02/07/2012, Contadora, Las Perlas, Panama
Contadora has been like a breath of fresh air to us - it has been exactly what we had hoped sailing the world would be like. The anchorage is beautiful, the water is clear, and there's plenty to explore ashore. We started the day today early with the inaugural World ARC hash. There were about 30 of us who set off at 7.15 this morning on a route around the island which had been set out with great care by Paul and Joel of the World Cruising Club. We completed the run/jog/walk in an hour or so and had a lovely breakfast overlooking the bay. Since the tide was so low we couldn't contemplate hauling our dinghy down to the water, so we set off again to explore the rest of the island on foot. Then is was back to the beach for a swim, out to the boat to finish a few jobs, have lunch and an afternoon snooze. We're just in a small internet cafe now waiting for this evening's prize-giving dinner for the first leg (from St Lucia to San Blas). The only prize we could expect is perhaps a booby prize for the most equipment failures on one boat! Our next update will be from the North Pacific Ocean, as we start our sail to Galapagos tomorrow at noon, local time. We are just charging up the yellow brick, so you should be able to follow our progress on the World ARC site.
02/02/2012, Balboa, Panama
I am in an internet cafe in Albrook Mall, Panama City while Heather gets her hair done, so thought I'd take the opportunity to do a quick blog. We arrived here on Sunday afternoon after a wonderful transit of the Panama Canal. It really was one of the best things I've ever done; I even looked back at the photos from the transit I did with Mum & Dad on the Ellinis in 1975; the canal is pretty much identical, right down to the "mules", the little stainless steel trains they use to pull the big ships through.
We had an advisor on board, Carlos was his name and he was brilliant. It was great to have someone along who had been through it before and knew exactly what to do and when. The most impressive thing when we started the transit was the sheer scale of the locks. This was accentuated by how relatively small our little boat is; it really was awe inspiring.
We have been anchored outside the La Playita marina since we arrived, which is a bit of a bouncy anchorage. We actually dragged our anchor yesterday which was a little hair raising, but the wind had really picked up so no great surprise. We are heading out tonight and leaving the boat alone, so hopefully she will stay put!
The saga of our broken generator continues. We have no idea how long we will be here as a result. If they do the sensible thing and supply a replacement immediately from Miami we will hang around until it is installed, which might take a week or two. This would mean missing Las Perlas, but we should still arrive in Galapagos in time, which is really the most important thing. If they play silly buggers and insist on shipping from Germany, we can't really wait that long (or afford the shipping cost!) so we will have to head out sooner and just live without a generator for the rest of our voyage. It really has put a nasty taste to everything for us lately; so disappointing.
We have however made the most of our time in Panama so far. We did the city tour on Monday and a jungle tour on Tuesday, which included a ride across the lake and up creeks in their dug-out canoe, plus a swim in a jungle pool with a waterfall and a delicious lunch of river fish and plantain, cooked the traditional way. It was all a bit touristy, but we had a fabulous time nonetheless.
We are heading out tonight with a local Panama expat; he is a friend of friends of ours in Dubai. It will be great to get the insiders view of the city. We really like it here so far, so we will probably want to stay longer after a visit to a nice restaurant and a drink at a Cuban bar!
01/27/2012, Sherlter Bay Marina
Blog 1 - 10 January - We're off at last!
It's been a long time in the planning but we are finally off on our circumnavigation!
We had a wonderful start and after an afternoon and a night on white sails being very prudent, we have dusted down the Parasailor and we are sailing along nicely. We are just north of the Columbian border at the moment, but a long way off shore. Last night was just magnificent as we left the Parasailor up and made excellent progress. The wind is said to increase closer to the land, so we will probably drop back to white sails only again tomorrow.
It has been a few days now since leaving St Lucia. It has taken us a little while to send emails and update the blog because with just the two of us on board there hardly seems time! Jonathan is having a lot of trouble getting to sleep, so he is quite tired. Hopefully once we settle into the lifestyle he can rest more. We are working a 4-hour watch cycle which seems to be working okay, but we may need to adjust it somehow to ensure we both get plenty of rest.
The yellowbrick tracker is up and running now, so you should be able to see where we are and where the rest of the fleet is quite easily. We are apparently the slowest monohull in the fleet and our handicap reflects that, so don't expect us to be anywhere near the front of the pack!
