Thursday, 27 February 2014

Temptress does the Atlantic - the final hours....

It seems a long long dawn waiting for the island to appear, lights ashore had been visible since 02:30 with about 30 nm left. Eventually in the night the jib was furled leaving just the reefed main to sail by. The aim was to slow down and to enable us to motorsail more directly downwind. The engine also helped recharge the batteries as George the autopilot was using some juice in the choppy seas. Then soon after sunrise, it was light enough to see misty outlines of mountains and by quarter to eight we could see that the land was green, very green - a welcome sight to eyes whose recent months had been spent in the parched treeless lands of Morocco, the Canaries and the Cape Verdes. Little fishing dories appeared then disappeared in the big swells, thin wooden booms out on either side of the boats supporting their fishing lines looking like spindly insect legs.

We picked out the red, more accurately faded orange, and green buoys then turned north into the channel. Once inside the harbour the main was dropped untidily into the lazyjacks and attention turned to finding a spot to anchor in. The hook was secure in Caribbean sand before nine. Fourteen days one and a bit hours after leaving Mindelo, Temptress had crossed the Atlantic and the crew (except Paul) celebrated with a swim in warm slightly green water.

St David's is tiny, but quite inset tucked deep between two headlands; there are a few white mooring buoys scattered around with a handful of boats and one other boat at anchor. The headlands are not very high, covered in trees some more exotic than others, there are a few cream and pastel coloured villas with corrugated roofs dotted amongst the trees around on the eastern headland. At the head of the mangrove strewn bay is a tiny strip of  beach and the boatyard, Grenada Marine with its boat hoist, sheds and masts ashore. All very rural and very peaceful. Phone calls to family and friends back in Europe then launch the dinghy and run ashore. The bar was shady (in the out of the sun sense) and welcoming; by lunchtime we'd consumed a few beers and some rum, then tempted by fish and chips or curried chicken roti's stayed for lunch. Most of the crew eventually made it back to the boat for delayed showers and a snooze before heading back to the bar for an evening meal. Our chores can wait until tomorrow, today we are celebrating.

Total distance: Mindelo, Cape Verdes to St David's, Grenada - 2249nm

Temtptress does the Atlantic - Day 14

Noon to noon - 159 nm

A fairly uneventful night; Kevin had to negotiate a fishing fleet - red over white frying tonight between 3 and 5 am. Joe on his watch decided to investigate the annoying knocking sound of oil cans or similar in the gas locker and opened it to a strong smell of gas. Later in the day using bubbles from the washing up water he traced and fixed the leak - the connection to the fixed copper pipe required it's jubilee clips tightening.

Lots of birds around including petrels or storm petrels big and small - impossible to identify by actual type as they are all fairly dark plumage, and many have a white band at the base of their tail feathers, even our big book of seabirds says you need to have them in your hand to tell them apart. Also spotted our first booby but quite which one was again difficult to tell.

The laptop was turned on today so we have a bit more detail than the North Atlantic, Southern Part chart which covers everything from Brazil to above Washington on this side of the Atlantic. We didn't see Barbados, not even a glow in the sky over night, Tobago is some 100 nm south west of us. We really feel we are almost there now.

The ensign came out and after a few repairs to its hem was hung once more from it's halyard. We looked out the Grenadian courtesy flag and the Q flag to request customs clearance. Talk turned to tomorrows approach - call the skipper at thirty miles out if he is not already on watch. Slow the boat down if need be. 

Supper was our first tinned food meal although actually only the veg came out of a tin as we could not face cabbage in a risotto; Kevin cooked his favourite chorizo version using up some chicken stock. We sat around afterwards over our "night caps" chatting almost as if we were unwilling to let go of our last evening at sea.  Eventually I was left alone for the remainder of my watch. Sleep was hard when it came to turn in, the islands' influence was making itself felt on the seas with the current pushing us now north west above Grenada and the waves heading still in a south westerly direction but choppier than they were. Bunks were bouncy and little sleep was had. Temptress was gybed and gybed again through the night as we clawed our way to our goal whilst keeping the wind safely over one quarter or the other. Was it a long night because sleep was difficult or because it was so dark with the moon not rising until the early hours of Wednesday and then only briefly or was sleep hard to come because we were so close to our goal...whatever it seemed our longest night at sea.

Temptress does the Atlantic - Day 13

Talk yesterday was of landfall, by midnight only 350 nm to go - no we are not obsessed but....

Already beginning a mental list of chores for when we arrive - clean out the fridge and cool-box which are surprisingly smell free, wash the galley floor, clean the heads etc. As a crew we've done few domestic chores except the necessary to keep the place vaguely sanitary. There is a huge mound of dirty laundry - four people for three weeks worth!

Melamine cups don't bounce - another  mug bit the dust yesterday launched into the air by a odd set of waves shaking and rattling the boat. Will have to go on a hunt for replacements when we reach dry land as just have four left. And, on a walk to the foredeck ( the only exercise apart from up and down the companionway stairs or grinding winches), we noticed the dinghy cover has developed a couple of splits, gaffer taped them for now but another task for the next few months - is it cheaper to buy or make a replacement? 

Over breakfast the crew recounted tales of their night watches; Paul was assaulted by a large flying fish at the start of his first one then soaked by a torrential downpour that lasted most of his second. Joe saw a ship the first in days, running parallel to our course but it was lost after a while in another squally shower.

