three hulls, two people, one trip around the world…

ARC+ up to Cape Verde

We have completed the first stage. We arrived at the Cape Verde Islands! We crossed the finish line of the ARC+ on Friday, the 15.11.19 at 15:15:15 UTC.

If you followed our tracker and wondered why we sailed on after we crossed the finish line, here is a summary of the crossing:

At the beginning the wind was quite strong, in the jet around Gran Canaria up to more than 30 knots. The rally management had indicated a virtual buoy, which should be left to the west. Since we don’t have any regatta experience, we thought it was only a suggestion. So we didn’t sail around this buoy like some others. Only at the very end of our trip did we learn that as a punishment we were downgraded by one place in the ranking.

On the first day the waves were up to 4 m high and I was glad that I had pre-cooked our meals. It’s nicer to just put things into the microwave when the sea is rough rather than trying to stay on your feet in front of the stove. On the second day the wind calmed down a bit and the waves became longer and not quite as high. We used the Parasailor. The setting went quickly. That’s working quite well since Mathias took over the part that requires more strength (pulling up the sock-line). Until the afternoon the sailing went smoothly. When Mathias was about to lie down, I saw that a sheet of the parasailor had come loose. That meant no rest for Mathias, but time to take the sail down. Shortly afterwards the second sheet came loose, flew around and the metal shackle struck a small hole in the lower leech of the parasailor. The recovery was not difficult. Mathias wanted to stow the sail, but I decided to take it to the salon to see if it could be repaired. We set the jib plus the genoa in the butterfly style and left it that way overnight. You’re not fast with that but safe. The next day Mathias immediately set about closing the hole in the Parasailor with tape (in our spare parts collection there is of course special spi- tape). Then we put the sail sewing machine on the floor in the middle of the living room. That way it cannot fall over and the ship movements in that area are small. I couldn’t operate the gas pedal with my foot anymore, but in manual mode I could sew the tapes onto the sail. 

This paragraph may be skipped by non-sailors: The sheats had come loose because the soft shackles we had inserted between the ring in the sail horn and the shackle were torn. The seller of the Parasails had recommended and delivered these soft shackles to us. They were designed for a load of one ton. They always looked a little thin in our opinion. So we should have followed our gut feeling and should have upgraded. Now the connection is made using two Dyneema shackles, both of which have more than a ton of tensile load and are of different sizes. If one tears, the other can take over. The fabric shackles are designed to prevent metal abrasion when the metal shackle of the sheet is latched directly into the metal ring of the sail horn. A good idea, but only works well if the shackles have the necessary breaking load reserve.

At noon the sail was ready for use again and was set. That way we were able to catch up with the other Neel 51 trimaran. They were unlucky and could not set their Parasailor, because the spi halyard had rushed to the top. In the middle of the ocean with strong waves they did not want to send anyone into the mast and therefore only drove with jib and genoa.

There’s not much to do during watch keeping. That’s why we study the AIS signals and see who is nearby. You radio the people you know and hear how things work. And you also look if you catch up with someone, if someone comes in from behind and what else is going on. One night I had the AIS signal of a fishing boat on my screen. It was far away, so not very exciting, when it suddenly multiplied like the Gremlins in the movie . 10 new AIS symbols popped up directly next to the fishing boat. These were buoys that the fishing boat had just dropped!  

On the birthday of our younger daughter we could test the antenna for the satellite telephone which Mathias installed in Las Palmas. We called our daughter and the signal went through space to Hamburg ;). It works well.

The next night we sailed with the Parasailor, although the wind was a bit too strong for the sail. That gave us a lot of speed and distance. However, it is a bit dangerous, as the ship cannot be stopped easily and there should be no squalls (local rain areas with a lot of wind).

During the night 4 fish had committed suicide on our ship. They are supposed to be good to use as bait for bigger fish, but we had so much precooked food that we could not use them.

