Category Archives: Top Sailing Destinations

Atlantic Crossing on a Sailing Yacht. Top Tips & Equipment

 

Sailing Across the Atlantic – How to Do It ? When ? The best equipment.  How to make the most of your experience ?

  1. The Atlantic Crossing is an Accessible Experience for Any Sailor

Crossing the Atlantic is one of the best sailing experiences a navigator can experience. Especially a European sailor doing an Atlantic Crossing in the middle of winter, to the Caribbean. Nowadays, more than 1.500 sailboats are sailing across the Atlantic from Europe every year. The main road and most appreciated course, is to sail from Europe to the Canaries Islands, usually from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean. Some choose to leave from Capo Verde, a little bit more South, or from Madeira, a little bit more North.

On a well-prepared boat, with a well-prepared crew and at the proper season, you’ll find it easy and very accessible to any sailor, even a newbie, willing to learn. Sailing across the Atlantic for two weeks, with steady wind is a perfect occasion to better discover your boat, or even boating, to extend your sailing skills and to record lots of great memories. Many yachtsmen and yachtswomen choose to enjoy the Caribbean, Bahamas or Brazilian coasts for a few months after the crossing. All those places offer fantastic sailing destinations and dream moorings.

Such a crossing on a sailing yacht offers you a unique opportunity to really change your environment and quickly experience totally new sensations, a completely different routine, in a fantastic natural environment. I remain amazed at how fast we can take new habits or get read of others on such a sailing trip. 2 to 3 weeks is a very short period of time actually, but it always leaves an awful lot of good memories and quite a bit of nostalgia.

 

Here are a few tips and equipment recommendations. When it’s possible, I provide links to Amazon, for  they offer fair prices, fast delivery anywhere in the world, security and allow you to save a lot on shipping costs, by grouping different product categories into one order.

  1. When to cross the Atlantic ?

From Europe, the best season is from the end of November to March. NE trades are quite stable between the Azores and the Caribbean, averaging 4 Beauforts and usually ranging between 3 and 6.

Doing the Atlantic crossing from Europe between December and March allows you to benefit from steady winds and currents, assuming you go for the conventional road, through the Canary Islands to the Caribbean, and avoid the Hurricane season that starts in May and ends in the end of November.

If you are serious about sailing across the Atlantic and about ocean cruising in general, I suggest you get your hands on the excellent “Cornell’s Ocean atlas : Pilot Charts for All Oceans of the World“, by Jimmy and Ivan Cornell. It’s an excellent source to understand the weather patterns on any major crossing (all the Oceans, the main seas) at any time. You’ll find for instance one chart per month on the North Atlantic, allowing you to compare the statistical weather conditions month by month. It’s based on the study of the last 20 years data and reports informations such as currents, dominant wind’s direction, force and frequency, frequency of storms, etc. and it remains easy to read. It’s a real must have for any offshore sailor or circumnavigator.

Cornell's Ocean Atlas - ©Jimmy Cornell; Ivan Cornell
Cornell’s Ocean Atlas – ©Jimmy Cornell; Ivan Cornell

Alternatively, you can go for an even more precise atlas and still very qualitative, dedicated only to the Atlantic Ocean (but including Mediterranean and Caribbean weather Patterns too). It is the “Atlantic Pilot Atlas” by James Clarke. If you are sure your Atlantic crossing won’t turn into a circumnavigation, you should prefer this one to Cornell’s Atlas.

  1. The main distances from Europe to the Caribbean (Saint-Lucia):
 Gibraltar  Canary Islands  Saint Lucia
Southampton  1284 NM  1630 NM  4330 NM
Brest  980 NM 1377 NM  4077 NM
La Rochelle  1030 NM  1520 NM  4220 NM
La Corogne  632 NM  1020 NM  3720 NM
Cascais  310 NM  765 NM  3465 NM
Gibraltar  X  788 NM  3488 NM
Almeria  156 NM  944 NM  3744 NM
Palma  467 NM  1255 NM  3955 NM
Barcelone  550 NM  1330 NM  4030 NM
La Grande-Motte  702 NM  1490 NM  4190 NM
Marseille  718 NM  1506 NM  4206 NM
Toulon  777 NM  1560 NM  4160 NM
Portofino  918 NM  1706 NM  4260 NM
Ajaccio  794 NM  1582 NM  4282 NM
La valette  1052 NM  1840 NM  4540 NM
Bodrum  1710 NM  2498 NM  5198 NM
Las Palmas GC  788 NM X  2700NM

 

“At a 7 knots average cruising speed, crossing the Atlantic between Las Palmas and the Caribbean will take you 16 days. The record for the Atlantic Crossing belongs to the Maxi Trimaran “Banque Populaire V”, that crossed the North Atlantic in 3 days and 15 hours, averaging 32,94 knots !!!”

The best starting point for an Atlantic crossing with the trade winds is without any doubts Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, it’s kind of the best entry on the Trade winds Highway.

Las Palmas offers all the services any offshore sailor might need. There are plenty of shipchandlers and yards in the main marina and the major brands have teams stationed in Las Palmas during October and November to help their customers prepare the Atlantic crossing.

The ARC, the well-known Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, has chosen Las Palmas as a starting point, and Saint Lucia as a destination. The ARC leaves Las Palmas at the end of November, just after the end of the Hurricane season. There are dozens of possible landing points; the ARC usually goes for Saint Lucia. Clearly, arriving to Saint Lucia and its spectacular pythons is a great momen but you can choose any Caribbean Island, the Bahamas or even Brazil. Fernando de Noronha is also a great choice to land.

sailing across the atlantic to Saint Lucia
Arriving in Saint Lucia. Whouaahhh !!! © christian chareyron

To fully benefit from the Trade Winds, most yachts choose to sail South to 20″ North, 30″W. This is the place where you’ll catch the steadiest Trade Winds, both in direction and force. From here, they sail West to the Caribbean.

crossing the atlantic
Crossing the Atlantic via 20″ North; 30″ West

From The North Bahamas and North American continent; choose to cross the Atlantic on a northern route between the end of April and August. This is a less frequent way of crossing the Atlantic, but arriving in Europe in May and heading straight to the Mediterranean Sea for a great summer of sailing must be at least as memorable as the classic trade winds crossing and Caribbean sailing. To prepare a trip from the US to Europe, I recommend the book: “Atlantic Crossing – A Sailor’s guide to Europe and Beyond“, by Les Wheatheritt.

Typical route when crossing the Atlantic from the US to the Mediterranean, through the Azores
Typical route when crossing the Atlantic from the US to the Mediterranean, through the Azores.

 

  1. Personal preparation – What to pack for this ocean passage ? Communication devices:

First of all, know that sailing offshore does not necessarily means going dark, with no phone, no mail and no connection at all from your friends or company. That was true 15 years ago, that’s not anymore. It is now possible to live in a sailing yacht, as you live in your home, with broadband Internet access, Wi-Fi and a modern dose of comfort. Of course, communication on sea still costs much more than inshore, where we now benefit from unlimited access for a very reasonable price. The Sat installation (antenna and modem) on the boat is the most expensive: 8.000 to 15.000 $, but after that 1 MB (broadband speed) costs around 1$, and it’s easy to adapt your system to download less images or unnecessary data.

You can also choose to go with a simple iridium phone or a yellowbrick (both tracking device for those who stay ashore, sms sender/receiver and text e-mail). In that case, it will cost 700 to 1200$ to get the device and the first month of communications. My point here is to underline that offshore cruising is no longer reserved for people that can cut the bridge for months.

There is even a new alternative that is very exciting: an Iridium module you can connect wirelessly to your smarphone. You just type your sms (150 characther max), connect your phone to the device and send it. You can also receive sms and post Facebook updates !

The device  is available for 265€, or 197£ or 290 US$. It is the DeLorme AG-008449-201 inReach Two-Way Satellite Communicator for Smartphones. Once you have the device, you need to choose a communication plan. There is a possibility to purchase, for instance a single month plan (no annual contract) for 65 US$ that will include:

  • Unlimited SOS calls (emergency)
  • Unlimited text messages
  • Your location will be tracked, and a ping sent, every 10 minutes allowing your family and friends to know where you are at any time.

A new version with a colored screen is available and has a great reputation already. It is the Delorme inReach SE.

The new Delorme InReach SE
The new Delorme InReach SE is a true wonder

 

You don’t have datas or internet access, but you can communicate at any time by text messages, from anywhere on the ocean, for a total investment under 400US$.

FIY, this nReach device is buoyant, waterproof to 3 meters, and impact-resistant to military standards.

All in all, it will cost 15.000USD$ +1000USD$ a month to get broadband Internet and voice calls. This is perfect for a (wealthy) entrepreneur or independent to stay actively in touch with his or her business while at sea. I do it using software like the excellent “Basecamp”. For someone who only wants to give news to close ones, the price can be as low as 300$ + 65US$ per month (without annual subscription).

  1. Useful Guides

Plan on leaving for at least one month if you do only the crossing, 6 weeks or more are ideal if you want to enjoy the arrival and enjoy a stay in the Caribbean…

Pay attention to where you land and whether you will need visas or not, or if you should prepare local currency (for instance, landing in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil, you might be happy to have already prepare Brazilian Real, as there is no currency exchange office).

“A good preparation is the key to success”

With the good info, you’ll make a good preparation to make the best out of your Atlantic crossing experience and you’ll save yourself administrative, logistic and technical troubles, administrative. Get the good navigation library, starting with the compulsory and really great “Atlantic Pilot Atlas” written by James Clarke I mentioned earlier. It’s the best resource I know for Atlantic crossing, with detailed and easy to read Monthly Pilot Charts for both North and South Atlantic.

Other good resources are “The RCC Pilotage foundation Atlantic Crossing Guide” by Jane Russell, which details how to prepare the boat, the crew, organize the routine and be administratively prepared. Once you have chosen the destination and stopovers, this book contains all the links and contacts to prepare any eventual visa request, or administrative obligation to fulfill.

Finally, “A Sailor’s Guide to Europe and Beyond», by Les Weatheritt for those who are starting from North America or the Bahamas.

Get paper and electronic charts, a lot of brands offer packages including wide range and short-range detailed maps.

