“You know, I knew it was going to be things breaking, stuff needing to be fixed, repaired, maintained, but I thought it would occur at a rate that I could keep up with it. If it’s like this all the time, it’s no fun.”
I quoted that right from my log that day. I remember when Yannick said it. He had just come out of the “engine den” beneath his bed on starboard yet again and was blowing off some completely understandable steam and frustration with the amount of systems on his boat that were giving him trouble.
Yannick’s engine den.
As I have said many times, while an ocean-crossing is going to be hard on any boat and luck has a lot to do with it, looking back on it, Phillip and I believe the reason Yannick was having to deal with so many issues was because his boat had not been sailed recently. She had been very well-maintained and newly refitted and upgraded, but she hadn’t been out on a passage in over a year. She hadn’t been shaken down. That’s what we were doing … for 4,600 nautical miles. And, while Yannick truly was a trooper through it all, facing one headache after another, like anybody would, he did have his “this sucks” moments. Frankly, I think he handled it better than I would have had it been my boat. I’ve had my moments …
And, sadly, after all Yannick had suffered so far (engine troubles, the watermaker, the generator, the spinnaker), the worst of our problems still laid ahead. The first of which started to rear its ugly head when we found Auto would turn-notto. I wrote about it to my Patrons in my mid-crossing Atlantic Log #3:
Atlantic Log #3: Auto Turn-Notto:
This is what it usually looks like when you’re on watch on Andanza. If the conditions are calm or otherwise manageable, the auto-pilot does all the work and you can easily kick back, hands free and read a book during your stint as long as you periodically monitor the conditions (wind speed and direction and engine temp if motoring) and do an occasional 360 to check the horizon for ships and obstacles (few and far between out here) or, more likely, rain clouds or squalls. Since we left Pensacola Bay on May 29th, the trusty auto-pilot has been holding us on a steady course to France about 99.94% of the time (give or take). The crew is very aware of our luck in this regard and happy to do anything which keeps “Auto” happy, fed and functioning to continue this trend. This would be a very different passage if we had to hand-steer this boat all the way across the ocean and we are very aware of that.
Through a freak series of events, we learned yesterday, however, that if Auto WERE to shut down unexpectedly, we might not be able to properly steer this boat. When we put Auto on standby yesterday to test something completely unrelated, we were surprised to find … Auto turn notto (to the left anyway). It was wild. Once Auto was on standby, you would turn five, maybe ten degrees to the left, then the wheel would tension up and become too tight to turn any further. You could turn to the right just fine but when you went back to the left you’d lost whatever ground you had traveled to the right, leaving only another five, maybe ten degrees then the same insurmountable tension. Yannick described it as “ratchet steering to the right.” Surprisingly, each time we re-engaged Auto, he would take over just fine and turn to the left with no problem—almost as if he was mocking us. “See guys. It’s easy,” he would say with a laugh.
Because Auto kept successfully re-engaging, it was kind of a not-yet-big problem. As it stood, Auto was working fine, but if he went out (and we all, of course, separately imagined this happening to us during one of our lonely night shifts), we would have a good bit of canvas up, with often 20+ apparent winds on the beam and only the ability to turn right. NOT a situation in which you want to find yourself. So began our hunt for the cause and potential fix.
We started with the steering cables and the chain behind the helm. A long series of turning, tugging, pulling and checking ensued only to find the tension was not in the cables. The afternoon continued with many focus group sessions, diagram-drawing and plenty of head-scratching. After several hours we finally determined it was the arm itself of the linear drive Auto that—for whatever untold reason—did not want to disengage and allow the quadrant to move freely to the left when both put on standby and turned off completely. That Auto is one stubborn dude!
After some more configuring and brain-storming, we decided if Auto was to go out the proper procedure would be to remove the cotter pin and disconnect his arm from the quadrant so we could hand steer (to both the right AND the left!). Unfortunately this procedure will likely take place in a frenzied hurry while the boat is drifting off wind with canvas up and ratchet-to-the-right steering only. Again NOT a situation any of us are looking forward to but it is one we are prepared for and can handle thanks to some inspection, forethought and communication. Until Auto goes out, however (a prospect which may not happen) it is, as I mentioned, a not-yet problem. For now, we thank our lucky Auto karma and continue during the day to hold hands-free watches while devouring read after juicy read at the helm. It’s my watch now so you’ll have to forgive me, but I really must get back to this book: Horn Island Dream, written by our very own Pensacola small business owner at Intracoastal Outfitters, Wes Dannreuther!
“That won’t last another 500 miles.” Johnny’s not one to sugar-coat things. And he sure didn’t here.
He knew the fact that the auto-pilot arm would not properly disengage when we put her on stand-by was a sign the unit was deteriorating. No one disagreed with him, but we really didn’t have grounds to say otherwise. When Auto was on, everything was sunshine and hands-free steering. So we decided to not let it be a big problem until it WAS a big problem. The Sea Gods seemed to reward our faith by sending us a few days of sunshine, relaxing hours spent reading with fish on the line! Remember in the last segment when we told Johnny what to wish for on his birthday? It must have worked. Can you say: “FISH ON!”
Or better yet, get your “Sushi on!”
Yannick’s best tuna smile!
Soon the winds found us again, though, bringing steady streams of 20-25+, thankfully aft of the stern, and we were really bashing and crashing through some big seas.
The waves were set apart, mind you, with long periods in between so it wasn’t too rough but it did make for the occasional wicked bash on the catamaran floor and definitely a wet, spitting ride in the cockpit.
