Sporting ARC shirts before the start
Here are the Daily Logs of our passage with the ARC in November 2009, as far as they are still available on the Mailasail blog site. Unfortunately we have not been able to retrieve Days 1, 2 and 3, but photographic evidence remains!
In the marina
Flying the flag
Dinghy racing fun!
Leaving Las Palmas – start of the ARC
So starting with Day 4:
Log Day 4
Position: 22:14.4N 24:22.7W Paul catches supper!
27 Nov 2009 19:08:32
Log Day 5: Great sailing conditions – by Nick
With more stable winds and sea state, we have been able to improve the sail configuration and the average speed. Logged distance in the 24 hours to midday today (Friday) increased by 16% to 170 nm. The boat continues to perform well and we are enjoying some great sailing in marvellous conditions.
The watch system, which is working well, has been varied from time to time according to a curious formula known only to Alan – he claims that changes are the result of ‘divine intervention’! Night watches have been rewarded with some spectacular night skies and numerous shooting stars.
We have enjoyed some excellent cuisine from Elaine and tonight we are dining on a 3kg Mahi Mahi (Dorado) caught by Paul last night while sailing at 7 knots. We have seen many ‘coveys’ of flying fish, but none has landed aboard – as yet.
The ARC radio net is working well and is proving a great way to keep in touch with other rally participants. Many thanks Chris (157) for your innovative daily predicted arrival times – it has already encouraged us to shake out the odd reef before we might otherwise have done!
Fair winds and safe passages,
Bob, Elaine, Alan, Paul & Nick
Position: 20:44.34N 30:26.88W
After seven days at sea, we are still benefiting from consistently favourable winds and now with one reef in the main and two in the genoa, Pipistrelle continues to perform extremely well. Last night we changed course to a more westerly heading, slightly above 20 degrees N to keep us out of the forecast squall area further south. At noon today we had sailed a total of 1040 NM – so we’re not far off the half way mark!
Four of our crew (Bob, Elaine, Alan and Paul) sail a classic yacht called ‘Overlord’ which is run as a club in the UK. This evening is the Annual Dinner at home so we thought it appropriate to hold an outport gathering on board when Alan and Paul will be presented with ‘The Venables Bowl’ for winning the recent club regatta. But it may yet have to be postponed due to the current angle of the saloon table which is not conducive to fine dining. Eating with a spoon out of anything other than a bowl placed on a non-slip mat is courting disaster!
Paul and Alan have entered into their own facial hair growth competition and after nearly a week, it’s neck and neck. Will they stay the course until St. Lucia? Whether Bob and Nick will follow suit is undecided.
Paul is suffering from a cold and cough – thankfully not quite influenza proportions – but he’s been plied with various mediation to promote speedy recovery including TCP, the distinctive ‘perfume’ of which pervaded the boat interior for a couple of hours causing much ribald comment.
That we’ve settled into a steady routine on board is manifesting itself through the off-watch crew indulging in reading, listening to music, fishing or snoozing during the day. All in all, at the moment life on the ocean is an extremely pleasant experience.
Bob, Elaine, Alan, Paul & Nick.
This is awesome, guys!
We are barrelling along downwind at 7 to 8 knots in NE 5/6 tradewinds in the middle of the Atlantic, 1000 miles at least from the nearest land in any direction. The navigation decision-making re weather-routing, best sail rig and course-to-steer is fascinating. For the last few days, we have been tracking a 20°N to 22°N latitude corridor, which the shore-based weather gurus have been telling us has the best winds. Now, we have decided to start moving further south to latitudes 17°N to 18°N in order to retain the best winds over the next few days. The North Equatorial current of roughly 1/2 a knot also helps us along.
We receive wind pattern forecasts for our sea area on demand via email over the satellite phone. They are reassuringly accurate.
Yesterday, we had an excellent Sunday evening meal produced by Elaine. Saute potatoes, green beans and roasted chicken breasts coated in a delicious herb crust plus sausages and gravy. Food supplies are holding up well. The only things we have run out of so far are apples and fresh milk. However, ginger nut biscuits have been put on tight rationing.
The night-time watches are special. The celestial majesty of the star constellations rotating ‘largo andante’ across the sky as the night progresses plus the moonlit 360 degree seascape, combine to effect a fantastic wonder and serenity.
