01/12/2010, Northern South American Coast
The current we anticipated is with us, although definitely not as strong flowing as expected. However, we are getting about an extra knot of speed. On both Tuesday and Wednesday evening we had to drop the spinnaker and sail through the night with the Genoa alone, due to the squalls that are developing each night. This is slowing us down dramatically and thus our daily noon to noon runs are not what we really want. This said, we have reached some impressive speeds for short periods whilst under spinnaker during the day time.
Saturday morning should be an occasion for Dylan and Juan, who have never done an equator crossing before. Conrad has been designated King Neptune's helper and representative for the occasion and I am the designated photographer for the ceremony. We do not get too serious and the ceremony is going to be light-hearted.
We have passed the Brazilian coastal city of Fortaleza and the oil platforms that are offshore of the city. They were all over the horizon and thus all we saw was the glow of the lights last night. There was a dramatic increase in the spotting of ships over the past few days with a number of small fishing vessels thrown in for luck. The ship spotting competition is running well with all watches competing for the bottle of rum. The competition will stop about 100 nautical miles from Trinidad and I will announce the results on the blog. At the moment Dylan is leading, but there are many more sightings to come.
As I am typing this blog update, we have a very large squall going over us with the rain pouring down in buckets. It has been going on for nearly an hour and the crew have all had a free fresh water shower. Sometimes it can be a bit of a chance to soap down during a squall as, no sooner have you soaped up when the rain suddenly stops and you are left to wash down in a bucket of salt water. Not today, however!
Our fishing has been put on a backburner since we started our coastal run, but this morning, as soon as the spinnaker was hoisted, Dylan had both lines out to see if we could land some fresh dinner - nothing as yet but we can always wish. It is two hours before we do our noon plot and have to make the decision of what we will be having for dinner. Last night Conrad had a turn of whipping up a good South African dish of Boerewors and mash with peas and gem squash, served with fried onions and a pepper-mushroom sauce. Delicious!
Talking of fish, every morning, just after sunrise, the person on watch takes a walk around the boat to check shackles, lines etc. and at the same time throw any dead flying fish overboard. Conrad has been collecting the baby ones and has quite a collection stashed in his cabin. They are all dried out but his idea is to make a mobile for some kid. Imagine being a baby and waking up to see a flying fish circling your head!
Last night we also passed the 037.5 degree west longitude. This means we are now five time zones behind South African time and three time zones behind UTC. This leave is with only one more time change to make before arriving in the Caribbean. This shows that we are getting closer to our destination.
Well, more new from aboard Ultima Life in the next blog posting. In the mean time may you all have a great day - regards from Conrad, Juan, Dylan and myself, John.
29/11/2010, South Atlantic
I was going to update the blog a few days ago, but was waylaid with a few technical problems on board. The other day our genset decided to go "hodididididi-dida - no more". So, it was into fault finding mode that I went and not typing mode. After spending a day checking oil levels, checking and replacing fuel filters, inserting a new impeller and air filter and a number of other things, we got the genset running again. However, a few minutes after replacing the soundproofing covers, the dam thing cut out again.
New let me explain life to you. If you take the human body and slowly heat it up, the brain says "it is too hot - I think it is time to stop work". And that is exactly what the genset decided via its electronic brain and sensors. The sea temperature is 28 degrees Celsius and the ambient temperature is 33 degrees Celsius. So we have the use of the genset with the covers off. It makes a bit of a noise - it is located under Conrad's bunk - and it creates quite a bit of heat, which permeates from under the bunk and into his cabin. Ah, the joys of living in a sauna!
Our fishing turned out quite well - Dylan's name on board has changed to "Dorado Dylan", as he has caught the most Dorado, learned to fillet them and, under the expert guidance of our chef, Juan, learned to cook them - not bad for a young man who's only previous experience with fish has been out of an I&J box! And let me tell you, Dorado is my best eating fish - it really is delicious just slowly cooked in a pan with a blob of butter and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Naomi, you will be proud of him!
