Just a week to go before I leave the Canary Islands to start the passages that will take me across to Trinidad for Christmas!
The atmosphere here in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with the World Cruising Club team and the other ARC+ crews is just fabulous! I got to know a young German guy, Finn Groetzner who was looking for a passage across to the Caribbean. He had crewed a classic yacht from Hamburg to Gran Canaria, but could not remain onboard for the Atlantic crossing as the owner-skipper had ten paying guests for the ARC. But Finn wants to meet the yacht, Peter von Seestermühe for Christmas in the Caribbean once the Atlantic crossing guests leave St Lucia.
Finn moved onboard on the Monday and we set sail for the Cape Verde islands on the Thursday. But in-between we had a dinner onboard with Hannecke and Christian from the yacht “Peter” and my long lost friend Jonna off yacht Tangaroa.
Our passage down to São Vicente took seven and a half days of great sailing and tedious motoring in windless conditions. Our watch system worked well and we ate well. For the nominal 868nm passage we covered 904nm in our quest to sail to the wind, and we won a bottle of Grog at the ARC+prizegiving for the most miles sailed! Mindelo on the island São Vicente was our home for three nights and it was great to sleep undisturbed! We had a few things to do but still had time to look around Mindelo before leaving on 25th November for the Atlantic crossing!
The ARC+ start was wild with strong winds between Sao Vicente and San Antao followed by a short quiet period when the wind dropped around sunset. Otherwise, the passage was 15 days of downwind sailing and a constant Atlantic swell. We worked the same watch system which gave us three hour sessions over night and longer sessions during the day. This also allowed us to eat our three meals together on deck…I prepared breakfast and lunch, and Finn prepared dinner. Some days were easy where we just seemed to eat, sleep, rest and read books, and others were more demanding when the weather strengthened. We didn’t catch any fish, but we lost a lure! Our favourite meal was corned beef hash with potatoes. We sailed all the way just using the Genoa, but we broke the spinnaker pole mast fitting three days from the end and this meant we couldn’t quite run with the wind which lost us some daily mileage. On our best days we hit 150nm over 24 hours! Two boats had “collisions” with whales and one boat was dismasted, so our problem was minor by comparison! The Wildbeast was the smallest boat in the group and we finished last on time (but the adjusted handicap results will be announced at the prize giving on Saturday). We crossed the finish line in the dark at 22:18 and we were guided into the tight entrance to a great pontoon reception by the ARC+ guys and the other boat crews.
Finn had dreamed of “doing the ARC” since he was 8 years old and this was our first ocean crossing for both of us…..we had sailed 2149nm so we celebrated with a couple of bottles of Sharp’s Atlantic Pale Ale which I had bought in Morrisons in Gibraltar!
I guess the inaugural ARC+SVG has now come to an end…we’ve had a welcoming party, bus tour around Kingstown, BBQ night and prizegiving dinner where the Wildbeast won a prize for being the only double handed boat. With just 15 boats in this group we all know each other and I’m sure many boats will meet again. Gerrit Scheper joined us from another yacht for a few days and chose to sleep on deck under the stars before flying back to Europe. Gerrit cooked a dinner on our last evening and we invited Julianna from the winning yacht, Amaman, a Discovery 55! Finn joined the catamaran, Tonia for a two day trip to the Grenadines and then a sail to St Lucia where he will join the skipper and friends of the yacht, Peter van Seestermühe for Christmas. It really has been a fabulous experience loaded with memories that will remain forever!
I have chosen to sail directly down to Trinidad which will be a 155nm overnight passage, and will stay a couple more days in Blue Lagoon marina on St Vincent before setting off.