So far the trip across “The Pond” hasn’t been too eventful, thank god!
Last night Pete went off watch at around 8pm the conditions were easy light winds and not too much of a sea running, but as usual, 1 hour after he’d gone, the wind started to pick up and the seas started to get bigger. We had Charlie the autopilot on and as usual Charlie gets in a tizzy and starts frantically pushing the tiller hard over from side to side. Given that there was quite a swell running and cross waves it made it a very unpleasant ride. The conditions weren’t nasty just uncomfortable.
I really hate waking Pete up but with the winds increasing, Charlie behaving like he’s on acid and the boom getting a dunking as we roll over I really had no other choice.
Pete got up completely confused as he had been in such a deep sleep and kept rambling on about being close to land anyway once he got his brain into gear we reefed the gib changed Charlie for Aries and pulled the boom in for a more comfortable night. Off he went to bed again. Feeling guilty I decided to extend his off watch period to 1am giving him 5 hours rest. How he manages to sleep so soundly amazes me.
I saw a ship last night but I didn’t see him until he was very close, this was due to the swell being so high. He went in front of us and all was well. It was a massive container ship, which according to the pilot chart, we were going through a shipping lane, he was probably on his way to New York from South Africa.
The ocean swell is the most amazing thing I have seen but also quite intimidating. It looks like the ocean sucks the water in, takes a deep breath and blows it back out again. The swell is huge and must be the size of a tower block but Nadezhda just gently rises up and over the wave. I really wouldn’t want to be here when it’s really windy.
I’ve just stood in the companion way and watched a wall of water coming up behind us as we reached the apex I turned around and watched us surf down, you really are on top of the world!.
Free-flying the tri-sail
We’re doing so well and averaging 160 miles per day, this is with 3 reefs in the main and the gib. At this rate we should make our half way mark in day and a half. There’s 1344 miles to our waypoint, which is South Point around 6 miles from Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown.
The plan is to stay in Barbados a couple of days to have a few cheeky cocktails on the beach and then make our way to Grenada for Christmas. 1st stop in Grenada will be Prickly Bay and then on to St Georges, apparently there’s a yacht club in a lagoon so we might treat ourselves and stay in the marina.
Pete is asleep at the moment (it’s 3:45pm) he was very good to me last night and left me to sleep a full 7 hours, bliss….
Apart from the cross swell we are happy to say that we had had near perfect conditions and the grib files suggest that it will remain the same of the next 3 days, fingers crossed!
As usual, the ride has been a rockin’ and a rollin’. The other night I must have been quite tired because I couldn’t get my head around how the wind here just seems so much stronger than back in the UK. My thoughts were that the expanse of ocean, the associated swell and the dark made everything seem all that more severe. The GRIB file showed 20 knots of wind and yet it felt like we had more than 20 knots over the deck even though we were running downwind. The day after, the wind eased to what I would normally expect of 20 knot winds….I reckon we had had a good force 7 the night before and did not even realise it! Thank god we don’t have an anemometer - ignorance is bliss!
Since then, the wind has been fairly constant and seems to agree with the forecasts.
We still have 3 reefs in the mainsail but this simply helps to keep the boat in balance and, to be honest, we don’t need any more sail out. The ocean swell almost pushes along without any wind and we manage surfs of over 8 knots at times with not too much wind over the deck or strain on Nadezhda. If conditions persist, then we will have had a very good crossing.
Friday 8th December 2006
Our high-speed progress has been a bit slowed today since the wind/waves were conspiring against us. The waves were getting a little too confused and the wind was picking-up. Going at 7+knots simply meant that Naz was starting to slew around so we took a few turns in the headsail. Whilst this worked for a while, we eventually had to take the mainsail down to slow-down and ease the ear-to-ear rocking and the steerage problem. Muggings here clipped the main halyard to the usual guardrail and then went back to the mast and pulled it tight..........I had missed the guardrail and clipped it to fresh air!
So, the halyard went on a frantic tour of the rigging with me chasing it with a boathook. As it wrapped itself into ever increasing knots, so it climbed the mast until it got itself inexorably knotted just above the lower spreaders. There was only one thing for it and so up I went.
