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Ocean Crossing , or the Trade Winds
-- 8th to 24th December 2011 --
"Whenever we achieve something at sea, short trip or long cruise,
Cape Horn or island of Hyeres,
it is firstly because we avoided doing what should not be done.
It is then because we did what had to be done.
It is finally because the Sea allowed it."
Jean-François Deniau, "The sea is round"

More pictures all-in-blue on our page "Pictures", and a short movie that will make you seasick on the page « Films »

We sailed 1905 miles in 16 days, that's 5 knots in average!
6708 miles since the start
8th December : let´s go! (wind NE 2 to 4 – 0 mile)
Everybody does it… that’s no big deal after all… 1,2, take a deep breath, hop – forward we jump! 11 am local time, after listening to the weather forecast, we pull the anchor back up on the deck.
We leave Mindelo under a bright sunshine and in nice company, together with Cupidon! Our little steel friend hoists their big red front sail pretty soon and it is nice to sail along, talking every now and then on the radio. There’s a lot to do in the first hours. Not too much wind in the dreaded acceleration channel between Sao Vicente and Sao Antao, luckily. The flipside of it is a big calm further off the coast. Like a lady in a luxury store we try all the available sails and combinations on, before settling for the basic (affordable) genoa+main sail quarter back to the wind.
The night is falling – we’re off to the other side!

Cupidon leaving Mindelo
9th December: NE 3 to 4, sea slight to moderate – 101 miles

The sails when the trade winds are not so strong
In the morning the horizon is empty, nobody answers our radio calls any more… we are really alone on the ocean now, nothing but water in front of us and many many miles before the next harbor! Better not thing too much about it and concentrate on the present, one day at a time…

Today the wind fluctuates around 10 kts, we set the course to the West after sailing all night to the South to avoid some forecasted bad weather. Wind from the back + bright sunshine = we open our sails wide, one on each side. The genoa is fixed by the pole and the main sail held tight by ropes. Keeping the balance in this precarious equilibrium requires a steady steering despite the waves: that can be offered by the auto-pilote Max, who steers as well as he eats (electricity – hence the sun to power the panel).
Le présent c’est aussi le premier point journalier. Toute une cérémonie, s’ouvrant par l’écoute des infos (tiens donc, il y aurait donc un monde qui continuerait de tourner là-bas dans le froid, à terre ?) et de la météo (Grand Large, sur RFI, à savourer rapidement car ils arrêtent la diffusion le 1er janvier et on ne sait pas comment remplacer cette source d’infos :oS). Puis vient le point des 24h, et le décompte des milles parcourus. Tout en tablant sur 100 milles/jour on espère secrètement plus et attendons chaque jour le verdict, bonne surprise ou déception, avec la même impatiente curiosité que lorsque gamines on ouvrait la pochette des photos des vacances tout juste développées. Enfin, pour cette traversée-ci, nous avons ajouté la « boule de Noël » : en guise de calendrier de l’Avent nous décorons le carré d’une boule par jour, ornée d’un petit dessin de circonstances. Ainsi nous préparons, mille après mille, Noël – et l’arrivée !
Today we plot our first position on the map as well. The daily position-plotting and bearing-checking is a whole ceremony. First comes the listening of the news on the long waves radio (well, well, it seems that the world keeps going on somewhere far from here, on a dry cold planet…). Then the weather forecast on the French radio RFI (stopping on Jan 1st – damn, how are we going to do on the way back…? Well maybe we can’t go back then ;-) ). After that it’s time to check the log and note the distance sailed in the last 24 hours. We plan with 100 miles /day, but secretly hope for more and everyday we look forward to our score, sometimes a good surprise, sometimes a deception – feels like when we were kids and we used to wait for the holidays pictures coming back from the photo lab where they had been printed on paper. To close our daily ceremony now, we hang the “Christmas ball”: we are decorating the boat one little ball at a time, where we make everyday a small drawing of main events or mood…getting ready for Christmas – getting ready to complete our crossing!
One day, one ball
Now that we know where we’re going to, time to wonder where we are! Using the sextant when the sun is at its zenith, we find our latitude with a 3 miles precision, not bad! Yet as for the longitude, it is given by the exact moment when the sun reaches its zenith: you estimate the position first to know when to measure, then you have to time the exact instant when the sun is at its highest, and compute back the exact longitude. It requires a perfect clock – and stable visual references! 4 seconds difference means one minute off (close to the equator that’s about one mile). Just the time to climb on a wave and come down, we’re already far gone :o( the conclusion is: electronics is not always wrong, and we make friends again with our GPS.
10th December: NE 4-5, sea moderate, 113 miles

