Thursday, December 30, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Part 2 - Day 15

Our position at noon on the 29th December was 14.03 N / 47.11 W. Our noon to noon run from the 28/12/2010 was 149 miles.

Wednesday 29th December.

In total contrast to yesterday's conditions, last night's were most uneventful. The seas were much calmer and the winds steady. We were able to coast along at a nice pace of 6-7 kts for most of the night. Sleeping conditions down below were tranquil as there were  no loud kathumps from the  waves crashing into the sides of the hull .The absence of squalls / rain  allowed the hatches to be open providing good ventilation and making for a comfortable night's sleep for whoever was off watch.

Our moderate pace has continued today so mid morning we gybed south again in the hope of picking up better wind down near latitude 13 S Shortly after lunch this move was abandoned  as the wind once again changed direction so we gybed back to our original course of  267 T.

Reading books, playing guitar and writing emails was the order of the day. The hours just seem to slip away more quickly when you are at sea and you start to wonder where the day has gone.
Late afternoon the breeze picked up once again and running with the screecher we were achieving  good speeds of 9s' and 10's for s couple of hours.

As dusk approached the familiar light air pattern was upon us yet again. This continued throughout the evening.

The night is shaping up to be another quiet one!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Part 2 - Day 14

Our noon position on the 28/12/2010 was 14.19 N/ 44.39 W. Our noon to noon run was 204 miles.

Tuesday December 28th

Talk about a mixed bag of conditions, today we had them all.

As the sun rose, the fiery ball turned the sky a similar colour. Now we all know the old saying "red sky in the morning, a sailors warning", well that saying rang true today.
As the sun climbed higher it disappeared into a grey sky and only had a few cameo appearances from then on.
Last night and this morning we had wonderful sailing conditions. With the wind on our quarter we were trucking along nicely with two reefs in the main and a full jib giving us speeds in the 8-9 knot range, allowing us the longest noon to noon run so far of  204 miles and leaving us only 878 miles to our destination. No sooner had we started to enjoy the ride, the weather went pear shaped.

Our radar shows squalls all around us
All around the horizon were squall lines. It looked like a scene from "The March of the Penguins". And they just kept coming all day. Fortunately most passed by us.
A few gave our decks a much needed wash but at the same time took what wind we had  away and usually changed the direction of the swell, turning the sea into a churning washing machine and giving  the waves  no steady path to follow. Luckily we have not had the increased winds accompanying the squalls as has been the case with a couple of the other boats near by. "No Rehearsal" reported a squall with winds of  30kts.

Now we are sailing dead downwind and  we are running only a forward sail and no main. It has been a juggling act all day between having the jib or the screecher out.

Just as another squall came up from behind, we doused the screecher and abandoned play for a few minutes. Under bare poles we were mooching along nicely at 6 kts. Now the bare pole routine would certainly solve the squall problem, just don't think the skipper would buy the concept!

As quick as these squalls approach they are gone, time for the jib to be unfurled again. Everyone out here really has to be on their toes with these nasty squalls about and the radar is invaluable in these situations.

There have been a few more reports of gear failure from a couple of boats. Along with 'Steel Sapphire', 'West by North' have also had their auto pilot fail. They are now hand steering to the Cape Verde's where they hope to have the replacement parts flown in.

"Tehani Li", who we  finally over took last night, reported that a couple of hours ago they  broke their spinnaker pole and "Uuma" has a broken lift pump on their engine and are also diverting to the Cape Verde's.

Touch wood, all the systems on GWTW, as well as her crew, are still in working order.

While everyone cruising usually has a tightish budget, our decision to purchase a back up auto pilot in Gibraltar appears to have been a good one.
Of all the systems on your boat, the last one that you would ever want to loose is your autopilot, as this piece of engineering actually represents an extra crew member.

Hand steering across any ocean just doesn't bear thinking about!

Atlantic Crossing Part 2 - Day 13

Our position at noon on the 27/12/2010 was 14.14 N /41.10 W. Our noon to noon run from 26/12 was 196 miles.

Monday 27th December.

So what does surfing down a wave at 18 kts feel like?…It feels damn fast. If you have been to Disneyland and ridden "Space Mountain", that's also  what it fees like, except on the GWTW ride there are no seat belts to hold you in.!

Since yesterday afternoon and through the night the Trades have really been pushing us along. GWTW is rocketing forward and when she gets up on a wave like she just did, its wooshka!
Our 196 mile run for the past 24 hrs has been the best so far.

Another beautiful sunrise

 From early yesterday our sail configuration has remained the same, a single reefed main and full jib. Looking out from the cockpit the seas are steadily increasing in height, the overall view is 2-3 meter white capped waves, occasionally breaking. This is not a place for the faint hearted and you certainly need a high level of confidence in the integrity of your boat. The wind is also increasing and we are now regularly seeing the apparent wind in the 17 -23 kts range. Nearly time to pull in that second reef.

