Atlantic Crossing – Day 24 – We have arrived!

Blogger: Mariel
Date: 5-Mar-2020
Location: At anchor in St Anne’s, Martinique!
Total to Date: 2948nm (0nm to go)
Final 22 Hour Run: 118nm

Wednesday 4th March, 18:52

The last sunset of the passage (unless something goes very wrong). This afternoon, I played my desert island discs through John D’s bluetooth speaker and explained my choices, which was far more emotional than I’d been expecting. (If you’ve joined this blog since we set off from Lanzarote, scroll back a month to see what my discs were and why I chose them). I only listened to them a few times on the passage, but they made me laugh, smile, tap my fingers and toes and weep on different occasions. I decided that the disc I would save from the waves was my brothers Alec and Tim with Alec’s Instructions for When Feeling Crap, for his wisdom and for all the memories that hearing them play and sing brings.

When the Desert Island Discs had finished, I spotted a vessel on the AIS – a Martinique fishing boat, and our first sign of the Caribbean.

The breeze is still very warm. We have shared our highlights and lowlights from the voyage, and our feelings regarding arrival. I am feeling EXCITED. This is way better than Christmas. We still don’t know when we will first see land, but we do know that it will be some time during the night, and that come morning, Martinique should be visible. Irish John says that he will row ashore, get on his hands and knees and kiss the sand, and I have to say I agree with him.

19:44

Crackle, crackle… the echo of a voice. What’s that…? The radio! The first noises from the outside world we have heard for three weeks. Gill and John laughed at me as I scrambled for the radio and picked it up to listen to. There was only really static, but I held it to my ear as if it were music. There is life out there, and it’s no longer so far away!

20:00

I have taken myself down to bed, even though I feel far too excited to sleep. I joked with Gill that I might leave one of the socks I stowed away as I prepared for landfall this afternoon at the end of my bed and see if there is one of the last 3 oranges in it come morning. More likely a shrivelled aubergine, or bit of ginger fallen from the net above my head.

My phone is no longer on airplane mode so I will know when we reach mobile signal – but do I want to know or would I rather not be distracted while we arrive, and only turn it on once we are there? I am so excited to be able to talk to the people I have missed so much, but have relished the lack of distraction and intrusion that the modern world pushes in.

Sleep, Mariel, sleep.

23:28 – nightwatch

The final nightwatch! Despite the excitement, I must have fallen asleep at some point because I was woken abruptly by my alarm at 22:40, thinking I might have overslept. It took a few bleary eyed moments to remember how close to land we were and wonder if there was any sign of it yet.

I lay there a few minutes, allowing myself to wake up slowly, before pulling on my shorts and tshirt and heading up into the cockpit. My handover from Irish John began a little differently to usual, with an update on our two new passengers – still present. Soon after 8pm, when IJ had stuck Bon Jovi in his ears and assumed his nightly starfish position (apparently to brace himself, although Gill and I suspect he might just be making the most of the space that we don’t have), JD had had a wash and was just getting into bed, and I had just closed my eyes, there came shrieks and flashing lights from the cockpit. IJ came stumbling out from the forepeak. Unable to distinguish any of Gill’s words, he thought perhaps there had been a gas explosion or something, but lying just below the open hatch, I could hear Gill shout “bird! bird!” and see it’s flapping wings above me.

In various stages of undress, the two John’s and I stuck our heads into the cockpit to look at the rather dishevelled-looking brown bird perched at the top of the steps – hello! what are you doing here?!

Photos were taken, and having determined that it wasn’t about to fly away again, clothes were put on and the bird book brought out. My best guess is a Brown Noddy, although it is a little hard to tell in the darkness. One of its webbed feet seems deformed, curled up and only half the size of the other.

IJ picked it up and put it on the cushion behind the helm, where it rocked back and forth with the motion of the boat. It reminded me of a tired child who refuses to admit it or go to bed, who sways back and forth in their chair before faceplanting into their dinner bowl. Excitement over, I returned to bed for attempt 2 at sleeping. With less than half an hour before he took over watch, IJ stayed up in the cockpit with Gill.

