18/08/2011, North Atlantic
Today (Thursday 18 August 2011) at 10H47 local time (13H47 GMT/UTC - 15H47 SAST), we crossed that invisible line, the Equator, at 42 degrees 30.54 minutes west. It was the first time Byron has crossed the equator and the second time Wihan has done so. However, both the lads did not cross aboard a boat, they swam! Fortunately for them, there were no man-eating fish around at the time.
So, we are now officially in the Northern Hemisphere and have about 1800 nautical miles to go to our destination, Tortola, the capital island of the British Virgin Islands. It looks like my ETA for arrival there is still 30 August.
Life aboard is very boring at the moment. We are seeing quite a few ships and when not on watch, doing a lot of reading and playing "catch-up" on sleep. Fortunately, the wind is still out there, although not as strong as we had a few days ago, so we are able to keep a reasonable speed of over six knots with only our genoa being used. We know this will come to an end soon and will deploy our spinnaker when needed to keep us going.
This is just a short blog report to keep you updated, so regards from Wihan, Byron and myself, John
16/08/2011, South Atlantic
Over the past few days we have been doing quite well with our noon to noon runs, although conditions have been a bit bumpy. Yesterday morning (Monday August 15), we passed our waypoint off the northern coast of South America and soon found the current that runs quite strongly up the coast. Although we had gale-force winds during the night and a horrendous sea and only a handkerchief size foresail out, we managed a noon to noon run of 180 nautical miles, which we are quite pleased about. However, all good things must come to an end, we have basically lost the wind and are sailing in a light breeze again. Although we still have a strong current with us, we are fully aware that it will also slowly fade away.
Before we reached the Brazilian coast we managed to catch a few Dorado and, after having a couple of fish meals, still have some remaining in the freezer. Our line is once again off the back of the boat and we are looking for another one or two Dorado to supplement our meals along the way.
After leaving St Helena I started my usual "Ship Spotting Competition", which is due to run until just before we each a waypoint off the island of St Vincent. The aim of the competition is to try and keep the watch keeper alert and awake. During the 1800 nautical mile stretch from St Helena to the Brazilian coast we only came across two ships. This is not surprising as there is only one shipping lane that we cross during that section of passage. However, we are now sailing in a well used shipping lane and the sightings have shot up dramatically. The prize to the person spotting the most ships is a bottle of good Caribbean rum at the end of the delivery.
As we were closing on the Brazilian coast, we eventually overtook a friend of mine, Luke Tod, doing a delivery of a 38 foot catamaran. When we departed St Helena he was two days ahead of us. He is also on his way to Tortola and it will be interesting to see who arrives there first. We were able to talk over the VHF on a few occasions and he reported seeing a large pod of whales around his boat. An hour later we had a large pod of Pilot whales next to us. They are like gigantic dolphin and normally are quite shy and stay away from boats. The next day we had another pod (or maybe the same pod) of Pilot whales surfing the swells next to the boat. An absolutely fantastic experience!
I must admit that over the years I have noticed a large decrease of sea life during deliveries. Ten years ago we used to have large groups of dolphin in the mid-Atlantic, on a regular basis. Slowly over the years the sightings have decreased and over the past few years I have had no dolphin sightings in mid-Atlantic. The same applies to the coast where we are now - only one pod of dolphin has been spotted since closing the coast!
We estimate that we should arrive at our destination, Tortola, around 30 August. So far this date appears to be good but I will post updates in future blog reports if there is any change. So, I bid you well for now with Wihan and Byron also sending greetings. John.
09/08/2011, South Atlantic
Last night we reached the halfway position on our leg between St Helena and the Brazilian coast, meaning we have another 900 nautical miles to go to our next waypoint which is located at 04 degrees, 39 minutes south and on the 035 degree west longitude. This should take us another five or six days, depending on the winds we get.
Talking of wind, we have been fortunate to have had varying winds out of the southeast, between 25 knots and 15 knots. Unfortunately, when the wind has been on the lower end of the scale, the sea state has not been calm enough for continual sailing with the spinnaker, so we have been going slower than we wanted under poled out genoa alone with the spinnaker being used during short periods where the sea state has permitted. As I type this blog report, the wind has dropped to around 12 knots but the sea state is very lumpy and we are motor-sailing, giving our batteries a good boost.
We have also had overcast skies for most of the trip. However, yesterday the skies cleared up and we had some sunshine for the first time in over two weeks. Today is partly cloudy with rain squalls passing every few hours. It has also started warming up dramatically with a high humidity level.
The other day we caught our first Dorado, and had it for dinner. We have lost two lines out of the three on board, both to very large sailfish. So, with our one remaining line we are trying to stock-up the freezer a bit with more Dorado - let's hope we are successful in the next few days!
Our book library is very limited with the crew not bringing many books with. I brought a whole pile of old Readers Digest condensed books, together with a small selection of more recently published books, but the youngsters of today do not seem too keen on doing some actual reading. It is a pity that the youth of today have very little interest in books, but will sit for as long as possible reading muck on the Internet when they get a chance.
One other thing I have noticed of late is that youngsters cannot cook! I spend hours each day teaching Wihan and Byron the basics of cooking a simple meal. When asked why they cannot cook, I get answers such as they get ready cooked meals from Woolworths or "my mother always does the cooking at home". Hell, I should get out of the yacht delivery business and start a cookery school to teach youngsters how to cook a meal and survive in this modern world we live in. There aren't any pizza take-away joints in the mid Atlantic!
