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Time Bandit
All ARC+ Blogs in One Place
17/12/2014

For anyone interested this is a consolidation of all the blogs from ARC+ for easier reading and a document for us to read in our dottage.

ARC+ 2014
Las Palmas to St Lucia via Cape Verde
Time Bandit - Island Packet 45

1st November
Kicking Off

OK. It's beginning to look and feel like we're heading for the start of something big.

Since the summer we've been spotting occasional ARC flags in anchorages and marinas around the Med and Morocco. Once we arrived here in Las Palmas, every day or two another ARC flag flying boat would turn into the welcome dock. Slowly over the last week once or twice a day has turned almost hourly. A few ARC flags flying has turned into a forrest of masts and flags. One or two individual sailors peering into their laptops in the bars has morphed into what looks like an "Introduction to Computers" class for the newly retired with a dozen or more grey haired folk playing the Flight of the Eagle as their fingers hover and swoop over the keyboard searching fruitlessly once again for the Q.

We've blown our year's budget at the chandlers, all the odd jobs are done and, other than FedEx conspiring with Spanish customs to lose our new Duogen drive shaft we are pretty much set to go.

Brother Eric has arrived and Pat and Huw land at 8pm, the social events, starting with my birthday party kick off today.

Had a few cards and gifts including a new AIS personal locator beacon so they can find me if I fall off! Secretly very pleased although, being ever practical, I'd have thought an insurance policy had a better return.

---------//--------

10th November
Wild and Windy

Finally, we're out of Las Palmas and out into the wide blue yonder. Wide, blue and a bit wild.

The ARC forecast guru said it would be blowing 20 knots at the start and when we hit the acceleration zone at the airport we would see 30 knots. As we quite like 30 knots from behind we headed for the airport, leaving the bulk of the fleet who mostly headed out to sea. We got our 30 knots and a bit more, gusting 35-40 with big rollers. The wind lasted much longer than the acceleration zone. In fact it lasted till about midnight so we had a great blast down the side of Gran Canaria and offshore regularly in double figures with a top speed from Huw of 12.8. We've 2 1/2 hours to go to our noon position and we've already tucked away 156 miles.

And the end of our spinnaker pole which got twisted and chomped sometime, probably when we were reefing in the dark. We've just stuck a snatch block at the end so we are back under full sail.

For the last week I've been drooling over the two new Outremer 51's and a couple of Catana 47's. Catamarans if you don't know the brand names. I've been getting tempted to the "dark side", the world with two hulls, so it was a bit disappointing when, three hours after the start, two passed just ahead and two astern. Given a blow, Time Bandit can really shift. To be fair to the owners the Outremers are fresh out the wrapper so the new owners probably weren't pushing as hard as us (me - must remember my "sail conservatively speech).

Everyone is settling in and getting to know the boat again and what buttons to press and what rope does what.

It's a beautiful day and we're hugging the African coast to try and stay in the fresher wind which is forecast to ease over the next few days. There's only two boats on the AIS and I suspect the fleet is on the direct route, further out to sea. We will find out at the 11:00 radio net.

That gives me 90 minutes for a kip so that's it for today.

---------//--------

11th November
Special K with Carrots

Whether by design or accident (we suspect the former) the veggie man in Las Palmas managed to increase fruit and veg order by a factor of between 2 and 10. If Anne said 2 please (limes) we got 2 KG. Anne therefore spent an afternoon on the pontoon, in her little hastily constructed vegetable stall selling her wares.

She always wanted to be in Eastenders!

Last night was interesting. For a while we thought our self steering was kaput as we were unable to hold a straight course. It was only on closer inspection we saw there's some wacky currents boiling around here. I suspect there's some sort of convergence zone as, within a few miles we had current of 1/2 to 1 knot from three different directions. Like the sound of Jura at flood.

However, in Las Palmas while looking at another Raymarine issue the engineer made some changes to the self steering system which has definitely screwed it up. We therefore fired up the monitor wind vane and its been steering us straight as a die for the last 6 hours. Why I spent thousands on electronics is beyond me.

Sadly the wind died last night and despite having said we wouldn't motor, the thought of losing our pre-paid events in Mindelo was the excuse we needed to motor for three hours. Fortunately the wind has picked up, not much, just 5-12 knots but enough to keep us moving.

There's not a cloud in the sky and the dolphins are around again. Eating all the fish apparently as we've not had a nibble.

Dinner from Mr D is on the way then the long 6pm - 6am night. Brilliant stars and a few dolphins to keep us entertained albeit they keep eating my twa ton o' haddock!

------//------

12th November
Oh What A Night

15 - 20 knots from behind, smooth rolling sea, stars and milky way above and thrashing along at 7-8+ knots. Just brilliant sailing and when we wake up in the morning its simply hit the "Repeat" button.