The morning was productive - Joe washed a couple of t-shirts so he has clean ones for going ashore, Paul and I scrubbed the fenders to remove the last of the mucky aluminium marks from our stay in Puerto Calero. Then I used some blue netting twine to make a macrame bracelet with a smart "gold" catch made from a recycled dog lead type mini clip discovered in the sewing box. And we were plunged into mourning for Squid Vicious who now presumably occupies the mouth of something large with extremely sharp teeth, consumed in one quick bite.

Clocks were adjusted yesterday, a little late but more convenient for the crew as Temptress sailed across the time zone boundary after supper the day before but it seems to work better to have the extra hour between lunch and supper. Therefore today's noon to noon run was for 25 hours and it was a respectable 170nm.  Seems the forecast moderation of the winds for Tuesday Wednesday is already coming in behind us as the seas are flatter and therefore calmer, no less rocky rolly just not such big movements. Suriname is to the south of us and Georgetown, Guyana less than 500nm south-west. The coast of S America is within reach, is this where Temptress will go come the hurricane season?

Planning our arrival - examining the charts and chartlets, re-reading the pilot books. St David's Harbour is long and narrow, approached through reefs off the headlands on either side. The east most one having a distinctive wind eroded stumpy stack of rock. Buoyage is opposite to Europe - ILAB is red right returning - so leaving the green buoys to starboard or the reds to port on the way in would put us on a reef. The channel may not be lit from the info we have to needs a daylight approach.

The naviguesser keeps muddling up names of islands beginning with B - Barbados some 50 miles to the north of us is not Bermuda, Barbuda or the Bahamas. This has lead to a little game - how many islands in the North Atlantic can you name beginning with the letter B? we managed a dozen or so over a few hours including Brehat, Batz, Burhou and Belle Isle - all amazing yachtie destinations. How many can you name? List your favourites in the comments below...

Monday, 24 February 2014

Temptress does the Atlantic - Day 12

Sunday 23 Feb - noon to noon 158nm

Just 455nm to go this morning at 08:00 so now into juggling sails and wind
to ensure we arrive in daylight on Wednesday. Too fast and the sun will not
be up, too slow and we may have to wait until Thursday. The crew having read
Chris Doyle have now selected the restaurant we'll celebrate in on Wednesday
evening - The Galley Bar, St David's Marina. Skipper and Firstmate are
vaguely making lists of things we need to do ashore; domestic chores such as
the laundry (all we've washed between us are a handful of tea towels, a
couple of bath towels and Joe's salt encrusted shorts) and fresh provisions,
then there are boat jobs like getting a proper fix for the broken shroud
deck fitting and checking out it's pair on the other side. Plus a trip to
the fishing tackle shop is needed and some new mugs - melamine does not
bounce when flung to the floor by a rogue wave we've discovered so we are
down to just one mug apiece.

It rained in the night just once after 02:30 - a monsoon torrent which
lasted just long enough to realise it was raining, less than a minute later
the stars were out again as the F6 pushed the clouds scurrying onwards. But
it is warm enough to not need anything more than a t-shirt and shorts under
the life jacket. The morning was bright and summery with blue skies and
white fluffy clouds and the wind moderated to F3-5 from the east. Paul
cooked the promised Full English whilst the rest of the crew debated shaking
out a reef which we eventually did mid-morning realising that we now need to
average 6.25 knots or more for a Wednesday morning arrival. For the first
time in days Temptress' main was upsized to the 2nd reef. Apart from that
the day was undistinguished from many we've had - pleasant and enjoyable in
the shade of the bimini. Lunch came and went, we generously allowed Paul a
can of Tropical to himself and shared the remaining two as three pints of
shandy for the rest of the crew. The remaining beefsteak tomatoes and lone
carrot were deep sixed, extremely squishy and more than a little mouldy. The
chicken has been poached and will be served in slices with a mushroom sauce
for supper with cabbage (we'll be eating nothing but for the next few weeks
on board) and potatoes. Grog rations after supper before watches started
revealed there will soon be a rum shortage on board, fortunately that can be
easily remedied in Grenada home to the oldest rum distillery. All well on
board.

Temptress Does the Atlantic - Day 11

Saturday 22 Feb - noon to noon 160 nm

Our third weekend since leaving the Canaries at the start of the month. Life
now has a completely relaxing rhythm to it; the pace set by mealtimes during
the day and two hour watches over night. Can now completely understand
Bernard Montissier's decision in the first round the world yacht race to
keep on going rather than turn north up the Atlantic to the finish and a
return to the world he had left behind many months previous. There is a bit
in each of us which would be happy to continue sailing but all voyages must
come to an end and this one of Temptress' is rapidly approaching that point
where we are in the end bit rather than the middle bit. Yesterday's reading
material picked up at intervals by all the crew was the section on Grenada
in Chris Doyles Windward Isles Pilot - anchorages, new fruit and veg, rum
distilleries and organic chocolate factories, waterfalls and Henry's Safaris
who seem to do everything from taxi services to laundry, not to mention
nutmegs and other exotic spices that give the island its other name "The
Spice Island". We are eager to be there, to see lush greenery and tree's,
more wildlife than simply the occasional Tropic Bird.

How do four people get on in such a small space for so long? Well it helps
that we've sailed together for many years in closer confines that Temptress'
14m. The four of us are fairly easy going and the single handed watches
provide some "me'' time when we can mull over our own thoughts, scribble our
journals etc. And during the day we are entirely flexible allowing each
other to retire to a bunk, snooze in the cockpit, read or boil the kettle
again. There is a lot to that binds us together sailing stories from our
joint past of the do you remember when type and events such as yesterday
evening's porpoise visit - more than we could count crowded around the boat
leaping and playing in Temptress' bow wave plus making plans for our
destination.

