11/12/2012, North Atlantic
For those interested, we are 160 nautical miles from Fort Lauderdale at noon Tuesday, December 11, and should reach our destination tomorrow at noon if the current (Gulf Stream) is running to assist us up the Florida coast on the last stretch. I will do a last post in the next few days, after getting a few good nights sleep. Regards from Dylan and John.
08/12/2012, North Atlantic
Mark and Jason departed the boat in St Lucia and had flights back to the UK on Tuesday. Although we looked for a third crew member, we were unable to find somebody suitable and thus Dylan and I decided to depart on the Monday with just the two of us on board. It is quite tiring keeping a 24 hour watch, but we are managing quite well.
The route we are taking has been from St Lucia directly to the Mona Passage, via the passage to the northern coast of Hispaniola and along past Great Inagua Island to the Old Bahamas Passage into the Straits of Florida and up past Miami to Fort Lauderdale, a trip of just over 1300 nautical miles.
We have been doing quite well being assisted at times with up to about 2 knots of current. At our present rate, we should make it to Fort Lauderdale late on Tuesday evening or early on Wednesday morning. But, as the saying goes, "don't count your chickens before the eggs are hatched"!
Dylan has been kept busy on his daytime watch, with both fishing lines out and catching quite a few Dorado, which he is cleaning and freezing in the boats chest freezer. I think there are already six or seven of the fish there. Otherwise the routine is sleep, eat and stand watch - all quite boring.
As we now approach Great Inagua Island and then pass Cuba up the Old Bahamas Channel, I bid you well from both Dylan and myself, John.
01/12/2012, North Atlantic
We arrive in Rodney Bay, St Lucia, on Friday, November 30, having made better time than I had at first calculated. I had originally calculated an arrival on Sunday December 2 but, due to good winds on the crossing, we managed to cut two days off the estimate.
We had one major incident during the crossing in that a block at the top of the mast, used to control the spinnaker halyard, exploded whilst we were doing around 7 knots. This happened on the 28th. Jason was on watch at the time and I was sitting in the saloon. I heard the bang and out the corner of my eye saw the top of the spinnaker shoot forward (the halyard had also snapped) and curl into the sea forward of the bows. The boat then proceeded to sail over the spinnaker, with it appearing, now ripped to shreds, behind us. What a mess!
We tried to retrieve the shredded sail, but gave up when it was apparent that the engine shafts and rudders had done so much damage that it was folly to try and retrieve it. We had to cut sections of it away, out of the rudders. It is a great pity we lost this sail as it had carried us many thousands of miles and still could of helped on some of the final leg to Florida. On the flip-side of the coin, we are fortunate that we were already close to Sint Lucia and had enough fuel to motor-sail to Rodney Bay. The wind was ideal spinnaker weather but not strong enough to just sail this beast of a boat - it needed some "iron donkey" assistance to keep it moving.
I have been to St Lucia a few times but never to Rodney Bay. I must say it is a pleasant port with very friendly customs and immigration official, something not always found in other places in the Caribbean. There are a number of restaurants and bars in the marina area and a small supermarket not too far from the marina. Today is Saturday and we will be spending most of the day working on the boat. I also need to go up the mast and photograph the remains of the block at the top and check that no other damage to the rig occurred. We also need to try and recruit at least one person to finish the trip to Florida as Jason and Mark are flying back to the UK on Tuesday - we need to leave on Monday.
Above is a photo of the block at the top of the mast - looks like the weld failed. Cheers for now - Dylan and John.
23/11/2012, North Atlantic
I promised a bit more information on Mindelo "in a few days". Well, a few more days have come and gone but, as the saying goes, "better late than never". So here we go!
The Cape Verde Islands was a Portuguese colony which, a number of years back, gained its independence and is now a republic. However, the main language spoken is Portuguese with a bit of an African twist thrown in for luck. Very little English is spoken by the local folk. Like so many ex Portuguese colonies, the main infrastructure in Mindelo was allowed to run down but there has been a revival over the past few years with a lot of general maintenance and quite a few new buildings going up. Mindelo is just a small town but is still handicapped by poverty.
The town has a marina next to the small commercial port, which is very expensive during the yacht transit season - this time of the year when there are great numbers of small to large yachts moving between Europe and the Caribbean. It is also on the transit route as sailing yachts tend to follow the winds and the normal trade winds blow right past the islands. For the yachtie, there are a few small supermarkets to top-up with provisions, together with a fruit and vegetable market in the older part of the town. Water is all desalinated and costs 2 Euro cents a litre whist diesel fuel is a heck of a lot cheaper than Europe and slightly cheaper than South Africa, at 95 Euro cents a litre - equal to about R10.00 per litre.
Internet is also expensive but we found a way around it by docking next to a 150 foot super-yacht with a 24 hour unprotected satellite feed - name of vessel withheld for obvious reasons!
Since departing Mindelo last week, the ship routine has settled in and consists of food, sleep and watches with a little fishing thrown in for luck. We have done a bit of motor-sailing due to very light winds for a few days but mostly we have had the spinnaker up and have been doing some good mileage for this rather heavy and slow boat. At first we kept the spinnaker up only during daylight hours and motor-sailed at night. This because Mark and Jason needed to learn to sail with a spinnaker and there was no moon at night. Now, the trades are settled a bit and we are sailing day and night with the spinnaker and using the generator to charge our battery bank to keep all the systems running. We do have a problem in that the house batteries have not been maintained all that well and take a long time to recharge.
We have managed to catch a number of Dorado and now have quite a bit in stock in the freezer. Yesterday we also managed to hook two good sized Wahoo. However, one managed to bite through the one line and got away. The other has given us four large meals, the first which was dinner last night.
We are heading for Rodney Bay in St Lucia, where we hope to make landfall on either December 1 or 2. We are well past the halfway mark between the Cape Verde Islands and the Caribbean and, at the moment it looks like we may make landfall on December 1 if we can keep up our speed for a few more days.
We have not had any dolphin visiting the boat since Mindelo, but did have the Egrit, pictured above, visit us on Wednesday. Where this poor fellow came from is a mystery as Egrits are land birds and the closest land to the boat at the time was the Cape Verde Islands, 1450 kilometres away! I am not sure if they are migratory birds but they are certainly not adapted for catching food from the sea. Let's hope that the poor fellow manages to get a perch on a passing ship and ends up back on land.
So, as we sail along under spinnaker, greeting from Mark, Jason, Dylan and myself, John.
14/11/2012, North Atlantic
We arrived in Mindelo on Tuesday morning, just after sunrise and booked into the marina for two nights. There are loads of other yachts here at the moment, getting ready to cross to the Caribbean and, as we have heard, many have already departed over the past week. We are leaving on Thursday morning, already filled-up with water and diesel for the crossing. It should take us between 14 and 18 days as, looking at the wind patterns for the next week, there is not too much wind out there.
I am looking at going a bit further south after we depart and then sticking between 12 and 13 degrees north, until we are about two thirds across the Atlantic, before I start curling slightly north and hope to arrive in Antigua. The winds do look good for a lot of spinnaker sailing, so lets hope we can save using too much diesel in the crossing.
Mark was originally going to fly back to the UK when we reached the Caribbean and is still going to do this. However, Jason has also now told me that he will need to get back to London as well. I was expecting this as we have had so many delays that his time has nearly run out. I may have to recruit an extra crew member in Antigua for the final run up to Fort Lauderdale, about an 8 or 9 day sail.
In the next few days I will type up a blog report, giving you a bit of info on Mindelo, which I hope you will find interesting. But, for now, cheers from all aboard Ultima Life, John.