12/07/2012, Atlantic Ocean
Part 2: Christopher Columbus sailed with his brother Bartholmew and created the trade routes we still use to this day. He sailed out from Seville via Cadiz, to take on water, via the Canaries to the New World. After achieving their goal in 1492 they returned to Europe as heroes. They completed this feat a further three times and started the Spanish expansion West. They weren't the first to cross the Atlantic but were made famous because they created the trading routes. Incidently, they passed by St Lucia on one voyage and their navigator came up with this name.
Some eighty odd years later an Englishman from nearby Plymouth rose to fame from being a shipwright to be the first Englishman to circum-navigate the globe. After proving his seamanship in clashes with the Spanish in the Caribbean he commissioned (his patron was a Mr Hatton of Hatton Garden fame whose coat of arms includes a deer - hence the name change) and built his ship, The Pelican, (with his brother's help as designer and shipwright). After receiving papers from QEI, Drake set out with a small fleet of ships commissioned with the task of disrupting the Spanish trade and finding new colonies with which to trade. His success laid the foundations of the British as a force as a sea-faring nation and beginning of our trade throughout the world. The design of the Golden Hinde with it's revolutionary "fighting tops" - sort of enlarged crows-nests on each mast allowed Drake's crew to get the upper-hand when approaching other boats. A few years later, this new design along with poor tactics by the Spanish caused the Armada to be easily repelled and ultimately decimated. Thus providing the opportunity for British to look forward to the start of building trade links and developing the Commonwealth.
By coincidence or was it fate, Lizzie and I moved into London Bankside in October 2009. We had a welcome house party on the replica of the Golden Hinde and my fascination with sailing the Atlantic began. I had a 45 foot sailing boat, a yearning to learn to sail to my limits and a vivid imagination. Surely what heroes could do 4 or 5 centuries before with wood, tar, hemp and basic navigation aids ordinary blokes like me could do with the help of modern materials and satellite navigation. The only constant being the obstacle itself and the weather.
In Drake's day even the cabin boys were hand-picked for their abilities to do all the task need to keep a boat at sea. Rules were enforced rigorously and the men were hard and fearless. My task was easy after I chose a brother to partner me the rest would fall in to place. I have four brothers, Andy the eldest ran away to sea (well the Isle of Man) nearly 50 years ago has become accustom to large ferries and cruise liners and was a non-starter on account that Brenda probably wouldn't let him go. Glynn, number 4 out of 5 had commitments at home bring up his two children who are his pride and joy, would also not make my list. That left Peter; my youngest brother, who has served with distinction in the navy most notably saving Hong Kong from hordes of boat people before taking up life as a security consultant and underwater expert in his spare time and Keith; soon to be retired, never sailed before with a dodgie back and on medication for pain relief. After much thought I chose Keith. After losing his life long partner and soul mate, the lovely Rita, in a tragic accident in Cancun a year or so earlier, I hoped this would provide him with a new purpose and give him a challenge to help heal his loss. Peter would have other life chances and would not begrudge his brother an opportunity like this. Having a brother as part of your team seems to work for my heroes and Keith would do me just fine. The next two picked themselves. My new (to be then) son-in-law Dan, knows a bit about being on water after many years rowing on the Thames and since he works in advertising must be good with communication, right! Neil, my handyman friend, who looks after our home in Portugal and the boat in Vilamoura Marina would install all the new equipment so was an obvious choice also. Though Neil has never owned a boat he has been around them for many years building or replacing parts for others. He too is semi-retired and is always talking about his past exploits I thought this would add to his list and verify his "Moby Dick" stories. We four would make up the bulk of the team of five (80%) and we would find the final person to compliment our skills and fill in any gaps nearer the departure time. NB: Pareto defined the 80:20 rule as common in nature. I often quote these figure and everyone just seems to believe me so this might be a good time for you to check me out and look this up under Pareto Effect.
Our first tasks were to define what we would need to refit the boat and bring it up to date. Then gain any skills or qualifications required to complete the task whilst installing the equipment and gaining extra experience whilst using it. Our target was to have everything ready by mid 2012.
How we progressed and who helped us is covered in my next instalment.
