.And They're Off!!

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Fri 4 Dec 2009 12:00



Noon Position: 16:52.5N 025:06.4W

Date: 1 December 2009


The fleet have been leaving for Brazil in three staggered fleets, so that our arrival is not spread out over too many days. The smaller boats left on Monday, including Norma and Phil on “Minnie B”. Malcolm James and Steve left yesterday on “Vita” with the medium sized boats, and the larger boats including “Suzie Too” with Suzanne, David and Lisa on board, and ourselves, left today.


Having developed close relationships over the last couple of months, it was surprisingly emotional saying goodbye to our friends as they embarked on their big Transatlantic adventure. Every boat left with crowds of friends waving goodbye amidst a cacophony of fog horns. Suzie Too left earlyish at 0830 whilst we stayed on to finish the last few tasks, leaving at 1115.


The route to Salvador in Brazil (12 deg 55 S 038 deg 30 W) is 2000 miles as the crow flies, although it would be a bloody tired crow by the time it arrived. But we will not be going direct, and the distance we will cover will be more than 2100 miles. It should take about 13 or 14 days.


The strategy is to follow the wind south west for the first 50 miles or more to benefit from the stronger winds funnelling between the Cape Verde islands, then head due south for about 700 miles (05 deg 30 N 025 deg W). During this time we should have the wind just behind the beam, sailing reasonably fast in the north easterly trade winds. We then get to the Doldrums (the ITCZ). Most people think the Doldrums as an area in between the north east trade winds and the south east trade winds with nothing but calms. In reality you do get light winds (mainly from the east) and calms there, but these are interspersed with squalls, some violent with winds up to 60 miles per hour, and accompanied by tropical downpours. The width of the Doldrums varies from as little as 50 miles across to a couple of hundred miles and we will want to get through them as quickly as possible. Most boats will be motoring through, and we are likely to resort to the Perkins ourselves for part of the time.


Once through the Doldrums we will start picking up the south east trade winds and we should have beam winds for the last 1300 miles as we curve round towards our destination. The last few hundred miles off the coast of Brazil is likely to be windless and we might again have to resort to the engine. The reason for the longer dog leg is that if one were to follow the direct line, the ITCZ would be wider at the point of intersection and thereafter we would have head winds for the rest of the way.


A big day for all of us will be when we Cross the Line (the Equator) on about 10 December and enter the Southern Hemisphere. We will be crossing at approximately 27 deg W.


Venetia having at last satisfied herself that we had enough food on board to ward off starvation (so long as she can keep Neil away from the biscuits) – and we certainly won’t die of thirst having more than 50 litres of wine, 3 bottles of whisky, 4 bottles of gin and several more assorted bottles of strong liquor (I was in charge of the liquid stores) we slipped our lines and sailed out of Mindelo harbour. For some people the most exciting day in a passage is the day they arrive in a new destination. For others, the most exciting day is the day they leave for the next destination. I fall in to the latter category – the travellers rather than the arrivers. So whilst we have had a fabulous time in these wonderful islands, it was time to leave.  We got off to a good start today, sailing at about 7.5 knots and overtaking “African Seawing”, Frank and Martha’s catamaran who had started about 20 minutes before us. But in the right conditions the cat is very fast and she will doubtless retake her position in due course.  Meanwhile, Suzie Too who started about three hours before us will be more than 20 miles in front of us. Our Dolink transponders will be updating our positions every four hours so you can track where we (and the other boats) are on the rally website www.ilesdusoleil.eu .