Bodrum, Turkey to Bridgetown, Barbados
Trip to date 6,108 nautical miles
0.00 nautical miles to Barbados
December 21, 2013
Yahoo – made it!! Arrived at 1050 this morning – 5 months from Bodrum. Barbados, low cloud, green island, multi-coloured water, 30C, 60% humidity, 20 knots breeze. Russel and Jane on “Ta-b” already here.
Great – last update. I can close the office door. Marian and I can start a holiday in the Caribbean with Andy (short timer) and Steven. Mary last seen sleeping in the snow in Turkey, somewhere near Antalya – Hi Mary.
Our final stop in the Canaries was La Gomera. Very nice marina where Australian Andrew, 41, holder of the world 1,000,000 metre rowing record had dinner with us on the Van Kedisi. Based on his previous rowing experience he was looking for a “Back, crack and sack wax” – which might be a big ask in sleepy little Gomera. Andrew and other rowers are racing across the Atlantic. I think they can be found by googling “Talisker Atlantic Challenge.” Rick thinks they should be found in an institution.
The mini-Transat for fast, light, single-handed 21 ft sailboats was also in progress during our crossing. The race was started and stopped then restarted due to weather. Craig Horsefield benefited from the restart and was able to get back in the race and finish near the top.
We left La Gomera on Sunday, November 24, 2013, heading for Barbados. It was not to be a direct flight.
The winds were favourable for the first couple of days and then turned unseasonably light and from the south. If Christopher Columbus had met these conditions in his square rigged boats he would still be there. We struggled with the conditions that pushed us south and east of our planned course. There was a bright spot, and that was Andy’s fishing – he caught a large tuna and dolphin fish (mahi mahi). Eventually we were near enough to the Cape Verde Islands that we headed there to effect a few repairs and wait a bit for the wind to fill in.
We arrived at the anchorage at Porto Grande, Sao Vicente in the Cape Verde Islands with a failed autopilot, soggy steering, fuel blockage on the port engine and electrical issues. I was concerned this could be a long delay. I went ashore to clear in. After waiting in line for 2 hours and not getting the passports stamped because the official was not there, I returned to the boat and said, “Island Time folks – slow down.” However, while in the passport line, a young German guy who delivers catamarans for charter companies between Cape Verde and the Canaries had advice for each of my problems. The autopilot was fixed 15 minutes later – I disconnected 3 Seatalk wires at the course computer and the thing worked again (our diagnosis on board was to replace the course computer). The other problems were also all resolved within 48 hours and we still had a day to spare while the wind conditions hopefully improved.
The Cape Verde islands were a pleasant surprise. We were in Africa, not Portugal who used to be the ruler. The locals speak a Creole that is based on a west African language. The place had a nice vibe and the natives were friendly! On the advice of Jonah and Emma on the Prout 37 “Pilgrim” we took the ferry across to the island of Santo Antao. On the ferry a local developer told me that the Portuguese wrecked everything when they left and the locals had to rebuild, which put them a long way behind the Canaries who benefited from good cooperation with Spain. After a buffet breakfast at the hotel a taxi took us up the steep cobblestone road through the brown volcanic landscape with scrubby bushes and cacti. As we neared the pass to the wet side the landscape changed and there was grass and large pine forests. We looked down into the extinct crater, now supporting animals and agriculture. The taxi driver let us off at Cordas and we started the 2 and 1/2 hour walk down the wide cobblestone path. What a great walk! The trail was somewhat like those in Nepal, built over hundreds of years, but with scenery from the Lost World. We shared the trail with donkeys, farmers and kids in blue school uniforms on their way home to the crudest shacks. We continued through the ever changing mountain scenery of steep farms and plantations to the village of Coculi where the taxi took us back along the new asphalt coast road to the ferry.
We left the Cape Verde Islands on December 6, with 2,020 n.m. to go to Barbados. We had light winds so we flew Marjie, the spinnaker, day and night for a few days until the 17 year old 12 mm halyard parted with a bang in 20 knots plus. John Ridsdel, who has helped with weather routing, said that when he crossed, there was Rule 1 “Do not fly the spinnaker at night” and Rule 2 “Rules are made to be broken.” I had not planned on flying the spinnaker. There were twin head-sails in the plan – but that is another story. Marjie did wonders for our daily passages until we got into the real trade winds, at last, on December 11.
25 knots +/- 10 knots day and night, right behind, for days on end. We reefed the main, poled out the reefed genoa to starboard and steered, with the autopilot, downwind. The seas were never smooth. There were squalls that brought rain, 50 knot gusts and changes in wind direction. There was the wind driven swell that eventually came from astern, but there were also swells from the north and random swells. We got used to it. “Calibrated.”
Down below, there was the constant noise of the water past the hulls which turned into a roar as we surfed down the swells, sometimes for as long as 20 seconds. In the cockpit there was the sound of the trade-wind driven waves breaking and the wind whistling in the rigging during the squalls. On the surface there were the ever present flying fish, the occasional solitary storm petrel gliding an inch above the waves and a little black bird that remains unidentified – could be the brother of the one who hitched a ride.
We were certainly faring much better than the Swedish monohull we met halfway over. Sailing with his girlfriend, rolling from gunwale to gunwale, he asked when the “storm” would be over. I had to tell him that the Grib files showed no change for the next 5 days. I sensed it was not the answer he or the girlfriend was looking for. We did not see but talked on the VHF to an Italian on a 72 ft boat trying to contact the boat in front of him, and we saw one freighter. That was it! About 1,000 miles from land in all directions and we saw only 2 boats in more than a week.
The 22 knots of steady breeze, smooth rollers and happy hour that I had hoped for finally arrived for the last few days. With the steady breeze our daily trips increased from 140 n.m. to 163 n.m. on the last day.
It is great to arrive. There will be some adjustment to not moving all the time and not being on watch.
My thanks to the crew for this last and longest leg:
- “Otto” as the autopilot has been called by countless sailors (each thinking they are the first!) Any time you stopped we were immediately reminded who is the most valuable helms-person. Please keep your partner “Stan”(dby) from making unrequested appearances.
- Andy – Great to have youth on board. You showed great tolerance in listening to old farts retell the same stories.
- David – Thanks so much for the provisioning and cooking. You came at a time when our heads were down with necessary maintenance. We ate fabulously!
- Rick – You put up with me for 3 months and always had a helping hand before a word of advice. There’s a lot to be said for that. A word comes to mind: “Won-der-ful!” Thanks mate.
- Ham radio (Icom-M802), Pactor modem and Airmail. Great to get daily weather forecasts and email from home.
- AIS – Automatic Identification (Icom-MA500TR) – shows where other boats are and if they are a danger.
- GYMSIM – Phone service that keeps the same number
- Pole for the genoa – still be out there without it
- Vacuum packed meat – lasted when the freezer became less cool
What did not work:
- Gel batteries – EverExceed 135Ah, made in China.. 3 years old. 3 of 5 failed
- ARCO after-market 100 Amp alternators. Both failed.
- Power hungry computers – inverter not big enough to handle 10 amps +
Joke of the trip (or why old guys don’t get hired):
HR interviewer: “What would you say is your greatest weakness?”
Old applicant: “My honesty.”
HR interviewer: “I don’t look on honesty as a weakness.”
Old applicant: “I don’t really give a shit what you think.”