09/01/2012, North Atlantic
Picture: Whale tail, spotted from aboard Mrs. Marietta
It's after midnight by whichever time zone affects us and while I need to get some sleep I am also aware of the necessity to keep all our followers informed of the status quo of our voyage. We live in an era of rapid information exchange but sometimes we need to be discreet with the handling of that flow so as not to be intrusive on the effects of each other.
It might seem idyllic to be anchored in such a remote and almost exotic place such as Cabo Verde but we have needed to achieve a lot and have also experienced much over the past couple of days that has affected our lives. On the surface we have done a lot of work on and around the boat in preparation for the next leg of the adventure.
I always regard Cabo Verde as being the half way mark of the voyage from Cape Town to any Mediterranean destination. It may not be precise in terms of distance traveled and still to go but the total voyage is split in two by the sailing that takes place. From our beginning in Cape Town we have predominantly following winds in the South Atlantic that allows the boat to move along with wind and wave in unison, surging ahead with the rise and fall of the swell and the sails billowing out whilst we run before the wind. After crossing the ITCZ we have the wind and wave patterns from ahead and have to work hard to gain precious miles beating to windward. On one tack many miles can be gained but hen on the next tack the best course can be as much as at right angles to that which is desired so it becomes a game of two steps forward and one step back.
To achieve this effectively we need the boat in the best condition possible and to this end we have worked for the past two days. The mast and rigging has been checked thoroughly. At one time we had both Bellomino and Vittorio aloft simultaneously doing the necessary work. A full inspection of the engine room has been done ensuring that all oil levels are correct as well the various mountings and hoses being checked for tightness and leaks. One of the water makers needed a lot of attention so we are also confident of having adequate fresh water as needed.
At the end of the to do list was the filling of our fuel tanks, ordering the fuel early this morning it was promised for delivery mid afternoon but island time is island time and the truck arrived much later. The filling nozzle was too large for the deck fitting so was changed for a smaller one but this regrettably did not have a trigger operated valve. In the process of starting the pump on the truck there was so much pressure that we ended up with a virtual geyser spewing fuel back out of the filling pipe and onto the deck. For the first time ever I have had fuel all over myself and the deck. Fortunately we had taken the precaution of having a water hose handy and I was able to wash my eyes out swiftly.
We wanted to depart right after refueling but with the need to extensively clean the deck we made our way back to the anchoring area where Bellomino and Enzo toiled until well after dark with the task.
We are now ready to depart early in the morning but are all aware that we will not be continuing as we arrived. Sadly we said farewell to Paulo and Riccardo who have returned home. Paulo was not well for a few days and felt it prudent not to risk the situation any further. With the delays experienced in Cape Town Riccardo was running out of time on his leave of absence from work and as such needed to get back to work.
I shared my watches with both of them and will miss their company. Also I trust that you will all understand my motives for not saying anything too soon out of respect for their personal needs.
This afternoon I spent a lot of time gathering fresh weather and synoptic information for our route ahead.
So I say BUONO NOTTE from the anchorage here in Praia for in the morning we will sail on.
Picture: Vallentina, gourmet chef prepares home-made pasta.
My apologies to all for having let a couple of days slip by without writing but we have all been rather pre-occupied with the events around the boat. These things happen and we cope with them and then move on. But first lets get the chronological order correct. Drafted the other morning lets share this piece first.
Groping for my small pocket torch i shine it on my watch to see that it is five twenty five in the morning on our ships time. I am due on watch at five thirty and start to get ready. Its not too cold and only a light jacket and my safety harness go on over a shirt and short pants. The feeling is a bit surreal as my body clock has woken me without an alarm on time. Having sailed through three time zones since our departure from Cape Town our ships clock and the passage of the sun are out of sync. My conscience has followed our clocks but my body wants to wait for the sun to come up and start the day. Making my way to the cockpit Riccado is at the wheel steering with the wind from ahead as it had been since earlier. I take the man-over-board alarm from Enzo and wish him a good sleep as I step up next to Riccado to familiarize myself with the conditions. In two minutes I am ready and step in to the wheel as he steps out to go on standby and have a break.
