We have started heading towards a waypoint just west of Barbados and should be there sometime on Thursday night. From there, we have changed our route to head through the island chain south of St Lucia and then up the west coast of the island to the Moorings base in Marigot Bay. Basically, we are running out of fuel due to having to excessively charge our batteries and need to take on a few hundred litres of diesel to be able to complete the delivery.
This pit-stop will delay us a bit and we now have an ETA in St Maarten on the morning of 24 December and an ETA in Tortola on Christmas Day.
At present we are heading out north of the ITCZ but still experiencing heavy rain squalls and adverse winds - not heading us but more from behind than on the beam, as the forecasts have predicted.
Well, this has just been a short update to let everybody know where we are and what is happening. Regards from everybody on board, John.
At the moment we are all cooking from the heat and humidity. It is quite funny when talking to Jack (AA3GZ) on the net in the afternoon that he is freezing from the cold in Pennsylvania, with snow and ice around him. We are in the "Doldrums" while he is not!
For the past few days we have had very little wind and have been motoring. We expect to start picking up the wind again tomorrow (Monday) night and the forecast looks good with northeast trade winds well into the Windward Island chain. Let us hope that the ITCZ (the modern abbreviation for the old doldrums), remains more or less where it is and does not start moving north as we do. This can happen, as the ITCZ does fluctuate on a continual basis.
I still have an ETA for Tortola on December 24 but we still have to make a "pit-stop" in St Maarten to pick up load gear from the Moorings base before we sail the final 100 nautical miles to Tortola. It is going to be a bit of a juggle to get things right as I noticed that the 23rd is a Sunday - lets hope that the base manager in St Maarten has our gear ready when we arrive.
The title of this report also is linked with our dinner tonight - Mince Rotis, which Shaun and Shaheda are busy preparing (photograph above). They have been slaving away for some time and the trick, as far as I am concerned, is to produce the pancake in the limited area we have for such cooking. I must admit that the curry mince has smelt great whilst Terry and I have been drooling in anticipation.
Well, enough of that for now! Back to our ship spotting competition. At the moment the score card stands at Shaheda 5, Shaun 10, Terry 5 and myself 10. Over the next couple of days we again close with one of the shipping lanes before we change course and start heading north towards Barbados. We still have about four days to go before the competition ends and anything can happen to the score card.
For now, regards from all aboard until the next report.
At 01:30 (04:30 UTC) this morning we crossed that invisible line and sailed into the Northern Hemisphere. The only celebration that took place at the time was a whole lot of snoring from those who were off-watch. Terry, who was on watch, made himself a cup of tea!
So, when everybody was awake this morning, we had a bacon, sausage and egg breakfast with a glass of bubbly and orange juice - and gave old Neptune a sip as well. I also presented each crew member with a certificate commemorating the event as it is most unlikely that they will ever cross the equator aboard a vessel again.
So, at noon today we had a noon to noon run of 182 nautical miles - a little better than I expected considering we have had little wind over the last 12 hours. We now have 1673 nautical miles to go to Tortola.
Richard, on the 46' behind us, has had some problems. They were pushing their boat a bit hard to try and catch up to us and ripped their spinnaker at the clew. Being innovative and having an innovative crew on board, they have managed to repair the spinnaker (although nobody knows how long the repair will last) with Sikaflex, a very tough silicone sealant. They have dropped back from being just over 400 nm behind us to now just over 500 nm behind us. For David Heaslip, your son is fine and appears to be enjoying himself.
At the moment we have the spinnaker up and, at times, are doing over 9 knots with the help of the current that is giving us a 2 knot boost. However, all good things must come to an end and in a few days we will be loosing the current and have to go back to 'normal sailing'.
The bird life around us has been quite spectacular. Whilst on watch earlier, we had a large flock of birds near the boat in a feeding frenzy. There were obviously some large fish chasing some small fish, which the birds were also having for dinner. Talking of dinner and fish, guess what is on the menu for our dinner. Ah, you guessed correctly - we are having tuna fishcakes 'down under', which basically means that Terry is cooking us fishcakes.
On that fishy note I bid you well until the next blog report. Regards from Terry (the fishcake king), Shaheda, Shaun and myself, John (alias Neptune Rex).
Yesterday we clocked up 163 nautical miles noon to noon - today we managed 179 nautical miles noon to noon. During the night we had variable winds out of the east between 18 and 30 knots, which helped give us the boost we needed. The current is only flowing at about 1.5 knots but even this helped us along.
I was on watch between 9pm and midnight and during my watch saw three ships. One of them had the lights of a sailing vessel, which was moving along on a parallel course to us and overtook us at such great speed that it must have been big and motoring. Shaheda took the jackpot with ship spotting as we sailed just next to a fishing bank that had the lights of four fishing vessels - all four seen at the same time! So, our score card looks like this: Shaheda: 5 Shaun: 7 Terry: 2 John: 4 More scores in the next blog report.
Last night was also a bumpy one as the seas built up quite quickly with the wind. When I woke up this morning, my mussels were sore and stiff - they had obviously been awake whilst I was asleep, fighting to keep me from rolling around in our world of perpetual motion.
The new moon was visible for the first few hours of the night and this should help us with visibility once we get near the Caribbean as, at present, the nights are very dark and at time it is difficult to determine where the sky ends and the horizon is. The only light has been the fantastic starry sky which has been an absolute wonder to watch when on night watch. The amount of 'shooting stars' I saw last night was amazing. This morning the SFI had shot up into the 90's to prove my theory that the two are related.
This afternoon we turn our clocks back another hour as we have passed the 37deg 30min west meridian, taking us now 3 hours behind UTC/GMT and 5 hours behind SAST - if you live in some other part of the world, please do the time calculations yourself! We are also slowly getting close to the equator and have put a bottle of bubbly into the refrigerator in preparation for that occasion.
Well, as Shaheda bakes fresh bread, Shaun is at the helm, Terry is studying electronics for his ham licence and I finish off this blog report, we all wish you well until the next report. John.
As you will gather, we made our waypoint off the Brazilian coast last night - actually the early hours of the morning at 00:15 local time. The approach was marked by a number of ships being spotted and the glow on the horizon of the port city of Natal. Also, the number of aircraft spotted was dramatic - I saw seven aircraft during my watch.
On the ship spotting side, the following are the sightings as at noon today: Shaheda: 1 Shaun: 6 Terry: 2 John: 1 I think that Shaun is steeling some of Shaheda's sightings for himself, just as he has done some 'spotting' on Terry's watch. We have a long way to go and the sightings will change as we progress up the coast.
Again last night we had a visitor in the form of another Common Noddy. He was on his perch when I came on watch at midnight and seemed quite content to snore away, marking his presence on the mainsail cover. Just another cleaning job for us when we get to the Caribbean.
The weather forecast for the next few days is winds out of the east or east-southeast at 19 knots. This wind strength is in a little 'window' where it is just too strong for the spinnaker but just not strong enough for the jib to push us along at a great speed of knots. So, at the moment we are averaging 7 knots but could be doing 8 or 9 knots. It is just one of those little quirks of nature that a person has to live with. An extra 2 knots in wind strength would have this boat flying on jib alone!
Thanks for the Cape Town Hams who have taken the time to have a chat with us on 14 237.5 KHz. Please remember that I am only on frequency on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 16:00 Zulu due to our battery problems on board.
All the best from Shaun, Shaheda, Terry and myself, John.