Atlantic Boat Life Canaries Portugal Spain

Crossing to the Canaries: Anxiety and Success

Written by Renato Matiolli

The crossing to the Canaries was quite an experience, it has been our longest crossing till date and it took us 5 nights and 5 days. We were very anxious as we waited for a long time and yet we left with concerning weather ahead of us. During the crossing we ended up having good as well as bad weather, we saw dolphins and a whale, we had an amazing crew and now we are no longer newbies in the Atlantic. This was an amazing practice, probably the most difficult leg we will face during the Atlantic crossing. More important, the boat is in tip-top conditions and we now feel more prepared and confident for the crossings to Cape Verde and then to the Caribbean.


Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 12_FotorWe waited a month, a lot more than expected, to get the right condition to cross from Portugal to the Canaries. By looking at the historical pilot data, 70% of the wind during this time of year should come from the northeast, north or northwest, so it should not be that hard to find the right moment to cross, but this wind never came. After waiting a month, we left Portugal with a suboptimal weather forecast: there was only two days of favorable wind, lot’s of rain and really big waves, so we were anxious as well as a bit scared about what we were going to find ahead of us.

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 3_FotorAll this waiting got us even more anxious about the crossing and with the forecast of huge waves ahead of us did not help to ease our anxiety. Remember, that this is our longest crossing till date (640 nautical miles), our first real sailing in the Open Ocean and first time with such big and side waves. Remember that we were leaving Portugal (the country that has had the biggest wave surfed in history) to go to the Canaries (also known as the “European Hawaii”), so we are talking about high seas locations… by the way, all of this is happening during high surfing season.

I guess that the preparation of stepping into the unknown always brings anxiety and fear; this is a very primitive and strange feeling, which can really help you or jeopardize your decision-making and actions. We see it in a positive way, as this is yet another dimension we are learning about ourselves during this journey around the world. We are learning how we react during these uncommon situations for us, which are not so predictable, controlled and “confortable” as our previous lives. When we joined this adventure around the world we did not have an exact idea on what to expect from it, but so far it has been an experience above and beyond anything we could have anticipated.

Since we waited so long for this crossing, we had many crewmembers joining us for the sailing and leaving before the crossing.

  • First it was Sarah’s cousin, Neto, a super funny dude, who always had a laugh about everything, super positive energy and great guy. Unfortunately, he couldn’t wait for so long and ended up having to give up on the crossing as he had to go back to Brazil to work. It was probably good as he was already getting seasick at the marina, and the first couple of days of sailing were really really rough.
  • We also had Viktor, a Swedish guy who joined us, stayed a couple of week in Portimão, but left before the crossing because he found another boat that could take him all the way to the Caribbean (and we were already full for the second part of the crossings)
  • We even had a couple of young French circus artists (Patrick and Ariane), who joined us, showed us a few circus tricks, but also left as they were heading to Brazil and had to be there faster than a boat could take them.
  • Then we had João, a super nice Portuguese guy, who graduated and worked as a civil engineer, but who is now pursuing a career change in the yachting business. He is looking for the sea miles to get his Yacht Master diploma and he was the only brave soul who stuck with us the entire time. We are sure he will be very successful in this new career as he chases his dreams and is very smart and competent. The trip without him would have had been a lot more difficult.
  • Then we had Pedro, our local friend, who by now is like family to us. Having him around it is just like having your brother on the boat. He is a super nice guy who is up to help with anything. We can’t wait to get some surfing action in the Canaries.
  •   Finally we had Mitch, the German, who joined us in the last minute. He started sailing recently and is the type of person who is up for a different adventure.

DSC02090_Fotor  foto-4

DSC02151_Fotor  DSC02149_Fotor


We left Portimão on Saturday morning and we started sailing straight away. After a few hours we had 5-6 meter waves passing us by from one side of the boat to the other. As forecasted the waves were huge but had a long period, which means that they were big, yet long and somehow flat, we could surf them with no problem, but it was still quite rough. If it wasn’t for the strong wind the conditions wouldn’t have been so bad, it was not a confortable ride at all at the beginning, two of our crewmembers got really seasick and did not leave their cabins for 24 hours.

During the second day, the weather was trying to settle and we had some periods of sunny weather, unfortunately they were followed by squalls with dark clouds, heavy rain and above 40 knots of wind, the waves were apparently even bigger. At night this situation got even worse, as the wind had decreased we hoisted the sails up, but in the dark we could not see the squalls coming to hit us, and it is quite hard to face them with the main up and genoa opened. We never thought that we would have to adjust our sails so many times during the Atlantic. We have been adjusting sails a lot more during this trip than during any of our crossings in the Mediterranean.


Well, as the days passed by the conditions improved more and more, until a point that there were no waves at all, but unfortunately no wind at all either, so we had to motor for the final one third of the trip. We tried to fish and waited a long time for some swimming creature to bite the lure and it finally came close to dinner time. After that we were left with just admiring the shooting starts, sunsets, sunrises, innumerous dolphins who came to pay us a visit and a curious whale, which swam by. Yes! We saw a whale! How cool is that? And guess who was crying all emotional again and who was barking all over the place again?


About the author

Renato Matiolli

Leave a Comment