One subject that comes up regularly with much hilarity is that though Kevin
and I are at home, technically both our crew are homeless; Paul because he
and Kate have just sold their house in Sussex and Joe because he should be
flat hunting but he is sailing with us. Hence this is a ship of vagrants
wandering the ocean. Happy and though isolated from the world not lonely.
We've heard nothing on the VHF or seen any ships since last Saturday only
whales, birds, flying fish and porpoises for company but we have had a few
garbled US Coastguard messages on the navtex so not completely cut off.

Supplies of Tropical are running low so this evenings sundowner's consisted
of a G&T for the naviguesser and rum for the boys. Onions and apples are
holding out well and there are still three butternut squashes and loads of
cabbage under the saloon table. The last portions of chicken are
defrosting - three giant chicken breasts that will make two suppers for
Sunday and Monday. Sausages for breakfast tomorrow - Paul has promised us a
fry up. Just one pack of sausages is keeping the ice cubes company in the
ice box now but we've a lifetimes supply of chorizo squirreled away in the
bottom of the fridge by the skipper before we left the Canaries so our last
supper promises to be his chorizo risotto. The crew are happy and well fed!

Temptress Does the Atlantic - Day 10

Friday 21st Feb - noon to noon run 163 nm

Can't believe time has gone so fast. Temptress still needs to gybe to reach
her destination but now we are throwing into the navigation mix other
parameters; we need to arrive in day light with the sun lower in the sky,
preferably mornings so that we can
a) find our way through the reef strewn channel into St Davids Harbour
b) arrive when immigration and customs are open: Monday - Thursday
8:00 -16:00 '

At present it looks likely that we'll time our arrival for Wednesday morning
unless Temptress has a dramatic increase in speed/improvement in course made
to average over 8 knots at about 280 deg magnetic. Early morning today we
had 775nm to go as the crow flies, but the wind permits best angle of 255 on
this gybe and about 6.5 to 7 knots.We still have the same sail plan as we've
had for days - 3rd reef in main and a scrap of jib (varying amounts
depending on wind strength). It seems very well balanced and George the
autopilot copes even with the oddest of wave patterns. Sometimes the big
swells seem to align with the local wind blown waves and send Temptress
madly swaying in a big surf at other time waves at right angles to the main
trend thump against the port side often sending spray into the air to be
blown on deck. The wind continues at F4-6 mainly easterly but sometimes a
little more south.

Last night was warm and dry, finally no oilies. After breakfast of stewed
fruit and yoghurt we gybed onto 290, still can't point directly at our
destination. Then whilst Joe was below busy buttering Bimbo Thins for lunch,
Kevin looked across the cockpit and spotted a huge brown shape in the swell
behind us which rapidly approached to became the swell under Temptress. No
idea who was more surprised and shocked us or the whale, it dived under the
boat just feet from our stern and disappeared phew! The rest of the day
passed as most have with snoozing, reading or chatting by turns.I hand
stitched a canvas bag/ cover for the fishing reel so we don't have to take
it off the rail whilst in harbours where petty crime is rife. It should also
serve to keep the UV off the line when it is not in use. In the evening the
largest kamikaze flying fish yet, about 15 cm long plus tail, landed on the
deck aft of the winch whilst we were furling up some jib. It lived to swim
another day as I tipped it over the side back into its element.

All well on board and still enjoying the sailing and each other's company

Friday, 21 February 2014

Temptress does the Atlantic - Day 9

Thursday 20 Feb

A rocky rolly night, everyone hardly able to sleep as thrown around in the
bunk but I can vouch all this movement gives you some weird dreams so must
have slept a bit. Just after 6am there was another squally shower, making
progress as 922 nm to go as the crow flies. temptress has now covered 1274
nm through the water so the journey total will be more than the great Circle
distance of 2163. Currently the best course we can sail will land us
somewhere to the west of Georgetown, Guyana so we need to gybe again at some
point. Grenada bears 283 degrees magnetic and on this gybe Temptress is
managing 250 or so depending on the wind and waves. On the other it'll be
more like 300.

The event of the day was a display some 200m or so to starboard by one or
more Orca breaching (spelling?)almost completely out of the water, then
twisting to reveal a large expanse of white belly before splashing down on
it's back. An amazing 30 mins or so of entertainment we feel privileged to
have seen. Though we did have a slight moment of fear when one seemed to be
getting closer. In the evening something unseen took todays lure, one of our
Turkish "you will not fail to catch fish with this" metal fish shaped
spinners, ah well looks like we'll be visiting a fishing tackle shop when we
reach the Caribbean. Perhaps one day Temptress and her crew will actually
catch and land a fish supper. Rain again as we were about to dish up supper
(chicken risotto) and again once we'd settled down to eat, Joe and I
retreated below with our bowls. Still amazed at the size of the chicken
breasts we purchased in Gran Canaria - 1.5 fed the four of us a hearty meal,
the other 1.5 are cooked and will for a salad tomorrow night.

When it is not raining the temperatures are heating up - no oilies or
fleeces for the night watches, bimini a necessity by lunchtime. The skippers
beard is coming on a treat, should be quite shaggy by the time this voyage
is over. All well on board

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Temptress Does the Atlantic - Day 8

Celebrating a full week at sea!

