Crossing the Atlantic on an Oyster 885 from Antigua to Palma.
In the last two years I had been thinking more and more about crossing the Atlantic, I had a dream to cross over and had printed out a photo of an Oyster 885 and stuck it on the office wall. My intention was just a vision board, I left my corporate role in February this year in pursuit of starting my new business (Anchor property group) and also to take part in some yacht racing before starting my remote working consultancy role in the new business. After racing in the Caribbean 600 I decided to stay in Antigua, by chance an opportunity came up to cross the Atlantic on none other than an Oyster 885. The very same yacht I had on my wall in Manchester for 2 years, I was ecstatic. My birthday was going to be mid -Atlantic and what an experience this would be.
I moved on board the day before the crossing, we had a few jobs to do including visiting the chandlery for a pipe to funnel diesel from these huge barrels we strapped down so we would have enough fuel to get to Gibraltar and a few other items that could be useful for the delivery. Leaving Antigua on the 20th of April after being there since February was a strange but good feeling to be going back to Europe.
We left the dock at 11:15 to a few novelty horn blasts and started our morning with a bacon and egg breakfast and waved goodbye to our friends. The swell when we set off felt a bit rolling but soon settled as we got the headsail up and was dreamy in 15 knots of breeze. Since it was the beginning of the trip we also made a list of bets for our arrival such as...how many Whales we would see, what our top speed would be and how many flying fish would land on deck, you get the idea.
The first night was a lamb curry with cous cous lovingly prepared by Sara the chef and avid reader, her goal was to read nearly a book a day on this crossing! Other crew accomplishments included being 20 minutes late for their first watch 'Ed'. I was on watch with Pietro mostly and we managed to dodge a few squalls at night, no other ships were seen and the only sea life we saw were some flying fish!
Day 2- I woke up at 09:00am and had a shower bracing myself against the wall with the boat heeled over but enjoyed the fresh steamy water. I had also felt a little queasy on waking so had some cereal before the start of my watch. I was lucky to have missed the patches of rain whilst sleeping so was happy to arrive on deck to sunshine during the day and glistening stars at night again dodging the Caribbean squalls!
Day 3- Serene flat calm water greeted us, with no wind it was time to furl away and use the diesel. on the previous watch Boots another crew mate who is incredibly tall and witty had set up the fishing rods. Everyone was pretty pessimistic given the depth of around 4000 metres. I told him I'd wake him if it went off, 45 minutes later and whizzzzzz the reel was spinning. 'Boots!' I exclaimed, I ran down and knocked on his cabin door whilst ed prepared the fishing box and reeled it in. We had caught a Mahi Mahi fish, Boots gutted the fish then we kept the tail on the back of the boat...some say this is a good luck omen. To our delight Sara made fresh Mahi Mahi poke bowls with fresh lime juice and sesame oil. Not all was good news today as the staysail halyard parted so Captain Will had to go up the mast to retrieve it.
Day 4 - Conditions are changing with more swell, we tried to sail with the jib for a time but had to take it down with the wind angle changing and being on the nose at 20 degrees apparent we furled away. Today was the last day of the diesel barrels, looking like road workers will and Ed siphoned out the remaining fuel and stowed away the remaining barrels. the boat now looks a lot prettier. It was also today we saw a sperm whale, incredible although Eds commentary makes me wonder if the video is portable! Later in the day Ed taught me how to play backgammon, unfortunately I lost but we have a whole tournament ahead. I had a nap after dinner before my night watch.
Day 5- The midnight watch started with Pietro which is always fun. I had a packet of crisps and a coffee to wake me up. We actually saw a ship the third one of our journey so far called Peruvian Reef, 150m long passing us 2 nautical miles away on our port side. We also ate some crunchy chocolate and it's now the 24th of April. My birthday.
I woke up to a massive banner and balloons saying Happy Birthday it was the most incredible day, I had the most amazing birthday meal cooked by Sara Seared sesame tuna with wasabi mash and stirred greens. Unreal! The mermaid cakes were also divine and we had such a lovely afternoon. Will allowed us a sundowner beer each as it was my birthday.
Day 6- 25th We had another day of mostly motor sailing with lots of sun, I finished my book a journey for madmen and started watching Vikings! The swell has been building but we enjoyed another 'pub quiz' sent over by Boot's fiancé Frankie.
Day 7 - 26th The weather is starting to get cooler, there was a flying fish on deck and it's been getting windier. We had peri peri chicken for lunch which was delicious and I fell asleep on the sofa watching Vikings. I was up at midnight for my watch and a big squall came through going from 18-35 knots in seconds. We furled the jib with difficulty and Will helmed through the squall, the swell and breaking waves looked quite dramatic at night. Once it had passed over we were able to reset the main and the rest of the evening was uneventful.
Day 8-27th We are nearly halfway there, during the morning watch we didn't have any squalls but it was quite rainy and a few squalls were close by on radar. We saw a little bird too...so far out in the middle of the Atlantic.
