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  • Dale

Captain's Log

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

This Captain's Log provides a summary of our 12 months and 13,000+ miles of sailing from August 2021 through July 2022. It is presented in reverse chronological order, and grouped by "major passages" which we typically define as a couple of weeks, or a few hundred sea-miles, or passages between major destinations.


Passage #16: Barcelona, Spain to Olbia, Sardinia (Italy)

Dates: June 13 - July 30, 2022

Distance: 785 miles

Time: 48 days

Noteworthy: We slowed our pace tremendously during our final weeks aboard Helios to enjoy sight-seeing around many Spanish, French, and Italian cities and to relax in beautiful Mediterranean anchorages. Perhaps our favorite stop was Portofino, although the islands of Corsica and Sardinia were full of wonderfully scenic places.

And then came the end of our year at sea. We didn't make it to Greece as originally planned, but instead chose the Italian island of Sardinia as the place to pull Helios out of the water and store her for the winter. After 12 months and more than 13,000 nautical miles of sailing, she finally gets a rest.

The Captain's Log is closing down now. If we sell Helios, then this is the final entry. If we don't, then we may just find the log re-opened for a season of sailing in the Greek Isles next year!


Passage #15: Gibraltar to Barcelona, Spain

Dates: June 8 - 12, 2022

Distance: 531 miles

Time: 5 days

Noteworthy: We sailed straight through to Barcelona, bypassing the Spanish coastline that we had already covered twice last year during our 2-month cruise in the Mediterranean. It was an uneventful passage, with the three highlights having nothing to do with the sailing. They were: 1) having Christine back on board since she had skipped the Atlantic crossing, 2) a two-day rental car tour to Ronda, Spain, and 3) our arrival in Barcelona which has been our favorite European stop thus far. It is a fascinating and wonderfully pedestrian-friendly city.


Passage #14: Atlantic Crossing #2 (West to East)

Dates: April 24 - May 31, 2022

Distance: 4,184 miles

Time: 38 days

Noteworthy: We completed our 2nd Atlantic crossing, coming full-circle back to Gibraltar at the entrance to the Mediterranean where we began the circuit last October. It was more difficult than our initial west-to-east crossing last year due to the variety of weather conditions... more storms (one real doozy that we'll all remember), more no-air days, more headwinds... But that's what normal sailing is all about.

Our stops in Bermuda and the Azores Islands added nice respites during the crossing for sightseeing, re-provisioning, and regaining our land legs. It also enabled crew swaps for those joining for only a short segment.

The blog post titled "Back Across the Atlantic (Play-by-Play)" has much more detail for this passage.


Passage #13: Leeward Islands, Lesser Antilles

Dates: February 21 - April 9, 2022

Distance: 680 miles

Time: 48 days

Noteworthy: Continuing north from the Windward Islands, the Leeward Islands provided the variety of another half-dozen island nations / territories, including Guadeloupe, Antigua, St. Kitts / Nevis, St. Barts, and St. Martin. Barbuda was a favorite island during this passage, although St. Barts was pretty awesome - especially the fleet of 2 dozen 150+ foot sailboats competing in the Buckets Regatta the weekend we were there. One of the best aspects of our Caribbean cruising this year was hosting the many friends and family who all managed to coordinate their travel logistics with ours.

Our final stop for this passage (and for the Caribbean this season) was St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands where we are now preparing for our upcoming Atlantic crossing #2 to move the boat back to the Mediterranean before the hurricane season arrives in the Atlantic.


Passage #12: Windward Islands, Lesser Antilles

Dates: January 1 - February 20, 2022

Distance: 770 miles

Time: 51 days

Noteworthy: The Caribbean brought a pace and style of sailing radically different from our Mediterranean and trans-Atlantic experiences. The leisurely island-hopping, quiet turquoise-water anchorages, and relaxed Caribbean vibe all made for a wonderful way to spend our winter. The Lesser Antilles is a string of several island nations including Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Martinique. Some of our favorite spots included Bequia, Sandy Island, and the Tobago Cays.


Passage #11: St. George's, Grenada to Marigot Bay, St. Lucia

Dates: December 10 - December 11, 2021

Distance: 150 miles

Time: 2 days

Noteworthy: Our trans-Atlantic crew parted ways in Grenada and Megan and I double-handed the boat for the first time, making it safely to the marina in St. Lucia where we will leave Helios for a few weeks while we return home to Chicago for the holidays. It was the toughest 2 days of sailing since our first 2 days on the Bay of Biscay off the coast of France back in August (see Passage #3 entry below). We were pounding into the wind with big and mixed seas the entire time, making sleep a challenge. But it was a rewarding passage in many ways. We're looking forward to the visit home.


Passage #10: Mindelo, Cabo Verde to St. George's, Grenada (Leg 2 ARC+ Atlantic Crossing)

Dates: November 19 - December 3, 2021

Distance: 2,280 miles

Time: 15 days

Noteworthy: This was the biggie all 5 of us onboard had been dreaming of - sailing straight across the Atlantic. Winds were frustratingly light in the first week, and sometimes worryingly strong in the second. We were the 3rd boat of over 60 to cross the finish line, having covered nearly 600 miles in the last three days alone. See the two separate post ("Atlantic Crossing Leg 2 - Play by Play" and "Atlantic Crossing - In Conclusion") for details. The photo captures the elated Helios crew moments after arriving in Grenada.


