Upgrading for an Atlantic Crossing

La Mischief is now pretty ready to cross 2000nm of empty ocean (I hope). To get her there we’ve done the following.

  • New Iridium Go for communications including tracking and weather down loading. We have an older hand held sat phone but I like backup.
  • New 156m2 parasailor with reinforced payedes and 100m of new lines. Going downwind  requires some careful thinking and the parasail will be the most gentle on La Mischief’s catamaran rig believe it or not. 
  • Second raymarine autopilot. We have already suffered 2 failures and hand steering 10 days at sea would drive me and the crew mad. The ARC reported that 5% of autopilots failed and there’s other rallies that have reported much higher failure rates. I reckon 70% of boats in this rally have backup automatic steering systems installed (many monohull have wind vane steering).
  • A new D400 wind generator. Power always seems to be an issue on La Mischief and with the instruments going 24×7 , and the radar and nav lights going 12×7 it’s going to be chewing up a lot of amp hours.Wind gens aren’t the greatest when sailing downwind but every little bit helps and the steady winds of the Carribean should give us a boost.
  • New Danbouy,  new charts, new McMurdo AIS MOB devices  and new trilight at top of mast.

 I’m sure there are other bits and pieces but these are the major items.

    The First Leg

     With light winds expected, Jimmy brought the start forward to 12 noon. We all proceeded out of the marina and to the start line just south of the marina entrance.

    Thanks to OceanMinded 2016 for the photo
    Thanks to OceanMinded 2016 for the photo

    10 minutes before the start we put up our parasailor and hit the line at 12.02pm. We’d like to think that we were first over but others a little more objective than us controversially disagreed. Anyway its not a race!!!

    We enjoyed being out in front for a little while until we fell into a gaint wind hole and the whole parasailor came flopping down. We ended up bagging it before it got stuck on radars etc. which meant we slipped down the field to fourth last. Then the wind picked up a little and we flew it again. It was hard going with the wind all over the place but this time we managed to keep it flying. As we slowly got closer to the bottom of the island the wind picked up a little and we managed to pass most boats except for the two fast cats (Catana 50 and Outremer XL5).

    Passing between the bottom of Lanzarote and the top of Fuerteventura, we just couldn’t get enough angle and ended up sailing too close to the coast of Lanzarote as the wind bent around the mountains. We could see the whitecaps of the NE winds in front of us but couldn’t get there. Meanwhile the rest of the fleet had a much better angle through the islands. So down she came again whilst we motored across to the wind. Up went the parasailor but this time we couldn’t get enough angle the other way and were heading straight towards Fuerteventura. So down she came, which wasn’t a bad thing as the wind was starting to pick up.

    Dolphins – lots of them

    We had a bit of a delay in getting the main up whilst a freighter went past, but when we finally did we were down the back of the field again. No worries, as we had a great reaching angle and with one reef in and the wind blowing 18kts we were doing 8.5kts. Champagne sailing.

    Nice sunset

    As night approached we reeled in a few boats before the wind dropped a bit and swung more behind us. We took the reef out and still did 5-6kts. It was strang sailing in such a big fleet. Trying not to gybe whilst picking a path between boats was tricky, especially when a few of the boats did not have AIS. Interestingly our radar lost them from time to time even though they were quite close.

    About 8.30pm we lost a pin out of our main sheet shackle but we didn’t need to stop and repair it as the winds were light and the block settled against the other two blocks on the traveller without pulling out. Just so long as we avoided any sudden gybes we were right.

    Nice sunrise with Storm Breaker
    We were running 3 hour watches between the 3 of us (especially good since Jimmy said we need 6 hours of sleep in one block to function on extended passages) and as the sun came up at 7.53am we were nearly at Las Palmas. There was quite a line up of boats waiting to get in so there was some waiting involved as we finally tied up on T jetty amongst the 34 other rally boats.

    Rally Time

    After a good nights sleep, we wandered down and introduced ourselves to Jimmy Cornell and his daughter Doina. Jimmy rang a guy called Henning and organized for him to come down and install a pole for our D400 wind generator. Then it was off to the Frontier Police to check in. They are in the main port, a taxi ride away. They were quite particular about checking in and out and were concerned we didn’t check out of Algerciras because of Schengen.

