Atlantic Crossing Leg 2 (Play by Play)
Updated: Feb 26
Nov. 23 screen shot of some of the fleet. Helios is the turquoise coded boat.
Thankfully, I am in contact with Dale once per day by satellite email and will post daily highlights and updates in reverse chronological order from our boat as they come in. As you can imagine, I am obsessed with tracking their progress and look forward to my daily updates, hoping the crew is safe and well.
Note that they had a very rough start, but have prevailed and have caught up. In fact, they have been in 6th place for a while out of 73 boats and currently 3rd in the multihull division. (UPDATE 11/29 : Now in 3rd place!) Initially we were predicting a 12-15 day journey, but due to calm wind conditions, it is slower going and if it extends too much longer, the crew will need to resort to a lot of canned meals. (UPDATE 12/1: Looks like Helios will arrive on Day 14 now due to very stiff winds.)
Day 13: Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Just 200 miles to go and the rankings are starting to sort themselves out in the fleet. It’s too early to count on anything yet, but a 3rd place finish in our division looks likely, and maybe a 3rd place finish overall. Winds continue to be ideal for our boat and sails. May it be so for another 24 hours!
Day 12: Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Tough night and day at sea. Winds and seas were big all night (22-25 knots and 3 meters respectively) and nobody slept well. Fresh-baked apple-cinnamon bread for breakfast cheered everyone up, but then a squall caught us by surprise shortly afterwards with winds going from 22 knots to 40+ knots in seconds. Before we could get our sail down, the blocks (pulleys) for both the port and starboard trade wind sail sheets exploded like two gunshots, sending shards of plastic flying like shrapnel. The sail suffered a small tear before we managed to furl it but fortunately no one was injured and two spare blocks and some rapid repair work got us back underway within 30 minutes.
We covered a record distance today: over 200 miles. Our ETA in Grenada is now mid-afternoon Thursday.
Day 11: Monday, November 29, 2021
It seems the steady trade winds have finally kicked in. We haven’t made a sail change in 3 days. If we’re lucky, we won’t need to until the final turn to the finish line on the back side of Grenada. Our ETA is now Friday morning if these winds hold. Somehow we’ve moved into 3rd place overall among the 70+ boats in the fleet. We credit it more to the boat and trade wind sail than to the sailors!
Day 10: Sunday, November 28, 2021
Winds freshened today to a more pleasant speed of 12-15 knots. That gives us a cruising speed of about 7 knots. Then came squalls overnight, with winds in the 22-27 knot range. We zigzagged and dodged the big ones (nicely visible on radar), and hit our fastest speeds yet on the crossing. The noise in the cabins with the boat going 8-10 knots and swerving down wave fronts is shockingly loud.
Day 9: Saturday, November 27, 2021
Our fresh produce aboard is dwindling. Our hanging produce nets are bare, save a single onion, a lime, and some dried rosemary. A few carrots and apples remain in the refrigerator. It’s time to get creative with the canned foods!
Day 8: Friday, November 26, 2021
We are over half way across now. We caught our first fish today! It was small (about 4 lbs.) but provided a nice treat at lunch. Pretty exciting, but probably not as exciting as another ARC+ boat that we heard caught a 500 lb. blue marlin yesterday. That must have been amazing.
Day 7: Thursday, November 25, 2021
We made a pretty good Thanksgiving meal at sea today: roasted chicken (turkeys are hard to come by in Cabo Verde), roasted root vegetables, fresh-baked rosemary bread, garden salad (our fresh produce has held up surprisingly well), and carrot cake for dessert. The Atlantic sunset and unending ocean view were a uniquely memorable backdrop for dinner.
Day 6: Wednesday, November 24, 2021
We decided to drop the sails and all take a swim mid-Atlantic this afternoon. We were smart enough to run a line with a life-ring 100 feet off the stern and to not all get in the water at the same time because even with no sails up the boat drifted at the speed of a fast swimmer. The water was an amazing, clear blue color - different than any water I’ve ever seen before. We picked a spot that is 6,000 meters deep. Hard to imagine how much water was below us. More than 3 miles down to the bottom.
Day 5: Tuesday, November 23, 2021
Flying fish are everywhere in the sea, ever since departing the Canary Islands 1,400 miles ago. Our approaching boat scares big schools of them into the air as they fly off 50-100 meters to either side. We also had a pod of spotted dolphins play by our boat today. Two days ago we had a pod of whales that swam with our boat for about 20 minutes. But the fishing hasn’t gone as well - yet. Dan and Jonno have had lines out every day in the hopes of catching some tuna, Mahimahi, or anything, but no bites yet.
Day 4: Monday, November 22, 2021
We’ve covered just over 500 miles now. The winds today were far more steady in both direction and speed, with no sail change since 8am. We have a straight tailwind, pushing us directly towards Grenada. It’s the conditions our trade wind sail is meant for, and it has turned out to be a spectacular purchase for the boat. It’s two sails in one actually. It spreads out like a spinnaker for downwind sailing, and folds in half as a Code 0 sail (a large gennaker foresail) for light air reaching conditions. No other boats in sight since noon today.
Day 3: Sunday, November 21, 2021
The day was uneventful, with steady but unspectacular winds. We’ve moved up to about 12th place in the fleet. Just as we were feeling good about that, a couple of boats from a France-to-Martinique Trans-Atlantic ocean race flew past us in the evening at twice our speed. We were jealous momentarily, until we returned to our dessert of banana-chocolate crepes and consoled ourselves that we’re surely more comfortable on our “house-with-sails” than on a proper ocean racer.
Day 2: Saturday, November 20, 2021
Winds were good throughout the first night and most of today and we slowly moved up in ranking through the now-scattered fleet. Half are taking a more westerly plumb line course direct towards Grenada, and half are heeding the long-range weather forecast and heading more southerly to avoid expected light winds to the north a few days from now. We opted for a middle path initially, and then opted for the more south-bound option. We’ll see whether that longer route pays off with better winds come Wednesday or Thursday.
By dinner time, winds dropped to just 4 or 5 knots and our forward progress slowed to a crawl with the sails flapping listlessly. It was painful to fire up the twin diesels and motor for the next 7 hours until the winds picked up at 3:30am, but the way the rally penalizes for engine time was the lesser of two evils and from what we gathered from radio chatter, most boats did the same.
Day 1: Friday, November 19, 2021
The rally had a mass start of all 70+ boats jockeying for the front on a rather short and crowded starting line. Helios was well positioned, with full sails and full down-course momentum just about a football field’s length from the line when the gun went off. Sadly, that was when we lost rudder control and the boat began swerving starboard, cutting just meters in front of several other boats and nearly causing what would have been a terribly embarrassing (and damaging) collision. It turns out a small hydraulic bypass valve in the port-side engine compartment had been bumped out of position, causing the port rudder to move out of alignment with the starboard rudder. Fortunately, we still had VHF radio and cellular contact with shore. Ninety minutes of frantic trouble-shooting with excellent help from ARC+, a dock-side technician, a fellow rally boat “Arabella,” and quick action by our crew member Dan resolved the problem and we reset our course looking glumly at the back of the fleet.