As I sit writing this we are 187 miles from Horta and in the final 24 hours of the 2nd leg of the crossing. Having a bit more “water” behind us than in front of us, we have had a chance to reflect on things we did “right” and things we may have done differently. Since I know some reading this are planning this journey next year, I thought I would include thoughts from the crew on what they would have changed.
So, things that we have done well in terms of preparation:
Pre-cooking food: It would be easy to forgive a participant in this trip believing that they were going to be bored. It was absolutely something that I imagined we would struggle with – especially given the frenetic activity level in the months leading up to the trip. But nothing could be further from the truth. I have had several days of choosing between a book or a work out not able to do both. Having pre-cooked most of the dinner time meals aboard, we were able to mostly relax while not on watch and meal prep became as simple as tossing a salad or making a side dish or two to accompany what came out of the freezer. And as most of you are going to be inviting “crew” aboard, make sure that everyone prepares something (or some many things) to share. Sally and I both prepared and froze several meals which we were able to toss together in an hour or less and we cannot overstate the importance of a well fed happy crew. Making sure that everyone has their “comfort” food ready to go is huge. And speaking of food, this is not the time to try something that you think you may like or may make life easier. If you aren’t eating it at home, chances are you won’t want it on the crossing. But the foods that we prepared and froze not only contributed to the well being of the whole boat, they were delicious and satisfying and helped to feed the souls as we all enjoyed dinner together. An unintended benefit of prepared and frozen meals also includes reducing the waste aboard. In 10 sea days we only generated 1 1/2 bags of garbage (the small kitchen size) and that is for 6 humans and 2 cats. Not too shabby. What I would probably do differently on a crew of 6 is to work out KP duty to the roster so that ALL members of the crew can take a turn preparing a meal and cleaning the dishes and allowing everyone a day or two off. Everyone on board should be sharing in this responsibility. Also, plan ahead fruits and veggies leaving the heartier (potatoes, brussel sprouts, squash, apples, pears) for the last week and consuming the more fragile (spring mix, berries) right away. We managed to eat fresh fruits and veggies purchased from Stuart right up until the last day by carefully planning. While in Bermuda we bought just a few fresh items which were outlasted by food we purchased in Stuart. By the time it gets to the shelf in Bermuda, it is already older than food that we purchased at home and brought with us. Careful planning meant that for the full 3-4 weeks, we had fresh food the entire time. The Instant Pot proved invaluable in both meal prep and thawing foods already frozen. Frozen soups and stews could be thawed and heated in 10-15 minutes in the pot with no worries of containers sliding about on the stove or in the oven. The soda stream was a terrific addition as well as eliminating cans for storage and disposal to which we added some fresh lemon or lime juice.
In terms of maintenance: When I asked Alec what he was glad he took care of his response was: Glad that we went system by system doing heavy maintenance, even when it was a bit ahead of schedule and cataloging spare parts and ensuring that we had the tools to effect any repairs underway. What we would do differently here is that while we thought we had allowed enough time for all of the work to be done, at the end of the day, it wasn’t enough. We could have used a little more time fine tuning the electronics which were installed only a couple of months before our departure and working out the bugs continued right up until the day of departure. No matter how long you think something will take – double it.
Leaving Jack (our 8 year old son) behind. This was both something we did right and the thing we struggled with the most. Not a day went by that our hearts didn’t hurt missing him. But at the end of the day, having him aboard would have really changed the trip. Jack struggles with the occasional bout of sea sickness and he is too young for the patch. He has tried every single holistic treatment to no avail. 1/2 dramamine or bonine does seem to help but having him take this across the Atlantic with so much unknown weather to pass through would have really made us a wreck. Whats more it would have been really tough for everyone to get sleep during the day with a boundless 8 year old burning up energy in 64 feet. He is flying into the Azores and we will be together soon and he will accompany us on the 3rd leg from the Azores to Ireland. Fingers crossed it goes well.
Speaking of sea sickness… We all feel like we have been doing this long enough to “power through” but the patch for everyone on board was a dream! Elizabeth said “What I would do differently is bring more of my own patches”. We really should have all checked our own reaction to it while on solid ground but we never did. We did try it when conditions were making me miserable and the difference was amazing. Never preferring meds, I was reluctant but it works wonderfully and with no adverse side effects for anyone on board. Buy the patch and try it out before you leave and encourage your crew to do the same.
And finally, I would only add that whatever you need to be in place in order for you to be comfortable making the trip, whether hired crew, professional weather routing, just do it. As we go forward filling up our bag of TransAtlantic crossing experience, we won’t need to do as much in this regard but for this first trip across, make sure that you aren’t reliant on anyone else doing or not doing something in order to go. Our weather router did a wonderful job in helping us to plot a course through a needle of beautiful weather. It is our hope that we will be better able to do this ourselves in the future but it may be that the professional services of a weather router may just simply become a budgeted item anytime we have a multi – day passage. Time will tell. But I hope that we never make a plan based on the plans of another boat given how tenuous a plan like this can be.
As I write this final paragraph I would only add to this list careful vetting of crew can’t be overstated. We have been terrifically blessed by a great group of kindred spirits but there is no doubt that in 64 feet of pent up humans, it would be easy for personalities to clash – through no fault of anyone. Just that each personality has it’s twin – and it’s polar opposite. Spending time together on a short voyage can be just the piece of information you need to determine if a multi-day passage with unknown variables and the inability to get off the boat may work or not.
So we are having the time of our lives here in Horta and tomorrow our darling final crewman (Jack) leaves Florida to come to Horta traveling with our dear friend Janie. We are counting the moments until he is here with us.