ARC Preparations

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November 27th 2012
Published: November 27th 2012
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Following a lumpy downwind romp into Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, we embarked upon the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) preparations. This should be the pinnacle of our yachting adventure. There are some 250 yachts that are signed up for the ARC but in the first few days after opening it is apparent that many have not yet made it to Las Palmas. The poor weather has hampered everyone in getting south. Those yachts that are here are dressed all over – this means that they have all their colourful signal flags hanging from the their masts and for many the it is the chance to party. For most though the sound of drilling, angle grinding and hammering fills the air. There are a number of yachts that are immaculate – the new Oysters and Baltics on the big-boat wall but these are in the minority. The majority are preparing feverishly for an Atlantic passage, and for most, their first.

There are seminars on routeing, provisioning, what do see in Saint Lucia and many others. Lisa is deep into the logistical science of how many eggs, litres of water, kilos of gas, cereal bars will be needed by 5 adults and 2 kids for the next 25 days. We hope that we will not need anywhere near that long but to run out of cooking gas or water would be a disaster. Auntie Sally has come to help out. She and Lisa have compared prices of everything under the sun to ensure that we have the best deal.

The kids, by comparison, are living a dream of freedom and making new friends. 42 other imprisoned youngsters are tearing around the marina and the kid’s club is in full flight. This takes them dinghy sailing, tree planting and a whole range of activities. It is clearly not all plain sailing though as Samuel proves on day 2 here as he falls from a rocky sea wall onto a slipway and puts 7 stitches into his chin – the following day Lisa falls off her bike and bangs her head and back hard on the curb – a few days later Sally falls over on the pontoon (drink may have been a factor here...) and hurts her ankle narrowly avoids a fashion disaster as her new pashmina is recovered from the water. What is going on! Cameron and I remain unscathed but are not taking any chances!

Sundowners are the highlight of the day – organised by the ARC staff and sponsored by some yacht service provider or other from insurance companies to yacht deliverers this provides a forum for a catch-up on what is troubling each of us and to enable the kids to run again with a few free drinks. Everyone looks forward to them. There are also a number of formal parties – although the dress code never rises above crew t-shirts and “no flip-flops” – so not really that formal after all!

Vince has now arrived and space is getting tighter. Not because Vince is a big chap but simply because storage is so tight. There are going to be nets raised to store fruit and veg today – each one washed in a mild Miltons solution to remove the micro-bacteria on them to make them last the passage and tonight Ian and Kate Turnbull will arrive and Auntie Sally will leave. We will be fully crewed then. Hence on Friday morning the only chance to write the blog is at about 0630 before life gets under way.

Sally has now left and Ian and Kate have arrived. Without Sally to help her, Lisa would have been absolutely run off her feet. As it is both are exhausted by the end of each day. Ian and Kate quickly gel with the boys and Kate is a huge help to Lisa too. The pontoon is quickly full with all our fresh provisions. It looks like we have enough to start our own grocery store and can deliver supplies at sea to other ARC participants. To test this theory the boat opposite in the racing fleet has not had its lettuces delivered. A favour is extended and off they go with 4 lettuces. Each individual piece of fruit is laid out, gently washed in a sterilising solution and dried before being stowed away in a net or a crate within the temporary storage areas we have designed. The boat has probably never been so heavily laden or the crew quite so prepared for their “5-a-day!” Its location is then logged and on a daily basis it will be turned to avoid it rotting and to pluck out the bad apple that will bring down the rest. This task is a logistics effort that is hard to comprehend. Lisa’s system is drawn from her experiences in event management but The Big Event should now establish an office in Las Palmas in November to provision yachts for successive ARCs. Each one of 100 carrot is individually wrapped in foil. 120 eggs are sealed in clingfilm. Each pack of flour, sugar, pasta, lentils etc is individually wrapped in clingfilm to avoid little bugs that can become stowaways and could then contaminate the rest of the contents of a locker. I think we pack an entire cow in the forward starboard cabin (84 litres of UHT) – all carefully placed around the boat’s systems with necessary access to essential maintenance to continue throughout the passage.

