9th February ~ Leaving La Gomera to set off across the Atlantic? Ocean!!
I would like to share with you our unique experience of crossing the Atlantic Ocean on board Musetta! Some people can only dream of sailing across an ocean but we have been fortunate enough to make that same dream become a reality…..!!
Day after day, mile after mile just us and the endless blue ocean and sunny skies – magic!
Preparation ~ Are we ready?
As many of you know, we have been gearing up to do this crossing for several years and preparing Musetta for the biggest passage of her life and ours too!! We set off confident in the knowledge that we had prepared our boat and ourselves as best we could!
For my part I admit that I felt some trepidation at the thought of this crossing! I had never spent so long at sea? The other concern I had, was I going to suffer from sea sickness that I had heard afflicts many sailors who set off across the Atlantic? Luckily and thankfully, I have never felt better despite the continuous rolling and corkscrew motion of the boat!! I had stocked up on Stugeron before we left but they remain untouched!!
Surplus to requirements – luckily!
Week 1 ~ 9th – 16th February!
12.20pm ~ We left the marina. Our plan was to sail a course towards the Cape Verde Islands until we reached Latitude 20 deg North and Longitude 30 deg West where we would turn onto our course for Barbados!!
Leaving beautiful La Gomera!
The sea was flat calm and with wall to wall blue skies and sunshine this could only mean one thing – No wind? Wow with approximately 2,650 nautical miles stretching ahead of us, no wind was just not helpful?!
The wind did come up eventually but not at all strongly and so we tried the cruising chute for a while. when the wind then chose to go directly astern we had to abandon the chute in favour of our twin head sails!
Musetta sailed onwards under this rig for the duration of our crossing! It was so easy to manage, to reef when the winds became too lively or even to furl the sail away when the wind died and we had to do some motoring!
Poled out genoas worked extremely well for us!
Dolphins to bring cheer!!!
During our first week as we headed south, under motor we were greeted by a large group of dolphins! They were amazing and on this visit there were masses of them diving and playing around Musetta’s bow, staying for at least 20 minutes! “ Come on” they seemed to be saying, “this way!”
The next day all change again, we had lots of wind and Musetta was cracking on!?
16th February ~ The end of our first week!
Wow, where did that week go? Far from the days dragging by, we seemed to have plenty to do each day and our first week was over before we knew it and as promised by a fellow cruising friend the weather was getting warmer with each mile we sailed further south!
By the end of our first week we had travelled 879.9 nautical miles!!
Week 2 ~ 16th – 23rd February
Barbados next!! Turning onto our calculated course aiming for the north of Barbados we continued with great winds! At this rate we would be arriving in a little over two weeks!! Haha, the weather had other plans for us! We were in for some windless days which, when there are so many miles to cover, was very frustrating! We quickly learned that patience is a virtue needed in abundance for ocean passages!!
The wind deserted us!?
However, on 19th February we reached our theoretical halfway point in the crossing – 1,314 nautical miles!
Conveniences (luxuries!) on board!
This is not strictly part of week 2 but I am just taking a moment to describe to you some of the ‘extras’ which made life on board Musetta during the crossing and all our sailing very comfortable indeed!!
Bimini ~ The weather we experienced was absolutely lovely, sunny and hot! With the bimini we were well sheltered from the burning rays of the sun allowing us to be up in the cockpit during the day to enjoy the view!
Showers ~ We have hot showers on board! During our first week we showered in our ‘heads’ (bathroom) but now, as it was so warm we could use the shower on the transom at the back of the boat which worked really well although we had to make sure we had a handhold because of the swell!
The cocoon ~ Thanks to our American friends Dick and Ginger Stevenson, at night we have a cocoon, which zips into the back of the spray hood and gives us total protection from the elements!! We are eternally grateful to Dick and Ginger, it is an absolute boon! We put it up as soon as the evening falls it feels chilly but once the cocoon is in place we immediately feel cosy and warm! It was a must for us so that night passages and inclement weather needn’t be so bad!!
Water Maker ~ This is an amazing addition we made to Musetta’s blue water kit! It means that we can have all the water we want on board! It runs off the engine and so as and when we need to fill the water tank we run Musetta’s engine, in neutral, allowing the water maker to run and at the same time the water is heated in the calorifier! This when we take our showers – delicious!!