For that reason, Captain Yannick shut us all in the cabin and we monitored the instruments from the interior nav station during our respective shifts. All the more reason we were praying Auto would hold out there.
But Johnny’s prediction was holding true. It wasn’t 400 miles into Johnny’s predicted 500 that Auto started his “death squeal.” Yannick monitored vigorously and decided to take off the auto-pilot arm to see if he could disassemble the unit and perhaps repair it underway before it eventually died altogether.
Unfortunately he found the unit was crimped shut by the factory making manual disassembly and repair underway impossible. Yannick re-attached the arm and set to making an auto-pilot failure contingency plan as the unit squealed in the background. The B&G began to register “no rudder response” often, perhaps every 1-2 hours. But if you turned the auto-pilot off and back on, it would pick back up and work just fine. When this began to happen every half hour, however, Yannick knew it was done and all hands were ready and waiting on deck when the auto-pilot eventually gave out on the evening of June 16th.
Now, why did Auto die? Because he was 82 years old! In auto-pilot years that is. Yannick’s RayMarine linear unit had over 10,000 miles on him and he had already steered the four of us over 3,000 miles across the Atlantic, so, he really was on borrowed time. You couldn’t really fault him. He’d done his job. Like several systems on Yannick’s boat, it was simply time to replace or upgrade. Yannick knew he was going to have to do it, but whether or not to stop what was supposed to be a NON-stop trek across the Atlantic ocean to try and replace the broken auto-pilot in the Azores or have the crew hand-steer another 8-9 days to France and replace it there was Yannick’s dilemma. We all knew going into this voyage with Yannick, one that if you recall he was fully committed to make entirely on his own, that Yannick did not want to stop. He had even said this himself in the power point presentation he made for us to help us prepare for the trip.
But, also within this power point, Yannick set forth his four hopes for this voyage, one of which was that we all would:
I swear, that is straight from the Captain’s checklist. But Yannick also wanted to get his boat across the pond to France as quickly and safely as possible. This was no pleasure cruise. It was a yacht delivery with a strict mission and the crew was instructed to “have fun” within the bounds of that mission. No one faulted Yannick for this. No one said a thing when we sailed right past Bermuda. We had all signed up for a potential non-stop voyage. But, now, safety was playing a role in Yannick’s mission. Whether or not the crew could hand-steer the boat all the way to France (which we all told him we could and we all were committed to do if that was his decision) would not answer the more important question of whether or not the crew should hand-steer the boat to France. We all began to dress warmly, donning gloves, hats and full foul weather gear for our now far-more intense hand-steering shifts at the helm while this very hard decision fell on the shoulders of our Captain, Yannick.
Fun little video I made for you all from the Atlantic-crossing movie footage capturing some of the heavy bashing we were doing those days and the unfortunate demise of our auto-pilot. The saga continues. Stay tuned!
Also, exciting news! We will be drawing our Andy Schell offshore voyage giveaway winner THIS WEEKEND. I will announce the exact time soon and we will try to live stream the drawing if we have good wifi on the hook, so you can watch us pull the lucky winner out of the hat. If you’d like to be IN that hat, opt-in! Become a Patron, read Andy’s FAQs and email me for a chance to win this awesome Gift of Cruising!
Johnny’s inspecting melted pieces. Yannick’s cursing in French. I’m coughing my way out of our berth. It’s 4:00 a.m. the morning of June 10th and the muffler has melted its way off the port engine.
Tempers and temperatures were high as heat spewed out of the port engine locker and Yannick fired off questions: “What happened?” “Was there an alarm?” “Did the engine shut down on its own?”
We learned Johnny, who had the 2-4 a.m. shift that night (or morning I guess I should say), had become becalmed toward the end of his shift. That made sense as the winds had continually decreased during my 12-2 and we were bobbing now in maybe 8 knot gusts. Ooohh. Johnny said he had cranked the starboard engine to keep us moving. She cranked fine but he did not see water coming out (good for Johnny for looking) so he shut it down. That, in and of itself, did not alarm anyone as we had been fighting a multitude of problems with the coolant system on the starboard engine since we left Pensacola. First it was a bad thermostat, then the cap on the SpeedSeal wasn’t allowing suction, then the exhaust elbow was clogged, yadda yadda. But, we had not had an overheating issue with the port engine … yet.
Johnny said he shut down the starboard engine and cranked the port. It cranked fine and was reportedly running fine and discharging water. It ran for a few minutes while Johnny handed over his post to Phillip who came on at 4:00 a.m. Johnny said he went down below to rest but when he got to his berth on the port side he could tell the engine did not sound right. Sleeping like a log right above it, I couldn’t tell you if it was making any sound at all, as I slept right through the crank. It was amazing what you could learn to sleep through out there. But, even if I had heard it, I’m not 100% confident I could tell you whether the sound it was making sounded “right.” Thankfully, Johnny was listening and knew what to listen for. He rushed up to the cockpit and immediately killed the engine. I’m sure Phillip gave him an awfully funny look but when it came to the engines, we trusted Johnny. The temp was in the red when he killed the engine although no high temp alarm had gone off. Don’t ask me why. We never solved that mystery. Johnny explained to Phillip that it didn’t sound right as he made his way down into the port engine locker. Heat and melted plastic fumes emerged when he lifted the lid. Cue Yannick, who wakes to the smell of boat problems.
Yannick was pissed. Understandably so. Those engines were driving us mad. He was stomping around, getting tools, asking questions no one yet knew the answer to. He brought the muffler out into the cockpit so we could all get a better look and even I (the muffler dunce) could see one end was completely melted off.