Blog 2 - 11 January - Sleepless in matilda
It just shows how tired we must be that we forgot to report the most exciting news of all in our last blog; yesterday we broke our all-time 24-hour distance record. In fact we seem to have broken it a couple of times since leaving St Lucia, which is great. We made 167 nautical miles in the 24 hours to 11am yesterday, which is better than we were doing in dead calm seas under motor before we arrived in St Lucia. We are definitely getting to know matilda better, but the good winds and currents don't hurt either!
We are still having trouble getting enough sleep, especially me (Jonathan). I'm not quite sure what is keeping me going at the moment because it certainly isn't sleep! I'd better head off and see if I can catch a few zeds. We will also take a look at our watch system and see if we can work something out which works better for us.
We have been taking part in the daily radio nets; Heather had a chat with the rest of the fleet today. We're really looking forward to dropping the anchor in San Blas, going snorkelling and getting some decent sleep!
Blog 3 - 13 January - Waltzing Matilda all Night Long - Where For Art Though Autohelm
Lots of fun and games aboard since Jonathan's last email - just in case we were in danger of getting bored.
I (Heather) was on the helm Wednesday evening when the steering jammed completely. Fortunately we switched onto the Autohelm and it kicked in immediately. That was odd we thought (although I suspect Jonathan thought it was something daft I had done). A little bit later the Autohelm reported a problem and refused to play anymore, so we took over hand steering for the rest of the night while we looked into the problem. What joy - 2 hour stints at the wheel all night long, I needed an upper body workout (and if anyone says this is what we should be doing anyway, I challenge them to have a go). By the way did I mention that we have 30 knots winds with lively seas at them moment?
The following day we carried out a few experiments, with the emergency tiller at the ready (just in case). The Autohelm appeared to be working but with some rather odd noises coming from its little box. I would add that we cannot use our Hydrovane system at the moment as, after consultation with the Company, it appears to have a faulty rudder that insists on steering us to port no matter how hard we plead.
Yesterday afternoon however the Autohelm again decided to work intermittently but when we tried hand steering that was also being jammed with alarming frequency - a decision had to be made. To Jonathan's credit he worked it out that it had to be the Autohelm that was the root cause and that it had to be disconnected. A hell of a call because if the steering was faulty, the Autohelm was the only thing that could get it going again. With precision timing, Jonathan went down below , Leatherman in hand to disconnect, as Heather turned over and took over. Thankfully he was right - what a man I married.
So yet another night doing 2 hours stints at the helm in very lively seas. I am however, becoming very proud of how I can surf Tilly down a wave - I swear I got the best part of 15 knots out of her once but Jonathan tells me thats impossible so it must be the mind playing tricks (I definitely, absolutely, cross my heart, got 12 knots more than once).
Its at times like this though that you are really glad you are with the World ARC. The SSB net has been incredibly supportive and its clear we are already watching out for each other. Just to give an example, Herve on 'Ruby', a French boat nearby, contacted us to offer support and that they all had 6 fingers crossed for us, when Harald from 'Sophie', a German boat, chimed in to offer same and that they also had 4 fingers crossed. Just makes you wonder what the EU could achieve with the same spirit of co-operation and friendship.
Must get on, we continue to be both healthy and happy, Jonathan even managing to grab some more sleep. Bye for now Heather and Jonathan
PS from Jonathan - another distance record broken this morning as we covered 176 nautical miles to 7am!
Blog 4 - 15 January - Arriving San Blas
It's been seven days almost to the minute since we left St Lucia and we are now about 15 miles from the finish line in San Blas. I am still defying biology by running on very little sleep; I seem to have managed about 2 to 3 hours per day since we left. We have figured out a watch system which will work for us going forward though, so we will use that on the next long leg to Galapagos.
On Friday night we had a fair amount of wind and sea, with the stronger gusts pushing 40 knots. We tag-teamed on the steering in two hour watches due to our malfunctioning Autohelm. This seemed to work well, although it was a bit tiring as you can imagine. We have been very impressed with the way Matilda handles; she seems to love the stronger winds and feels very secure in the cockpit. We had a couple of big waves hit us from side-on which took us by surprise (you often get occasional waves running across the swell). These waves shot a lot of water into the air and we sometimes got a little wet, but that was the worst of it.
