Freebird Atlantic

Vessel Name: Freebird
Vessel Make/Model: X-Yachts - XC 50
Crew: William and Sarah Maltby, Henry Faire, James Axtell
19 January 2019 | Catherine’s noisy bar, Pigeon Bay
18 January 2019
17 January 2019
16 January 2019
15 January 2019
14 January 2019
13 January 2019
12 January 2019
11 January 2019
10 January 2019
10 January 2019
08 January 2019
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02 January 2019
Recent Blog Posts
19 January 2019 | Catherine’s noisy bar, Pigeon Bay

Thank you for all your comments

William and I have just found a live band, strong rum punch and good WiFi. This is the first time we have been able to read all your comments. Thank you so much for the banter. We love it all.

18 January 2019

We are there!

Bingo!  We made landfall and lowered our anchor in Falmouth Harbour at 12.45 local time (4.45am GMT)  It was all so exciting as we approached land.  While 8 miles out we passed another Talisker Rower, The Nauti Boys, so we motored towards them and shouted Congratulations and "You're [...]

17 January 2019

The Last Supper

Last night we enjoyed another wonderful evening with a stunning sunset and a Mahi Mahi curry, thanks to our catch the previous day. After a lean patch, we were losing confidence in our ability to catch any fish, but luckily faith was restored.

16 January 2019

Pink and fluffy

No.  Not my boudoir.  The panorama last night in the sky was just incredible.  As we were eating supper there was a fabulous sunset.  The entire sky, 360 degrees around, was a continuous mound of cotton wool clouds, all tall and fluffy, and as the sun was setting, each one was a glorious [...]

15 January 2019

The Deep Blue Sea

Yesterday was another day of frustratingly light winds, which meant that we abandoned the spinnaker at lunchtime and have been motoring since.  The sea state was pretty calm yesterday afternoon, so we stopped the engine and took a dip in the big blue sea. The boys all dived or jumped in, complaining [...]

14 January 2019

I must eat humble pie

We now have light winds and a forecast for them to remain for most of the passage.  We still have quite a lot of fuel, enough to motor for about 48 hours, but that is not enough to see us through.  So we try to minimise the amount of motoring. Yesterday we hoisted the spinnaker alone at first [...]

Thank you for all your comments

19 January 2019 | Catherine’s noisy bar, Pigeon Bay
Sarah
William and I have just found a live band, strong rum punch and good WiFi. This is the first time we have been able to read all your comments. Thank you so much for the banter. We love it all.

We have seen 3 of the Talisker boats in English Harbour and chatted to some of the boys we egged on near their finish. Our thoughts are with all the others still out there, and especially the 3 lovely girls in this photo who are still more than 1,000 miles away. I just hope they are still as cheerful as when we found them.

We are all rather wobbly for 5 minutes when we first stepped ashore, and that was before our first rum punch!

lots of love to you all.

Out!

We are there!

18 January 2019
  Sarah
Bingo!  We made landfall and lowered our anchor in Falmouth Harbour at 12.45 local time (4.45am GMT)  It was all so exciting as we approached land.  While 8 miles out we passed another Talisker Rower, The Nauti Boys, so we motored towards them and shouted Congratulations and "You're nearly there!"  They were rowing so vigorously as if in the Boat Race.  James shouted how impressed he was with their rowing to which they replied "We have had 3,000 miles to practice".  They were just 3 hours from their destination, English Harbour,  and we could only imagine their excitement.

As soon as we were all safe there was alot of giggling from William and Henry.  They had hidden the fact from James and me that the charts very definitely warn against arriving in Falmouth at night because of all the reefs.  In theory we should have anchored or hung around at sea until dawn.  In William's defence, the charts are written assuming basic navigational skill.  William had done his homework and our Navionics show every contour of the seabed so it was quite safe.  As we approached Falmouth the main sky line was a sea of tall masts from all the super-yachts, but we managed to find a gap in the calm waters to drop our anchor, before we enjoyed a celebratory bottle of fizz.

