It is Thursday October 1 and local noon (GMT/UTC -4). We have 281 nautical miles to Annapolis and should arrive about noon on Saturday morning.
Over the past three days we have been bashing our way into a steep swell with headwinds varying between 10 knots and 35 knots. It has not been much fun! However, we have relatively flat seas again and only a very light breeze from our starboard forward quarter at the moment, with the prediction for the wind to swing to the southeast tonight, become light and variable for about six hours and then start building from the south-southeast into Saturday morning.
In the blog comments I was asked why we cleared into the BVI's in Virgin Gorda and not Tortola. The answer is simple - we have no tender and in Tortola yachts are expected to anchor off the ferry jetty and use their tender to go to the customs and immigration offices or take the chance of going alongside the ferry jetty and being chased away before you can clear. In Virgin Gorda you simply dock in the marina next to the customs and immigration office (you get one hour free docking), walk over a field, do your clearance and then walk back to the boat and sail to Tortola. The customs and immigration staff in Virgin Gorda are also far more friendly and it is a pleasure for a yachtsman to deal with them.
Right, back to the present (and future). On arrival in Annapolis we will have sailed 7573 nautical miles. We departed Cape Town on August 6. On October 3 we will have been away for 58 days. Of that, we lost 9 days in ports (actually about 9.5 days), which means the delivery took 49 days at sea. This equates to an average of 154.5 nautical miles per day or an average of 6.44 knots for the entire trip. Not bad for a small 38 foot sailing catamaran!
What about the boat? This boat is different from most other catamarans I have delivered. It is slightly narrower than the norm, if there is something as a "norm". She is also light and a person feels the buoyancy when in large seas. Remember always, she is only 38 foot. The internal layout is very good, offering far more space than the Leopard 40 in the saloon and cabins. She sails well, having quite a large rig for a 38' cat. The rest you will have to see for yourself as there will be two at the Annapolis boat show and, I am lead to believe, one at the Cape Town boat show.
This is the last blog entry for this delivery as I have to start packing up my communications gear and getting the boat ready for handover. I hope you have enjoyed sailing along with us on this delivery. And for those that have a betting streak and bet we would not make it in time for the show, sorry you lost your bet. So, we aboard A4001 wish you well - greetings and fair winds from Hardy, Andries and myself, John.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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