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Atlantic Virgins - Part 2: Departure from Las Palmas

Las Palmas, Canary Islands to Mindelo, Cape Verde

This was the first part of our crossing, 930 nautical Miles and 7 days. It was a great opportunity to test out our crew, our sails and our boat to see how it would all hold and work together. With a 4-5 day stop planned for at our destination then this would allow for any repairs, should they be needed, or the last opportunity for the weak at heart to jump ship..........

We have spent so much money on spare parts that we hope that there is nothing that was additionally needed that we had not forgotten about. A few years ago, we laughed when a blue water sailor said that he had over $50k in spare parts. Now we understand that this is actually not so unreasonable !

The checking and preventative measures are very important on a daily basis and knowing that there are no shops on the way.

We were very happy with the setup for the sails; requiring a pole to set the genoa sail on the windward side of the boat and a solid preventer on the boom for the main sail, on the leeward side of the boat. With this configuration, we can sail in a roughly downwind situation where the wind can be up to 150 deg. behind us. One sail is on one side and the other sail is on the other side – we call it wing on wing. The pole we bought 2 years ago in our enthusiasm will finally be used !

Our wind conditions could be described as “sporty” for this past of the passage, with a strength of 15 – 25 kts behind us. This gave us good speeds that resulted in a short passage time between the islands. The sea conditions were also quite rough, with waves from 2 different directions at the beginning.

This was probably the most uncomfortable part of the journey and where many bruises were acquired through the boat rolling at the wrong moment.

The temperature was lower than expected and hats, boots and coats were worn at the beginning.

We had fun with food preparation and have avocado stains in many unexpected locations. I think some genetically modified square fruit and veg would be greatly appreciated by many sailors! However, we need to make do with what we have and as a consequence, even the simplest tasks are complicated.

Once the food is prepared, it needs to be transferred to a plate, then to the table and then eaten. The moment you have a lapse in concentration or wish to add salt or pepper is the moment the boat lurches and your dinner ends up on the sofa , carpet or wall. Avocado splatter was our favourite !

Sleeping is also a challenge as the boat tends to roll you out of bed, making relaxation and sleep, difficult. We especially made some long body pillows that prevented the rolling from side to side. These, along with a good arrangement of other pillows helped to stabilise the body and allowed us to sleep. We all respond in different ways and some managed to sleep better than others.

For our trajectory, we listened to advice from various sources. I think we discovered that being present on the boat gave the best feeling as what needed to be done and it was not always helpful to have long distance advice. We have our “Predict Wind” weather forecasts that gave us weather updates every twelve hours. It was broadly correct, but detail was frequently inaccurate. Unfortunately the effects of Global Warming are being felt and guaranteed trade winds are no longer guaranteed.

You may think that sitting on a boat for more than a few days is boring, but we found that with all of our jobs, necessary surveillance, cooking, cleaning and sleeping there was never a moment to think, “Oh, I am bored, what can I do ?” We all found various ways of using our time.

We fished a little and caught a beautiful Mahe Mahe – a green iridescent fish (also known as a dolphin fish) . I am not sure how big or heavy the fish was, but they did feed 4 of us for 2 big meals (Jonathan is allergic to fish and we had steak for him in the freezer whenever a fish was caught).

There is something just so exciting about the sound of the reel when the fish takes the bait.

Getting the fish onboard was also quite a challenge – things on a moving boat are never easy. We have improved our technique since the video below, but we still have a lot to learn.

Shortly after the first fish we managed to catch an unfortunate sea bird that decided that our pink rubber squid was a tasty looking meal. Due to poor diving on the side of the bird, it missed getting the squid into its mouth (lucky for the bird) but it did manage to get the hook caught in the feathers of the wing.

We brought the poor bird into the boat, and Jonathan held the bird’s body and wings with sailing gloves on, keeping the sharp beak away from me whilst I unhooked the lure from the wing. With no visible blood, the bird flew away with no obvious side-effects from its (and our) ordeal.

We saw dolphins over several days. It was great to see them surfing on the big waves (like our boat) as they enjoyed the extra push of the swell. Generally, the swell was 2-3m high with a long period, so we would ride up the waves and then surf down them - as did the dolphins.

We did have one small "mishap" whilst sailing; the preventer on the boom had become loose and in a moment of inattention and a gust of wind from the wrong direction we made what is known as an "accidental gybe". Here the boom switched sides as high speed, fortunately causing no injury as nobody was near-by and the boom itself is quite high.

We had some damage to our outside life lines and one of the supports was significantly bent by the preventer line.

We were actually very pleased with suggestions on how to rig up and run preventer lines - a system that is now permanently in place for us. It was a shame that the accident happened, but it helped us to focus our attention to this potential problem and line tightness was regularly checked from this point on.

Entry into the Cape Verde was probably the point where we encountered the biggest waves as the ocean is funnelled between the islands. The islands also funnel the wind, so we had some wind gusts up to 25 kts, bringing the boat speed well above 8 kts.

Of course, nothing is simple to fix on a boat and we had to wait until arrival in Mindelo for the local boat yard to have a look and see what could be done. In the end the support that was damaged, needed to be cut off and a replacement part was manufactured and welded back into place.

Unfortunately, organisation and implementation of this took all of our spare time in Mindelo, so we were not able to spend time exploring the island. The final welding took place on the morning of our planned departure day, so the problem was fixed, just in time. However, another added benefit of the problem was that I saw how solid our life line support system is and how to take it all apart.

Our next leg, from Mindelo to Cap Verde is Part 3 of our Atlantic Virgins blog. Read on to see what happened next ..........

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