The Big Blue (Atlantic Ocean) – Part 2/3

17 May, 2017 –  the wind went aft of the beam sailing on a broad reach.  Best 24 hour run of the voyage – 160 Nm (300km) – best speed over ground 9 knots and lovin’ it!  We went through two lines of longitude 35deg& 36deg and left Radar on the graveyard watch to crash through 37deg.

The bread was almost finished and we were surprised how long that it had lasted.  The carrots were ready for ditching.

The Little Pirate was still unwell but I admired her spirit as she did not complain or give up on the sea.

18 May, 2017 – Making good speed on starboard tack wind on the starboard quarter – COG 278deg sailing wing and wing with a poled out head sail.

The Blues Brothers attempting to repair the SSB radio
The Blues Brothers attempting to repair the SSB radio

Still no HF radio.  Squelch our Comms officer told me he could read and send Morse code at 25 words per minute but unfortunately there was no Morse key on board.  Solution – make one!

Squelch soldering the terminals on a home made morse key - a staple gun conversion
Squelch soldering the terminals on a homemade Morse key – a stapler conversion
The kitchen table or the galley make a great workshop
The kitchen table or the galley make a great workshop


Squelch on the morse key - can read or send 25 words per minute
Squelch on the Morse key – can read or send 25 words per minute

Looking around our little ship the obvious thing was the stapler with its spring loaded action.  We still had some copper foil left over from the earth mat which formed the upper and lower terminals to which Squelch soldered the positive and negative wires. The whole unit was stuck on the navigation station top and we had a Morse key.  Good ole boys would have used Morse code in the past and now we had to find one in range who would parlez with us.  Squelch tried many frequencies and found only one who was tapping at Mach10 speed and wouldn’t acknowledge us – bugger!

We did however manage to make contact with the ‘Monarch’, a large cruise ship of the Pullmantur line going by and the captain agreed to forward a message to my daughter Casey.  They could not have been more helpful and asked more than once if there was anything that we might need. The Monarch enquired about the health of the crew and the number of persons on board.  We reassured them that we were fine and that our only problem was our inability to communicate long distance.  We simply wanted them to relay our current position so that Casey could distribute a news update and allay any concerns of family.

relayed message

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On 19 May at 0145hrs another ‘victim’ appeared on our chart plotter – a tanker called the ‘Miro D’.  Again we called and they too were happy to relay our position – message reads, ”HF radio not working.  Current position North 25degrees 06min West 039degrees 42 min.  Please relay information to Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre.  All is well.  ETA Bermuda 31 May.”

After spelling Casey’s email address several times using radio phonetics one hopes that the email will eventually reach its destination.  The intention is always good but sometimes with English as a second language, and a certain amount of radio interference, something can get missed in the translation.

Focaccia a la Georgie

The bread had finally run out and so it was time to start baking our own.  I began with ‘Focaccia a la Georgie’ as Georgie Sharon’s 13 year old niece regularly knocked up a batch and was kind enough to share the recipe before I left Kiwiland.  See the recipe below.  Well our oven aboard Meg is a simple gas oven (two hobs on top) without a turbo fan and so the temperature is not always even throughout but I had to start somewhere and if you are hungry then the smell of fresh bread baking is tantalising!  The bottom was rather crisp but the top was moreish.  I was on the right track but needed to stop the bottom from burning.

Focaccia recipe 2

On 20 May at 0500hrs the ‘Leonid Loza’ could be seen on our A.I.S.  Their call sign – Alpha 8 Tango Golf 9.  Again we were able to parlez with the watch officer.  Note; all ships used to have a Radio Officer on board however now communications and information technology are such that Morse code is all but dead and the Radio Officer has fallen by the wayside.  This portfolio is now handled by the officer of the watch.

The Leonid Loza – stock photo

With the relay method we had found a way of reporting our position and we were going to ride it all the way to Bermuda!

So long as everybody stayed calm there would be no fruitless search.  As far as Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre was concerned they knew a great deal about us from our pre-arrival form that I had completed before leaving New Zealand.  They had a complete description of ‘Roaring Meg’ and her crew including make, model and capacity of our life raft, the identification numbers of our two Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacons(EPIRBS) plus our three Personal Locator Beacons which are permanently attached to our inflatable harnesses and registered to each of our names – these belonged to the three Amigos.  The Little Pirate did not have one but she only had to stick with us!

When none of these had been triggered then BMOC would not be concerned about the fact that we had not arrived on our first ETA.

On 21 May at 0400hrs another ship the ‘Elena Topic’ – call sign Echo Lima Whiskey 58 crossed our bow and would again relay our position as North 25deg 35’ and West 044deg 06’.


While running the motor and motor sailing with Squelch on the helm the motor suddenly stopped.  Radar always sleeps in the starboard aft cabin and must be invisibly wired to the engine because if it ever hiccups he is up in a New York minute and this time it had just cutout.  He is after all a diesel mechanic and engineer but the reason we call him ‘Radar’ is because he once taught coastguard personnel how to operate radar and he is absolutely anal about it.  He and I have entered half of our ports of call in Europe at night using radar and when properly tuned we have no problem seeing things smaller than the lateral marks.  As far as measuring distance is concerned you can do it with pinpoint accuracy.

The first place he looked for a fault on the diesel motor was the electric cutout switch and sure enough the toggle switch on the control panel had failed due to the saltwater environment.  We have plenty of spares on board as when going deep sea you need to be completely self-sufficient. Radar and Squelch sorted the problem while continuing our westerly course under sail.


Our main diesel tank was running low and we had already budgeted the fact that the last 20 litres may not be 100% accessible so we added 3 x 20 litre jerry cans via a siphon into the main tank.  That left just one remaining in the Lazarette – this was our get out of jail card!

The Little Pirate was our transatlantic project.  I had told her that by the time we reached Bermuda I expected her to be able to stand a day watch without help.  Between the three Amigos we taught her a lot of stuff.  Squelch focused on sails, halyards, sheets and sail trim plus radio etiquette and the phonetical alphabet.  Radar taught her about “yes” radar and the chart plotter, depthsounder plus some basic things about the motor.  Radar also does the safety briefing before the voyage begins and man overboard drills while underway.  I taught her how to helm the yacht.  You need to feel the ship under you and through the helm and feel the wind on your face then translate that into a relatively straight line.

She has a natural talent for helming perhaps because of her art and design background. She had plenty of practice during the voyage when we would leave her on the helm for 2/3 hours at a time.  I also taught her the 10 most common knots and how to splice and back splice three strand rope.  Then just for the hell of it we put a splice in double braided line.  She is now one highly trained monkey and I will sign her off as competent crew with blue water experience.

The fridge had developed some rather stale odours as between spills when rolling around at sea and general condensation we inevitably finish up with “fridge soup” in the bottom. The food is resting upon beer and coke cans so nothing gets immersed in the soup but today was “huck out” day.  The Little Pirate and I gave it the full treatment until it was hospital clean!

For dinner we had roast lamb with rosemary and garlic, roast potatoes with a tin of peas and carrots and a rich gravy (German style) made by the Little Pirate.  The lamb had been vacuum packed and once out of the bag was washed in the Atlantic Ocean before roasting.


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