Minutes later, I was disturbed by more calls of “look at that bird!” and “is it coming in to land?!” I stuck my head up on deck again – sure enough, a second bird has come in to land, this time on the life buoy aft of the port solar panel, and is rocking in time with our buddy behind the helm.

We watch for a while, wondering if they’ll go to meet each other and why on earth they are here, but neither seem to move. I see another bird fly past and we have visions of arriving in Martinique a menagerie Dr Doolittle would be proud of, but this one keeps flying and I returned to bed – third time lucky, and I fell asleep.

And they are both still here, in the same positions. IJ reports that the bird at the helm has preened itself and stretched its wings for a couple of flaps and that he has mopped up a couple of white poos running down the cushion. I hear a quiet ‘peewee’ – he says they have chirped to each other a couple of times.

The rest of the handover continues as normal – 10-15 knots of wind from the East, down from 15-20. Running at around 5 knots, course 280 degrees. We are aiming for 264 and he gives Paul a tug to port to correct us. No further ships to report, nor voices on the radio.

No sign yet of the loom of Martinique or any flashes from the lighthouses, but we are still almost 50nm away.

I settle in to the nightwatch seat as IJ descends the steps. Gill gets up to plot our position again (this time on the chart of Martinique and Guadeloupe, rather than the chart covering the whole of the north atlantic), and IJ remarks that she is too excited to sleep. I call down that Santa won’t come if she doesn’t close her eyes.

The breeze is warm and I am still just in shorts and a tshirt. The thermometer read 30C at lunchtime.

I scan the horizon for lights – my eyes have been telling me there are specks on the horizon for a few nights now. The moon is reflecting off the sea in the west, exactly where we are heading and where we expect the first signs of Martinique to appear from, making it even harder to see. Orion shows faintly ahead of us, but the waxing gibbous (half moon) is too bright for most other stars to show. We have just passed 2900nm travelled since La Palma. We are at 14 degrees 30 North and 60 degrees 10 West – both the right degrees of Lat and Long for our destination. 43.6 nm to go. ETA 08.07. Gill is up plotting again. Our birds are still swaying. Back to scanning the horizon for me.

00:33

A flashing light, but this one is in the sky, passing through Orion’s legs – an airplane. From up there, they’d be able to see our tiny tricolour bobbing about in the sea, and the lights of Martinique in the same view.

This hasn’t always been an easy journey, but I’m much happier to be arriving by sail than by plane. 2903 miles down, 40.4 to go.

00:45

The faint glow behind me tells me that JD has just put the light on in the aft cabin and is getting ready to get up and relieve me of my watch. Still no sign of a loom or any lighthouses, or indeed any ships or other sailing vessels.

JD thought we’d see the first sailboat at 120nm, Gill 100nm. It’s now between Irish John and me at 30 and 20 nm respectively.

The two birds are still rocking gently behind me with their heads tucked beneath their wings. Almost time for me to return to my bunk and let the ocean rock me to sleep for the last time.

04:00

LAND AHOY!! Gill just called from the cockpit and I blearily pulled on my tshirt and stumbled up. G, J and J had all called a false alarm half an hour previously (it turned out to be a ship, not the lighthouse they had thought), which I hadn’t got up for, but this time it was just me who rose.

“What can you see, Gill?”
“I can see Martinique!”

I look out over the side – maybe a faint glow on the horizon. Gill put the binoculars into my hands – “Lights! Look!”

I raise them to my eyes, and sure enough, hundreds of lights glittering on the horizon. Land, at last. Gill hugs me. We have made it nearly 3000nm across an ocean and can see the small piece of land we have been aiming for all the way.

I look around. The bird is still behind the helm, and Gill says a third has landed on the starboard solar panel (where else?!) Still half asleep, I have come back down to my bunk for another precious couple of hours before dawn. 24 nm to go.

