Weekend Sailing

Suzie Too - Western Caribbean
David & Suzanne Chappell
Sat 7 Nov 2009 14:09
It's a really good schedule, we sail at weekends and are on land during the week and we have had 4 rest days in Dakar. Today, Saturday 8 Nov, we have a 0600 start from Dakar in the dark, so again not wanting to seem rude we left at 0610, also cos the wind looks as if it would ease.

We were about fifth boat away, had a tussle with one soon after the start and as we kept ducking and diving with each other we went past on the windward side with just Tanagra ahead, only to see them pull up quickly. When we called to see if they had a problem Simone said "Yes we have an enormous Dorade". So actually I am very pleased with our performance now 11,000M on our Moody 49 and we can really get her going, today on a reach with all 3 sails clocking 9kts. As we come into the first anchoarge we are 3M clear and the only boat that overtook us is the Trimaran Flying Kefi, so second and pulling away from the fleet all the time, with time for Suzanne to catch 2 more Atlantic Bonito - well it's fish for tea - but it is really good lightly fried in butter - just a fantastic taste.

Then we have to assemble in line astern behind 2 pilot boats (fishermen in pirouges) to enter the river sandbanks for the overnight anchorage, remembering to save our track on the way in to follow it back out later. Big Adventure. Also the opportunity to wash the boat with fresh water and get rid of another saharan sandstorm.

For those of you thinking of coming out here to do some ocean sailing - it really is "big boy" sailing, big seas, big swells and big distances. Today is just a 60M hop to Sine Saloum river at Djifere, off to church for mass on Sunday by canoe then horse and carriage then to the camp at Hakuna Matata for a Big Mechoui Party - roasted pig, sheep and goat and probably a dodgy belly to go with it and some nasty insect bites - but we are on the Malaria drugs.

So a few tips for coming this way - hatch covers in grey or silver to reduce heat and UV damage, mossie nets for the hatches, beds, companion way and we have also had one made for the bimini so that we can sit out in the evening and even sleep in the cockpit. Air scoops for the hatches with built-in mossie nets - no point in raming a full squadron of mosquitoes into the cabin. Half the boats have just had some made for theirs in Dakar. Plenty of 12v low power fans to move air around as the interior of the boat is in mid 30 degrees and very humid, even out here at sea the air temp is 32.

The biggest expense is a downwind sail - if you cannot go 180 you are off the rhumb line by miles after a few hours and gybing with just the 2 of us causes a few tense moment of shouting at each other. Before you leave you really should go out to St Catherine's Point off IOW and try going downwind at 180 in a F6 for 6 or 8 hours and then try it as the wind dies and you have only 10kts of wind in 30kts seas, it's not possible to power the boat up on tack and she will roll badly.

This is very dangerous for the crew and the rig, moving around the boat is hazardous - everything slating and banging - sails filling and collapsing. we are going to try a few tricks in Cabo Verde after speaking with Tanagra, Fidelio and Jean, the Mini Transat guy - he has some great ideas - he knows all the Vendee Globe guys including Ellen and Sam Davies and has beaten them both !

Also think about your downwind sail - we had a quote for a Parasailor at £ 9,000 and thought it too expensive, but now we wished we had bought one instead of the North G2 which only goes to about 160, well if we have flat seas - which we never have. Anyway after the ITCZ (InterTropical Convergence Zone - Doldrums) when the weather patterns all reverse and the water goes the other way down the plug hole, we should be moving from a run to a reach.

Think about repairs to your downwind sail as well - several of us have joined the Twisted Spinnaker Club - including ourselves and I have seen at least 3 blown out, shredded and taken for repair - one just literally blew out and one broken spinnaker pole - like I said "Big Boy" sailing - just a good job that Suzanne is strong.