In September 2009 Mabi Two was transferred from Marmaris in Turkey to Sardinia, 1100 miles, where preparations are being made before the final leg to Las Palmas, a further 1500 miles.
Lorenzo left Marmaris with wife Mabi and picked up Giuseppe and Marilinda in Kos, then leisurely crossed the Aegian via Amorgos, Naxos, Kythnos, Poros, through the Corinthian Canal, Galaxidhi and visit to Delphi, Trizonia, Navpaktos (Lepanto), under the Rioni Bridge and then Patras. The ladies Mabi and Marilinda returned to Rome, via Athens, whereas Luigi arrived to help with the long haul to Sardinia.
Leaving Patras October Monday 4th at 3 am and favoured by a long period of calm weather the three proceeded speditely to Ithaca for a visit, then across to Reggio Calabria in the Messina Straits, stopping just the time for refuelling, then directly on to Porto Cervo, where they arrived, after much successful fishing, Friday evening the 9th. of October.
Here the engine and generator were serviced by the local mechanic and many safety and practical refinements were made to prepare the boat for a long ocean passage.
On the 19th October, Lorenzo and Luigi left Porto Cervo for Alghero on the other side of Sardinia on the next long haul to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands where the ARC Atlantic crossing will commence on the 22nd of November.
In Alghero more unfinished work was completed, while waiting the two days for Sandro to arrive from Rome.
However Sandro's arrival coincided with the arrival of a major storm with 60 knot winds between the Balearic islands and Sardinia, so our departure was necessarily posponed for four days. On October the 24th, we finally left Alghero with the tail end of the storm and very rough seas and strong Mistral wind, but reported to be abating. After an uncomfortable two days and two nights and a fast run under sail, the sea settled to a calm condition which permitted us to resume the many minor repairs and refinements programmed for the Atlantic crossing. To make up for the time lost in port, we decided to miss the Balearic Islands altogether and point directly to the Spanish mainland coast, a trip of 460 miles, three days and three nights without stopping making landfall at Cartagena, where we stopped for the night. The only brief pause on the trip was to catch a 7 kilo tuna at dusk, providing us with delicious fresh fish meals for several days.
After passing Formentera, the last of the Balearic islands which we saw on our distant right, the sea flattened out to a dead calm. We were visited by by happy-go-lucky porpoises and by several migratory birds, landing on the boat for a rest, a drink of water and a quick feather maintenance before resuming their long flight to Africa.
One night was remarkable for a very pronounced phosphoresence of the water around the boat and in its wake, occasionally shooting out "sparks" and large "fireballs".
At one point we hit and scraped a flag pole in the dark marking a lobster pot, fortunately without fouling on the propeller. And as usual on these long hauls, beautiful sunsets and sun-rises and those pitch-black star-studded skies, when the moon sinks well below the horizon. With another night of phosphorescent water, we saw phosphorescent dolfins cavorting around the boat and leaving luminous trails through the water.
On October 27th we arrived at Cartagena at 6 pm, where we strolled ashore for a visit and saw a very neat town, well restored with a good mixture of modern and liberty architecture. After a well-earned night's rest and a thorough washing of the boat, we filled up at the self-service fuel station and left at 11 am. With a slight favourable breeze, we motor sailed directly to Sotogrande, 232 miles.
And finally at 8 pm October 29th, we enter Sotogrande, after having sighted The Rock of Gibraltar just a few miles away, gateway to the Atlantic. After visiting Vincent and Luise in Sologrande, the next day we invited them to join us for the trip to Gibraltar, having tuna with sauce for lunch on the way, where we arrived October 30th at 5 pm. We were lucky to find a berth in Marina Bay, as there are seldom spaces available. On the wy in we had to avoid a landing military plane on the very nearby airfield.
As the weather is still good, we decide to continue our trip on to Tangiers in Morocco. While preparing to leave the marina, we heard much agitated chatter over the vhf radio on the emergency channel 16 and we criticised the hysteria, not managing to understand what it was all about. But once we left the marina we came up to a wall of impenetrable fog, with only the superstructures of the numerous ships protruding above the fog. We tried to slowly make our way under radar, but with dreary fog-horns sounding all around us we decided it would be safer to wait for it to lift, so we returned and sat at anchor for three hours. By 5pm it began to clear and I called one of the more troubled sail boats we heard over the radio and was told that the worst was over, so we set off to cross the Straits of Gibraltar and reach the African coast.
In the middle of the Straits, we found ourselves in dire
straits, with six ships coming directly towards us from all directions, a
tricky situation which was resolved with a quick slalom between the ships.
