Thursday 24th November 600 NM out of Las Palmas en route for St
It’s been a little while since we blogged. There was something of a hiatus in
Las Palmas while
we made final preparations and waited for the Atlantic crossing crew to
arrive. By the time that Chris and
Penny Copeland and Tim Dumas had arrived on Monday 14th November we
were pretty partied out but there were a few more parties to come yet. We very much enjoyed our time in
Las Palmas. Inevitably there were boaty things to
get sorted out and Carol was pretty much absorbed with trying to solve the
provisioning puzzle. And, that
really is quite a puzzle. First;
exactly how long will the crossing take?
Around three weeks is about average but an average is only an
average. How much in reserve? How much fresh meat, fruit and veg can
you take and hope to preserve in the Tropics? And, where on earth is it going to get
stored on board? Looking around our
pontoon in the days before we departed it was clear that everyone had very
different views about quite what the answer was with regard to sheer
quantity. It seems likely that
vegetarian fish – particularly those with a penchant for soft fresh fruit –
would do well to hang about SW of the Canaries for a few days each year
following the start of the ARC. In
the end decisions on quantities were governed by a draft menu which aimed for a
good mix of dishes and available stowage space. Meat was delivered frozen from a
favoured stall in the market. Fruit
and veg were procured from a small greengrocer who was a great help in advising
what would keep best and his van driver, Pepe, delivered everything to the boat
for us. All the dry goods were
bought at Carrefour which must have one of the best views in the world,
overlooking the Atlantic and framed by palm
The harbour dressed overall
The inevitable dinghy race in fancy dress
Carol and Penny washing fruit on the pontoon. No stowaway bugs thanks.
Palmas itself is not a tourist resort but has a bustling
workaday atmosphere which grew on one; although the one way system remains a
puzzle. It was a shame that we
didn’t find time to explore Gran Canaria.
Carol did have a day out helping to plant native saplings at the ARC
forest. It was great to be up in
the mountains and getting hands dirty (Well, now, if it’s dirty hands you’re
after, let me introduce you to the inner workings of Mr Perkins –
From little acorns . . . .
She calls a spade a um . . . .
The social side of the ARC is pretty full on. The marina at Las Palmas is packed with
yachts preparing to go and everyone is in party mood. We met some wonderful people whom we
will meet again in St
Our white ensign created some diversions for our pontoon as we were
berthed opposite a Warrior 40 skippered by a most amusing guy, John Simpson, who
amongst other things is a very accomplished musician. At sunset every day our ensign came
down. Of course, almost nobody
else’s did. No matter how
discretely we might have attempted removal (because we weren’t trying to make an
issue of it), a rendition of the Last Post on John’s trumpet was often on the
cards. So, on Armistice Day, we
gave it the full works at sunset.
An impromptu and contemplative little gathering formed up at Arnamentia’s
stern as the ensign was slowly lowered to the strains of John’s trumpet.
Sunset on Armistice Day
There were one or two admin hoops to be gone
through. These included a
compulsory safety equipment inspection.
In addition we took advantage of the plethora of mainly UK-based
expertise on hand to support the ARC to have the rigging checked (“a thing of
beauty” is how Jerry the Rigger described Arnamentia’s mast and standing
rigging), sort out how to get weather forecasts and maps down over the radio and
the satellite communications and confirm what we knew about Percy the
Parasailor. More of him anon. Once Chris, Penny and Tim had arrived we
switched into high gear to get all the final preparations done, shopping
completed and everything stowed in addition to attending a large number of
briefings and seminars. Chris did a
magnificent job of diving with his sub aqua gear to clean the bottom of the
hull, the propeller and the waterline.
What a lovely bottom she’s got!
Shortly before departure day we were met in the marina by John and Lyn
White from the Ocean Cruising Club.
Coincidentally, John had been appointed our OCC mentor earlier this
year. This newly instituted
initiative aims to link those about to undertake extended cruising with members
who have already done so. Since
John and Lyn had cruised for 10 years some years ago and, like us were
Lymington-based, this proved invaluable and we are very grateful indeed for all
they have done to help us. Anyway
they were there to host an OCC party on the last evening before departure and
asked us to assist – as well as presenting us with a burgee (which we promise
not to fly until we’ve completed the required 1000NM unbroken passage – watch
this space; it won’t be long now).
The morning of Sunday 20th arrived and we fired up the
preparation turbo in order to be able to slip our berth shortly after 1100 in
good time to recce the start area prior to the start at 1300. As one of the first away from our
pontoon we were treated to a rendition of “God Save the Queen” by John and his
trumpet. So, no silent sneaking
away to tune up whilst pretending that you were taking the ARC non-race (ho, ho)
ever so casually!
Just about to slip away to the start
The weather at the start was all one could wish for;
sunny with a decent Force 5 blowing from the north to speed us on our way
south. The really important things
about starting the ARC are not to cross the start line early (you incur a
minimum 3 hour penalty) and not to hit or get hit by anyone else. We managed to do all that and got a
pretty good start by any standards.
The ARC gets going
The next thing that matters is not to get caught out by the acceleration
zone around the eastern side of Gran Canaria. That starts a few miles down the coast
from the start. In that zone the
normal wind is accelerated by 10 or 15 knots more than the stuff you started
in. Ten or fifteen knots on top of
a Force 5 and accompanied by swell is pretty challenging stuff to be flying
spinnakers in – particularly if the result is that you shred it and have another
almost 3,000 NM to sail without it.
