The Adventure Continues
08 April 2012
Back on Gabriola, sailing from Trinidad to Panama. Check out my new website for full details:
Land Lubbers Again!
21 May 2009 | UK
Many thanks to all who've followed the blog so far. We've really enjoyed reading your comments. Apologies for being a bit slack on the write-ups as of late. A few people have told me off so I feel like a naughty schoolgirl who hasn't completed her homework!
The boat is now laid up in Trinidad for the hurricane season and we are back in the UK for several months - enjoying time with friends and family and desperate to earn some ££££ now we've spent it all sailing!!!!
Sarah & Peter
09 March 2009
We finally got an internet connection and got our act together to post a short video of our crossing of the atlantic and updated the map and the photo gallery.
So, sit back and enjoy a journey through a time and space where flying fish are always on the menu
We Did It!
27 February 2009 | Barbados
We made landfall in Port St Charles, Barbados on 8th February 2009 after 17 days at sea. Phew!
No Turning Back!
02 February 2009 | Mid-Atlantic
It's about an hour before we plan to depart Cape Verde for Barbados and I have been feeling completely calm about the whole trip. Then, I am taken completely by surprise. Silent tears are glistening down MY cheeks. MY eyes and lips are going all red and puffy. So suddenly, I feel so incredibly emotional. I am utterly overwhelmed. This really is quite embarrassing because I am not consciously worried about the ocean passage. I have already thought of all the 'reasons not to go' versus 'reasons to go'. I chose the 'Just Do It!' option (as Mr. Nike would say) some time ago now. I am in no doubt we are going to cross the Atlantic.
I presume then, at some other level of brain functioning, my subconscious just wants to give me a quick sanity-check before I embark on such a big event. It talks to me with the voice of reason or is it just fear? "You should be feeling a bit scared today, you know. Apprehensive, perhaps? Of course, you do realise you're about to embark on an ocean passage of more than 2,000 miles with nothing but sea! You're sure you're OK about the fact there is absolutely no turning back should you decide you don't like it half way across. Hell, just two days out and you can't turn back because of the prevailing winds. Once you begin, there is no stopping until the Caribbean! Sickness, broken equipment, a broken mast, approaching squalls...catastrophe! No matter what...there is no going back once you have slipped these lines!"
As I prepare the lines at the bow, I pull my baseball cap downward over my eyes, hoping to hide my wet, blotchy face. Then I hear a soft voice. It's one of the older wives looking at me, smiling. "Don't worry," she says, "we all feel like this at times." I don't bother to explain that I'm really OK it's just my brain seems to have short-circuited momentarily. I simply smile back at her. As we sail away, sailors from nearby pontoons give us a traditional Atlantic 'send off'. Wishing us fair winds and good passage for our crossing, they honk air horns. One even whistles a tune (of sorts) on a pipe. Waving 'goodbyes' all the while. It's a demanding start as we exit the harbour and enter the 'acceleration zone' between Sao Vincent and Santo Antao. The waves are 3 to 4 metres with only 7-second intervals. Wind speed is 25 knots. It's not long before some waves begin to sloop up over the back quarter and wet the cockpit. Our normal cruising speed is around 4 to 5 knots. The wind suddenly accelerates to 35 knots (Force 8) and we are zooming along at 6.5 knots with only a scrap of sail out. Half of the headsail is furled in. No other sails have been hoisted. I look astern and the sea looks wild. I'm glad we're going with this wind, not against it. No turning back, remember.
As we come into the lee of the island, Santo Antao the wind suddenly drops to nothing. Still, a large swell remains and the waves are behaving oddly. They are converging everywhere, forming themselves into thick peaks like whisked egg whites. The boat is bobbing in all directions like a champagne cork. It's a very uncomfortable, confused motion. Having made slow progress past the island, wind returns, but the sea is still 'confused'. Even though the boat is now moving forward, it's wallowing. I feel crappy. The inside of my head is like a gyroscope. Even Pete admits to feeling a bit out of sorts, though he is never seasick.
A single-handed sailor, Alan of Lutra II (who we originally met in Las Palmas) left Mindelo marina at the same time with us and we are hoping to keep in radio contact. We can see Alan to our starboard side. He gives us a radio call to see how we are getting on and admits he's not feeling great either. Nightwatch. It's a very black evening because there is no moon to be seen (new moon rising). The only light is from the stars. I can't determine where the sea ends and the sky begins. All I can see are lengthy streaks of white foam crests moving all around in the darkness. Whoa! One breaks too close and the spray gets me wet. Cross swell (waves from astern and abeam) are making it feel really rocky and unstable down below-decks. As winds of 25 to 30 knots continue, there's no choice but to hold on as the boat lurches from one side to the other for hours on end. Shortly before my watch is over, I update the logbook at the chart table and find myself momentarily airborne from the seat. I take a look outside. The boat is surfing down a large breaking wave. Oh my god! It's as if we're on a bloody boogie board at Woolacombe Bay. Hope this calms down by the morning. Wake Pete up for his watch and try to get some sleep.
