End of Chapter One

17 Apr End of Chapter One

I just had a long debrief with Rick about this chapter in the delivery of Areté to her new home. This was a reasonably long chapter, with several plot twists.

The first came when the Mistral winds from the Mediterranean decided to chase Areté out the Straits of Gibraltar.  They hit the boat with 50 knot winds from astern, giving the boat and crew a rough test before they had a real chance to study.  As they raced before the wind, Rick filled the aft ballast tank to keep the bows up…and with all the crew pulling their weight, they put on some seriously fast miles until they could get the main down and slow down a bit.  Getting successfully through weather like that gave everyone a great deal of confidence in the boat – and themselves.

The next hurdle was weather.  The normally reliable trade winds had moved far south, and some difficult storm systems were brewing in the western Atlantic, making a traditional crossing difficult.  They headed west, hoping that the ever-changing weather would break their way while Rick, Matt and the crew looked at their weather options.  They consulted with Ryan Breymaier, who sailed on Cheeky last year and is an experienced navigator, as well as with the pros at Commander’s Weather.  The crew reluctantly chose the southern route, which meant that they would be at sea for far longer than they anticipated.  This meant that there were insufficient supplies on board, so a stop in the Canary Islands would be necessary.  Rick made a point to thank Ryan and the team and Commander’s for their help in making this tough weather decision.

After their turn south, a windy frontal system passed through, leaving Areté in light air on the nose in rough, confused seas, with the boat slamming though waves – uncomfortable sailing for boat and crew.  As it turned out, it was very uncomfortable for the boat.  The normally reliable Volvo diesel started to overheat as they used it to charge the batteries.  Matt spent long, difficult hours working on the engine to find the source of the problem.  He determined that the slamming had either caused some of the calcification in the heat exchanger to break loose and clog the cooling system, or that at some time in the past a piece of a broken impeller – the paddlewheel-like rubber wheel in the water pump – had gotten into the engine and had come free in the slamming, had lodged in the water passages and kept cooling water from running free in the engine.  After a visit from the Volvo mechanic today, it was determined that it was indeed the latter problem – a result of poor maintenance in the past, not caught by the mechanic in France who was asked to thoroughly repair the engine for the crossing.  Very frustrating.

The weather put a lot of pressure on the solent (small jib) and caused a broken batten on the mainsail, leaving it poking through its batten pocket.  Those sails are off the boat and have been delivered to the local North Sails loft, where they will be repaired and returned to the boat on Monday.  Likewise, the Volvo mechanics will also finish their work on Monday.

Between the wait for weather to break and the beginning of the delivery, the diversion south, the weather forcing a longer route and the need for these repairs, the crew does not have the additional time to complete the delivery.  Reluctantly, Ron, Mike and Ira are leaving on Sunday to return home.  Matt is staying on to work on the boat with Rick for a few days and will leave in the middle of next week. It goes without saying that Ron, Mike, Matt, Ira and Rick are disappointed not to be able to complete this delivery – this adventure.  But all of them are more or less gainfully employed and need to get home to stock up some more time off so that they can complete the next deliveries and races.

Pilou, the French sailor who has been on the boat since the beginning of the delivery and sailed extensively on Areté for her precious owner, is working on finding an experienced French delivery crew to get the boat to the East Coast of the US where our team will pick up the boat and get it to the Great Lakes.

Today was all about cleaning the boat, doing some of the diagnostic work needed to orchestrate the needed repairs and re-supply, and working on crew logistics.  Tonight, the crew is heading to the Real Club Nautico de Gran Canaria (the local, historic royal yacht club) for drinks and dinner.

There is some excitement in town – the FIA sponsored Islas Canarias Auto Rally begins tonight in the center of the island, closing local roads so that ridiculously souped-up sedan can race down the old, twisting narrow lanes inches from spectators who line the course – a particularly European sport.  I have it on good authority that, inspired by roaring, squealing race cars practicing on the local city streets, Rick imagined that his rental car was entered in the rally and that his passengers may prefer to walk next time.

Back on board, Rick says that everyone learned a lot on this leg.  Areté is a stout boat and they did some serious sailing on her in challenging conditions and the boat just loved it.  All of the crew did a great job and are leaving with valuable experience that can be applied in the remaining delivery into the Great Lakes and in the summer racing season.

This is the end of one chapter of Arete’s trip to her new home and the beginning of another.