Under no pressure to prove anything, we're enjoying every moment of the ARC, say Will and Jill Bridge

A week’s diary from Will and Jill Bridge, sailing their Moody 42, Alchemy:

Day 1

The morning was spent doing last minute jobs, making sandwiches for when under way and saying good bye to all our new friends on Pontoon 17. We had read about the comraderie associated with doing the ARC and have now experienced it for ourselves.

Pontoon 17 was definitely the place to be – we were blessed with an magical group of fellow ARCers, most doing the passage for the first time and all of whom were generous of spirit, great fun and very sociable and supportive. The only problem was that our boats were not big enough to accommodate the evening get togethers!

After an excellent start, we have enjoyed the strengthening winds, good weather and the company of dolphins. However during the evening, the cruising chute managed to do a spectacular hourglass wrap around the forestay. This tested the crew’s skills and ingenuity but the problem was eventually resolved – we definitely have a good team on Alchemy. The pitch and roll during the night proved testing but everyone’s sense of humour remained intact and nobody was sick!

Day 2

We continued really fine sailing conditions and saw more dolphins but had to sail with a conservative sail set as yesterdays ‘wrap’ jammed the spinnaker halyard at the block. This will mean a trip to the top of the mast by someone in the near future, but not today – there is a really big swell.

We also noted the failure of the tricolour during last night (related to the halyard problem?). This just goes to show that things will go wrong, however well prepared you think you are.

Our first fish – a good size mahi-mahi – was caught by Jilly. Thank you Jonathon! His fishing seminars on Nyaminyami II have paid off.

We have discovered that Matt has a natural talent for slaughtering fish – Will and David likened it to a scene from Mash. The fish tasted wonderful.

Day 3

Even more boisterous sailing in big pitch and roll seas but still in the company of dolhpins. Lee cloths are being well tested and some are found wanting. Everyone is feeling a bit sleep deprived.

Saw one yacht behind us on the horizon but it did not close in.

? Some domestic observations from the crew : ? You can never have enough teatowels or kitchen paper on board ? When you are hungry, even ‘Bimbo’ [longlife Spanish] bread tastes good ? A saltwater tap in the galley is a must have ? Don’t even think about having a cooker that doesn’t self ignite ? You really do have to check and turn the fresh fruit and veg every day ? Keeping a caught fish on the transom overnight is NOT a good idea – what are those little black tadpole things

Day 4

A day of challenging downwind sailing in lighter airs but with a continuing swell. The spinnaker pole collapsed on us – its telescopic qualities appear to have died. They were reinstalled after two hours of light engineering work on the foredeck. This involved Will, Matt and David,a refashioned screw driver and two tea breaks!

David began sextant lessons for the crew. Gretchen is the star pupil. Everyone is becoming more relaxed by the day and we are really enjoying the lovely companiable two-up shifts in beautiful clear, starry nights with a bright, bright moon.

Day 5

A balmy day with light winds but continuing big swell. Much laughter and teasing.

Caught another mahi mahi followed shortly after by a small tuna. The tuna was turned into sashimi and devoured at great speed by all, including the squeamish skipper and first mate who seem to have overcome their scruples. Everyone was pleased that the final trip to El Corte Ingles included buying a tube of wasabi paste and pickled ginger!

Sea state becoming much calmer during course of the day with wind more on the beam. We plan to go up the mast tomorrow to fix the halyard jam. An even brighter night with dolphins playing by the boat throughout. Fish for supper again.

Day 6

A cloudy day with calm seas and light winds provided the first opportunity for a stress free venture up the mast. David volunteered and did an amazing job, taking most of the tool kit with him, investigating the halyard jam and masthead light failure. He came down half a stone lighter having overdressed for the occasion!

The crew has been stunningly frugal with fresh water and tanks remain nearly full. Deck showers for all in consequence.

Another mahi-mahi caught. An amazing night with full moon making it almost like daylight. Totally memorable.

Day 7

A perfect spinnaker day: light winds, but the fish keep coming. Two more mahi-mahi in the space of an hour. Jilly is trying to adapt the technique to entice tuna!

Much time spent tweaking the spinnaker with the whole crew on deck. It feels that we have rapidly developed into a harmonious, self-sufficient Alchemy community. We are all enjoying every minute of the space, peace, sail trimming and helming and after one week at sea feel we have learnt a great deal about the sea, the boat and each other. Each of us has different strengths and skills but we are all taking much pleasure in being somewhat disconnected from the rest of the world.

Whilst we are keen to track the progress of our new friends on the ARC, we are displaying a surprising degree of insularity, in stark contrast to the pontoon 17 ambience, which we also enjoyed immensely. This is the end of our first week at sea and to date it has been a totally positive experience. As Atlantic ‘virgins’ in one of the smaller, slower boats, we are under no pressure to beat any records or prove anything. We are just committed to enjoying the moment – and we are!

The crew: Skipper, Will Bridge. Crew: David Becket, Matthew Clark, Gretchen Schuler, Jill Bridge