Set off at 8am on the 780nm jaunt to the Cape Verdes, a day earlier than planned as there was some strong southerlies coming on Sunday and our strategy was to head West of the rhumb line (whilst keeping a reasonable distance off Africa) to skirt around these Southerlies and get far enough South so we wouldn’t be affected. Most of the rest of the fleet had pretty much the same idea, although a few of the boats were going nowhere as the effects of the flu that went through our fleet had completely incapacitated them. So they stayed in El Hierro or Las Palma to recuperate. I wasn’t so sure about staying in El Hierro in Southerlies as it looked pretty exposed to the South. Will be interesting to see how they faired.
With our sails set our immediate challenge was trying to get a decent angle to clear the bottom of the island. Wing on wing for a while but the new Raymarine autopilot wasn’t handling it so after a bit of hand steering we gave up on that idea and jibed our way to the bottom of the island.
We used up our last bit of internet for 5 days and then headed off into the big wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. The wind turned to the East and we had a steady sail for most of the day at 5kts or so. Phil and I were still feeling the effects of the flu, so we took it fairly quietly, with no extravagant sail changes, sleeping off watch where we could.
The highlight of the day was a pod of spotted dolphins that hung around for ages.
By now Phil and I were both starting to feel better and out came the fishing gear as we motor sailed along in light winds. We were keen to at least get an entry in for the fishing completion, and Dee pulled out her secret weapon, a rather innocuous looking blue plug with a sing large hook on the end of it.
And it worked. A glorious 12kg Dorado jumped on the secret weapon and Phil pulled it in and gaffed it onto the boat. We managed to loose some horrible gin we picked up in desperation in Turkey down its gills, before lassoing its tail. We just passed an enormous underwater mountain – maybe that had something to do with the fishing. It was all happening as we noticed some whales broaching in the distance.
That night we really enjoyed the BBQed fresh fish, before settling down on our 3 hourly night watches. Dee was doing the 11pm – 2am shift when the wind picked up and off went the motors. I had to get up and help Phil put in a reef around 3am when the wind picked up to 20kts. It was on a comfortable tight reach, we were just East enough to avoid the stronger southeries and the swell was not much to write home about (so I won’t).
We made some good miles under sail hitting 8s and 9s but it didn’t last past dawn (a rather late 8.15am in the morning) and we were back to motor sailing.
With no need to fish, it was a rather quite Sunday at the office. We left the reef in all day as it didn’t really matter whether it was in or out, no wind is no wind. We motored into the Tropic of Cancer – another first for me in the Northern Hemisphere (having previously sailed through the Tropic of Capricorn on Camelot).
We were starting to get the rhythm of a long ocean passage. We occasionally spotted Oysterbar and Dolojaime in the distance and picked up the odd freighter on AIS but it was largely a big empty deep ocean. We kept track of the other boats through a once a day email from rally control detailing the GPS positions of all the other boats. I download weather on my Predict Wind Offshore app on my Apple Mac via my Iridium Go and this gives me weather routing via 4 different weather models, GMDSS weather forecast and satellite imagery. And occasionally I get an accurate forecast.
That night the wind picked up again and we touched 9s with the reef in and the wind blowing 15kts. Perfect sailing on a beam reach. Everyone enjoyed a great night time sail under a big full moon, until my early morning shift when once again the wind died and the motors came on.
About 11am we decided it was time to deploy Hotlips (our parasailor with the red lips) in light 8-9kts of wind, which was right up our bum. In 4-5kts of apparent wind we were doing 4-5kts of SOG. A couple more knots of wind would have been good but at least we weren’t burning diesel.
It was a slow day all around. We took the cautious approach of taking the Parasailor down as night fell, probably a mistake as La Mischief doesn’t go very well down wind in light winds with just a mailsail and a jib. We engaged the services of the iron sail to keep us on track for a daylight arrival on Wednesday, provided we got a couple of decent parasailor runs.
Sunrise was at 8.30am and the parasailor went up at 9am. It was downhill all the way to the finish line in Cape Verdes and with the wind picking up to 12kts, we were set to average 7kts with hotlips showing the way. Our plan was to get to within 140nm, 24 hours out before sunset and that gave us an easy run home provided we did better than 6kts.
And that’s what we did. I’m struggling to work out why I didn’t get a parasailor earlier. Would have made some of our earlier passages a lot more enjoyable.
5 days in, the days seem to pass easily. Kindle eBooks and movies are consumed, whilst Dee is busy doing her exercises. Spot Mr. Lazy! Its very therapeutic being away from the Internet ….. and Alcohol! With all that fresh food and fresh air too. It’s a veritable health farm on the water.
About 6pm we decided to quickly drop the parasailor to check the socks control lines that appeared to be twisted at the top. Back on deck it seemed to untwist itself, but just as we were about to re-hoist it, the starboard engine stopped as parasailor line fell into the water and wrapped around the prop. Nothing like a mid-ocean swim to untangle her. Its very blue underneath the back of the boat with the snorkel and mask on!
Crisis over, off we went again doing 7kts with only the parasailor up. This was our first night sail with Hotlips up and it went beautifully. You could see the stars through the parasail opening as we surfed down the swell that had built from nothing to maybe 1.5m.
Its nice to wake up at 5am in the morning and see we have a manageable 80nm to go. The moon was still fairly full and the wind was so consistent, never wavering much from straight behind us at 12-15kts. Trade wind sailing.
We thought we’d have a go at filling up the freezer before we arrived given we will have 5 hungry mouths to feed. Phil ordered Wahoo – but all we got was a baby mahi mahi that we threw back
As we neared the islands the wind picked up and as we entered the channel we had 20-25kts. We were zooming along at 9-10kts and getting to our final destination quickly. We had some problems getting the parasail down with all that wind but Phil and I managed to get it in the sock eventually. Dolojaime were not so fortunate – they managed to wrap theirs around the mast and had to cut it off. Ouch!!!!
With parasailor down, out came the fenders and mooring lines and we were soon docked ready for our first beer in over a week!