We were all rather sad yesterday as we completed the last of our daily routine..the last sunrise and sunset at sea etc etc.  There was not a breath of wind as the 8 knots or so were directly behind us, so no apparent wind (in other words we were going at the same speed as the wind so it appeared that there was none.)  So we motored all day until landfall in Antigua.  We really did melt and it seemed a far cry from the temperature when we left Lanzarote 18 days ago.  Then we had needed a coat for supper in the cockpit and full oilies and hat for the night watch.

We completed our fishing maraude yesterday in a frenzy.  The first catch of the day was made as I was serving up scrambled eggs at breakfast.  With Henry was reeling it in, we were marvelling at what a big Mahi Mahi it was, when it got away.  Bother.  But as soon as the line had been released again, there was another bite and we successfully reeled in a huge Mahi Mahi.  Maybe it was the same stupid fish that made the mistake twice.  Anyway, it made a delicious fish stew last night.

While we were eating supper, Henry spotted land which seemed to be nestling in amongst the low pink clouds on the horizon.  Oh what a thrill! We took a bearing, subtracted 18 degrees for the variation and at 243 degrees could see on the chartplotter that it was Guadeloupe.  I wondered why Henry had spent all afternoon with his head in a text book, to understand he had been learning how to calculate the distance to sighted land.  He knew that Guadeloupe has a height of 1,000m, from which he took the square root, i.e.32 which he doubled to give 64.  The chart plotter showed it was 66 miles away.  Not bad for a misspent afternoon!

Like excited children at the end of term, I packed all the boys off to bed at 7pm (after supper I am ashamed to admit, but I had given supper at sunset pretending we were on mid Atlantic time, when in reality it was 6pm).  We agreed everyone should have a short sleep before landfall at about midnight which we all wanted to be present for.  It was like getting up for a midnight feast!! I had the sweeties ready!

We are now anchored off Antigua Yacht Club in Falmouth Harbour. Our total passage has been 2,950nm, which is further than expected as we had to head so far south to avoid the massive wind holes. It took us 19.5 days at an average speed of about 6.2 knots which is quite a bit slower than we had had hoped, all attributable to the light winds. Whilst we may have been quite slow, it probably took less of a toll on the boat and we arrive with minimal damage as far as we can tell.

I have just closed the galley, and the blog may also go on strike for a  while.  William is about to go ashore to clear customs and then we can relax.  Whoopee!

The Last Supper

17 January 2019
  Sarah
Last night we enjoyed another wonderful evening with a stunning sunset and a Mahi Mahi curry, thanks to our catch the previous day. After a lean patch, we were losing confidence in our ability to catch any fish, but luckily faith was restored.

We hope to arrive in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua in the early hours of tomorrow morning, so last night was, hopefully, our last full night of watches and the routine that we have so easily lived by for the last two and a half weeks. It seemed a perfect excuse for "The Last Supper" and to enjoy some local Spanish bubbly.  I thought it a good opportunity to celebrate the good moments and highlight a few misdemeanors.  We all agreed that we had all thoroughly enjoyed our adventure, and we commented that there had not been a single raised voice or angsty moment.

I led the Yachtmistress's Awards Ceremony which meant that I could dish the dirt and not be a recipient. I thought I would share the results with you, which were as follows:

-The "How Many Years" Prize had 3 Categories (it is awarded to those who should know better)

    1. To Henry for tipping a full pot of coffee into my freezer so all food throughout has been al cappuccino (Prize: pack of coffee)

    2. To William for lobbing the cheese rind into the boom, which is probably still there waiting for a mouse to collect (Prize: Pack of cheese)

    3. To Henry for missing his flight from Stansted to Lanzarote (Prize: a boarding card)

    Annoyingly, I couldn't think of anything James had done wrong.