On deck Ian, Vince and I are up and down the mast to protect the sails from chafe by using leather, anti-chafe material and hose sliced down the middle to protect the mainsail from the spreaders. Every shackle is checked and moused (to stop it from coming undone) and that’s a huge number. The sounds of work and calls from the rigging of other boats continues as everyone goes through the same steps. Boats that do the ARC will put their crews and boats to the test and thorough preparation is absolutely necessary.

The boys are largely unaware as they shoot on scooters (early Christmas presents from Lala and Grandpa) around the marina. It is a huge place and the fun takes place for them all around it. Daddy has also been seen using one to get to Rolnautic (the chandlery) before it closes and part with yet more cash! The kids are loving it though. They have loads of new friends on neighbouring R Pontoon and are free to roam with them. There are a record 42 children at this year’s ARC and it seems a mini-commune is established as the kids seldom eat on this boat as they forage for food or are fed by other mothers. The Kids’ Club whisks them off to go dinghy sailing, the local science museum and it is clear who is having the fun here! Around this there are ARC parades and cocktail parties, a masked ball, welcome and farewell drinks the pace is unrelenting!

Doug Rosen from Koinonia 2 (friends from Gibraltar) arrives to say hello and good luck and is immediately put to work helping move the boat around to the fuel pontoon and collecting and changing gas canisters to last the crossing. Having got all this food on board it would be a disaster to then not be able to cook it.

On Saturday morning Vince and I head to the Skippers’ Briefing. The weather report looks pretty grim; 35 knot gusts from the South West (exactly where we wish to go). The complex racing instructions are explained and then to everyone in Cruising Class’ enormous relief a general postponement is announced until Tuesday 27 November. This is only the second time in the ARC’s 30 year history that this has happened. The Racing Class will continue as planned (it is a RORC event and it is not unknown for boats to head out into less-than-favourable conditions) but Cruising Class (with families and shorthanded crews) can chose to stay or go. As it is we go to the start on foot and watch from the shore as, bizarrely there is not a puff of breeze, as the racing boats vie for positions on the start-line and head out to sea in search of wind. It is apparent from their computer-tracked traces that they are all taking different lines and are quickly spread to the South West of Gran Canaria. The wind does fill in, as forecast, and gusty conditions remind the Cruiser Class just how lucky we have been. All the jobs are done and this gap affords the crew a well-earned enforced-rest prior to the start which would otherwise have been an exhausting gallop.

This morning, Tuesday morning, we can hear more wind in the rigging – but critically from the right direction. We have not slept much because of the nerves but we are ready, and for the first time fully crewed so that we should be able to relax and enjoy it and rest when we feel able. That said the 220 remaining boats will be squeezing through a new, tightened, start-line at 1100 this morning so there is plenty to worry about just to find a line to thread through the throng of other cruising boats – some with racing experience and some with none. It will be a treacherous start! It is tempting to let the melee subside and then play catch up... Charging across the line from the pin end on starboard tack and calling out to all the port tackers will probably not result in the same response that you might get in the Solent as each successive yacht has to tack away to address your priority. Instead we would probably end up ploughing into some poor, unsuspecting spectator boat or other competitor. I guess that’s why it’s called Cruising Class. We’re ready to go.

If you want to read more about how we get on please look up the ARC website and we will endeavour to email out our blog entries to them to publish. You can search the ARC blog site for Fabiola’s entries from time to time. Additionally you can email us but please, please don’t send any attachments and if you have a lovely graphic at the bottom of your signature block, please extract it as the bandwidth on the satellite phone will not enable us to download it.

From the motley crew aboard Fabiola (Ian, Kate, Vince, Samuel, Cameron, Lisa and Gill) – “Out for now!” xxx


3rd December 2012

Seriously - well jel, looks awesome and loving the team outfits, ref PB210005 (!) xxxxx
13th February 2013

Hello darling
Sending ur love from sunny Martinique xxx

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