Day 99, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 14-Snail’s Pace

Day 99, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 14-Snail’s Pace
Date: Monday, January 31, 2011, 1430 UTC
Weather: Partly Cloudy, Bright Sunshine; Winds SSE 8-10
Temperature: Water and Air 74 degrees F
Latitude: 16 24.167 S
Longitude: 004 54.134 W
Miles Traveled: 1862.18
Miles to Go: 60
Location: Passage from South Africa to St. Helena

We have been slowing inching forward today at a nice and easy snail’s pace. Just as predicted, the winds slowed down to just 8-11 just after midnight. So last night instead of the usual increased winds around midnight that I have started calling Midnight Madness, I had the very opposite. The nice thing about these winds is that they have stayed consistent and we have been able to continue sailing wing’n wing at 3 to 3.5 knots, sometimes 4.0 knots. A person could get used to this slow pace pretty quickly as long as the seas are as calm as they are now. This was a perfect speed for us today as it delays our arrival in St. Helena until the early morning hours. If it stays consistent all night we St. Helena. Once there we will turn our clocks back and be on GMT until we leave there. Then the steady countdown to Atlantic and then Eastern Standard time begins.

As with all passages, this one has been a mixed bag:

Days 1 and 2–We had two beautiful days at the start followed by three very windy, very lumpy days. On Day 1 we rounded Cape Point and sailed passed the Cape of Good Hope. The sun was shining and the sailing was delightful. The winds were 10 to 15 from the SSE and continued this way through most of Day 2. It was cool, but the sun was shining.

Days 3 through 5–But by Day 3 the skies were overcast and it felt cold. We had winds anywhere from 25 to 35 and the seas were very lumpy. The days and nights were most overcast, although the sun did peak through for a couple of hours each afternoon. The water temperature was climbing in to the 60’s and with it the air temperature. Those three days were not our most favorite.

Days 6 through 9–The next four days gave us winds in the 15 to 25 knot range, still with fairly lumpy seas. But it was so much better than the three really windy, really lumpy days, that we were greatly relieved. The air and water temperatures were now above 65 degrees F and it was starting to feel a little warmer despite those overcast skies.

Days 12 and 13-The winds decreased even more, down to 10 to 15 knots. The water temperature hit 72 degrees on Day 13 and it is starting to feel like we were heading in to the tropics–no more polar fleece, no more jackets, and short sleeved shirts. The only glitch was those overcast skies. On Day 13, yesterday, the winds decreased even more to 11 to 14 and then at midnight last night we reached the 8 to 10 knot stage.

Day 14-The skies are still cloudy but we could see stars last night and the sun has been shining all day today. The wind has stayed at in the 8 to 10 knot range and the seas are calm. The air and water temperatures are both approaching the mid-70’s. Life is good even though we are traveling slowly.

On this passage, we have seen a 20 degree increase in the water temperature since leaving the Cape and the air temperature is now in the low 70’s even at night. I think this is the most drastic increase we have encountered since heading south to New Zealand. One thing that did not work out for us on this passage was the plan to travel by the light of the moon. Our first night out the moon was nearly full and it lit up the water making it easy to see at night. The second night out, the night of the full moon, the sky was almost totally overcast, but the light of the moon still shone through giving us enough light. But by the third night, all stars had disappeared and only once in the following nights did we even get a glimpse of the shrinking moon. Last night was only partly cloudy so we could see the stars, but the crescent moon didn’t rise until almost morning. So for the most part our night watches have been totally black. So much for timing departure hoping for the light of the moon to guide us.

Right now we are traveling at about 3 knots. If we continue at that rate, it will take us 20 hours to reach St. Helena making it about noon. At some point I figure we will switch on the iron jenny and give ourselves a boost so we can arrive earlier in the morning. We have had to use the engine very little on this trip except for charging the batteries, so we feel like we can now afford to give ourselves a little assist. The next log should come to you from the tiny British island of St. Helena.

