17/Dec/2009, 48 Miles East of Barbados.
Fifteen-days at sea, the last 48 Miles to Barbados! 2,045 Miles covered since Cabo Verde.
The "Iron Topsail" is getting good exercise today. Apart from a few hours during darkness, when there was enough wind to sail at 3.5 knots, we have been motoring for about a day now, with just a light breath of wind from astern. A shame the trade winds didn't hold the whole way there but we have thoroughly enjoyed 2 weeks of 15 to 30 knots of wind to get us within striking distance of our destination. Not so for many folk who check into the MadLantic Radio Net each morning and still have more than one-thousand miles to go, rather more than the average fuel tank can cope with - several vessels continue to drift and swim and roll with no prospect of decent wind for two or three days more.
Today we have been preparing for arrival with our "three-day housekeeping cycle". Water tanks are now full again. Clothes washed, bedding washed and drying in the warm afternoon sunshine. Spruce has been swept and washed through below. We are now ready to go a-visiting and playing when we arrive instead of clearing up and doing chores after the passage.
We expect to arrive at our waypoint off the Southern tip of Barbados at 0430 utc (0030 Barbados Time) it is then another 10 miles to round the South end of the island and into Carlisle bay (just south of Bridgetown), the anchorage. So, we should be there at about 0230 local time - our pilot book says the customs only work 0600-2200 so we won't be able to "clear-in" until the morning. Some Australian friends who arrived 2 days ago at 0300 radioed the port control and obtained permission to anchor in Carlisle Bay, they then did the "clearing-in" paperwork via a dinghy trip from the anchorage in the morning... that's our plan too... oh yes ... and to both be able to sleep at the same time once the anchor is again attached to the sea bed .... West Indies sea bed! :-)
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16/Dec/2009, 179 Miles East of Barbados.
Fourteen-days at sea and 179 Miles to Barbados! 1,913 Miles covered since Cabo Verde.
"Start the Iron Topsail" went the cry! Spruce has now run out of wind enough to keep up a decent speed of progress. We have only 6-8knots of wind from astern. At this stage we just want to get there and not meander about only 180 Miles offshore from our destination. So that wait to top off the fuel tanks at Mindelo has paid off in the long run, no shortage of fuel from this short range out to sea. We are now averaging enough speed to get to the Southern most point of Barbados by first light on Friday morning.
Before resorting to the engine we tried rigging the cruising chute ("Hoist the Pretty Sail" - Picture in the blog entry of that title in August) but with the light wind and swell it was just sawing back and forth on the rigging and would have become damaged in time. So... the infernal combustion engine with its noise, heat, fumes (with light wind behind) and, of course, propulsion will now play its part in arriving before the weekend.
A visit from a couple more "Masked Booby" birds today. An attempt by a passing Skua (not sure of the exact type) to move in on Booby's fishing patch of ocean was warded off with a pretty aggressive show of "On yer Bike Mate"... quite surprising as in Northern waters it is normally the Skuas are the thugs.
The fishing line is out... no need to tow the water-generator-propeller with the engine running ... so, hopefully a Tuna or Bonito for supper. We would like a change from Mahi-Mahi having taken three to four days to eat our way through the last one:-)
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15/Dec/2009, 287 Miles East of Barbados.
Thirteen-days at sea and 287 Miles to Barbados! 1,800 Miles covered since Cabo Verde.
Sue is practising carols on her ukele guitar ready for the Barbados beach party. In the tropical sun it just doesn't feel like Christmas at all. We heard "Clementine" on the radio net this afternoon (we last saw Australians, Stuart, Kyleigh, and daughter Sammy in La Gomera) they arrived a couple of days ago and have passed information back to other boats on the net. Yes, we can arrive out of office hours without being charged high overtime rates by customs and immigration! No, we don't have to take our yachts into the main harbour and tie up to a big ship jetty with nasty swell and things to bash the boat! These are but some of the topics that interest people before arrival. Two or three other boats will arrive tomorrow and hopefully "Spruce" will be there by Friday. The plan is to anchor in Carlisle Bay on the South West side of the island.
The wind has dropped, as was forecast, with yesterday's 24 hour average down to 129 Miles... and since noon today it has been less. We are still doing about 5 knots though, and even if we motored wouldn't go any faster in the large lazy Atlantic swell. Our latest weather information indicates it will be even lighter winds overnight so the engine may well be pressed into action before this night is out.
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13/Dec/2009, 686 Miles East of the Caribbean.
Eleven-days at sea and 569 Miles to Barbados! Closest other land is the French Guyana & Surinamese border, a close second at 570 Miles. So far, 1,508 Miles covered since Cabo Verde. Still running Ship's time on +3:00 from UTC (ie 3 hours before GMT), we'll change the last hour to Caribbean time (+4:00) upon arrival.
