780nm South to Cape Verdes

FRIDAY

Set off at 8am on the 780nm jaunt to the Cape Verdes, a day earlier than planned as there was some strong southerlies coming on Sunday and our strategy was to head West of the rhumb line (whilst keeping a reasonable distance off Africa) to skirt around these Southerlies and get far enough South so we wouldn’t be affected. Most of the rest of the fleet had pretty much the same idea, although a few of the boats were going nowhere as the effects of the flu that went through our fleet had completely incapacitated them. So they stayed in El Hierro or Las Palma to recuperate. I wasn’t so sure about staying in El Hierro in Southerlies as it looked pretty exposed to the South. Will be interesting to see how they faired. 

With our sails set our immediate challenge was trying to get a decent angle to clear the bottom of the island. Wing on wing for a while but the new Raymarine autopilot wasn’t handling it so after a bit of hand steering we gave up on that idea and jibed our way to the bottom of the island.

We used up our last bit of internet for 5 days and then headed off into the big wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. The wind turned to the East and we had a steady sail for most of the day at 5kts or so. Phil and I were still feeling the effects of the flu, so we took it fairly quietly, with no extravagant sail changes, sleeping off watch where we could.

The highlight of the day was a pod of spotted dolphins that hung around for ages.

 

SATURDAY

By now Phil and I were both starting to feel better and out came the fishing gear as we motor sailed along in light winds. We were keen to at least get an entry in for the fishing completion, and Dee pulled out her secret weapon, a rather innocuous looking blue plug with a sing large hook on the end of it.

And it worked. A glorious 12kg Dorado jumped on the secret weapon and Phil pulled it in and gaffed it onto the boat. We managed to loose some horrible gin we picked up in desperation in Turkey down its gills, before lassoing its tail. We just passed an enormous underwater mountain – maybe that had something to do with the fishing. It was all happening as we noticed some whales broaching in the distance.

That night we really enjoyed the BBQed fresh fish, before settling down on our 3 hourly night watches. Dee was doing the 11pm – 2am shift when the wind picked up and off went the motors. I had to get up and help Phil put in a reef around 3am when the wind picked up to 20kts. It was on a comfortable tight reach, we were just East enough to avoid the stronger southeries and the swell was not much to write home about (so I won’t).

We made some good miles under sail hitting 8s and 9s but it didn’t last past dawn (a rather late 8.15am in the morning) and we were back to motor sailing.

 SUNDAY

With no need to fish, it was a rather quite Sunday at the office. We left the reef in all day as it didn’t really matter whether it was in or out, no wind is no wind. We motored into the Tropic of Cancer – another first for me in the Northern Hemisphere (having previously sailed through the Tropic of Capricorn on Camelot). 

We were starting to get the rhythm of a long ocean passage. We occasionally spotted Oysterbar and Dolojaime in the distance and picked up the odd freighter on AIS but it was largely a big empty deep ocean. We kept track of the other boats through a once a day email from rally control detailing the GPS positions of all the other boats. I download weather on my Predict Wind Offshore app on my Apple Mac via my Iridium Go and this gives me weather routing via 4 different weather models, GMDSS weather forecast and satellite imagery. And occasionally I get an accurate forecast.

That night the wind picked up again and we touched 9s with the reef in and the wind blowing 15kts. Perfect sailing on a beam reach. Everyone enjoyed a great night time sail under a big full moon, until my early morning shift when once again the wind died and the motors came on.

MONDAY

About 11am we decided it was time to deploy Hotlips (our parasailor with the red lips) in light 8-9kts of wind, which was right up our bum. In 4-5kts of apparent wind we were doing 4-5kts of SOG. A couple more knots of wind would have been good but at least we weren’t burning diesel.

It was a slow day all around. We took the cautious approach of taking the Parasailor down as night fell, probably a mistake as La Mischief doesn’t go very well down wind in light winds with just a mailsail and a jib. We engaged the services of the iron sail to keep us on track for a daylight arrival on Wednesday, provided we got a couple of decent parasailor runs. 

TUESDAY

Sunrise was at 8.30am and the parasailor went up at 9am. It was downhill all the way to the finish line in Cape Verdes and with the wind picking up to 12kts, we were set to average 7kts with hotlips showing the way. Our plan was to get to within 140nm, 24 hours out before sunset and that gave us an easy run home provided we did better than 6kts.

And that’s what we did. I’m struggling to work out why I didn’t get a parasailor earlier. Would have made some of our earlier passages a lot more enjoyable.