Finally a warm dry night when oilies were not required, tho' both the
Skipper and Paul reported a few drops of rain on their watches but each time
by the time they'd realised what it was it had stopped. The forecast we
downloaded yesterday via the sat phone is for 20 knots ESE/E/NE all the way
through to next Tuesday when it may drop to 15. First thing Squid Vicious
was replaced by the small rapala as some fairly serious injuries were
inflicted by the one bite we got yesterday almost complete straightening one
of his triple hook sets and trimming some of the fringing.

After breakfast (last mangoes and pineapple with yoghurt) the mainsail
finally went up and the genoa was poled out to port. Like this Temptress is
much better balanced making it more comfortable down below but we still get
the occasional collection of seas that set everything rocking and rolling,
catching out the unwary. The non-slip matting is a brilliant wheeze but even
it has it's limits against the law of gravity so inevitably things like mugs
(melamine fortunately), wooden spoons, butter tubs etc go flying around. And
in the cockpit don't be lured into lying along the seat snoozing in the sun
as sooner rather than later you'll end up being tipped onto the floor or
further on to the lap of the person opposite.

Spent sometime this morning sort veg in the cool box and had as a result a
large pot of homemade tomato soup for lunch, delicious and so simply - chop
up a dozen or so over ripe beefsteak toms, add a drizzle of olive oil and
gently sweat in a lidded pan, add basil and garlic then simmer for half an
hour or more before blending and adjusting the seasoning with sugar and
salt. The carrots look a bit sad so got a trim and a salt water wash and the
remaining chinese leaf is a bit squidgy but both should last a few more days
yet. Still have some sprouting potatoes, 3 butternut squashes, several
cabbages and a mass of onions plus peppers, courgettes and two leeks to
eat - our mass veg purchase in Las Palmas market over two weeks ago has
proved to be an excellent one. Still have a dozen or more apples and a few
mandarins and lemons plus a few kiwi fruits. After that it is on to canned
or dried fruit and canned or bottled veg. We already know that come the
weekend suppers will be made with tinned meat balls, corned beef, chorizo or
as a last resort tinned ham.

Today's noon to noon run was over 25 hours (see yesterday's report) and came
in at a mediocre 153nm with some crew wildly optimistic in their pre-reveal
guess and others fairly accurate, hopefully with the main up tomorrow's
progress will be much improved. The halfway point came and went soon after
lunch. It was celebrated with today's Tropical followed by yet another game
of Pooh Cans then by cups of tea all round. We certainly know how to party
on this boat. The bimini has been up much of the day not as an umbrella, its
usual use so far this trip, but as shade from the midday sun. The laundry -
t-towels are the only thing it seems in short supply on board - dried within
a couple of hours of hanging it on the rails. The afternoon has been spent
reading or snoozing, we wouldn't want to exert ourselves! Perhaps we really
have reached the Tropics. Less than 1000 miles to go but we are all happy
just to be sailing still.

Temptress Does the Atlantic - Day 7

After monsoon like rain at intervals during the night which found it's way
inside everyone's oilies except Joe's as he didn't bring his, on Tuesday
morning the sun came out. Smoother more rolling seas and lighter less gusty
winds foretold of a change in the weather, less English Channel and more
Tropical. Finally we could look forward to a day of true trade wind sailing
in shorts and t-shirts. It's been two weeks since we left Gran Canaria.

Before breakfast we gybed onto a port tack heading more south westerly on
260 degrees. Still under jib only but during the day it was gradually
unfurled bit by bit though not in its entirety. Tomorrow we may even put the
main up again. An important milestone was reached just after lunch - the
ships log (measuring the distance Temptress has travelled through the water)
reached 999 nautical miles and, as the display can only fit three digits the
crew watched with baited breath to see what next.... drum roll..... 0.00 -
meaning the Naviguesser now has to add 1000 to every logbook entry and
guessing the same thing will happen in a thousand more miles. We celebrated
the milestone in our own inimitable way by drinking today's ration of
Tropical. Today's noon to noon run wasn't great at 157nm, hoping for better
things tomorrow which will be a 25 hour day as we crossed into the next time
zone over night and changed the clocks to UT-3 in the afternoon.

I spent the morning restocking the galley lockers from the ships stores -
salt, sugar, sweetie, cornflakes and biscuit containers all needed topping
up. We are down to our last five packs of Bimbo Thins and one loaf and the
Carrefour shopping bag that has been acting as an overflow breadbin for the
last two weeks has finally been emptied. A batch of yoghurt was put onto
brew and promptly forgotten about until bed time so it is a bit runny but
will still be welcome for tomorrows breakfast with the last of our mangoes I
expect. Supper was a very traditional English sausages and mash with onion
gravy and, a bonus, some frozen peas we'd forgotten about.

Paul been maintaining that once Temptress reaches halfway the weather will
become more Caribbean like (which we are hoping todays warmth is) and we'll
be in shorts and t-shirts at night. Considering last night even oilies
weren't sufficient to keep out the torrents we have been dubious but this is
his third crossing so we bow to his greater experience. Meanwhile in another
strand of on-board conversation the Dubai taxi drivers use of the word
"backside" in relation to locations came up as in "I'll drop you at the
backside of the mall madam". Two and two do not always add up to sanity at
sea...so following this logic currently the Caribbean is on the backside of
the ocean and we are on the front side but apparently tomorrow when we
cross the halfway mark Temptress and the Caribbean will be on the front side
and Africa on the backside. Will there be a painted line dividing the East
Atlantic from the West or a sign post pointing the way to the Americas? All
well on-board if temporarily a little insane.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Temptress Does the Atlantic - Day 6

Monday 17th - it'll be two weeks tomorrow since we left the Canaries, seems
a life time ago! Since supper time yesterday we've suffered squall after
squall bringing rapid almost violent changes in wind direction and speed
necessitating a human helm. The accompanying rain is welcome washing off
both salt and dust but just as the boat dries out the next one hits. Overall
the wind has rather annoyingly gone round to ESE meaning Temptress has to
sail some 20 degrees or more higher than the proper course to keep the wind
on the starboard quarter where is it both more comfortable and safer for
all.

