My Sailing Adventure from New York to Halifax

10 Aug 2016

July 2016. I had been waiting for July 2016 to arrive since January 2015 when I applied for this once in a lifetime trip through work. As you know from my previous blog I have recently returned from sailing around Germany and Denmark to help refresh my skills, so I felt a lot more confident going into this trip.

We flew to New York via Montreal, where I definitely didn’t pretend I was pregnant so I could go through customs and use the toilet, and arrived safely at Newark on the 3rd of July. After an eventful taxi ride to Liberty Landing Marina we were introduced to our 72ft yacht ‘Discoverer’ by our Skipper with a beer & pizza ready and waiting!

4th July - Independence Day. A day of sight seeing in The Big Apple consisting of Times Square, metro rides, lots of food and paying our respects at Ground Zero, this was my third visit here and every time it takes my breath away and I can’t even begin to comprehend what happened on that day. The evening was what I had been super excited for, I watched a spectacular fireworks display whilst sat on our yacht which lit up the Manhattan skyline. Truly amazing and an experience I will never forget.

The following day consisted of more sightseeing, this time I went up One World Trade Centre, if you ever have the opportunity to visit New York City then I highly recommend this, the views were A-MAZ-ING, the fact that I could see our yacht from 102 floors up across the Hudson River was pretty impressive. It would have been rude not to have taken advantage of the sunshine and have a bicycle tour around Central Park followed by another visit to Times Square with dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp - again, a MUST visit in my opinion.

The day we actually start our sailing adventure, we leave New York up the East River and begin practicing our drills on board such as what would happen if we had a man over board situation and putting the sails up and down. The wind, as it was for pretty much the majority of our trip was ‘on our nose’ so we had to have the engine on a lot of the time.

Our first stop was Port Jefferson, nothing majorly exciting happened here except for one of the guys being the first one to drop his phone in the water, whoopsie.

Our next stop was Mystic Seaport, a small beautiful town - I actually felt like I was a on a movie set, picture flags flying outside houses and the white picket fences that came with the most welcoming residents, so much so the local news turned up and a couple of us were interviewed, you can watch the short clip here.

A day or so later we set off for our next destination, Nantucket Island, which was to be our first overnight sail, the weather turned and the wind arrived (albeit in the wrong direction), with plenty of rain, thunder and lightening. It’s pretty surreal sailing through these conditions and you realise how vulnerable you actually are. No rest for the wicked though as the Mate was busy teaching us our boat recognition just by the lights displayed on the vessel. My first bout of sea sickness struck once I went to bed and I struggled to settle.

Arriving in Nantucket, the location of the movie Jaws, I fell in love with the place. I wandered around the small unique shops and it felt a bit like the mini villages you get at large theme parks, I don’t know what it was, but I loved the vibe of this place and wouldn’t mind visiting again one day. That evening I experienced my first game of Cards Against Humanity….

After a breakfast of pancakes and nutella we set off for Boston, a much needed stop off looked forward to by all 15 on board. En route we were lucky enough to see a pod of whales a couple of hundred metres to our port (left) side, how amazing! We arrived at Boston Constitution Marina, which is located right next to USS Constitution, and it was boiling, but being the water baby I am, I spotted a small pool, not wanting to waste a minute I jumped in with sports bra and pants as a make shift bikini! After a much needed dip, we headed into the city, we walked to North End and picked a lovely Italian, Florentine Cafe, for lunch. A ‘small’ ice cream the size of my head was my treat once we walked into the centre. I spent the afternoon wandering around more shops and I made my first Victoria Secret’s purchase - a sports bra! Which I must say is incredibly comfortable to wear. The evening finished with a crew BBQ around the swimming pool.

After our longest sail (155 nautical miles), and some rather strong weather conditions, we arrived at Camden Harbour in the state of Maine. By this point we had been on the boat for 2 weeks, and whilst we were lucky enough to have regular stop overs and had a great crew it’s nice to have some time on your own, so, off I trotted in search of another ice cream, I succeeded, and found a deli with a rooftop terrace overlooking the gorgeous harbour. I sat there trying to take it all in and had a bout of home sickness and wanted to see my son very much.

