“You’re going to hate sailing forever. It’s like wanting to try cake for the first time and instead of trying one slice, you eat the whole cake instead.”
This is what one YouTube follower told me when I shared the exciting news that I was going to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. Now that I have completed the journey and can respond with the benefit of first-hand experience, my initial reaction remains the same: “I have never regretted eating an entire cake.”
It seems the decision to join a handful of fellow sailors and embark on an undeniably risky, yet promising new journey can invoke some extreme guttural reactions from friends, followers and especially family. The wide range of responses we received to our announcement (ranging from the excited to fearful, the encouraging to foreboding) undoubtedly surprised me. Thankfully, none of the naysayers swayed me and I can now say—with the benefit of hindsight—I am so glad I made that voyage.
While the crew of s/v Andanza did endure some difficult passages as well as our fair share of equipment failures and frustrations, I enjoyed every bit of the arduous, eye-opening journey and am thankful for the valuable lessons and insight I took away from my first ocean crossing. I am also excited to share all of it with you. Before I got into the incredibly-fun task, however, of one of my favorite parts of any adventure—the telling of the … story—I thought it might behoove you all to first share a few fun, educational and entertaining “Top Ten” lists Phillip and I put together soon after we finished the voyage. (Many of you who followed along via the Delorme link on Patreon heard about many of these along the way. Others you will find we did not share publicly at the time so as not to worry followers about our occasional precarious state.) In all, I hope you find them, as I did, enlightening, insightful and a fun way to kick off this Atlantic-Crossing Saga!
Top Ten Things that Broke:
(Not necessarily in half or in two but they did break in some fashion and not necessarily in the order of breakage)
- The auto-pilot
- The generator
- The water-maker
- The spinnaker
- The main halyard
- The starboard engine injectors
- The port engine muffler
- The MasterVolt
- The starboard shroud
- The port shroud (much more on this later but know the true gravity of the failure, which we discovered upon our rig inspection after making landfall, was alarming).
Top Ten Phrases (and Expletives):
- “Ahhhh … putain!” (French for f%@k. Grumbled by Captain Yannick after each breakage)
- “Arthur!” (A reminder to trim the mast. Yes, you read that right. The mast.)
- “Request received” (Intended to confirm receipt of a request while offering no guarantee of its grant in order to prevent useless repeating of said request)
- “That is not good thinking” (Offered by Captain Yannick when he didn’t like your request)
- “Recommendation voice” (The oddly high-pitched inaudible tone Annie’s voice takes on when she lodges a request)
- “Hundred percent” (Phillip’s way of saying he’s sure about something, 100%)
- “Mayonnaise biscuit” (Johnny Walker’s alleged confectionary specialty)
- “What’s our voltage?” (An inquiry into the state of the batteries)
- “Get some rest” (According to Yannick, something Annie said every time a crew member went below for sleep)
- “I think this is a do-over” (Johnny’s way of saying he liked Phillip’s cooking)
Top Ten Things We Ate:
(Lawyer disclaimer: This is in no way an endorsement of these items as being the most healthy, cost-effective or best items to bring along for an ocean-crossing. These were simply the items that were, in fact, stocked and consumed in voluminous amounts on Andanza):
- Peanut-butter cracker packs (I’ll leave it to Johnny to say how many he truly ate … )
- Nature Valley granola bars
- Ground coffee (made every morning, several batches in the French Press; Nespresso made in the machine for Yannick)
- Bread (loaves as well as hot dog and hamburger buns, bagels and naan, many frozen for longevity)
- Pork (many batches of frozen pulled pork as well as pork tenderloins and bacon)
- Hearty produce (carrots, cabbage, turnips, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, etc. – devoured and disposed of early on as a result of poor packing that lead to quick spoliation)
- Various coveted snacks (the wasabi peas were diminished early but later followed by Chex Mix and Cheetos; Yannick hoarded the beef jerky)
- Canned tuna and chicken (often used by Chef Phillip to make tuna and chicken salad sandwiches for lunch)
- Canned fruits/vegetables (peas and corn primarily for cooked dishes; mixed vegetables, carrots, asparagus, pineapple, peaches primarily for me – eaten out of the can, including the requisite drinking of the “veggie juice”)
- Boxed meals (red beans & rice, jambalaya, pastas, etc.)
Top Ten Things We Drank:
(In the order most consumed)
- Water! Bottles primarily. (We packed approximately 15 packs (36 12 oz. bottles each) of water in the bilges of the boat, as well as 80 gallons in the tank and approximately eight back-up gallons stowed here and there. We re-filled the tanks in Key West and the Azores and bought a few more gallons but, as Yannick put it, he is “confident we brought some Pensacola water with us to France.” Even after suffering the loss of the water-maker very early on, we had plenty of water.)
- Monster drinks (Yannick. Nuff said.)
