The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Fri 13 Apr 2018 11:19



09:30N 56:48W


So far we've done 300 miles with 375 miles to go to St Lucia. We did 140 miles in the last 24 hours.  We have 20% cloud cover and 18-24 knot ENE winds.  We’re on a beam reach sailing at 6-7 knots with ½ knot current against us and 3 metre seas.  Here's what we did yesterday and overnight.


12 April 2018   French Guyana to St Lucia (Day 2)

The dawn brought us a very dull day – completely overcast with drizzle. While we were having breakfast, a big cloud system passed over us and sucked up all the wind, so we had to motor for 40 minutes. The wind then started to pick up, and within 3 minutes, we were back to 20 knots. The good thing was that the wind had finally veered to ENE, putting us on a beam reach, so life was much more pleasant.


The seas have built up as we head north and, by midday, we had a large 3 metre swell and wind waves from the east.  Our course was at 90° to the waves, so it was a rolly, corkscrew motion, but much better than bashing into waves like we did last night.


The day was a blur of cloud systems passing over us.  Sometimes we’d have sunshine and 18 knot winds; and at other times, light rain and 25 knot winds.  After reefing the staysail many times, we gave up and spent most of the day with 3 reefs in the main and 4 wraps in the staysail, so our boat speed varied between 4 and 7 knots, depending on the wind strength.


Just before dark, we came across a huge patch of Sargassum Weed.  It was 100 metres wide and stretched in both directions parallel to the wind as far as we could see.  When we entered it, we were lightly powered with a reefed staysail and the thickness of the weed was slowing us down.  I had to let out the staysail, which was still only enough to keep us moving at 3 knots.  We were relieved to break free.


We had clear skies for most of the night, so without the damn clouds, the wind was more consistent at 18-24 knots from the ENE.  This was a good fast beam reach, but we had a ½ knot current against us all night.  The north-west setting current should be following the continental shelf and now that we’re 150 miles off shore, we must be in some kind of eddy.


During the night, at our changes of watch, the person starting the watch is normally still trying to wake up as they stagger into the cockpit.  The person ending the watch passes over information about any weather patterns and sail adjustments.  Having been alone in the dark for three hours, these facts are often embellished with little snippets about the beauty of the stars, etc., which are totally ignored by the semi-comatose person coming on watch. It doesn’t matter which of us is coming on watch, we’re both equally rude.