Goodbye Cabo Verde... see you again!
In the morning the deck is covered by very small flying fishes. We clean the mess before bringing the main sail down and change our course to the 250° with the genoa only, as the wind has picked up and should increase again. The main sail shall remain neatly tied on the boom more than a week… the Cape Verde flag is taken down as well, yet no other flag comes to replace it that time: we are in the middle of nowhere indeed!
11th December: NE 5-6, sea moderate to rough, 123 miles
The wind gets stronger and stronger and we’re happy with our choice of what sails to wear today. It’s so comfortable to fly at 6 kts, wind straight from the back, and know that we can reduce the surface almost instantly and without having to sail closer to the wind (to take a reef on the main sail we have to sail close to the wind and go stand to the mast – whereas the genoa is installed on a furler and can be rolled quickly from the cockpit whatever the course).
Come with the wind, the clouds: it’s grey and almost cold! In the nights we have to dig out our sweatshirts and even trousers (you know, those things that look like shorts, but with longer legs…).
At noon we take a full forecast: on the radio (long waves) and by grid files, received on our satellite phone. The wind should not decrease, there will be sport all along! On our phone we get your messages as well, always such a joy to hear from you! We send a short message to reassure our families. That’s a nice feeling of security to have an active link to the world, be it via the stars…

The sails when the trade winds are rather strong

Thinking that once upon a time we used to be happy with a meer 30 cm long mackerel...
Yet something will disturb our siesta plans: a mahi-mahi 87 cm long (5kgs) swallows “yellow fellow” (the newest addition to our Poulpi family of lures). It is only an old piece of dirty string… which shows that mahi-mahi have very poor taste. And that it is impossible to select the size of your catches based on the size of the lures you use, since the same fellow caught the smallest fish of the crossing (not 20cm) just 24hrs before. This time we manage to get the beast onboard using our fish hook and lots of swearwords. 1 hour to cut and clean, 1 hour to prepare and preserve the pieces (steak tonight, marinated tomorrow, dried under the solar panels, and the rest into big salt). That’s all happening in 2 to 3 m swell of course… here goes our siesta, eat or sleep, that’s a dilemma! (we have a tough life)
12th December : NE 5-6, sea rough, 128 miles
The swell keeps chaotic all through the night, for the rest eventless. The rolled up genoa is enough to make us fly and our daily score is not bad: 128! Come on, the 130 target is not far… (actually we will never make it to 130, everyday missing it by a couple of miles sometimes, how frustrating!)
The sky is clearer today and invites us to a nice shower. Imagine it for yourself: sitting on the back of a rodeo bull, you have nothing but a bucket to get clean. It’s an equilibrist’s job, sitting on the roof, toes clutched to the railing, we fill up seawater buckets at a turn for each other, trying to pour them at least partially on ourselves, taking advantage of the split second when the boat is flat at the top of a wave. Then we rinse in fresh water sprayed by our garden spray, as usual. How nice to feel clean!
And to wash it out... just wait for the next wave !
Of course the swell diminishes just after we’re done, and in the afternoon the sun shines bright and calm… almost too calm! The genoa alone becomes too unstable to push us at a satisfactory speed. The fix it with the pole to open it to the maximum and use all the surface. As night is falling the wind comes up a bit (we shall see the same phenomenon occurring almost every dawn).
The fish marinated in white wine we had for diner was not so good as the fish teriyaki of the lunch – can’t wait to try the dried fish tomorrow!
13th December : NE 4-6, sea rough, 111 miles

