Next stop the Caribbean!

So this is our last night in Mindelo, tomorrow at 1pm we head off with 73 other yachts for Rodney bay in St Lucia. We hope to be there in about 14-16 days but that will depend on the wind and direction.

Mindelo is a very poor area with beggars, stray dogs and cats everywhere. Locals either just stand around talking or the more enterprising run a business on the kerb, such as bicycle repairs!

The crew went on a half day tour of the island and followed up by visiting an orphanage the next day. They have so little here but still remain positive…. perhaps they just don’t know any different?

The marina pontoons have been plagued with electricity outages, and as electricity allows water to the pontoons, many yachts were getting low and worried they’d be leaving without water in their tanks! Power cuts are common here, but the marina need to have reliable contingency plans in place.

We will update the blog daily….. now we have the access code 😊

Las Palmas to Mindelo

Before starting this long entry I’d like to send our huge thanks to James & Bex from yacht Hepzibah for finding the special email address within wordpress to allow us to send this entry from mid Atlantic. These guys are a year behind us & we look forward to a cold beer together soon.

By 12:00 all rally yachts were on the water jockying around for position near the start line, which was way too narrow in our opinion. Nick took the helm once we’d left the marina as he’d taken part in numerous racing events and I left the positioning to his skill & judgement. Crossing the start line at about 3 knots was a bit on the slow side but it was the same for everyone and we did chuckle a bit as we stole a German yachts wind to find clear air! We decided to sail south east away from the wind acceleration zone, as did many others before heading south,& settled into a watch keeping system well (once the excitement of such a big occasion had reduced). The first night was probably the best we could’ve hoped for with good winds and so many stars to look at, it took/takes your breath away. The fleet spread out quickly, quicker than I thought it would and after a couple of days we rarely saw anything, meaning there wasn’t too much of a problem of us crossing over each others track… but this has happened on the way down including one yacht (should I name names?) who, despite being the give way yacht,forced us to take avoiding action and crossed 600 feet in front of us in the middle of the night and wouldn’t answer the radio. Turns out the same yacht did it to another 1 hour earlier forcing them and us to alter course by more than 20 degrees not knowing what their intentions were……. sod it, the yacht was try2fly. Not impressed at all!

We’ve sailed for about 700 miles only using the engine to charge the batteries which just don’t seem to be lasting as long as they should, with speeds up to 9.6 knots and winds gusting at 34 knots, but Friday afternoon we were forced to use engine propulsion as there is some weather heading our way with swells of 5 metres. With the engine on and now very little wind to help, our eta in Mindelo is Saturday about 22:00hrs… a night approach which isn’t ideal but so be it.

Highlights are lots of small things which together make ocean sailing so exciting especially sharing with my family and friends on board. I managed a quick phone call to my parents on Friday, it was great speaking to you Dad!

Lowlights…. still caught no fish AND having to clear our blocked holding tank. If anyone reading this doesn’t know what that is, best google it and have a bucket ready !!!

So this is me now handing the blog entry over to the crew for their thoughts…. if they can be arsed πŸ™‚

……………….

Following 2 weeks of preparations in Las Palmas I think we were all glad to be on our way and sailing away from concerns about quantities of food, water,fuel etc. What will be, will be and it seems very unlikely that we will starve or die of thirst along the way. After a good start (hold back and avoid the confusion),the first 686 miles gave us a mix of wind conditions from light to moderate and led to some excellent sailing. We have learned a lot about down wind sailing on this leg and hope to put that to good use when we set off for the 2nd leg. Regrettably light winds have reduced our speed below 3knts and we are now motoring for the finish.

Nick …
The notional skipper ( I say that because we all know Caroline is in charge here) has avoided doing any cooking despite his promise to learn before we set off and more over has failed to catch any fish to supplement our gargantuan food supplies! Personally I am grateful for this as the only tuna I like does not come thumping and bleeding onto the deck but calmly arrives in tins and bathed in olive oil. Talking of fish we have been fortunate to see plenty of dolphins and a single sighting of a 8m whale that came to surface alongside the boat, breathed out and presumably in before
disappearing to avoid any camera activity. Anyway I must get back to reading my novel and let the next person have a go. Signed lowly crew member.

Carol…
Very pleased with myself as haven’t felt ill once and still enjoying my cups of tea.
All food on board is to an excellent standard and the time passes surprisingly quick.

Caroline ….. “can’t be arsed” !!!

Charlotte…… “I’m too busy tanning”

Hopefully there’s some wifi and we’ll upload some photos over the weekend.

Silhouette standing by…

The big day

So after years of dreaming & 3 years of planning, today we leave Las Palmas for the Caribbean!

The last week has been spent at seminars relating to emergencies at sea, provisioning, communications, weather & routing … not to mention parties.

Charlotte went to the ARC office to tell them how many persons were attending each seminar and accidentally signed Silhouette up as one of the SSB net controllers….. thanks Charlotte!

