Across the Atlantic – 5 Years After Our First Crossing

 

Now we are safely anchored in St Anne’s in Martinique, its time to do some copying and pasting from our Predictwind Blog to our “A Little Bit of Mischief” blog. 

So here is a day-by-day blow-by-blow account of our crossing….. 

And We Are Off

Tue Nov 16 2021

We left Mindelo at 10.30am with full tanks, the fridges full of fruit and vegies and an interesting forecast with great patches of calm ready to trip us u along our way. It’s going to be a slow crossing. But it will be very pleasant out there with no much swell.  

 

Pilot Whales

Tue Nov 16 2021

After a very pleasant sail down the strait after leaving Mndelo, the wind died as we went south of Santa Antao. But never mind, we managed to see a nice pod of pilot whales that came in reasonably close

 

We should be there sometime next year!

Wed Nov 17 2021

Its 6am and we have a whole 7kts of wind out here doing 3-4 kts and not getting far. The parasailor is just managing to fly in 4-5kts of Apparent. And worse still it looks like te wind is going to drop out to zero later this afternoon. So far we have only done 94nm in 20 hours at an average of 4.9kts. And that’s with 2 hours of motoring under the lee of Santo Antao.

Crew are well fed thanks to Tim’s culinary experience, and we are hoping for a fish tomorrow but dont think any are going to be interested if we keep going this slow.

 

Sperm Whales

Wed Nov 17 2021

What a treat. Seeing whales two days in a row. This time a small pod of sperm whales just cruising slowly past.

 

Motoring 😦

Wed Nov 17 2021

With 0-5kts of wind, we are making progress using the iron sails, courtesy of 1800rpms on one engine. Bummer to use the engines so early into the trip but we don’t want to be stuck in the calms for days.

 

Sailing Again 🙂

Thu Nov 18 2021

After 15 hours of motoring we managed to position ourselves in an area where the wind will slowly build (for a while anyway). Motors are off and Parasailor is up. Only doing 3-4 knots at the moment in 6-8kts of winds but according to the ECFWM model it should pick up to 10kts by 11am.

Its tricky out here as all the models are showing different routes and different pockets of dead calms. Prdictwind Offshore is getting a real workout.

Still the sun is shining and the birds are chirping and all is good in the world.

 

14kts of Wind – Unheard of!

Fri Nov 19 2021

Its 5.30am and we are doing 6s and 7s in 14kts of wind. The wind currently is out of the SE which would strike me as a bit odd except everything out here is a bit odd vis a vis the weather. We still have some significant blobs of purple coloured calms to dodge on our way towards steady winds which lay quite a way to the south of us. Alsino has managed to crank the parasailor around to 115 degrees to keep a bit of south in our course, not bad considering the best we managed on La Mischief was 127.

We have a full moon out and the seas are still pretty flat so all is good in our little world out in the middle of the Atlantic.

 

Heading South under Motor

Fri Nov 19 2021

Well that didn’t last long. As predicted, we sailed straight into a patch of purple nothing, so now its time for a bit of motoring. All the Predictwind models are politely asking us to head south, all the way to 8 degrees. Any further south and we would have to break out the rum to feed Neptune.

So with our trust in Predictwind and its promises of steady winds further south off we go towards the Southern Cross.

 

Gennaker Out and Flying through our first squall

Fri Nov 19 2021

Thankfully the motoring didn’t last long and we pulled out the gennaker for its first outing at a perfect 80 degrees wind angle. A couple of hours in we hit our first squall and we were flying at 10kts in less than 15kts apparent. We needed to come down a bit to keep the wind under the designated 15kts but we were making some miles.

We’ve had to go a bit east of our southerly course but given we were scootering along at 7s and 8s, tracking along the squall line, more directly towards Martinique, so we took the miles and are hopping we may get a more direct route across the supposed areas of calm. There’s weather predictions and then there’s the weather thats happening. We will see what happens.

At the moment, the winds died down a bit to 9kts and we are still doing 6s so we will see how we go as we bank some more miles under sail.

 

 

Nostradamus vs Predictwind

Fri Nov 19 2021

Its just gone midnight, and we are going through a patch where all the Predictwind models say we should be motoring. Instead we are zipping along at 8kts in 11 knots of wind, occasionally touching 10 knots of boat speed, with the Gennaker and full main. Whereas Predictwind would very much like us to head directly south to 8 degrees (and do not pass Go), to avoid this really good sailing, we are instead heading a touch south of west, much more directly to Martinique.