And last but not least-the big news of the day. Mr. Fix-it installed the rebuilt salt water pump (rebuilt from old parts from the salt water pump from the aft head) and on first try, it didn’t work. It was leaking salt water all over the place. So he took it out, took it apart and found the problem. One of the gaskets was crinkled. So he straightened things out, put it back together, and reinstalled it. And now it works beautifully. So the first part of our new water saving plan is in order. Now we need to get to St. Helena and see if we can buy water in containers to take with us. The good news is that after two weeks, we are still on our first tank of water. So we know the two full tanks will take us for four weeks. Now we just need back-up in case we are stuck in the doldrums for longer than we hope. And the other news is that Moose is continuing on to St. Helena without their auto helm. They will have to hand steer all the way, but they do have friends still in South Africa who are going to buy the necessary parts for repair and bring them when they sail to St. Helena. It sounds like Irene and Duncan will be in St. Helena for some time, but it sounds like an okay place to be stuck for a bit.

110131 Day 99 South Africa–Passage to St. Helena

Day 98, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 13-Busy Day

Day 98, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 13-Busy Day
Date: Sunday, January 30, 2011, 1430 UTC
Weather: Mostly Cloudy with Sun Peaking Through; Winds SSE 10 – 15
Temperature: Water and Air 72 degrees F
Latitude: 17 50.303 S
Longitude: 004 09.312 W
Miles Traveled: 1715
Miles to Go: 152
Location: Passage from South Africa to St. Helena

There has been no change in the winds since yesterday’s log. We continue to sail wing ‘n wing at a speed of about 4.5 knots, sometimes 5.0 knots, with 12-14 knots of wind coming from the SSE. We haven’t had to touch a sail in the last 24 hours and the ride is as smooth as a downwind sail with a little sea can be. If we continue at the same rate, by this time tomorrow afternoon we have about 35 miles to go. That will mean a night time arrival in St. Helena, but we know others who have gone in at night and have had no problem anchoring. We will either stand off until first light or come in at night. If it is clear and there is a little moonlight, we should be fine to go in. But we haven’t had a clear night since the beginning of the trip. As with everything else, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

We have seen no signs of life for days, but this morning a beautiful white tropic bird did a few fly-bys with her long tail trailing behind her and this afternoon a couple of small black sea birds were flitting over the water. We have also found that humans are closer than we thought. We were the second boat out of the chute leaving South Africa the week after the ARC Round the World Rally boats left, and the only boat headed directly to St. Helena. Adriatica left a couple of days before us, but they were headed to Ludertiz. Then last night we got an email that said differently. Our friends Dominique and Dominique of Kea (France) emailed that they left Hout Bay on January 13 and headed up the coast to Luderitz in Namibia. They could find no way to explore inland, so they headed on up the coast to Walvis Bay. On the way they encountered lots of fog, but once there, they were able to rent a car to do inland travels. When they got the game park they wanted to visit, they found it closed due to extreme flooding, but at least they did see some of the country while driving around. When they emailed they were about 570 miles from St. Helena, so we will probably arrive about the same time. It will be so nice to have someone there that we know.

