Atlantic Crossing 2022 – Blue Moon’s week 2 at ARC

BLUE MOON, skippered by Thalita, took part in ARC 2022 – Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Las Palmas in Canaries to St Lucia in the Caribbean. To record the daily life on the crossing, it was decited to write a blog post daily – sometimes it was a group effort, sometimes crew members wrote about the day individually. Katleen, Liesbeth, Margo, Mathias, Sergio, Wayne and Thalita captured the experience in their own words and style, sending it daily to the ARC Log and Second Star Sailing shore crew via satellite connection.

Day 9 – November 28, 2022

Sleep illusive once more. Mr. Tetley revives, and so begins the vicious cycle. Morning unleashes the yellow caped sea monster, all snatching and hissing. A mysterious line draped across foredeck hints at trouble. A second look reveals the beast must come down and errant line reattached. All hands on deck to wrestle the creature from its tunneled lair and thread the line, an hour is lost. Finally the sock goes up and the creature is free to spread its tentacles. Blue Moon surges forward.
Afternoon brings out the goody bag and this writer has first pick. Hand into bag and straight to the biscuits, what luck! Second pick goes to Mathias and out come the beauty products, facials for all!!!
Clocks back an hour and now it‘s dark at 6. Some brave fool must have hacked off a tentacle, for now we feast on the monster by moonlight. A fitting end to the day.

It‘s been 9 days since we set foot on the Blue Moon gliding through the deep blue Atlantic Ocean. It‘s been such an incredible experience so far, nothing like we could ever have imagined. So here are some impressions for the home front on how we‘ve been surviving this trip:

Sailing on Blue Moon with a 7 headed crew across the Atlantic is:
– waves waves waves, if we thought it‘ll be a flat boring sea, we were quite off
– constant moving of the body, finding balance in the core.
– despite the wild ocean we manage to cook deliscious food and each single one of us chips in.
– flying fish! Loads of flying fish, such fairytale like creatures.
– believe it or not, but birds, in the middle of the ocean.
– Dolphins swimming and playing around the boat. Pure happiness when following their moves.
– taking salt baths almost every day. Such delight.
– no bikini sailing so far  this is NOT a cruise.
– Falling stars just keep coming during night watches. Loads of wishes to be fulfilled.
– No rest or hardly rest when you‘re off watch. There‘s always something that needs repairing, a crew mate that needs a hand while sailing, kites that have to be taken down, food that needs to be prepared, etc.
– Loads of snacks – although our skipper thinks we could even level up on that part.
– Always on the hunt for that perfect sleeping position where you‘re not flying on top of your cabin partner. 
– Your body needs time to adjust to the watch system. Quickly falling asleep, even when the motor is running right next to your ears.
– Feeling warm breezes throughout day and night. 
– Getting pro at finding your socks with red head lamps during the night shifts.
– Pots and pans with tomato sauces that fly over while cooking.
– Did I mention waves, waves, waves already? Huge swell, no moment of calm sea.
– Bruises all over the body!
– Surfing the kite is heaven.
– Catching Mahi Mahi and eating it for dinner.
– Salt skin, salt hair, salt butts. 
– Drinking water with elektrolytes against dehydration.
– Taking care of each other, team spirit!
– the fluorescent algae creating magical sceneries around the boat at night and they seem to guide us the way in the dark.
– the moon smiling like the cat from Alice in wonderland 
– the skipper plotting our winning course following the right winds
– different shades of blue above and below us
– no swimming. It‘s just too dangerous, the sea is too rough.
– not seeing another boat for days, not even a container ship or cruise liner.
– no whales, nor sharks so far.
–  no mermaids spotted yet
– our skipper not recognizing the sea because she just never sailed that far south!
– it‘s getting hotter by the day!
– we are not bored at all. Not a single second. 
– we saw the edge of world from the top of the mast and we found a door .. to be continued..

And that‘s only 1/3 of the trip impressions so far! We hope to see you tomorrow for another blog piece. Jeeehaaa.

