Leg 8, 2001: Atlantic Crossing; Canary Islands to Antigua
After our quick haulout and bottom paint at Puerto Calero, Amanda and I only had a day to do the dry goods provisioning for Leg 8 and organize our
first ever mid-season trip home. We worked hard preparing Mahina Tiare for two weeks of absence and packing winter clothes, books and charts no
longer needed aboard.
It was a relief to finally be in the air and a spectacular view unfolded as the flight into Seattle came over the Cascade mountains. Snow-capped Olympic
mountains, sparkling Lake Washington and Puget Sound were complimented with a colorful sail boat race off Tacoma. On the 2hr. drive north to catch
the San Juan Islands ferry in Anacortes, we passed U-Pick pumpkin fields, filled with families selecting their Halloween pumpkins to carve into
jack-o-lanterns and the snow capped Mt Pilchuck and Mt Rainier. I usually sleep or read through the 1.5 hour ferry ride through the San Juans but it
now seemed new and beautiful as the ferry dodged between evergreen-clad islands, passing an occasional sail or fishing boat.
With the summer tourist season long past, our town of Friday Harbor, population 1,200 felt as friendly and unique as ever. One unforgettable highlight
was skipping out of our office to watch the annual Halloween Parade. Bill Cummings, our sheriff, blocks off Spring Street, the main street which leads
up from the ferry dock, and all the children from preschool and elementary school walk the entire length of town and back, dressed in incredibly
creative costumes, some of them accompanied by parents also in costume. This years theme was book characters, and many of the children carried the
book with them that their characters came from. Megan Wilson, daughter of our webmistress Suzy Wilson went dressed as a bride and thought the
parade was a lot of fun. Hundreds of folks lined the streets, cheering the kids as they walked by.
Suzy and daughter Megan in Halloween parade
My little friend Graham as a polar bear
After being away for six months, it's a treat to be able to go out to lunch with friends Tracy and Mark McClintock who manage our office while we're
at sea and to catch up with friends around town, to be able to do our favorite shoreline run from our condo at Roche Harbor and to grab sushi to go for
a picnic on Jackson Beach, five minutes from our office. For Amanda, being able to go to dance classes and swim laps in the pool were highlights.
Before we knew it we were back in the air and after three flights, landing at Lanzarote. We found MT safe and sound, but covered in red dust from the
Sahara, 60 miles away. With a half-day to unpack and clean and a day to provision and stow, we were ready for Leg 8 crew who arrived on Sunday.
We started orientation at noon, shared a tasty dinner at one of Puerto Calero's outdoor restaurants and cleared customs and departed Monday noon.
Departing at the same time were Tad and Joyce Lhamon on their handsome and fast Alden 44, Lyric, from Bainbridge Island, near Seattle. They will
be joining us for our informal race across the Atlantic. We both set sail for Las Palmas, Gran Canaria Island where we planned to pick up another boat,
Alegria. We mentioned Tania and Marcel before Leg 1 this year. They have sailed on two expeditions aboard Mahina Tiare, coastal N.Z and Hawaii
to Canada, and now are making their first ocean passage on their new HR 42 which they were taking delivery of when we were relaunching MT in
Sometime after midnight we heard a commotion in the cockpit and Ted shouted, "The genoa is in the water!!!" Expedition members worked as a team,
dragging the sodden sail back on deck, discovering that the snap shackle on the head swivel had parted. Ted said the sail made a zzzzuut sound as it
slide out the track into the water. The sail was fine and although it was pitch dark and fairly rolly, Amanda was into her climbing harness and up to the
masthead in minutes, retrieving the swivel. We had heard of this happening our friend Chris Brown's Furlex so we had purchased a spare snap four
years ago. Within an hour we had the sail back up and were sailing nicely. We had to slow down slightly so we wouldn't arrive at the busy Las Palmas
harbor before dawn, then stopped at the marina to top up fuel and water and to see the 230 ARC (Atlantic Race for Cruisers) boats which packed the
1200 berth harbor to overflowing. We looked for our friend Jimmy Cornell's (founder of the ARC and speaker at our Weekend Seminars) boat, but
didn't see it.
