Crossing The Atlantic
The Deep Blue sea
Joining the crew of a family yacht sailing to the Caribbean
From Las Palmas to Rodney Bay
A newly launched fifty eight foot yacht, built by the renowned Oyster yard based in Ipswich, Suffolk and the proud owner's ambition to sail her across the Atlantic Ocean from the Canaries to the beautiful island of St Lucia over a couple of months with the plan to meet up with his family in the Caribbean for Christmas. It was a huge privilege to be invited to join the boat, and with permission from home, a month's 'sabbatical' from work, I found myself on a flight to the Canaries. I would be part of a crew with widely differing experience. As a boat owner myself since the age of 24, and having sailed the Atlantic a number of times, at least I could be useful, words of reassurance and a voice of experience at times perhaps, someone who can always be roused from his pit for the night watch, and of course I'd be the videographer and photographer for the trip.
This beautiful Oyster 575 'Angels' Share' boasted all the mod cons of cruising the oceans under sail in a family boat that could possibly be bought, the latest satellite weather prediction and navigation equipment, a powerful water maker to keep us all in delicious hot showers, unlimited fresh water and a generator to deliver electrical power, deep freezers so that we wouldn't have to fall back on dried food and tins after a week at sea. The yacht even boasted air conditioning, though that was to be a luxury best availed when the boat was plugged into a marina's national grid. Out there however, despite all the modern technology and luxury that a hefty yard bill, there was still 3000 odd miles of Atlantic ocean to cross, and like any small boat in deep blue water, we'd be on our own and far out of range of any lifeboat or coastguard helicopter for much of the voyage should anything go wrong.
The Owner brought all his brilliance and business acumen to the project from his years leading a major part of a global business with ten of thousands of employees at his command. He had researched meticulously and the boat was equipped with all the safety and medical equipment we were likely to ever need. But above all he was a remarkable leader, with a very diverse crew: I had sailed on keel boats for most of my adult life, and my shipmates included an enthusiastic teenager looking to work fulltime in yachting, an out and out racer but with limited cruising experience, and then our only professional crew, an engineer recommended by Oyster. We were all lucky that the Owner that had the forethought to realise we needed someone aboard who understood how to maintain and troubleshoot all the complex electronic and mechanical systems aboard.
We experienced all the highs and lows of a typical trans-Atlantic crossing on a relatively small sailboat with the sudden twists and turns of ocean weather. We even answered a Mayday call on the radio to stand by a yacht who had lost her rudder in a rising sea. And trailing fishing lines aft, we caught sleek green dorado fish and even a discarded boot a thousand miles from the nearest landmass. Our engineer dealt with the inevitable gear failures as the marine environment is not kind to electronic kit or engines. But it was a much more luxurious crossing than I had ever experienced before with hot powered showers, with a ready supply of cold drinks and delicious food. We even enjoyed a friendly rivalry with a yacht from Sweden, banter on the radio, waving at them now and again as they passed close to us, and when we arrived in Rodney Bay, celebrated together the traditional Swedish pre-Christmas 'Festival of Lucia' aboard their boat. After all they did beat us, though by just a few hours. Not bad after nineteen days at sea.