(A bit like the after effects of our super healthy, veg rich diet). We are currently about 100 miles west of Mauritania and will either have to gybe or keep hoping the wind will back and allow us to make direct for Mindelo. Other than knocking the reefs in and out we've been goose-winged on post pretty much since the start.

We finally had a bite on the line last night but it was quickly gone.

The crew is fit and well, other than the pole end the boat is in one piece and the Monitor and Duogen are brilliant. Self steering and endless amps for free. However, when I say "fit and well" thats largely chemically driven as this mornings count says we consume on average 30 pills per day!

We are on Net duty this morning so we've dug out the old quiz questions and see if the grey matter around the fleet can be fired up at the early hour of 11:00.

Our private wind which has got us this far is now blowing directly at Mindelo. We need to work out the shifts over the next couple of days to optimise our track and, more importantly, let us know whether we need to gybe or not.

Decisions, decisions.

------//------

13th November
We Caught A Fish

Four fish actually. Although not exactly caught. More head butted by 13 tonnes of Island Packet as the poor wee flying fish panicked and flew straight on deck rather than safety.

We have lost a lure. Whatever it was would have made a decent catch as it chewed right through our wire trace. We are trying a bright pink plastic squid today but nothing so far.

Typical trade wind night and days. Billions of stars and phosphorescence at night and blue skies and blazing sun all day. Its noticeably warmer today so the 500 miles farther south are having an impact; mostly from an excess of sun tan cream......steering wheel slipping though your hands and winch handles you can hardly get a grip of and odd tasting cookies.

Gennaker is flying just now with full main and genoa goose-winged so we're making good speed in 16-18 knots of wind...just above our self imposed take it down threshold. With a few more hands on deck I'm sure we can get it down if it blows up anymore. The Monitor is doing the steering so I'm quite pleased with the set up.

The fleet is spread out over about 120 miles. Having not seen another ARC+ boat since nightfall on the first day it will be good to see some lights at night as the fleet converges on Cape Verde. We should have jus another two or maybe three nights at sea. As its dark from 6pm to 7am there's a good chance we will arrive in the dark, tempting us to break our rule of not entering a new, unknown harbour in the dark. We may just cross the finish line the go offshore and heave to until daylight. That's an issue for later. Meanwhile, its coffee and biscuits time so that's yer lot for today!

------//------

14th November
Smelling Land

We can either smell land or maybe it's just the effects of limited showers for a week. The water pump was sounding a bit wonky before the start and sure enough its now kaput. While we have a spare its buried and with just 114 miles to go as of 16:00 im leaving it until we're in. Hand pumping will need to do until then.

That's been our only malfunction, other than the carrots and sweet potatoes which all turned to mush.

The fleet is converging on Mindelo and we had one boat, a Lagoon 45 in sight this morning and there's an Amel and a Beneteau on the AIS just now. 15 knots from NNE is bowling us along under gennaker, poled out genny and full main. Half tempted to leave it all up tonight but having pushed our luck in the first 24 hours I think we'll maybe a shade more conservative and put it away for the darkness.

Last night, pulling in our lure for the night as it was jumping in the water 20 feet from the transom a black finned, pointy nosed giant fish grabbed the lure and took off for 100 metres before it got off. And thats the story of our fishing success. Lots of bites but no landings.

It seems like no sooner than we were rocketing downwind at 12 knots, shot out like a cork from Las Palmas in 30 knots than it's all behind us (3,000 miles behind us) and we are now enjoying the delights of the Departures Lounge in St Lucia.

At the pre-start briefing the ARC weather guru warned the skippers of the 30 knot acceleration zone south of the start line at the airport. Later we heard a VHF report saying in fact it was blowing 40 knots.

Therefore, off the start line it made sense to head out east to avoid the "danger zone". Us? We headed straight for the airport, were perhaps the first boat to get into the strong winds and four or five hours later the catamarans and 50 and 60 footers coming back in from out east crossed behind us! Eat our wake boys!

Surfing at 10 plus knots (max seen 12.8 knots SOG) dead straight thanks to the Island Packet's long keel under full control in blazing sunshine. Brilliant sailing.

We plotted our course to Cape Verde to follow the strongest wind areas shown on the GRIB file and ended up running down close to the west coast of Africa, the farthest east boat of the fleet. It certainly paid off as to the west of us boats had consistently 5 knots less wind and even calms while we were blasting along comfortably.

Approaching Cape Verde, surprisingly mountainous, rising straight out the ocean to three and four thousand feet, once again, the wind kept rising, accelerating as it was squeezed between the mountains.

We had two boats on the horizon, all converging on the finish line. The race to the line was on....but how long was it prudent to hold our full downwind rig including gennaker? Long enough to win 2nd place and beat a Catana 47 over the water. We were pretty chuffed. Thank goodness for snuffers. I well remember how hard it was to get a full spinnaker down on 20+ knots with a racing crew on board. With the snuffer, two of us can do it in a jiffy. It's only if things go wrong you're in the pudding!

