Ah, the sound of a bottle of Champagne opening for the equator crossing ceremony. We made it from the Southern Hemisphere into the Northern Hemisphere on Saturday at 14:56 UTC/GMT, four minutes before our local noon. We made the crossing at 042 degrees 43.4 minutes west. We have sailed 4442 nautical miles and have another 3115 nautical miles to go to Annapolis.
We are currently heading for a waypoint off the coast of Suriname, sticking to the continental shelf to make the most of the current, before we start heading for the channel south of the island of St Lucia and then on to Tortola, the capital island of the British Virgin Islands. We will be making a short stop there to take on fresh water and fuel for the 1400 odd nautical mile last leg to Annapolis. We should arrive in Tortola on September 23, all going well.
Over the past few days we have sailed with the Genoa tacked out only and did some good daily runs in winds ranging from 15 knots to 35 knots. Shortly after crossing the equator, the wind started to drop and we had a great sail under spinnaker, averaging over 8 knots in the six hours we had it up. Unfortunately, the moon is busy waning and we only have moonrise in the early hours of the morning, meaning that we had to take the spinnaker down and sail on the genoa through the night, putting it up again at 3am. This boat sails very well with the spinnaker but once the wind goes over 16 knots apparent, down it must come.
Today (Monday September 14) we have so little wind that we are motor-sailing to try and get more north west so that we can pick up the trades again. So, basically, we are in the ITCZ or doldrums as the old sailors used to call the area.
It is cooking hot on board at the moment, a sharp contrast to the freezing cold we experienced after leaving Cape Town. However, this has not stopped Andries from baking two great looking loaves of bread, one of which will be consumed in a short while for lunch. Andries has been excelling in his cooking ability, making the most wonderful dinners from my collection of recipes which I have in my "little black book" and on my laptop.
In the next 24 hours we are going to have some change in our environment. If you click on the Shiptrak link on the right of this page, you will be taken to a web page with a map of the world and you will see that our latest local noon position is off the Amazon Delta. Well, this little river has quite a flow into the sea and the brown water has such force as it enters the ocean, that the flow goes a few hundred miles out to sea, turning the water from a turquoise blue to a muddy brown, which is carried by the current right up into the Caribbean Sea. It is quite a sight to see on a satellite photograph and is just as amazing to actually sail in the brown waters.
I hope you all had a great weekend and a good week ahead. Regards from the three of us aboard A4001 - John.
On Wednesday morning we reached our waypoint off the Brazilian coast and a lot of things started to happen. Firstly, we have had birds sleeping on the boat each night - sometimes they fall off when we get hit by a big wave but mostly they manage to hold on tightly. They then fly off around about 05:00, just as there is the faintest bit of light showing on the eastern horizon, heralding the new day. We also now have an abundance of birds around the boat during the day, carefully monitoring our fishing lures when we put them out.
Then we have had pods of dolphin arriving in groups of about thirty to fifty at a time, spending some time showing off at the bows and then moving on to, most probably, forage for food in the form of flying fish. There are millions of these little fish around us each day, taking off as the boat approaches them in huge "squadrons" to get out of our way. They most probably think we are a big flying fish eating monster trying to attack them.
And then we cannot forget the humans and their machines - ships! For over 1800 nautical miles we saw not one ship and had not one squeak out of the VHF radio. Then on Tuesday evening our world came alive with fellow seafarers around us. All shapes and sizes of ships from huge oil tankers to small fishing boats are being spotted each day and our ship spotting competition is in full swing with Hardy taking the lead at the moment. The VHF is also keeping us informed that there are a lot more ships out there than we can see, as we hear watch keepers on ships calling each other deciding how they are going to pass each other.
Our first day off the coast we managed to have a noon to noon run of 188 nautical miles, which is not too bad for a 38 foot boat! Our second noon to noon run has been 199 nautical miles - again quite a reasonable run. Let's see what the next few days bring. We have had wind ranging from 15 knots to 35 knots, which has churned up the sea and made conditions quite bouncy at times but the conditions do flatten out quite quickly once the wind drops below 20 knots. Fortunately, the wind is from behind and we are running with the wind and sea.
