For our first Atlantic crossing, we signed up for the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, which makes a stopover in Cape Verde. So our departure date was already given and there was no way back. We focused on optimal preparation and there was no time to think about whether we really want to get going or not.
Las Palmas on Gran Canaria is a good place to start across the Atlantic. Here you get everything, boat equipment and or provisioning. Almost every day we passed by the local ship chandler called “Rolnautic”. The staff are competent and the whole store is well prepared for the ARC. They also helped us to put our Spectra Watermaker into operation in a kind of private lesson.
ttention: With orders from abroad you have to be careful because you can get stuck at customs or at the local DHL station, as happened to our packet with spare parts for the autopilot. It would have been better to simply make the same order through Rolnautic.
The swimming pool of Club Varadero in the marina was worth gold for us. We were there almost every day and Nael learned diving and swimming during that time, but only with goggles and snorkel. The “S” pontoon was the ARC family boat’s pontoon. There was always some action. The Americans even organised a kids Halloween party. Nael also celebrated his 5th birthday. At the “S” pontoon you could also test your cutting tools to cut through our old shrouds. The hacksaw was surprisingly good, where as with the big wire cutter it was almost impossible for us.
On the 5th of November it was time to leave Las Palmas for the first leg to Mindelo. After a good start we sailed with the classic northeast winds between the islands where is the so called acceleration zone. We did our first 165 miles in 24 hours setting a new record for our Bajka.
Later we were caught by the calm which slowed us down, like the others. So we let the engine run for a few hours to finish before the time limit. That was probably the reason why we surprisingly could step on the top of the podium for the first leg. Because of this doldrums, we had only a half day trip on the island and a few hours on the beautiful beach with crystal clear water before the start to the next leg.
After three days in Mindelo there was the start of the second leg to the Caribbean. This would be the real Atlantic crossing with over 2000 nautical miles. Very light winds were predicted. A low pressure in the middle of the Atlantic disturbed the trade winds and we decided to take a route more southern than the rhumb line.
The light winds gave us time for fishing. After we caught three rather small fish, we hooked a bigger lure… And promptly a 15kg Mahi Mahi took a bite. But what to do now? Arek slowly pulled in the fish and killed him. Ela filleted the huge fish exactly as we learned from Jola. The whole spectacle lasted over an hour. The catch gave us three good meals.
The next day four beautiful orcas visited us. They played with our Bajka for one hour. Sometimes they were swimming so close that they touched our boat with their fins. Not only the kids were thrilled to experience this giant fish so close.
As expected the biggest challenge was the kids’ activity throughout the day, because we were already a bit tired from the night. Playing with Lego, plastic animals, reading booklets, watching movies or playing with a tablet was one thing, but the urge to move was the other. A rubber band for gymnastic exercises was a good thing for the kids. We attached it to the ceiling and the kids could sit in it and swing up and down. Lukas also built for the boys a ladder out of wooden sticks and ropes, which we installed on the foredeck.
After we reached half way of the Atlantic it felt like sailing “downhill”. The trade winds became a bit stronger. We sailed almost twice as fast as before and the hundred miles disappeared one by one. There were also more and more squalls. It was a change from the last few days that the wind suddenly increased by 10 knots and there was a brief rain shower. Now we understand the Minitransat sailors who try to sail in front of the squall as long as possible.
We had to adjust the sails from time to time, but we also had to adjust our new mobile solar cells about three times a day. But they gave more energy than the big panel on the back of the arch.
The amount of competition in the rally was just right for us. The first day with the start was exciting and then the atmosphere became more relaxed. It was fun to analyse the positions of the other boats every four hours and discuss the tactics. Our Iridium satellite phone was doing its work as expected. We even used it to be in sync with the other ARC+ family boats for instance for the group story, where every boat had to write chapter…
An Atlantic crossing is like a night sled ride. Up in the mountain restaurant you get on the sledge and after an hour you get down to the bottom station. There is no going back. In the flat parts you have to walk a bit and in the icy parts you are flying, yeah!
Although one day starts to look like another you’re never bored especially not with small kids. The daily work dominate the day: cooking, washing dishes, playing, changing the sail trim, sleeping.
Everything is a bit slower, because the boat is constantly rolling. One thing we would like to mention of course were the refreshing showers on the back of the boat, or the short moments where you can unpack the guitar or the keyboard. And suddenly you are in the Caribbean …