I hate to imagine how it would have been in thick fog!
On the morning of the 1st, fearing the slowness of the Moroccan beaurocracy and seeing the mist coming in, we decided to miss visiting the city and leave for Casablanca. In fact, once out in the Atlantic, we were immersed again in thick fog and proceeded slowly watching the radar, heading towards the wind in the hope that we would soon get out of the fog. After some skirmishes with the numerous Moroccan fishing boats, to our relief we finally came out into the sun. We also managed to fish a small tuna, though I was hoping to change menu and catch a trout; anyway, that evening a delicious tuna soup and fresh sushi.
Next morning 2nd November, we arrived at Casablanca but the control tower ordered us out as the marina is still not completed after 11 years work and suggested we go back 13 miles to Mohammedia, where we arrived at 12 pm. After 8 hours we were still waiting for permission to go ashore from the authorities and so have wasted a whole day. It would seem that Morocco wants to discourage nautical tourism from the many boats that pass here on their way to cross the Atlantic. As it turns out the next day, the doctor was sick and we were checked out by an assistant. It seems that they were concerned about swine flu. The police however were polite and apologetic for the delay. Here we were moored right next to the boat that had trouble in the fog, who happened to be some Canadian friends we had met in Marmaris, so we heard first hand about their experience.
Mohammedia is a big commercial and fishing port with a tiny marina in the middle, an interesting place offering much inspiration for paintings, which helped to pass the time. The city is quite naif and the people friendly and helpful. Casablanca on the other hand was a delusion, apart from the casbah and has lost its romanticism from Humphrey Bogart's day.
In compensation, we visited the capital Rabat, which we found lovely and with an affascinating medina. There would have been much to see, but we had to return quickly to the boat as the weather forecast advised getting ahead of the effects of a big depression that was hitting Ireland in the northern Atlantic. So we departed at 5.30 pm, dodging the many fishing boats out in the open sea and descended the African coast towards the Canaries, a 420 non-stop voyage (this actually became 471 miles). With a favourable wind we flew southwards over the waves.
The forecast was for winds from the north of 20 to 30 knots, which in the Mediterranean is quite supportable, but we didn't know that in the Atlantic everything is magnified, both winds and waves, so we had a very hard sailing.
We had to steer the whole time, as the auto pilot might not have coped and could have broken down at the wrong moment with dire consequences. We had 36 hours of winds constantly over 30 knots with frequent peaks of 46 knots and enormous waves breaking around the boat continually bouncing it about. The second night we reduced turns at the wheel to half an hour as it was very tiring and sleeping turns of one and a half hours, to sleep as one could being bounced about on the bunk.
The strong winds accompanied us right up to the port entrance in Calero at Lanzarote island. We entered at 1 pm on November 7th, exhausted but satisfied with having successfully reached a distant and difficult destination. Las Palma remains only 100 miles away.
The boat, a Jeanneau 54, handled magnificently, making even the most menacing waves slide effortlessly under the hull. She is also a dry boat, as we received only four or five bucketfulls of water the whole time. Well done Mabi Two!
The wind kept howling for days while we were in the Lanzarote marina so we had to postpone our trip to la Palmas and used the time to visit this island, which was a pleasant surprise to find such an attractive place, with vulcanos everywhere. It must have had very wise governors, who controlled the housing developments, imposing a uniform local architecture and only low buildings. The area of recent vulcanic activity has been declared a national parkland and is very well organised. Sandro had to leave us and return to Rome for a work meeting and will join us again in Las Palmas.
Finally the wind calmed down and I left with Luigi on the afternoon of the 11th and sailed quietly down to Las Palmas, where we arrived early next morning. We immediately get immersed in the ARC seminars, though occasionally nodding off to sleep, having been alert most of the night and only in the afternoon can we take our well-earned rest, having successfully completed a boat transfer all the way from Turkey to the Canary Islands, a trip of over 2700 miles.
Seminars attended so far have included, routing and weather forecasting, rigging maintenance and sextant use. The next day was entirely devoted to completing the stringent ARC safety regulations, buying new equipment and optmising and improving existing equipment, to get the boat ready for the official inspection of the ARC Safety Committee. A spectacular evening was offered by the Las Palmas City Council including floor show and fireworks.
The next day, the much dreaded visit of the safety committee minutely examining the boat and its equipment and on Sunday, a grand parade with flag-bearing of the 30 countries participating in the ARC and official flag-raising opening ceremony of the rally. Afterwards, a dinghy regatta with water-fights.
The Mediterranean Sea