Charts and Flags

You arrive in a new country and don’t have a curtesy flag or try to find a missing chart for your next passage. With our schedule set for the entire year now, we can pre-plan some things that just cause a lot of hassle along the way.

Paper charts are a necessity in case of equipment failures. From our previous trips we’ve got everything covered between Poland and Portugal. But between the Canary Islands, the North Atlantic and the various different islands in the Caribbean… there’s still plenty we need.

If by any chance you have some of the following charts or courtesy flags lying around, please let us know, happy to return them after!

Charts

At a minimum we are going to need the following charts:

Courtesy Flags

It would be good to have courtesy flags for the following countries or territories prepared:

Caribbean here we come!

We can do this! Can we?

I’ve only been getting into sailing myself for the past couple of years, thinking about all this is still very abstract and a bit overwhelming. I’ve done a couple of longer passages before, but there are so many things to plan out for an Atlantic crossing. You read and learn things you never thought you will ever need (or want) to know. Sometimes you don’t know which of the 42 things on the todo list to tackle next, and the next day you are full of excitement, because you finally figured out what this acronym means that you’ve been wondering about for days now.

While wrestling what electronics we would want to add (that’s been an adventure in itself, more on that soon!), trying to understand at least something about our power installation (wait, how much do I need to run that new autopilot?!) and prepare to work on everything as soon as the weather permits. You’re starting to think about the strangest things at dinner (how much meat does a person eat per week?) and you constantly convince all of your friends to come and visit you on the trip (that’s if you manage to get all of the things figured out in time to actually go)!

Time stops while you sail. You live by the weather more than anything else, you leave when it gets light out, you wake up for steering shifts, sleep anytime and anywhere you can. Plenty of friends want to come by on the way to the Canary Islands, across the Atlantic, or in the Caribbean. Of course they all have jobs and want to drop in for a quick vacation (booo! you should all stay a month at least, maybe two, ok?). But also Mateńka can’t really be sailed alone (although it has happened before!), company will be a good thing to have along the way. So I’ve been trying to come up with a schedule for the next year, which is not an easy task. Thinking about places you’ve never been before, anticipating where you’d want to stay (or not), plan in enough time for passages, downtime, repairs and the unpredictable weather.

Step One: get to the Canary Islands!

While we came back from the Mediterranean to Poland two years ago, we’ve already seen a bunch of places that are on the route from Poland towards the Canary Islands. We’ve taken the reverse path though the Baltic and North Sea, the Bay of Biscay and Portugal. But going further south from Portugal is completely new territory. Funny how people say crossing the Bay of Biscay is the hardest part about getting across the Atlantic from northern Europe. Since we’ve done this before, it takes the mystery out of the situation a little – the rest should be a piece of cake now, right?

On to new territories: people seem to leave from Portugal or Spain, maybe stop in Madeira, straight on to the Canary Islands. Does it make sense to aim for this little island in the middle of the ocean? Is there nothing to see in Morocco? Our dad went all along the Moroccan coast in 1987. Which route to pick? So many options – ahhhhh! Yeah, ok, I get it, the Canary Islands are probably nicer to cruise around, so people prefer to hop there directly. Ok, decision #1: plan in enough time, for various options, to decide this later on. It makes sense to have plenty of time in the Canary Islands, adds some extra downtime to prep the Atlantic crossing (because surely we won’t be able to figure everything out in advance anyways). Solid plan so far!

Step Two: get to the Caribbean!

So let’s say we make it to the Canary Islands, and cross the Atlantic (I’m purposefully skipping over the details of this part, plenty on that to come later) – so then we are actually in the Caribbean, yay!! And now what? Between the 23-million different islands, each its own country, different languages, tiny airports, visa requirements etc. – what do we actually want to see and do there? What do people want to visit? Will they be able to fly there for a reasonable price? From the US maybe, but also friends from Europe?

