain! Who talks of rain when recalling their Atlantic crossing. No one! But wait, we are! Unbelievable…

These photos understate the size of things but to give you an idea…

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In the end, we just set the self steering and sails, went below and let the boat get on with it. What more could we do? And she did get on with it. Beautifully. For those who want the techy details; for the first 700 miles or so, we sailed under storm jib and mainsail (2 reef). But even that gave too much power. We slackened the mainsail so it resembled a baggy towel strewn over the rigging, but still that was too much sail. So down she came and during miles 700-1300 we sped by under our number three jib alone. No mainsail. Just that small jib. From 1300 miles (day 11) to port we reverted to a reefed mainsail and number three jib. Amazing really, all those miles enabled by some canvas and wind. As for navigation-we plotted our position twice a day (noon and midnight), following a westerly course. Every evening, venus shone the way being dead ahead.

Meanwhile we remained in the cabin with the girls who ransacked the boat each day having a whale of a time. Despite what was going on outside, it was not a case of doom and gloom. No the girls kept things cheery. I actually had some of the best family times I ever had rolling around the cabin floor with my giggling girls. Following Olive’s lead who immediately worked out the sensible place to be was, lying down on the floor. She was so right! I can honestly say I have never seen them so happy or relaxed anywhere, land or sea. I’m not saying that to make myself feel better, it is just a fact. We read stories and played ‘dressing up’ and let them get grubby and eat what they wanted.

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Olive started to make friends with Alfi as opposed to using her as a cushion. Everyday she called her a new name. Day 7 journal entry reads ‘Olive has started calling Alfi ‘Denzel’…?? And saying ‘where’s that little baby going…?’ as she watches Alfi crawl off with purpose. No idea where she found that name, not one we had used or mentioned…kids brains! As for Alfi, she started to give me unprompted kisses (more like a slobbering head but, no matter, I appreciated her affection). She also developed yet more independence when one day I looked around, could not see her, panicked thinking she had somehow got out on deck when lo and behold she poked her head out of the foc’s’le grinning and squeaking happily. Ergo; she had climbed the metre height to get into it, on her own! To get down she scrummaged with pillows so as to push them on to the floor. Backed over the edge, feet first, hung from her waist for a while like a giant salami before dropping down onto her soft landing pad to then crawl into the saloon looking for mischief. Both Ben and I were surprised that neither of them seemed the least perturbed by the conditions or the length of time at sea. There were no cries for land, or when will the boat stop or I don’t like this mummy. None. They had free reign of the cabin and behaved as if living at sea was totally normal. Day 9 journal entry reads ‘In foc’s’le, mid atlantic, sea walloping outside, watching bedtime iPad with Olive, hands up waving goodbye to the Waybuloos. Sheer madness.’

As for Ben and I, well we got on with what needed to be done. We quickly settled into a watch / childcare system. The boat ran like clockwork. Watch. Cook. Eat. Wash up. Play. Cook. Eat. Wash up. Tidy up. Mop up. Bedtime. Take a fix. Watch and so it went. Quarter of the way there. Half the way there. Before we knew it we had 400 miles to go. It did take until day 8 to find our rhythm, but once found, we could have gone on for weeks like that. However privately and unbeknownst to each other, for those first ten days we were just a bit on edge, unable to relax. We didn’t talk about it until things had calmed down. Privately I was thinking ‘really? This is what we get? More friggin edge of your seat sailing. Come on…’ as I ran through safety procedures in my head. During our night watches there was little star gazing or oooing at the universe. No we stayed below, in the (nearly) dry, the cockpit being wet and salty. Upside; I got to read and finish an adult book! Another first. Fitting that I read an anthology of accounts on Trafalgar. What history. Day 8 journal entry reads ‘Trafalgar, battle won but a savage storm on the days after the battle prevented the prize ships won by Nelson, to be seized. Ships in such a state, anchors destroyed, no way to secure them so they were left to sink. But not before the British rescued the French and Spanish aboard. Ironic that the British spent life and shot on destroying Napoleon’s fleet only to save prisoners from those same sinking ships. The accounts by the French and the Spanish are of admiration and respect for the British navy for their seamanship, humanity and discipline. Amazing read. Incredible accounts. Imagine sailing on those great wooden ships!’.

When not reading I watched tv on the iPad, anything to ignore the noisy hissing and slamming of waves around the hull. Ben wasn’t happy at all during those first ten days. He never hinted at it, being the calm strong type that he is, but I now know. The conditions were rubbish, they had him on high alert not least given the weight of responsibility on him.

