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The Canaries - Dakar
-- 21st to the 29th October 2011 --
Goodbye green islands, farewell Europe – we’re off to Africa! A little bit less than 8 days at sea, off to another continent, South from the tropic of Cancer. A bit like crossing the Sahara…
More pictures and movies that will make you seasick on our pages "Pictures" and "Films".

We sailed 858 miles… that's a fifth of our total log so far,
4071 miles since the start
We stopped in : Valle Gran Rey (harbour)
21st October, day 1 : taking off (105 miles)
For our last full night in bed before taking on the watches routines again, we want to have a good night of sleep. That’s why we stay in the harbour of Valle Gran Rey / Puerto de Vueltas itself, instead of going back to the anchorage exposed to the swell. The Norvegian yacht Afrodite kindly welcome us to stay alongside them, moored at the jetty, and chatting away we discover that they too are heading to Senegal and Guyana! That’s the first boat we meet planning the same route, seemingly unusual – feeling better to be two fools then instead of one ;-)
Puerto de Vueltas hardly deserves being called an harbour. There is absolutely no equipment, not even water (besides wifi in the bar) – but they charge the same tariff as in San Sebastian! Admittedly there is a little less swell along the pier than at the anchorage (for free), but it is questionable whether that justifies paying anything…

Valle Gran Rey has some stunning landscapes
In the morning we check the weather forecast one last time: the next 3 days will be very calm, but after that there is a low pressure coming up with strong Southerly winds and high swell… better be gone before then!
At 11 am we finally take off for the big adventure. Twice as much distance as our longest trip so far! (and yes, ok, less than a half of what is expecting us next… but hey one has to learn step by step!)
A few hours powered by the engine, then the wind picks up.. from the South East – in the face. Good: every good trip has to start by sailing against the wind for a while.
As the night falls the wind veers to the back, 2 to 4 bft with calmer periods when God Ol’ Nestor is being called up for service again. There are thunderstorms on the horizon all around and we keep a close and exhausting watch.
Day 2 : 112 miles

Nice: fresh proteins !
Conditions are improving: 3-4 bft, no thunderstorm! An incident of gazpacho spill in the cabin (getting used to cooking again in an environment where bowls don’t stand on a table more than 30 seconds…) makes it a late Spanish lunch. Just so well, as it allows a local bonito to invite itself to our table :o)
Saltimbanque glides happily. 6 knots, and we are playing Trivial Pursuit in the cockpit.
But the night puts an end to our easy life again, thunderstorms are back and we resume our slaloming between the lightning. Of course the wind goes to sleep (lucky him) and Nestor has to come on a 6 hours long watch. The bad news is: our battery doesn’t get charged through the alternator when the engine is running. No power means no automatic pilot (which is the only solution when there is no wind: Bob being a WIND pilot). So we have to steer all night. No light either: we have to steer in the dark, checking the course only every now and then on the compass but mainly keeping it thanks to the stars. In the morning the sun rises – so does the wind, blowing the memories of the night away like a nightmare. The solar panel is charging the batteries again and there is not a single cloud to be seen.
Day 3 : 101 miles
There is a nice little 3 bft from the North East, Saltimbanque is sailing smoothly, helped by 0.5 to 1 knots of the favorable current of the Southern Canaries.
First sunny day, the perfect occasion therefore to dive into the obscure depths where the batteries are hiding – to try and solve the charging mystery. There seem to be one component burnt out, to be replaced at the next opportunity. In the meanwhile we can bypass it, saved by the crocodile clips once again (see episode “the engine won’t start – or panic off Las Palmas”).
Just about time: the wind dies out again and Nestor can resume his watch. Bliss, our reparation works! It’s charging again! That’s an electrical bonanza onboard, loading up everything, even the laptops.
Feeling we have deserved some nice time we head to the front deck of the boat where we have a nice shower in the sun: big buckets of sea water to wash and rinse, then some fresh water sparingly sprinkled by the gardening spray to wash the salt away. 1L only, hair included! We dry fast in the sun, what a nice feeling being clean!
The trade winds are supposed to be like a carousel, effortlessly carrying you across. Well as far as we were concerned after some interesting time between the islands, they still had to live up their reputation. Towards the end of the day though they seem to be settling up, 10 knots from the quarter back. Bob can steer and we might not go so fast, but at least with the sails on!

