Last bits of work in Valencia, saying goodbye to our friends, crossing the Atlantic Ocean and our current situation.
It has been way too long after my last writing. Sorry, but somehow it was busy and didn’t find the time to do so. But here we are, it will be a long one. Going quite a bit back, when we were in Valencia.
After installing our last bit of kit; a new hydraulic autopilot, plotter and radar we finally left Valencia. The installation was fairly straight forward but it involved a lot of thinking/debating bAfter 3 months of work on the boat we finally left Valencia. We have done so much to make the boat ready and our last new instalment was a new hydraulic autopilot, plotter and radar. The installation was fairly straight forward but it involved a lot of thinking/debating before the actual job was taken on. The existing auto pilot is placed under our bed in the aft cabin. To install the new autopilot things had to be cut away, moved and changed. One of the ‘arms’ had to be extended in order to give the new drive unit the space it needs to move in and out. You can see the new extended arm in the last picture. David did a very nice job and the autopilot works like a dream!
We were ready and the wind was in our favour, so on the third of January we hoisted our sails towards Gibraltar. We said goodbye to our lovely friends from Nathape. These friends (who have the same boat and we met last year in Almerimar/Spain) have helped us so much during our time in Valencia. It means the world to us and hopefully we soon see them somewhere in the Caribbean/Pacific or wherever in the world.
The sail to Gibraltar was nice and easy and took us four days. When getting closer to Gibraltar the amount of cargo ships increases. Some are pretty big but manoeuvring through them is very manageable. After arriving in the marina we treated ourselves on a big pizza and then hit the bunk. The wind looked great for the next couple of days to sail down to The Canary Islands. So we had to take advantage of that and left the day after. A quick stop at the fuel station to get a full tank of vat free diesel and then we hoisted our sails again.
The strait of Gibraltar was to us not that busy and very relaxed. More dangerous were the tiny little fishing boats who obviously don’t appear on your plotter. As soon as we left and you start to hit the The North Atlantic Ocean you can feel the swell is rising. During this trip to the Canary Islands the swell was fairly big at some stages where we were literally surfing down waves. Although it is impressive, it is very constant and clear. Not how the Mediterranean can be sometimes, messy! We made very good progress and the wind was great. Unfortunately on the last day our ballooner (one of our downwind sails) ripped at the top.
It took us 5 days when we arrived in La Graciosa, which is a volcanic island in the Canary Islands, located 2 km north of the island of Lanzarote. The anchorage was lovely so we stayed for a couple of days. In the meantime we ordered a new sail (for the one who was ripped) which would arrive in Las Palmas/Gran Canaria.
We left La Graciosa and sailed to the capital Las Palmas to stay in the marina for some last checks on the boat. Unfortunately the 10 day promise for our new sail to arrive ended up in a month! In the meantime we loaded up the boat with as much provisioning as we could. We went out for a lovely dinner and enjoyed a bit of time on land. On the 10th of February our new sail arrived and we finally got everything we needed and we left to cross the Atlantic Ocean!
It felt unreal to actually leave and that we were really going to do this. But there was no way back anymore. The first week was great with perfect downwind sailing with our new sail. It is a great set up and with our new autopilot we just followed the wind. We do really had to push to try to get west. The wind was sending us way more south than expected. After 5 days I finally had a shower. That was the first time I had some energy to do so. I have never been seasick ever in my life but somehow from day one since we left Las Palmas I got sick. I left with the last bits of flu and I reckon that all the months of work and finally leaving got me into it. Seasickness drains you, but after a couple of days I finally got my sea legs back.
On day 7 our new sail (ballooner) came down in the middle of the night, lying half in the water and partly wrapped around the anchor. Don’t ask me how, we somehow managed to get the sail back in and it was in one piece. We also had to change our course significantly when we noticed a sailing boat which didn’t have AIS (Identification system), didn’t show up on radar and had no lights. That was good practice again to stay alert during a night watch.
We had a few flying fish and squid on deck, it is very hilarious when they hit the deck. After a week we started to loose sight with the line of Cape Verde and that’s were you really started to feel that you are only surrounded by the ocean. I loved the tranquility.