12/05/2012, Atlantic Ocean
Well, the big news from the middle of the Atlantic is that we have caught a fish, three fish in fact - On Monday, just as we were contemplating how to make a dinner from half a dozen potatoes and a tin of green beans we hooked a nice sized dorado. Today we have had even more luck, another dorado and a small tuna so fresh fish again (it really does taste different when it is on your plate only an hour after being caught).
The other sight that we have been treated to over the last 48 hours is that of flying fish - for those that haven't ever seen one of these fish they really do fly, leaping out of the water and skimming a metre or so above the waves, tiny wings flapping - they can travel several hundred metres in the air before having to dive back down under water. We're awaiting the moment when one of them decides that our deck looks like a homely place to visit, they haven't fallen for our disguise yet though!
Other than that life on board remains reasonably relaxed - Gary is writing a history of how we came to do this trip (being posted in chapters on the blog) and often during the day it's a case of getting as much rest as possible so that the 3AM alarm call for your watch isn't too painful.
We nearly had another rudder incident when a particularly strong gust of wind jolted it out of position, a block has now been fixed around it to prevent any more shifting.
The other concern that we have at the moment is that we're going to lose our wind - forecasts suggest that as of Friday we may have a few calm days. To minimize the risk of this happening we're heading further south than we perhaps originally planned as believe that is where the winds will be at their strongest, we have the Parasailor as a good backup we hope too, keep your fingers crossed for wind though.
As we head west the days and nights are warming up and often at the start of the night and before the moon comes out we've had phosphorescence in the waves, glowing brightly as the boat churns up the water.
Many thanks for all your emails, has been brilliant to get them all.
12/05/2012, Atlantic Ocean
We are approaching the mid way point in our journey to cross the Atlantic. I didn't just set out 8 days ago I think it must go back to when I was a child. Those day trips to the seaside with lots of other Working Mens Club coaches racing towards Skegness or Cleethorpes with a lucky bag of goodies and a ten bob note to last the day. Of course we spend the money by lunch time and the rest of the day (after a bread and bun fight in a swanky lunchtime hotel dining room) on the beach looking out to sea. The romance of the sea was brought home to me by shanty songs and thoughts of distant paradise islands.
That dream has turned into a reality for me along with many others. Except we all fly off to paradise now in a few hours by EasyJet. The sense of adventure was missing. As I contemplated retirement and having enjoyed learning to sail dinghies with Lizzie 30+ years before, the thought of buying a yacht came to mind. So in 2009 we bought a boat. Unfortunately this was about the same time that Lizzie was becoming more in demand, as a management guru, and instead of sailing and working on the boat together we entered the world of short weekends and communicating by email. Like ships that pass in the night we seemed to be going in different direction, but after 39 years of marriage we are still very much on the same wave length.
Lizzie is now reaching great heights and after one of her books "5 Ways to Think Like a Leader" reached best selling status at airports around the world, I knew I had to up my own game and set myself some new goals. My golf game has been improving since my buddies and I augmented the GMAC challenge (Gary, Mike, Andreas and Crispin) and working with Troy, General Manager at the Golden Hinde, to help them get charitable status and move to a sustainable business has helped fill a void. Then after the pleasure of working on plans for Alexis and Dan's marriage last year I had the time and resources to surmount a serious challenge of my own. However, we would need to set up and equip a cruising yacht for an ocean crossing and I would need a team who were willing and and possibly foolhardy enough to come along with me.
To be continued...
12/03/2012, Atlantic Ocean
At sea for just under a week now and we've hit our first milestone - 2000 miles to go to St. Lucia.
After the adventures of the first few days we've had a slightly more relaxed weekend and start to the week. Our aim has been to head to a waypoint of 20N, 30W to pick up the southerly trade winds, a slightly longer route distance wise but one that should reward us with more consistent winds and currents. As such and as we are now approaching this point, miles that had been lost to other boats heading due west from Las Palmas are slowly being regained and our distance covered/24 hours is increasing daily.
The big focus for the last 48 hours has been on catching a fish - we've managed to hook two baby dorados but at only a foot or so long each they went back in to grow a little more. Four times we've hooked bigger fish, but each time have lost them on the reel in - one with the line snapping (with a 32KG breaking point it must have been quite a fish).
Beyond our attempts at deep sea fishing we've hoisted the parasailor again but caught up in the wind and halyards it sustained a couple of tears - now repaired and stowed away again we await a calmer day to try again.
