We sailed away from Guadeloupe on the 6th of April at 13h UT. Des Mers d´Arts, the sistership of our Epok´sea, left in the same time as us. Zebulon the third boat of les Glenans left a day before, on Friday…
We had to clear first the point of Guadeloupe sailing 30 NM upwind in a choppy sea. At the point we were rewarded by our first catch: a barracuda that we threw back in the water (they have a bad reputation of Sicuatera carrier). We headed then NNW, reaching under genoa and full main towards the Anticyclone of Bermuda in a gentle and warm tradewind.
The RM was responding well after a week in Guadeloupe, fresh and happy crew, nets full of fruits and vegetables, sun and breeze….
The saloon with our netting still full of food, our “cozy” little house for the next month or two.
Noodles in the morning, the breakfast of the champions
Several days later we were further North but further West than DMA and our secret objective was getting more precise: catch up with Zebulon who started to slow down at the approach of the Anticyclone. Hitting the light airs of this Anticyclone located desperately far North and far West, we took out the spinnaker. We hoped to be fast enough to compensate for the extra miles of contourning the Anticyclone, by opposition of DMA who motored through the calm weather.
Taking out the big guns, we set as much sails as possible. Result: same speed but more colors.
And one morning, we were slowly making our way under spinnaker and on the horizon we saw the silhouette of a yacht… Zebulon parked in no wind. We hoped to surprise them but the man on watch was attentive: five minutes later VHF call “Epoksea Epoksea Epoksea pour Zebulon Zebulon Zebulon…”. We motored to meet up and exchange some little presents: tobacco, photos, solar shower, limes… After the exchange the wind picked up and we match raced each other under spinnaker. For 30 minutes we held them behind our transom until they beared away and their longer boat overtook us. Wishing to make this common tack last, they dropped their spinnaker for lunch giving us the time for a sneaky gybe. For the first time we were then heading straight towards the Azores. Zebulon on the other hand decided to make a route more North to rally Concarneau without stopping in the Azores.
Exchange of presents with the spinnaker halyard
Tricky hoist of the Glenans banner in the light air of Bermuda´s high
We continued our trip towards the east slowly sailing away from the high pressure. As it started getting colder and colder, it was harder for everyone to get out from our sleeping bags, we changed the bikini for the salopette and forgot about taking showers until the arrival.
5 minutitos más…
Winter is coming
The conditions had changed after the light wind of the anticyclone and the wind started to come straight from the Azores. Sailing upwind on choppy seas wasn’t much fun and everyone onboard started to get a bit tired of being washed by the wave breaking on the cockpit every minute. We were downloading the weather forecast daily, hoping to see some arrows pointing east, but it was all on our faces and getting stronger as the days passed. Forecast since the 21st of April for the 24th: winds of 40 knots and waves of 8 meters. From then on we started sailing south east as fast as we could to try and avoid this danger area that we had marked in our chart drawing a big square where we didn’t want to be in. We were lucky and only got one day of this bad weather (1 day is enough!). Our barometer went from 1008 to 993 in 12 hours, the waves from the north got bigger and steeper and the wind stronger.At the helm, the objective was to bear away and surf the wave under storm jib. That is how we achieved our maximum speed of the crossing: 12.3 knots!
Running under the storm jib. Top speed: 12 knots
Surfing 8 meter waves, cooking pot on the fire
The nextday the waves calmed down a little bit and they were more long than steep, so everyone onboard took his time to get some sleep. Our Iridium phone had stop working but we had the grib file with the weather forecast from the previous day until the 29th of April. This showed a bit of hope: we´d soon get to southerly winds on the other side of this low pressure which had caused all this nasty weather earlier, enabling us to sail north east straight to the Azores. It proved accurate and we had a couple of days of nice reaching-running and we even caught a big tuna! By the end of the day we were all full but happy to have the luxury of eating so fresh fish after some days of tinned meals.
Gaspar holding our trophy
We were approaching Horta and the mood of the crew was quite up…but the wind didn’t want us to forget his strength and decided to blow 30 knots from the East on our last day of navigation. 3 x reefed mainsail, staysail hoisted on spinnaker halyard, since the piece that holds the staysail halyard at the mast had come off, and sailing against the waves towards Horta yihaaa!
That night the visibility was very bad so it took a while until we could spot the lights of the island, but then, there it was, waiting for us. We dropped the sails in front of Horta, where another sailing boat was doing the same thing… We got in the visitors pontoon at 4h UT on the 29th of April. And at 4h05min UT, there was Des Mer D’ Arts arriving behind us! Such a coincidence after having departed Guadeloupe at the same time the same day but doing completely different routes, the two RMs got back simultaneously. We celebrated with some beers and breakfast at Peter’s Bar. After 22 days and 12 hours of navigation, most of it upwind and with reefed mainsail and solent, it felt good to be on land.
Our little grey and red RM carried us safely across 3100 NM of sea. It only got bashep up a little bit and we are now fixing its bruises: couple tear in the sail, stay to change… hopefully we will soon be on our way again towards Britanny.
Our route from Guadeloupe to Horta
Zebulon, the third boat of the Glenans that departed from Guadeloupe, had a bit more of a rough time going North. We are expecting them in Horta tomorrow morning, 3rd of May.
One thing is sure… crossing the Atlantic back in April is not always so smooth… Unfortunately for some it was even harder: “Grain de Soleil” – a french boat who left St Martin on the 6th and that we overtook on the 13th North of Bermuda´s high – started its distress beacon (EPIRB) on the 24th. Since then we have no news of them. The family and friends of the three sailors are still searching for them. If you wish to help them visit their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Grain-de-soleil-Moussette/