When Gladan crossed the Atlantic (Chapter 2)

Gc rushed up the flybridge visibly in distress, his hair standing straight on his head, his face still bearing the marks of the pillow.” – It’s Patti recounting this time. “He looked disoriented. It was 2 am and Salvo and I were on night watch. Gc, with a strange look on his face, finally managed to utter a few words: ‘We’re sinking! We’re sinking! Is everything ok? Aren’t we sinking?!… Salvo and I looked at each other not knowing what to think. Then Salvo barely had the time to ask: ‘Captain are you all right? Are you not feeling well?’, when Gc quickly disappeared leaving us wondering… ..had the captain lost it?”

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“Look at the rainbow, guys!”

Gc chipped in feeling the need to explain: “In my defense, I hadn’t slept in a few nights....It must have been the sound of the bilge pump going off that night while I was asleep that triggered my dream of Gladan sinking… The dream felt so real that it took a while for me to calm down. I jumped out of bed, run upstairs, asked Salvo and Patti whether we were sinking or not, and then found myself alone downstairs in the saloon. Only then it finally hit me; it had just been a dream and everything was actually ok….At that point, I made my way upstairs once again, this time to explain things and apologize to Salvo and Patti, who couldn’t stop laughing!! What a night!”

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One of the sunsets on the way!

Now everyone was laughing, wihle taking another sip of dark, sweet, aged rum. I started picturing Gc in his pants, half asleep, running upstairs ready for action…and I realised how much pressure every captain is constantly under…

And then, of course, the generator broke down!” – Gc started sharing another critical moment of the crossing.

“I think it was exactly a day and a half after we fixed the water maker. I was on night shift and, while doing my routine checks, I noticed that the freezer temperature was -14 instead of -18. The batteries were running low and needed topping up so I went to turn the generator on. At first, it started but, after a few seconds, it went off! The error code on the generator signaled ‘no cooling water flowing’.

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Always a good time to do some cleaning in style!

That usually means that the impeller is not working.

We just needed to replace it, which was not a big deal as I always carry spare parts, including old impellers….easy job! When opening the cupboard where the spare impellers were meant to be I couldn’t believe my eyes…. it wasn’t there! I emptied the cupboard, checked everywhere inside, but …  nothing, it just wasn’t there! I mean…. there were loads of other impellers but not the one I needed for the generator. 

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Salvo working on the generator, with Patti’s assistance.

I did not know how to tell the crew! Less than 2 days before it was the water maker and now this!!

This was a major issue, much worse than the water maker breaking down! If clouds persisted, the solar panels would not produce enough energy to recharge the batteries which would mean no freshwater AGAIN, no freezer, no bread maker, no autopilot, ultimately no navigation instruments….no nothing!” 

OK, maybe the captain slightly exaggerated there….with 1,100 Watts of solar panels -even at reduced capacity due to the overcast sky-  surely they could still use some of those things. But they would have certainly needed to say goodbye to freshwater (as they could have not used the water maker without generator) and the freezer…with all its content!

Gc assembled the crew around the table and broke the news about the generator. While Edward went to count the energy bars left in his grab bag ;), the others started to analyse the situation. What options were there?

  1. modifying one of the spare impellers to fit the one that needed replacing – very difficult to achieve as in order for it to work it has to be a very precise fit.
  2. fitting an alternative pump to cool down the engine – hoping it lasts for the next 3 weeks!
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The new cooling system!!

We decided the second was definitely our best chance”. Said Salvo. “While Gc listed all the various pumps onboard of Gladan, my attention was caught by the washdown pump, (this is a pump that can suck water either from the sea or from the water tanks). I came up with this idea…what if we use the washdown pump, set on seawater, and attach a long hose that would reach the generator (from the front to the back of the boat)? That way we could bypass the impeller and feed saltwater straight into the cooling system….That might actually work!” Salvo recalled.

Everyone agreed that this could be a solution, providing the pump had enough flow to cool the engine down. Definitely worth a try though!

After an entire afternoon of trials, manufacturing the right hose adaptor to avoid any leaks, it was time to test it. In an atmosphere of absolute silence, buttons were pressed, the pump was on, the flow of seawater started and the generator came to life. Now the moment of truth. The silence became deafening, everyone’s focus was on the generator: would it stop within the first ten seconds or would it stay on? Would the flow be enough to cool the engine down or would the temperature sensor stop the engine once more?