As I type this, we are closing on the northern coast of South America and should reach our waypoint during tomorrow morning (Tuesday November 30). The waypoint signifies two milestones in our journey - it is the two-thirds mark of the delivery and it is the beginning of the coastal current which runs up a significant part of the coast, all the way to Trinidad. This current we will be making the best of to gain some extra speed in our journey and thus get to Trinidad slightly earlier than first anticipated. I will report back on our progress in the next blog entry.
Flying fish and sea life have started to appear again. Last night on my watch we had a pod of dolphin playing next to the boat, making an awful noise as they leapt from the water and landed on their sides with a loud plop and splash. They carried on with this for over two hours. We have also spotted some pilot whales and now, once again, have numerous birds flying around the boat during the day.
Shipping has increased dramatically as we have been crossing the shipping lanes. I had quite a long conversation with the captain of a very large cargo vessel that gave way for us yesterday. They were going from Salvador to Italy and had to divert their course to pass well behind us - it was that or T-bone us! The crew are on the full alert for the ship spotting competition and actively vying to spot ships to win the bottle of rum at the end of the trip. There are plenty still to come as we head up the coast right in the main shipping lane! So far Dylan is leading in the score but we will see what happens over the next few days.
Well, as a game of chess is taking place besides me as I type this up, I bid you well until the next blog entry - regards from Conrad, Juan, Dylan and myself, John.
21/11/2010, South Atlantic
At the moment we are about two hundred miles south of the island of Ascension, making very slow progress towards our waypoint off the coast of Brazil. Normally, at this time of the year the trade winds have just filled in but, we have been unlucky and they are yet to arrive. Although we have been sailing with our Gennaker, we have been having very slow daily runs in very light airs.
Before leaving St Helena I realised that a leak had developed somewhere in the plumbing for the starboard side fresh water system. I even delayed our departure to try and find it and thought that I had - I found a number of pipe joints not fully tightened. However, the leak persisted and we found fresh water accumulating in the starboard rudder compartment. I could not find it and sent Dylan, my first mate, to sit in the compartment and re-check the pipe fittings. He was not there for more than 30 seconds when the only large swell of the day came along and broke into the open hatch. The result was a very wet Dylan but, fortunately, we both saw the funny side of the incident.
This incident lead to me finding our leak! I also received a bit of a wet down and went across to the stern basin to wash the salt water out of my deck shoes. When pulling the tap mechanism out of its holder, I found fresh water spraying out of the spray head joint, which had come loose. The problem has now been solved with a spanner and plumbing tape. I estimate that we lost about 75 litres of fresh water before solving the problem, something we can ill afford as our water maker does not work!
Yesterday I had two fishing lines off the back of the boat and had a big strike on the one line, but no fish. We are now in Dorado waters and I cannot wait to land one of these fine fish. We still have one large tuna fillet in the freezer, which is going to be on our plates soon if no Dorado takes the lure. Normally we catch few fish for a few days after leaving St Helena but as soon as the water temperature reaches 24 degrees Celsius, we tend to find both Dorado and sailfish showing interest in our lures. Whilst on the subject of sea life, I have noticed a total lack of dolphin and sea birds since leaving St Helena. We did, however, spot a fine Orca whale a few days before St Helena, something I have never seen before on the first leg from Cape Town.
I have started my "Ship Spotting Competition" and both Dylan and Conrad have one ship each. The AIS system spoils the competition a bit but it still keeps the crew awake and keeping a good watch. The prize of a bottle of Caribbean rum normally goes down well once we have reached our destination, which is Chaguaramas on the island of Trinidad.
At the moment we are a bit in a dead area for HF radio transmissions and I am using a station in Switzerland to send and receive our email. That station is slowly fading away as we progress towards the west. I have been able to also make a connection with one in Nova Scotia, but it is still a bit weak and will take a few days before I can make reasonable connections via it. As we head further west and slowly creep towards the equator, the stations in the Caribbean and US will become more "readable" and our email transmissions should improve. It is a pity that there are no stations on the South American continent.
Well, that's about all the news from aboard Ultima Life for now - basically we are all board and reading lots of books when off watch. Long passages like this one are very boring as life becomes a bit monotonous. So, I bid you well until my next posting - greetings from Dylan, Conrad, Juan and myself, John.