This morning we picked up an avian hitch-hiker called Emmett, a pure white Little Egret, who perches precariously on the end of the boom and eyes the cockpit activity with curious fear. Here is a photo of him posing for photographers.
Best wishes to all following our progress. It’s all wicked!
Hope the weather in the UK improves
Bob, Elaine, Alan, Paul & Nick.
BTW, for those of you with codebooks, current AP status is: FP 4 BE 8 GG -5 OU 3 CJ -8 ON 2
Position: 18:15.38N 38:48.50W
Last night started under clear skies and a full moon with perfect visibility. Flying fish glittered as they fled the bows, though no more have landed on deck. Perhaps they can see us too well. However, later clouds developed and we were subject to our first night squalls – strong gusts and warm torrential rain – the likely pattern to come. The radar shows them stacking up clearly and allows sails to be shortened in anticipation. This is not the same as the Channel – here no sooner wet than dry again, even in the early hours. During daylight the Sun is near constant, and the swell has begun to settle to a rhythm we might soon find normal.
We missed a 180 mile run yesterday by a fraction, so determination stands to make it today – so far so good with steady 20 kt+ winds. We are going well and the seas are a bit disturbed so no fishing this evening – will try again tomorrow in forecast lighter winds. So far no one catching tuna – must try harder.
We are having steak tonight to celebrate the half-way mark. The expressed desire for fresh peas, chips and onion fritters by a certain crew member will be fulfilled in the imagination only, but this will be the first red meat for the crew since departure – with what effect to be revealed in due course.
Shortly evening drinks will be served, perhaps with canapes. The test is to throw them down one’s throat and not across the saloon – a fitting challenge to end the day.
Bob Elaine Nick Alan and Paul
Position: 16:36.70N 41:48:28.26W
Life is busy on board so I always find it amazing to read of crew saying there is not enough to do.
Alan’s watch system is working out well, and I now start the day, apart from a night watch, at 0700, starting the generator and get the watermaker working (Chateau Pipistrelle is eminently drinkable). Then there are forecasts to download from both the ARC office in Cowes and Mailasail, whose weather links are excellent. We download new Grib files and synoptic charts about every 3rd day.
The rig and changes to the sailplan need to be checked daily. So far, hopefully everything is intact, but a hoist up the mast is planned as soon as the (rolling, rolling, rolling….) motion eases a bit, and we need to get the staysail down to remove a shredded sacrificial strip. Together with Nick we have been checking any potentially weak points that are now taped up. The genoa sheet to the pole now runs through a snatch block which virtually removes chafe.
Before lunch the ARC B net takes place on SSB, which we help to run. It is only on an ocean passage that one realises the restricted range of VHF, and the benefits of SSB, that has ranges over 000’s of miles. Talking to other yachts in the vicinity is not only interesting, but informative as well.
We all normally manage to find time to catch up on sleep or read in the afternoon, then there is another rig check, course and position check, pre-dinner drinks, and postions to download. Tucanon, a catamaran that is in our group, send out their own unofficial placings in three different formats, enabling us to see where we stand compared to the other yachts we know. We have not been pushing the rig, and are more or less content with our midway position.
Once the batteries are charged again in the evening it is normally time for dinner and then night watches begin again.
The sailing is magnificent, fantastic seascapes, and Pipistrelle powering through the waves at up to 9 knots when surfing. We have now sailed 1700 miles since leaving Las Palmas, with only a couple of litres of diesel being used by the main engine at the start. Currently 1137 nm to go, and if the winds continue we should arrive around the 10th December. Our first Atlantic crossing is a great experience.
All is well – it’s getting hotter and more humid in these parts by the day and night! We will move the clocks back 1 hour tomorrow, making us GMT -2.
Bob, Elaine, Nick, Alan and Paul
Position: 14:33.46N 48:35:90W
Day 13 on board and it is Friday, but I am not superstitious!
It was not a good start though, with a number of heavy showers and increased wind during the night, and so sail was shortened. Come daylight, we found that the motorised genoa furling gear had failed totally. Whilst we could have continued sailing with the full 150% genoa, in any increased wind strength it could have been too much to handle, so we took it down and later flaked and stowed it on deck. All day we have been running on the staysail and full main that we reefed tonight so our speed is reduced and therefore our performance which was beginning to look half reasonable, is now likely to drop back.
