12/14/2011, Canaries to Grenada
We had the most remarkable Zen experience last night. Imagine this; you are surfing down a wave at 11 knots listening to AC/DC with the spinnaker up. The catamaran feels like a Porsche at that speed as you are focusing on hitting the next wave as it goes by - or in the words of George Surfer Bean - Linking waves. The waves are about 10 feet tall at their peaks so there is lots of fun to be had if you hit it right. Then out of the corner of your eye you see something jump. I ducked at first fearing a wayward kamikaze, but to my surprise they are too big. Then it happens again right in front of the boat - mind you I am surfing down a wave at 12 knots at this point. 10 dolphins jump at exactly the same time from the top of a wave and land in perfect unison in the trough of the next. Like something out of Marine World, they did it again. I screamed to the crew to come on deck! Now mind you that I have seen lots of dolphins from Fiji to Turkey, but never have I seen so many jump like this. A few of our new finned friends decided that surfing our bow wave was more fun than the dinner they were chasing, so they hung around for a bit. Eric Warren Miller Mears took this opportunity to grab the fish eye and race to bow to get some footage. Then, if that was not enough Eric lies on his back on the trampoline to get some good shots of the spinnaker. The trampoline is a great place to lie while you are at anchor, but mind you we are doing 11 knots now. Then as if all good deeds cannot go unpunished, he was greeted with a full frothy eruption from below - That will look great at the iMax. Luckily he put on the waterproof housing before he ran forward.
I am happy to announce we have a winner for the best joke award by unanimous decision - courtesy of Kim Bean - who is also an accountant! 3 engineers and an accountant, sailing in the middle of the Atlantic, stare dejectedly at the broken generator and scratch their heads. The civil engineer says, I think we can fix this thing if we build scaffolding and lift it out. The chemical engineer says, I can mix these ingredients from the galley, use my process drawings to pipe it over to the generator, and then blow it up. The electrical engineer says, we have to re-wire the whole electrical panel and re-solder all the connections. The accountant says, you are all making this too difficult. Amazon has one on sale with free super-saver shipping. Now, tell me what is the mailing address here?
PS. we are 950 miles way from Rum and Cokes!
12/13/2011, Canaries to Grenada
The big winds and big waves have now started to moderate but the squalls have increased. The main is still down since we have plenty of wind from the east. The boat really likes sailing without the main as long as you are going downwind. We put up the spinnaker today to get a bit more speed during the daylight hours. We did 180 miles in the last 24 hours and are 1145 miles from Grenada. Eric is driving right now in a downpour as the rest of us take refuge below. The temperature has risen to 79 degrees in the cabin and the water temperature is at 75 degrees.
Last night was calm so we went back to watching a movie after dinner. George picked Quantum of Solace for our evening entertainment. Jamie made his famous pasta with red sauce - a boat favorite. He spices up a couple of jars or Ragu with some sautéed garlic and onion, chili powder, a touch of sugar, and a splash of red wine. Man it is sure tasty.
We have been fortunate to have a bright moon at night for the last week. It is really nice to be able to see at night instead of using a flashlight. The moon has brought up an unusual number of flying fish all around us. We walk the decks every morning to throw them back overboard. Several Kamikazes have flown right into the cockpit and hit something before landing on the floor. No one has been hit yet, but we have a ways to go.
12/12/2011, Canaries to Grenada
We crossed the halfway point today on our way to setting another great 24 hour run - 192 miles in the last 24 hours with 1300 miles to go. Our new territory has brought other obstacles to the table- squalls! Unfortunately squalls only come at night and bring 40 knot winds and driving rain. Since squalls rotate opposite of the prevailing wind you get some really fun wind shifts that go full circle as they pass.
We have been traveling at 8 to 12 knots for the last two days, and I have to tell you it is not natural. We have the constant vibration of surfing with the sound roaring waves all around us. Eric caught the mother of all waves this morning. Jamie and George were in their bunks forward and I was making coffee. Before we went over the falls I could hear the sound of a freight train approaching us from behind. Then the boat was thrown straight up in the air and we tipped forward as if to jump off the high dive. The boat felt like it was free falling straight down, down, down into the abyss, that is, until we hit the wave in front of us. The jolt felt like we had collided with a Greek fishing boat as we plowed through the wave and it broke over the cabin top. I guess this is how catamaran's pitch pole I thought. Needless to say I got a few grounds in the Peets coffee this morning. George and Jamie likened the experience to walking on walls.