A few more moments of suspense were followed by an explosion of happiness and high fives! It worked!! All crew went back to their stations, making water, baking bread, recharging batteries… Once again the super crew had saved the day!

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Mahi mahi chuncks ready to be frozen and jamon shoulder covered by a greasy kitchen cloth…!!

In between crisis, the entire shoulder of Jamon that was bought in Las Palmas was ‘being reshaped’, mahi-mahi was cooked and eaten in all possible ways; as sushi and sashimi, grilled, panfried….

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Will it last until the end of the crossing?!
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Everyone’s favourite activity, jamon cutting!

Lasagne, risotti, fish soups and more pizza were cooked and consumed daily.  Blame it on the constant crisis on board or on the sea air, the crew always had a healthy appetite and the best moment of the day was when the chef on duty would say ” food’s ready, let’s sit down and eat!”

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Dinner’s ready everyone!!

When Gladan crossed the Atlantic! (Chapter 1)

What an adventure! 19 days at sea surrounded only by water, an endless cape of grey sea reflecting the cloudy sky that accompanied the crew throughout most of the crossing.

Onboard of Gladan 6 people: Gc and his son Edward – who trusted his dad so much that came prepared with his own personal flairs and a grab bag full of enough food to survive a minimum of 6 months at sea ;)!! Salvo and Patti from Happy Island – our dear friends and experienced sailors who had already sailed with us from Sicily to Sardinia the previous year. Enzo and Andrea – two other good friends and experienced sailors.

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Departure day in Las Palmas

After 19 days and a few hours, Gladan crossed the arrival line in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, on 13th December 2019, a few minutes before midnight.

Twenty minutes later, the crew was already drinking profusely. To celebrate the end of a big adventure, or to forget the fact that such a great adventure was over. They say the big blue is very addictive!

The ARC’s representatives (the so-called yellow t-shirts) were on Rodney Bay’s marina’s pier, pontoon G, waiting for Gc and the crew, ready to hand over a rum punch each, a basket full of local produce and, most importantly, a bottle of aged rum which was quickly opened and eagerly tasted.

Cigars were lit and memories of the best moments shared.

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Edward & Salvo, during the crossing they became best fishing pals!

“Do you remember Gc’s face when he realised that the water maker had stopped working? It was only ‘day 2’ of the crossing and he couldn’t find the words to tell us. His face spoke more than a thousand words… We immediately knew something was not right…

We were prepared for such an event to happen and had bottles of water on board, but we were not expecting it to happen so soon!!!”  – one of the crew recalled.

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When you’re in the middle of the ocean and you realise your water maker has stopped working!

That day, things were looking quite gloomy on board, a moment of general panic was followed by a powerful brainstorming exercise that convinced the crew that they could fix the water maker.

Gc immediately thought the problem might be the new high-pressure pump that he had recently replaced…perhaps he hadn’t done such a good job after all!

With the precious help of Salvo and Enzo, Gc dismantled the pump and soon realised that it was actually ok…! The problem was somewhere else.

Next on the list, the electric motor.  It was running very slowly. One of two things could have happened:

1) one of the windings had burnt, which would have equaled game over for the water maker, as there was no replacement on board…

2) one of the windings’ wire had short-circuited.

Further investigation revealed that the latter was the case. That was still a big problem to solve but, thanks to the highly skilled crew on board – which luckily hadn’t been selected only for their pizza-making and fishing skills, within 24 hours the copper wire had been reconstructed with a soldering kit…and Salvo’s magic touch!Voila! The water maker was working again!! 

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A war field… mahi-mahi and blood everywhere 😉

“I think the best part of the day was when we would all gather around the table at 12 noon. My dad and Enzo would download the weather forecast and the info regarding Gladan’s and the other boats’ position, the ARC team would send us daily. Armed with pen and paper we would all take notes and then start a lengthy discussion about strategy.” – It’s Edward talking this time.

Before departure, the captain, Gc, had made it clear that the main objective of the crossing was to have fun while being safe. He didn’t want to overstrain the boat and start breaking things – probably thinking of his pockets and how much it would cost him to replace broken sails and other parts :)!!

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What’s going on? Always something to fix onboard!

As soon as they’d receive the info about their position in the race though, the crew’s conservative approach would soon be forgotten and replaced by a ‘let’s -beat -the -hell -out of-the-other -boats’ mode!!! So much for a safe crossing!!

