This crossing to Cape Verde was a big step for us as this was again our largest crossing until today. In a nutshell it was rough. Of course we had a great time; we had beautiful sunrises and sunsets, lots of dolphins paid us a visit, a curious whale stopped by, the flying fish were everywhere and we managed to fish a Mahi-mahi and a giant squid. To make things better, the crew was amazing. However the challenge this time was that the wind intensity was almost twice the forecast and therefore a lot more wind than we hoped for. The great news is that we sailed the vast majority of the way and it was another great test to the crew and to the boat. Ipanema rode like a tank!
The crossing was about 860 nautical miles, which is around1.600 kilometer. In a straight line, this is approximately the distance between Rio de Janeiro and Maceio. So even in a car going 120 km/hr this is far, imagine in a boat moving at 5-6 knots… it took us 7 days and 6 nights. The beginning was pleasant, we had great wind and we sailed with the gennaker, then the wind picked up a bit and we used the main with the genoa as butterfly, not bad (our swedish guru Daniel “the pirate” Mattson would be proud of us).
However as the wind grew stronger and the waves became higher, the autopilot could not help us anymore. So the trip was rough, the wind forecast showed 18-24 knots the entire way and we had 28-42 knots most of the time. The strong wind created big short period waves, which are the less confortable situation one can have. We sailed with the sails fully trimmed and pray for the autopilot not to break. The crew and boat has behaved spectacularly well and now we are all confident about the major leg of the Atlantic crossing. It can only be easier than this.
It is funny, after spending almost one year at sea you start to develop a strange connection to the boat. Ipanema is now not only our home, but it also our safe harbor and companion. Sometimes it looks like it has a life of its own. As I write this post Ipanema is just a tinny white dot in the middle of the vast blue ocean, but it is what keep us alive in the middle of these huge waves and unstoppable wind. We take turns doing the watches, we sleep, eat, rest, read, write, but Ipanema is unstoppable. It rides like a tank! It takes all the beating from the side waves, resists the stress of the strong wind gusts, gets dirty from the dust of the West Sahara dessert and then gets washed by the splash of the salty waves of the Atlantic. The thing is that Ipanema never rests or gives up while we are at sea. I am really grateful for what is has been through and for taking really good care of us during this wild crossing. But I am happy for it, I guess Ipanema was never built to simply motor around the beautiful Croatian waters; it was destined for much more, it was intended to keep us safe and conquer the world. It is hard to think that someday we will have to let go of this boat after so many things we have been through together. Right now I hope this day never comes.
Well, getting back to the fun part of the journey. Not too long after we left the Canaries we saw a whale quite close by, and Sarah was all jumpdy about it. A series of dolphins also stopped by every now and then. We also saw a moon fish (Mola Mola) and a floating turtle passing by. But the highlight of this crossing was the thousands of flying fish we saw during the entire journey. In fact, a few of them landed on the boat and, of course, the first one to find them was noisy Feijão. Believe it or not he also found a squid on the deck. Go figure. The theorists believe if was brought by the huge waves that washed the deck every now and then.
On the fishing side the crossing was also quite successful. First we got a giant squid and then we fish a descent sized Mahi-mahi, which was enough to feed us all the way to Cape Verde, so we took the fishing rods out of the water. I have to tell you, taking a one meter fish out of the water with the boat moving, big waves and 40 knots of wind, felt like we are fishing a blue whale.
By the way, Sarah was such a brave soul dissecting that giant squid that looked a lot more like an ancient alien then to a fish. She looked like a pro with her knifes chopping that slimy thing into pieces. She continues to impress me everyday; she is cooking better and better every meal. She reads and watches movies without getting seasick and she also helps sailing Ipanema when needed. She always let me win at backgammon.
For the dog lovers, another great news is that after all the antibiotics we are giving Feijão he is felling great and ready to run a marathon. Unfortunately with these big waves we want him to stay quietly inside the boat, which does not happen all the time. So every now and then we are chasing the jumpdy clumsy and fearless beast around the deck outside praying that no one is going to fall overboard. The problem with Feijão is that he doesn’t show a lot of athleticism and he is always fearless and clueless. Altogether is a powerful combination for falling overboard, and since he swims like an anchor, every time he goes outside in heavy weather Sarah and I almost have a heart attack.
To add to the rough side of the crossing we had three events that made me loose the little hair I still have.
- First, at some point in the middle of the Atlantic, we found the bilge full of water, until you figure out what is going on, the only thing you hear is the alarm beeping and the crew looking scared and puzzled at you, while you are just staring back at all that water inside the bilge, freaking out but trying to keep cool. Luckily, we quickly figured out that it was the water maker pouring fresh water into the boat, again one of the hoses popped out, rapidly to be fixed.
- Then, one of the crewmembers in the middle of a maneuver, at night, thought he was able to hold the sheet of the main sail in his hands with 30+ knots of wind without the help of the winch. Guess what? He couldn’t. And in the middle of the Atlantic the boom hit the shrouds with all its strengths. If one of the shrouds breaks, the mast will fall down and we will be in big trouble. He could also have hurt his hands real bad, and we would have been days away from a hospital. I guess that on the safety briefing I need to be even more thorough on what should never be done.
- Finally, one of the cables that holds the lazy bag up (the cover on the boom that holds the sail in while not being used) snapped, leaving the bottom of the sail that was reefed hanging out on the side of the boom, which limited our maneuverability until we fixed it.
Of course, I can’t finish this post without thanking our crew. Doing this crossing under these condition without them would have been impossible, or at least, extremely tiring and dangerous. I am really glad we are going to be together on our way to Barbados and let’s hope for more mild wind conditions.
Now it is time to rest, refill and enjoy Cape Verde before we face the longer Atlantic crossing to Barbados!