Before leaving Las Palmas on 7 May we had studied the weather and wind maps. It was clear that if we tried to go west too soon we would sail into a wind hole and so we set a course in a SSW direction following the African Coast south in the direction of the Cape Verde Islands. Brother Leo had said suggested we take a leaf out the old sailor’s book and “follow the route south until the butter melts and then turn right”! Well, we dropped down to North 24 degrees over several days and then turned onto a westerly course of 270 degrees. I was expecting wind on the starboard quarter and that was exactly what we got.
The winds were light and we were able to make steady progress but not set records. On the first day we saw many dolphins which Violeta delighted in photographing. On 8 May we saw two pods of whales and a turtle at a close distance. The dolphins continued to entertain us showing off by jumping out of the water and surfing in the bow wave.
During this time we were happy to motor sail looking for more wind. Clearly we needed to monitor our fuel supply but we reasoned that it was better to spend some up front than waste time at slow speeds. Like the jet aircraft that burns a lot of fuel getting to 36,000ft, once we were into the wind zone we figured we should be able to truck along nicely on our westbound voyage. The criteria was to motor sail if our speed dropped below 3 knots. This was also good for running up the house batteries. On board is a Silentwind generator and two x 90 watt solar panels.
Once the wind speed goes over 15 knots the wind generator can certainly stuff power into the batteries while the solar panel will give us around 7 amps per hour on a sunny day. The biggest user of power is the electric fridge followed closely by the autopilot. They average 12-15 amps per hour.
On 10 May, just as we sat down to the evening meal, the fishing line suddenly went tight and the ratchet began to squeal – fish on! Forget dinner and let’s land the fish! Squelch took the rod and played the fish while Radar made ready to land the catch. The Little Pirate and I were the film crew.
The hook had been in service last year and had some rust on and as the fish, a 9.5Kg Mahi Mahi, landed on the swim platform the hook broke! But by then Radar had it by the tail with his iron grip – gotcha!! In the water it was an iridescent blue which quickly faded. Dinner was resumed with the comment that our fish had arrived too late to make the menu of the day.
There was enough fish for four hearty meals, crumbed and pan fried, seasoned flour and oven roasted, and on the night of 13 May in a paella with Scottish mussels in garlic butter and the chorizo sausage we picked up in Las Palmas. Yum! We were living high on the high seas. I did warn the crew that the gourmet meals would eventually come to an end as our fruit, vegetables and bread turned against us.
The wind came and went and we knew that we must be patient. On 14 May we crashed through 30 degrees of longitude. Time to change the ship’s clock and set it back one hour. If the earth rotates through 360 degrees every 24 hours then each hour represents 15 degrees of longitude. When you sail West of the prime meridian (Greenwich and GMT) you subtract one hour and when sailing East you add on an hour.
This was also the day of the ‘great archeological dig’. Squelch had said that there was too much interference on the SSB radio and that we should rerun the earth strap, which is copper foil. The only problem was that it was under Radar’s bunk. Everything had to come out of the cabin in order to lay the new counterpoise. Meg looked like she had been burgled! The lazarette also had to be emptied of all fenders and jerry cans to reach the auto tuner for the SSB radio. We decided to refuel at the same time with 3 jerry cans of diesel. After a busy day, dinner was roast lamb and Mediterranean vegetables served with a bottle of year 2000 Rioja. The crew lapped it up.
Joshua Slocum in his book “Alone Around the World” once wrote, “the crew only ever cooks that which the captain enjoys and the captain is always well pleased with the fare.”
On 15 May we had very light winds and around midday the Little Pirate was making swimming noises. So we all but stopped Meg from sailing and we all went for a swim around the yacht in the big pool that is the Atlantic, in 4,000 metres of water. Initially Radar stayed on board just in case Meg sailed away on us but we had deployed a knotted catch rope off the stern for back up so there was no excuse.
We eventually shamed Radar into joining us in the Big Blue with the salt water shampoo. After all, we could not have one smelly one aboard when the rest off us were fresh. It was great fun and afterwards the Little Pirate dressed for the part and we shot a video clip and some stills. You cannot believe just how blue the Atlantic is when deep sea – cobalt blue!
I also snapped off a shot of Squelch our sound engineer on a bus man’s holiday, fitting new speakers in the cockpit. Salt water gets everything eventually, it’s just a matter of time! Then Squelch tried to transmit on high frequency without success. It was finally determined that we had a problem with the voice modulation card in the SSB radio. We could receive but not transmit.
Up until now we had been posting our position online every 1-2 days so those keeping the home fires burning could keep track of us throughout our journey. Now our only solution to posting our position was to call any passing ships on VHF (line of sight only) and ask them to forward a message by email to my daughter Casey in America which she would then distribute. The first victim was “the most beautiful ship in the world” an Italian tall ship called ‘Amerigo Verspucci’ after the famous explorer who discovered America before Columbus. But alas alack we got no response from the Italians. Some of the crew speculated as to what the captain might be doing at this point in time as he was unavailable on radio. It is possible that they were out of range even though we could see them on AIS. This day will also be remembered as Tiramisu night – conjured up by the Little Pirate. Beautiful!
On 16 May the wind filled in and we were off with a boat speed of 6.5 – 7.5 knots with a course over ground of 270 degrees, due West and on latitude 24 degrees 30 minutes North. This was our best noon to noon run of 160 Nm. Unfortunately Violeta became sea sick again after having fully recovered. Sea sickness is extremely debilitating and not only is the patient unable to function but it also requires another crew member to look after them in the event of an emergency. So from a crew of four you immediately go to a crew of two to deal with an emergency.