31/03/2011, South Atlantic
Yesterday morning we were far enough offshore to be able to put out a fishing line to "test the waters" for a small fish. Mathys was on the 06:00 to 09:00 watch and was eager to try his luck. Well, I was still in the cockpit when a small long-fin tuna took the lure and I showed Mathys how to land the fish. It was really a baby tuna so the line was put out again and I retired to my cabin for a bit of a rest. Half an hour later there was an urgent call from Mathys as there was another fish on the line.
Mathys was struggling to pull in the line (we use a hand line) so I threw in my "fish landing skills" and brought in a really big long-fin (photograph above). He did the rest of the dirty work and later in the morning there was no room left in the freezer or refrigerator for anything else. Needless to say, the line was not put out again and we did have a great dinner of tuna and slaw last night. Today it will be tuna mayo for lunch but I think a nice curry, not tuna, is in order for dinner - let's see.
Yesterday we motored all day as the sea was flat calm with no wind. Last night a slight breeze picked up out of the south and, looking at the weather for the next few days, the wind should slowly pick up into the evening today and we should be able to cut the engines and do some proper sailing.
For those who are unaware, I have my trusty small HF radio transceiver on board and get weather from the South African Maritime Mobile Net each day. This is a network run by radio amateurs and I give them my position, course and weather each day whilst they relay the weather forecast on to us. I also use the radio to send and receive email and download weather files for the region we are in, as well as posting this blog entry with its photograph. It is a free service available to licensed radio amateurs around the world.
The boat we are delivering is a new Leopard 444 for the Sunsail Charter fleet in Turkey. It is only the third hull of this design and, for those of you who think traditionally, this is not what you would call "traditional lines" at all. However, it has a large aft cockpit, the saloon and a small forward cockpit. Very "un-traditional" if I can use that term. I am going to get Dave to do a short write-up on the boat for the next blog entry, as he actually owns his own older 38 foot Leopard catamaran.
So, for now, as we all munch on our tuna rolls and dream of some nice lamb cutlets, cheers for now from Josh, "Tuna" Mathys, Dave and myself, John.
29/03/2011, South Atlantic
Our short visit to Luderitz, Namibia, appears to have been appreciated by all the crew. Firstly, we arrived there around 17:00 local time, which is UTC +2 hours - the same as South Africa. The first evening was spent securing our lovely white plastic boat against some lovely black tyres against the centre wharf in the harbour. Our neighbours to the front and stern were some pretty old wooden fishing boats, the crews of which spent some hours standing on the wharf discussing the concept of having this strange plastic boat tied next to them. We, in the mean time, obtained a few local beers, had the local immigration and customs officers clear us into Namibia and cooked up half of our long-fin tuna caught earlier that morning. Josh had the task of being chef for the night and really prepared a fantastic meal.
On Monday morning we obtained a multi-meter, batteries, and I spent a few hours alternatively pouring over wiring diagrams and crammed into the engine rooms of the boat, trying to find our electrical fault. Dave had the task of popping into the village to obtain all the 5 amp fuses he could find whilst I spent more time blowing them. Eventually, with many phone calls to the electricians in Cape Town I found the faults on both engines - two 10c diodes on the charging solenoids had been installed the wrong way round. A costly little exercise!
Then we had another couple of beers to celebrate the discovery and repair of the electrical problem and had an unannounced visit from a customs officer. Not to worry, it was only Fritz, who had helped replace an engine on a previous stop in Luderitz about two years back. Fritz took me through to the local fuel station where I filled up our two 30 litre diesel drums we had emptied into the boats tanks and brought me back to the boat. That evening we all went to a local pub and restaurant and Dave and Mathys had their first Eisbein meal, which appeared to be well enjoyed - mine was brilliant!
So, after a good nights sleep we cleared out of Namibia this morning, topped up our fresh water tanks and have headed out to sea - the bows are now pointing towards the small South Atlantic island of Saint Helena, our next stop. We hope to arrive in 9 or 10 days time. So, that is the update from Moorings A5003 - until the next blog entry, greetings from Dave, Mathys, Josh and myself, John.
