This post was written at sea!
Ever since I first started sailing in 2019, the plan has been to do the Atlantic crossing. The first two seasons have been kind of a trial to test me to see if I wanted to continue this journey or if I would get enough after a couple of seasons and go back to my old life.
There have been many ups and downs along the way so far, but I am definitely not finished with the cruising lifestyle. Quite the opposite actually and I now feel more confident.
Not just confident in my sailing skills, but also confident in the way this lifestyle gives me values that I haven’t had anywhere else. The sense of achievement after a tough passage. The friendships I have gathered along the way. The adventures and experiences I couldn’t have gotten in any other ways. I could go on for many pages, but you get the idea.
That brings me back to the topic; leaving the Mediterranean and heading off to do the Atlantic crossing via Las Palmas in the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde islands outside the west coast of Africa.
Preparing Ellidah for the Atlantic Crossing
There are certainly many things to take into consideration when planning to do an ocean passage like this. Is the boat seaworthy? Are you mentally prepared? Do you need crew? Do you have the money to invest in proper safety equipment that you definitely want to have onboard for crossing an ocean? Are the sails and rig in good condition? Do you have enough power to run the autopilot 24/7 or do you plan to use a wind vane or hand steer?
There are many questions, and I Googled them all. I talked with people who have done it. I read books and watched movies. As a matter of fact, I have probably spent as much time researching the topic as it will take me to actually sail across the Atlantic.
In the end, it is pretty simple really. People have been crossing the Atlantic for a long time in a variety of different vessels that I wouldn’t even take out on a lake.
It really comes down to yourself and what you feel comfortable with. It is supposed to be an experience for life and one that you enjoy while feeling safe. If you have other people with you onboard, you need to take the fact that you are responsible for their safety seriously.
I will write a separate post about the preparations and the equipment I bought for the Atlantic Crossing.
EPIRB is important safety equipment and I bought this for the crossing.
New tablet bought to use with Navionics charts
Getting crew for the big journey
As much as I like sailing single-handed, doing this trip solo wasn’t really an option. I feel this is the kind of experience that is good to share with someone else.
Many years ago, me and my friend Karolius, AKA Casper, (because no one can pronounce his name in English) did a road trip from Norway to Sweden. I had been talking about buying a boat for a long time already back then.
At some point, we found ourselves sitting on the beach talking about doing the Atlantic crossing together when it was time. This is actually quite a hilarious story, not one that I am particularly proud of, but nevertheless, a good laugh.
Fast forward a few years and I am now a proud boat owner cruising around the Mediterranean. Owning, sailing, and running a boat is pretty expensive so I was in need of somewhere to live in Norway for a period while working.
Casper offered me to stay in his house since mine is rented out. We talked a lot about the crossing during this time and that is when we made the decision to do the crossing together as we had talked about many years earlier at that beach in Sweden.
The two of us have been out on adventures before. I should actually write about them, even though most of them don’t involve any sailing. Maybe some other time, I’ll drop a link in here when I do.
How many can I fit?
I have been thinking a lot about the crewing situation for this trip, especially about how many I want onboard. I know from experience that two are good, three works great and four are awesome, but a bit cramped.
Being three onboard would mean we could do 4-hour watches. That gives everyone a good 8 hours off between every watch to sleep and do whatever else one might want to. Since we would be living on top of each other for quite a bit of time, being able to pull back and have some time for ourselves in a cabin seemed like a good idea as well.
Then there is the amount of food and water three persons need for a potential three weeks at sea. This is not insignificant. Especially the water situation has had me thinking a lot as I haven’t been able to afford a watermaker yet.
Okay, I am drifting off again, back to the point; three was the magical number and I already had the third person in mind.
Catching up with a former crewmember
In the last couple of seasons, I had many wonderful people crewing onboard while cruising around the Mediterranean. Some of them really wanted to join the Atlantic Crossing when the time came.
One of them was Ofèlie Quivron from France. She and I sailed from Mallorca to Menorca, Sardinia, and Sicily together in 2020. You can read about these passages if you click the links below.
I gave her a phone call to ask if she wanted to join and also film the trip. I got a big loud YES and the crew was set!
Getting ready to cast the lines and set off
I had been in Norway for yet another period to work. Same as last time, I stayed in Casper’s house. We were both excited when we got on the plane from our hometown to Malaga in Spain. Moral was high, and the same evening we both stepped onboard Ellidah again in the Marina she was parked in at Almerimar.
First things first, the upcoming trip had to be celebrated, so off we went. Grilled steak and a bottle of wine. Then off to the bars to talk about what we were about to do and have some beers.
Then all of a sudden, it turned out that there was a nightclub 100m behind where Ellidah was parked. I can probably stop there. The next day was lazy and nothing happened…
The next day after that, we had to get our hands dirty and do the last preparations. We planned on staying for about a week before leaving towards Gibraltar, but the to-do list was long, and in Spain, the term “manâna” is definitely a thing.
About 2 weeks later we were finally ready to set off. Ofèlie had already been on board for the delayed extra week, but now we were mostly done and ready. The list of jobs to do never ends, but the big parts were ticked off.
Sailing from Almerimar to Gibraltar
Provisions, fuel, and water were now on board, and the three of us cast off the lines excited to finally be on our way. The weather forecast was far from awesome, but it looked fair enough and I really wanted to get going without any more delays.
We went out of the Marina and into a beautiful sunset. Since we didn’t have much wind, we ran the engine for about an hour before I started hearing a terrible rattling sound. I looked and listened around for a while, but I couldn’t locate the source as it came and went away.
After having had my head in about every location in the engine room (it is tight), I was pretty sure it came from the bell housing between the engine and the gearbox.
Damn. “Northern Norwegian glossary that isn’t suited for publicity placed here”.
Casper and I replaced the vibration damper between the gearbox and engine just a few days earlier and I was pretty sure something must have fallen in and was bouncing around the flywheel.
I told the crew that we had to turn around, and so we did. Back to the Marina with our heads between our legs. We got the spot next to our old one, parked up, and went for some late-night pizza. As soon as that was consumed, we had to get our hands dirty again. We pulled back the prop axle, pulled off the gearbox, took off the vibration damper, and lifted the rear of the engine up enough to get the bell housing off. Lifting the engine was tricky!
In there, we found all sorts of shit. Amongst it was a washer that wasn’t supposed to be there.
Good thing we turned around, that already caused some damage, but it could be worse. It could have wrecked the new damper plate, flywheel, and even worse, the gearbox. That would have been the end of the Atlantic crossing before it even started.
04:00 the next morning, we had it all back together. We got ourselves a few hours of sleep before we woke up, had some pizza leftovers, and went for a test. Everything sounded good, and at 12:00 we again cast off the lines from the marina and set sail with a course towards Gibraltar.