My day started with my 4:30 am watch that got delayed until 5:00 pm because Mark let me sleep an extra half an hour on my first watch. When I got up at 0500, the engine was running to charge the batteries. I tried to download the morning email at 0600 while the engine was running. It takes lots of power to download emails, so it is best done when the motor is running. But this early attempt proved to be a frustrating one. I tried at 0600, 0630, and 0700 with absolutely no luck. Each day it has been harder and harder to get our emails out and emails in on the Pretoria station. And there are no others within thousands of miles. I was supposed to turn the engine off at 0700, but I let it run and continued to try to send and receive. I finally decided to try the Trinidad station that is almost 4,000 miles away, but even so, I did have some luck. I was able to connect but it was so slow that the three incoming emails were going to take an hour to come in. So I stopped the connection and tried Pretoria at 0730 which has worked every morning up until now. Nothing. So it was back to Trinidad and the slow connection. Actually the emails came in by 0800 just in time for me to switch to a different frequency to check in with Jan on Witchcraft. I made contact with Jan on Witchcraft, Irene on Moose, Nat on Bahati, Karen on Adriatica, and then Graham on the Maritime Mobile Net to check in and get the weather. I didn’t actually talk to Irene on Moose but she called in to Witchcraft just as I was signing off During the night, Moose’s autopilot stopped working so Duncan and Irene were headed back to Africa to Luderitz in Namibia, fighting 20 knot headwinds. When she checked in with Graham, he confirmed that E winds would be blowing off the coast for a few days so then Moose thought maybe they would just travel on steering by hand. But then Nat of Bahati called in and offered a spare autopilot. I’m not sure what the result of all this turned out to be but I’ll probably find out tomorrow morning on the net. After all the radio check-ins, many more than any day on the passage, the remainder of the morning went along like the children’s book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” If you give a mouse a cookie, then he will need a glass of milk, and if you give him a glass of milk he will need a napkin to wipe his milk moustache, and on and on. Well, if you run the engine on Windbird to charge the batteries you automatically get hot water, and if you have hot water you should take a shower, but before you take the shower you should probably cut Mark’s hair while things are relatively calm, and after you cut his hair and take a shower, you might as well use the water to do a laundry, and if you do a laundry, you have to rinse it, wring it out, and find someplace to hang it to drip dry, and by this time you are exhausted and you should take a nap. So I did.

This afternoon was a bit calmer. Mark has spent his time removing a salt water pump from the bathroom and one from the galley, and using the good parts of the one from the bathroom to rebuild the one from the galley. He probably won’t install that until tomorrow, so I’ll have to report on the success (I hope) at that time. We did have more sunshine today than normal. Clouds still covered the sky, but today the ones overhead were wispy and the sun could shine through. But while writing this log, the complete, dense cloud cover returned and we just went through a little squall. It looks like the squall brought even more southerly winds, so I had better go do a little navigating as Mark is still elbow deep in water pump parts.

Day 97, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 12-Slow Go

Day 97, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 12-Slow Go
Date: Saturday, January 29, 2011, 1430 UTC
Weather: Overcast, Then Partly Sunny; Winds SE 10 (+ or – 5)
Temperature: Water and Air 69 degrees F
Latitude: 19 29.536 S
Longitude: 003 26.123 W
Miles Traveled: 1605
Miles to Go: 257
Location: Passage from South Africa to St. Helena

Slow go is better than no go, and slow go it has been today. Gradually we have gone from 150+ mile days to 120 mile days and this is where we’ll stay until we arrive at St. Helena. That is, this is where we’ll stay if we are lucky and keep the winds we have. People behind us are suffering more than we are as the forecast is for lighter and lighter winds as we get into this next week, so they are looking at a long passage to St. Helena or turning on the iron jenny. We sailed wing ‘n wing all night with winds in the 10 to 15 knot range, always coming from directly behind us. Once we were both up and about this morning, the winds became more easterly and we put all three sails out full on a broad reach. But the easterly change was short lived and an hour later we were back to winging it downwind. Then the winds went down to 6 knots and we hit our limit. When we are moving forward at only 3 knots, we turn on the engine. We motor sailed for about two hours and then just after noon the 10 to 14 knot winds returned. So we are lazing along at 4+ knots with 10 knots of wind pushing us along. But we’ll not complain. It is fairly calm, we are moving forward, and it feels good to be a little lazy for a change. We will probably still arrive in St. Helena on Tuesday morning, so all is well.

It was so calm this afternoon that I got motivated to start a “spring cleaning” regime. I realize it is not spring for you, but it is mid-summer down here so spring cleaning is months overdue. I started by making a list. Just doing that gave me the incentive to get a couple of things done this afternoon and it feels good to start checking things off the list. Mark is deep into Michener’s Caribbean and he has a hard time pulling himself away. But he did service one of our secondary winches that had gotten a bit tight and he did some tidying up on deck. When we left Simon’s Town we hung our fenders on the sissy bars up by the mast and hung all of our docklines on the stern rail. I had wanted those things reversed, so he did that today. He also pickled the watermaker as it won’t be in use until we reach the Caribbean and get the necessary parts for repair. I have slowed down on Winchester’s Atlantic as I have been working on getting the remainder of our South Africa photos edited and ready to be uploaded in St. Helena. I’m hopeful that I’ll actually get them all done, so I’ll be up-to-date on photos by the time we leave St. Helena for the Caribbean. At least that’s the goal.

