I’m sitting in our cockpit here in Capri, tied to our berth in Las Palmas harbor. Vinni is up taking a shower and I’m thinking about what we will be undertaking later today.
We’ll be crossing the Atlantic in our own boat.
Yeah – so what else is new? Yawn. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, you say. Not much else is new actually, except this is a dream I’ve had ever since I can remember. Despite growing up in Potterstown, New Jersey, which is nowhere near the sea and despite having no family relationship to the sea, I started devouring books about sailing ships when I was 7 or 8. I read everything I could get hold of and then some.
I don’t know why sailing fascinated me. Perhaps it was fantasies of deserted pacific islands with pure white sand beaches and coral reefs. Maybe it was the romanticism generated by the idea of floating under the wind’s power across warm waters. Scantily clad young women dressed only in grass skirts ( well, boys DO spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about those things) Or the adventure of it all – visiting places only few had visited before, or places you can only get to by boat (your own).
Perhaps all of the above and more. We’re on the threshold of a grand adventure, Vinni and I. My boyhood dream. Vinni didn’t have this dream when she was a little girl – not by a long-shot. This dream started only a few years ago for her – but it burns just as brightly for her as it does for me and for me it has been burning for over 55 years.
The reality of this is just beginning to dawn on me. I mean – how many people get to realize one of their boyhood dreams? No many when you think about it. We all have those dreams and somehow life ends up getting in the way and the years roll by and suddenly it’s all too late or health problems occur or,or,or . What is it someone said? “Life is what gets in the way while you’re busy making plans”. Or something like that.
Some do realize those dreams, but even fewer realize them 55 years later. I’m humbled by the fact that I have the opportunity to do this. Will the reality live up to my expectations? Will I be disappointed? Time will tell, but it doesn’t matter.
I’m doing this and that fact is such a thrill that I simply can’t believe it.
Las Palmas to Cape Verde
The dream starts at about 11:00 when the first boats begin to exit their berths and sail out. The multihulls go first since they have the first starting times – after them, the single-hulls will go to start. We’ll all be starting at 13:00. Just before noon, we slip our lines and Vinni takes Capri out into the long procession of boats exiting. Capri glides gracefully into a slot and slowly winds her way through the harbor. Las Palmas has a band playing and lots of people have shown up and are standing on the breakwater to wave good-bye and wish us all luck. I’m told that this is nothing compared to the number of people and boats that come out to wish the big ARC good-bye, when thousands line the breakwater and cheer those boats on.
We wave (as everyone else does) and I blow away on our fog horn and all of a sudden we are outside and beginning to pony up to the starting line. Of course, with sixty odd boats all out there ponying up, conditions are crowded and near misses are everywhere. Fortunately the winds are light (we’ll regret those light winds later) so the boats are all moving slowly. I can imagine the confusion when the ARC sends 300 boats outs to start.
Capri and perhaps 10-12 other boats headed east to try to catch some winds while everyone else headed directly south. We had a little wind but not much. After a hour or two we turned south and could see that all those boats that had stayed close to shore apparently had caught some acceleration winds around the island and were doing 6+ knots while we were wallowing around doing 3.
Shit! And double shit! Nothing for it but turn and work our way close to shore. In the meantime, everyone else disappeared as we slowly worked our way in. Only to find that there was no wind – absolutely no wind.
Now Vinni has a competitive gene and it was going totally haywire. She can’t stand that we’re here with no wind and everyone else is disappearing into the sunset. So she’s having a hissy fit (of monumental proportions J).
When I say no wind, I mean no wind – the aerometer said 0.0 knots. We were drifting with the current that runs alongside Gran Canaria and moving at about 1.5 knots. Meanwhile the sails are flogging and flapping about and providing no movement to the boat.
18 hours later ( and you can imagine what those 18 hours were like with the sails flogging and Vinni having a hissy fit), we had drifted south of the island and to the west and finally caught some wind. By this time we were something like dead last in the field. Number zip.
Oh well, as long as we get there safe and sound – I’m happy.
After 24 hours we could enter 87 nm in the log as the days march – less than non-impressive.
The winds picked up and we got a bead on Cape Verde. And the winds kept picking up. First we went to the second reef in the mainsail, then the genua got reefed. Finally we dropped the foresail, and reefed the mainsail to our storm 3 reef and we were still doing 8+ knots. Just to add some spice to our lives, the toilet broke down. Fortunately it was the intake side that broke and not the outlet side. We have a shower next to the toilet so we could flush with fresh water. I made a note on the “wailing wall” “fix crapper”.
8+ knots is a lot of fun – in the daytime. At night when you can’t see a damned thing and the waves are confused, then this is more fun that we really wanted to have. We hung on grimly as Capri got tossed back and forth by the waves –flying off some of the wave tops at over 9 knots. All you can do in the middle of the night is hang on – and pray the boat lands upright.
We were more than happy to see the dawn. The second day at sea we managed 138 nm for 24 hours – still unimpressive until you realize we did most of those in the last 12 hours.
The winds moderated and now we could pour on some coal. We shook out the reef in the mainsail and got back to second reef and hauled out the genua and let it fly. Now we were doing 8+ knots most of the time. Still terribly confused waves, but we had the sails poled out to each side (called sailing wing on wing) and Capri just blasted along, rewarding us with 165 nm the third day.
