Going on a family trip with young children? More and more boaters are taking the plunge everyday! And Stel Sailing is the perfect example. In search of adventure in the open sea, the young couple, accompanied by their two daughters (aged), are embarking on an unforgettable journey from Martigues to the West Indies!
We had the chance to catch up with our sailing family so that they could share their story with our community. From Martigues to Gran Canaria, aboard their proud 36-foot sailboat, we tell you about the first stage of what is set to become an amazing journey!
From Martigues to Gibraltar
Our sailing family of four left Martigues early in the morning ; a quiet crossing to the Balearics before descending as quickly as possible to Gibraltar.
Indeed, with the weather situation degrading in the Mediterranean and the fear of a second wave of COVID-19, our quartet did not want to take any risks. The objective was therefore to get out of Med as quickly as possible.
The journey in the spanish archipelago included short stopovers in Mallorca and Ibiza before continuing onwards to Cartagena. As always, the Balearics did not fail to charm our adventurers, but with Gibraltar in mind, the family hurriedly crisscrossed the islands.
A pleasant start to the cruise was had with some unforgettable experiences for Estelle such as this session at the helm with 15 knots across and the boat sailing smoothly between Mallorca and Ibiza.
Great moments were also shared with the whole family on the deck under the sunset on their departure from Ibiza.
Other experiences were less pleasant – from the anecdotal to the more serious – reminding us that life at sea is an adaptation to a constantly evolving environment.
A fly invasion off Mallorca (We love mother nature), impressive thunderstorms over Ibiza and Cartagena and a badly managed current surge in Malaga, were challenging surprises for our quartet of adventurers.
But as if to ensure a happy ending, dolphins followed the boat en route to Gibraltar. A moment of sheer magic and connection with the sea, well-appreciated by the crew before the long journey that lay ahead…
These fews days at sea were the start of their experience as a sailing family and allowed our duo to adapt to life onboard with their two daughters – a new challenge that our couple is performing wonderfully so far. Furthermore, between maneuvering on deck and doing their homework, the two children do not seem phased by the magnitude of the journey and willingly explore the wonder of their new life.
Stopovers in the Balearic Islands
Early in the morning, the family left Cartagena for the Strait of Gibraltar. A stage that they prepared well in advance to ensure family a smooth crossing, as Stel_sailing explains.
We did a fair load of research upstream to pass Gibraltar. Depending on the winds and currents, we chose our departure time accordingly. We left at 8am and hugged the Spanish coast which protected us from the current and let us run smoothly under sail. ”
Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar presents a particular complexity. Alternately, the Atlantic flows into the Mediterranean and vice versa by a tidal phenomenon. It is therefore logically preferable to take the passage when the current carries the boat from the Mediterranean to the ocean.
It was with their data in mind and a well-honed plan that the couple set off through the Strait but, as is often the case at sea, not everything went as planned …
As our sailing family passed Tarifa, the genoa furler overran, leaving the couple with no control over it as they would be crossing the passage. A complicated and potentially risky situation (especially when you have two young children on board) which forced our duo to stop and rethink their strategy.
After an hour of effort, the genoa was finally released, but time worked against our adventurers who found themselves going against the tide in the crossing.
So we lost time, and the current was no longer favorable when we passed Gibraltar. It seemed like an eternity whilst we were moving at 2 knots with the engine at full power, otherwise it was square tacks! The swell formed quickly, and got us rocking hard… not so pleasant for everyone.”
Once on the Moroccan coast, the family was able to find a little moment of serenity. Just enough to re-organise before the next challenge came knocking. Changes in the weather that were not anticipated by our couple happened suddenly. In a blink of an instant, the proud 36-foot sailboat was dangling in a 5 metre swell with 20 knots downwind … Welcome to the Atlantic!
“We hadn’t anticipated that, and suddenly we spent a night under the MainSail with 3 reefs, and cruised at 13 knots! For our 36 footer, it was very impressive. Given the weather conditions, and the girls on board, it is difficult in the middle of the night to rig the staysail which is not in position all the time and requires a lot of attention… A complicated episode, but in the end, more fear than harm done and valuable lessons learned”
The rest of the journey to the Canary Islands was smooth with some pleasant moments of relaxation: a shower in the sun after a challenging 2 days at sea, pleasant downwind plain sailing afterTangier, topped off by a visit from a pod of dolphins under a hypnotic sunset.
“At sea, more than ever we are aware of the ephemeral aspect of situations. We learn to appreciate and seize the small moments of pleasure which are all the more enjoyable when they are shared with family.”
Stopovers on their itinerary
On the evening of October 30, our sailing family baptised by the Atlantic reached the lunar coast of La Graciosa.
“There aren’t many stopover options there with the island being devoid of a port and most of its coast protected. Following the advice of many boaters on Navily in particular, we have chosen to throw our anchor at the anchorage of Cala Francesca. And what a time we had there!
Protected from the trade winds and offering an exceptional setting in a large bay with a lunar landscape, it is an unmissable stopover on the island.
Welcomed by the enigmatic Montaña Amarilla, the whole family on deck enjoyed a moment of well-deserved contemplation at the anchorage of Cala Francesca. After a “rough” few days at sea, our four adventures were starting to appreciate the merit of their journey.
Our quatret then continued their journey south to reach the island of Lanzarote and its famous cacti recognised as world patrimony by UNESCO. On the island, our couple favoured the marina option and they explained to us why:
“In the Canaries, we favoured marinas over anchorages because the anchorages are few and far between and uncomfortable due to the geographical composition of the islands and their exposure to winds. Of course, wild anchorages are more authentic, but that is quickly forgotten as the marinas are affordable and offer exceptional service (compared to other regions)! ”
Upon arriving on the island, they were also able to realise that COVID-19 is not a concern in the region. In fact, no test is required of you, no control is carried out and no quarantine put in place by immigration.
After touring the natural parks of the island, our sailing family reached Puerto del Rosario on the island of Fuerteventura then (marina name) in Gran Canaria, two recommended stops to discover these mythical islands in peace.
The first three islands in the archipelago do not fail to remind our little family that the efforts made to reach its distant lands are rewarded with a drastic change of scenery. In its wild and immaculate lands, reigns a lunar tranquility that transports you through time.
With the aforementioned destinations firmly etched into the memories of all on board, Stel_sailing recalled their scintillating experiences in the following few words:
“For the moment La Graciosa has been our favourite for its very wild and sparsely inhabited appearance. It was a perfect introduction to this unknown world, straight out of the Jurassic.
But all the islands have their charm and are not lacking in discoveries and activities to undertake.
Lanzarote for its natural park sheltering the Montañas del fuego and its imposing cliffs which constitute the majority of its coastal landscape.
Fuerteventura for its long white sand beaches, surf spots and dunes as far as the eye can see.
We still have Tenerife and La Gomera to do, which I can’t wait to see. ”