After further inspection, Johnny found the impeller was missing a phalange and he thought it had likely lodged just the right way, acting like a valve, and prevented water flow through the muffler which caused the engine to overheat.
A broken impeller was totally expected. Yannick had plenty of spare impellers. An impeller that would break, shoot a piece off and wedge itself in a way that would maim the muffler was not. But our Captain was creative. He and Johnny started mumbling ideas out about trying to rebuild the exit port of the muffler and Yannick stood with a mission in his eyes. He started walking around the cockpit looking quickly in lockers, under cushions, then finally overboard in the dinghy and he shot a quick finger in the air. “Aha!” it said.
Yannick pulled the PVC extender for the tiller on the outboard out of the dinghy and started lining it up with the muffler’s melted hole seeing if they were the same diameter. Just when you think she’s not, often times she is. Fate was on our side gentlemen. The PVC extender for Yannick’s outboard, a part that certainly wasn’t needed while we were 1,000s of miles from shore and a part that could be easily replaced once we got those 1,000s of miles behind us was a perfect fit for the muffler. All Yannick needed to do was form the muffler back around it to create an exit tube that would jettison the exhaust water overboard. While we were aware we could bypass the muffler if necessary, as it appeared Yannick’s PVC fix was going to work, we all decided to help him pursue it.
Johnny had the good idea to use hose clamps to help shape the melted end of the muffler around the PVC pipe as Yannick heated it and that really helped to sculpt the two pieces together.
An hour later, it was almost shocking to see we had a working muffler and a port engine running once again smoothly. Like it had never even happened. This feat naturally became the hot topic of conversation on the public MapShare entry that day for our followers via the Delorme and several of Yannick’s friends from France said it did not surprise them as Yannick apparently used to dress and act a bit like the famed MacGyver in his youth. That surprised us. Particularly the part about the mullet. But the more I mulled it over (no pun intended), I started to see a resemblance.
Yannick’s friends claimed he had earned his “MacGyver Certificate” for the trip and we all seconded that motion. If you can believe it (What? Yannick working on the boat? No!), this only seemed to fuel Yannick’s boat project fire and he spent the rest of the morning cleaning the boat, filling the tank with jerry cans stowed in the forward starboard locker and fiddling with different features on the B&G.
The man does not stop. Other than when he went on an occasional crash binge of Breaking Bad played through sound muffling headphones, I think this was the only time I found him passed-out mid-project.
Those days, during the first week of June, were definitely some of our wettest of the trip. We were flying! Bashing our way to the Azores in usually 20+ knots of breeze, averaging 200+ nautical miles each day. But, it was spitting rain and splashing us in the cockpit, with persistent cloud cover that prevented anything on the boat from drying.
And, I do mean anything. The clothes you were wearing. The clothes you just washed. The kitchen towels. Our bath towels. The linens. Everything was moist. My hands remained pruny for three days straight before the outer layer gave up and eventually started to peel off.
We also kept trying to shuffle this one “shitty towel” off on one another. Johnny had apparently come into the port head at one point to find it had fallen in the toilet. Yay! And, although I washed it, it never would dry and the toilet stench somehow remained. It hung in the cockpit for days as a reminder and Johnny, Phillip and I (who shared the port cabin) would ask one another: “Didn’t you have the towel with the gray stripe?” “No, mine was green.” Anything to distance ourselves from the shitty towel.
“That’s not my towel,” says Johnny.
After three or so days of wet drab, the winds finally laid down briefly, a sliver of sun peeked through the clouds and the crew was able to enjoy our first dry, calm dinner in the cockpit since Key West.
Thank our head chef Phillip for pork tenderloin, brussels sprouts and turnips. Yum!
It was good to see everyone together, squinting into the sun, but the beautiful sunset was a deceiving sign of what was to come.
I remember waking later that night (it was June 10th, I know, because Johnny’s birthday was the following day and the crew was planning a small at-sea celebration) to the sound of the sails shrieking. Below, in your berth, everything is amplified. It’s like a sound carnival. Normal squeaks and groans are twisted, amplified, perverted even, into frightening sounds of boat carnage. A wave crashing the hull is the engine falling out. The squeak of a line being sheeted in is the sound of the mast cracking over. If you are awake (which thankfully you learn to sleep through many of these) you cannot convince your mind otherwise without going topside to confirm. This is what I had to do that evening around 11:30 p.m. to re-assure myself the shrieking I had heard below was not, in fact, the sound of the sails ripping at every seam.
I found Yannick at the helm. A big smile on his face. “We’re making 12 knots,” he said as I came up. Was he concerned why I had roused and come topside? Was he worried about me getting sleep for my shift (which was coming up next)? Heck no! He was making 12 knots. Yippee! Yannick was right, though, it was fun up there. The winds were ripping and Andanza seemed to be romping like a giddy stallion. Nothing sounded scary up there. But, it wasn’t quite my shift yet and I knew I still had two hours of “fun” ahead of me topside starting at midnight so I didn’t stay long. “I’m going to get 12 more minutes of sleep,” I told Yannick as I made my way back down below. And surprisingly, I was able to fall back asleep rather quickly, even amidst all the bashing and shrieking. When my phone alarm went off at 11:50, it felt like someone was pulling me up from twenty feet below the ground. I was so deep.