All else is well on board and the crew all fine - wildlife and other human contact remains sparse - a reminder of how far we are from everyone, but we were passed by a 130ft yacht early on Monday.
Our plan over the next few days is to head to a new way point of 16N, 40W - Chris Tibbs, our meteorologist on dry ground and member of the ARC team has notified us that a low is developing that will affect winds to the north of this waypoint - best to keep south therefore.
Weather is good on the whole, sunny days and clear nights but with the odd squall or two every day and big swells (5 metres or so) for the last couple of days - it should get steadily warmer as we head further west.
Thanks for all emails so far, they do help fill the hours when we get news from home (even if just with the latest news & sporting results) - do keep sending them to email@example.com
P.s. for those interested the below list out for each day our total miles to St. Lucia, miles covered that day and average speed.
Wednesday 28th Nov 2578.99 miles 70 miles 4.6 knots Thursday 29th Nov 2508.56 miles 119 miles 3.0 knots Friday 30th Nov 2389.81 miles 145 miles 5.0 knots Saturday 1st Dec 2244.76 miles 153 miles 6.3 knots Sunday 2nd Dec 2092.47 miles 160 miles 6.6 knots Monday 3rd Dec 1932.00 miles TBC miles 6.7 knots
11/30/2012, Atlantic Ocean
It's been a tiring, somewhat problematic but good first few days at sea.
Having all found our sea legs we've had various challenges to address.
Firstly, we discovered that we were taking on water into the bilge - approx 12 buckets every few hours and noticeably more than the odd bit of sea spray etc. The hunt around the boat led us to a small leak by the rudder. Shane and Neil have duly patched it up and we seem to now be OK.
Yesterday afternoon we had the Parasailor flying (effectively a large spinnaker but with a vent to help funnel the wind). The boat levels beautifully with it and at about 60 foot high it is quite a sight when hoisted. Getting the Parasailor in again was more of a challenge (especially after it slipped one of its blocks) and required Shane, Neil & Dan all up on the bow, harnessed on and pulling it in - all slightly hairy.
Last night was the calmest we've had so far, other than a little rain and the odd squall or two we had fair sailing made better by the appearance of a pod of dolphins alongside us for 20 mins or so at 1AM.
This morning we almost had a disaster when our rudder slipped, thankfully as we were on autopilot at the time it self locked itself before it had the chance to disconnect completely and we were able to lift it and lock it tightly in place. Having done that it's been a reasonably quiet day today - we've managed to get the water maker running and have made 5 gallons of water. The swell has increased again and as such we are rolling about more than we did yesterday - this makes cooking an interesting challenge and we have already had both part of a chicken curry and spag bol emptied over the galley floor.
Making good progress over all though and now heading more west than south.
Next update soon.
11/28/2012, Atlantic Ocean, 150NM SW of Gran Canaria
Well, we are at sea!
Not a huge amount to say from the first 24 hours so will keep it brief.
We set sail at 11:30AM Tuesday morning, 30 mins later than expected after a final equipment test through up a few battery/electrical problems. Thanks to Jon Crouch (a good man to know in Gran Canaria), we were able to resolve the majority of the issues reasonably quickly.
We sailed out and across the start line into fairly big seas. 5 metre swells and the boat pitching and tossing. This weather has been fairly consistent ever sine with a few bursts of sunshine and a few showers. Despite a bit of sea sickness the crew are settling into their watch patterns and Shane is doing a great job of skippering the boat and making sure little problems (e.g. water in the bilge today) are sorted out.
We've seen a few other boats on the horizon and a big tanker passed us by, no sign of any fish or sea birds yet however.
Our planned course is to head SW to Cape Verde at which point we'll hopefully pick up the trade winds for our journey west.
Thanks for all emails so far, they have been received and will be replied to ASAP.
Thinking of you all at home.
11/25/2012, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
A final update from Las Palmas before the delayed start on Tuesday - only the second time in 27 years that they've run a second start!
Blog updates will be made on www.sailblogs.com/member/canapesia. These will automatically post to the Atlantic Sail 2012 Facebook page, not our personal pages (keep an eye out for the SailBlogs links). We won't however see any comments so if you want to get in touch (and we'd love to hear from you), do send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (no attachments though).
