On November 11, after more than a year of construction, Estrella left her home port of La Rochelle to embark on her first transatlantic voyage with a disabled-abled crew!
1st stage : La Rochelle - Tenerife
For this first stage, destination Tenerife with a ballast to negotiate, we were eight on board. Captain Thierry Normand at the helm of the ship, assisted by Cyril Samson who ensured with brio his baptism of fire, and six crew members: Cathy, Olivia, Nico, Benjamin, Joel and Victor. In spite of sometimes difficult conditions, difficulties to moor for some, and some technical problems, the good mood and the humor never left the board and everyone will keep in memory this beautiful adventure...
Find here a preview of the pictures of this first stage!
A huge thank you to Valérie Montoriol from Passeurs d'Histoires for this delicious video editing!
The arrival in Tenerife was celebrated with dignity and it was not without emotion that, a few days later, the crew said goodbye, leaving room for the crew of the Grande Traversée!
2nd stage: Tenerife - Guadeloupe
This time it was Captain Christophe Gireau who took the helm of our Star, casting off on December 4 in the direction of Cape Verde and then Guadeloupe.
On board, the die-hard Cathy, Cyril and Joël, present since La Rochelle, joined by Béa, Marc, Thomas, Benoît and Albert.
A full boat for this human challenge of 17 days of navigation, with a small stopover in Mindelo.
And it was on December 23, at 4 a.m., that the fine team arrived at the marina of Bas du Fort de Guadeloupe, successfully completing Estrella Lab's first transatlantic race with a disabled-able crew!
I might as well tell you that no matter how late or early it was, the welcome was warm and Olivia, who came from Metropolitan France to welcome them with champagne, fresh cheese, chocolate and other things one can dream of after a long sail, shed her little tear!
What a step for this project that came out of the guts of so many people!
DREAM TEAM, PARTNERS, FRIENDS, THANK YOU FOR BELIEVING IN IT, IT WASN'T EASY BUT WE DID IT!
And the challenge is far from over!
After a transatlantic, the repair of a boat is not easy. And as most of the crew was leaving for the holidays, it was as a very small team that we got down to it little by little.
Thomas and Olivia, both in wheelchairs, and Cathy La Guerrière, faithful to the job until the end (which she has not yet seen, since she will probably stay on board until the return transatlantic race!) have put their hearts into it.
Tidying up, inventory of supplies, odds and ends, fishing for information to try to build a small network of trusted professionals for repairs...
Not exactly a vacation in the tropics, but the setting was not bad, and after the post-transat fatigue, we can't say that it was a torture either.
Cyril Flouard, the new captain of Estrella, from Guadeloupe to Martinique, joined us. We organized a small weekend in Les Saintes for the New Year, just to get to know the boat, to find the places for the next trips and to test a few things, especially different launching systems.
If the place is simply heavenly, we had some bad surprises: our dinghy engine, despite a revision before leaving La Rochelle, fell into the harbor and, diving to take a look at the hull, we realized that our bow thruster, which will have already emXxXrd us well during the construction, got stuck in the down position 😬
And because otherwise it would be too simple, our outboard is an old outdated 2-stroke, the problem comes from the carburetor which is of course not found here as in mainland France...
New problems to solve then...
Ah the boat life !
As a consolation, we had a chance meeting with Antoine, captain of the Setis, an old rig from La Rochelle, who had helped us to re-mast Estrella. It was an opportunity to tell each other about our crossing adventures.
On the way back from the Saintes, before facing new problems, we took two days off in Guadeloupe in vacation mode and met up with Albert, our transatlantic crew member who had stayed on the island. A short trip on the crossing road, lunch in Bouillante, swimming in Malendure in front of the îlets Pigeon...
Information for the friends on wheels: on this beach, a "tiralo" is available at the tourist office, to facilitate the launching.
It feels good to leave the boat.
Then Thomas, after more than a month on board Estrella, returned to France, by air this time. Thank you Tom Tom for being more than just a driver for his ladies!
Unfortunately, the Covid and the social events here have discouraged many from coming to sail with us in the West Indies 😢
But we don't let ourselves be discouraged and we take advantage of it to meet people, especially the assos and sailing club.
