Tonight we pass directly over the Valdivia Banks, an underwater sea mount that comes up to 23 metres below the sea surface. The area is quite often populated by fishing vessels which means an extra bit of caution by the watch keepers. Fortunately the sea conditions are flat at the moment and we are motor-sailing in very little breeze, which means that there will be little turbulence when passing over the banks.
Yesterday we caught our first fish, a long-fin Tuna, which managed to escape the dinner plate by wiggling off the hook as I was trying to bring it on board. Pity, as it was a good sized one! At first light today we had the fishing line out again and by mid-morning had no takers to the lure. Terry and Shaun rigged up a second line with bungee and we have now doubled our chances of having a fishy supper - hopefully a decent sized long-fin will think that one of the lures looks delectable and "take the bait".
Also yesterday afternoon we started seeing an extraordinary number of Storm Petrels. We normally have a couple following the boat but suddenly there were 20 or 30 of the little birds swooping around us. A short while later we found the reason. We came across the carcass of a dead whale which was covered in birds, all trying to have their feast of blubber. This is something I have never seen before and was quite a sight. Remember that we are quite a few hundred nautical miles from any land and here were well over 100 birds of different species that had found this meal in the middle of nowhere! Amazing!
Tomorrow we should have reached our half-way mark between Cape Town and St Helena. Although there is no wind at the moment, the wind is due to start picking up around midnight tonight and should continue to strengthen into tomorrow. We can then expect two or three days of south-easterly winds of 25 knots, which will give us a good push towards St Helena.
Now for the radio hams out there. Shaun and I will be monitoring 14 237.5 KHz from 16:00 Zulu (UTC/GMT) for anybody who wishes to chat to us - that is 18:00 SAST. We are keeping a log and will be sending out QSL cards after the trip. And for those readers who have had QSO's with me this year, your QSL cards will only be send at the end of this trip as I have not had the time to post them all due to no "off time" between deliveries.
Today we also have our second time change for the trip and are now on Greenwich Time. The next time change will be only a few days after leaving St Helena.
The photograph above is of Terry trying to pretend he understands all the controls of the boat. Hey, he is making progress and we are still pointing in the required direction!
Regards from Terry, Shaheda, Shaun and myself, John.
Today (Sunday), everybody appears to gave gained their sea-legs as we all had a breakfast of bacon and eggs with Terry being the chief cook. Only Shaheda stayed away from the bacon and just had the eggs.
We also have made up our first fishing line and have it out off the starboard hull - lets see if we can have some fresh fish for dinner! We will make up a second line tomorrow and stick it off the port hull to double our chances of a catch.
Yesterday I had a chat to Dave, the skipper of another 46' Moorings catamaran, which is about 34 miles to the east of us. Shaun spoke to him this morning again and it was interesting to hear that they have not gained or lost distance from us in the last 24 hours. They are also on delivery to Tortola but will not be stopping off at St Helena - a long trip indeed for the crew!
Our batteries are a bit depleted and thus today we are running the engines to try and give them a boost and at the same time doing a bit of motor-sailing as the wind has dropped to 14 knots true. We may even hoist the spinnaker later if the wind remains constant.
Well, I have set an ETA to arrive at St Helena in the morning of Monday 26 November and an ETA to arrive in the BVI's on Saturday 22 December. These are not the dates that I wanted but due to the delays in departure, they are what we will have to aim at.
Until the next report, regards from Shaheda, Shaun, Terry and myself, John.
We are now two and a half days out of Cape Town and have had some very rough seas churned up by gale force winds. At times we had close on 50 knots of wind from the south with some of the waves breaking onto the back of the boat. Fortunately the wind has reduced down to the mid twenties and the sea, although still very confused and lumpy, has reduces down to about a three metre swells.
The forecast for the next few days is that the wind abates a bit more and thus the seas should flatten a bit more as well - something we are all looking forward to!
Due to the lumpy conditions, Terry and Shaheda have been seasick, but that appears to be passing as they both had a reasonable meal of macaroni and cheese for dinner last night, which stayed down. Hopefully we will only see further improvement in their conditions and an enjoyable trip to come.
