17 03.923N 061 53.089W

Fri 12 Feb 2016 14:08

Date:                Thursday 11th February 2016


Position:          17° 03’.923” N  061° 53’.089” W


Over the few days before we set sail from San Sebastian Harbour, I reflected on the events that brought me to the point of embarking on this long ocean passage.  As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was never interested in just pootling around Poole Harbour in a sailing dingy.  For me the appeal of sailing was and always has been that there is a vast expanse of ocean out there just waiting to be explored, all I had to do was just get out there and do it.  However, as happens to most people who want to pursue some dream, work and life in general conspire to put obstacles in the way and at times it seemed I would never get the opportunity to achieve my ambition.  My official retirement age was sixty but that was still six years away.  Work was becoming more demanding and I knew that hanging on for those last six years just to get a better pension would take its toll on me physically as well as mentally.  Also in six years time Ann being that bit older me may not even want to go off cruising around the world.  So what was needed was some dramatic turn of events to remedy the situation and this came in the form of a new boss.  It is no secret that he and I did not get along.  I cannot go into the details because Ann and I are subject to a “Compromise Agreement” gagging us from saying anything about the company from the beginning of time to the end of civilization itself, save to say that I was made an offer of taking an early retirement package.  Now, sons never like to admit that they are like their fathers but I have to own up and say am very much a chip off the old block.  Throughout his life my father had been a very cautious man never taking risks with his career and certainly never when it came to money matters.  He was very prudent when planning for the future and his eventual retirement.  After he left the Royal Navy he joined GCHQ, which was another very secure job with that all-important “gold plated pension” at the end of it.  He stayed with GCHQ until his eventual retirement at sixty although at times he hated it and the last few years he found it really difficult and was very unhappy.  But he hung on in there because he wanted to make sure that he and my mother were secure in their retirement, which to his credit he did.   Looking at my situation at the time I can now see the similarities between the end of his career and the end of mine.  Just like him I also had what you would call two secure employers throughout my life.  The Army, to which I gave eleven years service and Fishmongers’ Company, to which I gave twenty seven years service, ten years as a Fisheries Inspector at Billingsgate Market and seventeen as the Steward at Fishmongers’ Hall.  Both jobs came with good pensions, particularly Fishmongers’ Company and just like my farther this was one of the principle reasons for staying with the Company for so long.  The reason I mention this is so you will understand that when the offer of taking early retirement was put to me it was not an easy decision to make because early retirement had never been part of my long-term plan.   I was fifty-four at the time and had six years left before I reached my official retirement date.  The penalty for retiring six years early was substantial although the Company did help to off set the loss by adding a lump sum to the pot.  Even so, I would be losing thousands of pounds each year, which was not to be taken lightly.  If I am guilty of anything in life it is that, just like my farther, I have never taken risks always choosing the safe options in terms of work, pensions, etc.  Opportunities for moving on or starting my own business did come my way from time to time but I never took them.  Instead I opted to staying in a secure job knowing that by doing so I would never make my fortune but on the other hand I would always have enough to cover my needs.  In that respect I admit that I had tunnel vision when it came to the pension and only concentrated on the “golden pot” at the end of the rainbow and never looked around me at other options.  Well now I had been put in a position whereby I had no other option to but look at an alternative strategy to the one I had been stubbornly pursuing all my life.  Either I carry on working becoming more and more unhappy and depressed each year or I take the company’s offer and retire.  Like most pivotal decisions in my life it takes some key event to happen to refocus my thinking and this was it.  Rather than focusing on the money, as I had been up until then, I began to think more about the quality of life and having the time and opportunity to do the things I wanted to do.  After all, how many of us know someone who retired with big plans of doing this, that and the other only to suffer some illness that stopped them from pursuing their dreams all because they left it all to late.


