Freedom - The Epiblogue (21) Freedom Sunday 10th December 2023
Good Morning from the balcony of a beautiful waterside house adjacent to the Rodney Bay Marina St Lucia, kindly organised by my brother for our stay here.
We crossed the finish line at 0450 UTC (UK time), 0050 local time on Saturday 9th December 2023.
The final 48hours, from a sailing perspective, had probably been the most testing part of the trip. We were constantly hit by very heavy squalls and accompanying TORRENTIAL rain, which at one point was none stop for about 4 hours. Night was the most tricky, out of ‘nowhere’ (pitch black nights - you could see very little) dead running, goose winged, sailing by feel only and relying heavily on the instruments, we would be hit by squalls of up to 40knots (gale force 8/9)…..although lasting only 10 minutes before moderating to 20/30 knots, the experience was quite alarming at times. Freedom behaved admirably, whilst those on deck got completely and utterly soaked though….several times. After anything between 30mins to a couple of hours the rain cloud would pass the wind would fade away to nothing and we would be wallowing around doing 2/3 knts with the wind coming from all points of the compass before the gradient wind gradually re-established itself….then repeat. By the time we were within two hours of St Lucia the Squalls had faded away and apart from being sodden we had a reasonably pleasant run into the finish.
The crossing had taken 19 days 15hours and 50mins. Sadly it was dark so the longer approach of the land was not witnessed on this occasion, nor the close detail of the north of the Island. For those interested, the route to the finish line is to pass between The 20 mile gap between St.Lucia and Martinique to the North, turn left (south) around the headland and ‘Pidgeon Island’ , turn left some more (South East) and into Rodney Bay…..look for the finish line (which comprised an inflatable bouy with a flashing light on top and a committee boat Yacht at the other end, which was helpfully on AIS). The bright lights of the shore line and the numerous anchored boats in the bay, coupled with the booming sounds of Friday nightlife emanating from the beach, we’re a bit of a shock! Ian skilfully helmed us across the line, close hauled, in about 12 knots of warm breeze. The feeling of elation amongst the crew was palpable although the full extent of their achievement will take time to settle in. The moment was recorded by the ARCs official photographer, from a little rib that is there 24/7 for the period whilst the finish line remains open. After hugs and handshakes amongst the crew we started the engine, furled the jib and lowered the main (for the first time in 3 weeks) and motored in the dark through a very narrow channel to the marina. We were met by the ‘yellow shirt’ ARC team to take our lines and the customary ‘Welcome to St.Lucia’ cocktail trolley….Rum Punches all round. Surprisingly, even at 1 am there was a festival type atmosphere in the Marina with new crews now arriving every hour (about half the fleet were already in and had been partying hard all evening). Jules, Christine, Gill, Sam, Harry and Beth (Cath at home dutifully at home looking after Evi) were soon on board and the celebrations started in earnest. The crew hadn’t had a drink since Las Palmas and soon we were in very high spirits. Simon performed sterlingly as the bar man serving up mainly neat spirits as we ran out of mixers. By 5am it was time to get some sleep. The shoreside accommodation was a 15 minute walk and I said to Jules I would like to stay on the boat. I must confess Freedom looked trashed after a good party so the suggestion was politely declined but as we headed off down the Pontoon I was both reluctant and felt sad to be leaving our trusted and loyal friend. During the walk home I seemed to be suffering from a good deal of land sickness and couldn’t walk in a straight line, tee total Nigel strangely seemed not to be suffering from the same affliction!!!
We awoke lunchtime on Saturday, slightly the worse for wear and made our way back to the boat. Stuart and Simon (who had stayed overnight) had made a good job of commencing the tidy up but I noticed the boat had a certain ‘3weeks of five blokes living on board odour’ and could then appreciate why Jules had been reluctant to stay only a few hours earlier.
When I did this trip 10 ago, Graham Pike and I flew into Las Palmas on a Friday afternoon, went to an excellent party/piss up, helped load a few provisions having looked around the marina on Saturday, then departed for St Lucia on the Sunday. We arrived on a Friday night enjoyed another party and flew home on Saturday evening. These time constraints were largely dictated by work commitments. Until Project Freedom, I had absolutely no appreciation of the shear amount of work that goes into owning a boat and preparing for an Atlantic crossing. I have mentioned it to Jane Galloway/Robertson/Williams before but I am internally grateful to her and Francis for introducing me to blue water sailing and the efforts they will have gone to 10 years ago. Jane continues to be a source of trusted advice, knowledge and support with the only sadness now being we sail less together. Thanks again Jane. I would also like to record thanks on behalf of Ian and I to all our family and friends who have supported our endeavours in particular Alastair Flower and his trusted number two, Liz, of All Marine Services Plymouth, Mike Berry of Octagon Sails Plymouth, Matt and his wife Ali from PR Systems Mayflower Marina Plymouth (who all helped with Boat Prep) and World Cruising Club (the ARC) for excellent organisation both ARC Portugal and ARC Atlantic.
I do not propose to individually address each Crew members contribution (with one exception). The Crew have been AWESOME and have each contributed their particular talents and expertise in a special way. I believe you will have been able to sense from the blogs the mutual respect, camaraderie and friendship that has deepened throughout the voyage. A special bond has been formed which cannot be broken, as Nigel has aptly put it “you can’t do epic shit with average people”.
I would however, like to thank Stuart not only for his invaluable sailing contribution but his overall contribution to project Freedom. We have been sailing partners for nearly forty years and he is like my 3rd Brother (or some would say second wife!) and without whom I doubt any of this journey would have happened. I would also like to thank Jules for her unwavering support for my second (I nearly said first!) love of sailing, again, without which none of this would have happened. Finally to Ian for being a great bloke with whom to jointly own Freedom and the equal (with Jane) best cook on the high seas.
It’s been Emotional!
CJ signing off (until next time!)
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