Big round of applause! It's the final briefing for the ARC race - Canaries/Las Palmas to Caribbean/Santa Lucia. The room is packed, even thought the skipper and one member of each crew were given the access. No one missing. From Pogo 30, the smallest yacht in this race, with two people aboard, to Oyster 885, a luxury aircraft carrier.
It is the end of the East Atlantic Ocean event organized by Jimmy Cornell and carried on by those who took the license. It's a proof of impeccable organization, a fleet of over 150 sailors and over 1500 participants. Think about it, a small part of the logistical work was to take most of the navy residents and anchor them in a nearby bay, in order to make room for hundreds of participating vessels with an average size of 50 feet ( yes, yes, we know we're ruining the average length, but we are raising the average number of niceness.. is that a word?)
The ARC event is a full experience. It starts almost a year before, when you and your teammates decide to cross the Atlantic the following autumn. Even if there are twelve months in between, your mind starts flying over the waves. Gradually, the theme of the ocean is present in all your conversations. Small, discrete steps towards the training: "Get me this external battery, it'll be good in this traverse sailing!", "Oh, look at that comfy inflatable vest!" and so on. (Thanks to Janos and Plastimo Romania). Last but not least, you start thinking about how to tell your wife and to get her approval.. leaving four weeks from home. More difficult than you would ever imagine. It took me eight months to find the right moment. For Blondu Laur it was the easiest - his wife is a crew member!
As the time comes near, you start realizing the size of the expedition. At least 3 weeks on water, on a 20sqm boat, 6 people with luggage and enough supplies. It might be four weeks. It might be 40+ days.. On the sea, on the ocean.. you know when you leave, you never know when you're coming back. Perhaps long-distance sailors, as John Cobzarenco, Sorin Drugan or Marius and Catalina Albu (and others) were used to leaving for so long. They have thousands of active miles, all through sea and wind.
I have a few thousand miles under the keel and a few storms myself.. even two heavy storms! but the longest navigating time was of seven days. Even then I stopped in Sicily for four hours and in Kefalonia for two hours. But now, 3-4 weeks?!! Maybe even 6?! Can anyone imagine staying closed inside the house? Or in the car? Or perhaps in a camper? Yeah, not the same thing. But these are 21 days when, on land, I can easily lose track of time. This time I won't, because it will be one whole journey. Navigate. Full speed ahead! Watch after watch. To the Caribbean. So it will be "the longest sailing time" for me. At least I will have an answer to this question.
So you've finished your luggage, for which you have absolutely no idea. What can you possibly need for three weeks of sailing in the Tropic and flying to Las Palmas? This is where you discover that you are not thrown in the waves, that you actually have time to prepare yourself, morally, physically and technically. You are meeting the boat, again. You look at it with different eyes. It's no longer a simple boat or a recreational object. It is a floating home for three whole weeks. Your home for 21 days. Your floating island of 20 sqm. You caress it, you arrange it, o check it up, change parts, tighten maneuvers, place supplies. Here's the coffee, there are the tin cans. Fruits can stay in nets, as seen in movies only. There is no better place than this boat, for now.
You look around and feel overwhelmed by all the ARC flags on the boats. You also see a bow strow with 7 ARC flags, each carrying another year, and you feel like you need to bow for respect.
In order to get to your boat, you walk along the lenght of the full boat and the other boats participating in the ARC event. A continuous, but nice fuss. People working on their boats, supplies being brought aboard, many children playing (yes, there are many people taking part in this with their families). Paula, Eva, prepare for this, in two years time. On the deck, in the stern of a craft, i saw a stroller for twins. And you see many older sailors with their skin touched by the sun and wind, and then you realize that cruise yachting is for all ages and it's a way of living. Unfortunately, few Romanians embraced it.
You take part in seminars and you talk to different people. Some are at their firs cross, just like you. Others have done many before. Some of the questions are answered. For many others, of course you need to participate in order to find out the answers. Day by day, hour by hour, the event is getting closer.
When you hear the applause, it means the start will be the next day. Right now, when I am writing these words, there are 4 hours left until the marine start and 5 hours until the start from the water. Time for the last preparations. We also have surprises. Catalin Scarlatescu sent us a gift through a friend form the island, Matei. He is thinking about us, and we will be thinking about him. When we'll get to the half of the way, on the ocean we'll raise a glass with.. well, his present... to him! And to you, the ones from home!
You overwhelmed us with your attention! You encouraged us with your messages and with your lovely thoughts. We thank you, each and every one of you.
Time to raise the anchor. Anyway, untie the mooring. Twenty one days of no mooring, fenders or anchor. Full experience ahead. Hear from us soon, from the other side of the Ocean!
Fair winds to you all!