And, of course, when it came time for my shift, the wind was nowhere near as “fun” as it had been for Yannick. She was all fidgety and dissatisfied—sometimes cranking up to 17 knots, other times dropping to 11 and threatening to spill the sails. I had to keep shifting our course a bit here and there to keep the canvas full and appease her. It was one of those irritating shifts and then, right when I heard Phillip rustle below and I started congratulating myself on making it to the end, the sea gods really decided to test me. I was clicking the auto-pilot over a few degrees to keep the wind off the stern and apparently I got a little too “click happy” and overwhelmed the B&G. This happened rarely, but on occasion, like a computer when too many tasks are initiated at once, the B&G would shut-down and re-boot. It is a quick process, maybe 45 seconds to a minute, but what happens when the B&G shuts down? So does the auto-pilot and if you don’t have your wits about you, you can easily get yourself all turned around and the sails all goobered up (a technical term in sailing).
Thankfully, because I had been so feverishly clicking, I knew the exact course we needed to be on (a heading of 82) and I was able to grab the wheel and hold her there while B&G came back. I was secretly hoping it would all be booted back up and running fine by the time Phillip got up there so he wouldn’t see I had crashed the system. Don’t tell Yannick either (until he reads this). Shhhhhh! But, I got lucky. The minute Phillip made his way into the saloon and started putting on his headlamp. The B&G came back up. I turned on the auto-pilot and set it for 82 and BOOM. Hands off the wheel.
“Everything going okay up here?” Phillip asked.
“Yep, just some finicky winds. But everything’s going fine. Great actually. Good night,” says Guilty Annie.
I have to say that was sometimes my favorite moment. The end of a successful night shift. It meant I had remained diligent, watched the instruments and my surroundings, nothing went wrong during my shift, and it was no longer my shift. I could shut down (mentally) and hand over the reins. Don’t get me wrong. Solo night shifts are often some of my most memorable, fulfilling moments of an offshore passage, but they are also often the scariest and the most stressful. It’s kind of like a tightrope walk. It’s beautiful, mesmerizing and stunning when you’re up there, but you’re also glad when you’ve made it safely to the other side. Whew.
After my shift, I crashed again. Falling quickly back into that 20-meter deep hole where everything was still and quiet and warm. The sound of footsteps at first became muffled noises in my dream. Branches beating a car window or something. They started to wake me but I lulled back again. Then more branches, they broke the glass of the windshield and suddenly I realized I’m not driving. I’m in my berth, the sounds of the water on the hull are now crisp and I hear them again. Footsteps, jogging from the bow to the stern, followed by Phillip’s voice. Something, something, then “I can’t!”
I kick the covers off, moving slower than I would prefer, and try to shake the sleep off as I stand up through the hatch over my berth. I don’t understand what I’m seeing at first. It’s Phillip, kneeling on the starboard transom, holding onto something that’s over the side of the boat. It is colorful in his hands. I blink a couple of times, trying to make sense of it, then the images form an answer. Phillip is holding the head of the spinnaker. I know it is the head because it is an acute triangle and it’s that unmistakeable crinkly green of Yannick’s furling spinnaker. I can then see the spinnaker halyard making it’s way down from the mast between Phillip’s arms. If that is the head … My mind questions the possibility of it until I emerge from my hatch and see the truth of it.
The spinnaker billows out ethereal and green behind the stern of Andanza, floating, flailing, sinking the water. She is so big and trails so far behind the boat. I try to start pulling in the sail alongside Phillip, but she is swamped, weighing ten times what she would with a sea of water in her belly. Yannick pops his head up from under the starboard hull, spits out salt water and says: “It’s ripping on the prop.” There isn’t time for questions, although they fill my mind anyway. Why? How? I feel Johnny’s hands near mine pulling as well but whatever inches we pull out seem to be sucked back into the water the moment we let go to re-grip. Just bobbing, the current is still strong enough to give the ocean more pull on the wet body of the sail than our weak hands can muster from the transom.
Yannick tells Phillip to crank the port engine and put the boat in reverse so we can get the sail on board. I can see he is fighting and yanking, trying to keep the sail off the starboard rudder. While I’m sure his first concern in going overboard was to rescue the sail, now that the sail is threatening our much more important prop and rudder, the tables have turned. With the port engine slowing us down, Johnny and I are finally able to make some visible headway with the sail, pulling several soggy feet up and over the toe rail at a time, but it is still a massive chore. The sail begins to bob in the water and creep toward the port hull and we all shout: “Watch the prop on port!”
Yannick is fighting the sail in the water, trying to keep her both off of the rudder on starboard and away from the prop on port, an almost impossible feat while submerged as Johnny and I slowly make progress. The more sail we recover, though, the less the grip the waters have on her and we can finally see an end in sight. Johnny and I heave a final two, three times and finally she is recovered, a wet, green mess covering us on the deck. Johnny and I just sit, soaked, our chests heaving, and rest as Yannick makes his way up the starboard ladder. He is breathing just as hard and his chest and stomach are covered in red whelps, lashes and bleeding cuts.
“I want to see it. Help me bring it to the trampoline,” he says. While none of us want to—Johnny and I both saw and felt many rips in her as we pulled her onboard, our wet hands sometimes gripping at the edge of a gaping hole and ripping it further—we follow Yannick’s orders and haul the sail into the stark sunlight on the tramp. Yannick spreads the remains of his spinnaker out, spreading the jagged chasms open, confirming what he already knew to be true. Phillip and I try to console him: “It can be repaired. We’ve ripped our kites many times and had them stitched back up.” “You saved the prop and rudder. That’s way more important,” but our murmurs seem too limp and weak to reach him. Although Johnny and I had no clue how the spinnaker went overboard (we were both asleep at the time) no one asked what happened right then. We were curious, sure. But, it didn’t matter. The sail was gone.