5 days in, the days seem to pass easily. Kindle eBooks and movies are consumed, whilst Dee is busy doing her exercises. Spot Mr. Lazy! Its very therapeutic being away from the Internet ….. and Alcohol! With all that fresh food and fresh air too. It’s a veritable health farm on the water.

About 6pm we decided to quickly drop the parasailor to check the socks control lines that appeared to be twisted at the top. Back on deck it seemed to untwist itself, but just as we were about to re-hoist it, the starboard engine stopped as parasailor line fell into the water and wrapped around the prop. Nothing like a mid-ocean swim to untangle her. Its very blue underneath the back of the boat with the snorkel and mask on!

Crisis over, off we went again doing 7kts with only the parasailor up. This was our first night sail with Hotlips up and it went beautifully. You could see the stars through the parasail opening as we surfed down the swell that had built from nothing to maybe 1.5m.

WEDNESDAY

Its nice to wake up at 5am in the morning and see we have a manageable 80nm to go. The moon was still fairly full and the wind was so consistent, never wavering much from straight behind us at 12-15kts. Trade wind sailing.

We thought we’d have a go at filling up the freezer before we arrived given we will have 5 hungry mouths to feed. Phil ordered Wahoo – but all we got was a baby mahi mahi that we threw back 

As we neared the islands the wind picked up and as we entered the channel we had 20-25kts. We were zooming along at 9-10kts and getting to our final destination quickly. We had some problems getting the parasail down with all that wind but Phil and I managed to get it in the sock eventually. Dolojaime were not so fortunate – they managed to wrap theirs around the mast and had to cut it off. Ouch!!!!

With parasailor down, out came the fenders and mooring lines and we were soon docked ready for our first beer in over a week!

El Hierro

We took it easy on the sail down to El Hierro as Phil and I weren’t anywhere near 100%. The marina there was a pleasant surprise as the floating pontoons were all brand spanking new. There wasn’t much there though. A coffee shop and a ferry berth were about it.

We were following the weather fairly closely at this stage and we decided to leave a day early to avoid some southerly winds that were making an appearance in a few days time.

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That left time for the island tour, which was very interesting. El Hierro only has 7000 residents and they have built a rather interesting power plant using wind turbines and a couple of big dams that they use to produce hydro power when the wind doesn’t blow enough. When the wind is blowing too much they use the excess power to pump the water up into the high dam. The hydro component helps level out the power as well.

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We were lucky enough to see it all in action. Spain is really pushing wind power and is aiming for 100% renewable energy in the near future. They have managed to touch 70% so they are putting Australia to shame.

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After the power plant tour, we stopped of for morning tea at a restaurant designed by Cesar Manrique, a famous Spanish architect from the Canaries who has buildings on each of the islands.

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Then it was off into the mountains and saw some great scenery with some lovely pines. Plus of course a good lunch.

We visited the capital and got some groceries but the supermarkets are small and most of us had done our provisioning well before El Hierro.

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Then it was off to Cape Verdes – 780nm to the South.

 

 

 

The Pretty Island

Once again we had a good sail, just as soon as we’d cleared the top of La Gomera and the winds turned NE. We had an early start at 6am and made the 55nm by 4pm that afternoon. The marina at Santa Cruz has an awkward swell despite appearing to be very well protected. And with 20kts of wind we were thankful for the two engines on our Catamaran. Some of the monos had some issues – its times like this we love being catamaran people.

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The marina is right next to town and what a pretty town it is. The first order of business was the Welcome Party at the Yacht Club. As usual it was a great party and it was also good to catch up with the other Fleet, if only for a day.

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Next morning we went off in search of an English Breakfast, but couldn’t find one anywhere. So we ended up back on the boat eating our usual.

Santa Cruz de La Palma is breathtakingly picturesque. Beautiful architecture, streets and shops. The main drag is somewhat strangely called Calla O’Daly, after an Irish Banana Merchant. The waterfront promenade has got some wonderful examples of old Canarian houses, with balconies overflowing with flowers and an overhanging dunny from the days when the beachfront was close by for efficient sewerage disposal.

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Next day we took a 40 minute walk south to Los Cancajos, a small beachside resort with a great black beach – really clean with excellent snorkelling. Best beach I’ve been to in the Canaries with lots of sub-tropical fish.

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The tour that the rally put on for free was around NE of island. The highlight was the tropical rainforest with a stunning waterfall. This being the only permanent river on the islands.

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After the tour, we went over to Aura for Crispy’s farewell party. The whole of fleet two came along so it became a dock party. There was a few sore heads after that party.

