January 13 to 17th : From Agadir to La Graciosa – First Sailing
Bruno’s boat, Yess Amaze, is a Bavaria 44, a very nice sailing boat of 44 feet. With Christophe we took the rear star-board cabin, Jean-Pierre the rear port-board en Bruno the front one. It was a pretty big boat quite comfortable, but still it was a monohull, which meant you would always eventually block the path to someone else and that even needed to tidy always perfectly his stuffs if we didn’t wanted to be submerged.
We left the Agadir’s Harbour around 9:00 am after filling the Gasoil tanks — for harbour manoeuvre and in order to refill the batteries supplying the sailings instruments— and releasing the ropes mooring us the the petrol’s pontoon. We were at sea ! On our way to La Graciosa, the most Northern Island of Canaries. It is our first sailing experience of the trip and very quickly I got the answer to the question which was haunting me “Am OI still sea sick?” And the answer is… Yes! I am the first one to throw up over the board even before eating. When it’s time to eat, I force myself, though my stomach doesn’t seem like able to absorb anything, because I know very well that if I don’t it will get even sicker. Soon it’s Christophe and then Jean-Pierre who are joining me in my suffering, giving alternately there meal back to the sea, in order to feed the fish and by excess of kindness indeed haha! Poor Bruno, he must really had asked himself what for a crew he had taken. But he was laughing. With Christophe we were playing a game : trying not show that we were sick and say to the other that he seemed much sicker than oneself. Eventually I was fighting against the sickness by eating peanuts in a continuous flow.
For the night, we set up watches of 2 hours each. It consisted in checking that we weren’t crossing the path of an other boat, that the automatic pilot was keeping the right cape and that the wind wasn’t changing direction. If any of that happened we had to go wake Bruno up.
Bruno wanted us — for security reason, which is good — that the person on the watch by night :
- had on him the waterproof lamp
- put on the auto-inflatable safety vest
- attached himself to the balconies when approaching the boarders for any reason and if the wind was growing strong.
When my time came to take Christophe’s place and do my watch at 1 am, the wind was getting stronger. We had then quite a good pace : 7 to 8 knots! The auto-pilot managed to ke keep the cape. But me, I was feeling sleepy. The strong wind and the deep swell was making the boat move a lot, making me even more sea sick which has a soporific effect. But I knew I would not fall asleep, I had already done those type of watches with stronger seas years before during 3 days in the gulf of Biscay.
At 3 am, I needed to go and wake Bruno up. I went down into the saloon and went to knock at his door. Unfortunately it seemed that I couldn’t withstand the fact of staying inside more than 5 seconds. I immediately ran outside and went to throw up over the board. Then I went to sleep.
The second day was more bearable. I wondered if it was because the weather was quieter or if I was getting used to sailing. In the afternoon we fished a bonite (type of tunafish) of 4kg. It enabled us to cook 3 delicious meals with it.
We reached la Graciosa in the evening, after 40 hours of sailing. Following the advices the advices of an other boat sailing side by side with us (through VHF signal) we didn’t go directly to the marina and set the anchor on supposedly sandy bottoms. During the night the boat never ceased to change direction because of the wind and the current which weren’t in the same direction and which were growing stronger.
The next day, when we removed the anchor, we discovered that it was bent at the bases of an angle of 90°. What happened is certainly that the bottom wasn’t fully composed of sand (though that was what the map indicated) and by changing direction all the time the anchor eventually misplaced itself and the boat, moved by the strong currents and winds, applied an unexpected torque on the base of the anchor.
We moved to the marina directly after and discovered how complicated the booking of a place was. Because of the storm which was only being we were sentenced to stay on that small I sand for 3 days.
During that time we took the opportunity to go for hike at the top of one of the caldera of the island. The landscape is really arid there, that wasn’t at all how were Canaries in my imagination.
