Andy: Be prepared, be good little boy scouts

Ron Stubbington
Fri 20 Nov 2009 19:27

28:07.65N  15:25.70W


My hat’s off to the ARC (Atlantic Rally Cruisers) organization for the seminars and events they have organized over the last two weeks.  Getting a boat ready for this crossing is a huge undertaking (as an aside, Ron has done an absolutely remarkable job of getting through a huge number of preparation items in advance) and they have done a fine job of organizing a series of education seminars to help you sift through thousands of things you could do, and the more important things you will want to do.  Each seminar is usually an hour in length and they have been held at various yacht clubs and hotels around the marina.  Great facilities too.  To give you an idea of what it’s like, think of having 250 boats in coal harbor and attending seminars at say the Hotel Vancouver or the Vancouver Yacht Club. 


Nor is it all work and no play because in addition to finding your own fun, they have done a great job of organizing a large number of events for some big time fun.  Here’s a quick summary,  with some thoughts and memories, of the seminars and parties I’ve been to:


Emergency Management:  Thinking about the worst case scenarios, what you can do about them and what you need to have on board to cope.  For example if you did lose your mast and rigging do you have bolt cutters, a good hacksaw and new blades on board?  As you might imagine there was a mad rush at the chandlery and hardware stores following the session.  I’m sure they sold more hacksaws and blades than they have all year J .  And they were careful to emphasize that this was essentially a ‘doom and gloom scenario’ session, so don’t forget that 99% of the time bad things do not happen and the crossing will be lots of fun!  What I took away is that  it’s all about being a good little boy scout, be prepared.  And I’ll say it again, Ron has done a great job of getting Erasmos ready so we had very little to fix other than to mentally get us thinking about what would you do for certain emergencies.  If you lost your pressurized water supply due to a pipe break what would you do for water for the crew for a couple of weeks?  (We have alternate supplies of bottled water, a water maker, and you can be creative using the sails to catch water if it rains).  Wonderful stuff for worry warts like me J


Real Nautic Welcome Party:  One of the first events was hosted by Real Nautic a marine chandlery and supply company.  Held about 8:00 pm at dockside in a large boat yard it was a chance to start to get into the fun atmosphere.  A beautiful warm evening with the temperature probably about 23 degrees C, gentle winds, beer and wine and a host of different tapas (think local appetizers, bits and bites brought around on plates by the staff) brought out during the evening.  All wonderfully catered by attentive and professional waiters and waitresses.  And the highlight had to be the 3 man rock and roll band that played for at least 3 hours straight.  Drums, base, guitar/ lead singer.  Absolutely amazing.  The sounds these guys generated would shame most live bands I’ve seen.  The range of material they played, and played exceptionally well, was incredible.  50’s to 90’s rock and roll.  Buddy Holly, Beatles, Stones, Pink Floyd, Eagles to name a few.  I can’t imagine how difficult it is for 3 to play Pink Floyd well, and that they did that and much more.


Weather and Routing:   In preparation for my own involvement in the crossing I had done some significant reading and tried to gain experience regarding weather, weather prediction, route selection, weather reports, wind reports etc. etc.  Not professional education, but a little more than Weather Forecasting for Dummies.  Going 2,900 nautical miles in  3 weeks across the Atlantic, it seemed prudent to know something about weather forecasting and prediction.  No internet forecasts, no TV/AM/FM radio forecasts.  No VHF (boat weather channel forecasts).  Only SSB (akin to short wave radio), short text and graphics weather briefing packages and most importantly your eyes and senses.  The most useful book I found, which I decided to buy, was “Onboard Weather Handbook – Chris Tibbs”.  Imagine my delight to find that Chris was presenting this topic at the seminar.  Of course I had to get my copy autographed J  Not only that but I had a chance to meet him personally several times and to bounce questions and ideas off him.  What a source of knowledge.  Chris has sailed around the world 3 times, has a Masters in meteorology, has raced, crewed and done things nautical at some of the highest levels.  A sincere, knowledgeable, delightful and friendly soul.  Chris will be proving localized weather forecasts for the entire fleet during the crossing.  So the ocean get’s divided into a number of grids and he will give you a synopsis, wind and wave current conditions and forecast for each of the grids as we move across.  Invaluable.  We had used Chris (unbeknownst to me) on the way down for a personalized forecast from Gibraltar to Grand Canaria and he was deadly accurate.  So sorting through the millions of pieces of weather information what does it all boil down to?  Go south till the butter melts and turn right J_   I kid you not.  Our routing from the Canaries (subject to any bizarre unforeseen weather) will be to head south towards the Cape Verdes then to head West for the Caribbean.  Although this route is about 2,900 nautical miles verses 2,700 straight line from here. Experience has shown that heading south to get to the stronger trade winds then west in them across the Atlantic is a far faster route then going through very light winds on the straight line course.  We shall see.  More later on course selection, routing and directions to steer or course made good as the voyage progresses.  At this point it’s all speculative till you get out there and see what the conditions are.