After spending weekends, nights and more weekends on google. Reading peoples stories about cruising up and down the Caribbean. Asking pretty much everyone who came to mind I could ask for advice and recommendations. Roping people into creating spreadsheets with me collecting all possible information. Things are slowly starting to make sense. The Caribbean is a popular cruising territory, there is plenty of information to find online (once you are ready to wrap your head around it). The more you read the more accustomed you get to the area, places, routes. Stories start to repeat and even though you have never been there before, you start to recognize the various places.

Sailing conditions are fairly stable in the Caribbean, with steady wind. We need to get out of there before the hurricane season in May sometime (ok, that sounds doable!). That gives us about 4 months between arriving just before xmas in December and leaving again in May. The Grenadines and British as well as US Virgin Islands seem like popular destinations, along Antigua and Martinique. We’d probably need to hit a bigger city to re-supply every 3 or so weeks, preferably something people can fly in and out of then too.

Ok, decision #2: after landing in St. Lucia we go south, check out the Grenadines and Grenada. Make our way back north, Martinique, Antigua, etc – sounds like a good start. Then we’ll go on to the BVI’s and USVI’s. On the way Montserrat? Kitts and Nevis? Saint Martin? Sure ,why not. Do we have time for more? Can we (do we want to) sail to the Bahamas? Cuba? Or the US? Our dad spent a lot of time in Cuba in 1987 (granted they were not going back the same season) maybe that’s too far for us to be able to do in this limited timeframe? Alright then, a reasonable decision #3: we will not go any further west and sail to Bermuda from the BVI’s, to be ready to depart for our second Atlantic crossing again from there.

Step Three: get back to Poland!

We need be out of the Caribbean by May to avoid hurricane season, to then head back to Europe via the Azores. Between Bermuda and the Azores, is about a 1800nm stretch of Northern Atlantic. They say is not quite as calm as the Southern route, but after having tackled one Atlantic crossing, we can surely figure out a second one, maybe? (todo: route back home needs some more thought).

s/y Mateńka’s Logbook from ARC’87

In preparation for our Atlantic trip in 2017, we’ve spent some time reviewing our dad’s logbook in more detail. Based on the books, Mateńka’s trip in 1987 looked like this…

Mateńka’s first Atlantic crossing started on November 28th, 1987. On board captain: Marek Juchniewicz, 1st Officer: Marek Tuński, 2nd Officer: Stanisław Wilczyński, and crew: Nikodem Jasiński and Ryszard Męczarski.

They left Las Palmas on the Canary Islands on November 28th 1987, at 1 PM and arrived in Bridgetown, Barbados 21 days and 11h later, on Saturday December 19th 1987, at 7 PM .

Leaving Poland for the First Time

Before the start of ARC’87 in the Canary Islands, they had to sail Mateńka there from Poland. On the way they also explored the Mediterranean in the summer leading up to the Atlantic crossing.

Originally they left Szczecin, Poland on May 17th 1987 to go south; the year after Mateńka was built in 1986. It was her first long voyage. They went past Poland and Germany (stopping in Świnoujście, Brunsbüttel, Hamburg and Cuxhaven). Visited Amsterdam, went to the UK (Calais and Newhaven). Before crossing the Bay of Biscay from Cherbourg to Vigo. They stopped in São Martinho do Porto, Lisbon, Cadiz, Barbate, Ceuta, and arrived on the Mediterranean on July 12th 1987. Much of this Mateńka has seen again on her way back from the Mediterranean in 2015.

They cruised around in the Mediterranean until the ARC crew boarded in Rome, Italy on October 22nd, 1987. They continued from Italy to the Canary Islands, for the start of ARC’87. Along the coast of Morocco, though Gibraltar, Tangier, Casablanca, Agadir, Arrecife to Las Palmas. Mateńka has not seen that part of the world since 1987, nor have I… but we have a plan! Check out our routes for 2017.

The ARC Rally in 1987

After a week of prep and sightseeing in Las Palmas, they left with ARC’87 on Saturday the 28th of November 1987 at 1PM local time, with their crew of 5. With full tanks of fuel, full water (500l) and an additional 75l of water in bottles. The weather forecast reported from the ARC Rally team at that time: 24h / S-SE 5B, 72h / S-SE 7-8B.