Day 96, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 11-Day of Sail Changes

Day 96, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 11-Day of Sail Changes
Date: Friday, January 28, 2011, 1430 UTC
Weather: Overcast; Winds SE 12-14, 16-18
Temperature: Water 69 degrees F; Air 69-73 degrees F
Latitude: 20 59.094 S
Longitude: 002 16.262 W
Miles Traveled: 1493
Miles to Go: 367
Location: Passage from South Africa to St. Helena

Today has been the day of sail changes. After 48 hours of wing and wing sailing without having to touch a sail, today was a chore. The wind speed has been up and down, up and down, all day long, and the wind direction changes just enough that we need to adjust to stay on course for St. Helena. So we went from wing and wing to broad reach to wing and wing to beam reach to wing and wing to broad reach, and on and on. Right now we are back to wing and wing but the wind is definitely more easterly. The Atlantic Ocean high is sitting just below us and is now off to the east toward Africa just a bit, sending those more easterly winds our way. Our friends from Hout Bay, Bruce, Nadine, and Tristen Tedder wrote a day or so ago and said they hoped we were now in the “sunny, steady trade winds.” We have had fairly steady winds, but the sun is something we only see for a couple of hours each day. But we are still making good progress and it is warm enough to be very comfortable. But I must report that yesterday’s recorded water temperature was a mistake. I report only surface temperature as I have to lower an aquarium thermometer into the water and drag it in the wake for a few minutes, always in the shade. If this is done when the sun is beating down on the thermometer, it gives a higher reading. Yesterday I lowered it, tied it off, and forgot about it. While I was napping, Mark took it out and recorded the temp as 71 degrees. But when I asked him about it today, he said he thought the sun was shining when he pulled it out of the water. So that’s probably the reason for the higher temp.

My sister-in-law Sue wrote and asked if there are other boats close by. Good question and the answer is that other boats are head this way, but they are not close. So here’s a quick summary of who is where. Constance, Ed and Lynne, are somewhere between Richards Bay and Simon’s Town. Far Niente, Peppe and Bob, are in Mossel Bay. Odulphus is still in Simon’s Town as far as we know. Adriatica, Karen, CJ, and Douglas, left Simon’s Town two days before us, stayed along the coast and went to Luderitz in Namibia, and are now on their way to St. Helena. The same is true of Key of Day, except that they left a day after us. We had radio contact with Adriatica today and I must admit it was good to hear a familiar voice. Bahati, Nat and crew from Maine, are about a week behind us, as are two Dutch boats, Witchcraft and Jo-Anne. All of these boats are headed our way, but unless they all move really fast, we will have left St. Helena before they get there. Moose, Irene and Duncan, are also back there somewhere, but I think they are headed directly to Rio de Janeiro and will not be stopping in St. Helena. So of the boats we have been traveling with, I guess for now we are leading the pack.

Today was a bread and granola baking day. I smell the granola in the oven which means it is time to go down and mix it a bit, so I’ll end the log for today.

Day 95, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 10-Crossing the Prime Meridian

Day 95, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 10-Crossing the Prime Meridian
Date: Thursday, January 27, 2011, 1430 UTC
Weather: Overcast ’til Late Afternoon; Winds SE 15-20
Temperature: Water 71 degrees F; Air 68-73 degrees F
Latitude: 22 47.384 S
Longitude: 000 53.161 WEST!!!
Miles Traveled: 1358
Miles to Go: 500
Location: Passage from South Africa to St. Helena

