23/11/2012, North Atlantic
I promised a bit more information on Mindelo "in a few days". Well, a few more days have come and gone but, as the saying goes, "better late than never". So here we go!
The Cape Verde Islands was a Portuguese colony which, a number of years back, gained its independence and is now a republic. However, the main language spoken is Portuguese with a bit of an African twist thrown in for luck. Very little English is spoken by the local folk. Like so many ex Portuguese colonies, the main infrastructure in Mindelo was allowed to run down but there has been a revival over the past few years with a lot of general maintenance and quite a few new buildings going up. Mindelo is just a small town but is still handicapped by poverty.
The town has a marina next to the small commercial port, which is very expensive during the yacht transit season - this time of the year when there are great numbers of small to large yachts moving between Europe and the Caribbean. It is also on the transit route as sailing yachts tend to follow the winds and the normal trade winds blow right past the islands. For the yachtie, there are a few small supermarkets to top-up with provisions, together with a fruit and vegetable market in the older part of the town. Water is all desalinated and costs 2 Euro cents a litre whist diesel fuel is a heck of a lot cheaper than Europe and slightly cheaper than South Africa, at 95 Euro cents a litre - equal to about R10.00 per litre.
Internet is also expensive but we found a way around it by docking next to a 150 foot super-yacht with a 24 hour unprotected satellite feed - name of vessel withheld for obvious reasons!
Since departing Mindelo last week, the ship routine has settled in and consists of food, sleep and watches with a little fishing thrown in for luck. We have done a bit of motor-sailing due to very light winds for a few days but mostly we have had the spinnaker up and have been doing some good mileage for this rather heavy and slow boat. At first we kept the spinnaker up only during daylight hours and motor-sailed at night. This because Mark and Jason needed to learn to sail with a spinnaker and there was no moon at night. Now, the trades are settled a bit and we are sailing day and night with the spinnaker and using the generator to charge our battery bank to keep all the systems running. We do have a problem in that the house batteries have not been maintained all that well and take a long time to recharge.
We have managed to catch a number of Dorado and now have quite a bit in stock in the freezer. Yesterday we also managed to hook two good sized Wahoo. However, one managed to bite through the one line and got away. The other has given us four large meals, the first which was dinner last night.
We are heading for Rodney Bay in St Lucia, where we hope to make landfall on either December 1 or 2. We are well past the halfway mark between the Cape Verde Islands and the Caribbean and, at the moment it looks like we may make landfall on December 1 if we can keep up our speed for a few more days.
We have not had any dolphin visiting the boat since Mindelo, but did have the Egrit, pictured above, visit us on Wednesday. Where this poor fellow came from is a mystery as Egrits are land birds and the closest land to the boat at the time was the Cape Verde Islands, 1450 kilometres away! I am not sure if they are migratory birds but they are certainly not adapted for catching food from the sea. Let's hope that the poor fellow manages to get a perch on a passing ship and ends up back on land.
So, as we sail along under spinnaker, greeting from Mark, Jason, Dylan and myself, John.
14/11/2012, North Atlantic
We arrived in Mindelo on Tuesday morning, just after sunrise and booked into the marina for two nights. There are loads of other yachts here at the moment, getting ready to cross to the Caribbean and, as we have heard, many have already departed over the past week. We are leaving on Thursday morning, already filled-up with water and diesel for the crossing. It should take us between 14 and 18 days as, looking at the wind patterns for the next week, there is not too much wind out there.
I am looking at going a bit further south after we depart and then sticking between 12 and 13 degrees north, until we are about two thirds across the Atlantic, before I start curling slightly north and hope to arrive in Antigua. The winds do look good for a lot of spinnaker sailing, so lets hope we can save using too much diesel in the crossing.
Mark was originally going to fly back to the UK when we reached the Caribbean and is still going to do this. However, Jason has also now told me that he will need to get back to London as well. I was expecting this as we have had so many delays that his time has nearly run out. I may have to recruit an extra crew member in Antigua for the final run up to Fort Lauderdale, about an 8 or 9 day sail.
In the next few days I will type up a blog report, giving you a bit of info on Mindelo, which I hope you will find interesting. But, for now, cheers from all aboard Ultima Life, John.
05/11/2012, North Atlantic
As I type this, we are still off the coast of Africa and making south. We should pass the Canary Islands tomorrow, around midday, and will be continuing to head towards the Cape Verde Islands. For the first 48 hours out of Rabat we were motoring into a stiff breeze with both engines but then, as predicted, the wind dropped and swung yesterday afternoon with just a light breeze out of the north. This breeze was not enough to sail with (only 3 to 5 knots), but enough to cut one engine and motor-sail.
When crossing the Bay of Biscay we had very large breaking waves hitting the boat on the starboard side. Unfortunately, the diesel tank on the starboard side has its breather just above deck level and with the constant seas breaking over it, we sucked a bit of water into the diesel tank. Now, when using the starboard engine, we have to stop it every few hours and empty the water and other muck out of the separation filter. Somewhere along the line we are going to have to have the fuel polished in both tanks to strain out any water and also a few years of other muck that has accumulated in them.