We met up with Alegria who were anchored off the marina and visited for while to discuss our Atlantic crossing tactics before all setting sail together.
As we sailed around Gran Canaria we were amazed at the large number of holiday flats and construction cranes dotting the horizon. The island looked
quite dry and overbuilt.
November 15, 2001 2020 23.55N, 19.20W Log: 49,777 2,423 miles to Antigua Baro: 1017+
Broad reaching with full sail and whisker pole at 5.5 kts in 9kt NE winds
In the 2.5 days since we left Las Palmas, we have had a few good sails, but much of the time the winds have been in the 4-7 kt range and we have
elected to power to get south of 20N as fast as possible to find the trades. The seas have been calm and after a cool first night, the temperature has
continued to rise and now here at the chart table it's 81F. Highlights of the passage so far has been sailing alongside Alegria and Lyric for the first day
and passing two French boats en route to the Cape Verde Islands. We have also enjoyed afternoon swims and today we sailed through a pod of
spinner dolphins. We nearly had fresh (instead of frozen) fish for dinner as two bluegold mahi were close to taking a small fish hooked on one of the
lines. At least now we know that there are some good fish to be landed.
Here's our Leg 8 Atlantic Crossing crew:
Karen Eaton, 56 is a physician assistant who coordinates an annual volunteer medical mission to treat the indigenous people of Guatemala. She and
her husband Jerry (who will be meeting her in Antigua) moved to the San Francisco Bay area four years ago where they enjoy sailing their Sabre 34.
November 22, 2001, Thanksgiving Day, 0100 18.18N, 32.41W Log: 50,639
Wojtek Miszczak, 46 moved from Poland to New York City about 20 years ago. Now he and a business partner own a construction company
specializing in remodeling top end residential flats and homes. His friend, Nicole will be meeting him in Antigua for a holiday.
Brian Anderson, 51 recently moved to Saudi Arabia where his wife, Barbara Robertson works as a physician. Originally from Vancouver, Canada
where he was an IT business consultant, Brian is counting down the months (14 to go!) until he and Barbara take delivery of a new Hallberg-Rassy 39
at the yard in Sweden for a leisurely sail to the South Pacific. Brian is looking forward to five days exploring and relaxing on Antigua with Barbara
before she joins us on Leg 9 to Panama.
Ted Lavino, 41 is a network administrator in Silicon Valley who enjoys sailing on San Francisco Bay with Club Nautique's boats every chance he can
get! Clare, the love of his life would have liked to join him on this passage if there had been a berth available earlier.
Joe Wells, 32 is a programmer for Intuit and one of those wild windsurfers who you see screaming across San Francisco Bay in 45 knots of wind. He
is such a keen windsurfer that when applying for his current job he negotiated the ability to leave work whenever high winds and seas call him! He
actually subscribes to a pager and surf forecast system that tells him several days ahead what days to take off from work to windsurf. His wife, Danielle
is mellow about this and they enjoy racing their J-24 and Vanguard 15 together on SF Bay and chartering in different tropical locations each year. Oh,
and he plays guitar in a rock band whose lead singer is a rocket scientist from Stanford Univ.
Mark Allison, whose great sense of humor and good energy we enjoyed on Leg 7 was not able to join us on this leg because of last minute business
Las Palmas Marina, Grand Canaries where we stopped for fuel and to meet Alegria
Broadreaching at 5-6kts in 10-13kt E winds, Baro: 1015, Cabin Temp: 81F
1673 miles to Antigua (out of 3,025 total)
November 24, 2001, 1900 17.50N, 39.04W, Log: 51,003 Baro: 1010
First night sail handling orientation
Sunny days and starry balmy nights have been passing quickly, one blending into the next. Highlights have been afternoon swim stops and smooth and steady sailing, although weather forecasts have consistently said we should be having less wind than we have.