The competitive spirit of the crew was reflected on the results; the first few days Gladan was pushing hard and was in front of all the other cruising catamarans in her category, including bigger and sportier Catanas and Outremers.

After three days of pushing and slamming and squeaking, and after hearing of other boats retiring and breaking their sails, the crew released the accelerator and decided to take it easy, focusing on winning the fishing competition instead.

“We caught so much fish! The crazy thing was that as soon as one fishing rod would go off, within minutes the second one on the other side would start whizzing too! We wouldn’t even bother to slow the boat down, we’d set in place, and slowly start reeling the fish in, fighting with it for 15, sometimes 20 minutes” Salvo said. “It was like a party, the line would go off, the adrenaline would kick in, and Salvo would show up from nowhere, sometimes in his pants, ready to bring another one home!” – Patti added.

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War trophies!! The tales of the fish caught during the crossing.

Before leaving Las Palmas, Gladan’s crew placed two bets with Steve and Deb and their crew from Bijoux: two bottles of 12 years old rum (the good stuff!) would go to whom would catch the first fish and whom would get the most. Gladan was the first to catch a 5 Kg mahi mahi! And that was only the beginning…!

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A moment of peace – even the captain can relax at times!

Planning the Great Escape!

As all sailors cruising in the Caribbean are very aware of, hurricane season officially starts on 1st June and runs through November 30th – with August and September being the worst months.

This is such a recurrent topic amongst boaters that when meeting new fellow sailors we’d normally end up sharing ‘hurricane plans’ before even getting to know their names!

Now that June is just around the corner this topic is more and more on our minds -especially because according to recent weather forecasts, this year is going to be a particularly bad one for hurricanes – not that it’s been any good in other fields so far…!!

Judging from the sea surface temperature, which is a few degrees higher than average, and other meaningful signs, forecasters have come to the conclusion that this year there might be up to 20 named storms which would make 2020 the second most active season on record in terms of the number of storms! How lucky!! Out of this 20 named storms, 3 to 5  might become really scary hurricanes, as in category 5 scary hurricanes, the likes of Irma and Kathrina just to be clear… !

Which is why we need to rush out of here before the end of the month…

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Doing research for the great escape!

Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal but in the current situation with all borders closed and islands trying to protect their inhabitants from new comers potentially spreading the virus, things have become rather complicated.

At the moment we are considering 4 possibilities, although I should mention that we are not particularly picky right now and would be more than happy to go anywhere…as long as it’s far away from hurricanes :)! :

1. Grenada. This would be the easiest option for us. It’s only 365 nautical miles from here which means less than 3 days of non stop sailing to get there. Easy! A lot of sailors take their boats to Grenada, which is considered quite safe, especially if you haul out and leave the boat on the hard in a marina. Some insurance companies don’t cover boats in Grenada as it’s not south enough to be out of the hurricane belt. In the past 100 years, though, only four hurricanes have hit Grenada, which makes it safe enough compared to islands like Saint Martin which has been hit 16 times. The last hurricane to hit Grenada was Emily, in 2005, only one year after Ivan which in 2004 caused a lot of damage to the island and killed 39 people.

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Saint Martin to Grenada

2. ABC. The ABC are the Dutch islands opposite the Venezuelan coast. They’re Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, often referred to as the ABC islands. Despite their position – so close to Venezuela which is a total NO GO – they appear to be safe islands with very friendly people and a quiet lifestyle. They are roughly 500 nautical miles away from us, which means less than 4 days of non stop navigation. Not too bad!

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Saint Martin to ABC Islands

3. Colombia, Santa Marta. That’s 760 nautical miles from us which translates into 5 and half days of non stop sailing. Still quite good! Santa Marta is a new marina with excellent facilities to accommodate yachtsmen. It is reported to be a safe town to visit and a great place from which to explore the wonderful hinterland of Colombia with its snow-capped mountains, natural parks and beautiful white sand beaches. Amazing restaurants, street performers and the cheapest diesel in the Caribbean are other good reasons to go there!

