North Africa to the Caribbean
In November and December of 2014, I sailed 3,200 miles aboard the sailing yacht Matilda, from the Canary Islands in northwest Africa to
St. Lucia in the southern Caribbean. The crossing was part of the ARC, which is the world's largest trans-oceanic race.
Approximately 220 yachts took place.
The trip took us 19 days.
Standing on the bow after a long night of storms.
Technical specs about the German made Hanse 505 that was my home for across the ocean.
Here's a video glimpse of our trans-oceanic voyage.
My journey actually began in South Africa where I was leading the T.I.G.E.R.S. annual safari.
This year I was quite literally sailing home, from Africa to North America, but first I had to get from
South Africa to the Canary Islands.
Getting from South Africa to north Africa is not as straight forward as it may seem. I actually had to fly from Johannesburg to London to
Gran Canaria, which meant I was quite literally on 3 continents this trip.
You can tell the English weather doesn't disappoint. It's exactly what you expect.
Arriving on the island of Gran Canaria.
After 24 hours and 3 flights I'm finally at the Marina in Las Palmas.
Dress flags flying.
Arriving onboard the Matilda.
Provisions being prepared.
Rainbow over the marina.
"Tropical", the local beer.
Stokey Woodall, a good guy from England with whom I sailed the Baltic and North Seas.
Stokey is one of the foremost experts in celestial navigation and helped with weather routing.
Sundowners with crew members of the other boats.
Carrying the small dinghy outboard back to the boat.
"Dumpster Dave" digging through the trash trying to find a hidden treasure.
A cool home made boat.
The dock is quiet at night.
All the way from "New Beige".
Now the terrorists have their own sailboat.
A grey day in the marina. The race was scheduled to take place on Sunday, but it was postponed due to sever weather conditions.
Checking out of customs at the port authority.
Cruise ships across the port.
The boat next to us, "Bionic Elk".
An unscheduled sundowners on the last evening. All the drinks were sponsored by one of the yacht owners.
It was an outdoor venue and it started raining.
Morning of the Race
Monday morning everyone was set and the marina was bustling.
Baitfish around the boats.
The first set of boats head out the harbor.
Local people lined the sea wall to cheer everyone on. An anouncer and loud spanish music played in the background.
Some crews had matching outfits. We were too cool for that ;0)
Ships went out in classes. We were in the second group, so after some photos of the first boats, I had to
hurry back to the Matilda so we could make it out in our allotted time.
Back at the pontoon.
The Matilda in the middle with the yellow sailbag on deck. Barry (in grey) pointing out something to Dave (in blue).
The wonders of plywood.
I think was them telling me to get my ass on the boat so we could leave.
Ya, ya, I'm coming.
Frinds on the Mis Liz II, another Hanse 505.
Before we could leave, we had to have a cup of tea. . . . . you know how the English are.
Group photo before departure.
The AIS (Automatic Tracking System) of all the boats in the harbor.
The AIS chaos when the race began.
The boat behind us with their group photo
"The Caribbean is that way Dave. We just need to go that way."
A little nervous nail biting.
Finally, we're under way. Simon bringing a fender in.
Barry at the helm, Dave straightening lines, me taking pictures.
"Ok, the pressure is off. We didn't hit anything."
The outer harbor is filling up.
It's amazing that in just a couple days we won't see any of these boats again until we arrive in St. Lucia.
"Are you sure the Caribbean isn't that way?"
A smaller Hanse boat.
Partially hidden by a wave.
Seriously hidden by a wave.
A catamaran on its way.
And the race is on!!!
Life at Sea
Life at sea takes some adjusting. While a day sail can be fun for almost anyone, weeks on end with no dry land in sight
is something that is reserved for the slightly more adventurous. The first major hurdle is that the calm, still world you took for granted
is now currently in motion, sometimes gently, sometimes more violently. If you are prone to sea sickness, you either get over it in the
first 12 hours or you die. I'm not sure there is much of a choice. Eventually bracing yourself against something becomes a way of life.
