We are about 12 days from setting sail across the Atlantic Ocean. Like many projects, the closer you get to the due date, the faster time seems to go by. In the lifetime of the Sail For Epilepsy project, we will journey between a series of deadlines, each milestone signaling the end of one phase and the beginning of another. At the moment it feels like we are operating in hyper-speed.
This winter and early spring have been spent learning Ingwe, the boat we’ll use during our voyages this year. We made a few modifications to the way the spinnakers get rigged and set. New lines for the sheets were purchased, along with a new A3 spinnaker, and we got to know the boat and her many systems.
The delivery a few weeks ago from the Bahamas to Florida began a period of refit and preparations for Leg 2 of our global voyage, Atlantic Crossing Adventure. The pace picked up as the techs at Just Catamarans in Fort Lauderdale, Florida worked on a series of maintenance and upgrades that will better position us for a safe and successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.
The battery capacity has been doubled, to better utilize the solar energy produced by the panels on board. A new VHF antennae has been installed for our VHF radio and a separate antennae added for our Automatic Identification System (AIS). The boat was hauled and had the bottom washed and painted. The sail drives were inspected and serviced. Navigation charts for Europe were uploaded to the chart plotter. Finally, a high speed satellite system was installed, so that we can connect live with our Virtual Shipmates, as well as send in blogs, photos, and videos while offshore. We’re even going to hold some live Q&A sessions so that you can see what life is like onboard and get a chance to have any questions answered.
Each day that goes by brings us closer to the finish of this preparation phase, which really is the start line for our upcoming voyage. Next week, the crew of 5 who will sail on this leg will gather in Fort Lauderdale. We’ll get to know each other a little better, learning what it’s like to live together on shore, before we transition to Ingwe. Provisions will be purchased, sorted, repacked, and stowed. We’ll go through a boat orientation and some safety drills, both at the dock and out on the water. We’ll check and re-check the tools and spare parts we’ve got with us, since we’ll not be able to drive to the hardware store once we’re underway.
We’ll also be watching the weather. Our exact departure date will be determined by the forecast for the first few days of our voyage, as we want to ease into sailing, and allow everyone to get their sea legs. This applies physically – getting used to the motion of the boat, the watch system / sleep schedule, and the process of hoisting and trimming the various sails onboard. This transition also applies mentally. What are my new routines and habits going to be, in this small space with 4 other people I may not normally live with? How do I need to dress for the given conditions and what do I need to do to be ready to be on watch? Time begins to take on new meaning after multiple days at sea. The day is no longer regulated by a 9-5 work schedule, with a commute, which takes some getting used to.
Our target is to depart some time between May 14th and May 19th. We want to be past 50° West, a north-south oriented line of longitude, by June 1st. And we would like to motor as little as possible, avoiding areas of no wind, without running into significant low pressure systems that could contain high winds and difficult sea states. As the final days speed by, we’ll continue to do daily routings in which we decide the best course to take for practice and to better understand the weather patterns in this area of the ocean. The departure window will narrow and then it will be time to finish up any last preparations and get underway. We’ll post updates to social media when we finalize our plans – and look forward to welcoming you on this journey with us!