by Sven and Sabine Seren
Atlantic Crossing with a Catalac 10M
We, Sven and me, Sabine, found our Catalac 10M S/V Blue Felix, sail. number 35, at the German Baltic sea in summer 2012. The purchase and the handing over passed without problems due to the good and ready to sail condition of S/V Blue Felix including a set of new sails. Our Catalac 10M has been named S/V Blue Felix since his launch in 1988. He has two Yanmar engines with 27 hp each with saildrives and folding props. S/V Blue Felix has the boat layout which has the enhanced pantry instead of the small bunk in the starboard hull, which is a huge advantage for two of us .
After the purchase, in July 2012, we completed a two week trip over the Kiel Canal to the North Sea. From Cuxhaven we continued directly to Delfzijl in Holland. There the “Staande Mastroute“ begins. This is a route that one can motor through all of Holland without having to lower or remove the mast. Many bridges have to be passed which are opened on request or without doing anything as the bridge operator sees one arriving. In addition some locks have to be passed. We already requested in advance from Germany via email several offers for winter berthing, as we had to go back to Germany to our jobs. We decided to choose a boat yard in Lemmer right before the Ijsselmeer. There it was possible to haul out Felix with the mast standing and to leave him over winter 2012/2013 on the hard. In the meanwhile we passed our jobs to successors and started to empty out and renovate our apartment. And of course we had to decide what we wanted to carry with us in our new life on the vessel. Thanks to the experiences during the two week trip on the ship we knew already what was additionally needed for the vessel and so we were able to purchase most of the things on eBay for a reasonable price.
In March 2013 we then said good bye with a huge party from our family and friends. Sven went to Holland by train in early April to haul Felix back to the water and to prepare the vessel for the voyage. A lot of new items such as a new digital VHF radio including an AIS receiver and a HAM radio with PACTOR modem had to be installed. In the meantime the apartment became more and more empty and I was able to finish the renovation works. With a fully stuffed VW bus my father and I drove then to Holland, equipped with 14 moving boxes and much more. My father and Sven installed the new stainless steel arch for the two new 250 watt solar panels. While they were working, I started to clean up the ship and stowed the content of all the moving boxes one after the other.
One week with working on the vessel passed by very quickly. Mid April we then left Lemmer to the Ijsselmeer and our voyage started and led us through many Dutch cities and villages as well as Amsterdam. The trip through the Dutch channels was beautiful and for sure one of the highlights of our voyage. Especially as we had always a warm and cozy ship thanks to our diesel heating as the spring was quite cold in this year.
In May 2013 at Vlissingen we then headed again out to the North Sea. In day trips we sailed further over Belgium and France where we prepared for the crossing of the Bay of Biscay in Audierne. Unfortunately our laptop computer broke down in Audierne and we had to order a new one from Germany. We use for navigation rather our laptop running OpenCPN as our chartplotter as we are able to read the laptop display easily from the helm even when the door is closed. We had now to wait for a good weather window and the waiting time was paid back by very good conditions on the Bay of Biscay. Only the always present cross sea was not so comfortable and I got seasick. After 300 nm we arrived at the 12th of July 2013 in Viveiro, Spain. Now, we finally left the cold spring behind us and our diesel heating could stay off from now on. From here we sailed via La Coruna along the Spanish coast and spent extended periods on anchor in the beautiful Rias of Spain. Thereafter we made for some ports in Portugal until we finally reached Lisbon in early September 2013.
Here, we had to wait again for fair weather for our trip to Porto Santo, the island which is in front of Madeira. Again, the waiting for a stable weather window has paid off, the sailing conditions on the 500 nm were perfect and we made good way and sailed smoothly. Again, we saw lot of dolphins, which is always a highlight, when the dolphins play with the ship and chase through the space between the hulls. We spent then a few days on Porto Santo on a beautiful anchorage next to the marina. One could see through 7 meters of crystal clear water down to the ground. After this we proceeded to Madeira and from there south to the Canary Islands arriving in Tenerife in the late October 2013.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity to explore, we took 2 months to explore these beautiful islands, visiting La Gomera and La Palma and reached finally Las Palmas on Gran Canaria on Xmas eve 2013. Here we stayed for an extended period and did some work on the ship. Besides other things, we renewed all the sealings of the windows, inside and outside. One of the advantages of a Catalac catamaran are its numerous windows which result in a lot of light and ventilation, which can, however, be a disadvantage when sealings have to be renewed. Besides this we made a capacitive ground for our HAM system to improve the performance of our backstay antenna. We also checked the rudder gear and our rigging. Days and weeks passed by very quickly during the last preparations for crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Two large purchases brought us 500 kg of additional weight but durable provisions for a long time. Spring of 2014 we decided the time for us to leave had arrived, the weather forecast promised constant northeasterly winds and so we started in direction of the Cape Verde islands. As always, we left our dinghy in the davits. So we do not have to deflate it for the trip and inflate it at the next anchorage again and we can haul it up very quickly over night when anchoring and so it can be locked easily. The conditions for the passage were again very good, we had not more than 25 kt wind and most of the time we sailed relaxed with wind force 4 to 5 from astern.
We had the main sail most of the time in the first reef and the Genoa on the opposite direction, sailing ‘wing on wing’ with the jib poled out using the Spinnaker boom. The Genoa could so still be reefed by the roller reefing system. We are most of the time underway with the main sail reefed, even as we know that we could sail easily without reefing in such conditions. However, with a small crew and my always present sea sickness it is more relaxed so. Especially during the night time the one on watch can jibe alone without help and without problems or shift the boom if the wind should veer. The slight loss in velocity of approx. half a knot caused by the reefing is acceptable for us.
After approximately 7 days on the 28th of April 2014, we reached the bay of Mindelo in Sao Vicente but unfortunately arriving at night. This was a tricky approach as there is a strong current which occurs close to the island which pushes us to the east and we had to sail a short distance close hauled to head in the channel between Sao Vicente and Santo Antão. We then set the second reef in the main sail as the channel between the islands is known for his strong gusts. And so we had 30 knots of wind for a short time, however, only from astern and without heavy seas. The entrance to the anchorage at night and new moon was tricky as many large vessels are anchoring here without illumination and the contours of the bay are difficult to perceive. But in the early morning hours we dropped anchor, very happy we had arrived. Again, our Felix left no doubt on its sea worthiness and we were sure that he would manage the next large passage to South America without any issue.On the Cape Verde islands we relaxed for 3 weeks and enjoyed the time at the anchorage. During our stay we had to rebuild our hydraulic cylinder of the steering system and also replace the hydraulic oil. Mid of May we lifted the anchor and filled our water tanks in the marina of Mindelo, the diesel tanks were still full from Gran Canaria. Our Atlantic crossing could now begin.