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Saint Martin to Santa Marta – Colombia

4. Guatemala – Rio Dulce. 1500 miles away from us which means 10 days of non stop navigation, if we’re not allowed to stop anywhere else on the way. So…quite far! But it might be very well worth it. Our neighbours here in Saint Martin mentioned that they’ve spent the past 10 years in a place called Ram Marina, which they highly recommend. The river is situated on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala, just south of the second-largest reef in the world off Belize (I would love to snorkel there!!) and has earned a reputation as a number one refuge in the western Caribbean, with 1000 yachts staying there for hurricane season from June to December. Magical scenery, low cost of life, fresh fruits and vegetables and an intense social life (at least in ‘normal times’) with regular boat jumbles, film nights and organised outings to hot springs, jungle treks and local Maya ruins might make Rio Dulce the best hurricane hole!

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Saint Martin to Rio Dulce – Guatemala

We’ve sent out emails to all of these places and are now waiting for answers, hoping they’ll come soon! The only alternative to a safe haven would be constantly checking the weather forecast and move away from any hurricanes heading towards us… To be honest, playing cat and mouse with a category 5 hurricane isn’t exatcly my idea of fun sailing in the Caribbean’s! Fingers crossed!

 

Quarantined in Saint Martin (Chapter 2)

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Grand Case Beach

Days go by without us realising it. If I still have a rough idea of time is because of one of these reasons:

  1. We need to update our waver daily before going out for shopping or exercising;
  2. My data allowance is automatically renewed the first day of each month so towards the 20th of the month, I enter panic mode and start checking how many days I need to survive without Netflix!
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View from the boat

It seems like only yesterday that we arrived here from St. Barts with the idea of stocking up on food and then moving on to the BVIs (we wanted to go as far north as possible before heading back south to Grenada to spend the hurricane season there) and we have now been in Saint Martin for over a month!

When we first moved to Grand Case from Marigot Bay, we were a bit scared at the idea of the place not being safe – according to Chris Doyle’s guide, the bay has got a bad reputation because of dinghies’ thefts and even some boats being broken into. 

The bay has turned out to be nice and (so far) safe. There are fewer boats around, locals are very friendly and we normally see their faces popping up just before sunset when we all go out to exercise, walking or running, up and down the beach.

 

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Grand Case Bay

Being in lockdown is mentally quite tough and right now we can’t even move from one anchorage to the other. We are stuck in this bay feeling a bit like outlaws with the police questioning your every move ‘on land’, the gendarmerie checking on you ‘at sea’ and rules not always being clear.

Take swimming, for example: here in Grand Case, our neighbour was fined 135 euros for being in the sea scrubbing the hulls of his boat. The gendarmerie themselves told us we were not allowed to swim as the water had not been tested and might not be safe – which to me sounds like one of the things Trump would come up with!!

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Signs of Hurricane Irma still very visible in Grand Case

Few days after we were told we weren’t allowed to swim, the French navy came round and asked us boaters how we were doing (how nice of them!) and when questioned about the ‘swimming issue’ they said that boaters were allowed to swim within a 20 metres radius from their boats. Then we read that in Martinique – another overseas French territory not far from here – people are allowed to swim within a 50 metres radius… Not that we’d go around swimming with a tape measure ;)….we just don’t know who to believe anymore!

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The dinghy dock

The truth is that while feeling super lucky for not being in a small flat in London or Milan, we still find the lockdown quite hard. The worst part is the uncertainty about the hurricane season. If no other island will allow us in (which is the status quo), we’re right in the middle of the hurricane belt.

Saint Martin was very badly hit by Irma only 3 years ago and it’s still showing the wounds.. with dozens of sunken boats all over the lagoon, run-down buildings waiting to be fixed and villages still looking like ghost towns.

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Walking around Grand Case

Restrictions on the French side should start to ease up on 11th May with some shops and small businesses hopefully reopening. The Dutch side has been in total shutdown for over two weeks as they’ve had many more cases of Covid 19. People are not allowed out at all unless it’s an emergency and shopping is delivered straight to their houses.

All we can do right now is hang in here waiting for borders to open up in order to start our great escape Southwards.

Stay strong, keep safe everyone!

Sunset

Quarantined in Saint Martin

When the first cases of coronavirus appeared in the Caribbean (I believe the very first ones were registered in the Dominican Republic), we started to talk about how the pandemic might affect the sailing community.

Our biggest fear was that islands would no longer allow boats in and we wouldn’t know where to go.

It didn’t take long for such fear to become a reality.

We were in St. Barts enjoying pricy meals and drinks on the island of the super-rich-and -famous, when the first poster appeared on the customs office’s door saying that only 2 persons at a time would be allowed in to clear customs, due to the spread of the Coronavirus.

