February 14th- 16th : A shorter navigation abord the Chatham than expected, but a very enriching one
Finally we were navigating aboard the Chatham for a shorter period than expected, but still a very enriching one. We changed the 5A fuse of the pilot, but it went dead after a quarter of mile. So we had to direct the boat with the steering wheel. I wasn’t used to steer a boat with a steering wheel, I actually felt that it makes the steering of the boat less intuitive. Considering the heavy weight of the boat, there was a lot of inertia. It took several minutes to get use to it and control the boat without too much trajectory gap. This exercise was taking a lot of concentration. But after some miles Xavier managed to fix the autopilot by changing the 5A fuse by 7A one, as it was done on the most recent Wauquiez boat equipped with the same pilot.
Xavier is a really good pedagog, we learned a lot about the boat. For the rest, the life aboard, he was incitating us to take initiative : in the kitchen as well as for the cleaning and the animation.
The thing I really liked about this boat was the Deck Saloon (when the saloon) of the boat is higher than usually) which allow to have a 360° view over the sea from inside even when sitting.
The sea was quite quiet and the wind not so strong. We especially chose this moment to go to Las Palmas in order to be sure not to damage the mast even more. During the afternoon, after reading a bit outside, I began to feel a bit sea sick… It was time for me to try the medicine that we had found in Lanzarote (Sutrgeron). I took only half of it, ate and went to sleep. When I woke up, I was totally cured, not even a glimpse of tiredness nor of misbalance. I just took the other half after 18 hours and this awesome cure last until the end of the navigation. Finally I felt released, I had found a way to get rid of the sea sickness. I was able to cook during a long time inside, to play cards, to read books. After all those year always fearing that very uncomfortable feeling of weakness each time I was sailing on big boats, I finally found something helpful.
Christophe who didn’t take the medicine and even took a beer felt sick all along.
For what was the watches, we more or less organised 2 hours watches. But we were so many with different sleeping cycles that we never really did it alone. We arrived in las Palmas the 16th in the morning.
February 16th to 24th : Inquiring for a new boat
At our arrival, some curious of our pontoon came to admire the Chatham which, we have to admit, is quite a boat that one is not able to see everyday. Among them was Bruce, an Australian. After some discussions, he revealed me that he was going to cross the Atlantic two weeks later aboard his Beneteau Oceanis 46 . He had to give me confirmation later but he may need crew. Every day I spoke with Bruce during one or 2 hours, we had good connection. He told me that if he was taking a crew, he was asking for “five fifty euros plus food”, what I understood “5,50€/day + Food” at first. I didn’t really enjoyed the fact to pay additional price for the crossing because it was kind of deteriorating the relation to the captain. But the price here was fair.
On that day we also were invited on Bruno’s boat who was on the next pontoon. We told him our tribulation since the last time we saw him. He was leaving Las Palmas the next day to la Gomera, an other Island of the Canaries.
The next day Christophe received a call from Jean-Pierre, a Frenchman who was going to cross the Atlantic from the Senegal passing by the Capo Verde from March 7th. He had a Sun Odyssée 530 from 1995 and was looking fro crew preferably from the Sine Salun in Senegal where the boat currently was. He saw our notice on La bourse aux équipiers Christophe told him that he wasn’t interested anymore but that I would. The forecasted winds for the 2 upcoming weeks were not at all propice to a navigation from canaries to Senegal nor even to Capo Verde. The fact of having to take a new plane to go back on the African soil wasn’t really attracting, but the fact of being able to visit Senegal seemed great to me.
I still had time so I decided to let me time to get an answer from Bruce or to find a boat able to bring me to Senegal. As expected, I didn’t find any, but I have to admit that I was spending a lot of time visiting the Island, sailing on the Tiwal (inflatable sailing dinghy) that Xavier had on the boat, more info following this link) and simply living aboard with the rest of the crew which was such a great human experience.
Jean Pierre soon told me he found two guy to cross from Capo Verde from April 8th, which meant that if I was coming with them we would first go from Senegal to capo verde, spend almost a months there and then cross. The idea to have much time to visit Capo Verde pleased me but it meant I would be really late in the caraïbes.
Eventually Bruce told me he was taking me if I was Ok. I ask him for confirmation that the price was “five fifty euros plus food per day” and accepted. But the next day (actually hopefully), we went to see Edwige, the polish girl we met in Lanzarote. She just found a boat which was on his way to las palmas after having wandered a bit between the different islands of Canaries. She told me she already spoke with Bruce and the price was “Five hundred fifty euros plus the food for each days of crossing”. I couldn’t believe I misunderstood but reminding the words used by Bruce I understood quickly how I misunderstood. I directly went to see Bruce after and asked him to excuse me for the misunderstanding. I couldn’t afford paying such price. He understood and we stayed in good terms. We actually took contact of each other and I hope I will have the opportunity to sail a bit with him at the other side of the Atlantic.
In the meantime Marine had joined us aboard, which was adding some womanhood aboard. And shortly after, at the end of a nice and moving evening, Christophe went to take his plane. After spending 2,5 months together, we were finally separating. Maybe will we be able to travel together again during the rest of our trip, we didn’t know.
