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Lanzarote, Canaries; Antigua

Leg 7-2009

Update 1

November 12, 2008, 2130 hrs, 26.35 N, 018.30 W, Log: 120,514 miles
Broad reaching SSW at 6.5 kts in WSW 20-28 kt gusty winds, tons of stars!
Baro: 1020.2, Cabin Temp: 75F , cockpit  69F

Surfing Along the Coast of Africa!

Just 120 miles to our east is the coast of Mauritania and 160 miles astern are the Canary Islands.

We really enjoyed our two month mid-season break, got all caught up in the office and had some good kayaking adventures, but we also looked forward to getting back aboard Mahina Tiare and setting sail again.

For months I was concerned as to whether or not the airlines would allow us to check our 82lb new genoa, and whether it would make it safely to Lanzarote Island, but it did, and it was a joy to hoist it and see that it set perfectly. Thank you Carol Hasse and Port Townsend Sails for doing a great job! Let’s see if we can get 45,000 miles out of this sail as we did the last.

Marina Rubicon

MT new headsail

We arrived in Lanzarote at 12:30 PM last Wednesday and by 4:30 that afternoon the Marina Rubicon Travelift gently lowered MT back in the water. We had help from Jim and Katie Thomsen, Leg 1-07 expedition members who had just recently sailed from the Med to Lanzarote. We enjoyed being on the same dock, sharing a dinner ashore and hearing of their many adventures aboard their lovely new HR 40 which we have been following on

Katie and Jim Thomsen

Mary-Ann secures the preventer

Landing a tuna

We worked long hours getting MT ready for the crossing, making three provisioning trips to various supermarkets, bending the sails on, servicing the engine, putting a coat of varnish on the cap rails. There was time for some intriguing runs along the rugged coast, swims every afternoon in the marina pool and meeting lots of cruisers heading for Las Palmas, Gran Canaria for the start of the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). At one time on K dock there were three Hallberg-Rassy 40’s, three 46’s, a new 48 and an old 49.

Believe it or not, we were actually ready for our Leg 7 crew early, and just at noon when they showed up, the marina inflatable zoomed over and said the box of new carpets and spare parts we had been trying to locate for several days had arrived in the office, so we wouldn’t be held up.

Porto Mogan quayside


Leg 7 Crew John P, Bill, Bob, Will, John C, Mary-Ann



Our waiter demonstrates our bread seasoning



JP hoping we land something bigger


Shortly thereafter we were underway to anchor of dramatic, curving Playa Papagayo for lunch and safety orientation, before setting sail on the 120 mile passage to Porto Mogan on Gran Canaria Island.

Monday night brought a nearly-full moon, some nice sailing before the wind dropped off and a fair amount of traffic. Tuesday Mary-Ann landed a nice tuna as we surfed along the coast of Gran Canaria, arriving at Porto Mogan in late afternoon. We had read that as this was one of the most popular marinas in the Canaries there would be little chance of finding a berth, so we stopped at the fuel dock, topped off with a few gallons of fuel and asked the office if we might use a berth for a couple hours while we stopped for a dinner ashore. They assigned us a berth that looked like a 30’ boat might squeeze in, so we thanked them, anchored off, and dinghied ashore checked out the neat architecture and enjoyed an incredible bon voyage dinner at a marina-side traditional Canarian restaurant.

Once we were clear of the wind shadow of the island, the winds quickly filled in to the 25-32 kt range, and the seas were crossed and choppy.

Today we covered use of radar and AIS but didn’t go further as a couple expedition members are dealing with occasional seasickness.

November 17, 2008, 0630 hrs, 22.07 N, 029.08 W, Log: 121,205 miles
Broad reaching W at 7.5 – 8.5 kts in SE 18-22 kt steady winds and fairly calm seas!
Baro: 1012.1, Cabin Temp: 79 , cockpit  74F

After the last update our winds increased, gusting to 38 kts and the steep short seas provided a rolly and bumpy ride but some great spurts of surfing. As we expected from the forecasts, the winds gradually moderated down to the 6-9 knot range and we had to motorsail some, filling water tanks and batteries. Sunday morning with a steady 8-11 kts we set the cruising spinnaker and enjoyed some nice flat water sailing until the wind tapered off in the afternoon, so it was back to motorsailing. By 2000 last night the winds filled in from the SE (instead of the ENE) at 14 kts, and it didn’t take us long to shut the engine down and unroll the rest of the genoa, and we were off on another great sail! All night the winds (and our boat speed) have gradually increased until now we are having one sweet sail.