Windbird is not “Back in the USA,” but she is back in the tropics and back in the Western Hemisphere. All of this happened in the last 24 hours. At exactly 1106 UTC or GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) on my midnight watch, we crossed the Prime Meridian. Around 1230 UTC or GMT this afternoon we crossed the 23rd degree of latitude and entered the tropics. I missed the moment because I was in the aft cabin rolling up the down comforter we used while in Simon’s Town and the three fleece blankets we needed at the beginning of this passage. The air temperature today started out at 68 degrees F and now it is 73 degrees and the water temperature if 71 degrees. This is much more civilized. We can once again wear short pants and short sleeved shirts and use only a sheet to cover us while sleeping. We have spent most of the past five plus years in the tropics, only dipping south to New Zealand to get out of the Pacific cyclone season at the end of our first year. We are now in the Tropic of Capricorn and will cross the equator at about the latitude of the northeast corner of Brazil. That will mark our entry into the Tropic of Cancer. The hard part will be leaving the tropics as we sail from Puerto Rico to Florida. I’m going to have a very hard time letting go of the tropical life.

Entering the Western Hemisphere last night was a true landmark in the voyage of Windbird around the world. We exited the Western Hemisphere the night we left Minerva Reef headed for New Zealand on Friday, November 10, 2006. In the log on that day I wrote, “The longitude will now count down from 180 instead of building up to 180. In our voyage around the world, we are making progress.” It took us 387 days that first year to reach that point, the Ante Meridian. The crossing last night had the opposite feeling expressed on that day. Crossing back into the Western Hemisphere hits us with the reality that we are getting closer to home and closer to ending the round the world voyage of Windbird. I can hardly stand to write that without getting teary eyed. Of course, we are anxious to get home to family and friends, but it is a good life out here that we have both embraced and will have a hard time letting go of. The other way being back in the Western Hemisphere really affects our daily lives is the time of day. Greenwich Mean Time is the time by which all other time in the world is set. Sailors sometimes call this ZULU, and I have no idea why, while HAM operators and most weather information refer to it as UTC (Universal Time Coordinated). But whether GMT, UTC, or ZULU, the terms are all referring to the time on the clock in Greenwich, England, that keeps the world’s official time. Eastern Standard Time is five hours behind GMT and South Africa is two ahead. Each hour represents a new time zone. So we have passed through two time zones since leaving South Africa and will pass through four more to reach Eastern Standard Time somewhere in the Caribbean. St. Helena should be in one time zone to the west of GMT, but because it is a British, it keeps GMT time. Windbird is staying on South Africa time until we arrive in St. Helena at which time we will gain two hours on our day of arrival.

The weather and wind has stayed exactly the same today as yesterday, the only difference being the slight increase in air temperature. The new Atlantic Ocean High is now at 33 degrees S and 12 degrees W, and the forecast is now for the “Same, Same” through Sunday instead of a weekend with no wind. That was the news of the midday radio sched and it was good news indeed. We might make St. Helena by Monday afternoon. We could have made it sooner if we hadn’t had to zig zag one way and then the other to keep on course. We have already added about a 140 miles to our original total which is a whole 24 hours extra of sailing. But we haven’t had to use the motor, so we have been saving that expensive diesel for the doldrums where we know we will need it!

Day 94, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 9–Watermaker No More

Day 94, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 9–Watermaker No More
Date: Wednesday, January 26, 2011, 1430 UTC
Weather: Partly Sunny; Winds SSE 15 (+5/-5)
Temperature: Water 68 degrees F; Air 69 degrees F
Latitude: 24 44.381 S
Longitude: 000 31.211 E
Miles Traveled: 1228
Miles to Go: 640
Location: Passage from South Africa to St. Helena

Before getting to the watermaker woes, I’ll just mention that the last 24 hours were identical to the previous 24-bright and sunny from 3 pm to 6 pm, then a 100 per cent cloud cover that drops like a curtain as the sun sets and remains until the next afternoon. Winds are 15 knots, plus or minus 5 knots, from the SE or SSE, increasing to 24 from about 10:30 pm to sometime in the middle of the night. We also had extra fluky winds this morning with dark gray clouds and periods of 25 knots. We are sailing perfectly downwind and therefore rolling a bit, but all is well. At the suggestion of Alan Kanegsberg, a friend from back home, today Mark installed a make-shift preventer to replace the one that we broke a few days ago. This arrangement take a long line that is attached to the back end of the mast, taken forward and put through a block at the base of the chain plate at the bow and then brought back to the aft of the boat and cleated off. Alan emailed that Don Street, a sailor-writer, promotes this type of arrangement. So, Alan, thanks for the suggestion.