Some drying towels that won't stay outside long after dark
In the night we cross the tropic. No big celebration like for the equator. Just a mug of coffee at the change of the guards. Yet, it’s impressive to be in the tropical zone now! New constellations start being visible, like the Scorpion.
Day 4 : 104 miles

One "mahi-mahi" for table 1! Another one on the way...
Today you want to play with satellites! Confortably set up on the charts table, the antenna carefully spread outside on the roof, the laptop well propped up with cushions, we read the messages received on the Iridium (So nice to hear from you guys in the real world, while lost in the middle of nowhere – thanks!). We request some weather forecast charts as well, and send an update to the blog via our special correspondent in Berlin.
Under a bright sun still, but a dying wind in the afternoon gets the big balloon out of its bag again. Of course when Saltimbanque is sailing fast and one of us is stuck at steering (to keep the boat balanced with the spinnaker up) is the best moment for the fishing rod to go “crrrrrrrr!!!”.. great, some fresh fish! As we’ve learnt from past mistakes (see episode “the fishing lines get together – or nylon noodle party in the cockpit” a few weeks ago) we clear the short line first. Surprise, there’s a fish there too! “Coryphen breams” (or “mahi-mahi”, still no clue what they’re called in English) come always by two, they say. It´s true. Two pieces, rather big, with a nice thin yellow tail.
The sun is setting low, Saltimbanque is happily gliding after its big colorful balloon, we are getting some fresh fishes ready in small pieces (one share tonight, another marinated for tomorrow, the rest will be dried and kept for later). Then we hear splashes all around. Hundreds of dolphins, near the boat as in the distance, jumping around, playing with the waves! Further on the horizon they’re jumping real high, artistic flips meters high, fast and lean, like birds flying almost. Closer to the boat they play with the waves and in the wake. We’re like flying on a grey carpet, so many backs clustered sliding by the bow. The noise is fantastic: the splashes as they slam their tail on the water, their whistles amplified through the hull.
We are not sailing, rather riding dolphins!

A magical moment surrounded by dolphins, with the spi up
So we have: sunset, smooth sailing with the spinnaker up, fresh fish, dolphins all around… sometimes the Sea grants us one of those moments that belong to postcards for the perfect transatlantic cruising :o) The dolphins shall follow us late into the night, sparkling comets shooting along he hull in the plankton.
Day 5 : 108 miles
We really don’t understand anything to the currents around here. 1 knot sometimes, once working with us, the next hour against, raising a nasty short breaking sea. Passing the White Cape is not so much fun, even more than 80 miles off the shore (that’s the minimum recommended distance to keep clear of any trouble-seeking military boat from Mauritania): it’s a busy area, many cargo ships and bigger fishing vessels.
After the Cape we alter the course by 10º towards Dakar. It’s the final run (of 380 miles still, a marathon rather than a sprint): more than half of the road behind us and we begin to find that time passes slowly.

Saltimbanque is sailing under a typical sky in trade winds area, there's fish drying under the solar panel
Life goes on onboard according to a now well defined routine. Four watch rounds from 22 to 11, of about 3 hours each: 3 rounds at night, 1 with daylight. At 11 we check the log, marking down the miles every 24 hours since we left. At 12h30 there’s the weather forecast on the long waves. Then checking the Iridium, and lunch. In the afternoon we can choose between one of the many activities depending on the conditions: hoisting the spinnaker to gain a couple of knots, or try out some new sails combination, - or siesta. We have diner after dark, once the boat is all set for the night. We now started sleeping in the front cabin (instead of the bunks in the main cabin): more space for the one watching. It’s more comfortable as well – that is, if you like being in a kind of flight simulator, shaken in all directions with the echoing splashes of the water on the hull. Weird enough, Laure is not at all seasick, even without her magical patches: no idea why, but won’t complain!
Actually we end up having little time together (the watches mainly spent reading, maneuvering, listening to the mp3 player). Some days we can have our meals together and talk about something else than the immediate handling of the boat: that’s a nice change, a break in our otherwise lonely days.

It's Laure's watch round - she can't be seen without her MP3 player full of audiobooks
Our notion of time is changed anyways. Dates and days of the week became meaningless. We can read the number corresponding to the date on the GPS, we can hear the day of the week on the radio, but that relates to nothing real. Real is the sequence day / night. The days once passed all go together in the back of our mind, melted away into some magma of all the days gone by. Our future is limited to the validity of the weather forecast – 24 or 48 hours. Yes of course we write the date down next to the number of miles in our logbook, but it becomes a measure of distance rather than time. Today, yesterday – before. Tomorrow – later.
Day 6 : 113 miles
Some fighting against the current and waves later, the wind finally picks up to 20 knots from the back – as any good trade wind should be. Passing the White Cape (Northern border of Mauritania) we jumped into a new weather system: the tropical mode. This is confirmed in the morning by a little fish on our deck: that’s the first flying fish that mistook us for a plane carrier. Too small to be fried, it will become bait. Flying fishes fly away all in front of the boat, tens of them. It’s hot, very hot. In the water, 28º ! (oops, so much for our “fridge”). At night we watch out on the dek in shorts and tshirt.
Our first suicidal flying fish