Hopefully we can keep going. and not fall into a wind hole, to get us to where Predictwind has good steady wind (much the same as we have now). If we keep up this pace we should get “there” in the early afternoon.

For where we are currently at in the Atlantic, I have as much faith in Nostradamus as in Predictwind. So, we will keep sailing in these good winds and then lean on Predictwind if we drop into a wind hole and need some ideas of where to head to find the good stuff.

In the meantime, we are all enjoying the magnificent full moon and the shimmer across the water, one of the magic parts of sailing at night.

 

 

Of Bread and Fishes

Sat Nov 20 2021

Just like biblical times, the plan was to feed the Voila masses with bread and fishes. Tim (minus the long hair and beard), came to the party with a great 2nd loaf of bred after experimenting with the oven, pot and the correct proportions on his first.

Fishing was a bit more problematic as none of us on board were seasoned in the art of fishing. We lost our first two lures to what we put down to fishing gear that had sat in the locker too long and probably had corroded at key places. A third was rigged up and we saw the Mahi Mahi jump on and bite the trace that was a bit too thin in retrospect.

With new gear all rigged up, both lines/lures have lasted a couple of days and each has seen a small jack jump on. We kept one and let one go – I’m sure we will get some stick for keeping one as we have always thrown them back, but given I’ve never eaten one and the white flesh looked quite good, so we are going to give it a try.

On the sailing front, we managed to do a respectable 152nm for the 24 hours, with Alsino hitting 12kts of boat speed at one stage. Mostly under gennaker and full main with a couple of hours of motoring, which was a tick. We still have 88% and 90% diesel left so that’s good, given it looks like we should be sailing from tonight onwards if Predictwind can be believed.

 

 

The Return of the Blob

Sun Nov 21 2021

After making great progress to my PhD in wind holes, I was confronted with yet another challenge. This passage is like being back at work given the amount of time I’m staring at the screen of my computer.

The ECFWM and SPIRE models wanted us to go SW to avoid a rather nasty looking wind hole to the west, whilst the GFS and UKMO models wanted us to track due West to avoid a different wind hole to SW. This was Predictwind’s version of Russian Roulette, pick the wrong set of models and you would be motoring for hours to get out of a purple blob; pick the right model and you get to keep sailing.

As you can no doubt guess, I picked the wrong set of models and now we are motoring. We tried sailing for a while at 2-3kts but the parasailor finally said enough is enough and just went on strike on the basis of no wind, no play.

On the way down, it somehow managed to get itself caught up on the end of the spreader and Alsino took a trip up on the bosons chair at 2am to retrieve it. No damage done but he found the cap on the end of the spreader was loose allowing it to grab hold of anything resembling spinnaker cloth. A second trip up the mast with some Allen keys rectified the problem. With absolutely no wind and a full moon, it was one of the more comfortable trips up the mast in the middle of the Atlantic.

With the nights entertainment over, we left Alsino on watch and on motor, whilst the rest of the crew went back to bed.

 

 

Twitchy Yellowfin Tuna Times Two (TYTTT)

Sun Nov 21 2021

After getting a little dig from Dale about our lack of results vis-a-vis the fishing, we produced not one – but two – yellowfin tuna to swing the ledger firmly in our favour. Tim was the lucky man who had the sunrise shift and he dutifully deployed the lines right on sunrise.

Not long after he appeared at my doorway with a worried look on his brow saying we had caught not just one fish but two at once. i jumped out of bed and helped him pull in the haul.

After bleeding them and taking the requisite photos, we took one each to fillet. Tim did his first, but when I got to mine it was still twitching. Spooky! Tim told me not to be daft as it was well and truly dead, but he quickly published a retraction after observing it himself. Even when I cut the first fillet off it, the fillet was twitching. Double spooky!!

 

 

First Full 24 Hours of Sailing

Mon Nov 22 2021

We are coming up to our first full 24 hours of sailing with the motors put away to bed for the first time this trip. It looks like we will do only 126nm for the 24 hours. Still slow going as we hunt better winds to the south. The parasailor is a bit underpowered in these light winds, having been sized to handle proper trade winds, not these soft WCE type winds.

