Crossing the Atlantic Ocean on the Catalac 900 – S/V Horizons

by Jeff & Diane Curran

(Jeff and Diane were kind enough to share the story of their Atlantic crossing in 2013 aboard S/V Horizons, their Catalac 900 catamaran. – Rick

In 2012 Jeff reached the Canaries aboard Horizons a Catalac 900 having sailed from Madeira single handed. It was not without some difficulties, gale force winds certainly helped him on his way but halfway through the journey the electronic auto helm broke. Hove to, a repair was attempted but it became apparent that the wheel pilot motor had burnt out. There was nothing more to do than get some well earned rest whilst hove-to before continuing the journey by hand steering.

Horizons finally reached the anchorage at Playa Blanca in Lanzarote on the evening of 10th November where a decent meal and sleep were the order of priorities before going into Marina Rubicon the next morning in order to have the auto helm fixed. This wasn’t quite so straightforward as the pilot motor had to be parcelled up and sent to England for repair. It was lost in the post and didn’t actually reach the repair facility in England until Jeff returned to the UK himself a week before Christmas for a family get together.

Having spent Christmas and New Year with the family and with a repaired auto helm (including a spare obtained from e-bay), Jeff and Diane (she had just taken early retirement from her job) set off for Lanzarote to continue on an adventure.

With the repaired autopilot functioning. February was taken up with sailing the Canaries; which included Isle La Graciosa Las Palmas on Gran Canarias, Tenerife where we watched the fabulous Carnival at Santa Cruz before moving down to the southern part of Tenerife. At this stage we weren’t entirely certain that an Atlantic crossing was going to be made in early 2013 because we were trying to persuade our daughters and Grandchildren to join us for a spell; We had read so much about hurricanes and we were content with perhaps remaining in the Canaries until December.

However, our youngest daughter Claudia joined us and having been given a free pass from her husband, convinced us we should head South and cross the Atlantic before the onset of the hurricane season.

Setting off from beautiful La Gomera which is well worth a visit, the three of us journeyed 760 miles to Sal in Cape Verde reaching Palmeira some 9 and a half days later. There was a church service taking place in the harbour and as we anchored, a flotilla of small fishing boats full of people from the service paraded around the harbour – it was quite spectacular and felt like it had been for our benefit..

We continued on to Santa Maria in the south of the island which was a modern resort quite different to Palmeira but moved on after a few days because the weather was threatening to deteriorate.

We stayed in the Cape Verdes, Sal and Boa Vista for approximately 3 weeks, not so much because it was so wonderful but because we had to hang around until Claudia could catch her flight back to the UK.

Catalac 900

On her departure we continued towards Mindelo, at St Vincent where there is at least a sheltered Marina and a place to victual. En-route we anchored off Tarrafel in Sao Nicolau for two days. It has to be said that in our opinion, the anchorages are not very hospitable and there are always strong winds and accompanying swell around the islands at this time of the year. We experienced some of the worst weather of the whole trip in the Cape Verde Islands.

A week in Mindelo allowed us to prepare our passage and victual the boat and on Monday 15th April 2013 we set off for Barbados.

Within 24 hours the autopilot failed, it was replaced with the second pilot motor but to our dismay we discovered that it would only turn to port. I have to report at this stage that we had experienced problems with our electronic autopilots on the way to Sal.

The newly repaired unit had over-heated after only 800 miles; it was replaced by the eBay purchased one which, fell apart 2 weeks later!

There was nothing for it but to turn around and beat back to Cape Verde in strong winds and 2.5 metre swells, with Di on the helm.

Luckily for us, Jeff was able to solder a lose wire on the eBay model and because of the conditions, we decided to turn around and head West, It meant we actually lost a half day towards our intended destination – a decision not taken lightly.


By Rick

Owner of a Catalac 8M and Catamaransite webmaster.

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