November 26th, 2020
Today was the 4th day of the expected 18 day Atlantic crossing from Gran Canaria to Saint Lucia. I woke up early in the morning for my 3am shift. We had been rotating every three hours between me, Mom, and Dad. I got the unlucky shift of 3am to 6am on this day. It is always the most gruelling one because the moon has gone down and you don't get the treat of the sunrise on the 6 to 9am shift. I woke up at 2:55am and lazily stumbled through the dark looking for my Solar Puff so I could get changed. I found it and turned it on to the brightest setting so I could rummage through my things to find my jacket and lifejacket. Once I was dressed I climbed onto deck with my Dad who always had the watch before me. I strapped my life jacket into the jack lines. These are lines that run from the cockpit to to the bow (front of the boat) and stern (back of the boat). Anything can happen in the dark and we all need to be attached to a line should the unthinkable happen and we go overboard. That happened to my sister, but that is a story for another day). Immediately I was informed that the masthead light, which signals our location to other boats, had unexpectedly died. We could try and hoist a flashlight up the mast, but it did not seem as arable or as bright as the Solar Puff. We had no other option. My dad made his way cautiously towards the mast, attached the Solar Puff to the halyard (a line running to the top of the mast on a pulley system), and pulled the attached Solar Puff to the top of the mast. It worked perfectly and its bright white light reflected on the waves like moonlight. For the rest of my shift I was relieved that I would not have to deal with the anxiety of knowing that we could be seen even though we did not have a mast light and were not visible on AIS, the radar system that alerts boats to one another. The AIS had packed up a few days before, which meant other boats would not be able to see us within a 5+ mile radius if they had radar. Knowing this made the Solar Puff even more crucial to alerting boats to our position, especially container ships that could bear down on us as they cannot alter course on short notice.
December 1st, 2020
The worst events always happen at night. At 2am. I woke up to my Mom shaking me to wake me up because my parents needed my help. The night before we had decided it was really nice weather and the spinnaker, a huge sail used for speed in light wind, would be fine to stay up overnight. We had only used it twice before we left it up overnight. A steady 10 knot breeze seemed low risk. But, as we learned, conditions can change dramatically in a short time. When I got on deck I was bleary-eyed and just wanted to go back to my bed. My dad told me that the spinnaker had become tangled in another sail called the jib. I looked up and saw the mess. My Dad and I got out our Solar Puff and used the light to shine it up the mast to get a better idea of the problem we would have to solve. I predicted there were four wraps of the spinnaker around the jib. We had many ideas and tried all of them. Some were erring on the side of dangerous. A spinnaker with no wind in it is light and easily handled, but once it fills with wind, it could easily yank my dad off of the boat. These sails are designed to pull thousands of pounds. The only successful idea was to manually drag the spinnaker around the jib. We did this for five hours in gusting 25 knot winds and it was exhausting. I was constantly grabbing my Solar Puff to check if we had made any progress at untangling the spinnaker. Five hours later we finally untangled the spinnaker from the jib, but not after the lines had torn through my dad's gloves and left him with nasty rope burns. The moonlight guided our mission but when the moon sank behind a cloud in the last hour, we relied heavily on the Solar Puff to make any progress at all.
December 10th, 2020
We only have two days left of our sail until we will reach Nevis in the Carribean. It feels like ages since we set out from Gran Canaria. I am more than excited considering what happened last night. We had a beautiful sunset as usual, but around 12:00 my shift finished and I saw clouds developing all around me. I thought if I kept going forward they would all pass behind us, so I steered to the 255 degrees course to Nevis. My Mom had the next shift and before I went downstairs, I woke my Dad to have him double check everything would be okay considering that there might be a storm developing. Just before I went back to sleep, my Dad stopped me and asked if I would stay on deck for a few more minutes so we could figure out what to do as the storm developed. The clouds overhead hid the moon and it became pitch black. I got out my Solar Puff as we tried to figure out what to do. The sky became increasingly dark and soon we heard thunder. It was followed by lightning coming from different clouds all around us. We were slowly engulfed by them and experiencing 45 to 50kt gusts and torrential rain. In between lightning flashes I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I kept my Solar Puff on so that we would at least have some consistent light source that enabled us to see. We steered in different directions trying to find a way out of the storms, but they followed us. After two hours we finally escaped the storm with a drenched boat and shaken crew. The only way we were able to exit the storm was because of the light from the Solar Puff which allowed us to steer and understand what was happening around us and adjust.