Greetings from a sunny Caribbean! We have come half way on our Atlantic Round and despite minor problems along the way, we have had a blast. The whole trip started early in September from Helsinki and my doubts about leaving late became horribly true. During the first two three days we got a fresh reminder how it can be north in autumn battling it out on the Baltic Sea. Still, the nights were magical and we got to see the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, flickering in the sky. Finally we saw a glimpse of better weather in Sweden and a promise of what was to come whence we got down to southern latitudes.
A short pit stop in Copenhagen gave us a nice break. And we explored some of the culinary treats around the Nyhavn district.
After changing our oil cooler and getting the engine to work properly we entered the Kiel Canal and leaped across the North Sea towards the English Channel. After a quick change of crew in Cherbourg we continued to head west, to find a place to do the jump across The Bay of Biscay. On our way we did the “lively” Alderney Race, had a fantastic seafood dinner at Roscoff and finally ended up in Brest, just in time to avoid a massiv low sweeping across Brittany.
One of great dinners along the way. Here, horsing around, at our favorite (and closest joint) in Cherbourg marina
Lots of weather led to lots of hand steering. The good thing was, it’s hard to hit anyone this time of year
Brest became very familiar (maybe too familiar some would say) during our wait for a decent weather window. We delved deep into the French psyche, training, among other activities, to speak English like a frenchman? By the time “a scotch” at the bar had turned to”ö scötch” we knew it was time to foxtrot – oscar and leave this secure harbour and head out to sea again.
We had a few problems, some worrying reports about Orca or Killer Whale attacks close to the coastline to Portugal and Spain. There was also a low developing further down the road, closer to the Galician coast. As we were already pressed on time, and we knew the boat could take the weather, we decided to grab the opportunity and head out on the Bay.
The second day we managed to rip the foresail. It was a beautiful day and we decided to fix it right away. The whole operation took a couple of hours. Later, a sailmaker had a look at the stitching and dryly said it’s good we are not working in an operation theatre.
The third day we started to feel the new wind coming in. It was a north easterly gale that was pushing us around the Cap Finisterre. Reefed down the boat still did around 10-14 knots and before we knew it we had arrived just 70 miles of Cascais, our destination. The last nail biter was us motoring exactly were there had been several Orca attacks during previous months. In the night we were plowing a long jet tail with luminous algae. It felt like serving oneself on a plate for these rudder crunching beasts.
Next morning, after avoiding all damn lobster pots and killer whales, we parked up outside immigration in Cascais. The hard bit was over and now, well in trade wind regions, we were expecting warm downwind legs all the way to the Caribbean. When humans make plans the gods laugh?
After a month’s stay it was time to go again. We had an almost completely new crew and everyone was eager to get going to Las Palmas. The forecast was consistently showing strong trades and we knew it was going to be a downhill ride past Morocco to the Canaries.
The wind register sometimes went up to over 30 kn and the boat was surfing along with top speeds exceeding 17 knots. After five days we finally saw the familiar silhouette of Gran Canaria and after passing through the large commercial harbour we parked up in the marina at the immigration pontoon. The long trip from Finland was over and it felt fantastic to wake up in the morning to a bright sunshine and a warm gentle breeze.
Finally we were at our main event sailing around the Atlantic, the ARC or the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers 2021. The chaotic pre start time was still somehow productive and the boat got provisioned etc. The matter of concern was the weather which didn’t want to play ball at all. We were looking at head winds, massive repetitive patches of calms or, alternatively, go for the northern route and end up In gale force winds.
We decided to head down south, go as close to the African Coast, and try to find some wind that would, at some point, take us west. The idea of not having much wind for the first 800 miles made us take extra fuel, water and provisions to last. We were preparing for the worst.
The first days confirmed our fears and at day three the boat was banging sails in complete dead calm, most of the crew decided to jump over board for a swim. This is a statistic marvel, the weather pattern for this period of time show the chance of no wind as a percent or two.
We carefully pushed further south, and at some point, between a calm south of the Verdes and north of us, we saw a possible wind tunnel develop. It was a long, thin patch of wind, not more than 50 miles wide, stretching straight west. We jumped on the opportunity and did a two day reach averaging around 8 knots when most of the other boats were motoring or standing still.
Our position in the race jumped from 9th to 3rd before corrected time and we knew we were in a good position.
When the trades eventually came back we knew we had a good chance to control the events for the rest of the race .. that is unless something would happen. Unfortunately it did.
After carefully pressing on with spinnaker and white sails in turns we suddenly lost our lower shroud. It came banging down in the middle of the night. Luckily no-one got hurt. After assessing the situation we rigged supporting dyneema and blocks, reinforced the mast through hull and flew only foresails. The strange advantage with flying only foresails was that we could rig a massive sun tent over the boat, improving our living conditions massively.
The rest of the trip was more or less playing around with foresails. Still, the boat kept a good pace with us doing up to 180 mile 24hr runs occasionally. As we got passed by several boats along the rest of the leg, we had no idea how we did in the race.
A few days after finishing we heard the news about us stealing the second place in class C. It was quite a surprise and the podium place was celebrated in a proper manner.
The festivities lasted long, meeting old and making new friends. After a couple days of broaching around we finally shaped up and started to put things right on the boat. A week later we had a new shroud replacing the old one to a horrendous price, still, and thanks to Ian Cowan at Island Water World, in time for us to go sailing on our Christmas holiday!
Now it’s time for some cruising in the Caribbean. We have a few trips going down to the Grenadines, a bit of racing in Antigua and then the crossing home. Not a bad setup and a nice start to 2022!