Aside all of this, as odd as it sounds, at all times I had a huge sense of optimism that all would be ok, and in the end it was. You could say I was blissfully ignorant through inexperience. A bit like a first pregnancy! But actually, I knew we were going to be ok. I just did. I kept imagining arriving. Day 8 journal entry reads ‘Can’t stop thinking about a night in a hotel…with ensuite. Steeping in a hot bath.’ I kept enjoying time with my family. I kept telling myself to enjoy now. So I did. It was not doom and gloom. The girls were always happy and in a way, that was all that mattered for my sanity! Also we had Ben’s birthday to enjoy. Ok, not on his birthday as the conditions wouldn’t allow. So celebrations were postponed until the conditions eased. But once they did we made daddy birthday cards and chocolate cake and licked out the bowl and dressed up and had fun. Day 10 journal entry reads ‘Calmer. Manageable. Sun out. Daddy’s party in an hour.’ And later on ‘Party went well. Cake needs improvement. Dressing up good. Indians and princesses…’

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On day 11, the wind finally started to calm down and we emerged from the cabin. Like moles. Olive put on her life jacket for the first time in 11 days! (To think all those times I imagined children falling overboard and the need for us all to be tied on. I never thought we would not be outside the cabin. We didn’t need life lines!) Alfi was once again shoe horned into her car seat-throne. The deck gleamed immaculately! The salt water had scrubbed her clean as if she’d been re-painted. The sun came out. The sky turned blue. Finally, we were in shorts. Finally it got hot. Finally, we had the conditions we dreamed of. Light winds, gentle seas, balmy weather. As our skin became warm, our anxieties ebbed away. Ben and I started to exhale, relax and talk about the previous ten days. Ben said he felt short changed. That we had a had a bum deal as we should have had enjoyable, not endurance sailing. I on the other hand just felt happy and impressed and proud (again!), that not only that we as a family had got on with it but, that we had made our dream real (despite the consequences!). And more importantly, how Dhanu had got on with it. She was incredible. It may seem odd to describe or attribute feelings to a bunch of wood arranged into the shape of a boat, but I genuinely love and admire this boat. I am so grateful to her. Strong, beautiful, safe sanctuary. I trust her completely.

From day 11 until arrival we had wonderful conditions. We both agreed that with conditions like that, we could sail for weeks and weeks. I could. It was easy. We hit our stride. We played and relaxed and realised how easy it is when conditions are F3-F4 (in this boat at least). Day 11 journal entry reads (in capitals) ‘BEAUTIFUL DAY. BALANCED SAILING. NOT NERVEY. HOT. CLEAR SKIES. SUN. AWESOME. FINALLY.’ And later, ‘Bread on. Alfi asleep. Olive happy. Boat mellow. 858 miles to go.’ And later still, ‘Oliveisms ‘this is the way to the Caribbean…’

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Days 12 to arrival were a warm sunny blur of relaxation and satisfaction and relief. We pailed the Atlantic into big buckets in the cockpit and made paddling pools for the girls. They loved it. Day 13 journal entries read; ‘In shorts, warm breeze…’. And ‘Birds birds birds! What are they doing here 1200 miles from land? What are they waiting for? Where will they stop?’ And then ‘Itchy. Ripe. Need a shower. Still thinking of hotel bathrooms and hot water running over me.’ And more; ‘Today’s highlight, Alfi sat in my lap waving at Venus making happy curious ‘who put that there?’ squeaks.’ Capped off with ‘Great day. Perfect conditions. Fast. Smooth. Blue. Sun. Hot. Amazing. Makes me feel regret we did not have such conditions all the way.’

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This crossing saw me go the longest (and only?) period in my life where I saw not a soul nor sign of human life. 13 days went by during which aside my family, I saw no other boat, no aeroplanes, not even their traces, no nothing. No ships, no other yachts, nothing. Apart from sea and more sea. I didn’t even realise this until Ben said, aren’t you missing signs of life? Or rather, how many times in your life have you gone without seeing life? He was right, I hadn’t ever really gone without seeing signs of human life, of society. Of human creation. When do we ever go without that? Rarely…but we went 13 days seeing nothing but water and sky. Of course this number may seem puny to those who sail for months and months. But whatever. It wasn’t bleak. It was simple and pure and I liked it. This surprised me. I always thought I quite liked humanity, society, the land, the culture, even the really messy stuff. And whilst I still do like man and all his brilliance and mess, I didn’t mind being beyond the reach of all that. There was no effort in it. Then on Day 14 I spied an empty water bottle bobbing around. In that one empty piece of plastic, man rushed back into my thinking. Where did that bottle come from? What factory, where? Who packed it into a crate? Who dropped it in the sea and so on.

