The butter is melting

Sat 4 Jan 2014 18:01
20:59.3N 28:10.2W
I am not sure who coined the phrase, whether it is accepted wisdom or an old
seadog's tale, but it is said that to find the Caribbean you head south
until the butter melts and then hang a right! Thanks to our weather
forecasts which we get via a very slow, but mercifully efficient, satellite
phone, we knew that we could head westwards sooner than we might otherwise
have done. At 20 degrees north now, I am pleased to confirm that the butter
is well and truly melting. It's 25C in the cabin and the sea temperature is
allegedly 24C - although this has still not been tested.

There is another reason our butter is melting, though, and one which might
cause more problems. The switch to the fridge is firmly in the 'off'
position. Just after sending the last update from Carpe Diem about 36 hours
ago, an alarm started sounding in the cockpit whilst I was on my 2AM watch.
Already wearing my ultra-funky Spinlock 275 life jacket with harness I just
clipped myself in an went on deck to discover that our autopilot was showing
a low battery alarm. I first thought that he has an internal battery which
might be running out of juice, but I was only able to switch the alarm off
by disengaging the autpilot. Doing this necessitates taking over the
helming. Being clipped on in the wrong place to climb behind the wheel made
this tricky and I found myself steering from the wrong side of the wheel,
whilst trying to figure out what to do next. Within 30 seconds an alarm
started sounding in the navigation area below deck. So, autopilot on
(prompting that alarm to start up again) and head downstairs. Our GPS
system, which is our main system for plotting our position on the chart (and
which also provides the latitude and longitude readings enabling the map on
this blog) had gone blank. It was still switched on, but not showing any
readings. A glance at our built-in battery reader showed that it was only
giving about 11V. Hence all the alarms! In the middle of the night this is a
somewhat confusing prospect and a call to the skipper lead to our decision
to switch the engine on to generate some urgent and much needed power.

The reason we need power is largely for our navigation purposes and to be
able to show our navigation lights at night (should any other vessels be
near us, although now on day 6, we haven't seen anything for three days!)
and keeping our stand-alone GPS tracker fully charged. We also have a few
creature comforts such as the autopilot (steering by hand for three solid
weeks would be challenging), charging this laptop, reading lights at night
and the water pump. Electricity is always a scarce commodity on a sailing
boat such as this, though, and a great deal of thought and preparation goes
into minimising our consumption and maximising our generating capabilities.
To that end we fitted a generated that is fixed to the stern of the boat and
lowered into the water. This has a propeller, attached to a dynamo and the
whole things feeds into our 'domestic' battery (for safety reasons the
engine has its own starter battery). Suffice to say, it appears that we have
been using more amps than we were generating. We then spent the last two
days (including the rest of that night) trying to figure out where all the
leccie was going (and we have a tediously dull knowledge of what each
navigation instrument, laptop, ipad etc consumes to within 0.25 of an amp)
and what the engine and towing generator should be producing. The fault was
attributed quite swiftly to the generator not performing as it should, but
where precisely the fault lay was a different matter. Suffice to say, at
lunchtime today we discovered that one of the relays between the generator
and battery has a fuse. Guess what... it had blown! Yes, we did have a

In other news on Carpe Diem:

- Papi and I worked out the answer to a riddle posed to Oedipus (What goes
on four legs in the morning, on two legs at lunchtime and three legs in the
evening and where its use of four legs does not make it faster or more
- Stefan has finally managed to get some sleep and is now working his way
through a book called "Pimp your brain" (where the above riddle comes from).
- Christian has proven that scrambled egg with a little bit of bacon and
left over spaghetti with ketchup is one of the most delicious meals ever
- I had another (even if I do say so myself) succesfull bread roll making
session (Mr Hollywood, step on this boat and I'll show you how it's done -
just kidding, need to work on my crusts).


In the past 24 hours we clocked 183 miles (!), reached a top speed of 10.5
knots! Altogether have covered a total of 800nm. And the nearest land is the
Cape Verde Islands, about three days' sailing to the south! The weather is
good, although I'm still baffled by the irregularity of the wind (anything
from a force 4 to a force 6 within 20 minutes). And I am pleased to announce
that the long-anticipated Atlantic swell seems to be with us - great waves
lasting 50 or 100m trough to trough and where you find yourself looking up
at the crests if you're sitting in the cockpit. Fun during the day, more
intimidating at night!

We are a third of the way and on good form.



PS. Thank you for the messages we have received - they brighten our day!