It is a week since we left St Helena and it has been rather a slow trip towards the Brazilian coast - we have had three days of motoring and four of actual sailing. Unfortunately, as I write this report, the diesel is being consumed to keep some form of progress as our wind died last night just before midnight. At first light this morning I downloaded the latest weather files for our region and it looks like at least three days of motoring ahead for us.
Over the past few days I have been reporting our position to Jack, AA3GZ in the US of A, which he logs and also posts on Shiptrak for us (link on the right of this page). We have also been monitoring the emergency radio traffic on the HF radio between the US mainland and the earthquake devastated Haiti, where the estimates are over 100 000 persons killed. It is really quite amazing how the HAM community comes together when there is a crisis and operates emergency radio communications to aid those in distress. At the moment I can hear the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other aid organisations operating radio networks with traffic about medical assistance, aid and evacuation.
Today, other than being our eggs and bacon day, is also another time zone change day or double happy hour day. We will have crossed the 22.5 degrees west meridian sometime after lunch and thus, at 6pm local time, we put our clocks back another hour and suddenly it is 5pm again. Now, if we had alcohol on board, we would have a happy hour between 5 and 6 pm, which in our case would then equate to two periods of 5 to 6 pm. Mmm, pity we don't have a whole tray or two of nice cold beer as it is really getting hot as we slowly edge towards the equator. And just if you are wondering, by the time you read this we will be UTC-2 or 4 hours behind South African Standard Time. We will also only have another two time zone changes before we reach our destination of Tortola.
Joy is recovering quite well from her two broken ribs and is quite mobile around the boat again. She just has to watch herself and not do any more damage to the ribs that appear to be healing quite rapidly. She also has a curse in that she is a speed reader and can read an entire book in a day. The problem is that she has been through all the books we have on board and has run out of reading matter. We did manage to beg a few extra books from Mike on St Helena, but those have also been dealt with. I think that when I get back to Cape Town I need to organise a second hand book collection to take to St Helena to be used as a "book exchange". There are just no books available on the island to swop and Mike, owner of the radio station Saint FM and the St Helena Independent newspaper has promised to put a book rack up in his offices for "yachties" to be able to do a one-for-one swop. Old book donations gladly accepted - I will transport them to the island in March.
Our fishing has not been the best and we have caught nothing since departing St Helena. This is actually not that unusual as the first 1000 odd miles between the island and the northern coast of South America is not that great for catching fish. However, we are now entering Dorado territory and hope to hook one or two of these lovely fish in the next few days. We now have sufficient space in our freezer to stock up with fish. We just have to catch a few of the little (and sometimes not so little) buggers.
I normally run a competition on this leg of the delivery where the crew member who spots the most ships between St Helena and a waypoint near Barbados, gets a bottle of Caribbean rum in Tortola. We have not seen a ship for the last week and Louis struck lucky last night by spotting the first one. Well done to him!
Otherwise, life aboard continues with the watch-keeping routine rotating and life being a bit monotonous. The flying fish keep us amused with their antics but that is just about all the sea life we are seeing - no whales, dolphins or bird life around us at the moment. I am sure we will start seeing some more sea life as we get closer to the coast but I must admit that years ago we always had an abundance of life around us but very little nowadays. I am sure some scientists will blame global warming but, personally, I think it can be blamed on the over-fishing of the seas by the eastern block countries.
My thanks to fellow HAM Deon, ZS1ZL, for keeping me updated with what is happening back home and to the few HAMS that have taken the time to chat over the HF over the past week - Des ZS1YZ, Dennis ZS1AU and Gilbert ZR1ADI. Now if anybody can let us know what is happening with the cricket 5 day series between England and SA, it would be greatly appreciated.
Until something more constructive happens aboard, best regards from the motley crew, Joy, Greg, Louis and myself, John.
Well, on Saturday afternoon we were all sitting ashore saying our goodbyes to friends on the island when we heard, on the handheld radio, St Helena Radio answering a distress call of a local fishing boat that was drifting off the island with loss of it's engine. There were two persons on board. Now, up to about two years ago the island had a small rescue launch but, due to costs, had not replaced the boat when it became too old for service. So, as we were a large boat with powerful engines, we were asked if we could assist in rescuing the folk on board and towing the boat back to James Bay.
