"Carry on Sailing" - Day 4 in the diary room
N23 54.0 W017 54.0
Firstly, apologies for 'radio silence' over the 2 days; those checking the ARC Fleet Viewer will have seen that we are making relatively slow progress down / parallel with the coast of Africa. We have picked up little pockets of decent wind to take us south, but have generally been experiencing only very light and variable winds. As you are supposed to be going to St. Lucia, why are you sailing south rather than west, you might ask? I will explain........
Rob & Nick (Willy), who incidentally, amongst other things, is the ship's Communications Officer.......I will say no more(?), have spent hundreds of hours planning and preparing for this trip, but it somehow appears to have escaped their (Willy's) attention to check whether Rob's lap top (i.e. the one with the software on it for the blog and more importantly, for receiving the weather up-date files) actually charges up off the yacht's electric power inverter......well, it doesn't !!?!
Is it just me or is that not fairly fundamental information required to attempt to sail across the Atlantic!?! However, I digress, as we now had no access to weather updates or any idea where the rest of the fleet were, we were shooting (or more specifically, sailing) blind, as we had no idea as to the the best direction to sail in order to find decent winds and to avoid difficult weather fronts / squalls etc. We therefore called a 'team meeting' to discuss tactics (....and to take the piss out of Willy), from which came the decision to head south (N.B. In Gran Canaria we had over-heard a few experienced trans-atlantic yachtie-type people say that, if in doubt, head well south towards the Cape Verde islands ('CVI') and you have the best chance of picking up the east-west trade winds). The other consideration was that the ARC organisers had briefed everyone before the start that there was very little wind forecast for the first week; if this was to be the case and therefore if we got becalmed, our thoughts were that we could put on the engine, make 6 knots (per hour) and motor down the 750 nautical miles to the CVI and re-fuel (ETA Friday - Day 5/6); then the direct route from the CVI to St. Lucia we estimate is around 2200nm. If we could find the trades and the charted North Equatorial east-west current on this route, even if we were to average only 6 knots across the pond (which is conservative), this should then get us into St. Lucia about on schedule (c. 21 days).
In an attempt to rectify the "minor communications issue", Willy elected to use up his 'phone a friend' option and called Andy (an experienced sailing mate, who has also done the ARC) on the sat phone to ask him whether he could provide us with regular weather up-dates, via SMS to the sat phone.... I believe, at present, this is still 'work in progress'?!
Joking apart, in the interim, we have also managed to make radio contact with a couple of passing ships and asked them for weather up-dates and also picked up radio chatter between other ARC participants, and the consensus is that there is some wind forecast for Friday at around 20 degrees north (i.e. around 200nm north of the CVI), so those of the fleet opting for the southern route are now all heading for that RV!
As to day to day living aboard, the relatively calm seas and clear skies have allowed us to acclimatize well and settle into life at sea, with Frosty's well-planned watch, cooking and cleaning rotas and daily routines all working smoothly. The boat has performed well so far when we have had decent wind and some swell and we are getting our sail configurations and rigging procedures ready for the stronger winds and rougher seas to come.
We have eaten well on the fresh food and already quaffed our way through several beers with our lunches and sun-downers and a bottle of red with each of our suppers, including a particularly good magnum of Rioja Reserva and this evening, we had a Sweet Rum / Honey liquer (which Rob had procured in Gran Canaria) poured over fresh pineapple for dessert, which was like angels dancing on your tongue! (....this is by no means a dry boat!!!!). There have been several dolphin encounters, some lovely sunrise and sunsets and the sighting of a large and unusual Sun fish on the surface close to the boat. At around 3.30pm today, as anticipated, the wind dropped right away and we switched on the engine to motor (@ c.6 knots) south through the night, in order to ensure that we stay on schedule to make 20 degrees north by Friday. We put the fishing lines out for the first time this evening and soon caught a nice Dorado, which we promptly cooked and ate for supper (well, for the starter anyway!!!), which was very pleasant. The boys watched Pelham 123 on DVD this evening, and I went to bed early, as I am now up and on the 'Dog Watch' (2am - 5am). Nothing on the radar or on visual...all is calm. Time to to write a blog.......even if we can't send one........watch this space!!?!!
Laughter has been frequent and intoxicating.......happy days!
More From Carry on Sailing to come.....