Maiden Voyage - Trans Atlantic Passage

Southerly 42RST - "Distant Shores"

Greetings from Lisbon, Portugal, where we have just completed the first leg of this year's voyage from Falmouth, England, aboard our brand new Southerly 42RST sailboat, "Distant Shores". The boat is beautiful and we are really thrilled! We took delivery of the boat on November 21st, which was two months behind schedule unfortunately. This meant we were now trying to leave England late in the season in cold weather and when there are more frequent gales. This could hold us up further, especially for the 3-4 day passage across the notorious Bay of Biscay where we'd need several days of reliable northerly, preferably northwest, winds to get across to Spain.

Joining us on this leg of the voyage as our first guest is Gord Zimmerman of Bobcaygeon, Canada. We first met Gord and his wife Sue when they attended one of our "Outfitting and Provisioning for Cruising" seminars before they left for their 2-year cruise to the Caribbean aboard their Sidelmann 37, "Lady Simcoe". We have kept in touch and we are now all members of the same yacht club at home. Gord is a life-long racing and cruising sailor but had never sailed in Europe and wanted to experience some longer offshore passages.

"It's not too often you get the opportunity to sail aboard a brand new half-million dollar yacht that has all the latest safety and navigation equipment installed. I'm getting to learn how to use all this gear, having a wonderful adventure, and having a great time with Paul and Sheryl," says Gord who will sail with us as far as the Canary Islands.

Gord has been a great help to us on this first leg since we are still cutting our teeth getting to know the new boat and are constantly sorting and re-sorting gear as everything finds its place. Gord loves rigging and has made some excellent suggestions as well as designed and rigged a new boom preventer /barberhauler. We are enjoying having Gord aboard as crew and are benefiting from his input.

We received a lovely farewell from everyone at Northshore who have built a beautiful and seaworthy boat for us. They couldn't do enough to make the boat as perfect as could be and even on the day when we got our weather window and were scheduled to cast off from Chichester at noon with the tide, people were still onboard "just checking this" and "touching up that" so that finally Paul had to say, "Okay, everyone. You have one minute to get off this boat!" Gord keeps checking lockers to see if anyone has stayed on board.

From Chichester to Lisbon...

Our first sail was an overnight passage from Chichester along the south coast of England to Falmouth in the west where we would jump off to cross the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay as we headed south. We had great conditions, winds from the north, and the boat sailed like a dream. But it was cold! We were dressed in so many layers we could hardly move and the person on deck on watch was given a hot water bottle to stuff down their foul weather jacket. At midday the next day, we were headed by west winds so pulled into the picturesque little harbour at Fowey (pronounced Foy) a little east of Falmouth. We were very happy with our new Mastervolt generator so we could run our heaters and stay warm below! That night Paul's Aunt Janet and cousin, Clare, drove down from Truro to see the boat and say farewell.

The next morning conditions were good for continuing on to Falmouth, a town we know with lots of chandleries, hardware and grocery stores, and cruising friends to greet us and drive us around. But we only had 6 hours since bad weather was in the future and if we didn't leave by midnight we would be stuck in England for another week or 10 days. When we arrived in Falmouth friend, Peter Flutter, met us on our arrival and then whisked us off to his father's home where Peter's lovely lady, Sue, was preparing Sunday Roast and had kindly invited us to join in. It was just what 3 tired hungry sailors needed – good for the body and soul – and fuelled us up for the passage ahead.

We returned to the boat and had a lovely visit from the rest of Paul's family in Truro – Uncle Chris, cousin Daniel and his 3 children who we wouldn't be seeing again for some time. Another bittersweet farewell. Then we went mad running errands including purchasing another few sets of "thermals", thick gloves, and balaclava hats. My gosh, but night watches were cold but as we got further south each day the weather warmed delightfully. Here in Portugal we are in T-shirts during the day and sweaters or light jackets in the evening.

As it turned out, a high pressure system moved in and remained settled throughout our whole voyage south to Lisbon. After a couple of hours of sailing we had to turn on the motor and so it continued most of the way across the English Channel and Bay of Biscay. As we rounded Cape Finesterre where there is always wind, it was so flat calm the stars were reflected in the water!

One of the new Raymarine navigation systems we have aboard "Distant Shores" is AIS which stands for Automatic Identification System. All large ships broadcast information including their name, size, course and speed, destination and the system will calculate the closest proximity to you and give the time of this closest contact. It took away a lot of stress in the VERY busy shipping lanes along our route. It was especially helpful when we wanted to contact an oncoming ship since we could call it by name. We'll be writing more about this in our New Boat Blog as well as details on all the latest high-tech equipment we have installed on our new boat.

