There was a lot of interest in our “By the Numbers” Facebook/ Instagram post. Being that it was a social media post, I wasn’t able to expand much on the information in it. It generated a lot of questions! For instance, why even keep track of such randomness?
It all started as we brainstormed ways we could pass time knowing we weren’t going to see land for almost 3 weeks. How we might break up the passage or at least stay engaged as we crossed? So we came up with a series of things to track, which honestly grew a bit as time went on…oh, and we placed some bets! Here are some of the things we looked at…
Miles Logged from Valencia to Jolly Harbour Antigua: 4387.2. Technically we consider our Atlantic crossing to be from San Miguel De Abona (Tenerife), Spain to Jolly Harbour, Antigua since that was supposed to be the longest non-stop passage. However, we would be remiss to not include our actual starting point in Valencia, Spain, where this whole journey really began. Taking over a boat that sat unattended for a couple months to getting her blue water worthy again in a foreign country with little knowledge of the area or language, was NOT without its blood, sweat, tears, follies and considerable planning. Plus, we had great crew that were willing to come in and help us move the boat safely and more confidently through the turbulent waters of the Strait of Gibralter to our jumping off point in the Canary Islands. Joining an unknown boat, with unknown destinations and timelines due to weather is not for the faint of heart! So we are counting those miles as well!
Crew: 4 (Kevin, Erin, Geoff, Henry/Louis swapped in Tenerife). Based on comfort, safety, and insurance requirements as new catamaran owners, we decided to have 2 additional crew join us along the way. And we could not have asked for better crew mates! Geoff, who often eclipses 10K delivery hours a year and crewed with Kevin onboard another catamaran the previous fall was a given and we added his son, Louis, for the Valencia to Tenerife leg. That first long trip didn’t quite turn out as planned and we were thankful for their ability to think on their feet and the flexibility in their schedules! More on that another day. Henry, another very experienced and highly recommended delivery captain, with a wealth sailing and medical knowledge swapped in on our stop in Tenerife, while Louis went on some additional European adventures before heading back to work.
Insights from the Tenerife to Antigua leg:
Miles Logged from Tenerife to Antigua: 3103. This was not a straight shot as was planned. We were forced in route to decide whether to duck into Cape Verde for additional resources due to weather. Most things that are going to go wrong usually go wrong in the first couple days. For those starting in the Canaries, Cape Verde provides a good and last chance emergency divert if necessary. A stop we decided to utilize, so our trip was actually broken into two legs: 881 miles from Tenerife to Cape Verde and 2222 from Cape Verde to Antigua.
Time Sailing: 21 Days, 7 Hours, 57 Min. Erin sadly won this bet, a bet she was hoping to lose, but based on the low pressure system and the conservative sail plan, she decided to be ultra conservative and bet on the high end. Geoff was very optimistic betting on 18 days. But the initial weather into Cape Verde, along with rigging issues to include a compromised mast slowed us down a bit. All things considered, in a perfect world, Geoff would have easily won that bet.
Time stopped: 42 hours (Mindelo, Cape Verde). We knew there was a series of abnormally strong low pressure systems churning to the North, which removed the “Azores high” that makes the trade winds so reliable. We hoped to get a head of it and catch winds on either side limiting our fuel burn. That was not the case and we ended up motoring for 4 of the initial 6 days in route. Erring on the side of caution, we stopped in Cape Verde. While we are never sad about getting another stamp in the passport and experiencing a new place, this put getting our crew home for Christmas in serious jeopardy which we were hoping to avoid.
Watches Stood: 138. There is a lot of debate over the best method of standing 24-hour watches while on long passages. There are a lot of factors to consider and everyone is different on how they handle the odd hours being awake through night, napping during the day, and finding time to eat. Being retired military and having experienced sailors on board, this was not something we were particularly worried about and knew what we were getting into. How to accomplish it though was the topic of A LOT of conversations. We settled on 3x 4-hour day watches, roughly between sun up and sun down, and then 6x 2-hour night watches. None of us had done it this way previously, so went into it as a plan from which to deviate. As it turned out, it was a success. You had 6 hours between watches at a minimum, 2 hours is generally not too hard to suffer through if you are struggling, and every 4th day, you had the entire day to rest and relax. On that note…Caffeinated beverages: countless. Though Kevin was the only coffee drinker on board! The rest of us settled for various teas and sodas to get our caffeine/sugar/aspartame fixes.
Fuel Burned: 812 Liters. 78% of that fuel was burned motoring to Cape Verde in 0 winds/flat seas, which literally drove us into Cape Verde. While we didn’t actually need the fuel in the end with good winds the rest of the way, we didn’t know that at the time. The winds were still a little unpredictable and forecast models predicting the trade winds to be much farther south than usual. Always better to err on the side of caution. If anyone is the Caribbean and could use some fuel at a discount let us know ;). Kevin won the fuel used bet, optimistic that we would get the winds we were hoping for.
Fish Caught: 7 (Skipjack Tuna, Mahi-Mahi). While we provisioned well to feed 4 people for over 25 days, it is always a treat to catch and eat fresh fish! We didn’t catch as much as we wanted, some having to be thrown back, the less tasty species. We primarily caught Skipjack Tuna and Mahi. All of it delicious!