The fancy dress party was themed as “a night in Rio” which was a big success. Many crews made a big effort, with prizes for the best fancy dress in various categories. Silhouette didn’t win despite a valiant attempt, but well done to the winners with their own interpretation of the theme 😊

Provisioning was made easier than it could’ve been by the various supermarkets & others delivering directly to the boat. This is a great service which they are well practiced at…. all we had to do was find space to put it all.

Our yellow brick tracker has been fitted and transmits our position every 4 hours. You can see where we are either by going onto the ARC website, clicking fleet viewer and search for Silhouette or download the app for the YB tracker.

As long as we get a good signal, we’ll update daily without photos giving you our thoughts on ocean sailing. The idea is to get all onboard to contribute which might be a challenge as we’ll need to factor in the “can’t be arsed” contingent !!!

Next sight of land should be in about 6 days and 900 miles.

 

7 days to go!

Las Palmas marina has been filling up with yachts flying ARC+ flags, in fact the marina looks full not to mention the main ARC fleet of 200 slowly arriving! The staff are very well practised and efficiently chuck out resident boats πŸ™‚

Our crew, Nick & Carol arrived last week meaning we are now fully crewed. Nicks keen eye has led to some improvements to our set up making sail changes quicker and safer…. he is actually enjoying spending my money! We have sheets (ropes) set up all along the deck now and have also lashed the petrol generator on the coach roof.

This means when we need to use it for the watermaker we don’t have to lift it out of a locker which could be impractical at sea. We hired a car for 3 days and managed to get to see some of Gran Canaria, passing the airport on the way south. There we saw a large number of wind turbines indicating that area has a lot of wind, which we will pass by next week!

The ARC office opened and we were allocated a check in time. This involved confirming our details were complete and up to date, issuing crew passes, papers and allocating a time slot for our yacht safety inspection. Fortunately we were well prepared as our inspection was booked in 4 hours after our check in !Β  Our inspector was Chris Tibbs who is very well known as a blue water sailor and weather guru. Everything was fine and we can now relax and enjoy the build up including the many sundowner drinks and pontoon parties.

Provisioning is now taking place, we decided to carry enough to last all the way to St Lucia just in case the Cape Verde stopover was short on items which we can easily get here in Las Palmas.

Our next entry will be on the start day in 7 days. Hopefully we will be able to update the blog daily via SSB or sat phone, but you will be able to track our progress through the official ARC website which give position updates every 4 hours.

Las Palmas

We were only going to stay in Marina Rubicon for a couple of days but it was such a great place we decided to make it a base for 3 weeks giving me the opportunity to fly back to England for a week to surprise family and pick up some items which were much much cheaper in the UK. Rubicon offers discounts for ARC participants, OCC members, CA members……. I do think they would offer discounts if you showed them ANY card !!! To be honest they don’t need to as the facilities are first class, but naturally we took the discount. One thing we did notice was, this was the only place where they actually measure your boat so if you have a dinghy on the back or a removable bowsprit, it can easily push your price banding into the next one up!!!

While I was running around like a headless chicken in the UK (still don’t know how that’s possible?!) the ladies were relaxing by the marina pool and generally socialising with other boat owners. When I got back we began looking at the best time to head out towards Fuerteventura. We were booked into Las Palmas marina (the ARC start point) on 15th October but had time to spend a few nights anchoring…. or so we thought! We’d noticed hurricane Leslie which had developed to our west, couldn’t make its mind up where to go but was due to hit Madeira on the 13th with 7 metre swells. This was going to be an issue for all of the Canary islands too with big swells developing from the 12th-16th. With this in mind we decided to leave Rubicon late afternoon on the 12th and get to Las Palmas at first light on the 13th before the weather hit in force.

The first half of the 96 miles was beautiful sailing hitting nearly 8 knots at times, we saw our first whale too as it breached the surface and its huge tail flipped up. By the time we’d got the camera out it was gone… Because we’d sailed so quickly earlier on it looked like we were going to arrive at 4am which was way too early, but the wind completely died at midnight so we motored very slowly reaching the very very brightly lit port at dawn. Caroline felt she was being stalked by the “Independence of the Seas” as it kept turning towards us then bearing away. As it turned out we were both going into port at the same time and I think we were in its way !

Check inΒ  was much slower than it should’ve been as the staff couldn’t access our file which they’d asked for months ago (to make check in quick!) but eventually we were allocated a berth. It’s a big marina with ARC yachts spread out all over it. We did think all the ARC yachts would be in one place but its a mammoth task for the marina to fit everyone in, so mustn’t grumble !

The area is hugely commercial with oil rigs, tankers and cruise ships all around. There is a small anchorage just to the north of the marina entrance with a beach but not very appealing. That said it is certainly the place to be if you want any work done as literally everything is on hand.