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Excursion around Colombier – St. Barts wit hour friends from Heaven 47!

We followed the new rules and queued outside waiting for our turn to get in. Armed with hand sanitizers and germs killing wipes, we dared touch the keyboard and checked out of the country: next stop Saint Martin, where we would stock up on food and prepare for the worse.

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Food shopping these days……

Saint Martin (or Sint Marteen in Dutch) is renowned for its good provisioning with a variety of supermarkets on both the French and Dutch sides. Yes…for some weird reason this small island belongs to two countries! Apparently, the relationship between the two was so friendly that the border was amicably set one day by a Dutch guy drinking gin and a French guy drinking wine. They started walking towards each other and drew a line where they met. Rumor has it the Dutch guy got drunk sooner than the French and that’s why the French side is bigger :)!!

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Gc interacting with fish…. the only form of interaction still allowed!

Twenty four hours after our arrival in Simpson Bay, on the Dutch side, we were told that the other islands around us were already in the process of closing their borders. Things had started to change rapidly.

We had to hurry up and make a decision. Where should we go and spend the next x number of months? The BVIs and Antigua seemed two good options with their beautifully clear waters and many anchorages, but what about their health care system?

After pondering the pros and cons of a list of islands, we decided the wise choice would be to stay in Saint Martin. Here the main reasons why;

  1. It’s a European island, with one side being French and the other Dutch and as Europeans, we thought we might have a bigger chance of meaning something to them :);
  2. Good internet connection! Who can face a lockdown without Netflix!?
  3. Good provisioning, actually the best in the Caribbean so far in terms of quality/price ratio; with Carrefour, Super U, and many other markets and boulangeries available;
  4. There is a big sailing community with a VHF radio broadcast happening every day Monday to Saturday at 7.30 am on channel 10 – anyone can chip in and listen to general announcements, people selling and buying things, sharing knowledge and helping each other with bits and bobs. Quite reassuring in difficult times!;
  5. We thought the health care might be decent either on one side or the other – due to the close connection with Europe;
  6. We (erroneously) thought we could find shelter inside the lagoon should the weather take a bad turn. I say erroneously because we soon found out that the bridge that grants you access to the lagoon on the French side is not working due to maintenance…!

We had just about enough time to make an informed decision and check in on the French side – which is cheaper than the Dutch side – when the lockdown started, with people allowed to leave their homes (or boats in our case) only to go food shopping or buy essential goods such as medicines, and to exercise within 1 km from their houses.

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Our friend Barry the barracuda with one of its best smiles! He likes to spend its days under our hulls 😉 Courtesy of Simon @ Heaven 47

After almost a week in Marigot bay, we decided to move to Grand Case. This is a much nicer bay with clear waters and a sandy beach dotted with bars and restaurants…all shut at the moment.

It’s also a great spot for snorkeling with friendly fish getting really close to you and many turtles feeding on seagrass.

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One of the many turtles in the bay – courtesy of Simon @ Heaven47

Life is very slow these days and we’re trying to get into a routine. From Monday to Friday we do some work on our business and then exercise on the beach.

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My pizza….. &
Eater cake
…Gc’s Easter cake (Umbrian recipe)!

Weekends are dedicated to cleaning and cooking with Gc baking Easter cakes (in preparation for next week!) and me specializing in pizza dough and perfecting my bread making skills. We’re fine and lucky to be in such a beautiful place (even if in lockdown). We have some friends around us and that definitely helps during these hard times. Stay safe out there!

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Gladan in the beautiful sunset light – thanks to Giulia from Living Daylights for the picture :)!

 

From Portimao to Morocco (Sept/Oct 2019)

After wintering in the Algarve, we were ready to move to our next destination: the Canary Islands. Several things happened during the short and cold days of the winter period.

First of all, a few additions to Gladan;

  • our electric scooters – essential to move around the town and go food shopping;
    scooters
    Great stuff!!
  • a new steamer so that our shower could turn into a Turkish bath (we haven’t tried it once since GC installed it, but apparently we needed one badly!);
  • a second jib, a carbon copy of the one we already had on board;
  • new trampolines (I almost fell through once in Salina, with 40+ knots of wind, while trying to close the code 0 and lift the anchor, so it was about time ;);
  • we changed the rigging, which, of course, was a major job and, it goes without saying, an expensive one. Gladan was deprived of her mast for 5 days and looked as naked and frail as never before. Someone (clearly not Gc) even said that she looked quite ugly (agreed!).
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The riggers at work on Gladan’s mast in the yard

Secondly, and most importantly, we decided to cross the Atlantic and build our new nest in the Caribbeans!