IF this post gets onto the blog, it is the result of some rather good soldering whilst on St Helena - let's see what happens! It means that the HF radio is now working and we can send and receive email.
It appears the crew enjoyed their short visit to St Helena and had a good break and a few beers. We departed the island on Tuesday morning, about 16 hours after I had scheduled to. This was due to trying to find a leak in the plumbing of our starboard fresh water tank. I think we have found and repaired a bad joint, but we will have to see that we are not leaking more water over the next day or two. We need every drop and cannot afford wastage.
The wind prediction for the next five days is not very good - around 8 to 10 knots out of the south east. We really need 15 to 18 knots to keep us moving at a reasonable speed. There does appear to be a bit more wind more towards the Ascension Island sector and thus I have chosen a course quite a bit north of our normal route to the Brazilian waypoint, which is between the South American mainland and the island of Fernando De Noronha. Let's hope that we do actually get a little more wind than the forecasters predict.
Okay, I am going to try and post this and see what happens. Regards from all aboard Ultima Life - John.
15/11/2010, South Atlantic
We departed the V and A Waterfront marina on Saturday October 30, just after 13:00 local time, this after spending the entire morning in as boat number three to tank up with diesel at the duty free fuel dock - yep, three catamarans all leaving at the same time and more or less on the same route. There was a 46' Leopard charter boat leaving for Tortola with Karl and Maria on board (delivery skipper friends of mine), Scolamanzi, a private 46' Leopard owned by Dr Scholtz and us. The charter cat was not going to stop off in St Helena but Scolamanzi and ourselves intended to.
On board is myself, Dylan Le Roux as first mate, and crew members Conrad Smit and Juan Dormehl. This is to be Dylan's first Atlantic crossing, together with Juan. Conrad has done the trip before.
The first couple of days out of Cape Town we had good winds and were sailing with our genoa only, making reasonable speeds. However, on day three the wind died and we thereafter had very light winds for the next five days - all very frustrating as we had to motor-sail to keep the boat moving, using up precious diesel doing so. Ah well, at least the batteries received a good charge!
The following two days we experienced head winds as a front moved across our sector of the south Atlantic. We were able to do some sailing but found we could not raise the main sail fully, due to a faulty halyard block - we thus had to sail with one reef in the main, loosing the full power that this sail could provide. Another problem we encountered was the locking nuts on our hydraulic steering rams both came loose and we lost steering on two occasions - once on the port rudder and once on the starboard rudder. The first incident happened at 02:00 in the morning and I had to spend over an hour in the small rudder compartment, repairing the problem as best as I could. The next day the same thing happened with the starboard hydraulic ram, but fortunately during daylight hours.
The result of the above ram failures was that we could not properly align the rudders and they remained in a toe-in position for the remainder of the leg, basically acting a breaks. However, we have now repaired the problem whilst at anchor in James Bay, St Helena. We have also pulled the main halyard and replaced the halyard block with one that is locked and cannot twist the halyard, preventing the full hoisting of the main sail.
When departing Cape Town, I had not fully installed my HF radio, as we simply ran out of time. I intended to complete the installation the first day or two after departing. However, this was not possible as I found a break in the antenna co-axial cable and thus had to wait until we arrived in St Helena, where I could repair the cable and complete the installation. This has been done and we should have some updates to the blog and daily position reports posted to the shiptrak.org site from now on. Lets hope it all works properly as I cannot properly test the HF radio whilst in James Bay as the high cliffs of the island do not allow me to get a good transmission to the Winlink stations. If it does not work, we will just have to continue using the expensive satellite phone for basic updates to our family members and friends.
I am typing this on Monday morning, November 15. The crew are off on a quick tour of St Helena and, as soon as I have posted this, I will be going ashore to collect a few loaves of bread and some rolls, clearing out with emigration and then we should be ready to set sail around 15:00 once the crew have returned from their tour and brought some drums of fresh water back to top up our tanks.
So, for now, regards from Dylan, Juan, Conrad and myself, John