Atlantic Crossing 2021 – Arrival in Martinique!

Well, if you’ve been following our GPS tracking through PredictWind, you’ll know that we arrived safe and sound in Martinique on the 1st December. Eighteen nights at sea, to arrive on day nineteen, took longer than if we had have sailed in stronger trade winds, but the light conditions made for a most relaxing and peaceful ocean passage. Here are some stats for those interested:

  • Direct distance – Cape Verde to Martinique – 2,080nm
  • Logged distance (actually sailed) – 2,350nm (our third longest sail to date)
  • Nights at sea – 18
  • Average speed – 5.6kn
  • Average wind speed – around 8-12kn (final two days up to 30kn)
  • Fastest day – 152nm (last day)
  • Slowest day – 105nm (day 7)
  • Motoring (propulsion) – 12 hours
  • Motoring (Watermaker and battery charging) – 33 hours
Grib files before departure showed calm conditions – we knew what we were heading into

When we departed Cape Verde, we knew we were going out into calm conditions – stronger and more stable trade winds not due for another week so we figured we would leave anyway and make the most of what was on offer. With a large fleet of ARC Rally boats entering Mindelo, we thought it best to get a wriggle on before the small anchorage filled up.

South or north? Only we can interpret the data and make our own way.

Helping us on this trip was the IridiumGo and PredictWind routing. With six weather models to choose from, each day and night we would downloaded different grib files, analyse the routes and come up with our own interpretation of the data. The routes weren’t always compatible with our boat polar, or our preferred sailing configurations, but the grib files themselves were fairly accurate. Using the weather data from the downloaded information, we would generally make our own decisions to navigate through the calm water. We also used Weather4D as an alternative method of viewing grib files.

750nm into the trip and heading south each day

Cape Verde is at 17 degrees latitude, while Martinique is at 14.28 degrees. The PW routes were suggesting we keep heading south to reach wind, in some cases as far south as 10 degrees. Sailing in light conditions and keeping as far south as we needed, we regularly gybed the spinnaker, changed sails, winged out, even had genoa, spinnaker and main up in one configuration, all in an effort to maintain progress and not head too far south. We did dip below 12 degrees before coming back up. Six days out of Martinique, the routes were suggesting we head down as far as 11 degrees – level with Tobago. Besides a few hours, the spinnaker stayed up for a record twelve days!

The overal route – 2350nm

The overall logged trip was 2350nm; happily, we managed to sail the entire trip only motoring twice for around six hours (12 total), to get across a dead patch of calm with zero wind. Mostly though, where the wind was between 6-10kn, with our radial spinnaker and a bit of current, we managed to move along between 4-5kn.

The light conditions made for a really enjoyable trip, but with the spinnaker up overnight with only one on watch, we were mindful that we may have to gybe or change sails during the night. The calm conditions allowed us to read books, watch movies, try our hand at fishing (not very successful mind you), and just enjoy the time away from the outside world. Up until the final couple of days, we saw only one ship visually, plus two others on AIS. Only two yachts came anywhere near us overnight.

Within a few days, we’d settled into our offshore routine – typically three hourly watches overnight and only napping during the day if we felt inclined. Brilliant red sunsets and orange sunrises now our timekeepers, with a bright waxing moon peaking to full six days into the trip, then waning for the remainder.

After sunrise each day I’d throw out the trolling line from the stern and clear the deck of stiff, lifeless, flying fish which had succumbed overnight. The sargassum weed across the Atlantic fouled my lure each day, although we did manage to catch a small fish. Each night, I’d wind the line in, empty, and each morning I’d throw it out…

After stocking up in Mindelo, we ate fresh veggies and fruit every day, and with our last remaining Granny Smith apples, I whipped up a sweet apple crumble as a treat. Two dozen eggs at the start, with four remaining at the end – I keep these in a drawer and have never had a need to refrigerate eggs. For a special dinner for our 39th wedding anniversary, I cooked up a big tray of pizza followed by chocky pudding and Merlot – yum!

The final 600nm, still coaxing us to sail south.

Our ETA was always the 1st December, and fortunately the final 400nm of our voyage the winds picked up to between 18-25kn, gusting to just under 30kn, so we were fairly sure we could make it by that date. The PW routes were still suggesting for us to go south, but with the strong wind we navigated our own way to Martinique using winged out sails during the day and gybing at night; to keep the crew comfortable while still maintaining speed, we reefed the sails.

Large squalls bringing wind and fat rain

A few times we had massive downpours – you know, the type of fat rain typical of the tropics – prompting me to go out on deck to cool down and enjoy the deluge.

Final two days of the trip – heading towards Barbados before a long gybe towards Martinique

Before we departed Mindelo, we setup the PW GPS Tracking so that we could track other boats and read their daily updates. It’s a great way to keep in touch, and it was great to receive SMS messages and emails from friends as we sailed along.

As we approached Martinique, we didn’t see the island until we were 16nm away – about three hours. Sunset in the eastern Caribbean is early – around 6pm – and we knew were weren’t going to make the anchorage before dark. The southern lighthouse on Ilet Cabrits flashing four times every 15 seconds and we entered the Saint Lucia Channel at full speed before heading north a couple of miles into the Sainte-Ann anchorage; a place we arrived at in 2015, also in the dark.

So, that’s the trip. We’re both happy with the boat – nothing broken as far as we can see, due to the light sailing and not pushing the boat too hard. It was the most cruisy sail we’ve ever sailed and I would rather sail like that, than bash into headwinds or surf down huge seas – been there, done that!

Now we will spend some time in Martinique and plan our next passage. I’ll write more about our checkin and stay at Le Marin soon, suffice to say it was très facile!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the trip!

Until next time.

About blueheelerhr39

Sailing the world aboard Blue Heeler
This entry was posted in 2021, Atlantic Crossing 2021 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Atlantic Crossing 2021 – Arrival in Martinique!

  1. Hi Al and Wayne
    I’ve been reading your blogs for years now and are truly fascinated by your achievements
    It’s amazing where life’s journey takes us.
    Poppy has as her license now and car and has finished year 12. She now lives with me.
    Tully is working at the Covid testing centres and has a qualification in pathology testing. She also is living with me.
    Cooper is about to enter year 11 and is 6’4”. He is a typical 15 year old. He’s living half his time with me half with Cherie.
    Take care. I often think of you both ,
    I would love to catch up with you both some day. Feel free to contact me.


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