The wind is around twenty knots with a swell of two and a half to three meters while the boat is doing eleven knots. The sky that had some clear patches last nigh is now completely overcast and the waning moon set a while ago so it is very dark. Checking the course on the compass and watching the wind angle I hold the boat steady as I can whilst hurtling into the black abyss. It's too dark to see the waves so one tries to feel the and not let the boat slam over them but to feed it over in a steady motion. The wind angle is fluctuating a bit as well as arriving in gusts during which the speed surges to over twelve knots. As the speed surges so does the adrenaline and I one with the boat, barefoot on the teak deck I can feel it's every movement like a heart beat. Unexpectedly Riccardo stands up and says that it is time to wake Vittorio for his watch. In disbelief I check the time with him as I can not believe that I have been at the wheel for an hour and a half. Time is not relevant when so occupied and frightfully busy with something you are enjoying and is giving purpose to your being. Vittorio comes into the cockpit smiling as always and is anxious to take the wheel right away. I sit down taking a long drink from my water-bottle and assume the standby position keeping an eye on the surrounding conditions. I watch the sky waiting for the new day to arrive as I relish my surroundings and our progress on Mrs. Marietta's maiden voyage.
For the past few days we have been seeing sargasso weed floating on the surface. It first appeared as small pieces and then gathered into larger mats between one and two meters square. Now however with the stronger wind from the north it is being blown into long lines that stretch across the surface of the sea, sometimes I can not even see the end of the line.
The weather has not followed the forecasts that we have been getting and the wind is a lot stronger than expected. Taking this into account together with low fuel levels we decide to make for Praia on the southern most of the Cabo Verde islands.
We were to pass close to the west of Santiago so there is little change to our heading and it becomes possible to enter the harbour and anchor for some shelter.
So here we are anchored in the harbour area of Praia where as is so often in remote places nothing happens over the weekend. We have busied ourselves with general maintenance and preparation for the next leg whilst waiting to get fuel tomorrow morning. Our position on the aprs beacon is 14 deg 54.6 min and 023 deg 30.3 min reflects this.
Thanks to Vittorio for a contribution to today's blog.
Ieri ore 23 :30 ora locale è arrivato il taxi per portare Paolo e Riccardo in aeroporto per rientrare in Italia.
L'attesa è stata lunga e triste per tutti, per sdrammatizzare abbiamo visto un film "Taxxi 1", Luca mio figlio vede sempre con molto piacere, centrato sulle corse delle auto. Quando il suo taxi si è presentato in banchina, Paolo che proprio non voleva abbandonare la barca, ha chiesto al taxista se poteva ritornare dopo mezz'ora. Si percepiva che oltre la sofferenza fisica, mentalmente non voleva abbandonare l'idea di completare il viaggio di rientro. Paolo è un amico speciale, uno con cui si sogna, si ride, si scherza anche in situazioni più o meno drammatiche. Paolo è stato lo spirito del gruppo, che voi tutti avete percepito. Personalmente avere Paolo al mio fianco era riuscire a sognare al di sopra della mia immaginazione. E' stato sicuramente decisivo nella scelta di partire. Non vorrei diventare troppo triste e romantico ma per me, alcuni amici, come mia moglie Serena conosce bene, sono molto importanti, Paolo è uno di quelli.
Per me, il bello di intraprendere delle avventure è riuscire a capire le priorità della vita. Riesco a rivalutare i rapporti familiari che nella vita di tutti i giorni si offuscano dalla contingenza giornaliera. Vivere il mare mi rinforza la voglia di stringere tra le braccia Serena mia moglie, andare a vedere una partita di palla a nuoto di mio figlio Luca, o una gara della mia splendida figlia Giulia.
Chi mi conosce sa che ho scritto già troppo.
Paolo buon rientro, non ti preoccupare ci sono sempre per te amici che aspettano di passare lo stretto navigando e contemporaneamente sognando.
05/01/2012, 11 deg 19 min N 021 deg 04 min W
Picture: Sushi - Paulo's favourite
It's fantastic getting replies back so quickly and appreciated by everyone.
Sleep is a precious commodity that is taken for granted in the city. One goes through the day, enjoys the evening with friends or the television and the heads off to bed for an uninterrupted, re-vitalizing sleep to prepare for the next day. Here however there is never the possibility of going through the night fast asleep. Our watch roster continues and although there are theoretically six hours between ones watches there are also other things to so sleep is gleaned in short spells both day and night whenever one can. Sometimes one is not actually tired but knowing that a watch duty will be required soon then we need to cultivate the habit of resting before hand. One of my favorites is from three to five in the afternoon. If I am able to get that little "power-nap" then I am able to head into the night duties easily. It is also necessary to take care at all times of others needing to rest and respect this with quiet on their behalf.
As many of the exciting things that we are seeing and experiencing there are also the mundane. It is not unusual to see one of us sitting with a bucket doing some personal laundry.