Join us on the 8 Day Crossing from Canaries to Cape Verde...
25 January 2009
Day 1 SLOW BUT SURE It's slow progress. Not much wind. Of course everyone knows there are only 3 types of wind not enough, too much and 'on the nose,' but I'm not complaining I feel relaxed and very alive aware how pleasing it is as the boat glides along peacefully with the gentle sound of water caressing either side of the hull. The sun is shining and there is an unusual but very welcome flat sea. This feels so good I just want to sit here in complete silence for a few minutes in case I miss this moment. Sure enough, as the afternoon draws near, the sea swell begins to build and the boat is now set in the 'all too familiar' unpleasant rocking motion. A bit worrying, the autopilot isn't coping well with this swell. Get prepared to hand steer all night if necessary.
Day 2 THINGS THAT GO KNOCK-KNOCK-CLINK-CLANK-CLUNK IN THE NIGHT After cooking breakfast and clearing away, I spend time doing a full-scale investigation. Where did all those bloody sleep depriving knock-knock-clink-clank-clunk noises come from last night as the boat rolled from side to side? I forcibly wedge spare tea-towels and socks (clean!) into spaces between saucepans, tins of food, bottles and cutlery, determined to get better 'off watch' sleeping tonight. Job done. Good. "Goose-winging" today with headsail poled out and staysail. More rocking motion as we head dead downwind but it's a soft, gentle movement that feels OK. Actually, lying in the cockpit with a couple of cushions, the sun is delightfully warm on my face. Just listening to water lapping against the hull, whilst Pete has an off-watch nap below decks, is blissfully relaxing. With nothing but sea and sky in every direction, we could be the last humans on this earth.
Day 3 WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE SHOOT THAT BLOODY MONKEY! Rolling, rolling, rolling! Almost total lack of wind is not helping as we now roll our way forwards, inch-by-inch, roll to the left roll to the right. Today, the boat has all the grace of the village drunk getting home after the last bell has rung and time has long since been called. Pete and I both feel lethargic today. Probably accumulation of disturbed sleep last two nights and not in the complete rhythm of things just yet. This harder, jerkier rolling means real effort is needed today to do most tasks. New sounds have also begun to test our nerves. I close my eyes and listen to one particularly nerve-pinching squawk-like noise. It really does sound like an aggressive monkey must have stowed-away on board. But now he's out, squawking wildly, stuck half way up the mast. Opening my eyes, and further "noise detection investigation" shows it is, in fact, a loud, metal- grating squeak that has developed where the pole attaches to the mast. 3-in-1 oil and monkey is pacified for now. Night watch - now a complete lack of wind makes the sails flog loudly. We are bobbing like a champagne cork so we start the engine to give some forward motion and make things a little more comfortable or should I say a little less uncomfortable?
Day 4 OH! DID I MENTION THE ROLLING? (AND THE POLTERGEIST). Did I mention the rolling? Yes. I think I must have. We continue to roll. No getting off this fairground ride early, ladies and gentlemen! OK, so we'll roll with it. We put music on loud through the cockpit speakers and sing along. We sway side-to-side with the boat, trying to make the roll more like a crazy dance. Later, I can't help laughing as I watch Pete take a bucket, shower gel and towel up to the bow. He dunks the bucket over the side, retrieves it (pulling the string on the handle) then tips the whole lot over his head, almost losing his footing. He regains composure then repeats the process 3 more times - his first shower "Atlantic Style" (fresh water is rationed now until we reach the Caribbean). Progress is slow, 3 knots or less but at least it's getting warmer. I've decided all this rolling motion is a bit like having some kind of moody adolescent poltergeist on board. Sometimes it is pleasurable company, gently rocking and relaxing. But if it gets in a "strop" then we start rolling violently from side-to-side. Plates, cups, pencils, food...anything not strapped down then gets thrown at us whilst we hold on (or lose grip and get thrown across the boat too)!
