Posted on 28/11/2017 to World Cruising
It’s an odd feeling. On day eleven we crossed the half way mark. We’re half way between Cape Verde and St Lucia and there’s nothing for a thousand miles in any direction. It’s an isolation uncommon in today’s world. In an emergency, even most remote places on land are in some way accessible by plane, car, helicopter or some other form of transportation and because of that, safety is never far away. Out here though things are different. Sure we have a sat phone, PLB’s and AIS, but who’s coming to our aid and how? At the best of times in our current postition we are seven days from a doctor or hospital, but even then we are at the mercy of the wind. Sailing can be dangerous, a point we were reminded of when we received an email from the ARC+ rally control shortly after crossing the half way point.
There was a man overboard on a non-ARC boat. Trying to recover their gennacker, which had fallen into the water, one of the two crew members fell in. Things took a turn for the worst when some of the sail cloth caught in the prop leaving the boat unable to manouvre and recover the MOB. A life bouy was sent to their aid, but five days later the person has not been found. I reiterate this story because the situation is easy to imagine for almost every boat in the rally and it could just as easily have been one of us. Many of us have spinnakers, gennackers, parasails or something similar. A number of things can happen to put us in a situation where the sail might fall into the water (a sheet breaks, the wind dies, etc.). Its something that can go from bad to worse in a heartbeat.
This brings me back to my main point. We are a thousand miles from safety, a thought that is sure to cross everyone’s mind at least once on this crossing. There is no hospital we can zip off to if someone gets injured. There is no coast guard to rescue us if we fall overboard. There is nowhere to hide in the face of a storm. And although there are other boats doing the ARC+ with us, we haven’t seen anyone in a week. We are completely self-reliant. If anything bad happens out here, your crew mates are the only ones who can help you.
Luckily we have a great crew and Haji is stocked up with everything from pills and potions to tourniquets and hacksaws. Before we left on this journey we elected our Bosun to be resident doctor. To be honest though he’s usually the one requiring medical attention. He often ‘jokes’ about his willingness to use the hacksaw should the need arise. We do try to be careful onboard and not just because of the Bosun’s questionable medical practices (put the saw down Bosun, I only have a headache!), but because we know the potential consequences of a small lapse in judgement or a misstep. The email was a solemn reminder of just how alone we are out here, and what a vast, unforgiving place the ocean can be.
Be safe everyone and see you in Rodney Bay.