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.

Its a Wrap

Now that we are reduced to watching sailing videos on Youtube, Delos pointed out that there are 50 people who called Delos home; and that got me thinking about how many people stayed on board La Mischief during her time on the high seas.

So I started to count them up….

  • 2013 (Sables D’Olonne to Marmaris, Turkey)

Countries/Islands Visited: France; Spain; Gibraltar; Balearic Islands, Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey

Total On Board: 16

  • 2014 (Marmaris to Leros)

Countries Visited: Greece, Turkey

Total On Board: 14 (New 11)

  • 2015 (Leros to Cyprus)

Countries Visited: Greece Turkey Cyprus (South and north)

Total Persons on Board : 11 (New 9)

  • 2016 (Cyprus to Barbados)

Countries/Islands Visited:Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, Balearics, Spanish Morocco, Gibraltar, Canaries, Cape Verdes, Atlantic Crossing, Barbados

Total People on Board: 16 (new 9)

  • 2017 Barbados to Florida

Countries/Islands Visited: Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua, Monserrat, Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, St Martin, St Barts, St Eustatius, St Martin, Saba, St Barts, Anguilla, BVIs, Bermuda, USA (Newport, RI to Maine to Florida)

Total People on Board: 16 (New 9)

  • 2018 (Florida to Colombia)

Countries/Islands Visited: USA, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Culebra, USVI, BVI, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, Bequia, Mustique, Mayreau, Tobago Keys, Union Island, Petit St Vincent, Carriacou, Grenada, Tobago, Guyana, Trinidad, Bonaire, Curracao, Aruba, Columbia.

Total People on Board : 13 (New 6)

  • 2019 (Colombia to Rio Dulce to Mexico)

Countries/Islands Visited: Colombia, San Blas Islands, Panama, Panama Canal, San Andres, Providencia, Guanaja, Roatan, Rio Dulce, Belize, Mexico

Total Persons On Board: 7 (New 2)

  • 2020 (Mexico to Florida)

Persons on Board : 3

Grand total 73

  • 34 Aussies
  • 22 US
  • 1 Slovenian
  • 3 Germans
  • 4 Canadians
  • 1 Polish
  • 1 Curacao
  • 1 Cypriot
  • 4 Poms
  • 1 Vietnamese
  • 1 Uruguayan
  • 1 kiwi

Beautiful Barbados

The only cruisers that seem to come to Barbados are the ones that cross the Atlantic to get here. That’s because it’s off the beaten track out in the Atlantic to windward of the Windward Islands. But we did cross the Atlantic so there we were.

15284041_10207103445297431_3923450827266464016_n After turning on the motors to make the 8pm cutoff for Customs and Immigration, we made landfall just before dusk and made our way around the south of the island to the main port of Bridgetown. We got there around 7pm and had to wait for a couple of cruise liners to leave before we could proceed into the Shallow Draft Marina. One of the many advantages of the rally was the quick and (relatively) easy check-in. Jimmy and Pascal were there to greet us and had organized for Customs and Immigration to be right there at the marina. After successfully checking into Barbados and a quick meal on the town, it was up early the next morning and off to the Careenage, which was to be La Mischief’s home in Barbados, in time for the bridge opening at 8am – Barbados time. We arrived with music blaring in preparation for the night’s concert, just off the back of our boat. The Careenage is a wonderful location, right in the centre of town. Coming in was a bi15241819_10207135408256485_7132856256116527320_nt daunting, with about a metre each side as we came through the opening.

We quickly settled into Barbados, swimming and drinking Rum at the Yacht Club on the beautiful beach at Carlyle Bay. The Barbados 50 celebrations were in full swing and we took fu
ll advantage of the concerts and activities. One day we took a local “reggae” bus up the Eastern Coast – now that’s an experience.