We had a quiz after lunch with some questions provided by my parents, we sailed until midday until the wind dropped off and we had to restart the engine. We had cottage pie for dinner and much of the time on deck was spent in a raincoat. A few of us watched captain Ron down below to escape the cold northerly breeze.
Day 9 28th- Pietro and I washed the cockpit area in the morning or should I say he did as I cut my finger trying to pick up a can that had fallen behind the seats. I ate an orange and threw the peel overboard to see how long it would take to dissappear .. 9 seconds. The swell is quite significant now with big rollers. We have the jib up and are motor sailing our course is ok but we are trying to come downwind when we can. I have a horrible feeling about later today. It's halfway across now and apparently there is a ritual for first timers. I have also seen a bucket with a black bin bag inside when I questioned ed about the bucket he said 'You're fu**ed' and started laughing. I now have anxiety about the following events.
When Ed came on deck it started raining heavily, it was quite fun though and we turned the engine off cruising at 8.5 knots with just the jib. Our cabin doors now had posters on them notifying us to be ready at 14:00 for our initiation with Neptune. we were brought one by one into the saloon blindfolded which meant very difficult to balance with the sea state. I had my hands zip tied behind my back and walked up the stairs then was made to kneel on deck lined up awaiting our fate. Neptune spoke in his bellowing voice accusing us of our crimes and punishment! We each had a flying fish tied round our necks and buckets of slop thrown over us as well as eggs and flour and a water hose blasting us!
Once showered and the ordeal was finally over we had some champagne and a toast! The evening was followed by a divine prawn curry and warm baked cookies yum!
Day 10- 29th Today is my brother George's birthday and I start my day at 03:00am. There is lighting in the distance and we have 25 knots of breeze. I am a little nervous about the lightning but it's so far away and we can't hear thunder and there is nothing on radar. In other news a flying fish hit the side of the cockpit like a blooded samurai - if it had been 30cm higher it would have hit me..somehow I'm not sure that would have been pleasant. The rest of the morning was lovely and we had a naughty burger for lunch. As my later watch started the weather started to turn, when Ed came on deck later on things got a bit biblical with thunder and lightning and over 30 knots of breeze. I was glad to finish my watch and get some hot food! Fish pie never tasted so good.
Day 11- 30th We saw a huge pod of dolphins this morning that jumped and leapt around the boat and played in the bow wave! I enjoyed the morning sunshine before a brief spell of rain on my watch.
Day 12 - 1st May Weather isn't getting any better, we have had rain and squalls meaning wet weather gear - just like UK sailing. I played Chess against Ed and lost again but since the weather has been a bit grim I have been watching the vikings series which I absolutely love!
Day 13- 2nd May We have started to get very on and off wind and now we have had to review the fuel situation. We have been conserving as much as possible and will be stopping in Gibraltar on Saturday
Day 14 - 3rd We had a beautiful day of sunshine most of which when I am not on watch, a great opportunity for sunbathing. The oven was temperamental again for Sara and she had to spend ages cleaning it out. We thoroughly enjoyed the food though with Mac and cheese, slow roasted lamb and mash potato. The starts were very bright this night and Ed showed me how to find the North Star and Pietro worked out when he came on deck doing some press-ups and sit ups.
Day 15-4th May I woke up exhausted for my morning watch, had a strong coffee and then I set up the fishing lines with my favourite pink lure. I also started making little bracelets from the old fishing line we used to catch the Mahi Mahi in Antigua.
Day 16 - 5th of May Today has been a fun day with excellent sunshine and wind we have started sailing again with the engine off. No rain and lots of wind makes for a great sailing day. I ate far too many cookies - 2 of which were lobbed at me on the sofa by Boots and Ed. The wave sets at night were incredible, some so big you couldn't see past them to the next wave. Awesome sailing over 14 knots at apparent wind angle of 78 and 2 reefs in the main.Starting to see fishing boat now too which are not on AIS so we have been extra vigilant on watch. I am writing this just before my bedtime and we will be arriving in Gibraltar tomorrow.
Day 17 - 6th We arrive in Gibraltar and fuel up.... the excitement of seeing land is awesome blasting music and Sara singing coming hooommeeee.
Day 18/19 The last 2 days were spent sailing to Palma along the coast with feel good vibes, warm weather and dolphins along the way it was special. We arrived in Palma eventually and we were all excited for a fun night out. My first time ever in Palma, as I stepped on the dock on land for the first time Ed passed me the bin bag it touched my leg and I felt an immediate sharp pain and saw my leg was bleeding. It transpired there was broken glass in the bag and I needed 3 stitches in A&E but it didn't stop me from going out. Many tequila shots later and after a lot of dancing and waking up the next day far too late..... The trip was over.
I absolutely loved the crossing have made some incredible friends and can't wait for the next big adventure!
If you would rather watch the video it's available on my YouTube channel