/Blue Moon = SPA saloon!/

Day 10 – November 29, 2022

Our evening starts with an unexpected salty face wash… „DO NOT OPEN AT SEA“ says the sticker on the hatch of our port aft cabin. Katleen and I clean up the salty splashes laughing – it was a well deserved kiss from the ocean, as we had our hatch open on purpose, gasping for air so down south. 
The night bring us more water, from below and also for above – each watch gets to experience their first squalls – sudden strong winds up to 34 knots and massive rain, that lasts 10 minutes. Squalls and gusts and waves come in well timed, as following a schedule, so each one of us can enjoy a full set of the Atlantic. Blue Moon did not come here to give up, and keeps a nice speed of 7 knots even with a third reef in. We sleep with one eye open – ready to jump up on deck for each other.
In the morning we are gathering stories from the last night and enjoying new landscape – overcast sky. Chatting away while having a late breakfast, doing daily jobs and sailing some impressive 5m waves. When all of a sudden I see a white hissing wall rising on the port side, and there is nothing I can do, except screaming from the top of my lungs – WAVE! Hoping that whoever is on deck can hold on, and whoever below – catch the flying pans. I clunch to the wheel for both – to keep the boat on course and to keep myself on the boat, and instinctively try to hide behind it… as if!! I see the wave coming over Wayne`s head, and bubbling water filling the cockpit in a split on a second. I try to assess the damage – Wayne is wet, but here, I am wet, but also here, even all deck cushions are here. And I breathe out, only to see the grim face of the skipper, staring at me from the companionway. Two words – opened hatch. Galley and saloon are flooded with salt water – from the stove all the way to the couch, bilges, lockers, clothes, sleeping bags, food storage, fruit nets and the nav table. All hands below deck drying the food and furniture, while I am helming surrounded by one hundred and one cushion of Blue Moon`s couch and praying that was the only southern surprise. For today. 
Wet salty hugs, Margo

/Drying the interior on deck…/

Day 11 – November 30, 2022

Thursday, December 1st – day 11 – marks half way of our Atlantic crossing with a bottle of prosecco and another catch of Mahi Mahi. A very pleasant day for a celebration. As we continue our journey heading west, we wish that each day will be as enjoyable as the next one. So far, smooth sailing. Cheers!

Day 12 – December 1, 2022

Guess today is my day to write the blog.

We had a beautiful start in the day, the sea calmed a bit the wind decreased. Perfect day to fly the kite! Everything gets ready in a smooth way step by step and voilà we re flying directly towards St Lucia. Everybody is happy and enjoys the great conditions. One by one took a refreshing salt water shower and did some laundry. Chill chill chill.

Time for a short nap and get out of the sun for a bit. You know there will be always something unplanned. I woke up and bang! – deal with it. Nobody woke me up when the casino started, ughh! The warning light of the engine overheating was on and the crew did a great job to check the exhaust right away. No water coming out. Stopped the engine.perfect! And now the for me not so fun part – why, whats wrong? First check – water strainer, cleaned out and back in. Engine back on – still no water coming out. Engine off. Next step, check the impeller. Looking at our Yanmar engine, which one was it again? Need to find the boat manual. Lucky i have a copy on my ipad. We followed the pipes and then Wayne took the impeller out and holy molly, the impeller was flat as bold not a single piece around the centre. How could that happen? We had a full engine check by the mechanic not long time ago. Uggh. Well after a deep breath outside back down to solve the problem. We found the issue which is in general easy to solve, but first we needed to find all the little plastic pieces in the tubes not the put ourselves in more in trouble later. Wayne took all the houses apart and we found half of the pieces. Lucky they were no pieces in the heat exchangers. We dedicated to put everything back together and place a new impeller. Engine on – and she purrs like a cat! Kept an eye on it for the next hour, all good. Halleluja!

Another day flying by. Never got bored on this trip so far. Always something to do. 

I am very, very happy we could fix the issue as i would not look forward to cross this Atlantic again without engine. Especially because there a few big wind holes ahead of us. 

Day 13 – December 2, 2022

We sailed into the weekend with our very first wobbly day and a working engine! We got up with the sun in our faces and tried helming the Blue Moon in very light winds from 8 to 12 knots. Quite the challenge to make sure the boat is not squeeking and rattling and not to overtire our rigging. 

