Or in our case, greener capes. As in Cape Verde.
Beginning of October our extra crew arrived to cross from Gran Canaria to Cabo Verde. They would travel with us around Cabo Verde. Around the 20th of November we would cross the Atlantic from Cabo Verde to Martinique. The arrival of the new crew meant the end of our ‘break’ in the Canaries, although we had been doing quite a few things to get the boat ready for both crossings. Once they arrived we also stocked up on food for 1 week crossing to Cabo Verde and 3 weeks cross Atlantic.
Preparing Exodus for passage
Whilst travelling with the boys and our friends, our dutiful captain made notes on necessary upgrades. Having found the yacht shop in Arguineguin we worked down our list:
- Ordered a Victron battery & amperage usage monitor- This nifty little measure keeps track of what goes in and out, all the incoming energy from wind, solar, alternator versus the energy usage from the electronics on board (fridge/ freezer, water pump, instruments, …)
- Replacing 3 of the older batteries. Now all the batteries in our battery bank date from 2017.
- Bought and installed a radar reflector, with Arthur going up the mast to mount it
- Bought a spare stern anchor for those really rolley days on anchor
- Serviced the motor, changed filters and oil, stocked up on spare filters
- Serviced water maker and changed her filters
- Made covers for the winches we do not use often
- Hull clean – rubbing Exodus clean with brushes and scouring sponges to re-activate the copper coat
- Changed the jib to the genoa
How much food does one need to feed 4,5 people on a sailing boat for one month? Which foods do we really need to buy now and what should be available in Cabo Verde as well? These were the start-off questions for drawing up an extensive stock list, based on a basic, manageable, sailor friendly, varied week menu. The list seemed to be growing and growing. Endless counting and re-counting. Until we had our final shopping list.
There is a big Mercadona supermarket only one bus stop away from Pasito Blanco marina. The Exodus crew hopped on the bus and embarked on a shopping spree. We split up in teams with separate shopping lists and trollies. It took us 1 hour to fill two trollies to the brim with all the bulk goods we needed. In Gran Canaria home delivery of groceries is very common. As soon as you spend more than 60 Euros in the shop, you can have the goods delivered at the address of your choice. Very convenient if you don’t have your own car and your delivery consists of over 10 crates of cans, boxes, brick, and bottles. We rushed back to Pasito Blanco, organized a mooring spot in the marina, and started unpacking and repacking the space underneath the couches in the lounge. Our delivery arrived in the afternoon, was loaded on the boat by forming a human chain, and packed in a hopefully logical manner. This took up most of the day. The job was considered done once each packing space was equipped with its own inventory list. So that one does not have to turn the boat upside down when looking for a can of tuna, peas or so.
In Arguineguin we bought the rest of our stock list: A supply of frozen meats and veggies at the Frozen food market and all the perishables in the Hiperdino supermarket.
Arthur mounted a net off the lounge ceiling to store fruit and vegetables.
Winnie made up 3 meals in advance. With that we were ready to leave the Canaries behind us…
Slowest passage so far
The weather forecast showed no wind for the first 100 miles. The same condition was valid for a full week. This meant we either had to wait an extra week, with no guarantee the situation would be better, or take off and hope for the best. Unfortunately for us, there were no land winds or unmapped wind zones this time and we ended up our first 2 days with no wind. Gently floating and bobbing about. Our absolute minimum speed while drifting was 0,4 knots. We even contemplated having a swim but resorted to cooling our feet off the stern whilst sitting on the dive platform.
After the very quiet first days, the wind speed slowly picked up, varying between 8 and 15 knots. Very rarely at night, it pushed up to 20.
The one week crossing constituted an ideal trial period in anticipation of the coming Atlantic crossing in November. In Gran Canaria we changed the jib for the genoa and now we had to adjust our whisker pole to the bigger size of the sail. It worked without a problem. We hoisted the main sail to check if it would give a difference in speed or stability, but it didn’t. We therefore sailed the whole way slowly on our genoa at a speed of 5 knots.
When we hoisted the mainsail we noticed it was sitting in an awkward bend. One of our crew volunteered to go up the mast to have a look while gently floating along. Turns out one of the batons had popped out of its holder. So we put that back in place when we took the sail down.