Saturday we had our first mid-ocean swim after shortening sail and heaving-to. Our expedition members are always a little hesitant about diving in at first, (“How deep did you say it is here?”) but once they were in the amazingly-warm water, it was hard to get them out so we could get under way again. When I asked if they wanted to stop for a swim or just have showers on the aft deck this afternoon, they all shouted “SWIM!” so we enjoyed another stop, with Bob sponging down the exhaust from the transom.

Everyone is long over seasickness and the conditions have been mellow so we have really been concentrating on class every morning after breakfast. This crew is particularly interested in marine weather, and this morning they are going to be amazed at the dynamics shown on the 0000 UTC weatherfax chart, with several systems moving over 600 miles in 24 hours. Overall, we should have some squally and unsettled conditions as a trough passes north of us, followed by some great tradewind conditions.

We have an unusually helpful and keen crew this leg. When Amanda dug out some old epoxy plugs in the teak decks (the teak plugs I had epoxied into place years earlier had worn down, leaving brown epoxy showing) William offered to help drilling out the holes and setting new plugs in with polyurethane glue. As he and his wife Lara just bought a 1983 Hallberg-Rassy 38, he was particularly interested in learning my techniques of replacing deck plugs.

When it was time to transfer fuel from jerry jugs to the main tank, Bill and Bob were ready and patient as we carefully topped up the main tank, filtering as we transferred the fuel. During dinner last night someone asked, “Do your crews always get along as well as this?” and that made us recall how many emails and pictures we receive from past expedition members who, after the expedition, get together to crew for each other, to race and even to ski together!

We haven’t seen a single vessel since we left the Canaries, not even a distant AIS signature of one. Mary-Ann, who it turns out used to go sport fishing with her family, constantly checks our lines and has brought in two small mahi mahi which we have released. We are seeing a few more flying fish each day, so it’s just a matter of time until we start landing some serious fish!

Here’s our happy Leg 7 crew:

Bill Knight, 54
I run a free legal aid clinic in Michigan’s “thumb” area and enjoy sailing and camping with our 16’ Hobie Cat with my family. In 1995 I sailed around Cape Horn with aboard Mahina Tiare II and I felt this was the best possible way right now for me to fulfill my dream of an Atlantic crossing. I’m looking forward to cruising the Great Lakes with my wife, Karen in the future, and to having Karen and our daughters Erin and Jillian meet me when we arrive in Antigua.

Mary-Ann Cogan, 56
I was the human resources director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and had to quit my job in order to join this expedition. That’s a decision I don’t regret five days into this Atlantic crossing! My husband John and I recently took delivery of a new Hylas 49, “Old Moon” which we hope to take offshore in 2009-2010. With only eight years of sailing experience (my first date with John was my initiation to sailing) I was excited aboard all the skill sand new confidence I could gain from this expedition, and I haven’t been disappointed!

John Cogan, 62
I’m a retired human resources executive who has enjoyed sailing out of Ventura, California for 15 years. We brought our new Hylas 49 back from Mexico this April and intend to go cruising this year or next. As I write this, we are 600 miles into our 2900 mile passage and the actual experience is beyond anything I could have imagined!

Robert Binkley, 64
I like in a small town in Ontario, Canada (Walkerton) where I recently sold my insurance business and farm. I’ve built five boats from 8’-26’ and sailed the Great Lakes on the Contessa 26’ sloop I built from a kit. I’ve sailed in Florida and chartered in the BVI’s and I’ve got the sailing bug real bad so my wife Cindy and I hope to buy an Island Packet 40 and sail the Caribbean. (Bob and Cindy’s first grandchild arrived just weeks before he joined us, and he is proudly showing around pictures of his grandson!)

Bill Calfee, 50
I am an energy use consultant from Dorset, Vermont and I have dreamt of ocean sailing since I was nine. We have bareboat chartered for years and my wife Lara and I recently bought an HR 38 which we have on Lake Champlain. We are outfitting it to go offshore September 18, 2009. I am aboard MT to gain the ocean sailing skills needed to take my wife and three kids to sea and to give confidence to those who think we are crazy to adopt the cruising lifestyle.

John Peterson, 52
Who am I? I am a property manager from Louisville, Kentucky and I have a Hylas 49 named Windhorse that is currently stored ashore in Trinidad.  Our family (we have a son and daughter) have been sailing together for eight years, at times as live-aboards in the Caribbean while home schooling our children. We have suspended our cruising plans temporarily so our children could complete high school ashore. I have a fair amount of time offshore, but always wanted to meet and learn from John and Amanda and do a trans-Atlantic passage, so here I am!


Leg 7-2009  Update 2

November 26, 2008, 0700 hrs, 18.13 N, 052.30 W, Log: 122,568 miles
Close hauled at 6.5 kts in 9.5 kt shifty winds, a brilliant morning!
Baro: 1020.2, Cabin Temp: 80F, cockpit  75F

We have just 542 miles to Antigua, but no one mentions that or seems in a hurry for the passage to end. In my mind, and Amanda’s, that shows a crew in tune with the moment and enjoying the passage.