Mmmm, that one will not last for long !
Today we cook! Since we left we took on the habit to do something together in the afternoon, and share more than a few words at the changing of the guards. Usually we play (Trivial Pursuit, cards…) but today we will bake a cake. Chocolate – bananas. The banana bunch we bought green before leaving is turning black now and we have to use them up! Same as with the mahi-mahi, we have to be clever to eat it up. We start a small garden as well, planting a few seeds that will grow into yummy herbs to go with the salads and sauces.
Doing something together is just another of our daily routines (weather forecast, plotting the position, walking around the deck and checking critical parts for Camille, counting the flying fishes on the deck in the morning for Laure etc). They play a big role in keeping our spirits up, bringing down the time into manageable periods of a day, putting structure into the desert endless timespan spreading to the infinite, boundless as the ocean around us.
In the meanwhile Saltimbanque is still working, still with the genoa up only. We think of our friends and fellow sailors who left Mindelo as well, members of the flock that gathered there like sheep before the Big Jump. They are all around somewhere, on the same waves, under the same sun, only a few hundreds miles away… but so far away at the same time! We have not seen a single boat in 3 days now.
The genoa is easy to maneuver. We can afford to try out some sophisticated combinations on the wind pilote: a few degrees more or less on the wheel, a few links more or less on the chain to the tiller… the genoa must remain powerful enough and not flap in the wind. We pull the sheet a few inches more… we can spend hours watching, feeling the breeze on our faces and the boat under our feet, happily gliding at 6.5kts, trying to find the optimum, the perfect balance between the speed and the route (that´s a never-ending challenge in sailing: for some Murphy-like reason you can never go fast and direct, there’s always a balance to strike between speed and course). On a long trip there comes a third dimension to the equation: the fatigue. Pulling and tending to the extreme is out of question when the same sail must stay up for three weeks. Out of question too to manually steer for hours, as we have two more weeks to go. Sometimes we desperately want to go faster. But there is no perfect solution, it is always a fine balance, constantly changing as the outside factors of wind and waves and weather change.
Thanks to our built-in nets, we can have some rest whatever the swell!
14th December : NE 5-6, sea rough, 129 miles

The young generation of flying fishes is no good, they keep crashing on the deck... Are they already flying drunk at such young age?
This is a quiet night, just a few clouds to watch, just a few turns to take or let go in the genoa. The sea is beautiful this morning, glittering in the sun. twenty baby flying fishes lay on the deck again. Why do we see only adults in the day flying away from the boat, and babies crashing on the deck at night? Maybe size does matter in the end: small boat, small flying fishes…
Saltimbanque is a small boat indeed, certainly compared to the sea around. Depending on how you look at it, whether you look at the crew only or the crew + the boat, our environment is either tiny as a cell or endless as the sky. There’s a paradox in there, as our looks find no limits, the wind blows in our faces – yet our moves are contained in a few square meters. Inside the boat is our cocoon, where we rest, the mind detached from the sailing. Outside there is the world, the endless world. We look outside and we are reminded of where we are, of what we are doing…
Today we sit at the helm every now and then. Not to help Bob, no, he’s never tired. We want to steer just for the fun, for to feel the water pushing on the rudder. The swell is still a pain, still short, coming from all directions. Steering helps going with it instead of fighting. It is a way to prove to the sea that we control the boat, that Saltimbanque is no floating toy pushed aimless by the waves.
15th December : NE 4, sea moderate to rough, 114 miles
Yesterday we had dried fish in the wok, today we make toasted ham and cheese (goat cheese from Santo Antao, nothing less!) sandwich and bananas flambé! Despite the swell we manage good home-made dishes every day. Keeps us busy, keeps the spirits up!
Unfortunately we are seeing the end of our fresh fruits and veggies. Tin cans are getting out of the hiding place where we had stored them before leaving in France. To compensate we organize a sportive afternoon. Running and push-ups in the cockpit, tractions in the stairs, abs on the deck… and mini-tennis table inside!
That night we decide on having a drink before diner and share one beer (always very sober at sea!) and some toasts. Not that we have anything in particular to celebrate no… other than to be here, and happy!