Still it’s very pleasant out here with hardly any swell and sunny skies. We were treated to a spectacular sunset last night to cap off a pretty good day on the water. The Yellowfin Tuna was to die for. Hopefully it will freeze okay.

We have Blue Heeler 430nm ahead of us and the ARC+ fleet bearing down on us – 290nm behind. We can track all the ARC+ boats on our Predictwind system, but we need to get Blue Heeler’s position via Dee.

We have knocked off 740nm and have roughly 1600nm to go, according to Predictwind, so a little under a third of the way there.

 

 

One Week Down – 9 Days to Go

Tue Nov 23 2021

Today at 10am marks seven full days at sea, and I’ve got to say its been slow going. Only 861nm at an average speed of 5.1knots isn’t going to worry Lewis Hamilton. Just under 1500nm to go.

But I’ve got to say we have done remarkably well to sail a lot of the time, with only 35 hours of motoring for the week in some very light winds. We still have 750l of diesel in the tanks, so we aren’t worried about a lack of fuel to get us there now.

At the moment the wind is 10-15 knots and the seas are down making for a very pleasant, if slow voyage. The winds are expected to pick up above 15kts on Thursday so hopefully that will allow us to put the accelerator down.

Current ETA is Thursday December 2nd.

 

 

Excitement Squared – 1000nm and Another Yacht

Wed Nov 24 2021

It was a big 10 minutes all at once. We just clicked over 1000nm and then we spotted ORDAGO, a 12m tricked out racing boat, on the AIS – 5nm to our south, zooming passed us at 9.4kts (we were doing 5s and 6s). They are an entrant in the 2 handed Transact race, which left from Atlantic France, and finishes in Martinique.

We gave them a call on the radio and wished them luck.

It’s encouraging to see a race boat on our same course – maybe our navigation through these tricky ever changing weather patterns is on track.

 

 

In the Middle of a Race

Thu Nov 25 2021

Thankfully the wind has finally picked up and we are seeing 15kts a lot of the time.

We are also seeing a mini procession of Transact boats racing past us.

It started last night when I sighted some lights astern and to port. No AIS at all – even when it got within 3 miles of us. Tim saw another boat this morning followed shortly by another, making four in total. Eventually we got close enough (2nm) to see the first boats AIS but no name was transmitted. I guess they are racing and don’t want to give anything away. It was going 11kts and quickly cut across our bows and off towards Martinique.

Once again, the following boat didn’t give up its details on AIS until it got quite close (ie. the colision alarm came on). This time it came up with a name – MILIA. Be interesting to know if these boats are bringing up the rear or if there are more to come. Send us a message if you are following the Transact.

On the fishing front, our main catch has been sargasso weed, folllowed by a few Jacks that we’ve returned to Neptune.

ETA is 3rd December.

 

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING 🙂

Thu Nov 25 2021

Happy Thanksgiving to all our US friends; and especially to my lovely Dee 

And today we are very thankful out here in the middle of the Atlantic for crossing our half way point (finally). And we celebrated by catching not one but two Mahi Mahi – so fresh fish for the next couple of nights.

After filleting one and then cleaning up and then filleting the next and then cleaning up again, Tim and I need a good lie down and a Bex. Its hard work, this hunting and gathering lark.

 

Whilst all this was happening, another Transact boat went by. We picked it up early on AIS for once and it was Optimus Prime. Nice to see some other boats out here, even if they are going to beat us to Martinique by a country mile.

 

Strange and Mysterious Ocean Swells and Currents

Fri Nov 26 2021

It certainly is a different passage to last time in 2016. For the past few days we have seen the ocean currents do some strange things. Most of the time, they are playing ball and helping us across, but occasionally they veer off to either the south or north and often we have them completely against us.

Same with the ocean swells, that sometimes get very confused, and come at us from two directions. Not your normal Atlantic Crossing.

And what’s really strange is that 4 or 5 times a day, we have been getting wind against swell, where it looks like we are in some kind of tidal race, but without the tide.

This first occurrence popped up a couple of nights ago on Tim’s watch, and really spooked him out, given the moon wasn’t out yet and it was pitch black. An hour or so into my watch it had calmed down and normal Atlantic service had resumed.

Strange!

 

FINALLY …

Sat Nov 27 2021

It took us a while but finally we had a decent 24 hours of distance covered. 173nm for the 24 hours to 9am this morning.