  1. Useful Personal Equipment:

To enjoy the 2 to 3 weeks crossing, you must have a  well prepared boat, but also the proper personal equipment Here is the most valuable equipment, in my mind, to take with you on your Atlantic Crossing (a list of mandatory  Safety equipment for the boat and the crew is available for download later in this article):

  • Your personal drugs or specific medicines (head-hake, back-hake, possible allergies treatments, serum for your eyes, etc.). Also think about warning the responsible for supplies purchasing if you suffer from allergies.
  • Your passport, sailing licence (if applicable) and radio licence, first-aid certificate.
  • An iPod or MP3 player with your Top 100 Albums on it, and maybe audiobooks. Audiobooks are excellent ways to go through a watch, and if you are not the novel type, you can learn a lot about pretty much everything (business, science, hobbies, history, etc..),
  • Books or eBooks on  Ipad or Kindle. If you have an iPad with wifi, it means it can geolocate you via GPS. With a navionics chart (buy on the Navionics app for 49€) you will turn your iPad into a safety chart plotter. Think about how useful this can become !
  •  Don’t forget the earplugs, chargers, and take a international plug adaptator.
  • A USB external battery, to charge your electronic devices while you’re on watch.
  • If you are a smoker, pack one storm lighter.
  • A Leatherman. Security wants you to always have a sharp knife on you. While you are at it, you might want a few other tools. Leatherman tools are the best ! I always carry a Leatherman Freestyle with me. There are only two functions, pliers and a knife, but it’s the most compact one.
leatherman tool for sailing
This is the Freestyle model, extremely compact and easy to where on a belt. Whatever model you choose, Leatherman is a reference !

  • A good headband lamp, with leds and a descent autonomy (rechargeable batteries is mandatory). Petzl is the reference, the tikka + for instance. Try to take one with a red filter that you can put when you’re not alone (the red filter makes the lamp less dazzling)
  • Take a good pair of polarized sunglasses,
  • You should take  Foul Weather  gears (vest, hi-fit trouser, boots) and technical clothes (synthetic t-shirts, fleeces, synthetic sockets). Remember that cotton is the worst fabric to wear in a (very) humid navigation night, it absorbs moisture, while technical clothes (100% Polyester) evacuate it. I recommend you bring at least 2 fleeces, as it will be cold at night.
  • A pair of sailing gloves,
  • City clothes, shoes and swim wears.
  • An app (Android or iPod/Ipad) to study the stars (Skymap for instance),
  • A navigation app like Navionics.
  • Some Wrist bands to prevent seasickness if you are subject to it.

 

  1. The boat

The usually recommended boat’s size is over 40 feet for a minimum comfort, ideally 50 feet for 2 to 4 sailors.

Monohull or Multihull ? This is a passionate debate. Usually monohull sailors would not consider switching to multi (though I observed, while working with Catana Catamarans that women more often want), and multihull enthusiasts would not consider switching to monohulls.

The light multihulls (Catana, Outremer or Gunboat catamarans for instance) are usually faster; some people prefer the stable horizon it offers. An Atlantic crossing on one of those, with the appropriate equipment, offers a great deal of thrill.

There are also heavy multihulls but I can’t say a lot about those, as I would really not consider sailing on those houses on water, my interest for sailing being mainly driven by a search for thrill.

I prefer monohulls…well fast and modern ones. Knowing what technology and naval architecture can now offer, I would not consider an Atlantic crossing or offshore sailing at all on anything but a light displacement sailing yacht using carbon fiber and infusion process. If I’m going for long range sailing, I want to sail fast and almost every time without having to use the engine. Only a light sailing yacht can offer that level of performance at least under 65 feet. And since I want to be very well equipped, only a very light structure, like carbon/epoxy or pre-preg can do the job. I want a sure yacht but I’m OK with getting wet in the heavy times, with Gore-Tex gears, when steering in an open cockpit, as long as it is well designed and conceived for safety. Actually, I even like it as those are sensational and thrilling moments when you know your boat well, when you get to understand her character and when you see how well she sails!

Others are OK with using the engine a lot and not being able to sail to a descent speed (over 5 to 6 knots) in light winds conditions. They like to take their time. They usually go for medium to high displacement yachts with central cockpit, and feel safer with a big closed cockpit and a rigid cockpit shelter.

Though I’m sure all of these can deliver great moment, this post might be a little oriented towards the “Atlantic Crossing on a light monohull”.

A brief analysis of the ARC 2012 edition’s participants gives a good idea of the repartition of the offshore sailors when it comes to choosing their boat’s philosophy and type.

  • 250 boats were engaged
  • Less than 10% of them were multihulls, and 90% monohulls
  • Among monohulls, it looks like it was 50/50 between “light to medium displacement” and “Medium to heavy displacement”.
  • The average length of the boats was 48 feet

Most of the boats over 30 feet will do the work if you make sure they are properly maintained with an operational engine, a working autopilot, a GPS, controlled rigging and mast, and a set of descent sails (and lots of jerricans to carry extra water if there is no water maker).

In any case, you should make a complete check-up of the rigging, the sails, the engine, the electrics and electronics. Make sure everything works and do some preventive maintenance. You should also make checking those key parts a habit, at least once a day, while at sea, just for a visual control.

  1. Zoom on the energy consumption and production

You’ll need to produce a lot of energy, starting with the energy that will be necessary to supply the autopilot, but also fridge and night lighting. That’s a minimum. Today, it’s possible to have, even on a fast sailing yacht other pieces of comfort, such as microwave oven, water maker, washing machine, air-conditioning and heater, a “urban” TV Hi-Fi system, broadband internet, bread machine, dishwasher, etc.. We had pretty much this equipment on the Aureus XV Absolute on this year’s crossing. Enjoying the Atlantic desert while feeling as comfortable as in a modern condo is a pretty cool experience, but luckily none of those comfort equipment are mandatory to enjoy the passage.

You’ll need a lot of energy, whatever the on-board lifestyle. This is why paying attention to the electrical power system is essential. Start with making a factual “energy balance” of your system putting together all the energy you’ll need each day, based on the average number of hours you’ll use each electrical consumer. For instance, you’ll use 20 to 24 hours of autopilot, but probably only 1 or 2 hours of TV each day. Get the consumption data for your equipments and add the consumptions. It will give you the amount of energy you need to create on a daily basis.

Now you must match this amount, in Amp, with electricity production:

  • How many amps per hour does your engine produce via its alternator ?
  • Do you have an extra alternator ? How much does it produce ?
  • Do you have a generator ? How much does it produce per hour ?
  • Do you have a wind generator ? How much will it produce per hour (you can consider 90% of windy conditions)
  • Do you have solar panels ? How much do they produce hourly ?
  • Do you have an hydro generator ? How much does it produce per hour (at your average speed) ?
Hydro Generator boat watt and sea
Hydro generator are the most efficient way to produce energy on an offshore sailing navigation. Here is a model by Watt and Sea

For instance, on the Aureus XV Zig Zag Wanderer, we have a consumption of 18 Amps if we use the electronic, the autopilot, fridge and freezer. We have a hydrogenerator that produces 500W at a speed of 8 knots. The boat being in 24V DC, it means that we produce 20 Amps (500W/24V= 20,8 Amps). With that, I know that when we are sailing at 8 knots or above, we will be able to sail in autonomy. If we want to use the dishwasher or water maker, then we will have to match the consumption with an hour or so of Generator for every extra 150 Amps we consume (outside the essential functions that are covered with the hydrogenerator).

If you don’t do that energy balance properly, chances are you’ll find yourself frustrated at one point, not being able to use some pieces of equipment when you’ll want, or need, to do so. One possible output of this study is you might realize you will need lots of extra Gasoil to produce the energy you need (keep in mind you must save at list a full jerrican for your arrival).

  1. Alone or as part of a Rally

Well, the great advantage of a rally is the professional tips and help with preparation that the rally offers, with courses on safety procedure and weather forecasting. Basically, if the rally organizers lets your boat cross the line, then it really means your boat is ready for the crossing, and has the appropriate equipment, a checked rigging and a long list of safety equipment.

Rallies are also a good occasion to meet other sailors, from many different countries and share experiences. Those are usually really friendly events.

The main Rallies are the ARC (for Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) and the Atlantic Odyssey, here are the basic info about those rallies:

The ARC  exists for almost 30 years. Nowadays, it gathers every year more than 200 boats for a crossing between Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to Saint-Lucia (2700 NM). The cost for a 50 footer and 4 crew members is approximatively 1,550£ (1,975€ or 2,480US$). The inscription includes 2 weeks of harbour fees in Las Palmas and 1 week in Saint-Lucia, plus an invitation to  2 parties for crews, a full safety inspection and briefings and trainings. The ARC starts from Las Palmas at the end of November. Check out the ARC’s website to learn more. Additionally, the ARC organizers (World Cruising Club) has secured special deals with local businesses and also discount in a few European marinas that might be on your way to Las Palmas.

Sailing across the Atlantic with the ARC
The ARC starts is a thrilling moment – ©World Cruising Club

The Atlantic Odyssey is a much younger rally, created (as the ARC 30 years ago) by Jimmy Cornell. It’s a smaller event, with less than 50 yachts in 2014, divided into 2 groups. The first group will start their crossing from Lanzarote at the end of November. The second group starts from Las Palmas in January. The entry fees are a third of the ARC’s entry feeds (from 500 to 700€) and the list of mandatory safety equipment is slightly less expensive to purchase. The fees include 4 days of free docking before the start and one week of free docking in Martinique, safety inspection and briefing.

 

  1. Safety equipment

Safety is especially important offshore. You should carefully prepare the first aid kit, medicines and drugs with your family doctor. Do you or your crew have known allergies or medical conditions?

Also think about seeing your dentist before you leave. There are few worst sailing experiences than having a raging toothache in the middle of an ocean crossing.

Concerning the safety equipment, the best is to go with a heavy inventory, which is much more than the inventory required by regulation. I won’t detail this inventory since the World Cruising Club has already done the job, and greatly. Look at the mandatory and recommended equipment to participate to the ARC, organized by the World Cruising Club.