The sun rose with masses of yellow-grey cloud menacing over our starboard
quarter. Joe and I were dog tired from our previous four hour stint of
watch, four hours in our bunks not keeping us from almost falling asleep as
we sit in the cockpit cowering from the rain at times, Temptress has less
jib out that her storm sail would give us but is still making 6 or 7 knots
except in the lulls (5 knots) and the squalls (8 or 9 knots). We were woken
at 078:00 by the on watch Kevin and Paul who needed their bunks to find that
Temptress has passed the magic 800nm mark so more than a third of the way
and the halfway point only some 270 miles to go. At 7 knots that is less
than 3 days away, unfortunately it'll probably take longer unless we get
steadier winds.

A trip like this under sail makes one realise just how vast the Atlantic is,
albeit we are creeping along over it's surface compared to modern transport,
our speed of 7 knots is roughly 10 statue miles per hour. Our trail of noon
time plots on the chart have so far made little impression on the vast
expanse of paper we have to cross. And yes we may be luddites but paper and
pencil technology is more reliable and consumes less amps than a laptop on a
long passage so aided by the GPS we are tracking our way on a 1992 Admiralty
chart of the North Atlantic Southern Part. Brazil is now due south of us and
we have crossed the first fold so can see our goal some twenty or more
degrees further west. In other words there is about 1300 nm to go, another
week at least.

Squadrons of sizeable flying fish were darting away from the boat this
morning, probably about 15-20 cm long but unlike their tiddler brothers none
has landed on deck so far, we think we could feast on them if they did.
Yesterday we cleared up 3 or 4 whitebait sized ones. Still unable to catch a
fish and land it onboard so Squid Vicious became SV mark II with two triple
hooks hidden under his rubbery fringing - begining to believe we need much
bigger hooks and squids for the fish out here.

After the squalls the lulls make everyone want to put up more sail as
Temptress is capable of much more than 4 knots in the conditions but we
resist knowing that it will all have to come in within a few minutes. The
gentle swaying rocks everyone to sleep whilst the wet clothing and the heat
is turning down below into something of a sauna. The clocks went back
another hour so ships time is now UT-3. All well on board.

Temptress Does the Atlantic - Day 5

Sunday 16 Feb 2014 - Nothing much to report; no more breakages, no fish
caught. The crew have fallen into an eating meals, drinking endless cups of
tea and reading routine. Lunch was nice a reheated supermarket Spanish
tortilla and home made coleslaw, worth the effort of chasing veg round the
galley worktops and sitting on the floor to hold the pan under the grill.

However the big news is that it rained! We seem to have entered a band of
squally showers where the wind swings wildly through 30 degrees and gusts or
prolonged bouts of F6-7 occasionally gale 8. Now sailing on just a tiny
scrap of jib. The noon to noon run was a more conservative 158nm reflecting
both the reduced sail during yesterdays repairs and todays even smaller
amount of sail. The skipper has decreed that tonight we'll revert to two on
two off watches of four hours length as it can take one to steer and one to
handle sails at times. George is useless at predicting the wind and waves in
these conditions but at time so are we! At least the boat is getting a much
needed wash down and the dust in the atmosphere is gone.

Temptress Does the Atlantic - Day 4

Today's major event was a loud bang just before 1 am, yours truly was on
watch (why do these things happen on my watch?). The skipper who had been
sleeping directly below the source had a pretty good idea of the problem
before he had even thrown his clothes on. He came rushing through the boat
calling "all hands on deck". Joe and Paul followed him up the companionway.
By torchlight we could see the portside inner forward (effectively a
babystay) hanging loose. We furled the remaining scrap of jib and eased the
main. Then Joe and Kevin went forward, the deck fitting had given way,
sheared off at the bolts, later examination showed signs of rust on the
broken edges, both bolts had been cracked for some time explaining some of
the noise there has been above our heads when in bed at sea. Cracks that
would be invisible under hand-sized ovals of 1cm thick stainless steel.

By the light of the moon the boys retied the dinghy strap which had been
fastened around the bottom of the stay and then set to work hunting out
blocks and some dynema to create a make shift fixing on the toerail. It took
less than an hour after the heartstopping bang for us to be sailing again,
the temporary fix should hold as long as the toerail remains in place and
get us to Grenada. The rig is not compromised as the baby stay is more about
sail trim than holding it up but it does make us all wonder what is under
the other fittings, a thought which we put away once we'd discussed the
impossibilty of xraying each in turn at our destination.