On reflection was I wrong to have doggedly pursued the same strategy as my father even though it didn’t allow me to pursue other opportunities?  That is a difficult question to answer but what I can say is that by doing so when the offer of early retirement was made, Ann and I were financially secure enough to seriously consider it an after reassessing my priorities I accepted the offer.   So the answer to the question has to be unquestionably yes, I did the right thing with the caveat that I was lucky enough to realize it was time to get out and enjoy life and not just hang on for the money.  Yes of course those extra thousands of pounds I gave up each year would have been nice but we had enough without and after all, how much is enough?  Like Andrew Carnegie once wrote, a great Philanthropist and at one time the richest man in the world, “a rich man who dies with a penny in the bank dies in disgrace”.   So here I am sitting on my boat in San Sebastian Harbour, La Gomera, on the eve of setting sail across an ocean.  Who would have thought it!  I certainly wouldn’t have a few years ago but then life does give you these opportunities now and again, carpe diem, as they say.


Friday 18th December 2015 we saw Ann and Irene, Bobby’s wife, off on the ferry at 11.00 am then returned to the boat to make final preparations.  At 12 noon we slipped the mooring lines and motored out of the marina.  In the lee of the bay we hoisted the main sail but kept motoring because the influence of the island on the wind made it very fluky and it was difficult to get the sails to set on our chosen point of sail.  We needed to be well off shore before the islands influence on the wind would cease so we would be motoring for a couple of hours to get clear and this is when our first disaster struck.  As we where going to be motoring for some time I decided to turn the on the autopilot, remember the new one I had fitted earlier in the year.  I turned the electronic control unit on at the switchboard, which bleeped into life and then selected “heading hold” on the control unit to engage the motor.  Nothing happened, not a thing.  The electronic control unit was working and I could hear the motor moving but the wheel was not moving and was free to steer by hand.  “Great” I thought, “we are just about to cross an ocean and the autopilot has just failed”.  I had visions of Déjà vu just like when I left Ridge Warf at the very start of my adventure and managed to get just  four miles into Poole Harbour when a problem meant I had to put into Dolphin Haven Marina for a few day to get it sorted.  We had three choices as I saw it.  Do nothing now and carry on hopping to fix the problem later, not the best solution when embarking on an ocean passage.  Secondly, to return to San Sebastian which would be rather embarrassing having just said goodbye to everyone there.  Or thirdly, put into Puerto De Santiago harbor, just up the coast and try and fix the problem there.  We decided on the third option and headed for Puerto De Santiago a small harbor on the north coast of the island.  There are no facilities for cruising yachts as such being a harbour mostly for local fishing boats although in calm conditions you can stay alongside the inner breakwater for a short period.  This is what we did and set about investigating the problem.  I call Dave Le Cras, the Engineer in Guernsey who had fitted the electronic system.  After explaining the problem to him he said it sounded like the chain had somehow come off the sprocket and therefore there was no drive on the wheel.  On investigation he was quite right.  When I took the plate off on the steering pedestal the chain was nowhere to be seen.  We opened up the engine bay and the cause was immediately obvious.  The shaft and sprocket from the motor on the drive unit were laying at the bottom of the bilge.  Somehow, the bolt that goes through the center of the shaft to secure it to the motor had worked itself loose and eventually the shaft with the sprocket came off and had fallen into the bilge.  Then I remembered that when I cleaned the bilge out a few days earlier, I came across a bolt in the bottom of the bilge and wondered how it got there but gave it no further thought.  Another lessen learned, if you see a bolt where a bolt shouldn’t be, don’t just leave it investigate where it came from!  Unfortunately, I had thrown this bolt out but just by chance I had another one in my magic box of spares, although it had to be cut down to size with a hacksaw.  The job took around two hours and after a well-earned cup of tea we slipped the mooring lines once again and motored out of Puerto De Santiago to resume our journey.   The autopilot has been fine ever since.  


We motored until we were well clear of La Gomera and at 5.30pm set all sail plan although the wind was very light.  We sail along until 2.30 am the next morning when progress was becoming painfully slow so we dropped the mizzen and furled the genoa and motor sailed for the next thirteen and a half hours until the wind began to pick up and we were able to set the full sail plan again.  For the rest of the passage that was it for the engine, apart from one two hour period we started it to charge the batteries.  It was not needed again until we were approximately two hundred miles from Antigua and had motored the last forty-one hours.  We were really lucky that once we got into the trade wind belt the wind speed averaged between 15kts to 25kts for twenty days, except Christmas day, with a highest recorded gust of 35kts during one particularly nasty squall one night.