As for food, well we provisioned extremely well. We wanted for nothing. In fact it became clear, as we slowly reduced supplies, that we had over stocked. We had loads of food! (We are still eating the dry stores nearly seven weeks after we left our last port.) We ate three meals a day. Fresh produce stayed fresh. The day we arrived I made butternut squash risotto with a squash I’d bought in September 2014 in Portugal-I’m not kidding! Still good. We still have onions bought in the Cape Verde Islands. We ate our last tomatoes the days after arriving. Along the way we also caught fish, dorado. DELICIOUS! However there was sargasso weed everywhere which messed up the lines and got caught in the lures which hampered the fishing. Never mind, we caught 4 fish over 16 days…it was enough and at least we ate all that we caught. It’s sad to see boats which caught too big a fish which they can’t eat. By day Ben and I at out the pan or one bowl to save on washing up, but also it was easier to hold one bowl between us than two. One night we decided to chance it with a plate each. Just when we thought it safe to step away from holding them, swoosh crash they went. As we threw them overboard we wondered how long they would take to reach the seabed, 4km below.

Another real surprise for me was our water consumption. Ben had said we could do it on 10 litres a day. This seemed low to me. I suspected it was a figure that reflected the limitations of what we could carry rather than what we would need. I am happy to say I was utterly wrong and he was totally right. We used ten litres of fresh water a day, in fact a little less than that. No one went without. We allocated five for drinking and five for cooking and washing, including nappies! Of course dirty dishes, clothes, nappies and our showers all had salt water washes first followed by a fresh water rinse. This worked fine. Day 15 journal entry reads ‘Sea water bucket shower on deck. Feeling gorgeous. Never been two weeks without washing before…Skin fell off in handfuls.’ So in total, we used a little over 160 litres. Not bad given that the average land based consumption is, I understand, 60 litres per adult. Our tank held 140 litres and in addition we had lots of five litre bottles of drinking water stashed around the boat. Each day we decanted five litres from the tank into an empty bottle so we could monitor usage. To those boat owners with huge tanks and / or water makers all of this will sound inconvenient and undesirable. But we are doing this on a small budget with a low tech boat. We have not earned enough money (and probably never will) to have greater capacities! But hey, our carbon footprint must be tiny with so few gadgets onboard. Our one solar panel charged our devices (engine and house batteries, GPS and iPad). As well as keeping the engine and house batteries topped up via the engine which we let run every few days.

Other peculiar facts; day 5, 600 miles away from the nearest coast, the wind cast a smell in my nose. Hot food being prepared. A pot bubbling somewhere, yet not on my stove. Then where? Bizarre. As were the voices and other noises I heard; feint background noises like the sounds from a TV or radio, or the sounds from the street, of cars going by, sirens…aural hallucinations? I’ve no idea…but I heard them and yet that must be impossible given the million tonnes of ocean all around.

People we met along the way told us, you find your rhythm and when you do, you won’t want to stop. Those who’ve travelled with kids said, the kids weren’t interested in making landfall or even getting off the boat, as the boat had become their world. For us, we were very happy to get to land. Our children too I imagine. The best moment for me, was as we sailed close along Antigua’s eastern coast, Olive awoke from her nap (during which land was sighted) and climbed into the cockpit. She looked to the land in surprise, raised both hands to the sky and exclaimed excitedly ‘Look! Look where we are mummy, look where we are!’ Her excitement reflected all of ours. But also, her (& our) satisfaction. She knew we’d just come a very long way and this land was our reward. To see her happy, excited, rewarded made it for me. That little person who may never even recall first hand these events, has wisdom enough to appreciate her and our enormous achievement. Well done family.

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How will I look back on this crossing? The end of an incredible awe inspiring challenging family journey. The beginning of another and a year or so in the Caribbean. The Atlantic passage was more about all the previous passages which prepped us well. It is so true to say, it’s all about the journey.a cliche but oh so true true true. But now that we are here, we are not remarkable at all. Nearly every boat here is foreign. Most of which have crossed the Atlantic, some multiple times. To cross the Atlantic is just no big deal. That said, it damn well is with two nippers in tow…no one here can beat that or tell me otherwise. But what of it. It doesn’t matter anymore. All of that is past. Now is what counts.

