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Dispatches from the Atlantic: It’s Almost Time to Cross the Atlantic

The boats are here, the docks are bustling with last minute preparations, I drank the water, and realized I have way too much gear. Come aboard.

November 23, 2009

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Jerry The Rigger is perhaps the most popular man in Las Palmas when the ARC rolls into town. Credit: Jeremy Watt

There was a lot to take in as I rode from the airport in Las Palmas to my hotel: the sun sparkling off the Atlantic, medieval churches, ancient buildings…But what really caught my attention were the docks. The harbor was a forest of masts-216 yachts, all ready to take off on the Atlantic Race for Cruisers (ARC) this Sunday. Yachts from all over the world are here, with 32 nations represented. I couldn’t believe it. During all the preparation preceding my flight from JFK, I completely forgot why I was going to the Canaries.

Oh yeah, I remembered. I’m crossing the Atlantic. I’M CROSSING THE ATLANTIC! Since I was a kid, I’ve dreamed about this trip and here I am three days away. Looking down at my bags, it was easy to see why my mission was clouded. I was basically packing for a week. I should have invested in a steamer truck. My boss told me to pack light, and I’m now worried that my shipmates are going to laugh when I move on the boat tomorrow. I have no idea what the hell happened! Two cameras, a sat phone, computer, more electrical chargers and adapters than Radio Shack stocks, more shoes than I need, socks (yeah, socks!) foul weather gear, a safety harness, and on and on. I’m quickly going to have to so something manly like dive overboard with a knife gripped in my teeth and spear a fish for dinner to overcome the stigma of the little prince who showed up with too much baggage.

After I got checked in and stowed my bags, I went to the docks. There was no one aboard The Snark, my ride, so I checked out the boats on my way to the ARC office to hook up with Jeremy Wyatt and Andrew Bishop from the World Cruising Club. The biggest boat here is a Swan 112 Highland Breeze, from the States, and she’s a beauty.

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At the ARC office, preparations were underway for a crew party with a childrens’ TV show theme. That explained why everyone here was painted blue!

When I made it back to The Snark, a Hanse 461, I was impressed by my sweet transatlantic ride. A nice dark blue hull, a wonderfully open cockpit, teak decks-she’s a 10. The skipper, Ben Little, and my fellow crewmember, Dugald Moore, are two very entertaining Brits (they still haven’t seen my luggage). We chilled out in the large salon for a bit, getting to know each other, and I had a look around the German built cruiser-racer. We’ve got just two cabins below, but since only two of us will be asleep at any time, it won’t matter. (We’re going to do three-five hour solo shifts at night, depending on the conditions.) The galley is setup for seagoing cooking. But then it was time to party. We joined the Smurfs, dressed as characters from Captain Pugwash (a British cartoon). It was a lot of fun, but I learned my first lesson the hard way. Jet lagged already, and dehydrated by the hot sun, I may have-just possibly-miscalculated and over-served myself. Then I chased bad with worse by drinking gallons of tap water. Let’s just say my first full day in Las Palmas was spent with my face pressed to the cool porcelain, wanting to die.

Later that day I rallied and made it down to the docks. We met with Jerry the Rigger, perhaps the most popular man in Las Palmas during the week prior to the ARC. Jerry’s diagnosis: While we have some work to do on the rig, we are in good shape overall. The main tasks tomorrow are going to be re-rigging the spinnaker halyard so it runs through a block, as opposed to out the top of the mast as it currently does, and replacing the genoa halyard with one that is slightly smaller to prevent chafing. We’ll also get our food delivery and stow our supplies, fill up two Jerry cans of diesel, and work on the boat cosmetics (oiling the teak and polishing some of the stainless). Also, we had a gentleman from Hanse down to fix our autopilot, something that will be essential to a comfortable crossing, which Ben estimates will take about 17 days. Now, as I sit in my hotel room at the AC Gran Canaria and look out over the harbor, which is lit up like a Christmas tree by hundreds of boats, it’s hard not to feel excited. Tomorrow, after a long day of working on the vessel, we should be nearly ready to go and I can’t wait to get underway. St. Lucia, here I come.

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