Preparing an Ocean Crossing

We have had the Atlantic crossing on our minds basically since we decided to buy a boat in France instead of somewhere in the Caribbean. We always knew that we would only sail across if we felt ready. If we had any doubt about our abilities as sailors or the capability of the boat we wouldn’t pressure ourselves into doing it. There was a period this fall we were seriously considering not crossing but staying in Europe instead. It just didn’t seem wise to go to remote areas with a failing engine and, more importantly, the stress that brings. But now, with our brand new Yanmar engine we regained trust in our boat again and feel ready to do this! 

Some time ago I wrote a few blogs about our boats ‘off the grid’ capabilities. Regarding fuel, electricity, water and provisioning I made basic calculations and came up with solutions for some problems we would face. Now that the crossing is around the corner we made some adjustments to the boat to ensure a safe and comfortable passage.

Behold Scehawk of Tamar in her ocean-ready condition!

The passage

The 2150 NM passage will take us from Mindelo in the Cape Verdes to south Grenada. With a cruising speed of around 6 knots it will probably take us 14-18 days, depending on the wind of course. We’ll be four hungry sailors: Thomas, Basti, Caro and me.

Propulsions – Sails and Engine

With our brand new Yanmar 39 HP engine, we have a cruising speed of around 6 knots. We’ve got 260 L of diesel, 160 L in the tank and 100 L of diesel in jerrycans for a max of 130 hours of motor(sail)ing. We carry six sails:

  • a Hood mainsail with two reefs
  • a Hood Genoa (ca. 130%)
  • a Hood Blade (ca. 110%)
  • a storm jib
  • an asymmetrical spinnaker
  • a symmetrical spinnaker

We attached the jerrycans to the boat rails, prepared the storm jib to use on a furler and serviced the engine. We also spliced a new (dyneema) attachment between the top of the furler and the halyard – the old one was chafing. We’ve also got spare dyneema in case this happens again. We’ve got the big genoa on the furler and the asymmetrical spinnaker ready to go. We can also easily access the other sails if we decide to change it up.

Rigging

We had the rigging checked and re-tensioned by an expert in Lanzarote. We also covered some parts of the standing rigging with pipe insulation to prevent chafe of the sails against the rigging. Thomas re-sikaflexed some deck connections which were leaking.

We also gave some TLC to the running rigging: renewed the traveller lines, respliced some eyes, re-whipped the ends and shortened some chafed ropes. Thomas also washed them with fabric softener so our cockpit smells like flowers.

Electricity

Our electricity situation is as follows:

  • two 105 Ah house batteries (topped up with demineralised water)
  • one 105 Ah starter battery
  • 120 amp alternator (average output ca. 30-40 amps)
  • two 85 W solar panels

We didn’t get a towing generator, more solar cells or a wind generator. After we had to replace the engine, we didn’t have room in our budget for other major expenses. We’re going to have to be cautious about using electricity, turn off the fridge at night and depend on the hydrovane instead of the autopilot. We will probably charge the batteries one hour every day.

Water

We’ve got a total of 500 L of water: 380 L water in the tanks, 100 L in a water bladder and 20 L in a jerrycans. We also carry 12 six-packs of water, one 1,5 L bottle per person per day for 18 days. We also have 4 8L bottles of water for emergencies.

We bought an additional 150L water bladder and installed it under the aft cabin bed. The space is limited, if we fill it up completely one bed becomes unusable. So we will fill it up with 100 L instead. That gives us 6 L per person per day for 20 days, excluding bottled drinking water. We can wash ourselves and our dishes with salt water, we’ve got a bucket on a line for that purpose. We just rinse off with a little bit of fresh water and our dishes and bodies are good as new!

Provisioning

Oh my god, all the food. We bought so much it made us sick to our stomachs. If you’re seriously interested in our shopping list, let me know: I’ve got it in excel. It should be enough to feed us not only the whole passage but also a few months after that. We provisioned at Lidl and Mercadona on Lanzarote. We rented a big car which we filled up twice! On the Cape Verdes we will re-provision water, fruits and vegetables. And eggs. Don’t forget the eggs again.

We will get our gas bottles refilled in Mindelo, and that should be enough for at least 6 weeks. Don’t worry, I also know how to build a solar cooker.

We will divide up the cooking turns just as we will do with the watch keeping shifts. We’re not exactly sure how, maybe 6 * 4 hour shifts with 3 people and one ‘mother shift’ for the fourth person to cook and clean. Sounds great to have a day off for cooking and scrubbing, no?

Safety

This is a bit of a depressing theme, but don’t worry, we’ve got it all covered. Our goal is to comply to the obligatory ARC equipment. The ARC is a transatlantic rally which is organised every year and begins in November. We decided not to join the ARC because it leaves too early, before the trade winds normally stabilise. But their safety list is a great example, here is the most important stuff we have:

  • 6 person classified life raft
  • EPIRB Class 2
  • VHF 25W with cockpit speaker and emergency antenna
  • Handheld VHF with solar charger
  • Satellite Phone Iridium (+881631693312, message us for free!)
  • AIS Class A transponder
  • Lifejackets, automatic with lights, whistles and life lines
  • Backup charts, backup GPS with solar charger
  • Emergency steering device (Hydrovane)
  • Sea anchor

We serviced our lifejackets and found out we had to replace them. We added lights to our new lifejackets. The most important rule on board is not to fall overboard! We wear our life vests with life lines and always clip on when alone on shift. We don’t leave the cockpit at night unless someone else is present, and we always clip on. We activated our sat phone, but are still in the process of getting it online to download weather.

Comfort

The boat is our home! We made it more comfortable by closing the ‘U’ in our U-shaped sofa, and we’ve got another 2 person lounge or seabed to chill and watch movies. We can’t fall out because of the table. And we’ve got some extra space to keep our drinks!

We also replaced the doormat that went overboard. We’ve washed a second set of linen to change sheets on halfway-day. We put up more nets for fruits and veggies. We downloaded hundreds of podcasts and books.

So I guess we’re good to go! Or actually we’ve already set sail, because when this blog posts we will be on day 5 or 6 already!

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