While I’m glad I snapped these pictures now that the incident is over, behind us and we’ve learned the lesson from it. In the moment, right when I did it, I felt a horrendous guilt as Yannick leaned over, knees to his chest, his wet hair dripping onto the remains of the tattered sail, mourning its loss. Yannick has said the same about many of the moments I captured from our trip that were not the fun highlights that you want to re-live but, rather, the more frustrating, trying times. That is, while he didn’t particularly enjoy the fact that the camera was rolling in the moment, he is grateful, now, for what I captured and have enabled him to share with others. But, I will say it is hard in the moment to decide what to record and what to simply let slip away as a mere memory.
After talking with Phillip later, I learned Phillip had woke early and was making coffee while Yannick held the helm around 6 a.m. The winds that had been easing off during my 12-2 a.m. shift the night before had settled into a steady 8-9 knots and Yannick and Phillip thought, rightfully, that it would be a good time to raise the spinnaker. They hoisted the spinnaker and Phillip said she raised and filled just fine. He remained at the bow while Yannick went back to the cockpit to sheet in the spinnaker sheet and that’s when the sail started to billow. Phillip didn’t know why at the time but she fluttered and sank overboard and was swept quickly between the two hulls of the boat.
Afraid the weight of the sail full of water would damage the bow sprit (if not rip it off entirely), he and Yannick released the tack of the spinnaker from the bow sprit and that is how I found them, with Phillip holding the head of the spinnaker over the starboard transom and Yannick having jumped overboard to try, initially, to prevent the sail from shredding on the prop or rudder and then, subsequently, to prevent the monstrous sail from damaging the prop or rudder on the starboard side.
Discussion after the incident told us the spinnaker halyard had been cinched into the winch at the mast but not clutched down above the winch. A very simple mistake that, with just the right gravitational forces, wind, water or bouncing of the boat, caused the halyard to come out of the self-tailing jaws of the winch and allow the sail to billow and sink overboard. While sailing itself really is simple—there are a handful of lines that must be pulled and cleated in a certain way—it is sadly almost too easy to suffer a grave loss by making a very simple mistake. Say, wrapping the line around the winch counter-clockwise, instead of clockwise, leaving a sea cock closed, forgetting to shut a clutch, etc. All of these things can cause a sometimes dangerous, costly loss. It’s hard to say whether the fact that the mistake can be so simple is a good thing or a bad thing. You’re glad when you find the mistake and realize how easily it can be prevented next time, but then you kick yourself at how easily it could have been prevented this time. But what’s done is done. C’est la vie. You just have to build muscle memory to where you do all the simple things in the right order as a matter of habit.
Yannick sat alone with his tattered spinnaker for a few minutes before unzipping her bag which lay on the tramp and started gently packing her back inside. I can’t really tell you why, but we left the spinnaker like that (“in a body bag” we called it, half in jest, half in truth) on the tramp for several days.
Even though none of us really enjoyed the sight of her up there, it felt like stuffing her back down into the forward locker on port would feel a bit like a betrayal. Like a final burial. So, she rode with us under the sun and through the waves on the buoyant tramp of the Freydis for a few days before we finally stowed her away.
Yannick impressed us all that morning. While he does have a temper and he does have a tendency to focus on a problem until it becomes a festered infectious thorn, he also has an uncanny ability to sweep aside a crappy situation and turn back into his jovial self rather easily. He himself calls it: “Highs and lows. When it’s good times, I’m on the highest of highs, but when things start to suck, I fall to the lowest of lows. I’m either really happy or really pissed off.” Right after the really crappy spinnaker incident, Yannick decided to get really happy and he told me to make sure we still had Johnny’s birthday celebration lined up. Phillip had decided to make Johnny a “birthday breakfast” that day of egg and cheese burritos (although Johnny ended up getting a birthday lunch, a birthday snack and a birthday dinner too). By the end of it, we were telling him: “You get a day, not a week.” But, we did have fun putting together a little Hallmark-worthy (or so I thought) celebration for Johnny that morning, not hours after losing the spinnaker. June 11th, 2016, Johnny Walker turned 72:
A few short days later also marked a tipping point in the trip as the crew watched the number of nautical miles put behind us pass 2,300 leaving a little less than 2,400 nm to go before we crossed the Atlantic ocean on a small sailboat. That was a pretty cool feeling. I put together a video commemorating it, “Trans-Atlantic: the Halfway Point” for my Patrons while we were underway that I was able to share with them once we made it to the Azores. Enjoy!
I hope you all are enjoying the tall (although very true) sea tales from our Atlantic-crossing. If offshore voyaging is something you would like to experience or scratch off your bucket list, be sure to check out my “Voyages” tab and see all of the awesome blue water trips the s/v Libra will be making this winter across the Gulf of Mexico. Patrons get a $250 discount on any voyage and there are still a few bunks left on the trip to Isla Mujeres with me over Thanksgiving as well as the New Years Eve trip to Cuba to celebrate the new year with Phillip and I in Havana. Book today!
Also, if you haven’t yet seen the Atlantic-crossing movie and would like to, she is now available FOR RENT on YouTube. Check it out!
And, (yes AND! we’ve got a lot of cool stuff going on here at HaveWindWillTravel), we are just a few weeks out from drawing our 3rd Gift of Cruising “Go Offshore with Andy Schell” winner. If you would like your name to be put in the pot, become a Patron, read through Andy’s FAQs on his website and EMAIL ME to opt-in for a chance to win!