So, instead of up anchor and departing St Helena, it was a quick ferry ride back to the boat, up anchor and off to Egg Island, a small island off the western side of St Helena. At 8 to 9 knots it did not take us too long but we did have difficulty trying to find the small boat as it had drifted a few miles offshore and was directly in the setting sun. However, after a short time we had the little boat visual and soon after two very happy faces were looking up to us and taking our tow line for the six mile ride back to James Bay.
The whole episode was covered by the local media and I am sure you will find some mention of it in the St Helena Independent newspaper if you go to http://www.saint.fm/independent/ after noon UTC on Friday 15 January 2010. You can then download the entire newspaper for free - it also makes a very interesting and humours read on what happens on a small island in the middle of nowhere.
So, as I type this blog report, we have already upped anchor (for the second time) and left St Helena for our next waypoint, which is just off the Brazilian coast and 1812 nautical miles away. Unfortunately, the winds have not set in as yet and we are motor-sailing. Hopefully we pick up the trades soon and have a pleasant downwind sail for the next two weeks or so.
Let me get back, briefly, to St Helena. It has always been my best destination and stop-over when delivering to the Pacific, Caribbean or Mediterranean. It is expensive to stop over but is worth every cent, dime or penny. It is an amazing island with amazing people who live a strange (to us outsiders) life. Stopping off there is like going back 50 or 100 years in time. It is unfortunate that the British Government have not invested more in the island to keep the fantastic historic sites and forts maintained and give the 3500 to 4000 odd inhabitants access to modern communications and transportation. The islanders have been promised an airport which is "on pause" until the world economy improves. This is something they really need to boost the economy with tourism, the only way for the island to survive in the long run.
So, while you folk go about your week, we will attempt to have a private chat to the wind Gods and get a gentle breeze to sail by. Regards from Greg, Louis, Joy and myself, John.
We arrived in James Bay on Thursday 7 January at 07:00 UTC and had the anchor down a quarter of an hour later, not too far from where the RMS St. Helena is anchored (picture above). After notifying the port authorities that our anchor was secure, it was a quick shower and then a wait for the Chief Medical Officer to come out to the boat and check us all for symptoms of Swine Flu. Dr Bloem (from Pretoria) did a quick check and also had a look at Joy, who had been flung through an open doorway a few days out of Cape Town. He wanted to have a better examination and asked that we visit the local hospital for an x-ray.
So, into the ferry and ashore we all went. First stop was the customs service where we started the check-in process. Next we took a slow walk along the waterfront to Bill and Jill's St Helena Coffee Shop where we all enjoyed a good cup of pure Arabic coffee that Bill and Jill grow on their small farm here, pick and dry the beans, roast and grind them and then sell at their coffee shop. Nectar of The Gods and the purest Arabic coffee available anywhere. Then it was off to the Immigration office at the police headquarters (right next to HM Prison). We were quickly processed and then went to visit Mike Ohlson, owner of the local St Helena Independent newspaper and local FM radio station. After a brief chat Joy and I went off to the hospital for the x-ray. Well, she has two broken ribs and the only solution is to live with it as the ribs will heal themselves.
Nothing much to do during the afternoon so we all visited Ann's Place and had a snack and a few drinks (to ease the pain of Joy's broken ribs) and then back to the boat for an early night and some welcome sleep. Ah, what bliss it is to not have to get up at odd hours during the night to stand watch.
Today, Friday 8 January, Louis and Greg are off with Robert, a local tour guide, to "visit the country". It is a tour that lasts about five hours and takes in Napoleons houses and other places of interest on the island, including the governor's house and the islands giant tortoises that live in the governors garden. Later today I will do some work on the boat then head ashore for some more good coffee at the St Helena Coffee Shop. Joy has decided to take it easy for the day and stay on board the boat.
This afternoon we are expecting the French yacht Siwa to arrive in James Bay and then tomorrow the US yacht Prism. We will most likely depart tomorrow afternoon if all our boat tasks have been completed. I will do another blog update just after we depart the island so, for now we bid you well from John, Joy, Greg and Louis.
It is now Monday night and in the early hours of this morning we passed from the Eastern Hemisphere into the Western Hemisphere, when we crossed the "zero" meridian. I must admit that the west is pretty much the same as the east - no wind!
One thing that has not been plentiful over the past few days is wind. We had a cracking sail over the first week at sea and then the wind disappeared as if somebody had turned a tap off. At the same time we found that the halyard for our delivery sail (a twin genoa that we fly opposite the furling genoa) had chafed through just inside the mast and was about to snap. I had to go up the mast to disengage the snap-shackle to drop the sail. I was nearly bashed to death up there and am black and blue from the bruising from being flung against the mast. We will have to sort out the halyard problem when we arrive in St Helena, which should be this coming Thursday morning.