I also seem to have conquered my lifelong motion sickness. It's strange, but I haven't suffered at all across the Atlantic or the Caribbean Sea. Even when below on the computer or reading in the bunk in a bumpy sea I seem to be able to cope even better than Heather, which is a complete role reversal.
After the big night Friday night, yesterday the wind almost died completely, leaving only the big swell to bob us around. We had a worrying hour or two where it looked as though we would be arriving in San Blas after nightfall tonight. This would have meant staying at sea for another night to enter during daylight; we are a bit conservative as we don't have much experience entering strange anchorages. The wind picked up nicely yesterday though, and we are zipping along again now at 6 or 7 knots. "Working on a Dream"is gaining on us fast, but I think we can squeeze across the finish line ahead of her!
We're both looking forward to a swim/snorkel and a beer/wine at sunset this evening. Karsten from "Gunvor XL"described the anchorage for us on yesterday's radio net (the daily nets have been brilliant). He said the water temperature is 26 degrees, the fish are colourful, and don't bother trying to contact the other boats which had arrived as he could see them drinking beer on the beach - sounds perfect!
Our next blog will be sent from the anchorage, and please wish us luck. This will be the first time we have anchored on Matilda after overhauling her windlass, buying new chain and replacing the anchor shackles. How hard can it be? Jonathan
Blog 5 - 16 January - First Night at Anchor
We crossed the finish line at 15.05 St Lucia time (14.05 local time) on Sunday 15 January with no engine hours. Hurrahh!! All of the rally legs are timed in the Departure port's local time, so we have been working to St. Lucia time all the way across.
We're feeling great after a brilliant night's sleep at anchor; even had an aperitif with another yacht from the fleet, Ruby yesterday evening to celebrate our arrival. Washing and repairs today along with a little exploring if there's time.
We dropped our anchor at about 1700 yesterday (for the first time ever) and it seems to have held overnight well enough. Heather is just getting some water on the boil for our poached eggs and smoked salmon on toast for breakfast - this is the life! We will try and take a photo of the achnorage once breakfast is ready and load it up to our Sailblogs gallery when we get to WIFI. It really is like a Robinson Crusoe paradise island here.
The yellowbrick stays on for the whole circumnavigation, so you should be able to see our potterings around the San Blas Islands over the next few days. We have a fleet get-together on Wednesday, then we will clear customs and Immigration for Panama in Porvenir Island about 20 January or so. Shelter Bay marina at the entrance to the Panama Canal is about a day's sail from here, and we need to be there by 26 January (Australia Day!!) for our transit on 29 January. We are scheduled to raft up in threes; the other HR42, Trompeta, will be the other side of Sapphire II for our transit.
Blog 6 - 21 January - A Week in San Blas
The World ARC rendezvous at Chichime was a great afternoon. It was my first 'Pot Luck' get together and we were a bit short on fresh supplies, but my pizzas seemed to go down well. The local Kuna put on a wonderful, if exhausting, display of dancing, and the handicrafts were impressive. The ladies all wearing their finest and their children beyond cute.
There was also coconut rum punches right out of the shell, so it all got started quickly and soon listening to some classic tales of the, what I am sure will become, legendary Caribbean crossing. My vote for the best one came from Glamorous Galah, it had everything, blokes up for a surf adventure, dramatic mid crossing breakages and an unexpected early morning cockpit bath when they were swamped by a wave.
Quote of the day from Caroline of 'Peat Smoke'. "I love the Kuna, its the first time I have ever felt tall"
The next day we headed off to a tiny customs outpost on the island of Porvenir to register with local immigration. The island is in the process of upgrading their tiny runway, but it does boast a basic hotel, a restaurant and the government building and that is pretty much it. Everything had to be typed out on an old electronic typewriter so was a bit of a laborious process, but fortunately we were at the front of the queue having been advised to get there when they opened at 7am.
The anchorage was quite tight on a very windy day, so being the newbies to anchoring like this we were a mite nervous. However we had enough courage after formalities had been done to dinghy over to the nearby island/village of Wichibe where there was rumoured to be a mini-market. We parked up at the concrete wharf-ette next to the dug-out canoes and small sailing boats, feeling like we had been dropped into another world. Everyone was very friendly though and we soon managed to procure some basic groceries. The village/island itself is made up of attractive tightly packed palm frond constructed houses with a large central meeting house. The Kuna are a matriarchal society and it did very much appear that the women were ruling the roost, although difficult to tell as most of the blokes seemed to be out on their boats or by the wharf drinking beer.
