In the wee hours of Monday morning, we rounded a headland and found ourselves in calm water for the first time in what felt like weeks- OH, that’s because it had been weeks, 3 in fact, since we’d been in flat water. From the moment you spot land to the time you actually anchor can be a disproportionately long amount of time, especially if you’re really keen to get there. It’s a bit like watching a kettle boil. However, arrive we did, in Martinique at about 2am.
When we departed Las Palmas on January 10th, Antigua was our proposed port of entry, but due to our delay in leaving the Canaries and then subsequent weather patterns, we started looking at Barbados as our entry point. This changed again after further investigation and Martinique’s coordinates were entered into the chart plotter.
It’s all still slightly surreal I have to say. The only way I know how to describe what we’ve just undertaken is to detail some of the experiences along the way. My journal keeping was somewhat sporadic dependent entirely on the motion of the boat- we rolled a lot, which meant I didn’t write a lot!
Our last post was just hours before we set off on Day 1 of what was to be a 20 day journey across the Atlantic. What follows are a few slices of our life over the past few weeks.
First 4 days- forget it, I was a write off!
Sat Jan 14th
There’s been a shift and I mean in more than the wind and our position on the tracker! Previously, when I’ve been sick, (this by far and away has been the worst), I’d hate everything- I hated Mike, I hated the boat and I hated the sea, (this made me sad, as I’ve always loved the sea).Part of me I’m sure hated myself for agreeing to do this, but mostly it was Mike and the boat I had an aversion to. Hmmm, how to do this when the vehemence behind my negative sentiments were so strong…?
But, just like that baseball pitch in the middle of that cornfield in Iowa, “if you build it, he will come”, “give it a try, it might be ok”, and… it’s definitely better.
After the last 4 days of misery, I realize that all I hate is the seasickness, (and all that that entails-not contributing to the team, being a liability rather than an asset etc etc blah blah blah).
As I lay in my bunk, literally aching from lying there for so long, I was reminded of giving birth. Now you’ll forgive me for comparing crossing the Atlantic with childbirth, but for me the parallels were strong. My beautiful midwife Rachel in her wisdom told me how your body has a way of forgetting how strong the feeling was. That once it’s over, (baby born, damage repaired if there was any) your body forgets and you have another child. It’s nature’s way of keeping the population going… I could imagine myself sitting on a deserted beach, crystal clear water, coconut in hand, thinking- “oh it wasn’t that bad!”
My care factor was another parallel- I remember when Lilly was on her way, I went off to the loo which was located outside the birthing room. On my way back to the room, I didn’t even bother pulling up my pants- just stepped right out of my shorts and knickers, leaving them trailing in the corridor- care factor 0! I can’t even remember who picked them up. So there I was the other night, sprawled on the saloon floor, head in a bucket, moaning, hair trailing down around my face, Mike trying to pull it back out of the firing line- Juan on board who I’d really rather didn’t see me in that state but my care factor was again 0!
Personal grooming- care factor 0!
Kids listening to their headphones all day- care factor 0!
What’s for dinner- care factor 0!
Jan 18th– Day 8- going into Day 9, (but whose counting!!!!)
We changed the clocks yesterday. Just 2 hours back this time and in a week we’ll change them another 2 hours to be in line with Caribbean time. Seb’s been awake since 5am! I attempted bread today and a batch of muffins- nothing like over achieving after you’ve been inutil, (ineffectual lets say instead of useless) but the boat has been rolling around a lot and I’m a bit over it to be honest. Whilst until now I’ve been able to placate myself that time in the galley is a bit of a workout- that cooking at sea was the new Zumba, for some reason this particular day has given me the pip!
Fri Jan 20th.
Yesterday we caught our first fish- hmmm a bit of a comedy without the laughter! Mike let out the lure quite early after some gentle badgering from the kids, (particularly Seb). Their bodies are still getting used to the time change so they’ve been up since ‘sparrows” for the last few days.
