There has been a marked increase in bird life around the boat over the last two days with a number of gulls, shearwater, booby and the always busy little storm petrels. The storm petrels have been with us the longest and a person can only sit in wonder during your watch as they dip and weave over the wave tops and into the troughs, scooping up the little bits of food from the ocean surface. What they do at night I have no idea. However, the presence of the bird life means only one thing - we are getting close to land. We also had our first Noddy spend the night with us, leaving his calling card on deck before he left - photograph above.
Batteries We have a serious battery problem aboard with our house battery bank having a dead cell in it, which is preventing the proper charging of the bank. We are having to run our motors for much longer than should be necessary and are thus using up a considerable amount of diesel. Whenever we want to use the HF radio, we cannot transmit without also having one of the engines running. So, we have had to cut down on our time on HF and will only be on the air every alternate day. We will be on air on Monday evening on 14 237.5 at 16:00 Zulu.
Our ship spotting competition has been stagnant since Terry spotted the first one a week ago. We have seen surprisingly few ships this entire trip so far. Normally on the leg from St Helena to the Brazilian coast we spot six or seven ships. Ah well, as we slowly get into the shipping lanes off Brazil, this can only change. The challenge for everybody is to keep clear of those big steel fellows - we don't want them to hit us!
From a very hot boat (30 deg. C today with a high humidity), greetings from Shaheda, Shaun, Terry and myself, John.
We are fortunate to have winds between 14 and 17 knots out of the east at the moment and are doing quite well, speed wise, under spinnaker. At noon today we have 404 nautical miles to our waypoint, which is situated between the Brazilian coast and the island of Fernando de Noronha, which is northeast of the city of Natal. As we get closer to the waypoint we should start picking up the effect of the Guiana Current, giving us a bit of a boost of speed up the coast towards the Amazon delta and the equator. We hope to reach the waypoint sometime on Monday.
Life on board is a bit monotonous with just a daily routine taking place and nothing exciting happening. This morning, whilst we were all busy launching the spinnaker, a small pod of dolphin were playing at the bows but, as we were busy with the spinnaker and not paying attention to their antics, they soon disappeared. They tend to stick around if they see us paying attention to them.
Terry was our baker again for the day and produced two fine loves of bread for us - photograph above. He better be careful or he is going to become the chief cook and bottle washer when he gets back home as he is producing some fine meals whilst on board. Tonight we go back to a fish dinner with Shaun cooking up Dorado fillets. He claims the actual meal he intends to prepare is a secret - the rest of us think he has no idea yet how he intends to cook the fish. Last night I whipped up a good old baked macaroni and cheese, which, even if I say so myself, was quite edible.
Last night I was on the 9pm to midnight watch, during which a Common Noddy tried to land on the forward starboard railing. The poor fellow tried a number of times with me lighting up the landing approach with my torch, but eventually gave up and disappeared into the pitch dark. We normally do get visitors of the feathered variety on this section up to the Amazon delta.
Well, just a quick happy birthday greeting to John (ZS1AGF), Dennis (ZS1AU), Hugo (ZS1HSF) and Stan (ZS1T), all of whom have just celebrated their birthdays over the past few days or will celebrate their birthdays in a day or two.
With that salutary note we all bid you well until the next blog report.
Today is a double happy hour! Well, what it actually is, is a day we put our clocks back another hour as we have changed time zones again. Six o'clock becomes five o'clock due to us passing the 22 degree 30 min. west meridian. We are thus now 2 hours behind UTC/GMT and 4 hours behind SAST (South African Standard Time). We have another two time zones to go as Tortola (and the rest of the Caribbean) is six hours behind SAST.
Last nights 'Fish Florentine' turned out quite well except there was no spinach. We did purchase some in Cape Town but somewhere along the line it went walkies - actually, it is most likely still in my freezer at home or has exploded in the back of my car - hopefully the former! So, Terry, like all good fellows from 'Down Under', made an adjustment to his recipe and used sliced potato instead. Then, to compensate for the change in our diet, he actually baked two loaves of bread today. One was a plain white and the other a cheese loaf. There was nothing left of the cheese loaf a half hour after it came out of the oven!
We had the spinnaker up most of today as we had some fairly constant winds out of the east with no rain squalls. Unfortunately we cannot keep it up permanently as we need to charge our batteries every six hours - they are just not keeping their charge! I am in contact with our Cape Town office and the factory to try and sort the problem out, but it looks like we will be using up all our diesel to get to Tortola.
