23/04/2011, South Atlantic
On Saturday 23 April, at 05:01 local time (06:01 UTC or 08:01 SAST), we crossed that invisible line called the equator, whilst at 16 deg. 42.48 minutes west. There was no celebration as the only person awake at the time was Dave - it was his watch. However, I did have a bottle of South African "bubbly" in my cabin that we chilled for the day and at 5pm celebrated the event and gave a little to Neptune te ensure good winds and safe sailing in the Northern Hemisphere. Nothing like a bit of old sailors superstition to add to the event!
The last few days have involved a lot of motoring and not too much sailing as we are in what is known as the ITCZ or, using the old fashion term, the doldrums. There has been not enough wind to sail by but just enough of a breeze to keep us all from cooking. Today the thermometer only showed 30 degrees C, but coupled with the humidity, conditions are very uncomfortable. But, this is what I expected and we just have to acclimatise ourselves to it for a while.
The Cape Verde Islands are north-northwest of us (about 900 nautical miles) and we should pass them, leaving them to starboard, in about six days. I would only stop there if it was absolutely necessary as my previous experience there was not a pleasant one - lots of crime and drug addicts! So, at the moment our plans are to continue all the way to Cadiz, Spain, where we will re-fuel and take on some fresh water and provisions. A few weeks hard sailing lies ahead of us!
On board life is actually quite boring. Sleep, stand watch, sleep, play cards, eat, stand watch etc. Each morning at 06:00 we put out our fishing lines and hope for a nice fat Dorado. Nah, not today, only skipjack, which is not the tastiest of fish. Josh did manage to hook a nice big Dorado yesterday, but as he was struggling to land it on the boat, the fish gave one final leap out of the water, straight into Josh, knocking him back onto the deck and at the same time the hook came out and we now have the story of "the one that got away". Oh well, we just hope for some more to take the lure in the days to come.
After departing Ascension I started our "Ship Spotting Competition", which runs until we are about 100 nautical miles from Cadiz. The score card is still blank - we actually have not seen another ship since about half way to St Helena. The prize for the person spotting the most ships on this leg is still to be decided. However, it will most likely be a good bottle of some fine Turkish plonk!
Our email has been down for the past 48 hours and thus our latest positions did not show on ShipTrak. However, this has now been rectified by the Winlink team and all appears to be back up and working.
Hope you all are having a fine Easter weekend with lots of bunnies bringing chocolate eggs - we had a packet of mini Bar One chocolates to celebrate, which Mathys promptly depleted during his watch.
Until the next blog report, regards from Josh, Dave, "Bar One" Mathys and myself, John
20/04/2011, South Atlantic
We arrived at Ascension Island on the Sunday morning, as noted in my previous blog report. After anchoring we had a good breakfast of bacon, eggs and sausages and then spent the day doing a bit of cleaning and resting. On Monday morning we organised a lift ashore with one of the work boats (there is no ferry service and we do not have a tender), did our clearing with the port control office and then customs and immigration at the police station.
Kitty George is the manager of the Port Office and she directed us to the local hotel where we had to hire a car and go to the airport to try and find our parcel from England. Let me explain that Ascension is a volcanic island with very few "main" roads - it is hard to get lost! Well, we did not get lost - we passed the USAF base, turned right into the airport and ended up at the administration office of the RAF. They phoned around to try and find who was handling our parcel and after about an hour we received a message that the person responsible had taken it to the Port Office whilst we were at the airport. Back at Kitty George's office we found our parcel waiting.
Back on the boat we installed the new display and, with a borrowed cordless drill and bits, made the necessary holes in the deck and mounted the new GPS unit - all a neat job, if I say so myself. And everything worked perfectly when I threw the circuit breaker!
On Tuesday morning we had a walk round Georgetown, the capital of the island. Let me explain that Georgetown is not a city, not even a town. It is a village with a few houses, some shops with limited goods for sale, a police station, court building and a fire station. Oh, and there are a few old ruins to visit. Not too exciting!
After handing back the hired car we arranged a lift back to the boat and prepared for our next leg of our journey - all the way to Cadiz, Spain if all goes well. At 12 noon (UTC) we raised our mainsail and our anchor, bid the port control farewell and started off in a fair breeze, heading north.
The past two days have been good sailing but accompanied with many rain showers. We are now two degrees south of the equator and motorsailing in only a light easterly breeze. I expect a few days of this type of condition as we pass through the ITCZ or "doldrums". We should cross the equator sometime on Friday evening. Our course should then take us north-northwest, through the Cape Verde Island chain towards the Azores. However, well south of the Azores we should be able to tack and then slowly head east-northeast towards Cadiz. Let's see if that is how things pan out!
With a few more fish in the freezer, I bid you well and regards from the crew. John.
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.