16/04/2011, South Atlantic
In a previous post I mentioned that Raymarine, the manufacturer of our navigation instruments aboard the boat, were flying a new chart plotter and GPS antenna to Ascension Island for us to collect and install. So, at first light last Monday we cast off our lines in St Helena and started the 700 nautical mile leg to Ascension.
The start of the leg was painfully slow with "light airs" and heave diesel fumes. However, by the first night we had just enough wind to ghost along at 2 to 3 knots. Over the following days the winds slowly filled in and we picked up speed.
Let me explain that I was planning a slow passage as we did not wish to arrive over a weekend as there is no clearance on Ascension over weekends. We could not make Ascension on Friday - although this boat is relatively fast, we would have needed good winds from the beginning, something I knew we would not have. So, the idea was to just take it easy and slow and arrive at first light on Monday morning.
We eventually have had better winds than predicted and are going too fast! As I type this report, we are trailing lines behind the boat to slow it down to arrive in Ascension at first light tomorrow morning (Sunday).
Our fishing has not been too good - two Bonito and two small Dorado. The Bonito are in the freezer and the Dorado in our stomachs! And what a fine fish they are. Dave pan cooked the fillets in butter and lemon juice and we had a grand meal. My hope is that we can get a few more Dorado and freeze them for later consumption. The Bonito will most likely end up as fish cakes in a few days time.
This blog post is done via email and our email is done, not the modern (and expensive) way via satellite, but the old (and free) way via HF radio, via the Ham Winlink email system. I have now lost the ability for sending and receiving via the Winlink station in Pretoria and have now switched to using a station in Canada or one in Switzerland, both of which are giving good signals at night. So I do not have any email contact during the day. So, those of you who are in email contact with us, please keep your messages short and delete all our text when using the reply function in your email software.
An aunt of mine has recently been ill and I struggled today to try and contact her via satellite telephone to see if she was recovering. She is, so Pauline, get well and hope your recovery is speedy.
Well, lets hope our equipment is ready for us on Monday and we can do a quick install and be off north again. Our next stop should be Cadiz, Spain, but may be in the Caape Verde Islands if we are running short of water or fuel. The next post will be a few days out of Ascension, before we reach the ITCZ or, as most of us know the region, the doldrums.
Regards from David, Mathys, Josh and myself, John.
09/04/2011, South Atlantic
We arrived at the anchorage in James Bay, St Helena, at 10:55 on Thursday morning and were soon going through the clearing-in process with HM Customs, the immigration section of HM St Helena Police Department and the Harbour Masters office. We were soon fleeced of UK Pounds 12.00 each and another UK Pounds 27.00 for "harbour fees". Let me quickly explain, there is no harbour in St Helena - you drop your anchor in the anchorage and pray you do not drag anchor during your stay.
After completing the formalities, we visited Ann's Place, the local yachtie restaurant or eatery and had a burger and chips - good quality high cholesterol grub fit for any yachitie that has not had a good greasy meal for a week or two. Then the crew went back to the boat with our four filled drums of water and replenished our water reserves on board. I then took Dave back ashore and introduced him to the Standard pub and some local life. I think he enjoyed the visit with the exception of some "old duck" who first tried to hit on me, saying she liked young yachties - the poor old lady was getting into her late 70's or early 80's. When she had no response from me, she hit on poor Dave, telling him proudly that she was still sexually active! I nearly died laughing but had to step in to try and save Dave, telling her that she should be ashamed of herself for trying to pick up my partner as we were a gay couple. Her response was: "Oh, I love happy people". Go figure!
Well, Friday arrived with a bit of a light drizzle and all of us heading back to shore to let the crew climb Jacob's Ladder, 699 big steps of hell. I, a bit wiser and knowledgeable about the climb, remained in the town, getting some fresh bread and rolls and having an interesting discussion with Mike, the owner of the local Independent newspaper and FM radio station. Well, the discussion was over a beer - no a couple of beers - actually, quite a few beers. Today (Saturday) I cannot, for the life of me remember how many beers, nor what we discussed. I also cannot remember going back to the boat but must have, as I did wake up this morning in my bunk! I also woke up with the keys to Mikes car in my pocket and was told by the crew that he, Mike, had lent his car to me to take everybody on a tour of the island.
So, this morning it was into the "country", as the islanders call the interior of this small island. We visited Napoleons house, where he was held prisoner and died, the site for the proposed airport, the governors house with the tortoises in the garden and a few old fortifications. I handed Mike his car back with much appreciation and headed back to the boat to sleep off my hangover, still lingering from last night. Mathys and Josh are ashore to experience the local "atmosphere" whilst Dave and I are taking it easy on board the boat. I do not think my body could take another sip of anything with any alcohol in it!
Tomorrow is full maintenance of the outstanding work needed on the boat - we have already cleared a number of items off the list. And then we will check our water tanks once more and raise anchor and start a slow sail to Ascension Island. The winds over the next week are not that good so we will just take it easy and try and arrive there the following Monday.
Regards from all aboard until the next blog post. John.
Oh, the photo above is of Jonathan in the Governors garden - 180 years old and still going strong!
07/04/2011, South Atlantic
Dave here. I thank John for the opportunity to write a few words.
"All is well on board."
It's a short sentence but it really says a lot: Shave once a week, shower just as often. Sleep? It's really more like meditation. Clothing is either damp and/or worn several days and there isn't a laundry within a thousand miles. The wind has been blowing 15 to 20 knots for days now and the south Atlantic Ocean swell is relentless. There is always plenty of entertainment: The GPS is keeping us amused and as I type this, Captain John is enjoying himself in the engine room chasing a coolant leak. I have no doubt that the boat's rocking and salt water spray are adding to his fun.
Of course, these are only some of the benefits of life on board. Add to the list: outstanding food...Fresh tuna, lamb, beef, boerewors, pasta. Top it off with sunny weather, good company and all truly is well on board.
Last night we crossed into the Western Hemisphere...nice. It was also the first night warm enough for short sleeves on the 3 to 6 AM watch. Things just keep getting better and better. And then we should reach the island of St Helena around midday on Thursday...ah, land for a few days.
02/04/2011, South Atlantic
One thing I have not spoken about on the blog is that we have a small, but irritating, problem with our Raymarine C90W Chartplotter. A few times a day it looses its GPS signal and we have to reset it, similar to a computer that "hangs". This, in itself, I can live with - we will still get to our destination safely.
However, twice a week I send off a report to the TUI office in Cape Town, containing our position, distance to our destination, ETA and any problems on board. One of my problems listed has been the chartplotter.
Suddenly I started getting a reaction to the chartplotter problem, requesting certain information, downloading files off the system and a few "try this" type emails - all from Raymarine in the UK and the TUI office in France. Last night we received an email from Raymarine stating that they were going to fly a new C90W Chartplotter and external GPS antenna to the remote Atlantic island of Ascension - could we stop there, pick it up and fit it and see if our problems are resolved?
Darn right I can. If Raymarine is willing to stand by their product in this manner, I surely can deviate off my course a few miles to help them resolve a technical problem and smooth life aboard this little plastic boat as it sails north up the Atlantic Ocean! So, kudu's to Raymarine for their excellent customer care and service.
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.