Yesterday was an exciting day for sailing and ship traffic.  After nearly a week of light winds that saw us frequently under cruising spinnaker or motorsailing more often than we would have liked, we passed the southern tip of a weak cold front and the winds swung around to the north. Away we went, occasionally touching 8 kts in winds between 8 – 14 kts. We have only experienced a couple of minor squalls with drizzles, but no tropical downpours or erratic winds, and there is no tropical hurricane activity anywhere in the Atlantic basin.

Crew sew a new dinghy anchor bag

Will checking the spinnaker downhaul

JC taking a noon site

We have had a fairly steady stream of mega yachts in the 150’-200’ range passing us within AIS range and have chatted to several, all headed to the Antigua Charter Boat Show, but yesterday morning we were really in for a surprise!

An AIS signal identified Super Servant 4 as coming up astern of us, enroute to Martinique with a CPA (closest point of approach) of under one mile. I recognized, by the name, that this was one of Dockwise Yacht Transport’s semi-submersible ships that deliver yachts worldwide. I gave them a call asking if they could maintain their course

Here comes Super Servant

and round in circles she goes!

which would have them passing close by us, so we could take photos for our seminars. They agreed, and as they passed, the crews of many of the yachts stopped their polishing and cleaning to wave. The captain gave a super long toot on the horn and had someone run up their company flags after they noticed Amanda’s battle flags flying. Amanda was thrilled to note that one of the mega yachts at the stern was trailing a fishing line. We waved goodbye……or so we thought!

As the huge Super Servant 4 passed they started a sharp turn across our bow. I called the skipper back and thanked him for cruising by close enough for pictures and he said, “We’re just going to take a turn around you so we can check you out again!” I asked if they would like to stop and come over for lunch and he responded with a laughed, asking “What’s for lunch?” The usual fresh caught fish I replied. We watched in awe as the 480’ ship made a huge circle around us and came up on our other side. This time we noticed the crew of one of the yachts holding up their large Cook Island flag! Amanda grabbed ours and waved it around, streaking up to the bow for a “Titanic Moment”. What’s the chance of having another Rarotonga-registered vessel pass us in the middle of the Atlantic!

Mary-Ann’s Thanksgiving mahi

Thanksgiving mojo mahi

Early this morning we picked up the signal of the 294’ Lauren L yacht coming up astern, her transmitting destination Antigua. I contacted them and told them they would be passing close abeam of us, and asked if they had us on radar. After a few minutes they found us. An hour later, the captain called back, curious to know how many people we were onboard, how much of the time we had been able to sail, etc. In reply to his question he relayed that their ship had originally been built in Germany as a 40 passenger ship but had been converted to a yacht. They invited us to come aboard during the boat show in Antigua, and we invited them to visit us in Jolly Harbor.

We’re right on track with our teaching schedule thanks to the mellow sea conditions. Yesterday Amanda taught stripping, cleaning and rebuilding winches, and as if right on que, the spinnaker winch had started squeaking and become quite stiff, so it also got a thorough strip down and lubrication as well as a large primary winch. This is a very keen and sharp crew, they’ve requested numerous trimming lectures, perfected turks heads (except J.P) and set two records in Amanda’s knot-tying competition in which she …..opps can’t give away her secret test.

The smooth clear sunny conditions also meant that over the past two days Bill C and I were able work on the decks. In addition to digging out old teak plugs that were glued in with epoxy (and now have hard epoxy exposed as teak has worn away) we’ve been working on the starboard forward deck. Over the years the seawater across the decks wears down the teak, but not the rubber. For maintenance it’s best to strip out the deck caulking and sand the area to keep the deck flat and free of ridges. Recaulking the decks with a low concave seams makes it like new again, as when the rubber is old and raised it tends to get rolled out with sideways foot pressure. Now I’m hoping that as the wind moves aft (NE) I’ll be able to tape and recaulk the section we’ve prepared.

Fishing was good a few days back with three fair-sized wahoo (Spanish mackerel) landed, but we are ready for more today or perhaps a tuna!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!


Leg 7-2009  Update 3

November 29, 2008, 2020 hrs, 17.03 N, 061.31 W, Log: 123,096 miles
Wing and wing downwind, sailing at 6.4 kts in 13kt ENE winds
Baro: 1013.9, Cabin Temp: 82F, cockpit  75F

Lights and Landfall Ahead!