As fate would have it, Mark’s sister Mary Ellen is once again going to have to bring us watermaker parts. When we were on our way to Tahiti from the Marqueses in the Pacific during our first year of this voyage, our water maker failed. Back then we had a SAT phone, so we called West Marine to order a new one and Mark’s sister Mary Ellen and husband Lee delivered to us when they joined us in Papeete. Just yesterday Mary Ellen emailed confirmation that they will once again join us, this time when we arrive in the Caribbean in Grenada. Mark’s brother Steve will also join us there and his other sister Jeanie will meet all of us in St. Martin about three weeks later. Mary Ellen doesn’t know it yet, but once again she is going to come to our rescue, albeit a bit late for this long passage across the Atlantic. This time we don’t need a complete watermaker, just the rebuilt kit, but without a couple of gaskets in that kit, our watermaker is not going to run. I had high hopes that Mark could get it working, but not so. I did not realize that we didn’t have a full rebuild kit. I guess we had this same problem somewhere, used the critical gaskets, and forgot to order more. Since there is no airport in St. Helena, there is zero chance of getting anything sent there. So we are going to seriously practice water conservation. We have never had to use salt water for washing our dishes, but we will start that when we leave St. Helena. You wash with salt water and rinse with fresh. The salt water pump in the galley hasn’t worked forever, but we do have one in the aft head that we never use, so Mark will take that one and replace the faulty one in the galley. We will also limit ourselves to one shower a week. Some of you remember when it was the norm to have only one bath a week, so we are just going back in time a few decades. I’ll use the shower water to wash essential clothing, but I think the laundry bag will be very full by the time we reach Grenada. When reading about the anchorages there, I see the word “laundry” and that will be a welcome sight! We will buy as much extra water as we can in St. Helena and then just discipline ourselves for the next month or so.

And while speaking of going back in time, I’ll share some of the comments about St. Helena written by Simon Winchester in Atlantic, the book I am currently reading. I guess ‘studying’ is really what I am doing. I read and reread and mark important facts, but I’m starting to realize that every single page is just jam-packed with information about the Atlantic that I want to remember. In one chapter Winchester writes about some of the great cities on the Atlantic. He mentions New York City, Cape Town, Santo Domingo on Hispaniola, Cadez in Spain, and then Jamestown on the island of St. Helena. At some point in his reporting career, Winchester was sent to St. Helena to write a story about a Saint (the term still used to refer to people who live on St. Helena) who had committed a murder and was to be sent back to England for trial. Before leaving England, Winchester writes what he had learned about St. Helena before departing England. “There were seldom crimes of any seriousness on the island, I had been told-in fact, most islanders were so well mutually disposed that there was an alarming abundance of bastard children, known when they turned up at weddings as “spares.” I was also told the local policemen had very little to do and were known as “the toys”; and that the Jamestown jail was so small and made so stuffy by the equatorial heat that inmates were let out each afternoon to go swimming in the Atlantic.” He decided that this was a kind of place that he just had to see: “a mid-ocean colonial possession of great antiquity where life, it seemed from afar, was lived with less gravity than in most places elsewhere.” When he arrived he found there was no dock and everyone had to be transferred to a lighter to get to shore. “But the panorama as the launch chugs in toward the crowded little pierhead seems lifted straight from an eighteenth century-print, with nothing changed or edited.” The final comments that have me hooked on this place state that Jamestown turned out to be “a tiny Atlantic-side city quite unlike any other, and in scale and style and manner just exquisite. Jamestown truly is a work of art, an Atlantic Ocean art at that.” I can’t wait to see this little town on a little island in this immense Atlantic Ocean. There is no airport, no cell phones, no ATM machines, and last year when friends arrived on a Sunday with no way to get St. Helena money until Monday morning, the hotel in town let them “charge” dinner on a promise to pay them later. I think I’m going to like it.