Despite the accelerated conditions the comfort level on board is still very pleasant, though sometimes the nerves get a little frayed. These lively conditions are predicted to be with us for the next few days.
Around sunset yesterday we had a radio call from another boat in our fleet, the Kiwi flagged yacht "Baracca". She had left the Cape Verde's the day before us and she was now abeam and seven miles to leeward. Although our encounter was brief it was nice to see another yacht out here in this vast ocean.
The only other two boats we are likely to come across before we make land fall are "No Rehearsals and Tehani Li".

The night sky was exceptionally clear in the early hours of this morning and gazing out toward the horizon on our port side a more than familiar sight shone brightly.  There she was, The Southern Cross. Liam and I both felt like we'd just bumped into an old and dear friend, one whom we had not seen for several years. It was a comforting feeling given that we are in the middle of the Atlantic and over a thousand miles from land.

It's 1900 UTC and as I type we have just crossed the half way point in our journey between the Cape Verde Islands and Barbados. Our ships clocks have been set back by yet another hour making our day just a little longer. Our time zone is now UTC minus two hours.
 The miles are ticking over and it should all be downhill from here.

 The steel drums are a calling us!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Part 2 - Day 12

Our position at noon on 26/12/2010 was 14.26N / 37.47 W. The noon to noon run from 25/12/2010 was 130 miles.

26th December

Checking the radar at 0400 revealed a couple of large purple patches moving quickly up behind us. Looking out from the cockpit it was easy to see the thick cloud formations of squalls. One of the closer ones definitely contained rain, the dark curtain reaching downwards towards the sea was a dead give away. In a bit of a scramble all the hatches and ports were hastily closed.  The air temperature dropped with a sensation that someone had just opened the fridge door.  We were lucky that this squall floated on past us, unlike some of the boats that left the Canary Islands in late November and sustained major sail damage. The past couple of nights have seen these cells becoming a nightly occurrence, so we are always a little wary.

Today's sailing has been quite good with the nor'easter steadily building to the 15 - 20 Knt range. The screecher made a very brief appearance mid morning until the wind readout showed speeds in excess of 23kts apparent, which was well above our 18 Knt threshold for this sail.  The main was reefed, the jib unfurled and the boat settled down nicely. The decision to shorten sail was a very good call.
Conditions last night were downwind and fairly light, resulting in GWTW  having slower boat speeds than are the norm. "No Rehearsal" carried their cruising chute which allowed them to run particularly well downwind, this morning they were 80 miles ahead. "Tehani Li" also made ground on us during the night and are now roughly 40 miles in front.
With only 1200 miles left to run to Bridgetown, Barbados we feel that we've made a huge dent in the passage and in a day or so we will have passed the halfway mark.

The fishing lines were trolling out the back for most of the day, and late this arvo we hooked a very good sized Mahi Mahi. Finally the drought had broken! Since leaving Gibralter and the Med some 2,200 miles ago this is only the second fish we've caught. There are many theories on what type of lure to use, what colour lure works best, how far behind the boat the lure should trail etc, etc. But we reckon that most times it's just the luck of the draw.

A good size Mahi Mahi

So once again seafood is back on the menu. We now have enough fish for at least 3 or 4 meals.
The lamb that was destined to be dinner  tonight just got the thumbs down from the skipper.
It will be a fish feast instead.

 Nothing is more alluring than the smell of sizzling pan fried fresh Mahi, Mahi

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Part 2 - Day 11

"Christmas Day 2010"

Our position at 1200 on 25/12/2010 was 15.12N /35.42W. Our noon to noon run from 24/12 was 176 Miles

HO. HO,HO, we hope that you have had a wonderful day  out there with just the right amount of seafood, turkey  or  pork and some wonderful bubbly to wash it all down. Annie cooked up a right storm here in the galley today, don't know why we keep putting on weight! The only thing we truly missed was some bbq king prawns, but we've definitely consumed our fair share over the past years.

Late last evening we took the decision to again head on a southerly course. Our excellent  land based  weather guru, Mark from  "Team Balvenie",  had just sent through the latest forecast and  this combined with the grib weather which comes to us via our HF  radio , same way that we receive emails, completed the picture for the upcoming few days.
A few bubbles to start the day
The screecher was put to bed, a line secured to the  boom to prevent any an involuntary gybes, now that would ruin our day, and off we went on a course of  263T with very respectable speeds between 6- 8 knots. We were rewarded with a peaceful off watch , and a good night's sleep. Dawn found us still slipping downwind at a modest pace in a softening breeze towards Barbados mon.