And it is by chance on an article published on the web that we contacted and met Bruno Kancel, President of the Guadeloupean sailing league, thanks to whom Olivia was able to test one of the small boats of the newly inaugurated disabled sailing base of Bergevin.
This initiative is supported by the FFV, Luc Coquelin's association "La Mer pour Tous" and the Rotary Club of Guadeloupe. They are equipped with 6 small sailboats specially designed for a quick handling, including for the uninitiated and people with disabilities. To steer, a pedal or a steering wheel, depending on your needs, and two sails to propel you.
It obviously made Olivia laugh, as she hadn't sailed on small boats since her optimist lessons as a child... It's sure a change from the 97m2 of Estrella's big sail!
"I felt like I was playing Mario Kart, it's a really great feeling and it can be very slippery! Even if it's quick to get the hang of it, I still managed to mess up a few times ahah. There is a lot of work to do! In any case it's a great initiative and it would be great to, why not, set up a common action! "
One thing leading to another, we heard about a small friendly regatta organized by the Banana club and we thought it was the opportunity to meet the local sailors.
If the wind decided to go elsewhere for the regatta, it will have, a little later, still allowed us to put back on our magnificent spinnaker, to the great happiness of the crew of the day of which Pascal L'Etang, president of the association "La Mer pour Tous" was part.
So we played the prolongation to the islet Gosier: sunny lunch, swimming, return under spinnaker at the first lights of the sunset... The hard life!
Thanks to La Banane and Bruno Kancel, hoping that we can do it again with a bit more air and the wing foils out!
And thanks to the crew of the day for your good mood and participation in the maneuvers, a pleasure to have you on board 🥰
Back to the marina and the problems to solve, with sometimes big days of discouragement. Not always easy to see the end and not easy to see cruises cancelled... But that's part of the game and you have to stay the course.
We repeat the saying of good old Churchill: success is to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.
And enthusiasm is kept, thanks to the solidarity of the people we meet here.
There is Didier, a diver friend and turmeric producer (nice common story to come, we'll tell you!) who tried to help us out of this propeller story with his diving block. We didn't get to the end of it, but we'll get there.
He introduced us to Olivier, a friend with magic fingers for all that touches the mechanics but not only, who helped us to put a lot of things on board.
And thanks to him we got our first article in the weekly magazine Nouvelle Semaine. Well, the journalist got a bit confused but the message got through.
There is Anthony, living aboard his proud Theta Volantis (which by the way is the name of a star ;-) ) which he bought for 3000 dollars in Saint Martin, when it had just been refloated after two and a half months under water... Next to that, the Estrella yard is just a piece of junk. A courageous story of a boat as we like them and which reinforces the idea of not giving up...
Aware of our outboard problem, he offered to lend us his spare 15 HP... Not adequate to our little tired dinghy but the gesture touched us greatly.
There is Isa, a fan of canyoning, sailing and yoga, who dedicated a day to us with her car, taking us all over the industrial area of Jarry in search of engine partnerships and parts. Then in search of Fred, a fisherman mechanic we heard about by word of mouth, maybe able to find a carburetor...
She welcomed us for two nights in her very nice house in Petit Bourg, with a little walk in the forest at the start of the Moreau Falls hike. Perfect for a little shot of nature and a perfect armchair access!
Thank you Isa for this little decompression chamber and thank you for the workshop to transform gourds into salad bowls and lights for the boat ;-)
There is Bruno Kancel who put us in touch with people, in particular Bruno Corre of the Banane club, and incredible but true, it was enough of a phone call for him to come to lend us a 6 HP engine just revised! If it doesn't solve the problem in the long run, it literally saves our trip to La Martinique! Thank you 🙏🙏
And the neighbors of the pontoons, the people passing by to see us and these incredible skies that nature offers us...
So we don't give up, we find solutions and we prepare Estrella to welcome Jean-Michel, Franck and Bernard next Tuesday to hoist the sails towards Martinique!
And I can tell you that we can't wait!
But you know what would REALLY make us happy?
Beyond finding us a great sponsor or patron ahah 😂
IT'S THAT YOU COME TO SAIL IN THE WEST INDIES!!! 😀😀
So to your diaries, your emails, your phones, the plane tickets are going down! 🛫⇢🏝⛵️
10-day cruises, week-long cruises, weekend trips, day trips... We adapt to your desires!