A strange feature of this voyage is the continuous cloud cover that we have had. Prior to St. Helena and continuing northwards the sky was mostly overcast but with good visibility. Often there are the most spectacular sunsets but I only recall one such opportunity to photograph the scene. For the past few days the sky has had a hazy appearance with poor visibility as if there is a mist around us but at a short distance.
A little earlier a ship passed and whist we monitored it on the radar at about five miles distance it was not visible as it normally would be. These are the tropics and the humidity is quite high so perhaps this has something to do with it. But it just goes to show that out here no two days are the same.
Valentinna has asked to make a contribution to the blog so here it is;
Un saluto a tutte la persone che amo :``siete piu vicine che mai! piu di quando lo siete fisicamente''. Auguro un buon anno nuovo a tutti quanti, e di provare la stessa sensazione che ho provato io sotto una grande scia di una stella cadente.
Vi auguro di essere cosi' sazi da non avere desideri da esprimere per il nuovo anno ma solo un sentimento di gratitudine ad ogni vostro respiro... solo per il semplice motivo di farlo!!!! "certo, sotto un infinito cielo stellato e una stella cadente viene meglio!!"
Comunque, vorrei anche scrivere di una persona, TOM.
Who is Tom?
E' un compagno di viaggio speciale, sempre presente con rispetto e riservatezza. Una persona unica e profonda come queste acque.
Grazie a lui inoltre possiamo ricevere i vostri commenti o scrivere e soprattutto per me, far vedere a mia nonna che lo gnocco non teme il mare!!
Un abbraccio special alla mia famiglia e al mio uomo preferito, ciao Papy!
It is early evening and I hope to get this away before going on watch.
Now at 11 deg 19 min North and 021 deg 04 min West.
Picture: Blackfish swimming along Mrs. Marietta
Most of my early voyages were made with very little outside contact for long periods and just a phone call from some remote destination. Technology has changed this and now it is much easier to stay in touch with a wider field of interested folk. In fact for those in the city there is such acceptance of the instantaneous gratification of the internet that the lack of it is seen as something bordering on a disaster. Whatever happened to " No news is Good news ". But jokes aside using the system that we are it is very pleasing to be reaching out to others and receiving their wishes and comments back. There is such joy in sharing. Not only do we have the new visitors in the form of the families and friends of those on board but some old friends have popped it in to say hello as well. Paula from her armchair in Ireland, it's great to have you along again. Then there is also Lynn with the K4 call-sign who is also tracking us on the aprs site ( how're the signals? ).
Yesterday afternoon just before the sun set a small pod of whales were sighted and although we slowed to a crawl and tried to approach carefully it was not possible to get really close to make an identification but we were treated to a spectacular tail wave which Dudi was able to photograph. In it the sea has a pinkish glow of the setting sun reflected onto the water. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did the experience.
There have been a few groups of dolphins playing in the bow-wave of the boat from time to time. These have mostly been the Atlantic Spotted Dolphin. Today however when the cry of " Dolphini " went out we were greeted by not only the smaller Atlantic dolphins but another group of larger dark colored animals slowly swimming along. They would break the surface gently to breath and then slide back into the water. The true dolphins came to the boat but the other larger ones ignored it completely. This is the typical behavior of a group which my book on Dolphins and Whales calls the Blackfish. These are the Pilot whales and includes RISSO'S DOLPHIN which I feel these were. Wonderfully gentle in their behavior they moved along breaking the surface every now and again, some times alone or sometimes in twos and threes. Cameras clicked away like the paparazzi but they took no notice and we took the memories.
Night is upon us and the night watches have started so sleep well and see you next time from 08 deg 25 min North and 019 deg 59 min West.
03/01/2012, Equator - Atlantic Ocean
Picture: Tom having a ball at the Equator crossing party.
Today we sailed into a different world.
For a short period around four o'clock this morning while I was on watch the clouds shifted and opened a view to the south. There in all it's glory I could see the Southern Cross brightly, watching and guarding over my beloved South Atlantic and Southern Ocean. It was as if it had come to say "Farewell", for ahead I had already had a glimpse of Cassiopeia and Ursa Major. The constellations of the north towards which we are heading.
We all awoke to a morning filled with excitement. Of our whole crew of eight only I had previously sailed over the Equator and although I have done so many times it still is a special moment when you move from the Southern world to the Northern one. Traditionally everyone wears something hand-made from items found on board. I sported a bow-tie and fresh shirt for the occasion. Following suit ( pardon the unintended pun ) the others soon donned their outfits and the boat thronged with a Pirate complete with eye-patch, a General with gold epaulets and cuffs, a Prince with a shining silver crown and mantle, a toga bedecked Goddess of the sea with a crown in the form of an octopus and an Elf left over from Christmas with a large bauble hanging from one ear.