Each watch team took their turns and when off duty, bikini‘s , sun hats, sketch blocks, magazines and buckets of salt water appeared. Well, sailing across the Atlantic is also this! After some heavy weather days, stressful situations and not much sleep we welcome them with open arms. The boat is heating up in no time, and we all know what happens when hatches are open for fresh air(read our blog day 10).. so outside is the place to be. We even played our first UNO game outside on an open folded table.. and had pasta bottarga for dinner prepped by our skipper Thalita while gazing into the sunset. During our first evening watch a few dolphins even appeared. Our speed is 1 to 3 knots SOG and it might stay like this for another few days. In the mean time we wobble away and I can‘t say i mind ;). (But don‘t tell our skipper)

PS: This morning during our watch a very chilled turtle swam passed our boat, all by itself, in the middle of the ocean. How magnificent. 
PS2: Fresh food is running out! We have 10 fresh tomatoes left, one aubergine, a few carrots, two zuchinis and a cabbage or two. We‘ll have to get creative with the cans and dried legumes and our hundreds of eggs we still have stored. Tonight it‘s our turn to cook again and there will be Pasta Amatriciana a la Bene as we‘ll have to use our bacon supply as soon as possible with this hot weather – but only if Neptune does not grant us another Mahi Mahi… you‘ll find out tomorrow ;).

Wobbly hugs,

Day 14 – December 3, 2022

When we started our night shift at midnight, the wind dropped to 2knots. Instead of having a silent night, the waves created a rolling motion where the jib and main sail were protesting and smashing up and down. The next watch had to get the main sail down to protect the rigging and we moved slowly forward with our small front sail. So when we started our next 6 O clock morning shift, the Blue Moon was still rolling about with only the jib out. The sun came out early and already burned like fire. So we unfolded the bimini and installed the solar panels to have some shade in the cockpit. We unfurled the fishing line – we had permission from Sergio to do so – and prayed to Neptune to bless us again with Mahi Mahi for dinner tonight. Then our tasks of the day started. But not before Margo showed off her natural pancake skills. What a Sunday treat! With stomachs happily filled, it was time to get jiggy.

We are 7 people on board and sharing 3 cabins and a living room. Food and crew on such a small surface together can create some unpleasant oders. But the human part I can assure you is daily being washed as well as the laundry. The food part on the other hand can get messy.. Although we check fresh products daily and spot the moldy ones asap, the fridge became our oh-god-it-smells-just-close-it-rapidly-and-no-one-will-notice kind of place. 

So on this sunny pancake Sunday we decided to finally get it done and over with: CLEAN THE FRIDGE! The more crew to help, the merrier. I was placed at the centre of this daunting task, with my head and arms at the bottom of the fridge while the others alerted all their senses to double check for food gone bad. Oh what a smell. A small hour later our skipper must have felt sorry for us stinky crew members, sweating and smelling like old cheese, because she decided this wobbly Sunday was made for swimming! Halleluja, after all these days sailing across such blue waters we can finally touch the soft blue with our bodies. (and Katleen’s ongoing reminders that having a swim would be so so nice, every minute of each day finally payed off) Our skipper made sure we rolled in the jib, engine was running, a long rope with a fender was thrown out and we all stood their waiting like little children, happy to go out and play. Oh what a joy. We went in with 2 people at a time and floated around a warm 27 degree ocean. With pain in my heart I had to fold in the stairs on the swimming platform and say goodbye to our Sunday playground so that Blue Moon can continue her course westwards. 

For dinner it was the sisters again who joined forces and decided to cook up a dried mushroom risotto – yes we decided against the Amatriciana to slow it down on the pasta front. I think we managed pretty well! So with a well fed crew we are heading towards another wobbly night of 6 to 9 knots of wind. This part of the journey the skipper decided to let the engine run in gear for a few hours each night, so we move a bit faster towards our end goal.

Let‘s hope tomorrow is another Monday that feels like Sunday. I welcome it with open arms.

