FROM ST MARTIN TO PORTLAND by Debbie Blair

I never imagined seeing a post on Facebook would lead to the biggest adventure of my life, but this is what happened at the end of June when I saw Sail Racing Academy asking for help to transport a First 40.7 back across the Atlantic. After some frantic days trying to book tickets, dealing with rapidly changing schedules, cancellations and changing regulations, I was off. The journey over proved to be quite challenging with 4 flights, taking 3 days and 2 overnights in airports before landing in Saint Martin. The days leading up to the departure were full of repairs and organising resources as well as trying out Caribbean cuisine and going for a swim to try to escape the boiling heat, I was not prepared for the heat it was a lot hotter than Weymouth.

Our first venture into the Atlantic proved to be an anti-climax as the engine failed to start 300 miles out and given that it was our only source of power we had to sail back to St Maarten without any instruments or navigation, this was an experience in itself. With the boat successfully repaired the second attempt at the Atlantic started. It quickly saw the days and nights bleed into one with the miles covered swiftly racking up. We saw a lot of dolphins, jelly fish and flying fish, these in particular liked to hit me while on night watch. This was good sailing making nearly 200 nm in one day and nights filled with lightning surrounding us on all sides. 15 days later we made it to the Azores where I finally got some good food again, pasta may have been getting a little boring! After getting COVID tested, I got to see the island and meet some pretty amazing people, it was here that I celebrated my 18th Birthday after crossing most of the Atlantic, something I never expected to do.

The sail north after leaving the Azores was a bit different, with what initially we thought would be a 7-8-day sail to France turned out to be 12 days of being headed, tacking making little headway and a lot more pasta consumed. We got some good spinnaker practice near the end playing with gybing the symmetric.

After arriving in France and after a customs boarding with 6 armed officers, it was time to go and get food. We also got to look around an IMOCA 60 that’s entering the vendee globe this year. We were running a little late after the false start so I was not home for the start of a cyber security course so I had to remote desktop from a iPad which was a little hard to explain to the people running the course.

I was then given the opportunity to skipper the boat from Brest back to the UK. Trying to do a passage plan for leaving Brest was difficult as when we left the horizon was covered with red and green flashes from different cardinals. But we made it and sailed into Portland harbour being guided by two dolphins and ending a 4,884 nm long journey. The trip came with more challenges that I could ever write down and I met some very interesting characters, but nothing beats seeing the milky way stretching across the entire night sky and millions of stars lighting it up. Would I do it again defiantly I would sign up in a heartbeat.

Submitted on Tuesday, 18th August