I’m 31 years old and can probably best be described by someone else. Perhaps Sarah would be willing to write this bit?!
Well, I suppose the passtimes I most enjoy would be something like: Sailing, driving, motorbikes, travelling…………. and generally things that involve some promise of personal development, which often involves personal risk as well as some semblance of ability to control the outcome of events. Of these, sailing is probably the most practical since it lends itself to the adoption of an entire lifestyle rather than simply something that can be enjoyed fleetingly. I’m also quite attracted to it because I feel it’s a worthwhile investment of time in something that is impossible to master. There is no such thing as the perfect sailor; one can do it for one’s entire life and still screw up spectacularly every now and then.
I started sailing when I was about 7 or 8 years old, not because I wanted to but because my parents wanted to get rid of me during the summers and sailing camp seemed like as good a way to achieve this as any. I did that for about 5 years (sailing the very appropriately-named ‘optimist dinghies’, which are essentially bathtubs with a small mast and sails (i also discovered during an expedition in 2010 while driving to Mongolia in an ambulance that they make great roof-boxes) and then 420s once I was physically big enough to keep one upright) then started sailing a little in the UK, first on enterprises and then yachts. We did a couple of trips from the South Coast of England over the channel to France, but I didn’t do anything long-distance until 2000 when I signed up as a trainee on a tallship – the Picton Castle. I sailed with that ship several times for a total of about 10 months, including a 5-month voyage from Nova Scotia through the Panama Canal and across about half of the Pacific Ocean as far as the Cook Islands. Many of the places we intend to visit are places that I’ve been before with the Picton Castle. I also did a trans-Atlantic crossing on another tallship, the Tenacious, and perhaps 10 or so crossings from the US to Bermuda and the Caribbean, on a Swan 46, a J155, a 55 foot charter catamaran (that was an interesting one!), Bob, and most recently on my good friend’s Moody 38, which I also sailed with him and two others across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to Antigua a couple of years ago. That was easily the most enjoyable passage I have ever been on and has really given me a hankering to reach the almost magical trade winds.
I’m not very competitive at all but I do enjoy sailing well, and I think in order to sail well technically the best medium by which to learn to do so lies in racing sailboats. So, I’ve also done a lot of racing over the last 6 years or so, mainly in the position of ‘bowman’ on J105s, J24s, a Beneteau 375 and most recently my friend’s beautiful racing yacht Nasty Medicine, a Corby 41, on which I was privileged to have my first experience of ocean yacht racing in the Newport to Bermuda race last year (2014).
Sarah (First Mate):
I’m an ecologist and conservationist by trade, with a particular fondness for terrestrial mammals. Sailing isn’t something I’ve done very much of and even the world of marine ecology is something that’s pretty new to me and something that I look forward to learning much more about over the next few years.
I’m not sure how good a first mate I’ll be given my general lack of sailing experience, but I’m very happy to give it my best shot. The first time I ever went sailing was at ‘Year 8 Camp’ in high school when our year group was taken to the Lake District for a week of outdoor activities. One of the days was spent learning to sail. I don’t have any idea what type of boat we were on, just that it was small and there were two of us on it. All I really remember from the whole experience was that I ended up jumping in the water and attempting to push it along because our sailing was so terrible!
Since then, pretty much all my sailing experience has been with Alex, mainly on Bob. This means that I’ve probably picked up a lot of his exacting habits along the way, which could be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. I’ve been sailing with Alex in Bermuda during my various visits to see him over the last 10 years. Most have just been for a few hours at a time around Bermuda but I’ve also been fortunate enough to join some racing yachts with him a few times too, although I didn’t really do any sailing – just observing. My main experience of sailing was the trip round the Caribbean with Alex and a number of friends in the winter of 2008/09. We set sail from Bermuda on 20th December 2008 for a 2 week jaunt to Grenada, which as Alex has already mentioned, was far too late. We hit bad weather about 2 days into the sail which followed us south over the following days, including Christmas day! We had 50 knots of wind and 25 foot steep swells with only a crew of four people to deal with it, and my total experience to date was about 4 days – so talk about a baptism of fire! Still, once the weather had died down and I experienced the fun of surfing the swells, the beautiful phosphorescence in the water, dolphins swimming at the bow and stunning starry night skies – I realised it was worth every second. Not to mention all the wonderful places we visited and the excellent people we met over the following months.
So, I’m looking forward to all the exciting new experiences we’ll have over the coming years. I’m sure we’ll meet some excellent people and see some fantastic places. I’m not expecting it to be plain sailing (excuse the pun), but I’m sure we’ll have some amazing adventures well worth writing home about.
Isabelle (expert salad-artist, stringy-thing puller, DJ and rat maker)
Isabelle is a 25-year-old Swedish viking boat-bum. She has absolutely no qualifications on paper but isn’t too bad a person nonetheless. She was Alex’s moral-support on the passage from St. Martin to Cartagena (February 2016) and is entirely to thank for the fact that he only did one silly and irrational thing on that passage (he convinced himself at one point that the rudder was about to fall off and spent several hours peering over the stern before resorting to kicking it and finally diving down for a look during a calmish moment. It was fine the whole time…………). Through the liberal use of well-placed, picturesque notices offering her services in the above categories she has successfully secured a berth on board a beautiful yacht heading back to St. Martin, the very shiny and fast ‘Kialoa III’ (racy people – google it!), winner of the 1975 Sydney-Hobart race and retainer of the title for 21 years. Maybe we’ll meet again in some far-flung port in a few years time? We hope so.
Christian, Jonathan and Apolline (The United Nations of line handlers)
Here are our Italian, Panamanian and French line handlers when crossing the Panama Canal in March 2016. Christian is a characteristic Italian who loves cooking, is highly religious, has a PhD and is even a published author. Jonathan is a line handler by trade and was hired by us to help us through the canal. He is very shy and didn’t say much but was an absolute expert at his job and basically did 90% of the work. Apolline is a diving instructor, has a wonderful French accent and is an excellent sailor. She is very down-to-earth and easy to get along with. She moved onto a friends boat shortly after the canal and sailed with them to Galapagos for a month, so we had the pleasure of spending a lot more time with her there whilst we were in Galapagos. It was wonderful and at the same time, hilarious, to hear Apolline and Christian speak to each other in English – but with the thickest French and thickest Italian accent you’ve ever heard!
Nadine, Ryan and Andrew (Pitcairn medivac crew – the concerned mother, the heroic uncle and the boy with a gippy tummy)
Here we have Nadine, Ryan and Andrew who all live on the remote island of Pitcairn. Whilst we were in Pitcairn in July 2016, Ryan was diagnosed with possible appendicitis and needed to be taken to Mangareva as soon as possible to put him within better proximity of the hospital in Tahiti. As Bob was the only suitable vessel in Pitcairn for at least the next month, we set sail on Bob with Ryan, his mum and his uncle towards Mangareva. Ryan is an absolutely adorable 11 year old boy who found the whole ordeal very exciting and didn’t complain once. Nadine did an admiral job helping out on helm despite her worries for Ryan and her chronic sea sickness. Andrew has a lot of boat experience so also came along to lend a helping hand. He stayed on board for a while after Nadine and Ryan left so we got to know him well. He is a wonderful person to have on board – very easy to get along with and a pleasure to spend time with. We’ve made friends for life with these guys and we hope to see them again soon.