Camille is serving... focused... Mind the net!
16th December : E 4-5, sea rough, 120 miles
Nothing much happens during the night. Just one alarm, as the radar detector goes off and we see a cargo ship in the distance. We call him on th VHF to make sure he had seen us and chat away a little. First human contact in many days…
In the morning the landscape is the same: blue, curved, stripped with white flocks of foam. The wind has not changed in 8 days: East, North East between 14 and 18kts. There is a current here pushing us all the way across from the Cape Verdes to the shores of Guyana. Some days are better than others, yesterday it was a bit weak, today it contributes more than 1 knot to our speed. The weather forecast says, as every morning, that there shall be a short, crossed swell… on more day of rocking and rolling then, where is the famous long swell of the trade winds?
Today is a special day: we’re half way through! 939 miles sailed this morning, just about 920 more to go! Swell or no swell, Laure bakes a tuna pie to celebrate. It is an “out of the can” pie, made exclusively from ingredients coming out of tin cans, from the tuna to the butter. Then she goes on making a fruit pudding to use the old bread, last left over from the Mindelo bakery. Last Christmas she got as a present the “perfect sea-water housewife kit” (bottles of soap, washing powder, washing-up liquid etc, all for seawater). Now she’s got to live up to her reputation!

«Ho, ho, there's whiskey in the jar!"
In the afternoon the sea is flatter and we take the guitar out in the cockpit. First lesson for Laure, doing ok with one string, but struggling to coordinate more than one finger! Camille is enjoying herself, playing in the sun, letting the notes fly away above the water, meeting the flying fishes hitting the waves.
In the meanwhile Saltimbanque is still working, pushed by the wind with the genoa up only, fixed by the pole. We don’t take the pole down any longer before the night now, we learnt how to roll up a part of the genoa and reduce the sail if necessary with the pole up. The boat sails away, working alone. Trade winds are great!
Our basic sails for average trade winds
17th December : ENE 4-5, sea rough, 126 miles
In the night we make it to the 1000 miles sailed since the Cape Verde! 1000 miles, that’s 1852km, twice as much as France is wide. Not bad! That’s also more or less the distance between us and any inhabited land now… :oS
The sea is blue… as we are gaining to the South we feel the heat more and more: 31°C yesterday onboard. Water just a bit cooler… Gaining to the West is made obvious as well by the changing times of sunsets and sunrises: we gain one hour every 15 degrees. The sun goes up and down already one full hour later than in Mindelo. Even better, as we are progressing by 2 degrees every day (1 at night, 1 during the day), our days are actually 4 minutes longer than for someone staying at the same place! We’re getting closer to the theory of special relativity here! (of course Saltimbanque can go at the speed of light, why are you asking?!?!)
In summary, not to get confused we chose to keep our watches on the Cape Verdean time (UTC-1). We’ll take off the other two hours once we arrive.
In the afternoon we bait the “yellow fellow” with a piece of pork. Bingo! Another mahi-mahi, “only” 69cm this time! We’re stocked up again with fresh proteins! As for carbs, we bake our first bread of the trip, nice golden ball, smelling deliciously! Can’t wait for the breakfast! (or breakfastS, plural: Camille has two night watch rounds and eats breakfast twice, once in the night and once as she gets up. Watch rounds are not only bad!)
The night falls and the swell calms down. The waves come only from the back, Saltimbanque floats on a sea of lights as the plankton shines more than ever. Best conditions to play Saltimbanque-rodeo! Standing on the cockpit, one foot on each side, the boat feels like a big surfboard. It glides, seems to pause for a while then starts climbing the wave, slowly, slowly… then wooosh! It flies down with a big noise, splashing light all around… pure happiness… (unfortunately short-lived, as the clouds come back and we have to watch out for squalls again).

Here's another mahi-mahi, very edible I say !
18th December : ESE 3-4, sea moderate to rough, 124 miles
It’s a grey, rainy day. Yesterday was a joyful day, we had made it to the 1000 miles and the half of the trip. Today we’re growing restless, impatient: the days have stopped piling up, we’re counting them down now, thinking about arriving. The last days will not be the easiest, we’ll have to cope in the doldrums, avoid the squalls, fight in flat calms maybe. When the sky turns grey, impatience turns into worries.
It’s a rainy, windless day. The swell is lower too, but still coming from every direction. Only the current is to thank for our progression. It rains, rains, rains, a cold, thin, endless rain, all through the day. Maybe we should not have bragged so much about the tropical sun. As we are wet anyways, we might as well have a shower (or rather a bath: the cockpit is filling up quicker than it empties, that’s a very decent bathtub for no work – who said Saltimbanque wasn’t a luxuous home?
Listening to the news we hear that Cesaria Evora passed away today. A few days ago only we were walking in her street, Cupidon saw her… rainy, sad day! Her music attracted us, led us to Cabo Verde and accompanied us in the long days and nights at sea. We loved that country, and we left. And she left too. Now it’s really over… nostalgia… “saudade”…