- "The Nerd's Prize" for linking all the on board Raymarine navigation systems to my iPad and not growing a beard, won by James (Prize: rubber ball with picture of nerds)

- A joint prize awarded for the "Most Stimulating Conversation", which happened to be Landrovers' Weekly, to the recipients who also managed to "Do the Best Fix" by identifying and mending the blown generator fuse (Prize: a wooden stick because I am sure it will come in handy when they fix their b.. landrovers)

- "The Matron's Prize" for the worst hospital corners (not sure if the bed was ever made - sorry Ginny) and for not wanting his fruit/vitamin C, is awarded to Henry.  (Prize: a bad school report)

- "The Most Trivial WAG email" prize had 2 contenders. I think the winner knows who she is!!  (Prize: an alternative squeeze for the husband in the form of a mermaid)

- As you all know, labradors are the most biddable, easy creatures, and I have awarded a prize to the Best and Worst Labradors of the passage.

 "The Worst Labrador Prize" is awarded to William who would not eat his tinned tuna, or cous cous, nor would he look when asked to do so at the camera, as he was always on another TWS (Time Wasting Scheme). Prize: tin of tuna.

" The Best Labrador Prize" goes to the one who never needing feeding, never answered back and always did what he was told to do. I awarded that to George, the self steering mechanism, which has been our saviour and made for an incredibly easy passage. He didn't even need a prize.

We spent much of yesterday sailing through great clumps of weed, famously found in the Sargasso Sea which we think is close but we haven't been able to confirm its location on any of the charts or books on board. Without access to Google, it will have to remain a mystery for a while.

For much of the passage, we have found about 4 flying fish on the decks in the morning, presumably confused by our lights as they never arrive by day. However we haven't found any in the last few days. Unclear why as we still see them all the time during the day.

Hip Hip Hooray!

A postscript from William. The person who deserves the greatest prize is Sarah. Her achievement in running the galley has been truly remarkable. It is a much bigger task than just cooking on a wobbling cooker in a heaving galley. The provisioning and stowage exercise alone was massive and a triumph. We have eaten like king's throughout and have not run out of anything. I doubt if any crew has crossed the Atlantic having suppers consisting almost entirely of fresh fish or game. Due to the success of the fishing, it appears that we will have at least two frozen pheasant casserole dishes left - I wonder if we can find a market for them in Antigua ?  I must leave off here as bacon and eggs for breakfast awaits.

Pink and fluffy

16 January 2019
  Sarah
No.  Not my boudoir.  The panorama last night in the sky was just incredible.  As we were eating supper there was a fabulous sunset.  The entire sky, 360 degrees around, was a continuous mound of cotton wool clouds, all tall and fluffy, and as the sun was setting, each one was a glorious pink, with an even brighter pink background.  What was so astonishing was the fact that this wonderful spectacle continued all the way round.  To the east (where the sun has not set!) the clouds became a grey/blue puffball with a dark pink background. It was magical.

We were enjoying a gastronomic dinner, of which I was quite proud, given we are now hopefully on the penultimate day of the crossing. We had crudites of mini toasts with philadelphia cheese topped with anchovies, or caviar (!), then pigeon breasts, all pink and succulent, on a bed of spinach and with ratatouille, made with the frozen artichokes I found lurking at the bottom of the freezer.  Then a little creme caramel to finish.  The dolphins came to join us,  just to round off a perfect evening.

We have had a lively night as we kept the spinnaker up all night. As the wind picked up at about midnight, we took off.  I think Freebird wants to get there.  She has been flying at between 8 and 9 knots for most of the night.  It is not conducive to sleep as we creak, lurch and roll, and I feel I have spent the night in a fairground as it is a lot more bouncy at the front of the boat where I sleep.  I am not complaining though. It is what we have been hoping for.

We really are now nearly there.  We have 270 miles to go, and hope to arrive during Thursday night.  That is if we can sail in the right direction.  Even with the spinnaker alone, we cannot sail dead downwind, which is due east and exactly where we want to go.  The optimum angle is 160 degrees off the wind, rather than 180, so currently we are heading too far south, towards Barbados rather than Antigua. (I think William is  launching a cunning plot to see the 1st test match there next week).  As soon as everyone is awake we will have to jibe the spinnaker again.  In fact we may have to furl it altogether as the wind is blowing force 5 now and it is getting very lively indeed!