The genoa has two sheets on one side: one is dedicated to hoisting the pole
Later in the day the wind decreases and we set up the pole to the genoa. Normally the pole (long steel bar) is meant to keep the spinnaker open, but in lesser winds from the back we use it to stabilize the genoa and prevent it from flapping on the swell. The trick of the day to pole a genoa is to use an additional sheet, the spinnaker sheet e.g. and first set up the pole to this rope while the main sheet is keeping all the tension (it’s not tensed, therefore easier to maneuver). Then you transfer the tension from the first sheet to the one with the pole on. The boat is very stable ao equipped, and we can have some rest.
Of course no rest is meant to last: a giant bream attacks our lines. Laure sees the big fish jumping meters high behind the boat. It’s almost as wide as the back of Saltimbanque (that’s a good 2.50m). the shorter line explodes in 30 sec. Swallowing this bait and hook has caused no trauma to the fish, attacking now “poulpi” (our plastic squid on the rod). The brake of the rod is no use, the cane bends dangerously as the line unwinds quickly. Just the time to winder what to do and pfew, the whole line is gone, leaving us with a naked (but entire!) rod.
Another night amongst the cargo ships. Hey, there’s one there sending us some light signals, we try and call on the VHF. They answer. He guy on the watch must be bored, he wants to chat. He’s an Indian called Victor, sailing from Ghana and bound to Spain. Friendly chat between a big boat and a small boat lost in the middle of the night off the coast of Mauritania. Until now all the ships we saw altered their course when they thought there was a risk of collision. Sure it’s the law (the motored boat has to avoid the sailing boat – except in dedicated channels like the Channel or the North Sea where they have priority), yet always impressive to see those huge steal-walls stepping aside to avoid a mosquito!
It's a busy place...
Day 7 : 127 miles
That’s a warm and classical night, sailing with the front sail up only. The wind picks up in the morning. We can have a good rest in spite of the heat (27º at night, more than 30 during the day). It´s our first typical tropical trade-winds day. The boat is like working on his own, 5 knots with one sail, the wind pilot on day and night, we can hide inside, with as little cloth on as what decency dictates :o)
We take the opportunity to learn using the sextant. Well, well, our sun-based positioning places us 40 miles off the GPS track… (as a conclusion we immediately get out our spare GPS and check that it’s working too – never too cautious).

Some theory before putting in practice: the grapefruit is the earth, the headlight the sun
Last day : 88 miles and arrival

Another beautiful sunset
We have a splendid night in tshirts under the starts. Bob the wind pilot works all alone, Saltimbanque is happily gliding in a good breeze, surfing the waves. Our watch rounds are spent contemplating the sea, listening to the waves breaking on the bow, feeling the boat so lively in those conditions.
In the morning a small bream baits. Too small, it shall live on. A few hours later its (much!) bigger sister attacks in revenge. 2 meter long, this time we know what to expect and cut the line before losing it all – it snaps with a shotgun like sound. The fixed line, which we judge stronger, is set to the water as a replacement. Alas, a few hours later it is gone as well, probably eaten away by some big thing. At the end of the day we have no fish and 2 less lures. Really have to upgrade our equipment before the Great Crossing.
Jumping dolphins come along to cheer us up. Laure, lying on the bow with the arm outside can even touch and strike the soft back of one of them :o)
In the meanwhile the log is counting the miles down: only 50 miles more to destination. Time to change the flag, get the Canaries flag down and hoist the Senegal colors up! It’s always a joyful moment and somehow a bit of a solemn celebration as well when we change flags. It means: land ahoy! Soon we’ll see the land!!!

Saltimbanque proudly bearing new colours!
The last hours are the worst. We expected a strong wind from the back and got nothing at all, except from an adverse current making the sea choppy. Engine on. In the waves the sails flap like crazy and we have to hold them manually to prevent damages. Choppy seas are not the ideal conditions for Nestor who does what he can but goes not much faster than 3 knots.
At 7 local time, after 10 hours running on the engine, we finally reach Dakar. Sailing along the Goree island and toward the Bay of Hann, North from the city. We drop the anchor at the CVD (Cercle de Voile de Dakar), as the sun is getting up and the pirogues going out to a new day of fishing. Welcome to Africa!!
Catamarans, cargo ships and pirogues are sailing along in the bay of Dakar
In the end, 8 days (well, minus 3 hours, close enough!), it’s rather long, but doable. Looking back at our first trip longer than a week…
Give us our fish of the day...