Paul this evening caught a baby dolphin fish, so small it had not learnt that fish do not take bait either side of a full moon. He pronounced it female though, and when asked how he knew, some other wag said because it was wearing a bra! And this on one beer during ‘happy hour’. This evening’s temperature at 18.00 in the cockpit was extremely pleasant compared with the now intense daytime heat. We’ve been sailing with the bimini up for the last couple of days to provide some shade, daytime, the temp is 28C. Humidity varies and with last night’s rain was extremely high, so without being able to allow air to flow through the boat cabin temperatures soared and sleeping was uncomfortable.
We have 720 miles to go, and are now drinking the bottled water we bought as emergency rations should the watermaker have failed. It is a Spectra 380C, and has proved to be remarkably reliable, and with the new membrane installed in Gibraltar, is making copious quantities of water. We still have fresh fruit, and tomorrow we are looking forward to our first freshly baked bread on board.
06 Dec 2009
Paul went fishing this morning, and whilst helping to sort out an additional sheet for the staysail, had a strike. By the time he had got back to his rod, another 100 metres of line had run out. 20 minutes later he landed with Nick’s help, a very respectable dolphin fish, or dorado, of 6lb’s weight, and not wearing a bra, so male! Tonight’s menu is sauteed dorado with paprika.
We are now in a zone of heavy showers, and big wind shifts, that can cause an unintentional gybe if whoever is on watch is not watching the wind angles. Added to which we find that we are no sooner on course for St Lucia, and 20 minutes later we are way off course, frustrating!
Just had a torrential shower, with a “modest” increased in wind, we saw 10.3 knots on the clock, with one reef in the main and the staysail!
So apart from reduced general speed, and therefore a longer passage, all is still well on board!
Bob, Elaine, Nick, Alan and Paul
07 Dec 2009 23:46:17
Log Day 15: Mid-Atlantic geology – by Alan
Position: 15:06.28N 53:35:90W
You may not think there is much geology out here, but actually there is some. We have just crossed the Mid-Atlantic Ridge lying 4000 metres below us on the ocean floor. It runs roughly north-south over the whole length of the Atlantic. It is a several kms wide volcanic-type ridge that is producing new oceanic crust at the rate of about 1-2 cm per year. The new crust spreads out from the ridge in both directions, forming abyssal plains, imperceptibly sloping down away from the ridge. It’s undetectable to us on the surface, but satellite geoid measurements would show it up as an height anomaly.
Interestingly, geological evidence from the ocean floor confirms that the earth’s magnetic field does reverse polarity from time to time. The North Pole becomes the South Pole and vice versa. A scary thought for us mariners, but it is believed that the change would be gradual rather than flip overnight. But who really knows and why does it happen?
We have been two weeks at sea now and the mood on board has become noticeably calmer, more relaxed, and more contemplative, missing loved ones back at home and in faraway places (Nick’s wife Anne is currently in India). Are we nearly there yet?
Bearing to St Lucia waypoint: 263 degrees true
Distance to waypoint: 432 nautical miles
The wind continues to be unbelievably consistent. It has not varied from an overall ENE direction for two weeks now, with an equally consistent wind strength of broadly force 5/6. Consequently, our boat speed has not dropped below 5 knots at any stage of the trip. We just keep rolling westwards.
Navigation decisions for the approach to the finishing line at St Lucia are now becoming critical. Here is a photo of the team in action, studying mr.grib’s latest predictions.
Roll on Rodney Bay, St Lucia, and a large bowl of french fries!
Bob, Elaine, Nick, Alan and Paul
Position: 15:09.52 56:28:90W
……well, in the grand scheme of things the answer is YES! We now have a mere 300nm to run and are hoping for a daytime finish on Thursday afternoon, but this all depends on the winds that have eased. After 2700nm I still can’t quite believe I am actually sailing this vast ocean on our own yacht and what’s more enjoying it (apart from during one scary squall). The emotion I felt when I slipped the last line in Las Palmas was quite unexpected, as I expect the feelings will be when we finally moor up in Rodney Bay Marina. What an adventure!
