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"A good adventure": Aventura Zero Journal 8

by Jimmy Cornell 30 Dec 2020 12:00 UTC
Our first Mediterranean dawn © Jimmy Cornell

The Straits of Gibraltar marked the halfway point of our winter passage from the Canaries to Southern France. The winds continued to be favourable but that didn't last long as the Mediterranean showed her true face again.

Six weeks ago it treated us to three days of light winds and calms, now it hit us not with one but two fully-fledged gales with winds of over 40 knots.

Aventura took it all in her stride and was sailing fast in the increasing wind, occasionally too fast for my taste. We put in the first reef in the mainsail, the second reef, then the third. For a while we continued with the jib half furled, then down to a quarter, and watched the speeds stay in double figures. It was exciting with a touch of a roller-coaster thrill, but soon I decided not to be greedy and slow down by dropping the mainsail completely... and eventually the jib was furled away too.

We were now sailing, in naval terms, under bare poles, with gusts of up to 48 knots. The automatic pilot was keeping us on track, the boat was stable, and we were still doing eight to nine knots. I went out to look around and took this photo of our wake that, I hope, gives an idea of the height of the seas and the speed we were doing.

It may look dramatic and it was, so all we could do was be patient and hope that the gale will soon blow itself out. We were sailing between Spain's eastern coast and the Balearic Islands, and were hoping to get some shelter from the land and the weather would eventually ameliorate. Alas, that didn't happen and the following day we were treated to yet another gale. By now our tactics were finely honed and the reefing routine took minutes to implement: furl up the jib, and depower the mainsail by turning into the wind with the help of the two motors.

Back on course, Aventura seemed happy with whatever sail configuration she ended up with, and we felt absolutely secure having witnessed, once again, Aventura's seaworthiness and stability under such conditions. This is, I know, a bold statement from a monohull sailor of long standing, but I feel that I must say it. However, I should also add that this generation of Outremer catamarans are in a class of their own.

Eventually the gale blew itself out, and, this being the Mediterranean, within an hour we were down to a faint zephyr that could barely fill even our light-weight Code Zero sail. In the last 24 hours of this passage, as we crept along at two to three knots, we barely managed 80 miles, while our best 24-hour run was over 200 miles.

Ten and a half days after having left Tenerife we slipped into our old place in La Grande Motte marina having covered 1544 miles on this winter passage. And I do mean winter, as when we left the Canaries the temperature was 26 degrees centigrade... and 5 when we arrived here.

We were welcomed with a proper French breakfast of hot croissants, pain-au-chocolat and hot tea by Stephane Grimault, Outremer general manager, and Romain Guiraudou, Aventura Zero's project manager. Aventura's future and that of an electric boat with zero carbon emissions will now be decided, and I shall report on the outcome in my next journal. Our 3600 miles North Atlantic voyage has put this boat and its concept to a proper test, and those lessons will help us decide on the next stage.

I am pleased to say that we have completed this long voyage with zero carbon emissions on each of our offshore passages. As on so many previous occasions, good fortune has been on my side. The day before we left Seville we went to pay our respects at the Church of Santa Ana. A figure of the Madonna is kept there, and Magellan and his crews worshipped there before setting off on their arduous voyage. Below the statue is a small ceramic plaque, whose inscription, I knew instantly, spoke to me:

Esta es la figura
de nuestra buen aventura

Indeed, this has been a good adventure!

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