I mentioned the fishing lures above. Our freezer is now full of Dorado and Tuna so we have stopped putting out our fishing lines for a few days, until we have eaten at least some of it. Andries is the fish cook and has kept us well fed on some well prepared fish dishes with Hardy using the Yellowfin Tuna he caught for sashimi, which is not my favourite food - I prefer my fish cooked!
And a quick addition to the above - whilst sleeping this morning after my night watch, Andries wanted some fun and put out the lines again. The result is three more Yellowfin Tuna and more sashimi for the lads for lunch.
As we get closer to the Caribbean the conditions for email via the HF radio are improving with stronger and clearer signals. Hopefully I will be able to include a photograph every now and then to add to the blog reports as the signals get better.
Thanks to those folk who have taken the time to read my ramblings and to the few folk who have posted comments. My thanks also to a fellow HAM in Cape Town, Deon (ZS1ZL), who lets me know if there are any comments and keeps us updated on what is happening "news wise" back home.
Until next the next blog entry, regards from all three of us aboard A4001. John.
In my last blog entry I stated that we had entered Dorado territory and hoped to catch one of these fine fish. Well, on Friday afternoon we did just that. A fine specimen took our lure and before long it was being filleted and bagged. Unfortunately it was caught too late for Friday dinner but we had a great meal of fish and salad on Saturday night. But, not only did we bag one on Friday, but another on Sunday, together with two Marlin that decided that our lure was a tasty morsel to be eaten. We kept the Dorado but released both Marlin as they are really such pretty fish, although they also make a fine meat.
We have done a lot of spinnaker sailing over the weekend as well and have had the boat moving along at a good pace in a moderate breeze. She sails extremely well under this huge sail, keeping a good track and not fish-tailing like some boats I have sailed with a spinnaker.
Our "Ship Spotting Competition" is going along well - we all have an equal score of zero ships spotted! Yep, in the last 1800 nautical miles we have not seen one other vessel. I cheat sometimes and tune my handheld radio into the AIS frequency to see if any ships are transmitting their AIS reports, but that has all been quiet with nothing heard. We are, however, getting close to our first major shipping route since St Helena and should see one or two ships in the next two days. Thereafter we will be in the shipping lane which goes up the northerly coast of South America and competition should be good - Hardy has already stated that he will win the bottle of rum, which is the prize.
We have suddenly started seeing more life around us in the form of birds. Gavin, aboard a 46' catamaran about 200 nm ahead of us has reported seeing a number of whales - we have had no whale sightings since the African coast. On Sunday night we had two "hitch-hikers", of the feathered variety, sleeping on the bows. How they did not fall off during the night baffles me as we were really bouncing along at about 7 knots!
At the moment there are six Leopard catamarans all heading in the same direction and spread over about a 1000 nm distance. Every couple days we SMS each other to get positions and weather updates. All the skippers know each other and there is a bit of competition involved to see who is catching who. It's good to know that our boat, although running behind all the others, is actually keeping pace with the 46' ahead of us. We must be doing something right.
By the next blog entry we will have reached our next waypoint off the South American north coast. We then have to try and stick to the continental shelf to pick up and make the most of the strong current that flows up towards the Caribbean. If we are successful in finding it, we should have a few days of over 200 nautical miles per day. Lets hope we find the current as soon as we hit the waypoint!
Hope you all had a great weekend - we did. Regards from the motley crew, Andries, Hardy and myself, John
Over the last few days we have been blessed with wind - from the right direction as well. We have had the gennaker up and managed to get 12.8 knots in 15 knots apparent. Not bad! When we sail with the gennaker, we make sure that it comes down when the wind reaches 16 to 17 knots apparent, as we do not want it to reach our next waypoint a day or two before the boat! Otherwise, the sea has built up a bit with the strengthening wind and we currently have a 2.5 meter swell from the east-southeast and just over 20 knots from the same direction.
