Strong winds continue for Crackerjack as she crosses the ARC finish line
Crackerjack has continued her westward course towards St Lucia enjoying the north-easterly winds which have been building day by day.
The weather forecast was for 15-20 knots of wind from the north-east but today we have 30 knots on our stern and gusts up to 35 knots. We also have a huge following sea with waves 20ft high which race in behind us towering over our stern, before surging under our transom and lifting us before we thunder down the face of the wave throwing out a huge bow wave.
This helter skelter ride is allowing Crackerjack to do daily runs of over 180 miles per day and our progress towards the Caribbean accelerates across the chart. The rain squalls are becoming more intense, like marauding thugs roaming the ocean in search of prey, they are very menacing as they race up behind us. All we can do is to reduce sail and wait for the tell tale drops of rain which precede the violent winds which come from all directions and then just as suddenly they move on, hunting down their next victim.
After six days of seeing no other boats we see a red light off our starboard beam about 200 miles from St Lucia. During the night the light gets closer but as we are on starboard tack and to leeward of the other vessel we assume that they will stay clear of us, but the gap between us continues to narrow and we start to become concerned.
It seems ludicrous that after not sighting another vessel for almost a week in this huge ocean, we are now calling for water from a boat on port tack! A few choice words from our skipper on the VHF radio averts disaster and they sail to the south and we continue on our northward course towards our waypoint. As dawn breaks and the red light of the rising sun lights the sky, we are surrounded by huge squalls on the horizon in every direction and it seems as though the sea is determined to challenge us one final time. However, we negotiate our way between the squalls and about 20 miles off St Lucia we gybe onto port tack and set the boat on course for the northern point of the island. As we spot land on the horizon we see the yacht we had encountered during the night on our port side. We identify her as Out of India, another Oyster 53 that we had berthed next to in Las Palmas and six bottles of good wine had been bet on the first to finish – it seems an amazing coincidence that we should be half a mile ahead after three weeks at sea!
As we near land the wind again starts to build and as we round the headland towards the finish line we are doing 11 knots of boat speed in gusts of 40 knots. It is an exhilarating moment as we cross the line after 3,200 nautical miles, and we are met on the dock by our friends on Northern Child who catch our lines and help us tie up. Out of India finishes shortly after us and we take our first steps ashore, feeling very unsteady as our sea legs adjust to the solid pontoon under foot.