22/07/2010, 10 deg 09 N 79 deg 05 min W
We have been at sea for sixty two days now and are just on day away from
perhaps the most significant part of our voyage, namely the transition of
the Panama Canal. A man made waterway cut through Panama to allow ships to
pass between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
On our way here we have traveled six thousand nine hundred nautical miles
and experienced much. It may not be out of place to look back at some of the
most significant features of the voyage so far. The incredible blue open ocean that I love so much is not everywhere as expected. Three hundred and fifty miles off the coast of Brazil the beautiful blue water suddenly went a brown, green colour. This was the effect of the mighty Amazon River pushing its effect far out into the open ocean. This darker water was to stay with us for several hundred miles more on our way to the Caribbean. Not only the colour was affected but it also gave us the worst adverse current that I have ever experienced. At up to four knots against us it was as vicious as the infamous Perana fish found in the Amazon. It slowed us incredibly and it was hard work to get through it.
We have also found out that all flying fish are not the same. I suppose that
this is natural as all species have variations but this voyage it has been
most significant. During my last voyage I spoke of large schools of flying
fish taking to the air around the boat, this time however we have not had
those large numbers. In fact there have only been small groups of just a few
fish at a time or mostly single ones. After St. Helena there were very few
to be seen but shortly thereafter we were finding the tiniest specimens on
board, no more than a few millimeters long. naturally thew have to spawn at
some time but I had not seen such tiny ones before. They were washed aboard
by the waves and we even scooped them up in the bucket when washing the boat in the morning. It was most interesting to see them as tiny as that taking
to the air like insects. As we approached Brazil the shape of the flying
fish changed to a more robust type. Mostly the flying fish leap out of the
water and more or less glide away from whatever has frightened them. These bigger bodied chaps come out of the water and virtually "tail walk" while they get
going and actually achieve lift and then fly much further than the slimmer
"gliders" using the speed that they have achieved in the water prior to
exiting. Here in the Eastern Caribbean Sea we are back to an even smaller
Our traverse across the Caribbean Sea has consisted of two parts. Leaving
St. Vincent we had very favourable easterly winds which sped us along under
our twin head-sails in real cruising mode. Turning south-west the wind
seemed to run out on us and for the second half of this leg we have limped
along with very little wind and even a small amount of current against us.
At least we have had an easy passage without any storms or adverse weather,
something to be thankful for. With all the water rushing westwards down the
center of the Caribbean Sea it has to turn back somewhere resulting in the
counter current now experienced as we approach Colon and The Panama Canal.
We should arrive in Colon Wednesday morning our time, which is now seven
hours away from South African time. I have already engaged an agent to
handle our transit details. Formalities of customs, emigration, boat
measurement and so on will most likely take two or three days. This means
that we possibly will start the transit on Friday afternoon our time. There
are webcams on the locks which are able to be viewed on the internet. Should
you wish to try and see us in the locks it will mean watching late at night
SA time. Once I have more information I will try and get it circulated as
soon as possible.
This is an exciting time for us and a big part of the adventure which I am
sure we will enjoy and remember for a long time to come.
At present we are at 10 deg 09 North and 79 deg 05 min West enjoying the
late afternoon sun on a calm sea.
Cheers from all on board.
Pic: Equator Crossing Party Preparations
BEEN DEY DONE DAT! As the local vernacular has it for St. Vincent where we
had a very successful stop-over. Taking on the extra equipment for the boat
we were able to check and stow it whilst comfortably tied up to a marina.
Following the load gear came the servicing of our boat. With Wade up the mast all was scrutinized and found to be safe for our further travels. The water tanks have been flushed and refilled with lovely sweet water and our trusty engines oil and filters changed. This servicing will stand us in good stead for the long miles ahead. In the afternoons Wade and Andre had free-time to explore the surroundings whilst I concentrated on the frequencies and synoptic down-load details for the voyage further and especially across the Pacific.
Casting off our mooring lines just after sun-rise last Sunday we traversed the Bequia channel and entered the Caribbean Sea. We did not find the famed "Pirates of the Caribbean" but what we did find was some excellent sailing
conditions. The swell pattern had been broken by the Windward island chain resulting in a calm sea which gave an easy motion to the boat. The winds were following and with our twin head-sails up we sped along a straight course day after day in a most easy fashion. We seemed to have had some very good luck with a clear weather window as we only experienced the occasional little tropical rain squall as we sped along.