After that we headed off to the Eastern Lemon Keys and are now anchored between a series of small palm tree covered islands, one of which even has a restaurant of sorts. The snorkeling is reasonable, although we have spotted a few scorpion/lion fish, which is bad news as they have only relatively recently been spotted in the Caribbean Sea and are causing havoc with the local sea life. Last night we met up with another World ARC boat, Southern Cross, for dinner at the restaurant. It consisted of a bar in a palm hut with makeshift tables and chairs (mostly sawn logs) underneath the palm trees looking out to the other islands and boats. In other words it had more ambiance than a place that had millions spent on it. The menu was limited, even more so with our lack of Spanish/Kuna, but we had the freshest sea food and a bottle of red at a very reasonable price.
Most of the other World ARC boats have already headed off to Shelter Bay as they have their canal transit before us (we are in the last batch). However as we need to sort out the autopilot, another Hydrovane rudder to collect, our generator keeps cutting out AND we are picking up a new dinghy (the old one that we inherited just cannot cut it), not to mention the provisioning for the Pacific crossing, we feel we ought to get there with a few days in hand. In addition, and I am rather ashamed to admit this, we get easily bored of palm trees and sand with not much to do - I know this is hard to understand for those suffering the winter weather - we are definitely the undeserving!
As mentioned before, we will be in the last transit, rafted against Sapphire II (the largest boat in the fleet) with the other HR42 'Trompeta' on the other side - why do I have the feeling we are there as glorified fenders...
01/06/2012, St. Lucia
It's been a year in the dreaming and preparation, but we set off around the world on Sunday at noon. We will be back here in St. Lucia, after 15 months of heading west, in April 2013. In fact we have already started planning some of the things we will do when we get back. We have had a busy time here working on the boat, but we have managed to enjoy the island (see the galleries).
We still have the hectic last few days provisioning and nerves - it seems so much to do in the last few days with so little time. The worries are a little different this time - they are more to do with finding decent anchorages in a remote location with charts that should not be entirely trusted, so we will have to rely a lot on local pilotage books and eyesight when we get to the San Blas Islands. However Matilda is a strong gal and should not have too many issues even if there is an odd unmarked reef! But we are sure it will not get to that.
Out Panama transit has already been booked for 29 January - really looking forward to that. We will be in groups rafted together with other WARC boats so that takes a lot of the stress out of the operation. The photos following our transit should be good!
We should be able to blog again properly in Panama (just over a week from now) but in the meantime we will be blogging to the World ARC website and using our 2elf5 email address.
12/16/2011, Cap Maison Resort, St Lucia
Yesterday was our tenth wedding anniversary, so we decided to stay at a posh hotel, the Cap Maison resort in Gros Islet. We had a little trouble with our room initially, but the wonderful staff here upgraded us to a huge apartment with its own pool, so we've been very happy indeed. It has been an anniversary to remember (see the photo gallery) but now it's time to get back to the marina.
We have quite a number of jobs to get through on matilda before we can set off on the World ARC on 8 January. We will probably stay at the marina for the duration, just to ensure we get everything done.
We will tour the island a little more just to see the towns and do a rainforest canopy zip-wire tour, but the rest of the Caribbean will have to wait until 2013. We should be back here after the World ARC in April 2013, and we should have plenty of time on our hands to tour the Caribbean properly. We will try to send another blog before we head off, otherwise we will blog as we cross the Caribbean Sea using the ARC website blog page as we did across the Atlantic.
11/23/2011, Crossing the Atlantic
Blog 1 - 23 November 2011
Many apologies to all who have been waiting for an update, it took us a bit to work it all out and the pactor modem (that isn't a medical complaint but a method of sending stuff) decided it doesn't like offshore.
The start line was an amazing experience, although it was hard to concentrate on the sailing when there was so much to look at and the 'Committee' Spanish Naval vessel sending us off with what we hoped was friendly fire. Gran Canaria certainly did themselves proud with their marvellous hospitality and send off.