It was leaving me the Senegal solution. So I looked for the plane ticket and found cheap one to cross from the 27th to Laayoune, capital city of the western Sahara (region revendicated by Morocco). It would allow me then to hitchhike during about 10 days to Dakar, passing through Mauritanie. The more I thought about it, the more I was attracted by that solution. But at the last moment, on February 23rd, Xavier, using his contacts in the sailing’s world, found a brand new Catamaran Fountain Pajot Sauna 47 which was convoyed to British Virgin Islands and which was shortly passing by Las Palmas the next day. They were only 2 aboard and would gladly take a 3rd crew member to divide the watches.
I called Jean-Pierre back to tell him. I worried it would be a problem for him. I felt released when he told me that was ok, that he understood my choice and that he and his family saw my website, they thought my project was really interesting and they would follow it. What nice peoples! I hope I will be able to sail with them one day. Then I went to buy food for 3 to 4 weeks even if the crossing was supposed to be 15 to 20 days, because we never know (especially by sailing).
The catamaran, named Fun Shway, arrived in the night of the 24th to the 25th.
During that same period there was Las Palmas’ Carnaval. As in Madeira, it seemed to be The event of the year in whole Canaries. It was coming to its end after 3 intense weeks. There were events every day in 3 different places of Las palmas. We assisted to a parade were tens of couches and trucks transformed into moving clubs were going through the streets following each other and defusing music out loud. Every body was in the street, from the grand parents to the little children, all well disguised and dancing to the rhythm of the music. Canaria people really showed how they were good at partying that day.
Night of the 24th to the 25th February : Arrival of the boat
The Fun Shway — Catamaran aboard which I was about to cross the Atlantic — was approaching Las Palmas’ marina. Xavier, from the Chatham, and I came to welcome Gégé, the captain, and Xav, a 26 years old forty seventy’s champion —the forty seventy is a type of boat of 4,70m— who wanted to try the Atlantic crossing. Gégé just wanted to stop shortly to get some fuel before continuing the trip toward caraïbes without any other stop between. But it wasn’t possible to fill the tank during the night.
The weather was really bad at this moment : so bad that there were storms and flooding in Tenerife as it had rarely been seen in the past. On the 25th the Storm was supposed to be at its utmost strength. Xavier had told me that it would be crazy to try to leave on that day, so when we woke up Gégé conceded the fact to delay our departure of 1 day.
Gégé was a very experimented skippeur : it was his 66th Atlantic crossing.
February 26th : missed departure
We left Las Palmas’ harbour shortly before sunrise. We were leaving the earth for 15 to 20 days of navigation. We had still more than 20 knots of wind in the face while we still had not passed the southern extremity of Las Palmas. The swell was against us too. The boat was moving a lot, squeaking like hell and every 5 to 6 second its bottom was banging against the sea with strength. I decided not to take the medicine, in order to check if by any chance I wasn’t cured. But when the first sign of sea sickness arrived it was already too late. I took it any way and tried to rest a bit. When at some point I went down in the portboard’s floater where my cabin was, I had a heave and had to run back up, grasp a bucket to give m breakfast back. Left without energy, I went for a nap. When one hour later I woke up, the boat had turned back to Las Palmas : when we had passed the extremity of the Island winds and waves had become too strong and Gégé had decided to go back. For me it’s the 3rd time in less than 2 month that I make that arrival in Las Palmas haha. The weather forecast for the rest of the week is not that much better : we have to delay our departure to March 4th.
When we arrived back to Las Palmas’ marina we had lost our place there : with the storm many boat had come there and it was now full. We had to anchor close to the marina among many other boat. Because I heard a lot of stories about that anchoring spot while I was in Las Palmas, I knew that the spot wasn’t really good. The bottom was kind of a mud which could maintain the anchor and then suddenly letting it slip. We had to set more chain length than usually. I was increasing the possibilities to hit against an other boat.
February 27th to March 4th : The waiting
We had no dingy on the boat : indeed it was a new boat delivery and the client had not asked for a dingy… Hopefully Chatham’s crew and Bruno — who had returned to Las Palmas during that time— came almost Avery day of that week to bring us on earth, Xav and I. Gégé was almost always staying on the boat. It was his responsibility and he wasn’t confident with our anchorage and especially withe one of other boats around our. With Xavier we took the opportunity to spend some more time with Chatham’s crew, Bruno and visit the Island (which I was beginning to know more and more).
I also had time to discover that the captain with who I was about to cross the Atlantic was a very bad pedagog. I was already victim of a lot of acid critics concerning sailing as well as any other thing I was doing. He had to evacuate his overwhelming stress and he had decided to choose me as his scapegoat…
Recap of this way back to las palmas :
- 1 unforgettable human experience aboard Chatham
- 2 amazing sailing days aboard Chatham
- 4 very nice encounters creating links which will last in the time.
- Some boat prospection
- Encounters and get in touch with interesting captains
- Separation of our path with Christophe
- the opportunity to know a bit more grand Canaria
- Some last moment with the crews of the Yess Amaze and the Chatham