We were at Yannick’s house, meeting his wife and children, and discussing, for the first time, the realities of Phillip and I serving as crew aboard his catamaran for the passage from Florida to France. It was pretty much understood that Yannick had granted our request to make this passage with him, but I think (wisely so), before that decision was officially announced, he and his wife wanted to sit down with us and have a serious discussion about the voyage so they could get a better sense of who Phillip and I are and why we really wanted to make this passage across the ocean.
Can’t say that I blame them. I’m sure they were asking themselves:
I believe Yannick got a sense early on that Phillip and I were capable, committed sailors and this was truly a bucket list item for us, something both of us had wanted to do for a long time and that we were planning to do in the future on our own boat, but that Yannick’s crossing had presented itself at an opportune time to give us the invaluable experience, first, serving merely as crew as opposed to Captain and First Mate aboard s/v Plaintiff’s Rest. Another concern Yannick had was that I would probably want to share the entire voyage on YouTube via my HaveWindWillTravel.com platform. While he has plans to launch a YouTube channel someday, exposing himself, his family and their future home aboard s/v Andanza to the scrutiny of my YouTube audience through the perspective of my camera lens was not something he was comfortable with. It may come as no shock that not everyone enjoys having their lives and home put on widespread public display.
While I was a little surprised and disheartened by his request initially, as with many things that appear to be bad at first, with a little time and perspective, I found it was really for the best. It was Yannick’s request and agreement to allow me to share it on a non-public, exclusive medium (Patreon) that inspired me to create a new, hybrid platform, where some content is free, some is for purchase. It’s like putting on a free concert, but also selling backstage passes for those who want to pay to get backstage to meet the artist. Overall, in exchange for the privilege to be invited as crew for my first ocean-crossing, it seemed a small price to pay. I also had a fantastic time sharing the voyage through my “Cross the Atlantic with Me” Patreon campaign via the Delorme tracker link as well as weekly travel logs, photos and videos while we were underway and I gained many new followers and supporters, whom I now call friends.
With the YouTube issue settled the only other matter that seemed of utmost important to both Yannick and his wife Clothilde, was that we understand that Yannick was the Captain. We were to offer input and our opinions as needed or solicited, but it was Yannick who would make the decisions and instruct us accordingly. It was Clothilde, actually, in broken English, who really drove this matter home when she said:
Clothilde previously worked as a flight attendant with France Air and was telling Phillip and I the procedure and delegation of duties for her and the rest of the flight crew as an analogy to what we should expect while serving as crew under Yannick, and she repeated the phrase several times throughout: “No gloves.” At first Phillip and I weren’t quite sure what she meant by it but as she continued to explain, it became clear she meant no kid gloves. Clothilde was trying to prepare us for Yannick’s very matter-of-fact, direct approach. He was not going to sugar coat anything for us and he was not going to treat us gingerly to avoid potential hurt feelings. If he disagreed with our recommendation or input, he was simply going to tell us, without the gloves.
“Agreed,” Phillip and I said in unison, both surprised by Clothilde’s bluntness and both in admiration of the no sugar-coating agreement Yannick and Clothilde had obviously assumed in their relationship which had served them well for years, as they have embarked together on many adventures—sailing, traveling, moving from France to the states and back, as well as biking and backpacking through Iceland, and much more.
With those understandings in place, it was understood. Yannick was the Captain and Phillip, myself and Johnny Walker would be joining him as his diligent and dutiful crew. One other very exciting piece of information we learned during this meeting was our departure date:
May 28, 2016
Why was that exciting? Because thirty-four years ago, on that date, a fine specimen was brought into this bright, blazing world.
Annie “Jo-Lo” (2) and “Bro-Lo” (5) circa 1984. Anyone remember ShowBiz Pizza Place?
When I learned we would be leaving on my thirty-fourth birthday, I knew, then and there, I had made the right decision. I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate the accomplishment of thirty-four years—particularly when I had spent the last three trying to build a life that allows me to do the two things I love most: write and travel—than by setting off on my first trans-Atlantic crossing, my first trip overseas to Europe and my first blue-water voyage. As Johnny so accurately put it: This trip was going to cross “many items” off the bucket list. But, it was mid-April already so we had much to do to prepare for the trip.
Very soon after mine and Phillip’s “no gloves” meeting with Yannick and Clothilde, Yannick set up another rendezvous at his house, when the whole crew was able to attend, for a detailed discussion about gear, provisioning, sail plans, weather and (most importantly) crew safety, complete with a slideshow he had prepared.
I kid you not. Yannick had put together a very helpful step-by-step PowerPoint that he used to walk us all through the important topics that needed to be covered to ensure we were all aware of the risks we were taking, how to decrease them and how to respond if we did, in fact, find ourselves in an emergency situation. I was astounded at the amount of research, thought and energy Yannick had put into this trip. Well, except for the meals. I give you Yannick’s thoughts on passage food:
Aside from meals, however, he had considered and made contingency plans for some situations I had never even considered. When we were discussing that night the one obvious downfall of the crew—i.e., our lack of experience in that not a one of us had crossed the Atlantic Ocean before—I will never forget what Yannick said when I made the comment that, despite his experience, I believed he was competent and intelligent enough to serve as our Captain for the passage.
“It’s not intelligence,” he said. “It’s situational awareness.”
Touché. I could tell at the outset I liked Yannick. Was he cocky at times? Sure. He’s a fighter pilot. They all are. Well, most of them. (Allan, if you’re out there and reading this, I exclude you.) Was he blunt and dismissive of input at times? Yep. But, it was often because he had already researched, considered and (rightfully or wrongfully) rejected your idea. Frankly, I like that quality in a captain. If anything, he was decisive and incredibly efficient in the use of his time and resources to analyze, decide and move on.