WCC_2014_Safety_Equipment_Regulations_ENG

This helpful list shows the tremendous experience of the World Cruising Club when it comes to offshore cruising. Generally, the ARC organization sends to every crew a complete Rally Handbook that contains everything you need to prepare for a good Atlantic Crossing. It’s another good reason to participate, as you will most likely gain a precious amount of time thanks to the ARC handbook.

A man overboard is the worst fear for a skipper, but today, great personal beacons and MOB individual alarms are available.

On “Zig Zag Wanderer”, every crew member carried constantly his personal AIS device, to be localized and a “LifeTag Wireless Man Over board system” that launch a sound alarm instantly if a crew member fall overboard. He or she would then be easily retrieved thanks to his or her personal AIS device (we used a McMurdo Smartfind S10 AIS Beacon). Also, we had one AIS device fitted in the Jonbuoy recovery module attached to the buoy in case we loose sight of the MOB at a given moment during the recovery maneuver.

  1. Spares

After that, you need to check your boat and identify the spare parts you’ll need:

  • Engine filters, belt and oil, plus an impeller kit and oil
  • A set of spare stainless steel bolts, screws, rings, axes, pins, circlips, o-rings, etc…
  • 2 or 3 spare valves, 4 meters of plumbing hoses in different diameters, 2 or 3 hoses adaptators (to switch diameter)
  • A spare bilge pump with it’s electric (12 or 24VDC) sensor (switches the device on when it detects water)
  • Appropriate tools, including metal saw and adjustable oil filter wrench.
  • Filters for the Wate rmaker if you have one,
  • Light bulbs and Leds for your interior lights and navigation lights
  • ATC Fuses: 1A, 2A, 3A, 5A, 7,5A, 10A, 15A ( for your pumps and electronic). I strongly recommend the use of ATC fuses with LED indicator wherever you can. The “EasyID Fuses” will shine if broken, making it easy to spot a problem as soon as you open the technical comportment (where they might be 5 to 20 fuses, maybe not all marked).
  • Glass fuses in 5mm x 20mm (0,1A or 100mA, 0,25A or 250 mA, 0,5A or 500mA, 0,75mA or 750mA, 1A, 2A, 3A, 5A)
  • Glass fuses in 6×30 mm in 10A, 15A and 20A for shower pumps),
  • ANL Fuses 80A, 150A, 200A, more if you have bigger ones on board (check the chargers, bow-thrusters, electric windlass, general protection, alternators…),
  • A wide range Mini-fuses (mini ATC) for electronic boxes.
  • WD40,  to clean, protect, lubricate and penetrate, creates a shield against moisture,
  • PTFE spray, to reduce friction in rails or rollings (ex: to put in the mast),
  • Grease for your winches and furlers,
  • Shackles, ropes, pulleys, etc,
  • A descent Multimeter,
  • A fish tape,
  • An Epoxy composite kit (West system sells some) with a few different fibers (Uni directional, Bi-Axial and Quadri-Axial). Epoxy works fine on polyester if you sand it properly, in case you wonder,
  • I also recommend the multi purpose “Stay Afloat”. It’s a fantastic instant water leak plug and sealant. It’s a must have product. If you have never heard of it, and if you’re serious about safety, take a look at this video,

  • I also recommend a “Composite Patch” kit. for it can save a boat that has hit a floating hazard. It’s a prepared composite patch that can be used to patch areas of the hull or deck, with epoxy and fiber, even under the water. Anyone can use it. See that video of a repair under water:

  • A Sails repair kit, built with your sail maker or the boatyard if they care for their customers. If you don’t have this type of kit, search on the web for descent kits. Alta Sails does some pretty complete kits, with the Altabox. You’ll need an automatic sewer, needles, a splicing kit, and of course some spinnaker repair tape matching your sails. I also recommend to have a few meters of different types of Dyneema Rode, without cover. For instance 5 meters of 16mm (can replace almost any heavy duty rope with a breaking Load at 19T), 10 meters of 10mm (Breaking Load: 9T), 5 meters of 6mm (breaking Load: 4,3T), and five meters of 3mm (Breaking load 960 kg). They are easy to splice; you can do a textile shackle in less then 5 minutes and it will hold as much as a stainless steel one, weighting only a small fraction of it.
  • Everything else you could need for a specific piece of equipment you have on board (mechanical spare, lubricant, electronic board, electrical relays, fuses and connectors).
  • I recommend having a spare autopilot. I know that autopilots are quite reliable but if it brakes during a crossing and you don’t have spares, the whole thing will immediately become painful.
  • I also recommend an emergency kit, such as a Sta-lok deluxe rigging spare kit, just in case. (but obviously, you have carefully checked you’re rigging before leaving for such a trip).

Finally, you must be able to use the tools you have to detect a default, a broken fuse or a sudden death of your impeller. There is an excellent collection of “Practical companion” to help you with diagnostic, efficient use and maintenance/reparation. They present all the information you need to keep all your systems in a tip-top condition  (diagrams, pictures, step by step process). Each companion presents diagrams, pictures, step by step interventions in a set of  aspiral-bound splashproof cards. They cover the diesel engine,  electrics, vhf radio, first-aid, sails trimming, cockpit companion, etc. Highly recommended on any offshore cruising boat.

 

  1. Electronics

Electronic is an incredible comfort. With a good level of equipment, you can make a lot of things easier, such as avoiding collision, thanks to AIS and radar, or knowing instantly where you are on an electronic chart. Some people like it the old way, I can understand. Autopilot and AIS are mandatory to take the best out of any offshore navigation. The rest depends on your philosophy and your budget. For instance, on the Aureus XV Absolute, we chose to have the following electronic equipment:

  • A good Computer Process Unit to analyze collected data. We chose A B&G H3000 for it’s very adapted to offshore cruising, their outside displays offer maximum viewing in all conditions and the instruments are fitted and embraced by a majority of offshore sailors and crews.
  • A chart plotter, with electronic charts.
  • 4 big display screens 20×20 on the mast base. And one general display on the chartable. This way, you can get the information from any point behind the mast.
  • The autopilot is the central piece of your navigation, and one of the most frequent causes of bad experiences. We chose to stick with B&G and went for Hydraulic ram and an ACP2 pilot with excellent sailing algorithm to steer well in any condition and wind angle. You’ll spend two weeks out there; you want your autopilot to work fine. The best security is to embark two pilots, but oversizing a little bit the pilot (going for an auto-pilot suitable for a little bit longer and/or heavier boats). Hydraulic works fine when mounted the proper way. The autopilot data are displayed both on the chart table, and on each helm station.
  • Broadband radar, connected to a B&G Zeus Multifunction Chart plotter, especially designed for sailors. You can easily upload and display GRIB files for weather forecasting and set all kinds of alarms.
  • Having an AIS Class B device is a great and safe option, to automatically share your position and reduce risks of on water collision. Many rallies will make this mandatory. Of course, it does not make a constant visual surveillance optional. An advantage of AIS is your folks will be able to follow your trip on sites like Vessel Finder, thanks to your AIS emissions.
  • Other brands such as Raymarine, NKE or Simrad also offer complete and reliable solutions. The important thing is to be consistent and use compatible modules.

 

  1. Man Overboard: Prevention, alert and recovering

Man Overboard is probably the worst fear for any skipper. Since crossing the Atlantic will most probably mean solo watches, have the topic well covered before leaving.

For prevention:

  • Attending a 2 to 3 days ISAF course will bring you more than a simple certificate. You’ll have the occasion to launch a life raft, fire flares, wear a survival suit combination in action and learn more about Search and Rescue operations and regulations. Events such as the ARC ask for at least 2 crew members to have a valid ISAF certificate (ISAF stands for International Safety At Sea).
  • Choose modern inflatable life jacket, with integrated harness. 150 Newton is usually OK for an average adult wearing no heavy tools. The lighter the better, so that wearing them can become a habit. The best safety lines are fitted with two or three shackles so that you can move being always attached. Example of good models are: Spinlock Deckvest and Ocean Safety Kru Sports life jacket.

For a fast reaction and retrieving:

  1. Useful Phone Calls

Now that’s we’ve been through the safety aspects, and if you’ve decided to make your Atlantic crossing, I strongly advise you to take a few minutes to make 2 or possibly 3 very important phone calls.

If you don’t own the boat you’ll be sailing on, whether it is as the skipper or a crew member, give a call to the owner to ask for the insurance policy of the boat. Check the insurance policy papers thoroughly and make sure you understand clearly the level of protection you’ll have and your responsibilities too, together with potential limitations (such as restricted areas/countries/seasons). It’s typical to have restricted countries in insurance contracts for sailing yachts.

Once you have in mind the protection and risks covered by the insurance policy attached to the boat, call your insurance company to expose your project to your advisor and make sure you have the appropriate risk coverage. Though it’s unlikely you’ll need them, it’s always good to know that you are prepared should you face an accident and for instance require a repatriation.

Before asking about the proper protection, you should tell your advisor about:

  • the route you intend to follow and a “guestimation” of the planning.
  • tell him or her about the boat, the safety equipment you’ll have, who it belongs to and possibly share with him a copy of the insurance of the boat.
  • tell him about the rest of the crew. How many members, are they experienced sailors, who is in charge ?

The last important phone call is to your bank.

  • What if you loose your card abroad ?
  • Do you need to raise the limit of monthly cash withdrawal ?
  • Make sure fees won’t go through the roof when you pay in other currencies, or withdraw cash abroad. Sometimes the banker can do slight temporary adjustments on your contract terms and make things easier/cheaper.

Also, you probably don’t need a phone call for that one, but check you Smartphone plan for abroad communication and, above all for the price of data downloading (per Mb) abroad.

I’m not sure about US people, but I can assure you that there has been a considerable amount of European people that have been shocked to discover there cellphone’s bill after a trip abroad, and even more after an Atlantic Crossing going through many country.

With the navigation apps, GPS on our phones, various leisure apps, it became a habit for a lot of us to consume a lot of data through our phones (checking the news, the weather, downloading our mails, sending pictures, updating apps, etc.). Some companies charge up to 5$ per Mega downloaded outside your country or continent. If you’re not aware of it, the bill can quickly reach 1000$ or more.

