Chapter 4: Surviving the Atlantic
Mostly everyone who has told me I am going to die on this trip (there have been several) have told me they were referring to crossing the Atlantic. I'm a little more optimistic. Obviously reading about the crossing is not the same as doing it, but if we want to make it to the other side of the planet and back we'll have to cross some oceans. I'm actually looking forward to it!
From what I've read, if we go at the right time of year and prepare enough, we should be able to make it with a crew of two. By the time my brother and I make it to Miami we will likely have been sailing for about a year or more, depending on how much time we spend in each place (my brother recently told me he wanted to spend 3 months in Colombia... which I'm not opposed to).
One thing I know for certain is that Miami will be a welcome bit of familiar. Most of my mom's side of the family lives there, and I know they will be happy to see our bearded and bronzed faces.
How long we spend in Miami will depend on what time of year we arrive. Everything I've read so far says that to make the Eastward passage across the Atlantic we will have to leave sometime in mid-May to early June at the latest. Any later and we'll be stuck in the start of hurricane season while we're in the middle of the pond. Some people suggest going direct from the Caribbean to the Azores, the typical waypoint off the coast of Portugal. Others say we should hang out for a bit in Bermuda before making the trip to the Azores. Given that this will be our first ocean crossing, I'll probably vote to stop in Bermuda (below) just in case we need to make any last minute repairs or re-provision the boat.
In any event, unless we timed it just right, we'll likely need to wait for some amount of time in the United States before we head "overseas." I've convinced my brother that if we have enough time we should sail up the coast to Charleston, South Carolina and visit my old stomping grounds. I have plenty of friends there, and as long as they all still live in the area a couple years from now, it should be a good time. If time is REALLY on our side, we may even try and take a trip up to New York City or somewhere in Maine.
Assuming we leave from Charleston though, the trip to Bermuda is roughly 770 nautical miles. If we are lucky enough to have favorable weather on the way there, we'll likely make it in about 10 days at the latest. The people I have talked to all recommend exploring Bermuda for a few days, and after seeing some of the pictures of the place I can see why.
The next leg of the trip will be from Bermuda to the Azores, which is roughly 1,930 nautical miles. If we leave at the right time, we will likely have some wind to help us out. An optimistic ETA I think would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 19 days. The weather out in the middle of the ocean I hear can be hit or miss, and we will likely experience windy days, windless days, and everything in between. In all likelihood we'll even encounter some fairly strong storms as we get nearer to the Azores. General wisdom in the ocean-crossing community suggests having numerous jerry cans of diesel fuel for those days when we need to motor. The important thing is to keep moving forward as much and as fast as possible.
Though thinking about it now I feel unafraid, I don't know exactly how I'll feel when we're in the open ocean battling wind and waves in the dark, far from potential rescue. If there was ever a time to be mentally strong, I think crossing the Atlantic will be it.
Reaching the Azores (below) after being out of sight of shore for weeks will undoubtedly feel like a godsend.
But reaching that island chain is not the end. After taking off another few days to explore, we'll have to make another multi-day sail to the coast of Portugal. Our intended destination is a city called Porto (below), which is about 880 nautical miles. A conservative estimate puts this at about another 10 days.
By the time we reach Porto, we will have logged roughly one full month of sailing in the Atlantic. All I can say to that is wow. I recently saw a documentary on Netflix about the Coxless crew and their row across the Pacific. It took them about 9 months to get from California to Australia in a rowboat. This will be one-ninth of that, in far more bearable living conditions. If they can do 9 months of rowing constantly for two hour intervals, my brother and I can sail for one month. Other than battling the storms, I think we're going to have a pretty good time. Some of the middle-of-the-ocean sunset views I saw in the documentary were breathtaking. I can't wait!