After rummaging through a desk drawer and finding a few hard drives I had a look through some old sailing photos which brought back some great memories. There were photos from various boat trips I had done when first learning to sail but this one stands out - ARC Europe 2005 aboard 'Eumenides', a Rustler 31', sailing back from the Caribbean to the UK and it's almost 15 years to the day that we set off on our trip.
At the time I only had an RYA Competent Crew course from Hamble School of Yachting and an ARC '04 crossing under my belt and I was eager for some more sailing experience. I had met the owner of the boat in the UK and agreed to do the trip even though he mentioned passage planning for 3 knots, eek. But it wasn't until I got to the boat in Saint Lucia that I realised what I might have signed up for! As I walked around the many boats jacked up on the hard in Rodney Bay Marina I saw someone waving at me from this little boat and I thought oh, oh is that Eumenides? Sure enough I had signed up to sail the North Atlantic from West to East (3,900NM) on the smallest boat in the ARC Europe fleet of 30+ boats.
My tour of the boat when I got up the ladder was basically the skipper and I sticking our heads through the companionway and pointing at stuff! There's the galley, the nav station, there's the pipeberth full of gear and the forward cabin full of gear so the three of us will be 'hot bunking' on the two saloon couches for the next ooh 3 months!! Fast forward to after a cold & damp 3hr night watch mid-atlantic and it's not so bad when you crawl into your crew mate's warm bunk:)
Looking back I was pretty new to sailing and maybe the phrase ignorance is bliss comes to mind. Would I do the trip again now...I'm not sure! But back then nothing could stop us, the owner Andrew was ex-Navy, knew his boat very well and ran a tight ship and Bev had some sailing experience, was super strong with a family background on the Thames sailing barges. We certainly came to know Eumenides very well as the trip progressed, we looked after her and she in turn did more than just look after us.
This is one of the few boats I have sailed with a tiller and you really feel much more connected to both the boat and the ocean than with a wheel. I can recall a beautiful nightwatch heeled over and steering from the leeward side and finding myself in a situation where the horizon separating black sky from black ocean blurred into one. Suddenly with a blackness all around and the stars above being reflected in the water below it was as if we were no longer on the water but instead weightless and flying through space!
I can also recall riding out some heavy weather soon after leaving Bermuda, one of those lows that tracks from the USA across the north Atlantic. For a few days we pretty much battened down the hatches, had a small amount of sail up and although we were sailing in the right direction it was slow going and very uncomfortable. So uncomfortable at times that you could no longer sit as the impact from coming off the back of a wave would hurt your back and had to lay down!
We sailed from Antigua-Bermuda-Azores-UK at a casual pace that I later realised I could have walked faster than, met some great people & fellow sailors, saw some beautiful countries & had a better appreciation for the weather and how big the oceans are. What a rollercoaster of a ride both physically and emotionally but I can tell you when we did sail into Plymouth, UK and headed to the nearest pub I felt like I was walking about a foot taller. We had done it and I never felt so proud of our achievement.