 

  1. Progress is good. Navigation software is also good for you.

Now, software like Adrena or Maxsea allow virtually any sailor equipped with a laptop to sail like pros and take the best routing and tactical options. They are affordable, and really simple to use. Moreover, they gather and store all the information from your navigation to help you improve your skills, set of sails and weather tactic.

Adrena software used on an atlantic crossing
Adrena software is a great tool to choose an efficient course

On “Zig Zag Wanderer”, we use the Adrena Pro Offshore, in which we set our VPP and sails. This way, the software not only helped us choosing the best route regarding the winds, but also recommended us the sails combination to use. It can help any sailors, even very experienced ones. It was developed in collaboration with Michel Desjoyaux and is now used by most offshore sailors, in the Vendee Globe for instance.

In a word, if you are concerned with speed (and comfort, when it comes to choosing a route that will keep you outside the biggest depressions), this is really one of the best investment you can make for your boat, I would say even before fancy sails.

 

  1. The sailing part of the experience:

Now let’s talk about what it’s like to sail across the Atlantic from Europe to the Caribbean. Sailing the trade winds provides a lot of excitements. A steady wind, downwind most of the times, it makes the trip both faster and more comfortable.

Some choose to make the crossing in a racing spirit and will be trimming all the time, choosing their route depending only on the performance aspect.

Another, easier, way is to go for comfort and speed on the traditional road (passing by the 20″ North and 30″ West waypoint), and choosing to stay at an angle of 150 to 160° most of the time, with an asymmetric spinnaker, or gennaker or a parasailor (a sail that has a flying wing in it that allow a better stability and more control in the gusts, but is slightly harder to take in). This kind of sailing, together with the possibility to get fresh gribs at sea, will result in a much more comfortable cruise. It will not put your speed down, on the contrary but you will have to make a few tackings. In this configuration, I strongly advise you to use the “Wind Mode” on your autopilot rather than the “Compass mode”. This will allow the boat to remain perfectly trimmed and balanced on long tacks, staying at the very same angle relative to the wind.

Some sailors choose to go with a pooled-out genoa, to be able to sail full downwind in wing-wing. That’s a choice made to reduce the work. If you have a spinnaker furler, I think it’s much better to go with the asymmetric spinnaker. And if you don’t, you have a choice to make with your crew. it’s useless to sail full throttle down the first day, just to realize when the first watch comes that your crew don’t feel like keeping that much sails out at night. Rather, find a sail configuration that provides comfort and confidence to the crew and make the most of it, especially with the wind mode, that can prevent chinese  gybe. Your sails and your boat will thank you for that. A boom brake or “preventer” might still be a good. On such a long trip, it’s wise to equip your boat with one. It will cost between 300 to 800US$ depending on the length of your sailboat.

Here is a video of a boat gybing in 25 knots of wind with a Walder Boom Brake:

The closer you’ll get to the Caribbean, the more squalls you’ll encounter. They are very localized and sudden gales, with variable direction, and come very often with a heavy rain. On a day with normal visibility, you’ll be able to spot them miles away and maybe go around them. At least, you will have time to prepare (take one or 2 reefs on the main and reduce your foresails).

At night, it’s a whole different story. You can either be very vigilant on your radar (it spots the dense clouds of the squall) or chose to reduce the sail area for the night, so as not to be overpowered if you encounter a squall you did not see coming.

Though storms are really rare in the best season (from Early November to March), it’s wise to be prepared for one.

  1. Becoming a true “Shellback”

If you are among the few who choose to sail directly to the Brazilian coasts, rather than the Caribbean, this Atlantic crossing will probably be the occasion for you to sail across the Equator for the first time…This is another good reason to go sailing across the Atlantic, as this is the occasion to become a true “Shellback”.

A true what ?

Better explained in video…but of course you don’t have to adopt the same haircut, you might just celebrate this new “Shellback” status your own way. It’s also common among superstitious to make an offering to Neptune for the safe passage, a glass of fine wine for instance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duuS9CrTMHg
By the way, Fernando de Noronha, the Brazilian archipelago, is a paradise for sailors, if you ask for the necessary documents and clearance. Check out this article to know how to prepare a landing on Fernando de Noronha after your Atlantic Crossing.
  1. What sails to bring ?

The ideal combination, in my mind, is:

  • One Mainsail with a minimum of 2 reefs (ideally 3) or mounted on a furling mast or boom (less performing).
  • One genoa (ideally on a furler). A genoa pole is strongly recommended, both to preserve your genoa and to keep a better balance. A heavy Geneoa will be used when the breeze gets too strong to hold a spinnaker.
  • One medium asymmetric spinnaker, ideally on a furler, or with a spinnaker sleeve (or sock).
  • A staysails, or storm sail just in case

In option, if you have some extra space:

  • On heavy asymmetric spinnaker (smaller, heavier)
  • A gennaker, mounted on a furler for sailing between 90 and 140° relative to the wind.
  1. Living on-board

The first day of the trip will be very emotional. The result of a long preparation and a lot of expectations. If you cross as part of a rally, this days is fantastic, with hundreds of people attending the start of the rally, full pontoons and dozens of boats hoisting their sails together.

Then come the adjustment period. You’re switching from the land mode to the “Sea Mode”, in which your rhythm is totally different with night watches, lots of naps and a relatively tiny, and moving living space. You’ll probably experience dizziness and fatigue, but your body will adjust in 48 hours both to the new rhythm and the constant movement. You’ll find your “sea legs” and enjoy the rest of your Atlantic crossing with new perspectives.

The Atlantic produces large and long waves, that will, most of the time, not be aligned with the wind direction, meaning they’ll come from the side. The boat will therefore roll most of the time and you’ll probably regulate your activity depending on the conditions.

Dolphins on Atlantic crossing

Be warned, it gets very humid out there, especially at night. Try to get some air in when the sun is out and close everything when comes the night. Synthetic fabrics will help a great deal in keeping the air dry as humidity won’t be trapped in the fabric. Since I first used a microfiber (polyester made) sheet, I never got back to cotton. It’s so dry ! As I told earlier, wearing microfibers will also keep you much drier.

A little tip to sleep better, use Sheets Fasteners, they’ll maintain your sheets on the mattress. If you don’t have any, there are real chances you’ll wake up on a naked mattress, for the combination of your weight and the boat’s constant movement will make the sheets slip away.

It will also get very sunny, especially when you’ll get close to the Caribbean so pack a hat or cap and some sunscreen.

Depending on the weather and sea conditions, it’s sometimes difficult to prepare proper food, because it’s difficult to stay in the galley (too hot, too chaotic, etc.). It’s a good idea to prepare a few meals that you could microwaved in such conditions. Also rely on a lot of snacks for people have a tendency to eat more often at sea, where days are splitted in more sub-parts. But don’t worry, if you are a passionate chef, you’ll find many occasions to cook, maybe even to cook some very fresh fish. Dinners will become the real event of the day, maybe the only time when everybody will be awake at the same time. It’s usually a moment everyone looks for.

Very soon, you’ll feel natural in this whole new environment, with much more contact with the nature. You’ll naturally listen to every sound of the boat, even at night. Your brain will put you on a constant vigilance mode.

Sailing passage sunset
Get ready for a lot of beautiful sunsets !

Then there are the watches. Depending on how many people form the crew, they are between 2 and 5 hours of watch. I think 3 hours is a good compromise. It’s relatively easy to stay awake and concentrated for 3 hours. For instance, on a boat with a crew of 4, I usually set a night watch between 10 PM and 7 AM. Every night, there are 3 watches of 1 person for 3 hours each. The fourth crew member is sleeping. We turn shifts every day so that every 4 nights, each one of us get a real 9-hours night.

Of course, if you are 3 or under, everyone will have to participate each night and watches will probably get to 4 hours, or 2 times 2 hours. Some skippers do not allow single watch. I do it because my crew is well prepared and we agree on the obligation to wear life jacket and harness with life line attached during all the watches. The organization of the watches is crucial and, if not handled properly, is one of the main sources of dispute (with the supply repartition of course). So get things clear prior to leaving for the Atlantic crossing, or any passage.

The main reason for keeping a watch is to avoid risks of collision. In that sense, a radar, an AIS and a chart plotter are precious help for the crew member on watch, who will look at them regularly.

The second mission of the crew member on watch is to eventually adapt the sail trimming (or the course) to changing conditions. He or she must be briefed by the captain or skipper, thanks to a pre-night briefing. It’s the occasion for the skipper to expose the plan for the night:

  • Expected conditions for the night,
  • Expected tacks during the night,
  • What to do if the wind gets low ? At what speed lower limit should we start the engine ?
  • What to do if the wind goes high ?

After each watch, the crew member going to sleep should debrief the new watcher and tell him what he saw (or what he heard), how the conditions evolved. Ideally, each crew member makes an entry in the logbook after his or her watch.

One piece of advice: while you’re at it, make the most about every watch (read audiobooks, listen to new albums, study the sky with an app to learn how to recognize stars and constellation). It’s much easier to stay alert when you are stimulated.

Your living rhythm will be quite different from your normal rhythm, hence the frequent naps. You’ll also be quite disconnected from the world (less or no e-mails, no TV, etc.) and you might find this quite pleasant (though it will be a real thrill when you’ll find them back on the other side).

You’ll enjoy loneliness and find time for meditation, and a lot of time to observe the sky, the stars and the sea (that changes all the time!). You’ll rediscover simple pleasure and realize how much we take for granted our modern comfortable lifestyle, like a hot shower, or a cup of espresso.

It’s a little bit out of nowhere, but if you are an espresso lover, you don’t have to settle for bad coffee, even if there is no espresso machine on-board. There is a very smart manual system, the Handpresso that only requires hot water and a coffee pod (ESE). The pressure is actually created via a hand pump. For an espresso fanatic like me, it’s such a luxury to be able to drink a real espresso, even in the middle of the Atlantic.

Handpresso Wild Hybrid Coffee Machine

 All day long in your tiny boat in the middle of a huge ocean, you’ll see and experience a few magic experiences. Wonderful sunsets, different each night, sometimes facing the moon rise, an escort of dozens of dolphins. You’ll see a dolphin fish jump on a pray, or flying fish flying hundreds of metersto end up…in the middle of your cockpit. By the way the world record for the longest fly of a flying fish seems to be a 45 second-long fly at an average speed of 30km/h…this is 375 meters !

