Hello Spring!

Spring is here and the official countdown to the day we leave Southampton has begun. If the weather is favourable, we will be brexiting on the week starting the 1st of May – exactly one year after bringing Cirrus over from France.

Exciting times! Meanwhile, we have been busy trying to shorten down the job list. Longer days and not-so-cold weekends mean boat work! Fortunately for us, we’ve got friends willing to help in exchange of food and beers…

Apart from little touches here and there, Cirrus is pretty much ready to set sail. In fact she can’t wait. She is looking forward to feeling less like a floating home and more like a sailing machine.

She was so happy when we took her out for a wander around the Solent, on a day that started very foggy but ended up with full susnshine.

The first stop of our trip will be Bilbao (Basque Country), where we plan to stay for about 2 months and do a full preparation of the boat, including antifouling and engine servicing.

Less tan 6 weeks to go…!

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From Antigua to Bahamas

Hi everybody,

I will tell you about these last days from Antigua up to now, the last days with Rocio and me together before we take a little break and went discovering Carribbean on our own before meeting up again. We just both felt like having some time on our own after spending five months together non stop. So Rocio is now waiting for delivering boats from St Martin towards Tortola! I am visiting Ma´tinik awaiting to get more information about the boat we will deliver back to France, an RM10.50.

Let us start with the story then; we left Berenice on the 18th of February after two months of work. We will remember our Captain Fonzie and his moment of swearing as well as his Pina Colada moments and his passion for fishing that filled our belly more than once. After all it was a real good experience for us; you get to see the inside of running luxury yachts, discover what makes a difference between a good from a bad boat (“the devil is in the details”… so they say), meet more people and discover how different can people live their lifes but still being happy. We will keep with us the images of millions of dollars floating palaces sitting next to each other, waiting for the rich man to come onboard.

On the 18th we moved onto Luskentyre, an Oyster 72 (21.5 m long saling yacht) which is run by Arvid and Georgia, a couple to who we were introduced by Fonzie (Canadian and Kiwi). They needed delivery crew to bring Luskentyre to Bahamas and proposed to pay us as well as a friend of ours to come and do it with them, including a flight back to anywhere we wanted in the Carribbean. The flight back for us was the start point of deciding to take some time each one aside and so both of us went looking into his opportunities. The delivery was 1000 NM sailing North West, thus in theory 5 to 6 days of downwind sail with the sun… who would say no?!

We left on the 20th from Antigua after struggling to get a piece of the steering system back in place. This delayed us of one day on the schedule and meant we would have to sail fast, and if sailing was not fast enough… engine on!… The weather was very pleasant to us, maybe even a bit to much: we sailed downwind for the first couple of days but ended up having to motor because the wind dropped or shifted round to blow straight on our stern. In those conditions and on those type of boats, going by sail is very uncomfortable: the composite “park avenue” boom weighing more than 200 kgs bangs from one side to the other, risking to damage sail and blocks.

We had to stop in St Martin to fix the generator. We stayed at anchor for one night and the following morning. That gave time to some of us (mainly me) to rush onshore and buy a couple of duty free articles. I came back to the boat very happy: new toys! a phone and a camera!

For the rest of the crossing all the crew struggled to keep busy; five of us onboard and sailing under engine on a straight course did not provide many excitement in itself. The first thing was to learn backgamon! Once Geaorgia explained it to Rocio and me we would keep battling one another for a whole afternoon, me defending that the game is all about tactics and Rocio stating that luck rules backgamon… Once I started loosing the opinions diverged…

Fishing was another way of killing the time while roasting under a cloudless and hot sunny day. We caught two little tunas, a wahoo and a mahi mahi. All of them finished in our little hungry tommies in various way: carpaccio, curry, steaks… miam miam… Georgia unveiled her secret tricks and cooking became another pleasant way to spend our time. We were not competing but evryone was happy to show the best he could do: fresh tagliatelle, salads of all sorts, empanadas, curry… And when we were not eating, reading, fishing, watching a DVD, sleeping and/or steering (the autopilot would not want to take our relay…) we were left with reading. I would strongly recommend this short book I ate in a day, a Voyage for Madmen (in French I think it is Goldenglobe). It treats about the first single handed round the world race and describes the nine characters who took part to it.

