DAY ONE: May 5th. My Birthday.
Cinco de Mayo. The beginning of my 50th year on the planet. I’m 49 years old today. We get up at dawn to weigh anchor and head over to the Royal Navy Dockyard which is where all the cruise ships dock.
If you have cleared out of Bermuda, you can buy fuel there duty free, which is 50% cheaper than if you buy it in St. George’s from the fuel dock: a no-brainer for us. The seas are calm, the wind is light and we motor over. We go over all of the safety issues on the boat. Where are the life rafts, where are the fire extinguishers, how to call “Mayday”. Where is the EPIRB. Man Overboard Drill. I always feel it’s a lousy way to start a sail with new crew: “Here’s all the disasters than could befall us”. Somehow going over the safety procedures ends up making everyone feel less secure. But it’s got to be done.
Our crew is made up of: our family of four plus:
David Puchkoff, fearless and knowledgeable sailer/racer, and a friend of mine from squash.
Steven Kahn, David’s friend and the only person who’s crossed The Atlantic before, great carpentry and general boat skills.
Brett Erasmus, squash player extraordinaire and a monster of a man, my height (6ft 3in) but twice the size, just the right person to have on board if you’re in a tight spot, probably stronger than any other two people on board combined. Maybe three. Hope we have enough food to feed him!
And Tracy Gates, another squash buddy, and fearless adventurer with trips to Mongolia and other far away places under her belt. Neither Tracy nor Brett has any significant sailing experience, they here for the adventure, the camaraderie and a good time.
But before I go into the epic start of the adventure, I should say that not all went smoothly in the preparations. There were things to repair from the trip up from Bermuda and there were things that broke in Bermuda. Far and away the funniest thing we had to fix was our dinghy. Now you may not think that a broken dinghy is very funny. Hell I don’t see the humor in it. But when you combine a broken dinghy with a wonky engine, things start to get amusing. Because of the enigine (which is now fine, and needed only minor tweaking) it was too hard to pull up and dock the boat so we had to stay at anchor. And because of the broken dinghy (the outboard motor decided it needed some TLC) the only way ashore was on Paloma’s little sailing vessel: Sea Leaf – which I rowed rather than sailed. Now when you combine Brett + me + Brett’s luggage + Sea Leaf things start to get more entertaining. Check it out…
I’m proud to say that I did not capsize the boat. But when Brett tried to go it alone – well lets just say that he says he wanted to go swimming and it was intentional…
Anyway, after re-fuelling, and crew breafing, we raised the main and set sail for Europe.
WHAT IS THAT!
We bring down the sail. The same car that we just repaired is now broken. In fact, where one shackle was broken, both cars are now broken.
And we certainly can’t sail across The Atlantic Ocean like that…
Down with the sail.
Make a 180.
Back to Bermuda.
I can’t get no satisfaction. Cause I try, and I try, and I try, and I try…
Clearly our “fix” from the little incident we had coming up from Bermuda didn’t work. So I can’t blame Ondine for this one. It’s all my fault.
We arrive in Bermuda in the early evening. The customs officials are delightful. We are allowed back in without completing all the formalities again. In their words: “let’s just pretend you never left”. Gosh if only all bureaucracies were so lovely.
After dropping our anchor, I insist on drinking a bottle of champagne. It is my birthday after all. Then Emma-Kate and I grab another one and head over to some friends of ours on board “Life Part Two” who just arrived a day earlier and are going to cross to the Azores once they’ve repaired the various things that broke on their way to Bermuda. (Isn’t sailing fun?!) Later that evening the crew take me out for a lovely dinner at the world famous Swizzle Inn. We have rum drinks, wine, tequila shots and top it off with a home made chocolate cake and some more champagne. I know we had dinner in there somewhere too. But my memory is a little hazy. I do remember we all had a lot of fun for such a short aborted trip to the Azores.
DAY TWO: May 6th. Departure Day.
I’m the first up. Headache isn’t too bad. I’ve already taken apart the cars and blocks from the traveler and I head in on the dinghy to see if I can find someone to help me. It’s a miracle, but Steve from Ocean Sails has most of the necessary spare parts and together we cobble together what we’re missing from my damaged goods.
By noon I have what we need.
By 3pm we’ve made all the repairs.
I go dinghy in to do some last minute stuff on the internet and check out.
We leave. It’s 5pm.
We head out through the cut.
Raise the sails. Sail for a few hours and then the wind dies at 11pm and we turn on the engine. The watch schedule is now in effect. Three teams of two, three hours on, six hours off, one afternoon watch with only one person. Switch watch partners. Repeat forever until the Azores.
The adventure begins.
I go to bed.