At night, you’ll observe the lights of fluorescent plankton, that light up in the wave of your boat. Sometimes you’ll even see birds, right in the middle of the ocean.

 

  1. What to do with all this time ? A few ideas:

There are many things you could do during this passage:

  • Play a lot of chess games (a magnetic one !).
  • Take your first 15 electric guitar lessons, with the excellent Rocksmith learning game. Of course you would need one electric guitar, a cable and a computer PC or MAc (or Playstation PS3 or X-Box) with one version of Rocksmith. You plug the guitar to your computer via USB and you can tune your guitar, learn riffs, etc. I’ve tried it and it’s really a good way to learn. It’s like playing Guitar Hero but with a real guitar, and a really efficient learning process, divided in very gradual difficulties.

Rocksmith 2014 Edition and Epiphone Les Paul Guitar - Exclusive to Amazon.co.uk (PC DVD)

  • Listen to audio-books. Ideal for the long watches (2 to 4 hours alone, at night, watching around). You’ll find pretty all the successful novels, Business books, travel books, history books on audible.com. You can download a book in 2 minutes with most of the internet connections and listen to the books on your smartphone, your iPod, etc. If your watches are 3 hours long, you can read the entire “Moby Dicks” in 7 watches. You can also read 5 or 6 business books during your watches. I find that it is a good way of learning and a good way to keep you stimulated during long watches.
  • Observe the wild life, learn how to recognize the different species of dolphins, whales and fishes you’ll see.
  • Lear the art of splicing, become an expert in splicing, with a beginner’s set, a good splicing kit, and a few meters of uncovered dyneema.
  • Fishing is also a good way to keep busy while making something useful, but please fish only what you eat.

  1. To Fish or not to Fish. The material to fish during a passage:

Between 4 and 9 knots, you have every chances to catch something if you decide to fish. It’s virtually impossible not to catch a fish on such a long distance.

Dolphin fish - Atlantic crossing
Dolphin Fish is the most common catch for those who fish on an Atlantic passage. The dolphin fish follows boats and floating objects to benefit from the shadow…

If you want to fish, just get a stand-up rod (30-50 lbs is good), and adapted reel that you fill with 60lbs nylon or dyneema line, and a few lures. Here is a selection of good material. Choose a solid (preferably stainless steel) rod holder and protect your pulpits with a slice of rubber hose. A butt pad will make the whole thing much easier.

Once you’ve caught a fish (tuna or dolphin fish most often, but you can also catch king mackerels for instance), and take it near the boat, you’ll need something to hoist it. The best is to use a telescopic fishing gaff, but you can do without it (it will be much easier if you find how before the fish is here). Here is a selection of good material.

 

  

  1. Christmas under the Caribbean sun ? and then ?

Spending christmas under the Caribbean is a great reward for those who crossed in December. Touching land is always a great moment after a long sailing passage, but it’s even better here. You’ll take disproportionate pleasure over little gesture, like walking straight  for more than 10 meters, or eating an ice-cream, and you’ll be surrounded by beauty.

So enjoy your stay !

After a well deserved rest, you’ll have to think about getting back home (if you are not into circumnavigation). To sail back in good conditions, it’s recommended to wait until May, and to take a route more North, through Bermuda and the Azores. You can wait and cross back, or hire a skipper to sail the boat back, or even pay to put your boat in a cargo ship (we call that a “barge” in French, I’m not sure about the english translation). It’s an expensive solution and you’ll probably get better fees if you are part of a Rally.

This is the end of this article. I hope this will convince you to give the Atlantic crossing  a try. Sailing on such a beautiful passage is a lifetime experience.

Thanks for reading, have fun sailing !

Aurelien

 


St. Maarten Heineken Regatta – Yacht Racing

 

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta: A March Tradition

The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, that takes place every year in early March, always lives up to its reputation for fine sailing and an exciting all-around atmosphere in a breathtaking part of the world.

Saint Maarten - Saint Martin - Caribbean Islands
The green Mark is St Maarten’s location

The island of St. Martin is has been hosting this yacht race since 1980. It has since grown to become an international sailing event that lures yachts from around the world to participate in the adventurous regatta at sea and to enjoy the hedonist festivities and parties on the island. The party atmosphere is, of course, complemented by serious sailing each March during this renowned event. Like many well-known yacht races, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta began as a small yacht race among friends. Eventually, however, it caught the attention of Heineken who noticed that quite a bit of its beer was consumed during the event which led it to seek sponsorship. While Heineken promotes the regatta, the Caribbean Yachting Association officiates the racing. The regatta is based upon four races that are sailed over the course of the three-day event. Racing occurs along the Anguilla Channel, Marigot Bay, and the island in its entirety.

Saint Marteen Heineken Regatta, Saint Martin Island, caribbean sailing
Philipsburg, Saint Maarten (Saint Martin). This is the fantastic environment of the  St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

Sailors all strive to win the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta‘s top prize, the St. Martin Cup, for Most Worthy Performance Overall. The race is open to various yacht classes including monohulls from 30 to 100 ft (with or without spinnaker), multihulls, bareboats, gunboats (fast catamarans), melges 24…

For spectators, the pleasure is often viewing these fine yachts afloat and racing on the azure waters of the Caribbean. The waters are complemented by the fine weather that typically accompanies the racing. Gentle trade winds associated with March are ideal for casual cruising around the island, of course, but also benefit the racing. This area boasts ideal sailing conditions between November and April so the March race is an ideal time to set sail.

Why Participate to the Saint Maarten Heineken Regatta?

The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta has evolved to become one of the most popular yacht race in the world. It draws outstanding crews and yachts from many parts of the world. It is a chance for sailors to test themselves against outstanding competition and to take their place as worthy competitors themselves in this exciting and altogether historic sport. Each yacht entry requires race fee; typically this fee costs around $1,300. An additional deposit of $6,500 to cover loss or damages associated with the race is also required. Each year witnesses more than 3,000 sailors who do their utmost to rate an award such as a cup or one of the race’s noteworthy prizes.

The St.Maarten Regatta is run under the CSA rating rules. It means you have to contact the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) to get a valid certificate. They will send you to local measurers. For more information about how to enter the race, visit the official Caribbean sailing Association’s website, they will tell you everything about the CSA rating rule.

Sailing in Saint Martin, Sailing in st. Maarten
You will enjoy sailing in St. Maarten (or St. Martin) © Gino santa Maria

While the racing offers challenging sailing and might be said to require world-class proficiency, it is also quite simply a marvellous time on an enchanting sea. With majestic weather and a myriad of entertainments awaiting the sailors back on shore, the event is simply one sailing‘s annual highlights. Each year it promises adventure, fun, and excitement on a virtually unparalleled scale.

St. Martin (or St. Maarten in Dutch)

The island itself is a vacation paradise. The part French-part Dutch Caribbean Island was witnessed by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the West.

Each side of the island is associated with various cultural elements, not surprisingly, but the entire island is known for its beauty and beaches. St. Maarten is a territory of the Netherlands and gives its name to the regatta, but the atmosphere of sailing excitement can be felt all around the island during this event. The Dutch side of the island is also associated with parties and vibrant nightlife particularly during the regatta. The French side of the island is world famous for its nude beaches and excellent shopping.

Saint Martin, Saint Maarten yachting. This is a beach on the french side of the Island. ©Jean Marie Maillet
The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is a great occasion to join great parties on the beach

The Regatta‘s Social Excitement

After a day of sailing, participants can expect a celebration like no other filled with the uplifting music of the island like Soca, Calypso, and Merengue. Steel drums can be heard from far and wide.

Visitors to the island will also note the extraordinary cuisine and its delightful fusion of Indian, Caribbean, Dutch, and French flavors.

While the sport draws thousands of spectators who are sailing enthusiasts, the island itself attracts many who are simply interested in the cultural revelry associated with the event and the non-stop parties that accompany the racing.

If this year’s regatta has run its course, it’s not too soon to begin thinking about next years. Many crews practice diligently, of course, and participate in other regattas as training for big racing events like the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.

Since the regatta‘s motto is ‘serious fun,’ sailing enthusiasts will have much to look forward to even though the next regatta is now a year away.

Of course, it’s never too soon to prepare for a vacation and you can begin to research some of St. Maarten‘s excellent accommodations and get to learn more about the culture of this island before entering next year’s regatta. The regatta‘s website provides exciting clips as well as more information about previous winners and highlights of the events.

Before you go sailing in St. Maarten’s waters

If you decide to go sailing in St. Maarten’s waters, wether to run the regatta or just for leisure sailing, here are a few good items to add to your onboard library:

  1. The Imray Nautical Guide, from Grenada to the Virgin Islands. It is by far the best resource out there for sailing in the area.
  2. The Imray Nautical chart for the area. Imray A24 (Anguilla, St. Maarten, St. Barthelemy)
  3. Imray chart focused on St. Maarten (St. Martin)
  4. and if you go out for the regatta, you might want to refresh your understanding of the racing rules of sailing (2016 version)

Have fun sailing !

Jennifer for Aureus Yachts

Sydney Hobart Rolex Yacht Race

 

The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is one of the most iconic races in the yachting calendar. This race is a rite of passage that every offshore sailor aspires to, although few take up the challenge. The Boxing Day highlight of the year for all Australian yachtsmen, the 628-mile course takes competitors down the Tasman Sea across one of the most unpredictable stretches of water in the world: Bass Strait. The long, rolling waves of the Southern Ocean roll around the bottom of the world until confronted by the shallow Straits that divide Tasmania from mainland Australia. Then, like surf breaking on a beach, the waves become shorter and steeper, creating conditions that only the toughest sailing yachts and the most experienced sailors can withstand.

The course of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Sailing from Sydney to Hobart is a rite for offshore sailors.
The course of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Sailing from Sydney to Hobart is a rite for offshore sailors. ©Rolex/Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

The Sydney Hobart Race attracts sailors from many backgrounds. They range from paid professionals to Corinthian enthusiasts, taking time away from their jobs and families for the adventure of a lifetime.

Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Sailing from Sydney to Hobart is a rite for offshore sailors.
The start of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. ©Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

 There are two winners of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. The ‘Line Honours’ winner is the first boat to reach the Hobart, usually won by one of the large 100ft Maxi sailing yachts. The prestigious Tattersalls Cup is awarded to the boat with the best corrected time under the IRC handicap system, although scoring is also carried out under ORCi and PHS.

Safety regulations for the race are among the most stringent in the world, and at least half of every yacht’s crew must have completed a Safety and Sea Survival Course.

 History of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

The inaugural race took place in 1945, and attracted just nine sailboats. Peter Luke initially planned the passage from Sydney to Hobart as a cruise – albeit across one of the most treacherous stretches of water in the world. However it was a visit from British Royal Navy Officer, Captain John Illingworth, who suggested it be turned into a race, that caused this iconic yachting regatta to be born. Luke, who took part in many Sydney Hobarts, also helped to form the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), which organises the race in conjunction with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania to this day.

The winner of the first Sydney Hobart race was Rani, which took 6 days, 14 hours and 22 minutes to complete the passage to Hobart. Over the years as technology and sailing yacht design has developed, so the race record has tumbled, with 100-foot Maxi yachts such as multiple winner Wild Oats XI finishing the 2005 race in a time of just 1 day 18h 40m. The closest finish for line honours was the battle of the Maxis in 1982, when Condor of Bermuda beat Apollo to Hobart to the line by just 7 seconds.

Politicians and media moguls have enjoyed success in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, considered by many to be pinnacle not just of the Australian yachting calendar, but of offshore racing across the Southern hemisphere. British prime minister Edward Health won in 1969. Founder of CNN, Ted Turner, won three years later, and another media magnate Rupert Murdoch was part of the crew of Larry Ellison’s Sayonara when the American Maxi won in 1995.

Risk and Reward

With the Bass Strait as fierce and unrelenting as it is – with huge waves and fast-moving weather systems barrelling around the bottom of the planet – danger is never far away. In 1998, tragedy struck when a particularly strong low-pressure system developed over southeast Australia. This generated strong storm force winds of up to 70 knots, which shattered the 115 boat fleet that had set out from Sydney. Only 44 of the original starters of this Sydney Hobart edition completed the race, and five boats sank, with the loss of six lives. The Australian authorities mounted an enormous search and rescue mission which involved 35 aircraft and 27 vessels from the Royal Australian Navy. It was the nation’s largest rescue operation in peacetime.

Sailing round Tasmania's iconic Organ Pipes
Sailing round Tasmania’s iconic Organ Pipes. ©Rolex/Daniel Forster

Since then the race’s safety regulations have been increased and they are now among the most stringent anywhere in the yacht racing world. As a result, numbers of participants have dropped because the barriers to entry are higher. However, Australian yachtsmen’s passion for ‘The Hobart’ remains undiminished and indeed, the number of overseas participants suggests the tragedies of past years have not affected the race’s good standing in the sailing world. Sailors are reminded that when the race starts, the responsibility lies with them to make the decision as to whether or not to cross the Bass Strait.

Sydney Hobart. Storm is coming
Conditions can go wild on the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Here is a storm coming. ©Rolex/Daniel Forster

When the weather is looking particularly nasty, skippers often make the reluctant but sensible decision to retire from the race and seek shelter in the beautiful fishing port of Eden, on the southeast corner of New South Wales, retiring to safety rather than jeopardise boat and crew in the Strait. There is no disgrace for withdrawing from the Sydney Hobart, only respect for having dared to undertake it in the first place.

Some Australian yachtsmen have competed in almost every Sydney Hobart Race of their adult lives, with the most prolific having taken part in nearly 50 editions, such is their obsession with this annual challenge. One thing that experience teaches is that going fast is not always the key to winning. In the boat-breaking seas of the Bass Strait, simply keeping your boat in one piece is a skill in itself. As 2004 line honours winning skipper of the 90ft Maxi Nicorette, Ludde Ingvall, puts it: “To win the race, first you have to finish.” Ingvall imposed an 8-knot speed limit on his young Nicorette crew, for fear that sending the 90-footer any faster through those steep-backed waves would destroy his boat. His conservative tactics paid off, when bad landings off monster waves in a raging Tasman Sea forced his two larger Maxi rivals out of the race. Ingvall’s ‘slow is fast’ approach – ultimately proved correct. It’s a lesson that others have since adopted.

Rough sailing in the Sydney Hobart yacht race
When conditions are tough, skippers have to think about preserving the yachts. ©Rolex/Daniel Forster

But after that battle through hell and high water, the final twist in this race is that the final 20 miles up the majestic Derwent River is often a light wind affair. A welcome respite from the elements for some perhaps, but for others a frustrating, final obstacle that stands in the way of the finish, a few hundred metres off Hobart’s seafront. Completing the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is rarely straightforward, but the reward of finishing is all the sweeter for that.

Twice winner of the Sydney Hobart, Roger Hickman, explains why he can’t get enough of this race…

To finish a Sydney Hobart Yacht Race earns you instant respect in the sailing world. It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to win it or simply to sail through 628 miles of hell and high water to reach Hobart – completing this race is a major milestone in anyone’s book.

Sailors call it the ultimate challenge, because not only are you pitting yourself against your fellow man, but you’re going head to head with the elements. The conditions in the Bass Strait are consistently among the fiercest anywhere in the world. True, you can get a safe run south to Tasmania – but it doesn’t happen very often. You’re sailing south from a large, hot, arid continent called Australia down to this little island out in the freezing wastes of the Southern Ocean. Next stop Antarctica.

Syndey Hobart offshore sailing
On the way to Hobart ©Rolex/Daniel Forster

These big temperature differences are just what a weather system needs to whip itself up into a frenzy, and quite often you’ll find a storm in your way, daring you to pass. Take that weather, mix it with the strong East Australian Current and some shallow waters, and the Bass Strait is ready to cook up some really short, steep nasty waves.

The conditions in the Sydney Hobart punish boats – and they punish people.

So the secret to winning this race is not always about going as fast as possible. You’ve got to know when to push hard, when to back off; when to ask for 110 per cent from your crew, when to give them a rest, to preserve their energy for the moments that really matter.

Storm Sydney Hobart
Be prepared for a wild experience ! This sequence was shot by Carlo Borlenghi ©Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Ploughing along in the middle of a stormy Bass Strait, cold, wet and miserable in the dead of night, it’s hard to believe that just a day or two earlier you were surrounded by thousands of people crowding the shores of a warm and sunny Sydney Harbour. No matter how many times you start a Sydney Hobart, the adrenalin kick is unbelievable, with hundreds of spectator boats cheering you on your way as you charge out through Sydney Heads and head south along the stunning coastline of New South Wales.

Of course if you thought the next 628 miles were going to be like that, you’d be in for a rude shock! The middle part of the race is where you can expect it to get rough, that’s when the hard work really begins. But as you close down the final few miles to Hobart, the Tassie coastline really is a sight for sore eyes.

It’s a pretty place at the best of times, but it’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen – after what you’ve just been through. Winning the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is one of the greatest things any sailor will do in his career, but for more than 60 years the people of Hobart have been cheering every boat that makes it there – even if you’re last! The Aussies love a battler, and that’s what you are if you make it to Hobart: A battler.

Have fun Sailing…well this time, Have fun Battling !

 Andy for Aureus Yachts

How to participate to the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race ?

To engage your boat in the ‘Sydney Hobart‘:

  • You must register a sailing monohull, between 9,00m and 30,48m, that meet the safety regulation of the Race (righting and stability).
  • The minimum crew number in the ORC and IRC divisions is 6 (the minimum age of all crew on the boat is 18).
  • At least half of your crew must have completed a Safety and Sea Survival Course.
  • At least two crew members on the boat should hold a current senior first help certificate, or equivalent qualification, or be a practising medical practitioner.
  • At least two crew members shall hold a Marine Radio Operators Certificate of Proficiency (MROCP).
  • At least half of the crew shall have completed a category 1 yacht race or an equivalent passage. What is a category 1 yacht race you might ask ? Well categroy 1 yacht races are: Races of long distance and well offshore, where yachts must be completely self-sufficient for extended periods of time, capable of withstanding heavy storms and prepared to meet serious emergencies without the expectation of outside assistance.
  • You should hold a marine legal liability insurance with respect to the boat current when racing, with the boat insured for not less than AUS$5 million (or its equivalent in an other currency). The insurance policy shall state that the boat is covered for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and it is covered for yacht races of a length greater than 630 Nautical Miles.
  • You should have a valid IRC or ORC certificate for the current year.
  • Your boat should have been weighed on scales by an UNCL or RORC approved measurer.
  • You should have completed a qualifying race of not less than 150 Nautical Miles not more than 6 months before the start of the race. (contact the organization to have the list of the qualifying races).
  • It is recommended that the skipper or sailing master have a recognised Yachting Australia certificate (or equivalent) of at least an Offshore Skipper certificate.
  • Count approximatively AUS$ 1000 for entry fees, with a crew of 6, in one category.

Once you have all this, just “Express your interest in competing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race“, on the online entry page of the Race’s website: Here is a link to this page: Online Entry for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

Sail around the world with the World Odyssey race 2016-2017

 

What sailor never thought about sailing around the world ? Since Joshua Slocum, circumnavigation is probably the ultimate dream and adventure for offshore sailing enthusiasts. And it did not get better in 20th century with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston  or Bernard Moitessier, the main actors of the first solo sailing race around the world. Then came the BOC Challenge, the vendee globe, etc…

This year Jimmy Cornell, the famous founder of the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers), has announced the launching of a global race for amateur sailors.

Circumnavigation - Sailing around the world with the world Odyssey

The World Odyssey participants will sail down the Atlantic from France, then sail east to check out all three of the Mythical capes: Cape of Good Hope, cape Leeuwin and cape Horn ! How about that ?  Would you like to add those three capes to your sailing record?

Sailing around Cape of Good Hope
After a sailing trip of more than 8.000 nautical Miles down the Atlantic, check out the cape of Good hope and enter the Indian ocean

 

Sailing auround the world - Sailing Cape Leeuwin
Cape Leeuwin Lightouse, you’re now in the Pacific Ocean

 

Sailing around cape horn. Circumnavigation
and now Cape Horn !