- Powdered tea (Arizona brand, made in a large pitcher with water from the tanks and kept in the fridge)
- Powdered Gatorade
- Wine (We had a good bit of beer and wine aboard—some brought aboard for the passage and a good bit leftover from our farewell party at the dock. In true French style, Captain Yannick allowed each crew member a single beer or glass of wine each day while off-shift. I think it helped to deter thoughts of mutiny. Thank you Yannick!)
- Canned teas and sodas (primarily Arizona Green Tea, Coca-Cola and A&W root beer)
- Dasani water squirts (this was just for me, good for flavoring the water and easily “marking” my bottle as “the pink one” – any time a water bottle was removed from the fridge it was to be marked with Sharpied initials immediately upon opening under threat of being “keel hauled.”)
- Port wine (as the occasional after-dinner sweet treat!)
- Water from the tap (although it tasted fine, for whatever reason it was shunned)
Top Ten Things We Did:
- Read! (One of my favorite parts of the passage were the long stretches of time that were utterly devoted to reading! While Johnny devoured (sometimes one a day!) books about piracy, submarine warfare and other battles on the high sea, Phillip and I clicked through a long-awaited list of books we had been meaning to read for quite some time and had a fantastic time discussing each of them afterward, our particular reactions to certain characters, plots and scenes and our general takeaways from the book. I will share our reading list soon. Oh, and Yannick read manuals, dozens of them, as well as maintenance textbooks, instructions, labels, and more manuals, for hours at a time. The Captain indulged in no pleasure reading on the trip.)
- Slept! (I will miss the naps! Never in my life have I had the pleasure of indulging myself a deep, soothing daily nap, sometimes two! Now, while this was necessary for the 2am, 3am or 4am wake-up to hold your two-hour night shift, for me it was well worth it. Some of my fondest memories were lifting my sleepy lids to reveal a beautiful dancing blue horizon and then falling right back to sleep. The sleep was necessary yet savored.)
- Worked on boat projects. (This was primarily the work of the Captain but it deserves the number three slot because this is what Yannick did approximately 70.3% of his off-shift time).
- Held watch. (Each crew member held a 3-hour shift during the day, sometimes two depending on the rotation, as well as a 2-hour night shift, sometimes two shifts a night also depending on the rotation. This is the watch schedule we used (rotated every four days) when the auto-pilot was working. We created a secondary, shorter-shift schedule after the auto-pilot quit as it took much more energy and focus to hand-steer as opposed to simply “Supervising Otto.”)
- Talked. (Many a debate was sparked on Andanza! Mostly they were fun and intriguing, sometimes they were a little heated, sometimes they were a little tedious, but I was pleased to find it was easy to politely decline to engage in conversation if you wanted to sit quietly and read, write or just stare at the wall, and the other crew members took no offense.)
- Cooked. (Phillip was our head chef on the trip and he often cooked a warm meal for both lunch and dinner every day, even while manning his shift (a.k.a. “supervising Otto”) at the helm. I was his soux chef, but he bore the real burden of preparing the meals, something he very much enjoys doing, but I would suspect Phillip devoted 2-3 and maybe sometimes 4 hours a day to cooking.)
- Cleaned. (Dishes primarily. I might have spent an hour a day doing dishes and cleaning up the galley, although the crew readily chipped in often. With Phillip doing the bulk of the cooking, I felt the best way I could contribute was by doing the bulk of the cleaning. The crew also devoted the occasional 1-2 hours every week or so to cleaning the boat, although looking back I believe everyone would agree we could have cleaned the boat more thoroughly and more often).
- Watched movies. (Yes, we did this plenty, primarily toward the end of the trip. But, if I had to guess I would say we all gathered and watched a dinner feature—when the boat and conditions allowed—probably every other evening while on passage. The best part of this gathering was often the heavy debate struck over which of the hundreds of movies we had available on hard-drives that the crew should watch (i.e., whether we should watch another “dude movie” (Yannick’s term) or an “actual, good movie” (Annie’s term) and the endless ridicule that would fall on the unlucky crew member who made a very poor movie choice (just ask Phillip about Big Trouble in Little China.)
- Watched shows. (While Yannick spent approximately, what was it I said 70.3% of his off-time working on or researching issues on the boat, the remaining 29.7% was spent watching entire seasons of Breaking Bad and other drama series. While he had downloaded season five of Game of Thrones on his computer, the wife banned him from watching it without her and enlisted the entire crew to ensure this pact was held sacred. Clothilde — there was no Thrones viewing, I swear!)
- Wrote. (I, of course, did the bulk of this, but Johnny did his fair share, hand-scrawled in a little spiral-bound notebook (often with the jovial prodding among the crew that he was writing America’s next great novel) and Yannick did his fair share as well tediously-documenting his daily list of maintenance and projects accomplished on the boat.)