Lots of focus on the weather at the moment. Will the trade winds hold for the rest of the trip or will they die away? Information from Ray Warman shows we are West of where the wind will reduce to less than 10Kn. Last night, on the SSB radio, Herb Hilgenberg told us to keep moving fast and we might stay just ahead of the windless zone growing from the East. Other yachts on the MadLantic Net this morning, who are 600 Miles East of us, reported boat speeds down to only 2.5 knots. We have enough fuel to motor the last 400 Miles if needs must ... but the faithful infernal combustion engine is definitely better seen and not heard.
Otherwise, much of the same scene out here... waves, white horses (the wet variety), puffy clouds, flying fish and the occasional tropic bird searching for squid disturbed in our wake. Yes, there are some heavy thunder showers... Andy was hit by three during his night watch, Sue, lucky thing, had none.
Tonight, if the skies are clear, we should have a treat in store. One of natures firework displays, the Geminid Meteor Shower is predicted to reach its maximum on the 13th December. These meteors are supposed to originate in the direction of the star "Castor" in the constellation of "Gemini" (The Twins). There were certainly been a few more bright ones last night but this show has been known to produce 100 per hour. So, if your skies are clear head outdoors for a piece of non-light-polluted space and watch the hoped for display. (Rough direction is above the head of constellation "Orion" ie opposite way to his dangling sword.) Happy Star-Gazing!
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12/Dec/2009, 413 Miles East of Barbados.
Twelve-days at sea and 413 Miles to Barbados! 1,669 Miles covered since Cabo Verde.
A clear night with no rain and no nasty squalls. Our MadLantic Net group of boats are scattered pretty much all the way from Canaries to the Caribbean. Those east of us have no wind and those to the North had a lot of rain and squalls last night. So we count ourselves fortunate with the luck of the meteorological draw:-) On our Noon Net Danish yacht "Dania" has arrived in Tobago and is anchored in "Man 'O War Bay", don't you just love those names from the days of Swashbuckling and Daring-Do. The other Danes: "Ing" will reach Tobago tomorrow and "Avante" arrives in Barbados tomorrow. German friends, Bert and Marlene, aboard "Heimkehr", were arriving in St Lucia as Sue spoke with them on the SSB Radio at noon today. So these long, long, long sea voyages do end:-)
The Gemenid meteor shower, mentioned in yesterday's blog, was a pretty good show, Sue saw over 50 (some very bright with vapour trails) during her watch. Andy saw fewer but was trying to finish a good book:-)
This afternoon we were paid a visit by a French catamaran, "Bamboo". Our second vessel and also bound for Martinique. That now means we have seen more other yachts while crossing the Atlantic than we normally see doing the hop between the Isles of Scilly and Ireland. No barking dog this time, just four people waving cheerily while we had a chat via the VHF radio.
The Sprucettes are getting quite excited at the prospect of a new landfall in a few days time. Still hoping the wind holds but we are almost within range of our fuel capacity if the wind falls away altogether. Next installment - same place, same time (roughly) tomorrow.
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12/Dec/2009, 686 Miles East of the Caribbean.
Ten-days at sea and 686 Miles to Barbados! Closest land is still French Guyana. It will be Suriname tomorrow. So far, 1,384 Miles covered since Cabo Verde. Currently running Ship's time on +3:00 from UTC (ie 3 hours before GMT).
No nasty squalls last night. Hurrah!! We succeeded in being picked up by Herb Hilgenberg last night and received a personalised forecast. Herb warned us about convection activity brewing near our position so we moved 5 miles south and missed it all, we could see the ominous clouds on the horizon giving attention to where we might have been:-) Andy's Dad, Ray, is pulling a medley of weather data out of several sources, editing it and emailing it to us each day. Overall this is a much more efficient way of getting weather, uses less time on email downloads via the SSB radio. Thanks, Dad!
Herb is a well known HAM radio enthusiast who is also an accomplished weather forecaster. He runs an evening schedule on 12,359KHz under the user name of "Southbound II", where yachts can check-in at 1930UTC ... and for an hour he provides information on weather around the Atlantic... but in practise he does a lot more. A couple of nights ago the motor yacht "Barbara", some 300 Miles North West of Bermuda, called in with rudder failure and a rising gale. Herb spent the next half-hour liaising with the yacht, advising them how to do a jury-rig, what Latitude/Longitude to get towards to miss the worst of the cold-front hurtling towards them, and providing a link with the US Coast Guard and Bermuda Harbour authorities. So tonight we, along with many other yachts, will log in to "Southbound II", radio propagation allowing, to see what might be in store on a very local basis.
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