It takes a good four to five days before you really start to get used to life onboard.  Firstly, you have to get used to living in an environment that is constantly on the move. Nothing is still and moving around the boat takes some getting used to especially when you are on a run (sailing downwind).  If you are sailing with the wind on the beam then the boat heals over to one side and rides up and down the waves, which gives the boat a slightly better motion.  Sailing downwind is different because the boat takes up a kind of corkscrew motion and the stern can be thrown from one side to the other so you are never quite sure of which way the boat is going to throw you.  It takes time but eventually you get used to the motion and after awhile you can even anticipate what is about to happen.  You will here the roar of a wave coming in and instinctively know which way you are about to be thrown so you can brace yourself in preparation.  But there is always that one wave that will catch you out.  You think it is going to push the boat one way but right at the last moment it does exactly the opposite and you go flying if you are not quick enough to grab onto something solid.  One thing you have to learn to live with on a boat are bruises.  One of the best safety fixtures I installed during the refit was a galley strap, which came into it own during the journey.  It’s a strap that goes from one side of the galley to the other so you can strap yourself in and brace yourself to prevent you from being thrown about while you are cooking.  It is really for heavy weather use but it became invaluable during our journey.   However, when using the galley just for a short time there was a tendency not to strap your self in.  Wrong!  The problem is that when you are using the galley you are usually concentrating on the task in hand and not necessarily in tune with the boat.  Just ask Bobby as he found out when he was thrown from one side of the boat to the other when he wasn’t strapped in.  He had some lovely bruises to prove it.  From then on we all strapped ourselves in every time we used the galley.  Eating and drinking also takes getting used to and I think I talked about this in an earlier blog.   The next thing you have to get used to is the watch system.  We had selected a three hours on six hours off system, which worked out just fine between the three of us.  The watches were 6am to 9am, 9am to 12 noon, 12 noon to 3pm, 3pm to 6pm and the same for the night watches.  The ideal thing about this watch system if that over a three day period each person gets to rotate through each of the watches so you don’t get stuck doing the same watch each day.  During the day although we still observed the watch system we were a bit more relaxed so provided one person was happy to be on deck even if they were technically off watch, the others could have nap if they wanted but by 6pm we fell back into our designated watches in preparation for the night.  Usually, supper was over by 7pm so the person coming on watch at 9pm had a couple of hours rest before they were on duty.  Then we would go through the night watches until the 6am to 9am watch   by which time at around 8am we were up and about.  The best watch was the 12 midnight to 3am as it meant you had six hours before your watch start and six hours after so you were only woken up once during the night.  The morning was a case of coming too, having a cup of tea and making breakfast, then David would do an inspection of the foredeck to make sure everything was OK and every other day Bobby would make bread.  Yes that’s right Bobby made the bread and he got quite good at it as well.  I had brought along enough flour and yeast to make twenty loaves and I also had a set of scales to weight out the ingredients.  Unfortunately, the scales broke so I had to measure out the ingredients by sight but this seemed to work fine.  I made the first loaf and it turned out OK although it was a little doughy on the bottom because I had not quite got the temperature of the oven right.  The second attempt by Bobby was better, although it was a little dark on top because the temperature was to high this time, but by the third attempt the loaves we turning out really nice. When you are doing a long ocean passage and life just becomes the same routine day in day out it is good to have something to look forward to and a fresh loaf of bread every other day was just the ticket.  The day’s fix would be taken during at 12 noon but as we progressed west this got earlier and earlier because of the time changes which I will explain a little later.  David would plot our position on the chart and work out the statistics for the previous 24 hours.  It became quite an event in the end because each of us would try to guess what out last 24 hour run was and it would either set us up for the day, if it had been good run, or deflate us if our expectations had been too high.  By the time this was done I would prepare lunch and we usually ate around 1pm.  2pm until 4pm was a kind of lethargic time.  This was a time to have a doze if you wanted or just loll around in the cockpit.  Sometimes there would be one in the cockpit with the other two having a doze below or vice versa.  But by 4 pm we were all awake sitting in the cockpit and this was discussion time, a meeting of minds and we discussed all manner of subjects trying to put the world right.  Supper was ready by 6pm and by 7pm we were finished and everything cleaned and put away ready for the night watch.  After four or five days at sea once we had settled in that was pretty much how the day went and this became our routine for the next twenty-three days.  It was only interrupted when the occasional squall came through and we had to stand too and reef the sails.  Funny how squalls always seems to happen in the middle of the night!  Still, that’s sailing for you!


