September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye

September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation

September 1, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing

August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez

August 1, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind

July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap

July 1, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec

June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico

June 1, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua

May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising

May 1, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica

April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There

April 1, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama

March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money

March 1, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal

February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal

February 1, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific

January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week

January 1, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef

December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2

December 1, 2011

November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise

November 1, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question

October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers

October 3, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World

September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come

September 1, 2011
Sailing for Humanity

August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work

August 1, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish

July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books

July 1, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas

June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala

June 1, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise

May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now

May 1, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala

April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas

April 1, 2011
At Last in the San Blas

March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon

March 1, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!

February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2

February 1, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1

January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude

December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane

December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba

December 1, 2010
Stuck in Curacao

November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing

November 1, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks

October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe

October 4, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal

September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing

September 1, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea

August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao

August 1, 2010
Bonaire Diving

July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire

July 1, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles

June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent

June 1, 2010
Right Place, Right Time

May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle

May 1, 2010
To the Grenadines

April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon

April 1, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II

March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1

March 1, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing

February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations

February 1, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands

January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa

January 1, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............

December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing

December 1, 2009
Moving On To Morocco

November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med

November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone

October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol

October 1, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise

September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles

September 1, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well

August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca

August 1, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca

July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast

July 1, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia

June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa

June 1, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails

May 15, 2009
Into Africa

May 1, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia

April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy

April 1, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles

March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling

March 1, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports

February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta

February 1, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2

January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1

January 2, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time

December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear

December 1, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend

November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise

November 1, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz

October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman

October 1, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins

September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta

September 1, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story

August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

August 1, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians

July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca

July 1, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe

June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece

June 1, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey

May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey

April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living

April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip

April 1, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget

March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi

March 1, 2008
Home Sweet Home

February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising

February 1, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World

January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free

January 1, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free

January 1, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni

January 1, 2008
About Feel Free

January 1, 2008
Voyage Itinerary

February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations

There’s nothing like the imminent departure for a 2,800 mile Atlantic passage to focus the mind. Since Liz and I hadn’t done a passage of more than 470 miles in two years, focus is what we had. The thing is, like the hundreds of other Atlantic passage makers, we had a myriad of issues vying for our focus.

These issues I will break down into four groups and briefly discuss how we plan to deal with them to make what will be the longest passage of our circumnavigation, in 24 years of sailing:

1) Weather and Routing

2) The Crew

3) Safety and Communications

4) The Boat

Weather and Routing

We left Cadiz on Spain’s Atlantic coast last September, to cruise the Atlantic coast of Morocco. From Rabat in Morocco, we sailed 470 miles to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands in late October and are now lying in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria until Dec. 1, at which time we’ll head off for Barbados, some 2,800 miles to the southwest.

A Dec. 1 departure should be well after the Atlantic hurricane season. The Azores high, which persists throughout the late spring to early fall and keeps the weather stable in the eastern north Atlantic, deteriorates, allowing lows to track across from North America to Europe. Boats sailing from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean should be far enough south to avoid the brunt of these weather systems but could be adversely affected by the associated westerly winds and big seas.

For this reason, many head south to the Cape Verde Islands, 800 miles south southwest from the Canaries and cross from there. This reduces the long passage by some 600 to 700 miles and should keep the boat firmly in the benevolent trade wind belt and well south of the nastiness of the north.

Our plan is to sail non stop to Barbados. Depending on the winds, we may not try to sail a straight line to Barbados, but instead, sail south of the direct route to get more firmly ensconced in the northeast trade wind belt. This strategy should also keep one further away from the hurricane path, should a late season hurricane develop.

We’ll be relying on an Ontario (Canuck) based weather forecaster in the form of Herb Hildeberg who operates the ‘South bound net’ to keep us informed of weather systems en route. This good Samaritan has for a long time provided weather info for mariners in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Every evening at 2000 UTC we’ll be dialed into 12359 kilohertz on the SSB long distance radio to learn from Herb what the weather gods will be serving up for us.

The SSB radio will also be put to use enabling us to talk with fellow voyagers within approximately 1,000 miles of us. Daily radio schedules (scheds) will be established so we’ll be able to keep in touch. These scheds will be used to report our position each day, pass along weather information, or other pertinent info ie. shipping traffic, fishing traffic etc.

The Crew

Well over 98% of our passage making in the past has been without crew. This is for two main reasons: 1) We would only take people we know who are experienced. Mid ocean is a bad place to uncover unacceptable behavior traits of any kind. Although we’ve heard success stories of unknown, untested crews working out well, we’ve heard more horror stories. 2) It is usually very expensive for prospective crew to join us for the long trips ie. Mexico to French Polynesia, Vanuatu to Australia, Thailand to the Med. The one way ticket prices can be painfully high.

