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Sailing holidays -  Around the World in 8080 Days


The Atlantic Leg - September 1996

Sothampton to Gran Canaria to St Lucia

We sailed from Shamrock Quay, Southampton on 25 September 1996 and spent 4 days in the Channel battling two Force 8 westerly gales before rounding Brest and calling in for a brief but much needed rest at Camaret. From there we set off to tame the infamous Bay of Biscay. The forecast said force 6 gusting 7, but we got another full force 8 gale. Although wet and cold we enjoyed some exhilarating sailing making 190 miles in the first day. The wind eventually died away to produce a mirror calm sea and we spent the next two days motoring to La Corunna. At night the sea was flat calm, the sky pitch black with no moon and the phosphorescence (plankton which glows in the dark) especially bright. During these nights we experienced some of the most fantastic dolphin displays we have ever seen. On one occasion we saw an eerie glow in the water, not unlike a comet’s tail, which seemed to be closing on us rapidly. Then it suddenly got brighter as it shot directly towards our beam until you could clearly make out a dolphin’s silhouetted shape just a fraction of a second before it dived beneath the boat to re-emerge on the other side and torpedo off leaving a glowing wake to mark its passing. 

The passages from Madeira to Los Christianos and on to Las Palmas, Grand Canaria were rough and we encountered a huge swell in very light winds. The conditions exposed a number of problems including a diesel leak and the unreliability of the engine. With just a week to go before the start of the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) we frantically diagnosed the problem and arranged a complete rebuild on the engine which was hoisted back in on Saturday morning - just in time for us to make the start on Sunday. It took five days in ‘manana’ territory - could you get that sort of service in the UK? We had a great start and a very enjoyable crossing but the most fun was the arriving in the Caribbean. As we crossed the finish line at Rodney Bay in St Lucia the gun fired to mark our arrival and the champagne corks popped. The marina was a wonderful sight with all the ARC yachts who had already arrived festooned in flags. Then it started, a wail first, then a hooter, then a horn and another. A cacophony of sound and people on the pontoons and crews on the boats waving, shouting and applauding. A crowd gathered at our berth offering welcome and congratulations. As we touched the quay the ARC team were there to greet us with a tray of rum punches, a case of beers, and a huge basket brimming with fruit. What a welcome and what a feeling of satisfaction - we were all quite overcome, and soon overcame a rum punch or two! We had crossed the Atlantic in 20 days, no record but a very respectable time and we were 12th. in class. Not bad, in fact quite an achievement.


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