The weather has played its part with the boat - we have been doing some good miles noon to noon with 176 nm yesterday and 182 nm today. The down side of the confused seas has been a damp boat inside caused by the spray being blown off the wave tops into the saloon. This is now slowly drying out. We also lost our lazy-jacks (lines used to hold the main sail into the stack-pack sail bag), which broke off up the mast and will be on our "repair list" for when we are in St Helena.
In the next few days I should have been able to calculate our ETA in St Helena and to our destination, Tortola. Once I have done that I will add them to my blog report and see how close we are able to come to arriving at the different ports on the dates. Hopefully we can maintain good speeds during the voyage and keep to the estimates!
The photograph above was taken during the gale force conditions but does not depict the reality of the conditions - photographs seem to flatten the seas and not depict them at their worst.
The night watches have been very cold with everybody well wrapped up in their foul-weather gear. The stars have been bright and mostly clear due to little cloud and a quarter moon which should be a full moon when we reach St Helena. This morning whilst on my 06:00 to 09:00 watch, I saw my first flying fish. It was a small fella, about 7.5 cm long and trying desperately to get out of the way of the boat. It is still early days for flying fish and they will become more abundant as we get further north.
Today Shaun and I will be on HF radio trying to help our fellow Cape based Hams get some points in the HF field day contest. So, greetings from all aboard until my next report.
Well folks, at midnight we cast off our lines for the second time and are now well and truly underway. At noon we has progressed 87 nautical miles in very rough seas with a 35 knot wind from the south. We are sailing with two reefs in the genoa and doing just over 7 knots.
Shaheda, Shaun and Terry are suffering a bit from the motion but I am sure they will be fine in a day or two and start enjoying the sail. We just need the sea to calm a little to make conditions aboard a bit more comfortable.
At noon we passed a fleet of fishing vessels, all bashing their way back to Saldanha Bay. I spoke to the skipper of one of them and he told me they had been at sea for thirty days with little in their holds to show for their efforts - not a great life!
As conditions improve on board, I will include a few photographs with the reports and elaborate a bit more on conditions aboard. For now, regards from all aboard.
The 13th was an unlucky day! We cleared out with the yacht club, cleared out with the harbour authorities and then we all went to clear out at the emigration department. Let me first explain that the emigration office is near the harbour entrance and is also the office where hundreds of refugees from Africa gather to get refugee status verified. As we were walking into the entrance the refugees packed around us and within seconds I was minus my brand new Nokia N95 cellular telephone. Those guys were sharp and fast!
We then went off to customs and cleared with them, bought some duty free goods (cigarettes), and headed back to the boat and cast off our lines. We stopped off at the fuel jetty and took on 1350 litres of diesel before heading out of the harbour and set course for that little chunk of rock called St Helena.
Well, we only reached a point off Robben Island when I noticed our shrouds were flapping about a bit too much. After a check I decided to return to the harbour and have the riggers check out things - it certainly was a good idea as the mast was so loose it could have caused major problems later in our voyage. So, at sunset we were back where we started - tied up to the marina at Royal Cape Yacht Club.
After dark the wind changed direction (something I was expecting) but we were having a good fat steak in the restaurant across from the yacht basin. Later during the night the rain fell lightly on the boat but we all slept well after the "rush" of thinking we were on our way.
Today (Wednesday), the riggers were called in and re-tensioned the rigging after the boat was checked out by the designer, Gino Morelli. Also, we had a breakage in our starboard water suction line for fresh water, which was replaced by the plumber and a few adjustments made by the sail maker to our main sail - something I wanted done although it was not a problem.
So, we are now waiting for the front to pass the Cape and the wind to change (expected later this afternoon) when we will be off again - and not turning around again even if a few small teething problems occur. As the title of this entry says, we are all frustrated from having to bounce back to Cape Town like a ping-pong ball.
I will post to the blog again once we are well off shore - cheers from the frustrated crew, Shaun, Shaheda, Terry and myself, John.