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.

crew
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.

ed= salvo
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.

IMG_0644 2
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!! 

IMG_0529 2
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 :)!!

IMG_0658
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.

tales
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…!

IMG_0717
A moment of peace – even the captain can relax at times!

Quarantined in Saint Martin (Chapter 2)

mare2
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!
GC4
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.

 

bay
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!!

build
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!

dock
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.

rebuild
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.

stbarts
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.

lockdown
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 :)!!

fish
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.

barry
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.

turtle
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.

pizza
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!

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

 

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 🙂
Kiss.Gcmum
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

DSC0977.jpg
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.

Sheela.jpg
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 :)!

glad.jpg
The crew ready to depart from Las Palmas

IMG_20191123_172613_246 copy
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

fiesta
ARC Dress UP party!!