By this time tomorrow we will be docked in Mindelo. A good passage and a good warm up for the rest of the trip. 2000 miles or something.

------//------

19th November
Been there, Seen it, Still Needs Done!

All too soon we are off again. A very rushed few days here in Mindelo getting the boat sorted out and squeezing in a few trips, barbecues, local dancing, shopping and, of course the prize giving where we picked up 2nd place in our class.

Consequently the pressure is on, even though "it's not a race" and we are here in the wifi cafe feverishly download wear charts and seeing what route options we have. Given its a straight line between here and St Lucia there's not that much choice.

Biggest issue is there's not much wind for next few days. Across from our island is a bigger, taller one with its wind shadow to leeward. To avoid this we can either keep going south, 90 degrees to where we want to go, deeper into the hole or maybe we will just fire up the engine and motor through the wind shadow and hopefully get the fresher wind on the other side and get our way.

Which is what I need to do right now so...... More coming later.

------//------

22nd November
One Down.....

One night down and thirteen to go.

The ARC+ rally fleet made a quick exit from Mindelo in a good 15 knot northerly. The cats headed out first with Purrrfect making the best start. We followed fifteen minutes later and had a good run down to the wind shadow under the lee of St Antau island.

We resisted for a while but eventually succumbed and fired up the engine to motor out the calm. A good strategy as just 1 hour later we picked up 15-20 from the north and had a good nights broad reach in a modest following sea. Ditto for all day today in blazing sun and one downpour to wash the nights salt from the decks.

The cats have been in good form and have done a horizon job. We still have 4 or five others in sight but mostly the fleet is spread out, waiting to converge again nearer St Lucia.

Daily routine is getting established. Quite simple really. As the T shirts say, "Eat, Sleep, Sail, Repeat"

------//------

24th November
Starlight Express

Starry nights are, or were the order of the day. Jupiter is flashing all colours; red, blue, white green. Looks like a plane's lights but definitely coming from the planet.

Squalls gave a few of us a needed wash and cleaned the decks of flying fish debris.

Yesterday one flew straight through the galley window narrowly missing the frying pan!

Its big pal, right in the middle of taking down the gennaker, took our lure for a run. Eric started hauling it in but as is becoming the norm, we lost it. Most boats seem to slow down when they get a catch. Too much effort to do that so we will have to let them go. Only three lures left so we will need to try and new tactic to get them onboard.

We flew the gennaker all day yesterday trying to make ground to the south as the forecast shows slightly stronger winds. Across the fleet winds seem fairly steady with quite a lot a squall activity. We had a good one last night that gave us an hour and a half of 8-9 knots. Probably not really a squall but a good breeze under a dirty black cloud.

Its borderline gennaker this morning so we're erring on the side of prudence right now but not sure how much longer we can hold out. The gennaker really steadies the boat. Without it we rock and roll and it gets a bit noisy. With 5 of us, while its a bit crowded at times, there's plenty sleep and rest to be had.

According to the daily radio reports we seem to be hanging in towards the front of the fleet......hence the enthusiasm to get the gennaker up. Its the getting it down that's the problem!

------//------

25th November
Rock'n and Roll Part ll

Its been a few years since we delivered Time Bandit from USA to Scotland but suddenly the memories of day after day of incessant rolling come rushing back.

We're having a good thrash in fresh easterlies making a good, consistent 7-8 knots. The breeze is bringing a long swell with the winds causing a cross wave pattern. The end result is a good fast sail but a rock and roll pattern we could do without, at least at night so we could get some sleep.

However, 01:00 just now and Eric is snoring his head off so he's doing OK.

Yesterday we threw a wobbly. After gybing (first in 700 miles), when re-setting the pole the topping lift slipped in its jammer. The pole collapsed into the water and in so doing pulled half a dozen bolts out the mast track. This of course happened right at the start of a 30 knot squall with driving rain and took an hour on the foredeck to sort out. It then took 5 hours of drilling and tapping to re-bolt and in the end its as good as new and we're back under way.

Still a complete absence of fishing success, mostly because we're going to fast. There's also very little wildlife around although some boats are reporting whale sightings. We keep scanning the waves but nothing so far.

The only point of real interest is in the southern night sky where an as yet unidentified star or planet shines all colours like a disco. Quite amazing. Unlike this blog. Time to go on watch to thank you and good night.

------//------

27th November
What Day Is It?

After a 24-36 hours of grey and squalls delighted to say we are back to sunny Trade Wind sailing.

We saw off the last of the squalls about 10am this morning after Eric got totally soaked. In the 60 minutes of flat calm following the front we dropped the main and repaired yet another broken slider.

I also spent some time on the pole track getting that operational so we're now back to full strength, bombing along in 20 knots at 7-8 knots.

