Days 1 – 7
With our sub 24 hour pit stop in Cape Verde over, we set off in absolutely perfect conditions for our trip west. As we slipped out of Mindello between the Islands of Sao Vincente and and Santo Anteo, we had 25 knots from astern, and lovely rolling waves to send us on our way. We also had a small collection of other boats all leaving around the same time, and it was comforting to know that we’d got some company as we set out.
Unfortunately, these champagne conditions didn’t stick round long, and as the sun set for our first night, the wind died away to nothing, and we sat rolling around in the swell for several hours. We eventually took down the main to stop the incessant flopping from side to side, and made very slow head way under the jib until the wind returned the following morning.
For the next couple of days, it was much more “business as usual”, with a sunny 15 – 20 knots of wind pushing us along. The trickiest bit of those first few days was managing the early passage anxieties – including, but not limited to: What if we hit something? What if we lost the steering? What if we start sinking? What if we lose the electronics? What if some one gets ill? What if I give everyone food poisoning? What if some one falls overboard? Etc etc….Fortunately, as more time passed without catastrophe, and the daily routines became established, the anxieties subsided into something a bit more manageable, and time moved on.
We were also super excited to see some Dolphins – we saw one pod a couple of days out from Cape Verde, who played along side the boat for a while. We also had a couple of night time visits, and they looked very cool with all the phosphorescence as they splashed around on our bow wave.
Day 5 was particularly notable, as the first of the two assigned Shower Days – great excitement! By “shower”, I mean that we each had roughly 5 litres of fresh water allocated to us, warmed nicely in the little camping solar shower on deck – by usual standards, not quite a shower, however after 5 days of salt, suncream, flying fish attacks etc, it was more than welcome, and we all relished the feeling of being clean for at least a few hours.
Day 7 was the official half way day, and we crossed the 1000 mile mark. As we passed that milestone in the middle of the night, we didn’t really do much to mark the occasion – but we celebrated with a delicious breakfast of bacon and baked beans in the morning!
They do say that spending time at sea is a good way to learn more about people, and this proved very true in our case, when Marty whipped up no less than three fresh loaves of bread en route. Our secret baker then further surprised us with fresh home-made pizzas – he’s kept this talent well hidden up until now, but now the secret is out.
Days 8 – 14
Day 8 was a funny old day – we had very light winds and rain in the morning, with the wind coming from the west – not what we’d been looking for! The rain soon disappeared, but the wind was taking it’s time to materialise. We took advantage of our becalming by going for a quick swim off the back of the boat, with a long line and a fender. The novelty of having a swim 1000 miles from land, in 5000 metres of water was pretty exciting, until the inevitable thought crept in that essentially you’re now just the rather large lure for all the sea monsters lurking nearby, and we scampered out very quickly, feeling refreshed.
We had mixed success with fishing on the trip. For the first few days, the swell was too large for us to fish comfortably, and the fridge and ice box was so full of food that we had no space to keep it, so we only really fished in the second half of the passage. The first time the reel went off, it shot out the back of the boat at high speed, with the rod bending at all sorts of mad angles. The line suddenly snapped, and what ever we’d hooked was gone, along with our favourite lure. The breaking load on the line was 320lbs (about 180kg), so what ever we’d caught was clearly enormous, and I’m not sure we’d have had room for this one on board anyway!
The second time wasn’t much more successful, although this time the blame fell squarely on some poorly tied knots. Another fish and lure lost, and most irritatingly, my favourite hat was also sacrificed during the proceedings.
Third time lucky as they say, and we reeled in a beautiful little Albacore – the perfect size for three people for dinner. By this stage, we’d started to run low on the fresh meat, so the fish was a very welcome update to the dinner menu, and we enjoyed the freshest of fresh fish with our few remaining potatoes.
