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Crossing the Atlantic as a family

19/11/2008

Crossing the Atlantic as a family

Aboard Talitha Koum, a Lagoon 500, we find Véronique, Philippe and their… 5 children! On a sabbatical cruise around the Atlantic,they tell us here about THEIR crossing!

On this Tuesday morning in December, we stow the boat from top to bottom so that the heavy sea which awaits us when we leave, in the channel between the two islands, does not send things flying inside the boat. With a slightly heavy heart, we weigh anchor. Fifteen days at sea, with the sea as the only horizon, and just us seven souls in the middle. Realising dreams is often tricky. Off we go for ours…  
But for the moment, we weigh anchor (which is heavier, our heart, or Talitha Koum’s anchor?...). Engine ahead, and when we pass our friends who are still anchored, their foghorns sound and ‘au revoir’ gestures full of emotion accompany us. We all have goose pimples. An emotional moment! And on the VHF, channel 77, the chat is continuous:  
"This is Meltemi, ‘bon voyage’ to Talitha Koum, fair winds. We are leaving tomorrow, because our radar has packed up, but wait for us and we’ll sail together for a while… Thanks for the good times we spent together and we’ll see you on the other side!”
"This is Grenadine, we wish you lots of happiness on the water; enjoy these exceptional moments to the full and we’ll see you in Venezuela, we’ll keep track of each other by e-mail and SSB. See you soon!”
"This is Echapée Belle, Sara is already missing her friend Héloïse, if you slow down a little, we’ll see you in the middle. Fair winds and we’ll have a ‘ti’punch’ together on the other side.” "This is Kasou… this is Mamaso…"
The goodbyes continue. We know that we will not see certain of the boats we have sailed with since the Canaries again. A real friendship (even if it is recent) has grown between us! But as we leave the bay, the wind hits us. The voices on the VHF are covered by the gusts; we take in a first reef and roll the genoa up a little, then a second reef… The waves are big and arrive from astern. We expected these conditions in the channel.  

Talitha Koum surfs wildly, 10, 12... 14 knots! The waves catch us up, raise the stern of the boat, the two bows plunge (the pulpits, which are normally at 1.2m, are at the level of the water) and the two hulls start to surf. Each time it is magical. We feel the boat accelerate, like a 23-ton sledge. The bows come out of the water, showers of spray on both sides form white moustaches. The water melts, then rises like the Red Sea around Moses. The helm is light and the boat is on rails. No apprehension, the situation is safe! The children shout out the speeds displayed on the log, just ahead of the helm, but the wind and the spray carry their voices away, then the next wave arrives, dripping its raging foam. The stern of the boat lifts, the bows plunge and off we go again…!  

The night goes well. The boys take the first two watches (10pm – 1am and 1am – 3am). With the radar sweeping the horizon, we are freer to watch a DVD…and the time passes quicker. Then I get up. It is difficult to get into the rhythm, especially as we have to keep going for two weeks… I spend my time climbing up to the flybridge, inspecting the horizon and checking the sail trim. The black night on a dark sea gives us the impression that we are flying through the void towards a cosmic destination. The stars are our only reference, fixed lights lost in the universe. We slip along towards the sailors’ paradise… The wind is warm and I feel good; a little euphoric (yet the rum bottle has not moved from its stowage!). That’s it; I am in control of my crossing!
Life, along with the sunshine, dominates again, the sea and its blue colour. The boat has landed again on the sea, tonight it will take off again in a new direction, the sky!
The course is still south-west, we have decided to sail down to the 13° parallel (at the level of Barbados, our destination) then head directly west.
At this latitude, the weather files we receive on our computer show easterly winds at 15 knots (further north, force 1, from 1 to 5 knots, that is - nothing!).

The day passes with CNED schoolwork for the children, looking after Ombline (the question ‘Ombline, where are you?’ is asked twenty times a day, and twenty times she answers – pointing to herself with her finger – ‘Here’), maintenance and repairs, sail trimming, navigation (greatly simplified by the GPS which positions the boat on the computer screen representing the digital chart) and weather analysis (we request weather files by e-mail on our Iridium, and receive them wherever we are).

The days follow each other in this way, each with a different flavour, until Christmas day when we catch sight of land. This land was waiting for us, but when it appeared we discovered it with no real joy. It was the sign that our crossing had finished. 
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