We've also hit something of a "wall" with tiredness setting in for the first time. Its been hard to get quality sleep with the rolling and crashing so I thought I'd be smart and looked up the relaxation tracks on my iPod, took to my bed and..... lying six inches from the ocean rushing past my ears it was a bit of a blow to hear the "relaxing" sounds were......rushing water. Aaaarrrgghhh.

The narrator, "Imagine yourself as a drop of rainwater"....how about "Imagine yourself in a washing machine with a frightened cat" is more accurate.

Our sports psychologist daughter gave us some unpaid, professional advice regarding our fairly pathetic 33rd position so far...."Get the finger out" she wrote. Perhaps if we'd paid we'd have got a more subtle form of encouragement but we got the message, have extracted the digit and will hopefully make up some ground.

One aspect of this ocean passaging is how fitness impacts on your enjoyment. During the summer, after finding myself in a lather, lying in the cockpit completely knackered after winching in the genoa for the umpteenth time as we tacked up the coast of Majorca I decided to start doing some pre-ARC training. Consequently, since July, much to the amusement of many, I've been doing a daily routine and I can tell you I'm glad I did.

Just standing and moving around the boat is an effort and how some folks manage hauling sails up and down, taking reefs in and out, trimming sails, gybing and all the other physical efforts of running the boat is beyond me.

For example, Eric just pulled himself vertical from his bunk saying "Great this ocean racing....I can't even stand up". Poor boy has been a bit poorly but on the mend and the old jokes are surfacing again.

Not entirely sure that's a good thing.

------//------

29th November
Beam Me Up

For the last 48 hours the whole fleet has been reporting "washing machine" conditions. On one boat the crew took to the floor. On another, into the sail locker. Consequently, Eric, having read Prof Brian Cox book on physics and space stuff, has been collecting old bits of wire, broken radio and assorted fuses and is now trying to assemble a transporter; same as used on Star Trek.

He's hoping to have it finished in time to get him off Time Bandit and back to his own wee bed at least before any more rock and roll nights!

Other than that, we're all doing well. We had our best days run yesterday of 171 miles, just breaking the previous day of 170. The winds are dropping to 12-15 for the next few days so we will be logging more like 100-120 but it will be a shade less stressful. Dead downwind in a breeze is fun and fast but you are always on your toes watching out for and avoiding the crash gybe; which we have avoided so far.

We caught our first decent fish today. A large Mahi mahi but.....lost it as we got it alongside.

Today we had to turn a fold in the chart to plot our Noon position and at last, St Lucia is on the same page. Approx 750 miles to go. We can almost smell the rum.

We made contact with some old friends coming across behind us with the "Atlantic Crossing Group". This is a self managing group of yachts crossing to the Caribbean who share position and weather reports and offer mutual support in time of need, The group is also known as the NARC's. Not the ARC. We will be meeting up with a few of them in January before everyone heads off on their own direction.

Right now, my direction is bed as I'm on at 02:00.

------//------

2nd December
Cocoon

Eric has given up on his Transporter leaving a pile of discarded wires, fuses and broken up radios in the corner of the saloon. He has decided the best option is to try a self induced coma with his body clock set for 4th December.

Various medications have been attempted with hamburgers, cheese and two fried eggs in a wrap seeming the most efficacious so far.

The rest of us are plugging away in steady trade winds, blue and occasionally grey skies and more squall activity than we're used to.

The squalls were a major concern last night, as, in the 8-10 knots we had come dusk helped us make the decision to leave the gennaker up overnight. Consequently we had a better days run than might otherwise have been expected although it was a bit nerve wracking as every cloud approaching out the dark had the potential for 35 knots in it. We got away with it, taking it down about 7am just before 27 hit us. Since then we've been bombing along in 15 ish and making 6-7 knots giving us an ETA of 4th, hence Eric's coma date.

A school of about 30 or 40 Pilot whales passed us earlier today to keep us amused for half an hour. Other than that, our wildlife spotting has been pretty poor. (Did I mention the whale breaching a few days ago? Big beast. Not sure what it was but it came down with a whump and a big splash.

Three days left to run......

------//------

6th December
The St Lucia Curse

Terra firma. Yahoo!

Before we left we reckoned we would arrive on 4th, and we did. We crossed the line at exactly 10.00.00. That might be the only thing we get a prize our! Our mishap with the pole cost us a day without a headsail and slowed us thereafter.

At least that's the excuse we are sticking to.

We almost whacked a hump back whale on the last few miles. In sight of St Lucia this monster surfaced maybe 30 metres away, blew his nose and moseyed on. With the school of bottle nosed whales that was pretty much all the wildlife we saw other than the occasional bird.

So, all tied up, washed down and showered we are enjoying the social life ashore. The Jump Up in Gros Islet last night, dinner and dance at Spinnakers on the beach and Eric is dragging us off to zip line through the jungle later.