Next day, Dee went touring the island with Trevor and Linka whilst I stayed behind to join the rally’s tour of the Mt Gay Rum Distillery. Wasn’t to be missed15259490_10207135409176508_6556172139913229074_oThe highlight of the Barbados 50 celebrations was a free mega Concert at Kensington Oval. We got there a bit early to make sure we got the lay of the land and after that we ended up outside drinking at one of Barbados’ many, many rum bars. With a few rums under our belts, we wandered back inside and marveled at the oval with the Gary Sobers Stand, the Three W’s Stand, the Joel Garner End, and the Greenidge-Haynes Stand –15241290_10207135410296536_1180799526136080429_n it’s a pity there were no cricket games scheduled when we were there. But I digress – back to the concert, which was opened by Prince Henry (more commonly known as Harry) and Rhianna singing the National Anthem. Then the music got underway working its way from the 1960s to present day, the highlight that stuck out for me was a jazz saxophonist who was one of the best in the world. We ended up leaving at 2.30am after giving up waiting for Rhianna who came on after we left as the last act.

15319062_10207135409296511_1333536728213769582_nFun times over, we set about leaving the boat in the Careenage, the small river basin that runs through the centre of Bridgetown. The only other option was the Shallow Draft Marina, but this wasn’t really a viable option because the local boats leave and go and anchor in Carlyle Bay whenever a southerly pops up and comes straight into the Marina.15267504_10207103537059725_7190857612757792791_n

 

Then it was off California and Western Australia.

15178043_10207103559660290_6951676138754666083_n15241330_10207103451177578_3482992736849705017_n

Coming back straight after X-mas, we spent a few days recuperating at the Barbados Yacht Club, making sure we were ready for a big New Years Eve Celebration. And what a celebration it was!!! Five remaining Rally boats plus Andy and Allison and some lovely bejans that we met in Miami saw in the New Year in style at the Yacht Club that put on an excellent buffet followed by lots of dancing at the beach with an excellent 10 piece band, singing all the stuff we love and an amazing fireworks show.

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day, Jan 1st, we took a taxi up past Port St. George to visit Garry and Marti, who own an old Plantation House called Colleton House whose foundations were laid in 1652. We met Garry (who started Cruising Helmsman magazine in Oz) and Marti, who is from Hungary, in Leros Marina couple of years back. It was great to catch up again. Garry took over the house from his Uncle who ran Oilsearch in Papua New Guinea and he showed us an amazing collection of PNG art in the stables building, better than I’ve seen in a lot of museums. The House itself was started by Sir John Colleton, an English Royalist who fled Cromwell back in the 1600’s.15825915_10207390765800264_6225945048796371929_n

New Years over, we then got ready to leave the Careenage. Whilst we were away, we had provided a home for a few million mussels and we needed to get a diver down to clear them from our props to make sure we could motor out. We also had left a hose in the water and this took some cleaning with multiple applications of bleach. Assante who left before us had to sail out when they couldn’t engage their motor.

It was good to get out of the Careenage and anchor in Carlyle Bay. We anchored near the cruising club out of range of the discos further up the beach. It was delightful swinging over clear sand with the odd bit of coral. We got visited by the turtles but didn’t get up early enough to see the race horses swimming around the boat.

 

Talking of race horses, we spent a relaxing afternoon at the races in the historic Garrison Savannah. Didn’t walk away with any fortune but it was an interesting crowd and some of the horses looked magnificent.

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There was one more thing I wanted to do on Barbados and that was to see the Concorde that was housed there. It was thrilling to get up close to this  magnificent aircraft  and see how passengers travelled in first class style. We got to walk around the aircraft and go inside as well. They showed us some great vintage footage as well. The aircraft remains in pristine condition and the tour guide was great.

But our time in Barbados was coming to an end as we looked forward to checking out 15873567_10207424599886095_6265663718596035678_n(some of) the rest of the Caribbean. We had originally decided to head south to Grenada but we’d blown a hose when we turned on the watermaker, and we cou
ldn’t get under the cupboard where the salt water was pouring out, so we decided to head for the Lagoon Agent in Martinique to get everything fixed. A good decision as he traced the problem to an outlet valve that was closed when the boat was left in the Careenage.
So off we went, leaving behind the beautiful people of Barbados, so friendly and helpful and safe.