0708 (or 0608, Martinique time)

The sky is lightening, and Martinique is clearly visible, only a few miles away to starboard. We have counted the flashes of the lighthouse (4 every 15 seconds) and are heading south of it, around the corner into the anchorage. I was roused from my dosing at 5am by a ‘ping’, followed a few seconds later by a rapid burst ‘pingpingpingping’ from Irish John’s phone up in the cockpit as we re-entered the realm of modern technology. My phone took another hour and a half to show much or be able to send any messages home. There was little sleep to be had after land was sighted, and now we are all wide awake in the cockpit, mugs of tea in hand.

13:34 – at anchor in St Anne’s

We have arrived. Other than an engine that wouldn’t start the first few times, we had a very smooth and uneventful arrival into the anchorage. Anchor down at 08:30, 2 hours and 7 minutes earlier than the time predicted by JD 3 weeks ago. He was awarded a very well deserved bar of (his own) Green and Black’s chocolate as a prize. We spent a couple of hours bringing back lines, coiling them and stowing them below deck, and gazing around us in awe. We made it!! Messages and calls to friends and family, hard earned lie downs, and plenty to time staring down into the turquoise sea – at last, we can see the bottom! (Even though is it 7 metres down). We have been visited a couple of times by a large turtle, and shared a celebratory lunch of the very good champagne that IJ brought on board just before we left Lanzarote, and the cheese gifted to us by JJ – both delicious. Gill, IJ and I all jumped overboard and swam around the boat in the warm water, checking the anchor chain and looking for bumps and scrapes. The bump that IJ heard a couple of weeks ago seems to have left a small dent in the bow – wonder what it was?

Now JnG are having an afternoon nap, while IJ calls home from the bow. The dinghy has been launched and is ready to carry us ashore for a precious reunion with dry land and sundowners in an hour or so.

For now, we are all taking a little while for it to sink in. The boat is steady. Land is a mere couple of hundred meters away. We can relax at last.

Thank you so much to everybody who has followed us on our journey, prayed for our safe passage, wished us fair winds and left comments on the blogs. We never felt alone, and were buoyed by our daily emails from Jack, Emma and Jenny, containing messages from you all. Looking forward to catching up with everyone in due course.

With much love,

M, IJ, J and G

Use https://www.noforeignland.com/boat/4717902794063872 with SHOW JOURNEY to track our progress.

6 thoughts on “Atlantic Crossing – Day 24 – We have arrived!

  1. Well done to all of you, and many congratulations on a safe and seamanlike crossing. I am so glad you (Mariel) have followed up your brief introduction to sailing last summer and are making the most of it. I’ve been following your progress, and there are tears in my eyes as I’ve been reading your last instalment.

    Enjoy your time in the Caribbean, have a safe trip back – and you’ll be welcome back on board Tyro any time you like. 😀

    Steve

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  2. Very many congratulations Mariel, your grandfather and great grandfather (and mothers of course) would be so proud of you, as of course are we. Just to do the trip was tremendous, but to continue to write about it all while feeling so queasy, really went above and beyond, so thank you (and J of course) so much for taking us with you, we have loved every minute of it.
    I dare you will find the solid land to be very unsteady when you step ashore! With very much respect to you all, for a safe and successful crossing, and much love to you from Simon and Penny xx

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  3. Prayers of gratitude have been sent for your safe arrival onto dry land and to Gill and John for their seamanship and care of you. I hope you all have a well earned rest and lots of fun on Martinique.
    Thank you so much again for the wonderful blogs.
    All my love to you, my fearless Mariel xx

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  4. Wow! I have been following you all on your amazing adventure. So pleased and relieved to hear of your safe arrival at last! Enjoy the Caribbean xxx

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  5. Hooray!! Well done all of you – you must feel as if you’ve gained another family. Have fun on whatever the next stage of your adventure turns out to be. xx

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  6. What an amazing adventure! So glad you have all made it to martinique, can’t wait to hear more as your journey continues.
    All our love J,K,S&S

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