Bruno and Nathalie (Nathalie Chateau and Bruno Fabre) dreamed of crossing the Atlantic on their boat and their dream became a reality - they nevertheless set out on their Salina 48 in order to practice the spirit of the sea and yachting, and acquire the necessary skills and knowledge!
A guide to crossing the Atlantic for dummies
And now we have already taken the first step - we left! No, not as passengers - it's boring ... We decided to drive the yacht ourselves. But how? Where to begin? There are only two of us - green, novice beginners.
And then a flurry of doubts overtook us: can we cross the Atlantic relying only on luck? Will we be able to easily handle a sailing ship? What should we take with us? When will we finally be ready to deal with typical, but still unfamiliar situations for us on a yacht and at sea? - I think that without overcoming obstacles we will not be able to acquire knowledge of yacht management and fully enjoy the transition.
Most couples who want to make the transition, with or without children, ask themselves, sooner or later, all these questions. Especially because very often amateur sailing from the very beginning was accompanied by a feeling of beauty, the embodiment of your dream, and then knowledge, experience of transitions, etc.
And then, relying on our common sense and intuition, ready to make all the mistakes that are possible, to try to force the yacht to move in the direction we need - we did not despair, but went towards the wind and our dream.
Of course, we didn’t set any records, but we did It and it was really a success!
The skipper on board was me, Natalie, just because, unlike my spouse Bruno, I had the experience of managing my first yacht - Optimist, when I was a child and during my summer practice I went on different yachts, as well as windsurfing, which became one of my favorite pastimes on weekends when the Mistral blew. Plus several regattas in cruisers or mini, as a member of the team. Plus two weeks as an assistant skipper on the Sun Kiss 47 with his family along the coast of East India.
As for Bruno, his entire sailing experience was acquired in just one adventure, which was the defining factor in what we do today: we cruised for three months between the Grenadines and Venezuela in 2001, aboard the charter Tobago 35. And I can to say for sure that yachting is addictive! Now everything in my head has turned upside down and, probably, has finally fallen into place ...
Yachting is, apparently, some kind of incurable disease, which you get infected from the very first careless time.
This first experience of the "big adventure" allowed us to get to know the sea, to feel it. And the world has since become much larger. Tiny islands, which look like dots on the map, and some are not at all, except that they are marked on the sea, turn out to be large. And you discover something new in yourself, your friends. And cities look different from the water. In general, being in a state of nagging sadness that the cruise, alas, ended, we bent over the map with enthusiasm, in anticipation of future victories. And in my head there is only one phrase: "We can cross the Atlantic in our own boat!"
The third participant in our adventure was a boat. And if you take into account all the refrains we heard on the boat show: “Choosing a boat means accepting all the compromises”, “Searching for the impossible” or “the boat owner has two happy days in his life: the day he buys and the day he sells the boat,” now you will agree with me how difficult it is to choose your boat.
When choosing a yacht, we were faced with the question, which is better - to sail or is it easier to turn on the engine? And we came to the conclusion that a sailing yacht is a quiet and environmentally friendly means of transportation on water.
The roll is more easily carried on a sailing vessel. And to avoid downtime on the water in calm weather or for better maneuvering, you can turn on the auxiliary engine.
Of course, our memories of the most amazing vacation in our life - vacation on the Tobago 35 catamaran played a significant role in choosing a boat. And we opted for a catamaran!
After long meetings, studying yacht magazines and websites, visits to the shipyard, we chose Salina 48 by Fountaine Pajot.
The most advanced technologies were used in its creation. In our opinion, this is a model in the European configuration, which implies the presence of various electronics on board and a convenient layout of the cabins. It has simplicity, comfort, independence and safety.
Education and training
Maybe for some it will seem an exaggeration, but predicting every surprise, foreseeing every little thing, developing a detailed program is as difficult as crossing the Atlantic... It is not so difficult to get any specific information, it is important to see the situation as a whole. In particular, this applies to thousands of aspects of life on board during a long ocean cruise. Several specialized courses are devoted to large sailing trips, in which yachting skills, port formalities, insurance, repairs, storming, etc. are developed.
