During the trip I have had a few emails asking how we get our weather and other information whilst at sea. It is really quite easy with modern technology - all you need is an email facility, either via HF/SSB radio and a Pactor modem or via the email facility that you get free with an Iridium satellite telephone.
There is a service called "Saildocs", which is basically an Internet site that you send an email to, requesting certain documents, and the server then sends you the requested document back to your email address for you to download. "Saildocs" call themselves "for the bandwidth impaired", and they are just that. The service is free and from it you can request GRIB files (computer generated weather files) and a host of other weather related files from around the world.
For instance, we have just had the development of TD8, a few hundred miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. I found this out by sending a request to Saildocs for document ABNT20.KNHC, which is the Tropical Weather Outlook file and is updated by the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami, every 6 hours during the hurricane season. On receiving this document I could see that TD8 had formed and that it had been allocated a separate report, WTNT23.KNHC. I then requested that report and have all the information to track and follow the TD. It also gets updated every six hours and thus, I will be requesting the document three or four times a day until the storm is no longer a threat to us.
To find out more about Saildocs and the information available, send an email to email@example.com and see what it returns - follow the instructions and you will have a lot of info at your fingertips. Rob and Goltz, hope this information helps with your forthcoming trans-Atlantic trip.
Now, back to life aboard A4001. We knew from report from boat up ahead of us that we would experience periods of no or little wind. We have a deadline to reach Annapolis and our intention is to make the deadline, although we are cutting it rather fine due to the delays off the African coast. We have hit our first "light and variable" period. The sea is flat with just a little ripple on it and we have our "iron spinnakers" working at full throttle. Due to there being no wind, it is also HOT but with the flat sea we have all the hatches open and get a good flow of air through the boat. As we progress north, we should also start experiencing cooler airs, which we are all looking forward to. Remember, we come from a cold southern African winter and the heat and humidity of the tropics is a bit of a shock to our systems!
Between the Brazilian coast and Barbados we had seven swallows spend one night on board. They all sat in the rigging and were gone at first light the next morning. We are now a few hundred miles off the US east coast and have had another swallow come to rest on the boat. From the above photo, you will see that he/she is a friendly little fella and took to Hardy quite happily. Let's hope the little fella survives as I once had five on board on our way to Tahiti. Unfortunately, we had to bury them all at sea.
Regards from the three of us - Hardy, Andries and myself, John.
As you will (should) gather from the above heading, we are sailing in some pretty severe electrical storms, with the lightning striking the water, at times, not very far away from the boat. We are all holding our thumbs (and Andries other parts of his anatomy) that we do not get a direct strike. So far, so good!
We departed Tortola on Thursday morning, just as it was getting light - a full eight hours sleep the previous night worked wonders to revive our tired bodies. My thanks to the staff of the TUI base for all their assistance with the service of the engines, repairs to some small items and the replacement of our forward bi-colour navigation light that had decided to visit Neptune, somewhere off the Brazilian coast, and did not return.
At the moment we are averaging about 7 knots but I do not think that speed can be maintained for too long as, looking at the latest GRIB files I have just downloaded, there is little wind up ahead and, at times, that light breeze is going to be right on the nose. Looks like the "iron spinnaker" will be working again later today (Friday September 25).
Yesterday I spoke to Piet, the captain of the three cabin Leopard 38, which is three days ahead of us. He reported light headwinds but still making good progress to Annapolis. David, on the Leopard 40, was two days from the entrance to Chesapeake Bay and Gavin, on the Leopard 46, is a day and a half ahead of us. We are still the tail runners but are making good progress. I calculated an ETA of October 3 when we were a few days out of Walvis Bay, Namibia, and we seem to have kept to that ETA quite well.
With our GRIB download I also downloaded the latest tropical weather discussion sheet from the NHC in Miami. There is a small development a few hundred miles west of the Cape Verde Islands which we need to monitor as it moves WNW at between 10 and 15 miles per hour. Let's hope it just stays a tropical wave and does not develop into a full blown cyclone.