Mid Atlantic swimming
It's been days since we had to motor because of lack of wind and we've been averaging 150 miles per day, even in light winds. Amanda has landed two magnificent mahi mahi, and we look forward to more. We haven't seen a single vessel since we made our turn to the west, about five days ago, but we've birds, flying fish and meteor showers to keep us company.
Our teaching schedule is on target and on three-week expeditions we can really go into more depth in every topic. Yesterday Amanda and crew stripped, cleaned and greased two winches. I always cringe when I see many small winch pieces spread out on newspaper while we are rolling along downwind, but in seven years of doing this, Amanda has never lost or even dropped a single part - since our first date.
We have been planning a Thanksgiving Day and halfway celebration for some time and Amanda has a yummy chicken, mashed potatoes and vegetable dinner in the works. A generous crewmember brought a pumpkin bread mix and pumpkin & pecan butter spread that we have been saving, and hiding in the freezer are some decadent chocolate cookies
Thanksgiving dinner in the cockpit
Things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving:
2. A pleasant and interesting crew
3. An exotic tropical landfall ahead
4. Mahina Tiare who has carried us safely and in comfort for over 50,000 miles
5. Tracy McClintock back in Friday Harbor who keeps our office in perfect order
6. Wonderful friends all over the world
Motorsailing at 6kts on a direct course for Antigua, 1309 miles away with 4-5kt SE winds
After 12 years of arriving on time, it looks like we will arrive later than Sunday noon at Jolly Harbour, Antigua. Strange weather patterns have stopped the tradewinds the width of the Atlantic. Although we sail every chance we can, we've used a fair amount of fuel and have only enough left for 4-5 days. The forecasts from our friend Leon Schulz in Sweden (taken off various internet sites) call for 10-15knots for several days, starting tomorrow. This is far more encouraging than Commanders' Weather's update yesterday that stated, "Confidence in this wind forecast is low, computer models aren't handling the light wind situation very well."
Passing our fourth sailboat
This morning we passed our fourth sailboat, a handsome French aluminum 13 meter design, a sistership to Jimmy Cornell's boat and yesterday we chatted with a Prout 38 catamaran, also on it's way to Antigua. It is exciting to see and speak over the radio with other yachts. Each evening we exchange positions and brainteasers with our friends on Lyric and Alegria, and chat about our days. Alegria has just celebrated half-way with homemade ice cream, Lyric cooked a duck for Thanksgiving and we are on our 6th method of preparing a very chunky tuna caught yesterday....tonight we perfected Key West spiced seared tuna steaks.
December 3, 2001 0210 16.55N, 61.36 W, Log: 52,273 miles Broad reaching at 6kts in 12kt winds, 27
miles to Jolly Harbour, Antigua!
The trades did fill in, shortly after I wrote the last update, and we've had some spectacular sailing.
Karen at the helm in a dramatic tropical squall
Karen won't ever forget her first tropical squall with full sail up in 34 knots of wind and driving rain, and in an effort to top Amanda's 10.2 knots, I kept full sail up (downwind) in a squall that hit 49 knots. I also tried to maintain our V.M.G speed and needless to say wiped out, harmlessly rounding up while Amanda laughed! We have driven MT harder than usual, not reefing as early as we usually do, in an effort to make up time. It's worked and our daily runs have been between 150 and 170 miles with little motoring. The winds have been easterly, dictating frequent downwind gybes. It has been gratifying to watch this crew improve their helming skills until they automatically react to large and sloppy swells and score great high speed surfing action. Brian who with his wife Barbara (joining us on Leg 9) take delivery of a new Hallberg-Rassy 39 in Sweden in 14 months has been interesting for us to watch as he notes down every tip he sees including trying his hand a bread making.
Brain the master baker
Another avid note maker is Karen; she's also continually practicing everything from running the preventer to splicing and knots. I'll bet she and Jerry go cruising soon!
