We did it! We finally left the Mediterranean and sailed into the Atlantic this morning. Dean has been watching the weather for the past week so that we could complete this 5 day, 4 night crossing to the Canary Islands in the best possible weather. This 700 mile crossing will be our longest so far- a good practice for sailing across the Atlantic next month.
We had an incredible "speed boat" ride through the Straight of Gibraltar in 30-35 kt winds. In the process, Snowcat hit a new all time speed record of 14 kts, a very fast speed with two reefs in the sail. (The term "reef" refers to the system we have on our boat to reduce the amount of sail area which is exposed to the wind by letting the sail part way down and folding up the unused sail on the boom. Catana has a well engineered system which allows you to complete the entire reefing process from the safety of the cockpit within about 3-4 minutes.) We've learned that you always put in additional reefs as the wind builds up, in order to keep the boat balanced. We have been practicing throughout the Med and are finally getting quite proficient.
Through the night and this morning, winds and waves have steadily decreased. We first took all the reefs out, then tried the spinnaker (those colorful parachute looking sails) and finally the wind got so light that we were only going 3 kts or so. At 4 pm we finally decided to try the "iron sails", ie- Mr. & Mrs Volvo. They have consistently been up to the task and one or the other of them has been running all night. Although it's nice to have two engines, we use them one at a time to save fuel, except when trying to navigate a port or marina where you need the extra control of both engines.
It's about 1 a.m. and I just took over the watch. Nothing out here, we have only seen two other vessels since we left the Straits of Gibraltar, one cargo ship and a sailing yacht, and only 1-3 more that showed up on radar but we never saw them. I know it sounds lonely, but it is so much more relaxing compared to the superhighway of boats that we experienced in the Med.
The guys usually pick one watch to keep us company overnight. Last night I had a bit of a chess tournament going, and beat Ben and the Jack. I was surprised to win, they are both turning into good chess players. We also have Yatzee tournaments, read, eat snacks or just talk during night watches.