Day 121, Year 6 Atlantic Passage, Day 18-Countdown Begins

Day 121, Year 6 Atlantic Passage, Day 18-Countdown Begins
Date: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 (1730 UTC)
Weather: Most Sunny; ENE 15-20
Air Temperature: 80 degrees F
Latitude: 05 01.007 N
Longitude: 037 00.568 W
Miles Traveled: 2363
Miles to Go: 1542
Location: Passage from St. Helena to Caribbean (Grenada)

We continue to fly westward at over 6 knots making better than 150 miles every 24 hour period. The seas are getting a bit rowdy approaching 3 meters now, but the ride really isn’t too bad. At this rate we have about ten days to go which would give us an arrival date of March 4. So the countdown begins–10, 9, 8 . We are starting to see more ships, only two today, but that’s more than we’ve seen in one day since Cape Town. So we’ll have to keep a sharper look-out from here on in. And still, we have caught no fish.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned the recent hijacking of a US boat by Somali pirates. I was waiting to get confirmation on the identity of the boat, but it is indeed the sailing vessel Quest that we met in the South Pacific in 2006. We first met Jean and Scott Adam in American Samoa and then again in Tonga. They were missionaries of a sort, distributing bibles in remote places. It is very difficult to think of people you know being taken by pirates. When we made our decision to not go through the Red Sea it was for this very reason. Not many sailboats are taken, but if it is you, it only takes one. So we are thinking of Jean and Scott and hoping that there will be some positive resolution to their capture.

My attempts at spring cleaning continue and both Mark and I deep into our reading. Mark is reading John Adams by David McCullough and relearning how our country got its start. John Adams was our first Vice-President under George Washington and our second President. I am still reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. It is about Abraham Lincoln’s political genius, but even more about how he conducted himself as an exemplar of how politicians or all people for that matter, should think and behave. From the news I hear out here, I sure wish more of our US politicians would try to use Lincoln as their example.

Day 120, Year 6 Atlantic Passage, Day 17-Slowing Down.Intentionally

Day 120, Year 6 Atlantic Passage, Day 17-Slowing Down.Intentionally
Date: Monday, February 21, 2011 (1730 UTC)
Weather: Beautiful Blue Sky and Sunshine; ENE 15-20
Air Temperature: 82 degrees F
Latitude: 04 33 093 N
Longitude: 034 30.727 W
Miles Traveled: 2209
Miles to Go: 1695
Location: Passage from St. Helena to Caribbean (Grenada)

Slowing down a sailboat intentionally is a little like waking a sleeping baby. It’s not something you usually do. But this morning at 8:30 we logged over 160 miles in the last 24 hours. Around 8 pm last evening the winds went from 10 to 15 knots to 15 to 20. With the full main and headsail out, we were screaming along at 7 to 7.5 knots all night long. It was great, but when morning came and dark clouds were gathering above, the Captain decided we should put a double-reef in the main to slow ourselves down a bit in order to be able to handle things more easily in case of a squall. We did this reluctantly, and although it slowed us down to an average of 6 knots, it is a smoother ride. The dark clouds went away and it turned out to be a beautiful day, but we decided to keep the reef in until tomorrow morning. If at that time, things look settled, we might shake it out and go full tilt again. We feel bad when we talk to Larry and Mary Anne on Traversay in the mornings. They started out two days behind us but are now are at least six days behind due to a lack of wind. They can make only 100 miles per day. It makes the decision to leave St. Helena before the arrival of the RMS St. Helena seem smarter than it seemed at the time. If we had waited, as did Traversay, we would be back there with no wind as well. That two-day head start has made all the difference in the world. The group of boats behind Traversay are also struggling with lighter winds. So Windbird is out in front and enjoying the ride.

It was a bit of a lazy day. We did a laundry and we read. It’s hard to get a lot done with all the “required” nap times. Although we each get about six hours of sleep in two shifts during the night, I go back down for a two hour morning nap and as soon as I get up, Mark goes down for an hour. We are then both up from about 1:30 to 3:30 in the afternoon and then Mark goes down for another hour while I write the log and get emails ready to send. Then its time to send and receive emails which actually takes about an hour these days, although connections seem to be getting faster. We are using Halifax right now and it is doing a good job for us. While Mark is sending the emails, I get dinner together, we eat, and then we start the rotation all over again. I seem to be much more productive during the night watches. I’m still doing Caribbean research and I have completed editing all photos from Years 3, 4, 5, and 6. I have about eight folders from Year 2 to complete tonight and then I start on Year 1. It is the toughest one as our computer with the photos on it crashed on the way to the Galapagos leaving a gap in what got done and we were not using Picasa that year, so I have a harder time checking to see what was put on the website and what wasn’t. I also have all the photos from our last two trips back to the US to tackle. But hopefully in three more good nights, I’ll have the photo job completely finished and I’ll really feel like I’ve accomplished something. Then I can start putting together “picture shows” from Years 3, 4, 5, and 6. We did this for Years 1 and 2 and made presentations while we were home after each of those cruising seasons, so we’d like to have similar presentations for the other years. I just wish I had the photos from the other thirty some years we have been together as well organized. Maybe we’ll have to sail around the world again so I can get that job done!

