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@06:09 GMT

Position: 38º 24.029 N x 32º 10.800 W

Speed: 7.3 kts

Course: 88° True

It’s is about 1.5 days until arrival at Horta is predicted. This has been quite a passage for me. I have wanted for a long time to cross an ocean. Well, that’s pretty much complete. Was it worth it and what preparation was needed? Rather than write with much thought I think I will just list some bullet points of my thinking.

Phil at the helm with Greg standing behind, departing Fort Lauderdale
  1. Totally worth it. I didn’t know at the outset what it would be like. Actually, I think we have had a relatively easy crossing. The first week was very easy and was good for the crew to get used to the boat and to get their sea legs. We were able to make sail changes without too much duress. In the middle to 3/4 of the way things got fun. Lots of fast sailing with the A3 kite and on its last day of its use we hit 14kts. The final 1/4 is a bit tedious. We have a nice 20-25kts of breeze that would be great for jib and main but without headsail its pretty boring. Though, we are making 8 knots under main sail only. I can’t wait to get the A3 tangle off the jib and hope we have a headsail to enable us to continue.
  2. The preparation has been for years on end.  Learning to sail a boat. Learning how to screw up and get out of situations. Learning not to panic. Learning to lead a crew. I will let them tell whether I was successful there. Learning to navigate, for me that was the highlight. Then there is the Sail For Epilepsy (S4E) part of the program. That plan was conceived in 2011 in a hospital bed suffering from an allergic reaction to a medication, but became reality in 2019 when S4E became a 501(c)3 organization. Since then we have been planning the voyage, or a voyage of sorts. Many of our original plans had to be changed due to COVID, but here we are heading to the Azores and to Europe. We will see what COVID entry requirements there are in a couple of days. 
  3. The boat: The biggest uncontrolled variable was having a boat for the crossing. I was ready to do it in my 33ft quest called Cepheus. I would probably have had to do it solo as I doubt anyone would have come with me. We didn’t have the funds to buy a vessel through the 501(c)3 but at the last moment Ingwe was purchased. It is a great stable platform but I don’t feel that I had enough sea trials on her to know of all of the necessary upgrades that would be needed for an ocean passage. There are clearly weak points for a lengthy passage but she has faired well and is very rugged. 
  4. The Crew: It’s hard to get the right combination of crew for a vessel and I have put together different crew for each part of the journey. I only hope they all work out as sending any back to shore is not possible. During this passage we have had some challenging moments as a crew but they have jelled well. More than anything it took a fluke problem in which the crew had to work together by which they all gained mutual respect.
  5. Dockage: A major uncontrolled factor is where do we dock Ingwe. Almost all of this is not yet determined and it definitely keeps me up at night. I need to get home between voyage legs and therefore need to leave the boat somewhere, but where? Time will tell. Several of those close to me jokingly look at me and say “plan A, B and C. Phil always has contingency plans.” I guess that’s my approach to life to let me sleep.
  6. Loneliness: I have never felt lonely on the trip, there are five of us on board, but I have needed to find times to get isolated and find Phil time. Despite being a big vessel this has been very difficult. I look forward to finding some time where I have no responsibilities and can do this, well certainly for a few hours. It’s probably part of resetting. But then I will be ready to get going again. Though I have not been lonely per se I have really missed my wife Marianne and am counting the minutes till the ideal time to call her today. Thank goodness for the good satellite communications that we have on board. 
  7. Program exhaustion:  I love executing the S4E program. Really love it. But a few days ago it became difficult to continue. I think this was because of sleep deprivation and general fatigue, since now that I have had some good sleep I am raring to go again. I did not realize how much I would have to relive my personal journey with epilepsy and this became quite intense and emotional. But by baring my own mind and exposing it to our epilepsy community it is, I hope, helpful to others. In fact early feedback from comments say it is. I need to find a way in future voyages/legs to compartmentalize skipper and S4E roles better (if that’s possible) and also find time to enjoy the moment. 

Talk about enjoy the moment – well, as I was writing I looked out of the bow and its 0600 GMT, we’re 168nm west of Horta and there is a little light in the sky. I am going to watch it for a while as these moments are magical.

Behind the scenes of a live Q&A session in support of the Sail For Epilepsy project
Sunrise on our final day at sea

3 thoughts on “Phil’s Reflections on Atlantic Crossing Adventure

  1. Congratulations to the entire crew of Ingwe and for your shore support staff as well! Great job all around.

  2. nice job Phil. Interesting about crew dynamics. Getting along is a choice. I have been on several voyages where there is an odd man out. On our first crossing there was a guy on board, a school teacher, who, once we had crossed the shelf, immediately removed all his clothes. He persisted in this naked aggression at all times whenever the weather allowed. We began calling him “Ship’s naked guy”. Needless to say, he didn’t really fit in. So, at least you didn’t have that! Crew management is not to be overlooked and can be a real challenge. When you think about it it is pretty amazing that a group that is more or less thrown together can gel. I think a lot of it has to do with experience. An experienced crew knows what the expectations are and can maintain a quiet reserve in all situations. Now that your crew has the crossing under their belt they will be stronger for it. Congratulations on a job well done.

  3. Bravo!!!! We’re deeply honored to have joined you in this journey called life. You’re amazing, inspiring, and very loved. We wish you your hearts desires! May the good Lord bless you, and yours.

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