Aventura Zero Logs , News

A dawn start and we are off

Aventura Zero journal

24 October – 2 November

After two months of preparations, on Saturday 24 October Aventura Zero left La Grande Motte, seat of the Outremer boatyard, bound for Seville and the formal start of our voyage along the route of the first circumnavigation 500 years ago.

The long-term forecast for the 900-mile passage to Seville could only be described as a mixed bag of light and strong winds, some from a favourable direction, others not, in other words exactly what you would expect from a typical autumn week in the Mediterranean. For the first 24 hours we had a fast but bumpy ride, not exactly to the expectations of our guests, Romain and his friend Laura.

Romain Guiraudou works in the Outremer design office and, as he had known me for many years, but also because he found the task of creating the first purpose-built electric sailing boat both interesting and challenging, he ended up as the de-facto project manager. This trip was to be both a golden opportunity to test all systems under real conditions, and a reward for his hard work over the past year.

We had hardly finished trimming the sails when my crew Michalis decided to pay out the fishing line, eager to catch our first dinner despite the ton of provisions we had loaded over the last week to last to our planned reprovisioning stop in Punta Arenas, way down south in the Magellan Strait. Within minutes the line started running out at great speed causing great excitement among my expanded crew. By the time we managed to slow down the boat, we saw some commotion far behind us, and the score was soon settled: Med Monster 1 – Greek Novice 0.

As if to make up for the general disappointment of having lost the fish, a tiny bird flew across the cockpit and perched next to the nav desk, obviously an asylum seeker looking for a place to rest. It spent the night with us, and was gone by morning.

By the following evening the unfavourable wind direction had pushed us so far east of our course that we decided to anchor for the night on the east coast of Menorca, the easternmost of the Balearic Islands. As I was searching the chart for a suitable place, I recognised the well-sheltered bay south of Cape Favaritx, where we had spent a night with Gwenda in 2001, at the start of Aventura III’s round the world voyage.

As we left the following day, a rainbow framed the massive building built in the days when it had to accommodate several keepers, often with their families, an occupation now defunct, replaced by soulless automation.

Here I am, preparing my favourite offshore dish: Transylvanian potato paprikas from a recipe of my maternal grandmother, with its signature ingredient, Hungarian paprika, and, on a boat with a Dracula mast, a hefty dose of garlic.

At long last the wind stared blowing from the right direction so we hoisted the Parasailor spinnaker and dropped the mainsail as it was fouling it. The Parasailor filled beautifully, the giant sail with a surface of 210 square metres, close to the size of a standard tennis court, pulling us along at a steady speed.  We didn’t touch a single line all day and by sunset it was still doing its job perfectly.

But even this sail cannot produce miracles, and had to be taken down when the wind dropped to next to nothing. All night we drifted slowly under a near full moon, so bright as to make working on deck possible without switching on the deck lights. All this could be described as a frustrating experience, but this is the Med. Now I realised that sailing an electric boat teaches you patience. It forces you to feel and see things the way those navigators did 500 years ago…. and accept that you’ll arrive at your destination, when you arrive, and learn to enjoy the moment. Carpe diem!

It was a long lesson, as we drifted like that for the next three days! We had ended up in the centre of a high… and were stuck. But there was some compensation for the enforced inactivity.

An electric boat is supposed to be moving and our maiden passage had the misfortune to be served with this typically Mediterranean extended calm. Although the solar panels took care of our day-to-day needs, the main battery banks can only be recharged when we are sailing… and we were most certainly not.

As a tempting floating platform we had various visitors, a couple of lost migratory birds, and a pod of inquisitive pilot whales who came so close as to be almost touching our port hull. Taylor had been watching them for a while and took this amazing photo.

The wind finally arrived and helped us to make it to Ceuta, the Spanish enclave on the African side of the Strait of Gibraltar, where we could recharge our depleted batteries before tackling the busy traffic and strong currents.

We arrived on Tuesday morning, found a space in the small marina and …

… were soon officially welcomed by Captain Eduardo Liberal, Naval Commander of Ceuta, and his ADC Captain Pedro José Lopez on behalf of the Quincentenary Commission of the first circumnavigation of the world.

….to be followed by the Ceuta press corps. This maybe a tiny place, but news travels fast. For Spanish people wherever they may be, their historic achievements are as important today as they were 500 years ago. This is what makes Spain and its people such an unique nation!



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