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!

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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!!