Prior to that I have to deal with the St Lucia Curse

Last time we were here our outboard wouldn't start. We binned that motor during the summer and bought a new one. Guess what. Having run for the few weeks we had it in Majorca, it now want even cough. Off now to play at carburettors before lunch on the beach.

------//------

15th December
All Over Now - St Lucia Airport Departures

EVENT AND BLOG SUMMARY

Anyway, we've been taxing our grey matter to try and recollect the highlights of the last 7 or 8 weeks. Together we can piece together most of what has happened if not chronologically accurate. The rest is a bit of a blur. When we're back we will put together the photos and that should help us work out where we were when and put some detail around the trip.

Like most of our long offshore passages the days begin to run together. On the ocean there's not much to differentiate one day from the next. The horizon looks the same, the red cabin lights at night look the same. The stars look the same....and we still can't tell one from another. The stars that is.

All of it is stunning in its own way. The phosphorescence of the breaking waves at night. Stars, or are they planets, twinkling blues, reds, greens and white. The feeling of power running through the boat as we demolish wave crests at 10 knots, spray flying. Goose-winged with poled out genoa, full main and gennaker while sitting back in full control with some tunes on the headphones.

The mad dash for the reef lines as a new squall approaches! Slamming of hatches and ports and fighting your way into light waterproofs, hopping from one side of the cabin to the other in time with the rolling getting ready for the accompanying deluge. After the excitement, pirouetting around the ocean, sails flapping as the post squall wind finds its direction again.

Anne did a great job provisioning and keeping us fed, the primary differentiating factor each day, the evening meal. No scurvy to report at all. Eric was even seen to eat carrots on more than one occasion although most of the time Anne did have to mash them up and hide them in the gravy.

It was well worth making the detour to Cape Verde. Rising out the sea, mid ocean, like the Azores but drier and sadly poorer. Nonetheless, the people were incredibly friendly and in the few days we had there we learnt a lot about the islands, the people, their culture and lifestyles.

Kids playing football bare foot in the gravel. Washing clothes in the rivers, stunning volcanic mountain and sub tropical rain forrest scenery. Volcanic sand beaches pounded by the ocean surf. Rum made in the traditional way pressing cane through grinders powered by oxen, filtered and served fresh! Tasty.

Curried goat, jerk chicken and deep fried flying fish (poor wee things) all washed down with the local, in season juice; lime, mango or grapefruit.

We didn't see much wildlife on the way over other than our pod of Pilot whales. However, 24 hours from Rodney Bay we had a Hump Back breach 200 metres away and a Fin whale surface perhaps 50 metres off.

In St Lucia we rented a car and toured the island for a couple of days. From five star hotels by the beach to driftwood shacks in the hills arrived at via tortuous, single track ultra steep roads through the rain forrest. Just brilliant to see the island close up.

The prize giving was in the St Lucia Rex resort hotel on the beach. A ten piece steel band played most of the night followed by the fire dancers blowing flame and limbo dancing. All against the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea as the sun went down.

The prize giving was enjoyed by many with the ARC "Yellow Shirt" team making everyone feel like a winner.....especially us as we picked up two awards. A nice commemorative plaque engraved with 2nd Place! Didn't we do well. And a second prize for crossing the line at exactly 10:00:00.

As part of our exploration of "the dark side" Dave and Linda gave us a catamaran experience, joining them on a two hour hop from Rodney Bay to Marigot Bay for the ARC+ final event. There were four stunning Outremer catamarans in the ARC and do they look impressive! Fast too.

The closing ceremony in Marigot Bay was spectacular, hosted by the newly refurbished Capella Hotel. Endless food, shrimps, melted cheese, maxi mahi sushi and free soft drinks, runs and beer.

All set in stunning, sheltered Marigot Bay.

Back in Rodney Bay the main ARC fleet has been arriving over the last few days. Julian and Lynne arriving yesterday having made a pretty impressive crossing, two up through gales, enormous seas and calms. Not to mention nearly running out of water.

It was St Lucia day on Saturday when the locals celebrated their Independence Day. Hundreds of people filled the streets while one of the island's best bands played. Everyone (except us) were in their "Sunday Best" hair platted and dyed in stunning corn rolls. Brightly coloured clothing and all twerking away like mad. We gave it a shot but too sore on our old backs.

So, it's all over again and we are planning on what to do next. After the Christmas and New Year festivities on the beach we will probably make a jump down to Grenada and then work our way north aiming for 4th July in New York or Boston. Who knows where the time goes! (Name that (original) artist).

We will take in the island chain, probably the Bequia Music Festival and maybe charter a race boat for BVI Regatta Week for old times sake.

From there, North through Cuba, Bahamas and USA East coast. Exactly where and when to be worked on. Watch this space.

