Across the Atlantic in Eight Days

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Kevin Katzke and his wife Laura recently embarked on an unforgettable voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The two of them set off from Mindelo, Sao Vincente in the Cape Verde Islands in a 49-foot trawler aptly dubbed Hakuna Matata without any crew or support boats and completed the crossing in eight days, ultimately landing in Brazil. They also set a record of sorts by being the first seafarers to cross the Atlantic aboard a Selene ocean trawler.

The adventure initially kicked off from the island of Helgoland, an island about 60 nm off the German coastline. From there the couple piloted Hakuna Matata to the Netherlands and then across the English Channel to explore the British coastline. They then made their way across the Bay of Biscay, down the European west coast, briefly stopping over in Spain and Portugal before cruising over to Morocco.

After indulging in the interesting and unusual Moroccan culture, customs and culinary delights, they set off to the Canary Islands, then to Dakar in Senegal, and then to Gambia and up the Gambia River. They spent some time enjoying an abundance of bird- and wildlife on the banks of the Gambia River, before finally navigating back up to the Cape Verde Islands from where they would commence their epic Atlantic crossing.

Kevin says the ultra reliable 330 HP QSL9 Cummins engine, which they had duly christened “Hercules”, required 3 848 litres of diesel for the crossing, but performed impeccably. He also had high praise for their trusty Selene trawler with her 2.54 A/B ratio, cruising stern, deep cruising keel and large airfoil rudder; all coalescing to make her superbly stable and safe in the various seaways they encountered on the passage. He also commended the fitted Naiad active roll stabilisers, which ensured maximum comfort even with the big swells they encountered on occasion. Here follows a day-to-day account of the magnificent journey, as documented by Kevin Katzke.

Day 1
We’re having a grand old time so far on Hakuna Matata. The weather served up rough following seas and 20-knot winds shortly after leaving Mindelo, but the seas have since calmed considerably to a 1.5-metre following sea and light 17-knot winds since dawn. Hakuna Matata had a slow first 24 hours due to the excessive weight we are lugging around in fuel and water (5 300 litres in fuel and 1 500 litres in water), but we should start to make headway as we burn off fuel and use water. Today I will transfer the 380 kg of fuel from the auxiliary fuel tank which is situated in the aft Lazarette to the main starboard and port tanks. This weight aft is causing Hakuna Matata to squat a bit, so it is a priority to transfer the weight as soon as possible.

This morning I had to clean up the starboard deck of at least 50 flying fish which had met their demise on our deck. I’ve heard they make for good eating and I shall have to put that rumour to the test for breakfast tomorrow!

Day 2
We are happy to report a wonderful 24-hour run without so much as a hint of a problem. The sea state and winds were exactly as predicted by our weather router, and it seems the further south we travel the better the conditions are becoming. We are a bit concerned about the unpredictability of the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone), though, as it seems to be moving north very quickly and widening at the western quarter to nearly 200 nm across. But we will cross that proverbial bridge when we get there.

Laura and I have had lots of sleep, have eaten like kings, and are really enjoying the TV series “Revenge.” Hakuna Matata is really hitting her stride now that she’s shed a bit of weight. We’ve used quite a bit of water on a few refreshing showers and have burned 779 litres of diesel as we’re averaging two litres per mile – pretty good for a 34 ton trawler! Distance covered in 24 hours: 181 nm.

Day 3
We’ve started making plans for our graduation from landlubbers to “shellbacks” when we cross the equator. This is our first equator crossing, so we will consider ourselves “real” sailors when we do this. We passed our first test when we rounded the Cape of Good Hope, but everyone knows the equator is the big one and we’re excited!

You may think us somewhat superstitious, but we intend to make very sure we placate Neptune and the other ocean gods, so Laura is fashioning a ‘Neptune crown’ out of tin foil, which she will wear on the crossing. After which we will toast the four wind gods, North, South, East and West with four tots of Aquavit. Hopefully this will be sufficient appeasement of all the pertinent deities.

There were no flying fish to be found on the deck this morning and there will be no fishy breakfast, sadly. We also haven’t yet put out a line to catch a tuna or a Dorado as our deep freeze and fridge are still overflowing with food.

We’ve had a splendid 24-hour run with 11 knots of wind and calm following seas of less than a metre in height and long wave periods of 10 to 12 seconds. We even had a braai on the flybridge last night – what a treat! An amazing thing happened at 10H00 (Z) this morning. A type of sycamore seed landed on our foredeck! Laura and I both saw it landing and we stared at each other in awe. It once again shows the wonders of this incredible planet we have the privilege of living on.

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