Sailing across the Atlantic

It was our first long ocean trip, we had sailed across the channel to the Channel Islands from the UK many times and even around the coast and into the med, but  crossing the Atlantic with my husband was something we had never thought we would do.

We crossed the channel and run around the French and Spanish coasts to Vigo just North of the Portuguese border, and after a few days break and restocking set off for the Azores. It took us a little over 2 days to get there and we had waited for a weather opening that meant we had good sailing weather. We visited over the next week a number of the Azores islands, and was surprised at the contrasts, from those with black beaches to those with sandy beaches, and the height of the volcano on one. 

We enjoyed our time in the Azores but was also keen to sail on, and so fully restocked we set out into open ocean. It was between a 2 and 3 day journey to the floating kingdom, and the in between island stop over's had not been built so we had to do this in one hop. We saw a number of whales just after we left the Azores, but otherwise there was very little to see except ocean and the occasional sailing craft or cruse ship, some of who we chatted briefly to over the radio.

We saw the floating kingdom from some way off as the outer walls are white and were catching the light. It looked so small, but as we got closer it became larger and larger, we followed instructions over the radio from the pilots office and sailed around behind and approached from the rear, there was a little rough water just behind, but this was quickly crossed and we were between the two huge islands that make up the airport. They are actually joined together so are kept at a fixed distance apart. We dropped the sail and used the ancillary engine to cruise up to port point 17, as instructed and had to wait for two craft in front of us to be dealt with, but this only took around 20 minutes. Then it was our turn, we initially pulled up along side, took out what we needed for our stay and then our yacht was moved into the lifting area, where it was lifted out of the water and stored within one of the huge port islands. With the equipment they had installed this was all done very quickly.

We passed through immigration very quickly and caught a water bus to our hotel. It is understandable why only their water transport people and residents are allowed to use boats here, with so much moving and cross currents between islands being passed, you have to have drive and know just where you are going to go. I expect some busy marinas and other water transport areas have traffic signals but I had never seen any before and clearly this would produce extra difficulties in handling. Chatting to the friendly driver, he showed us the controls, and explained the systems where there is an inward and outward route, cross routes and spare ways that are not routinely used but can be by ambulances and in emergencies. 

I was really impressed by the speed control, a major problem we have seen in marinas and ports before. Here they had speed areas and the boats picked up a signal and reduced power automatically. They did not cut out, but had enough drive power to maneuver. At that point a warning light and buzzer came on, so the driver was aware that he had less power. 

All the boats were tracked by computer, and if they went where they were not supposed to or were being used by someone who should not use them they would identify the fact and power would be reduced to a crawl.

There were also some large slow moving barges, that the driver explained were drones, they had no driver and were guided completely by computer. Most apparently moved on fixed routes for example from warehouses to supermarket goods inwards. If they or any boat goes wrong then they can be entered by the water transport people who all have a special key that gives them access and the craft can be taken over manually or towed. We joked about how he could get a few bottles of Champagne for himself, but apparently he has a position watch on, and the computer would know when he entered any craft so it was all safe. Without his watch device apparently the crafts door would not release even with a key.

Many of the residents are also part of one of the water transport organizations, and they all undertake first aid training and act as patrolling officers, so with so many eyes crime is just about non existent. You can also understand that in that having committed a crime you are either stuck on an island or you have to go on the craft run by one of the people you would not want to be seen by.

The hotel was well a hotel, all very nice, but not that different from any new hotel you could find anywhere else. When we stepped of the water bus and onto the hotel island I was surprised to find it felt like stepping onto land, not like being on a floating item at all.

We had a week in the floating kingdom, and can see why it has become so popular and why so many people dream of moving there. We did all the normal things, and had a good time. We went on a number of sightseeing trips to see various points of the kingdom, and it is a scientific miracle.

Only too soon it was time to move on, and we went back to the port, within about 10 minutes our yacht was in the water, and we sailed off towards Bermuda as part of a group of yachts and all kept in sight of each other all the way there. The sea got slightly rougher as we left the high pressure area, but with increased wind we picked up speed.  

We had only 2 days in Bermuda, we decided to sail on and spend longer on our return journey there. On reaching the USA, our crossing was complete. And after a couple of days we moored up and caught a flight back to the UK. Three months later we flew back out to the USA and did the whole journey in reverse, but this time spending a week in the Bermuda islands and only a couple of days in the Azores.

We didn't really have any problems and with so much traffic now crossing if you did have a problem there are others not that far away. I think the two in between islands will be a bonus as you will be able to break the longer legs up and also be no more than half a day out from one port or another, across the center section, which will make far more of the year sensible sailing and allow you to run for cover if a storm comes up. I know there is talk of casinos and the like on these but I am not convinced you will stay long on the in between islands, but I may be wrong.


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Last updated: May 10, 2002.