The above was written during my 03:00 to 06:00 watch and it now just before noon. The thunder and lightning has stopped and we have just been through a nice wash-down squall. Although we have sufficient water for a daily shower, Hardy decided to use the squall for a good rinse down - fortunately he did not lather himself with soap as the squall was passed so quickly that he would have had to resort to the tank water to get rid of the soap.
And now it is time for me to wish you a constructive or lazy weekend. You decide. Just remember that we are out here working the boat 24/7. Regards from Andries (no longer holding that other piece of his anatomy), Hardy (just off watch) and myself, John (getting ready for our noon position report).
We arrived in Virgin Gorda at 09:00 and, as we approached the channel to the marina, the heavens opened and within a few minutes we were having the heaviest fresh water wash down since departing Cape Town. In fact it came down in buckets and I aborted our entrance to the marina and we spent an hour drifting at sea whilst the massive rain squall passed over. Then into the marina (arriving yachts get a free hour there whilst you walk across a field to the customs and immigration offices) and a quick check-in and check-out, and back to the marina and off to the TUI marina on Tortola.
I met with the manager and started the process of getting the engines serviced and filling our diesel tanks and drums, as well as filling up the fresh water tanks - the last time we had taken on fresh water was in Walvis Bay, Namibia.
Ah, and then the sheer bliss of going to the base restaurant and having a good greasy burger and chips (fries) with a fresh salad - nothing can beat that when you have been at sea for a long time!
So, the base staff are servicing the engines and that has give me the opportunity to check the comments on the blog and have a general "surf" on the Internet. A number of folk have made some comments and I will get to answering them in the next few days.
Let me also clarify some comments made on the Internet. Firstly, we started the delivery with a second headsail, which we use when running downwind. Unfortunately, I sent it back to Cape Town when we had to stop off in Walvis Bay - a daft decision in hindsight. The reason for me sending it back was that we were given a spinnaker. All the delivery sails we have on board have to be returned to Cape Town on completion of the delivery and the less we have to carry, the less we pay for extra baggage. We have used the spinnaker quite a lot in the light winds we experienced but the second headsail would have also benefitted us on days where the wind was too strong for a spinnaker but great for the second foresail.
Then the name of the boat. The boat only gets named and registered when it is put into the charter fleet after the Annapolis Boat Show. But a boat needs a name to leave the country with all the relevant paperwork. It is hull number 001 of the new design. The new design is A4 and the company who ordered it is TUI Marine, using the Moorings fleet name. So, put all that together and the name of the vessel ends up as Moorings A4001. When it gets to its destination, it will be registered, most likely, with its home port being Road Harbour, BVI and the name will be whatever somebody wants to call it. But, until it reaches its delivery destination, it is South African flagged and has the above mentioned name.
In the early hours of Thursday morning we will depart on our last leg and hope that no tropical storms develop before we reach our destination - we monitor the tropical weather four times a day. So, I am now going to get a good nights sleep as soon as I have posted this blog. Regards from all aboard Moorings A4001 - the photo above is A4001 backed into the berth in Tortola - note the extra fuel drums and, if visible, the fishing lines and bungee cords rolled up on the stern.
The few days before passing Barbados were slow and painful as we had little wind and were running out of diesel, knowing that we had to keep up our speed to meet our deadlines. Fortunately, we work for quite a large organisation and sometimes, things get "smoothed out" when we are in a rush. More about that below.
Our Ship Spotting Competition came to an end when we passed a point directly south of Barbados. The results: Hardy - 19 ships spotted Andries - 12 ships spotted Myself - 13 ships spotted So, Hardy gets a good bottle of rum when we arrive in Tortola. It was fun and competition was on the entire time between everybody. The whole reason for the competition was to keep everybody alert at all times to the shipping around us. And it has its knock-on effect, keeping everybody aware of what's going on around us at all times for the remainder of our journey.
Yesterday afternoon we tuned into a radio station in Barbados and listened to a cricket match being played there as we slowly sailed past the island. Quite an interesting domestic 50/50 match. Then the sun went down and we had the lights of Barbados slowly fade behind us and the lights of St Lucia slowly brighten ahead of us. There was no moon and the stars were bright with only the occasional cloud coming over to blot out the view. At 04:25 this morning (Monday, September 21), we crossed the invisible line that divides the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, when we passed through the channel south of the island of St Lucia.