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The sore heads were exacerbated by the spread of the Dusseldorf Bug. Thetis had made a trip back to Germany and brought a nasty bug back with them. Just about the whole fleet got it (except Dee). Some of the boats got it so bad they couldn’t sail for days. Phil was really sick for a couple of days and I got it pretty bad.

So for our last day, Dee did a bus trip around the island, whilst we rested trying to get rid of the bug, whilst completing our job list before heading south.

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Then it was time to set sail to El Hierro.

Whistling Jack

The marina at La Gomera is backed by dramatic cliffs on one side and the laid back town of San Sebastian on the other. There was a cruise ship in town so the town was buzzing with street markets and German tourists.

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We wandered around with Anya, checking out a few of the cutesy shops and impressive churches as well as the old fort dating back to just before Columbus visited in 1492. We found the house that Columbus stayed at – well a later version built in the 1700’s that was supposedly in the same spot. The well he took water from was closed for renovations, which was a bummer. The town has a couple of nice black sand beaches, which we checked out as well.

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Then it was time to drop Anya at her ferry as she needed to get back to Tenerife. It was a petty that she couldn’t come to Cape Verdes as we had a fantastic time with her.

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Goodbyes said, it was time for a bit of exploring. We climbed up to the top of the cliffs where there was a nice hotel built from an old Parador with fantastic views down to the town and along the coast. We walked down to another look out and got some more great pictures of the marina and the town.

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Next day we were up early for the tour that the rally organized. It too was included in our rally fees – the rally is such good value for money.

The tour guide was a pommy lady who had gone to La Gomera on a gap year in the seventies and had just stayed. She was a wealth of information. We drove up through the mountains, over steep ravines and through mountain tunnels to the NE. We passed through Aloe Vera and banana plantations, small towns and back down along the coast, before heading up to the top of a cliff where we stopped at a beautiful restaurant. We ordered coffee and cake and then checked out the glass lookout inside the restaurant, where you walked out over the cliff and looked down through the glass floor at the sea far below.

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After the restaurant staff had finished making us all the coffees, we were treated to a real highlight of our whole year. In La Gamera they have a whistling language, which goes back to the days of the shepherds on either side of the steep ravines, where they used whistling to communicate in Spanish. Nowadays it is talk in schools and you hear the locals “talking” in it around the island.

Whistling Language from Steve Tull on Vimeo.

The waiters started by showing us a few phases and them for a bit of a party trick, a few of us hid items around the room whilst one of them went out the back. Then he came back in the room and the other waiter whistled directions of where each item was hidden and which one of us to return it to. We were very impressed.

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After this impressive party trick, we continued our journey into the mountains and up into the ancient rain forest, the last remnants of a gigantic rain forest that covered Europe a long, long time ago. We donned our jackets and had a nice hike around the visitors centre. Then it was back in the bus for another interesting drive back down to the coast to San Sebastian, where we spent the afternoon shopping and swimming at the town beach.

14556513_10206702258388009_2338417015279865307_oNext morning it was up early for a sail to La Palma for a brief rendezvous with Fleet 1.

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Each New Island Seems to Get a Bit Better