 

Across The Pond

And then all of a sudden after a few days back in Mindelo, we were about to cross the Atlantic. 

Heres a bit of a day by day account of our crossing.

  • WEDNESDAY (DAY 1)

The morning after the rally’s farewell party, the somewhat seedy skipper and his still faithful crew set off on a 2000nm liver cleansing exercise across the Atlantic. The wind was fairly roaring down the channel as we clocked up 9s and 10s. Several boats got into difficulties in these few initial miles and we heard that Bill and Jade had to turn back with some rigging issues. They joined a few other boats in Mindelo who had a delayed start waiting for crew and/or parts.

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We pressed on past the bottom of San Anteo and immediately ran out of wind. On came the motors as we tried to clear the wind shadow that the tall volcanic mountains of San Anteo created. It ended up taking 3-4 hours, during which we had a few false starts, at one stage putting up Hotlips, our parasailor only to find the wind dropping and completely changing direction. We had to get it down hurriedly before we took out Oysterbar who were still travelling in the somewhat more correct direction of Barbados.

We finally made it out of the wind shadow and got on a nice broad reach of 140 degrees on main and jib doing 6-7knots. We stayed like this all night throwing in the occasional gybe to keep on our course.

We had set our course to a waypoint half way across on the same latitude as Barbados according to Jimmy’s advice. He likes us to get down there half to two thirds of the way across so we can duck down further if any tropical depressions rear their ugly head.

Song of the Day: Sail Away by David Grey 

  • THURSDAY (DAY 2)

1859NM to go. 144NM closer than yesterday. 

Our broad reach was working well as the wind steadily increased towards the magic 20kts apparent, where we would have to reef. The swell was building past 2m and the sailing was exhilarating as we often cracked 12kts surfing down the waves.

This made fishing difficult and the one Dorado we hooked jumped off as we were going too fast.

Mid morning, we decided to put in the first reef and try to slow down the boat a bit. The apparent wind built to mid-twenties as we screamed down waves at 12kts sometimes. By mid-afternoon we put in the second reef as the true wind was topping 30kts and the swell was over 3m with a couple of monsters over 4m thrown in to make it interesting.

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We were sailing close to Stormbreaker and broke up the day chatting on VHF. They told us about Maggie Drum who were passed by a cruise liner, who somewhat mysteriously turned around and came back straight at them. Somewhat alarmed, Maggie Drum got on the VHF and asked if they where about to be run down. The Cruise Ship then told them that a passenger on deck thought Maggie Drum was in distress and tried to get them on the VHF. After no reply, he turned his cruise liner around so he could give assistance. With no-one in distress, all parties adjusted their course and went on their merry ways.

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That night Phil managed to surf down a set of three monsters and hit 15kts of boat speed. This was not what we signed up for but at least on a cat we were comfortable to the point we were able to BBQ on the back of La Mischief, albeit hanging on with one hand whilst flipping the meat with the other.

Well at least we thought we were comfortable until Phil went into his room and found a flood of salt water coming in. We thought it was the stanchion initially but we eventually worked out that the seam between the deck and the hulls was leaking.  And quite badly. Maybe it was from the pounding we had at Fogo, although we had three large fenders protecting that part of the boat – who knows. Whatever it was Lagoon will be getting a warranty call. Hulls aren’t supposed to leak.

Luckily we had a plumber on board. We had Sten hanging over the side in a big swell with a tube of sikaflex filling in the holes under the rub rail where the water was coming in. He did a great job keeping most of the water out and the next morning we got a mirror down there and filled in the remaining gaps.

Song of the Day: Six Months in a Leaky Boat by Split Enz

  • FRIDAY (DAY 3)

1694NM to go. 165NM closer than yesterday.