On the penultimate day of the crossing the wind eased. We changed to the Parasail, which is better suited for light winds. There followed a time with a lot of hustle and bustle with the sail, the wind direction changed slightly and we often had to correct the sheats . In the evening, when Mathias watch started, we saw a squall on the horizon. Because the wind was so low, more wind was welcome. We picked up more speed again. The wind did not calm down again and we arrived in São Vicente during the daylight hours. Since we had sailed so well, we wanted to cross the finish line first and then take down the Parasail. There should be a jet effect behind the islands. All weather forecasts said there would be about 2 knots more wind. That would have been ok. But behind the finish line the wind suddenly went up to 19 knots and then on to 27 knots. In addition,  the Parasail endless line for the snuffer is too short, you can’t lead it over a cleat, so you have to pull it down without leverage. This is not easy in so strong winds. So we fought with the sail for an hour until we finally had it down. After that we had to drive under motor for 2 hours against wind and waves back to the bay with the marina. Therefore we arrived there only late, but still in daylight at the jetty. This turned out to be unfavorable in retrospect, because the ships that arrived in daylight were put on the more difficult places. There are 2 buoys at the bow and with the stern we are tied to a floating jetty which goes off from a central floating jetty. The swell is enormous.

Compared to the other ships, we only needed a few minor repairs. Besides the Parasailor (which is already repaired), we have broken a clamp (but also have a spare part with us). Here in the harbour the gangway once banged against the jetty and now has a bent railing. Much worse was that Mathias stood in the way and got a hard kick against the shin. Cooling and compression bandages prevented the worst. I had bruised my hand right at the beginning while attaching the preventer, but that has already healed well. Then there were blisters on the hands from handling the lines. In Mathias case because his sailing gloves have no cap on thumb and index finger, in my case because I forgot to put on gloves – that hopefully happens to me only this one time. 

Some of the difficulties of the other ships: One ship lost the jib, it had got stuck and they had to cut it loose. One ship had moored diesel canisters on the foreship, which tore themselves loose and ran empty. Another one had his spinnaker torn off on his head. They had to rescue it out of the water. After that they could only gybe. They had many WhatsApp requests from their friends upon arrival, why they had suddenly zigzagged. ☺Several children fell into the water when they had to cross from the boat to the jetty. We had our gangway in use at first, but it also wobbled enormously. Now we have inserted the dampers into the lines and pulled the ship closer to the jetty. So that I also can manage the big jump on land and back on deck.

The Cape Verde Islands are of volcanic origin, they received their independence from Portugal in 1975. The official language here is Portuguese, spoken language is Creole.

The marina is located in Mindelo, a city on São Vicente. The island is extremely dry. Water is produced by a desalination plant. The desalination plant is operated with diesel and therefore the whole island is dependent on the oil supplies. Due to the scarcity of water, hardly any vegetables can be grown and much is imported. Nowadays, imported vegetables are often cheaper than those produced on the island, for which water has to be bought at a high price. The expansion of renewable energy is slow, as the equipment is expensive to purchase.

A lot of food comes to São Vicente and also to the other islands from Santo Antão. This is the neighbouring island, which has a green and a dry side. The green side is the north side. There the rain clouds accumulate at the mountains and there is water. 

Mathias Sandals got a new sole.

Two tours were organized by the ARC+. A half day trip in São Vicente and a day trip by ferry to Santo Antão.

The day we drove to Santo Antão, it was raining on the north side of the island. It hadn’t rained here for three years, then for a week in September and of course when we arrived. As propper Hamburgers we always have a bag of “Schmuddelwetter” in our luggage. 😉 Because of the rain we could not undertake a planned hike in the mountains, instead we visited a distillery. On the way back the minibuses took the old trade route. We first wondered why this is possible, if the buses shouldn’t drive into the mountains on slippery roads. But then we remembered that the road on the other side of the mountains would be dry, as the clouds and the rain remain on the north side of the island.

I thought it was great that we had a rainy day. The atmosphere was very special and when else do you have a chance to ride in a minibus through the clouds on a cobblestone road?

At the transition from one side of the mountain to the other the difference was clearly noticeable. Fog and rain were replaced by sunshine and drought. On the road a man with his donkey came towards us. He had two water canisters with him and was on his way to the wet side to get the water for his garden on the dry side.

It was impressive to see what a difference it makes whether there is water or not. One half of the island can be used to shoot a lunar landing film, the other is more like a jungle.

For the prizegiving the ARC+ participants were picked up by drummers and dancers:

On the 21.11. the next leg starts from Cape Verde to St. Lucia.

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