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Wild Song
from the UK to the south Atlantic Ocean
A hole develops in our plans
January 9, 2012, 12:00 am

One tiny hole is all it takes for plans to quickly fall apart. The boat was in great condition when we found her after three months laid up in Brazil. The lads at Pier Salvador had given her a wash and brush up and she looked great. Below, I was told to expect mildew on the bulkheads and mushrooms on the upholstery, but she was as clean as a whistle and ready to sail away. Then a few symptoms started to present themselves, suggesting all was not well. I had filled the diesel tank to the brim before I left, but the fuel guage showed the tank to be half full.Then a pumping of the bilge showed it not only to be full of water (not a worry given the intensity of the rainfall here) but also a large amount of diesel was down there too. Worrying. Alasdair, my mathematically minded crew, went into analytical mode and we deduced a leak in the fuel tank- not good. After the removal of many floorboads, much pumping of water through the bilges and the use of some kind of cleanser of dubious origin (it was only sold to us in unmarked bottles) we decided the tank was not leaking after all, shrugged, and headed off towards Itaparica, a large and leafy tropical,island opposite Salvador. The engine was not happy. It coughed as an engine does when it is sucking air, revs rising and falling, full revs unattainable. Back to Pier Salvador, the only option. Suspicion falls on a Lucus priming pump which sits between the engine and the primary filter. It leaks diesel when you press it - bad sign. We have now opened it up and there is a pinprick hole in the diaphragm. That is all it takes to bring things to a halt. What now? I'll let you know. Meanwhile, we have discovered a most congenial bar in the front room of a Portuguese colonial house. Alasdair and I perform most of the analytical thinking required to get the engine going again, while Mike reads to us, with growing indignation, from the Daily Telegraph which he is receiving via his new Kindle. At the moment,Tony Blair does not seem to be at the top of his favourite people list, for some

The second legs begins...
January 5, 2012, 12:00 am, 30,000 feet above the Atlantic

I am writing this from the 'comfort' of a crowded Boeing 767 which is gliding effortlesly south from Madrid, following pretty much the route down which I sailed not three months ago. Atlantic Ocean beneath us, Cape Verdes behind, and a vivid tropical sunset, just as I remember them. All that apart, the contrast could not be greater. Alone, then, I am now surrounded by Brazilians returning from Christmas in Europe, and close to one in particular who snorts loudly, inhales, and swallows the product of his efforts every half minute. If there were a shop I would by him a handkerchief and invite him to have a good blow, for all our sakes. Yes, the second leg of the voyage is beginning and within a few hours I hope to find ’Wild Song’ as I left her in the careful care of Pier Salvador marina. There are few clothes in my packing - most remained onboard - but my bag is stuffed with odds and ends, such as new Spectra lines for the self steering, and rubber caps to prevent the boarding ladder from scraping the topsides when the ladder is deployed. Little stuff, but every item needed. I also have crew for company. One is Mike, my brother in law, who never fails to add a little joviality to any voyage; and Alasdair who is a computer genius who I have tasked with the reduction of sun sights from first principles to prove to me that he is as clever as he seems. He says he understands the mathematics of GPS: we’ll see if this is help or a hindrance. So far, they have both scored highly with their skipper by bringing a commendably small amount of luggage. As they are both of the same height,it will be interesting to see how wins the battle for the longer bunk. I don’t know if I am filled more with anticipation or apprehension. Not at the sailing but at everything that surrounds it, and in Brazil that is mostly beaurocracy. I will spare you the traumatic details but I expect to be spending several hours in austere offices before I am finally allowed to drop the warps and head to another harbour where I will have to do it all over again. And with four hours before landing I am wondering about the boat, too. You may remember that I left Salvador in some disorder with my dislocated shoulder in a sling. I managed to do most of my packing, but the thought at the back of mind is that it is quite possible I forgot a chunk of salami which has been festering in the 35 degree heat for two months now. I shall carefully open the hatch and sniff the air before venturing further, and I’ll let you know.