So, like most, we chose not to hoist our spinnaker until well clear and
we knew that there were no horrors awaiting us – that wasn’t until about 0300
the next morning (Monday). It
wasn’t ideal hoisting it for the first time (for this crew at least) in the
middle of the night, partly because ours is a slightly unusual beast. He is a Parasailor and his name is
Percy. He should not be confused
with Chris Copeland who is a sailor Para. You have met Percy previously although
you would not have known that that was his name. Neither did we. We hadn’t really been introduced
properly then. All we knew then was
that he caused mayhem by wrapping himself around the forestay and, whilst we
were trying to get him down, negligently permitting one of his sheets to wrap
itself around the prop – all this on the way to Bayonna (Blog entry for
19th September). As a
result, Jon had had to administer some pretty drastic field surgery and this had
been followed by admission to a Spanish spinnaker hospital. Anyway, this time he went up without
much trouble and since we’ve got to understand him a lot better over the last
couple of days, we now know him to be a very good guy who is a great deal more
forgiving and flexible than his more traditionally constructed brethren. Here are a couple of pictures of him in
Percy smiling for the camera
And just to get him into perspective
So, what of progress so far? It is now 0900 on Thursday 24th November
and we have made a little over 600 NM since we started. Almost all of that has been dead
downwind with Percy producing the horsepower. The 24 hours from 1600 Tuesday to 1600
yesterday were particularly productive as we tore downhill in a typical Atlantic
3 metre swell in Force 5 winds with frequent Force 6 squalls lasting for up a
quarter of an hour. This is not
easy to do and certainly not at night – particularly with practically no
moon. It was made doable because
Percy is remarkably stable and resistant to the sort of overloading problems
that conventional spinnakers suffer from.
The result was a very creditable 190 NM run in those 24 hours. It would have been more than that had we
not been delayed somewhat by hooking into a pretty decent Mahi Mahi at about
1700 on Tuesday whilst being pulled along by Percy at around 7 knots. Now, I’ve said that Percy is a
good guy but he is pretty single-minded.
Once he’s got the bit between his teeth it can be difficult to stop
him. So, we had to get him down and
sit on him in a hurry. And he’s a
big boy. And there was plenty of
breeze and an unhelpful swell. By
the time we’d done that, our Mahi Mahi had remembered some other pressing
appointment he had and pushed off.
We thought that a bit rude and inconsiderate.
But, if we’ve made a little over 600 NM so far that means we have close
to 2,500 NM to go. Plenty of room
for fun and games there. Chafe is a
major issue and it hasn’t taken us very long to realize that. Arnamentia’s guard wires (which help to
stop people falling overboard) are now lagged in old rags and gaffer tape in an
attempt to reduce the chafing of various spinnaker lines on them. Chafe also caused an almost brand new
16mm diameter spinnaker guy (rope) to part yesterday afternoon. The result can be seen in the photo
below. We’re not sure whether to
regard the result as something that we ought to submit to Tate Modern or take it
to market as the absolutely essential yachtsman’s shaving brush. At this rate we might well have enough
to stock a market stall in St
Lucia by the time we arrive.
Well, it Used to be a Rope
Amongst a number of other major considerations is the route to
Lucia. The shortest route is a great circle
route and you’d be excused for thinking that, since that is a straight line, it
is obviously the way to go.
Sometimes it turns out to be so.
But, not often. The classic
route takes a hitch south to somewhere a few hundred miles NW of the Cape Verde
islands to pick up the NE trade winds.
It adds a couple of hundred miles to the journey but is often quicker and
easier. But, so much depends on the
weather and all the skippers have been obsessed with this and how to get
up-to-date information, once they have sailed, for about a fortnight. Most of us have decided to take the “Go
south until the butter melts” route.
But the precise point at which you turn and head for St
Lucia is a matter for nice judgement based on
your view of what the weather will be doing many hundreds of miles and up to a
fortnight away. Getting that
substantially wrong will cost you plenty of time. But, then, who cares? The ARC isn’t a race after all. Well, it isn’t and then of course, it
sort of is. We’ve all been given
handicap ratings which, like most yacht racing handicaps, amount to an
individually allocated time correction factor (TCF) by which the actual (or,
“elapsed”) time it takes you to complete the event is multiplied to create a corrected
time. Within the ARC fleet that TCF
is anywhere between 0.830 and 1.358.
Our rating is 1.010. The aim
is to try to let boats with very different characteristics and compete on a
sensible basis. No such system can
take account of everything. It is a
fact that all ARC boats are significantly overloaded, way beyond their
designers’ dreams, with stores and that has a bigger effect on lighter boats
than heavier ones. Arnamentia is a
sort of middle heavyweight. So,
that sort of favours her. On the
other hand, unlike most, she is tooled up for Pacific anchorages and all that
caper. So, she’s got some seriously
heavy kit aboard. Arnamentia’s
rating is about two thirds the way down the list of boats entered – so most of
the fleet is theoretically faster than she is. Given that and given what we know about
the fleet disposition, at the moment we feel as though we’re doing fairly
well. But, first, these are very
early days and second, it is much more difficult for us to judge that than it is
for anyone sitting at home with internet access to the ARC website at www.worldcruising.com/arc. The Fleet Viewer button on
the upper right hand side of the screen reveals all.
Right, well I think we’ve just about caught up now. This morning we crossed the Tropic of
Cancer on our way south – so we’re now formally in the Tropics. We’ll blog anon shortly when we get the
chance. Meanwhile all the best to
all and please wish us luck.