Through the remaining night the wind moderated to ENE or NE F3-4 though the
seas remain lumpy delivering the odd cockpit washdown. Kevin spent his 5-7am
watch thinking about potential repairs which he talked through with the
first person to appear on deck at daybreak (me). By 07:30 Joe was claiming
for double time for commencing work on a Saturday and prior to 09:00; the
skipper pointed out that in the land of work (aka the UK) it was already
09:30! Paul slept, I made tea, caught up on the nav and took some photo's
whilst the metal workshop in the cockpit hunted down bolts, nuts, tools and
drill bits. Pilot holes widened bit by bit (excuse the pun) until they'd
take the biggest bolts on board 10mm. At one point they'd had to unpack all
the storage cabin to get to the big inverter (stowed safely as the back) to
charge the drill batteries but by 15:20 the tools were away, the cockpit
swilled; job done though the emergency fitting on the toerail remains in
place just in case it is needed again over the next 1500nm.

MV Infinity called us up after lunch - our first ship since Minddelo and he
spotted us before we saw him, mainly because everyone was engrossed in
drilling holes. He was bound for Barcelona, despite his size I doubt it'll
be a pleasant trip as it is straight into both wind and 2 or 3m waves.
Meanwhile the galley slave opened the last of the refrigerated vac packs -
two failed the sniff test, the other three made one "is it lamb or is it
veal" curry and two beef stews - suppers for the next few nights.

Everything on deck facing aft is now covered in red Saharan dust that
transfers itself to everything else where it sticks due to the generous
helping of salt adhering to crew and boat. Yuk could do with some rain to
wash it down. Our noon to noon run was 172nm bringing the total since
leaving Mindelo to 525 and being a bit below the rhumb line between
waypoints I3 and I4 and close to the latter have moved on to I5 our halfway
point. It feels like we are making progress west. All well on board.

Temptress Does the Atlantic - Day 3

Writing this (in my notebook) at 23:50 without a torch - there is a full
moon. Temptress is pounding along at 6 or 7 knots surfing at 8 or 9 with the
seas roaring around us. Every so often boat and waves get out of sync and
water slaps the starboard quarter with a bang then rises up to be blown into
the cockpit. George has been left solely in charge of helming as none of his
human companions fancies another soaking. Your scribe managed two today when
lured by the sun onto the helmsmans seat. Joe is drying our his Quinns shirt
yet again after a dousing post supper despite the new "dodger" made from our
sail number banner tied to the starboard rail.

Soon after breakfast (sausage and beans plus the obligatory Bimbo Thin)
Squiddie morphed into Squid Vicious with the addition of a small weight and
a triple hook in addition to the big single hook already in place plus a few
extra beads to tempt any nearby fish. Despite all this we have still failed
to land any catch except a few tiny flying fish that flung themselves on to
various parts of the deck. Just before supper our 3rd bite of the day was
being reeled in when 2 or 6 ft or dorade or tuna (depending on who tells you
the tale) was lost to a crashing wave. Supper was pork chop surprise, the
chops having a definite whiff were consigned to the ocean and mince was
cooked instead. tomorrow we plan to open the remaining vac packs of meat in
the fridge and cook any viable contents to prolong their life. There are
still a few more packs in the freezer but the end of fresh meat is in sight.
Fruit salad for pud was a hit - over ripe bananas, mango, pineapple and kiwi
fruit with the juice of a dubious lemon, sugar and cinnamon.

In the noon to noon lottery Kevin was the winner with 160 nm and having
washed down our tuna filled Bimbo Thins with a can of Tropical (beer in its
loosest sense) the crew began devising the rules for beer can pooh sticks.
It may be a race to see whose can sinks quickest or is could be a scientific
experiment about the placement of holes to encourage rapid drowning. Either
way the marlin spike has never seen so much use!

Finally Paul deserves a mention for his sterling contribution to the
domestic chores, his back still precludes much more than helming which we
aren't doing for the previously mentioned reasons so he has adopted the
washing up, refusing all offers of help. And the skipper deserves a plaudit
for remembering Valentines Day but there was no candlelit supper or flowers
just a frequent enquiry of his Naviguessser as to whether we can bear away
yet? The response to which is always; it is unlikely as we are already
heading towards our destination. He really doesn't get that there is little
more southing to be made or seems to account for the huge magnetic variation
in these parts. With a bearing to waypoint of 284 and a course over the
ground of 275 (all magnetic) we may have to head up a bit but for now the
Naviguesser is happy we'll hit Grenada and not Venuzuela or Tobago.

It would be nice to not need fleeces and oilies at night but the forecast we
downloaded this morning indicates the winds are set to continue and we
should make a fast passage.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Temptress Does the Atlantic - Day 2

Thursday 13 Feb - realised the clocks should have been set back an hour as
we left yesterday as the CV's like the Canaries have warped the time zone to
suit their own needs so we are actually in UT-2. Will sort it out later this
afternoon, tomorrows noon to noon run will be 25 hours. At noon the 24 hour
run was 179nm. The wind was still north easterly and up and down F4-5 with
occasional periods of F6 gusting 7. The crew were getting used to the
motion, very different from the trip down from the Canaries. Now the seas
are slightly aft of the beam or on the starboard quarter lifting the stern
and tipping her towards the port bow before running underneath and if
surfing allowing the boat to be almost level then the port bow would rise up
and everything would roll back to starboard before starting again. We
resumed our usual habits snoozing either down below or in the cockpit, a
daily wash and tooth clean or reading in between mugs of tea or coffee or
meal times. Joe seems to be able to manage slightly more than one paragraph
of Jezza Clarkson prior to falling asleep, Paul is deep into the theory of
relativity with "Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn", Kevin is eking out the
penultimate of the Jack Aubrey books whilst I am enjoying a memoire of a
1950's single handed voyage to Malta via the canals of France, Corsica and
Sardinia and finding that nothing much has changed.