Sunkissed hugs,

/Swimming at 5000m deep Atlantic – what a joy!/
/Catch of the day – mahi mahi/

Day 15 – December 4, 2022

Soft fingers in hair signal the call to watch. I clumsily wrestle with damp clothes and a disagreeable buckle, and I’m ready again to leave the heat and sweat of the cabin and venture outside. Greeted with purple and pink, the sky surreal as if on canvas. The sea still calm, but now 8 knots of wind and we are sailing once more towards our goal. 
The morning rituals pass quickly, the routines now habit, and soon the rest of the crew appears. One by one they shuffle through the galley in search of caffeine and nourishment. A quick count and now fresh fruit is rationed, one piece per day. But no one minds, the day is glorious and smiles abound.
The call goes out and it‘s all hands on deck. 11 knots of wind and time to wrestle the monster from his cave once more. But no snarling this time, now tamed under reign and ever vigilant crew. We are soon above 6 knots and doing the math again, 6 more days, or more like 7? Talk of motoring and fuel reserves forgotten.
The plastic squid tricks another fish to a pan fried fate and and an evening meal accompanied with chips, ketchup and mayo. Skipper pleased that the lentils still remain unopened.
With skies darkening the evening closes with a visit from a group of dolphins, always curious at these intruders to their realm. I retire below as the rain begins and head to the comfort of pillow and sleep.

Day 16 – December 5, 2022

Wet grey morning…after an rolling wobbly night,with dolphins gusts and flying fish attacking sergio hihihi( our passionate fisherman ) what a start…
Still wind from 14-24kn…waves from 2-4m coming from south-east…
Im so motivated to fly the kite today after yesterday’s perfect sailing day( little waves, calm sea and 16kn wind,just indescribable)
After my shift work with cleaning toilettes, checking biles for water, turning vegetables, bimini up and installing solar panels.
Im cooking scrambled eggs for me and Thalita, jamiiii…
So ready to hoist our kite again at 0730am, new record hihi… i wanna fly to saint lucia…
We are even able to hoist it, only the two of us  
And there is a magic moment when you pull the kite up to the sky and wind gets into it …wow there is a push in it and the boat starts to move much faster…
It takes some time to adjust and trimm the kite and then its heaven…
I have to say, today its much more difficult with less wind and bigger waves..
As we change the group and shifts every three ours at daytime all of us are able to helm and get more experience with the kite.
Then suddenly there is this big BANG again and after few hours we lose again our soft buckle at our masthead starboard side. We are lucky and happy nobody is hurt and we are able to lower him down safely again…
After clearing the situation we are a bit smashed and emotional in our heads, hmm …no wonder why…
A good debriefing and respectful talks help to get over it and we keep sailing with jib and mainsail…still with 7-8 kn and even bigger waves and wind from the side,
All day full on really nice sailing in rough sea and beautiful sunshine till the evening…this time its my turn to cook and its a acrobatic way of holding squeezing and hold on to pans carottes lentils and lots of veggies, its my homemade lentil stew, jamiii

We are very tired today evening and after dinner at 1730 everybody sneaking to bed very early except the starting night shift…still 650nm to go…maybe Friday in saint Lucia…we are getting closer every day…
Flying over the waves is pure happiness…im so thankful
Good night to all you lovely people at home. Would love to say thanks that you let us experience this adventure on the Atlantic crossing and your every day support over thousands of kilometers…
Big hug 

Day 17 – December 6, 2022

We entered squall zone. We’ve heard so much about it from our skipper Thalita who prepared us well for such very short lived local storms. You can spot them well during daytime and even so during night time when the moon lights up the clouds around her. When you see cloud formations afar and you can not distinguish the horizon from the clouds, it’s a squall filled with rain, wind gusts up to 40% more and without a clear wind direction – wind coming from all sides. Simplified, let’s call it a washing machine ;). When Blue Moon hits a squall we need to reef as much as possible and hold on tight. So last night’s shift was purely focused on trying to navigate the Blue Moon through a squall mining field. It’s kind of a Russian roulette, which watch team will have to deal with it first. 