Friday saw the swell dropping a little bit but we were still barreling along at 8kts under 2 reefs. We set about drying out Phil’s room and washing all the salt out of his bedding. The sikiflex patch-up job seems to be working.

We talked to Stormbreaker on the VHF as they were close by and found out that they had a much worse night than us, getting constantly soaked and having gybed twice as a giant wave spun the back of their boat, breaking their gooseneck and two preventers. Ouch. So now they get to sail across the Atlantic without a mainsail, relying instead on their Pacific Booster. Hopefully they will be okay.

We were also a little concerned about Lady Rebel who had broken a traveller and had a rumbling noise coming from their welded in dagger board. It was good to hear later that all was good.

Song of the Day:  Riders on the Storm by The Doors

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  • SATURDAY (DAY 4)

1548NM to go. 146NM closer than yesterday.

Saturday began with the wind and swell dropping off enough to pull the two reefs out and run with a full main until everyone got up and had breakfast, before we put up Hotlips. You can tell we are not racing as sleep, breakfast and coffee came first.

With the parasailor up, the boat sat a lot better and the autopilots workload decreased significantly. What a great sail Hotlips is. We were doing 8-9-10s in 10-15 apparent and loving it. With Hotlips up and flying we went on chaffing patrol and covered up anything that could chaff a line.

It did make fishing a bit more difficult at that speed. Luckily we managed to snare a small-medium trevally type fish of the genus “got no idea”. Nothing like it seen in Australian waters but it tasted good and we are all still alive after it fed all five of us.

Another day, another boat problem. This time with the Raymarine chart plotters. Suddenly the chart plotter at the helm couldn’t talk to the chart plotter at the nav station. To get around this problem we made both chart plotters their own master. This seemed to work for a while until the Radar got confused and refused to power up. Bummer, the radar is sort of very handy when we have the parasailor up at night and there are squalls about.

Late in the day we passed by Xada and suspected we might not see another B50 boat on AIS for quite a while. Its a big ocean out here.

Besides the radar problem, the night sail was quite magical. We left the parasailor up under the moon light and cruised along at 6s and 7s. The radar made a couple of brief appearances but generally it was in the naughty corner.

Song of the Day: Radar Love by Golden Earring

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  • SUNDAY (DAY 5)

1384NM to go. 164NM closer than yesterday.

The wind continued to drop out and we were doing 6s and 7s in 6-10kts of apparent. We were passing our days reading, fixing things and organising the boat. Sten’s cooking prowess was on display making all sorts of culinary creations. Dee spent the day going through all the various manuals filing them away in order.

We looked forward to downloading the boat positions to see where everyone was. We also downloaded weather a couple of times a day and the forecasts are starting to look good – touch wood.

We’ve discovered a leak behind the water maker and also have freshwater leaking into the starboard bilge from somewhere unknown. Our resident plumber was onto both jobs today. We were still trying to get the radar to go – we found some corrosion in a SeaTalk box whose cover was left off by some workman in Croatia, letting some water come in when the front windows were left open as the main sail went up after a storm from Brava.

Phil meanwhile was trying everything (short of throwing the bananas overboard) to catch a fish for dinner. Lines were lengthened, lures were interchanged, teasers were deployed – all to no avail.

Song of the Day: Blowin’ In the Wind by Bob Dylan

  • MONDAY (DAY 6)

1225NM to go. 159NM closer than yesterday. 

Our second beautiful night of parasailing as we head down towards the latitude of Barbados. The Radar is making the odd appearance staying on for up to an hour before disappearing once again. The moon is going to be the closest to Earth since 1948 tonight (next one will be in 2034) so we will have good visibility from the supermoon and should be able to spot any potential squalls by just looking.

The wind dropped off for most of the day and our speed was down to 5s and 6s. The sun came out and it was a very pleasant day cruising along with just the Parasailor up.

