Last months, we had two funny passages: one from Rabat to Graciosa Island and other from Lanzarote to Las Palmas. During the last weeks we have been wondering about crossing the Atlantic. After thinking and discussing about it, we agreed that we are not ready yet – at least not in a way that would make us confident about it. The other conclusion is that we want to be ready to cross the Atlantic ocean by the end of 2018. We’ll probably cross in early 2019. We previously heard that most Rallies are leaving too soon (November), and after a month in Las Palmas, we are now sure that the best period is during the first month(s) of the year. We are excited just to think about an Atlantic crossing!
So… we left Rabat at the beginning of December for a 4-day passage to Graciosa Island. We had to leave at 3pm due to the tide (to get out of the river). We would have preferred to leave earlier to be further off the coast before the night, but you cannot do anything against the moon (Oh gravity, thou art a heartless b… 😉 Right at the moment we left, Marcos started to feel sick, he vomited and he was not able to eat anything. We were worried (because of past history with Marcos’ stomach) and we decided to monitor the situation for 24 hours – it was not possible to get back safely to Rabat until the next day anyway (not safe to sail there at night, not safe to go up the river at night). So, we were monitoring and preparing back up plans (back to Rabat, down to Casablanca, etc).
We had a busy night, being closed to the coast we crossed a lot of fishing boats that are not using the AIS and we also came across some petrol drills and (mostly) submerged wellheads. Usually the night shift are calm, we check wind and look around every 10 or 15 mins while we are reading or watching a movie, but that day we had to be very focused on the lights around us. In addition nights are longer and colder, which means we have longer and freezing shifts. The following day was sunny, Marcos was feeling better and winds were fair, what’s else? We were happily enjoying the morning, when Pierre saw a fishing line behind the boat 1.5m below the water level (eagle eyes!) We tried to remove it, we got 50m of line on board and we realised that the rest was hooked to the boat. Holly Molly! Who’s going to get into the big blue and remove the mess? I did it! I prepared myself, physically and mentally and then I grabbed my wet suit. Pierre tied me with a line and I jumped to get rid of the line wrapped around the keel. After several tries, I managed to cut it loose. I was very scared but the water was good and at the end I felt like the hero of the day 🙂 Next time we will be anchored, I have to practice swimming below the boat with the wet-suit to improve my confidence. Maybe I should also put some lead around my belly…
Once Marcos was completely recovered, Yago started feeling sick in turn. I remember: I was finishing one of my last shift and Yago started vomiting, I helped him and went to sleep and he called me again and again, I was that exhausted that I told Lucia to take care of him. I felt guilty but I needed a rest.
We arrived to Graciosa Island and we were happy to spend some days resting and exploring this beautiful tiny island, we met Hugo (from The Sailing Frenchman) who inspired us and encouraged us to involve the kids on setting up menus and provisioning tasks, which is good for them… and a nice help for us!
From Graciosa, we decided to go to Las Palmas where we wanted to spend Christmas with our friends. We first went to Lanzarote where we spent one night anchored in Arrecife and from there we went to Las Palmas. We had good conditions to sail from Lanzarote to Las Palmas: wind forecast was favorable around 20 knots, right on the stern. We did not check the swell and waves… and we had big waves. The ride was one of the most difficult ones that we had due to the waves and the wind: on a direct course to Las Palmas, the autopilot would not steer the boat in a reliable manner. We took the decision to hand steer right to Las Palmas to make it faster. Pierre hand steered for 15 hours in a row (120 nm), being the hero of the family for the week 🙂 We got in Las Palmas at 2am, right in time for a well deserved glass of rhum.
We were happy to be at Las Palmas, to meet up with some friends for Christmas and see all the crews getting excited with the Atlantic crossing preparation.
We would like to share with you how we are planning to prepare ourselves for crossing:
- Crew: we are almost convinced that it would be easier for long passages to have other adult on board. We would be able to have more rest and ideally the crew will help us with sailing and other daily tasks. Having crew on board is not something we like especially, so we still need to think about it.
- Energy: winter passages (long nights and cloudy days) are less than ideal for the solar panels and electricity. Our sailboat needs electricity to run the instruments, the autopilot, the fridge… but also lights, computers, light music, films, etc. It’s easy to say no to a bit of comfort on a 4-night passage, but for a 3-week passage you want the fully monty, especially with kids on board. So, we are getting the need Watt&Sea hydrogenerator (the pod version) that is bolted under the hull and that produces electricity while we are sailing.
- Water (fresh, but not for drinking): We tend to consume little fresh water on passages (like 200 litres every 5 days, that is 8 litres / day / person). I don’t see the need to be careful, but we certainly need a way to run our watermaker (with a gasoline engine) while we are sailing. We need a new hole in the hull for that.
- Autopilot: our autopilot is made of 3 important parts 1) the AP computer, 2) the control panel and 3) the actuator (the mechanism that actually moves the rudder. We’re getting a new (and hopefully better) computer (and we’ll keep the current one as a backup) and 2 new AP control panels (compatible with both AP computers). No plan to get a second actuator yet…
- New jib: after 10 years it is time to think about a new gib. We will keep the old to set up twin sails for the crossing (may the force be with us!)
- Washing machine 😉
Right now, we are enjoying Las Palmas and busy preparing the boat for future adventures! We’d like to be back in the Med and visit Greece before coming back to the Canaries. We’ll have a full year to make sure we are and feel ready. It was kind of sad to see everybody leaving, but we knew from the start that there was no crossing for us this year. Let’s make 2018 a great sailing year, in family.
4 thoughts on “Are we ready for an Atlantic crossing?”
Maria, your careful planning is necessary and smart. Be safe and continue seeing the world and giving ithe children fantastic experiences they will always remember! If you reach Miami one day next year, do let me know!
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