19. February 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Posts

This was our first trans-Atlantic passage and we had very fair weather.

We are not ‘professionals’ and people make the passage regularly with ‘what ever’ they have…..even rubber dinghy and wind surfers!

But as a boring ‘cruiser’, who likes creature comforts, here are a few bits we hope other cruisers planning the passage will find helpful.



*Seeing whales and dolphins

*Good fishing days

*Swimming in the middle of the Atlantic

*Getting great emails from everyone to encourage us on and amuse us.

*Making landfall at dawn with Bob Marley playing.


Low Points

*The boredom that set in just after half way.

*Some of the very rolly days, especially for the dog.

*The poor fishing mid Atlantic and missing out on good fishing because it was too rough.


Technical Items

*Twin head sails.

We were really happy with the twin sail arrangement.

Positive- good sail area

-easy on auto pilot

-easy to reef single handed.

Negative-more strain on your furling gear

-very hard to drop one of the foresails on passage

-wear on your ‘working sail’ if you over lap them to go to beam or forward.


We used the ‘poorman’s rig’ described by Don Street in his guide to the Cape Verdes.

We were really glad we pre-set and pre-marked all our preventers with extra wear guards (water pipes) on the lines.


If we did it again:

We would fit a thicker furling line (we rotated, then replaced ours mid passage), beef up the blocks leading back to the cockpit (we broke two), have a spinnaker pole locked at 120% of the foresail foot,  and put ‘lock tight’ on every screw,bolt and fitting on the furling gear.

If we were rich:

We would have both foresails cut to the same size, two 120% poles (instead of using the boom) and have the poles mast mounted for easy deployment.


*Spares, spares and more spares.

Bring what you can fit and afford.  You will not regret it.  Spares are hard to find along the way and impossible mid Atlantic.

On passage we replaced our furling line, 2 blocks and a bilge pump.



Best Bits of Equipment

*Auto pilot.

We had an electric auto pilot, Setrex, with an octopus hydraulic ram.  It never let us down, but did eat electricity.


*Water maker

We had a PUR Power Survivor 35.

It is over 20 years old, and we bought it (like most of our stuff) off ebay.

It is simple, nothing goes wrong, and it is safe dependable drinking water.

We have the manual handle as well….if all goes wrong.

*Solar panels

They make no noise and are zero maintenance.

We had 460W and it still was not enough.


*Wind generator

We had a old KISS generator, but had lots of problems with electrical faults, so it was never working efficiently.  We hope to fix it now.

Still worked down wind and most of the anchorages have a good breeze or wind.


*SSB, pactor modem and sail mail

We were able to get weather updates regularly.

It was so great to be able to keep in touch with family and friends.

Friends could look up things on the internet for us and even send us recipes when all our avocados ripened at the same time.

We felt more connected and not so alone.


*Keel cooled 12 V fridge and freezer.

We were able to keep salad stuff in the fridge and slow the ripening of some fruits for later in the passage.

Frozen vegetables and fruit were so much fresher and crunchier then tinned.

We were able to freeze meat, bread and make ice.

We were able to freeze the surplus fish we caught.


*Galley fan.  It get so hot in the galley.  Just to have a fan moving air is a ‘god send’.


*Universal 12V charger.  To charge phones, computers and anything else without turning on the ‘energy eating’ transformer.


*A secure place to sleep in rough conditions or a good sturdy lee cloth for a sea berth.  It gets very rough and rolly and you need to get some sleep.  You need a safe comfortable place to get it.


Packing and Supplies

*Lots of snack items for night watches.  Variety is important.  We loved the little min chocolate bars and nuts.

*Plastic egg crates.  Cockroaches will lay their eggs in cardboard egg cartons.  We used about 12 eggs a weeks in cocking.  Turn egg crates over every few days to make them last longer.

*Do hunt down local markets and suppliers for un-refridgerated, usually locally grown, fruits and vegetables.  Do not assume it is local…ask.  They will last twice as long at sea

*Lots of plastic bowls.  Forget eating off of plates, we never could.

*Wide base, non-slip, stainless steel thermal mugs.

*Reusable, sealable water bottles.  Have a shaded secure place to mount the bottle in the cockpit for water.  This will help you avoid dehydration.

*We hung two sets of mesh netting in the galley for fruit and vegetables.  We found that the passage was so rolly that fruits and vegetables rolled and were damaged in the nets.  We started only moving a day or twos handy supply into them.

*Mesh shopping baskets (or crates).  I wrapped individual items in news paper and put them in crates.  If one item went off it did not effect the rest in the crate.  I had one full of potatoes, one of onions with garlics and ginger and a final full of fruit and vegetables.   I wedged these in one of the unused cabins.  I used Lake Land potato and onion bags to bring 1-2 days supply into the galley.  Put fruit and vegetables into the nets as needed.

