Welcome to Chris and Karen’s sailing blog. We completed the ARC+ 2022 and have started the World ARC 2023. Our boat, Mistral of Portsmouth, is a 2001 Oyster 56.
The first 12 boats in the World ARC 2023 transited the Panama Canal on 29 & 30 January 2023. We were divided into four “nests” of three boats each, with Mistral as the starboard boat of Nest 1. After collecting our Panama Canal advisor next to Shelter Bay Marina, we motored down to Gatun Lock which we cleared through in the dark. Next we continued on to Gatun Lake where we moored up for the night.
The next day was a long motor through Gatun Lake to the Pedro Miguel Lock and the Miraflores Lock. Unfortunately our advisors were unable to prevent Nest 1 from colliding with the lock wall as we exited Miraflores – the stanchions are being repaired as I type.
Passing under the Bridge of the Americas marks the transition from the Atlantic to the Pacific – we’ve now sailed our boat from France to the Pacific Ocean!
Timelapse video of Mistral retuning to the water from the hard in Shelter Bay, Panama.
We’ve now hauled the boat out for cleaning, anti fouling and polishing ready for the inspection in Galapagos. If the boat isn’t cleared in, you are sent 40 miles away and charged $1500 for cleaning.
We visited the Panama Canal this morning and watched a large gas transporter entering the locks. Amazing to see and also amazing that we start our transit on Sunday!
A few relaxing days in Santa Marta. Apart from straightening a stanchion, there has been very little work to do on the boat, apart from routine maintenance and cleaning. Karen, Tim & Jane took a one-day tour to the hills and coffee factory (see Karen’s site for more). We had a couple of meals in town in the evening and sundowner cocktails in the marina. The highlight was Chris’s chilli on the boat 😉
So we’ve finally set off on the grand adventure. For this leg and and the next we have Tim & Jane aboard to help.
The race start went well. Without trying too hard (too risky to challenge hard when you’re in your home!) we were third over the line, but boats 1 & 2 were judged to be over the line at the start so we were officially the first boat across.
After an hour or so, as the boats started to spread out, we took some time to rig the pole and set the sails for the 800 nm of downwind port tack sailing ahead. With that done, we were able to pretty much stay on the rhumb line (direct) for Santa Marta. We did have to gybe to starboard a couple of times but we simply furled the main and sailed on just the genoa until we could gybe back and put the main out again.
The only fly in the ointment was that Jane was poorly for most of the passage. A cold turned chesty then coughy then ear-achey. We called our medical support service and they recommended antibiotics, which we have onboard. She’s now on the mend.
Overall it was a very pleasant passage. No big seas, no bad squalls, winds below 25 kt most of the time, and we had success fishing!
The first fish that took the hook took the whole line and lure as well. Rerigged, the next one just took the lure. Third time lucky – a Mahi Mahi took the bait and Tim and Karen reeled it in. The fish was a beautiful yellow-green colour and it’s now in the freezer ready for our next meal onboard.
We are now in Santa Marta, Colombia, and can’t quite believe we’ve sailed our boat from France to South America! It just doesn’t seem real.
Next are a few days’ R&R and boat maintenance, then World ARC 2023 Leg 2: Santa Marta to the San Blas Islands.
Here’s how we got to Rodney Bay, St Lucia, from Spain, in 2022. We leave on Saturday 7 January on the World ARC 2023. You can see our position (updated every 4 hours) at the YB website.
After a couple of weeks fixing things and winding down after the Atlantic crossing, we left Grenada and started to make our way north towards St Lucia.
Our first stop was Tyrell Bay, on the island of Carriacou, followed by Clifton Bay on Union Island.
Once we’d negotiated the reefs and found a mooring buoy, we went ashore to “clear in” which is sailing-speak for Customs & Immigration. A local recommended a sunset cocktail on a tiny island (20 metres across!) in the bay so off we went. Wonderful!
From there we anchored in Saline Bay, Mayreau Island, Charlestown Bay, Canouan, then past Mustique and Bequia to St Vincent. We were cautious about St Vincent as there are many online reports of burglaries, but we stumbled upon Keartons Bay, just south of Wallilabou Bay. We were helped to a mooring buoy (only room for four or five boats) and ashore we met Rosie and Orlando who made us welcome and cooked a wonderful meal at their Rockside Café. We were the only guests!
We arrived in Rodney Bay Marina on the 22nd of December, but decided to take a break from the boat over Christmas and checked into the local Hilton for three nights. It was weird spending Christmas Day by the swimming pool…
Then it was back to work and a short trip to Martinique to get the backstay tensioner repaired and serviced. There must be 3-4,000 boats in Le Marin Bay, certainly the centre of yachting in the Caribbean. And because it’s really France, we hired a car and did massive shopping at Carrefour and Decathlon!
Finally, I’ve googled the national flags of the countries we’ll be visiting in 2023 and prepared their courtesy flags. Happy New Year!
2180nm in two weeks. By the time we got to Grenada we were ready for a break.
The first two or three days were the worst – the genoa furler packed up so we had to drop it into the forecabin. The furler needs to work in case you need to furl the sail in a hurry, for example if a squall hits unexpectedly or man overboard. The genoa is the “power sail” so our speed reduced from 7.5 to 6.5 knots – a shame since we’d had a good start and were sitting around 20th out of 88 at that stage.
The next day we flew the Super Zero, but after an hour or so the tack line cut through the bowsprit so we had to try to take it down. It got horribly caught around the forestay and – long story short – Karen went up the mast and cut the sail away. It was dark by the time she was back on the deck, and her arms and legs were black and blue with bruises. Very brave.
The rest of the trip we sailed using only the mainsail and the jib (staysail), so the passage took two days longer than planned. Laura and Karen prepared some wonderful meals – we ate very well – and under Martin’s guidance, landed a wahoo which we cooked and ate the following evening.
We are now resting and repairing the boat ready for the next part of the journey. We will make our way to St Lucia for Christmas and the start of the World ARC on 7 January.
Much more on this passage on Karen’s blog.
We completed the ARC+ Leg 1 in five days and eleven hours. With all the handicaps applied our final position was 22nd out of the 92 boats, and fifth in our division of nineteen – a great result!
After very calm winds at the start, the weather was perfect for the passage – 15-20 knots of wind generally from behind. We poled out the genoa, put a preventer on the main, and let her fly. Even the swell wasn’t too bad.
We’ve now had a few days in Cape Verde. There were surprisingly few snags on the boat so we’ve done some tourism, driving around the island of St Vicente and yesterday visiting the neighbouring island of Santo Antào. Spectacular scenery!
On Friday we start leg 2 – 2000nm to Grenada – wish us luck!