A ship is safe in harbour...but that's not what they are for
12 July 2019 | Gosport
The Cerulean Big Atlantic Adventure is now over. We are moored back at our home port of Gosport in the UK, and our adventure is rapidly turning into just a memory.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails, Explore. Dream. Discover."
These words were attributed to Mark Twain, but apparently there is some dispute over this, whoever penned by them they explain why me, and Alison undertook this adventure at this juncture of our lives...and we had a fantastic adventure, we explored, we dreamed and we discovered... we did it because we could.
Why did we do trip?
44 odd years ago when I was a lad my brothers and I sailed across the English Channel with our father in Carrick Maid a 21'6" sailing boat, we ventured across the English Channel from Weymouth towards Alderney in the Channel islands only 70 nautical miles away it was still a memorable adventure. We were becalmed for the first 24 hours and still in sight of Portland Bill, by the time we were off of the treacherous rock strewn coast and strong tidal waters off Alderney battling against the tide towards Braye Harbour, night was falling and the weather had already deteriorated into storm force winds. The Pilot Book, did not recommend approaching Braye Harbour for the first time at night nor in strong winds, we had both as well as tidal streams in excess of 5kts. Remember this was in the days before new fangled inventions such as GPS or Decca. All we had was a compass, charts, and a Seafix RDF (Radio Direction Finder) and an echo sounder for checking the depth of water, the boat did not have a log for measuring distance run, navigation was dead reckoning and estimated position. Dad, not wanting to dash us to pieces on the rocks decided that perhaps now was not the best time to approach Alderney, particularly as the small outboard motor we had for the boat did not seem to be very reliable. We turned away and headed towards Cherbourg, with the tide and wind behind us we arrived a few hours later some 78 hrs after we had left Weymouth, a couple of days later we sailed out of Cherbourg with a fair tide and wind and sailed to Alderney. We anchored at the beautiful white sandy beach, I dived off the boat into clear crystal waters, and to me this was a paradise island (even if the water was cold). This was the adventure that made we want to sail across the ocean in search of a real desert island.
For me sailing up and down the Solent, backwards and forwards across the English Channel was not doing it for me anymore. I needed to sail out past the Needles and keep on sailing west out into the Atlantic Ocean and become a Bluewater Sailor. For me this had been a dream that had consumed most of my life, eating away at me, I would be able to rest until I have fulfilled this destiny, I had been preparing for this all my life. This dream was starting to elude me.
For Alison, this was not her dream, such an adventure had never crossed her mind, and she had no notion of crossing the Atlantic. I told Alison of my dream when we first got together 5 years ago, she said I am going to make it happen for you, and she did. Together, after trolling around countless boatyards we choose Cerulean of Penryn as the boat that would carry us across the Atlantic and back again.
Initially Alison had no intention of sailing with me on this adventure, she would just fly out and meet me at exotic locations, gradually this locations became more and more, and then it was, well I might as well sail that leg with you, eventually I said if you are doing that bit and that bit you might as well do the whole voyage, and you will have sailed the Atlantic Ocean, and I would not have to sail the boat single handed. Alison's one condition of doing this trip was that she wanted to see the Swimming Pigs at Great Major's Cay in the Bahamas.
We both worked tirelessly on the boat for 2 years preparing Cerulean for the off, working on the boat nearly every weekend through sunshine and snow.
I could not have done this adventure without Alison at my side, my mate, my first mate, and the Commander in Chief.
Our adventure had many highs and lows and many emotions. Many people have asked us, what was your favourite part? What was your favourite island? For me these are difficult questions to answer. Every island we went to was unique, with its own beauty and culture and separate identity. This even applies to the likes of the Canary Islands, all Spanish islands in the middle of the Atlantic, but each islands with its own personality. This is certainly the case with the Caribbean Islands, each of the islands has this Caribbean thread running through them but each island has a differing geology, topography, and of course different colonial histories all of which has shaped the people and the culture whilst still each displaying the rich Afro-Caribbean and Creole culture and history and each fiercely proud of their heritage.
For me the parts stand out in my mind are: -
1) Sailing out passed the Needles and knowing that we will continue west and sail out in the Atlantic, I sailed out past this iconic landmark so many times before, knowing that I would be back a week or so later only having got as far as Alderney or Plymouth.
2) Seeing our first Atlantic Island, Porto Santo in the Madeira Islands, with jagged mountains towering out of the sea, reminded me of why we was on this adventure, were truly on our way, having sailed our first long passage on our own out into the Atlantic , just the two of us having sailed the 450miles from the Portuguese mainland.
3) Planting trees in memory of my Brother Damon at Las Palmas before we left for the big Atlantic Crossing.
4) Sailing at night with a billion stars overhead, the green sparks of bio-luminescence dancing in our wake.
5) The beauty of the Caribbean islands contrasted with the poverty of many of the inhabitants eking out an existence in subsistence farming and fishing.
6) Devastation in the Caribbean Islands caused by the successive hurricanes Irma and Maria.
7) Setting foot on beautiful unspoilt desert islands
8) Dolphins, whales, flying fish, Frigate birds and Longtails.
9) Snorkelling around the Bahamas in what seemed to be an aquarium packed full of tropical fish.
10) But best of all, seeing Alison's face when we eventually got meet the Swimming Pigs at Great Majors Cay in the Bahamas.
11) Meeting sailors and sailing families from all over the world.
12) Seeing the Azores for the first time after 14 days at sea after leaving Bermuda, '...only those who have seen the Azores from the deck of a vessel realize the beauty of the mid-ocean picture.' Joshua Slocum 1900 - Sailing Alone Around the World
13) Sailing back past the Needles on our way home, knowing that we had achieved our goal and arrived back home safe and sound.
We have felt privileged to undertake this voyage and to have explored the Trade Winds route around the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, following in the wake of centuries of explorers, settlers and merchant ships that sailed the trade winds five hundred years ago. We have followed the route of the slave trade, we have seen how the British and other Western Europeans raped and exploited the Caribbean Islands and used the slave trade to make the vast profits that funded the Industrial Revolution in England and made Great Britain. The storey of the Caribbean, the Slave trade and the Trade Winds is intrinsically linked to all our lives and the life we live today.
• We sailed 12,398 nm in 11 months
• We stopped at 119 different locations, mooring either at anchor, in a marina or on a mooring buoy.
• We spent 51 nights at anchor
• We amassed over 800 night hours sailing
• We Visited 26 different countries, territories or dependant states.
• We went to 56 different islands
• We spent 2,329hrs underway, which is a total of 97 days
• Average speed 5.32kts
• Despite being a sailing boat, we motored or motor sailed 32% of the way; 744 engine hours using about 3000 litres of fuel.
• We had the pleasure of having 21 different friends and family join us along way and share parts of the adventure with us.
• Richard & Alison sailed 5,878nm double handed.
• The longest passage was Mindelo, Cape Verde to St Lucia, West Indies; 2202nm; 14 days 08hrs ; Crew - Richard & Alison with Jeremy and Phil
• Longest double hand passage by Richard & Alison; Bermuda to Horta in the Azores; 1799nm 14day 03hrs.
Finally I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who helped us achieve our dream, and including everyone who followed our story on Facebook, www.yachtcerulean.com and read our posts and blogs.
Richard & Alison
Cerulean of Penryn