Anyway, you're saved from further Woffle as our flight awaits. 8 hours in a miserable wee seat and plastic food. Where did my Gold Card go?

Thanks to the crew, the ARC team and all our readers.


Stuart, Anne, Eric, Pat and Huw
ARC+ 2014 Crew


All Over Now
15/12/2014, St Lucia Airport Departures

It seems like no sooner than we were rocketing downwind at 12 knots, shot out like a cork from Las Palmas in 30 knots than it's all behind us (3,000 miles behind us) and we are now enjoying the delights of the Departures Lounge in St Lucia.

At the pre-start briefing the ARC weather guru warned the skippers of the 30 knot acceleration zone south of the start line at the airport. Later we heard a VHF report saying in fact it was blowing 40 knots.

Therefore, off the start line it made sense to head out east to avoid the "danger zone". Us? We headed straight for the airport, were perhaps the first boat to get into the strong winds and four or five hours later the catamarans and 50 and 60 footers coming back in from out east crossed behind us! Eat our wake boys!

Surfing at 10 plus knots (max seen 12.8 knots SOG) dead straight thanks to the Island Packet's long keel under full control in blazing sunshine. Brilliant sailing.

We plotted our course to Cape Verde to follow the strongest wind areas shown on the GRIB file and ended up running down close to the west coast of Africa, the farthest east boat of the fleet. It certainly paid off as to the west of us boats had consistently 5 knots less wind and even calms while we were blasting along comfortably.

Approaching Cape Verde, surprisingly mountainous, rising straight out the ocean to three and four thousand feet, once again, the wind kept rising, accelerating as it was squeezed between the mountains.

We had two boats on the horizon, all converging on the finish line. The race to the line was on....but how long was it prudent to hold our full downwind rig including gennaker? Long enough to win 2nd place and beat a Catana 47 over the water. We were pretty chuffed. Thank goodness for snuffers. I well remember how hard it was to get a full spinnaker down on 20+ knots with a racing crew on board. With the snuffer, two of us can do it in a jiffy. It's only if things go wrong you're in the pudding!

Anyway, we've been taxing our grey matter to try and recollect the highlights of the last 7 or 8 weeks. Together we can piece together most of what has happened if not chronologically accurate. The rest is a bit of a blur. When we're back we will put together the photos and that should help us work out where we were when and put some detail around the trip.

Like most of our long offshore passages the days begin to run together. On the ocean there's not much to differentiate one day from the next. The horizon looks the same, the red cabin lights at night look the same. The stars look the same....and we still can't tell one from another. The stars that is.

All of it is stunning in its own way. The phosphorescence of the breaking waves at night. Stars, or are they planets, twinkling blues, reds, greens and white. The feeling of power running through the boat as we demolish wave crests at 10 knots, spray flying. Goosewinged with poled out genoa, full main and gennaker while sitting back in full control with some tunes on the headphones.

The mad dash for the reef lines as a new squall approaches! Slamming of hatches and ports and fighting your way into light waterproofs, hopping from one side of the cabin to the other in time with the rolling getting ready for the accompanying deluge. After the excitement, pirouetting around the ocean, sails flapping as the post squall wind finds its direction again.

Anne did a great job provisioning and keeping us fed, the primary differentiating factor each day, the evening meal. No scurvy to report at all. Eric was even seen to eat carrots on more than one occasion although most of the time Anne did have to mash them up and hide them in the gravy.

It was well worth making the detour to Cape Verde. Rising out the sea, mid ocean, like the Azores but drier and sadly poorer. Nonetheless, the people were incredibly friendly and in the few days we had there we learnt a lot about the islands, the people, their culture and lifestyles.

Kids playing football bare foot in the gravel. Washing clothes in the rivers, stunning volcanic mountain and sub tropical rain forrest scenery. Volcanic sand beaches pounded by the ocean surf. Rum made in the traditional way pressing cane through grinders powered by oxen, filtered and served fresh! Tasty.

Curried goat, jerk chicken and deep fried flying fish (poor wee things) all washed down with the local, in season juice; lime, mango or grapefruit.

We didn't see much wildlife on the way over other than our pod of Pilot whales. However, 24 hours from Rodney Bay we had a Hump Back breach 200 metres away and a Fin whale surface perhaps 50 metres off.

In St Lucia we rented a car and toured the island for a couple of days. From five star hotels by the beach to driftwood shacks in the hills arrived at via tortuous, single track ultra steep roads through the rain forrest. Just brilliant to see the island close up.

The prize giving was in the St Lucia Rex resort hotel on the beach. A ten piece steel band played most of the night followed by the fire dancers blowing flame and limbo dancing. All against the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea as the sun went down.

The prize giving was enjoyed by many with the ARC "Yellow Shirt" team making everyone feel like a winner.....especially us as we picked up two awards. A nice commemorative plaque engraved with 2nd Place! Didn't we do well. And a second prize for crossing the line at exactly 10:00:00.