This includes while you are eating, sleeping, washing dishes, cooking food, splicing ropes, and taking a shower.
At least 1/3 of the nights sleeping on board, I physically slid across the bed because of the angle of the boat.
I finally figured out how to brace myself and sleep at the same time about 2 days before we hit dry land.
Blue skies and happy sailing.
Lunch time. As you can see, holding on to your plat while eating is mandatory.
Dolphins coming to visit us almost 400 miles offshore.
Dolphins riding our bow waves.
Only 1898 nautical miles left (2184 statute miles).
Fish for lunch today.
A mahi mahi, the right size for 4 people.
Rainbow on the horizon.
My day as chef, preparing a lovely salad. Fresh vegetable were, by needs, the first thing to be consumed.
There were a lot of SPECTACULAR sunrises and sunsets. . . . enough so that I created an entire page about them.
Click here to view them.
Playing ukulele over the Cape Verde Abyssal Plain in more than 19,000 feet of water.
Flying fish were a constant sight along the way. Getting a photo of them was near impossible though. They are only a few inches long and
moving very quickly. There are so many ripples and nuances moving in the water, that it is extremely difficult to get good focus on the fish and
when they fly, their field of focus is constantly changing. Add to that the fact that you never know when they are going to show up. You might see 100
in an hour and then not see any more for 6 hours. When they fly, they are only out of the water for 1-3 seconds at most. You have to have your
camera aimed the right direction and finger on the button to even have a chance. These are a few of the hundreds of photos I took trying to get
a perfect flying fish picture. None of these are stunning, but you can at least see the challenge.
A flying fish taking off.
A flying fish plopping back into the water.
.......so is it a "school" or a "flock"?
We often found flying fish onboard in the mornings. They would fly onto the deck at night without seeing the boat.
Two flying fish this morning.
This is the largest flying fish we found onboard.
As you can see, I decided to take some macro photos since I had a still subject.
I decided to look in the fishes mouth and found. . . . . . .
. . . . . . . THIS!
At first I thought the fish had swallowed something.
I removed the creature with a small pair of pliers and knew
that it was a crustacean of some sort. It looked almost like a lobster, until I turned it over........
.....and realized it was an ALIEN!!!
Actually, I discovered after arriving back in the U.S. that this is actually a "tongue eating parasite".
This thing enters through the fishes gills as a larva and attaches itself to the fishes tongue. As the
parasite grows, it kills off the fishes tongue and its body acts like a prosthetic tongue for the fish.
Nature is f@*&ing wierd sometimes.
It is always wonderful and amazing to see a bird a thousand miles offshore. You know that they are either flying or sitting on top of the water.
It is also nice to have some company after you've been staring at the water for weeks.
A red footed booby flies in for a look.
A juvenile red-footed booby, still with its dark colors.
Birds would follow the boat, because when the bow would crash into a wave, it would startle the flying fish out of the water.
This is a good case of camera aimed the right direction at the right time.
Red footed booby chasing a flying fish.
Sargassum sea weed.
A fish trying to eat a lure as big as him.
One morning we found a squid in the middle of the cockpit. We have absolutely no idea how it got there.
Hooks at the end of the tentacles.
The squid's parrot like beak.
A double rainbow.
A collapsing towering cumulonimnbus cloud, with rain directly underneath.
A beautiful mahi mahi just at sunrise.
Another super blue mahi mahi.
Two at once. . . . a double header.
A juvenile jack living underneat the floating mats of sargassum.
A much bigger mahi mahi.
We refridgerated this fish and cooked it when we got to St. Lucia. It fed 21 people.
Our satelite phone that worked some times.
A heading of 249 degrees.
A big storm coming in behind us as the sun was setting.
And the rain comes.
This little squal turned out to be 12 hours of 40mph sustained winds, torrential rain, 15 foot seas and lightning going sideways.
With the third reef in the sail we rode it out, but our night watches were cold and wet. . . . . . and nothing keeps your attention
like sailing through a lightning storm with a 65 foot aluminum pole above your head. That being said, watching the lightning strike the
water was a pretty spectacular experience.