A few carrots had to be deep sixed today but apart from the early demise of
an iceberg which attempted a career change as a bowling ball on the galley
floor during the trip down to the CVs resulting in a brown mushy mess and a
few suspect aubergines the fresh provisions are holding up well.
Mid-afternoon with the clocks all set back the wind finally smiled on us
moving east enough for the scrap of genoa to be poled out but it didn't last
and by nightfall both sails were once more on the port side. The third reef
is still in and Temptress is averaging over 7 knots so making good progress
towards our goal though Grenada is a long way off still. No fish but a few
bites that sent some lie reeling out each time, mulling over possible
modifications to Sqiddie, the lurid green 9 inch long plastic lure we've
been towing. Paul found a moderate sized flying fish at the shrouds, very
dead and not big enough to contemplate eating, they are apparently very
bony. All well on board if at times a little damp, it was my turn to be
pooped whilst enjoying the sun on the helmsmans seat behind the wheel,
necessitating a change of underwear as well as trousers and top. The
trousers were dry enough in a couple of hours to be donned again for supper.
Once the sun gets behind the sails or clouds it is still unexpectedly chilly
and overnight the dew soaks everything so oilies still required by the watch
keeper.

Temptress Does the Atlantic - Day 1

Wednesday 12 February - the Skipper and Joe made a run ashore to check boat
and crew out, retrieve the boat papers from the port captain, purchase some
provisions, a gas bottle refill and a can of diesel. Meanwhile Paul and I
(the naviguesser) got the boat ready for sea. The fleshpots of Mindelo such
as they are (poor food, pleasant art and craft galleries, beer at European
prices and a taxi tour of the island) did not outweigh the gusting windiness
of the anchorage which at times necessitated leaving at least one crew on
board to mind the boat. We'd all rather be at sea.

Around 11 am the hook came up, a major task as Temptress skitted first one
way then the other round her chain in the strong gusts sweeping down the
anchorage from the hills surrounding Mindelo. It was as if the trade winds
piled up on the other side then rushed over together. By noon we had the
main up with the third reef and were motor sailing out picking our way
between the anchored wrecks and charging the batteries as the sun was
partially obliterated by the large amount of Sahara in the air. Out in the
channel between the islands a strong current heading south and almost gale
force winds as the Trades were funnelled between the two islands mountainous
countryside. We could hardly see Santo Antao opposite. Once clear south of
the land Temptress set a course for Grenada with the watermaker running for
several hours to half replenish tank 2.

The seas were rough and confused with all the streams round the islands
often knocking the wind literally out of the sails. Then below Santo Antao
the western most of the islands Temptress was almost becalmed in the lee of
its mountains despite not being able to see more than a ghostly outline
through the dust of the hamrattan. Lunch (salami and tomato sandwiches) came
and went. The wind gradually increased, it was a wet and bumpy ride with the
north easterly trade on our beam - we are rapidly realising that dodgers
along the guard rails either side of the cockpit could be a good idea in
this sort of sailing. Waves hit the topsides , rose upwards to be blown down
on to hapless crew (mostly Joe).

The skipper preferring to be sailing more downwind queried our course of 277
deg which is slightly north of West; why aren't we heading south? Surely
grenada is south of here? It is but only by some 3 or 4 degrees over 2163 nm
so the angle is shallow about 260 but here in the N Atlantic the magnetic
variation is huge 10 deg about the Cape Verdes increasing to 17 or 18
degrees as we venture west before decreasing a little on the western side.
266 + 10 = 276 degrees ie our compass course will be slightly north of west
but our true course will actually be less. Things will improve as the great
circle route from the Cape Verdes gradually has us turning south as we
approach the half way mark. A yacht was spotted heading in the opposite
direction towards Mindelo, sails down, motoring through the steep seas and
pitied those on board.

We were pleased that we had cooked supper yesterday as conditions in the
galley even simply reheating chicken in a tasty tomato sauce and boiling
some pasta bows was a major effort for the appointed galley slave (me). The
work surfaces pitched and rolled, nothing stayed still for an instance and
using two hands for any task impossible, one was always needed to steady the
chef. However an inspired improvement wrought before we left Mindelo of two
pieces of non-slip matting across the top of the fridge/coolbox surface was
helpful in keeping smaller items in place as the increasing breeze began to
gust F7 at times.

A new night at sea and a new watch rota; the old one was companionable with
two crew on together but the four hour stints difficult to keep awake
through. The new system has one person per two hour watch meaning stretches
of six hours per night in a bunk for the off watch. I took the first watch
7-9 whilst Joe opted not to go to bed for two hours so we sat and chatted
under a full moon. It was an uneventful night, nothing on the VHF, no
shipping and few stars due the brightness of the moon, just one dolphin
moment and one instance of George deciding it was all to much and going
abruptly to standby mode unrequested much to the confusion of the watch who
initially thought the wind had gone forward and sprang to adjust the sails
before realising Temptress was rounding up due to lack of autohelm. AS we
put distance between us and the Cape Verdes the wind moderated a bit to F4-5
gusting 6 and the seas became a little less confused.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Windy Nights

Tuesday 11 February

Another windy night at anchor but Temptress' crew slept, tired out after
arriving at 1 am on Monday morning. The gusts across the anchorage set the
boat rocking and rolling but not so much as it was during our five days at
sea. Friday and the weekend passed in much the same pattern as the previous
days at sea; crew up during the day reading, chatting sporadically, getting
meals, drinking tea and adjusting sailings. The poled out gennie with an aft
guy as well as the down and up hauls works well with the sheet passing
through a block attached to the top of the outboard end to reduce chaff.
Easy to adjust the quantity of sail out and not too much of an issue to
alter the pole position either.