As the GPS data slowly clicked over to a row of zeros there erupted a tumultuous shout of joy. Neptune was toasted and appeased with some cake and all the new comers were welcomed to the special band of sailors who have " crossed the line ". Turning Mrs. Marietta from her course we steamed along the line and actually found it. The hot, sultry weather and warm ocean beckoned and firstly Vittorio plunged into the ocean to swim along the line. he was closely followed by the others whilst Dudi and I kept an eye on their safety.
Sailors of old feared for demons and other perils in the unknown world that they forged a path to, we follow in their wake not finding any of those dreaded demons but certainly finding joy in the Almighty Creation and an inner peace of our surroundings.
There are few opportunities for such special moments in our lives and I trust that today's first timers have enjoyed the experience and will remember it as fondly as I remember my first crossing.
Leaving the scene we turned the boat back on it's course and continued on our way with the day growing hotter and hotter. Scooping buckets of water from the sea we pour it over our feet to cool them down and to make the deck bearable under the soles of our feet. Later in the afternoon a tropical shower approached from the east bringing some welcome rain to cool us and the boat.
Some comments from Riccardo:
Come ha gia' detto Tom, oggi per noi e' stato un grande giorno: abbiamo attraversato l'equatore! Con tutti i riti connessi.
Abbiamo aperto due bottiglie importanti, una di Barolo e una di Champagne. Abbiamo fatto il bagno al traino, superando i timori per lo squalo bianco e le meduse letali di queste latitudini. Abbiamo ballato come dei pazzi "Questo e' l'ombelico del mondo", ognuno col suo travestimento fatto a mano. Tom, emozionato, ha fatto un discorso molto toccante sul pulpito di poppa, rivolto verso l'immensita' dell'oceano!
Questa tratta da Sant'Elena a Capo Verde e' molto lunga, circa 2.500 miglia nautiche. Fa molto caldo. I turni di notte, che prima richiedevano giubbotti, cerate, guanti e berretto, adesso li facciamo in costume e maglietta. Stiamo attraversando le mitiche calme equatoriali, una trappola mortale per i navigatori antichi. Una latitudine a cui i marinai impazzivano e gli equipaggi si ammutinavano. E' incredibile quanto possa essere docile l'Oceano da queste parti.
I venti stanno gradualmente girando. Fin qui li abbiamo avuti a poppa, tra poco li avremo in faccia e tutto diventera' piu' impegnativo.
L'atmosfera in barca e' piacevole, mangiamo ancora il tonno di 20 Kg pescato tre giorni fa. Una strana calma si e' impossessata di noi...questo viaggio sta cominciando ad avere un effetto catartico sui nostri animi.
Adesso scappo a dare il cambio a Tom al timone. Auguri di buon anno a tutti!
So as we steam into the night best regards from us all at 01 deg 31 min North and 017 deg 34 min West.
As we have forged ahead and especially after St. Helena the air and water temperatures have climbed steadily. A remarkable feature of this voyage has been the amount of cloud cover that we have experienced. Almost constantly overcast we would have had difficulty navigating the true way with sextant and sun sights to fix our route. In view of the prevailing conditions modern electronic and satellite systems have guided us on our way.
Yesterday afternoon the sky cleared to give us a star filled evening. Much time was spent in identifying both well known constellations and lesser known heavenly objects that aroused our curiosity.
Arriving on watch well before dawn I was greeted by the now familiar dark sky with little to see. Even as the dawn drew near there was no ceremony or grandeur in the sunrise, it just slowly got gradually lighter with the visibility increasing almost imperceptibly until it was day. And as a day it has been good.
All day there has been a festive atmosphere on board as we approach the end of of year out here in our small world. Surrounded by water and far from land we exist in an isolated environment but with the knowledge that further out there are our loved ones.
Tonight there are decisions to be made as to when we celebrate the arrival of the new year. We have South African time, Italian time, Universal Time and of course the true Local Hour according to our longitude. Whatever the decision the is going to be a party at CLUBBE NAUTICO de MID ATLOANTICO and you are all invited to join us in celebrating the arrival of the year 2012.
May you all have a wonderful and prosperous NEW YEAR.
Cheers from us all on board Mrs. Marietta 3 at 04 deg 26 min South and 13 deg 47 min West.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, LA FESTA IL CAPODANNO
Santa with a plate of Panettone
Our approach to St. Helena felt like a bit of a race against time and Santa Clause. In the end Santa won but as you already know he kindly came out to Mrs Marietta to cheer us up.
