Mabi Two

    Considerations on Ocean Crossings
in answer to a Jeanneau questionnaire

The thought of an Atlantic crossing is always in the back of the mind of all cruising boat-men, but it is forever put off to an undefined future date. A sailing friend, contemplating our over 60 age, said “It is now or never”, and this convinced me to take the decision.  So we formed a group of six friends, all experienced sailors, to tackle this new adventure.

There were many highlights of our trans-Atlantic crossing, but I found that the most significant was the abundant animal life we encountered: flying fish, tortoise, dolfins (one group counted fifty), whales swimming around the boat for hours, a family of orca (killer whales) and not to mention the ten fish we actually caught (tuna and dorado).

We found that there was in fact little time for reading, as there always seemed to be something to do, maintenance controls, repairs, general tidying up, navigation and weather checks, sail adjustments, shifting the spinakker pole, as we had to tack frequently and hand steering. After ten days out we had our main breakdown, the bolt connecting the automatic-pilot arm to the steering mechanism snapped and being a special bolt, we couldn’t improvise a repair, so we had to take turns in hand steering. This further contributed to reducing our free time, as we had to get our sleep whenever we could.

When you are down below, the boat movement is sweet and the gentle rolling of the boat on the ocean swell and the sound of the water on the hull favours long profound sleeping spells. But when you have waves on the beam or are in a storm, the boat lurches like crazy and you and everything not tied down is thrown everywhere. You get continually woken up and shifted in your bunk, so you have to find a more stable position, spreadeagled, or propped with cuscions. Then you get woken by a jybe or by the winches during a sail change on deck. Then just as you are getting back to sleep again, they come and wake you up for your turn at the watch, where you have to struggle not to fall asleep again. This was probably my worst part of the trip, fighting to stay awake on watch.

Close to Saint Lucia we had several severe squalls which caused a bit of apprehension, but the boat handled them extremely well.

In calmer moments during night watches, a pleasant pass-time was star-gazing with an amazingly bright star-studded sky which encouraged long philosophic discussions. During the day one was just content with watching the waves, so I would say that you could sum up an Atlantic crossing, as being at one with Nature.

The 54 DS is a magnificent boat, extremely sea-worthy and dry. On the way down from Gibraltar to Lanzerote, we had constant 40+ knot winds and enormous following seas, with frightening mountains of water bearing down on the stern, but Mabi Two simply rose and let them pass underneath without letting hardly a drop coming on board. She gave us an assuring sense of safety and solidity and also of comfort, with her spacious cockpit, the best I have ever seen. I highly recommend the Jeanneau 54 DS for extensive ocean sailing.

I would also recommend doing the first ocean crossing with the ARC group, as they are very professional at preparing you and your boat, with their excellent seminars and safety rules and controls. You learn a lot and also meet many other cruisers. It is also comforting to communicate with other boats in the middle of the Atlantic. We actually encountered the other two DS 54s twice in the Atlantic and all three arrived very close at the finish line (Maby Two first). You also meet up afterwards cruising the Caribbean.

The slogan at Saint Lucia is “Arriving is just the beginning” and this is true, as sailing the Caribbean is just fantastic. The close proximity of the islands and the constant sea breezes make it an ideal sailing ground and we are enjoying it immensely. With my wife and daughter we went south to Grenada and with another couple we slowly sailed north, currently in Antigua. My wife and I are happy to continue alone, as we can easily handle the boat by ourselves, having cruised much of the Mediterranean together.

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    An ideal Cruising Sail Boat
    Copyright L. Camillo 2010