One thing we had to decide from the outset was now we were going to handle he change in time as we progressed steadily westward.  For every fifteen degrees of Longitude you pass through going west you loose one hour in time.  Hence, in the Caribbean we are four hours behind UTC (Universal Time Clock, or what used to be called Greenwich Meantime) in the UK.  When sailing you can choose to use UTC or local time (ships time) when you are at sea.  The problem with using UTC is it can mess with your mind because if you stick with your normal routine you end up having breakfast at 12 noon and supper at 10pm.  David said that when the Task Force was send to the Falkland’s during the conflict, Admiral Sandy Woodward, the Commander insisted they stayed on UTC because he wanted no possible misunderstanding in the communications between the Task Force and the UK Government due to errors in correcting the time.  So he insisted that the task force be on the same time clock as the UK.  Quite understandable in the circumstances but it did mean that the normal routine for the crews onboard were affected and it took some getting used to.  For us sticking with UTC just complicated things so it was simpler to change the ships clock to local time as you pass through each fifteen-degree time gate and keep the normal ships routine going. It is just easier that way.  I was a bit strange though that when we left San Sebastian we stated taking our daily fix at 12 noon, the traditional time this is done.  But because we wanted to maintain an accurate account of how many miles we had run in the last 24 hours, by the time we reached our destination the noon fix was actually being taken a 8am in the morning but by then we were in sight of Antigua so it didn’t really matter.         


It wasn’t until the fourth day out that David sighted our first ship.  In fact it was quite remarkable that during the whole passage we only sighted six ships and two other yachts, more about one of these later.  Also on the fourth day we made our best 24 hour run of the whole passage at 158Nms which was pretty good for an old bus like Celtic Dawn.  But it was also on the fourth day that the second disaster struck and this was entirely of my own creation.  I was going to leave this bit out because it makes me look a complete idiot but for the sake of giving you a full account I ought to mention it.  Each of the crew brought with them their own particular strength for the voyage.  David, having been a Lt Commander in Royal Navy brought his navigation, organizational and general seamanship skills which was invaluable and I learned a great deal from him for which I was very grateful.  Bobby, although not having much experience of sailing as such is still a very experienced Waterman with all the obvious skills that go with that.  He is also a great leveler and good company to have around not forgetting that he had already rowed across the Atlantic like David.  One skill I knew I could bring to the table was my cooking.  In fact I was quite looking forward to cooking onboard because it would take me back to my days in the Army when you often had to prepare meals in very demanding circumstances.  During the first Firemen’s strike somewhere around 1978 or 79, I was eighteen at the time and just out of training.  I had been posted to the Welsh Training Division near Abergavenny in south Wales and had probably only been there a few months when the Army was called upon to stand in for the Fire Service while they were on strike.   I was seconded to a small unit of around thirty men to go to Caerphilly to cover the fire station there.  We were not allowed to use the Fire Station itself so had to setup in the Boy Scouts hut.  As you can imagine the kitchen area was tiny and only had one domestic cooker but I managed to cobble together breakfast, lunch and dinner for thirty men and I must have done an ok job as there were no complaints.  On the upside, the Boy Scouts hut was located right next door to the nurses’ quarters for the local hospital, so you can imagine we were more than happy for the strike to continue indefinitely.  There was also a secondary benefit to the strike. Once the Government had come to terms with the Firemen and the strike was over some clever clogs pointed out that the Army, who had covered for the Fire Service whilst the Firemen had been on strike, had not had a pay rise in ten years.  I think we got something like an 8% to 10% pay rise after that staged over two years, which was a nice little bonus. 