Passage #9: Las Palmas, Canary Islands to Mindelo, Cabo Verde (Leg 1 ARC+ Atlantic Crossing)

Dates: November 7-13, 2021

Distance: 888 miles

Time: 6 days

Noteworthy: It was a great start to our Atlantic crossing. Brisk winds, large but following seas, and an energizing swarm of boats jockeying for position at the Las Palomas starting line kept us jazzed. The chart plotter lit up with boats everywhere. (The little black boat in the photo below is Helios)

Chart Plotter Shortly After the Start

The first 2 days produced some of our fastest, most intense sailing thus far. Even with a double-reef in the mainsail, we averaged 8 knots. The video below gives a sense of the wake and waves off our stern. The sound below deck in the cabins when trying to sleep was much crazier.

Our Helios crew of 5 quickly fell into a rhythm of cooking, cleaning, and maintaining watch, with plenty of time for basically lounging around with books, naps, guitars, and card games. The highlight of the passage was that, without really trying, we came in 3rd place among the 22 multi-hull boats and 8th place overall in the fleet of 70+ boats.

Our 3rd Place Award for Leg 1


Passage #8: Exploring the Canary Islands

Dates: October 14 - November 6, 2021

Distance: 325 miles

Time: 24 days

Noteworthy: Lots of days. Not a lot of distance. We dropped off our Swedish guests in Las Palmas on October 13 and the three of us proceeded to circumnavigate the island of Gran Canaria, anchoring overnight in 5 different locations, including the sand dunes of Maspalomas and by the hilltop lookout of Anti del Mar. It was the single most relaxing time we've had thus far on Helios, with no deadlines or plans. We then returned to Las Palmas to pick up our 3 new crew members for the Atlantic crossing (see the Atlantic Cross Introduction post) with the intention of a 1-week break-in cruise around other islands in the Canaries. Unfortunately the block for our mainsail sheet blew out on day 3, rendering our mainsail unusable. It sounded like a rifle shot, exploding with enough force to bend a 1/2-inch metal rail. Fortunately, no one was in the way and we had enough time during our final week of prep in Las Palmas to repair it before the start of the Atlantic crossing.


Passage #7: Gibraltar to Las Palmas, Canary Islands

Dates: October 5-12, 2021

Distance: 650 miles

Time: 8 days

Noteworthy: This was our longest offshore passage away from land thus far: 4 days / 4 nights and 600 miles of this passage was far out at sea. We made landfall at the northern-most volcanic island of Isla Graciosa where we anchored the first night (photo). The passage was not without challenges, the most entertaining but costly being the accidental deployment of our life raft at 4am in heavy seas one night. At least we know it works (worked). Our two Swedish guests (relatives of Dale's) were a fantastic addition to the passage, pulling their own night watches, cooking wonderful meals and providing great conversation.

Anchorage at Isla Graciosa, Canary Islands

Life Raft Incident (video)


Passage #6: Ibiza Spain (Balearic Islands) to Gibraltar

Dates: September 20 - October 1, 2021

Distance: 420 miles

Time: 12 days

Noteworthy: This was essentially the previous passage in reverse. We would like to have progressed further east in the Mediterranean, but have to start making our way to the Canary Islands for the November start of our Atlantic crossing. After several days of boat repair work in Torrevieja, Spain we backtracked along the Spanish coast to Gibraltar, stopping in Malaga and a few other towns and anchorages that we skipped on the earlier passage. The photo is of the Rock of Gibraltar as we approached from the east.


Passage #5: Gibraltar to Ibiza, Spain

Dates: September 5-19, 2021

Distance: 420 miles

Time: 14 days

Noteworthy: Hosted our friends the Woodlands for a week (photo). Managed to chafe through several important lines during a windy and fast overnight passage to Ibiza Island that will cost a lot to repair.


Passage #4: Lisbon Portugal to Gibraltar

Dates: August 29 - September 2, 2021

Distance: 362 nm

Time: 5 days

Noteworthy: Encountered mast height restrictions when passing the Gibraltar airport runway threshold, but subsequently had a beautiful view of "The Rock" (photo) from our marina slip.


Passage #3: La Rochelle France to Lisbon Portugal

Dates: August 7-12, 2021

Distance: 852 nm

Time: 6 days / 5 nights

Noteworthy: 3-meter seas on the Bay of Biscay for the first two days tested our stomachs. Let's just say the bucket at the helm (photo) came in useful for Dale on many occasions. The non-stop passage also tested our stamina with 3-hour solo watches throughout the nights.


Passage #2: Lagoon docks in Bordeau to the La Rochelle marina on the Atlantic coast of France

Dates: July 25, 2021

Distance: approx. 80 nm

Time: 16 hours

Noteworthy: The jib halyard broke and we discovered the mainsail halyard was not rigged. The seas were too heavy to fix them so we motored the entire way. We arrived in La Rochelle at 1 a.m., which was fortunate because my inexperienced docking resulted in a little bump with the boat next to us. (Shhhh, don't tell the owners of the 77-foot catamaran). It would have been more embarrassing in the daylight.


Passage #1: Sea Trial

Dates: July 23, 2021 (our very first "passage")

Our very brief "sea trial" on Helios in the Garonne River with the Lagoon technician to ensure the twin 80 h.p. Yanmar engines were working.


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