Ascension Island,  At Sea,  Brazil,  Caribbean,  Fernando De Noronha,  Martinique,  St Helena

Crossing the Atlantic

The photo above is looking up at Bob from somewhere in the depths of the South Atlantic Ocean.

We’ve made it from one side of the Atlantic to the other. Woohoo! Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a reasonable chunk of Atlantic lying between us and Bermuda that we’ll be tackling over the coming months, but it still feels like a major achievement to cross such a huge swathe of ocean. We’re currently in the Caribbean and working our way north, from Martinique to Nevis, where Alex will be the best man for his best friend’s wedding. I can’t think of anything better after almost two months at sea than a week of celebrations with good friends.

We spent about six weeks crossing the South Atlantic, and I’ll let you in on a little secret: I really enjoyed it. The South Atlantic is truly the most beautiful ocean I have ever seen. The sea is vibrantly blue and almost glassy. Long swells add a gentle motion to the surface, as if it were the slow deep breathing of some huge animal. The wind was calm enough to keep the seas chop-free, but strong enough to keep us moving at a steady 4 knots. Conditions were so peaceful, and the weather so pleasant, that we hopped overboard for a cooling swim on numerous occasions.

We were visited by various pods of dolphins, and at one point I was treated to a spectacular show when a false killer whale cleared the water as it propelled its enormous body into the air just meters away from Bob. I also made friends with a brown noddy who, much to Alex’s annoyance, came to rest (and sometimes poo) on our solar panels each night. The bird seemed to have some sort of night-blindness. He didn’t seem to recognise us as human beings (a potential threat) and therefore came much closer than he ordinarily would during the day. At one point he even landed on my arm! I still can’t believe that a completely wild bird chose to willingly land on my arm. This type of behaviour must be so rare that I’m mourning the fact we didn’t get a photo as proof.

One of the dolphin pods swimming by to check us out.
We didn’t snap a photo of our birdy friend on my arm, but this is him in his usual hangout spot on the solar panel.

It didn’t take long, however, after leaving the Southern Hemisphere that the relentlessly unforgiving seas made their usual appearance. Alex was happy to be travelling a knot and a half faster, but I immediately began to feel unwell. The unpredictable pounding of the boat made everything difficult. It took all my energy to complete even the most basic tasks, like cooking a meal, going to the toilet or getting a glass of water. Non-essential tasks such as cleaning, tidying and bathing were almost completely forgotten and Bob soon became a place of squalor. As we were less than 200 miles from the northeastern coast of South America, unmarked fishing boats were a constant hazard and thorough watches had to be kept to avoid colliding with them. Now that we’re sailing up the leeward side of the Caribbean, not only do we have local fishing vessels to contend with but also wind shadows from the high islands. This means the sails require constant attention and a good night’s sleep out here is as rare as snow in the Sahara.

Let’s be honest, who wants to spend six hours a night, when they should be fast asleep, constantly trimming sails while swallowing down bouts of vomit in a stinking and filthy floating bathtub? In reality, that’s what it usually means to go offshore sailing in a small yacht, and even the beautiful South Atlantic hasn’t managed to change my view that this type of travel is possibly the most unpleasant type in existence.

What’s that I hear you say? Why on Earth have I stuck with it for the last three and a half years? Well, the main reason is this:

This goof has been the best company I could have asked for over the past few years. This photo was taken last month on his 35th birthday in Ascension Island.

And the other reasons include:

We get to visit the most stunning and remote locations that other forms of travel simply wouldn’t be able to take us to… at the least not on our limited budget. This is the isolated volcanic island of Ascension.
Ascension is home to the second largest breeding ground for green turtles in the whole Atlantic…
…and we happened to be there at exactly the right time of year to see them egg laying. Just amazing!
We also visited St Helena, a British colony that is most famous for being the prison island and original resting place of the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte.
We were even lucky enough to be shown round by the fabulous Basil and Barbara George, mutual friends of Alex’s aunt. Who knew we had contacts in such exotic locations?
This is us in our penultimate destination prior to the Caribbean, Brazil’s island nature reserve of Fernando De Noronha. It was incredibly expensive here, the anchorage was terrible and we had difficulty finding useful information for cruisers…
…but it was a truly stunning island with absolutely incredible beaches.
This is St Pierre in Martinique and our most recent destination in the Caribbean. This historic town was once the most important place on the island, before the volcanic eruption of 1902 destroyed it completely. Now it’s been beautifully rebuilt with a Caribbean feel, interspersed with characterful ruins of the old town.

I might not fully enjoy offshore ocean sailing, but that’s okay. What I do enjoy is the travel, adventure and amazing experiences that I get to share with Alex. Besides, it’s not like I hate sailing altogether. I absolutely love day-sails in flat(ish) coastal waters, which, incidentally, is often where most of the interesting wildlife is seen. Plus, given a little time, those additional challenges we face at sea will be all the more valuable with reminiscence and hindsight.


  • Mother

    Fab blog. With PC today, all day in BDA. Dan loved seeing you and mentioned it more than a few times. He says leave Nevis and head back soon. Sooner than July.

  • Grahame

    Gav new web-presentation, maybe a book one day. Happy ‘down-hill’ fullback to Bermuda when done with the tropics.

  • Herman

    Thanks for the nice blog. You are a good writer. I agree, how about a book? Missing you at Tweefontein SA. Very good pictures, once again. Safe travels. Kind regards, Herman van Schalkwyk

    • Sarah

      Thank you for your nice comments Herman. We miss you too. I can’t believe we were with you just a few months ago, so much has happened since then. I hope we get to visit you again one day. It really was the highlight of our visit to SA 😊

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