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Transat on a sailboat: From the open sea to the jungle

A Trismus 32 in its original state, a child on board, erratic winds, swells and a strong contrary current at the finish… Not easy, the transatlantic race between Cape Verde and Guyana!

Sailing around the world was Martin’s dream. To me, it evoked nothing but the Roaring Forties. We found ourselves on one thing, the furious desire to dump everything. And that’s how in December 2019, we cast off from Aber Wrac’h (North Finistère) on Deneb, a 1992 amateur-built Trismus 32, without furler, with reefing at the foot of the mast and outboard engine of only 15 hp. We crossed the Bay of Biscay, skirted Portugal and sailed to Madeira, where we were confined for several months in 2020, then to the Canary Islands where we spent another year.

A LONG JOURNEY BY SAILBOAT

And then this winter, the desire to go back to sea came back, stronger than ever. With it, the need to quickly join the French West Indies to find work there, our savings diminishing visibly. We put together an original crew: a cheerful, ingenious fellow and musician, Pierre, and his seven-year-old son, as mischievous as he is brilliant, Noé. Our crossing from the Canary Islands to Cape Verde allowed us to run in the crew. And to see Noé’s agility, his balance and his keen sense of observation.

The outrigged genoa, a typical trade wind speed. © Juliette Mauban-Nivol

We left Cape Verde with a calm window, 10 knots downwind, too bad for the speed. What we wanted was to enjoy the incredible luxury of living on board like at home. With a light jib genoa, scissor mainsail and well-adjusted wind vane, the balance of the boat benefited our routine. In the early morning, a long elaboration of chapatis [petits pains indiens] with ever more inventive toppings. Then Noé and I tackled reading, writing and math exercises. Martin unfolded the map wide and took “the noon point” on it, a ritual held every day even if, in the end, it was no longer noon in the sky!

Fishing, reading aloud, watching the clouds and the ballet of flying fish, watching dolphins in the plankton and visiting pilot whales, all filled our days with a grandiose peace.

WELL SHAKEN BY THE SWELL

After two weeks, exemplary trade winds of 20-25 knots re-established themselves, raising a swell of four meters, curiously disproportionate to the wind. Breaking ridges from the northeast met their southeast twins behind us. At the helm, Martin said that the sensations reminded him of off-piste skiing. Despite our sporty appearance, Noé continued to make school, to claim opponents at backgammon and to install fishing lures. Even me, I led less wide. The sky is covered with a grey, heavy and humid thickness.

There was driving rain followed by a few hours of calm. I said to myself: “That’s it, we’re in the doldrums! “. For our night shifts, Martin taught us how to interpret clouds. The ones that slow us down, the ones we can hope to enjoy in the breeze, and the ones we’d better avoid. Surprised by the squalls, we sometimes lowered everything to keep only a staysail on the releasable forestay. We were soaked and exhausted.

When we saw the land, in this case the Salvation’s Islands, the sun was going down under a piece of blue sky and the sea, all lined up for the occasion, offered us a few hours of respite. But 5 miles from the coast, the ebb tide and the current of the river push us back. With our little outboard overheating, we are only making 1.5 knots…

WE WET IN THE MIDDLE OF NOTHING…

And the closer you get to the mouth, the more you slow down. At the sight of a black squall coming at us on the port side, we dropped anchor in a depth of three meters in the middle of nowhere, less than a mile from the mouth of the river. The idea was to pull up the anchor with the rising tide… but we woke up six hours later, mired in the mud! The fishermen who towed us seemed to be used to it. Going up the river by day, we had been dreaming about it for weeks!

The water changes from blue to brown and the green of the great forest looms!
The water changes from blue to brown and the green of the great forest looms!

And now this grandiose spectacle presented itself to us. After 22 days at sea, sailing in the middle of the jungle is not lacking in spice. The forest welcomed us with its shades of green, its lush vegetation and its scarlet ibises. Slowly, normal life is taking over our daily lives. Noah finds his mother, the crew separates. What’s next, we don’t know, but we’re getting ready to invent it, still stunned by the force of the ocean.

Find the adventures of Juliette and Martin on
their Youtube channel “New Flow to Sail” and the newspaper
Juliette’s board on their participative kitty
Patreon (www.patreon.com/newflowtosail).

Text and photos: Juliette Mauban-Nivol.

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