The last two boats that left with the ARC+ fleet from Mindelo have now arrived in Grenada: Griselda, a Hanse 370, skippered by Nicola Stamp with Gerry Baker and Jacob Asquith-Fox, crossed the finish line around 4am local time on Tuesday 6th December, and Disa, Darrol and Kathy Martin’s Amel Mango followed before sunrise. Both teams were welcomed on the dock and happy to receive the traditional ARC+ welcome with rum punch and a yellowshirt team member on the dock to greet them after 18 days at sea. Next to arrive will be four boats who had a delayed start from Cape Verde; Earendel, hoping to finish in time to make it to the final prizegiving party on Thursday; and Yuva, Fai-La and Marco Polo, who are still making their way across the ocean.
After completing all the necessary formalities on arrival, such as checking in with Customs, the Camper & Nicholsons Port Louis Marina office and ARC+ office, Darrol and Kathy Martin talked about the experience of their first long ocean passage. Both had finished their jobs in China, and with limited sailing experience, but tons of enthusiasm, they set out to achieve their dream of buying a yacht and setting sail. “Our kids (four boys) have grown up and the youngest one is now just finishing off university, and finally we have a little bit of money to spend on ourselves, so now is the time; we thought let’s just do it,” said Kathleen.
First, they had to learn to sail though, so went to Corfu to accomplish this. At one point they chartered a boat in Thailand and every day something broke, “But we loved it; Darrol is great at fixing things,” said Kathy. They then bought a 1998 Amel Mango, Disa (the flower that grows on Table Mountain in their native South Africa). In August they managed to secure a late entry on ARC+ and set about making sure they had all the necessary safety equipment; ticking off the items needed in the ARC+ Rally Handbook in order to do the crossing. They then took on two crew members via Ocean Crew Link who were also fairly new to sailing.
“It’s been a challenge; it was difficult the first few days coming from Mindelo and we were all very sick, apart from Darrol. We never felt unsafe at any point as our boat is like a tank. It’s just quite a big experience when you are new to sailing and it’s a long passage, plus things break all the time. The autohelm gave up a few days out, and Darrol took it to bits, soldered some wires and changed some cogs and gears, and got it working. We never had a problem with it ever again. The whisker pole snapped within the first hour of leaving Mindelo and that made it difficult. The coolant hose from the engine to the hot water tank popped off and there was an unusual smell. All the coolant had leaked out in the engine room, but fortunately we had a spare one and put it back. No damage done. Then the mainsheet chaffed so badly that the core was exposed and we had to keep protecting it all the way over and monitoring it, so, it didn’t go any further. The outhaul did the same and we had to completely replace that as we had a spare one. The fridge stopped too, but we have a huge freezer so that was OK. ….”
Asked about the highlights and more positive things they recalled: “We ate so well. One of our crew is a French cuisine trained Swiss chef and he bought all this amazing food. When we caught fish, such as the three Mahi Mahi, we had restaurant quality sushi presented beautifully. We had amazing, amazing food. Also a highlight was the most exquisite sunset the night before we finished; the best we have ever seen on the whole trip. All the shades of red. The sea was like glass, you wouldn’t believe you were in the middle of the Atlantic. The flying fish were skating on the water. Then there was the sealife. We saw dolphins, big fat ones; at one time so many, and at other times, just a pair.”
Kathy sums up her time at sea: “I would say it was an incredible experience, but I don’t need to cross another ocean,” she laughed. “I will be thoroughly happy cruising around the Caribbean though, but maybe that will change..” Darrol agreed with her sentiments initially, but then said to himself: “No, don’t judge it yet because it’s too early. I felt the responsibility quite keenly, looking after the boat and the crew. We can stay cruising as long as we like as for the first time we don’t have any schedule. Our home is rented out in Cape Town, South Africa so we can keep going as long as we don’t have expensive breakages and I think that will probably be the thing that curtails us. We will sell the boat when we are finished but we will have fulfilled our dream. This was a great adventure with the ARC+ and we will continue to enjoy it as we have at least another six months or longer to enjoy it, and when we are done, we will sell the boat.”
Disa have their own YouTube channel sharing their adventure HERE.