Hitting the Pause button


Wednesday 16 October 2013

So now we’re in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria where we start our final preparation for the big one – the Atlantic crossing! It feels very real, indeed enormously exciting.

Before that we will have a visit from Lindsay, one of our Atlantic crossing team, and then we have the Mace family visiting, including God children, which we’re really looking forward to.

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Leaving Gibraltar finally!

Then it’s going to be heads down and all the serious preparation starts. Not to say we aren’t prepared, as it’s mainly maintenance and checking the boat over with a fine tooth comb that we need to do. Things like taking the sails down and checking them, checking all the rigging, changing the engine oil, new filters for the engine, testing all the gear is working etc.

We are taking part in an event called the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers or simply “the ARC” as it’s called. A sellout of 250 yachts are partaking and the departure date is 24th November. The ARC has a two week run-up with lectures, demonstrations and, most importantly, parties! It’s ideal for people crossing an ocean for the first time. Most valuable to us has been the ARC manual which lists everything you need and gives advice based on years of experience. Doing the ARC has been a great choice for us.

So time for reflection. Six months since we left – where are we, what are our thoughts? There is a saying that sailing is the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. That is awfully true. And we vowed we’d be honest and reveal warts and all.

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Susie helming

Lets knock those warts off first, get the ugly stuff out of the way. For us it’s the boat maintenance that has surprised us. Perhaps naively, we thought buying a reasonably decent boat would put us in a good place. But no matter the boat there is lots of maintenance, there is expense. The sea is a harsh environment and nothing is immune. In fact to be a boat owner you need to be someone who enjoys working with engines/systems. And I’m not shy to admit I come from a city background, my life has been one of pick up the phone and ask someone to do it. But no more, I’m trying, I wake every day, sit with my fresh coffee, pull out a manual, try to learn, try to fix. I’m lucky Susie did engineering at University, did some time working at Ford. She is Adina’s Chief Engineer, end of. And actually that’s good fun; it really turns the heads when the girl with the ponytail walks into a chandlery or boatyard and starts talking – they just love it! Talented girl. So yes, for us it’s been a steep and often painful learning curve but we’re getting there partly due to our wanting to understand things but more as we’ve had many friends willing to help get us up that curve. We’ve been lucky to have a really decent set of people helping us both at home and people we’ve met in the marinas. It’s humbling, it’s touching, it’s taught us a lot, and by gum we will set the same standard and help others.

People asked do we get scared at sea? Sure, we’ve had our scary moments; yes it can be damn terrifying at times. But we talk to others and they go yep, we get scared too. We work together, we support each other, we know Adina is solid and can cope. She handles the sea well and just keeps going, no matter what. And the odd prayer doesn’t go amiss.

And then there are the long passages at sea. By nature Susie and I are people who need to be busy, to be active. At sea that’s not really possible. We try different things to keep busy. We helm a lot, we read, we chat, we play games. Sounds mad, many people would kill for the peace and quiet. Be still the beating heart.

Tiffany the sparrow hitches a ride

Tiffany the sparrow hitches a ride

We’ve always maintained we’ll do a sensibility check when we get to the Caribbean and we stick by that. We’ll ask ourselves if we are enjoying it or is the boat maintenance outweighing the fun, are the passages too long? We’re positive people by nature but we’re also realistic. It takes a bigger person to say, you know what, this is not what I want. And I hope we’re big enough to do that if needed.

And then there are the highs. We’ve absolutely loved having people come to visit us, it’s great to share our little adventure, we love company. Each person’s visit is treated as a holiday and we try our best to spoil. I must exclude Susie’s parents here, they are so helpful, as well as spoiling them we get them working! But we love them!

Of course the sightseeing has been fabulous; we love to explore, eat and drink. Algeria was a real high – many thought we were insane but it was the best decision we made. And yes, we want more adventure. I mean come on, who doesn’t enjoy some man taking your lines, pulling your boat in with a machine gun swinging all over the place?! And why the damn Spanish keep serving my coffee in a coffee cup instead of a glass like the locals drives me insane!

Flying the parasailor

Flying the parasailor

And then you meet interesting people. Gibraltar was a real high – the Irish family Donal, Sarah, Ted and Robert became real neighbours! Then their is Ian, the retired true gentleman from Melbourne whose been sailing for years. A true inspiration, end of each day we find him sitting reading his paper, some cheese to hand, sipping on red wine “Come onboard you two!” And Tim, who with a lovely sense of humour, was doing all the work on his boat himself. And the people of Algeria who simply gave and gave, going out of their way for us. Brilliant. May we meet many more gifted individuals.

And us? All the girls want to know how we are as a couple living together 24 hours a day. Funny how not one of our male friends has asked the same. Women are from Venus, men are from bars. Run Thomas, run. Sure we have our moments, but we know we need each other. It’s very important we stick together. We have different skills and we complement each other. Damn girl has told me if she doesn’t return from this trip a Mrs Partridge I’m in trouble. The cheek. Run fast Thomas, run very, very fast.

Looking forward, we’re enormously excited about the Atlantic crossing. Yep, on the day the hearts will be beating fast, you know the sea is out there in all its glory, good and bad.

Tom flying the spinnaker

Tom flying the spinnaker

If one thing sticks out more than anything at this stage in our adventure it is the kindness of people. It has been amazing. What we would really like is to say THANK YOU you to all those who support us, follow us, contribute. It means a lot.

While this blog sounds a lot about us, it’s just an honest reflection at a point in time so apologies for the self indulgence. Now, where’s that manual on the generator… And give me my cafe con leche in a glass like that señor over there!!

Sailing – it’s a high.

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4 responses to “Hitting the Pause button

  1. Anne says:

    I agree with Susie!!! Mrs. Partridge does have a nice ring to it! I’d hate to see her, with a little help from Lindsay, decide to push you overboard just shy of the Caribbean…

  2. Jos says:

    Fantastic entry, as they have all been, we love following you trip – the highs and lows. I couldn’t agree with Susie more! I will get those brownies to you before you head off probably via Susie’s parents.
    Perhaps you could start an open university degree to fill in the time?! Love to you both xxx

  3. Raniero says:

    Hi Tom, I have been following your blog for a couple of weeks and I would like to give you my best wishes for a succesful crossing.
    For the coffe served in a glass its is probably because you are asking for a “cafe con leche” which it is served in coffe cups in Spain, try asking for a ” cortado ” , they will give it to you in a glass.

  4. Donal says:

    We’re glad you guys are safely back on board and look forward to catching up again in Las Palmas..and thank you so much for picking up the last few bits of equipment for us in the UK.
    From all aboard Millport II