Having retrieved it and unknotted it, I found that it had actually found its way between the triangle made by the lower shrouds and the cap shrouds and so I had to go bacxk up again. Just as I got half-way up the mast, the biggest swell hit and it was awesome watching Nadezhda surge and slide down the waves. I really should have taken a camera as the view was truly amazing. However, having got down without incident, I was a little reticent about going back up just for the photoshot and decided to leave that for another day.
We have recorded a max speed on the crossing of 8.89 knots. This had not been reached before this morning and we believe that it must have occurred during the massive surge whilst I was up the mast!!
Having put the halyard where it belongs, we are making slower but easier progress at 5.5 to 7 knots under full jib. The GRIB file suggests that the wind will die down over the coming days (although we take GRIB forecasts with a pinch of salt). This will not be good as we will be left helpless without power in a left-over sea. Lets hope we can retain enough forward momentum to keep steerage and keep going.
Earlier in the morning I spotted a shape in the water to the port side of the boat and whilst I watched it swam underneath us, I called Pete to come have a look and it turned out to be a shark. It couldn't have been a dolphin as it never came up for air and the body shape was very sleek with a pointy face. Pete reckond he could see the outline of it's mouth & teeth. It swam around the boat & must have stayed a discreet distance from us for about 10 minutes. Great to see it!
Saturday 10th December 2006
Lat: 14 24.7 N Long: 41 56.2
Good news! we went past the half way point at 12pm today, very bizarre as its exactly 7 days from the time we left Praia. We toasted Neptune with a very small Margarita.
Sunday 11th December 2006
We had a easy night apart from Pete & I experiencing (at differant times) a slight wind increase and a bigger wave which picked up the stern of Nadezhda and surged us forward. this caused us to surge from side to side over over 8 knots. Scary at the time but Charlie handled the moment very well. We wern't over canvassed it was just the 7th wave scenario. Also we think that the main sail is the culprit as the wind gets behind the main and swings the back end around. We can't reef the main anymore as we will lose steerage (winds were light last night).
Pete had an exciting watch as he saw another yacht and a supertanker a mile away on his starboard side.
Quite exciting now as we a seriously counting down the days and all being equal we should arrive on Sunday. The forecast is that the winds are dying tomorrow until Thursday afternoon so worse case scenario we'll motor for a few days which isn't such a bad thing as it'll mean we can both catch up on our sleep plus we can do a bit of fishing (hopefully not catch anything).
Pete says "Damn waves & we're being cursed by light winds".
At the moment we have the criusing chute up and a reefed main and we're doing just under 6 knots. This morning it looked like a sqall was heading towards us but it didn't bring wind just rain.
Lat 14 09.6 N Long 45 39.6 W Distance travelled: 1401.1 Miles to go: 758
Wednesday 13 th December 2006
The last couple of days (and nights) have been hard graft just keeping Nadezhda ticking along. We have tried the oversized cruising chute (an asymetrical spinnaker) but the waves roll the top of the mast too much and causes it to luff into the wind when swinging one way and then fill with a bang that is felt through the chafed buttocks as the hull bends upwards with the force. Having said that, we did have some success with it yesterday for a few hours. Ouir alternative strategy is to rig the jib on a pole on the opposite side to the boom. This is great for a while until the wind chages and we have to dismantle the arrangement and pole out the other side. Playing these games becomes a little tedious after a while and a return to 15-20 knots of constant wind would be appreciated.
Last night we eventually got down to 2 knots speed and decided to resort to the engine. We rolled the jib in with boom attached so that it could be deployed by one person and I went to bed. Fliss had an uneventful watch and we swapped the warm sweaty couch as I had my watch. Fifteen minutes later, the wind picked-up a little from the starboard beam and so I unfurled the jib. However, I could not sheet it in tight enough with the pole attached and so had to re-furl and put the boom away. Out came the jib and we were cruising nicely at over 6 knots.
Of course, this could not last for long, and soon the wind backed around to the stern and the jib started flapping again. Damned if I was going back to put the pole up again, anyway, it was pitch black outside and the wind was picking-up more so we ran on under the reefed mainsail only.
The wind continued to shift until it was threatening to gybe us and, with a line strapped to the boom so that it would not 'flog', this would not be a pleasurable thing to happen. It was at this point that I realised that we had some 'local conditions'. The sky was a complete starless black maw and so I went below, checked all hatches were closed, put away cockpit cushoins, got the companionway boards and my wetties and prepared for the squall to come.
