ARC+ Leg 2 Arrival In St Lucia
16 December 2018 | 14:27 060:52
In all the excitement of arriving at Rodney Bay, St Lucia and finishing Leg 2 of the ARC+ I never got round to writing our final report for the ARC+
It has been over a week since we completed Leg 2 of the ARC+ and sailed the Atlantic Ocean. We crossed the official ARC+ finish line at 16:37:20 (20:37:20 UTC) on Wednesday 5th December 2018. We had sailed 2202Nm since our last landfall at Mindelo on Sao Vincente on the Cape Verde Islands. The voyage took us 14days 8hrs 37mins, with an average speed of 6.39kts. Engine hours for propulsion 21.6hrs.
The voyage started a rather pleasant hot sunny day at Mindelo, with a a light wind from the North East f1-2 barely enough to fill the sails. We managed to drift across to the start line just of the breakwater without resorting to the engine. We had made a good start and were in a good position, as we cleared the land a bit we the wind became a bit more stable and we managed to get ourselves in a good position and made a few places against even the bigger yachts, with the wind now firmly abaft the beam and away from the chaos of the start and in clear water we dared to hoist the cruising chute.
By 16:00 that afternoon the wind had dropped completely, not enough to keep the chute flying it just hung and flopped around looking rather dejected. We had expected this to happen, all the weather forecasts were forecasting a calm for about 24hrs. With Cerulean just wallowing in the water drifting aimlessly without any forward momentum to give us steerage, we threw in the towel, recovered the cruising chute and like half the fleet resorted to the 'iron topsail' and motored for the next 21 hrs until the wind filled back in at lunch time the following day. Within a few hours the wind was a steady force 4/5 from the North East, yippee the trade winds had finally kicked in and we were on our way, we even had a couple of reefs in the mainsail for a while.
Our original plan was head south until the wind kicked in, as it happened we were flexible about our plan, we did not want to travel too many extra miles, so we headed south west until we had the wind speed that suited us. Our weather forecast and routing advice provided by Alison's brother Richard, all suggested that the better wind would be to the south of the rhumb line. So we stuck with this as a general principal, whenever the wind speed dropped to less than 15kts we would gybe (put the stern or back of the boast through the wind) and head further down wind til we picked up our desired wind speed again and then gybe back again. we sort of followed this principle for the next couple of weeks.
Our choice of sail plan for this downwind sailing was a point of some discussion on board with the crew, however it was decided that we would run with a poled out genoa (foresail) to the windward side and the main out to leeward with the wind on the aft quarter. This seemed to work well for us and pushed us along at a good 6-7kts,or even 7-8kts, surfing at 8-10kts on the odd occasion, and relatively comfortable in the Atlantic swell which was sometimes 4-5m. I was not happy with the boat going at 7-8kts, it seemed that Cerulean, although enjoying being able to feel the water rushing over her keel, was hard pressed at times, the Hydrovane wind vane steering (known affectionately as 'Old Harry') was complaining, too many creaks and groans, as well as a the bolts holding it onto the boat working loose. I could also sense the rigging and sails straining, thus we tried to keep the sails reefed to maintain 6-7kts. To prevent the mainsail and the boom from banging around and crashing across to the other side in the event of a 'unplanned' gybe the boom was held back with a preventer line from the end of the boom taken to a block at the bow and than led aft to the cockpit, this was set up such that we could change from one gybe to the other relatively easily in a controlled manner, failure to have the preventer tied to the end of the boom could have resulted in it crashing across the boat and either bending or breaking the boom or even bringing the entire rig down. The whisker pole for the foresail was held in position with the pole topping lift and fore and aft guys that meant we could furl the sail away if need be without stowing the pole. To gybe the foresail we first of all furled the sail then dropped the pole then set it up on the other side and pulled the sail back out, probably took about half and hour to complete a gybe and get the boat settled back down again and get 'Old Harry' back on course.
