France-Australia by catamaran: the story of an ocean crossing


France-Australia they did it on an Elba 45

Leaving the coasts of France behind last autumn, Louise and Gordon Coates returned to their native Australia aboard their Elba 45 some six months later. They had dreamed of this trip and they did it! Because they wanted their family and friends to enjoy the pleasure of sailing aboard their Elba 45 all the way from France, this Australian couple in their sixties set out from Port Cogolin, bound for… Sydney. Here’s their logbook.

To Lanzarote before the big jump

“After having seriously stocked up on supplies in Saint Tropez, we set sail on a chilly November morning, heading for Ibiza and then the Atlantic crossing. We were getting our bearings aboard our cruising boat equipped for this type of long-distance voyage, with its instrument panel and its indicators of water levels, battery charge levels and navigational information. Our first stop was at the port of San Antonio to stretch our legs in strangely empty streets out of season. Ten days after our departure from France, we were within sight of the famous Rock of Gibraltar, marking the real beginning of our adventure. On November 24th, we stopped for a week in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, where our friend Steve was to join us on board to share the upcoming Transatlantic passage.”


Not so tranquil transatlantic

“The crossing to Martinique was to be the best test of reliability for the boat…and her crew. Three-hour watches followed on one from another, as did the sun and the heavy weather too. Conditions were sometimes rough, but our beautiful floating home remained comfortable and clearly proved to have excellent seakeeping qualities. Steve was a calm crewmember who brought a good balance to our team. On the 16th day, we met another sailboat, something fairly rare in the middle of the ocean. The strength of the following winds allowed us to make a rather fast but also rather tiring crossing.”


Through the canal, from one ocean to the other

“During our well-earned break in Martinique, we had a diver check the hull: All Clear. Two American friends and an Australian friend came aboard to sail with us for a few weeks and help us transit the famous Panama Canal. A big event for all of us. We were all in awe of this narrow passage that thousands of cargo ships use every year and which necessitated us upgrading our fendering to protect the hulls. The passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean was completed in just one day: magical! Once through to the other side, our couple of teammates left for America and we set sail for Tahiti with our compatriot Phil.”


Banned from Tahiti…

“Beautiful sunshine and light winds were generally the order of the day for this trip in the Pacific. This gave us time to enjoy the benefits of our boat, its clever layout, its fully fitted galley, the fresh water from our watermaker, the 7 kg-capacity washing machine, and more besides. Our fishing skills proved to be not that successful, but fortunately our refrigerator and freezer had enough capacity that we were still able to enjoy some lovely meals with fresh vegetables and fresh salmon, even after a month at sea.”


“As for communications, a real ‘black box’ regularly sent our position by satellite to those who were connected to our system. It was also a great tool for sending and receiving news, especially when the hours were long on the boat. Because of the advance of the Covid virus, we were informed that it was going to be very difficult, and then ultimately impossible to set foot ashore in Papeete or on any island in French Polynesia. We would still be able to refuel before heading to our dear homeland.”


Due north to reach safety

“Concern was growing as the weather forecast predicted a cyclone in our path. The only option was to head due north, which was to take us off the coasts of Fiji, Tonga and New Caledonia, but without being able to land there. We took care to finish diminish our food stocks right down to avoid quarantine problems due to the intrusion of food on Australian territory. 4, 3, 2, 1: we counted the days that separated us from our return home and our loved ones. The reunion was of course a warm one, and our daughters were astonished to discover the comfort we enjoy aboard Larrikin, our Elba 45. After a first stop in Southport, we left Queensland and headed down to Sydney after our six-month voyage, marking the end of our adventure.”


3 questions we put to Louise and Gordon

What were the highlights of your adventure?

“Transiting the Panama Canal will remain in our memories. All those days of sailing to avoid encountering the cyclone in the Pacific are part of the great memories of our adventure. The passages we shared and the relationship with those who following our adventure were also important for the success of our story. In fact, it is was only we reviewed the video footage we shot (which you can see on Fountaine Pajot’s YouTube channel, MyBoatAndI) that we really took stock of we’d accomplished.”

Do you have any regrets?

“Mainly that of not having been able to spend more time in the Pacific, of not having been able to visit islands like the Marquesas. It was strange to arrive with all the constraints related to Covid, for the three of us who’d been living our own lockdown in the middle of the Pacific.”

How did your Elba 45 perform?

“First of all, it is very pleasant living with its generous and luminous spaces. Its layout is perfect for cruising. It is stable under way and does not generate much noise, even when it’s a bit lively. It is very comfortable to cruise on a catamaran like this.”

You can also watch or re-watch the Gordon and Louise report

Traversée de l’Atlantique et du Pacifique à bord d’un Elba 45 / MyBoat&I #4