*Try not to buy things in plastic wrapping.  Eg. Choose tinned cola instead of bottled, cartons of juice and milk instead of plastic bottled.  It is illegal and environmentally damaging to dispose of plastic at sea.  See ‘Handy Things’ for how to store plastic at sea.

*Wish we had bought more Canarian oranges, tins of cola, individual juice boxes, tinned fruit and wet wipes.

*Clear plastic zip lock bags.  Handy for everything.


Medical Supplies

*Get your EU medical card (If you are a EU citizen).  This entitles you to free visits to a doctor.

*We found prescriptions very cheap in the Canary Islands.  Doctors will prescribe anti-biotics on request.  We showed one doctor the anti-biotics our UK doctor let us have ‘in case of emergency’.  He laughed and said it was for children.  He gave us a prescription for stronger broad spectrum.

*Stock up on all non-prescription supplies before leaving the UK.  Paracetamol, ibuprofen, anti-histamine, decongestant, antiseptic creams, Milton’s, band aids, sun screen and multi-vitamins are all more expensive.

*Dentists are cheaper in the Canary Islands then the UK.


Watch System

We tried, but found the traditional 4 hour watch system too hard to stay awake for.  We found that 3 hours at night to be our maximum.




We usually stayed awake for the day, but if it was a rough night we had siestas.


Handy Things

*Wet wipes.  101 handy uses.

*Bits of warp.  To tie things down or hold them in place..

*Large (5-8L) plastic water bottles.  You can not throw plastic over board at sea, so put it inside sealed plastic water and it will not smell.  You would be surprised what you can squeeze into them.  They also fit in our rubbish bin nicely.

*Tool bag.  In a handy place with the basic tools you might need.  Screw driver, mallet, alan keys, adjustable wrench.

*Electrical box.  With basics to do electrical repairs.

*Duct tape.  Need I say more.

*Water storage bottles with a on/off pour spout.  We had two 10L containers that fit on one end of our galley counter.  We secured this in place with bungy cord.  We could use the pour spout to dispense water with out having to lift anything, even in the roughest conditions.  We had found pouring difficult early on in the trip.  We had two.  One full, the other to be filled with the water maker.

*Lots and lots of plastic hooks, shock cord and bridges.  You can use these to secure things in place, add extra security to shelves and so much more.

*Head torches and lots of batteries.  If you can get, at least one, with variable brightness, you can read on night watch with out ‘seriously’ effecting your night vision.

*A wash basin that fits in your oven.  In the rolly conditions, even a lone butter knife makes so much noise.  Store dirty dishes in the gambled oven until you can wash them.

*Good sturdy bucket with a warp tied to the handle.  You will use this to scoop sea water under way or in port.

*Good size buckets.  Those collapsible rubber ones are great.  You need 3-4 to do laundry and carry wet and dry clothes.  Try to get all the same make so they stack together and take up less roam.

*Pelican water proof case for your camera.  This way you can take your camera with you or have it handy in the cockpit with out worrying about it getting wet.

*Clear plastic sealable tupperware boxes.  If you get all the same brand and medium size they will take very little room stacked up when empty.  Fill them with first aid stuff, toiletries, spares, computer bits and hard drives, open pasta, rice and measured out amounts of flour.

*Stick up plastic shower trays.  We found small ones that stuck up with suction cups.  Use them stuck in handy places to hold stove lighters, scrubbers and sink pugs, tooth brushes and paste, hand soap dispensers or any thing else that will roll away in rough weather.  You can remove them later when you are in port.

*Lots and lots of clothes pegs and one or more containers or bags to hold them.


Getting Things Along the Way

*See above for medical supplies.

*Spares are very difficult to get once you leave the mainland, so stock up.

*Propane is very difficult to get in France, Portugal, Spain and the Canary Islands.  You can get camping gas though.

*The cheapest place to by camping gas and associated bottles and valves is Portugal.  It is subsidised by the government.

*Everything is cheaper where there is competition.  Learn the lost art of bartering!


Creature Comforts

*Binimi cover.  We would have ‘baked’ if we could not have found shade in the afternoon heat.  We also used zipper on mesh sides that hooked onto the top of the guard rails to help keep the cockpit cool.

*Dodgers around the stern and back sides of the boat.  Helped to keep our cockpit a little drier.

*Cockpit cushions.  Walking around was difficult so you end up sitting a reading a lot.  Cushions were nice for our bums and backs.  Canvas was water proof while breathable on skin.  Do get them secured into place as you get rolled about a lot.

*Lots of different things to do in rough weather.  If you are like me you will get bored with just one thing to do for 3-4 weeks.  Books (kindle), sudoku, work search, crossword, music, audiobooks or anything you can do sitting on a rolly boat.




*Strain on the furling gear with the twin sail arrangement.  Our rigging was new, but we were unsure how much force the old furler could take.

*Personal injury so far from medical help.  We wish we had taken a medical course and had a better stocked first aid box.

*Man overboard.  And every worry associated with it.