Yesterday in a position north of the Peninsula De Guajira on the north-east corner of Columbia where we gybed to alter course and make for Colon and the
Panama Canal, our next objective. The wind was good as we headed South-West on a reach with Main and Genoa sails drawing well. This morning a "Tropical Wave " passed over us with a lot of refreshing rain and wind but sadly
behind it there is little wind and we are having to motor-sail to keep up our schedule.
I have been in contact with an agent in Colon who will handle our formalities and canal transit for us. At present we anticipate being in Colon next Tuesday, the 20th. Formalities should take two or three days so we should start the transit Thursday afternoon.
Shaun will be pleased that instead of just watching the flight patterns of the sea birds as I have always done, I am actually trying to identify them. In spite of having an excellent field guide with me this is not an easy task. The view that one has is short lived and different to what is in the book, but I have managed some definite types if not the actual species. This morning I watched two Gannets feeding close two the boat. Swooping, hovering and then diving at speed into the water and the rising with a small fish in the beak. With a yellow head, white body and black edges to the wings I would say they were Cape Gannets and not the Northern Gannet which has a darker body. Which do I believe, my eyes or the book.
Our ship-board routine continues as ever with watch-keeping round the clock
and attention to the boat twenty four seven. One activity we are all missing is the fishing. With still a lot in the freezer we are trying to eat it to make space for the next catch whatever it might be.
I am managing to run the active tracking beacon regularly, and with it's signals being received in both America and Europe here is hoping the trace formed on the map is of interest.
Hope that you enjoy this comunique from a hot Caribbean afternoon at position 12 deg 57 min North and 73 deg 09 min West.
Captain Moby, Tom, Wade and Andre.
Pic: Andre and Wade swimming across the Equator
So three little boys played in the rain. I was preparing vegetables for the evening meal when Wade started scurrying around closing hatches and the saloon doors. Another tropical rain squall was about to hit us. Wade stayed outside with Andre whilst I continued inside, albeit muttering about being closed in with the stifling heat. At 32 degrees and a high humidity working at the galley was not comfortable. Standing in the rain and cooling off Wade and Andre were enjoying the downpour. Shortly afterwards bottle of shampoo and soap appeared and they were having an outdoor shower. having gotten the meal into the oven I wasted no time in joining them and enjoying a much needed cooling off as well. There we were all lathered up and with heads turned to the heavens reveling in the pleasant situation. Such joy from something so simple is perhaps difficult to understand but we were having a ball in the rain.
We are always busy as sailing is a twenty four hour process every day but there are times to relax. Our cockpit table is covered with a sheet of hardboard to protect it and maintain it's new appearance for the end of the delivery. A chess board has been drawn on it and with chess pieces fashioned from spare nuts, small bolts, coins and such like regular games are being played. The challenge is fierce but I am staying out of the fray in innocence as I have never learned to play.
We have the usual supermarket type salt and pepper grinders but a boat is a boat and they have a habit rolling around with the sailing motion that will tipple anything not placed somewhere secure. Frustrated by the grinders behavior an empty tea-bag box beckoned a solution. Gluing the lid closed and carefully cutting some well sized holes has given us a nifty cruet set for the dinner table. It's always possible to have a little class to the setting!
All of this may sound a "cool" lifestyle but there are realities, none the least of is "cabin fever" With three individuals living and working in such a confined space it is necessary for all to be aware of this and work towards maintaining the equilibrium that is so vital to our well-being.
Another reality is the severe pain we feel when receiving untoward news from home. Not always the actual item itself but the fact that we are totally unable to do something meaningful about it. Our watery world just does not give us those facilities.
After a week of very poor winds whilst crossing the ITCZ we have for the last while been favoured with excellent sailing conditions to speed us towards St. Vincent, our next objective.
From us to you at position 11 deg 47 min North and 57 deg 36 min West.
30/06/2010, 05 deg 22 min N 48 deg 14 min W
Pic: View of Jamestown & Anchorage. First stop at St. Helena.
One thing about spending time on watch, and a lot of it as well, is that one does an awful amount of thinking. Maybe too much because I conjure up all sorts of sentences and headings but then fail to commit them to print.