They sailed for over 21 days, exactly 515 hours, passing a total of 3006.5 nm. With shifts rotating between two groups of two people, at 6 hours each. Until on Saturday the 19th of December 1987, at 7 PM, they arrived in Bridgetown, Barbados. Winning a trophy at the ARC ceremony, for the hardest effort of getting to the Rally all the way from Poland.

Recorded Positions

Recorded Wind

ARC’87 started out with a quiet night, followed by strong wind in the early hours of the first morning, on top of that right from the direction they wanted to go. The first few days were dominated by S-SW winds, followed by N-NW until they finally hit the E trade winds on December 4th 1987, at 20°10’N / 23°45’W. They continued with a steady 3-4B E-NE from there until the end of the Rally, with a few exceptions: one windy day with 6-7B, some slow patches here and there, and some more wind during the last few days at 5-6B.

Sail Configuration

The mainsail was in use during the entire time, reefed on two occasions during stronger winds. They carried three jibs: a small storm jib and two different sized main jibs. The storm jib only went up once after leaving the Canary Islands. Most of the trip they alternated between the two main jibs, poled out at times. They also carried a spinnaker, although it seems they’ve had problems with it thought the trip. It ripped on multiple occasions, the spinnaker halyard tangled up many times and then the spinnaker pole broke during a gybe just a few days before arrival. On the very last two days (after what seems like finally giving up on the spinnaker) they used both headsails alongside the main, which seems to have brought an increased speed during those days… finally reaching the long awaited goal.

Recorded Speed

Their average speed was 5-6 kt overall, with an average of over 7 kt after they hit the trade winds. The maximum of 8 kt was recorded on the last day (looks like they maximized their sail area towards the end). The slowest 24h-period was recorded on November 30, just after departure, with a distance of 107.9 nm. The fastest 24h-period recorded a distance of 185,3 nm, on Dec 18th, just a day before arrival. In between they averaged 130-150nm per 24h-period, which is something Mateńka comfortably does to this day.

Contacted Boats

  • 2.12.1987 – s/y Joy at 23°34’N 19°45’W
  • 4.12.1987 – s/y Paleamon
  • 7.12.1987 – s/y Hajy
  • 8.12.1987 – s/y Le Leqlen and s/y Blue Heron
  • 17.12.1987 – s/y Sky Diver
  • 18.12.1987 – s/y M’our Bruin at 13°34’N 55°13’W

Now in 2017

In our experience Mateńka behaves pretty similar to this date. We can count on a similar speed at 5-6 kt and distance at about 120-140 nm in a 24h-period, along with being prepared for the the occasional weather change, especially in the first days when trying to find the trade winds down south.

We typically use the mainsail and jib in a similar fashion as they did downwind, with a pole for stabilization. The spinnaker hasn’t been used in a while, but we might want to try that too. However it looks like they achieved better results with two jibs + mainsail, than with the spinnaker, during their last few days of ARC’87 while approaching Bridgetown.

We’re doing this – Atlantic 2017!

We’ve been secretly planning this for quite some time now, and it’s time to share! Mateńka will return to the wide oceans again as we attempt to cross the Atlantic with her for a second time, on the 30th anniversary of her first crossing!

In 1987 Mateńka participated in ARC’87, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. On board back then Mateńka’s former owner Nikodem Jasiński, my dad. From Gran Canaria to Barbados they sailed over 21 days and stopped in many places on the remaining route.

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Equipped with dad’s logbook from 1987 and a lot of crazy, we aim to participate in ARC’17, from Gran Canaria to St. Lucia at the end of 2017. We’ve planned out the route to the Canary Islands, to get the ARC starting point in time, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Read more on our preparation page.

We will share as many details with you as possible, while we prepare Mateńka for the Atlantic crossing later this year and of course along the way!