Joy also has suffered with a bruised rib. She was flung through the open heads door and caught her back on the bulkhead step. Fortunately it is not a broken rib, as she would be in great agony if so. However, I think a quick visit to the hospital in St Helena to make sure that nothing is broken or cracked will be on our priority list after arrival. We seem to be a bunch of crocks as Louis has been suffering from very acute indigestion on the trip. I think he may have stomach ulcers as he is complaining that acidic food makes the situation worse. So, there will be two for the doctor in St Helena. The only person not suffering from some affliction is Greg, who appears to be enjoying himself immensely, keeping an eye on the elderly!
Our fishing has not been the best I have experienced. I think we were most likely going too fast during the first week for the fish to catch our lures. Now that we have slowed down due to the loss of the extra sail and are motor-sailing at about 6 knots, we have had a few takers of our lures. Today we had two small Dorado landed by Louis. The bigger of the two we kept for dinner tomorrow night whilst the smaller was returned to the ocean to grow a bit bigger. Maybe we will nab him on the next delivery in March. Louis is not a born fishing person but is learning the ropes quickly. He has now also filleted his first fish and is eager to learn to cook the fish as well. Not to leave Greg out of the picture, for a 19 year old, he is an excellent cook and has already put together some delicious meals.
Since leaving Cape Town, we have been in daily contact with Graham ZS2ABK who is running the South African Maritime Mobile Network on behalf of Alistair ZS5MU. Graham supplies us with the weather forecast and keeps tabs on our progress and life on board. At the moment we have two other yachts within a couple hundred miles of us. One is Prism, a US boat with Ed and Dorothy on board. They are en route from Luderitz to St Helena. The other boat is Siwa, a French boat with Bernhard and Anne on board. They are also bound for St Helena and left Simon's Town on Christmas day. So, although we have not seen any ships for the past week, we know that there are two other yachts "out there" and heading in the same direction as us. Maybe we will all meet on St Helena over a nice cold beer.
So, as we plod along under both motor and sail, I bid you well until I put finger to keyboard in a few days time. Regards from the three crocks and the young one. John.
Tonight sees us toasting the new year - we will do it quite early and then hit our bunks as we have to keep our watch system running 24/7. I brought a bottle of bubbly along for the occasion and we will crack it during our evening meal, which today will be Karoo Lamb chops with baby marrows and baked potatoes with cream cheese and chives.
Since leaving Cape Town we have made some pretty good progress with daily runs of 166, 169 and 174 nautical miles. Most of this was under twin head sails, running before a 15 to 22 knot south easterly wind. We have our main genoa to starboard and a second, but smaller sail, rigged to port.
We had our first flying fish land on the boat yesterday, just after noon. The poor sod flew right into the port aft steps and, I think, killed it's self instantly. We did put it back into the sea immediately but it made no attempt to swim away. The sea temperature is still bitterly cold and I think the fish was a few hundred miles south of its normal territory, which is normally much warmer water. Yesterday morning we caught our first fish. Unfortunately, it was a skipjack, which is not the best of the tuna family to eat. However, it was dinner last night, together with a nice green salad. Cooked in some butter with lemon and a touch of black pepper, it tasted quite good. In the afternoon Louis caught the second skipjack, but after being photographed, it was returned to the sea as our freezer is full and there is no place to store it.
We have already changed one time zone on our journey and should make a second change tomorrow night, bringing us into the UTC or GMT time zone. It will then be a couple of days and we can crack our second bottle of bubbly when we pass from the eastern hemisphere into the western hemisphere. The third remaining bottle will be kept for our equator crossing, still many weeks away.
At noon today we had 1000 nautical miles to St Helena, which we should be able to cover comfortably in the next seven days, meaning we should arrive in James Bay around first light on Thursday 7 January 2010 (or, to put it another way, early next year).
So, while we plod on under twin head sails, may all the folk out there have a festive night and may your 2010 be a special year with health and happiness. If you are the sailing type, may you also have fair winds and following breezes and safe landfalls. If you are an armchair sailor, may your chairs padding remain comfortable, but not as comfortable as my bunk when underway. Regards from Greg, Joy, Louis and myself, John.