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Möbius crosses the Atlantic!
Looking for that Caribbean sun
Okay, I am getting a little ahead of myself. Yes, I am writing this aboard Möbius and we are anchored in a little bay called Bouillant off the western side of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. But when I last wrote you all, we were still in Tangier, Morocco, so let me back up to there and tell you how we got to the Caribbean.
In the end, we spent three full weeks at the Tanja Marina Bay waiting for good weather to make the 675 mile passage down to Las Palmas on Gran Canaria island. You can see in the sunset shot below how we were the boat closest to the walkway on the left and there were several restaurants on the upper floor of buildings there.
In the evenings, the people of Tangier loved to stroll along that walkway and they often took selfies with our boat in the background. One evening as I was cooking dinner, several men on the dock started shouting and whistling and pointing at the water. I went out and looked and there was our dog Ruby swimming frantically. Ruby is able to climb the companionway stairs and go out on deck on her own. I will never figure out how she fell overboard for the first time in her 15 years of sailing, but I was so thankful those guys saved her. She is deaf, but she saw me, and when I ran aft to the swim step, she followed, and I was able to haul her back aboard and hand her to Wayne who hurried her inside to a hot, fresh water shower. That was probably the most heart-thumping moment of our stay in Morocco.
But the city of Tangier was certainly great for photos. On my bike, I visited so many cool sites like the Railroad station below where they have a Starbucks (my guilty pleasure).
And below is the 90+ year old Gran Cafe de Paris, once a hang-out for beat generation artists and writers like Tennessee Williams and William Burroughs, and known to the current generation for a mad motorcycle chase scene through Tangier from the 2007 Bourne Ultimatum movie starring Matt Damon.
But the most scenic place of all is the Medina. I loved to walk through the narrow streets and explore it from the heights down to the sea. Here is a gallery of photos from the Medina, the city streets, and down to the camels on the beach.
Friends asked us if we had been enjoying the great Moroccan food, and the fact was we were having trouble finding it. We tried several restaurants, and the food Tangene and Couscous was not that good. Perhaps it was because it was the city and too touristy. In the end, our last night there, we ended up in one of the marina restaurants and while it wasn’t Moroccan food, Wayne certainly enjoyed it.
Finally, the morning of Dec. 20th, we motored over to the Customs dock and officially cleared out of Morocco to head for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. For the most part, it was an easy powerboater’s passage with light winds and little swell. We felt sorry for the sailboats that left at the same time. We passed one boat en route and he was trying to tack in the light air, meaning he was headed west. That’s one good thing about motoring, you get to go in a straight line.
We arrived in Las Palmas on Christmas Eve, and we thought that we might have to go to the anchorage next to marina because it is such a busy time of year for boats crossing the Atlantic.
However, they gave us a great slip that was a side tie on the long dock that was part of the fuel dock. In that marina full of sailboats, we attracted many stares.
The night of the 26th a big storm rolled through with winds that we were later told the Search and Rescue boat clocked at 44 knots. Many of the boats out in the anchorage dragged or their crews decided to come inside the marina to get out of the huge wind waves, and they began rafting up ahead of us at the fuel dock. By morning it looked like this out our front windows. Five boats ahead of us, two on the other side of our dock and one even ended up side tied to us. Any port in a storm!
With the winds being too spicy for our taste, we were in no hurry to leave, so we relaxed and enjoyed the Canary Islands which are part of Spain. That meant there were some great food shopping opportunities to provision for the passage.
And beaches to explore.
Finally, we saw a weather window opening up and our last night in Las Palmas was New Year’s Eve. We stayed up to watch the fireworks.
And the following morning, we were off on the Atlantic crossing.
Most bluewater motor yachts prevent extreme rolling by something called active stabilizers. These are fins that protrude out from each side of the hull and they move to counteract the rolling motion. On Möbius, we decided to go the old school way that is used by most fishing boats, and so we have paravanes. These are triangular-shaped (think like a B2 Stealth Bomber) so-called “fish” that we suspend in the water on either side of the boat from our paravane poles. You can see those poles deployed in the first photo of this post. And here is a pic of the “fish” in the water.
