Atlantic crossing

To get from El Hierro (Canarias) to Marie Galante (French Antilles) it took us:

  • 2592 nautical miles, 19 days 3 hours and 20 minutes 
  • 6 mahi mahis, -9 fishing lures
  • 90 litres of tank water, 105 litres of bottled mineral water
  • 1 mayor breakage: the wind pilot
  • An infinite number of squalls (rainy and windy clouds)

We keep on learning about sailing on Cirrus, and overall we are very happy with her performance accross the Atlantic. Here are a few things we consider to have done right:

  • Not having a set date to leave, leaving when the conditions were good. The crew should not book their plane ticket in advance, so there is no pressure to have an arrival date either.
  • Fresh water is precious. Sea water can be used to wash the dishes, teeth, take showers, cook steamed veggies or bread and pasta/rice/lentils… (in proportion to fresh water) instead of using salt. We had the fresh water valve closed all the time and only opened it when needed. Like this we economised a lot.
  • Using the older sails instead of the new ones we bought this summer. With the wind and wave conditions we had, 20-30 knots from the back and 2,5-4 m waves, we almost never carried the full mainsail and we had the older jib poled out, sometimes reefed as well. We also tried having 2 jibs and no mainsail, which worked very well too. For this we used a second removable forestay and a block on the end of the boom.
  • Having got rid of as much wrapping as possible when we did the shopping. We followed the advice of our Norwegian friends from Aluminati for the rest of the plastic waste: wash it off with sea water and press it into a plastic bottle that can be closed. It can actually nbe pressed quite a lot and like that it doesn’t smell. We threw organic waste overboard.
  • The inReach is an amazing piece of equipment and we recommed it to anyone planning a long sailing trip offshore. People can seewhere you are and the messaging works perfectly well. 
  • Having brought foul weather gear. It is warm but it rains A LOT in the tropics…

And few things we have learnt for the next time:

  • Before leaving, check very well the autopilot and wind pilot. We knew ours had failed in the past but because we hadn’t had a problem yet during the trip we didn’t pay much attention to it. Luckily we were four on board and we helmed the boat by hand from day 6 of the crossing. Not so fun if we had been only two.
  • Eggs, cured cheese and cured meat keep well without a fridge for a very long time. The longest lasting veggies and fruits were potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, limes, ginger, peeled onions and garlic. We should have taken more fruit like oranges because we finished them during the first week. We had both yellow and green bananas but those riped quite early on the crossing. Our fresh herbs survived and added a touch to the food.
  • It is ten times better and cheaper to do the food and especially fruit and veg provisioning in the island of La Palma rather than in El Hierro.
  • We should have carried more lures and fishing gear as we lost all we had. Checking the fishing line regularly and putting a sound alarm on it helps.

    It has been an amazing crossing taking the most out of sailing our beautiful Cirrus. There have been many beautiful moments enjoying the small things, like celebraing being half way in New Years eve or having pancakes for breakfast. Having a routine on a boat that keeps on moving thanks to the individuals that form the team.


    And finally the magic moment of seeing La Desirade behind the rainbow after days of only seeing sea. 

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    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

    Vismara 52 “Dragon”

    Image

    Image

    Yacht specifications:

    • Length: 16 m
    • Width:4.20 m
    • Draft: 2.40 m (max 3.60 m)
    • Displacement: 10.6 t
    • Ballast: 4.7 t
    • Sail area: 154 sqm
    • Construction materials: carbon sandwich and vacuum epoxy resin
    • Custom designed by Vismara
    • Built by Baltic Yachts
    • Launched in March 2008

    In resume, design and comfort in a mediterranean style yacht.

    Among all the cool things it has a code zero, carbon mast with electric mainsail furler boom (!!!!), electric winches, hydraulic mainsheet, concealed anchor in the bottom of the hull.

    It looks like it is going to be an exhaustive sailing from Palma to Canarias…

    It also looks that there are many things which can break. We will just hope that doesn’t happen.