Now for an update to my previous blog contribution ….
Having seen no shipping whatsoever for days, yesterday we saw a grand total of four yachts and today one supertanker bound for Kome Kribi (guess where that is) that crossed our bow and hailed us on the VHF wondering what all these yachts are doing out here!
You may have read about horticultural experiments with Basil on various yachts. We too entered into the spirit of the event and found a flourishing little plant at a market shortly before our departure. It all looked promising until Pipistrelle started to heel (about 2 hours after the start!) so Basil was moved to the security of the sink from where it mysteriously disappeared to be found on a shelf in the saloon but rather the worse for wear. Moved to the company of other fruit and vegetable supplies in the forward shower, we thought Basil stood a slim chance of survival. We were right – it withered and died. So I ceremoniously committed it to the deep several days ago. No photographers were available at the time to record the demise.
Happily the other fruit and vegetables have survived extremely well and the risk of scurvy is correspondingly low. Having entered week three on board all rationing (especially on biscuits and chocolate) has been lifted, to the delight of all crew members – but one in particular who will remain nameless.
Along with Paul’s impressive catches off the stern, it’s a relief to find that stocks of frozen meals I prepared in advance will see us through to St. Lucia. It really is much easier than cooking from scratch which consumes vast amounts of gas and makes the cabin temperature soar. Not good when it’s impossible to ventilate the boat adequately anyway. The whole crew is looking forward to eating food presented on a plate, that has not been cut up into minute pieces, using a knife and fork and drinking a decent wine (we have not consumed a drop all trip yet!) from a wine glass.
Bob, Elaine, Nick, Alan and Paul
13 Dec 2009 12:36:20
Arrival at St Lucia – By Bob & Elaine
Position: 14:04.49N 60:57:00W
As most of you will know by now, we arrived safely at St Lucia at 12.53 local time on Thursday 10th December after sailing just over 3000nm.
The winds on Wednesday had been difficult. At one point we were down to 5 knots, and it looked as though we might even arrive a day later (and in the dark!). Apart from using the engine, there was nothing we could do about it! However, late in the afternoon the winds picked up and we were soon running at 7-8 knots again, continuing through the night.
By the morning we were SE of Martinique, and we gybed to make the final approach to St Lucia. The wind increased as we approached, and having gone round the north of the island, it was a beat into Rodney Bay and the finish line, with a photographer in a rib recording the occasion.
At the marina we were warmly welcomed by World Cruising Club staff who we knew, and a Caribbean welcome of steel drums, rum punch and a basket of fruit. Crew from Nightsong, a yacht we were moored next to in Las Palmas were even there to take our lines! So too was Phil Cook, an Australian friend of friends in the UK who lives here with his wife, Di and who we had not met before. There were congratulations all round and needless to say, we were very touched, if not overcome by the occasion. We wasted no time in proceeding ashore to have lunch (level surface, knife and fork…..) get our landlegs and deal with formalities. Surprisingly, after so much time at sea, we were able to walk and fortunately none of us suffered from the strange swaying sensation sometimes experienced the first time on land after a long passage.
Pipistrelle is now back into cruising mode, as opposed to passage layout, and we will today be sailing south to La Soufriere where the twin Pitons are located, and which has excellent diving facilities. Paul and Nick are planning to undertake a PADI diving course and then flying home. Alan will stay on with us to sail to Martinique to collect a new genoa furling drum, and then return to Rodney Bay for the ARC prizegiving on 19th December.
Last night (Saturday) we hosted a drinks party for the many friends who we have made, and our crew got Pipistrelle spruced up, tapas and Pimms ready. So about 25 people crowded onto the decks and took refuge below a couple of times when the heavens opened! It was anexcellent evening, enjoyed by hosts and guests alike. We Pipistrellians rounded the day off by having the best meal ashore since being here at Buzz, a restaurant to the west of the marina.
As to the weather, at 07.35 this morning it is 28C. We have sunshine with intermittent showers falling during the night, some of them heavy.
All is well here in the Caribbean and we’ll continue to post regular updates to let you know how we are faring.
Bob, Elaine, Nick, Paul and Alan
Landed – rum punch all round at Rodney Bay!