33. Atlantic Sailing

Getting to Lanzarote means that I am now in position to cross the Atlantic. It is still too early to set off as the seasonal trade winds have to get established to ensure a comfortable crossing and the hurricane season needs to be over before you get to the Caribbean. That means that I will probably stay where I am for a while. Possibly until the end of November/early December even. Unless I stop in Cape Verde on the way. That really depends on the Atlantic crew and when they can be ready to go. A crew that at present is made up of Daniel and possibly two of his friends.

I don’t mind though. I have just sailed 1.800 Nm from Gaeta/Ponza in a little over a month. Almost two thirds of an Atlantic crossing from Lanzarote. So it is quite nice to take it easy for a while. There is also a lot of preparation work that I plan to get done here. Apart from getting my second vaccination, I am looking at a rig inspection, life raft servicing, delivery of new sails, a new generator and spare parts for the autopilot to name a few things. But more about that later.

The sail from Balmádena to Lanzarote was great. Well, the last part was maybe more exciting than great. Four days of the five day passage offered perfect tailwinds and waves less than a meter high. Atlantic waves with long distances between them that at times made Saoirse surf much faster than her hull speed. The hull speed of a sailing boat is essentially an indication of how fast she can sail. When it comes to monohulls, the maximum speed is roughly as many knots as the waterline (not the overall length) is long in meters. In Saoirse’s case that would mean almost 11 knots, but we rarely see more than 9-10 knots. Unless we surf on waves from behind. We were seeing speeds over 13 knots. A thrilling ride. But the wind and the waves started to build as we got closer to the Canaries. At the end we had 30 knots of wind and I would guess 3 m high waves. All according to weather predictions and nothing dangerous or scary. But when you start surfing well beyond your hull speed, the autopilot is starting to find it hard to control the course and the boat starts to move like a snake and heel from side to side. Seriously uncomfortable. The only real remedy is to slow the boat down so that you start each surfing movement from a lower speed. In our case that meant that we finished the crossing with a genoa the size of a bed sheet!

But we loved the passage. And Daniel is now a lot better prepared for the Atlantic crossing. After all, the part from Gibraltar to the Canaries is much worse than what you can expect from the rest of the crossing. As for the captain, I just think it is nice to have consistent winds and longer distances between the waves (longer wave periods in sailing jargon). And to properly be on my way…

A flying fish that landed on deck
The crew firmly strapped to Saoirse

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