Joe (hotshot windsurfer and J-24 sailboat racer on SF Bay) related to me last night how he came prepared with several arguments to get us to turn the autopilot off so he could handsteer (This guy LOVES sailing). What a surprise he got as WE NEVER USE THE AUTOPILOT. Handsteering and standing (literally) watch is a long tradition in sail-training. We have met and interviewed too many cruisers who never handsteer and thus have little endurance or skill at this when heavy weather conditions dictate helming.
A treat was Joe spotting a 6.5' long (2 meter) swordfish and pulling it in, hand over hand. We've enjoyed two great meals out of that fish, with two more in the freezer.
Joe and a BIG fish
Just an hour ago Wojtek excitedly said, "Those lights ahead aren't a ship, they must be on land!" Sure enough, the radar confirmed the outline of land ahead. We have set a very conservative course, keeping us at least four miles off from the nearest dangers as we skirt the south side of Antigua. Our goal is to be at the channel entrance to Jolly Harbour Marina an hour after sunrise. Our new British Admiralty chart doesn't quite agree with the Imray electronic chart or Chris Doyle's cruising guide, so we will be very cautious on entering.
At one point it had looked like we might have been days late on arrival, but the return of the trades mean that we will only be about 20 hrs late. Phew. Thank goodness nobody onboard is unduly anxious about onward travel or vacation arrangements with partners but we're all looking forward to being treated to shore side delights with the ever-popular ice cream high on the priority list.
Crew take delight in this sign!
December 7, 2001 Tied up at Jolly Harbour, Last Night to GET READY for Leg 9!
Wow, what a blur the past five days have been! We had to slow down so not to arrive at Jolly Harbour's tricky entrance before dawn. As we found our way to the customs dock we were met by a marina employee who helped us tie up. The immigration officer was a couple hours late, but our crew were cool, realizing we had now switched to"Island Time. Wojtek's friend Nicole, Brian's wife Barbara and Karen's husband Jerry met us while we were waiting and once cleared in signed off we had a great ice cream treat, thanks to Wojtek whose ETA estimate was closest.
Normally we allow a week to "turn the boat around", cleaning, repairing, fueling, provisioning and answering mail, but this time we've only four days. The best part for us has been Jolly Harbour. Amanda is in seventh heaven in the sparkling � size olympic pool next to the boat. She swims morning and night and there's no way I can persuade her to join me for a run on the powdered sugar white sand beach past the pool.
We have been blessed with so few repairs in MT's 52,000 miles and five years. Things changed this trip! The watermaker started putting out salty water for the first time in 1,000 hours of service. Getting it fixed entailed numerous emails and calls to PUR in Minneapolis (super helpful) and two 1.5 hr round trips by rental car to English Harbour where Julian at Watermaker Services was able to bench test then replace the membrane. We were amazed and delighted that he had a replacement membrane in stock. Tonight I reinstalled the membrane housing, changed the oil and tidied the engine room.
Another item on our fix it list is the 12V alternator which would not switch on unless I whacked the casing with a big hammer. Brian and I replaced it with the spare and have it working although the wiring is different. I was thinking of having it fixed here but car wreckers roadside yard we were recommended looked a little to funky for us, we'll wait until Panama.
Last repair job is our center-opening windscreen. Left open during a gybe it was torn off by loose hanging lazy jacks. We are now looking for small rivets to reattach the hinge.
Tomorrow crew arrive at noon and we're looking forward to taking them to the pool following orientation and then to dinner the neat outdoor Italian restaurant on the dock.
Oh, I forgot to mention! Tania and Marcel on Alegria, the HR 42 we left Las Palmas with arrived yesterday, having made excellent time; up to 170 miles per day. We just had Dutch Christmas treats with them tonight and their crewmember Paul. We are very proud of Tania and Marcel. From the first time they sailed down the coast of New Zealand with us four years ago, to crossing the North Pacific from Hawaii to BC, they've learned and grown so much! Tania, who wasn't so sure about this cruising idea in the beginning just said tonight that in some ways she didn't want the passage to end. Personally, I was glad to see the rugged outline of Antigua a few days back.
Welcoming Alegria to Jolly Harbor