If you'd like to track us (position posted every 4 hours) then visit www.worldcruising.com/arc/eventfleetviewer.aspx
See you on the other side!
The Canapesia crew.
11/25/2012, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
A very quick update from Las Palmas - Following the skippers´ briefing meeting yesterday, it was announced that due to a forecast of 25-30 knot SW headwinds and 4-5 metre swells for the next 36 hours, a second start will be run on Tuesday 27th November. The majority of boats therefore (including Canapesia) have made the decision to delay departure. The forecasts suggest that come Tuesday the winds will be more favourable and we should therefore have a slightly more relaxed start.
11/23/2012, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
It's been a hugely busy three days here in Las Palmas. Canapesia arrived late on Monday afternoon after a tough sail down, made worse by various equipment failures. Thankfully, due in a large part to the support structure of the ARC and the various teams on the island, we have managed to get everything repaired and all the other jobs just about completed. To give as brief a summary as possible:
Much of Tuesday was dedicated to liaising with the repair teams for the engine, water maker and generator and ordering the required parts. A berth for Canapesia was found, spare parts for rigging & electrics were purchased and the SSB radio/email link up was fixed. Various crew members went to the SSB radio and food provisioning seminars too. A hard first day was ended with the ARC official sundowner drinks at the marina.
The engine and water maker were fixed on Wednesday, the galley stove taken up to a steel welder to be strengthened and food for five for three weeks planned out - the reduced storage space available and the limited amount of fresh food that we'll be able to take on board suddenly becoming a reality. A crew trip to a worthwhile (if not slightly grim) first aid seminar too.
On Thursday the GPS & Radar navigation pod was updated by Jason from Raymarine. 120 litres of water (back up in case the water maker packs in), 30 litres of long life milk and 40 cans of soft drink were ordered and delivered, and all the meat, fruit and veg that we can carry and that will stay fresh ordered. The boat was fuelled - just after Eddie Jordan's (of F1 fame) boat was brought into port for 3,400 litres of diesel! The crew then headed into Las Palmas old town for the weekly beer & tapas evening - a host of bars offer a half pint and selection of tapas for a few Euros and it was a refreshing break from the marina and a nice chance to mix with the locals.
Friday saw the storm jib and Parasailor being hoisted, the generator being fixed and final odd jobs being completed and parts ordered & bought. The rest of the food and supplies were ordered too - a six foot long receipt! Much of the afternoon was then spent stowing all equipment and spares ahead of the bulk of the food arriving on Saturday (tomorrow). The day ended with the farewell party, drinks and canapés at the Las Palmas yacht club.
So, one day to go before the start and it'll no doubt be another busy one. The main task is now to get everything stowed in order of when we need it (from food to spare sheets & sails) - anything to avoid having to unpack and repack to get one thing when the boat is rolling and pitching! By this time tomorrow we should be checked out and ready to go. We start at 1PM on Sunday along with 217 other boats from 25 different countries and with over 1,400 crew in total.
Our next posting therefore: The Atlantic Ocean!
The Canapesia crew
11/19/2012, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Canapesia has arrived in Gran Canaria! Having set sail from Vilamoura on Monday afternoon, the crew have faced big seas and for two days a 30 knot headwind which forced them to change course and come within 30 miles of the North African coast to avoid the worst of the weather. Having come through this weather though they managed to cover 300 miles in the last two days and arrived in port a couple of days later than expected but cheery and in one piece.
Mark and Sim, who had joined the boat and Gary, Neil & Keith for the sail down will be around for the next few days to help sort out a few things. Dan and Shane are now both in Gran Canaria too and most of the on shore registration and pre arrival paperwork has been completed over the last week.
The next few days will be dedicated to making sure everything is ship shape for the weekend & the race start (25th November) - job number one is making sure the SSB radio is fixed up properly so we can keep all you lovely people up to date with our news (it wasn´t working on the sail down) and then getting food and supplies on board. Alongside this work there are various seminars to go to (everything from first aid to on board fitness) and time to get to know the other crews.
We´ll do our best to keep everyone up to date over the next few days via both Facebook and the blog and then from the 25th November we should be officially at sea and updating you via the blog posts only (which will auto post to Facebook).
Thanks for all your posts, emails and texts - much appreciated.
The Canapesia crew.