“No gloves.” Got it?
I have uploaded a link to view the entire, extensive PowerPoint slideshow our esteemed Captain put together for our first crew briefing on Patreon. You will see there were many (many!) situations of which he was more than aware. : )
In the PowerPoint, Yannick mentions a “2012 Passage Video” aboard s/v Andanza. This was something super cool I shared on Patreon back in May. Get this: Andanza has crossed the Atlantic Ocean not once, not twice, but THREE times before we set off on her in June for her fourth crossing. And there is an awesome video on YouTube from the previous owner’s crossing in 2012. Check it out!
Did you SEE the 17.4 knots she was making? I believe the highest our Niagara has ever reached was 8.3. (Phillip, correct me if I’m wrong on that.) And, that was while surfing down a wave. At the time, I could not fathom a sailboat traveling at 17 knots. I can now …
With our extensive crew de-briefing complete and all crew in agreement with the “No gloves” standard operating procedure, all that was left to do was (snap our first crew photo!) then ready the boat and crew for the passage.
We were about six weeks out from our departure date at that time and we had about 600 very important things to accomplish before then. First and foremost, our focus was on the boat. We only needed to install and test a few key items before we would be ready to shove off on May 28th!
The new sails
A few windows
Some critical transmission parts (which were still en route from Italy ETA TBD at the time)
Minor stuff, really …
(Screenshot from my first tour aboard Andanza, posted to Patreon May 4, 2016.)
I hope you all are enjoying the Atlantic-Crossing tale thus far! You’ll see there is a lot of additional Patrons-exclusive content I have been posting to Patreon since we learned we would be making this voyage back in April. If you needed any other excuse to get access to some extra goodies, I hope a chance to win our 6-Day Bareboat Charter Certification course through Lanier Sailing Academy is enough! Just a few short weeks before we’ll be giving this awesome prize away. Get on board at https://www.patreon.com/havewindwilltravel.
I don’t toy with the idea; it toys with me, pecking and picking at the back of my brain. “You should go,” it says. And I should. At least I believe I should. Maybe not believe, but think. I think I should. Shouldn’t I? When the idea starts to grip and pull me hand-over-hand into its graces, there is only thing that pulls me fast-and-hard back. That is Phillip.
Friends, followers, I dare say it is time. While filming my adventures, making videos and taking pictures is fun, it is merely a pastime compared to my true passion: writing. I find the endeavor of trying to capture and re-create my surroundings in such detail you feel you are right there, breathing the air next to me, a deliciously-thrilling challenge. I am up for it, and it is time. I want to tell you the tale of my first Atlantic-crossing, from start to finish, complete with plenty of photos. As I come across footage, while making the Atlantic-crossing movie, that corresponds with these posts, I will share it in an exclusive video on Patreon as well. Although I hope my words will conjure crisper images, mostly I hope you enjoy the feeling of the journey as I experienced it.
When I say “Phillip” was the main reason for my not wanting to go I do not mean he had asked me not to go or that he did not want me to go. Quite the opposite. He was the first person to encourage me. Much like the trip I had bravely set off on not one year prior—where I agreed fly to the Bahamas alone and crew for five days on a boat with total strangers in the Abacos Regatta—Phillip encouraged me to sign on for the Atlantic-crossing even though he knew not at the time whether he could join. No, it was not Phillip’s desires or concerns that held me back, it was the thought of embarking on this incredible journey without him—leaving him behind to stand on the shores while I cast off to cross an ocean—that gave me serious pause. Had Phillip merely said, “It’s up to you,” I likely would not have gone. But he did not. “You should go,” he said, as if his was the voice of the Idea. And so I decided I would.
We all eyed him in a mix of astonishment and admiration. Alone. It was Yannick. Our Captain. Our faithful leader on this voyage, and the man we now congenially refer to as “the Wandering Frenchman.” I didn’t know him well at the time. This was probably my third time speaking with him. And I sure didn’t know in a matter of months I would be stepping foot aboard his boat to cross the ocean with him. At the time Yannick was just another boat owner who was having work done on his boat at the yard at the same time Phillip and I were hauled out this past winter re-building our rotten stringers, replacing our original 1985 rod rigging and knocking out a few hundred other “while you’re out of the water” projects. Yannick’s 46’ high-performance French-built Catamaran was docked at the yard at the same time undergoing significant repairs after suffering a lightning strike in September, 2015.
I’m sure this is no secret. It seems many boat owners—males in particular and Brandon and Phillip in a unique form of particular—can stand around and talk about boats for hours, days even. While Brandon mentioned Yannick’s catamaran often during these “boat conversations” at the yard, merely as a matter of course, we could tell he was especially surprised at the astonishing array of electronics Yannick was having him install on his catamaran: a back-up chart-plotter, radar, AIS, forward scan, numerous alarms, a siren, even! It wasn’t until the “alone” conversation that we learned why.
Yannick is a fighter jet pilot in the French Navy. He had been in Pensacola for two years working as a flight instructor but was soon slated to retire, at which time he planned to move he and the family—his beautiful wife Clothilde, their five-year old son Nils and five-month old daughter, Clemence—back to France where they would plan to move aboard the catamaran in the following year and then begin cruising northern Europe. All he needed to do was get the boat back to the France. All he wanted in order to do that was some high-end electronics and a siren. Yannick’s initial plan was to sail his catamaran single-handed, non-stop over 4,600 nautical miles from Pensacola, Florida to Roscoff, France.