So I was relishing the chance of having the opportunity to hone my cooking skills once again and designed a twenty-one day menu plan.  For the first two weeks at least we would eat mostly fresh meat and veg depending on how long the produce lasted.  Then we would be down to tinned and dry rations for the last week or so with some fresh veg thrown in if still available.  There was roast chicken, curries, spaghetti bolognaise, chilli con carne, quiche lorraine, beef bourguignon, pork chop milanese, beef stew and dumplings and so the list goes on.  Of course, these were all fresh ingredients and made from scratch, I wasn’t going to make it that easy for myself.   For the most part this plan worked.  I had stocked up with frozen meats anticipating this would last in the fridge for at least two weeks and there was plenty of fresh fruit and veg in nets hung up in the saloon.  Unfortunately, the fridge became a problem.  With the ambient temperature being so high it was drawing a huge amount of power and draining the batteries within hours of them being topped up.  We worked out that it needed better ventilation so I took the utensil draw out and opened the lower cupboard door to allow more air to circulate.  This help but not enough and after the sixth day we had to turn the fridge off to conserve power, so no cold beer until we reach Antigua.  In the end we sacrificed three meals of fresh meat so it was not a complete disaster.  The reason I am giving you this background information is to give you an idea of my thought process at the time and to go someway to mitigating my stupidity.  I think I did roast chicken the first night followed by a pork curry and something else on the third night but on the fourth night I planned to do a spicy southern fried chicken breast with salsa.  I had prepared the spicy breadcrumbs and salsa before leaving La Gomera so it was a simple task of coating the chicken breasts with the spicy breadcrumbs and frying them, yes frying them!  I can see you all now drawing in your breath because you just know what is coming next.  I was not completely blasé about the task in hand though and did consider the sea conditions at the time but unfortunately my zeal to produce this meal overshadowed my reason and I went ahead regardless.  The roast potatoes were ready in the oven as were the first two cooked chicken breasts.  The last two were still frying away in the pot and were just about ready to go in the oven.  So I knelt down and open the oven door to take out the tray just when the boat lurched to one side. The cooking pot slid forward hitting the fiddle, which stopped it in its tracks and burning hot cooking oil spilt out over the top all over my forearms.  A few moments of panic ensued.  I grabbed a tea towel and wiped off most of the oil then went on deck and soaked by arms in cold seawater.  Once the initial shock had passed I looked at the injury to assess the damage.  The right arm was ok with just some superficial reddening here and there.  However, the left arm had taken most of the hot oil and 80% of the top of the forearm had been affected.  Most of the arm was a very angry looking red and blisters were already beginning to form.  Luckily, David had brought along a supplementary medical kit with him and I was glad that he had done so.  It contained dressings for just such an event and these came in very handy now.   That first night David treated the wound with a burns cream and cut the bottom out of a plastic bag, put my arm in the bag and taped it up each end to keep the wound as clean as possible.  The next day we cleaned the wound with surgical spirit and assessed it again.  There were two blisters of around 10mm in size and one smaller one of about 5mm.  The entire forearm was a deep red with patches of smaller blisters in other areas.  Overall it did not look as bad as it had seemed the previous night but infection was a concern so David dressed the wound with one of his special dressings.  The next day we assessed the wound again and although it didn’t look too bad I agreed with David that we should contact Mr Ben Phillips, a surgeon David had got to know and who had been his support doctor during his Atlantic record attempt in 2010.  David contacted him before we left and he had kindly agreed to be at the end of the phone in an emergency.  From the information we gave Mr Phillips he said it seemed I had suffered 1st degree burns, which is the least severe of the three categories so that was a bit of a relief in itself.  He recommended that the wound be cleaned with fresh water every day and a dressing applied held in place by cling film.  So that is what we did over the next few days until it had healed sufficiently so as not to need a dressing.  Gradually, the red disappeared and now you would hardly know anything had happened.  You might say it was a dish to far but still, the fried chicken was tasty!


The incident knock me back a bit and it took a few days to get my head back on track.  Firstly, I felt such a fool because when I looked back on the conditions at the time, any sensible person would never have attempted to cook with a pot of hot cooking oil.  I realized I had been over enthusiastic in trying to impress with my cooing skills that I had neglected my duties as Skipper who, if I had been wearing my Skippers head, would have said, “don’t be so stupid you idiot”.  So there was that contend with.  Also, I began to get a feeling of  “what the hell am I doing out here” which unsettled me a little.  But like I said it takes a good five days or so to get used to the routine of ships life and after a few days I began to get back into the rhythm of things again, although the frying pot stayed well and truly in the cupboard until we reached Antigua.   