But the stars were in proper alignment for this trip. Two tried and true sailor friends of many years agreed to escape part of the Canadian winter to join us in our attempt to find the ‘New World.’

Gus Kolaric is a veteran of four Hawaii to Vancouver passages, not to mention one Vancouver to San Francisco trip with Liz and I aboard our previous boat, Hoki Mai, in 1985, a scant 24 years ago.

David Allester is known to many east coast and Caribbean cruisers after having cruised those waters for about 12 seasons with his wife Eileen Quinn aboard Little Gidding. David and Eileen were long time Boat US log contributors and many will have heard some of Eileen’s six music CDs or heard her voice in concert at boat shows or regattas.

Additional crew means sleep deprivation will not mar the enjoyment of the trip. Extra hands will make sail handling easier and safer and should allow us to carry more sail area than we might if just Liz and I were aboard.

Extra crew will mean very real changes in our day to day routines. Daily patterns and routines established over 24 years sailing with just your mate will abruptly be altered and that will require some getting used to.

Provisioning for four instead of two will mean putting twice as much food on the boat. Cooking for four and cleaning up after four will require a different modus operandi from our same old same old.

It will no doubt be a shock to the system but we recognize that Gus and Dave will provide not only basic help in running the boat, but also new and different perspectives on cruising as well as provide us with good company to boot.

Safety and Communications

In the belief that staying safe on the boat means staying on the boat, the crew will be encouraged to wear safety harnesses whenever on deck outside the cockpit.

Jack lines will run fore and aft from bow to stern on both sides of the boat and be securely tied to cleats. The safety harness’ four foot tether with heavy duty karabiner on its end will be snapped onto the jack line. This allows the crew members more freedom of movement while moving around the deck.

Heaven forbid we need to abandon ship, but if so, it would be to our newly acquired four person life raft. Although it comes with some supplies, we also prepare a rather large water proof bag filled with additional provisions and supplies such as canned and dried foods, water packs, knife, fishing tackle, flares, portable VHF radio etc. For additional drinking water, we’ll keep two 20 liter jugs of fresh water on deck beside the raft to be tied to the raft when the raft is deployed.

Our Epirb 406 (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and flares are stowed alongside companionway steps for easy access should they be required.

Last but not least, we’ll take, in a backpack, our newly acquired Epirb 406 (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). This beacon should send out a signal to satellite stations for 48 hours, long enough for our position to be found and rescue vessels to be alerted and dispatched.

The Boat

In readying the boat, we have to keep in mind our main objectives. We have to keep it floating, we want the mast to stay up straight and the sails to propel us in the direction in which we wish to go.

Keeping it floating

Check that all hoses and hose clamps are in good shape. This means checking all of them and tightening all hose clamps and replacing any showing signs of wear. All through-hull fittings are checked and sea cocks are opened and closed to ensure their proper operation. All bilge pumps and bilge pump switches, stuffing boxes (one for the propeller and one for the rudder shaft) are checked. If stuffing boxes are found to be leaking excessively, tighten as required. We close deck vents and remove dorades. Deck hatches are covered and secured by dome fasteners to prevent water ingress and minimize the possibility of the hatches being ripped off by deck sweeping waves. We disconnect our bow anchor and plug the anchor windlass hawse pipe. We’ve learned the hard way that a shocking amount of sea water can find its way into the boat through that seemingly small hole at the bow of the boat.

Keeping the mast up

Pre-departure check list means a thorough rig inspection, looking at all fittings employed in keeping the mast up. All turnbuckles are secured with split rings as are all clevis pins in all toggles.

All standing rigging wires are checked for cracks, especially where they enter swage fittings. The swages themselves are checked for cracks. These cracks can be so fine, a magnifying glass is used.

After the examination on deck is completed, a trip up the mast is made to check wires and swages aloft as well as mast tangs, spreaders and spreader tips. While aloft, wind instruments and VHF radio antenna attachment, anchor light and navigation lights can be checked. The halyard shivs should be rotated to check for freedom of movement and all halyards checked for wear.

Sails: ‘Keep the Drive Alive’

For the first time on a long downwind passage, we plan to run twin head sails only, each poled out on different sides of the boat for most of the trip. We are doing this because we believe taking the mainsail out of the equation will make the passage much safer. Not having to worry about accidentally jibing the main with that potentially lethal boom should make sleeping easier on those long, dark, windy nights. In anticipation of such a strategy, we installed a second inner forestay on which we hank a second jib. We hope this sail configuration will also make the boat more directionally stable and make life easier for our windvane and autopilot. We’ll see.
So by now you get the idea one needn’t worry about not having enough to do on a cruising sailboat soon to depart on a long trip, and we haven’t even talked about provisioning for four for a trip that could take up to 30 days! Liz will talk about that next.