Back in August I had a winter job to go to with a yacht charter company in the BVI and a thirst for another Atlantic crossing, the last one being 15 years ago. I signed up to join a catamaran that was bound from La Rochelle to the BVIs and leaving the Canaries in early November. I had also enrolled on an online celestial navigation course with the intention of using the Atlantic crossing as a qualifying passage for the Yachtmaster Ocean exam. When I say “using the crossing”, I reasoned with myself that the qualifying distance for the exam was 600 miles, so given 2600 miles of ocean I had four attempts at it and plenty of time to learn it!
Life was good, everything was on an even keel, plans had come together. But mother nature had other ideas and on 6 September she sent hurricane Irma to smash up the BVIs and the lives, hopes and dreams of so many people across the Caribbean.
While my winter job ideas were blown away with Irma, I was still committed to the Atlantic trip and I had mentally committed to the Yachtmaster Ocean idea. Plus, with the boat’s owner offering me work on the boat at the Antigua Yacht Show it seemed like a good option. At the end of October I left the grey of the more no’therly latitudes and flew to Fuertaventura and found the boat tucked away in a quiet marina in the south of the island.
The boat is a 47ft Fountaine Pajot catamaran, brand new having had its shake-down sail from La Rochelle to Fuertaventura with the owner and the skipper on board. I arrive to learn that the owner had been taken ill on that trip and will now not be joining the boat for the crossing. The responsibility had now fallen to the owner’s friend to skipper the boat across. He is a good guy, but hasn’t sailed the Atlantic so he is pleased to have me on board, I’m pleased to be listened to! We have two other crewmen, both have some, but not a huge amount of sailing experience.
The boat is very well equipped in terms of comfort, this is certainly the most luxury I have ever sailed in, I even have a window in my cabin so I can watch the waves going by from my bunk. My bunk is not a bunk, it is a double bed, my cabin is more like a plush hotel room. I have an en-suite of course, with heads that flush at the press of a button and an actual shower I can stand up in with hot and cold running water. There is a water maker on board, so there will be no waiting for a big rain to have a shower this time!
The galley has more mod-cons, fridge and freezer space than we have at home, plus microwave, coffee maker, ice maker and probably more things I haven’t found yet.
Two Volvo Penta engines a Panda generator, solar panel on the to deck, a large battery bank and 1,000 litres of fuel means we should hopefully have the infinite amount of power we need to run all the domestics. I include also a washing machine in the domestics, yes we have an actual washing machine on board, so mid Atlantic, 1,000 miles from anywhere I will be doing my washing!
The tender sits on its own platform on a hydraulic ram so the platform drops down to scoop the tender up and you just press a button and hey presto the boat is out of the water, secure and sitting on its cradle. Neat! And very James Bond!
Boat is also equipped with radar, chartplotter, autopilot, Iridium Go, so in technology terms we have plenty. There is also VHF fitted with DSC and about 500 other yachts heading out into the Atlantic at the same time, so there is a good chance someone should be within DSC range a lot of the time.
The boat is however lacking some basic fundamentals…. Luckily I have brought a chart for my astro nav attempt. But we still need an EPIRP which we can’t buy in Fuertaventura, so we are bound for Las Palmas to go shopping. Also on the shopping list are; hand bearing compass, dividers, charts for the Caribbean, cruising guides, barometer and a few other primitive fundamentals! We are not crossing the ocean until we are properly equipped. So with those few exceptions we have a well equipped, well prepared boat.