I clicked on the GoPro the minute this news broke, out of habit (what a story!), and I’m glad I caught it on film. Yannick explained one of reasons he hesitated to seek out crew to help him make the passage was what he called the “human factor,” meaning: “Who do you want to take with you across the ocean?” Definitely a legitimate concern. It’s a small boat and a lot of days. It’s fun to look back on this clip, though, and realize none of us knew at the time, as Yannick was telling Phillip and I about his “human factor” theory, the pesky “humans” he would taking with him across the ocean would be us.
Video from our first conversation with Yannick about the crossing, up now in a Patrons-only post on Patreon.
I will admit, his plan seemed a little outlandish. While Yannick had brought his catamaran up from the Caribbean to Pensacola on a 16-day run with a hired captain, aside from that he had virtually no other offshore experience on his boat. What he did have, though, was confidence. He seemed so resolved, so pragmatic about the whole thing, I honestly believed he could do it. Surely someone who flies jets at supersonic speed can handle a slow boat across an ocean? Some of those skills must translate? Well, they do and they don’t. I will say at the outset one of the most interesting aspects of this voyage was watching someone as capable and smart as Yannick have to adapt in many ways to cruising. The weather, the elements and the boat simply do not treat you any differently based on your resume.
At no point did Yannick seem to be uncertain in his decision, though. At no point did he seem to be desirous of bringing crew aboard to help him make the passage. He seemed determined—excited even—to do it alone. “I like a challenge,” he said. Phillip and I chatted about our interesting conversation with Yannick a little here and there over the course of the next couple of weeks (this was mid-March), thinking how cool it would be when we would finally be ready to cross the ocean on our boat, but that was the extent of it. It wasn’t until Phillip came home from work one day a couple of weeks later, after having stopped at the shipyard on the way home, with a new piece of information and a seed to plant.
“Johnny?” I asked, a little confused. I wasn’t even sure Johnny and Yannick knew each other, at least not well enough to meet Yannick’s “human factor” and I didn’t know ocean-crossing was something Johnny had always wanted to do. Johnny Walker (no relation) is an old friend of Brandon’s and a well-known diesel engine mechanic in the Pensacola marine industry. We had worked with Johnny on several occasions over the past few years in tuning and maintaining our engine, borrowing some rare tools as needed from his impressive collection. (Remember the torque wrench we broke when re-torquing our keel bolts?) We also had the opportunity to buddy sail with Johnny on our way down to the Keys in 2014 when he and his son, Jeremy, were sailing his Morgan 38 down to Key West at the same time.
Needless to say, Johnny was an old friend, an old salt and, specifically, a proven and reputable sailor and mechanic, and he was now on board for the Atlantic-crossing.
“Johnny’s going,” Phillip said, with a playful gleam in his eye. I knew he was looking at me funny for a reason and I knew this information was key for a reason, but it was like I couldn’t get the rusty gears in my head to turn fast enough to put it all together. Why is it so important that Johnny’s going? Phillip could tell I needed help connecting the dots. If Johnny’s going, Yannick is now taking on crew. If Johnny is going, maybe others could go to …
“You know who else Johnny thinks would be a good fit to make the passage?” Phillip asked. Then it clicked. Me! Us! Me? Once again it seemed a little outlandish. I might be crossing the ocean this year? The idea was very new. My first thought was honestly how cold it might be and what gear I would be wearing. My vivid imagination apparently wanted to see it first before I could process the actual details.
Once I got past the fashion block, however, and started to truly digest it, my second thought was Phillip. I couldn’t imagine embarking on an ocean-crossing voyage without the single person who turned me into a sailor in the first place. I can’t go without Phillip. Or at least I shouldn’t. I can’t.
As luck would have it, right around the time this outlandish idea emerged Phillip had a rather large block of time on his calendar, for a trial that was scheduled in June, that could possibly open up assuming certain things fell into place with his case load. Now it was not just an idea, it was a hope: Phillip and I making our first ocean-crossing together this year! All of that depended upon Yannick, however, as we hadn’t even been invited yet. Phillip and I were dreaming about the voyage long before Yannick even considered the idea of welcoming us aboard for the trip.
This was the gut-wrenching part for me. The one, singular thing that held me back from jumping immediately on the idea was the one, singular person I truly wanted to make the trip with. We were nowhere near sure at the time that Phillip could make the trip with me. We spend just a few hours apart and I begin to miss him. Now we were talking weeks, months perhaps. I ached just thinking about it. But, it was an incredible opportunity and it was Phillip who did, and always does, push me to greater experiences. “You should go,” he said, and I knew he was right. The one thought that comforted me in agreeing, at first, to sign on without him was how much I knew this trip would mean to him. Phillip has crossed oceans before, in large carrier ships. He has traveled much more of this awe-inspiring world than I have. But one thing he has not done, that he has always wanted to do, is sail across an ocean. My hope was if I was able to secure us two spots as crew for the passage, he would move mountains to be able to join me. So it was decided. I, at least, was going.
My blood pulsed hot through the veins of my neck as I scrolled through my contacts in my phone, looking for one in particular: Johnny Walker. I needed to tell him one thing: If Yannick would have us, Phillip and I wanted to come.
Fun video following my initial conversation with Johnny that I shared on Patreon April 8, 2016. Thanks, as always, to my followers, friends and Patrons who enable me to share this journey. Get on board!
“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 main halyard
The starboard engine injectors
The port engine muffler
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%)
“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”)
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)
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!