So far the gods have been friendly with much better wind that we had a right to expect. However, as predicted we are all pretty exhausted with the watch system - as much for working it out as the wee hours themselves. Jonathan, being the fiendishly efficient skipper that he is, gave us all colour coded charts that corresponded with the days and hours we are on watch, standby and galley slave duties. It is indeed a glorious sight watching us clambering out of our bunks squinting at our charts trying to work out whether we should be steering, making breakfast or cleaning out the heads. Special sympathy should go to our Spanish crew member who is not only having to work out these strange Australian/British seafaring ways but also having to get used to ridiculously early dinners. I think he also fears our cooking as he is showing a suspicious amount of interest and time in trying to catch a fish.
Must get on as I hear the call of the washing up. Many thanks for all your good wishes and emails.
Heather (on behalf of Jonathan, Mike and Christian)
Blog 2 - 25 November 2011
Things are trucking along here pretty well, having some great winds, just wish we could find a night rig we could be happy with when dealing with them. The parasail is first option, but it is a bit like watching the last scene in a Benny Hill episode trying to take it down, so have not quite had the nerve to run it through the night yet until we get a bit more experience.
The technology now seems to have decided to work (touch a lot of wood) - or we are understanding it better (when all else failed we resorted to the instruction manuals - that's how bad things got).
Christian's desperate efforts to avoid another British crew meal paid off yesterday when he at last worked out a method for catching a fish as opposed to an un-landable sea monster. The rest of the boys then thoroughly enjoyed themselves trying to look manly wielding knives and rum to subdue him (the fish not Christian). He then cooked up a storm (as he was 'chef of the day' aka galley slave) which also gave us the added entertainment of witnessing Mike's theatrical hiccup attacks when he deals with a highly chillied meal - so life here is pretty good.
We ran the parasail all day yesterday and Jonathan, under the pretext of checking out the top of the mast, took his camera and got some wonderful shots that we will try and post in due course. It is the first time he has been up at sea and the mast steps look to have been a great investment (although he was harnessed on as well).
Must get on, we have our SSB radio call soon where we get to chat to all the other boats in our group and get depressed at how well they are doing. Yesterday there was also a limerick challenge, where we got an honourable mention thanks to Mikes efforts, but fear we will not do as well in the best joke about the French challenge today as all our jokes are either too dirty or will cause a diplomatic incident.
Cheers Heather, Jonathan, Mike and Christian
Blog 3 - 28 November 2011
For the past two days we have been getting great winds in exactly the direction we need for St Lucia, touch wood that it continues. However, still waiting for the boredom and well rested feeling that was promised - way too much has been happening and there is always a heap of stuff to do.
Yesterday morning there was a bit of excitement when the pole was found to have a great gash in it around the beak (where the rivets are) following various ingenious modifications to the Parasailor set up. We had already decided to abandon this particular configuration but not before the damage had occurred. For a while it was feared that we would have to abandon poling out altogether, but fortunately a way was worked out of securing it safely and it now seems stronger than ever - so we are all feeling very proud of ourselves (hopefully not before the fall). However, Jonathan is clearly having problems switching off and rushed up on deck in the wee hours this morning convinced that the pole had snapped, which came as news to Mike who was on watch. We have put it down to late night cheese before bedtime.
Another fish was caught on Saturday (another Mahi Mahi) but requested fishing stop for a while so we can get some of the stuff eaten that is in danger of going off in the fridge. Last night managed to do a full roast dinner, not easy as we have the Atlantic swell roly poly's and our cooker isn't the biggest. Now that is a Masterchef challenge I would pay to see, Gordon Bloody Ramsey hah!
I have been feeling a bit uneasy that for the first time I may not be the most hirsuit(?)(can girls be this?) member of the crew. There appears to have been an unspoken beard growing contest leading to a definite Neandrathal feel about the place. However, I am pleased to report that yesterday Christian cracked and shaved. Just hoping Jonathan goes the same way soon, I have yet to meet the lass who likes the prickly kiss.
Maybe because no boats have appeared in sight for a few days, today has been deemed washing day. The foredeck has taken on the appearance of a Chinese laundry (at the risk of insulting Chinese launderers)and, due to the colourful taste our crew have in gentlemens boxers etc, Matilda is looking better dressed than when we had all the flags up in Las Palmas.
Thanks for all the emails received, they are really appreciated and we really look forward to the morning download.