We had hoped to continue on straight to Lisbon, but due to the lack of wind we stopped at the lovely Club Nautico in Portosin, Spain, in the Ria Muros to get fuel, before continuing south to Lisbon on December 1st. We are now prepared to cast off from the Marina Cascais, near Lisbon, to make the voyage to Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. There is a thick fog so as soon as it clears, we'll be on our way again.

From Lisbon to the Canaries...

It was nearly 4 p.m. by the time the fog horns stopped and the visibility started to improve so we cast off the docklines. It was December 5th and our destination was Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands. The high pressure system that had hovered over us for most of the voyage was still in place so once again we had exceptionally light winds so had to begin the passage by motoring, but by the 3rd day the wind finally picked up and we were able to set up our new downwind rig and sail wing and wing by poling out the self-tacking jib. We have a Selden carbon fibre spinnaker pole on Distant Shores which is so light to handle and manage at sea. To our delight we were able to make 5 kts of speed with only 7-8 knots of apparent wind and sailed happily through the afternoon and most of the night.

However as the wind increased it shifted, giving us a better course to Madeira rather than the Canary Islands. Since we had had to do so much motoring since we'd left England on November 25th, we decided to just keep sailing and make an unplanned stop in Madeira. We had visited the semi-tropical Portuguese island of Madeira in 1991 and had loved it so much we had ended up spending 6 weeks exploring and hiking this lush mountainous island so it was not a difficult decision and Gord was keen since he had never been there before. This is the beauty of electronic navigation with our Raymarine E120 plotter and Navionics Platinum charts not only do we have detailed charts of all harbours so we can safely change our plans, the Platinum charts include written pilot guides and aerial photos of many harbours.
Fabulous tools!

The weather was constantly getting warmer and on the morning of December 8, just before we made landfall in Madeira's main port of Funchal, we were finally able to dress in shorts and enjoy the warmth of the sunshine. The marina in Funchal is not large and usually visiting yachts are required to raft against the quay but since we were arriving so late in the season several local yachts were already hauled out and

the harbourmaster was able to give us a slip to tie up in on one of the floating pontoons. This meant we didn't have to worry about the tides or scramble up a barnacle encrusted wall. Another nice thing was that we got to meet a lot of the local sailors who were all big fans of the Distant Shores TV series which airs in Madeira on Travel Channel and Sailing Channel. They recognised us right away and in welcome presented us with their club burgee and a bottle of Madeira wine. They also called the local newspaper which did a story about our voyage and subsequently we had many Madeiran fans come down to the marina for a tour of our new boat.

We spent a few days in Funchal rediscovering the town which was so beautifully decorated for the Christmas season and at night was ablaze with some of the most amazing Christmas decorations we have ever seen. Each evening there were concerts by the waterfront and stalls set up where we could sample foods. The shops are wonderful and we all got a lot of Christmas shopping done here! Gord would soon be heading home in time for Christmas and was looking forward to a relaxing holiday season with Sue and the rest of his family. It had been a cold strenuous voyage south from England and we had appreciated Gord's dedication and input throughout the trip.

From Madeira we made a fast 2-day passage south to Gran Canaria, sailing all the way, and arrived at the Muelle Deportivo de Las Palmas, the main marina in Las Palmas, on December 13. Here we began preparations for our upcoming transatlantic passage and did a crew change.

Joining us on the next leg of the voyage from the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean, would be Wayne and Angie Attwood of Plymouth, England, who flew in from Turkey. Wayne and Angie have been cruising in the Mediterranean for the last 2 years aboard their Warrior 37, Hitrapia. Wayne and Angie have been considering doing a transatlantic passage aboard their own boat in 2009 so were enthusiastic about getting some experience with us aboard Distant Shores to see how what it would be like and to help them plan better for a safe voyage to the Caribbean aboard Hitrapia. At this time the longest passage they had undertaken was 3 days from Malta to the Ionian Islands in Greece. This was to be Paul and my 4th transatlantic passage and we were looking forward to a comfortable passage with the new boat...

From the Canaries to Antigua...

We had a few delays waiting for additional equipment to be shipped in and after doing the installations, making a few more improvements to the rig, and provisioning the boat we set off on Christmas Eve with brisk winds and a good forecast. However the next day the steering system started to make a terrible screeching sound so we altered course and pulled in to the most western island in the Canaries, El Hierro, to investigate the problem. Paul and Wayne pulled everything apart while Angie and I prepared a roast Christmas dinner and discovered that it was just a rudder bearing that needed a little oil so was easily dealt with. After a good night's sleep we started out again for Antigua across the Atlantic.