I was doing my bi-weekly face wash and Seb was chatting to me in the bathroom. Lilly came running down the companionway in great excitement, trilling that we seemed to have snared a fish. Mike reeled it in and it was a beautiful Mahi Mahi. Both kids were wide-eyed as it was brought in and immediately started asking if we could let it go. It was all happening- I was wetting down the decks to make the clean up afterwards easier, running down getting gloves, then grabbing something to put under the rod as the base of it is really sharp, meanwhile both kids are in tears, Lilly scarpering down into her cabin, Seb in the saloon sobbing loudly. Amongst the chaos, once the fish was landed and no longer alive I slipped downstairs to have a chat with both of the children. Seb was red eyed and blotchy faced and just looked at me saying, “I wouldn’t care if it was just a sardine, but a big beautiful shiny fish like that…sob sob sob”. Oh man, I guess we should have chatted about that before it happened.
I went back on deck with a container to put the fresh fillets in and Mike suggested I give them a quick rinse. I agreed, then suggested I pop them in the fridge to which his response was ‘No we’ll put them in a pan.”
Hmmmm I thought, it’s a bit early for lunch, (10am) and I don’t really feel like fish for morning tea, but anyway, ok, I’ll cook them up.
I proceeded to do this, with some olive oil and salt. Fish doesn’t take long to cook and I cooked it till it flaked just like my Dad has always done. I had a taste and found it was great…
Cleaning up after catching a fish takes quite a bit longer and as I poked my head upstairs, just to see how things were going and should I bring up our strange but fresh morning tea, I felt a pang of doubt… hmmm maybe I should have clarified the putting them in a pan and cooking right then and there.
I wish I could have taken a video of Mike’s face when I suggested bringing them up on deck. He was incredulous but restrained and I just slipped back down below to pop some foil on what would now be the not so succulent delight he’d certainly been looking forward to- bugger! Wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last miscommunication between us.
Sadly no more fish were caught during the crossing. We tried once more, but at the sound of the line wizzing out, Seb was in tears again. It turned out to be seaweed and we had to put the rod away as there were beds of it for miles. Our freezer stopped working four or five days before we arrived. It had been full of meals I’d made and meat- half of which we had to throw away- (certainly couldn’t risk food poisoning!) but catching more food wasn’t an option!
Still rolling along, side to side, slap, slap bang, roll roll and on it goes. We’ve seen almost no marine life in days. Whilst I don’t need a performance, a few sightings of something other than Flying Fish would be nice. Our friends, who are a few 100 miles behind us, have been visited regularly by whales. We’ve had flying fish- down the main companionway, into Mike’s dinner plate and kamikaze style all over the decks. Hey ho!
As I look at my almost entirely chipped off orange toe nail polish, (a treat to myself at the end of August after arriving in Barcelona 5 months ago) I’m yet again blown away by the passage of time. Even 17,18,19,20+ days, (goodness knows how many days it will end up being) of sailing across this vast expanse of ocean, will seem short after a few days of being near land again… or not!
Somewhere between the 21st and 25th
Today I decided to make hamburgers for dinner after an earlier attempt that hadn’t worked out quite as well as I’d have liked. Mike was just about to check the weather and the kids were engaged in some schoolwork. It was morning time and Mike retired to the bathroom for his morning ablutions. After a few minutes we heard a deep, loud and anguished “NOOOOOOOO, ” a noise that reverberated between the front head and the saloon wall. I suggested the kids stay where they were and went in to investigate.
The long and the short of it, the toilet had stopped flushing. No need to go into further detail, the fact that it needed to be flushed and wasn’t flushing should give you all the information you need- BIG ISSUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Gloves, buckets, sponges and tools were extracted from their various locations and work began. Fixing these toilets is a shit of a job, pardon the pun, especially on the rolly platform that had become our norm. My goodness I felt sorry for Mike. The long and the short of it- Dental Floss. How it actually got in there is still a mystery. Mike doesn’t use it and I know I gave the kids a string a few times after eating mango, as well as using it myself. Now I can say with 100% surety that I did not put it in the toilet. I can also say with 100% surety that myself and the children didn’t conspire to put it in the toilet- can you imagine, “ok guys, 1, 2, 3- drop it in, lets see how funny Daddy finds this!!!!” No, I can assure you it had an accidental entry into the head HOWEVER it was in the head and Mike doesn’t use dental floss. He made us all go in one at a time to look at the result and somehow I don’t think there’ll be dental floss put into our heads ever again- at least not by our immediate family. He normally gets over things pretty quickly but this one took awhile. There were lots of references to it throughout the next few days. The funny thing was, during the entire ordeal I continued making hamburgers. I’d stop when I got the call, “KYLIE,” wander in, grab the buckets to be emptied, go back down, scrub my hands thoroughly, then get back to the burgers. This must have gone on for at least 2 hours- maybe more- time flies when you’re having fun!!!!!