And one I forgot...
November 4, 2011, 12:59 pm

...and probably one of the more useful bits of kit I carried - the Walder Boom Brake

I found it very useful, even in light airs, and a great safety device. I know that for a fiver you can do exactly the same thing with a length of line by rigging a preventer. However, a preventer requires you to go forward when tacking or gybing (not a problem in light airs but unwelcome in heavy weather) and the boom brake controls the speed of the gybe whether it is intentional or accidental. I found it a great aid to simply go to a cockpit winch and stop the boom slatting, and be safe in the knowledge that if the self steering had a headache there'd be no damaging crashing of the boom. If you've got a big crew and need to keep them busy, then do it the old fashioned way. But if you're shorthanded this is a good bit of kit.

Winners and Losers
November 1, 2011, 3:23 pm

Just a few notes on what worked/what didn't:


Two Kycera 85W panels gave great service with a Blue Sky MPPT controller. In the tropical sun I was getting more than seven amps for most of the daylight hours, and the alignment of the panels could have been better. A wind generator would have been useless in this lightish airs tradewind passage. I also used a Aquair towed generator, but not much. This give an amp per knots but I only use it when the boat is going at hull speed and the drag doesn't matter. Retrieving the turbine is not always easy. With this set up I never ran the engine to charge the batteries, and kept the fridge going 15 hours a day. However, I am a frugal user and switch off instruments, plotters etc and all my lights are LEDs.

The Katadyn 40 watermaker was faultless and makes a gallon an hour and draws 4 amps. Again, I don't have the sort of showers that last an hour but managed to enjoy a regular and welcome soaking.

The Monitor windvane is a great piece of kit, but have spare lines ready to go. Chafe happens faster than you think.

I was very impressed by how easy it is to change a Racor fuel filter. Far easier than CAV and far less messy. Having done it once, I wouldn't hesitate to do it at sea in any conditions - and no bleeding.

I have an Echomax radar 'bouncer'. I am sure that, on occasions, ships altered course to avoid me much earlier than they otherwise might. A subjective view, I agree. But I feel much safer with that bit of kit.

AIS is a hugely useful tool. I have had bad luck with NASA kit in the past, and bought VESPER ( New Zealand, I think). Very sensitive. Great display.

You need good sun shade. For various reasons I couldn't fit a bimini and SLIK CUT of Plymouth devised a very good cockpit shade.

We had a MPG (multi purpose genoa) by HOOD. A very versatile sail, halfway between a genoa and a cruising chute. Used it a lot with good results.

I bought a set of gas bottle adapters (from a firm in Southampton) which claim to fit any gas bottle in the world. So far, so good. I managed to change from Propane to Butane in the Canaries and back again in Brazil with no problem using their universal regulator.

LED cabin lights from BEDAZZLED. Nice, warm light and bright - which you need on the long tropical nights.

The ammonia method of washing your clothes, favoured by the Americans, is very effective and saves a lot of water.


LOPOLIGHT- rubbish. I have one on this boat and had one on the previous. Both failed. Never again. Junk.

Various devices for lighting the gas which never lasted very long. Matches were unreliable in the often high humidity.

The diesel in Cape Verde was filthy and I forgot to use my filter funnel which added to the complications of my arrival in Brazil - see previous posts.

Fresh fruit and veg - very limited once south of the Canaries.

I had a complete failure of the instruments which also took out the autopilot. This was traced by me, over a period of 48 hours, to a cable which ran through the throttle housing and had been rubbing away for 15 years. It choose mid-Atlantic to finally part. It's no problem sailing without instruments, and it saves a lot of amps, but for a singlehander an autopilot is often useful. The GPS was on a separate circuit, but this gave unreliable fixes for several hours at various times approaching the equator. As you will read, the sextant proved reliable.

I replaced the pump and all valves on the heads (Jabsco) but should probably have done that before I left.

I should have paid more attention to chafe - spinnaker halyards and sheets in particular, and the reefing line on the yankee which did an innocent, gentle, see-saw motion through the fairlead for 3,000 miles and was close to parting on arrival.

One regret: I bought a (expensive) Parasailor before leaving. It looked and worked great on the test sail and I regret not having got to grips with it on this trip. On the next leg, with a crew, I'll give it a blast.