We were really looking forward to our ten-day stop in Tenerife. Ten days to wind down and relax in the Canaries. After a great reach across from Gran Canaria we got our berths and settled down in Santa Cruz Marina, which is really well situated in the centre of town. That afternoon we relaxed on board and started the winding down process.
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The next day was spent relaxing and wandering around the city of Santa Cruz by foot. Santa Cruz is a lovely laid back city, backed by picturesque mountains. It’s a city of one or so million, the capital of the island of Tenerife, which has 2 or so million people. I like cities like Santa Cruz, big enough to be able to get everything but small enough to get across town by car in 10 minutes (20 minutes by bike).
We got a good taste of Santa Cruz on Tuesday as the Rally gave us free City Tour tickets on one of those hop on, hop off, red open top double-decker buses. We travelled up and down its beautiful wide boulevards, past interesting parks and typical Spanish outdoor sculptures and a very interesting entertainment centre that bore some similarities to the iconic Sydney Opera House.
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Then it was time to hop on our bikes and head out to the beach. Las Teresitas is an amazing looking beach, quite long and made up of imported Saharan sand. It took us about 30 minutes to ride there against a strong breeze which made the beach a sand blasting zone – even the beach bars were suffering. . Still the water was nice and I had a refreshing swim.
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We had to rush back to meet Anya who was crewing for us down to Cape Verdes. We first ran across Anya in Croatia and we promised to cross paths again when we made it to Tenerife as that is where she lives. Dee and her hit it off, alternating between Spanish and English even though Anya’s English is pretty good.
That night we all went off on another rally freebee to the Theatre to listen to a young Canarian orchestra play the music of some American Movies. I’ve never heard so much clapping in my life. It was okay but nothing to really write home about.
14449720_10206652526464742_7076528110085078716_nThe Rally had a pretty good programme of activities going on. On Thursday, we headed off to see El Tiede, the not so extinct volcano that towers above the clouds, 3718m above sea level, making it the highest mountain in Spain. Measured from its base on the ocean floor it is 7500m, making it the 3rd largest volcano in the world after a couple in Hawaii. We didn’t take the cable car right to the top but instead walked around the surrounding lunar like landscape, which made for some great photos.
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14517515_10206652529104808_5565524966829450585_nBack  from the tour, we took a break before hopping on the Tram with Kim, Simoon and Chrispy to La Languna, 1000m up behind Santa Cruz. La Laguna is a beautiful old town, having been declared a World Heritage Site in 1999. Theres some great walking streets with lots of old villas and houses. 14502866_10206652531024856_8315948856831832848_nLa Laguna has often been called the “Florence of the Canary Islands”, because of its large number of churches and convents, as well as its old town and historic buildings. After confirming this title by walking around, we suddenly got hungry and headed off to find some food. We first tried out one of those restaurants with hams hanging from every available ceiling space, before Anya messaged and said to check out Doctor Olivera (La Laguna is where Anya lives and studies). So off we went and had some great Tapas and great Tempranillo.
Next day was a boat job day before we headed up to the yacht club for our Welcome Party. It started off pretty formally with each yacht receiving a plaque before we got fed and watered with a great spread. As Jimmy said, it’s very rare to see food left over at a yachties function but that is what happened….there was just so much good food.
Then it was back to La Mischief for drinks and dancing. I remember thinking about 12.30am that I needed to go to bed as we were getting up at 5am to watch the AFL Grand Final. Phil and Chrispy skipped the going to bed part completely and managed to create some havoc around town in the wee small hours.
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Simon and I joined them at the anointed hour and headed off to the local library of all places. Chrispy had sussed it out earlier and we sat outside, signed up for WatchAFL and settled in to watch a great game. It was okay for a while until the library started to stir with people around 7am. Phil was being “Particularly Loud Phil” so security arrived and told us to stop drinking and to be quiet. After all it is a library! Phil was having trouble locating his volume button despite Simon and I continuing to suggest he hit the mute button. Anyway somehow we managed to nearly see the end of the game before we hd to move around the corner to watch the end of an epic match. Go the Doggies.
14502797_10206694528194759_541880669100974758_n Back at the boat, we met a well rested Dee and headed off with Anya in her car to see her take on her island. It turned out to be a brilliant day, visiting beautiful see side towns, great beaches with great beach bars, old towns up in the hills and Playa de Americas, which is a famous seaside resort on steroids, albeit a little too full of package holiday tourists for my liking.
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14516327_10206671437137497_3895972398064570183_nWe ended the day in Peurto Cruz, which was a gem of a place. Lovely seaside town, with a water park out the front, nice little walking streets full of hundreds of restaurants, with plenty of music and colour. We ate some beautiful tapas at a great outdoor restaurant and wandered the streets afterwards. Anya needed to get home for dinner at 10ish so we drove the half an hour back to Santa Cruz and said our thankyou’s. I slept very well that night!
 
Sunday saw us rent our own car and head to the North of the Island. Several people, including Anya, had recommended this part of Tenerife to us and it turned out to be a good recommendation. We drove up some winding roads into the mountains and down the other side to some beautiful beaches. We stopped at Benijo to eat Tapas on a cliff top overlooking one of these beaches before heading back into the mountains to drive through dense rain forest – quite a spectacular drive. We ended up on the NW coast and had a swim in one of the pools next to the natural rock pools, before finally ending up once more in Peurto Cruz for a great wander around and some nice seafood.
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Monday was shopping. Tenerife was the last decent shopping before Barbados in 2 months time, so we attempted to clean out both Carrefour’s and Lidl’s. We did a pretty good job of buying for 5 people across the Atlantic as well as our time to Cape Verdes and in Cape Verdes. We did an even better job of storing it all on the boat. We also went printer ink shopping as the Ink Cartridge we bought in Gran Canaria didn’t work in the printer we bought in Turkey. And now we know there is nothing we can do about it unless we get one from Turkey. So reluctantly we bought a new printer. Nothing else we could do.
That night we had some drinks in Maisee, one of the yachts who started the rally by sailing under the Tower Bridge in London – cool. Then it was off to bed for an early start to La Gomera at 6am in the morning.