Fish lost: 3 Some did manage to get a way sadly including 1 HUGE Mahi who kept 300m of line & a souvenir lure despite Kevin’s best efforts to bring him aboard. We were just moving too fast under sail and couldn’t slow the boat down to remove the fish’s advantage.
Pods of Dolphins: 7 Always a treat to watch them play in the waters off the bow. Truly never gets old.
Gams of Whales: 1 A group of pilot whales graced us with their presence early on.
Mola Mola: 1. Henry wins random sighting of the passage with this homely fella.
Flying fish: Removed from deck dead-19 / Rescued-3 / Almost took off Erin’s head during sail change -1
Other Boats seen offshore: 11. It’s a big ocean. Always interesting when you cross paths with other boats out there. We had a few sailboats in sight a few times and it broke up the monotony to chat with them about their boat and crossing experience thus far. Cruise ships, cargo ships and mega Yachts also crossed our path on occasion.
Stowaways: 1. Sir Charles Sh*ts-a-lot stowed away for about 24 hours just prior to midway. A random Egret which we did not expect to see in the middle of the ocean.See our previous post for the more in depth story of his time aboard!
Books Read: 39. Erin took the lead on this one with 13 read over the trip, but probably b/c Geoff chose to start of with a looong choice in The Count of Monte Cristo and Henry didn’t bring enough for the full passage! Kevin was close with 10! While it wasn’t really a competition, Geoff did abandon his first book for a few days to knock out some short ones. Sudoku and solitaire games played…countless.
Squalls: 4. Thankfully, we can usually see these coming, but it does require active steering as the gusty winds can shift a full 360 degrees while the person at the helm gets drenched. Always exciting.
Max wave height: 4m (12’) / Min wave height: .04m. This was actually a fairly comfortable trip as the seas were usually following. There were a few days where the winds and currents didn’t quite marry up and it created a bit of a confused sea state. This has the tendency to bounce and slap a catamaran around, but only a few times did we lose a cup or mug from the countertop! Overall, a fairly comfortable trip once you get used to seeing a wave bigger than the boat chase you down and learning that the boat will just ride it up then back down and NOT actually break into the boat!
Celestial fixes taken: 12. Accuracy – 100%. duh. (“Wherever you go, there you are!)
Bags of trash: 4x30L. We are pretty proud of this one. Prior to passage, you try to reduce waste on board to begin with taking purchased products out of their original packaging BEFORE leaving the dock. Once a bag is full, we remove it, close it up tight and toss it in the dinghy where it will be removed and disposed of properly once in port again. The vast majority of the refuse we accumulated was just the plastic wrapping around the products we used.
Sail Changes: 31. Due to a compromised mast stemming from an incident crossing the Strait of Gibralter, we were forced to be a bit more cautious with our sails and the wind speeds they encountered. Using caution during night watches, we opted to only use the Spinnaker during the day and switch to the Code 0 at night when winds forecast allowed it. Our mainsail gave us a bit of trouble along the way, so went in and out of usage. And so, we had no shortage of daily sail changes.
Fully In-tact sails at conclusion of journey: 2 of 4. Casualties included our mainsail, which experienced multiple failures. It’s a complicated prototype rig, so more on that later! The crew, to include the aforementioned spy Sir CHarles Sh*ts-a-lot, did an amazing job coming up with ingenious fixes to keep it flying. (Bonus: we hope it will get us the 1,000+ miles back to Florida!) Our Code 0 was sadly shredded due to a torsion line failure while trying to furl it in. The luff torsion line broke down to the point that it would not twist uniformly wrapping the sail up neatly, even in lighter winds it was a challenge. So it took all four crew to work together to pull it down and keep it onboard while watching a small tear work it way along the leech of the sail becoming a large tear throughout the entire sail.
Parties thrown: 3 (Halfway, Christmas Eve, Arrival). Who doesn’t like a good party! We threw a pirate themed halfway party just as we crossed longitude 43deg. Had a very rough (seas) Christmas Eve dinner. And in the end we went out and celebrated our safe crossing once in Antigua with some VERY delicious rum punches at Al Porto in Jolly Harbour. Alcohol consumed: 2 bottles of wine. One glass each at the halfway party and on Christmas eve. Had to keep our wits about us! Sunday Brunches: 3. Every Sunday, it was a treat to wake up and see Geoff’s brunch menu, which was always varied and delightful! A highlight of the week! Bonus, we got world cup updates throughout the day of the final from his friends at home. It was fun to follow along and place bets on the outcome as well!
Passport stamps: 4. 🇪🇸 Spain, 🇬🇮 Gibralter, 🇨🇻 Cape Verde, 🇦🇬 Antigua & Barbuda…though technically Gibralter doesn’t stamp passports. (sad)
Continents: 3. Europe, Africa, North America.
Trip MVP: Otto von Helm. While not a noted crew member above, that hydraulic pump worked it’s *ss off and performed admirably especially since he had a rocky start prior to our departure from Valencia! Runner up: The Jib, which all alone, pulled us along at 6-8kts in 20+ kts of breeze for days on end as we mended other sails or were out of wind limits.