Every day we had a simular set up. We would have dinner together around 18.00 o’clock. I would go to bed at 19.00 for 3 hours. Then David would go to bed for 3. Then me one more time for 3. After that David could sleep for as long as he wanted. Which most of the time didn’t ended up longer then 4 hours. In the morning we would have breakfast and for the rest of the day, we would take our time on and off equally. David was reading books like rockets and I enjoyed listening to podcasts.
After a week the wind picked up and we had a steady 27 knots with gusts to 35 with the accompanying swell. The boat was rolling heavily since our sail came down the other night. This particular sail steadies the boat up, so it gives us stability but also a lot more speed. But you can’t get this sail up in strong winds, so it was not possible to get it up in the current conditions.
After more than 7 days of fairly tiring conditions the wind finally calmed down a bit. We thought that this might be the moment to get our sail up again, and so we did. We tried our old sail first (which we got repaired in Las Palmas), we got it halfway up and then it ripped completely. Well, maybe it had its time after 25 years. So, we got our new one out again, and when it was almost up, it ripped as well!! We both could not believe that this just happened, because this is the sail we really need! Both down and tired, we got the sail down and stored it away. Seems like we have to do the rest of the crossing without.
Our last week consisted of almost no wind, how unbelievable. The boat was sometimes heavily rocking and all not comfortable. But we were coming closer to our goal and that kept us going. Mister Floyd, our dog, was doing extremely well. A very relaxed and adaptable animal which gave me so much smiles during our crossing.
On the first of March when I had my watch, the sun came up and I finally saw land. I woke up David and we had a lovely sail to the Island Martinique, where we dropped our anchor in Saint Anne. We did it! We crossed the Atlantic Ocean. We covered 2874 miles in 20 days. It felt so weird that we could finally sleep whenever we wanted and no sailing for a bit. Just quiet at anchor. I was so extremely happy that we did this. After a long shower and a little kip in the afternoon we had a BBQ at night. We both could not wait to sleep in our bed, together. All in all, an unbelievable never to forget experience. It made me grow.
We stayed a few days in Martinique where we re provisioned, got more fuel and bought some parts which we needed. After that we sailed up to the north of Martinique where we stayed in a great bay with a view to the famous Mount Pelee. In the meantime the corona virus made us decide to go quicker up north than our original plan. Our plan was spending the summer in the north of America, around Maine. You need a visa for America which we wanted to obtain in the Bahama’s. So the reason for going up north quicker was trying to get into the Bahama’s as quickly as possible. We always said we don’t want to spent hurricane season in the Caribbean.
We sailed to Îles des Saintes, formed by nine unspoiled islands. I loved it, it has bistro lined streets and turquoise waters and is apparently one of the most beautiful bays in the World. From ’Les Saintes’ we sailed to the west coast of Guadeloupe where we stopped at Pigeon Island. Here you can find the Cousteau Reserve, which is a protected underwater reserve with vibrant coral reefs and gardens. I had a great few hours of snorkelling where it felt like I was in an aquarium.
Unfortunately our generator broke down and we needed to go back south to the capital of Guadeloupe to get the parts. We got the bits that we needed but in the meantime the borders from countries around us were closing because of the virus. We did not want to be in lockdown in this country for several reasons. So, we decided to leave the next morning towards Antigua.
When David went to the immigration office in the morning it was closed; you were not able to ‘check out’ anymore, meaning leaving the country was impossible. They didn’t tell that they were closing so more boats were more then surprised that this just happend. After several phone calls, calls on the vhf to other people, emails to immigration David had the idea to go to the airport to obtain the clearance stamp. I thought no way on earth they were giving us the stamp. But two hours later David came back with the stamp! Unbelievable, so so lucky! We raised our anchor straight away and sailed overnight to Antigua. Antigua was one of the few countries that were still allowing people in. When we arrived it took us 6 hours to ‘check ourselves in’. It all felt like a big relieve.
We sailed to green island, this is a small island lying off the eastern coast of Antigua. It is a private island owned by the mill reef club since 1947. It is a great big bay where we are anchored and we are protected by the reef. As we speak Antigua went into lockdown from today. We ‘can’ still kitesurf, paddle board and all the things that we are passionate about in life. So, we feel very very grateful to spent this time right here.
It is likely we have to change our original sailing plan. If we can not get into the US we probably sail back to Europe. But for now, we don’t know what happens the next months, so we leave it a bit for what it is. I hope you are all safe and well in these times.
All my love,