We had a few squalls that either hit us or where close enough to have an affect on us, these squalls are rain clouds, which have the the propensity to deluge the boat in a significant amount of rain in a short period of time, this was not a problem, and could be quite refreshing, more of a problem was that the squalls are preceded with stronger winds increasing the wind speed by 10-15kts which often meant shortening sail by either reefing the main or furling part of the headsail, however on many an occasion Cerulean would quite often take the extra wind strength in her stride, all that was required was to perhaps give Old Harry a bit of help and hand steer through the gusts until the squall had blown over. The squalls only lasted for 10-15 minutes or so if we could weather them without reducing sail it saved quite a lot of effort. We could usually see the squalls coming, you can see the distinctive dark water laden clouds dipping down to the horizon off in the distance. You could even pick out the squalls in the darkness of the night, the dark dark in hospitable patch in the darkness, and sometimes the they were big enough to show up on the radar as a big splodge. The difficult thing was to determine if they were coming towards you or not, is it going to pass in front of us or behind us? The squalls became more prevalent and stronger the closer we got to St Lucia, we did not get many in the first half of the trip but say within 500Nm of St Lucia there were at least one a day if not two. Having said all that the squalls did not really present us with a problem, just with a bit of excitement.
On hearing the stories of woe from other yachts either on the SSB (shortwave radio) or the VHF or by email from race control, with various bits of rigging and kit failure, confirmed my belief that keeping the speed down to 6-7kts and suitable and maintaining manageable sail area aloft was the prudent and correct approach, this was confirmed with the smell of the land in our mist and the possibility of overtaking Gertha 4 of which we had been closing in on for the past week or so upped the pace during the last days of the crossing and blew out the headsail, meaning that we had furl away the damaged part of the sail, which was fine until the wind dropped off and we had to fix the secondary forestay and hank on the the old Yankee jib...reminder to self...keep the boat going nice and steady, no need to rush, look after the boat and the boat will look after you.
We had been in contact with several of the other yachts on the rally either by SSB or VHF radio. SSB which an infinite range, depending on the frequency and conditions, these radio work by ground wave propagation or sky wave propagation which bounces the radio waves off of the ionosphere enabling the transmission to travel thousands of miles depending on the frequency, VHF radio which only works on line of sight of the aerials and has a ranges between yachts of perhaps 25-30Nm. All the yachts are required to carry VHF radio and maintain a listening watch on channel 16 and 72. Only 27 of the 72 yachts carried SSB radio. We held a daily SSB radio net at 10:00UTC to report a any urgent communications followed by position and weather reporting, at 21:00UTC there was another listening watch for urgent communications. The SSB radio net and the VHF where useful tools to keep in contact with other yachts and find out what was going on and to provide support between vessels, either practical support or just encouragement to others who were facing tough times due to gear failure or other problems.
We had been close to Gertha 4 for much of the voyage, and from about day 9 we where in regular VHF contact with them as well as on the SSB radio net. They are a young couple with two young children on board and managing to keep up a good pace, but we were starting to close on them. They informed us that they had a problem with their mainsail vang and had to lower the sail and just keep going under genoa alone, thus they were moving a bit slower, they also informed us that they were having charging there batteries as there normally very efficient hydogenerator was getting clogged up with acres of sargasso weed meaning that they had to pull it out of the water, this coupled with an engine problem meant that they could not charge theire batteries properly...meaning that they had to hand steer, and shut down some of their navigation equipment and SSB radio, but would keep in contact on the VHF. We now started to over take Gertha 4, hollow victory considering their problems, however they soon managed to fix their mainsail problem and we had passed through the worst of the sargasso weed and they were now up and running...and catching us back up. We were now into the last 150 miles or so, may be a day or two of this passage left. Dave from Gertha 4 called on the VHF to say they were worried about arriving during the night because of there engine problem and were going to slow down. By my calculation, if carried on the same pace we should arrive in daylight, I replied back saying keep on going we should arrive during daylight, but if not all they had to do was cross the finishing line, then head off and anchor in the bay if need be, and that if we should arrive before them, or more likely just behind we would standing by to either tow them in or stay with them until they were safely at anchor. Spurned on by this thought, they decided to go for it, and hoisted their spinnaker and gentle glided by us at a rated of knots just 10 miles or so from the finish, a looming squall soon meant they had to drop their spinnaker, and with our reduced headsail, we started gaining on them again, it was looking as though we we going to have a racing finish, they deservedly crossed the finish line ahead of us with us following on 10 minutes or so behind at 16:37 still with a couple of hours of daylight in hand Fortunately they were able to start and use the engine and motor into the marina and moor up.