And last but not least, the most marking point of this crossing was how much sea life we saw. We spotted several days some whales jumping out the water at 200 m from the boat, and landing back in the water with a massive splash! We all tried to snap a picture of them but obviously the whales were shy and would only jump when the camera was not aimed at them… Untill two of them passed at two meters from the boat, Rocio on the helm had to give a hard turn to port to avoid a collision.

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Georgia and Rocio spotting the whales, Francesco spotting… the whales?

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But where are they?

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Arvid filleting a mahi mahi… miam

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Night watch time… foot on the steering wheel, engine at 1700 RPM…

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All quiet on board. The sunset reflects in our massively heavy boom…

Finally on the 26th at 7 o´clock local time we entered Lyford Cay on the North-Western part of New Providence. This marina is nicknamed “Lifeless Cay” by the sailors and locals because it is situated in the middle of one of the most exclusive and expensive residential neighbourhood of the world. And indeed nothing happens there… Some people pay a lot of money to keep quiet with their millions and that is how it is.

 After spending the day working to make the boat as shiny as possible for the boss, we wanted to go out for a drink somewhere and asked a taxi to drive us “somewhere nice for a drink”…. On the way we felt totally in a sort of American resort islands; perfectly maintained bushes, supermarket, Mac Donalds, Sheratons… we finally ended up in a terrible restaurant area and come out from there feeling quite disgusted. After all Lifeless Cay is maybe the best the island had to offer… A bit sad for a place with such an adventurous past: capital of the pirates.

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Team Fender (Francesco and Gaspar) washing the hull from the dinghy and the dinghy from the hull

Hopefully we did not despair and spent our free day exploring a bit more… Having picked up a guide of the Bahamas dating of 2001 we left in three of us, Rocio, Francesco and me, in a taxi… we ended up for a couple of hours in a little village, Adelaide, in the South West of the island further away from the touristy bling bling. The village has an interesting history; it was founded by the freed slaves that the british navy were unloading on New Providence. They settled here because the gigantic lagoon (more than 30 NM wide) provided them with fishes and conchs (as long as a shark did not take a bite at them before) enough for surviving. A local ex policeman drove us around from Adelaide to Nassau the capital and there and recommended what to see, indeed most of the places recommended in our guide had been either destroyed by a hurrycane or simply abandonned… everywhere the same tourist attractions; passenger ferry vomiting thousands in the streets of Nassau, filled of shops you can find home, Resort centers, casinos, hotels… Overall it is pretty sad that a plca with such an extraordinary topology and history has became a profit making American massive resort island, working on the ideal dream holliday concept sold by TV programs… But well this is obviously only my modest opinion…

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Francesco and me enjoying a beer in Adelaide with our guide of the Bahamas dating from 2001…

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Paradise Island… Beurk!

And that is enough for keeping you up to date. I will try to post you some news on Ma´tinik and I wait with impatience, as well as you, the news from Roro! So let us finish in beauty after this ugly picture of “Paradise Island”…

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Roro!

Bye bye

Gaspar

The pontoon of la Graciosa, a treasure of friendly sailors

These last days have been marked by social activities and meeting new people. After spending the first part of our voyage in Lanzarote mainly in us two, we are very eager of speaking with new persons. This seems to be the case of many travellers, and around the pontoon, it’s full of them. Felice, an Italian skipper we met here, told us during an apero on the pontoon something roughly like this; “The sea is indifferent, blind to what sails on its back. There are boats of all shapes, colors, price, but all live the same thing. Some arrive several days before, some are wetter, but the sea is not kinder or rougher to any of them.”. And indeed here on the pontoons, there are all sorts of sailors and boats. It ranges from the retired couple who bought 44 ft production yachts fully equipped or a fast french “piece of pizza shaped” Pogo, to the experienced skipper who bought an old but robust steel vessel, passing by the young couples with little money and plenty ambitions, to the students full of dream, to the solo skipper woman who realises her dream of owning a boat and gets angry at the shopkeeper of the chandlery, who responds to her question to her friend standing next to her because he is a guy… Some have money, some don’t, but all want to do the same. Some have already sailed across and now rest in the Canary Islands since a couple years, some are ready to leave with a rusty boat holding only by the 20 years worth of layers of Sikaflex…