It LASHED down with rain. Absolute stair-rods that turned the surface of the sea white. Luckily, the wind was not too strong and gusty and we only had a double-reefed mainsail up. Fliss poked her head out of the hatch and very quickly closed it again and disappeared! She returned to the tiny window at the back and asked if all was ok. A grateful cup of coffee was soon produced.
The rain subsided somewhat and I decided to get the boom-lashing off and gybe back on track (we were by that time heading due North to run away from the wind). Five minutes later, we were back in the midst of it all again. It was so dark, I couldn't see where the centre of the sqall was so I jumped below and turned the radar on so we could see the dense clouds of rain that give a very clear image of what's going on. We ran South and eventually escaped by 5:00 (GMT) in the morning.
I personally give all credit to Fliss since she had the cunning idea of chucking my crusty cardboard salt-laden trousers out into the cockpit for a rinse. All of a sudden, the rain stopped!
The rest of the night was uneventful. Today looks like light airs and I suppose we will motor. The forecast is for more wind tomorrow - here's hoping. By the way, we passed mid-way point on Saturday at 12:00 GMT - exactly one week since our departure from Praia. We are still hoping to make Barbados by the 17th (Sunday) but these light airs are against us at the moment.
We'd listened to "Herb" earlier on in the evening and he had suggested that their was potential of squalls but you wouldn't be able to see them as it would be dark. So I spent my watch staring at every cloud accessing if they were squalls, not that I would know a squall cloud from a bog standard cloud.
Just before Pete got up (around 00:45) a couple of big black clouds started appearing behind us but they just went passed us and caused no problems... these clouds had all the traits of a squall cloud as they were tall and dark.
1st thing I knew about the squall was the sound of the rain pounding on the deck. There was no way I could go outside as when I opened the hatch the rain just poured inside. As Pete mentioned all communication was brief and through the small window in the rear cabin. I asked if he needed help and he said "no point us both getting wet".
To be honest I would have preferred being outside as being locked inside the boat with all the noise going on outside I felt like I was inside a tomb I also felt bad about leaving Pete on his own.
I feel a little sorry for a boat we met in Boavista as they had e-mailed us to say that they were leaving last weekend. Listening to "Herb" they have had 25-30 knots of wind with squalls and crossed seas for a couple of days and now they are running into light winds with squalls. Chances are that the seas will be confused and quite mucky. I wonder if the saying "are we having fun yet" is being said onboard Yacht Yyvonne.
We've decided that if there is a strong risk of squalls we'lll put the radar on, set it to watchman (this means that it only switches on every 15 minutes) and keep a close watch. Not that last night was a problem but it could mean you have the chance to run away.
So all in all an interesting evening! but the good news is that we have a lovely clean and salt free boat.
Friday 15th December 2006
Strange night last night as when Pete went off watch (9pm) the ocean had an ominious feeling about it. Later on during my watch I noticed a flash of light behind a cloud which looked like a flare going off so I switched on the VHF to see if the was anyone in distress but there was no one. The flashes of light happend at least 3 more times and each time I switched on the VHF. Next thing was huge burning meteorite that lasted a good 7 seconds on our port hand side, the meteorite was so very low and not much higher than the sea.
I also felt a bump which wasn't a wave and wondered if we had touched a sleeping whale.
As it had been a windless day we half suspected that we may have squalls in the evening but after listening to Herb who said that he could see no serious convection activity we hoped that he was right... Herb (previously known as Mr Acious Border) has now been renamed Michael Fish as he couldn't have been more wrong.
A number of dark clouds passed by us with no issue but around 12am the stars disappeard and behind us the sky was totally black. I switched on the radar and there was this huge black mass creeping up on us. Skipper alerted, full battle dress doned (I wasn't going to miss out on the action) and we waited for the onslaught, which wasn't an onslaught really just some rain.
This wasn't the last of it as we were surronded all night by the damn things, I went to bed around 2am and awoke at 4am after being rolled from the couch.... I served coffee and kept Jobbo company for a good couple of hours. I'm sure he could have done without me waffling on.
The good news is that we have wind (not literally) and are romping along at well over 6 knots and Sunday is becoming possible infact "inshallah" we may have to slow down if we carry on like this...