We then slowly curled up the west coast of St Lucia and made for Marigot Bay, arriving a few minutes before 09:00. Our head office in Florida had notified the base there of our arrival and we were expected. We checked in with Customs and Immigration and then took on two tanks of diesel and cast off our lines. We were out of there within half an hour. We now should be arriving in Tortola just before noon on Wednesday and should make the TUI base just after noon as we have to clear in at Virgin Gorda before going to the base.
We have a few little problems to sort out as well as servicing both our engines and we will most likely stay and have a burger or other missed junk food before casting off our lines and heading for Annapolis. Another update before the weekend.
Regards from Andries, Hardy and myself, John
We have managed to make great use of the fast flowing current that runs along the continental shelf on the northern coast of South America, resulting in some very good noon to noon runs. However, all good things eventually come to an end and so has the thrust of the current. As we passed Suriname, we started loosing the current and then headed another 5 degrees north, to our next waypoint, just southwest of the island of Barbados, From there we go through the St Vincent channel and enter the Caribbean Sea. As I write this (Thursday morning 01:00 local time), we are still over 450 nautical miles from the waypoint.
We still have plenty of food in our freezer from Cape Town, which has now been supplemented by very good catches of fish (photo above of Andries with his Dorado caught yesterday evening, just before we were going to roll in our lines for the day). I like the Dorado, which has a lovely textured light meat, while Hardy and Andries appear to also enjoy their sashimi, although they have now run out of the fresh tuna they caught the other day,
Our "ship spotting" competition comes to an end when we get to our next waypoint. The whole object of the competition is to try and make the crew doubly vigilant whilst we are making way in the shipping lanes - and it works. Hardy is leading with 15 ships sighted whilst Andries and I are joint second with 10 ships each. It looks like Hardy will be taking the prize of a bottle of good Caribbean rum which I will buy at the shop in Tortola, where we will be stopping for a few hours next week to take on diesel and fresh water and get rid of our bags of garbage, which, I am sure, will walk out of the forward locker by themselves. The heat at the moment will have "matured" the contents pretty well by now!
Yesterday (September 16), we were still two days behind Gavin, the delivery captain on board a Leopard 46, also heading for Annapolis. Kirsten, our only female delivery captain, was in Tortola and about to depart whilst Piet, on board hull #002 of the new 38' Leopards, was about a day from Tortola. Then I have not heard from David on board a 40' Leopard or from Wayne on board another Leopard 46 - Wayne is heading for Fort Lauderdale and not Annapolis, as far as I know. So, all the delays in Namibia have put us at the back of the bunch, which has resulted in us pushing quite hard to ensure that we make the deadline of October 5 to get the boat on the show.
As I type this, the night sky is occasionally being lit up by an electrical storm over the horizon to the north of us. This is the first really big lightning display we have had on the trip and, I am sure, not the last we are going to experience as we edge our way north into the tropically unstable northern hemisphere. Yesterday night we also had our first real rain squall of the trip. At about 04:00, whilst I was on watch, this huge black cloud slowly moved over the boat and for a few minutes, the heavens opened and poured buckets of fresh water onto us. It was great, as it washed all the Namibian dessert sand and dust out of the rigging. The down side was that it did not last long enough to wash away all the mud that washed onto the deck. In the morning we washed down the deck with salt water, once again leaving a good layer of salt on the deck. The next rain squall should was away the itchy salt!
And whilst on the subject of the weather, we are monitoring the tropical weather in the north Atlantic on a daily basis to ensure that we do not get anywhere close to a tropical storm or hurricane. However, right at the moment we need some wind to get our speed up - we currently only have a miserable 6 to 8 knots out of the east-northeast and would like about 15 knots out of that direction. So, I will leave you whilst we all pray for the right wind out of the right direction. Thanks for taking the time to read my rumbling notes. Regards from Andries (expert fisherman, cook and crew member), Hardy (first mate and excellent mechanic) and myself, John (the guy who is supposed to be in charge).