So lis & I kept our eyes on the squalls, prepared all ropes on the winches for reef 2 and 3 and were in high alert modus. Nothing happened. When our watch was over it looked really dark in front of us and we offered to help the next team to put in the reefs. And the next team hit jackpot. Laying down below in bed you hear a lot of noises and the boat sqeeking and sails flapping, and you’re happy you avoided it this time  So from now every night watch will be like this: Navigating through squall mining fields and crossing fingers, it’s not on your watch 

The day shift started at 6 for us, no sunrise but spray rain greeted us and yet again we spotted loads of squalls around us but were luckily not to land in one. We made the best out of it, put on some nice waking up music and danced the rain away. After we did our morning tasks, like cleaning the heads, turning the little fruit that is left, etc, we were looking forward to a day nap. Tiredness is taking a toll on the body. The boat is a real sauna though, there’s major humidity and it’s very hot. Even the wind feels like a big blow dryer, so sleeping inside during the day is a challenge not to get glued to the bed.

After a well deserved nap I went outside for fresh air and wanted to take in the fishing line to get rid of the seaweed we were dragging behind us and gets entangled on the line. While Mathias was helping me, I noticed there was actually a fish on the hook, hidden behind a patch of seaweed. A little Amber Jack was caught! I already made clear to the crew that I would love to learn how to prep the fish for eating. Luckily I had 2 good teachers on board. Mathias instructed me step by step how to kill it with respect, take out the inner parts, and cut off the fins. Now it was my decision how I wanted to prepare it. The fish was too small for a full meal for the whole crew, so I decided to filet it and prepare it as a ceviche. Then Sergio was my 2nd teacher. With much patience he instructed me step by step how to filet the fish, the head peace and the cheeks included. I marinated it in lemon juice and served it as aperitivo during our dinner shift – which was a delicious Pasta Carbonara (still 90 eggs to go!)

So proud I finally learned to clean a fish and prep it for dinner. It was on my bucket list. Thanks to the crew for the support!

This night we are sailing again on a calm sea and the Blue Moon seems to glide through the water with light winds and full sails. After heavy waves, always comes a calmer much needed moment to reflect, regroup and take a breather (and a good sleep). Thankful for this ocean to teach me that everything comes and goes. After rain comes sunshine and tutto passo.

Proud hugs,

/Flying the gennaker towards the squalls/

Day 18 – December 7, 2022

Yesterday, ….what happened yesterday. Time is flying so fast these days. We are in a full routine mode and there is always something to do. Getting the daily jobs done like cleaning the heads (toilets on the boat), rig check, garbage into the anchor locker, cut plastic in little pieces and stuck them into a 5lt water bottle, plotting position, writing a blog, checking the weather and arc news, wash the cockpit and galley (kitchen on a boat), checking fresh food and of course cocking food and open one of our daily boat presents. We do like good food and we do have some really good chefs (cook on a boat)onboard. Then we always have to fix something, watching the fishing line, prepping the caught fish, reading, sunbathing, helming (steering the boat), getting some sleep in, take a bucket salt water shower and do laundry at the same time or just hang out somewhere on the sun deck.

Yesterday our goal was – every degree counts. The wind is exactly on the nose (and believe me you can not sail into wind). We had to go either far north or far south which means not making way towards St Lucia. Sailing north we had wind, waves and a 3m swell against us, so not moving a lot and banging instead. Sailing south we could hardly make 185 degrees (under 180 was a no go as that means we’re sailing back). Our tacking angles were horrible and the courses painful. But the crew gave there very best to push the boat to the limits and with all the tacking (weird tracking ob yb) we could make a bit of way good as the wind at least got a bit stronger. 

The full moon night was very helpful to keep an eye on squalls and we also passed a hug one on port side. So far didn’t get caught in one yet. Anyway at one point we decided to put first reef one and as the wind increased rapidly over 20kts reef two in. At that point we’ve seen our topping lift halyard (the line that holds the boom with the main sail up) wild flying around. It has to come down asap not to damage the sail or anything else. But how to reach a flying line with a metal shackle at the end in 20 kts upwind? We hove to and the boat stop immediately. We are always only two on watch. The halyard was hanging close to the mast but up to high to grab. Mättu had to climb acrobatically up the mast a bit and got it down safely. Everything sorted out – now the wind was gone and we kept sailing southwestwards in snail speed. But we are moving, that counts.

/Liesbeth capturing another unbelievable sunrise/