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Crew Compass: Instant coffee averts disaster on Atlantic crossing

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Crew Compass: by Lauren Loudon

For some, crossing the Atlantic is just another week at work – little changes but the constant motion. For some, it’s a great adventure, full of joy and bliss. For others, it is a time to disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with the inner self, away from all communications and everything external. For me, it’s a combination of the latter two, and a bit of the first, in the sense that it’s still work. Crossing the Atlantic on a 110-foot sail yacht is a wonderful adventure and a chance to take in everything the beautiful ocean has to offer, knowing that nothing past the bow or stern can possibly bother us.

A grand total of 5,062 nautical miles from our departure point of Antibes across to our “home base” of Fort Lauderdale. It took twenty-six days, three fuel stops (Gibraltar, Tenerife and St. Thomas) and six crew from start to finish of motor/sailing through the deep blue with nothing in sight, literally nothing –  except a few flying fish on one exciting day. We were lucky with the weather for the most part, though the first few days were “rolly,” as the timing of the swell threw us from side to side through the waves.

Sleeping gets tough when you’re concentrating hard on not falling out of bed all night, and walking around is a little tedious too. Imagine what it’s like to be cooking in that – yeah, that’s my job. Luckily, I’ve done it long enough now that I’ve got my methods down to a T: a combination of three rolls of nonskid on the galley sides, metal attachments to hold pots in place on my stove and a secure metal bar to protect the essential galley appliances, such as kettle, toaster and, of course, the crucial coffee machine.

For me, that’s all just part of the fun. I love my job. I hop from my morning watch shift on the bridge down to the galley to prepare meals for the day ahead, then have time to soak up the sun, read a book and enjoy the freedom of being somewhere in the middle of … nowhere.

One morning, about halfway across, I came up from my lunch prep in the galley for a breath of fresh air. Everybody was sitting outside in the cockpit discussing how much of a drag the last day had felt thanks to the swell, but knowing we had already crossed the halfway line, we all remained positive. That very moment, in a sudden gust of wind, the boat took a huge roll to port as if a giant killer whale had just breached from underneath us, which sent things flying. With the sound of clattering, we all ran off in our separate directions to assess the situation, but I was doomed with the worst possible outcome.

Hot coffee, freshly brewed beans and glass of the carafe all over the galley. A million tiny pieces of glass that twinkled like the starry sky I’d witnessed the night before, mixed with ground coffee that was the closest thing to earth we’d seen in a week, and steamy hot coffee that should have been anywhere but the floor – it was absolutely not what our stewardess and I fancied dealing with that particular morning, or any morning for that matter! After cleaning up the hot mess, literally, we were all thankful that somewhere in my delirium of provisioning I had picked up a couple of jars of instant coffee granules. Personally, I was just thankful the lunch I’d been busy preparing was safe (and also secretly counting my lucky stars that I didn’t have to put up with the boys without their caffeine fix for the rest of the trip). Amid it all, I found the silver lining; but seriously, what a disaster that would have been!

Lauren Loudon has worked as a yacht chef and stew for more than four years. She hails from Lancashire, England. Comments are welcome below.

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