  Chris Tibbs, author of The Onboard Weather Handbook


Las Palmas Welcome Party:  Now this was a welcome reception,  Hosted by the Island and City Governments they put on a quite the opening bash.  Again, held late in the evening at 9:00, warm tropical breezes, beautiful old Spanish courtyard plaza and buildings.  Great food, drinks and entertainment.  The highlight of this event being the entertainment.  A wonderful high energy audio/video slide show introduction of the island,  Carnival dancers and musicians, drag queens (hilarious), a Cirque Du Soleil type acrobatic performance(they actually used Cirque Du Soleil music, from Alegria I think)  , dancing and singing, and a big time fireworks show.  Not a small event by any standard and it was a great chance to start to get to know other crews, and to get in the spirit of things.


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 Carnival Dancers and the Welcome Party                            



Single Side Band Radio:  During the rally/crossing, the very practical way for boats to stay in touch is using single side band radio (SSB).  Unlike VHF which has a line of sight range of about 20-25 nautical miles, SSB will go hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles.  Definitely the preferred communication vehicle.  So the ARC will organize a ‘Net’ for different groups of boats.  The ‘Net’ being one big teleconference for the boats in your group.  You could think of it as a live voice blog.  Each group will have about 75 boats.  So at 9:00 (GMT) each day they will broadcast the weather reports and other key information then open up the ‘Net’ for general conversation.  Like taking off the mute button on the conference room phones.  It should be fun because it’s a chance to stay in touch with some other people and boats we have started to make friends with, to ask questions about things you need information on, and to report any serious problems or issues that don’t necessarily need immediate attention, but you need help with.  Then again at 9:00 pm the net will be open for communication.


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  Flag Day Parade and Official Opening Ceremony



Flag Parade and Don Pedro’s boat races: There are boats from 30 or so countries in the ARC, and we think  4 boats are Canadian owned, we have met at least one other Canadian boat and crew.  So at noon earlier this week everyone got together for an Olympic style flag parade.  Regardless of boat country the crews were encouraged to walk with their flag.  So we all paraded down the street in front of the Marina and out to the end of the breakwater where there was a formal flag raising ceremony with speeches from local officials.  The country flags were hoisted on individual masts and the event declared officially open.  Lot’s more fun than it sounds.  We had about 12 or so Canadians in our group and we were flanked by Brussels and Croatia.  The Canadians are from many places, Ottawa, Markham, Montreal, Vancouver etc.  Then the fun started.  For the folks in the know, including locals, it was dress up time in the most outrageous and outlandish costumes you can imagine.  Then teams boarded their dinghies for a race in the harbor.  Race being a loose term since the object of the race seemed to be to soak and or sink your opponents as best you can.  Sort of like roller derby on the water.  Loud music playing, announcers saying things in Spanish, the crowd cheering.  Marvelous fun really.


 Don Pedro’s infamous dinghy boat races:


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Well in addition to those events there are also Happy Hours sponsored by various marine vendors every night from 6:30 to 8:30.  Well attended as you can imagine with the first couple of beers on the vendors.  And we had a very nice, more formal crew supper, for boats in our class at a nearby decent restaurant.  Local cheeses, salad, roast duck with plum sauce for the entrée and chocolate brownies with ice cream for dessert.  Wine and music included.  Lovely. 


  Relaxing at the Crew Supper

  Andy and Dave

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Brian, Andy, Dave   then Ron, Brian


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 And Kevin the crazy Kiwi (Arriving just in time for dinner!



And the final seminar we attended yesterday was the Helicopter Rescue Demonstration, followed by a  flares demonstration, and life raft demonstration.  More on that  in a future note.  It’s getting late now and we are off to the Tourism Bureau final cocktail party tonight.  I’m sure it will live up to the high standards everything else has achieved so far.  So enough for now.


It’s been busy, it’s been fun, it’s been informative.  An absolutely great way to get you ready for the crossing ahead.  The countdown continues, 2 days to the start! 


More later.  Written in chunks at 8:00 am in my cabin while the crew quietly sleeps, and during the hour I spent at the Laundromat doing one last load of laundry, and while everyone else is at happy hourJ


Andy – Friday November 20th.