Within a week of landing, Ben found a job working for boatbuilders here. The girls found places in nursery (they are the only white kids there). The local kids are adorable and polite and warm and caring as they seem to love our girls. We go to the beach every day. Local kids stick to us like glue. They swim up and drool over Alfi each fighting to get a hold. I’ve never seen anything like it. Since they started nursery, Olive is recognised. We hear ‘Aahlive, aahlive..’ wafting down the beach. That’s how we hear her name, it is sung really before these beautiful kids come running to play. To have suddenly find ourselves in the work / nursery routine was a rude shock to the system. Making packed lunches? Packing up nappies and beakers and spare sets of clothes? Getting up at 6am?! What? Took me a while to get used to that. But for a 9-5 routine, it could be a whole lot worse. The commute is a dinghy ride to shore waving at all the boats along the way. Then we pass under the enormous bows of super yachts, their size is ridiculous! Before getting to shore to be greeted by a funny benign down and out guy who gets about on a mule whilst wearing huge specs without lenses…he is brilliantly odd. Olive just thinks this is normal now as she skips off onto a bus with daddy to nursery.

Then my day begins! I dinghy back to Dhanu. Then swim to the beach. Or just drink coffee in the cockpit watching boats big and small come and go. Gazing at enormous superyachts and pondering the vast wealth needed to run them. Reaping the rewards of our epic efforts to get here! At long last.

Classic race week is upon us. Remarkably we have been accepted into classics week which means we can race with all the other classic yacht. And go to all the posh parties. Woohoo! I’m trying to forget the lopsided insanity that must explain the bloated spoilt wealth that must surround an event like this. The size of the boats, the cost of their upkeep, the fact that their crew spend more time enjoying them than the owners. The reality that I’d probably earn more cleaning their bilges than a legal aid lawyer. What a crazy topsy turvey world. But notwithstanding the insane elitism or wealth and privilege, (I’m trying to ignore it just for now), here Dhanu sits in all her fine working glory ie, beautiful, grubby, nappies aloft with an olive tantrum soundtrack. As I walk down the dock I see chrome being polished, varnished wood being buffed. That we are here too is hilarious! We’ve also got international cricket! Tomorrow we watch day 4 of England’s first test against the West Indies. Life is on the up! So against all this, the crossing just seems a wonderful means to an end.

Could we do it all again? Yes I reckon we could without to much to do. Ok, I wouldn’t want those conditions but I now know at least what they feel like. And in spite of them, I find myself wanting more life at sea, at some point. It’s just so simple living out there. I’m nearly missing the planning, list making, provisioning, how much formula-food-nappies-wine will we need calculations. And the buzz of forward momentum. Pacific…? Circumnavigation? Yeah! Why not! Not such a crazy idea after all. Though perhaps we will wait til the girls can pull up a sail or at least their pants. Anyway for now we letting Carib time wash over us and soothe our Atlantic fatigue – we are still recovering. So excuse us whilst we lay down and have another rum. God knows we have earned it. Tata for now. But I will be back as I am sure I will have lots to say about Classics week, cricket and more! Please stay tuned…

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13 Responses to 15th april – the Atlantic crossing

  1. Hans says:

    I am in awe….

  2. sueodon says:

    What a wonderful tale you tell. I could feel the salt on your collective skins as I read. Thinking of you all as we are watching the cricket on the TV. Good luck in Classics week. All love xxxx