It was a fairly average cruise regarding gear failures, and pretty much as I expected. For anyone daunted by the thought of such a passage, I might say that 99 per cent of it could have been safely achieved in a Mirror dinghy

It wasn't supposed to end like this!
October 31, 2011, 8:15 am, back in the UK

So, you sail 3.5K solo miles without too much of a problem and then, when the boat is safely tied up in the marina and you are about to catch the plane home, you slip of the wet cabin steps, fall, dislocate your shoulder, and spend a day in a Brazilian hospital. I think this is what they call bad luck.
The only good thing to come out of this painful little episode is an incredible display of generosity by the Brazilians who are, by nature, a helpful race. Not only was I accompanied every inch of the way to hospital, even to the doors of the operating theatre, but taken home that night by the marina owner himself who thought I needed caring for. It was service far beyond anything I could expect. To need medical help, while in considerable pain, and in a country where the language is completely alien to you in an unsettling experience. Sandoval and his friends insulated me from a lot of that. So, all my votes go to Pier Salvador marina. There is nowhere else quite like it in the world.

Salvador, but only just
October 23, 2011, 12:00 am

Strangely, the last six hours were some of the best sailing of the whole trip. Before that, I had been motoring for twelve hours through a very lumpy but windless sea. The tank was getting low and soon I was sucking up the filth from the bottom of the tank. The first clue was when the engine revs started to drop. I looked at the filters - filthy black. So from now on I had no engine. But a nice breeze was brought on by gathering black clouds and a force 4 sprang up from the SE, but I could just lay the course to a bouy which marked the end of a sandbank and which I had to round. The wind shifted as the raiin squalls came through, but it was a fast, cracking sail in flat water in the fading light. The Salvador skyline took me by surprise - it was like Manhattan. I now had to devise a way of getting into this harbour without any engine to help. I decided I could sail, slowly, under yankee as far as the breakwater and if I could get round the corner I could anchor there/./ The engine/ /would run but only at tickover due to lack of fuel. So I sailed in stately fashion, in the dark, till the breakwater was abeam, furled the jib, and shoved the engine into gear. She lasted just far enough to get me to an anchorage. It was midnight. I now had to get to the final destination, Pier Salvador marina five miles further on. The next morning I decided to change the filters and get the engine going again. I had never done that on this boat, and it was a risk. But thanks to the Racor filter I had fitted before I left, it was the easiest thing. These filters are so easy - spin the top off, remove the old filter, drop a new one in and on your way - no bleeding. Every boat should have them. Pier Salvador marina needs high water to approach, and a little careful navigation to get over the sand bar, but nothing a UK east coaster isn't used to. I was welcomed with fresh orange juice by Sandoval, the owner. It's a great place, and Salvador will help you with anything you want from gas to beer to bread. It was a great welcome after a good trip. We are now 4799 miles from Falmouth by log, and 3130 of those were singlehanded. I'm back to the UK in a few days time and the voyage continues after Christmas. That's when you'll next hear from me, although I will post a list of the heroes and zeroes of the equipment onboard if I get a chance. Thanks for reading so far.

anybody out there?
October 21, 2011, 12:00 am

Is South America still in the same place? I've been sailing down its coast now for three days and haven't seen a thing. A couple of nights back I did see the distant loom of a large city which I guessed must have been Recife. Apart from that I've had three ships in three days and nothing else. So I plod on, hoping that Salvador is where the GPS thinks it is, which is about 24 hours away now. The wind went light last night, and from dead astern and a large swell rolled up from the south. This met an equally large swell coming from the north east and threw the sea into spiky little mountains, enough to knock any wind out a sail. The clatter down below was unbearable, and if I'd removed all the sails I'm sure the motion would have been untenable. So I drew everything in a tightly as I could and retired the aft cabin where it is not so noisy, if hotter. There was a spell of fresher wind this morning but that soon disappeared and it felt uncannily like the doldrums again. Not nice. So far, motoring for long spells has not been an option because of the lack of the autopilt and in the small hours I decided to put my mind to this problem. The result of this contemplation had me, this morning, removing vast amounts of gear from the stern locker, bending double, curling myself into a ball and dropping into the bottom of it with a head torch and screwdriver - this is where the 'computer' is to be found and I can only assume that the placing of it is some boatbuilder's joke. I was also very cautious because our local GP once went into the locker of his Westerly Centaur and the lid closed on him. He was shouting and hammering for a long time before he achieved his release. So, with the locker lid tied back with much rope, I attacked the 'computer' connections and stripped everything off bar the autopilot. The result is that it is now back and working and I am now motoring hard for home. When (touch wood) I get there, I will let you have some statistics, and also those bits of gear which were a triumph, and those which failed, in case such knowledge is of any use to you. Wind still light, sea still tormented. Time for tea