I had been wanting to write about the myriad of scenes that the expansive ocean presents to us but for the last fourty-eight hours it has given us a different picture, and not one that we have enjoyed. Reaching the ITCZ or doldrums is not something that a sailor relishes but this time it has also brought with it severe rain squalls. It maybe that we are of the coast of Brazil in the Amazon region that there is so much moisture in the air resulting in torrential down-pours. During the past two nights we have all been soaked to the skin, fortunately it is not cold so there have not been any ill effects except the periodic discomfort. Now with very little wind and a rogue current against us we are forging ahead with the diesel sail to try and get through to the wind on the other side.
Back to the more pleasant pictures. With the freezer full we had stopped fishing but day before yesterday we could see tuna in the water. Some jumping out and others feeding in groups, I would say groups rather than schools as they were spread out and not really in one concentrated school. The scene was far too tempting for us and off course the lure went back in the water. not long and there was a strike but it was lost quickly. Then a few more knocks on the lure and quiet again. About half an hour later the peg alarm shot off with a mighty snap and the bungie shock absorber stretched so thin we thought it was about to break. With the line cutting into Wades hands he helped me to retrieve the line slowly. Even before we could see the fish I was sure that it was a tuna by the diving attitude it was showing. Gradually we got it to the boat and then we gasped. It was HUGE. A magnificent yellow-fin tuna with the colours bright in the water. The struggle to land it and free the hook did not do the fish any good and although we thought of freeing it, that was not possible with it probably going to die anyway. Setting to fillet and cut the flesh up gave us so much that we now definitely will not be putting the lure in for quite some time. Wade and Andre took photos and they could hardly lift the nose off the deck when holding the tail up. Fresh out of the sea the steaks are proving to be the most tasty, melt in the mouth that one can imagine.
Absent visitors for some time were the dolphins but we are happy that they have been making their appearances again. Earlier the Atlantic spotted dolphin, and this morning a smaller, darker variety. The pod was about thirty to fifty strong with what appeared to be many smaller juveniles leaping out of the water and spinning in the air. Today I have also been watching Skip-jack jumping out the water and feeding. They are a smaller type of tuna but not a popular catch as the flesh is not that favourable for eating.
The heavy over-cast cloud cover has lifted a bit and some blue patches are appearing so perhaps the rain is over for now. One draw-back is that it is getting hot again. At least with the rain it was cooler. Can't we ever be satisfied?
This from us to you at position 05 deg 22 min North and 48 deg 14 min West.
The Crew on board A4034.
Pic: At anchor in St-James Bay. St Helena Island.
No the world is not flat and we have not sailed over the edge! Although being " over the edge " may have another meaning for us. Some difficulties with the rudders and one engine forced us to go into Fortaleza to be able to effect the necessary repairs. Moored where we were there was a lot of electrical interference to the radio so I was not able to operate the system and send the mails that I wanted to. Our tracking beacon was however running and I am sure those following it were able to see where we had stopped. Whist there we were in a marina that is part of a hotel complex and not too bad a mooring, although the docks were very grimy and the black stuff with which the pontoons are painted transferred to our feet and thence onto the boat. Endless cleaning to keep it down and now a couple of days out to sea and the decks are starting to look good again.
Being part of the hotel we were able to use the pool facilities to swim and cool off in quite oppressive heat and humidity. Good ablutions and an excellent open air bar rounded off very attractive surroundings. Foreign ports and destinations may sound exciting but with severe language difficulties and finding ones way around are major headaches. I needed some small items for the engine and as the rudimentary fishing fleet are mainly sailing Praiha's there was not and engine agent or any similar diesel repair facility that I could consult. Even the marina manager was not able to make a suitable recommendation. Walking back and forth all over the town for two days has left me nursing very sore and blistered feet. Hopefully they will recover before we have another shore stop and I need them again.
Setting sail in the early morning of Thursday day we had the daylight to settle down and pickup our sea routine again, which i am pleased to say I am enjoying again. The winds have been favourable for two days and together with a fair current we have sped on our way heading in a North-West direction. During last night we calculated that we would cross the Equator early this morning but as usually happens with the plans of mice and men the winds eased up, slowing us down and the hoped for crossing getting later and later. Never mind I altered the course more Northerly and we crossed the Equator at 12:36 pm local time today.
Shortly after breakfast I baked the traditional chocolate cake for the occasion. At the point of crossing the boat was stopped and allowed to drift whist we toasted Neptune and drank to his health and reflected on the magnitude of our surroundings. With the boat drifting Wade and Andre were able to swim and can now boast having swum across the Equator. A short while was spent enjoying the special occasion before we hoisted the sails to continue on our way.