By the sixth day we were sailing along nicely, having averaged over 120Nm each day.  Then I

began to notice that there seemed to be an excessive amount of water around the galley area which at first I put down to spillages from the sink or kettle.  I keep an eye on it though and then David said that over the last few days he had been pumping out the bilge and there always seemed to be a lot of water.  Celtic Dawn has never been a dry boat and there is always a small amount of water in the bilge but when we took up the floor panels in the cabin sole the bilge water was alarmingly higher than usual.  Somewhere there was a problem but where?  We set about tracing the problem looking at all the obvious places where water could get in but like a lot of things on boats the problem turned out to be in the least likely place you would expect.  When I started to look for insurance before I left one thing I knew they would require was a full boat survey and I also wanted one to reassure myself that Celtic Dawn was fit to make the passage.  One item the Surveyor picked up was that the drain tube in the gas locker was too small.  Basically this is a tube at the bottom of the locker that allows gas to flow outboard should there be a gas leak.  When the boat was built the standard size was ¼ inch internal diameter tube but to comply with the latest standards I had to fit a ¾ inch internal diameter tube.  He also noticed that there wasn’t a seacock on the outlet so I also had to fit a new one of these as well and lucky I did too!  There had never been a problem when the tube was much smaller because seawater couldn’t travel up the tube into the locker but now the size had been increased when the boat heeled over seawater was indeed syphoning up the tube into the gas locker and down into the bilge.  Hence the reason the problem was intermittent, it only occurred when the boat was healing over and everyday David pumped the bilge out of course the problem went away for awhile.   Now we knew what the problem was it was easy to solve we just turned the seacock off to stop the water getting in.  But this in turn created another problem in that now if there was a gas leak the gas could not flow out of the locker and might end up in the bilge with potentially disastrous consequences.  The solution was to follow a very strict regime of turning the gas off every time the cooker was finished with and this is what we did for the rest of the passage.


By late evening on Christmas Eve the wind began to drop until by Christmas morning it was down to 3 knots.  We decided not to turn the engine on electing instead to have a quite day just drifting around.  We sat in the cockpit ate and finished the last bottle of port I had been saving for just this occasion.  Isn’t it funny, Bobby had decided to abstain from drinking beer for the duration of the voyage but as soon as the port came out his glass was there just like ours.  Funny that isn’t it!  In fairness, he didn’t drink any alcohol, with the exception of the port, until the night before we reached Antigua when, because we had been running the engine and the fridge had been switch on again, we had nice cold beer at last.   By the early afternoon on Boxing Day the wind began to freshen and we were under sail once again and making 5 to 6 knots.  However, our previous 24 hour run had been very disappointing covering only 31Nms, the lowest recorded of the passage.  On the twelfth we suffered our third disaster of the passage.  We had been making good progress but following David’s noon fix we were slightly off course and needed to get more south so had to gybe onto a starboard tack.  Bobby and I went to the foredeck to move the spinnaker pole to the port side.  I am not sure if I have already mentioned this but the traditional sailing rig for downwind sailing, which is what you do in the trade winds, is to have a poled out genoa on one side and the mail sail on the other side with a preventer on it to stop it from accidentally gybing.   Once the rig was set bobby and I we resting below when a sudden squall came through leaving us no time to reef in the genoa with the inevitable consequence that the wind overpowered the genoa and snapped the spinnaker pole in half.  Now we had lost our main sailing rig and could only progress under the main alone and at first this seemed a disaster that would cost us a lot of time.  But as it turned out it did not affect us as much as we thought.  Due to the conditions we were still running along nicely and in fact over one twenty-four hour period we were running under the main with two reefs in and still maintained 7kts.  Another benefit soon became obvious which was that Henry could cope with the steering a lot better with just the main which was helpful as he had been struggling with both sails set.  Anyway, we had no other option but to continue with the main alone but in all honesty even if we had been able to use the genoa I don’t think it would have saved us much more than a day or so in time so in the end it didn’t really matter.  Over the next few days and nights the wind remained fairly constant at around 20kts and a series of squalls meant we were constantly putting in or shaking out reefs in the main.   On the 31st December we sighted a sailing vessel crossing our stern making a more northerly course than we were.  We keep it in sight then suddenly she turned 180 degrees, furled the headsail and started motoring towards us, which we found a bit strange.  So I turned on the VHF radio in case they were trying to contact us and indeed they were.  It was difficult to hear but I think the boats name was Mystery and she was bound for St Thomas.  It appears that they had been monitoring us and the skipper was concerned we were in trouble because we were running under our mainsail alone.  I explained that we had broken our spinnaker pole but that everything else was OK and we were heading for Antigua.  After a brief exchange I thank him for his concern then he set his head sail again and within an hour had disappeared over the horizon.  I thought that was pretty good of him not only to be concerned about us but to go out of his way to make contact to ensure everything was OK.  