At the moment we have no wind but still a long 1.5 to 2 metre swell coming from the west. The prediction I downloaded via the Winlink email system indicates that the breeze should start filling in from the north this evening and we should have it slowly picking up through the night as we get further south - our intended course is via the gap between the most easterly Canary island and the African coast. If this does occur, we may even be able to hoist our gennaker tomorrow and, for the first time since leaving London, be able to sail Ultima Life with the silence of having no engines throbbing in the background!
Yesterday I saw our first flying fish, which means warmer water and other predator fish. So, it was out with a fishing line. We nearly caught a rather large seagull and had to roll up the line until it disappeared. Once gone I put the line out again and soon had a few strikes but no fish. Whilst putting the line back on its peg I felt a slight banging on the lure and looked out to where the lure was and saw the fin of a fish. I played with the line a bit and soon had the fish on the hook. When retrieving the fish I found it to be a baby blue-fin marlin, only just over a metre long. With pliers and great care I removed the hook from its bill and put it back into the sea - it is such a beautiful fish that there is no ways that we were going to eat the poor little blighter. Let's hope he (or she) lives long enough to grow into a large specimen and does not have the temptation to try and swallow a plastic squid again. We ended up having herbed pork cutlets and salads for dinner. It is still early in the morning and we have not taken anything out of the freezer for tonight's dinner, hoping that we will be able to catch something nice and tasty from the sea - other than a seagull!
Since leaving the UK we have had quite a few groups of dolphin visiting us. However, yesterday evening we had quite a large number come and say hello. They were full of life and a number of them were jumping out the water and spinning around before splashing back into the sea. It was quite a magnificent display and had the crew all shouting and clapping their appreciation. I am going to try and include one of the photographs of this at the top of this blog report.
As we continue to make more progress to the south, I wish you folk well from all aboard Ultima Life - greeting from Dylan, Jason, Mark and myself, John.
Ps. If you look on the right of this page you will see a link to "Shitrak'. Click on it and you will be taken to a page where we post our latest position. John.
03/11/2012, North Atlantic
We departed Rabat, Morocco, yesterday (Friday 2 November) with the knowledge that we had the correct tide and wave conditions to leave port and head further south. The departure was as it was on arrival - lots of officials, paperwork and the police sniffer dog again. We have nothing to hide but the dog is not well groomed and leaves black hairs all over the boat.
The weather is not yet perfect and we are actually motoring into a 15 to 20 knot wind and quite lumpy seas. However, these conditions are due to change slowly in the next 24 to 36 hours as we get closer to the Canary Islands and further south. We are not stopping in the Canary Islands, but continuing on towards the Cape Verde Islands before heading west to the Caribbean Sea.
This is just a short update and I will post a better blog entry in a few days. Regards from all aboard, John.
29/10/2012, North Atlantic
Well, here we are in Bouregreg Marina, Rabat. It is quite a well maintained marina, apparently owned by the King of Morocco, and is situated about a mile up the Bouregreg River. We arrived yesterday after noon and were escorted up the river by a marina launch to the customs and immigration dock, in the river, just outside the marina. And then the trouble started! "Where is your visa", asked the young immigration officer. Well, I do not have one and was then confined to the boat. An hour later he sent Dylan to fetch me and the chief of the immigration section issued me a five day emergency visa - actually a letter stating he had given me permission to stay in Morocco for a maximum of five days. There was another South African boat that arrived at the same time as us and both owner and his wife had applied for visas whilst in Turkey, at a cost of around R2000 each! My letter and the rest of the crew cost us nothing.
We have studied the weather and it looks like we will be departing here on Wednesday around noon, on the high tide, to be able to get over the sand bar at the entrance to the river. We will have a few days of light headwinds and at least 12 hours of 20 odd knots of head winds before the winds change to a comfortable northeast, which should take us down to well below the Canary Islands and the start of the trades.
Now lets get back to Rabat. Dylan and I took a walk about three kilometres to a supermarket. It is very similar to South Africa and at the same time totally different. The streets are not clean and every conceivable metal grid, drain cover and even some metal signage has been removed in the dead of night and sold to the recycle yard. However, I have not seen anybody walking around without a hand! Also, the marina is all fenced off with heavy security all round. There are beggars on the streets and stray dogs and cats all over. Well, this is my perception - others may see everything with a different eye.
Returning to the marina, there are a lot of boats coming and going, with a lot of them heading down to the Canary Islands to take part in the 2012 ARC (Atlantic Rally Crossing). I am sure these boats have been having just as much problems in getting south as we have been having. One notable boat that has just arrived is Distant Shores II, the couple that have made television documentary films of their adventure. I wonder what they will make of Rabat?
I am going to sign off now as it is time for me to make dinner - stir fried chicken and vegetables in a wrap. Cheers from all aboard - John
Ps. The photograph above is us following the marina lunch up the River Bouregreg.