We spent much of our days playing Sudoku to varying levels of success, doing crosswords, and reading. By this stage in the trip, I’d read everything on board, including a Maintenance Manual for Diesel Engines (very practical, but I suspect that this will remain more Marty’s area than mine) a Sea Survival Tactics book – note, this does not make for good bed time reading when roughly 1000 miles from land in any direction – and the Cruisers Guide to Fishing – this did come in handy when dealing with the aforementioned Albacore! With hindsight, a glaring omission from our reading materials was any sort of book on the Stars and Astronomy, which would in fact have been very handy – the stars were truly awesome. And I don’t mean in the “I had an AWESOME burger for lunch” kind of way, I mean the truly vast, make you feel really really tiny kind of awesome. As it was, we did much pointing out of Orion and his belt, and the Big Dipper, which seemed to be about the limit of our astronomical expertise.
Marty also passed the time battling the War on Amps – when it comes to battery management, Marty could probably write an entire post on the battery management, solar outputs, amp hours, watts etc etc – but it’s a bit techy and not that exciting, so I’ll just let him tell you all about it another time!
Other night time incidents included a series of vicious assaults on the crew by the Flying Fish. Dad was the first victim and took a direct hit to the chest, while Marty and I escaped with more minor blows to the legs at various stages of the passage. The worst was yet to come though, and at 2am on the 12th day, an especially vicious attacker stormed the deck, and hit me square in the face, prompting a dramatic yelp which had Marty and Dad running for the companionway.
Those little guys are very persistent, and our daily Rig & Deck check included clearing the decks of the previous nights intruders. This search was extended in the second half of the trip to include downstairs in the cabin, after one particularly intrepid individual managed to make his way into the kitchen sink, which was at that time experiencing very light usage, in light of our strict water rations.
Day 10 was particularly significant as our second allocated shower day – it may seem like a small thing, but there are no words to explain how much of a morale boost this was! By now, every one was starting to get a bit tired of the long night watches, we’d had a very rolly couple of nights and were fed up of being all salty and suncreamy, so the chance to freshen up a bit did wonders for the team spirit!
Day 11 marked the passing of the “500 miles to go” mark. This key mile stone meant that we probably had less than 4 days to go, and we all started dreaming of real showers, fresh vegetables (you really miss those after a few days!) and clean clothes
Days 12 – 13 passed reasonably uneventfully, which in reality is exactly what you want on a long ocean passage! We hit record times for completion of a sudoku puzzle, and completed the entire book of crosswords, and generally counted down to our scheduled arrival day. The only minor piece of excitement was when the eye on the mast for the spinnaker pole sheared off, and the pole suddenly became a flailing spear, clipped on to the end of the jib sheet poled out to windward. Once we’d successfully lashed that back to the mast, we continued as before. Incidentally, this was the only breakage of the entire trip, largely thanks to Marty’s dedication to our preparations and maintenance along the way – top work!
The other notable occurrence was the arrival of the much anticipated squalls – we’d been warned to expect them as we approached the islands, and we were not disappointed. In the space of a few hours, 4 or 5 squalls rolled through, bringing wind and rain in abundance. The wind speed topped out at 38 knots, but quickly dropped to almost nothing and swung around all over the place for an hour or so – until the next one turned up! Once piece of advice we’d received was “if you can’t see the stars, reef!” – which turned out to be very true. The squalls crept up in the dark, and we found ourselves scrambling for the reefing lines, only for it all to be over before we’d finished. Fortunately, these only really caught us in our final 48 hours, so we escaped fairly unscathed, although now very wary of large dark clouds!
Day 14 – we arrived! Roughly 30 miles offshore, we first spotted a tiny dot of land on the horizon. As the day went on, the dot got larger and larger, and we could practically taste the rum. We’d ideally hoped to arrive in daylight, but the winds weren’t quite playing ball, so it was just after nightfall when we eventually dropped the anchor at Port St Charles in the north of island of Barbados. The port officials seemed to have disappeared for the evening, which meant we couldn’t leave the boat, so we whipped up some pasta, and crashed out for our first full night of sleep in three weeks. I can confirm that it was as good as you’d expect – with out a doubt the best sleep I’ve ever had.
We checked in with out incident in the morning, and went ashore for our first meal and to get some wifi to see what had happened in the world after the last 3 weeks. The plans from here now involve a few days in Barbados, before the 80 mile passage over to St Vincent and the Grenadines, where we’ll spend the next couple of weeks.
Until next time….