October 19, 2011, 12:00 am

It's never good news when things go twang in the night, and so it proved to be. Night falls early here, and fast, and I am now 4 hours behind GMT. Having settled for the evening, grabbed a reef in a rising but unthreatening wind, I took to my bunk. Twang! The self steering lines to the wheel had parted. It was remarkable to see a length of decent sized line lying in frayed tatters on the stern deck. Remembering that I have no electric autopilot due to an earlier failure, action was called for given that the prospect of the last 500 miles of steering by hand is not an attractive one. It's lucky that our stern is not high and the Monitor Windvane is not mounted far down. I could just about reach the distant hole where the new line must pass through if I spreadeagle myself on the narrow stern deck and rest my body and the previously mentioned cracked rib. It is not a complicated thing to do but the boat is rising and falling to the waves, and it is dark. I lost one torch over the side. Half an hour later, after some bad tempered feeding of lines down holes that seemed too small we were back and running, and I was below with a belly full of painkillers saying a prayer that the new, thinner lines would last the night, which they did. Chafe has been a real problem - spinnaker halyard, jib sheets, reefing line, and now self steering. It takes a couple of days to recoverf from the kind of stopover I had in Fernando de Noronha; you still feel some attachment to the land which you must rid yourself of. I've got rid of it now and look forward to the last 400 miles to Salvador. Just opened the first tin of Dutch butter bought in the Canaries -bliss. Struggling now to make the fruit cake last the distance.

Taking a break
October 18, 2011, 12:00 am

I sighted the island of Fernando de Noronha exactly fourteen and half days after leaving the Cape Verdes - not a bad time given it inculded the doldrums. A larger yacht told me they took nearly three weeks to cover the same distance. You can't really miss FdeN. It sticks out of the ocean like a sore thumb and is, in fact, the remnants of a volcanic pug. It's got sea turtles and dolphins and all the stuff you'd expect of a National Park, but go and read it up for yourself if you're interested. It's a handy place for clearing customs and immigration into Brazil, which can be quite testing. Here, it all took place in hut above the beach with a few jokes, a little coffee and generally good humour. However, it was a lengthy process with many showers of paperwork flying around and hadn't been completed by the time the supermarket closed at noon - it was a Sunday. It is a sheltered anchorage; the pilot books warn of the swell but I found it comfortable enough. As far as the island is concerned, you never get a really flavour of a place when you visit by yacht because part of you is always on the water; but I found this an amiable, relaxed, undeveloped kind of place and the lushness had to be seen to be believed. I am feeling a complete prat for not having brought a bird identification book - by the time Darwin has got this far on the Beagle he'd probably fathomed most of evolution and I've yet to get my head round something a basic as ggulls. Talking of things which were forgotten, it is amazing how many basic items were left off the list, like spare batteries for the handheld GPS, a spare lighter for the gas stove, and most importantly no ibuprofen. I mention this because I was standing on the foredeck, at anchor, when the boat took a lurch and I swung hard into the forestay. I cracked a rib. It bloody well hurts and a lively boat is the last place you need to be. I've got other painkillers but the old ibuprofen always works best for me. Never mind, I have made the boat comfortable and am doing a lot of lying down. I left F de N at lunctime yesterday. Six hundred miles to Salvador and the end of the first leg. Fair wind now and easy sailing.