However, despite all assurances to the contrary by my good friends, ECMWM, GFS, UKMO, SPIRE, PWG and PWE, the wind has dropped out this morning down to 11-13kts and we are struggling to do 6kts. Still, the sun is out and the occasional seabird is swooping around so all is good.

After 2 meals of fresh fish, we relented and will let Alsino have some meat. The catch is he needs to take on chef duties. No doubt it will be accompanied by rice. Fishing will resume tomorrow as there is nothing like the taste of freshly caught fish. If all else fails we have plenty in the freezer still.

We are closing on Martinique with 915nm to go and the promise of getting there on Thursday 2nd December. The odometer on Voila has just ticked over 6075nm since we sailed out of La Rochelle in April, so we are putting some miles in the young girl.

 

 

When Two Yachts Want The Same Patch of Ocean

Sun Nov 28 2021

The Atlantic Ocean is huge so it’s really quite amazing when the AIS shows a yacht bearing down on you with an expected 235 metres of separation at the closest point of approach. In all reality when you see this number that small you have to assume that there is a very real possibly you will run into each other if neither party doesn’t change course.

Alsino was on watch and he was adamant that we were the boat on starboard and the Frenchman would have to get out of the way. I called up FRA115 myself to ask if he would cross in front or behind – and he said in front.

It all started with a VHF Radio call from FRA115, one of the Transact boats asking if we had seen him. Tim heard the radio and took the call. Up to this point we hadn’t seen him but quickly did after the call. He was still 3nm away, but he wasn’t showing up on our AIS and we weren’t showing up on his. All these French entrants seem to have limited range on their AIS, whereas we could see Optimus on our AIS from a good 7nm out. Eventually he popped up 2nm from us, about the same time our AIS alarm when off.

At that point I didn’t really care if we had the right of way or not. It was both prudent and polite to get out of his way. After all, we were on a leisurely cruise, and he was racing.

We were hard on at 130 degrees with the parasailor so there was no way we could come up any more to go around his stern, severely limiting our options. Likewise he was running his code zero, main and a small stay sail, so I wasn’t sure what his options would be.

We tried to go more downwind but when he’s doing 11kts and we are doing 6kts, it made no difference to the closest point of approach number. Don’t you love AIS. So we gybed away from him and waved to him, taking lots of photos as he cut across our bow. We were quite close but had plenty of wiggle room on the new port tack.

It was great to see this speed machine at close quarters.

As usual, an encounter like this teaches the more inexperienced members of our crew some valuable lessons, which lots of sea miles eventually impart. I thought it useful to document these for future crew briefings and for others who are contemplating long ocean voyages.

  1. We don’t just do watches for fun as there is a very real possibly, given the miles we do, that over time we could eventually collide with another boat if we aren’t continually vigilant.
  2. Wearing earplugs and listening to music means you can’t hear the VHF; and the VHF is a very good safety tool to have on board.
  3. You can’t always rely on the AIS to tell you about other boats. Eyes and Ears are also required.
  4. You need time to get out of someone’s way. If this had happened at night, with just Alsino on watch, it would have taken him a little while to reorganise the sheets and guys to gybe the parasailor. Luckily it was during the day and Tim and I were both able to man a winch each to speed up things.
  5. There may not have been time if we’d played cat and mouse with FRA115 waiting for him to make the first move. Its always best to assume that the other guy is not going to get out of the way (especially when he tells you on the VHF that he’s crossing in front of you), and taking your own avoidance measures is better than having your boat run over and sink, whilst arguing as a new landlubber that you were in the right.
  6. Its best to be on a tack that gives you options. On starboard tack we had no way of tightening up to go around the back of him to avoid collision.

But having said all that it was a wonderful experience to see one of the Transact racers at close quarters in the middle of the Atlantic. One of the highlights of our crossing so far.

 

 

White Sails Today

Sun Nov 28 2021

After many days and nights flying the parasailor, it was time to give it a break and break out the white sails to get a bit more north in our course. We contemplated the gennaker but the winds were a touch strong, gusting over the 15kt limit of the gennaker from time to time. Given that we would be going a lot faster with the geneker with the apparent wind pushed forward further, we would be well and truly over the 15kt limit.

So white sails it was and we’ve had a good day zooming along at 7s and 8s. Along the way, Piment Rouge, the Outremer 51 out in front of the ARC+ overtook us under spinnaker, passing 0.5nm in front of us and we had a good chat over the VHF.