It should be noted that none of us have seen the open ocean before... Bruno had no idea what the wave was and what the currents in the open ocean were. All this complicated the experiment, increased the risk, but after all, among the victims of shipwrecks, the majority did not at all have a serious idea of the sea, sails, etc. It was necessary to foresee in advance all the factors that could have an adverse effect on the course of the trip.
That's why, we took only one course, which was very necessaryto really understand the seriousness of the subject and the responsibility for our life and for the yacht - this is a course that primarily addresses safety aspects, including fighting fire and crossing in fog.
Sections of the program: yacht and crew training, yacht rescue equipment, equipment inspection, rigging and mast inspection, course plotting, logging, man overboard rescue, ship boarding, safe deck practices. Of particular note is the “what if” section, eg broken steering, lost mast, towing.
We strongly recommend that you take this course, as the saying goes, "he who is forewarned is armed." Modern romance is, first of all, a good organization of business and a responsibility that lies with us and only with us.
With regard to mechanics and electricity: we managed to make do with our own experience gained in our past lives and, above all, the availability of a good library (documents, instructions for all our equipment). Looking ahead, we can say that catamarans Fountaine Pajot thoughtful enough and maintainable. Of course, all this time we were surrounded by a hail of instructions and advice (to be careful, attentive, etc.) Of course, all friends have their own opinion about everything, which is obviously the most correct, especially when they have not yet met such cases. There is a good saying - "Two sailors, three opinions ...."
From the medical side, first aid skills and the presence of a good first aid kit on board, complete with my uncle, a doctor, on his recommendation, we acquired Dr. Chauv's books (books written for people like us ...), and what is important, we have the ability to communicate by phone with my uncle or with the Toulouse-based French Medical Service (SAMU), which specializes in remote support at sea in emergencies. However, do not forget that medical research takes a long time ... so there must be a good reason to connect with SAMU!
Finally, do not rely on the "standard procedure of familiarization at the shipyard" with the catamaran, or an excursion from the ex-ownerto learn in a few hours everything you need to know about motors, electronics, sails and the many options you would like to use because "it's hard to find a pin in a haystack" and the wire that should be blue will of course turn out to be green ...
Theory is good when it is backed up by practice! Therefore, do not rely solely on studying the documentation. The last technical inspection before sailing, which is of particular importance to check everything for serviceability (from shower pump to bilge pump, engine oil change, reefs (all 3!), All electronics and communications / weather information, electric windlass, generator , watermaker, lights, oven, chargers, computer and programs that you must install and check before you sail, all other equipment ... everything you need to live on board).
We recommend that you solve all existing problems ashore, because a consultation at sea will be problematic (due to geographic conditions, the connection may be interrupted), paying bills for a satellite phone is expensive and besides, you will not be able to purchase the spare part you need in the ocean?
We never took the course at the Glenans sailing school and therefore for more confidence and safety, because we decided to leave the Mediterranean in March (during the strong Mistral!), we hired an experienced skipper, with whom we already went to sea and taught us.
It is already difficult, in itself, to be a team plus a third person on board your boat, but you cannot do without him, because only the skipper knows how to sail and does not necessarily have the same tastes as you (however, almost all the time the skipper spends on the bridge, he is in love with the wind, with the sails, he does not leave the deck: he does not go to wash, sleep in the cabin until all issues are resolved) And it costs a lot: minimum stress, since the person in charge on board is a professional, training practice , with a lot of small "tips" and basic rules, the ability to sail in a 40-knot wind, as well as learning to practice how to use a gennaker.
By testing the boat before sailing, we gained peace of mind and confidence that our journey will go without risk!
Another rule that we adhere to as soon as we started walking on our own is "Do not try to run right away, first try to walk"...