So here we are almost 6 months & 2349 miles after leaving our home port, at the start point of the Atlantic crossing. Our crew Nick & Carol arrive on the 25th with the formal process beginning on the 2nd November. We have a few small jobs to do including clearing their cabin out of all the junk, filter changes & fit anti chafe on the spreaders, but the socialising has already begun with a meal in the famous Sailors bar with Simon & Nina (Safena) who I did the sea survival course with back in March… small world eh!

It has also been decided that I need to do more cooking ………

Lanzarote ho !!!

We left Lagos bound for Graciosa, a small island just to the north of Lanzarote, a distance of around 540 miles in company with Allegrini & eMotion. The forecast was for northerly winds between 12-18 knots which was pretty much what we got….. eventually.

The day started off with winds from the west which gave us a very quick start with only a couple of metres of swell. The first night we were treated to clear skies and so many stars we didn’t know where to look first! Settling into watch pattern was 3 on 3 off which we did crossing Biscay and worked well. Day watches were fairly relaxed with quizzes between the 3 yachts passing time and discussing the highly charged topic of our power generating abilities through wind and solar…… (this topic will get a VERY in depth entry shortly). The children on eMotion asked us to guess their parents age….. don’t think Sven was too impressed when Allegrini said he was 75 !!!

eMotion downloaded a weather (grib) file through their sat phone on day 1, Allegrini via SSB on day 2 and we did via SSB on day 3. Interestingly after Allegrini’s download they lost their AIS which is a transmit/receive piece of equipment detailing vessels in the area. We lost our receiving ability when we downloaded on day 3 which was very odd.

eMotion lost their ability to charge their batteries with their engine alternator relying on their solar panels, meaning they switched most electrical items off at night. We all stayed within sight of each other though which was reassuring.

Our 4th night left us with about 100 miles to go and shipping started to appear with one very large one crossing our bows 0.3 miles in front…. I can assure you in the open seas pitch black, it looked “really close” !!!

As dawn broke we were treated to the sight of Isla de Alegranza the first volcanic island of the canaries. For some it was “just” 540 miles, for us it was really quite something & a huge milestone. An hour later we were anchored in a bay on the south side of Graciosa in the clearest water we’d ever seen. In fact when we first saw the seabed we thought we were about to hit bottom only to realise we were still in 10 metres.

After a celebratory full english breakfast onboard Allegrini, I decided to dive under the boat in the clear water and found our maxprop anode literally hanging off. We carry spares but were lucky not to lose it and the bolts which we don’t have spares for…. note to self !

The next day after a good rest we sailed down the west coast of Lanzarote and are now in the stunning marina at Rubicon to make some minor repairs and improvements. There are worse places to stay as the marina has a swimming pool too!

 

Downtime in the Algarve

Our route to the Algarve on Portugal’s southern coast meant rounding the Cape of St Vincent which can be a pretty rough place. We had calm winds until reaching the headland which is the most southwestern point on mainland europe, and instantly the wind built up to 26 knots blowing from exactly the direction we wanted to go…. Welcome to the Algarve!

We emailed the marina in Lagos to ask about a berth but as they were nearly full we were quoted 142 euros a night….. “I don’t think so!!!” so we carried on to Portimao and anchored inside the harbour.

Portimao is actually set a couple of miles back from the beach area and is very pretty, what you see on arrival is the beach area of Rocha and it’s party central with thumping music until 4am and lots of fast boat rides screaming out all day. The beach and small town of Ferragudo to the east of the harbour was simply stunning though and meals ashore very reasonable at 11.50 euros for choices of 2 courses and drink !

We moved on east to Culatra an island near Faro some 35 miles away and anchored in a lagoon where we were to meet up with friends we last saw in Cobbs quay back in March. James & Bex on “Hepzibah” left before us heading towards Greece but in the end they slowed down and we realised there was a chance we might catch up…. well catch up we did. I’m pretty sure we’d all been peeling onions as we saw them πŸ™‚

Culatra is beautiful with no vehicles, just a few tractors and a few people live on the island all year round. The small harbour is built up around fishing but there is certainly a tourism presence too but not tacky at all. Tourists come for the quiet and beaches.

After 6 great days it was time to head back towards Portimao which meant saying goodbye toΒ  James & Bex yet again…. more onion peeling. We did a sail past playing the “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme tune hoping to see them there one day!

Caroline managed to meet up with a couple of old work colleagues Chloe & Alana along with boyfriend, mum & partner. We took them all for a day sail & played in the water on the RiB and SUP which was hilarious, another great day catching up.

As you can read, the last 3 weeks have been fairly static not sailing too far. Originally we thought about going to Gibraltar but felt we might get stuck there with strong winds which are a normal occurance at the gates to the Med, so decided to have downtime instead.

As I write this Steve & Helen on Allegrini have caught up, and we’ve been in Lagos for the last 2 days (the price much better now the season is over). Today we leave for Lanzarote about 540 miles away which will take around 4 days. There are 3 yachts leaving here together, as we have become friendly with another ARC+ yacht from Norway, a family with 3 young children.

 

Next post from the Canaries!!!