The below post was written in the first few days. We have arrived safely in Bermuda and had a lovely crossing. There were 3/5 days that we incredible and smooth and 2 which were a bit lumpy -all good though – nothing like losing a couple of pounds and I didn’t even have to exercise to do it. The crew of the Gratitude complemented each other beautifully – and a good time was had by all. We celebrated 2 birthday’s aboard (Alec and Bernie) and enjoyed many crew meals together in the wheelhouse and fly bridge. Gratitude performed flawlessly and she has just gotten a wash down and fill up by her grateful crew.
Crew from left to right front row
Sally Laurie Alec James
Michael and Bernie
WE ARE OFF!!!!!!
At 0810 this morning, 5/16/19 the MV Gratitude left the dock on the first of 3 legs to deliver us to Ireland. Next stop Bermuda.
With 6 crew aboard, Alec and I, Sally and Michael Hastings, Bernie Frances and James Knight we are making our way to the inlet to begin our big adventure.
The above caption was a feeble attempt to write this blog piece yesterday while fighting the worst nausea I have ever had! I abandoned the project and went to bed. What follows is day 2 and day 3.
As anyone who has formed a dream or epic adventure knows, dreams come in several stages – the beginning; the moment when the idea is first conceived. The watering of the idea by availing yourself with as much knowledge about the endeavor; and then the moments (or months) of preparations and finally the actual implementation of the dream. Alec and I have wallowed away many hours imagining what we would be feeling or what this would look like as we said so-long to our family and friends. We imagined moments of pure blissful joy with the months of hard work behind us. Well, we have the benefit now of being on day 2 of the beginning. I had imagined that I would be blogging with joyful fingers burning up the keyboard and posting it prior to making the turn direct Bermuda. I imagined tears of joy streaming down my face as the years of dreaming became reality. What really happened (though I am still full of joy and gratitude), was something other than any of my musings.
Firstly, this past week of final work and saying good bye to friends was FAR more emotional than we imagined. This was a huge blessing as we were able to experience dear friends in the context of saying so – long. Few people have the opportunity to say “so long” for a period long enough to warrant the loving kindness of friends preparing for a long absence. This wasn’t something that I gave a lot of thought to and was a bit surprised by my visceral reaction to it. If you are reading this and we have enjoyed a meal to say goodbye or you have said a prayer for us this is for you. Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. We feel so incredibly privileged to know you and call you friends.
The other element that I hadn’t really given much thought to, but experienced in full this week was that every decision one makes, no matter how joyful, comes at the expense of decisions not made. The decisions not made became somehow more impactful this last week before departure. So this brings me to yesterday, our departure. This is the part of the fantasy that I thought would be filled with joyful music and celebration but in reality began with saying good bye to our 8 year old son who will stay at home and join us in the Azores in June. To say that my heart broke in two would be a gross understatement but the decision was made and we believe it was in his best interest. Jack sometimes gets sea sick in lumpy or confused seas and also, entertaining an 8 year old while trying to maintain a watch schedule and keep 6 people fed and watered was not prudent for us nor fun for him. Leaving him with a trusted friend – a surrogate Grandmother if you will, was the wisest decision – gut wrenching though it was. And since saying good bye took longer than anticipated we were basically running down the dock being the LAST of our crew of 6 to arrive on OUR boat for OUR dream. The departure time (not date) was set in stone as we needed to leave at high tide due to a couple of “high” spots separating us from the inlet. So with Alec jumping aboard starting the engines and everyone saying good bye to the assembled friends sending us off, I was left with running around with my hair on fire getting last minute things stowed and the lockers all locked. I had imagined that once we were out of the inlet all of the emotions would settle down but the reality was the the seas which we thought would be 2-3 with 11 seconds were actually 4-6 with 2 seconds and incredibly confused. Everyone on board felt lousy but I had never felt worse. And so there I was, day 1 of my dream, sick as a dog and sleeping nearly the whole day.
Some of you reading this are considering your own crossing next year. Lessons learned:
No matter how much time you think you have – it is never enough and it is too much all at once. If we would have delayed another week, we would have filled one more week. But the challenge with something like this is that you have to be careful to avoid burn out and preparation fatigue. If we would have stayed even 1 more week – I don’t think it would have benefited us in the least – it could only have hurt us. So set the departure date and weather permitting – get underway as close as possible to that date.
