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Steen Rally
Follow us on our sailing adventure from France to Australia
How is it to cross the Atlantic?
December 14, 2011,, St Lucia

15 days on a yacht seems like a jail sentence to some, heaven to others. Even for our very tight group of 4, it means different things. Terry sees it as another fun challenge, so do I with the added bonus of detoxing after weeks of partying. Marc and Anne find it boring in spite of no school, breathing clean fresh air, and the multitude of activities we organise on board. Go figure...

I won't describe our days in details, our daily logs on the ARC website did just that. Instead I will answer (or try anyway) some of the FAQs about life on passage.

Do you stop at night?
No joke, we've been asked this question a lot! We can't stop really: we're mid-ocean, the water is 6000 mts deep (obviously too much for our anchor chain), there are other boats out there to watch for, and I hate to think how long the voyage would take if we did stop.

So, how do you organise your nights?
We have a system, whereby I will take the after dinner watch (9pm to 3am), and Terry will take the early morning watch (3am to 9am). This is much longer than the more conventional system of 3 hours on/3 hours off, but I personally cannot function with so little sleep, and 6 hours is just the right amount for a restful night. Yes, they are long watches, but I keep busy washing dishes, listening to music, writing emails, checking instruments and keeping an eye on the occasional boat that shows up on radar, staring at the sky and figuring out which star is which (some of them are planes, it turns out!) Terry's routine is pretty much the same, except he spends more time trimming the sails than I do ( in fact I don't do sail changes, I just adjust the heading with the autopilot following the wind), and makes breakfast for all! The kids? They sleep thru it all, no matter what the weather is like!

What do you eat?
Everything! It's just like at home really. Breakfasts can be pancakes, granola, toasts, weet bix, porridge, bacon and eggs. Lunches are easy: sandwiches, wraps, paninis, salads, hamburgers, left overs from dinner...Dinners are the highlight of the day: roast dinners, sausages, fillet steaks, curries, pork spare ribs, and numerous fish dishes thanks to the many fresh catches! For these of us with a sweet tooth, there is plenty of chocolate, ice cream, freshly baked brownies and apple pie

What do you do all day?
Beside eating, we all have a morning routine. Terry checks all the systems on the boat (rigging, engine, generator, batteries...), weather forecast, other ARC boats positions, emails, joins the daily SSB radio net...I clean ( a lot!), go over the provisions, making sure nothing is spoiling. Marc sets the fishing rods out for the day, Anne plans the movies of the day. Then it's reading, Scrabble, movies, cooking, writing, fishing, craft activities, science experiments, ocean gazing, dolphin spotting...With so much time on our hand, one thing we find is that we think a lot: we plan our next destination, holiday, new ways to do school next year...As someone told us once "we're getting acquainted with our brain again" (must admit there are days when I think I lost it!)

How can you put up with each other all this time?
We're lucky to have a big boat, where each of us have our own cabin. With the flybridge on top, a settee up front as well as a large back deck, there are plenty of spots where to find solitude if one wishes. Also, we're family so we can tell each other off (and we do) without worrying about being politically correct. Arguments never last long on board, you can't drive off to the nearest pub (or shop) to let off steam, you can't call your BFF, or even stay in your room forever!!! We all need each other, be it for a sail change, land a big fish, or help cook the brownies.

What does it look like out there?
Absolutely gorgeous, even when it rains! Just look at our photo gallery.

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Day 15 - Finally there
December 6, 2011,, Somewhere in the Atlantic

It's been a frustrating last day: after 7 days of steady winds, our down
hill run came to a halt when the breeze literally stopped. It actually
started yesterday, and all the talk on the net revolved around who was
going to be the first to turn the engine on approaching St Lucia.
We finally admitted defeat today, when boat speed fell under 5 knots. It's
not for lack of trying, we must have made 5 sail changes today, trying to
catch whatever little breeze there was: gennaker up, main sail up, jibe
this way, that way, we were heading towards Porto Rico at some point...then
had enough, and decided to motor sail so we could at least get to St
Lucia today. Under ARC rules, there is a penalty for motoring, though we
won't know the extent of it until prize giving day (I think). Since we
won't get a prize for being first or last, where our ranking ends up
doesn't matter much, and no one on board is keen to spend another night at
sea so close to the end!

So here we are, 20 miles from Pigeon Island at the top end of St Lucia, we
will have clocked up 2850nm, including 2600mn under sail, in a little over
15 days (final finishing time to be declared at the finishing line).

We end this crossing with a surprise catch from last night: a 40kg
yellowfin tuna, which occured right at the beginning of a squall. We've had
our fair share of sashimi and tartare now. It took nearly 2 hours to cut
and package it and we must have 12 kilos of fish in the fridge, waiting for
takers at the marina!!! Anyone want some fish ????

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St Lucia arrival in the dark
December 6, 2011,, Rodney Bay

Oh what a feeling!

We finally crossed the finishing line at 23h31 Monday night, greeted at the dock by the staff from the ARC and the St Lucia Tourism board, armed with rhum punches, cold Heineken beers, soft drinks for the kids, fruit baskets and BIG smiles. We could not think of a more exciting arrival.

Even if it not our first crossing, the feeling of achievement is still just as great: 15 days 11 hours 1 minute, 2850nm (2600nm under sail) 27 hours engine time, average boat speed 7.9 knots with top speed of 20 knots (not for very long!). We crossed the line 33rd out of 217 boats, the first family boat and the first australian crew (it is a competition after all, right/) This is for the vital statistics.

On the food front, we still have a lot left, due to overcatering from my part, excellent fishing from the boys. There is no more beers though, Terry doing his bit to lighten the boat (how much do 90 beer cans weigh?)

The boat has made it in one piece (beside the damaged handrail), so has the crew. Our sails are intact, which we're very happy about, when we hear from the boats who came first, at the cost of blown spinnakers.

So yes, we're glad to be here. In fact, we were so thrilled on arrival that long after everyone had left, no one on board wanted to go to bed (it was 1am local time by then) so Terry and I opened a bottle of wine to wind down and celebrate. It felt good at the time, awful the next day! But that's another story...

Photo courtesy of Tim Wright,

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Who: Terry, Voahangy, Marc, Anne Steen
Port: Sydney
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