It's a crappy day !
What to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon? Watching the clouds running by the window doesn’t make one want to go out and play… better stay inside, curled up on the bank, watching a movie on the laptop (the last “Star Wars”). The only difference with a rainy Sunday afternoon at home is that we have to hit “pause” every 5 minutes to check for squalls, or make sure that this strange noise there outside means nothing serious… the bank is rocking too much, and that can’t be put down to alcohol…
Neptune must find that we’re growing lazy: 30 minutes after going to bed Laure is called back to the deck. “We’re taking in two reefs”. Pause, deep breath… the rain is beating on the deck, the headlights are off in order to better see the shades of grey of the clouds. Which one of those will swoop down on us? The boat is heeling, we go out and take the main sail down, plus another couple of turns in the genoa. We are now running away from the squalls, wind from the back, on a trim called “escape” in French. We are soaked through to the bone, hiding inside behind a piece of floorcloth hung there in an attempt to limit the flooding of the stairs. In the end the rain beating becomes less intense… we dare a move outside, cautiously set some sail out again, and go on with our watch rounds routine – just as nothing ever happened – yet we look more closely to the sky… that was our first tropical squall, and not the last!
19th December : ESE 2-5 + windgusts, sea slight :o), 103 miles :o(
After a night of rain, the sun rises in a blue sky scattered with cumulus clouds called “congestus” (they are bigger cumulus, all congested with water, until they sneeze violently, becoming “cumulonimbus”, then squalls). Saltimbanque is going well, the windpilote Bob is working well and we can catch up on some missing sleep of the night before. Camille is reading “Of war and peace” by Tolstoy. That’s the perfect book to cross the Atlantic: it’s great but long, after reading 450 pages you’re not even half way through – and that’s only book 1! Just like a crossing, the second is supposed to be even tougher :oS
This is a "cumulus" cloud that cought a cold and is getting congested: a congestus
As the night starts to fall the congested clouds start to sneeze… but now we know what to expect, take the sails down and furled before the rain starts pouring, and close the door until it’s over. The night is long and the wind unstable between the squalls. But not scary, now we know what to do.
That’s another finding of the crossing: humans are extremely adaptable! Only think that the same beings were staring at a screen all day long, sat on a chair indoors only a few months ago, talking with lots of different people they had nothing in common with, but met because they had to – the same beings can feel just as homely now in the middle of nowhere, seeing no one and moving about outdoors!

One good thing about the clouds: they make beautiful sunsets !
20th December : E 4,sea rough, 115 miles

Sunrises are not bad either !
In the morning the sun is shining and veering East. We hope that this will stay the case, as the grib files promised. In addition to our daily radio program and own grib files requests on the Iridium, we receive every day text messages on the phone from a mysterious friend who sends us the weather forecast and situation… the signature doesn’t ring any bell, nor the location (Brussels). Don’t know anyone there… who might that be? Every day the same question, we’re looking forward to new clues maybe with the next message… The final answer awaits us in the emails we find upon arrival: “Ph” is a Belgian sailor who follows us on our site and decided to help by routing us during the crossing. Thanks!
Today we have some more time to watch the local fauna. At the origin of the food chain are the flying fishes. They fly away from the boat all day long, alone or in clouds. The body is dark blue, up to 15cm long, their wide wings are light blue, they have big round eyes and flap their tails a few times to help take off. Then they glide away, far, so far one would mistake them for birds if their flight was not so tight and rigid. Poor fishes, they are eaten by about everyone, inside or outside the water. They are very edible indeed, we tried out once on a bigger than usual specimen that had landed on the deck one night. White meat, tastes and feels like sardines – and just as many bones. In the underworld they are a favorite of every bigger fish like mahi-mahi’s (which we then eat, so goes the chain :o) ), tunas, bonitos.. the latter jump every now and then vertically out of the water, up to 1 m high, when they’re hunting. They have a long oval body like a missile shooting motionless out of the water. But they’re not made to fly, unlike their preys – and they quickly fall back, splash! Funny :o)
Petrels and other seabirds