We were very thankful to have those paravanes to soften the roll, because roll we did! For the next two weeks, we saw from 18-25 knot trade winds as we motored our way towards Martinique.
We have a tracking page that we share with friends and family, and I posted updates from the passage most days. Here are a few samples:
Jan. 7th: “Last night on my watch, we had one of the plexiglass windows in the flybridge opened up by about a foot-wide gap and a flying fish smacked into the edge of the glass and landed right next to me. I think it is about 12 to 15 feet off the water! I chased the slimey flapping guy around and finally tossed him back into the sea. We found lots of his brothers dead on deck this morning, but that high flyer deserved to live another day.”
Jan. 10th: “We were extremely happy with the paravanes until we arrived in Sargasso waters. This yellow seaweed grows in clusters on the sea surface, especially in calm areas. Last month, the calms had been prevalent in this area and there is tons of this seaweed in the water. Our paravanes have lines that snag the sargassum create drag. Yesterday we had slowed a couple of times to clear weed, but last night a weed ball actually broke the shackle at the end of the boom while clearing it. I was on the helm and trying to slow us enough for Wayne to work, but not so much that we would turn sideways to the seas. I didn’t realize we had 11 meters of floating rope in the water. We were very fortunate we did not foul the prop.
We ran the rest of the night with only one paravane in the water, but this morning Wayne had a plan (of course) that involved him climbing up the arch and looping the line over the top of the paravanes boom. While I was at the engine control watching him prepare on deck, I looked aft and I saw a whale body surfing in a wave off our the starboard quarter. In the next few minutes we saw several whales swimming around us, but not surfacing to breathe. They were only about 35-40 feet long, and they were very curious about Wayne. As he climbed the arch, one swam alongside and rolled onto his side, showing his white belly, and watching the crazy human trying to put a loop of rope over the top of the pole with a 12- ft boat hook.
The plan worked and we once again have two working paravanes.The forecast continues to tease us with suggestions of lighter winds, but such remain elusive.
Time to feed the puppies and to start dinner. Tuscan chicken pasta is on the menu.”
Jan. 12th: “At our 7:00 am shift change this morning, we discussed the possibility of trying to run without the paravanes and decided to give it a try. We were super disappointed to find we were still going 2 knots less than we usually do. I went down to try to grab a couple more hours sleep, and Wayne sat at the helm contemplating the issue. When I came back up to the skybridge around 9:30, Wayne announced he had a plan. Sound familiar? He said the only logical thing could be that we had a whopping amount of weed or some fishing line or net that causing drag. First we would slow and then go in reverse to try to jettison it. We prepped the boat for extreme rolling in the 2 meter seas and gave it a try. There was a small improvement. Not enough, said Wayne. Second half of the plan? I need to dive on it. Oh boy, more prep. This time we would completely disengage the clutch because a CPP continues to turn even when in “neutral.” Then stern of the boat lifts and slams as this 78-foot beast goes up and over these waves, and watching Wayne trying to get down the swim ladder and in the water to see, was scary. Finally, he crawled back up the ladder and told me to get it back underway. Back at the helm, I engaged the CPP clutch and revved the engine and set the pitch. Soon we were doing the speed Mobius is capable of. When Wayne came up, I said, “I don’t know what you did, but it worked.” I’m sure he will explain it in a future blog, but I’m going with “that old Wayne magic.””
Finally during the early morning hours of January 15th, we sighted the lights of Martinique. I was on the dog watch and I decided to let Wayne sleep as I rounded the light on the Ilet Cabarets off the southern end of the island. As light started to creep into the sky, I woke Wayne up and we slowly motored into the anchorage at St. Anne.
The silence sounded odd when we finally turned off the Gardner engine, AKA Mr. Gee. We’d just crossed the Atlantic on a single engine powerboat with passive paravane stabilizers. Damn!
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