All have wonderful stories to tell, of places, adventures, misadventures that happened to them. The discussions are in French, Spanish and rarely in English. All these people accumulate the languages and it helped making us believe that languages are worth ten times any university degree. We got invited for aperos, coffees or just a chat on the pontoon. We saw that there is not one ultimate boat to sail, but rather plenty different ones to meet the desire of their owner. For many of them, the boat is their house, and at this title, they do not care of buying an expensive block which is 50 g lighter than the others and will make your boat go faster of 0,000001 knot. Instead, they developed tricks for washing their clothes, store the food, have a sewing machine on board. This is completely different from the approach of sailing we knew from racing in the Solent. Just to illustrate what we wrote, we’ll show to boats that we saw here. They stand out from the classic “tupperware”, and despite their look, have a powerful charm that no polished gel coat would beat.

Rêveur de Jour and its crew of “rêveur”, the “triples A”  aka “Alcaline”

RDJ was bought by Antoine, Antoine and Arthur, three Bretons student in math and physics. They decided to take a break of a year in their Parisian studies to go sail around the Atlantic. Gathering money by sponsors from family relatives and others, and by borrowing some more money, they bought their “RDV”, an amateur steel built boat. The boat sailed a lot already, holds by the layers of paint and Sikaflex more than by steel, it is “home built” and you can notice it. But never the less, with their small budget and ambitions they go. The jamon is drying from the stern, the boat full of books, screws, couple bottles of beer, it is full of charm from the inside, probably sails backwards when it goes to windward. But that doesn’t matter, they do it! The photo is taken from the hard in la Graciosa, where despite the rust from the crane they decided to lift the boat out to repair their rudder and clean the toilet seacocks… apparently they got their family running when their tracker went down during a good blow sailing from Portugal to las Canarias! But they all arrived safe, seem to know what they do, and have the most important; ambition, imagination and insouciance from the youth!

Seahorse, original steel boat, dutch built

Seahorse is the boat of Raymond. We decided to show it because you’ll admit it has nothing to do with a Jeanneau! Raymond lives on board in la Graciosa since 5 years, sailed a lot, speak more languages than I have fingers. He’s got more than one story to tell, will be happy to share its knowledge when you come to him despite is cold look at first, especially when he sees a new boat arriving in the harbour and he checks their docking! He knows everybody and everybody knows him. A great person, one more.

Apart from them we met many others, especially thanks to “la pétanque”. Every evening at 4h30 we meet a couple people of the pontoon to throw some balls, sometimes towards the “cochonet”, sometimes… well… less towards the “cochonet”. Rocio discovered herself a talent for throwing a ball within an inch of the “cochonet” when it is at 20 m minimum, distance at which most of us don’t even reach the “cochonet”… It is not strength but swing!

We met also a couple of hippies from Uruguay, Panama and Spain who sell hand made jewelry in the little market. They were the first to help us setting up our stand to sell aquarellas. Needless to say that we did not sell one and abandoned the idea. This was the occasion for Gaspar to confront himself with the wide variety of accents in Spanish and for Rocio to improvise with her clarinette with an harmonica and a ukulele player.

But of all that is well and nice, but still, we would not want you to miss a couple of the awesome views we saw walking through the island. So with little comments we’ll just feed your eyes;

Western swell hitting la Graciosa, with the Montana Clara behind

Torture by “giligili”

Playa de Las Conchas and Montana Bermeja

BESOS A TODOS!

PS: for those who get addicted at following sailing blogs, here is the  link to the website of the triple A with their “Rêve de Jour”; http://www.all-around-the-atlantic.ens.fr

La Graciosa

La Graciosa could be seen as the “daughter” of Lanzarote. Unlike the island of lava, this one is formed by sandy landscapes guarded by four volcanoes: Las Agujas, Montaña del Mojón, Montaña Amarilla and Montaña Bermeja. Beautiful beaches most of which are practically empty at this time of the year and two villages of little white houses: Caleta de Sebo (inhabited) and Pedro Barba (only inhabited in summer time) complete La Graciosa. No wonder that many painters and writers choose this place to get inspired, only the sight of the Mountains of El Risco on the neighbor Lanzarote are worth thousand poems and paintings!