Blog 4 - 30 November 2011
Today should see us reaching the half-way point in our journey, which for us is 1,450 nautical miles out from St Lucia. We currently have 1,477 nm so we should reach half way in a few hours time. We have the gin and tonic on ice, and I've brought a cigar along for the occasion. We have been a dry boat (i.e.no alcohol aboard) for the whole trip so far; we're all feeling very virtuous.
We had a spinnaker guy line snap yesterday quite dramatically, but it was late in the day so it was easily snuffed and stowed. We have the spinnaker up again today, so we're romping along at 7 to 8 knots SOG on 19 knots of wind. It's quite a rolly ride though, as the swell is coming directly from astern.
We haven't bothered fishing in the past few days since we have a couple of beef roasts and some other meat which has thawed and needs eating. We'll get the line back in the water once all the fresh meat has gone.
It's an unusual life aboard, sometimes even a little surreal when the tiredness sets in late at night. We have someone on watch 24 hours a day, so there are some fairly quiet and reflective times for each of us overnight. Although the 20 knot winds and rolling swell keep it interesting, and keep us alert.
If all goes well, we should be in St Lucia in just over a week from now, so we can upload our photographs and provide a little more detail about the crossing.
Later on the same day...
We've just had our half-way celebration involving a G&T or two and a nice big cigar for me. Mike cooked up an amazing dinner with a distinctly Caribbean flavour, so we're all in great spirits for the remaining 1,450 miles to go.
We had a call from another ARC yacht which has been trying to catch us all day apparently, and their sails are just disappearing over the horizon to our stern, so everything is going very well indeed.
Thanks to all who have been sending us emails; it's great to hear from you all the way out here in the middle of the Atlantic!
We have our night rig up now, and we're settling down for another roster of night duty for each of us. We had caught some jetsam on our Duogen (a water-powered generator we drag behind the boat to generate electricity)which had fouled the prop, so hopefully we will get a little more boat speed now.
Blog 5 - 1 December 2011
It's been a few days of rock n roll aboard matilda. Our night time rig is a bit rolly, and we have had winds over night of up to 26 knots and a fair swell surfing through from astern. Last night was one of the best night sails I've had; we had a squall pass through us and clean the decks with a fair amount of rain and some nice strong winds. matilda performs far better than we had ever expected - she's certainly not the lumbering tub we had feared she might be. Even compared to our little racing boat in Dubai she is performing very well indeed.
We've decided to head a little further South before making a bee line for St Lucia to see if we can pick up some more favourable winds and currents. Unlikely, but what the hell, it's a plan...
Christian will be getting out the fishing line again today to try his luck off the stern. We have caught a couple of fish so far, which Mike and Christian have prepared and cooked to perfection. Now all of our bought meat has thawed out and been used or thrown, it's time for a little more fish.
We're expecting a few days of favourable winds now, which should take us a fair way towards St Lucia. The only downside is that we will not be able to fly the spinnaker as the winds are forecast to be a bit too strong for that. We still seem to be making 7 knots or so on our night rig, so we can't complain.
Morale is good on board, although we're all a little weary after yesterday afternoon's half-way celebration. Today's priorities are hold the course and get some sleep
Blog 6 - 2 December 2011
Another day on the roll, although today we could put up the parasail which eases the motion no end. However we are very envious of the two foresail cutter arrangements for a high wind/night rig, so it looks like we might be in for some bank balance bashing before we start the World ARC.
We fell back a bit yesterday, a combination of a tactical decision, that with hindsight was probably a bit of a mistake, also not having a weather forecast which made us reluctant to launch the parasail which was a shame because the weather proved perfect, but not so perfect for our night rig which does not run well downwind.
Last night we had two interesting squalls, one provided no rain but lots of lovely wind going mainly in an improved direction, the other with lots of rain, not much wind and putting us 20 degrees off-course and around the houses - grrrr! However it did provide some onboard entertainment of Mike wearing not much more than his safety harness clawing his way up to the foredeck to close a hatch above his bunk - there is always a silver lining.
The weather is definitely getting hotter and more humid so we can hear those rum punches calling, we hope to break the 1,000nm barrier tomorrow so our thoughts are definitely St Lucia bound.
Jonathan continues not to sleep and is adopting a distinctly feral look. We are seriously thinking about getting out the Sea Med kit and doctoring with one of those knock out jabs we have been provided for emergencies. I was voted down on the forced diazepan suppository, not sure why as I figured it would be worth it for the entertainment value and story telling afterwards - but I cant wrestle him down to administer all by myself.