Obviously Santa had sneaked in during the night as `the Skipper awoke to  a saloon where the elves had been hard at work in the early hours. With  prezzies under the tree he was over the moon at finding a couple of stubbies of VB as well as a few other goodies. A celebratory   glass of chilled champers was enjoyed during the morning's radio sked as the wishes for a lovely day floated across the airways. Then it was back to bed for the off watch 'till lunch time.  The conditions could not have been better for a Christmas at sea.

                                              A snapshot of our Christmas day mid Atlantic
Meanwhile back on the  racing front. Well you may ask , where are the leaders of the pack??. According to this morning's radio sked it appeared that we had squeezed past Tehani Li and the big Beneteau, Bondi Tram during the hours of darkness. The  Catana 52 " No Rehearsals"  failed to report in though we suspect they are around 50 mls ahead. With freshening breezes forecast over the next few days it will be interesting to see if we can close the gap…bear in mind the Catana 52 is not a slow boat!!
If conditions allow,  then tomorrow we will hoist the kite and see what that brings .. as today our focus was more intent on chicken and champagne sailing.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Part 2 - Day 10

"Christmas Eve Edition 2010"
Our noon position on 24/12/2010 was 15.27 N /32.49 W. Our noon to noon run from 23/12/2010 was 177 miles.
In years `gone by, that is pre 2006, Christmas Eve  afternoon was spent enjoying a long lunch and a QLD( quiet little drink) with ex GWTW racing friends.  The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia at Rushcutters Bay, the home of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race was the venue.  After a nice bistro meal on the deck overlooking the marina, a stroll amongst the Sydney - Hobart line honour hopefuls was the tradition. As our old crew perused the maxis and the downhill flyers they made "informed comments" on such things as halyard tensions, winch placement and race attire and were always happy to offer advice on tactics as well as give words of encouragement to the crews. Or in reality, just anyone prepared to listen!  After all we were Hobart race veterans, well we'd done one, back in 1994, the 50th anniversary classic with over 250 yachts on the start line. Doesn't that make us experts?

So here we are on Christmas Eve in the middle of the Atlantic reminiscing.

But hey enough of that, we have our own Trans Atlantic race happening out here and it's neck and neck with the big guns, "Bondi Tram", "Tehani Li" and "No Rehearsal". Following our genius  gybe south (into hell) a few nights ago that cost us around 60 miles, we are now clawing our way back, having picked up nearly  100 miles in the last two days "GWTW" is breathing down the necks of the leaders. Tomorrow's radio sked will reveal all.

After being at sea for the last four days we have settled into a nice pattern of sleeping and eating and sleeping and eating, with a bit of guitar playing and book reading in between. GWTW is slipping along nicely and at times her motion is so smooth you would think that you were sitting in a 747, the past 24hrs have been indeed just that.

Winds have been steady in the 12 - 17 knot range .The east component of the wind is keeping us north of the rhumb line and forcing us to sail deep and slower than we might like. Tomorrow we will try going wing and wing. This has worked in the past for us but is substantially harder to do than on a mono as `we do not carry spinnaker poles. It takes a lot of finessing.

Meanwhile our freezer stocks are slowly reducing, thus freeing up some space. Come Boxing Day, much to Liam's joy, the fishing lines can at last be deployed. Look out fish I say!
We may be at sea but some things never change, and Christmas lunch on board GWTW is one of them.. Tomorrow's Christmas lunch menu will start with a light champagne cocktail and an appetizer of smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers. This will be followed by a  main course of oven roasted Spanish chicken accompanied by cockpit grown rosemary with roast potatoes, pumpkin, carrots  an assortment of greens. A traditional sage and onion gravy will be served on the side. Boiled mixed fruit pudding and custard will follow.
A cheeky New Zealand Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc will top the meal of nicely, don't you think?

 Tonight we will be checking our AIS regularly for signs of the red flashing lights of a sleigh moving southbound at speeds of over 30 kts... the carrots will be ready on the transoms and a glass of beer on the table for the captain in the bright red suit… who knows what sort of nautical goodies will be in his sack.
So wherever you are, be it on land or on the water, from Annie and Liam on GWTW, we wish you a very safe and happy Christmas 2010.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Part 2 - Day 9

Our position at noon on the 23/12/2010 was 15.13 N/ 29.39 W. Our noon to noon run from 22/12 was 175 miles

Steady winds have been giving us an excellent ride so far. Our main auto pilot is set to steer on a wind angle rather than just a compass course so as the wind bends the boat follows with minimal trimming necessary. As wonderful as this system is it has slowly been taking us a little too far to the north.

Just after dinner last evening we gybed the boat onto a more southerly course .To make landfall in Barbados we have to make our way south to latitude 13 degrees, unless we want to bump into the hard stuff further north which we really don't want to do.