So there you have it, a few moments of our Atlantic Crossing. Unfortunately I started feeling a bit rough again for the last few days and then the sea sate was awful so we decided to hand steer for the last 36 hours to save the auto-pilot. That was quite the experience! I’m pleased to say I was able to do my share of steering. My plans for getting onto that well overdue self- maintenance I’d been storing up for weeks went out the window. Fortunately I’m still on the ‘Care Factor 0’ for some things. I spent a huge amount of time reflecting on people in my life. People I went to school with, people from Uni, work collegues and mostly my family. The journey gave me some time to think about what’s important to me, and specific things I’d like to do along this adventure and in the future.
Despite certain frustrations and the odd miscommunication, I am blown away by my husband’s capabilities, determination and preparation of our boat and our safe passage across the Atlantic. I have an insight into what he’s been doing all these years and whilst I don’t envy it I do respect it.
A friend we met up with on arrival suggested that I must feel a huge sense of achievement at crossing. To be honest I felt relief- a huge sensation of relief. I think if you’ve always wanted to do something and you achieve it then you feel that sense. Would I do it again? Not tomorrow or next week but never say never. Ha ha ha, that ‘forget mechanism’ has already started to kick in. For now, that’s one ocean crossed. We’re going to enjoy pottering from Island to Island for a while. From the SOL crew for now, thank you to everyone who followed us along the way. I promise you, you were with us in spirit. It was incredibly humbling to read everyone’s messages after we’d settled in. Thank you, it means more than you can ever know. Love to all- SOL crew out!
11 thoughts on “Arrivé en Martinique”
I love reading you. So beautifully and brutally honest. Did you get hit by the smell of land when approaching Martinique? When I crossed the atlantique ( I was 19 and pretty much ate all the chocolate crew ration through it), I have this vivid memory of asking my watch mate one night “what s that smell? It s disgusting? It smelled of rotting earth, flowers and sweat. He told me ” it s land and human”, we were 24 hours of land. It was surreal. The warm human smelling wind.
Keep writing and love to you all. Anne
Kyle – you are a riot! Glad y’all made it safely, yet a little weathered. xo – the bowens
OMG, it is completely glorious to see that you are still married (and all alive), and willing to stay the course (if only for the children HAHAHAHAHA). There have been extraordinary adventures undertaken by others in the past, but we are betting that you are feeling an un believable sense of having survived this (Mike, we are sure is non the worse for it) crossing, firstly for the sake of doing it and secondly, there was nowhere to go once you had cast off and were under way. Many of us, probably all of us, have been tracking you, checking weather, watching for hurricanes, speculating that you were engaging some amazing navigation and weather watching skills AND hoping that the seas would stay at least navigable, if not totally calm. Obviously the open Atlantic is no place to go just for the fun of it, but you did it and we all can now breathe again, for a little while. So glad you are safe, healthy and feeling robust enough to keep going. The stories are wonderful. May you continue to have steady winds at your backs. Lots of love.
Thank you so much Kylie for posting this! I’ve been dying to know how things went from your perspective, and this was a great post! Please keep us updated with your island explorations–I need something to look forward to! (And of course the crossing isn’t one of them…)
Wow, what a journey. Well done beautiful family. Xxx
wonderful achievement to you all. your blog is so descriptive and well written love you heaps Mum and da
Such a challenge to all the senses.Keep going, you’re all doing an amazing job. Lots of love.
Congratulations Team SOL!!! So good to hear you made it – if a little battered and bruised! Jeez, Mike – what did you do to them to get all those bruises??? Love hearing the warts and all – I have been thinking of you Kyles – tried to catch you before you left for the crossing, but missed you, so will look forward to catching up on FB now that you’re ‘initiated’!! xxxxx
I am so happy to hear of your safe crossing!!! Much love to you all!
Hello!!! You did it! You’ve crossed the big blue ocean! Great job! I’m very proud! Love you very much! Looking forward to read more about this adventure!
a true Slice of Life- thank you Kylie for sharing it all with us…and yes, dental floss can often be a source of our problems..xxx