Reducing windage regularly before dusk, using a staysail without a mainsail, including the engine for maneuvering (remembering to keep an eye on the fishing nets ...) - all this allows you to take care of the boat and the crew, which, on a long passage, may be useful, or even necessary.
The thirst for something heroic often pushes one to extravagance. And we found a genre where there is a place for a peaceful feat - for us it is sailing across the Atlantic! And nothing beats this freedom, where all movements are calculated and ordered, the discipline is the strictest, and little is predictable, and every moment there is a place for impromptu.
On board, just like in the army: it is strongly recommended to discuss each maneuver in advance, to avoid decisions that could lead to a difficult situation, especially in a boat of this size - and only this way and not otherwise - the guarantee of the success of the entire transition depends on it. ... and also, it is important to remember that nets that come across, a jib, a dock that approaches too quickly are situations that cannot be remedied.
The companions, who are on land a noisy and swearing camp, on the yacht instantly turn into a well-trained hard-working crew. Women get women's feelings of fear and delight, men, men's calm rage of heroes performing a feat. All this is the education of character and the drill of the intellect. Don't be afraid! Pleasure will be much greater than all the oddities and inconveniences.
The first step is usually the most difficult. But we did it! There is nothing left. The open spaces of the sea are waiting for us. We left our professional skipper in the Canary Islands, the weather conditions were undeniably favorable, all that was left was provisions, and ... Go!
One visit to the supermarket and our monthly budget is gone. And then our appetite immediately somehow diminished, of course, we were not exactly sure about Bruno's ability as a fisherman, so we still had to supply the boat with everything edible. We loaded as many fruits and vegetables as fit in the refrigerator, plus a few of our favorite semi-finished products, rice and pasta for 6 months, sweets and biscuits of all kinds, a whole forepeak, various drinks (about 3 liters per person per day plus 45 liters mineral water).
Before sailing we arranged our last visit to a good restaurant, made quick calls to all our loved ones to assure them that we will be all right. And let's go! 3rd June 2008 at 8 am on La Gomera: we set sail on our catamaran to our final destination 2700 miles.
We smoothly entered the rhythm of the trance. The correct number of sails, (or even slightly less) for these conditions, for the night we launched the gennaker and took the reefs on the mainsail. Those. we tried not to overload the boat with sails until we were fully involved in the rhythm of the ocean. We find the correct trim-cut, the correct position of the sails, which does not wear out the boat and our crew, according to the "belly" of the sails and the wind.
All of our previous workouts helped us find the best asymmetric spinnaker setups, which we learned to do in one hand (and said goodbye to the mainsail, with its constant risk of untimely tack change).
Of course, Atlantic is not a sanatorium for you, and we immediately had to literally plunge into a real ocean wave. But, as not very smoothly, but we correctly formulated upon arrival that it is in such conditions that a person can return to his real self.
Effective and light winds from 10 to 20 knots that do not require much involvement, but mobilizes you from the inside. It is necessary to constantly monitor the increase in wind strength and yet it is a pleasure!
The ability to combine a passion for sailing and work is truly happiness. Here, in the sea, you realize that the Earth is knocking out from under your feet, the sedentary boredom of five-star hotels and the bustle of cruise anthills-liners are excluded, no routine of beaten routes, the yacht is your home, your companion. I want to roam the sea, I want to choose a course myself, I want the sea to be near, I want to dive into it whenever I want!
Every 2-3 days, we picked up weather information on the radio to determine the route and the changing anticyclone that moves from south to north. Checked, just in case, if we received a warning message from the chart plotter. We marked our location on a paper map every 12 hours, thanks to this we at least saw how slowly but surely we moved in this huge ocean ... Now, when mechanisms reign everywhere, only a yacht can give a feeling of unity with the sea. No wonder the salty wind is a favorite image of romantics. But here he is far from an image, but a reality: March on the Adriatic is not a season ... for rest. Work awaits us ...