Gasparito seeking fishes with the mountains of Lanzarote as background

The white posts that can be seen along the mountain bring electric current to the island under the water; and, for what some say, this is a relatively new installation, they were using generators before.

We were so lucky to have a friend as Rafa, who lives on board an Oceanis 432 in the little port in Caleta de Sebo. Although he is not here at the moment, he let us his boat to sleep and cook. As we cannot use the electricity neither the water tanks on board, we have got used to live with day light or to use candles, since the time has been changed, candles seem more appropriate and, don’t worry! we haven’t changed that much! we usually don’t wake up too early if it is not for fishing (or rather trying to fish, more on this later). We wash ourselves, our clothes and the kitchen stuff on buckets using the water on the pontoon.

Washing up

On the four days we have spent here so far we have had time for exploring a little bit the south of the island. We walked to the top of Montaña Amarilla. The rain (it actually rains in Lanzarote, we have proved it) accompanied us on the way and we had to find shelter in the middle of the “desert”.

Improvised shelter

Hopefully the sun started shinning again and we got dry as we went up the mountain. The sights from the top were spectacular, and Gasparito took out his drawing kit…

Gasparito reproducing the views from Montaña Amarilla; the island of la Alegranza and others behind…

The navigator decided that we should come down from the mountain by the south part. It didn’t seem such a good idea for Rocita, it was much steeper and rocks were falling from everywhere… but the sight of the landscape, the color of the mountain, different from the north part and giving name to this volcano changed her mood. From top to bottom the volcano sorts of reproduce the Belgian flag; red grainy and sharp rocks at the top with green/whitish lichen, swapping to yellow powdery rocks, looking like compact sand and finally the black stone from the lava polished by the elements.

The Belgian flag at its best

Who took this pic?

The sea was waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain. The tide was low, so we followed a path of rocks on a half-tunnel formed by the water on the soft rock of the volcano. We could see a white sand beach at the end of the rocky passage, our promised land!

Come on, couple more steps and you will be on the beach

On the beach, we went for the awaited swim and it felt sooo good!

The rest of the days till now we have been quite tranquil, the weather has not been very good, only 25 degrees… and it rains everyday little fine drops, although you dry as soon as it stops. Amongst other activities we have been meeting all sorts of people, trying to fish, swimming on the beach and getting internet on the local Hamburgueseria, together with the city council, the only wi-fi point of the island.

More stories concerning these activities to come in the next posts!

Gros bisous depuis La Graciosa!

Caleta de Sebo

Last days in Lanzarote

Hi everybody,

a bit of catching up here. We haven’t been on internet so much in the last days, for the simple reason that being in front of a computer sometimes is a real mission! Walking the town looking for a Burger King or other, carrying this computer which always seems heavier, and finally decide which one of us will write will the other one wanders around the shopping mall…

Before telling our last adventures in Lanzarote, we’ll precise that we are now in la Graciosa, an island North West of Lanzarote where sitting in front of a computer is surprisingly more pleasant! Indeed there is a little “hamburgeseria” with cheap lunch, not many people, not many flies and a relax atmosphere, much better than BK…

We left you with the last news of our first day with Dani. We ended up staying four nights at his house. Dani is a great guy, very friendly, he was always coming up with new things to show us, left us the keys of his apartment and would always laugh at Gaspar’s attempt at making jokes in Spanish! Apart from being an active and friendly guy, knowing almost all the people around the island, climbing, fishing, taking courses of English and boating, Dani told us he seemed to have a certain style for dressing according to his own taste… Here is a picture of him in his typical Canarian beach outfit;

El Canario

Amongst our various activities, we went to his “Huerta” (little plantation) that he keeps just Norh of Playa Honda. He has to go there twice a week to give water to the plants and pick the fruits and vegetables. So one morning he proposed us to come with him.

