On 18 December 2019 I untied the lines at La Restinga in El Hierro and set sail on a 3000 nautical mile journey across the Atlantic to Martinique. I published a daily update on the following seas website. Below are those updates complete with my onboard commentary of the trip.
Continuing the story of my solo Atlantic crossing this article picks up my progress in week 2 of the passage.
Day 8 – Same same but different
December 25, 2019 1:21 PM
Another day at sea. Good conditions sailing yesterday afternoon. The wind picked up and I made slow but very comfortable progress throughout the evening. Today the wind increased further and in turn so too did the waves, though not totally in sync. It means more speed but also more movement of the boat. 4 degrees side to side. More a nuisance than anything else.
Had some of the banana cake (more like stodgy pudding) for breakfast with nutella spread on top. Wasn’t bad. It’s Christmas, not really my thing, but used some my free sat phone minutes to call home for a brief chat.
I mostly spent the day reading Alayne Main’s ‘Sailing Promise’, about a Canadian couple that circumnavigated the world in Prout Catamaran like mine. In fact slightly smaller and heavier than mine.
There’s been a bit of a battle with sun in terms of getting the most out of my solar panels. The sun moves behind my large genoa sail creating shade over the panels, so I move some of the panels to an area of sunshine. The sun then decides to hide behind a cloud. Today’s yield is poor, queue running the engine for charging. I knew I should have bought a generator.
Tomorrow I’ll do the whisker pole dance and sail on a port tack instead.
Day 9 – Nothing new
December 26, 2019 4:29 PM
Nearly 1000nm covered will be over that by the time the day is out, still not half way though yet. The winds have been fickle causing me to change tack and sail plan three times in order to keep some momentum.
On Saturday it looks like I’m in for some light wind, so I’ve started sewing my spinnaker. It got shredded en route to Madeira earlier in the summer. It looked like a lost cause, but I’ve sewn a good portion of it today, and have the rest to do tomorrow. Of course it will probably split open the first time it’s hoisted, but we’ll see.
Other than playing about with the sails, I finished my previous daytime non-fiction book, and have now started on Moneyland. It’s fitting that I plan to visit a number of the tax havens mentioned in the book.
Day 10 – My next boat is going to be a motor boat
December 27, 2019 1:52 PM
Started the day with a good 10-12knts of wind, just enough to keep me moving. I decided to experiment with a twin headsail setup with the second headsail free floating. That was working until the wind speed dropped further. Fortunately I had given up trying to sew the spinnaker and resorted to tape instead. This meant that it was ready to test. Immediately it flew (and didn’t tear itself apart) in 6-7knts of wind, and produced a boat speed of roughly 3.5-4knts. Unfortunately it was short lived as the wind level dropped further. Even the lightest of light air sails is useless when the wind is less than 3knts and the swell collapses the sail.
It seems the light wind I expecting tomorrow has arrived half a day early. At this stage the options are to wait, and enjoy a nice calm sunny day on the water, or to burn some dino juice. I’m thinking a mixture of the two. In my next life I’m going to buy an electrically powered trawler. 😉
Day 11 – Ate too much cake
December 28, 2019 3:42 PM
I spent the night becalmed and slept soundly whilst the boat lay still int the smooth glassy seas. In the morning I decided to motor and topped up with another 30l of diesel. I took advantage of the calm to make a chocolate cake. Obviously ate too much though since I’m feeling sluggish now.
Today should really be half-way-day on a 21 day crossing. It still might be in terms of time, but in terms of distance I have 1530nm to go of the original 2700. To make the scheduled 21 days I’d need an average speed of over 6 knts. Whilst not impossible. I’ve done it before, it seems unlikely. Hopefully there are still almond croissants left by the time I get to Martinique.
I’ve now found some wind on the beam and am cruising along nicely under sail, taking advantage of the cutter rig and getting all three sails working well together. Friends on s/v Twoflower left today from Mindelo, so are about 5 days behind me now. It will be interesting to see how they fair on their crossing.
Day 12 – flying kites and drinking beer
December 29, 2019 3:25 PM
The light winds continue. I sailed on at a blistering 3knts last night. That’s right, walking pace. Once the sun rose I hoisted my newly (bodged) repaired spinnaker and marvelled at its majestic colours at it propelled the boat to the dizzy speeds of 4-5knts. It has remained aloft ever since, though I’ve now rigged it as if it were an asymmetrical spinnaker rather than an old beat up symmetrical kite from days of yore.
The good news is that the repairs are holding so far. The cake is still good, and i enjoyed an Alahambra Especial beer whilst making my hoisin and spring onion noodles. The bad news is that both s/v Two Flower and s/v Hubbert are both doing over 5knts. Will they catch me I wonder.
Moneyland is my daytime read. Good but the author does waffle on unnecessarily. Still early in Dark Places. Enjoying it though. Tonight I’ll either have a mammoth reading session of that or watch ‘A Simple Favour’. I’ve no idea what it’s about. On the food front I did a stock take. Still got 1.3kg of chocolate left.
Day 13 – Half way day
December 30, 2019 4:56 PM
I didn’t bother watching ‘A Simple Favour’ in the end. It didn’t seem dark enough. Instead I poled out the genoa on a starboard tack and got some rest. Until 3:00am when the wind shifted, and I had to pole it out on port tack. Then furl it away altogether. Hoist spinnaker, take spinnaker down, turn on engine. As ever, on a route that is known for consistent winds in the 15-25 knts range, I’m finding there is a lack of wind, and what little there is, is having fun moving around from port to starboard. Today I reached the half way point in the journey in terms of miles. Just 1350nm to go. Normally that should take me nine and a half to ten days, but out here, who knows?
Now heading further south to see if the winds are more consistent there. Right at the halfway point, the heavens opened it began to rain. The wind had picked up to 10 knts then too, so I was considering hoisting the spinnaker again. Good thing I didn’t bother. Then dropped to 2.9 knts a few minutes later, and just to rub it in, it fell further to 0.6 knts. I did however cook a mean chilli cone carne, and as i was cooking enough wind came my way that i could eventually fly the spinnaker. Of course it’s now dark and price of flying it is eternal vigilance. Spinnakers can be dangerous beasts if left unattended. For the moment at least it feels good flying along at well over 7knts.
Day 14 – Night of the living squalls
December 31, 2019 8:06 PM
Squall after squall after squall has been passing through since last night. Fortunately I’ve had a conservative sail plan so haven’t had to do much. I was flying along for most of the afternoon. The forecast 8 knt winds turned out to be more like 13-20 knts. Ate a massive chilli with some sweet potato fries, then napped. I was however made to work later when the roller furling for the genoa sail malfunctioned. That needs careful watching now.
Due to the repeated squalls, the sky has been cloudy most of the day which meant very little solar charging. I took advantage of running the engine for charging to also heat some hot water. Of course the engine then stopped. After bleeding air out for system, I discovered the rubber ball pump (like the type you have on outboards) was blocked. I had a spare, but it was fun changing it with darkness approaching and short steep waves on the beam. With a bit of wind and the engine now working again I’m sailing away from the New Year at close to 5.5 knts. Hopefully I’ll already be asleep by the time is catches me in this timezone GMT -2