I wanted to circumnavigate the planet and chase that open ocean bliss that I had found in Flying Cloud. With three other friends, we began to plan a journey. The trip became and obsession; we sketched out routes and constantly added to the jobs list. Our goals were clear. We wanted to give a new life to Elixir, to find new waves, and to travel in a way thatâ€™s sustainable and non-polluting. Under the banner of Untide, we documented our transition from boatyard to open ocean.
Elixir was a long way from sailing when we first got her. We spent 11 months restoring her, alongside full-time jobs. We had a keen volunteer workforce, without whom the project would not have been possible. Friendships were built in that dusty shed. We were brought together through a shared passion for the ocean, and a mutual dream to travel. The workload was huge. We spent hundreds of hours sanding and filling, but passion has no tolerance on laziness. We spent some time rigging Elixir. Stepping the mast, replacing her tired lines, and re-stitching sails in the loft. Many hands pitched in for the final push to see her sailing. We added a spray hood, solar panels, and a self-steering gear, all essential accessories for blue water sailing.
I became buried in the pursuit of the transient joy I had found at sea. In a boatyard tent during winter, it felt more remote than ever. It was what kept me going through long nights and tedious day jobs.
We were as resourceful as possible throughout the refit. By nature, the boat building industry is hardly green. We reused things discarded by others. Elixir is her own unique colour, due to the many half-used tins of paint combined in her paint job. As a group, adventure and sustainable travel are our shared motivations. Sailing offers both. We generate our power by renewable sources, and obtained our provisions from un_rap, a zero-waste shop in Falmouth. Weâ€™ve seen the extent of plastic pollution firsthand, reinforcing our beliefs further. Aside from the carbon neutrality, weâ€™re mindful of the waste we produce, which we carry with us.
We had our setbacks, and two months after our planned launch date we saw Elixir float for the first time. Everyone was full of emotion. A hundred jobs, concluding in the sleek, seaworthy vessel afloat in front of us.
On an icy morning in December, we slipped out of the glassy harbour for Elixirâ€™s first sea trial. A light northerly blew in the Carrick Roads. We pointed Elixir into the wind, the mainsail slid up the mast effortlessly on our new pulleys. We switched the engine off, and swing Elixir South. As we glided away from Falmouth, we unfurled the massive genoa. We felt pressure on the rig, and Elixir began to heel for the first time. She gathered speed and I could feel her yearning for the open ocean.
The original plan had been to leave in mid-October. Our first leg was to cross the notorious Bay of Biscay. By leaving then, we could avoid the onset of winter gales and have a safe and predictable passage south to the Canaries. However, at this point, Christmas was only a few weeks away and a continuous string of lows had battered the Southwest. We kept our hopes high, that a suitable weather window would somehow emerge from the chaos.