I crossed the line!
October 13, 2011, 12:00 am

I finally crossed the equator shortly after lunch on the 13th, and didn't feel a thing.It had been a long time coming, or so it seemed. All the pilot books advise crossing in 25W, and the sailing ship route as recommended in 'Ocean Passages for the World' advises a huge board across towards Africa before tacking for the line. This, of course, is a relic from the days when sailing ships were not a weatherly as modern yachts and the great fear was not being able to weather bulge of Brazil. The west flowing equatorial current didn't help matters. If this happended then a huge circuit of the Atlantic was needed for a second try. I was wary, though, and after leaving Cape Verde had tried to keep as close as possible to 180T knowing that I was going to be headed sooner or later by the inevitable southerlies. It turned out that the southerlies had quite a bit of east in them so I have been plodding along on about 220T for the last three days. It meant that I crossed the equator at 29 degress west, about which I feel slightly ashamed, as if I hadn't been trying hard enough. Anyway, with the wind now in the ESE I don't think Cape San Roque is going to present a problem. Incidentally, in line with tradition, Neptune was invited on board and offered a precious piece of my daughter's fruit cake and a tot of whiskey. He must have been quite keen because when I cast them on the ocean they disappeared very quickly. Interesting thing: I notice that I was due to cross the equator at more or less local noon. The opportunity to take a meridian sight, on the equator, at noon is surely one that will not arise again so out came the sextant. In fact, at the time of the sight the GPS put us six miles north of the line, and my sight put us eleven miles north - I didn't think that was too bad. There was a bit of a swell running and judging the horizon was difficult, so I was pleased. Talking of GPS, it has been behaving very oddly. It's a Furuno GP32 and it has been getting lost quite often, saying 'NO FIX'. Now we're moving away from the equator it seems to be settling down a bit. The GPS in the Raymarine plotter has been a bit odd as well but not as bad. And I don't think the Iridium has been as good as usual. Satellites - can't trust 'em.Perhaps it's the heat. There might be a tropical island ahead in a couple of days. Stay tuned.

Storming along
October 12, 2011, 12:00 am

I'm now getting some of the fastest sailing since leaving Lisbon. The southerly wind is creeping ever more into the south east and so I am just cracked off the wind sailing with the yankee, staysail and one reef in the main and getting consistent speeds well over six knots. Of course, it makes life a bit of balancing act down below because, at times, the sea is quite lumpy. Then we'll have a few hours where we ride gently over it, then a bit of banging and crashing and so it goes on. So, good progress and although I'm not yet halfway to Salvador it feels much closer because this last leg seems certain to go much faster than the first. The days when I rejoiced when the log went over 3 knots seems a lifetime away but I guess it was only three days. Ventilation is a problem. It really does get quite hot and stuffy below decks because there's so much spray flying the all the hatches have to be closed. For survival I have a superb little fan (Caframo) which uses hardly any power and shifts a lot of air and I find I am spending quite a lot of time in my bunk, reading. Two things to look out for: I'm getting quite close the St Peter and St Paul rocks which sit out here in the middle of the Atlantic for no good reason. Certainly not big enough for habitation but big enough to be a damned nuisance for early navigators. And since I'm about a day away from crossing the equator, I must keep an eye out for King Neptune who, I gather, pays a visit to those crossing for the first time, which includes me. People often ask what I do all day: this morning I completely stripped down the lavatory (heads) and replaced the pump and all the valves. So there.

It's all behind me now
October 10, 2011, 12:00 am

I have hesitated for nearly 24 hours before writing this, but I am now confident enough to say that the doldrums are behind me. I got the first hint yesterday afternoon (Sunday) when a sickly, oily flat sea started to ripple to the slightest of southerly breezes. The doldrums have done this to me before: they try to seduce you into thinking they have forgotten all about you, then they turn and bite. Anyway, the wind is now in the south, where it should be, and a gentle force 3/4 which this remarkable boat is responding to with almost 6 knots to windward. This southerly wind, if it obeys the rules, will gradually shift over the next few days as I approach the equator, and it will move into the south east. These will be the proper south east trades which should waft me to Brazil. It has all come as a bit of a shock to the system. This time yesterday I was wed to the wheel, motoring under engine without instruments or autopilot which have all failed, thinking there might be days of this ahead of me. And now the ocean has come alive again, and the boat with it. The doldrums are not a nice place - don't go there. This is better and the air is fresher. Of course, life is now being lived on the slant. This is the first time we have been on the wind since leaving Falmouth and all those grabs which worked well for a downwind roll aren't quite so useful, and new tricks are having to be learned. Still, life is better for being underway so no complaints. It might be bread baking day.