Yet don’t think that the flying fish is safe now that it escaped the bonito… for the birds are around! We have seen birds all the time during the crossing, even thousands of kms away from land they were gliding just above the surface, most of the time sea petrels, dark and wide-winged, with a dark eyebrow that make them look like smaller albatrosses. The other common kind are sea-swallows, small and black with white stripes on the back, catching small fishes on the surface just like their cousins catch insects on earth. More rarely we saw grey types of gannets flying high and lonely. More to the South and West than the 10N/40W we started seeing weird birds in the high sky, all white, resembling terns but for a very long and thin tail, longer than the rest of the body.
No sea mammals during this trip alas… only a little cuttlefish jumping onboard and landing with a splash of ink!
21st December : E 3-6, sea rough, pouring rain, 127 miles
In the morning the sky is heavy and grey, congested clouds are looming above us… there’s no escape, we try to find a way out but in vain: rain shall fall. It’s a long and complex squall, that will keep us inside for a couple of hours. The rest of the morning is spent between rains and calms, the wind veering constantly. Exhausting. Can we keep it on like this for another 4 days? Luckily the end of the afternoon and night are quieter, a nice breeze helping us to ride on the steady equatorial current (that’s one knot for free!)
We see more cargo ships now again, sign that we’re getting closer to civilization… tonight we dug out detailed charts of the coasts and approaches to the river! We prepared the entrance by looking at the tide timetable, and made some calculations to aim there with the flow.
300 miles to go!

Here's the occasion to wash away all the dust that had been coming to the deck in the last two months!
22nd December : E 4-6b, sea rough, 123 miles
We are now riding on the northern border of the doldrums. In that area the trade winds coming from the North East in the Northern hemisphere and from the South East in the Southern hemisphere meet. This convergence area is famous for being a nightmare to sail in: flat calms, sometimes for days, followed by strong squalls. Luckily we are not deep in there and appreciate the little Northeasterly breeze blowing between two squalls. There’s always enough wind to ride with the genoa only and no pole, meaning that we only have to furl a little when the nasty clouds are coming. In 5 seconds we have 25% of the surface remaining and can take on strong gusts! Better so, easy to maneuver even alone: furl in, give out again, furl in…

Now would be a good time to reduce the sails...
The squalls can be spotted (also by night) thanks to their typical dark grey color and their form, long and low on the horizon like a bar. They move very quickly and often not in the same direction as the prevailing wind! (common error amongst beginner squall-watchers, to assume that they’re safe looking only where the wind comes from). The wind inside the squalls can be up to 40 degrees away from the main wind.
Squalls can have many shapes and sizes. Some of them, typically in the tropics, look like arches, like a bridge with two pillars. In the middle of the night, you’re just emerging from a (too) short sleep and taking on the watch duty. Your half-closed eyes make out a darker body hanging low on the horizon. Uncertainty turns into apprehension as the second look reveals the body has moved closer – and doubled its size! Then adrenaline takes on the command, starting on automatic pilot the well-rehearsed routine: give out a little sheet, furl in the genoa to the third mark, pull on the sail a bit, fasten the ropes, check the course of the pilot, check that all ropes are tight and secure, prepare the door in the stairs. Another look around, the black mass of clouds are almost above your head now. You’re ready. Your face feels the wind blowing stronger, your ear confirms as the water is beating on the hull and the wind starts whistling in the shrouds. By chance you stand right in the middle of the arch, between the two pillars made of dark rain. And you pass under the squall without a drop, just like you would pass under the bridge… Right now you could be laying somewhere in a warm wide and dry bed, sleeping all night long in clean confortable sheets – and not see the black clouds on the luminous stars. You smile a little and set the sails again as the gusts decrease.
You could almost get used to those night games! But in the morning the wind picks up and up to 25 knots, firmly from the North East. The trade winds are fighting the doldrums in the sky, blowing away the bigger congested clouds, replacing them with high white small cumulus. The sun is bright and Saltimbanque is running fast, hoping from one current to the next (the equatorial current met the Guyana current right where we were – the latter will bring us to destination now!). Only downside to this almost ideal day: the swell, high and short again.
Swell or no swell, Christmas is coming and we have a boat to decorate! Numerous little balls are hanging everywhere by now. We add a green garland and dress up our Shadok plush into “Santa Shadok”. He’s small but we trust he will take care of our presents all the same. And indeed, as a first gift a couple of days ahead, stars are shining bright in the cloudless sky. Towards the end of the night, we see 4 little dots on backboard, arranged in a group one cannot miss: the Southern Cross! The famous constellation of the Southern hemisphere is welcoming Saltimbanque under the 5th degree North :oD
Saltimbanque is ready for Christmas !
23rd December : E 5-6b, sea rough, 123 miles