Hydrovane Self-Steering ~ This allows us to conserve our 12 volt power reserves.
It works quite simply by steering Musetta to the wind! Before engaging the Hydrovane we make sure the the boat is balanced with the sails and course set so that the boat steering is central and the wheel locked off! We then point the vane directly at the wind and engage the clutch!
The vane has to be monitored as the wind has a habit of changing direction! When this happens whoever is ‘on watch’ adjusts the position of the vane so that the boat keeps tracking along the correct course!
The Sail-Gen – a towed generator which spins and boosts the power supplies on board. This is another invaluable piece of equipment we have as part of our ‘bluewater’ kit!
This is in addition to the wind generator and the three solar panels!!
At the end of our second week we had sailed 1,781 nautical miles steered solely with the Hydorvane! Again, another week which disappeared in a flash?
Week 3 ~ 23rd February – 1st March
The wind dies away! Patience is needed again, after all there was nothing we could do about it unless we were happy to have the engine droning on in the background, which we definitely were not!!
However, after the weekend the promised winds then really did arrive and for 4 days they blew constantly between 15 and 24 kts from behind, pushing Musetta along towards our destination! If only they had been forthcoming earlier?!
Eek! Big seas lining up behind us!
As if to give us even more encouragement, a pod of porpoises came to play! It was as if they were saying, “come on now you’re doing brilliantly!”
Friday 1st March ~ Arrival at Barbados!
Sailing down the west coast of Barbados, anchored off Port St Charles!
At the end of our journey we had sailed 2,676 nautical miles in 20 days! It was VERY good to stop!! What an amazing feeling when we thought about what we had just achieved?!
Points of interest along the way!
For me it was 20 days of wonderment at the raw beauty of it all! By day the sun shimmering on the deep indigo blue of the sea and the azure blue skies!
A true representation of the colour of the sea and a moonlit night!
……and by night, either by moonlight which made the night very bright, not dark at all?! With no moon the sky was/is filled with the most amazing stars which shed no light at all so that those nights were very dark?
A sunrise and a sunset – beautiful!
The sunrises and the sunsets were quite special too!
Seaweed ~ Pelagic Sargassum!
It is clear to see why it has become such a nuisance?
….is a matted seaweed which has bloomed in enormous amounts in the last few years and is prevalent around the Caribbean islands and we saw masses of it during our passage across the Atlantic especially during the second half of our journey.
The weed runs in strands on the surface or just below the surface and is a real pain for many sailors as it wraps itself around propellers, in fact any under water appendages! For them it was necessary to make a turn to get rid of it which involved all sorts of palaver furling sails etc!
We were lucky, it seemed to catch only onto our Sail-Gen water generator and when you see the shape of it it is easy to understand why as the seaweed gets trapped and the blade is no longer able to spin! Luckily it was easy to get off and didn’t involve any turning off course to do so!
It seemed that the most prevalent creatures were the flying fish!! It was fascinating to watch them skimming across the surface of the sea like skimming stones and then seeming to crash into a wave!
They looked like lots of white (silver) dragon flies! The actually can’t fly as a bird would fly but they glide having made very powerful moves under the water to propel themselves out of the water!
Their trajectory is usually quite low but, as we discovered, some make it high enough to land on the deck of a boat! A certain type of Exocet missile has been named after the flying fish to describe its flight path!
A sad sight in the morning especially as one nearly made it to safety!
They didn’t all make it safely back into the sea? These were the ones we found on deck in the mornings!!
We had a visit from a very tired bird one night! He/she landed on the side deck with a terrific thud and must been totally stunned! Poor thing was utterly exhausted but after a few hours rest it flew off, well we assume that’s what must have happened? Apart from this one we saw very few sea birds?
We also saw just ONE commercial vessel during the whole passage?
It was truly an unforgettable experience one which I really enjoyed and feel grateful for! Would I want to make the crossing again tomorrow then the answer would have to be, ask me again perhaps next year!! Now we want to enjoy the Caribbean islands as we cruise north visiting new ones to us on the way and revisiting ones we have already been to when we have chartered yachts in previous years!