October 23, 2011
We went to Carlisle bay by bus and saw from the beach a boat that looked like Blue Moon. Dave and I swum the 500 meters out to her and we caught up with Adrian and Sam who had arrived about 12 hours after we had. Mandy was picked up in the dinghy (and dunked a little).
We went a shore and had lunch and a good old catch up with the Blue Moonies. We decided to bring Secret Smile down to Carlisle Bay for her last night and meet up again.
Having booked out of Barbados and said a sad farewell to Dave who was heading for the airport we sailed down to Carlisle bay. Anchored up in a ferocious storm where I was soaked to the skin in minutes but we managed to get good holding. Then off to the Carenage to meet Martin (Mandy’s friend) who had kindly got our gas bottles refilled.
We met Sam and Adrian down there and went back in convoy. That evening we went in convoy to the Royal Barbados Yacht Club (only our engine conked out and we needed a tow – well done the Navy) We also got a tow on the way back so we cooked them an army style supper (boil in the bags).
In the morning we left for Grenada – if you would like to follow our further adventures then sign up to Caribbean Cruising – our next chapter on this site.
October 22, 2011
Final Push: Mindelo to Barbados
The final morning everyone was up bright and early (not sure whether it was excitement or a touch of nerves as the daunting 2000 mile journey was now upon us). We had had a final night in the bar exchanging our business cards and sharing beers with each other. There were many Brits or english speaking people that attend happy hour on the floating pontoon bar and we had become good friends. It would be sad to leave people behind but there was 5 of us setting out on the crossing all going to similar destinations in the Caribbean if not making exactly the same land fall. We had promised to keep a lookout for each other but did not expect to be able to communicate after the first night.
The exit from Mindelo went well for Secret Smile although our good friends and neighbours on Blue Moon were not so lucky, a German boat coming in to take our spot managed to go over the mooring buoy holding the end boat and they ended up drifting sideways locked together on the pontoon. Blue Moon was delayed half an hour. The current and wind funneling between the islands saw us zooming along at up to 10knts over the ground in places (Crew thought if this keeps up we will be there in 8 days) However, later the wind died and the rolling swell made for an uncomfortable start with not much sleep the first night. We saw amazing flying fish larger than ever before fly for some distances to avoid our bow.
We decided to motor in the early hours as we were not getting anywhere. In the morning we prepared the Spinaker and it helped get us up the fleet. It gave us a great speed advantage as we were the only boat flying it (until that is it managed to wrap around the pole uphaul and taking us best part of 30 minutes to unwind it – better luck tomorrow!!!) The morning roll call we all exchanged positions and I plotted them as waypoints on the chart plotter. We were all within 18 miles of each other. Ocean Lady has SSB and was able to give us a weather update. Throughout the day we exchanged radio messages within the fleet updating what wind and current we were getting at our positions and swapping anacdotes. Lunch time we saw a whole herd of dolphins galloping along beside us (Only the second lot we have seen since Lanzarote)
The winds died and we went on to engine. The engine revs kept dropping off and I fear it is a fuel filter blockage. However when looking the fan belt seems very loose. Once it is tightened our engine seems fine. (Not sure how that would effect revs) We spend the day chatting to Blue Moon and Spruce. Blue moon is a smaller lighter boat and he decides to fly his spinaker at night (something I am not prepared to do – we go wing to wing but by the morning he is out of radio range. Spruce is well south of our position.)
Now the winds are very light. We have flown the spinaker all morning and caught up with Spruce who had gone further south. We come up alongside having jibed the spinaker and then snuffed it as we were approaching. We motor up to them and drop our main sail. As we get to them they come on deck in blazer collar and dress with wine glasses in hand (great style Andy and Sue) We have attached a second genoa to see if we can bob along under 2 poled out genoas. We use the main boom to pole out the otherside. But our speed is pitiful. I am tempted to use the engine but want to keep close to Spruce as they have SSB and weather information (they are happy to bob along waiting for the wind. We have only covered 350 miles with some way left to go and therefore not wanting to run down our fuel supplies either)
The last few days have been quite eventful. We decided to go back to main sail and poled out genoa (it seemed faster than any other configuration we had tried.) First I had to hot knife and retie the main halyard as there has been some chafe and I did not want it wearing through. Then there was a small patch of chafe on the actual main sail where it had kept rubbing against the swept back spreader. I put some ripstop dacron repair tape on both sides and will get an anti chafe patch put over it by a sail maker when we find one. Then I took our burgee down and sewed it to the rope so it would no longer bunch up and I put 2 eyes made out of white sail repair and coloured the pupils in with black marker (We now have our own Secret Smile burgee). The pole uphaul shackle had failed a couple of times so I replaced that with a spare. The winds were up now and we were maintaining 5-6 knts speed over ground.