Yes!! Gladan will take part in the ARC and set sails from Las Palmas on 24th November en route towards St. Lucia! 

mastdownMast back up!

Once the main works were completed, we were ready to go to the Canary Islands. Our departure, though, kept being postponed. As it always happens on a boat, things break at the worst time possible. The “victim”, in this case, was the pump of our watermaker (quite an important piece of equipment!) which had ceased to function, and so we had to wait for a new one to arrive from Turkey. When it did arrive, the weather forecast looked terrible and we had to wait for the right window to be able to set off… So, instead of leaving sometime in August as planned, it was 5 am on the 23rd of September when we finally lifted the anchor and sleepily waved goodbye to Portimao in the dark. 

DawnGoodbye Portimao! First lights of dawn.

20 miles down the line, the sun shining and the sea breeze caressing our cheeks, Gc was staring at the forestays perplexed, sighing and rolling his eyes. It didn’t take long to understand that something wasn’t right…

When questioned on the nature of his troubles, he mentioned that the forestays were too loose and he didn’t like that at all. He sent a video to the riggers and 15 minutes later Gladan was changing her course. Instead of pointing towards Rabat, with its medina and casbah and the delicious tagines and veggie couscous that were already making my mouth water, we were now heading back to Portugal!

Once we got to the marina of Vilamoura, the riggers jumped on our boat and we went for a test sail just outside the port. They tightened the forestays, checked the mast and sails and jumped off Gladan 1 hour and 30 minutes later.

As a result, six and a half hours after our alarm had gone off, we were still quite close to Portimao. The only consolation to this long delay was a gigantic school of dolphins surrounding us and playing with us to lift our mood.

Dolphins – so many of them!

What looked like a reasonably sized incident at the time though had triggered the classic snowball effect. Because of this quite significant delay caused by the loose forestays, we missed our chance to enter the marina of Rabat 27 hours and 190 miles later. The marina of Rabat can only be accessed at high tide as the entrance is very shallow. Besides, you can only enter it if you’re escorted by the pilot boat as the waves break at the entrance and it can be quite dangerous to get in without an expert guide. Because of this quite significant delay, instead of spending 4 days in the beautiful marina of Rabat, we ended up in the industrial port of the refinery of Mohammedia!

MohammediaRefinery – Harbour of Mohammedia

The small (and apparently also quite expensive) marina of Maohammedia (12 berths) was fully booked and they didn’t even bother to answer us on the VHF when we got there around 8.30 pm.  

The only thing left to do at that point was anchor off the breakwater outside the refinery, as advised on Navionics. Once there, we called the Port authorities on channel 11 to inform them that we had arrived and asked for permission to spend the night there. Permission granted! I was so happy that we could finally stop and sleep that I didn’t care about the surroundings: the smell of gas and rotten fish and the massive cisterns around us. It all looked great after 40 hours of navigation!

On our way to the harbor, we didn’t see any fishing nets. Before embarking on our crossing to Morocco, I read on many blogs that approaching harbors at night could be a nightmare because of the myriads of fishing nets spread all along the coast – as far as 30 miles off the coast. Someone even said 100 miles off the coast!

We definitely didn’t see any when approaching Mohammedia at night. It was all clear …and the following day I would discover why ;)!

To be continued….

News from the Atlantic, for family and friends!