Even though there have been  no yachts or ships around us at night we are still on our toes with keeping a lookout, as you  never know what will pop up just over the horizon.. Again the early hours before dawn saw the wind lighten and slowly back around to the point where we would soon be sailing back towards the African coast. As much as we like Africa it is not on this season's cruising itinerary .Another gybe back to the west quickly rectified the situation.  Not long after, the wind got lighter and lighter and abruptly stopped. The main was reined in, the jib furled and the horses came out of the barn for a two hour canter.

The morning radio call revealed that Tehani Li and No Rehearsals are still at the front line of our pack having increased their leads as we gybed south for a few hours.  Further back in the fleet a 50 footer, "Steel Sapphire"  have had their auto pilot fail and are now hand steering. It is unclear as to whether they are carrying a back up unit.

With the wind increasing and the sea calming a little we unrolled the screecher, shook the reef out of the main and picked up speed to make up the ground that we lost last night. GWTW is once again sitting on speeds of 8 to 10 knots, occasionally surfing down a wave at 12 or 13 and generally revelling in the fresh winds.

As we both have a fetish for Chinese food and are suffering badly from withdrawals, tonight Annie is cooking up a batch of sweet and sour pork with jasmine rice. For sure there will be no leftovers.
The day is drawing to a close and the skipper has just poured our favorite beverages, a gin and tonic for Annie and an icy cold San Miguel for himself.
So it's time to sign off and watch the sun drop down below the vast ocean we call the Atlantic.
And don't those first couple of sips taste great!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Atlantic Crossing Part 2 - Day 8

Our noon position on 22/12/ 2010 was 16.21N / 27.21W. Our  mileage run from 1540 on the 21/12  to noon today was 176 miles.

The miles certainly roll by when you are hooting along with the trade winds. Our GPS tells us (but do we believe it) that at the speed we are going we will be sipping pina coladas under a palm tree in  ten days or less, yee ha !

The reality is the weather god's will make up their own minds and then we will just be a pawn in their hands.
At present we are still sailing with one reef in the main and a jib. Even though the wind angle is just right for our screecher the breeze is a little too boisterous particularly given the confused sea state.
Other than a dawn sighting of another catamaran heading west we have had no other boating company today.   We did have a large pod of very fat dolphins come by and swim along with us for the best part of an hour. They are always fun to have around. Some are very athletic and Annie managed to get a great photo of one in full flight.  A couple of flying fish fatalities were spotted on the foredeck this morning and the captain gave them a burial at sea.

Carrying too much weight, this fellow
couldn't quite get airborne

A rare shot, dolphin in full flight!


We have just had our 1800 UTC radio reports from some of the other boats and a few are around 50 miles from us and some are over one hundred. The fleet is starting to spread out. Two of the faster boats "Tehani Li" and "No Rehearsals" are within 50 miles ahead of us and while they left a few hours earlier than GWTW we remain hopeful of being competitive for line honors in Barbados.
So all in all it was a pretty quiet day on GWTW. Liam spent time in his shed fixing the broken gearbox dip stick, riveting stuff, and Annie having been instructed to do anything to make the boat go faster did a load of washing lightening the boat with every wash cycle.

But the real highlight of the day was finally connecting to a sailmail station. After trying many many stations Nova Scotia got the guersey.  While we may seem a little isolated here in the North Atlantic we still have radio contact with our cruising friends and email contact with the outside world.

We are not alone.

Atlantic Crossing Part 2 - Day 7

We lifted the anchor around 1530 on Tuesday 21/12 about an hour later than we would have liked. In the scheme of things being a little late when there is just over 2000 miles to run doesn't equate to much.
A steady stream of boats had been leaving the bay since mid morning and from time to time we would hear weather/condition reports from them. By the time it was our turn we had a pretty good handle on what it was like out there.

Armed with knowledge we put two reefs in the main, no headsail and out we went.  It was fairly lively as the north east wind tends to funnel down between the islands of Sao Vicente and Santo Antao causing quite a chop for the first few miles but settling down as you round the bottom of Santo Antao.
Once clear of both islands we rolled out the jib and sailed in a fresh breeze skimming along at 7-9 knots. Just after the sun had set a beautiful full moon rose behind us turning night into day once more.

The wind started to lighten off around 10 pm and we motored for two hours till it came back in. We are now sailing on a beam reach in a lovely nor' easter  of 15-20kts with the boat speed sitting on 9, 10 and 11's. The seas are around 1.5 -2 mts and the comfort factor is pretty good. Our radar tells us that there  are a couple boats within a few miles of us one of whom  we assume is "White Rose".
So the miles are clocking off under our keels and we are hoping for the good conditions to hang in there for a while longer.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chilling out in the Cape Verde Islands

Everyone who made landfall in the Cape Verde’s agrees that it was a welcome relief after the frustrating passage from the Canary Islands. A little piece of heaven mid Atlantic.
A brief appearence from "Stardust"

We awoke the day after our arrival to see Stardust anchored not far from us. They had snuck in around dawn with the plan of refueling and leaving ASAP, and that’s what they did. Not setting foot on land, they were gone by 10am.