When trying to charge the batteries I had great difficulty starting the engine. It was not running right and I gave it enough charge to get us through the night. I will investigate properly in full daylight as the sun is sinking rapidly. Over night with one reef in the main and genoa poled out we were averaging 6 and a half knots with top speeds in the low 8 knts all night. Sleeping in the forepeak is like being in a washing machine, you tumble from side to side and hear water rushing by you. To counter act this I have adopted Mandy’s ear plug regime and after a night watch in just shorts and t-shirt was cold enough to wrap myself in the duvet to stop me rolling around. OK unless you want to make a quick get up as you need to be Houdinie to escape from that lot.
We changed the fan belt as the other one was part worn and took off and washed out the air filter (which proved blacker than the hole of calcutta). We transfered 20 litres of fuel from one of the jerry cans in to the main tank (It was origionally 20 – not sure how much slopped over the sides). For added measure I pumped the lifting pump a couple of times. On switching on the engine it first spluttered and died – then again without any throttle and it finally roars in to life. We seem to have cured the problem (fingers crossed) without changing fuel filters. To celebrate – Dave cooked us a hearty brunch of bagette bacon, egg and tomatoes. Maybe high in colestral but definitely high on morale. During breakfast we watched the blue fin flying fish display team perform their display for us.
We have made some good progress each day averaging 130 miles (over 5 knts an hour). We have tracked down the reason why we were using so much electric. A screw on the negative bus for the battery monitor had come loose causing an open circuit and batteries to drain more quickly. Now that it is tightened our consumption has gone down to 5.2 Ahrs from 45 Ahrs. We are running the engine for 2-3 hrs a day to charge up the batteries but the alternator struggles to keep up with demand (another thing on the shopping list to upgrade). It looks like we will now arrive on about the 9th December. Although only if the wind holds out. We have been whiling away the time wih an afternoon pub quiz (although with out the beer – we did have one for reaching he 1000 mile mark but apart from that we abstain whilst at sea). I think everyone will be glad to see land, although the days seem to go by quite quickly. We topped up the fuel tank from 2 of our jerry cans which was not made easy by the steady sway of the boat. We have 5 jerry cans left giving us 100 litres in reserve. I have been impressed by the water conservancy – to date only 82 litres of tank water used leaving us with aprox 260 lires left. This has been helped by the bottled drinking water we have been using, washing the dishes in sea water and having bucket baths of sea water and sponged clean with minimal fresh water.
Trade winds seem to have settled in giving us 5-6 knts on average a 140 miles per day. We have finished the fresh meat and part baked bread. The last couple of days Dave has chef’d up a cooked brunch of eggs, tomatoes and bacon. We are now in our last 500 miles before we arrive in Barbados. Mandy baked a loaf of bread which was good for morale – not only the taste but the smell of a freshly baked loaf is great. The 4 O’clock pub quiz continues and is always closely fought. The other day we had a pink under bellied dolphine showing off beside the boat leaping completely out of the water, he even managed a backward somersault – a spectacular I have never seen before and more a kin to a seaworld theme park than the wild. We are now hunkered down below due to some heavy rain. As the clouds developed I decided it was an ideal opportunity to strip off and have a bucket bath on the bow. Having washed and lathered in salt water the rain came and I rinsed in a refreshing (but not too cold) rain shower (It is hard to believe we are in December)
4th of December saw rain bouncing off the deck. Out on the helm in just swim shorts was quite envigorating. The wind veered round and we had an hour of going in to the wind. Then the storm passed and we were left with really light winds. By night fall we were motoring but then the wind picked up enough to get us through. The next day was again light so we ended up motoring just short of 12 hours. Now the dilema as we have not got enough fuel to get us all the way there by motoring. We first put an extra 60 litres from jerry can to tank. Then we went in the water (a pleasant 31.9 degrees) and scrubbed the hull (not much needed scrubbing a part from a patch at the back in front of the rudder. Then back to slow motoring (fingers crossed that we will soon get wind) Then we spotted about 30 whales slowly swimming by, they were amazing and not too close for comfort. Could be a good omen. We have plenty of water and food and if need be will bob about when we get through this next batch of fuel (I have 40 litres in reserve for the final rounding the island and coming alongside in Barbados). Less than 300 miles to go.