Day 5 STAR GAZING Continuing lack of wind (only 4 to 8 knots). Experiment different downwind strategies using light air sails. Best result goose-winging headsail and "coaster" (like a spinnaker) but not long before wind drops completely. Have to put engine on. Evening. It's almost a full moon tonight. We sit in the cockpit and see which stars and constellations we can locate and identify despite the moonlight. Capella, Sirius, 3 in a vertical line: Mintaka, Alnilam, Alnitak (part of the Orion constellation). Procyon, Pollux (part of the Gemini constellation - the rest of it is behind clouds). Spot Rigel and Betelguese (over 427 light years away)! We can also see planet Venus very clear and bright to starboard.
Day 6 BRIEF RAIN SQUALL BUT NO FISH Some wind returns. Set coaster and headsail with pole goose-winging again. Working well. Getting speeds of up to 4 knots. Sun is hot today and the sea is much flatter. Really, really enjoyable sailing. Pete is about to start fishing with a squid-like lure. We've heard that you get better success if the lure skims the surface in these waters, no weighting needed. Take the opportunity to read a book, lying in the cockpit with a couple of cushions. Fantastic! We get a few blissful hours like this before a squall cloud approaches from astern. Quickly take down the coaster as the first drops of rain begin, just leaving a scrap of headsail. The cloud approaches. Heavy rain falls and our speed increases from 3+ knots to 6 knots in an instant (as if someone just turned on a wind machine). Only lasts about 20 minutes and then it's gone. Wind drops again. Put coaster back up! Take coaster down again before nightfall! No fish caught today, but I sense Pete is almost relieved he won't have the unpleasant task of bludgeoning some huge Dorado to death - apparently they make a right bloody mess of the cockpit.
Day 7 WIND! Very grey cloud-covered sky this morning. Wind has increased to 20 knots (Force 5) and Force 6 is forecasted later today. Sight a large squall cloud but thankfully it tracks to our starboard side just over 1 mile away. Lumpy, uncomfortable sailing. Decide to make pancakes to cheer us up. Problem. I can't weigh out 110 grams of flour because my electronic scales just keep flashing the word, "unstable". Really?! I just have to do the mixture 'by eye' and hope it's OK. Actually cooking them is a bit tricky but it's worth the effort. Outside, the swell is building and so is the wind. Later, when I am making dinner, a large rogue wave hits the galley window and swamps the cockpit. Thankfully we put washboards in and closed hatch about 20 minutes ago. More of these rogue waves begin to appear. Sea is lumpy. Very lumpy indeed. Force 6 arrives after nightfall. Bigger waves now heeling the boat to starboard as we speed along 6 and 6.5 knots. Slew off now and again with some of the stronger gusts as the boat wants to 'round up' to wind. Moonlight shows a sea bubbling in all directions. Another wave breaks over us. I think how this would have absolutely terrified me only a few months ago but "Gabriola" has really proved herself and looked after us well so far. I believe she will look after us tonight too. Just before one o'clock in the morning, as wind gusts 27 to 31 knots (Force 6 to 7), we know we have to put the 3rd and final reef in the mainsail. Pete will harness himself and go to the mast whilst I keep watch over him. Wow! The waves seem big. Perhaps 4 metres? All around their tops are breaking into crests of white foam. Job done. Replace washboards. Draw over hatch and go back below decks. Continue listening to audiobook: Daphne Du Maurier's, Jamaica Inn. About Cornish wreckers. Very good. Still, later it's hard to sleep off-watch. I lie in my bunk, arms by my sides, held in by the lee cloth, head to bow and feet to stern. I can feel the acceleration of the boat and its downward tilting as we weave down each wave. The sound of racing water against the hull is so very close to my ears. The boat moves down the waves like an Olympic bob-sleigh curving downhill into a tunnel of ice, riddled with molehills and potholes. Then a momentary feeling of deceleration as we are lifted upwards by a new wave to start all over again. Here and there, add the sound of a wave breaking on, or over the hull and the whizzing and grinding noise of the autopilot as it works hard to keep us on course.
Day 8 LAND AHOY! Still grey skies all around today with Force 6 winds. Around 1p.m. we see land through a cloudy horizon. We drop and pack away the reefed mainsail, approaching Sao Vincent on headsail alone. Cape Verde has 'acceleration zones' much like the Canaries where the wind funnels around the islands. This could mean 40 knots of wind appearing suddenly from seemingly nowhere. Thankfully, we only see gusts up to 30 knots and arrive at Mindelo just after 4p.m. Strangely, it doesn't feel much like the tropics. It's still very grey and cloudy and very windy. No matter. We meet up with a fellow sailor we struck up a friendship with in Las Palmas (Alan) and celebrate our longest non-stop voyage so far with a glass of bubbly. Cheers! Next passage will be THE BIG ONE! Over 2,000 miles non-stop to Barbados.