Our next destination, Southwest Harbour, wasn’t that far away but was slowed due to the thousands of lobster pots we had to navigate through ensuring they didn’t get caught up in the propeller, something that happened to our sister boat ‘Adventure’ manned by the RAF and Royal Navy, so we arrived into Southwest Harbour towing a 60 tonne yacht!

Taking advantage of waiting on Adventure being fixed, Fiona - my bunk buddy - and I went for a run into town and messed around on one of the jetty’s practicing headstands and cartwheels, why we aren’t on Team GB I will never know….we were recommend to try Beals, and what a top recommendation that was, fresh lobster, garlic mussels, coleslaw, corn on the cob and weirdly a scone, also known as a biscuit in the U.S!

Adventure was fixed quickly the next day, watching a 60 tonne yacht being lifted out the water is not something you see everyday, and we set off towards CANADA! This was another overnight sail and I was trying to get some sleep before my watch (where you are up on deck sailing the yacht) at 8pm was due to begin. I was trying to tell myself that I wasn’t sea sick, but when I was woken up for dinner, we were being thrown around the boat and my stomach was beginning to feel rather unsettled….a squall (a rapid change in the weather) hit us and the wind speed dramatically increased and we heeled over, throwing everyone everywhere, including a rather large kitchen knife, narrowly missing Ginge and Amanda. I ran to the heads (the toilet) and began bringing up my dinner, I tried sitting up deck but couldn’t last two minutes without the sea sickness hitting me. I wasn’t the only one though so that made me feel a little better about myself!

After finally arriving in Lunenburg, the following morning we set about exploring, after having a horse and cart tour around the small town I realised it was very historical and a town that I could see myself living in. After dinner in the Salt Shaker Deli, and another homemade ice cream, I managed to hitch a boat ride with Customs back to Discoverer and had a chilled afternoon making the most of the Canadian sunshine. That evening a few of us took part in the ‘Hump Cup’ a local tradition where they race their boats out of the harbour and back where you all then meet up at the end at a floating shack, picture a small shack on a floating pontoon no bigger than 6 x 6 metres with 2 BBQ’s and that’s exactly what you get! I didn’t stay long enough for the BBQ but I was assured I missed an amazing night! Damnit.

The trip was coming to an end as we headed for our final destination, Halifax, and the dreaded deep clean of the boat. After not training, except for maybe some upper body work whilst pulling the lines (ropes) I was feeling sluggish so I located the nearest CrossFit box and headed for CrossFit Ironstone the next day. Oh. My. God. It was hot, it was painful, but I completed it, and felt so much better having done so. Running, burpee box jumps, and thrusters are not pleasant when put together! 

It took me nearly an hour to catch my breathe back and I headed into town to meet up with everyone else, I stumbled across Halifax Pride and the atmosphere was amazing in town. We visited the pride festival and I spent the rest of the day saying I was heading back to the boat, when a torrential downpour arrived, I decided to subject myself to another workout and spent the remainder of the evening dancing the night away!

Our last day had arrived and whilst I was gutted the trip was over I really couldn’t wait to get home to my husband and son. Forcing myself to stay awake until our midnight flight after two hours sleep was hard work, but worth it when it meant I was flat out asleep before we even took off.

After three flights, random cab rides, sea sickness, testing weather conditions, plenty of laughs and over 800 nautical miles sailed it was all over. I lived on a cramped 72ft steel container with 14 strangers (only two were female), for three weeks and the best time ever!!

So what did I learn?! I learnt that my mental strength has improved, I thought I would struggle being away from my son for that long, it was hard at times, but I’ve come home and he probably doesn't even remember me being away and I realised that just because I have a child I shouldn’t feel guilty about going away. I want him to share the same sense of adventure and love of travelling that I have. I learnt it’s okay to let go of meal plans and training programs. So what if I have put on a few extra lbs, I had a bloody good time whilst doing so, and finally I learnt that there is more to life than doing a job you no longer love, not even for the money, and that the world is your oyster. You only get one life, go out and live it!

Ash xo