The crossing of the Atlantic was not at all what we expected. We thought we knew what we would get ... we had sailed almost all the way around the world, we had sailed in the trades in the Caribbean Sea and in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. So we knew we would have beautiful, downwind sailing. Message: don't assume anything at sea....
We did leave Gibraltar and the Med under good conditions...
This view, from the Rock of Gibraltar, shows the Straits, with Europe (Spain) on the right, Africa (Morocco) on the left, and the Atlantic out the opening.
From the boat, looking back, we said goodbye to the rock (you have to be on the other side to see the Prudential face).
And saw the Atlas Mountains, the north of Africa, with a few of the many ships to dodge.
After this good beginning, we had a quick sail down toward Las Palmas, on Gran Canari Island. Of course we did keep an eye on hurricane Gordon, which was bearing down on the Azores and Spain. It took the normal, northeast "Portuguese Trades" and backed them into the west and west-south-west. Anticipating this, we were able to hold high on starboard tack and reach our way into Las Palmas. The whole passage took about four days and five hours.
Our big joy on this trip was: FINALLY TO BE SAILING AGAIN. After two summers in the Med where you typically motor (wind too light), we loved the romp down to the Canaries on ARAGORN. She showed the turn of speed of which she is capable and we shook many of the barnacles of the Med off our sailing psyche.
We spent a few days sightseeing, along with Jenny, who sailed down from Gib with us. Here are Jenny and Leslie overlooking the main cathedral in Las Palmas from its bell tower.
The next leg was about 2700 miles from Tenerife, Canary Islands to Antigua. We planned to go on the Blue Water Rally "Rally Antigua" (Gib, Tenerife, Antigua), meeting the other boats in Tenerife. In the spring before, we even lined up two other boats with whom we had done the big rally to sail on this leg too. The rally organizers had lined up ten or twelve other boats, making for a nice-sized group. Well, our other two boats both dropped out, as did many of the other "committed" boats. We had only three in Tenerife. And then one of those found extensive electrolysis damage the day before our scheduled departure. So the two left were ARAGORN and MOONDANCE, a 45 foot Southerly, about our size. But it was a quality group!
We were lucky to have Alistair and Carolyn join us to help sail the crossing. You will remember them from other pages on this site as the crew of NADEMIA, the first of our round-the-world rally boats to circumnavigate.
So on 18 November, the two-boat rally departed Tenerife.
Milling around in the marina entrance, before we left, you can see Moondance's captain Chris, and his eight-year old daughter, Maddie, dressed in her best Spanish flamenco costume. (Maddie is a wonderful personality, and Leslie and I were glad she visited with us before and after the crossing.)
Leaving Tenerife, we had a light northeasterly, with a prediction that winds would be light because of a (weak) tropical low that had come off the African coast. We stayed high on starboard the first day to get the acceleration effect off the islands, but then turned south-south-west to look for the trades.
Unfortunately, the low brought some thunderstorms... quick, put the computer in the oven so it is saved if we get a lightning strike!
During the first four days we had used almost every sail combination on the boat: one, two and three reefs in squalls, the storm staysail when Moondance reported 40 knots coming our way, but also changing between the 100% jib to the number one genny and even using the gennaker as the air was light outside the squalls! And of course the full main at times.
After a few days, we did make it out of the light air and into more steady light to moderate trades, but directly from behind. And by day five we were south of 20 degrees north and felt safe jibing to starboard tack and heading generally in the direction of Antigua!
We did look to perk up the days...Alistair did a lot of fishing (and cooking the fish under Carolyn's direction).
For the quieter times, Alistair attacked the Sudoku puzzles aboard.
and the Sudoku mania spread to Carolyn doing puzzles on watch:
On some nice mornings the crew of ARAGORN had breakfast on the weather deck, Leslie on watch behind the wheel. (Contrary to popular opinion, we do not ask all hands to sit on the weather rail when not on the helm ... this was just a desire to get some better suntans.)
But life was not all uneventful:
Days thirteen through sixteen were definitely not typical tradewinds sailing. By the evening of 30 November we had squalls all around, waterspouts, 100% overcast, and lightening (v. rare in trades). Herb Hilgenberg said we were running up the back of a stalled trough (read tropical wave), but the wave did not look like it would be developing any deeper. Nonetheless it was wet and uncomfortable for three days. Squalls two or three times a watch. Winds up and down, and steady rains. After about two days, Herb suggested we just slow down, so we went to a deeply reefed main, but still did 150 miles that day. The next day we hoisted just the storm staysail to go as slowly as possible, and finally the trough sped up and move west, as it should have.
Here comes another squall!
A sloppy wave pushes the boat around ... note sailing with soggy foul weather gear in the trades!
Finally the weather broke, we could strike and fold the staysail and get underway again.
The last few days into Antigua were good sailing again. We put into Falmouth Harbour to swim on the keel and check the extent of damage from the collision at sea, and to clear in. Amazingly the first person I met ashore was our good friend Martin Carriere from Dominica, working the Antigua Charter Boat Show to drum up business. Just the person I would like to greet first after going around the world!
On the way to Jolly Harbour, Antigua we tossed overboard the olive branch (with four leaves left) that had graced ARAGORN since the branch tore off the olive tree during the launching at Yat Lift in Bodrum, Turkey last spring.
Task done, ARAGORN lies quietly at the dock in Antigua
Some celebrating with champagne Carolyn, "Oh, Alistair, you make me feel funny all over .. or is it the bubbly?"
Moondance comes in across the dock two days later. Well done Chris and Sally, Maddie and crew!
Copyright Richard W. York 2007