Must get on with dinner...
Blog 7 - 3 December 2011
It was bound to happen at some point on this journey, and today it did - I had to go over the side to retrieve a line which had managed to get itself caught between the skeg and the rudder. It was a wonderful excuse for a swim, and what a fantastic place for a dip. I was of course tied to the boat, and I had my fins on, so I could easily swim faster than matilda was drifting. The line was a spinnaker rope which had inadvertently been dropped overboard; at least we got the line back and the spinnaker is back in action. Certainly one of the longest, slowest jibes we've performed so far...
The weather has become very tropical all of a sudden; very hot and humid. This, coupled with the dramatic drop in wind speed today has made us all feel a bit lethargic. With the slower winds forecast for tonight, we are also thinking about leaving the spinnaker up overnight for the first time. We have thought about it many times and always pulled it down, and pretty much always wished we left it up. We'll see how we feel about it closer to sundown.
The forecast is predicting a dead patch between Barbados and St.Lucia at pretty much the time we should be passing through. This means we may be up for a slightly longer passage than we had bargained for... but only by a few days. If all else fails, we have about 600 nautical miles of motoring range, but that would be an absolute last resort. We've very pleased at not having used the engine at all so far - ideally we'd like to finish that way too.
I have just asked Mike to let me know how far we have to go to St Lucia, and as of 18.31 UTC today we have exactly 1,000 nautical miles left in our journey across the Atlantic.
Blog 8 - 4 December 2011
We did decide to leave the parasailor up last night but the jury is still out on whether this was a good move. The plus side was it was a breathtaking evening and the memory of the parasail against the moonlight on a silver sea will be one that will stay with me for a very long time. However the night lost its magic in the wee hours (if anything is going to happen it is always around 3am) when an approaching squall was spotted and so had to take it down while being pelted by copious amounts of rain - what jinks. We then had to get by for a few hours very slowly on our headsail with the added insult that when the wind did come back to normal, it was well within manageable levels.
However, come first light we launched the parasailor again and did some very respectable speeds (max 11 knots!) before the wind built to such a level it became risky, so we dropped and are now back to white sails on a lovely reach that, if the wind gods are with us, could take us all the way to the rum punches.
Morale is still pretty good onboard and, with a few fresh food exceptions, we are eating pretty well, especially as Christian seems to be able to catch fish on demand - almost to size and type demanded. We are having to be a bit careful with tank water, but as we have a water maker and a separate drinking water supply, it is not too much of a worry but I am beginning to fantasize about bubble baths.
Jonathan is still having problems getting some zeds, if this continues the knock out drops are definitely on the cards(or the winch handle, whichever comes to hand first).
Must get on - tea to brew (the closest call to disaster came the other day when I couldn't find the spare stash of tea bags - it was almost distress call territory).
Heather and Crew (Jonathan, Mike and Christian)
Blog 9 - 6 December 2011
Looking out the portlight by the navigation station we could be off the coast of Ireland rather than just off the Caribbean. The rain has been falling for the last half hour or so from what has been an overcast sky for most of the day. No squalls, just good strong winds and a bit of UK weather...
We had a night of fairly light winds, which built up to around 25 knots by daybreak. Since then the wind direction has brought us onto a beam reach for St Lucia, with an average speed of around 7 knots - bliss. matilda is sailing beatifully; I just wish we knew her better so we could get the very best out of her. This has really been a 2,900 nautical mile shake down sail for us, but it has been wonderful so far.
At 1pm today the miles ticked down from the 600's to the 500's so we expect to have just 500 miles to go by daybreak tomorrow. We passed the 1,000 mile mark 3 days ago on the 3rd, but the light winds ahead promise a longer sail for the final 500. It's a shame, because we had hoped to be in St Lucia by 19th or 20th; and we would be if we could keep this wind going!
Mike has just raced past me to the cockpit clutching with shower gel in one hand and his towel in the other. There is a steady rain falling now, which makes the perfect opportunity for a natural deck shower. Hopefully Heather can get a photo so we can share the spectacle with the world. Luckily I have had my sponge bath for the day.
It's strange to have such low light in the saloon during the day; it's been very sunny and bright mostly since we started. The weather is definitely turning tropical as the heat builds, especially down below with the hatches closed against sea and rain!