Our lackadaisical day was broken mid afternoon when not one but three fish jumps on our lines all at once. The Mahi mahi that took our middle line with the teaser on it managed to jump off, but we managed to get the other two on board – one on each hull. The back deck of La Mischief resembled a fish factory as Phil went to town filleting both fish. He was a happy camper after a couple of days of inactivity in the fishing department.

We had a great feed of fish – identity unknown – nice red meat. We left the Mahi Mahi for later.

Song of the Day: Hooked on a Feeling 

  • TUESDAY (DAY 7)

1077NM to go.. 148NM closer than yesterday. 

We got a bit of wind in the morning and cranked her up to 7+ knots. We were 20 miles north of Barbados latitude so we decided to change course directly to Barbados whilst ensuring that we gradually slipped South the 20nm required to bring us in line with Barbados.

But by the afternoon the wind had dropped out and we were only doing 5s and the occasional 6. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were all looking forward to crossing the half way point later that night.

The speed seemed to be good for fishing as we got multiple hits on all the lines as we went through a couple of schools of Bonitos. Dee and Phil weren’t keen on Bonitos so back they went to live another day.

Night time came and we got back our radar. Seems to be working now we turned off and unplugged the Raymarine wireless Smartcontroller. Heres hoping as we got a little bit of rain but the radar showed no squalls and Hotlips stayed up for the third night in a row.  The wind picked up a bit and we managed to get into the 7s as we head directly to Barbados.

Song of the Day: Ride Like the Wind by Christopher Cross

  • WEDNESDAY (DAY 8)

935NM to go. 142NM closer than yesterday. Now well over half way there. 

The wind continued to drop out and we were down to 5s and 6s. But the weather was nice and the seas slight and we were enjoying the journey, not worrying too much about the destination.

We celebrated going past our half way point by BBQing up some Calamari and downing it with a glass of Spanish Cava each. First and last drink on our crossing.

Mid afternoon seems to be the time to catch fish and this time it was Wahoo Wednesday. Phil was very excited (as we all were) to finally catch one. With jacket potatoes and broccoli we are well that night.

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After 4 days and 3 nights we decided to take down the parasailor as there were ominous looking clouds about. Good thing to as we had to avoid a few squalls that night. As they passed we got a bit of wind to sail with before it dropped out again and we motor sailed most of the night.

Song of the Day: Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealers Wheel

  • THURSDAY (DAY 9)

811NM to go. 124NM closer than yesterday.

Where has the wind gone?

We got the parasailor up again and spent the day dodging squalls. Our radar was working again (for the moment) so we were able to see them come up behind us and usually cross from North to South. First the wind was light then as a squall approached it picked up and gave us a kick, but usually had us tracking south. We weren’t making much VMG and we were now south of Barbados’ latitude.

Meanwhile we were sailing through lots of sargasso weed and the water was a horrible green colour. Not much good for fishing either with all the weed about.

With a couple of hours of daylight to go, the last of the squalls passed us and we kept our speed up as the angle straightened and our VMG improved. We had tried a barber haul with Hotlines and this allowed us to sail at 140 degrees to the wind, an extra 15 degrees, so we were pleased with this.

We pulled the parasailor down at dusk and managed to go along at 7 knots using the white sails. With the wind with some north in it we had a beautiful reach through the night and made up some of the ground we lost during the day.

Song of the Day: Sailing Nights by Bob Seger

  • FRIDAY (DAY 10)

671NM to go. 140NM closer than yesterday.

Another good day with the parasailor up all day and all night.

Another two fish added to the ever filling freezer – a small Trivially and a medium sized Mahi Mahi. It was proving a little difficult to get the bigger fish on board when doing 7kts under spinnaker. Phil would disappear down the back steps in his lifejacket and harness and gaff them on board. As well as the two we landed , we hooked a monster but after about 5 minutes he throw the line.

As Andrea and Ian noted in their book “Letters from the Caribbean” , we are also one Sydney to Hobart away from the finish.