Las Palmas to a T

We got our spot and picked up our laid lines between Takamoana and Maryna 2 right in the middle of the T on T jetty. It was good to have all the rally boats on the one jetty.

First on the Agenda was the second Autopilot and Rolnautic were soon on the boat mapping things out. With that in play we checked out the marina stores and started on completing our boat shopping list. Given the ARC starts from this marina, the chanderlies were well stocked and we managed to find most things. The marina is huge and it needs to be as there are 300 boats booked on the ARC this year, with another 200 or so following in their footsteps soon afterwards.

I’m so glad we are in this rally and not the ARC. The B50 rally is much more personable and undoubtedly a lot less officious. We are getting around and meeting everyone and really enjoying our first rally experience. And best of all we get to see all the different Canary Islands as part of the rally, rather than just Gran Canaria.

Despite being a little tired for an overnighter, we managed to head into town and find Vodaphone and a Nespresso milk frother to replace our failed unit. Finally a win on the cappuccino front. Then we found the beautiful boardwalk across the narrow peninsular and had a seafood dinner overlooking a surf beach.
Next day (Friday) it was back onto the Autopilot install. It took pretty much the whole day, with a manual switch that goes between the old L&S autopilot in the port engine room and the new Raymarine autopilot in the starboard engine room. Total redundancy with the flick of a switch. No more hand steering for us!

Saturday was our lets play a tourist day. We picked up our hire car from Dollar ‘Rent a Gutless Wonder”, whilst most of the other rallyers took an organized bus tour. We went to the North coast to start with – a specular drive, before finishing up at Arucas with its great lookout on top of a disused volcano and a cute old town with a mini version of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia neo-gothic church.


Then we took the freeway to the south coast for a lesson in how not to do tourism with wall to wall hotels and villas. We gave up getting to the beach and the sand dunes due to a lack of parking and instead headed for the hills. 

The interior of Gran Canaria is simply spectacular. We kept pulling over to photograph the views before heading into a quaint little town for lunch on a patio with a superb view down the gorge behind. With Rabbit, Goat and Tapas washed down by beer and wine in our overly full stomachs, we drove upwards and upwards to the highest point in Gran Canaria, where we parked and hiked up to Roque Nublo (1800m above sea level), a very, very impressive monolith, jutting up 80m out of the surrounding volcanic landscape. It took us about an hour up and back, with quite a bit of loitering taking in the view and taking photos but it was undoubtedly the highlight of the island. Up the top, you could look across and see the top of Tenerife, floating on top of a bank of clouds. Surreal and impressive.

We continued our gorgeous windy mountain drive towards Tejeda, stopping occasionally to get yet another view of Roque Nublo. We passed a whole heap of rally cars who were transiting between sections of their rally race but who seemed to think they owned the whole road. Tejeda was yet another cute mountain town but it was getting late so we only stopped for photos before heading back to the old town in Las Palmas.

We got to the old town just after 7 and had a nice wander around the old streets. It was a little early and there weren’t many people around but we still managed to bump into Ken and Jenny from S/V Lady Rebel to share some wine and tapas at a local establishment. It was interesting to see a whole wedding party in their finest walk over to the outside TV screen after the local Canaries football team scored a goal against Barcelona. And then it was time to return the car as we had an 8am start the next morning.

The sail across to Tenerife was in three parts. Leaving Las Palmas, we had to beat our way north through a large swell before turning the corner and heading straight to Santa Cruz on a nice beam reach. Well, it would have been nice if the wind hadn’t died off at the top of Gran Canaria. But once we entered the channel between the islands we took off in 15-20kts of wind doing 7-8kts of boat speed.

Tenerife Traffic Control had kittens when he saw 30 yachts crossing his traffic separation zone and called up to find out what was going on so he could put out a navigation warning. Geoff took the call and carefully spelt out Barbados 50 to our man. Its always interesting being in a rally.

With a fast passage over, we entered Santa Cruz harbour and motored up to the end where the marina was located, pulling in stern to with all the other rally boats. We soon had the United Nations onboard enjoying a few drinks and discussing what a great sail we had across. Rob from BnG, whose a delivery skipper with a very impressive 200T certification was as always handing out invaluable advice in amongst all the banter. We are turning into total rally fans. Hope we can handle the pace over the next couple of months.

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.