We tucked the second reef in early on Friday morning as the wind increased
well above the forecast to gust around F7 meaning Temptress was surfing
wildly reaching over 10 knots on more than one occasion. Later we heard Sao
Vicente radio despite the distance still to go. Friday's noon to noon tally
was 165nm and by evening we were over halfway with 399nm still to cover.

On Saturday our westing became greater than our northing a statistic that
brought a smile to the navigators face, firmly in the tropics it should now
get warmer, shouldn't it? Dawn was steely grey and chilly like a summer
sunrise in the English Channel the crew were glad of fleeces, hats and
socks. The seas were confused with several swells all roughly running
southward but at various angles. Joe got pooped seemingly wherever he sat in
the cockpit whilst the rest of us remained smugly dry. Noon to noon was
185nm a personal best for Temptress and a feat repeated on Sunday. By now we
were closing the islands fast but not exactly heading to the waypoint as the
wind was not playing the same game as us. We gybed then gybed again many
hours later, our course over the ground maybe ten maybe thirty degrees off
but gradually we closed in on our goal the second island from the west in
the northerly group of the Cape Verdes. There was a discussion about whether
or not it was wise to arrive at night, our estimated arrival time being
midnight so re-read the pilot guide and decided that even if none of the
lighthouses and lit buoys were working as it cautioned they might, we could
manage. No slowing down then still 7.5 to 8 knots of headlong rush southwest
wards. By noon on Sunday Temptress had 92nm to go we'd made an excellent
fast passage. During our dash south we noted that during the day the
northerly easterly trade wind moderated a bit down to F4 occasionally F5,
but during the night it often blew NE F5 picking up to F6 or sometimes more
when there was a break in the fast moving clouds. Presumably the vast Sahara
Desert caused a huge offshore breeze at night whose effects reached out
several hundred miles to sea.

Sunday night was warmer than previous ones but still required the watch to
be wrapped up warmly. A few fraught moments as all four of us failed to spot
the small island (in reality a tall pointy rock) some three quarters of a
mile off the headland until we were almost upon it when it rose up like a
ghost as it's lighthouse was out. We furled the jib for a final time, gybed
between the rocky shape and the headland before motor sailing on towards the
harbour wall with the wind gusting hard behind us as it accelerated down the
channel between the high hills of Sao Vicente to our left and the mountains
of Santo Antao on our right. Approaching the harbour wall we weren't
expecting a final hazard, unlit "dead ships", rusting hulks at anchor in the
harbour, but we managed to avoid them all to drop the hook quite well out
but safe in about 4m at 1 am on Monday. After a congratulatory night cap or
two we retired to our bunks for some welcome sleep uninterrupted by four
hourly watches.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

All At Sea

Blue skies, blue seas and fluffy clouds, perfect downwind sailing when we
have some wind. Currently doing about 6 knots with the jib poled out and a
reef in the main. Joe and Kevin have finished a post-prandial knitting
session proving only that sailing without the main up is just too rolly;
they attempted using the main boom as a pole for the genoa but the angles
will not work with too many places to chaff sheets on so following that
exercise up by poling out the working jib as an extra foresail is not an
option. Meanwhile every spare sheet and block seemed to be knocking around
in the cockpit. It has been suggested that tomorrows exercise will be to
launch the dinghy using the spinnaker. This morning we lost the big rapala
to something even bigger, the Naviguesser's knot tying has been blamed,
there is now a fish out there with a metre of line and a foot long rapala',
now towing the Turkish fish shaped spinner which caught nothing yesterday.

After 24 hours of light winds Temptress is at last in her element striding
south west in the trade winds. Lots of dolphins the first day including some
spotted ones with white beaks that swam off the stern of the boat just south
of Gran Canaria during the first afternoon at sea but none since. Also on
our wildlife list a few storm petrels of some sort, difficult to identify
exactly which when they are on the wing, a couple of turtles and three
ships. After much planning of watch rota's we eventually decided on one we
hadn't thought of - two crew on watch for four hours from 19:00 until 07:00
meaning the first "on" pair get two watches, the other one and we swap first
watch each evening. Seems to work well so far with Kevin and Paul in one
watch and Joe and I (Susie) taking the other. Lots of star gazing and tea
making but little else. All the bad backs seem to be in remission though
Paul has stuck to washing up and helming, only casualty so far has been one
melamine cup - they don't bounce it seems when propelled off a rolling
worksurface.

Made 124nm through the water on our first noon to noon run, having
conveniently left Las Palmas exactly at noon then put the clocks back one
hour to Cape Verdian time zone , UT-1 it was actually a 25 hour period. Our
second noon to noon was 140nm as windier. Have motored part of each night so
far due to lack of stuff to fill the sails. Another 580 nm to go as we
write, all well on board though we fear for some crew's sanity; a few
surreal remarks have been recorded including this classic from Joe "Great to
be breathing fresh air, those Polish guys can't use a plaster knife."
Collapse of crew in hysterical giggles whilst he tried to dig himself out of
a hole and complete what he claimed was his train of thought... something
about poor plasterers needing to sand their work creating dust...