We’d just caught a Mahi Mahi so we thought we’d invite them over for lunch but they respectfully declined saying they had an ARC to win. Damn, we were banking on them to bring some good French wine!

 

 

Perfect Sailing in the Tradewinds

Mon Nov 29 2021

We started the day with a torrential downpour that gave Voila a nice wash. That followed a squally night with the white sails up.

Then Tim and I popped up the parasailor and off we went in 20knot NE winds. Perfect sailing weather doing 8s in sunny conditions.

Got my first bread making lesson from Tim today. Stage 1 done. Lets see how I go with the rest of the process.

We will pull down the parasailor at night from here on in, so we don’t have to stress about night-time squalls, and then pop it up again at first light. No need to fish today as we still have fresh fish for tonight’s dinner.

540nm to go. ETA is still Thursday, 2 December.

 

 

Squalls, Squalls and More Squalls

Tue Nov 30 2021

We had a busy night and morning of squalls packing 35 kts of wind; but the sky has now cleared and we are going along nicely at 8s and 9s at a wind angle of 135 under parasailor.

We had our first gear failure last night when I managed to strip the protective outer on one of our parasailor sheets. It got caught in a jammer when we were trying to set up for a squall that was about to hit us. Luckily Multihulls Solutions gifted us a couple of extra sheets, so we had a spare. We will need to install a better jammer system in Martinique. Live and Learn.

Talking of the parasailor, we decided to leave the parasailor up last night through the squalls by flying it high on both guys with the wind directly behind us. In effect we just kept the configuration we use when a squall hits us and just left it there all night so when the squalls hit us we didn’t need to do anything. First time Ive done this on either boat, and I’ve got to say it worked a treat – everyone got a good nights sleep and the boat handled beautifully through a couple of overnight squalls.

Yesterday, Tim somehow managed to teach me how to make bread and to my surprise it turned out okay. Now out of honey and jam, so had to dive into the Vegemite supplies. Yum.

We have had a good run of 176nm for the 24 hours and that seems to be our run rate as we power towards Martinique, only 360nm away now. ETA is still Thursday 2nd December in the late afternoon.

It will be white sails tonight as we need to reach up to Martinique. .

 

 

200nm to Go to (for a Beer)

Wed Dec 01 2021

Just clocked over the 200nm to go point and we are sailing fast on a nice beam reach since 5pm last night, when we pointed Voila straight at Martinique.

192nm for the 24 hours aint bad, If we keep going at that rate then we will be in by lunchtime tomorrow…

The Attack of the Flying Fish

Thu Dec 02 2021

I was just coming off watch last night, just before 3am, when I heard the icing glass right behind me get hit by something largish. I grabbed the torch, but before I could focus it on the area of impact, I felt something wriggle on my toes. After returning to ground level from my vertical elevation, I discovered a fairly large flying fish was floundering about at my feet. He definitely had some sort of flight plan to get that high into the helm station.

I shoed him down to the saloon floor and out the back, past the 6 other flying fish on the back deck. These went with the 6 or so on the front deck we found this morning. Quite a night of carnage for our OCC emblem.

And what a night it was. We were barrelling along at 10+ knots with 2 reefs in the main and the wind-o-meter hitting 33 knots of true at times. I had to fiddle around with the main sheet and genoa to get the right balance so that the boat would not head up and push the apparent wind speed into the red. Took me all of half an hour to get it right.

This morning the wind dropped to 20-25kts and we took out the 2nd reef. We’ve been in awe watching the boobies fish off the side of the boat as we approach land. 27nm to go to the marina. Should be there by lunchtime – so I’m sure everything will be shut for the French to eat their plat de jour.

So it’s a wrap…..

2340nm in mainly light winds. Averaged 6kts for the trip, with a top speed of 20.2 it’s (down a wave). Went hunting wind as far south as 9degrees 31 minutes, quite a long way south, considering Martinique is at 14 degrees 28 minutes. A reasonable return for a couple of novice fishermen in 1 jack, 2 Yellowfin tuna and 3 Mahi Mahi. Still have fish in the freezer.

We will be in Martinique until about the 11th attending to a few boat jobs before heading to Bonaire for some R&R.

2 thoughts on “Across the Atlantic – 5 Years After Our First Crossing

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