The rest of the passage was pretty much the routine I have describe above.  One day just rolled into the next with the occasional excitement of having to reef down.  Bit by bit we made steady progress west until on Booby’s watch early on the morning of the 10th January he sighted the lights of Antigua on the horizon.  By the morning we passed by English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour on route to Jolly harbour where we planned to clear in.  By 11am we were moored at the immigration pontoon and by 12 noon all the paperwork for clearing in had been done and we were moored in the marina with a well deserved cold beer in our hand.  The passage took 23 days and 3 hours, which for a fat bloke in an old bus I think was pretty good especially with no spinnaker pole.


 David very kindly prepared a summary of the passage that I have added below for interest:-


Celtic Dawn’s Navigational Track Summary

18th December 2015 to 10th January 2016.



On Friday 18 December 2015 Robert [Ted] Manning, David Hosking and Robert [Bobby] Prentice set off from La Gomera [in the Canaries] in Ted’s sailing boat [a Westerly 33 Ketch] named ‘Celtic Dawn’.  On Sunday 10 January 2016 the threesome arrived at Jolly Harbour in Antigua after a 23 day and 3 hour total trans-Atlantic Ocean crossing. 

The NE or Ely Trade wind blew at an average speed of 15 to 25kts for some 20days of the crossing and the highest recorded guest during an overnight squall was 35kts.  The crew experienced light winds on the first day leaving La Gomera, on Christmas Day and on the last 35 hours of the trip.  During the passage some 6 ships and 2 yachts were seen, plus 15 aircraft, the space station, many shooting stars were also seen.  The crew also saw a whale, many pods of dolphins, a tuna, many flying fish and several sea-birds. 

The crew worked in 3 watches of one person each and each watch lasted 3 hours – Ted [skipper and chef] was relieved by Bobby [master baker] who in turn was relieved by David [navigator]. 


The only mishaps were as follows: a broken autohelm [fixed after 2 hours of leaving San Sebastain]; a hot fat burn to Ted’s arm [healed thanks to urgent medical advice via Sat Phone from Surgeon Ben Phillips] a power-hungry fridge/freezer [that needed to be shut-down after 7 days at sea]; a sea-water leak from blow-back up the gas vent pipe [fixed by closing off the vent seacock]; movement on the rudder stock head and locking bolt nut working loose [nut tightened mid-Atlantic and suspect worn or incorrectly located nylon rudder stock bushes fitted]; a broken spinnaker pole [snapped mid-Atlantic whilst poling out the genoa]; a seaweed blocked Walker log rotator [cleared 5 times enroute]; a collapsed dining table support [fixed once alongside Antigua]; and finally a missing box of Crunchies [which were never found!].   


Summary statistics:

Total time: 23 days 3 hours and 00 minutes [ie 555.0 hours or 33,300 minutes].

Great circle distance La Gomera to Antigua = 2,575.7 nms or 2,964.1 statute miles or 4,759kms.

Total actual Walker logged distance: 2,769.70 nms [so some 194nms further sailed].

                                                            Or 3,187.32 sm.

Or 5,129.49 kms.

Average Speed for total voyage: 5.036kts

[Which has beaten ORB Hallin Marine’s 2010 rowing record speed average of 3.488 kts.]

The best 24hr logged run was 158nms [on Day 3] and the worst was 31nms[on Day 8].

The highest recorded logged speed was 9.4kts surfing down a large wave and the slowest logged speed was just under 1kt on the afternoon of Christmas Day.

Total watches [each of 3hrs duration]: 185 watches or 61 Three hour watches per crewmember.