As part of our exploration of "the dark side" Dave and Linda gave us a catamaran experience, joining them on a two hour hop from Rodney Bay to Marigot Bay for the ARC+ final event. There were four stunning Outremer catamarans in the ARC and do they look impressive! Fast too.

The closing ceremony in Marigot Bay was spectacular, hosted by the newly refurbished Capella Hotel. Endless food, shrimps, melted cheese, maxi mahi sushi and free soft drinks, runs and beer.

All set in stunning, sheltered Marigot Bay.

Back in Rodney Bay the main ARC fleet has been arriving over the last few days. Julian and Lynne arriving yesterday having made a pretty impressive crossing, two up through gales, enormous seas and calms. Not to mention nearly running out of water.

It was St Lucia day on Saturday when the locals celebrated their Independence Day. Hundreds of people filled the streets while one of the island's best bands played. Everyone (except us) were in their "Sunday Best" hair platted and dyed in stunning corn rolls. Brightly coloured clothing and all twerking away like mad. We gave it a shot but too sore on our old backs.

So, it's all over again and we are planning on what to do next. After the Christmas and New Year festivities on the beach we will probably make a jump down to Grenada and then work our way north aiming for 4th July in New York or Boston. Who knows where the time goes! (Name that (original) artist).

We will take in the island chain, probably the Bequia Music Festival and maybe charter a race boat for BVI Regatta Week for old times sake.

From there, North through cuba, Bahamas and USA East coast. Exactly where and when to be worked on. Watch this space.

Anyway, you're saved from further Woffle as our flight awaits. 8 hours in a miserable wee seat and plastic food. Where did my Gold Card go?


Stuart, Anne, Eric, Pat and Huw
ARC+ 2014 Crew

The St Lucia Curse
06/12/2014, Rodney Bay Marina

Terra firma. Yahoo!

Before we left we reckoned we would arrive on 4th, and we did. We crossed the line at exactly 10.00.00. That might be the only thing we get a prize our! Our mishap with the pole cost us a day without a headsail and slowed us thereafter.

At least that's the excuse we are sticking to.

We almost whacked a hump back on the last few miles. In sight of St Lucia this monster surfaced maybe 30 metres away, blew his nose and moseyed on. With the school of bottle nosed whales that was pretty much all the wildlife we saw other than the occasional bird.

So, all tied up, washed down and showered we are enjoying the social life ashore. The Jump Up in Gros Islet last night, dinner and dance at Spinnakers on the beach and Eric is dragging us off to zip line through the jungle later.

Prior to that I have to deal with the St Lucia Curse

Last time we were here our outboard wouldn't start. We binned that motor during the summer and bought a new one. Guess what. Having run for the few weeks we had it in Majorca, it now want even cough. Off now to play at carburettors before lunch on the beach.





Almost there
03/12/2014

This is getting painful. So near yet so far.

The wind is dropping hourly and right now, 4pm on the 2nd we're struggling to make 4 knots. Every time we calculate when we will get it its 3 hours farther out....and the engine keeps giving me a look! The new mainsail is slatting and crashing and knocking itself to pieces. If it continues much longer we will have to at least reef it or maybe even drop it. The GRIB says we should have 10 knots. The forecasters say 16 while we actually have 6.

The full rig is up, mainsail, poled out genoa and gennaker and we will probably leave it that way at least until the moon sets about 02:00. All in the search for speed.

The lead boats have been in for a couple of days and we're simply jealous. However, the weather has finally cleared and it looks very settled right now and finally, tonight we might see a sunset.

We are seeing a few more birds. The tropical equivalent of gannets, not as elegant as our northern bird but just as impressive dive bombing from a height to grab a poor wee, no longer Flying Fish.

Banoffee pie is being prepared for dinner along with chicken and honey mustard sauce over rice. Spuds would be nice but we sold too many on our dockside stall back in Las palmas.

Meanwhile, its afternoon tea and biscuits.

Cocoon
02/12/2014

Eric has given up on his Transporter leaving a pile of discarded wires, fuses and broken up radios in the corner of the saloon. He has decided the best option is to try a self induced coma with his body clock set for 4th December.

Various medications have been attempted with hamburgers, cheese and two fried eggs in a wrap seeming the most efficacious so far.

The rest of us are plugging away in steady trade winds, blue and occasionally grey skies and more squall activity than we're used to.

The squalls were a major concern last night, as, in the 8-10 knots we had come dusk helped us make the decision to leave the gennaker up overnight. Consequently we had a better days run than might otherwise have been expected although it was a bit nerve wracking as every cloud approaching out the dark had the potential for 35 knots in it. We got away with it, taking it down about 7am just before 27 hit us. Since then we've been bombing along in 15 ish and making 6-7 knots giving us an ETA of 4th, hence Eric's coma date.