Top Ten Lessons Learned:
- Crew dynamic is key. (Nigel Calder actually told Phillip and I this during his lecture at the Strictly Sail Miami show in 2015 and he was right. Nigel said, “I can teach anyone to sail or work on the boat. What I cannot teach them is how to get along.”)
- Cotton is the devil. (Do not bring any cotton on board for any blue water passage. There were some towels and shirts that remained moist, if not thoroughly saturated, for three weeks straight. I’m not kidding. Quick-dry, synthetic blends are a must.)
- Don’t forget who is in charge. (If you forgot, it’s the weather. You have to be flexible. Even if you have allotted ten extra days to make it to port, be prepared to need fifteen. Things never go according to your plan, or your back-up plan or your last-resort contingency plan.)
- Carry spares. (Many, many spares. Particularly impellers, zincs, fuel filters, and the typical lot. But, if you have the space and can handle the weight, other larger spares may come in handy, like a spare water pump, auto-pilot, starting battery, etc.)
- Sail responsibly. (Don’t take unnecessary risks. Go only as fast as you absolutely need to.)
- Take care of yourself. (Rest and eat well. No matter what kind of physical shape you are in, ocean-crossing is far harder on your body than you realize.)
- Monitor all systems. (Try to remain aware, at all times, of the status of each system: What is the engine temp? How long has the generator been running? How much water is left in the tanks? When was the last time the sails were trimmed?)
- Look for chafe. (Walk the boat multiple times a day, every 3-4 hours would be best, with the specific purpose of looking for chafe. Lines chafe through much quicker than you think.)
- Clipping in needs to be a habit. (Especially at night. If it’s not habit, it will not be done the time that it needs to be done most, i.e., in an urgent situation. Make yourself do it every time so that you build muscle memory and it becomes habitual.)
- Organize and stow. (Keeping things secured and stowed away inside the cabin is a must, for both safety and comfort of the crew. Everything needs to have a place and it needs to go back to that place when you’re done using it. Make this a habit too while you’re at it.)
AND ONE FOR THE ROAD:
- Time is truly the only commodity.
If there is one huge lesson I took away from this passage it was how incredibly rich each moment was, how in the moment I felt (with very little to truly stress about other than the boat, the weather and what book I was going to read next) and how quickly the whole trip was over. Phillip and I are already planning our own ocean crossing on our beautiful Niagara sometime in coming years. This voyage definitely told us this is something we want to do: cross oceans.
If you’re thinking about getting a boat, thinking about cruising, thinking about traveling the world, please take one small piece of advice from this wild-eyed adventurer who has been lucky enough to do some of it early on: DO IT NOW! Whatever you can do in your current situation to allow yourself more time and opportunity to get out there on the water and experience cruising, do it now. Even if it is just small steps. Take them.
I will be doing the same by working even harder to create more content and more sources of remote income that will allow me to do what I love (write) to earn income that allows me to do what I also love (travel). Maybe I should call this blog HaveWillpowerWillTravel because I am more committed than ever! Here is the grand plan:
- The Atlantic-Crossing Tale! I will post a vivid weekly article on the blog replaying each colorful day of our Atlantic-crossing adventure, beginning next week with “Ch. 1: The Wandering Frenchman” which will cover our first encounter with the adventurous Captain Yannick, his initial plan to make the sail across the Atlantic single-handed and my personal decision to join him and the rest of the crew for the journey. This series will likely one day be melded into the Atlantic-Crossing book!
- The Atlantic-Crossing Movie! I will also be working over the next couple of months to make a high-quality, polished short film covering our Atlantic-crossing from May 29th in Florida until we docked in France on July 5th. This will be free initially to all Patrons as my personal thanks for your continued support and will publish thereafter on Vimeo.
- My Gift of Cruising Campaign! I will pick back up with my Gift of Cruising campaign this Friday on the YouTube channel where I will reveal my second Gift of Cruising! A phenomenal six day, five night on-the-water coastal cruising and bareboat chartering course offered by our very own Lanier Sailing in Pensacola. I’m kind of (super) excited about it! If you are too: Get on Board!
- My Weekly YouTube Videos! I will continue to publish a video once a week on Fridays covering mine and Phillip’s travel adventures and progress in preparing our Niagara and ourselves for cruising south this winter! Yes, that’s still happening. I’m kind of (super) excited about that too. I will also continue to include the occasional boat tour to help you all out there in the boat-shopping phase get a better understanding of the compromises and capabilities of various boats.
If you all have found any of this content helpful and you’re excited about the Atlantic-Crossing content to come (or, more importantly if you’re looking to go cruising and would like the chance to win a six-day coastal cruising class to help get you cruising more safely sooner!) please get on Patreon, become a Patron and help Phillip and I continue sharing this incredible lifestyle on the water!
My thanks to all who have followed, supported and joined us vicariously on this incredible ocean-crossing. We have many stories to share and much more traveling to do!