24th December,30° outside, arriving to France... there's something wrong here...
The wind keeps blowing and Saltimbanque keeps flying! The Guiana current is strong to the North West as we expected and we are positioned in the South so as to make the most of it, running at an average 6.5 kts!
Less than 100 miles to go now. Suddenly the color of the sea changes: from deep blue it turns to green, confirming that the coast is not far now. A few hours later green will turn into light brown. The Amazonia and other powerful South American rivers carry away tons and tons of sediments, continuously flooding the coast downstream and up to 50 miles off the shore. As the night is falling we can make out a halo of light in the distance to backboard. Could it be the shore already? If so, we’re gravely mistaken on our position, as Cayenne should appear on our right, and not on our left… later we will hear that it was most probably an oil platform. Yet another sign of shore is not disputable: the echo sounder detects the seabed! We have ground less than 100m under our feet now!
24th December : ENE 3-5b, sea moderate, 125 miles
We have to face the facts: we will be either too late or too early to enter the Mahury river with the flow. The ebb current is strong (up to 4 knots) and despite our impatience we’ll have to wait for the tide… we spend the night tacking and running parallel to the shore, racking our brains on complex calculations to anticipate the speed and course with and against the current. Inside looking at the charts is tiring, outside watching the clouds is no better. The wind drops off a bit of course just as we need it to control our course towards shore!
In the morning we see the land!! Firstly, a group of islands appear. Two of them are called Islands of the Father and of the Mother (the latter is easily recognizable because of the two rounds rocks emerging on the side, called “the Breasts”). This is South America!!! The lights and colors are superb, the green islands standing out from the dark sky. A full rainbow above our heads shows the way to the entry channel into the river. The beacons colors stand here on the opposite side compared to Europe and Africa, green is on backboard and red on portside! Yet the shapes are the usual cylinder on backboard and cone on portside – how confusing!
As the wind is dying out we have to wake Nestor off after his 16 days beauty sleep. The engine is in a good mood today and starts without a word.

The treasure awaiting us at the bottom of the rainbow is Guiana !

Saltimbanque enters in the Mahury river
Last beacon ahead, the marina is in sight, attracting us to its forest of masts… soon we’ll be moored and safe again… but wait, not so easy! A squall runs to us and pours so much rain that we can’t see at 10m. We wait under a beating rain just near the closest beacon, careful not to lose the blurred silhouette from sight and drift away out of the channel. 10 minutes and 5 cm of water later, the rain stops, the marina appears again.
Human beings (what’s that sort of creatures again?) are walking on the pontoon. From under their umbrella they indicate a good mooring place next to an official boat from the French navy.
“Come here, they won’t move before next year now!”
“Here, give us the ropes, let us help with the mooring”
Saltimbanque gets closer, one hand grabs the ropes under the rain, tie them to the bollards. Engine off, we’re not moving any more…

“You look tired!” our welcome committee say “where are you coming from today?”
“- Mindelo, Cabo Verde… we just crossed the Atlantic!!!”