Daily position and 24hr run summary:


Date:              Day No:          Time:             Posn:                                      Day’s run:     24hr cmg

Fri 18 Dec       Day 0              1200Z             Departed San Sebastain            00.00 nms     N/A cmg.

Sat 19 Dec       Day 1              1200Z             270 07.71’N 0180 33.07’W       99.00 nms     2200cmg.

Sun 20 Dec      Day 2              1200Z             250 53.70’N 0200 07.10’W     118.00 nms     2440cmg.

Mon 21 Dec    Day 3              1200Z             250 39.60’N 0220 39.80’W     158.00 nms     2420cmg.

Tue 22 Dec     Day 4              1200Z             240 43.12’N 0240 31.44’W     125.00 nms     2350cmg.

Wed 23 Dec    Day 5              1200Z             230 31.60’N 0260 19.86’W     130.00 nms     2590cmg.

Thu 24 Dec     Day 6              1200Z             220 27.40’N 0280 11.52’W     127.00 nms     2380cmg.

Fri 25 Dec       Day 7              1200Z             220 29.40’N 0290 58.80’W     101.00 nms     2690cmg.

Sat 26 Dec       Day 8              1200Z             220 14.40’N 0300 27.79’W       31.00 nms     2490cmg.

Sun 27 Dec      Day 9              1200Z             210 41.51’N 0320 19.40’W     121.00 nms     2600cmg.

Mon 28 Dec    Day 10                        1200Z             200 44.94’N 0340 24.09’W     144.00 nms     2400cmg.

Tue 29 Dec     Day 11                        1200Z             200 40.99’N 0360 28.13’W    126.00 nms     2700cmg.

Wed 30 Dec    Day 12                        1200Z             190 54.80’N 0380 33.26’W     130.00 nms     2480cmg.

Thu 31 Dec     Day 13                        1200Z             190 40.76’N 0400 32.80’W     118.00 nms     2640 cmg 

Fri 1 Jan          Day 14                        1200Z             190 28.85’N 0420 40.05’W     116.00 nms     2660cmg.

Sat 2 Jan          Day 15                        1200Z             180 50.15’N 0440 46.35’W     121.00 nms     2540 cmg  

Sun 3 Jan    Day 16                        1200Z             190 16.37’N 0470 03.76’W     129.00 nms     2800 cmg 

Mon 4 Jan       Day 17                        1200Z             180 30.03’N 0490 05.51’W     114.00 nms     2540 cmg

Tue 5 Jan        Day 18                        1200Z             180 20.47’N 0510 22.20’W     131.00 nms     2620 cmg

Wed 6 Jan       Day 19                        1200Z             170 57.65’N 0530 28.47’W       90.00 nms     2680 cmg

Thu 7 Jan        Day 20                        1200Z             170 31.47’N 0550 36.48’W     123.00 nms     2700 cmg

Fri 8 Jan          Day 21                        1200Z             170 58.55’N 0570 33.49’W     120.00 nms     2680 cmg

Sat 9 Jan          Day 22                        1200Z             170 29.57’N 0590 29.50’W     133.00 nms     2540 cmg

Sun 10 Jan       Day 23                        1200Z             160 58.48’N 0610 47.50’W     143.00 nms     2600 cmg

Sun 10 Jan       Day 23+          1500Z             Jolly Harbour, Antigua.            21.70 nms     Various.


                                                                        Total logged distance =   2,759.70nms



nms = Nautical miles.

sm = statute miles [land miles].

kms = kilometres.

kts = Knots [1 nm per hour].

cmg = Course made Good [Degrees True - over the ground]  .

Z = Greenwich Mean Time [GMT] – basically the same as Universal Time [UT].

N = North [latitude].

W = West [longitude].


David B Hosking

[Navigator ‘Celtic Dawn’]                                                                 Thursday 14th January 2016. 

Anyway, that is all for now.  I know it has been a long time since my last blog and I apologize but you have to remember I am on Island time now!

 Bye for now.

 Signing off Ted


Bobby the proud father of a 2lb loaf

Christmas day floating around the Atlantic

Sunrise one morning I was on watch

The full moon lighting up the night.  You get to see some amazing sights out here

Bobby all at sea.

David doing the daily position fix

Sighting Antigua on making land fall on 10th January

The offending arm.  Believe me it looks worse than it actually was.