At the moment we have 287 miles to go and its wonderful seeing the lower numbers! it will be even better when we only have half a day to go! The really exciting thing is that we will have a better idea tomorrow lunchtime as to whether or not we will make landfall the next day.
Fingers crossed that we keep this wind as landfall is a wonderful thought. It doesn't feel like two weeks maybe as one day just merges into the next but we are looking forward to sleeping in a proper bed and not having to go to bed at silly times.
Talking of Michael Fish we love to hear the boats that are close to landfall or have arrived as you can hear the excitement in their voices as they say "Great to have you onboard Herbbb" or "Thanks for being onboard Herbbb" makes us laugh everytime as it's only the Americans that say it! the Brits are more reserved. Pete & I make up characters like the old man with his wife that are down to their 3rd reef and no gib and are recording 5 knots of wind and are asking Herbb in a tremoulous voice if the conditions are likely to ease as they are travelling at well over 1 knot and are concerned that they might broach. Passes the time!!!!! .
Hmmmm. Funny how I always seem to get the watch with the soaking downpours, the sudden windshifts through 90 degrees and the variable strength winds. At one point we were idling along at about 1 knot and two minutes later we were gunning at 7 knots frantically reefing the headsail. We had decided to take-in the mainsail after the first squall and run on poled-out headsail alone. This is much easier to reef and certainly less catastrophic if the drastically changing wind got the wrong side of it.
So it was concentration all the way. Fliss was good to me when she got up by keeping me going with coffee passed through a narrow slit of open hatch.
Dawn saw the squalls disappear as the sun warmed the clouds and a constant breeze replaced the fickle night. We hoisted the mainsail in about 15-20 knots of wind and barrelled-off downhill in an attempt to make up some of the lost time of the last couple of days. We are hoping the winds will last us until Barbados but, in any case, from now-on we will make the most of every breath.
Saturday 16th December 2006
Typical only 131 miles to go and the wind is no more, are we becalmed you my ask?, well yes & no! We have no wind but the swell is having the usual affect of rolling us violently from side to side.
Engine on and we hope to have enough to make it to Barbados if the winds don't pick up later. Pete being a smart cookie has a spare tank for landfall.
Late yesterday afternoon the squalls where already starting to build up and in desperation we decided to put the engine on for a few hours just to make sure Pete got some rest before all hell broke lose. We ran straight down the middle of them with no adverse effects. Amazing as they were less than a mile of the side of us. Some were massive and took up half the screen (the radius was on 12 miles)... Pete got up at midnight and he was stunned at how big the squall was & that we hadn't felt any effects.
Today has been a long slow sail but we were treated to seeing a Minky whale. Minky was so close that Pete sitting in the cockpit saw it dive under the keel. It must have been well over 30 foot with a massive tail. Stunning to see as it played with the boat by diving upside down and then surfed down the large gentle waves. Minky was with us for a good 15 minutes. Amazing & graceful.
Eventually, we made Barbados at about 01:00 GMT on the 18th. Since local time was 09:00 on the 17, we can say that we made our target date for completing the crossing!
Wednesday 20th December 2006
We've just left Barbados for Grenada which is around 130 miles so we hope to be in early tomorrow morning.
We loved Barbados the people are smiley and there's no hassle at all.
We had a wonderful time as we met a couple of other boats who loved to party! so its now time to give our livers a rest.
Pete & I always thought we were hardened drinkers but we were mere amateurs in the presence of Patty, Kev & Barbara & Chris... we were totally outclassed!!!!
Really great company and we don't really want to leave but we'd always planned on being in Grenada for Christmas.
Interesting thing happened yesterday, we moored our dinghy and a really lovely old man took the line and tied it off for us... when we came back we couldn't see the dinghy, Pete went one way & I went the other eventually I spotted it further down the river.. anyway to cut a long story short back on board Nadezhda a jet ski came over and a local said that he had spotted the dinghy floating down the river and he had dived in the water to rescue it he then asked for commission for rescuing the dinghy.... I think it was a scam but what can you do, you can't call him in liar so we gave him some money.
Lovely last night as 7 of us went out to a local restaurant and listened to a steel band... Pete & I are suffering a bit as we didn't go to bed until the wee hours.
Anyway Barbados has been fab and a lovely introduction to the Caribbean....
Merry Christmas everyone!!!!!