Eric brought a very cool HD video camera that has a fisheye lens on the trip. It is the kind of camera that you can strap to the back of a race car or on your helmet. So far he has taken some spectacular footage of us surfing our way to the Caribbean. Some of the best shots are from the bow before we surf down a wave. We will get RJ to edit the video and post it to Utube when we get back. Maybe Warren Miller will pick it up? I can see the title now Into liquid with three engineers and the accountant ...
12/11/2011, Canaries to Grenada
Well I guess I jinxed us with the Otto discussion. The waves and wind have built up to a point where old Otto cannot keep up with the sea state. So we have been taking turns hand steering every two hours. Our new 24 hour record is 203 miles and we are 1511 away from Grenada. It just occurred to me that I have never gone over 200 miles on a sailboat in 24 hours...yahoo! Tomorrow we get to have our halfway party as we get even closer to the Caribbean.
In order to keep the boat sailing safely we have set up a watch schedule to sail day and night. The night schedule is the most difficult. Since we have four guys we have divided the shifts into 2 hours on and 6 off. The Civil has the 12am to 2am, the Accountant has the 2am to 4 am, the Chemical has the 4am to 6am and then the Electrical. We have been very fortunate to have winds from our stern for most of the trip. Our Automatic Identification System (AIS) is our best friend at night. All commercial ships transmit their position over the airwaves and their position shows up on our chart plotter. So far we have seen very few ships, but we are always watching.
The good thing about going this fast, other than getting to Grenada earlier, is that we are having a competition for who can get the most miles in 2 hours. The Civil smugly had the record until the Account edged him out with an astounding 18.2 miles. That is an average of just over 9 knots. You can definitely water ski behind Azure II right now. The bad thing about going this fast is that we can no longer comfortably watch movies. We had a run of 6 nights in a row where we would watch a movie just after dinner. So far we have covered Animal House, Into Liquid, and others as we swap movie night choices. I am sure Captain Ron will make an appearance before the end of the trip.
12/10/2011, Canaries to Grenada
The wind has continued to build over the last day and night and is currently at 25 knots. The good news is that we are really flying the bad news is that the waves are getting really big. We did 177 miles over the last 24 hours and are 1714 miles from Grenada.
The boat is doing great but the size of the waves has caused some concerns about the autopilot (Otto). The thought of hand steering across the Atlantic is a scary proposition. We actually like to hand steer on the Cal 40 when we are in racing mode. You can always steer the boat faster by hand steering than using Otto. But now we are in cruising mode and comfort is king. Both Jamie and George have shared many stories about hand steering up and down the California coast. George actually hand steered all the way to Cabo on the Ha Ha. George says he can get used sailing across the Atlantic, if he only has to use two fingers
All this Otto discussion prompted Eric to embark on a mission to tighten the chain on the Autopilot drive unit. Jamie hand steered while Eric went to work with wrenches, pliers and a mission. Ten minutes later we told Jamie to give it a try. He yelled back promptly that the boat is rounding up, it doesn't work! I yelled back to Jamie that he only had 1714 miles to hand-steer. More wrenches, screw drivers, and a determined Eric found that one of the wires had come loose on the computer - leave it to the Electrical Engineer.
I awoke from my afternoon nap to relieve Eric at 4:00 pm as usual. I looked up at him and he had this big grin on his face from ear to ear. I asked him what he was doing - he said hand steering at 10 knots. Man this is fun! I guess there is some satisfaction in surfing a 47 foot catamaran down some pretty big waves! Jamie got the record today again with a a 12.8, George is in second with an 11.7.
12/09/2011, Canaries to Grenada
The wind came up around 4am this morning so we are starting to make some good time. We are the only boat that we have talked to that has actually sailed all the way from the Canaries. It would be really cool to make it all the way across the Atlantic without engaging the engine. Azure II made 141 miles over the last 24 hours and we are 1892 miles from Grenada.
You would be happy to know that we are all clean. Yesterday was a nice calm day so we were able to make water, do some laundry as well as take showers. We are fortunate to have a washing machine on board so most of the work was done for us. We were careful to use lots of close pins when we are underway so we do not lose our shorts. Speaking of shorts, that is the norm now. We have picked up another degree and it is getting nicer every day!
We have heard from lots of boats on the radio that have spotted whales and dolphins. Eric woke me up this morning and said to come up quick to see the spouts! I scrambled out of bed and rushed up to gaze at the beautiful morning sea. Eric said to look over there, look over there! After five minutes of staring it was time to make coffee. Eric is standing watch with his camera now to prove the sightings