 “I want to give ordinary sailors the opportunity to race on their own terms,” says Jimmy Cornell, the three times circumnavigator.

“In recent years I have spoken to many owners of production boats who are keen to race around the world in a competitive event but see themselves excluded by the dominance of all current offshore races by sponsored high-tech yachts sailed by professional crews. The World Odyssey will answer this demand by bringing back the Corinthian spirit of earlier round the world races.”

In order to keep costs at a reasonable level, only production mono-hulled sailboats between 40 and 60 ft LOA will be eligible, with no performance enhancing modifications being allowed to the standard design. There will be separate classes for double-handed and fully crewed boats. The World Odyssey will be run under the IRC rating rule and is scheduled to be held every two years.

The ten-month-long World Odyssey will start in summer 2016 from a port in Atlantic France (according to the March 2014 Edition of Yachting World, it could be Bordeaux) and follow the traditional sailing route around the three great capes of the Southern Ocean: Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn.

According Yachting World, who interviewed Jimmy Cornell recently, the race organisation could cope with up to 40 sailing yachts. The entry fees should be around €20.000 and include berthing fees and administration costs. During the race, a tracking device will make it easy for friends and families of the crews to follow each sailboat engaged.

The 28,300 mile route, that will offer competitors mostly downwind sailing conditions, has been divided into 11 legs, with stopovers in ports with good yachting facilities that are also attractive destinations.

Offshore sailing - Aureus XV
Get ready for some serious downwind sailing !

To allow families and friends to join the crews for the Christmas holiday season, a longer stop has been planned in the New Zealand capital Wellington.

Having successfully weathered the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn, an extended sojourn in Ushuaia will allow the crews to enjoy Patagonia, and its magnificent landscapes, during the austral summer.

During their circumnavigation participants in the World Odyssey will take part in a number of oceanographic and meteorological projects by deploying autonomous scientific instruments, gathering and transmitting data from remote ocean areas from where there is an acute absence of up-to-date information on climatic conditions.

In recognition for this valuable contribution to scientific research, the World Odyssey will be run under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organisation and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The World Odyssey Race is organized by Jimmy Cornell’s company Cornell Sailing Events. Anyone interested in joining the World Odyssey Race should send an email to info@cornellsailing.com.

At Aureus Yachts, we really enjoy those types of initiatives, that promote offshore sailing, and we hope to see an Aureus Yachts performing in this edition.

Have fun sailing !

Aurelien

Provisional schedule:

Leg

Nautical miles

Date

1. Start port (tba) – Arrecife (Lanzarote)

1200

Sat 23.07.2016

2. Arrecife – Rio de Janeiro

3650

Thu 04.08.2016

3. Rio de Janeiro – Cape Town

3320

Wed 07.09.2016

4. Cape Town – Fremantle

4720

Sun 09.10.2016

5. Fremantle – Melbourne

1720

Sun 20.11.2016

6. Melbourne – Wellington

1660

Sat 10.12.2016

7. Wellington – Ushuaia

4600

Mon 02.01.2017

8. Ushuaia – Mar del Plata

1180

Sun 19.02.2017

9. Mar del Plata – Salvador da Bahia

1920

Thu 08.03.2017

10. Salvador da Bahia – Horta (Azores)

3200

Sun 26.03.2017

11. Horta – Start/Finish port (tba)

1180

Sun 23.04.2017

Sailing to Puerto de Soller, Mallorca

 

I had the occasion to cruise along the West Coast of Mallorca twice in 2013, once in August (coming from the south) and once in October (coming from the north). Each time, the weather was perfect and we stopped in the charming Puerto de Soller to fill our fuel tank.

In a previous post, I published an itinerary  to cruise in the Balearics that explored the west coast of Mallorca. It appears to me now that talking about the Balearics without including a few words about Puerto de Soller was quite a shame.

Aureus XV at the fuel pontoon in Puerto Soller

Aureus XV in Puerto Soller 2013

Indeed, this village is one of those few ports in Med where you feel like staying a little bit longer than planed, just to enjoy the mood. For those cruising from South of France to Gibraltar, it’s the obvious refill point.

Puerto Soller, Mallorca : 39.7986° N, 2.6936° E

Sailing to Puerto Soller - Location in the Balearics

Puerto de Soller is connected to Soller, a different village 2 miles inland. The connection is made by a very awesome train made of precious wood, iron and glass. The valley and its surrounding mountain range, the ‘Serra de Tramuntana’, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and this train is a pretty good way of seeing it.

Puerto Soller Wood train. ©lunamarina

Soller and Puerto de Soller are great sailing destinations, especially for those who enjoy walking, nature, ecotourism, sailing and swimming. It’s also a quite peaceful place to rest away from the hustle and bustle of the better-known tourist traps on the islands.

The valley is famous for its orange orchards and its nice climate and has a very special light.

The harbour village, with pastel colours front houses, is quite similar at first sight with St Tropez (in less crowded), there are numerous shops and restaurants.

Marina Tramontana offers 465 places and allows 5 meters draft to berth safely. It’s pretty easy to find a berth outside of the peak season. The access is really easy once you have spotted the entrance.

By strong West wind and  sea, try to avoid the first concrete quay, especially the part heading East, as traitorous waves will make the berth quite uncomfortable, and potentially harmful for the boat.

Marina staff is friendly and willing to help, they answer on channel 9 any time.

The price per night, in 2013, was a really affordable 48 euros for a 50 footer like the Aureus XV we were on (electricity, water, shower access and WiFi included).

Alike the rest of Balearic Islands, Puerto de Soller can be very crowded in summer but the Marina has an online booking service on their website if you manage to anticipate your trip there.

Places of interest: Sa Torre Picada, a former watchtower; the Santa Catalina d’Alexandria Oratory (13th century) and Sa Figuera, an old farmhouse in the mountains.

What to do: sailing, diving (a diving center with fluent English speaking staff is available in the Marina Tramontana), hiking, canyoning, …

Restaurants:

Around the marina, you can find plenty of cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy delicious and fresh tapas. The home-made burger from the Albatros Restaurant was delicious.

Ship Chandler:

Marina Soller Serveis Nautics (across the marina, in the main street). It’s a little store but offers a wide range of products at good price, coming with descent advices. The owner is a great fisherman, it might be the occasion to take a few precious advice and potentially some material to catch some good Mediterranean fish on your next cruise.

Books and Charts to sail to Puerto de Soller:

 

Have fun sailing,

Aurélien

Sailing around Sardinia – Top 9 Destinations

 

Sardinia is the second biggest island in the Mediterranean sea, just behind Sicily, and one sailing cruiser and jet setters enjoy from spring to autumn.

Sardinia is a really big “sailing field” for cruising enthusiasts, almost three times the size of Corsica. The Italian island has more than 1.100 miles of coastline, mixing cliffs, rocky coves, white sand beaches, typical Mediterranean villages and old cities full of history.

Best season to sail along the Sardinian coasts:

As always in the Mediterranean sea, the best period to discover Sardinia is April-May and September. This allows cruisers to avoid crowded beaches and marinas, while still enjoying a warm weather and fine sailing conditions. At the beginning of June, lots of tourists arrive on the island and a continuous flow will bring them in and out until Mid-August.

It’s worth noticing that marinas are very expensive in the high season due to a lack of berths, especially on the “Costa Smeralda” the trendiest part of the island (NE).

Weather patterns in Sardinia:

From May to September, NW winds are predominating, and often blow around Force 5 or 6 around the strait of Bonifacio and the Maddalena archipelago.

On the Sardinian west coast, winds are mostly W-NW with frequent calms and rarely blow over Force 5. But things get tough when the Mistral blows and it’s wiser to stay in harbour for a day or two when it happens, as the Mistral lifts heavy seas and blows to the shore.

The East coast is the favourite coastline for cruisers as the sea is much smaller than on the West coast due to the mountains’ protection. NW wind is once again predominant, rarely over Force 5. Be careful though as the mountainous ground often generate violent gusts. It might be a good idea to sail 2 miles off the coasts avoid those gusts.

It’s very important to keep an eye on the barometer and frequently update your weather forecasting as the weather changes rapidly in the heart of Mediterranean. A light SE wind can turn into a Mistral (NW) in a very short time.

Once again, the Imray nautical guide: “Italian Waters Pilot” for the area is the best guide you can get, both for the weather patterns, the local administration and their rules, and of course precise description and charts of moorings and harbors.

Top 9 Sailing Destinations in Sardinia:

Top 9 destinations for a sailing cruise around Sardinia
Top 9 destinations for a sailing cruise around Sardinia

I suggest here a sailing trip around Sardinia, with 10 stopovers clockwise from Castelsardo (North) to Alghero (NW). It’s a 420 to 450 Nautical Miles sailing cruise, with 3 legs over 75 Nautical Miles, that can be done in 20 days (if you don’t have enough time to round Sardinia, I recommend to stick to the North, from Alghero to Porto Cervo).

Since I like to arrive on a quiet spot after a small crossing, I chose Castelsardo as the first stopover, but obviously it depends on where you come from.

Please make sure to sail with the proper set nautical guide and marine charts.

CASTELSARDO: 40°54’980 N; 008°42’250 E

Castelsardo is a beautiful old fishing village, with 6.000 inhabitants, that stands on a rocky promontory, in the North of Sardinia. The village lies under the protection of a Genoese Castle probably built in the 12th century that is now a museum.

Castelsardo in Sardinia is a great sailing destination. looking NE
Castelsardo in Sardinia. looking NE
Castelsardino marina. Cruising in Sardinia
Castelsardo. This time looking SW

The Castelsardo marina offers approximatively 500 berths up to 25 meters (max draft 3.5 meters) and a good shelter in every conditions. There is a small ship-chandler, mechanical and electrical repair services and the possibility to lift yachts up to 40 tons. A 20-minute walk separates the village from the Marina but once in the village you’ll get your share of “La Dolce Vita” in the hilltop centro storico, that offers splendid views over the Golf of Asinara. Walking in the narrow streets of the old town, you’ll see women weaving baskets and other objects…very traditional!