  3. Rachel English says:

    How amazing to I have received this message today from you intrepid crossing and now sunny Caribbean life. All the more wonderful as, for no discernible reason, your little family sprang into my thoughts as I walked home from work!! I have thought often about you and prayed for your safety and safe arrival.
    What an adventure and how brilliant you have all been riding the sea in the protective dear sailing boat Dhanu. I so admire you guts and pluck and glad you had some sun filled breezy days of pleasure as well as the tension of heaving, crashing water and high winds.
    Your girls are a credit to you both in the secure love and practical parenting you have given them. They are the luckiest children alive.
    Here England is beginning to green up, hawthorn and grass vivid lime and emerald, The clocks brought welcome light and has lifted spirits, gathered hope for spring and prompted all to spend time outside. Living in a flat with no garden or outside living space, which I am doing at present, is fine in winter but now claustrophobic. However there is good news for me as on Monday I purchased a house at auction and should be in by about mid May!! It was one of the most adrenaline filled experiences of my life as I felt my heart thumping in my chest as the bids moved up and finally the gavel fell!!! Sold to you madame!!!. I’m thrilled if not a little breathless.
    It is a small farm house, has a barn and a small pond with frogs and some garden. It hasn’t been lived in for a while and the algal bloom makes it feel rather alien in parts. It has a happy face and bags of potential, code for needs a lot of hard work and probably cash. It will be done up over time I feel. Very exciting for me since I have been in friends houses and hospital accommodation since Feb 2014. I will now have to by rubber gloves, bucket and some cleaner to make it habitable.
    My brother and his wife, James and Heather, have moved into their renovated home 4 weeks ago and are just starting to enjoy it. They have worked so incredibly hard to raise it from a crumbling state but this means an old old house will continue on in history. James has always said he will help me when I get a home but he has hardly sat down in his house when I have purchased mine….. I think I will insist I do the work myself for a while and wheel him in when he has come up for air. I think he might have had enough of DIY for quite some time to come!!!!
    My sister, Mary and I lap up every small message you send and love to hear about you journey. Keep the story coming. Tell Ben that I keep my Mum and Dad, Sue and Fairy, posted and show them your photos and blog.They are amazed and thrilled for you all if not thinking you might be a little bonkers.
    Hoping for a rich and wonderful continuum of Caribbean fun in the sun for you all. Only a tiny bit jealous of you being there :)))) Sending you all much love. Rachel ,

  4. Claire Davenport says:

    Reading this gazing out across the bay towards Portland I have tears in my eyes. Your posts are such a pleasure to read, so happy for you all. Lots of love Claire, Brett and girls xx

  5. Clare says:

    Blimey.
    Wonderful – all of it – I read that at the speed of the wind and felt the waves and almost hyperventilated. Exhausted!
    Darling darling four, LOVED THE BLOG LOVED THE PHOTOS. Love you lot.
    Charlie is 60 on your birthday Phil, we will raise a glass or several zillion to you and Ben and Aaaahlive and Denzil with a geriatric skip in our hearts.
    All love xxxxxxx

  6. Charles Mead says:

    Philly, Ben, Olive and Alfie – you my heroes. You put my own nautical achievements to shame. Philly – you write wonderfully. Your description of weather, sea and sail is up there with Joshua Slocum. Ben you are a direct descendant of the ‘Hearts of Oak’ tradition. And Olive and Alfie as one with the great ‘cabin boys’ of history, Hornblower and Jim ‘Lad’ Hawkins. (Tell me what book on Trafalgar you read Philly). I am so jealous about your current life – sounds idyllic. THe one detail you left out – what was that first bath/shower on dry land like?! Love to you all, Uncle Charlie xxxx & x for Dhanu.

  7. Fabulous!! (look out for Nigel Bower and Bonnie on Heron, who bought my Caribbean Cottage.Their 2 girls grew up on their boat). XXXX

  8. Elena says:

    Totally in awe and incredibly proud of you all. Fantastically written prose which makes you sway with every sentence and feel somewhat giddy! Love the photos and how gorgeous, healthy and incredibly happy you all look. Keep safe and keep us posted! Love El xx

  9. Veronique says:

    Philippa, you are an amazing sailor and story teller. Your family must be so proud of this huge achievment. Enjoy the next part of your fantastic family journey on land!

  10. Harriett palin says:

    This reads better than Trafalgar! Bravo you all and Dhanu. Capt. Ben I thank you for getting my so special sister and your two gorgeous daughters safely to land to live the dream, for us all. Chapeau ! Love us little not so brave family holed up land locked in Deddington xxx

  11. Niki says:

    Amazing blog, Philippa! I planned to read it as my bed-time story tonight and found myself looking forward to it all day. And you didn’t disappoint- what a rollicking read it was. Can’t believe that amazing photo of glistening Dhanu surging through the waves was the same boat tied up on the Topsham mud last summer. She looks oh so much happier now! Hope you had good bday (got the month right this time!). Loads of love to you all. Xxx

  12. dave n hazel says:

    Wonderful reading, wonderful adventure, well done all of you! Fantastic pictures…girls look happy as sandboys. Hope you are all recuperating nicely with tropical sun and lots of rum!
    Mike the Ferryman sends his love and best wishes and wants to know how long you are likely to stay out there – he is contemplating his 2015 winter holiday ….

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