FINAL blog from LEONIE
It’s coming to our last few days. It’s nice to cherish these few days before land and to reminisce on the journey we have been on. To think back to leaving Falmouth almost two months ago and having the feeling of drowning in the shadow of this amazing and highly skilled crew. I used to feel I was probably just getting in the way, but now I feel that I am a helpful part of the team. A huge step that has made me feel much stronger as a sailor.
With the wind nearly completely gone, and just the left-over swell. We spent the last few days in the cockpit trimming sails, trying to use any bit of wind that we could to push us towards our destination. “If we just” seemed to be the most common phrase. Adjust the preventor, take up the topping lift, would this create more belly in the sail? Or just make it hang loose? All tested and tried with little to no winning, we remained at the mercy of the swell.
We spend the afternoons getting the boat ready for our destination. Where we would pick up the scientists and start the research on the endangered North Atlantic Right Whales. But, it wasn’t all work as we laughed, sang songs and gave little gifts to one another.
Sad, but also excited to get to land. It was going to be strange to be back on land again, back to reality, back to family, work, timelines and even being aware of what day of the week it is.
This trip has allowed me to take a deep breath and made me feel thankful and appreciate where I am in my life. I found a sport that I can thrive at. Where my life revolves around the sea. Sailing has shown me, how I can help people. To think 3 years ago, I couldn’t have told you a single part of a boat. To now nearly finished an ocean crossing. I feel strong.
I cannot wait to get back to work this summer with Sailing Into Wellness and to do more of the work I am in love with. And I am hoping in the future to do more work like this venture, helping study and observe the beautiful animals of the sea.
Leonie started her journey of sailing discover as a student on the Kinsale College Outdoor Adventure Education and Leadership course - you can rewind to our introduction of her goal setting journey here .. https://www.sailing.ie/News/id/5348/setting-goals-and-sailing-them.
18th of December: 16'01.26N 030'01.91W:
In other words, the middle of the ocean, and today is my 30th birthday.
I woke up with a sense of excitement which I expected but what I didn't expect was the crew to be so excited with me. At around mid-day I went to the galley to grab a snack. I just manged to see the top of a cake before I was shunned away. I went up on deck and sat at the edge of the boat. Knowing what was coming I was filed with nervousness, but so in awe that these people I didn’t know a month ago have gone so out of their way. Then I heard a bellowing call "Leonie to the bridge! Leonie to the bridge" I was greeted by everyone with a carrot cake and two gifts wrapped in old nav reports. A bottle of red wine to be enjoyed on land and a book. "Barefoot navigator" by Jack Lagan (which I haven’t put down since).
A day only made better by a swim! After 10 days at sea, hitting the cool refreshing water was sublime. Swimming in the middle of the Atlantic for my 30th! Not bad!
Next was Christmas! I don’t believe this year is going to be a traditional one. By the time the 25th arrived it couldn't have been more needed. Three days of high winds, heavy seas and a few late night manoeuvres, we all needed a pick me up. At around 10am and the galley was in full flow. Song of the Whale is a meat free vessel, so a tasty nut roast replaced a turkey in the oven, with spuds both roast and mashed, yummy Yorkshire puddings and greens.
We sat around the table laughing a joking, while holding onto our plates with the role of each wave. This was certainly an untraditional way to spend Christmas. But, I feel truly lucky to be spending Christmas with such amazing people all with fantastic stories and vast life experience. The evening was finished by a very short call home over the Sat Phone. Although short, just hearing my parents’ voices was very special. We are about a week and a half from our destination. I’m enjoying my crossing but very much looking forward to being able to call home and talk to all my loved ones.
Leonie Conway Sets Sail
We shared Leonie Conway’s goal setting story earlier this month and now she is mid Atlantic. Join her on board with her blog below:
A six am start, coffee brewed, lines slipped and we are on our way!
After three days at sea we are mid Bay of Biscay and I get into the rhythm of our watch system of three hours on, four hours off and the Bay gives us the swell we expected. As I wake in the early hours for my watch I take a quick sip of water, pull on my foul weather gear and feel a thrill at the excitement and challenge of it all.
As we pass the Portuguese coast five days later the wind finally turns behind us and we are cruising downwind. This was one of the hardest parts for me emotionally. I’m not sure if it was that we weren’t fighting against the wind anymore or if I had the time to think of people at home I was missing … my mind is soon settled back into the new rhythm.
About 350nm away from the Canaries the wind turned on us again and we were back to fighting against the wind. Two and a half days later we finally arrived in Lanzarote. It was 03:30 when we pulled alongside the fuel dock, tucked ourselves into bed and relaxed.
After four days of restocking in Lanzarote, we set sail for Bahamas … well, actually motored for two days straight into the abyss of little to no wind, this was stunning … have never seen water so calm. We made the most of the calm to enjoy a swim! It was amazing to swim around this beast of a vessel that is Song of the Whale.
The next day the wind started to fill and we were cruising nicely. Just after my watch I heard a scream from the deck. "WHALE!!" I ran up on deck to see a whale blow in the distance, then another and another! I ran to the viewing platform at the back of the boat to watch them from above and just as I got to the top I saw the flute! (the tail of the whale up in the air just before it does a deep dive) and my captain shouted "It’s a sperm whale" … then they were gone. I was in shock by this encounter. I was just getting over it a few hours later when we spot a blow close by … this time minky whales. They stuck around for a while, interacting with us and then just disappeared into the sea.
I feel so lucky to be here. That evening my watch was at sunset. I listened and learned as the captain and first mate discussed how to manage the spinnaker pole in a big swell and a pod of spotted dolphins started to follow us.
We finally starting to get into the trade winds. I feel like it’s starting to all fall in place on my first night watch with the pole up. I was a little nervous as the wind was changing and it was hard to keep both sails flying, I had to just trust myself.
I now lie on the deck watching meteor showers and talking about the stars with my crew mates in our shorts and t-shirts … what a difference from three weeks ago.
What will happen over the next three weeks and what adventures we will have.