"White Rose", very happy to arrive in Mindelo

White Rose were the next to arrive just after 8am. The crew were elated to be here and were looking to enjoy a few days of R &R. Soon after, Bondi Tram also pulled into the anchorage. Over the next few days many more boats arrived ,some with mechanical problems but most just looking to rest until the next week when the trade winds are due to settle in.

Now that our group of friends were all here a pre Christmas party was organized for that evening.  GWTW was the host boat. The festive mood commenced with the Christmas lights on the life lines and on our small tree in the saloon being switched on.
Liam and Phil
cooking up a feast of fresh Mahi Mahi.

We had 14 on board that evening for a big fish bbq, many thanks to Tehani Li for providing the catch of the day. It was a fun night and a last chance for a big get together before we all go separate ways once in the Caribbean.

Party time on GWTW  with Tehani Li ,
White Rose, No Rehearsal & Bondi Tram.

Happy hosts

Bridget, Sandra & Annie enjoying some R& R.  

Sunday was a lay day as the shops and most of the town of Mindelo was closed. We did go in for a stroll and the place was all decked out for Christmas A nativity scene was set up in the main square with carols playing over the loud speaker system and the shop fronts had lovely decorated displays including some rather raunchy xmas underwear for the ladies!

As it looked like we would all be leaving Mindelo on Tuesday a plan was made to visit the island of Santo Antao by ferry on the Monday. Our travel companions were to be  No Rehearsals’ and White Rose.Once we arrived at the bustling port we sought out and negotiated a “aluguer” , a type of ute with benches in the back to take us around the island for the day.

Drivers at the port gate
clamering for business
This one looked good

All ready for a big day out
Our driver could sing in english
but that was it.
Setting off with our Portuguese speaking driver, Liam was having fun in the front listening to bob Marley while the rest of us were taking in our new surrounds.

One of the ravines with Sao Vincente in the background

Donkey power
alive and well on the island
The views were stunning
with  the rugged NE coast  far below
The views looking back towards Sao Vincente were beautiful. As we climbed higher into the mountains the scenery change dramatically, growing lusher and greener every corner we turned. Once we made it to the top there were even pine trees growing. The north western side certainly receives much more rainfall than the south east. Our driver was excellent, stopping where ever we wanted for photos. Large ravines snaked their way down the slopes towards the sea and the high mountain ridges looked like they were` piercing the sky.

After driving for a few hours we stopped for lunch at the small fishing harbour of Ponta Do Sol on the north coast. An excellent meal of freshly caught Wahoo washed down with a little Cape Veridian wine went down a treat.

The small but busy fishing port
Colourful boats bring in their catch

Surfing in through the harbour enterence
  The coast road brought us back to the ferry port right on time to catch our ride back home.
Heading back to our ferry

We had a terrific day out, and had we had more time an over night stop in the hills would have been fun
Today, as always on the last day before a passage we are busily doing chores and preparing the boat for the next leg of our Atlantic crossing.
Fruit and Veg sellers in Mindelo

The wind is piping up nicely this morning and very soon we will be gone with the wind, again.
We are Barbados bound..mon !

Our last glimse of land for a long time

There are many ATM's in Mindelo however they will only dispense cash if your credit card or debit card is a VISA card. This is also true of the ATM's on SantoAntao. Our cards along with a few fellow cruisers were MasterCard and we had to rely on friends to help us out with cash advances.

Euro cash can be used at the marina and in the supermarkets. Fuel was 72 euro cents per litre and water 2 euro per hundred litres. One thing to bear in mind that all change is given in the  local currency, the Escudo. 110es = 1 euro

Formalities.. entry /departure costs were a total of  11 euro  or 500 plus 650 escudos( Port police and Immigration) and they do not have euro change so it's best to pay in escudos. The port authorities are only open Mon-Fri. They will check you in and out on the same day and will also back date and forward date your papers by  day or two if need be.

Produce… over all it was pretty good. Lovely selection of lettuce, coriander, shallots etc as well as onions potatoes eggplant and fruits etc. The  ripe tomatoes were fairly poor though I did find some very good green ones. Bananas are plentiful. All the  meat and chicken I saw was  frozen but the fish was almost still swimming. Wines and beers are a good price as were soft drinks and tonics.
I would encourage cruisers to stock up to the max in the Canaries and just buy the essentials  to top up the larder in the Cape Verde's.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Atlantic Crossing - Day 6

Our 1200 position on the 17/12/2010 was 17.19N / 24.22W. Our noon to noon run from the 16/12 was 175 miles.