Everybody remains in high spirits, and we are all getting enough sleep at last.
Blog 10 - 7 December 2011
Yesterday was definitely a game of two halfs. The morning saw us on a beautiful reach with bags of wind, then a front came through with heaps of rain and no wind at all - all a bit soggy and depressing. On my night watch we ended up doing several 360s that were honestly nothing to do with my helming whatever Jonathan may say, but lack of wind and steerage. At one point I put the autopilot on and it refused to steer a course - so much for labour saving technology.
Bit of a funny incident in the afternoon, a cargo vessel appeared out of the mist and gloamin and when I looked at the AIS the only information it gave was that the vessel was not moving and not under command, which seemed a bit strange. We avoided it and it disappeared into the murk soon afterwards. I wish I had given them a call on the VHF. Its easy to see how stories like The Flying Dutchman came about.
The weather redeemed itself again this morning and although the winds are lightish, the parasailor is doing its job and it has been a great day so far (touch a lot of wood). We are all drying out nicely and Mike even did a clothes wash. As yet we have not been in the least tempted to turn on the engine, but we understand (via the radionet) that a lot have, so lets hope that benefits us a bit on the final results. However, we also understand there is a bit of a hole before St Lucia so, with the sniff of rum punch so strong, we may be severely torn.
Morale is pretty good on board although the fresh food is running out. The temperature (and humidity) is definitely rising, so our thoughts are very much St Lucia bound.
Heather and Crew (Jonathan, Mike and Christian).
Blog 11 - 9 December 2011
It seems we are pretty much the only boat in our area not under motor; call us stubborn. We had a nice afternoon yesterday close hauled and zipping along very nicely. Unfortunately all that ended at about midnight and we've been bobbing about ever since. We hauled the big old spinnaker out this morning for the first time (never used it before now) but there is not enough wind to fill even that.
Morale at the prospect of waiting for wind to arrive, possibly 2 days away, is mixed. I think we will probably pull the plug and join the motoring set later today, once the foot of our spinnaker has dried out on deck.
We are about to dive in for another swim, as I can see by the speed log beside the nav station that our speed through the water is now 0.00 knots.
We have about 330 miles to go, so we should be able to cover that in just over 2 days if we motor all the way. If the forecast is correct and the wind is gone for the duration, motoring the remainder of the way is a very real (if somewhat depressing) prospect.
We still have plenty of food, although very little fresh. I made a tray of brownies yesterday which went down well, so we have a treat to look forward to at afternoon tea!
Our next blog will probably be sent from the M.V. matilda...
Blog 12 - 9 December 2011
The decision to motor was basically an inevitability in the end. We are now motoring over glassy smooth sea at 6.5 to 7 knots, which means we will get to St Lucia by lunchtime on Sunday if we continue motoring all the way. But the real news is what we have just been doing...
About two hours after we (thankfully) decided to start motoring, Christian shouted "WHALES!!" and we rushed to see what he had seen. In the distance there were a group of rising fins, similar to dolphins but bigger. I am reliably informed they were Pilot Whales, and we saw a pod of about 20 to 30. (Heather thinks they may have been Minke Whales, so we will have to check the chart on this one...)
We turned the boat in their direction, killed the engine and glided silently into their midst. They swam very calmly close by the boat in various small groups, and eventually Christian couldn't resist the temptation to don the mask and swim with them. Since we have an instant camera which can be taken under water (bought with this type of occasion in mind) I stripped down to the boxers and grabbed a mask too. The hateful little camera chose this moment to tell me the batter was empty and closed down, but thankfully Mike got some great shots from above the water; even one with me and the whales together!
When I sploshed in, a couple of them raised their heads above the water, obviously trying to see what had made the splashing noise. Once I was on my way in their direction they hung in the water quietly watching us - it was the most amazing experience to see them in the wild and from under water. Certainly the first time I have ever experienced anything like this.
We have just passed the 299 mile mark to St Lucia (about 9/10ths of the way there now), so we are well on our way to finishing. It's frustrating to be doing it under motor, but the only other option is to spend a week or so bobbing about aimlessly, which none of us is particularly interested in doing. We have been getting much better speeds with just the sails and the sounds of the waves against the hull, and more importantly without the sound of Mr Stinky groaning away in the background! Oh well, at least we're moving again...