A couple hours before sunset Will sighted Antigua on the horizon and just before dinner we enjoyed a spectacular sunset with the silhouette of the island to starboard. Now, two hours later, the closest point of land is six miles away and we have lights visible along the shoreline including a few inland.

Crew work on landfall navigation

Poling out the headsail

How many guys does it take to lubricate the pole car?

20 Amanda teaches cardinal marks

Sunset beside Antigua on our final hours at sea


The past few days have had very mellow sailing conditions but we’ve managed to sail 135-145 miles per day with a little motoring when the breeze was light.

No one is in a hurry for the expedition to end. At dinner, someone commented that none of us have said, “I can’t wait to get to land so I can…” other than a couple of the guys who have mentioned looking forward to sampling a cold local brew after landfall.

This has been our best crew in years for story telling! Last year Amanda added Storyteller to our daily duty roster of chores, and this crew has taken story telling to the limit. Stories last much of the day and into night watches. Tonight JC told of how, during the depression in Boston in the 1930’s, his father who was an accountant was given a diner in lieu of payment from one of his clients. The aluminum retro diner is now inside a collector firehouse. John also told of how his quiet and timid father was hauled to jail by the local police for John’s non-payment of dozens of parking tickets during his college days.

Will came through with another slice of daily life in Dorset, Vermont. This story was of a heavy equipment operator who had forgotten a ten year old promise to take his sons cruising around the Atlantic once the oldest one graduated from high school. Bob (his nickname is now BINK) has told dozens of stories of moose, bear and pheasant hunting and fishing in the wilds of Ontario, and JP regaled us early this afternoon with stories of he and his wife spending up to two months at a time hiking and climbing in Nepal.

Our current ETA at the entrance of Jolly Harbour is about 0200 tomorrow morning. JP took his Hylas 49 into the anchorage at the entrance to Jolly Harbour two years ago at last light and if conditions remain mellow, we may carry on to that anchorage instead of heaving-to offshore to wait for daylight.

This passage has been so much mellower than in 2001 where we had many intense squalls with cloudbursts, thunder, lightning and winds well into the 40’s. Believe it or not, the highest wind our instruments have recorded since leaving the Canaries is just 20 knots, and we’ve only gotten a couple of light rain showers.

We just passed English Harbour with all of its lights and a mega-yacht ketch anchored off the entrance with both its masts illuminated. We are now partially in the lee of the island and the seas are flat. There is the hint of the smell of land in the air. We just gybed the main over and took the pole down and are still gliding along smoothly at 5-6 kts. There is tons of bioluminescence in the water and I just spent several minutes standing on the mast pulpit, watching the bow slice through the calm water. It feels like we are suspended in time.

November 30, 2008, 1200 hrs, 17.04 N, 061.53 W, Log: 123,127 miles
Moored, slip C-25, Jolly Harbour Marina

We Made IT!

Our navigators did an excellent job – the lighted Jolly Harbour channel entrance buoy was exactly at our final GPS waypoint and although we could have joined four cruising yachts anchored there, we followed a large charter cat into the channel and then JP directed through the just slightly confusing myriad of channels that make up the waterfront development part of Jolly Harbour. The marina is at the furthest end of the channel and Bink did a perfect job of helming, avoiding docks and unlit marks, to land us at the customs dock. It was deadly quiet and still once we shut the engine off, and when Amanda and I went to bed our crew were all up on deck, taking in the fact that we had stopped.

Early in the morning everyone was up, tidying the boat for customs, although we didn’t really expect to be able to clear in on a Sunday. Imagine our surprise (and pleasure) when a woman from immigration popped by to say that all three offices (customs, immigration and port control) would be open by 9AM!

Clearing in was a breeze. Each of the officials was courteous and polite. We were surprised to see two pictures of Barak Obama posted in the customs office and to learn Antigua’s Prime Minister had just renamed the highest mountain on the island after the US president-elect!

William, Jolly Harbour’s Harbourmaster dropped by before we had completed clearance to welcome us to the marina, directing us to the fuel dock and telling us he would help us moor stern-to once we had fueled. The diesel fuel was the least expensive we’ve seen in many years, partly subsidized by Venezuela, according to JP.

Soon after we got MT all webbed into place between two pilings and stern-to the dock, our crew headed off to lunch and we all spent a good bit of the afternoon at the pool, swimming, relaxing - the guys enjoying the cold beers they had been dreaming of. Crew treated us to a lovely marina side Italian restaurant and after going aloft the following morning plus cabin and deck cleaning it fond farewells with everyone exchanging address and planning on sharing future passages on their own boats.


John, Amanda, Mahina and the cross Atlantic crew as they were leaving
Rubicon Marina, Lanzarote Island, Canary Islands.


Sail back to Leg 6 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Sail onto Leg 8


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