Day 119, Year 6 Atlantic Passage, Day 16-Three Sails, Two Sails

Day 119, Year 6 Atlantic Passage, Day 16-Three Sails, Two Sails
Date: Sunday, February 20, 2011 (1730 UTC)
Weather: Totally Overcast with Continual Squalls; NE 9-15
Air Temperature: 81 degrees F
Latitude: 04 05.247 N
Longitude: 031 53..972 W
Miles Traveled: 2047.38
Miles to Go: 1854
Location: Passage from St. Helena to Caribbean (Grenada)

We have been enjoying sailing with all three sails out during the day, but just after furling the staysail for the night last evening, the attachment holding the inner forestay to the chainplate broke. We put on our harnesses and went to the foredeck to secure the swinging staysail. Thankfully the sail was furled because it is had been out full it would have been flogging and very difficult to get under control. We went back to the foredeck this afternoon and tried to give it a more permanent fix, but we don’t have the right toggle and the fix remains temporary. We will only use the staysail in light air and only then if absolutely necessary. So we are now down to two sails again. This problem started on our way to Madagascar when the staysail attachment at the top came loose. When we got to Madagascar the fix at the top required shortening the staysail a bit, so we had to add a piece at the base. That added piece is what broke, so we will head to a rigger as soon as we arrive in Grenada. Both of our aft lower stays are now frayed at the top, so we’ll have all the rigging checked and replace what is necessary. There is supposed to be a really good rigger in Prickly Bay, our Grenadan destination, and we’ll certainly put him to work right away.

The weather turned yucky again early last night and stayed that way through the night and all day today-one squall after another, some with rain, some just with increased winds and a change in wind direction.. It seems we get a day or two with a little sun and then it disappears again for days at a time. We have had less sunshine on this passage from South Africa than anytime we can remember. But gray day after gray day, we are getting there. Last night just before midnight we passed the half-way point between St. Helena and Grenada. The first half took us 15 days, and it looks like we have no more than 14 days to go. The winds should get stronger as we get further north, so we are hopeful that we can continue to move at an average of 6 knots as we are currently doing. This means we travel more than 140 miles a day and will get us there in two weeks.

We continue to work on getting the freezer back down to temperature. Yesterday’s fix didn’t work, so today we took everything out again, packed the side of the freezer away from the cold plate with vacuum-packed bags of rice to serve as insulation (this side of the freezer is also next the oven) and put a smaller stuff bag with a polar fleece blanket in the top. The cold plate is very cold and everything close to it is solidly frozen, so we are hoping that putting everything closer to the cold plate by packing the opposite side with the bags of rice will do the trick.

We heard from our friend Zbyszek in Australia that a US boat has been taken by Somali “bandits” as he calls them. The boat has the same name as a boat we met in 2006 in the South Pacific. I am anxious to hear what has happened and the names of the people onboard. Evidently there was a man and wife and two crew members. I can only hope they were somehow rescued before getting into Somali waters. Whoever they are and wherever they are, our thoughts are with them.

Day 118, Year 6 Atlantic Passage, Day 15-Fantastic Sailing

Day 118, Year 6 Atlantic Passage, Day 15-Fantastic Sailing
Date: Saturday, February 19, 2011 (1730 UTC)
Weather: Mostly Sunny; NE 9-14
Air Temperature: 81 degrees F
Latitude: 03 19.248 N
Longitude: 029 40.230 W
Miles Traveled: 1903.49
Miles to Go: 1993 (less than 2,000!!!)
Location: Passage from St. Helena to Caribbean (Grenada)

I’m most happy to report a second carefree, beautiful day of sailing in the Northeast trades. The wind is still blowing between 9 and 14 knots and depending on wind strength, we are either on a beam reach or the wind is just a little behind the beam. We are averaging better than 6 knots with speeds from 5.5 to 7.0 knots traveling more than 140 miles in a 24 hour period. The seas are a little choppy but it doesn’t seem to cause us a problem. We use all three sails during the day and furl the staysail at night. When a dark cloud goes over the wind speed increases to 13-14 knots for a short period and then back to 9-12. Windbird is basically sailing herself as we keep a watch out for ships and get in a lot of reading. We saw another ship this morning, this one going behind us heading southwest.

Today’s big task was rearranging the refrigerator and freezer. The freezer has been struggling to keep cold enough to assure that all the meat is frozen. We have been using the bottom of the freezer for meat and the top for drinks, bread, and leftovers. But this meant getting into the freezer every time we wanted a cold drink, bread for sandwiches, food for dinner, etc. So we took everything out of the top of the freezer and filled it with a down comforter carefully secured in a plastic bag. That surely filled the space and now we will only have to open the freezer every few days to get out meat. We can get out enough for a few meals and then stuff the comforter back in the top. The temperature is already going down so we think this should work. But making room in the fridge for all the things from the top of the freezer was tricky. We still have lots of carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage in the bottom part of the fridge. I can’t believe the veggies are lasting so long, but they are and that is great. As soon as some of that bulk is eaten, keeping the drinks in the top of the fridge won’t be such a problem. Mark doesn’t mind room temperature water, but I like mine COLD and I drink at least two liters of water each day. I continue to work on photos at night while on watch. I am now in Year 3 editing and naming some photos that never got done while in Indonesia. If I didn’t have my logs to refer to I would never know what I am looking at. It takes a bit of “remembering”, but I am getting the task done. After Year 3, I’ve still got Years 1 and 2 to go.