We arrived safe and sound on 9th December and I am now in Port St Charles Royal Ocean Yacht Club having a rum punch!!!!
Pics to follow
October 21, 2011
Our stay in Mindelo has been a very pleasant one abeit short as we are itching to get to Barbados. We have met a great (if not little crazy) bunch who have gathered here all ready for the crossing in all shapes and sizes of boats, including very intrepid sailors with boats under 30ft.
We have managed to find cheap camping gaz (4 euro a bottle) at the local shell garage. We have also been able to order meat that they chopped and minced in to seperate portions for us and are now freezing them ready for us to pick up before we go.
The main square had an amazing gathering of locals who were playing on a band stand and another group doing the Capoeira marshal art dance to a frenzied rhythm. They were very athletic throwing backward somersalts and all.
We saw locals drop out a big net not far from the beach and then haul it in by hand. It took quite some time but they caught quite a lot of fish. They kept hauling until the net was back on the beach, a strange but very effective method.
The local youth have gone one better with there car stereos and have the speakers on the roof. It blasts out so you can hear them coming quite some time before you see them. I thought it was a political rally at first!
October 20, 2011
10 Nov 11
We had a last cooked breakfast ashore at the “Little Marmite Cafe” in Marina Rubicon. Jean and Tony came to see us off as well as are friends Bob and Nolean and Liz. After a hearty breakfast we cast off and motored around to reception to hand back keys and electric adapter before heading out. To our suprise Jean, Tony, Bob, Nolean and Liz were on the outer wall singing “We are sailing” and swaying a wavey farewell. I must say the harmonies were tight and it was our best send off yet. We soon hoisted our sails and with the engine off we surged through the waves at about 5-6 knts. Our Hydrovane “BOB” now tightened (Previously it had not been turning the rudder well – but Mike from the boat opposite us had shown us how to tighten the clamp – so now fingers crossed he should work) held us on a good course as soon as we got in to open seas.
Day 2 and with light winds we have travelled only 100 miles (Helped by the acceleration zones around the Canaries). We now have the Spinaker up and are maintaining between 5 – 6 knts. Fishing lines have been deployed but guess the fish are not hungry today. Then as the wind got up and we decided to douse the Spinaker a fish decided to get caught. Mayhem on board as Mandy and I decided Spinaker first then fish. However by the time the fish was being pulled in he had wriggled free. (He was massive honest!!!) Dave – who had deployed the line and then retired for a kip slept through all of the excitement.
At 1100hrs we held a little service to remember our friends and love ones that are no longer with us (special thanks that Scott did not make it in to that catagory as he has just been knocked off his motor bike) and read the act of Remembrance and then casting out poppies (Supplied by Tony and Jean) in to the sea.
Now “BOB” our hydrovane has been our Hydrobane- since Gibraltar. However, having Mikes top tip and clamped up the rudder shaft bracket so that it actually turned the rudder we thought we would give him another go. I balanced the sails locked off the helm and feathered the vane. We were going in a straight line for a good 5 minutes before we veered left. No reaction from “BOB” (that is until we pulled the top shaft pin that then allowed him ton steer.) I guess the lesson is if you do everything right then he works him as long as you have clamped him properly and set him up. HOORAY for “BOB” he steers like a dream. Feel foolish that it took us this long to work him out.
We enjoyed a hearty breakfast of boiled eggs and marmite soldiers. Crew spirits are high although Dave is disappointed with the lack of fish willing to grace our table. He has found a solution though – if the fish will not come to the table mat then the mat must go to the fish (a vigorous shake sent one overboard to the fishes). New crew member has now been nicknamed Dangerous Dave!!!
