First time Jumping the Atlantic
A Massachusetts family and an Alberg 37 are up to the task. A story from our March 1982 issue.
We searched for the other cushion , but gave up. It was sobering to realize how catastrophic this could have been had the rescue attempt been genuine. There was no reluctance from then on to comply with the rules about wearing harnesses at night, when alone on watch or when forward in any sea. We always had a strong nylon li ne rigged on the deck from bow cleat to stern cleat on both sides so that one could clip on and go forward without hindrance, but securely fastened. After the storm, as usually happens, we had a beautiful clear time, and had great fun surfing down the big but regular waves. That night we had no wind and uncomfortable lumpy seas. This passed quickly,and we were back to gray skies and a good wind. Most of the time we made 7 knots on headsail alone, our Aries wind vane holding a fine course with saiI forward.
Ed showed me how to repair sails, and together we put a patch on our favorite genoa where the bow pulpit had chafed it. It pleased me to have the beginnings of a new skill. The days passed with little variation. We made good time and it was rather dull . We did see a container ship on the horizon, the first we had seen, which underlined the aloneness of an
ocean passage . Twice a day we were affronted by the huge sonic boom of what we supposed to be a Concorde flying overhead. We never saw the plane. It seemed an outrage in that quiet and private expanse.
Housekeeping chores and routine took over. In the evening we would change down to a smaller sail if we were at all doubtful about the strength of the wind. No one ejoyed being roused at night for sail changes. The weather was damp and chilly. A major effort was made to fix the kerosene heater, which functioned well in port but flared and died at sea. It was unsuccessful. The kerosene cooking stove was also a great bore. I laboriously made wholewheat bread one afternoon and, after it had risen for the third time and was ready to pop into the oven, I discovered that the oven could not be coaxed or forced to function despite the efforts of everyone. It was a major frustration. I finally baked the bread in a pressure cooker (without the pressure valve) on top of the stove. It tasted quite good, but it was a very unsatisfactory shape.
The fresh food , by this time, was gone. Decent hearty food was abundantly available, but it was a bit dull. Ev complained one evening that the cuisine left something to be desired. It was not " harmonious."
Perhaps a different concept was needed.
I was furious. " Harmonious?" " Different concept?!" What was he talking about? He was irritatingly non-specific and suggested mildly that there was no need to be defensive. I retreated to the forward cabin for a small private weep, remembering regretfully how I had praised his very mediocre white sauce. Jef called me an hour late for my watch that night , a gift, and by that time I was happy again and feeling a little silly.
We had been making about 145 miles a day, sometimes more. Ev complained that the barometer had barely changed since St. John, and he was afraid it was defective. We found later that our weather was then controlled by a stalled low off Iceland , working with the Azores High to give us a regular trade wind in the North Atlantic. The days passed and the big rollers hurried by, making our steady 7 knots seem slow. That day we could pick up the Mizen Head (Ireland) radio beacon on the RDF. I remember thinking that we would be in port in a few more days and how great that would be. It had been a pleasant voyage, quite easy, but just a little dull.The good wind continued, although we had fog that night.
We were not alone . A voice via the radio came out of the fog, the Stuttgart Express calling. They had uson their radar, which was comforting. We were in the shipping lanes now and it was foggy. They gave us our position, confirming our own navigation . With the consistently gray weather, sun sights had been scarce. The Stuttgart Express was a fast, modern diesel powered container ship heading for Bremen. We had a pleasant exchange of news. Moments after she signed off the Allbright Pioneer called in " for a chat" -the first non-Arion voices in two weeks. It felt like a party, and we all enjoyed it very much.
The next few days were much the same. Monday started off with the same overcast and wind from the south 10 to 15 knots . But by 4 p.m. the wind had backed to the southeast and risen to 30 knots. We were steering 95° magnetic for Mizen Head, which we estimated to be about 25 to 30 miles away. We had not had a fix since the day before . By 4:30 we could no longer hold our course and were gradually failing off to the north . We changed down to the working jib, the wind continuing to rise and back . By 7 p.m. it was dark. We were definitely in for very bad weather, and Ev announced cheerfully that he had maligned our barometer; it was falling fast now, down to 990 millibars. At 7:30, fearful of being pushed onto a lee shore, we headed off at 270°, wind 35 to 40 knots.
What a blow. Psychologically, I already was in an Irish pub, but with a lee shore, an uncertain position and a falling barometer, there was no choice.