Again another frustrating night with wind strengths varying from 5-15kts. For a while the main and jib creaked and groaned struggling to maintain shape and at other times they hummed along with their belly's full in perfect harmony.

Dawn saw the breeze stiffen up reaching 20kts at times and boat speed readout climbing higher and higher peaking in the 12kt zone.
At 0815  at a distance of 65 miles the mountain peaks of the Cape Verde islands were spotted  on the horizon just below the cloud line. Annie called 'Land Ho' and a bottle of bubbly was deposited into the fridge in preparation for the traditional land fall festivities later in the evening

Over the past 72 hours we have noticed that the temperatures, even in the early morning have been steadily getting warmer. Today it's bordering on hot with the mercury showing a tropical 32c in the sun. We left the Canaries wearing track pants and long sleeves and today we are back to shorts and summer t-shirts.
It's a sparkling day out here with the afternoon sun dancing on the big swells as they roll under our keels.

The Cape Verde chain is sprawled out across our path and the courtesy flag has been hoisted. We are looking forward to making landfall in the next few hours and exploring some of the islands over the coming days.

Land Ho!      Raising the Cape Verde flag
 with the islands in the distance

Our first up close view
of Sao Vincente


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       At 1850 and after 940 miles as shown on our log, we anchored in the well protected bay of the port of Mindelo, on the island of  Sao Vincente, Cape Verde .
Our arrival was met with cheers and horn blowing by our good friends Daryl, Annie, Jay and Lisa from     "No Rehearsal". It was wonderful to arrive. Roughly one hour later, "Tehani Li" poked their bow around the breakwall and once they were settled they too joined us in a celebratory sundowner on "No Rehearsal".
A few  beverages later, we adjourned over to "Tehani Li" where the ace fishing team of Karel and Phil proceeded to carve up a freshly caught  4ft Wahoo which they very kindly shared with us.

So the herd is slowly gathering here in Mindelo and we are looking forward to more arrivals over the next couple of days.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Atlantic Crossing - Day 5

At 1200 on 16/12/2010 our position was 19.11N / 21.57W. Our noon to noon run was 168 miles.

Finally the wind gods are smiling on us. At 0500 a small front approached from the west bringing with it increased winds and a few spots of rain. The dark clouds rolled across the sky just ahead of us and looked far more menacing than they actually were. Since then we have had steady winds of 10 to 15 kts from the north west. The main and jib followed by main and screecher combo has allowed us to reach along at speeds of 8, 9 and 10 kts. And that's the way we love to sail.
It is always a welcome relief to both our ears and wallet to turn off the engine.

I must mention at this point that if there is more than one boat on the water in your vicinity and going in your direction is always classified as a race. We have a good group of friends who we have sailed in company with for quite some time and are always on for a bit of light hearted racing.
We now have only 175 miles to run to the port of Mindelo on Sao Vincente in the Cape Verde islands. If this breeze holds we should arrive late Friday afternoon.
The forward scouts on "No Rehearsals" the Catana 52 cat arrived early this morning (they jumped the start line by 2days and will be penalized accordingly). Being first across the line they have been instructed to sus out Mindelo for the rest of the herd which are following close behind..

The "race" is now on to see who will be next across the very unofficial finish line. The Tayana 53 "Tehani Li" with the multi- national crew of Phil, Karel and Benoit are giving it a good nudge however the weight of their recently caught Mahi Mahi may be having an undesirable effect on their boat speed. Following close behind is the Hans Christian racing ketch 'Stardust" helmed by the unstoppable Bobster, with radio mum Becky and "likely to be in the doghouse Mike" if he doesn't get to Barbados soon! In third place is the impeccable Maxi 38 English flagged "White Rose", with the two bloodhounds Peter and Steve and of course the unflappable Bridget on board. Steve was looking more than worried for a while when diverting to the Cape Verde's had a whole different meaning, other than refueling. We believe that Steve's nervous twitch is now under control. Next in line is the beamy Beneteau 50, Bondi Tram, with Sandra and Peter aboard. They had a great lead early on but seem to have slowed down a little over the past 24hrs. Must be all that food in the freezer.

It is of worthy note that all of our " competitors" have had a good 24 hr head start on GWTW.

Apart from the above mentioned boats there are at least another 25 out here that we are in contact with each day who are also heading to the Verde's.

Stay tuned for the race results of leg one of the NARC. (Not The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers)

Let's hope the wind stays in all night.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Atlantic Crossing - Day 4

Our position at 1200 on the 15th was 21.01N / 19.53W. Our noon to noon run was 166 miles.

The 75 horses that live down in the engine bay have had their fair share of exercise of late and last night they were at it again. They are very economical over long distances but they do like their tucker and as, there are not a lot of fuel docks in this neck of the woods, we'd rather keep them in their stable if possible.
Again we say .. bring on the trade winds !

