Lanzarote to Grenada, day 20

Stravaig'n the Blue
Fri 29 Jan 2021 19:19
End of day 20 position: 12:26.4 N 058:57.1 W
Position timestamp: Friday 29 Jan 2021 12:00 UTC-4
Distance travelled last 24 hours: 140 NM
Reduction in distance to destination last 24 hours: 136 NM
Distance travelled total: 2994 NM
Average speed since departure: 6.2 knots
Shortest distance to destination: 176 NM
ETA based on shortest distance and average speed so far: late afternoon, Saturday 30 January (21 days in total)

Great excitement in the wee hours on the twitching front. With the wind up, I’d gone on deck just before the 2am night watch handover to ease the Blue Water Runner’s sheets when I noticed a dark shape fluttering just above the horseshoe lifebuoy on the aft rail. Spooky! The bird was the size of a small gull but with a very pointed bill, very pointed, angular wings and a wing beat like that of a bat. When the bird landed on the lifebuoy I could see that it was black (or very dark) all over except for a white skull cap. It flew off but returned to land on the side deck up by the starboard shrouds where it stayed until well after the 5am handover. What was it? I’m fairly certain it was a Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus) or possibly the rarer Black Noddy (Anous minutus), terns that are native to the West Indies and warm ocean waters.

Since first seeing a red-billed tropicbird on day 4, we have had a red-billed tropicbird visit us most days, usually in the late afternoon. It does several fly-pasts and then disappears. Could it be the same one every time? I have no idea. Yesterday we saw for the first time a couple of gannet-like birds, probably Masked Boobies (Sula dactylatra) given how far south we are. The other birds that we have seen most days are Storm Petrels. It is very difficult to tell the different Storm Petrels apart but, on the basis that these ones show no interest whatsoever in the boat and just cross our path fleetingly, they are probably Leach’s Storm Petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) rather than Wilson’s Storm Petrels (Oceanites oceanicus) which do follow ships.

The other creatures of the air that deserve a mention are the flying fish. During our second week, we started seeing them scattering left and right as the boat bore down on them. These were the eastern Atlantic variety, 250mm nose to tail and wingtip to wingtip. Most mornings we’d find one or two who’d mismanaged their trajectory on the side deck or in the cockpit.

A week later and we started to see the smaller western Atlantic variety, about 150mm in both dimensions when adult.

The are small shoals (flocks?) of very small ones, large shoals (40-50 at a time) of juveniles and adults by the handful.

Remarkably few have ended up on deck and this may be because the lighter winds this week have been less troublesome for them. Linda grilled a few flying fish on the 2016 crossing and they were very good; firm textured much like an Arbroath smokie and very tasty. They are a local delicacy on Barbados, possibly the national dish, but when I tried them at a beach restaurant I was served up reheated deep fried battered flying fish. Disappointing.

Just after breakfast this morning Linda spotted our first ship since our encounter with APIVIA on day 11. It was the Fairchem Fortitude, a bulk carrier by the looks of her, bound for Rotterdam at 13 knots.

She passed within 3 miles of us.  About two hours before, we’d been alerted that there was ship in our vicinity when our Echomax radar target enhancer started beeping to let us know that it was detecting the outbound radar from another ship. The system doesn’t tell you how far away the other vessel is, or in which direction, but it is very reassuring to be warned long before the other vessel gets anywhere near that there’s something out there.

We have also seen a fishing vessel, the Viking, on our chartplotter AIS. (I hope he is keeping a good lookout for seaweed.)  The vessel is probably from Barbados which is 42 miles to the north of us at the moment (2pm). With fishing vessels about, we’ll need to be especially vigilant tonight and avoid doing what Vendée Globe entrant Boris Herrman did 90 miles from the finish, he ran into one! (Thanks to DJS for the VG results.)

The wind was only 7-8 knots at 8am, barely enough to keep the Blue Water Runner from collapsing and certainly not enough to get us to Grenada in daylight tomorrow or to turn the hydro-electric generator to keep the batteries charged. So we furled the sail, lifted the generator and switched on the engine. This is keeping us on track, charging the batteries and has allowed us to run the watermaker. It is unclear what the water filling arrangements will be while we are in the quarantine anchorage (some ports allow vessels to come in to a dock to fill up, others don’t) and with it being inadvisable to run the watermaker while at anchor (the watermaker removes the salt and the minerals but not the bugs) we decided we should arrive with the water tank full. Job almost done, we’ll run it again tomorrow to replace what we use today. Expecting the wind to fill in again by early evening.

I have an order for 4-5 kg of fresh tuna for the freezer so I’ve been trolling a small tuna feather lure for the last two hours. With nothing biting I am about to go up a size or two but need to be careful. When we visited the fish market in Bridgetown, Barbados last time around the tuna were easily in the 70-80 kg range. 

All is well.