The Sailing for Sustainability Campaign - Week 1
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|The Speranza Team: Ed Witts, Robert Williams, Nina Bohlen and Gene Scott|
We spent last week in Las Palmas on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria preparing for our transatlantic crossing. Gran Canaria is one of the Canary Islands, located off the coast of Morocco. Our boat, Speranza, was located in a marina at the north end of the island. The atmosphere in the marina was festive and hectic, as sailboats from all over the world arrived and began their preparations. This year, 265 sailboats are participating in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). (With a length of 40 feet, Speranza is one of the smaller boats in the event!) We met wonderful people from the UK, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Germany, Chile, Switzerland, Italy, France and the US.
We had a busy week, making an inventory of all the equipment on the boat, purchasing additional supplies, making repairs, buying additional safety equipment and installing it, planning our provisioning needs for the 3-4 week journey, shopping for the food and then stowing it aboard. The World Cruising Club, the organizers of the ARC, also provided a series of seminars on such topics as safety at sea, using a sextant, communications and route planning. (We watched a demonstration of a helicopter rescue at sea and got to practice climbing aboard a life raft in a swimming pool!) And of course, there were parties as well!
Yesterday, we were given a wonderful send off from Las Palmas, which included a brass band, a man speaking over a loudspeaker wishing us all goodbye in several languages, and crowds waving to us from the breakwaters. The sailboats filed out of the marina as if in a parade. The committee boat at the starting line was a huge grey naval vessel, and the start was quite spectacular as 265 boats crossed the line in two groups (the racing boats departing first). We officially started at 13:00 on Sunday, November 20.
We flew the code zero (an asymmetrical spinnaker)in ten knots of breeze from the east as we headed south along the eastern side of Gran Canaria. We soon encountered a strong westerly breeze (25 to 30 knots)which forced us to furl and drop the code zero, furl the genoa, fly the staysail and put four reefs in the main - all in six to eight foot seas. An exciting start to our journey! After sunset, to either side of us and in front of us we could see the tricolor lights on the top of the other sailboats' masts - flickering like fireflies in the dark. The crew members on night watch were treated to a beautiful moon, and the wind abated to 8-9 knots apparent as dawn arrived.
Today we have continued south in 5-11 knots of breeze. We are now located about 70 miles south of the Canary Islands and about 60 miles west of the Sahara Desert. In our first 24 hours, we have traveled 106 nautical miles, averaging 4.1 knots per hour.
Best wishes to you all from the Speranza team - Ed, Gene, Nina and Robert