By 2am the moon had disappeared and the night was, as Mark from Balvenie would say, "as black as the inside of a cow". Usually you can make out the horizon even without the moon, but not last night. It's a very eerie feeling indeed and one that we don't enjoy.

A light south west breeze came up around 5am and the jib was unfurled with the hopes of sailing for a while. Unfortunately the wind god's had other ideas and the  breeze fizzled out just as quick as it had come.. back to the horse power again.
When there is no sailing to be done , there are always other things to baking bread. No use wasting all that energy those horses have been putting into the battery banks.  Yes the smell of fresh baking bread wafting through the boat in the wee small  hours is true sensory bliss.  I must have been in overload this morning. The bread hadn't even cooled on the wire rack and I had the urge to cook again. So the skipper awoke to a breakfast treat of banana pancakes sprinkled with juicy sultanas and just a drizzle of golden syrup to top them off... yum!

Light airs have continued to plague us all day, with just a little sustainable breeze filtering in every now and then. Enough to get our hopes up.

The fishing front has also been as productive as the sailing. Two lines trolling  from the transoms and nary a bite. Maybe I shouldn't have given away the 'fishing for dummies' book at the dock party in Las Palmas a few days back.

So now it's time for a sundowner, just where does the day go?
Tonight is movie night on GWTW, no new releases here I'm afraid, but  something from our dvd library it will keep us amused for a while.
Must away now, the skipper tells me I have two minutes to get out the back to watch the sunset

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Atlantic Crossing - Day 3

Our position at 1200 on 14/12 was 23.06N /18.35W. The noon to noon run from Monday 13th was 202 miles.

The east nor 'easterlies have been steady all morning and have now built to the 16-20 knot range. GWTW has kicked up her heels and taken off doing speeds of 10-12 kts most of the time. We have one reef in the main and a full jib and are trucking along nicely with the boat fairly flat and only being bucked around by the occasional big wave on the port quarter. The swells are around 1.5 metres with white caps, it is a cloudless day out here in the Atlantic and I'm busy cooking up batches of pumpkin soup to freeze.
Earlier this morning the executive decision was made  to call into the Cape Verde Islands. We'll top up the fuel tanks, do a little sightseeing and wait out the calm weather pattern that is due around Saturday. Might as well do something constructive rather than sit at sea and listen to the sails flog about and drive us nuts for a few days.

Our AIS ship tracking device decided to go on holiday today. We still have the radar but it's always nice to have another system to give us information as well. For a while there we just assumed that there were no ships around as there were no 'blips' on the radar screen. Then Liam tweaked the AIS unit's wires and it sprang back to life. The Max Sea screen on our nav computer was instantly filled with icons of dozens of ships that were just over the horizon. And there we were thinking we were all alone out here, but in reality the cavalry was lurking just over the hill.

The view after our AIS system kicked back into many ships!!!

We sailed for most of the day till around 1800 when the wind lightened and moved to the south. The mainsail and jib were doused and again we are motoring.  With such a clear and cloudless day the sunset looked as though it was shaping up just right to see the elusive "Green Flash" that many a sailor speaks of. And yep that's exactly what it was tonight, elusive. Oh well plenty more sunsets to come.  Somewhere between here and Barbados we hope to see it

Monday, December 13, 2010

Atlantic Crossing - Day 2

Our noon  position today was 26.05.6N / 17.14.6W & our noon to noon run from Sunday 12/12/10  was 174.5 miles

Monday Dec 13th 2010
After a very uneventful night watch, that meaning  a mere zephyr of wind  to fill the jib, lots of motor sailing and no shipping within cooee, the  stars slowly faded away and the sky ever so gradually lightened as the dawn began to break. Always a good spirit lifter after a rather boring dark night at sea.

On a brighter note however, something that we always look forward to on passage is checking our emails. Even though we are pretty much alone out here we still feel "connected" to the world when we receive an e-mail or two from friends. Early this morning the emails came in and the weather gribs showed yet another very light / windless day ahead. That equates  to using the engines a lot more than what we would like. GWTW carries around 900 litres of fuel, so we can motor a long way if we have to, but not  all the way across this big ocean. Bring on the trade winds!

The sea is very calm today with long slow swells that occasionally slosh up on the bottom of the transoms, so if we do have to motor then these are the right sort of conditions. The combination of the gentle swells and the hum of the engine is very conducive to sleep I might add. There's an up side to everything I guess, especially in this sleep deprived environment of double handed passage making.

The flat seas  make it very easy to go about our daily lives and to cook and do chores around the boat…no matter if we are at anchor or on the move the chores just never seem to end.  Apart from the dolphins yesterday the animal count today has been one bird. So where is all the wild life that is reportedly out here? Whales, turtles, big fish? Maybe tomorrow we'll see a few.

