I made it! 22 days without touching land… and then when I did it felt pretty much the same and rather anticlimactic. Anyways, that’s the short story, keep reading for more details.
Pre-Crossing Thoughts That I Meant to Post Before Leaving
We’re about to start crossing the Atlantic, the first (and only) crossing of the semester but the third this year. I’m one of the few on board who hasn’t yet experienced an ocean crossing. Am I nervous? Yep, a little. Or maybe we’ll call it healthy respect! So far I’ve been pretty fortunate in the seasickness department, hopefully that continues. And if it doesn’t I figure the worst that happens is I throw up a few times. Or feel like crap for three weeks. I’m most worried about feeling exhausted for three weeks straight, rolling seas do not make for the best sleeps. There’s also something about being on this ship and knowing you won’t be able to get off, or get away for such a long period of time. The sail from Costa Rica to the Dominican Republic, at 11 days, was a taster of how a 24 day crossing might feel. But on the other hand it was fairly different as we motored the whole way through fairly calm waters and I expect the Atlantic will be quite different!
What makes me feel confident headed into this crossing? Well all my sea time so far I’ve survived and for the most part enjoyed! Yes, there will be rocking and rolling and I’m sure I’ll come out with a few more bruises then I have going in but in the end I’ll be able to say I’ve crossed the Atlantic on a tall ship! The maritime crew are also all experienced sailors and I will, literally, be trusting them with my life. Whatever gets thrown at us I feel absolutely confident in their abilities to handle it and get us to our destination safely.
***End of Pre-Crossing Thoughts***
Any special preparations before crossing? Well, I stocked up on snacks although with Slapps and the General Store you know you can get that sugar fix if you need it. I also made a “Countdown Calendar” which I stuck up on our cabin door. Kinda like an advent calendar, there were 25 days and each day had a piece of paper with the number of days left on it. Each night Anna-Marie and I took one down and wrote what went on that day and stuck it on our closet door. It was very satisfying to see the numbers move from one door to the next!
The crossing was pretty varied as you would expect from so many days at sea. We had good sailing the first two weeks and then had to turn the engine on as the winds were not favourable to the direction we needed to go. Unfortunately we had to motor the rest of the way but on the other hand thank goodness we have an engine for those times the wind doesn’t cooperate.
The most excitement we had was a few days in when we had hurricane force winds (over 60 knots an hour) that caused the main deck to be awash in water most of the time which meant it was closed which meant we couldn’t get to galley for one and a half days. That was interesting times! Luckily I’d just baked a bunch of bread and we also had a lot of hard boiled eggs in the fridge (for those who don’t know all the food storage is not in the actual galley which makes it a bit of a pain most days, running around getting food from the walk-in and dry stores but in this storm situation it was handy) and had cheese, cereal, milk etc. The morning of the storm when I got my wake up call I was asked to go up to the bridge before heading to galley. That’s when I was told the weather conditions, also that two of the sails had blown off (!) and that we’d be serving a cold breakfast as best we could, where we could. Honestly I wasn’t at all worried when I heard the news, a big part of that was that the maritime crew always appeared calm and in control no matter what they may have been thinking inside.
The weather varied a lot, there was a day or two where people were out in shorts and T-shirts, then more stereotypical North Atlantic weather when people were in sweaters and foulies permanently. Most days had a variety of weather, you might wake up to rain and by lunch it would be beautiful and sunny!
We had a planned storm/snow day on April 6 where there were no classes and students got a sleep in day. From 0600-0800 the teachers stood watch and set out breakfast for the maritime crew as well so Jess & I also got a sleep in day! Everyone had to be up for 1030 colours and then cleaning (there are some things on the ship that you can’t skip!) and at 1130 we had brunch. It was a very relaxed morning, I didn’t get up till 0800 and then didn’t have to start work till 0945! I opened some mail (I rationed my mail from Bermuda and got to open one about every other day) and did some knitting.
Thanks again to everyone who sent mail! By careful rationing I opened my last piece the day before we arrived in France and a lot of the crew were quite amazed to find me opening mail mid-Atlantic.
Other business as usual that continued during the sail included: 5 time zone changes (all the type where you loose an hour of sleep), Slapps and the General Store a few times each, Sunday family dinners in the Banjer (the galley teams really stepped it up with table side service, conversation starters, etc.), baking, birthdays (Class Afloat tradition dictates the birthday person gets buckets of water thrown on them at 0800 colours), drills, laundry (one good thing about calmer waters is laundry facilities stay open)
Our sailing schedule has some cushion time built in so we arrived a bit early in France. We were due to arrive April 16 but ended up dropping anchor in a bay near Brest on April 13 and then came into Brest on April 15. The kids still had classes on the 16th but had an evening of shore leave on the 15th which everyone was excited for.
So how did the crossing compare to what I thought it would be? Well, except for that one day we got off pretty easy in the weather department. I did come out with more bruises then I went in with and thankfully the seasickness stayed away. There was some rocking and some less than ideal sleeps but I never felt completely exhausted (although mid-day naps are always appreciated). The length of the trip didn’t bother me at all, I was much more ready to reach land on the 11 day sail to the Dominican then the 24 day sail to Europe. Interesting. Maybe I just had it set in my mind as such a long sail that I was mentally prepared? At any rate when we first spotted France I have to say it felt very anti-climactic. And yes, my faith in the maritime crew was well placed. Couldn’t have made it here without them.