For pep and well-being, we took a shower every day and used salt and sun protection - this is a must. We also paid special attention to nutrition. We changed clothes often - this gave us a feeling of freshness and cleanliness, but in the ever-changing conditions, we sometimes forgot about these basic principles on which the success of our event depended.
Boat handling at night is another critical issue! How to schedule the watch, provided that there are only two of us? How can we steer the boat and not drain our strength? How do we maneuver?
We found a very good compromise, which allowed us to adjust the correct time for the watch (to be convenient for each of us, the first watch was from 22.00 to 01.00, the second from 01.00 to 06.00 and the third from 06.00 to 09.00). And all this is approximately - it depends on how you feel, if you are not tired and feel vigorous enough, then you can stay on watch longer and vice versa. It is also important when you can trust the watchman. And plus a few siesta if necessary.
Radar is our irreplaceable vigilant "helper" installed with a circuit breaker - every 20 minutes and an alarm for approaching 15 miles from all boats approaching us (on average, half of the boats per day).
We slept by the hour, but if necessary, the watchman could take a nap in the salon on the sofa, so that if something happened, he could quickly react to the situation.
We have accumulated a week of fatigue, we want to sleep, but we drink every day to the end, enjoying every drop of it, so that later we can tell ourselves - I did not steal this day from myself.
For safety, we have strictly adhered to an unwritten rule - the presence of a WaveFinder beacon in your pocket or attached to the belt for the whole night, no amateur performance (the whole team made decisions on maneuvering, especially on the forvator), life jackets and a seat belt were fastened to the rails, regardless of weather conditions (otherwise, fixing any problems that arise at dawn). And the last point on safety is the availability of free space on board, especially in the saloon and in the cockpit, in which we have placed a box with all emergency equipment - for repairing a leak or a breakdown on board.
Signal flares and everything needed for evacuation we placed in a visible, accessible place: life jackets, a waterproof and floating first aid bag, etc. We also agreed between ourselves that we always tell each other where we are and what we are going to do if we are not in each other's field of vision.
Once all these measures were taken, it was finally time! start the crossing of the Atlantic itself: a measured life on a yacht is a completely new sensation from rest in an atmosphere of complete relaxation!
Here fishing is a whole adventure (with the sound of spinning "zzhzhzhzhzhzhzhzh" you need to immediately slow down, but I can't, because we are under a spinnaker) and the first experience of making bread (excellent, what is the smell and taste of salty butter that melts on a still-warm crust), there is time and reading, some essential repairs (water pump that broke, leak in the watermaker, temporary repair of a spinnaker that unwound too quickly), stargazing, photos, video to remember with our new friends, with daily incidents, but best of all - this is swimming at a depth of 5000 m (at a slow pace, tied with a cable to the boat), dreams ... .. Enjoy life!
I think that an irresistible desire to fulfill your dream can compensate for experience and technical dexterity, you boldly go “where the sea meets the sky”, enjoy and everything will work out for you. Do not hesitate, plunge headlong into the biggest journey of your life!
More common sense, mutual understanding in the team and cohesive ability in solutions allowed us to solve almost all the problems that we had.
A strong desire, preparation and vigilance in terms of safety allowed the inexperienced team to fully enjoy the transition, avoiding panic in difficult situations. As for the budget for the boat, you must first of all decide for what purpose you need it, especially since it may become your new home in the transition.
We are still Newbies, but what a joy it is to make your dream come true. And now we can move on to the next stage of our journey ... anchoring and where is our guide for dummies !? But it will be tomorrow. In the meantime, I remember how the setting sun drowned in the sea. The sea monsters have calmed down. Quiet ... And we fall asleep happy!
PS What happened next? Initially, Bruno and Natalie planned a transatlantic voyage in the Caribbean and return to Europe. But when they crossed the Atlantic and spent time in the Caribbean, the decision changed and they went around the world! And then there was another catmaran and another round the world!
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