    The Welcome Party for the Rally that evening was a great opportunity to meet the other B50 rally’ers. Dee whipped up a great pasta dish for the pot luck and we drank some great Lanzarote wine and beer. Party over, Phil and I wandered over to Ian and Ann’s boat to drink yet more beers before I needed to gently call time on Phil before he could still (just) manage to disembark (sans thongs). It was a great first night and an ominous sign of things to come.

    Next day we started on the cruising seminars, something Jimmy had organized for free for anyone and everyone, be they in the rally of not. It was great to get some formal education for what is now our profession. It can sometimes be a bit scary how much you still don’t know after all these years doing it. Jimmy is the guru of course having both done it all and then written numerous books and guides on our chosen vocation. His photos were brilliant too – we were treated to an amazing slideshow as Jimmy’s trip to the Antarctica and then through the North West Passage, as he sailed from Antarctica to the Arctic. In addition to Jimmy, we heard some a number of other experts covering all sorts of topics from medical to photography as well as all those topics you would expect on crossing the Atlantic. We were in information overload.


    One of the best speakers was Thomas, who had just sold me a parasailor, a spinnaker built like a parachute with a hole/wing in the middle. The parasailor came with a days training, which we were hoping to do whilst Thomas was in Lanzarote. Unfortunately the weather gods were not with us and with gusts to 50kts, we stayed in the marina and went through things on the front deck with Thomas. After he left and the winds died off we went out for a sail on Sunday and in a gentle 10kt breeze, we managed to put Thomas’ training into action.


    On Saturday, the Rally had organised a safety at sea demonstration with liferafts and a simulated helicopter rescue using a rescue helicopter from Gran Canarias. Dee volenteered to be the damsel in distress but they used a dummy instead. 

    In Arrecife, we had the choice of 3 chanderlies, where we could get 60% of what we needed. Luckily our next stop was in Las Palmas where the ARC leaves from and their chanderlies were fantastic. We were able to get a bunch of jobs done and we were pretty busy most days doing boat jobs. Some of the rally guys were very experienced in their own right and I was able to pick their brains on various subjects. We were enjoying our first rally experience.


    One of the things we worked out was probably 70% of the boats had backup for their self steering, either wind vane or dual autopilots. Being a cat, our only option was twin autopilots. Rob from BnG told us that 25% of boats had an autopilot failure last year on the rally and the ARC reported a 5% failure rate. Not wanting to hand steer our way across the Atlantic we decided to go for a second autopilot, this time a Raymarine. More on that later.

    We also managed to play a little, riding our bikes everywhere around town and down the coast on a magnificent bike path that went along the coast past the airport. We checked out a couple of nice restaurants, both in town and at the marina, and consumed more good Spanish wine on the backs of our and other boats.

    The rally organized an island tour, which Dee and Phil went on. The islands got a wonderful national park with its extinct volcanoes and lava flows. Phil managed a 30km walk to a church were the lava miraculously stopped, a pilgrimage the locals do once a year from wherever they live on the island to this church in the middle of the island.

    We also did an island tour to Fuertenventura, the next island down by bus, ferry, bus; as the rally had problems last year at this island’s marina and decided the safest way to get there was not sailing. This tour was great as we visited some cool sand dunes, some pretty little villages and drove along some spectacular mountain passes.

    Time went quickly on Lanzarote and the 10 days we had there and in no time we were at the skippers briefing and leaving party celebrating our last day in Lanzarote.

    Off to the Canaries

    Ok, so I’ve given up trying to catch up on my blogging and will now concentrate on blogging our time on the Barbados 50 rally, trying to fill in the (large) gap I’ve left behind as I go.

    The sail across from Agadir in Morocco was eventful to say the least. We started at 10am after checking out of Morocco, by motoring in thick fog, which gradually cleared as we got away from the Moroccan coast. The swell and the wind both gradually picked up and just as we were thinking about turning off our engine, we got a large chunk of rope caught up in it. We switched off the engine and folded up the prop and off it came only to drift back onto the fishing lure. Phil managed to pull it in but it was too heavy to lift to get the lure off. Atlantic Ocean 1 – Lure 0.