13 – 18 November
We now settled in to a routine with night watches and day time routine and the days started to blur together. We had 5 flying fish land on our decks (and a small squid) as the weather became warmer and at last light had some dolphins join us.
The waves have been particularly rolly with large 2-4 meter swells (think that this is a result of tropical rotating storm Shaun which is over by Bermuda) – although it made for an uncomfortable ride it did have the bonus of helping Dave prepare for his forthcoming skiing holiday by standing in the cockpit in a down hill egging it position balancing as the waves rocked and rolled from side to side.
Cape Verdes was spotted as the sun started to rise on the morning of the 18th of November. The winds got up as we entered the Cape Verdes acceleration zone and we shot in between the islands at a rapid rate of knots under just our foresail. Mindelo Marina was a challenge as the wind was blowing us hard on the nose as we picked up the buoy and then reversed on to the pontoon. We celebrated with a few cheeky beers and a lunch a shore after booking in with customs and port authorities.
October 19, 2011
Thanks to Jean and Tony (who live on the island) we had a wonderful tour of some of the major attractions on the island. We saw the stunning scenery – and had a guided tour to boot. We walked along a breathtaking beach watching the waves crash in to the rocks and had an amazing picnic whilst watching tourists wobble up the mountain on camels. We finished at the salt flats with a nice drink overlooking the whole operation where they extract salt from the sea.
It was a great day and we feel we have experienced much on the island now.
October 18, 2011
Welcome to Dave McBirnie who will be our third member on board for the Atlantic crossing. Now Dave arrived at night and headed for reception (which was the other side of the marina from Secret Smile). However, he walked passed our pontoon to get there and then had to retrace his journey with his heavy bags. After a sail and his night aboard he was awarded the coveted Secret Smile T-Shirt.
He brought with him an assortment of lures to help catch fish on route. He also had these clever little shuttles that drive the lures under even at speed. We sailed to Fuerte Ventura today and en-route managed to catch a mackerel (even bigger than the last one). We anchored there for lunch and then returned to the marina. There we gutted the fish and had a veritable feast (OK a good starter) that we baked in butter with seasoning.
We have a problem with our furling system and had to order a new part from mainland Spain today – fingers crossed it will arrive well before the 8th and not delay us.
October 17, 2011
We have completed most of our boat jobs and as there is a PADI dive centre here at Rubicon we decided it would be useful to get a basic open Ocean qualification. The tri-dive went extremely well so we signed up for the full course. We now have completed the theory and have had further confined water dives.
Mandy is doing extremely well having had a bad experience with a leaky snorkel that shook her up quite badly. But she has decided to climb back on the horse and keep trying!!! (Did I not mention this is the mounted PADI course – only joking they could not get a SCUBA tank big enough for the horse)
I still am having difficulty co-ordinating breathing without a mask on – damn nose wants to breath in as well as out – after all it has been doing it for past 50 years and now it has to learn only to breath out – tricky.
Hoping to have pics and further updates later.
October 16, 2011
We struggled the anchor up and headed south. The winds were with us and as we got to the south side of the island the acceleration zone upped the wind by 15 knts. We flew along at over 8 knts (Pleasant change). Tried “Bob” out in the heavier wind and it coped much better – maybe that is the answer.
Rubicon is a little paradice and after our long days at sea we think we have found heaven. Last night we went to a piano bar and listened to live music whilst sipping drinks. This marina has even got a pool included in the price!!!
October 15, 2011
Clearing customs in order to go into Casablanca had taken for ever. However, in the hub-bub of the city we found a very cheap internet cafe to catch up with our emails (it cost the equivelant to 10p for an hour). We had seen Jimmy’s bar (and were sure it was the bar from the famous film starring Humphrey Bogart and Scarlet O’Hara.) We decided we would have a meal there and sample the local Casablancan beer.
Next morning it took over an hour and a half to clear from the port authorities. They ended up driving us into town to pay the fee which was equivelant to a european marina but without any facilities. As there was little wind we spent the first 5 hours on the donkey (slang for engine – why?? ) We are heading straight for the Canaries as we can not be bothered with the clearing in and out of a port on the Morocan coast as we waste half a day doing it.