On the bright side:
- Trade winds: you can sail long distance without getting tired: stable breeze from quarter back, no effort with the front sail (perhaps held by the pole) only
- Sleep schemes: we were feeling a bit low towards the 4 and 5th day but could get some decent sleep and be in a better condition a few days later
- Food and water stocks: In 8 days we had fresh fruit and vegetable and meat all along and no food got lost. Water was well managed and in ample supply as well.
- Showers: When the seawater is so warm, no trouble with the showers! We know now how to wash and wash our hair even with no more than 1L from the tanks.
- Playing MacGyver: A few minor incidents occurred during the trip: some hook got loose, the battery stopped charging… but they were quickly handled with the tools we have onboard and did not prevent us from sailing on
- Our routing strategy: we picked the right moment to get through, just after a few tropical storms in the South and before the low pressures hitting the Canaries later.

Could be have been better :
- Psychological preparation: we had a route in two parts, before and after passing the White Cape. At the beginning of the second period we realized there was still quite a long way to go and had a bit of a low energy moment. Suddenly the distance to the waypoint on the GPS jumped from 10 miles (to Cape White) to 380 miles (until Dakar). Thinking about 4 more days hit our morale. Perception of time is greatly influenced by what is anticipated.
- To Do list: even if most of the small things could be fixed on the spot, our working list increased for the next stop – there never seems to be an end to the leaks, wholes, loose screws…
- Hot: we expected hot, but not so hot… and that’s only the beginning!
- Fishing lines and rod: clearly not fit for purpose for the kind of beasts they have around here :o)

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Your messages:

Céline, Monique et Jean-Paul - 10/11/2011 21:01:54
Bonsoir Laure, Camille,
Françoise nous a montré vos magnifiques photos qui nous font rêver. Un peu de jalousie quand même quand on compare la taille de vos prises aux nôtres; on attend toujours que des poissons se jettent sur la plage ...
Nous vous souhaitons bon vent.

Delph - 09/11/2011 14:53:18
Hey salut les filles ! hé bien ça a l'air grandiose.Quel bien cela doit faire d'être face à l'horizon du matin au soir. Bon, je vois que vous avez quand même quelque fretin à vous mettre sous la dent, ça rassure ! Bon vent et tenez le coup dans les moments de fatigue, c'est vraiment super !

mum - 06/11/2011 19:14:40
merveilleuses rencontres,couchers de soleil féeriques,films pendant lesquels on partage un peu votre aventure,tout est BEAU merci .l

Tata Danielle - 06/11/2011 16:25:51
Bravo les filles... je prends un bon d'air et j'en prends plein les yeux !

SuDad - 05/11/2011 18:35:54
Vous les collectionnez, les bons points, même délicats. Aviez-vous donc des doutes quant à vos capacités à l'apprivoiser, cet océan ? Les petits problèmes n'étaient là que pour vous tester et vous distraire (:->) En tout cas, nous, vous distrayez bien. Pas de temps morts, pas de longueurs, des dialogues nerveux. Bravo les scénaristes ! Et bons repos, bien mérité, pour les actrices !

Spirit of TRAOU MAD - 03/11/2011 21:05:46
Coucou les filles !
Pour le matos de pêche, n'hésitez pas a passer en 60/100 ou 80/100, cela resistera aux "gros" et même les "petits" mordent dans de l'hameçon 8/0 donc ne pas hésiter non plus sur la taille des leurre.

Bon vent et a bientôt sur l'eau
Eric & Sandrine

Kariine - 02/11/2011 23:59:07
De la matière pour tisser du rêve ! Ca pourrait même paraitre faisable aux non-initiés :o)

AUMADATROI - 02/11/2011 20:48:54
Bonjour Saltimbanque !
Je suis arrivé ce matin 9h30 à Dakar mouillé devant le Palais Présidentielle.3,5 jours depuis Dakhla, dernière nuit mouvementée.
Mes équipiers quittent le bord quelques jours.
Je vous ai laissé un msg vocal sur votre iridium, par contre je ne crois pas que mon iridium stocke les sms. Je ne l'ai pas entendu sonner pendant ma traversée.
Je vous téléphonerai, et laisserai un msg vocale pour qu'on se croise !!!!
A très bientôt, j'espère !!!!

la mamou - 02/11/2011 18:47:04
extraordinaire !!
tellement plus puissant que toutes mes lectures d'ado ....

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