Alone Like a Rolling Stone

Atlantic crossing - When the cat starts to hiss

 It's been a few days since you last heard from us. Not that we don't want to share our adventure with you anymore, but the Atlantic crossing has temporarily excluded us from the virtual world and to be honest, we enjoyed the time. Now that we have crossed the Atlantic, our normal life on board is back and we are starting our routine, which includes writing.

In the middle of the Atlantic

Our catamaran is equipped with four bilge pipes in the cockpit, in order to let penetrating water, by a wave, flow off again as fast as possible. We have so far, during the crossing from Gran Canaria to La Gomera, happened once that a wave has strayed into the cockpit. I would have liked to see the water drain more quickly, but at least the bilge pipes served their purpose. However, these bilge pipes also have an unpleasant feature. The two floats of our Cat are connected with a so-called bridge deck. Under the bridge deck the water, and what is not quite insignificant, also air flows through. When the Cat picks up speed, the air under the bridge deck is compressed and pushes out of the bilge pipes located in the last third of the boat. This, of course, is not without the corresponding background noise. Like organ pipes, the air is pushed through the tubes and causes a hellish hissing. Together with the roar of the water, which swells to an infernal roar from 6.5 knots of speed, one can only communicate on board by screaming. Being permanently exposed to this noise level for several days and nights was one of the most exhausting parts of our Atlantic crossing.

Katinka in the Marina Mindelo

For days I have been watching the weather development, and for days I have been waiting for one of the next tropical waves to develop southeast of Cape Verde. The idea is to let one of these waves pass and then sail after it. But the weather does not do me the favor. When then over one week the trade wind, durably and steadily, is to last, we throw the lines in Mindelo loose and start on 7 October to our first Atlantic crossing. We say goodbye to our won friends and take the nearly 1800 nautical miles in attack. In the afternoon of the first day we reach the wind shadow of the island Sao Antao and bobble with 1.8 knots in a terrible cross sea. 

Two weeks nothing but wind and waves

Surprisingly, Gaby is spared the whole trip from the seasickness that usually follows her so violently. Only after 13 nautical miles, it is already dark, the wind starts again. The first four days we make good progress with moderate wind and achieve distances of 120 nautical miles. Gaby has a hard time getting used to the monotony of wind and waves. Four days on the water and still twelve days the same picture, almost unbearable. The morale sinks into the cellar, I do my best to build it up again. In addition, numerous thunderstorms are coming down to the south of us, always building up a wave that fights against the normally prevailing swell from the northeast, always causing an unpleasant ship motion. However, the weather forecast, which I download daily via the Iridium satellite system, does not indicate any tropical storms. On the fifth day, the northeast trade wind slowly picks up and we reach an average speed of 7.5 knots. The "Cat" starts to hiss and the roar of the sea is deafening. Especially in the free watch sleep is almost unthinkable. The etmal rises to 166 nautical miles and at some point we also sleep on our free watch. One notices that one begins to dream. Everything that shoots through your head during the day is then processed in your dreams at night. Sometimes confused stuff, confused and incoherent. Then you wake up tired and start your watch.

Good food raises morale

We have decided on a two-hour rhythm. This makes it easier for the one on watch. At some point you start to see white elephants and talk to yourself. The problem is not that you talk to yourself, no, the problem is that you think someone else is talking to you. So we are happy every time we see the sun rising in the east. Dolphins visit us and romp around our boat for more than an hour, playing with the bow that is always dipping into the waves.

Dolphins, always a welcome change

On day 11, the wind dies down during the night. We have now reached 8° north latitude and are no longer in the danger zone of tropical storms. However, we are getting closer and closer to the so-called "squalles", which are violent thunderstorms. Threatening gray-black clouds are building up in front of and behind us. From far away you can see the squall coming towards you. Until now, however, we are spared a heavy downpour. This changes on days 12 and 13. The wind has dropped to an unbearable 5 knots and the drive is out of the boat. We notice this in the sudden silence that prevails. No roaring, no hissing, maybe once an almost imperceptible gurgling. We enjoy the silence and let our thoughts, as well as the boat, drift. No engine noise should disturb the peace. But now the gray-black walls are closing in on us. Quickly they come closer and surround us. Heavy rain falls and the waves are pushed down by the raindrops. The sea looks like a huge cotton ball. Again and again gusts of up to 25 knots fall in and push us a bit to the west again. Visibility is severely limited and a water mist hovers over the sea. The most violent "squall" lasted a whole hour, otherwise the magic is over in half an hour.

Squall on the Atlantic

I think of Spinoza, who in some theorem, the number unfortunately escapes me, says: "Everything that occurs in nature has a purpose and is so willed by God." Since I've read Spinoza's Ethics three times now and I still don't fully understand him, I wonder if the sea is drying up or the boat is in dire need of a freshwater shower. I decide for the latter, because I do not want to imagine what the former would have for consequences for our onward journey. Then it occurs to me that the only reason I don't fully understand Spinoza is that he puts as many commas in his sentences as I usually do. But I quickly discard this thought as well. In the night to the 14th day wind comes up again and with a strong current we reach once more an etmal of 140 nautical miles, which brings us 30 nautical miles before the group of islands "Ile du Salut". The archipelago once served the French as a prison island for political convicts. Three nautical miles off the South American mainland we want to have a closer look at the islands. But here Corona catches up with us again. The islands are closed for public traffic. The next day we are also driven out of the bay, because an Ariane rocket is sent into the sky and the islands fall into the security zone, which has to be cleared.

In front of the Ile Royal (Ile du Salut)

So we set off for our final destination, St. Laurent du Maroni. The fishing line buzzes out again and after I have already lost two fish through my own stupidity, I take it upon myself to give the one at the other end no chance this time. The fish, initially classified as yellow tuna, turns out to be "Cavalla", horsehead mackerel, which makes the fish no less delicious.

Cavalla horsehead mackerel (right side of picture)

At night we reach the entrance of the river with the water rising. The channel is buoyed and it is not difficult to follow the river. The day begins and the beauty of the area becomes visible. Large butterflies flutter around our boat, and to starboard the rainforest of Suriname, to port that of French Guiana. The wood smells sweet and a small settlement appears in the morning haze. At 8:26am we moor at a buoy off St. Laurent. We have reached our destination.
Maroni River, French Guiana

Our Atlantic crossing took 14 days, 17hours and 39minutes and we covered 1765 nautical miles. Our maximum speed was 15.4 knots, our lowest 1.8 knots. On average, we sailed over the bottom at 5 knots. Food, especially fruits and vegetables, held up very well in the nets provided. Bananas ran out quickly. Citrus and kiwi lasted the longest. In total we used 230l of water. Of the 1765 nautical miles, we covered 62 nautical miles under motor. With humility and a little bit of pride we are happy to join the illustrious circle of Atlantic crossers.

You can find out more about our adventure at Until next time, as always fair winds and keep a stiff upper lip.

Sunrise at the river Maroni, Franz. Guyana

Proud crew of SY Katinka, Atlantic crossing accomplished!