8 days on the open ocean, slowly covering 832 sea miles might sound exciting or extremely boring. To us it was neither of those. Life very quickly reverts to a routine. You live according to a schedule where you are on watch for two hours and off for 6 hours. Those 6 hours always miraculously fill themselves: homeschooling, preparing food, doing dishes (which involved scooping up salt water with a bucket to prewash in order to conserve water), reading books or playing with Gitane.
Our crew both played an instrument, a tiny guitar and a ukulele, which was great for Gitane. A few times a spontaneous jam session started with Gitane getting out her xylophone, shakers and other percussion instruments.
As is typical in the Canaries, the sky remained hazy. It was never clear blue, impacting on our solar output. Apart from that, there was not that much wind, mainly downwind and therefore impacting on the output of the wind generator.
The autopilot chews a lot of energy. In order to conserve energy, being on watch equated taking the helm and steering.
But this was not enough to keep our energy usage balanced. Every day we motor sailed 1 or 2 hours to keep the battery levels up to scratch.
Apart from the big wide open blue, we did not see much wildlife. We spotted one turtle. We had to wait for the approach to Cabo Verde, to see 5 dolphins.
The only fish we saw plenty of, and the most entertaining view, was observing scores of fly fish make powerful leaps out of water into air. From the corner of your eye its movement resembles something in between a sparrow and a colibri. When scared they fly away in groups like a bunch of house sparrows. But their fast fin movements, where the fish is suspended in the air, without any apparent movement of the wings, makes one think of a colibri.
The curved profile of their fins is comparable to the aerodynamic shape of a bird wing. These wing-like fins enable gliding flight for considerable distances above the water’s surface, in order to evade natural predators such as dolphins, tuna, marlin, birds, squids, and porpoises.
Flying fish have a rigid body. This gives them aerodynamic advantages during glided flight. It allows them to physically lift their body out of water and fly remarkable distances. Rigidity ensures the fish’s body doesn’t flop in mid air, and it makes him shoot straight as an arrow. A guided missile or a pocket rocket. At the end of a glide, the fish folds its wing-fins to disappear under water, or it drops its tail into the water and pushes off for another glide. They can re-launch like that several times in a row, making big leaps and covering quite a distance.
At night our biggest entertainment was stargazing. We also had to fend off the fly fish that seemed desperate to get onto the boat. They were attracted by the navigation lights like rabbits to a spotlight. Onto our backs and faces they leaped. It became a sport to try and rescue them and shove them back into the water.
One of the first windless nights we were lucky enough to see 3 dolphins sliding next to the boat. The sound of air blowing out their breathing holes could be heard from far. Only when they came close to the boat you could see the moonlight glittering over their elegant shady figures.
Watching the moon rise like a red orange type of UFO is quite an experience as well. Later at night the sky was very often hazy, making it impossible to view the stars. The night sky felt like a thick warm blanket enveloping us. This must be where the ancient myth came from that mother earth was split in half and her skin is extended over the night sky.
Those 8 days on the water we did not see many other ships. A sailing yacht, Maramalada, was following us but kept a respectable distance. The only time our AIS (Automatic Identification System) registered a lot of nocturnal activity was when we passed about 120 miles from the coast of Mauritania. Zooming in on the Ipad revealed a beehive activity much busier than Gibraltar. We were happy to be far away!
Crossing from the Canaries to Cabo Verde was considered a trial for the Atlantic crossing. An ideal way to test out our passage set-up over a one week period, ranging from passage planning to food to water consumption to homeschooling to power to crew. Taking notes, making to do lists to further improve the Exodus expedition. The amounts of food we had provisioned were about right. No one went hungry, we had ample variation and were in no rush to get to shops once land was in sight. Offline homeschooling also worked well. Passage planning was spot on, and the system of weather updates from our South African friend via sat phone approved by all.
Yet two points were up for a change: Our power supply needed to be improved. Our new crew both decided to explore seemingly better opportunities and thus we had to start searching for replacement crew before the start of the Atlantic crossing.