Atlantic crossing, day 2
We left Mindelo at midday on Friday 14th Dec and by noon today (16th) had done 308nm of the 2100nm passage. The first few hours were made interesting by firstly the gusts that roar between the two west-most islands of the Cape Verdes group and then the eddies they induce downwind. As a result we had winds gusting up to 36kts and dying down to 7kts, with the direction changing from NW to SE. As luck would have it we caught up with a pretty green hulled German ketch which had left an hour or so before us, just as the winds were doing their best to show up our poor ability to predict what was going to happen next. In the end we overtook them 3 times before we worked out what to do in the island’s wind-shadow. Our hopes to set the genoa (big front sail) and forget it for 2 weeks turned into hours of gybing; the wind didn’t really settle until getting on for midnight. As our 150nm plus days indicate, it’s mostly pretty fast sailing and with some big waves to surf down we’re reached a new record of 10.6kts already.
To put it mildly we are having another rolly passage. We’ve read so much about this crossing, but with the exception of two friends who did it last year, nobody warns you what it is really like. The seas don’t look too intimidating – the largest waves are rarely 5m from peak to trough, but they are confused and powerful. We have a big heavy boat renowned for it’s sea-kindly motion, yet we are being tossed about like a cork when the waves take a fancy to. Lindsay was thrown out bed last night, despite wedging herself into a little nest at one end. Nothing stays still and no task is easy. After two accidents we have decided that we can only eat or drink – never the two together. I lost a glass of wine (a tiny one, honest) last night whilst trying to eat pistachios and Lindsay lost most of a mug of tea at breakfast, attempting to manage a piece of jam and bread. Our friends who crossed last year say that the motion doesn’t really ease until you are almost over, even when the winds abate. We’ve had average wind speeds in the low 20s knots since we left and they are forecast to ease back to mid teens, but it sounds like that will just make us slow down, not get more comfortable. We can’t imagine what it must be like on smaller or lighter boats, especially the more crowded ones.
I’ve had to do a couple of jobs already, including fixing “Doug” our towed generator which was not performing properly. He’s back working OK now, but in such big seas his output is way down and not quite keeping up with demand. We did some damage in a violent accidental gybe on the first day as well. I’ve bent the part into a workable shape but it will need a proper mend when this **** motion permits.
Hey-ho, the sun is shining, we’re making good progress and getting enough sleep already, so we mustn’t complain!
Wildlife spotting continues to be very low intensity, mostly a very few birds and plenty of flying fish getting out of our way. We’ve had two spottings of note: we saw a tropic bird yesterday, looking very exotic with its extremely long white tail feathers trailing behind it. On our first night we were amazed to see a new type of phosphorescence. We are used to seeing the milky sheets of colour in our wake and love watching the “star” variety where little dots of bright light stream past us, occasionally being thrown up on deck. This third kind was like light bombs going off in the water around us, mostly in our wake. Every few seconds another patch of water a several feet across would just explode into light – fantastic.
I think the winds might be easing a bit, so time to see if we should change sails. Next up is poling the genoa out on one side with the main tied out on the other, “wing on wing”. Getting the pole out is my least favourite job in these conditions, so wish me luck…