The bread!
October 6, 2011, 12:00 am

That''s it! Game over. I'm not playing any longer. All the bread I bought in Cape Verde has gone mouldy and life without bread is pretty miserable. At the moment I'm cutting off the grey crusts and toasting the inner bits, but the mould is advancing to the core of the loaf before my eyes; and anyway, with the cabin temperature never dipping below 80, even at night, the last thing I need is a nice, hot grill roaring away. So spirits should be low this morning but theyr'e not - we've made fantastic progress this last 24 hours and I sail on with renewed faith that I might actually see Brazil this side of Christmas. I'm 400 miles south of Cape Verde which has, so far, given an average day's run of an uninspiring 77 miles. I had two good days to start with, the NE trades persisting. Then, about eight o'clock one night, things changed. Sheet lighting filled the sky and the wind filled in, never above force 5 but from all directions. Rain fell, though not heavy, and was much appreciated as it got the caked salt from the decks. I took the obligatory outdoor shower while it lasted and it was refreshingly cool.These conditions persisted most of the night and were followed by a day of slopping along at 2/3knots in fluky winds. The next night it rained for several hours followed by a remarkable clearance yesterday morning to blue sky and crystal clear visibily ( I'm assuming because there's no actually anything to focus on). But most remarkable was the change in the sky from a vista of wild, towering, dark cumulonimbus, with sheet lighting at night and Wagnerian in the dusk, to those fluffy, friendly cotton wool balls so characteristic of a trade wind sky. So, I am cautiously daring to wonder if that was my taste of the doldrums and they're now behind me. I have read various accounts: some get through them in 24 hours, others in 5 days. My fingers are tightly crossed. Got caught out in the galley the other night. On an extended passage I generally cook up a feast in the pressure cooker, enough to last two nights. This I did with a bit of salami bought in Mindelo (which tasted like dead dog) and some veg, etc. The first night it was quite tasty, but when I opened it on the second day it had turned to a mass of mould. It would be quite easy to turn rotten yourself, out here. I took it as a warning. Cheese sandwich with the last of the bread for lunch. 550 miles to the equator which, like everyone who has done this passage I plan to cross at 25W. In the end it always seems to be nearer 28. We'll see.

Final thought:I am writing this on my son's old Apple Powerbook G4 and thinking, with gratitude, of the late Steve Jobs.

Heading south
October 2, 2011, 12:00 am

I left Cape Verde, Mindelo, yesterday mid morning and almost 24 hours later I am abeam the southernmost of these little volcanic islands, Ilha Brava. Two thousand miles ahead to Salvador and a somehwat daunting passage through the unpredictable doldrums. But so far it's been a fair wind all the way from Falmouth and if I have to put in a bit of extra work there's nothing to complain about. Cabin temperature is almost 30C just after breakfast and there's just enough spray to keep to port closed, so stuffy below. I have resigned myself to being a heap of blubbery sweat for the next three weeks. I'm sailing due south rather than the 210 course to the tip of Brazil; when the trade winds give out in the next couple of days, there are likely to be southerlies and so I want to make as much easting as I can. At the moment 180 degrees and a very comfortable 6.6 knots with main, yankee and staysail. I got into a bit of trouble with the lightweight genoa yesterday; my stupid fault for winching the luff too tight so the slice got jammed in the spinnaker block. That took nearly two hours to sort - a big headsail I couldn't drop in a rising wind with no refuge for 2,000 miles. It concentrates the mind. Incidentally, while this drama was being played out on the foredeck, the anchor managed to let itself go. Don't ask me how. There's no a bit of a rip near the foot of that useful sail so I'm trying to pluck up the enthusiasm to get out the needles and get to work. I think the fridge might have to go off soon; it is now having to work so hard that it is putting quite a strain on the batteries. No matter, Mindelo had little fresh produce other than fruit or veg. I couldn't find any cheese, ham or salami. The masthead light I thought I'd fixed in Lanzarote is on the blink - ah, the relaxing voyaging life.