Gladan’s crew caught 3 mahi-mahi! That’s a really good start, especially considering that there is a bet between Gladan and two other sailing yachts on a) who catches the first fish and b) who gets the biggest one. I heard something about a 12-year-old bottle of rum being up for grab as the bet prize…DSC0950 The crew is in good spirits and making good progress despite the light winds. That’s all for today! 29th November 2019 Gladan has lost a few positions and it’s now 5th in its category. The crew is having a great time: they caught two enormous fishes yesterday and are probably eating more than they should! Temperatures are rising so they’re also getting rid of a few layers 😉 There is little wind at the moment, so they are considering heading a bit more South. DepartDeparture day – Gran Canaria 3rd December Latest news from the middle of the ocean! The crew caught another Mahi Mahi and they now have over 30 kgs of fish onboard!! No chance of them starving, really! Over the past 24 hours the wind has picked up (last night they had a constant wind of 21 knots with gusts of up to 25 knots) and Gladan’s speed has increased to a maximum of 7.5 knots. Gladan is behaving very well and the skipper is heading back North after briefly detouring southward to chase the wind.  1630.9 NM still separate them from St. Lucia… Go Gladan!! Goodbye for now. I’ll leave you with a picture of the skipper’s mum’s kiss on departure day 🙂
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The Kiss!
6th December Over the past week, the wind has picked up and Gladan has been making good progress with an average of 155 nautical miles sailed daily. Unfortunately today the generator broke down – luckily they can still make water. The only problem is that they’ll have to start kneading the bread dough by hand as they won’t certainly be able to use the bread maker for a while! They also have a hole in the genoa and a couple of broken battens from the mainsail. Luckily they have a spare genoa, so they can always replace it if necessary. Some of the boats (the very big ones of course!) already reached St. Lucia. Galdan is now 7th in its category, Multihull B. Go Gladan, we’re waiting for you!!!

ARC 2019 – Gran Canaria to St. Lucia

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ARC 2019 Pre-departure PARADE

We spoke about it for years.

We dreamt of it after watching countless videos every night before going to sleep.

We read blogs of other adventurers and listened eagerly to the stories of the many sailors we’ve met along the way. Starting with the anecdotes of Amaltea’s crew (we met them in Leros, Greece, where our sailing adventures started from), who sailed around the world twice passing through Cape Horn and Good Hope aboard a beautiful 21 meters ketch; and ending with the tales of an 80-year-old man, Mark, who keeps crossing the Atlantic accompanied only by his beautiful green-eyed cat, Sheela.

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Sheela relaxing onboard a sailing yacht – Marina de Portimao. She’s the black spot through the ladder’s steps 🙂 Apparently, Sheela belonged to another boat, but one day she jumped on Mark’s boat and didn’t want to leave, so she got adopted by him or, as he likes to say, he was chosen by her. We used to see them walking side by side along the pontoons of the Marina de Portimao, faithful companions of adventure :)!

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The crew ready to depart from Las Palmas

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Fishing gear ready!

Well, after so many years of planning and dreaming and sharing other people’s stories, the time has finally come: Gladan is crossing the Atlantic!

We signed up for the ARC 2019 and together with other 200 boats, Gladan has set sails from el Muelle Deportivo de Las Palmas on 24th November at midday and is currently on its way to Santa Lucia, in the Caribbeans!

Over the past year, Gladan has been getting ready for the big crossing, undergoing a complete change of the rigging as well as several checks of the safety equipment on board (liferaft, lifejackets, EPIRB…).

She also got a new folding propeller – somehow we managed to lose one between Morocco and La Graciosa…but that’s another story!- a new watermaker pump, a Jordan drogue, a second jib, a John buoy, all kinds of anti-chafe materials, sails repair pieces of equipment and bits and bolts that were compulsory in order to participate in the ARC.

It’s been a long and tiring process but now Gladan is on its way!

After 2 full days of navigation, Gladan is positioned 3rd in its category with roughly 2,490 Nautical Miles still to go.YB

The Skipper, GC, sent me a message yesterday, after the first 24 hours, to say that the crew is in high spirits and that they were making good progress.

I’ll keep you posted with updates from the Atlantic! Fair winds to all the ARC sailors!

If you want to check the boat progress live, download the YB app on https://www.worldcruising.com/arc/arc/eventfleetviewer.aspx

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ARC Dress UP party!!

 

Here we are, Portimão!

We set off from Sancti Petri (10 miles East of Cadiz) quite late in the morning as we had to wait for the tide to rise to be able to leave our anchorage without risking to get stranded on a sandbank. The sun was shining and the scenery was gorgeous: white sandy beaches with dunes and desert-like vegetation.

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Sancti Petri anchorage

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Beautiful surroundings

We could have spent the day basking in the sun and exploring the marshes, but we were so close to Portimão now that the ‘home-fever’ took over us. All we could think of was getting there as quickly as possible.

It was past midday when we hit the road again with the idea of stopping somewhere close to Faro for our last night at anchor, before reaching the ‘motherland’.