Now in the Northern Hemisphere this is coming to you from 00 deg 11 min North and 43 deg 27 min West, where the weather is fine and hot with a partly cloudy sky and a calm sea. Quite befitting of the occasion.
Cheers from us all on board.
20/06/2010, 03 deg 42 min S, 35 deg 45 min W
Pic: Two of the boys at the dinner table.
Life is full of pleasant surprises. I had approached this the second leg of our voyage with some trepidation as I expected very light conditions as we sailed further North and out of the influence of the South Atlantic high pressure system. Not quite so!
On this leg from St. Helena to the corner of Brazil we have sailed exceptionally well, running for days beneath our twin head-sails. The winds have been remarkably steady and consistent, much more so than my expectations. Out of fourteen days we only had one light patch of a day and a half. The sailing has been far better than what we experienced in the Trades area and were much more like what one expects from trade-wind sailing. Days and days of comfortable down-wind running with mile after mile slipping by below the keel, in this case make it keels. We have recorded our best daily runs on this leg. In the trades we only had two good days of more than 150 miles whilst here we have had several days around 150 miles and two days ago recorded 172 miles and today an awesome 180 miles in the 24 hours noon to noon. The twin head-sails were flying days after day although it is always necessary to take the free flying one down each afternoon to check the halyard for chafe.
A few evenings ago at dusk I heard a soft blow next to the boat and called out " Dolphins " to the others. There were a couple of very dark shapes in the water alongside the boat and a few more surfing down a wave behind us. At first we thought that they were just a different species of dolphin but in actual fact I believe that they were possibly Burmeister's porpoises. Although according to the field guide they are normally found further south near Argentina and Southern Brazil. The blunt shaped heads and low profile swimming style were the best indication that we had in the low light at that time. After seeing nothing for most of the voyage so far we have been visited by Atlantic spotted dolphins three days in a row now. Today they stayed for a considerable time even treating us to a few leaps ending in quite bid splashes. Birds have also been absent except for the little Elliot's Storm Petrel flitting along with it's characteristic little bits of " water walking ".
Our fishing has continued although for two days it was very overcast and grey with nothing happening to the lure. Yesterday morning however we hooked a good sized Dorado which I was able to get onto the back of the boat. Unfortunately it was not grabbed quick enough and flapping and jumping around in a frenzy it got away. Patience later around noon paid dividends it that we hooked a Wahoo which was landed successfully. It may be fun to fish from a power boat with a rod and reel complete with star-drag to play the fish but try it from a sail boat with a hand line and no way to reduced the boats speed to make fighting possible. Concentration with the hand line on a yo-yo spool, even letting off a turn or two now and again got the Wahoo on board to provide us with some fine eating. This morning, regrettably we lost another lure to some thing obviously bigger.
Late afternoon here so enjoy your evening while we sail further at 03 deg 42 min South and 35 deg 45 min West.
Cheers, Captain Moby and the boys.
16/06/2010, 09 deg 21 min S, 24 deg 41 min West
Pic: Andre taking a plunge of the back of the boat.
One of the delights of sailing is that it is never the same. Even when conditions are similar, one day to the next, the actual sailing brings out the subtle variations to highlight the differences.
On voyages like these one day becomes like the next and a person has to actually look at the log-book or a calendar to know if it is Monday or Friday. With the watch-keeping routine and constant sea and sky the days just run into each other almost with a loss of reality but the subtleties and variations in the actual art of sailing are there to be enjoyed and relished making each day special as we pass mile after mile of open ocean.
Comparisons are odious but it is impossible not to notice the differences we are experiencing on this stretch of ocean towards Brazil. Prior to St. Helena we had a lot of bird life but now are seeing practically nothing, I can not actually remember the last bird seen, although having been pondering this for several days now. In January and February we had large schools of flying fish constantly, now we are only seeing the occasional ones and twos with at best only a few in a group at a time. It may be that this stretch of ocean is different or it might be a change of season. Similarly on the last voyage we had dolphins almost daily and also various types. Now that I have my field guide book for identifying them we have seen very few. Only a small pod close to Cape Town and then again near the island where they are resident and can almost always be seen, even entering into the anchorage at times unaffected by the boats at anchor and the resultant activity around the moorings.