After 5 hrs on the “donkey” the breeze finally stirred. Great – time to try out “Bob” the hydrovane. Now “Bob” has a mind of his own. Independant little soul that can stubbornly refuse to steer you on the course you want to go. So we coaxed him, swore at him (Obviously Mandy not me) bribed him and adjusted the windvane that has to be dead in to wind. Each time we tweaked him and got him going in a straight line (not necessarily the one we had hoped for but straight none the less) he would then turn for no apparent good reason and head off to where he thought was best. I am beginning to think that learning to sail “Bob” will be like learning to sail all over again.
Mandy is learning the clarinet during this leg of the trip and already can play up to tune a day lesson 6. We are starting to share some nice duets together and hope that by Christmas we will be playing carols. It is a great way to pass the time and is something we can share together (as if not being cooped up on a boat miles from anywhere was not enough….lol)
Wind got up for the last 36 hrs and we raced along towards our destination. We aimed to arrive at the Marina on the Isla Gracio which is just on the north of Lanzarote. It had a fantastic write up in the book and was stated as a small under used marina that offered basic services and was comparatively cheap to stay in (our sort of marina) However, on entry it became obvious that everyone had been reading the same book and it was full. It was now 1630hrs and we wanted to stop before night fall. There were 3 anchorages just around the corner. The first looked quite bleak and had 3 other boats already there. We marked that as a fall back possibility. The next was better sheltered and more boats at anchor than in the marina. The third was quite secluded and we got very close to the steep volcanic wall before dropping the hook. There were 2 other yachts and 2 motor boats when we arrived. Although soon after getting settled one of the yachts went and so did the motor boats (was it something we said???) We soon found out why. The wind funneled off the mountain and blew a hooley (which was great as it meant our wind generator kept us in power and the ear plugs helped us sleep).
In the morning to our horror our anchor fluke had stuck fast on some volcanic rock some 10 meters below us. I had not bothered with a tripping line as no one else seemed to be using them. 10 meters is too far to dive down and wrestle with the anchor. So I let out some more anchor and motored around in a circle until I wriggled it free. Much relief was felt on board I could tell you as the alternative was to pump up the dinghy and go ashore looking for a diver. We have rung ahead and booked a spot in marina Rubicon (the way forward as yachts descend on the canaries in preparation for the Atlantic Rally Crossing known as the ARC.)
October 10, 2011
We motored around to Gibraltar to fill up on cheap fuel. I was concerned with how the boat would turn with the extra rudder that “Bob” our Hydrovane has. However it was fine and at below 3 knts which most close quarter stuff happens at I felt no effect.
We sailed out and crossed the traffic seperation scheme towards the african coast ( I tried Bob a couple of times but he took a while to set up and we had to avoid big tankers so I conceeded that I needed to wait)
Winds behind us we went wing to wing and roared through the water at 7.2knts unfortunately there was a 3 knt current against us and it reminded me of the time I ran the wrong way up an elevator in Berlin struggling to get to the top.
We rounded the top corner of Morocco and the acceleration of the headland had us reefing the main and losing the Genoa completely. However, the 7 – 8 knts we were now making did not last. The wind dropped (and finally died after 100 miles done with 100 left to go. We stqrted to motor. Rabit had been our first scheduled stop but after studying the almanac I spotted there are only certain ports you can enter from another country and Rabit was not one of them)
We motored on slowing down so we would reach Casablanca in daylight. However, after a night of dodging fishing vessels and the light not coming as expected due to a heavy pea soup of a fog we decided to drop anchor just ouside the port and wait for it to clear.
After catching up on some sleep I woke at just about 1000hrs local time and we motored in. No yachts here the Harbour Master told us. Go to one 10 miles north. After explaining we needed to come in because this was our first stop since Spain we were directed to a ramp at the far end of a container port. Scrambling a shore I managed to slip and scrape all of one arm and high on my thigh. Not a great start but at least we were alongside ( is everything in this country barter – even mooring places?)
We have wandered in to Casablanca and cant help thinking…. “In all the Ports in all the World…..” Still as the breeze picks up….. we will be “Gone with the Wind”