One thing that we had not seen in their abundance were the large schools of flying fish. Normally we encounter them before reaching St Helena but this trip we have only started seeing them now, at latitude 10 degrees south. The water must be too cold for them so they most probably have been migrating to the warmer waters north of us. We have also not put our fishing lines out for a few days but need to do so from tomorrow as we are slowly entering Dorado territory and there is nothing better than a nice fillet of fresh Dorado baked with butter, herbs and a bit of sweet onion. Let's hope we can bag one or two over the next few days.
Before St Helena we had birds around us each day. Now we occasionally see a little storm petrel dipping in our wake, picking up the small sea life churned up in our wake. It will be another week before we get our daily dose of birds coming to have a "look-see" at us. Also, the last dolphin we saw was also before reaching St Helena. Strange that this section of the Atlantic Ocean is so devoid of sea life.
So, what do we do each day, you may ask. Well, we have a number of books with us which are slowly being read. However, there are only the three of us on board and we run a 24/7 watch system. This means that we need to try and catch up on lost sleep whenever we can. Then there is the preparation of our main evening meal. Last night we had baked macaroni cheese and tonight we are having sirloin steak with pepper sauce, baked potatoes with cream cheese and some sweet gem squash. Hopefully our meal tomorrow evening will be baked Dorado! If not, something on the chicken line will have to do.
Then Hardy and Andries have a few hundred DVD's and a portable DVD player. I must admit that I am not a movie fanatic and have not joined them watching any of the movies. But, they enjoy a movie every second evening or so and it keeps them occupied.
Now, on a subject totally different, I have been delivering yachts for a number of years and before each trip I brief the crew about having strange dreams. Each crew member has been having them on this trip as well - dreaming about subjects that are totally unrelated to sailing and sometimes quite disturbing. The other night Andries was having a really bad one and was shouting out in his sleep. He did not remember it when we spoke about it the next morning, which is quite unusual as, mostly, the crew tend to remember the dreams. Don't know if other cruisers experience this whilst undertaking long passages but I am sure some professor of sleep at some university would love to come on a delivery to monitor the crews dream patterns. It should make an interesting study.
Well, that's it from aboard Moorings A4001 for now - regards from Andries, Hardy and myself, John.
The weekend was quite interesting. The forecast was that we should have a light breeze of about 10 knots from the southeast. Well, that did not materialise and we had light variable airs from everywhere except from the southeast! However, we have 100 percent overcast sky today with 10 knots slowly developing out of the east-southeast - let's hope it continues to develop into some useful wind to sail by.
As mentioned above, the sky is overcast with thick black clouds. We could also do with a good downpour of rain to wash the Namibian desert dust off the boat that has imbedded itself into every conceivable nook and cranny - as well as the layer of salt that is slowly building up on the boat. And then, if it is a good downpour, a good wash in fresh water for ourselves would go down a treat as well.
Things are much warmer now that we are slowly getting closer to the equatorial region. When we departed Cape Town we were all freezing and went about our watches in multiple layers of clothing with heavy foul-weather gear on top of that. Now it is down to T-shirts and short pants, although there is still a chill in the air at night. However, once we reach the equator and further north, I am sure we will all be complaining that it is too hot - just can't win, can we.
Yesterday (Sunday) we had a really flat sea and Hardy ventured up the mast to inspect all the rigging and fastenings. He found that two small bolts that hold the VHF antenna had worked themselves loose and did a quick repair job, right on the top of the mast. Andries, being a young strapping lad, did the winch work whilst yours faithfully did the supervision and gave instruction - lazy sod I am!
We also managed to catch two sizable Bonito yesterday. Part of one was consumed, pan fried in lemon butter, for dinner. Pasta was on the menu tonight (Monday) and Hardy is going to try his hand at fish cakes tomorrow evening. I must add that Andries is really learning how to cook - he made flapjacks on Saturday and baked two great loaves of bread and the fish dinner on Sunday.
Until later in the week, regards from Andries, Hardy and myself, John.