As we near our destination, I thought I would tell you about our rubbish.  We feel proud that we have only filled one black sack (or wheelie bin as William calls them).  Not bad for 2.5 weeks. We have had a strict regime, with 2 bins, one for plastics, and the other using biodegradable bags for paper and food waste, which we can safely throw overboard with a clean conscience.  We have managed to minimise plastic by the use of a soda stream which makes fizzy water, lemonade and most importantly tonic water for the essential cocktail hour.  So no plastic bottles at all.  We have been drinking the water we make with the water maker, keeping it cold in the fridge and sometimes diluting it with a squash or squeezed lemon.

Although we long to arrive, we shall all be very sad when this adventure ends.

The Deep Blue Sea

15 January 2019
  Sarah
Yesterday was another day of frustratingly light winds, which meant that we abandoned the spinnaker at lunchtime and have been motoring since.  The sea state was pretty calm yesterday afternoon, so we stopped the engine and took a dip in the big blue sea. The boys all dived or jumped in, complaining that they couldn't reach the bottom, not surprising since the depth was 5,000 metres. The temperature was 78.5F and even I took a plunge although rather more apprehensively for fear of the Big White lurking.  It really was very refreshing as we were all sweltering (sorry to those at home freezing on a January day). Much to our surprise, we found that there has been a build up of barnacles on our transom just above the waterline and antifoul. They should come off easily with a brush.

Even though the sea may be "calm", waves and swell are incessant. In some ways the motion when motoring is even more challenging in the galley than when under sail. The motion is less predictable and the rogue waves always seem to turn up when I am trying to cook another gastronomic feast. We have often eaten out of bowls, rather than plates, to prevent the slop landing in our laps, and I regularly strap myself into the galley to prevent myself falling on the cooker or out of the galley altogether.  This trip has done wonders for the tummy muscles.

William's "prep" entails endless calculations to assess how much fuel we have for motoring and to ensure there is enough to charge the batteries. We use a lot of power, especially the fridges and freezer which have to work harder as the temperature has risen and the auto-pilot which has worked manfully throughout - thank goodness, as it really is like an extra crew member. All the power we take out has to be put back so keeping the batteries charged requires a lot of management. As a result of doing relatively little motoring early on, we still have a reasonable reserve of fuel which is allowing us to motor in these later stages when the wind is light. So those "nasty sails" have been put away for now, although the forecast shows more wind so probably not for long! The spinnaker in particular at night guarantees a sleepless night as it flops, then bites, then snatches (that sounds like our dogs but at least it is more colourful, being a vivid bright blue with large yellow star).  As you know William always has ants in his pants, so has not sat still for the entire passage. He is either glued to the chart table plotting fixes, poring over forecasts, or he has head down in the engine (he calls that his engine prayers) or he is playing with the water maker, generator, or anything else he can think of. He even cleaned down the decks at 3am this morning when we had a refreshing shower in the night, and was cleaning the hatches this morning, after checking all the rigging to ensure nothing had worked loose. Don't be fooled. Housework is entirely confined to his boat, and does not extend to terra firma.

Henry and James were put to work to rig up a system for securing the fishing reel to the rail, after the calamity of the previous day. The boy scout in both of them meant that they spent hours fixing a jury rig which meant "borrowing" cleats from other parts of the boat and making the whole system more efficient and secure than before. Whilst the DIY was impressive, the fishing was less so - the only bite promptly got away. Shambles, and it meant we had to resort to one of my pre-cooked vacuum packed numbers of chicken in tarragon for supper.

During breakfast yesterday we spotted a frigate bird circling us in the sky.  The frigate bird is a magnificent black bird with long narrow pointed wings of up to 2.5m and a deeply forked tail.   Their breeding grounds are in Barbuda which is where it had probably come from.  As we were still 600 miles from Barbuda it seemed incredible that it was so far from home, especially as they cannot land on water, because they are too ungainly to take off again.

As I write this, we are now just 400 miles from Antigua, we have just had another beautiful sunset and we have just found, at first light, another 2 flying fish on our decks.  I must finish this to help William hoist the spinnaker.  There is just enough wind to fill her.