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With the wind from the North East we needed to deploy the barber haul to go due west. At one stage Sten had La Mischief sailing along with a wind angle of 127 – not bad for a parasailor. Generally we kept it at 140 as its really quite comfortable there.

Song of the Day: “SAIL” by AWOLNATION

  • SATURDAY (DAY 11)

530NM to go. 141NM closer than yesterday.

In the morning, the water colour is back to a wonderful blue colour after a couple of days of weedy green.  It doesn’t last and by the afternoon its back to a weedy green colour.

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Its Saturday night so we decide to leave the parasailor up for a second night. We are making some miles in good time now and we start to think about getting to Barbados on Tuesday rather than our previous guesstimate of Wednesday.

Song of the Day:  Another Saturday Night by Cat Stevens

  • SUNDAY (DAY 11)

367NM to go. 163NM closer than yesterday.

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I’m up early as I feel the boat accelerate. Looking out the back we see a rain squall approaching. We let the parasailor fly higher and we accelerate to 12kts in 19kt of apparent wind. With Hotlips up on top, La Mischief seems to like it a lot.

We end up having a pretty good 24hours when the position report comes in on email at 1200GMT. We are running forth in the fleet, ahead of a 50 foot Catana and some other multihulls. We are behind a larger Outremer, a 45 foot Neel Tri and a 53 foot Halberg  Rasy that has been motoring for 4 of the days. But its not a race! Of course! Thats pretty good considering that we’ve been in light winds -10-15kts – for a lot of the time.

Dee really wanted to get in with enough time to prepare for thanksgiving and it looked like we should be able to do it if we maintained our current pace. We had one reef in the main so squalls shouldn’t worry us and we could even get a lift from them.

Song of the Day: Rainy Day Woman by Bob Dylan

  • MONDAY (DAY 12)

217NM to go. 150NM closer than yesterday.

After a night where Sten had fun dodging Squalls on the Radar using all the skills from his teenage years playing Space Invaders, we managed to speed up  in the morning going Wing on wing with the full main up now up. We went through a couple of squalls but the apparent wind never made it over 16kts. 

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In the afternoon the wind died off but we made the mistake of not putting up the parasailor. We were still going okay though and we thought we could make Barbados the next afternoon. Then as we crept up behind a squall line the wind completely dropped out and we turned on the motors to do the 6.5kts we needed to accomplish our finishing time. We were still doing okay at 8pm but by midnight we had dropped well below our required pace and the maths no longer added up. So off went the motors and we went wing on wing doing 4s and 5s for the rest of the night. 

Song of the Day: On a Slow Boat to China by Jimmy Buffett

  • TUESDAY (DAY 13)

80NM to go. 137NM closer than yesterday. A couple of hours behind schedule. 

As day came we put up the parasailor and off we went at 5s and 6s. We weren’t going to make it in daylight so we contacted Rally Control to see what our options were for coming in at night – something that Jimmy had counselled against. They told us customs went home at 8pm so on went the motors. This was a touch disappointing as I really wanted to sail into Barbados. Before last night we had only done 15 hours of motoring and now we would be motoring   for most of the day  when we could be pleasantly sailing along at 6kts. Them’s the breaks I suppose. 

For a while we had the parasailor up and with the motor on we were doing 7s and 8s. The squalls gave us 20kts of wind and plenty of rain and we loved the fact that it pushed our speed up to 9s and 10s. 

Then the squalls went and the wind died to nothing. Down came Hotlips for the last time this crossing and on came the motors. We burnt off a bit of carbon as we motored at 8kts to get in around 6.30pm. 

About 2,45pm we spotted a fishing boat and off to the right LAND. We were nearly there – 20nm off the coast.  

Four hours later we were parked outside the harbour in the dark waiting for 2 cruise boats to leave. We made it to the shallow draught harbour just after 7 and there were Jimmy and Pascal waiting to greet us and help us with the formalities with Customs and Immigration.

WE MADE IT!

Song of the Day:  “Barbados” by The Models