    Then we were off sailing. We soon had 1 reef in and were being hit by a large side swell as we were on a 90 degree reach travelling 7-9 knots. This time we were just talking about putting in a second reef for the night when we got pooped by a rather large wave, which broke over our back deck. Time for a second reef. Then not 5 minutes later the autopilot disengaged and went on strike. Atlantic Ocean 2 – La Mischief 0! With Meagan not ever having hand steered we quickly decided on a roster of 3 with Meagan sleeping through the night and steering in the morning. It wasn’t too bad at first when the moon was up right in front of us, but when it disappeared at 1am, it was steering by compass and wind angle only.

    Morning came and Meagan did a great job hand steering for the first time in her life. And then at 2pm, Eric the autopilot woke from his coma and magically started working again.

    Finally we entered Lanzarote Marina in the capital of Arrecife at 6pm and found our berth. The marina is spacious and modern, so modern that most of the power points were for super yachts. We pulled in forwards between the long finger jetties and got out our power cord, which didn’t quite reach the only small power point in the vicinity. So we simply backed out of that slip and in backwards to the slip behind us. Perfect. And much closer to the bars, laundry and supermarket.

    Making the same mistake twice!

    For once we had a nice sail down to Vis, stopping for the night in one of my favourite turquoise blue anchorages – Krknjas on the island of Veli Drvenik.

    13501708_10205987953890843_7381260580628221607_nBut we were on a mission to get to Vis then onto Italy so it was up anchor and onto Vis. We got to Vis around lunchtime and picked up a paid mooring in Komiza.

    13495109_10205987998371955_7909134616780263776_nWe spent a day and a half in Vis, waiting for the right weather to cross to Italy. We swam from the back of the boat and at the nice beach, and between the two. We walked through the nice town with its cutesy marina and nice waterfront promenades.
    13501691_10205988297779440_1305181831806828228_nWe took the dingy inside the restaurant we’d visited with Ooroo three years ago and had another nice meal overlooking the water. It was all very relaxing.


    Then we checked out of Vis and set off for Brindisi – a day and a night and a day away.

    13528740_10205988297819441_5710585993321654046_nThe weather was overcast with light winds. We got the genneker out and had some success using it with one motor running to give us some speed. Then the wind dropped and went on the nose so we furled in the genneker and motor sailed towards Brindisi.

    As night fell, Dee went to bed and I watched the lightening on the Italian coastline. I watched a few squalls on the radar, and being 5nm away and somewhat behind us I thought it would take them a while to get to us and thought we could pass by them before they hit us.

    Then they were on us. I got Dee up to help reef the main as the wind picked up from 5kts to 35kts in a blink. As we were reefing down the main to the second reef, the dreaded genneker start to unfurl. Yikes.

    By now there was quite a swell running making steering a bit difficult. I headed upwind to stop us taking off and stop the genneker unfurling any more. Dee wasn’t keen on this as it took us into a heap of lightning but there was no way we could run away downwind with half a geneker out in 35kts of wind and a large swell. So we tried to ignore the spectacularly scary lightening show as I clipped on and went forward to pull the genneker down as Dee tried to steer whilst lowering the halyard at the same time, letting the geneker fall safely along the length of the boat.

    Having made the mistake of leaving the genneker furling up on the bowspit once before in Cascais, Portugal and having the same problem, I was a little bit more equipped to deal with the issue. But I absolutely hate making the same mistake TWICE!!! Mistakes are usually a learning process but this time I got a big fail.

    As the genneker came down it managed to knock the Badboy Wi-Fi extender aerial off the spreaders. I somehow managed to find this on the coach roof, but the fall damaged it beyond repair. Once in port we evaluated the damage and couldn’t find the swivel for the top of the sail. We thought it must have come off after I removed the halyard as the top of the sail fell into the water as I was putting it away in the front locker. We ended up buying a new one before finding that the old one had fallen off in the bottom of the locker and had hidden itself under the sail. The whole f***up cost us a few boat dollars.

    But I will be much better prepared (well ahead of time) for squalls next time.

    With the genneker now down, we found a wind angle that worked and comfortably sailed through the storm to Bari, a little short of where we were originally sailing – but hey we made it to Italy.