Having crossed the finish line it was not over, no time to sit back and take it in, 'fenders out, get the mooring lines ready, can anyone see the entrance to the lagoon' 'yes there it is' 'where all the fenders' 'i don't know try the anchor locker.' 'what the blazes is that boat towing the para-glider doing crossing right in front of the harbour entrance for...grrrr'
We were all prepared as we glided into the marina, fenders out, lines all ready, 'gosh I can't remember how to do this mooring lark, better not cock it up as we have an audience...welcoming committee of 20-30 of our fellow yachtsmen, competitors and our now new found friends to welcome us in and help us. Fog horns blasting, hands clapping, cheering, smiling faces and congratulations around, wow, what a welcome and just for us...and the stern to mooring manouvre...handled like a professional as smooth as can be, I have now tamed this yacht Cerulean, with her kick to port, the yacht you can't steer backwards...oh yes you can, you just need to know how to talk to her properly, get her to turn the way she wants to, don't force her to do anything she doesn't want to...we have and understanding now. The wonderful Yellow shirts of the ARC staff took our lines and tied us up, we were presented with our welcome gift of a bowl of fruit and a mug of rum punch all round...the elixir of life, and very welcome it was too.
It is now a week or so later since we have completed our Atlantic crossing, we ave had the farewell party, the fleet has disbanded to go its separate ways, we will no doubt meet with some of them again on our travels in the Caribbean and perhaps cruise in company with some of them on our voyage back home.
Many thanks to all our crew and friends who have helped us get this far and have sailed with us, Richard S, Neil G, Claire, Tom, Adrian, Will, Kate, Clare, Heidi and in particular my brother Jeremy Rowley and our friend Phil Onslow, who were intrepid enough to sail with us the all the way across the Atlantic with us from Las Palmas to Mindelo, 924NM 6 days 23.5 days) and from Mindelo to St Lucia 2202NM 14 days 8hrs 37minutes - total 3126NM and 21.33 days at sea. We both learnt a lot from sailing with them and having them on board. Jeremy kept us entertained with his concertina and Ukulele and Phil kept us in fresh bread and taught us the darkest secrets of Astro navigation.
Where are we now? well Cerulean is gently bobbing on a mooring buoy off of Le Marin in Martinique, I am sitting on board writing to you. It is only now as i write that the enormity of what me and Alison have done of what we have achieved has settled in, We have sailed and ocean in our own yacht, we have made it happen. In the 5 or so months since we left Gosport UK we have so far sailed over 5700Nm, stayed at 46 different ports or anchorages, visited 9 different countries or dependant states, visited 10 different Islands...and met hundred of wonderful people from all over the world...and our adventure is only just beginning...it is now that it has hit me the emotion of it all it has brought tears to my eyes.
We have come to Martinque to stock up for Christmas from Carrfour and indulge in a little bit of French Culture whilst waiting for Alison's girls to arrive on Monday for the Christmas Holidays. Time has stopped still for me since leaving the UK I can't believe it is nearly Christmas, I have been living in an eternal summer chasing the sun (and I don't really like the sun that much). It is 30 degrees C here, blue skies with the odd cloud and rain shower to cool us down. It seems incongruous that the shops are selling Christmas Cake and yule logs with white icing and snowmen as decorations...I suspect that many of the locals have never seen snow.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year From yacht Cerulean of Penryn
Please look out for us on www.yachtcerulean.com facebook @yachtcerulean and if that is not enough you can always search 'Yacht Cerulean' on youtube if you are really bored.