When one is dealing with any yard or mechanical work prior to departure, allowing a ton of extra time can not be overstated. I don’t think I know of 1 single person to ever come out of the yard earlier than they guessed and everyone we know came out later – in some cases far later. And every single thing we did took so much more time and effort than we imagined it would. Even simple items like disconnecting Direct TV became a job requiring 3 and 4 phone calls and exceedingly long wait times. On Alec’s side, making a repair that he thought would take an hour, often exacted several hours of work with tools or parts that weren’t in his possession.
Provisions: Thank God we did the summer trip because I had imagined long lazy sea days of preparing multi-course gourmet meals, but the reality was that in some sea conditions, nobody wants to cook but everyone needs to eat. So acknowledging that we aren’t going to be having these gourmet 4 course meals at sea, Sally and I prepared about 25 meals for 6 humans for dinner and froze it all so it can just be sent into the oven, crockpot, instant pot or stove top and be done with minimal effort. Even with all the food prepared, we all ate crackers for dinner last night. Tonight is showing more promise as our seas have calmed down to 1-3 with a 8 sec period and a very lovely swell. The 2nd day, we enjoyed a wonderful meal brought on board by James. An indian curry dish and we enjoyed it on the fly bridge in the most exceedingly beautiful sea conditions EVER while helping Bernie to celebrate his 65th birthday.
Alec and I hung the storm plates and dead lights this week. The storm plates are hung on all salon windows. The plexiglass is about 1/2 inch thick and while I was worried it would look dark or hard to see out of, they are wonderful and not at all intrusive. The dead lights in the cabins are a bit more so in that they are metal coverings over all of the ports. But for a trip like this – that security is essential.
We are traveling with cats. Taking care of import paperwork for them was a monumental task. Basically, it would have probably been better for everyone (our vet included) had we simply found a vet who specializes in this sort of thing. Our vet is wonderful and I know he was doing us a huge favor by trying to help us but at the end of the day, you can hardly go wrong by finding someone who does just this kind of work and paperwork for a living. And the same goes triple for anyone performing maintenance on your boat. Hire the people who do this for a living – not a friend who is trying to help you out.
And finally (and this is not at all an exhaustive list, you will likely make your own list of preparations that surprised you) each person must make their own decision about what safety parameters must be in place to drive the trip to conclusion. Im referring here to the other boats who were on the original list. Look, I get it, stuff happens and we knew and were told that it would be very unlikely for all of the original 7 boats to make it to the start of this. We knew this and yet we were a bit surprised as boat after boat dropped out of the crossing. After we were down to 2 or 3 boats making the crossing and realizing that there would likely be others to drop out, Alec and I needed to talk about how we would feel about being the only boat crossing. Bottom line, we felt it prudent to have a professional along for the ride to bounce things off of. Bernie was already signed up for the crossing on another 76’ Nordhavn and as such he was disseminating information to the group free of charge. The challenge was that the boat that Bernie (and his giant bag of experience) was hired onto, had backed out of the crossing. We considered his experience with making several Atlantic crossings and believed that the experience he brings aboard was worth the financial commitment for no other reason but peace of mind. We didn’t per se care all that much which boat he was on, just that he was present on one boat. So we decided to hire him onto Gratitude just for the legs to the Azores. Beyond that we will be on our own. So I would suggest to anyone considering this crossing that if you are feeling like it is a challenge you are up to and you want to make the passage in the company of other boats, just make sure that whatever you need to do to be comfortable going ALONE is done because more likely than not, that that is what is going to happen. And on the subject of crew:
As I write this on day 3, the most interesting thing to happen to the crew of the Gratitude is a Mama and baby whale sighting and the tranquil conditions have allowed us to exercise on 2/3 days so far. Fingers crossed this continues. Everyone on board is in really high happy spirits and laughter spilling out of the wheel house has been a constant. We have 6 incredibly well matched people on board.
Thanks for reading! we are approaching the point of no return (20 miles away) and at the point any problem at all and we go to Bermuda. Yippee…..