Now in the tropics the average temperatures have risen steadily and even at night have not dropped below 26 degrees for the last three nights. Yesterday and the day before the high was 31 degrees when there was little wind, today it is 29 degrees as we have more wind. Significant to this are the frequent cooling bucket showers and dips that we have been enjoying at the back of the boat. Mighty refreshing indeed.
The galley and hot items are always a risk on a boat. A sudden lurch or wave action can upset almost any stable container or pot. Whilst preparing dinner the other evening I was holding a pot any stirring gently when I smelt something akin to burning, could not understand as there was more than enough liquid not to let the food burn but I stirred more vigorously anyway. The smell persisted together with the arrival of smoke. Undeterred I kept on stirring when " OUCH " my finger hurt as it got burned. The cloth that I was holding the pot with had caught alight on an edge that had slipped down to the gas flame. Promptly dunking in the sink I now have a character cloth with singe marks.
As ever Amateur Radio is featuring on this voyage to bring you these items as well as giving us our weather details. The tracking beacon is being transmitted more frequently than before and it is hoped that this is proving of interest not only to those just wishing to know where we are but the radio enthusiasts that are seeing where the signals are being relayed and the effects of radio propagation. The information at www.shiptrak.org is under my normal call sign as I send that to the site manually each day, However at www.aprs.fi it appears as ZS1TA-9. This is because it is an automatic transmission in the packet radio service and as such has a separate SSID or secondary station identification.
It is now mid afternoon and with the wind having increased during the day we are enjoying some good speed in the right direction and also have passed to less than 1000 miles from our way-point off Forteleza in Brazil.
Earlier I spoke of my fine short haircut kindly done in Jamestown. Well, Wade normally wears his hair short requiring little combing but failed to have it cut before leaving and now finds himself with his hair long and no brush or comb. HA HA I have just given him a nail- brush to try. Lets see what he looks like.
This from a sunny 09 deg 21 min South and 24 deg 41 min West.
Cheers, Captain Moby, Tom, Wade and Andre.
15/06/2010, 10 deg 04 min S, 22 deg 29 min W
PIC: The one that got away. The released sailfish.
Well here we are on LAKE ATLANTIC. For several days we have had excellent wind thanks to a stable South Atlantic high pressure cell but now our luck seems to have run out in that department, and for the last thirty six hours have been motoring with little variable puffs of wind.
The sea does not look like an ocean at all. There is a gentle rolling swell with a very long period allowing the boat an easy passage and motion across the top of the water. The sky is clear today and it all is more synonymous of a lake than what one thinks of with regard to an ocean. Extremely pleasant but we need to be going places! With the lack of wind the air temperature has gone up and up.
Going on watch at three am this morning it was still 28 degrees. Sorry all you folks back home battling the cold of winter but we have said good-by to winter for this year. From now on and until September we will be in the tropical and equatorial zones constantly. The year of the endless summer perhaps. Its a week since leaving St. Helena and we have made good progress but the pleasant memories of the island and it's people are with us still. Courtesy of Val I am sporting a home-made haircut that is proving to be very comfortable at sea and in the heat. This was done with scissors sitting on a kitchen chair in the courtyard.
From Cape Town we had two containers of cup-cakes the were eaten one at a time with our tea each day after dinner. They nearly got to the island. Thanks to Desiree who presented us with a box of home-made date-cakes so we have been able to continue to have something sweet after dinner. Sadly the box is now depleted. There are still her cheese straws which I am saving for a special occasion. Ray kindly recharged my camera batteries with the intention that I would be able to sort them and send some back to share with you. Unfortunately the radio signals are not proving to be good at the moment and whilst I am able to get the emails through the photos are being more difficult but watch this space as the will get through eventually.
The steady winds after St. Helena took us on a reasonably good track to the North-West and at twenty degrees West we passed out of the South African weather forecast area and are now in the Brazilian North Oceanic area and are today about one thousand miles from the Brazilian coast which should be reached in about another week or so. Yesterday we took to fishing again with a promising bright yellow and green lure. Something did trigger the peg but on checking the line was slack. When recovering the line at sunset it was found that the lure was torn so something did bite it. Patched this morning and deployed it with great expectations.
Today's lunch is a bread and butter pudding using the last of our four St. Helena loaves. We are having it before the mould does! This from 10 deg 04 min South and 22 deg 29 min West.
Have a great day the sailors, Tom, Moby, Wade and Andre.