Castelsardino Restaurant Il Cavallucio
Panoramic View from “Il Cavallucio”

If you want to eat ashore, I strongly recommend to go to “Il Cavallucio“. The restaurant offers a great panorama and great food, especially sea food. (Tel: +39 079 474510). All in all, Castelsardo is a very enjoyable stopover and a great entry port for a sailing cruise in Sardinia. There is a supermarket in the marina where you’ll find most of the supply you might need.

Once you’ve enjoyed the delights of Castlesardo, let’s sail NE to the “Costa Smerala(Emerald coast), the Island’s chic hot spot.

CALA COTICCIO, a.k.a Tahiti Bay: 41°13’013 N; 009°28’850 E

From Castelsardo, the sailing trip is 55 Nautical Miles to reach the “Cala Coticcio“, also known as Tahiti Bay, passing through the Strait of Bonifacio. Usually, the wind there is W-NW. Expect the wind to be stronger once entering the Strait of Bonifacio, so that a day of Force 4 to 5 in the area results in a Force 5 to 6 in the strait with gusts up to 7.

Cala Coticcio is a set of two beautiful coves in Isla Caprera, North Sardinia
Cala Coticcio is a set of two beautiful coves

Once through the strait, round the Maddalena archipelago to the north until you see on your starboard the easternmost Island: Isla Caprera, and turn South to sail along its east coast. In the middle of this coast, behind the “Punta Coticcio“, you’ll find a dream anchorage where you can anchor on sand and spend the night. Read carefully the nautical instructions as there is a prohibited area around the Punta Coticcio to avoid.

Cala Coticcio is actually two coves, quite deep whit crystal blue waters, and the most exciting one is the West one. It’s a very popular anchorage for jet-setters in summer, and between June 1st and September 30th, it’s forbidden to anchor overnight. One more reason to cruise in April or May.

CANNIGIONE: 41°06’470 N; 009°26’630 E

Looking East over Cannigione, Sardinia
Looking East over Cannigione, Sardinia

The next step is the small village of Cannigione and its green environment in sharp constrat to the usual rocky landscape of Sardinia.

Cannigione lies in the Golf of Arzachena (the largest inelt in Sardinia), approximatively 8 nautical miles South from Cala Coticcio and it will be a beautiful navigation to get there. There are more than 400 berths available in the Marina for boats up to 25 meters and with a maximum draft of 4 meters.

This is a very pleasant destination, full of life although not as “prestigious” as Porto Cervo, and worth visiting. Don’t miss the street market if you are in Cannigione on a Friday. Many operators offer excursions to the Maddalena archipelago, so it’s an excellent occasion to go diving in the marine reserve (between 50€ and 200€).

The beaches in the north of Cannigione are really nice.

PORTO CERVO: 41°08’230 N; 009°32’560 E

Porto Cervo is an exciting destination for a sailing cruise in Sardinia
Looking East over Porto Cervo, on the Costa Smeralda, Sardinia

After sailing 10 Nautical Miles, the next stop is Porto Cervo. Get ready for stars, millionaires, paparazzi…and a lot of tourists.

Spring and early autumn are definitively the best periods to visit the beautiful village of Porto Cervo and its natural harbour. Days are mild and the village is not overcrowded. In May you could participate to the wine festival and tast excellent Vermentino whites. In early June, assist to the Loro Piana Superyachts Regatta, that opens the Mediterranean Superyachts calendar.

Porto Cervo is the most famous destination on the costa smeralda. Useless to say that you’ll find a lot of excellent restaurants, fun bars and lots of Luxury shops to visit.

Once you feel ready to leave Porto Cervo, I recommend that you sail south for approximatively 80 Nautical Miles, to the magnificent Cala Goloritze.

CALA GOLORITZE: 40°06’665 N; 009°41’395

To me, it’s the most beautiful anchorage in Sardinia. Cala Goloritze is a wide anchorage, in front of a beautiful beach surrounded by a spectacular landscape . The cove is officially an “Italian National Monument”.

Better than words, here is a photo of Cala Goloritze. Enjoy !
Better than words, here is a photo of Cala Goloritze. Enjoy !

ARBATAX: 39°56’700 N; 09°42’800 E

From Cala Goloritze, sail 14 Nautical Miles South and you’ll reach the village and Marina of Arbatax.

The hamlet of Arbatax - Sardinia
The hamlet of Arbatax. ©Hpschaefer

The marina has 400 berths for boats up to 50 meters and is very welcoming. It stands in a commercial harbour that serves as a logistic support for plywood factories. All supplies can be found in Arbatax, or in Tortoli, a few miles inshore.

There is not much to do in the hamlet but the marina is a great place to rest and a way of cutting the sailing trip to the south in half, avoiding night sailing. The mountains surrounding Arbatax marina are really beautiful. Great walks can be done in the area to discover coves and strange red granite rocks. Start by walking over the east pier of the harbour to discover those rocks.

There are not a lot of good anchorages or nice villages between Arbatax and the extreme south of Sardinia, so I suggest to go for a long sailing leg of approximatively 100 Nautical Miles to Cagliari, Sardinia‘s biggest city.

CAGLIARI: 39°11’043 N; 009°06’230 E

View from the Bastione San Remy. "Il Castello" - Cagliari
View from the Bastione San Remy. “Il Castello” – Cagliari

You must stop in Cagliari as there is a lot to see, starting with the medieval “Castello” (Citadel) and its fantastic grandstand views (try the view from the Bastonie San Remy), the National Archeological Museum, or a nice Roman amphitheatre. Cagliari is one of those cities where a good guide can be very useful and help you make the best of your stay in the city.

Cagliari is a rich historical city, with almost 3000 years of history and a great cultural place. Strangely, it’s a city that is not really attractive from the sea. You have to come over the first impression you’ll have from the bay, as the old city is surrounded by an ugly industrial complex that ruins the view for a yacht sailing in the Golf of Cagliari.

The old town - centro storico di Cagliari. ©Allessio Orru
The old town – centro storico di Cagliari. ©Allessio Orru

But as soon as you reach the harbour, you’ll get to see the real thing. An old and beautiful Mediterranean city protected by a set of Pisan fortifications. Great walks, fine restaurants, typical bars on paved streets and enough attractions to keep you in town for days.

To eat the best pizzas in town, go to the terrific “Il Fantasma“, ideally having already booked a table (+39 070 65 67 49; Via San Domenico 94). The environment, the atmosphere and the food are terrific, you can’t be disappointed.

Cagliari inner harbour
The inner harbour is great. during the summer, you have a chance to get a berth here.

Staying in Cagliari doesn’t mean you can’t also enjoy the beaches and the crystal blue waters. From the city centre (Piazza Matteotti), a bus can take you to Poetto Beach, one of the longest beach in Italy. Poetto is the rendez vous for Cagliari’s youth. There are lots of bars, private beach clubs and restaurants.

You can also go to the beach by sail, since the Marina Piccola and the yacht club are located at the southern end of the beach. The restaurant “The spinnaker”, at the marina, serves great seafood.

CARLOFORTE: 39°08’640N; 008°19’370 E

Now sail South to the exit of the Golf of Cagliari. The next stop is Carloforte, on the Isola di San Pietro (Saint Peter’s Island). Leave Cagliari early as you will have to sail more than 60 Nautical miles to get there.

Carloforte seafront. View from the San Pietro Channel. ©Ulrike Steinbrenner
Carloforte seafront. View from the San Pietro Channel. ©Ulrike Steinbrenner

You are now going to sail along the West coast of Sardinia, with stronger seas so pay extra attention to weather forecasts.

Carloforte is a pleasant and elegant town on the west coast of Isola di San Pietro, with pastel-coloured houses and  a seafront tree-lined boulevard full of nice restaurants. A lot of beautiful beaches, both sandy and rocky are accessible from the town.

Carloforte is a town of fishermen and each year, at the end of May, the Mattanza is held in the San Pietro channel, when tuna stream in the channel heading to their matings grounds and are caught in a system of nets to end up in the “camera della morte” (chamber of death). Once in this final net, fishermen catch them with hooks. The Mattanza is a very popular and traditional event on the island, though quite a bloody one.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, Carloforte is a great destination to eat tuna. I recommend the restaurant “Osteria della Tonnara“, a reference when it comes to seafood. The restaurant is owned and run by the island’s tuna cooperative. It’s not chic, not especially beautiful either, but the tuna dishes are fantastic.

There are coves and nice anchorages to explore around the island if the conditions allow it.

ALGHERO: 40°33’950 N; 008°18’450 E

A catapult protecting Alghero from an invasion by sea. ©fusolino
A catapult protecting Alghero from an invasion by sea. ©fusolino

The last stopover of this sailing cruise around Sardinia is Alghero, 90 Nautical Miles North from Carloforte. Alghero is a splendid walled city from the 12th century with a strong Spanish influence, even today. The setting is really a perfect representation of what you would expect in a great Mediterranean destination: green hills, sandy beaches and a quiet walled town with an inner harbour.

To me, this is the best destination in Sardinia. Alghero is by itself a good reason to go sailing in Sardinia, if only for 2 to 3 days.

The centro storico is a genuine wonder, it’s time to open your Lonely Planel Guide and enjoy.

Arriving on Alghero. ©al kan
Arriving on Alghero. Another good reason to go sailing in Sardinia ©al kan

What to do ashore when Mistral blows in Sardinia:

You would be wise to stay in harbour when the mistral blows. It’s a perfect occasion to rent a car and go inshore to discover the beauties of Sardinia. Here are 3 places worth visiting:

  1. Sassari: Sassari is a genuine city of Sardinia, a few miles inshore from Castelsardo and Porto Torres. Sassari is Sardinia‘s second biggest city. It has a very interesting medieval center and some modern areas. It’s a really pleasant town, though not a big tourist destination, which makes it even better. There are great museum in Sassari, a lot of things to do and fine shopping too.

    Sassari sardinia
    Piazza d’Italia – Welcome to Sassari. ©al_kan
  2. Gola Su GorropuSardinia’s Grand Canyon.
  3. Visit the village of Orgosolo, in the mountains of Barbagia. Orgosolo famous for its great graffiti that recall, on the walls of the village, the main historical events from the since the early 20th century.

Useful books and charts:

Have fun sailing in Sardinia !

Aurélien