It seemed that the only inhabited part of the small Island was the one around the marina, all the rest seemed to be deserted apart for some cactus cultures. In the village it wasn’t very alive, it was constituted of long sandy street with houses with only basement. We rarely saw anyone in those street. The only life seemed to be at the marina’s bar, where were coming all the passing boat’s owner who were staying in the marina. Therefore we spent most of our time there, expecting that by any chance we met one who was looking for crew in order to cross the Atlantic. We met some, with who we sympathised, but if they were crossing they were already full. We were just exchanging story then. One of them told us how he broke his balm on an unexpected jibe in the storm we avoided.
After the three days in La Graciosa we still had no boat nor any lead. That was certainly not the best spot to find one, but at least we were the only one to look for a boat there.
January 17th to 23th : longer stay in Lanzarote than expected
It took us about 10 hours to sail to Arecif’s marina, which is the main Marina of Lanzarote, the island directly South to la Graciosa. Once again Christophe and I were kind of sick. It made me ask myself “why the hell do I want to cross the Atlantic by sailing when I know that I am sea sick?!?” And more generally “Why, me, who is even sometimes sick in cars and couches, did I take the transportation as one of the axis of my project?!?”
Bruno had initially planed to stay only 2-3 days in Arecif before heading to Las Palmas, that we knew as THE spot to look for a boat. But with sailing boats plans change all the time. Because of the delays of the anchor’s repair and the troubling wether situation, he decided to stay way longer. Our life there was quite pleasant. We were going every day on every pontoon of the marina to ask new boat if they were not crossing the Atlantic and looking for a boat. We were doing it a respectful way by being polite and trying not to disturb people. Progressively we were sympathising with lot of people in the marina. Sometimes, essentially with French and mostly Briton (from Brittany in France) who where happy to meet the French, we were invited to eat or drink something on their boats. We were collecting leads, but nothing concrete. If possible I tried to speak with people in the language corresponding to the flag at the back of the boat. We also tried to leave a notice at the marina office.
Among the encounter was a woman waiting for his husband to cross the Atlantic. She told us it would be the first time for her, but her husband had done it already many times. She really wanted to do it but was afraid of being sea sick all the way long. She told us about that medicine, Stugeron, which you can’t find in France and is prescribed for balance problems. It’s known among sea sick sailors that this medicine works much more often on sea sickness than the MerCalme which purpose is only to treat sea sickness and which has a soporific effect. If you ask for a medicine against sea sickness in a drugstore they will not give you this one.
One day we went decided to go by bus, just for the day, to an other marina at the very South of Lanzarote. There we found a catamaran which just had found a crew to cross the Atlantic by consulting “La bourse aux équipiers” (a French website for crew and boat seeker). We spoke a long time with Antoine and Joseph, they had taken aboard. They are 2 Belgian doing a world trip by hitchhiking, they departed from Belgium and went through France and Spain to Gibraltar just by hitchhiking and sleeping in their tent or in peoples houses. They arrived shortly after us in Gibraltar where the guy of the marina told them the same thing as to us : it will be easier to find a boat in Canaries. From their they took a cheap flight to las palmas where they looked for a boat during several weeks. Finally, as they had left a crew offer on the French website, they were contacted by the owners of the catamaran. They took a plane to come from las palmas to la Graciosa and here they were. They gave us many tips for our searches :
- We shouldn’t lose heart : a growing number of boat hitchhikers are coming to canaries every year (if I well remember more than 500 last season) and all those who are not abandoning are finding a boat.
- It was not at all too late to find a boat, there would be still passing boat looking for crew until late April. Though most of them were there in November for the ARC (Atlantic Rally Crossing) which is kind of a gathering for boat owner wanting to cross together with others at the same time.
- Maximise our chances by leaving notices everywhere even if it may seem useless.
- Drop a crew offer on La Bourse Aux Equipiers even if there are already a thousand. Be catchy in the offer and valuate our advantages : engineer, open-minded, seriousness of our projects, flexibility, sailings experiences, ready to leave asap with the suitable equipment, administrative papers and vaccinations.