The waves got less confused and more regular, which meant the cook could serve up a hot meal, spaghetti with mushroom tomato sauce – our first hot meal on this leg and man did it taste good. Ok we had to eat it out of a bowl because we needed to use one hand to hang on – but it was hot and it filled a very big empty hole in our stomach. Meanwhile, the sailing just got more and more impressive with 171 nm the fourth day and Capri almost can’t sail any faster than that. Looking up at one point, I discovered that we had snapped the two uppermost battens in our mainsail – we were pushing Capri as hard as we could.
Here’s a little video footage to give you an idea of what our 5 days were like:
Or so we thought. Apparently, we could push her harder. Fifth day Capri racked up 175nm and by god on the sixth day as we crossed the finish line we hit 180nm, averaging over 7 knots an hour!
Unbelievable. Never thought we could sail that fast.
A big 62 foot Oyster passed us close to the Verdes and took quite a bit of video footage of Capri as we blasted along – so here it is. The mainsail looks badly set, but that is because we have 2 broken sail battens – can’t get the sail to set correctly with broken battens. We are doing about 8 knots here. He said he was making about 16 knots (well, he IS much bigger than we are…….)
Thank god for harbor, a shower, a drink (well, maybe two), and a nap.
The “Wailing wall” didn’t look too bad. The crapper needed repairing and we had broken two sail battens on that speed run, but otherwise there were no issues. Well damn! That’s ok.
Sunday we repaired the battens and the crapper and that meant the we could go on a tour of the neighboring island and get back in time for the prize-giving.
I sent this letter to everyone the next day:
We won’t have time to update our website but we wanted to give you all a quickie update. We got here alive and well – no injuries ,and no major mishaps (unless you call a crapper on strike for a major mishap (sigh)).
Landed Saturday afternoon after 6 days of sailing, fixed everything Sunday and Monday went off to the neighboring island for a tour (beautiful, beautiful island). Monday night (last night) was Prize giving night for the first leg.
The boats are divided into 3 classes all dependent on their handicap rating (like in golf sailboats get a handicap rating depending on how much sail area they have, how much “wetted” area they have and a number of other things which supposedly means you can race all types of boats against each other and find a true winner).
This is a rally so you can use your engine – but you get penalized if you do.
Class “A” – those boats with the heaviest handicap was won by a Pogo 12.5 – a 41 foot racing machine that is designed purely for racing – no creature comforts and the guys who sail these machines dump everything that weighs anything off the boat – they decide ahead of time that they will have 1 cup of coffee per man per day for 5 days and they only bring that amount of nescafe coffee with them – nothing that weighs anything is allowed on board. So their winning was no surprise. They had used no engine. They had a full racing crew, meaning they also flew their spinnaker at night.
Class “B” was won by a Hanse 41 performance – also a racer cruiser with a full crew – they had used no engine.
We were in class “C” and some extremely nice brits , Hattie and Phil, who we’ve met, and who are also double-handing took 2 place – and congratulations to them. Then the winner was announced.
“First place in Class “C”, a double-handing couple, the third fastest time overall, besting 71 other boats, They beat everybody in Class B except the winner and everybody in Class A except the winners, no engine used, in a Danish boat – Capri”
Holy Guacamole Batman – Capri? That’s us!!!!
Hey – we won!!!!!!
We know (from your e-mails) that several of you were watching us on the Yellow brick tracker website and commenting that we were at the rear and far behind – but almost everyone else used their engines and therefore got far ahead of us – we didn’t and with the penalties they got – we beat them.
We also won the side-bet – we were the best double hand boat. We finished 9 hours behind the Pogo (which everyone says is impossible for a boat like ours – they should have beaten us by days) and only 16 minutes behind the Hanse (again everyone says that isn’t possible). Our neighbor, an italian boat, noted this morning – “So now we all know which boat we have to beat – you can be sure everyone will be watching your position like a hawk”
So tomorrow when we start on the second leg – Capri will be starting as best in her class – 3rd overall in the field and best double-hander.
We are genuinely humble and we never expected to finish anywhere near the top – our only goal was to finish with no injuries to people or failures on Capri.
We don’t expect to repeat the performance for the second leg – we only want to finish without injuries and without major failures on Capri.
We have an “at sea” e-mail if any of you want to contact us while we are at sea. But PLEASE; PLEASE, send only text – no pictures or logos or anything since they take enormous amount of time to download. If you answer a mail of ours on this “at sea” mail – please DO NOT just hit “reply” – if you do then we have to download both our mail and your mail. This is all coming and going over short-wave radio and this takes a long time.
The mail address is:
Love to all
Vinni and Carsten
Ps – pic of trophy attached!!!!!! (We are proud as strutting peacocks!)
We did visit the neighboring island, St. Ancao with a guide who carted us around in a minibus. I was interesting. The Cape Verdes are poor islands and have lived off fishing for many years, but now the huge fish factories come and empty the seas around them of fish so they longer can make a living from that. Tourism is starting, since some of the island shave marvelous beaches. San Ancao is not one f them, as it is basically volcanic. It does have a “green” side and is quite beautiful as the pics below can attest to. One of the places we stopped was a small distillery (apparently Cape Verdes oldest). They made the local rum there. Believe me when I say that they should cease to market as drinkable and start marketing it as a bacteria killer. Nothing, absolutely nothing ,could survive being in that liquid for more than a few seconds. Just sniffing it got you drunk.
The island have a young population as everyone who can, leaves for Europe as soon as they grow up. Quite a depressing thought.
Safely back at Capri, we started getting her ready for sea. We sail at noon tomorrow.