We passed the 2,000 miles-to-go point this afternoon so we are two-thirds of the way from South Africa to the Caribbean. By tomorrow morning we will have hit the half-way point between St. Helena and Grenada, so we are making progress. In fact, the time is passing incredibly quickly and I have only scratched the surface on those spring cleaning projects. So I’ll be spending my days cleaning and my nights completing photo projects from here to Grenada!

Day 117, Year 6 Atlantic Passage, Day 14-Into the NE Trade Winds

Day 117, Year 6 Atlantic Passage, Day 14-Into the NE Trade Winds
Date: Friday, February 18, 2011 (1730 UTC)
Weather: Partly Cloudy; NE 9-12
Air Temperature: 81 degrees F
Latitude: 02 04.004 N
Longitude: 027 41.963 W
Miles Traveled: 1760.34
Miles to Go: 2125
Location: Passage from St. Helena to Caribbean (Grenada)

We have left the ITCZ behind and have entered the NE trades.. During the night the winds switched from NW to NE but were only 5-7 knots, so we kept motoring. The rain stopped just about the time we sent yesterday’s log, so it was a calm, dry night. The skies were still overcast, however, so there were no stars. But the light of the moon found its way through the clouds to guide us through the night. When I went down for my morning ‘sleep’ at 10 am, nothing had changed. I no sooner settled in when I heard Mark turn off the engine. When I got up at noon, the sun was shining and we were sailing along at 6 knots in NE winds of 10-12 just behind the beam. We now have all three sails out and are able to go 6.5 knots. The ITCZ was not as wide as reported or we were in it before the winds turned to the NW. If the GRIBS are correct, we will get stronger winds ahead and will have to reef down, but for now the sailing is fantastic. It always amazes me how much difference a day can make in sea conditions.

Today was a busy one doing laundry and baking bread. The bread is in the oven right now so I think we’ll have breakfast for dinner tonight-bacon, eggs, and fresh bread. Can’t wait!

Day 116, Year 6 Atlantic Passage, Day 13-N of the Equator

Day 116, Year 6 Atlantic Passage, Day 13-N of the Equator
Date: Thursday, February 17, 2011 (1730 UTC)
Weather: Overcast, Heavy Rain; Winds NW 10-15 knots
Air Temperature: 74 degrees F
Latitude: 00 55.812 N
Longitude: 026 06.400 W
Miles Traveled: 1641.36
Miles to Go: 2295
Location: Passage from St. Helena to Caribbean (Grenada)

We crossed the equator at 7 pm and just like someone waved a magic wand, everything changed . . . not for the better. All of a sudden the swell was coming towards us instead of following us and we got wind, but from exactly the wrong direction. It first came from the N and then the NW, the direction we need to go. And then to add insult to injury, someone switched on the water and it started to rain, gentle dibble-dops at first but increasing in intensity with each hour until it finally settled into a hard rain that just doesn’t stop. It has rained like this for at least 14 hours now and we are a wet mess!

We really have absolutely no idea where this adverse wind is coming from. None of our current reports show wind from the Northwest and none of the accounts we have read about crossing the ITCZ have ever mentioned getting NW winds. Lucky us! The conditions remind us a bit of our dreadful passage from Norfolk to St. Martin as we started this circumnavigation. We got into the Gulf Stream which was heading N and the winds switched to come from the N setting wind against wave and making for miserable sailing. We had to motor hard to bash in to the waves and wind for days to get out of that one, but we are hopeful this will last only another day or two at most. We motored through the night, but this morning we decided that we should try to sail since we had 15 knots of wind. That lasted about four hours as we had to slowly keep changing course to go more N’ly and then to the NE. Since we are not interested in going back to Africa, we turned on the engine, furled the headsail, and are now motor sailing tight on the wind. We are going 1800 RPM’s, the speed that gives us the most economical fuel usage, but we can only go 2.8 to 3.5 knots depending on whether the winds are 10-12 or 12-15. Yesterday I was beginning to think that the Atlantic was going to be easy on us for this trip north, but that is no longer the case. We are right now crossing the line where the Brazilian Weather Service says the ITCZ is located. It is supposed to be 4 degrees in width (about 240 miles wide), so if we actually entered it around 7 pm last night at the equator when everything went pear-shaped, we have traveled 95 miles and have about 145 to go. Of course, traveling at 3 knots means that could take us two days. Maybe tomorrow morning the sun will rise in a clear sky and the Northeast trades will be blowing (wishful thinking) . . . or maybe not. Somehow we are able to sleep with all this commotion going on. And life went on as usual today. We worked together to defrost the freezer and we both got good daytime naps, so we are ready for another night of ugly weather. I sure hope tomorrow’s log will bring more cheerful weather news.