Cruising sailors David and Heather Churcher are sailing the world on their Discovery 55, called Sula, having started from Melbourne Australia. They have spent some months in the Caribbean and are now poised to cross the Atlantic with two extra crew, with Andrew and Rob Stead, on board.
Sula at St George, Bermuda
We came aboard Sula on 25th April 2010 and just on a year later we have put 6480 Nm on the log, which had 6597 on it from the previous 9 years. We feel we have come to know and understand her, boats do have their personality, attitude and spirit that takes time to be manageable.
So now we are ready to take on crossing the Atlantic, heading up from the eastern Caribbean to Bermuda and then across the top of the Azores high, just south of the iceberg line into the west coast of Ireland, some 3700 Nm. Island hopping is great but I’m looking forward to the facets of what such a journey represents and the significance in human history of crossing the Atlantic Ocean between the old and new worlds.
With GPS, Epirbs, HF radio, sat phones, live weather forecasts, radar and Automatic Identification of Ships [AIS] we have an arsenal of technology that is comforting, an easily handled vessel with autopilot, electric winches and
dry accommodation; a walk in the park? …. until salt water and the awesome forces of wind and wave remind you just how alone you really are in the middle of an ocean.
I keep reminding myself that the Titanic was unsinkable, but it did!
To journey across oceans in a vessel you command is still a challenge, still a calculated risk, you work to minimize that risk but as in any aspect of life and living it’s there. Stepping out of what’s comfortable, that’s what takes us to experiences, places and people beyond our horizon.
Several days later:
Mark Twain said 'Bermuda was a paradise but one had to go through hell to get there,' but our 'Thrash to the Onion Patch,' as this passage is traditionally known, went smoothly. With relatively light favourable winds we sailed 188, 205 and 203 nautical miles for the first three days and completed the 937 nautical miles in five days, with some assistance from the 'iron topsail' during the last two days.
We hooked a big Marlin which danced on the water but thankfully got away.
Sailing Captains are warned against stopping at Bermuda – there is a tendency for crews to jump ship here, and I can see why. Made up of 150 islands and islets set in shallow water and reefs, it’s the perfect recipe of turquoise waters and sunny days.
We’re anchored at the World Heritage listed town of St George, founded in 1609 when the English colonists on 'Sea Venture,' heading for John Smith’s new settlement of Jamestown in Virginia, ended up on the reef (supposedly inspiring Shakespeare’s 'Tempest.')
It looks like a quaint old English village, with lots of white-washed buildings, but interspersed with pink, yellow, blue, orange and lime green buildings to provide an exotic Caribbean feel.
Along the waterfront are the prerequisite cafes and up market shops. At the other end of the island is the Royal Naval Dockyard, hewn out of limestone by convicts in the 19th Century. It’s an impressive fortress complete with dolphins, with which you can swim, in the Keep.
It’s very easy to settle into St George. We’ve spent the week having the new mainsail altered for the third, and hopefully last time, having a new pump for the Desalinator flown in from the States, and dealing with 'Sanitation Issues.' We have heard Cruising described as 'repairing and maintaining your boat in exotic locations' and we can vouch for that.
The boat is now fully provisioned, with plenty of books, Sudoku puzzles and knitting wool as well. (Andrew makes juggling balls, as required.) Andrew has climbed the 78 foot mast and checked the rigging, and we will be ready to leave on Monday with a suitable weather window. We expect the 2600 nautical trip to the Dingle Peninsula in South West Ireland to take about 18 days.
To follow Sula’s progress across the Atlantic, http://www.pangolin.co.nz/yotreps/tracker.php?ident=VKV7271!click_here
(Note that, as stated in another current story on Sail-World, cruising sailors may now stay three months without extension, upgraded from three weeks.)