American Yachts Sail Home with the ARC

12 December 2014

There are half a dozen US and Canadian yachts in this year’s ARC and ARC+ rallies. Some, like Morning Haze, Maravilha and Antares, are completing a full-on Atlantic circle. Others, like the crew of Archer, are sailing new boats home to the US that were purchased in Europe.

For all of them, the ARC represents a journey towards home. It’s philosophically different than most of the European ARC sailors, who are just setting out on their adventures.

We caught up with crew from two of the boats, Maravilha and Asylum, here in Saint Lucia to hear their stories and learn from their adventures.

Maravilha visits the Azores

Victors Columbus hat
Victor Pinheiro, skipper of the Hanse 430 Maravilha, arrived in Saint Lucia on Wednesday wearing a large black hat sporting an even larger purple feather.

“This is my Columbus hat!” Victor explained. He and his crew were celebrating a successful Atlantic crossing in style just after dawn.

With their arrival in the Caribbean, Maravilha has all but completed an Atlantic circle that began last spring in New England.

“We had a wonderful crossing,” Victor said while enjoying his arrival rum punch courtesy of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board. “Only a few minor breakages,” he continued, which included some minor damage to the spinnaker pole and the odd wear and tear on sheets and blocks.

Victor Pinheiro is American by birth, but Azorean Portuguese by ancestry. He’d had a dream to sail to the Azores, and last spring, when Maravilha departed Boston for the deep Atlantic, that dream was underway.

The crossing took twelve days, a fairly fast passage direct from New England. When they arrived in Horta, the classic port of call in the Azores, their reception was remarkable. Victor still has family in the Azores, and they made him feel right at home.

“All my aunts, uncles and cousins were there to greet us,” he said. “And most of the rest of the town! They had dancers and drummers, colorful flags. The rest of the boats in the marina must have thought we were royalty or something! I was almost in tears. It was an amazing feeling.”

Pinheiro spent most of the summer cruising the Azores and visiting his roots. It’s not common for yachts to remain in the islands and cruise. Instead, like the ARC Europe fleet, for most, the Azores are simply a port of call en route to the European mainland. Not for Pinheiro.

“We did a race that called at most of the islands in the Azores,” he said. “It was really nice to see all the different places on my own boat,” he added.

Maravilha then cruised on to Madeira, another Portuguese Atlantic island, well placed on the route to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where Victor would assemble another crew and prepare to cross the Atlantic yet again, this time with the ARC fleet.

Atlantic circle complete, Victor can take his Columbus hat back to America.

Asylum cruises the Mediterranean
Asylum - Thane and Brenda Paulsen

Thane and Brenda Paulsen also just completed an Atlantic circle on their Bavaria 39 Asylum, a participant in the 2014 ARC+ rally. But rather than battle the often-difficult passage to the Mediterranean, they elected to ship the boat with Dockwise.

“It was kind of a no-brainer for us,” Thane says. “We really wanted to cruise the Med, and we really wanted to cross an ocean,” he says, “but we knew it would be much easier coming back. That’s why they call it the milk run!”

Thane and Brenda were non-sailors when they met many years ago in South Dakota, and got into the sport together, working their way up through bigger and bigger boats. In the late 1990s they bought a boat through Sunsail and kept it in charter in the Caribbean.

“That allowed us to do lots of Caribbean sailing, plus sailing anywhere else there was a Sunsail base,” Brenda recalls. “We chartered in Greece in the mid-2000s, and said to ourselves, ‘we’ve got to get back here one day on our own boat.’”

After selling the charter boat, they began searching for a boat they could purchase to get back to the Med. They settled on the Bavaria 39, which they bought in the Caribbean, cruising it for while before sailing it north to Newport, RI to get ready for shipping with Dockwise.

“So Asylum really means three things,” Thane explains. “First, it can mean refuge, or safe haven. Second, it can mean sanctuary. And lastly it can mean nuthouse! All appropriate for a boat I think!”

With Asylum safely loaded on board, the Dockwise ship departed Newport bound for Europe. 

Thane and Brenda spent the next two seasons cruising the Med, though never making it back to their spot in Greece where the dream began. Instead, they started preparing for the ARC crossing in Italy, refitting the boats rigging, purchasing a Parasailor and deciding whether or not they’d be able to complete the second part of their dream, to cross an ocean double-handed.

“Back home, we never get to spend time together,” Brenda says. “So the boat is really our place to come to work as a team and enjoy each other’s company. We wanted to see if we could complete this big adventure by ourselves.”

They sailed the boat to Las Palmas with a crew of four, including two very experienced sailors they’d met while cruising.

“We wanted to see what life was like offshore with four people,” Brenda says. “But in the end, we felt confident enough in ourselves to go it alone, so we did!”

After stopping in the Cape Verde islands with the ARC+ fleet, Thane and Brenda completed their first successful Atlantic crossing, covering 2,000 miles in just over two weeks.

“It really was just like our shorter passages,” Brenda says, “just longer. We fell into a routine right away and truly enjoyed ourselves.”

Minus a few mishaps, including nearly destroying their brand-new Parasailor – “which we loved by the way!” says Thane – they made it safely to Saint Lucia, and the boat at least, has come full circle.

“We don’t know what’s next,” says Thane. “We’ll cruise the Caribbean this year, coming back and forth from the USA and our jobs. Then, we’ll see. Maybe a bigger boat!”