Arriving in the anchorage before dawn we found our way in in the dark and put the anchor down in about 30 meters of water depth. Well secured some took the opportunity of a little shut-eye whilst we waited for the local day to begin. Being Boxing Day and a festive holiday the kind operator at St. Helena Radio was able to contact the Harbour Master to arrange for our formalities and clearance to land. Ever so helpful and friendly Dudi and I were fetched at 9:30 local time and assisted by Barry and Linne to do the harbour and customs forms whilst Fionna saw to our emigration details. Thus sorted we were free to visit the Island.
For me it was a chance to meet old friends and chat while the others sourced an internet connection which they found at the Hotel and also met Peter Martin who offered to take them on an excursion around the Island. With it being the Christmas holidays every thing was closed so it was most fortunate to have Peter's assistance to explore a little of the interior of St. Helena. The shore line is extremely rugged and barren of vegetation due to it's volcanic origins. By contrast the interior is lush and green. This amazed the others on their first visit to this remote destination which can only be reached and visited by boat there being no airport or other link with the outside world.
For me it was wonderful to meet a few familiar faces in the street and to have a meal with Ray and Desiree who always show me such love and welcoming warmth in their home. Due to such a little time there were others that I wanted to see, but perhaps next time.
Tuesday was also a holiday with every thing still closed and with our own pressures on time we decided to make our way further northwards. There was a little work to attend to on board and a compass needed adjusting so while that was being done I went ashore to pay for our ferry usage and some other small items.
Valentinna was unable to find any fish-cakes, a renowned local delicacy, due to the holidays. Undeterred on hearing about this Desiree set about quickly preparing and baking a fresh batch for me to take back to the boat. These were all enjoyed immensely with compliments and chants of " buonisimo ". Thank you Des!
There have been some questions about our speeds and progress. When motoring we run the engine at about 1700 revs per minute for considerations for the engines well-being and a reasonable fuel consumption, this generally give us a speed of about 9.5 knots. Dependant on wind conditions and angles our sailing speeds are generally around 10 knots or a little higher. These factors have resulted in us making around 220 to 230 miles a day. Sometimes it may not seem much but these are point to point distances that do not take into account the actual distances covered in tacks and course changes to maintain close to our route plan.
Since leaving St. Helena both the air and water temperatures have steadily increased. Prior to the island we never caught any fish but with our experiencing warmer water we have now landed a fine Dorado on Monday and a magnificent long-fin tuna yesterday evening just around sun-set.
As ever there is always a lot to be done on board to keep moving at a respectable pace. The constant attention to the boat and gathering weather information has left little time for writing but I hope this contributions suffices for now whilst I think about the next instalment.
Enjoy your day as we enjoy ours at 09 deg 53 min South and 009 deg 13 min West. ( What a co-incidence in those figures. )
I have made several attempts to write the next portion of our journey but each time have been interrupted by something needing attention on the boat. We are on the move day and night so there is always attention needed somewhere apart from the normal watch-keeping duties. There is always two of us on watch at a time to keep the boat on track. Very little use of the auto-pilot is being made and we are hand steering most of the time. I have named the auto-pilot " Gerronimo ". History has it that Gerronimo was a bit crazy and the auto-pilot has not been the sanest piece of equipment. Hence it's name and the never ending hand steering
Christmas as a religious festival is celebrated in many cultures each with it's own variation of the essential theme. My experience of an Italian version was most pleasant indeed. Whilst missing my own family on such an important occasion it was good to be with caring folk who took the time to celebrate Christmas in a very traditional way.
Even out here Santa Clause was able to find us and arrived resplendid in his red suit and bearing a large plate of Panetoni.The night before we had a sumptuous dinner with the emphasis on fish. Octopus formed the entre or antipasta and was followed by a long pasta with shrimps and lobster on the side. During the day there was Christmas cake or "Pandoro " to give it it's correct name. Later in the evening gifts were exchanged. For lunch today there was a tasty freshly made pasta.Thank you for all the Christmas wishes and messages posted on the blog for us. Shaun was kindly able to forward them on me to print and so allow all to read them.
For two days now we have been seeing Fairy Terns flying around. These beautiful white little birds are endemic to St. Helena Island and are a sure sign of our approach to the first destination on this voyage.It is now a little after two in the morning and I have managed to write this after completing my watch at one am.At position 16 deg 12 min South and 005 deg 21 min West we are about fourty miles from St. Helena and should arrive at the anchorage shortly after dawn.I had wanted to include a contribution by Valentina but she is asleep at present so will try and have it next time.