*Bad weather.  We did not think the boat would sink, but bad weather means horrible discomfort, greater likelyhood of gear failure and greater chances of injury or an accident.





17. February 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Posts

Trans-Atlantic  Last day 21

Well we did it….We are in the Caribbean MAN!
We sailed right into the anchorage at Grande Anse, Martinque at 12:53pm UTC.  14’30.259’N, 61’05.357′ W.

We discovered, after being told off, that no anchoring is allowed and you must tie to one of their free (EU funded) anchor buoys.
As we looked about one of the other boats shouted over that ‘it had been a bit rolly last night’.
‘Nothing is as rolly as the last 3 weeks’ we shouted back.

We got tied on, put the boat ‘to bed’ and the human’s jumped in for a swim.  I relaxed to a well earned nap.
The human’s told me the water temperature was a shocking 24.2’C the water!
It was officially 9am Caribbean time but after 1pm UTC so the human’s had a celebrator beer after being ‘dry’ for 3 weeks.

They have taken pictures of the anchorage, cleaned up and now we are all going drop the dingy and go a shore and check in with customs.

It is a little unbelievable that we are really in the Caribbean!!!
As soon as we can get some internet we will add pictures, video and a summation of the trip.

Trans-Atlantic  Day 20

After our night of squalls the day brightened up and was sunny.
We still had a fair wind and were treble reefed (sails shortened).

The day was one of monster waves.
They had been stirred up through the night.
Most just lifted the boat up into the sky and settled her back down in the troft.
They looked a bit scary, but were harmless.
Unfortunately not all of them were harmless and a few broke over the side of the boat and soaked the cockpit.
It is the first time we have had white water in the cockpit, usually we get spray at the most, and now we have the dodgers to help fight that.

Thankfully the waves eased in the evening and we made a fair passage towards our imaginary way point (chart position on a GPS) just off the south point of Martinique.

At 3am and 40 nm out we could see a distinct bright haze on the horizon.
The haze got bigger and finally turned into twinkley lights and we could make out the light houses on either end.
We tried to take turns sleeping, but excitement was building.
The human’s had already dug out the ceremonial beers and a bottle of champagne out of the bilges and moved it to the fridge.

Then it happened at just after 9 am UTC.
We reached the imaginary way point we had been aiming for for 20 days.

14’21.804′ N, 60’50.445′ W.
With no miles to go.

It is still dark here and we still have to get around the back of the island to the anchorage.
Stay tuned for the final hours on Day 21.

SOA Day 20

Trans-Atlantic  Day 19

We had lots of visitors yesterday.
I say lots, but any visitor makes a change for us out here.
First we entertained by a pod of Atlantic Spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis),
then we crossed paths with a ship.

Real life other people out there!
The human’s were so tempted to call them up on the radio.
You could really see how rough the waves were now, as they were breaking over the bow of the giant container ship.
They must have been looking at us and thinking ‘crazies!’

It did not improve through the night.
Instead we were hit by squall after squall.
It was remarkable that we had gotten this far with out being hit by any.
We are all a bit water logged this morning, but disappointed that it did not wash away the red Sahara sand that had coated the boat since we got caught in the sand storms off the African coast.
It looks like the boats colour theme is permanently changed.

This morning at 8:30am UTC the wet crew of Spirit of Argo were at 15’10.097′ N, 58’15.633′ W.
According to the GPS, I had just over 159 nm to go before I get wet running into the surf.


SOA Day 19
SOA Day 19
15. February 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Posts

Trans-Atlantic  Day 18

Yes, we are still at sea.
We were at position 15’29.755 N, 55’30.296′ W at 8:30 am UTC.
I have just over 319 nm to go before I can have a pee with out looking like I am drunk.

The winds gradually picked up during the day, reaching a crescendo in the night.
They have calmed a bit this morning, but it has left the seas stirred up.

I was thinking last night how best to describe a rough sea at night.
Of course, in the dark, you rely more on your senses and imagination.
I will try and put you in my place:
Imagine you have rented a beautiful rustic cottage on the beach.
Just set back from the water in a little forest of beech trees.
After a long hot day, the night winds kick in, just as you are going to bed.
You open up the windows, to let in the night air, and curl up under the covers of your little bunk.
You can hear the waves ‘breathing a deep sigh’ and then crash onto the beach, with tumbling white water, over and over again.
You hear the rustle of the beech leaves in the trees as the winds pass by the cottage in gusts.
You are relaxed into a lull of peace and one with nature.
As your floating cottage rides up and over the ocean waves you are still trapped in you bed!
All the furniture, including the bed you are on, are now throw first to one side of the room, crashing against the wall, then the other.
Pictures and books throw themselves at you from the walls.
Between the crashes you can hear the wooden boards that make up the floor, ceilings and walls creaking and contorting with the constant movement.

Maybe I am over exaggerating, just a little.
Didn’t scare you did I?
Tee, hee, hee.