27/03/2011, South Atlantic
We intended leaving Cape Town around the 17th of March, once the factory had rectified a few safety issues. However, this was not to be as the factory took longer than thought to make two major changes to the boat. Then we had the first of the winter cold fronts approaching the Cape and decided to sit in port for a few more days, rather than bash ourselves into oncoming seas. So, we pottered around the Elliot Basin and did what board crew do - visited the restaurant just outside the basin and had a few pints whilst waiting for better weather.
Then we decided to depart in the early hours of Thursday 24 March. A few minutes after midnight I was up and ready to go - however, a thick bank of fog had rolled in over Cape Town and I could just see the bows of the boat. Not a good idea to depart with no radar or AIS! So, I went back to my cabin and fell asleep again.
At 06:00 I was up again - the fog had lifted and we were ready to go. The crew were woken with a hot mug of coffee and the dock lines cast off. With port controls permission granted, we were off at 07:00.
Now let me go back a bit in time. When we received the boat from the factory staff, we brought it to the Elliot Basin and plugged ourselves into the mains system to ensure that our batteries were constantly at their peak. I did not think of re-checking the charging system off the main engines, which had worked fine before receiving the boat.
Now go to our second morning at sea. First thing in the morning I started our port engine to give our batteries a charge - engine runs fine but zip charge to the house batteries. Shut down the engine and start up the starboard engine - zip, nothing, no charge! Fortunately this boat has a generator on board and we thus charged up our house batteries using the generator, but cannot continue doing the charging this way.
So we sat down, contacted the Cape Town office and informed them that we had the problem and were now changing course for the small port of Luderitz in Namibia and needed repair assistance.
As I write this blog entry, we are about 35 nautical miles from Luderitz and I have just notified the port control, via Luderitz Radio, to expect us in port at about 17:30 local time this afternoon. Let's hope that our Cape Town office has organised some electrician to give assistance first thing in the morning (Monday 28 March).
So, the start of our delivery has not gone quite as planned, but we will get there! Besides the problems, I helped Josh to set up a fishing line at 06:00. Within 10 minutes he had a small "skip-jack" landed. An hour later he had landed a reasonable size long-fin tuna. So, tonight we are having fresh tuna for dinner and the skip-jack will most likely be given to one of the port staff in Luderitz.
Unfortunately, not too much to report on except that Dave and the crew can pop over to Kolmanskop, a small abandoned mining village just outside Luderitz, which has become part of the desert and quite a tourist attraction. I am sure they will enjoy the quick visit before we get all our systems up and working again and head out for St Helena.
Until the next blog entry, regards from all aboard the Leopard 44.
15/03/2011, Cape Town
John has given me the privilege of adding a few words to the blog, so here goes. First, let me say that delivering a Leopard from Cape Town has been a dream of mine for several years, and I'm excited to be able to do it under captain JohnT.
While I sat on airplanes, John, Josh and Mathys managed the lion's share of the prep work. We've spent the past couple of days finalizing the list: Perisables, installing HF radio, loading fuel jugs, etc. Only a few items remain on the list: Fresh produce, couple of parts from the factory, some official paperwork.
The anticipation of departure is starting to take hold. We will set sail in the next day or two.
01/03/2011, Cape Town
Well, the crew selection has come together rather quickly, which I am extremely happy about. As First Mate I have Dave Ross from Quebec City in Canada. He should be arriving in the next week or so, but I am sure he will need a day or two to get his internal clock set to South African time.
Then there are two crew, Josh Nuttall-Smith from Francistown in Botswana and Mathys Strydom from Pretoria (South Africa). Basically, there will only be Mathys and myself who will need to pop into a consulate in SA to obtain Schengen visas before we depart. We will organise the visas early next week to get them all sorted and out of the way.
So, now all we need is for the boat to be handed over to us sometime next week and then start the preparation of the boat and provisioning for the trip.
I had somebody contact me yesterday, saying that I was "nuts"! Well, I cannot disagree with them totally, but the reason they claimed me to be "nuts" was that they thought my route was going to be up the east African coast and via the Red Sea to the Med. I am not that "nuts" - the route is to St Helena Island, Ascension Island, Cape Verdi Islands and up to Gibraltar. Then through the Med to the port of Fethiye in Turkey, where we do our clearance and then do the final sail to Gocek, where the Sunsail marina is.
So, until the crew all arrive in Cape Town, keep well and stand-by for the next instalment to the blog. This time, whilst at sea, I will try for updates every few days and get Dave to give his contribution as well - it is always interesting to get the views of somebody else!