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Top boat preparation tips from ARC Veterans

by World Cruising Club 18 Dec 2019 12:45 UTC
Emily Morgan - ARC 2017 © James Mitchell

Emily Morgan is run as a charter boat by experienced husband and wife team - Bones and Anna Black who have sailed all their lives and notched up over 73,000 miles on their Bowman 57, bought eight years ago.

They have taken part in several ARCs, with the first in 2013, and this year have finished the 2018-2019 World ARC rally.

1. Read the ARC Handbook from cover to cover

As soon as you receive the handbook, read it from cover-to-cover, and follow what it says. You need to do this before you get to Las Palmas ie: Go through the safety check list prior to one of the Safety Team checks on board. Run through the requirements, whether you are a seasoned ARC sailor, or this is your first time. Some things may have changed ie. personal AIS this year

2. Preventative maintenance as opposed to reactive maintenance

Survey your boat yourself. Look around your boat. Inspect everything and check it all out before you get to the Canaries, because it is far easier and cheaper to have fixed, repaired or replaced in your own marina with people you know and you trust. Don't wait until you get to Las Palmas to fix it. If it looks broken or doesn't look right, it's probably because it isn't right. Get an expert to look at it or replace it. You don't want it to break hallway across the Atlantic.

3. Arrive early - Las Palmas is a cheap place to keep your boat

Most things are now cheaper to buy at home (with the current exchange rate), but one thing that's the exception to this is berthing in Las Palmas. It's much cheaper here and the weather is nicer, so come down early and leave your boat here in good time before the start

4. Leave some of the provisioning for when your crew arrive

Its good to get all the crew involved. Whether you know them or not, and their likes and dislikes, do it as a group. Everywhere delivers so you can do big bulk shopping locally.

5. Things to stock up in Spain for the galley

Olive oil, saffron, good ham and good cheese are best purchased this side of the Atlantic as they are expensive in the Caribbean (until you go to the French islands). Anna has a list of things to buy in different countries.

6. Gas cylinders

Make sure you have enough gas cylinders to get you across the Atlantic and also that you can refill them because there are some that you can't refill in other places. Or, buy the adapters that you can refill and then use other bottles on your system.

Bones: We have a bag of gas adapters that we can change over. Also, hose fitting adapters for dock water.

7. Meet your Crew - feel like a team

Don't wait for two days before you go for your crew to arrive. Try to meet them (if you don't know them all already or they haven't all sailed together before) in your home town, or somewhere to have a sail with them before you arrive here. This way, they know the boat and they know you and each other.

Bones: We run a training weekend, but we are doing it commercially, so it's part of the fee. Anna: We now feel like a team and we've set up a WhatsApp group and they are all talking to each other.

8. Go to the ARC Sundowners - meet other participants

These are amazing. Don't only talk to your own crew and all the people you know. Mingle with other participants because once you get out there on the ocean, when you hear someone's voice on the VHF or SSB during the crossing, you know them. That's the whole point of doing a rally. You are doing it in company, you are doing it with friends.

Bones: We have had this all the way round with the World ARC. As soon as you put the rally flag up, you are family. We always look after our family. That's how we felt. If someone else has an issue, help them. That's why we do the rally. We get friends, we meet new people every year, even if you are only doing one ARC, then get to know people. You will see them again in the Caribbean. You'll always meet up with them again somewhere. Try to make friends before you leave.

9. Take part in the ARC Seminars

Even if you are a seasoned ARC sailors, you can always learn something useful at the seminars. Bones: We always do the safety demonstrations and ask our crew to do it too, as well as the rigging seminar. They then have an idea of what they are looking for. When you are on a boat, it's all eyes. Anna: It's different presenters this year, so you always pick something up and they might have a different spin on things.

10. Look into Communications before you leave

In our opinion, the Iridium Go has totally changed communications and made it fairly cheap. Look into it before you set off from your home port. Get all this sorted well before you arrive in Las Palmas then you can use it on your way down and won't be learning to use it on the ARC itself.

11. Buy essential basic safety equipment in advance

Bones: I sometimes see people buying basic safety equipment once they are here in Las Palmas. You can't get to Las Palmas without sailing 500/600 miles so you should have this already. Some figure they will buy it here because it's a requirement of the ARC but it's not; everything that is in the ARC Handbook is not just a requirement for the event, it is generally the stuff you should have anyway. Companies like Rolnautic and other ARC services and local supporters are very good and if you can't get it in the marina, the industrial area close by has just about everything you could want. Or you can Google it if you need something specific.

12. Learn a little Spanish

Try to learn a little bit of Spanish before you arrive as you will find it comes in very handy. Failing this, use Google translate on your phone.

13. Water - make sure you have enough and clean tanks

Make sure your watermaker (if you have one), is serviced. Make sure your tanks are clean, along with your fuel tank.

14. Know your boat

Bones: I would be very apprehensive about crossing the Atlantic in a brand new boat. Have your teething troubles six months before so buy it, use it for a year and then do a crossing. Don't buy a brand new boat and expect it's going to be perfect.

15. Watch systems

Talk to other crews about watch systems and how they are going to work it. It depends on how many people you are going to have on the boat, but try it out before and maybe on the route down to Las Palmas. Think about it in advance.

Bones: Three on six off works very well for us.

16. Sea sickness

Bones: For the first two or three days as a professional sailor I feel bad, but it doesn't stop me doing anything or from doing my job, so on the way down, try different seasickness remedies. Anyone can suffer from sea sickness. Address it before you get here.

17. Remember to have fun and enjoyment!

You should have done everything in advance and will then be well prepared. Remember point 1 above: read the rally handbook. Everything with your boat is good, so just relax, chill and get plenty of sleep before you go. This is meant to be enjoyable and lots of fun. Yes, there's a start, finish and prizes, but if you're not in the racing division, don't race. Just get there refreshed and safely.

18. Talk to more experience sailors here in the ARC

Bones: There's plenty of people like us who have done the ARC many times and are happy to share their experiences and give advice. Talk to them if you have an issue that you are worried about. Plus the ARC yellow shirts, of course are a fountain of knowledge.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of the World Cruising Club.

World Cruising Club's twin rallies - ARC USA and ARC Europe, head away from Nanny Cay, Tortola BVI in early May at the close of the Caribbean cruising season.

These fun, passage-making rallies have routes to Florida and to Bermuda, from where the rallies split, with routes onto the Chesapeake Bay and Europe. Spaces are limited, and as the routes are popular with returning ARC sailors so we recommend registering early. Find out more here

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