Cape Verde - a complete blackout
September 29, 2011, 5:18 pm

I caught my first sight of Cape Verde, St Antione Island, at about five in the afternoon. The sun was low. I expected that shortly after sunset it's lighthouse would confirm its position. But nothing showed. It was soon pitch black(no moon) and still no lighthouse, and this was supposed to have a fifteen mile range. I plodded on in failing stern wind and started to motor, confident of my position due to GPS. Nevertheless, I was unnerved. It was like coming back from Brittant and finding thry'd shut off the Lizard.
The next thing to avoid was a hundred feet high lump of rock right in the middle of the. harbour, Mindelo. This was supposed to have a 15 mile range. That too was not working. It was a calm night, and warm, and so I plodded on with frantic GpS plotting and radar assistance. The Autohelm, which has been troublesome, decidedd to play the game, which helped. Anyway, I found the anchorage, and slept till I could come alongside the marina the following morning.
I first refuelled and then asked the girl if there was any chance of some help into the berth - bows to, stern bouy, and lots of wind blowing. No sooner mentioned than three lads appear, the ten year old takes command of the bow lines, one is waiting on the shore, and the other is zooming in a rib to make ready the stern line. Top class service, for which a tip was given but not expected.
This really is a top class marina in one of the Atlantic's out of the way places. It's safe, it's honest, it's clean and there's all you could wish for. Service always comes with a beaming smile. Some of our UK marinas should come here and see what Kai Brossman, a German, has achieved out of nothing.
For the record, 8 1/2 days from Lanzarote to Mindelo giving an average of 4.8. knots. It felt slower than that.

What spares did you forget?
September 26, 2011, 12:00 am

OK, guess what I left out of the mountain of spares I collected before this trip. On a boat with so many mechanical add-ons the list was considerable. But one thing has been forgotten, and I don't blame myself too much because I have never seen it listed in any of the countless manuals that advise on ocean cruising. I've got all the filters, the glands, the drive belts, the fuses. BUT I HAVEN'T GOT ANY BUTTONS. I have a particular pair of faded navy blue shorts which suit me perfectly. An ideal garment for a time and a place such as this. But the button has popped off and is not be seen anywhere. Doubtless it is travelling the full 4,000 metres which the chart shows to be the distance to the seabed from here. So I am going to have to remove a button from another pair of trousers, and I have decided that the victim will be a pair of long, white trousers which I had reserved for wearing when smartness is required in Brazil. The pilot books warn that immigration and harbour officials will not see you if you are improperly dressed - shorts and T shirt will not do. Nevertheless, I have snipped the button from the back pocket to repair my much loved shorts. If I am deported on arrival, that will be the reason why.

Easy going
September 26, 2011, 12:00 am

I haven't touched a winch handle in three days. Don't let anyone tell you that trade wind sailing is hard work.The wind is in the NE and has been ever since I left Portugal. I am heading a bit west of south so it is nicely on the quarter, but not forward enough to set the mainsail, which would give a bit more speed. So, we roll along between four and five knots; the wind shifts fifteen degrees and I adjust the Monitor vane, then twelve hours later it shifts back again and I repeat the operation. That's it. Still 250 miles to go to Cape Verde and I would have liked to have been in on Wednesday evening (night arrival is tricky because of unmarked wrecks) but it looks more like Thursday morning now. I downloaded a GRIB from Mailasail's excellent weather service which shows fresher winds for tomorrow. No doubt I shall end up arriving just as dusk has fallen and will spend the night hove to. That's usually how cruising works out.

I've dusted off the sextant, by the way. Not only does it provide good intellectual interest, it can take me up to an hour a time to do the arithmetic and so it helps to pass the time. This morning's position line was only fifteen miles away from our GPS position, which was pleasing. Of course, there's always the chance the GPS is wrong. (With grateful thanks to the late Mary Blewitt and the very much alive Tom Cunliffe for their books on this subject which have helped me enormously to remember the practices I first tried over 30 years ago in a dreary evening class somewhere in the City of London). Cabbage for lunch - it's beginning to look tired, as am I.

