Crossing the Atlantic on an Outremer 45
Ryan Helling, Swiftsure Yachts
After more than a day of travelling, we arrived on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Seattle – New York – Dusseldorf – Gran Canaria – Tenerife. Could it take any longer to get somewhere? In fact, it could. Instead of jet power, were now preparing to go back across the Atlantic under sail aboard the Outremer 45 catamaran PELICAN.
Our crew of four spent a three enjoyable days in Santa Cruz aboard the boat preparing her for departure. Her owner had spent the previous few months aboard cruising in the Mediterranean before making the trip to the Canaries, so PELICAN was very squared away. We made the usual pre-trip inspections including a trip up the mast, replaced a water pump, checked fluids and stowed gear and made a great provisioning trip to the giant Carrefour supermarket.
After a great farewell dinner in one of the many outdoor cafes, we were early to bed and ready for a morning departure. Under sunny skies, we motored out of the harbor at Santa Cruz and headed southwest with light breeze, full main and gennaker set. After a few hours, the breeze died and we were under power – foreshadowing the conditions for the next day. Once clear of the islands, we experienced some fantastic sailing in 20 plus knots of wind, and although it was a bit uncomfortable for a few days, it was an excellent test of the boat’s performance with the direction forward of the beam and often close hauled. These cats with daggerboards can indeed make good angles!
Brad Baker back at Swiftsure Yachts headquarters in Seattle was helping with weather routing via email over our Iridium satellite phone. Watching the severe lack of breeze to the south and two low pressure systems just to our West, we boogied WNW for six days until we were able to make a left turn around the top of the second system, cracking off and letting the boat do what she does best! My personal log from day 10 reads: “As I write this, I’m seated at the cockpit table of PELICAN 1100 miles northeast of St Marten. The wind is on our quarter at 23 knots and we’re making effortless 9.5 knots under main and jib with surfs into the mid-teens even in confused seas.” As a lifelong monohull sailor, this trip was a big revelation. This crossing was my first long distance offshore experience aboard a catamaran and I was blown away by the ease with which we attained some very impressive average speeds. 200 mile days are not uncommon under main and jib alone. For those wanting big grins, these boats will attain the speeds of fully crewed 50 foot racing sleds under “white sails” and on autopilot. Our top speed: 23 knots, slightly overcanvassed in a bigger than average squall.
Speaking of squalls, nothing beats the cockpit of a cruising catamaran. Expansive seating at a large table makes for the ultimate space for relaxing with a book and a cup of tea, games or dinner with the entire crew – all on deck while underway and travelling at race boat speeds! What a novelty!
Fishing is a highlight of any offshore sailing trip. Aboard PELICAN, we trailed “hand lines” from each hull, although with our fairly non-traditional route, we didn’t have much luck until we reached warmer waters a few days out of St. Maarten. A lure dubbed “purple midnight” by the guys at Seattle Marine did the trick and we enjoyed some great meals from a beautiful wahoo and medium sized jack.
17 days after departing Santa Cruz, we arrived on the French side of St. Marten in the very early morning. The clouds cleared for our arrival and we had fantastic full moon sailing as the swell built up into long Pacific style rollers on the shelf. It was very fitting to have the last night of sailing be the best.
Once tucked into the marina at Marigot, we had the luxury of sleeping late, then off to a crepe restaurant in town for a late breakfast. Now back to reality (and an internet connection), the smart phones came out and conversation was reduced to the bare minimum. Back to reality but not without some great memories of fast and fun sailing on the Atlantic.