- Never wait siting on a bench that people pass, we shall inquire and show our motivation. When inquiring, presenting our project before asking if they are crossing.
- Always stay polite and take in account that sometime we are the 20th to ask for a place on their boat. Don’t try to find a boat but more to sympathise with people and come along with them if they are crossing. Sometimes people who are crossing and who still have possible available places on their boat will simply say that they are not, either so that people leave them alone or to test boat hitchhiker’s reaction and see if they are interested only in the boat or mainly by the human experience they would share with them.
- After sympathising with people, ask for a place to sleep on their boat. Many boat which are not crossing have available place aboard they would gladly share to help people they feel sympathetic. That allows you to sleep in a better place, live a good human experience, meet people and that’s a first step in the small world of the boat’s owner of the marina. If the captain likes you, he may advice you to other captains.
- Never feel angry or impatient, see this searching period, as long as it may last, as a chance, as a pleasing way to meet a lot of people, maybe create strong relations with some, as a challenge, as a fabulous human experience.
- If you find a boat, don’t be too quickly to excited. As long as you are not on the sea you are not sure to cross. Captain looking for a crew are usually contacting several people at the same time.
They also told about their sty in las palmas. It seems that there were a lot of boat hitchhiker, but the number was decreasing. Most of them were sleeping on the beach right close to the marina, where policemen weren’t making any problem as long as they were awake and ready to move at 7am. They were a shower local which wasn’t closed so that all could stay clean. Even though there was a lot of concurrence, there were a really good ambiance and they made friends there.
We also met Edwige, a polish girl who is constant looking for a boat from this marina. She is staying on a traditional riggings, where the owner allows her to stay aboard in exchange of some restauration works. She told us how beginning of December she had found a boat which was coming to Lanzarote but something bad happened to it : while he was really close, she received a call from the captain indicating that the boat was broken in two parts. He had been taken by one of the numerous storm of this year and the boat had not resisted. She showed us pictures, that was quite impressive.
Finally, at the end of this day we took some resolutions :
- look for a boat to go to las palmas
- post an offer on la bourse aux équipiers, which we did on our way back.
The next morning I received a phone call : It was Xavier, the captain of a boat who had work in the sailing world his whole life. He was just starting a world trip which should bring him to New Zealand before coming back to France. He was currently looking for 2 crew member to cross the Atlantic from Madeira from February 10th. He was sailing aboard a Wauquiez Pilot Saloon 55, a good and fast boat with which he expected to arrive in la Martinique between February 25th and 28th, which was working pretty well with Christophe obligations. He found our offer in La bourse aux équipiers and really likes our websites. He should recontact us in the week to confirm that the places aboard its boat were available.
When we ended the call, we didn’t what to say, that was unexpected : a golden opportunities, actually certainly the best we had heard about until know. We remembered what the Belgian told us and tried not to be delighted to quickly.
The same day we found a Catamaran Lagoon 380 living the next day to las palmas and which had some 2 places available aboard. We decided to go with him while we were waiting for the answer of Xavier. If we had to move to Madère, in this seasons there would only be in las palmas that we could find a boat going there, if they were any. And if not we would have to take a plane from the Airport of Las Palmas any way. And even if Xavier was saying no, it would be more appropriate to look for a crossing boat from there.
The next morning it was time to say goodbye to our crew with which we sailed and slept under the same roof during ten days. It had been an awesome experience and we really made friend there, with who we would keep in touch! The end of an adventure and the beginning of a new one.
Recap of the Yess Amaze experience :
- First sailing experiences of the trip
- First boat hitchhiking experience ever
- First sea sickness of the trip haha
- First quite long cohabitation en 2 awesome encounters which created real links promising to last in the time.
- Discovery of the small marinas’ world and the kind of society of the sailing nomads
- Many enriching encounters