The shipping is as common as the bird life today , just one going in the  opposite direction. We did however spot a yacht,  about forty footer with its cruising chute hanging from the halyard like a wet rag. We decided to motor over to say g'day. On board was a European couple  with their 'Benji' type dog. They told us that they were happy just to sit and wait for the wind to fill in. After a quick chat we wished them well and continued on our way. For those of you who are dog lovers like me, there are a lot of cruising boats out here with their canine pals aboard. So if you are considering a 'Sea Change' pardon the pun, then make sure you factor in your pooch as well!

These guys were in no rush to go anywhere.

Each morning at 0900 we listen to a radio net named " The Rum Runners"   that's how we keep in touch with all our sailing friends out here. Most of the 30 odd  boats that left the day before us have similar light wind conditions  and are also motoring. The majority are about 100 to 150 miles up the road and appear to be heading down towards the Cape Verde Islands some 690 miles in the distance, no doubt with the idea of picking up more fuel. So maybe it will be Christmas parties in The Cape Verdes. That sounds like fun.
Well finally at 2030 this evening the wind has graced us with its presence. A lovely Nor'easter of 13 -16 knots. So at last the engine has been switched off and the main and jib are doing the work. We are sailing now with speeds around nine and a half knots. It's so nice to just hear the waves, the wind and the melodic tones of Reeves, our  faithful auto pilot.

Fingers crossed that it stays like this for the rest of the trip.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Atlantic Crossing - Day 1

The sun peeped over the sea wall of the marina at around 0715 and as the morning light filtered down through our hatches a gentle nor'wester played with the flags on the poles behind GWTW's berth. For once the wind wasn't coming from the direction that we wanted to sail !

It's Sunday December 12th 2010 and today is probably THE biggest day in our sailing life since we sailed out of Sydney Heads in April 2006. We are excited and also a bit scared as we venture out to cross the Atlantic Ocean. 2800 miles or roughly five Sydney - Hobart's of nothing but ocean and the weather systems that go with it.

We retired to bed early the night before our departure in the hope of having one final decent night's sleep but this idea was quickly squashed  thanks to the blaringly loud music from a local disco near the marina that closes at 6am. We woke tired and bleary eyed rather than bright eyed and bushy tailed. Not quite the way to start a major ocean passage, but still, there will be plenty of time for an afternoon snooze later.
Up and at 'em is our motto and after the obligatory cup of tea in bed we were ready to take on the day. A few quick calls to family and friends and a last check of emails and "passage weather" and it was time to go.

At 1000 UTC under sunny skies we dropped our dock lines and headed out of the Las Palmas marina on Grand Canaria. As most of our friends had left the marina the previous day (we just wanted one more lay day to chill out) there was no one left to wave us farewell or play us a departure song so we did it ourselves, well not the waving part. We thought it most appropriate to play the Andrea Bocelli tune "Time to Say Goodbye". So on went the ipod and up went the volume.
The fishermen on the breakwall gave us a quick nod, just as they've probably done to the hundreds of boats who have left before us and with that we were on our way.

Flat seas and a  healthy lunch on our first day.

The wind was filling in nicely from north, directly behind us, which unfortunately is not our best angle of sailing. Cats don't perform well dead downwind, so the sail of choice was the screecher alone.
The rest of the day and afternoon was a combination of sail changes and motoring as the wind came and went at various strengths and angles. .As we reached the bottom of the island a pod of dolphins came and frolicked alongside the boat for a while. Tradition says that dolphins bring you luck, well don't know about that but they always make us smile.

Around 1800 the light began to fade and as the sun dipped below the horizon the sky was filled with colour. Rich reds and oranges fading quickly to dusky pinks. Our first Atlantic sunset was definitely not a disappointment.  Grand Canaria  slowly slipped behind us and thousands of miles of blue ocean stretched out in front. The warmth of the day was now gone and as the cool of the night began to creep in a dazzling canopy of stars and a slither of moon appeared overhead.

Caribbean here we come!

A dolphin bids us farewell as we leave the Canary Islands

Leaving the Canaries

Time To Go…..

December 12th  has rolled around and in about an hour we will drop the dock lines and head out across the big blue highway towards The Cape Verde Islands , then make a right turn and point our bows towards Barbados. Our passage is approximately 2800 miles and should take us about two to three  weeks at sea.
We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here in the Canary Islands, and as time is always short and with the help of our land based friends Amanda and  Mark, I will be updating you on Morocco and the Canaries as we make our passage across to the Caribbean.
So for now it’s hasta leuga  and off to the land of palm trees and pina coladas we go.
Preparing for our departure from Las Palmas

Our new crew shirts logo for the passage