Jack (AA3GZ), who runs the Maritime Mobile Net I am reporting to, reports that it was -10degC in Pennsylvania last night. We, on the other hand, have been having an average of 28 degrees C for the past few days. It looks like it will get hotter as we get up to the equator and into the Caribbean with a lot more humidity.
Not too much further to report today, so greetings to all out there from the four of us aboard Moorings 46#A1040.
Yesterday we had squalls all day but as the sun set in the west, as it seems to do each evening, the heavens cleared and we had a fantastic clear sky. I was on the 6pm to 9pm watch and sat in wonder watching the heavens. During the short period of dark and the end of my watch I managed to spot four satellites moving across the sky at incredible speed and a couple of 'shooting stars'. It was really quite magnificent as there was no moon.
During my radio sked with hams back in Cape Town we had a few dolphins come and visit us. Shaheda, Shaun and Terry watched them from the deck whilst I could see the occasional one swimming along in our wake. When we are off the Brazilian coast, we should have a lot more visits by these cleaver and fascinating mammals who tend to stay with the boat for long periods when they see us humans appreciating them from the deck. If they do not see us, they tend to disappear quite quickly.
Last night I received an SMS from Dave, the skipper of the 46' ahead of us. They are 650 nm ahead of us now and Dave reports very light winds from the east. He expects to get to Tortola on the 20th of December. I have sent an SMS to Richard, the skipper of the 46' a week or so behind us, but have received no reply as yet. He may have his satellite phone switched off, in which case he will not receive my message.
Dinner tonight is 'Fish Florentine' from the kitchen of head chef 'Terry the Ship Spotter'. He seems pretty confident in how to prepare and cook the dish so we drool at the prospect in anticipation. A full report will be posted here tomorrow for Kerry and other interested parties.
During my travels I have been collecting music at various stops and keeping it on my computer for loading onto my iPod. My music 'library' now contains 650 CD's of all genre of music and I have created different play lists which I can load onto my iPod, depending on my mood and what type of music I want to listen to. The little player is really a wonderful system and worth every cent spent on it. I still have about 500 CD's of music on a portable hard drive which I will have to sort and load onto the computer when I get home.
As we scoot along, under spinnaker, at just over six knots in an easterly breeze, I, together with Terry, Shaheda and Shaun, bid you well until the next blog report - John.
After leaving St Helena I started my "Ship Spotting" competition, the prize to the person who spots the most ships on the section of the leg from St Helena to a point just west of Barbados, being a bottle of good quality Caribbean Rum. This morning Terry started the ball rolling by sighting the first ship we have seen since the fishing vessels the day after leaving Cape Town. So unused to seeing another vessel, Terry's remark on seeing it was "What the f%@# is that?". A ship sir - aren't they a strange sight! He leads the competition with Terry 1, everybody else 0. Terry's ship is show above.
We all enjoyed our Dorado dinner yesterday evening, cooked perfectly by Shaheda with a little assistance by Shaun. Regarding the cooking duties aboard, please do not think that Shaheda is our chief cook and bottle-washer. Each evening's cooking duties rotates and we all have our bit to play in the galley. Tonight is my turn (it should have been last night) and we are having a break from the fish. The menu is chicken kebabs cooked in a light sweet curry sauce served with peas and baked potatoes with a blob of butter and topped with a blob of cream cheese.
It looks like we will not be doing any fishing for quite a time as the freezer is full and there is just no further space for anything else. So, to keep ourselves occupied, the reading goes on and the large pile of books is slowly being devoured by us literary geniuses (ha, ha).
Last night on my watch, we had clear skies for a few hours and with no moon, the stars were exceptionally bright and a delight to watch. With iPod plugged into my lugs I sat marvelling at the spectacle, highlighted by the occasional "shooting star". My watch tonight is from 6pm to 9pm and, if the skies clear, I will try and count the satellites crossing the sky just after sunset. Please note the "if the skies clear" bit - we are having overcast skies with rain squalls on a regular basis and last nights stars are the exception at the moment.
We have only one problem on board at the moment and that is that our batteries are not holding a charge as they should. This means that we are having to run our engines for quite a time each day to keep our voltages high on the batteries. We are thus doing a lot of motor-sailing but if we cannot find out why we are not getting the power into the batteries, I may have to make a 'pit-stop' in Fortaleza, Brazil, to purchase more diesel. We are working on the problem but, as yet, have not been able to find out why it is occurring.
So, from a power deficient boat, greetings from all aboard until the next report.