The first one!
September 24, 2011, 12:00 am

The first flying fish was found on deck this morning. It was a miserable little scrap of a thing; even a hungry cat wouldn't give it a second look. But it's a bit of a milestone- certainly my first. We are now just above 23 North and after a day's hesitation the trade winds are back and blowing warmly from the NE, nothing much above force 4. At last, I've found a downwind rig that suits us. I've tried out the high-cut yankee on a pole, but it is a bit small and we waddle along at 4 knots. I'm no Ellen Macarthur, but that is not enough. This morning, after an idle night, I set our multicoloured furling genoa on a pole. It's probably twice the size of the yankee and over 5 knots is now the average, and gives a nice idle roll to the boat. If I can carry that all the way to the doldrums I'll be happy because it's a nice and easily managed rig. The heat is not yet oppressive. Any deck work leaves your dripping in sweat, but below the breeze feels cool, certainly at night. To someone used to UK cruising, it makes a change not to fear getting out of your bunk in the middle of the night. There has been little wild life. We saw a whale way back off Portugal, but little since: no dolphins or seabirds. I did see a little fish swimming along with the self-steering paddle the other morning- striped, like a tiger. I am now on cabbage alert having discovered some rot this morning. About four to five days to Cape Verde if the wind holds.

South, but slowly
September 23, 2011, 12:00 am

The GPS has just clicked over and it is now just under 600 miles to Cape Verde. At this rate, it's going to be a long slog. We are doing 1.8 knots, and have been for the last eight hours. Very frustrating after some speeds yesterday edging over 7 knots, and in complete comfort. I've dowloaded a GRIB file which tells me it should be blowing 20 knots, and the Navtex agrees, but there's no wind, so there. The calendar is already sitting heavy on my shoulder and I keep doing calculations as to how slowly I can sail and still get the boat to Brazil and be back by early November. I might have to forgoe my stop at Cape Verde, but since it's on the route I'll wait and see before making any decisions. I have been singlehanded since Lanzarote and it took a couple of days to adjust. It wasn't so much their help that I missed, but Ant and Chris' good humour. Although things should be quiet, there's always something to do. There was an intermittent cable of the autopilot this morning, for example, and I fixed that. But the one thing I have found to be a complete waste of time is getting sails up and down like a man gone crazy only to collapse in a heap of sweat having gained less than half a knot. The day before yesterday I had every sail out of the locker in pursuit of the ideal downwind rig, but all the dancing around didn't seem to make much difference. For excitement, a Russian cargo ship passed astern of us last night, bound for somewhere on the African coast. AIS is a most wonderful bit of kit. Without it I would have sworn he was coming straight for us, but the AIS (aisWatchmate- Vespermarine) held doggedly to its view that we would pass clear and so it proved to be. Sails slatting now, wind gone again. Not too hot yet, but very sticky, and cloudy. Bring back the trade winds, soon! Toasted cheese for lunch, I think.

A Word about Lanzarote
September 22, 2011, 12:00 am

And that word is 'odd'. We moored in Puerto Calero, a brash, modern marina where you suspect they care rather more about the food and clothing franchises than they do about the boats. However, although we made a dawn Sunday arrival there was a lad to meet us, give us diesel, drive me to the marina office (otherwise a 15 minute walk along the mole) and be ready to take our lines as we headed into the berth. But it is so often the details that make or break these places: the wifi wasn't working, no one knew where you could buy propane, and I got three different lots of advice on where the get an EU exit stamp on my passport - which I never achieved despite much driving around the island. That all said, it was 22 EU per night, so no real complaints. I cannot see why anyone would choose this place as a holiday destination. It is a volcanic island, arid and free from vegetation. You might as well spend your holiday on an ash tip. The lava fields, which cover thousands of acres are, however, spectacular, making this the ideal place for a geography field trip, but not a holiday. I left midday on Tuesday. The wind wsas very light from the north east but freshened as I cleared the southern tip of the island. I then made my way down the coast of Fuertaventura which I didn't shake off till the following morning. I hadn't watched the course sufficiently in the night and by morning I was pretty close to Gran Canaria, where the wind freshened as it often does on the coastal strip. From there I set a course for Cape Verde - 950 miles. PS You get gas from a filling station some 15 miles from the marina. No propane so I bought butane. Thank God for that box of universal gas fittings I carry.

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