We finally arrived safely in Grenada in the early hours on Tuesday 6th December and having been at sea for 18 days, we needed a few days to recover from our voyage! Griselda was the penultimate boat to finish within the qualifying time having crossed the finish line at 3:48am local time, 4 hours behind UTC (GMT).
The wind on leaving Cape Verde on November 18th was light until we were out of the shadow of the islands. Within a few hours we’d furled the jib (put it away) and put two reefs in the main sail, with strong wind and big seas. 12 hours in we were seeing just one other boat on our AIS. The winds were already gusting upwards of 30 knots, which eased a little as daylight arrived. For the next five days we remained on a two reef main, occasionally trying a small amount of jib when the wind dipped. The ocean quickly felt like a very large place with no other ships visible - as the days rolled past we’d get the odd tanker and a week in, very pleased to see on AIS and manage a radio call with another ARC boat before our courses diverged.
The body reacts best to a regular sleep pattern, but in an endeavour to share the sunrises, sunsets and beautiful skies, we had a 3-day watch pattern. Watches during daylight were three hours and two hours at night, the below chart showing the on-watch crew member along with the domestic duties for the day. We kept boat time to UTC, so as we sailed west the 7-9pm watch moved from dark to light and the 7-10am from light to dark.
With the odd exception the wind was kind to us as far as direction was concerned, as we navigated the Great Circle route - we certainly did a lot less miles than many, albeit not always the fastest sailing angle. The wind started dropping out on December 3rd, which allowed time for a little fishing. Two hours of a line off the back of the boat and weighted some 10ft away from the lure, we caught a 15” long fish (measured head to tail), which we now know to be a Jack, although opinions differ as to whether it’s an Amber, Black or Silver Jack. This late into the trip it was lovely to have a fresh fish dinner. We took a couple of days longer to arrive in Grenada than ideal as the wind dropped further so we were doing less than 2 knots and had to concede to being a motor boat for 24 hours plus, with just the odd hour under sail if we got any useable wind at all.
Whilst at sea we had a Satellite phone that allowed us to get weather reports via the laptop. Communications were a little hit and miss, but you can see from the GRIB files showing the wind strength how much the strengths varied from the early part of the voyage to the latter stages, the colour scale being to the side of the images. The GRIB file doesn’t show wind gust speeds, which when already windy, would be a significant uplift.
The wind and sea were too strong and large respectively to use the Hydrovane self-steering during the first week, which meant we used the Auto-helm a lot, frequently draining the battery. The solar panels and wind turbine weren’t sufficient to keep us charged and we were regularly having to run the engine at idle to keep the Auto helm, plotter and importantly the fridge charged.
During the second week, squalls became quite common, generally adding 10 knots plus of wind as they passed, requiring sails to be brought in ahead of them ‘hitting’ us. These were easy to see coming during daylight and often avoidable by changing course, but by night the rain shower was often the first warning. If we had the Trade Wind sail flying (the big blue twin headsail) we’d get it away at the first sign of a squall.
Unfortunately, we were caught out on the night of Friday December 2nd, our sail being torn from the starboard clew to the centre of the sail, now in tatters, we got it furled and put away ready for a good sailmakers.
As we got closer to the Caribbean Sea we started to come across large areas of Sargasso weed, which was often really dense and significantly slowed down our boat speed. We were motoring at this point as the wind was so light, but to avoid the weed sucking into our engine intake and also wrapping round the propeller, we slowly ‘drifted’ through it.
On December 4th on the 1:00am til 3:00am watch a bird arrived on our boat where he nestled happily until 9:00am, squawking loudly at us before flying off towards Barbados, probably cross that we were sailing past. As we got closer to Grenada land was spotted, the photo showing it capped in cloud.
Having moored temporarily on the Mega-yacht dock we were greeted by an ARC team member with the local Rum punch - having been a ‘dry’ boat at sea, this was even more ‘deadly’ than usual. Although just gone 4:00am, the Skipper made straight for the rather luxurious shower blocks. As the sun rose, the palm trees and landscape emerged to show that we’d arrived in paradise.
A big thank you to Jacob, our 3rd crew member, who leaves us on Tuesday to fly back to the UK, whilst we spend the next few months sailing the Caribbean islands.