A school of about 30 or 40 Pilot whales passed us earlier today to keep us amused for half an hour. Other than that, our wildlife spotting has been pretty poor. (Did I mention the whale breaching a few days ago? Big beast. Not sure what it was but it came down with a whump and a big splash.

Three days left to run......

Beam me up
29/11/2014

For the last 48 hours the whole fleet has been reporting "washing machine" conditions. On one boat the crew took to the floor. On another, into the sail locker. Consequently, Eric, having read Prof Brian Cox book on physics and space stuff, has been collecting old bits of wire, broken radio and assorted fuses and is now trying to assemble a transporter; same as used on Star Trek.

He's hoping to have it finished in time to get him off Time Bandit and back to his own wee bed at least before any more rock and roll nights!

Other than that, we're all doing well. We had our best days run yesterday of 171 miles, just breaking the previous day of 170. The winds are dropping to 12-15 for the next few days so we will be logging more like 100-120 but it will be a shade less stressful. Dead downwind in a breeze is fun and fast but you are always on your toes watching out for and avoiding the crash gybe; which we have avoided so far.

We caught our first decent fish today. A large Mahi mahi but.....lost it as we got it alongside.

Today we had to turn a fold in the chart to plot our Noon position and at last, St Lucia is on the same page. Approx 750 miles to go. We can almost smell the rum.

We made contact with some old friends coming across behind us with the "Atlantic Crossing Group". This is a self managing group of yachts crossing to the Caribbean who share position and weather reports and offer mutual support in time of need, The group is also known as the NARC's. Not the ARC. We will be meeting up with a few of them in January before everyome heads off on their own direction.

Right now, my direction is bed as I'm on at 02:00.

What day is it?
27/11/2014

After a 24-36 hours of grey and squalls delighted to say we are back to sunny Trade Wind sailing.

We saw off the last of the squalls about 10am this morning after Eric got totally soaked. In the 60 minutes of flat calm following the front we dropped the main and repaired yet another broken slider.

I also spent some time on the pole track getting that operational so we're now back to full strength, bombing along in 20 knots at 7-8 knots.

We've also hit something of a "wall" with tiredness setting in for the first time. Its been hard to get quality sleep with the rolling and crashing so I thought I'd be smart and looked up the relaxation tracks on my iPod, took to my bed and..... lying six inches from the ocean rushing past my ears it was a bit of a blow to hear the "relaxing" sounds were......rushing water. Aaaarrrgghhh.

The narrator, "Imagine yourself as a drop of rainwater"....how about "Imagine yourself in a washing machine with a frightened cat" is more accurate.

Our sports psychologist daughter gave us some unpaid, professional advice regarding our fairly pathetic 33rd position so far...."Get the finger out" she wrote. Perhaps if we'd paid we'd have got a more subtle form of encouragement but we got the message, have extracted the digit and will hopefully make up some ground.

One aspect of this ocean passaging is how fitness impacts on your enjoyment. During the summer, after finding myself in a lather, lying in the cockpit completely knackered after winching in the genoa for the umpteenth time as we tacked up the coast of Majorca I decided to start doing some pre-ARC training. Consequently, since July, much to the amusement of many, I've been doing a daily routine and I can tell you I'm glad I did.

Just standing and moving around the boat is an effort and how some folks manage hauling sails up and down, taking reefs in and out, trimming sails, gybing and all the other physical efforts of running the boat is beyond me.

For example, Eric just pulled himself vertical from his bunk saying "Great this ocean racing....I can't even stand up". Poor boy has been a bit poorly but on the mend and the old jokes are surfacing again.

Not entirely sure that's a good thing.

Rock and Roll
25/11/2014

Its been a few years since we delivered Time Bandit from USA to Scotland but suddenly the memories of day after day of incessant rolling come rushing back.

We're having a good thrash in fresh easterlies making a good, consistent 7-8 knots. The breeze is bringing a long swell with the winds causing a cross wave pattern. The end result is a good fast sail but a rock and roll pattern we could do without, at least at night so we coild get some sleep.

However, 01:00 just now and Eric is snoring his head off so he's doing OK.

Yesterday we through a wobbly. After gybing (first in 700 miles), when re-setting the pole the topping lift slipped in its jammer. The pole collapsed into the water and in so doing pulled half a dozen bolts out the mast track. This of course happened right at the start of a 30 knot squall with driving rain and took an hour on the foredeck to sort out. It then took 5 hours of drilling and tapping to re-bolt and in the end its as good as new and we're back under way.

Still a complete absence of fishing success, mostly because we're going to fast. There's also very little wildlife arou d although some boats are reporting whale sightings. We keep scanning the waves but nothing so far.

The only point of real interest is in the southern night sky where an as yet unidentified star or planet shines all colours like a disco. Quite amazing. Unlike this blog. Time to go on watch to thank you and good night.

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