06/12/2010, Northern South American Coast
As the title says, we are now in the Northern Hemisphere, having crossed the equator on Friday night (3 December), at 20:10 (23:10 UTC). We crossed at 042 degrees 25.8 minutes west. As it was night, we held off our small crossing ceremony until Saturday and fun was had by all.
At the moment we are experiencing light winds from the east and sometimes from the east-southeast. This boat does not like to sail in light winds just aft of the beam, but accelerates brilliantly when the wind is on the beam or just forward of the beam, so the result is that we are plodding along most of the time between 5 and 6 knots and flying every now and again when the wind angle changes to the occasional east-northeast. Such is life when delivering yachts!
Every day we have been having pods of dolphin visit us and play around the boat. This has kept the crew occupied with something to do. The only person not going through books at an alarming rate is Dylan, who spends many hours studying to write his next skippers exam. I must admit that he has really mastered the art of navigation - the proper way with paper charts that is.
As I write this blog report, we have about a week to go before arriving at our destination. I say "about" as this is sailing and relying on making the most miles every day with the winds that we have. Sometimes it is really frustrating when you look at the speed log and see that we are barely moving, whilst at other times a person gets a great thrill to be able to achieve 7 or 8 knots with hardly any wind.
I am not going to keep this a long report as I am in watch and have to pop out to the helm every now and again to check that we do not sail in front of the occasional ship that passes us, so I bit you well until the next posting - regards from Dylan, Juan, Conrad and myself, John.
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.