Let’s ask the Captain: How you did you like the Atlantic Crossing in a sailboat and what were your impressions?
In the first few days, I hardly knew an answer to the question and just said amazing or great. In the meantime (5 days later) I reflect a lot about the question and realize more and more what really makes the trip special for me.
Here is a first summary, but there is more to come: We decided to join the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers ) and that was a great decision. The route that we took was from Gran Canaria, an island off the west coast of Africa, directly to St Lucia in the Caribbean.
The ARC community is great and they are looking after each other on the way. In case you need help, you will get support and everyone will try to do what they can.
In addition there is a great preparation, handbook, online training, live events, a week of preparation in Las Palmas and finally a lot of parties. In case we would do it again, we would join the ARC again.
Las Palmas and the Canarian Islands: Don’t leave it to the last minute- the Islands are great and quite different.
Mooring fees are affordable. Sometimes it is not that easy to find a weather window in Gibraltar for your departure.
You can go directly, visit Marocco on the way or go via Madeira. We went directly which is approximately 600sm and we had a great trip. This was a great preparation for our crew and exposure to Atlantic sailing. We visited Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, La Gomera and Tenerife and stayed 4 weeks on the islands.
After a week of socializing, parties, training, pre-cooking, provisioning and getting Ambra ready the last 10 days went by rather quickly. Las Palmas is a perfect Marina, you have access to all the right infrastructure, perfect for provisioning and all services in the Marina.
We decided to rent an apartment to pre-cook our food for the crossing and have space to get everything organized. Our partners joined as well, which was great and the perfect farewell team.
The start was on the 20th of November. After we released our mooring lines in Las Palmas, it was an odd feeling to see land again on the other side of the Atlantic.
Sail cloth is the big question for an Atlantic Crossing and a big debate. We have our standard white sails, no cutterstay but a code zero and a parasail. Since we sail most of the times as a short handed crew, we do not have a spinnaker boom.
The dream was to set the Parasail in Las Palmas and take it down in St. Lucia. This was impossible this year and the weather became a challenge for all teams of the ARC fleet.
We started with a strong NE wind in Las Palmas exceeding 30knts and up to 4m waves. Our reefed main and jib worked very well and we clocked a lot of miles. White sails at night and in strong winds are easier to handle and you are able to reduce the sail area with a smaller team. The challenge in the second part of the trip was first no wind, than NW winds and unpredictable squalls. One night we were sailing with our Parasail, we had two small squalls and managed them without any problems. You can identify the squalls very good on the radar, direction and speed as well but the impact in terms of wind gust and rain is not predictable. The third squall that night was stronger than expected and we started to late to get the parasail down. The wind increased and it became difficult to pull the sock over this huge sail 244sqm. We managed to get the sail down, being all wet and relived.
So how was the crossing?
We are a team of 5 friends and knew each other for a long time. Andi, Andre, Tim, Thomas and myself were the team.
All of us had a different background and set of experience. Andi and Thomas were focused on cooking, given their excellent cooking skills that was the perfect match. Team spirit and camaraderie is so important.
To see the other person needs help or just do things even you are not in charge that day. Our team worked really well and we debriefed every night at dinner. We discussed our routines, what we can do better and the plan for next day.
Preparation is everything to enjoy the crossing. You need to know all the systems on board and should be able to fix all of it if possible. You need to decide which spare parts are critical and which once could potentially break.
Our crossing was not exactly a stable trade wind sailing trip due to the weather and wind. Daily processes and routines arise and make the day very entertaining and short. We only had 12 hours of daylight anyway. After dinner we started our nightly watch routine.
We shared the duty with 2,5h each and a rotating watch system. We all agreed on the schedule, it gives us enough sleep and let us enjoy the night at sea. With a crew of 4 we covered 10 hours. I was always on duty and supported the person on watch if needed. On average I got 8-10 times up each night for sail changes and to check systems on board if needed.
Ambra worked without any problems. Thank you again to Nautor Swan Global Service with all their excellent support and last minute help in Las Palmas. We used the genset in the morning to make coffee and to recharge the batteries.
The access capacity of the genset supported the water maker as well. The genset is very fuel efficient und quite as well, much better than clocking engine hours. The autopilot worked all the way and that was a great relieve for the entire team. Steering at night is not that easy particular in strong waves and wind.
Here are the highlights:
What comes to my mind is beautiful nights seeing a wonderful sky with all the stars. With all the lighting on land normally we can’t see so many stars.
Being decoupled from land and online internet access it was a great digital detox experience for all of us.
Unfortunately we did not see a lot of different under water life. However all the dolphins passing by made up for it. We caught one tuna and there was a lot of sargassum. The sargassum made it difficult to fish.
During the day we enjoyed the blue sky, clouds and clean air.
At lunch time we started to asked our chefs for the dinner menu.
Our main meal was dinner, before the night shifts.
We had a daily box in the kitchen for breakfast and lunch and helped ourselves.
⁃ Sailing with a 360 degree horizon day and night. After two days you hardly see any other sailing boat anymore, you are on your own.
⁃ Dolphins visiting us
⁃ No internet and social media
⁃ ARC Fleet update and news
⁃ Weather forecast and new weather routing, we used Predictwind with Iridium and that was perfect.
⁃ Swimming in the middle of the Atlantic
⁃ Taking a shower or bucket wash with sea water at the aft
⁃ In the beginning we saw illuminated plankton and jelly fish
⁃ Discovering the stars and read the clock with the stars (Stocky trick)
⁃ Following the moon from new moon to full moon light
⁃ Changing time zones 4 times, we changed every 15 degree longitude.
⁃ Party time on board first 1000sm, midpoint summit party we celebrated at 1450sm, last 1000sm. Due to our weather routing the overall distance we sailed was longer and therefore these are estimates.
⁃ Sending off our daily update to our friends and families.
⁃ No sea sickness on board of Ambra
⁃ Lee sails are great but after a while it is difficult to change position while sleeping
⁃ Noisy – given the speed and wind it was tough in the beginning to ignore all the bubbling noise.
⁃ The routine that kicks in and everything becomes easier on board.
Finally we discovered land in sight.
However, it took still quite a long time to get to St. Lucia and Rodney Bay.
We called the finishing line and then – what a surprise.
Our ladies came with a dinghy towards us – what a welcome and greeting. After crossing the finishing line we were so happy and welcomed our ladies on board of Ambra. This was great and we will never forget these moments.
When we entered the marina all boats pushed their horns and saluted us. What an experience – we are thankful, nature is so wonderful, we need to protect it. Our oceans are so big – we feel to humble being a small piece in the middle of nowhere.
This was a longtime dream which became reality. We all do not want to miss it and would do it again. More to come… Torsten