I must eat humble pie

14 January 2019
  Sarah
We now have light winds and a forecast for them to remain for most of the passage.  We still have quite a lot of fuel, enough to motor for about 48 hours, but that is not enough to see us through.  So we try to minimise the amount of motoring. Yesterday we hoisted the spinnaker alone at first light.  As usual the boys rigged up a myriad of ropes, guys, poles, preventers, infuriators... and we flew.  We averaged 7 knots throughout the day.  We had expected to roll a lot without the steadying force of the main but that was not the case.  We were able to sail a more downwind course and adjust by 10 degrees up or down as the wind picked up a little or reduced.  William kept saying all day that he wished he had thought of that rig before. In fact he said it so many times, I thought the record had got stuck.  Over supper there was a debate over the rig for the night.  The boys all favoured keeping the spinnaker as the forecast looked light and a careful study of the radar revealed no squalls. So we took the chance. But at 2am when Henry was on watch, my fears were realised and a decent set of squalls did arrive. I should mention that squalls almost invariably arrive at night. They tend to produce quite a lot of wind in unpredictable directions and are always accompanied by heavy rain. Dropping the spinnaker requires 2 people, one on the foredeck and one in the cockpit which is a pain at night as we are running a one man night watch system. Henry woke William who returned dripping to my cabin. I refused entry until he had changed out of his soaking pyjamas.

You cannot believe the topic of conversations between Henry and James.  They range all over the place from strimmers to history, to the Telegraph crossword, but a recurring theme is landrovers. They both subscribe to The Classic Landrover Magazine, and James also to Landrovers Owners International.  Honestly!   They won't admit to Train Spotters Weekly, but I have my suspicions.  But they had the last laugh yesterday.  The generator suddenly stopped for no apparent reason.  So Henry changed the impellor, but to no avail.  Out came the manuals and all fuses & trip switches were checked.  Still nothing.  The boys were wracking their brains and supper was looking quite remote when Henry spotted that inside the generator there is an additional fuse for which we have no replacement.  Luckily William keeps some fuse wire, so James made a fuse with some 30A fuse wire.  The generator then started, they both gloated that it was all as a result of their landrover expertise. It was unquestionably the "fix" of the passage, and I had to eat humble pie.  Bother.

Then the fishermen among you might all have a laugh. I was on my own yesterday afternoon on deck (while the boys were all asleep) when the fishing line started screaming out with furious gusto.  I quickly put the brake on and started reeling in but the weight on the line was huge, especially as we were making 7.5 knots under at the time. With the spinnaker up, it was impossible to slow down quickly. Luckily Henry and James came to my rescue (William remained asleep throughout) when my biceps could cope no longer. James tried to reel in the fish which was putting up a big fight. It was another b... Mahi Mahi but clearly much bigger than previously and it was leaping into the air to avert capture.  The reel was becoming very hot as James wrestled with the fish and then the bracket holding the reel to the rail broke, followed by the line itself.  So a poor Mahi Mahi is swimming around the Atlantic trailing 200 metres of line, and you fishermen will be scoffing at our smugness at being able to fish with a reel and no rod.

For about a  week we have been able to see the Southern Cross to our left at night,  during the latter half of the night. Of course you would expect it to be to our left which is south, but it is also fairly close to the horizon, explained by the fact that we are still north of the equator but seeing some of the stars in the southern hemisphere. It is a kite shaped formation of 4 stars from which those that understand draw a perpendicular to point to due south. On the other side, to the north, we have the curious sight of the Plough upside down.

The birds continue to fascinate us.  We are now just 600 miles from the Caribbean, but throughout the passage there have been petrels (we think Leech's).  We did on one occasion watch a tern chase one of the flying fish, as it skimmed across the water. Yesterday a beautiful white bird that we think was a white tailed tropic bird followed us for a while, swooping past the boat, taking huge sweeps across the horizon and then returning for another swoop, or snoop.  It is a large white bird with a long pointed tail and very elegant.
Freebird's Photos - Main
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Created 29 December 2018
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