After 16 days at sea, this will be a merry but short celebration... Happy Christmas everyone!
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Alain (DAHU) - 10/01/2012 19:34:36
un petit coucou de l'humain avec son parapluie, on dit pas de nouvelles, bonnes nouvelles; je suppose qu'avec l'eau qui tombe du ciel en ce moment pas besoin de douche au pulvé grosses bises à vous 2

Maarten - 09/01/2012 21:14:39
Ahoi Ladies, HNY and congratulations with the great ocean passage! Well done, a big achievement. I really enjoyed reading your blog and the good pictures. Big cheers, Maarten , Home of Jazz

suDad - 06/01/2012 18:55:02
Wououfffff!!! Terre ferme ? Ah bon. Ca bouge encore, même pour le lecteur. Qui est content d'être arrivé à bon port,lui aussi. Tant le récit est prenant,il vient de traverser avec vous. On aurait presque le goût de la daurade sous les papilles. Tout le monde le fait, dites-vous. Trop modestes. Les péripéties météo ça se lit facile, mais à vivre pour de vrai, avec les quarts somnolents et l'inconnu que réserve la mer, cette grande chahuteuse toute-puissante... Vous pouvez pavoiser. "Tout le monde le fait". Tu parles !
Maint'nant, ça va êt' du velours. Vous avez les galons qui vont bien. Bientôt la suite de notre série préférée ! Merci, vous êtes de remarquables scénaristes. Grosses bises européennes. Et bonne deuxième moitié d'année !!!

Sylvain - 05/01/2012 16:51:34
Si les exocets avaient un capitaine de soirée, elles finiraient pas sur votre pont comme ça...
Très bon récit en tout cas :)

Gadjo dilo - 05/01/2012 16:19:31
Bravo pour cette belle traversée, et bonne année de nous trois

Jan-Peter - 04/01/2012 19:12:34
Ook van mij nog de beste wensen voor het nieuwe jaar. Heb jullie verhalen gelezen. Nou respect dames voor deze fantastische prestatie! Genieten nu en veel plezier op de rest van jullie reis.

Pet\'chi - 02/01/2012 18:05:05
Magique cet article !!!!!!!! Un vrai bon moment de lecture où on se sent un peu plus proche de vous.... On se croirait presque sous les tropiques nous aussi s'il n'y avait la pluie qui se brise sur mes fenêtres......
En tout cas trèèèèèèèèès bonne année 2012 mes soeurettes !!!!!!!!!! Bonne nav' et bon vent zà vous 2 ;) Bizoux

Hervé - 01/01/2012 22:29:59
Grand bravo. Votre voyage est superbe et l'histoire que vous en faites sur le site fantastique. Encooe une fois bravo les filles. Et puis une très bonne année de Bonne Nav à venir.

farfa ThB - 01/01/2012 20:19:21
Meilleurs veux pour une année 2012 pleine de joie nautiques !!! j'ai bien aimé dans vos récits, la référence à JFD qui a écrit le livre ultime de la croisière (côtière); et la comparaison de vos pèches à nos (grands) maquereaux que nous prenons en manche.

la mamou - 01/01/2012 12:16:45
bonne année à Saltimbanque et à son super équipage ! que Neptune lui soit clément !!

Kariine - 31/12/2011 18:56:22
Chapeau bas les filles !
Un Noël comme ça, c'est pas tout le monde qui peut se vanter d'en avoir vécu un !! et, mazette des coryphènes de cette taille avec un petit Poulpi, vous auriez pris quoi avec un gros!!!

Sylvia - 31/12/2011 15:27:53
Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar girls! Ik wens jullie een onvergetelijk jaar 2012, met veel avontuurs op zee en aan land. Jullie kunnen trots zijn op het naleven van jullie dromen! Liefs

Nadia - 31/12/2011 09:06:09
Je vous souhaite une très belles année 2012 avec des rêves plein la tête , des étoiles plein les yeux et plein plein de belles choses à raconter ! c'est déjà le cas mais on en vaut encore ! ;-)))

Bonne continuation les filles !

la mamou - 31/12/2011 04:23:44
3h du mat , réveillée par le besoin d'aller voir l'ordi !! et là , chouette ,il est arrivé , le nouvel article de Saltimbanque !!! une bonne heure de bonheur et d'émotion !!
et je n'ai pas encore regardé les photos !!
je ne retournerai pas au lit de sitôt ...
le papou ronfle en bas , et moi je suis dans les alizés avec vous , en haut de ma petite maison de kersolff : le bonheur existe aussi à terre !! ;-))

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