Daylight on 2nd March 2017 dawned pretty much the same as the previous grey day: big towering clouds marching across the sky, the sea large and frothing away, Adina powering on across the Atlantic Ocean. There was one difference, there were birds in the sky, quite a lot of them – land was near.
Our course was taking us well clear of the Tobago coast to counteract strong current that flows west between Tobago and Grenada. The last thing we wanted after thirty-five days of sailing across the Atlantic was to miss our destination. The wind continued to blow between 25 to 30 knots. It was too strong for our finely tuned genoa with two reefs, so we’d got our staysail out but that is more of a storm sail so too little wind for that and we didn’t have enough power to drive through the big seas. We’d worked out if we had our staysail out and a small amount of genoa just to power up the front of the boat it worked a treat. When you have big seas like we had you have to drive the boat forward with some power. Surrender and have little sail and you will be at the mercy of the sea, your boat sailing along like a rocking horse.
The wind would come and go, squalls were the worst. We were constantly on squall watch, always willing them to miss us. The clouds thicken and become dark grey, you see the sinister black edges in the distance. On our chart plotter the radar shows clouds as big red blobs and you can track them as they move. When those red blobs had yellow, blue and green colours too it meant those clouds had power in the form of wind and rain. Sometimes we’d get caught out and the wind would shoot up. We’d bear away fast to depower the sails and furl some of the genoa and mainsail before coming back on course. You then sit and watch the wind speed go up, hoping we’d reefed enough. Rule number one, always over reef. As a couple we are funny in that Tom is the first to get sail out, he has a finely tuned ear for when the boat is under-powered. On the flip-side he is slower to reef trying to convince himself Adina is just fine, she will sail through this wind that keeps rising. Susie is the opposite, strong winds mean trouble, get the boat reefed early. Between the two of us Adina gets the right result.
We counted the hours and meals away. The seas still relentless, crashing onto our beam. Holding on was essential for moving around the boat, you moved slowly. We knew we were in the final straights, we were going to push through, you fight that little bit more. Big waves would pull our bow up, Adina would race down the other side and then the next one would smash into her – bam! And of course we were tired, you’d shout at mother nature when she decided the back of the cockpit needed the umpteenth salt water clean.
Donal and Sarah, good friends who own the yacht Millport II and with whom we had so much fun in sailing across the North Atlantic in 2013, are now happily based in Grenada with their two boys Ted and Robert and were going to help get us in. An email with instructions for our arrival came through. They had rigged up lines on a mooring buoy ready for us, we were to radio them 10 miles out and they would come out to the entrance of the bay in their dinghy from where we would follow them in and they would be there no matter what time of day or night.
Adina raced along like a pedigree horse that knows it’s nearly home. She had sniffed the end, we were going for it. Night descended and we knew we were in for a night time arrival. No moon so it was pitch black, the clouds eliminating the stars. We’d joke it was a blessing that there was no moon so we didn’t have to watch the seas crashing away, a blind roller-coaster ride. Midnight passed and lights appeared – land, beautiful land. You think of people sitting ashore merrily going along life’s path, no worries of the turbulent seas that lay beyond terra firma.
2am on Friday 3rd March 2017 Susie gets on the radio, “Millport II, Millport II, Millport II this is Adina, Adina, Adina”. Donal’s voice comes back, “Adina, this is Millport II.” Magical words, ten miles to go. Donal and Sarah are ready, they’ve even roped a friend in at this insane time of night who will sit with his dinghy on the mooring buoy. You can’t help but be touched by people being out there wanting to help you. Donal and Sarah have always been meticulous in their preparations, we knew we were in safe hands. In the pitch dark with lights onshore glowing we talked through our final preparations, you so didn’t want things to go wrong.
“Adina, this is Milport II. We have you on AIS”. “Good to hear your voice, Donal” “Good to hear yours too, Tom”. You are fighting raw emotion, we’re nearly there, a dear friend is ready to help you in and welcome you home. Later we all confess we were fighting back the tears. On board, we’re both flipping between being serious for our arrival and grinning knowing we’ve done it.
Torches flash, we head towards each other, Donal and Sarah pull up and then guide us slowly in. Their friend Ted hands up a line to the mooring buoy. We’re done, we’ve made it. 3am on 3rd March 2017, we’ll never forget it.
Donal, Sarah and Ted come on board, hugs all round. We apologise for the state of the boat, lines everywhere, Adina has been on an ocean passage. We need a celebration drink, the only thing cold is a bottle of rose, it accidentally found its way into the fridge as it was rolling in a cupboard. Sometimes drinking in the early hours in the morning is perfectly acceptable.
The main show is over – what next? In the immediate here and now, we have friends also circumnavigating who will arrive soon and we will help them in, more hugs, more love! The same day Susie’s parents will arrive, certainly more hugs, more love. We have friend Susie Ellis who we promised back in Cape Town we’d be here with for her birthday so that has to be fun. Friends from Trinidad are coming in to join us for a weekend. And then Adina embarks on a circumnavigation honeymoon of the Caribbean for two months before the show finally draws to a close. Maybe still time for a blog or two.
We will take time to sit in the Adina stadium of memories and smile and talk about our experiences. Remember that time sitting with Willy in the beautiful Ninigo Islands in Papua New Guinea? Big large black man, who we called my little brother. Remember him? “Oh Tom, my brother, you must tell Susie – you lover blong me” and peels off in deep happy laughter. Look, here’s the treasured whale tooth he gave us as a present to remember him by.
So that’s it, Adina and her merry crew of two have sailed around the world. At times we wondered about the actual day of completing our circumnavigation; we dreamt of daylight, meeting friends, hugs, laughter and thanks all round, perhaps a party. In the end we came in quietly in the deep of the night, helped by friends and had a small toast on-board, perfect. It was a bit like some of the virtues we’ve learnt on our journey that have become important to our being. Go quietly, listen to others, offer help and be a little humble.
We are indebted to so many people for help and friendship in so many, many ways. Still one of our favourite phases from the Pacific island of Vanuatu – tank yu tumas.
Our circumnavigation is dedicated to the memory of Susan Mary Partridge, Tom’s mother, who sadly passed away in February 2016. Much loved, much missed.