Well, enough of my grumbling. Greetings from Wihan, Byron and myself. John.
01/08/2011, South Atlantic
We arrived in James Bay, St Helena, at 07:00 UTC on Saturday. It took three tries before we were safely anchored and could shut down the engines. The saying goes "third time lucky" - don't believe it, as it turned out very unlucky for us, which I will explain later in the blog entry.
Having been to St Helena so many times before, a person tends to build friendships with the island folk which, I must point out, are the most friendly people I have ever come across. A few days before arriving, I had emailed Barry Williams, the Harbour Master, and informed him that I would be arriving on a Saturday morning when all the clearing-in facilities would be closed, and asked his permission for us to come ashore on arrival. It had been approved and the ferry service, immigration office and customs office had been informed. Two other yachts which arrived over the weekend were informed that they had to stay aboard their vessels until Monday morning - we also had to go through the formalities in Monday.
So, Saturday morning I introduced Byron and Wihan to the town and some of the local folk after a good breakfast at Ann's Place, the local yachtie restaurant. Arrangements were made to borrow Mikes car on Sunday morning and do a tour of the island, which is only about 10 by 15 kilometres. Byron and Wihan climbed Jacob's Ladder, a 699 very steep stairway from the town to the village at the top of the hill, and then, after a couple of beers at a local pub with Mike (Mike owns the local independent radio station and newspaper), it was back to the boat on the ferry for an early night to catch up on sleep lost the previous night.
Sunday started with a good breakfast on the boat before calling the ferry and going ashore to get Mikes car and do the island tour, which took us until after 2pm, when we arrived back in Jamestown and had a couple of beers before heading back to the boat to do some repairs to our roller-furller. The boat work took a bit longer than anticipated and thus we cooked up our supper on board and again had an early night.
Monday morning had us visiting immigration, the harbour office and customs, where we checked both in and out at the same time after being fleeced of 63 UK Pounds in fees. The lads did some shopping for the boat after which it was back to the boat to prepare for our departure. A fellow delivery skipper was on one of the other boats that had arrived over the weekend and we arranged for an early supper on shore before going back to the boat and departing on our next leg of the delivery.
The departure was not to be! We attempted to raise the anchor but could not - we appeared well attached to the bottom of James Bay! So, as it was already dark, we turned in for another early night and left the problem for the morning.
Tuesday morning had us again spend a few hours trying to raise the anchor, to no avail. I then got hold of Craig Yon, a qualified diver, to have a look at what we had hooked. The report was we were wrapped around both an old fisherman's anchor from the 1800's and a more modern engine block from a truck. Further arrangements were made for Craig to organise a second diver to assist him in cutting away our anchor chain and then retrieving the anchor and remaining chain - we would loose about five metres of chain in the process. This was done and only at 16:30 were we able to retrieve our anchor and chain and head for the horizon and start on the long 1850 nautical mile next leg of our delivery, which will take us to the coast of northern Brazil. And you do not want to know the cost of two divers for the better part of the day! "Ah", I hear you say, "yes we do!". A jaw breaking "just bring us some biltong on your next trip". Thanks Craig and Keith, the biltong will be delivered at the beginning of November!
So, until the next blog entry, greetings are sent, as usual, from Wihan, Byron and myself, John.
28/07/2011, South Atlantic
I have titled this blog entry after the military command to revert to how you were before something happened. In our situation, it means we are now cancelling the change of destination to Fort Lauderdale and reverting to our original destination of Tortola. We are also "taking our foot off the gas" and sailing the boat as it was intended, as there is no further desperate rush to get there, although we are still proceeding at an above normal speed.
So, we have a little niggle with our roller-furler and are now going to make a quick stop in St Helena so that we can undertake the necessary repairs in the shelter of James Bay. We have already braved the choppy seas and serviced both engines - actually, that should read "Byron braved the choppy seas and serviced both engines".
Over the past week we have not put any effort into trying to catch any fish as our effort has been put into keeping the boat moving as fast as possible. But, from today, the lines are out at sunrise and will be put back at sunset. Unfortunately, we have missed the area of the long-fin tuna and are now in an area where the Bonita is more common, with the occasional yellow-fin tuna or Wahoo found. Bonita is not the best fish to eat, other than in the form of "tuna-mayo" or as fish cakes. And talking of fish, we have yet to see any flying fish. I think the water is still too cold for them and we will most likely start seeing them after St Helena when we start getting the warmer equatorial waters.
During the past week we have been freezing - it has really been colder this trip than previous ones at this time of the year. The news from back home is that the South African interior has also been suffering, with unusual snow falls in the interior of the country. As we get closer to the equator, things should start to improve and night watches especially, should become more pleasant.
During the early hours of Wednesday morning we passed over the Greenwich Meridian and thus entered the Western Hemisphere. Wihan has made an Atlantic crossing before but this is the first time that Byron has crossed the meridian. We had a small celebration but await the "big one" when we cross the equator, which will only happen when we are off the Amazon delta in a few weeks time. At the moment our clocks are set for UTC or GMT and we are thus two hours behind South African Standard Time, with another four time changes to go before our arrival in the Caribbean.
All is well on board and we all send greetings. John.