Barry calling Stokey our weather router and asking "WTF?"
During one of our days sailing, a malfunction in the auto-pilot caused the boat to spin around under the power of
the geneker (the large red sail). As the sail came around, one of the ropes caught Dave across the face and
did some potentially permanent damage to his eye.
This happened still 1,000 miles from land.
. . . . . But after every storm there is a rainbow. . . . .
. . . . and some fresh banana bread.
Our evening ritual was to watch an episode of "Dexter" together, before the night watches started.
We always wore our life jackets at night or if we were on deck alone.
Running below to make some tea, it was just to much trouble to take it off and put it back on.
We are still not sure if it was the steam from the kettle or the release tab caught on something, but Barry's
life jacket inflated below in the cabin. Luckily his AIS transponder didn't go off, otherwise it would have
notified every boat within range that he was in the water and in distress.
On night watch. We each took turns in 2 hour shifts to stay on deck, make course corrections, and watch for traffic.
Sailing by moonlight.
Barry during an early morning watch.
Collecting water samples along the way as part of a long term scientific study to measure
micro particles of plastic in the world's oceans. Ships crossing the ocean are often asked to participate.
One of the "Dexter" DVD's slid under the counter after a particularly big wave.
Victory! We can watch again.
Dave cutting up all of our plastic into small pieces. It is easier to stow and when disposed of, leaves a smaller environmental footprint.
Floating mats of sargassum seaweed in the Sargasso Sea. These small islands can get huge and are their own ecospheres of life.
This is one of the places baby sea turtles go to be hide.
Unique species of shrimp and fish inhabit these islands as well as many
other pelagic species of fish.
There are 3 foam buoys on this island, the only trash we saw the entire trip.
A mahi mahi covered with sargassum seaweed.
An 1891 map of the Sargasso Sea.
Before the days of radar and telemetry tracking, it is thought that the Sargasso Sea was to blame for some of the
Bermuda Triangle disappearance. A sailing vessle could get ensnared in a particularly big sargassum island, especially with no wind.
Barry trying to catch some seaweed.
Ukulele at sunset over the tallest point of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which is the world's tallest mountain range.
It just happens to be underwater.
Trying to watch "Dexter" during the day. We were getting closer to land and needed to finish the season.
English Christmas tree chocolate. It was December after all.
Simon's day as chef. Steak and garlic.
Banana bread muffins.
The big red sail, the one that alost took out Dave's eye.
Homemade bread by Simon.
This ship is one of the very few we saw the entire trip. For more than 10 days we didn't see another ship, a plane, nothing.
We were quite literally on our own in the big blue ocean.
Another squall. All the cushions had to come under the spray hood to stay dry.
"Ya, its a fish. What are you going to do about it?"
Tea and biscuits.
A fresh pineapple upside down cake.
Apparently a very good Kit-Kat.
Raising the St. Lucia flag.
Trying to examine the rudder shaft. We heard a gurgling sound. We didn't find a leak, but it appears
that the big red sail has enough force that it was lifting the stern of the boat out of the water enough for air to
get to the rudder shaft. Gives you an idea of the amount of force involved.
Position and heading documented multiple times per day.
We arrived at St. Lucia just as dawn approaches.
Coming around Pigeon Island into Rodney Bay.
Securing fenders. This is the first time we have been on land in almost 3 weeks.
A photographer taking picutres of our arrival.
The yellow buoy signifies one side of the finish line.
This catamaran is the other side of the finish line. They used an airhorn to signify our crossing the
line. They also radioed in our time to the ARC headquarters to figure us into the
official race results.
Fishing boats inside Rodney Bay.
Pulling into the marina.
Rum punches awaiting our arrival (at 6AM).
It is almost a party atmosphere when you arrive. Crossing the Atlantic in a sailboat is not all that different than running a marathon>
There is a real sense of achievement when you finish.
Barry's family arriving to meet us.
The sailing crew upon arrival.