We arrived at Faro in the middle of the night and anchored off Barra Nova in shallow waters, around 6 metres deep. There was a big swell and we barely managed to close our eyes for a few hours, until daylight, before taking off again.

“Thirty miles and we’ll be home” – this thought kept us going despite the sleep deprivation. During our sail from Faro to Portimão, we were able to admire the beautiful rocky coast which had been levelled out and carved by the elements over the years. The result was an incredible landscape of grottos, sinkholes and secret hideaways, which we couldn’t wait to go explore!

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Marina de Portimão

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Gladan’s home

The other thing we noticed along the way was the incredible amount of fishing boats out at sea – easily spotted due to the grey mass of seagulls hovering over them.

A few more miles and we saw the entrance to the marina: finally we were home! At least for the next 5 months or so…

Portimão’s marina sits on the bank of the river Arade, in a very picturesque and colourful setting; its perimeter is surrounded by ochre and coral semi-detached flats with little wooden topped balconies; on the opposite side of it, Forte de São João dominates the beautiful sandy beach of Praia Grande.

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Forte de São João & Praia Grande

A few minutes away from the marina, there is also the breathtaking beach of Praia da Rocha, considered one of the best in Portugal.

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Praia da Rocha

Our first impression of the marina was very good and we were satisfied with our choice: the location looked great, catamarans pay the same fee as monohulls, winters are supposed to be very mild, and Faro airport, which is only 45 minutes away from the marina, is very well connected to the UK and Italy, with direct flights to both destinations. Considering that it used to take us 2 days to reach our marina in Leros (Greece) and at least half day to get to Capo D’Orlando’s Marina (Sicily), this time it seemed almost too easy!

More about Portimão and our adventures around Portugal in the next post!

Gibraltar & sailing towards our winter destination: Portimão

After almost a week in Malaga it was time to leave. It wasn’t easy to say goodbye to our friends; for quite some time Gc’s face was the only one I’d seen on a daily basis and as much as I like it, I have to say that spending time with other familiar souls had been very invigorating!

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Malaga – Port

The weather was getting more and more unpredictable and we were eager to reach our winter destination and get back to having a routine. After a month and a half at sea moving around all the time, we were looking forward to having a ‘stable life’ for a little bit! Things like knowing where to go food shopping, where to have the best espresso and nicest meal, having more than one conversation with the same people, were becoming more and more appealing to us.

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Sailing towards Gibraltar

While sailing towards Gibraltar, we heard several warnings on VHF regarding the presence of tree branches and trunks floating at sea. The previous days Malaga and surroundings (Estepona in particular) had been battered by a storm which had caused devastating floods and left one man dead. The torrential rain had stripped trees and canes which had reached the sea through the overflowing rivers.

It wasn’t long before we started to see the first branches and canes. We slowed down and tried to avoid the big trunks which could have caused serious damage to our propellers and rudders. The extent of vegetation floating was such that the sea had turned brown…we were sailing through the woods!

Couple of hours before reaching the famous Rock of Gibraltar, the fog started to settle in. The sea was dead still, mirror-like, there was zero wind and no one around. It felt like we were sailing inside a sound-proof bubble; such was the silence around us.

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Approaching Gibraltar in the fog

By now we should have been able to see the coast but there was no sign of it: the fog was too thick. I felt a bit uneasy, as it seemed unusually quiet. Couple of dolphins showed up and played with our bow for a few minutes before diving in with a touch of their powerful tale and disappearing into the deep blue.

It was just after sunset when we finally managed to see the Rock of Gibraltar and a few shipping containers, anchored out at sea a few miles away from the coast. The scenery was enticing: the top of the rocky promontory towered over the sea, peeking through the fog.

We spent the night at anchor inside the Bay of Gibraltar in a very protected spot, just outside the Marina of Alcaidesa. The anchorage though is not as safe as it looks; we read that some people got their dinghies stolen overnight…

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Anchorage – Sancti Petri

The morning after, we departed straight after breakfast – our dinghy still with us!-  and made our way to Cadiz. It was while looking for a safe anchorage for the night that it occurred to us that from now on there would be two more elements to factor in; tide and current! We were now on the Atlantic!!

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Sailing at 10.4 knots!

The waves had become longer and we had the current in our favour, Gladan was doing 10.4 knots! After another night at anchor in the beautiful area of Sancti Petri, only 120 miles separated us from our winter destination: Portimão.

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Sunset – Portimão