In his little plantation he cultivates bananas, papayas, mangoes, tomatoes, peppers, letuces, leeks, olives, aubergines, courgettes and many more. Obviously in Lanzarote, all of these plants would not grow without human help. Indeed it rains so little that the water has to be produced from massive water makers. No water can be lost and he collects the water dripping at the bottom of his two compost containers, this water apparently is of the best quality to give to the plants. To avoid any of this water to evaporate within five minutes, the sole is covered of little black volcanic stones which keep the humidity in the ground. But I can’t tell you all of that without feeding you with a couple pictures;

Rocio picking the aubergines

Our picking of the day! cherry tomato, aubergines, oranges, leeks, lettuce, green peppers, basil leaves

We also kept on trying to surf. Dani had two boards that he lend us. We went two days each time coming back hitchhiking, even with a long surfboard we made it! We took the occasion that we were in Famara for checking out the surf championship… amazing!… it looks like these guys have glued their boards onto their feet! We did not reach the same level yet… but each of us managed to stand on its feet, although only in the foam. Every attempt at taking a wave that did not break yet dramatically ended up in a big swim and large ingress of salt water in the mouth (this for Gaspar only… Rocio knew already that it does not help to fall forward with the mouth open!). To learn surfing we can give you one trick; do not pay for surfing course, just go to a beach with a lot of surfing schools, spot the instructor (easy, usually it is the one who looks the coolest of the group) and imitate everything they do! Row in the sand like they do, stretch your muscles like they do, jump up on your board like they do, but don’t run on the beach like they do because it is tiring! And again for the pleasure of your eyes a couple picture of our progress and our surfing objective;

Our best achievement

Classic finish in style

Our objective…

Our regime these last couple of days was essentially composed of fruits and vegetables, the closest shop from Dani’s house being a “fruteria” with excellent fruits. I repeat what we said in the previous post, but what a pleasure to sleep in a real bed! We can’t insist enough on that! Being in a house we could clean our clothes as well and came out of these couple days all fresh for the new adventure; la Graciosa living in Rafa’s boat!

We were supposed to go to la Graciosa on the 24th, but at the last moment the plan changed; a couple of friends of Rafa, the owner of the boat, were living onboard and we thought better to leave them their before last evening to themselves. Rather than seeing that as a sad news we were happy to have one more day with Dani and could stay in Famara one afternoon more. Coming back from the surf championship about two hours after changing our plan, Rocio got a phone call from one of the Canarian skipper of charter boat we talked to a week ago; he needed one person to translate from Spanish to French and vice-versa the morning of the 25th. There was work for only one but they left us both coming on board. So we worked as translator on board a 41 ft charter boat that Orange was renting for the morning along with 5 other boats. On board, one of the employee of Orange was from Martinique and we talked at length about Martinique and the life over there. He gave us a couple of advice as where to go search for job, how to find a cheap place to rent in case we need and so on. The skipper Oliver, who talked only Spanish, proposed to give us a ride to Orzola, at the North of the island, where we took the ferry to la Graciosa with the money we earned in the morning! Amongst the other translators were two Senegalese guys who spoke French, Spanish and English, one of them, Konte, tolds us something like that “Be nice to people around you and life will be nice to you”. We thought he might not be wrong and that was probably what happened to us this all day! With a banana smile we took the ferry, sailing along the huge cliffs at the North of Lanzarote (more than 600m high) and arrive in the evening in la Graciosa where we were welcomed by Ale and Marta (Rafa’s friends) with a beer in the cockpit of Oberon, our new home for the days to come… I’ll finish this post with a picture of the sky at sunset in the little harbour of la Graciosa;

Clouds on fire and the sweet feeling of being on a boat

To finish, have a look in the artistic corner page, there has been some changes. This post brings us up to the evening of the 25th October of our adventure, more stories to come about the events of these lasts days in la Graciosa.

Besos a todos

Looking for a boat to crew on?

Here is a list with all the websites we have been following:

FREE WEBSITES, usually you just have to register and then you are able to put your add and answer to crew requests:

PAYING WEBSITES, usually you pay the membership which lasts 3 or more months and can put your add/receive  requests:

It is in your hands to pay or not, we only paid for crewfinder and didn´t find anything concrete, but we were more lucky with the free ones.

Apart from that, don´t desperate and keep on looking, there is always someone looking for motivated crew!