|Across the ocean|
Crossing an ocean -ARC 2005
With a new engine and renewed self confidence SY Coconut made it to Las Palmas for the ARC Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. 230 boats where to join the cruise across to St Lucia in the Caribbean. A journey of some 3000 + Nautical miles or app. 5000 kilometre across the second largest wilderness in in the world. (The Pacific being the largest) The Atlantic is a rather large expanse of water!
The route is well tried and tested. First sailed by Columbus some 500 years ago and described in detail by the thousands of seafarers that relied on this route to bring home fortunes in silver and gold. Making Europe rich, and destroying the Indian cultures in the process. Favourable winds and currents take you south and then west to the Caribbean. The winds blow in a circular clockwise movement around the Azores. North of the Azores the wind is from the west bringing you home to Europe. Along the Portuguese coast the winds are from the North and then gradually moving to the North East as you get south. The winds are normally a stable 15 - 20 knots from the North East all the way from Grand Canaria to the Caribbean. They are called the Trades of obvious reasons.
The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) is a massive event. 230 boats participate with thousands of participants setting their mark on Las Palmas for the weeks before the rally. When 230 boats are preparing for a what is the longest journey ever for most of them, it tends to get very hectic and very social. There are seminars to attend in subjects spanning from weather to cooking to how to get home again. The boat needs work, new equipment is to be installed and lastly provisions to be stowed away. And you make new friends as well as re-establish old relationships.
Coconut joined the crowd one week before the start. Having been away from the boat for awhile we did have a few things to sort. Our extra crew joined us in Las Palmas. Jan(52) a colleague and keen mountain climber, who has amongst other things climbed Mount Everest, and Tom (21) who has his own yacht and is about to leave on a solo circumnavigation.
The weather info was not favourable for the start. A strong south westerly was predicted. Not the expected conditions in this part of the world. We wanted northerly winds. The pressure to leave was strong however. The ARC naturally enough has to set some date for the event. We asked ourselves the obvious question - would we have gone if we where not a part of the ARC? We would not and did the start but turned back to the comfort of Las Palmas while the other yachts battled it out in a rather strong (+30 knots) southerly. Reports on yachts that suffered damage re-enforced our belief in our decision. We did do quite a good start though. Trond's ex- racing days came through in the heat of the action trying to place the boat favourably on the starting line. So we where shoulder-to-shoulder with the big boys as the starting gun went off.
The next day the wind was down and 26 hours after the formal start we sailed south in beautiful weather conditions. A much more desirable way to start our long journey. Not at least for Lesley who's back was to be tested many times during our crossing.
The start of ARC 2005, Coconut right in with the big guys. Trond forcing a Benetau 57 to give way.
Herb is a weather forecaster that has become some kind of institution for yachties crossing the Atlantic. He offers free advice on weather and routing in the North Atlantic. And he is very good. Following his advice we hugged the cost of Africa going south keeping within 60 n.miles off the cost. This allowed us to avoid the southerlies and stay in the good weather belt. We actually caught up on all the other boats within a few days.
A week into our journey saw us close to the Cape Verde islands. Never having been there before we thought it a pity not to stop and have a look around. We where short on coffee as well. (and the weather info was of very light winds. We decided that we would not loose much on the stop) So we pulled in at Mindelo, on the island of Saint Vincent early one morning, dropped our anchor and savoured the peace and quiet of an anchorage at night. Mindelo was a positive surprise. It was exotic, very African with a hint of Portuguese, and friendly. So we spent one day stocking up the food supply, refuelled, got water and even managed to get a local boat boys mother to do a load of laundry for us! A great stop.
Street scene from Mindelo, Portuguese architecture, the harbour and surroundings. The crew washing the boat and going for a swim.
Off again into the sunset we took advantage of favourable weather conditions and soon caught up on the fleet again. The 14 hours spent in Mindelo seemed to have made no difference. A couple of days out we where surprised to learn that a Sweden Yachts 42 was loosing it's keel. The boat was not too far away and we followed with excitement as the crew where rescued and the boat eventually salvaged. Tom, being an owner of a Sweden 340, was hart broken. We where close to mutiny when I refused to go and try salvage the yacht. It was tempting though....
(Lesley writing)Dan on Kosh Long had a radio net going. A group of boats all crossing the Atlantic called in twice a day to chat, exchange positions and discuss the weather and routing info given by Herb. A great community. His daughter Emma(11) did a great job as the go-between on the children's net radio and used all the correct lingo which used to amuse us adults. For erg,"Coconut,Coconut, Kushlong. Could you give me your position over. Camilla,"Kushlong, Coconut, Our position is..degrees...minutes north,...degrees...minutes west over." did you catch any fish today,over," "negative, we have not caught fish,over" and so it carried on, discussions of what they were doing, what they looked forward to when they got to land etc. Colin talking on the radio..."Im bored, really bored,over!"
We had good winds, mostly from the north-east, and it picked up a bit to around 30 knots for about four days. The sea was a bit confused and large swells created by hurricanes up north kept hitting us on the side and pushing us around at 90degrees. Not much fun when you're trying to cook or eat a meal. We started referring to mealtimes as rugby matches as we were tackling blocks of cheese, getting stabbed by flying cutlery and attacked by the vegetables of the day. That rolling around can drive one mad, but we all managed to grit our teeth and before we knew it, it was back to more comfortable conditions. The boat performed superbly through it all. She was dry, safe and comfortable. Some of the other boats had to keep their kids inside all the time for fear of them being washed over board. On Coconut we never got wet. She also turned out to be quite fast averaging 7 knots for the whole crossing!
We caught quite a lot of fish and our prize catch was a 3ft dorado, followed by a Wahoo of 150cm.We had two spectacular meals as we baked the filets in the oven. Of course the flying fish were out in full force and one near missed Toms head. We had a fishy smell on deck a few days and Tom eventually spotted the shadow of a fish in the reef of the mainsail...!
2 pilot whales surprised us as they surfaced on either side of the boat and we spotted plenty of fin whale blowing and a sperm whale diving. The sea was full of life. One experience none of us had had before was being surrounded by Tuna! Coconut was in the middle of a school of tuna for about one hour. There was big beautiful tasty tuna everywhere! but none took the hook..
We passed a few ARC boats and saw others on the horizon, a great comfort to know that we were not alone out there in the big ,blue ocean.
The half way mark is as good an excuse for a party as any. On Coconut we took this seriously. The boat was decorated with balloons, the kids had made buns, and we all wore masks. Camilla and Colin had planned some entertainment as well some music and a game. The game was won by Colin. A piece of chocolate was hidden in one of the buns. The one to get it won a big bag of Non-Stop. Colin being quite keen on this managed to eat an enormous amount of buns and found the chocolate before we realised what had happened.
We approached St.Lucia on the night of Dec 11, 13 days after Cape verdes and could see the shadows of the mountains in the moonlight. We had used a total of 19 days to cross the Atlantic and logged over 3100 miles. The ARC organizers were at the finish line to meet us and guide us to our berth. There we were given rum punches and a fruit basket at 11 pm at night. We were thrilled to be on land again and agreed that we all looked forward to a sleep ,where the bed did not move, or the body did not roll.
This site was last updated 16-12-2005 23:15:11