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Greetings from the sea – 350 nautical miles off the coast of Mauritania, Africa. Having torn our original Lagoon mainsail on departure day of the Atlantic Odyssey rally, it was a long and patient three weeks sitting in Tenerife awaiting a replacement. Though I’m pleased to report we’re finally on our way to the Caribbean! Earlier in January the rally fleet set out into a week of strong trade winds. This allowed many of the boats to head west immediately, following the rhumb line and most direct route to Martinique. For our passage, the GRIB weather forecast shows a massive area of high pressure and light winds to our west. Thus we’ve little option but to track the southern-most route, currently sailing SSW toward Cape Verde and turning somewhere between latitude 17° and 15° where the established trade wind belt is expected to blow 15 – 20 knots from the east. Travelling at these lower latitudes increases our chances of encountering tropical squalls, but also means it’ll warm up sooner. We’ve already felt a welcome change in the air temperature and cannot wait to get some colour back into our skin.

Atlantic Ocean crossing-2So far, all is well! The first two days our progress was steady making 160 and 158 nautical miles (nm) respectively. But again the GRIB shows a band of light wind filling in behind us, with wind dropping to 7 – 15 knots over the last 48 hours. It now feels we’re aboard the slow boat to China making a pitiful 3.5 knots on occasion; averaging 4 – 6 knots. We’re making forward headway, just much slower than hoped.

In the third 24 hours we made only 125 nm and have just clocked a woeful 112 nm for the fourth (due to the time we departed Tenerife on Wed 28th, our trip’s 24 hour clock re-starts daily at 12:30 pm UTC). In the light downwind we’ve been swapping between ‘big blue’ (Code 0 reaching sail) and the Parasailor. Like the mainsail, the Parasailor is getting on in age and has unfortunately suffered some broken webbing strings on the wing when the sail collapsed then snapped back full, keeping Dad busy with a needle and twine. With the Parasailor in for repairs, the first time ever a gull-winged rig including poled-out big blue and the foresail has been pushing finally my darling along gently.

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There are five of us on board, myself (Brooke), Dad (Captain Col), Mike and we’ve been joined by friends and experienced UK sailors Doug Gardiner and his 13-year-old son William. We’re running 4 x 3 hour watches between 9 pm and 9 am. With plenty of siestas throughout the day everyone is well rested so far. Mike usually takes care of majority of cooking but with a backwards-facing galley he quickly suffers from motion sickness when underway, so I’ve happily taken on responsibility of keeping the crew well fed. Thanks to a sweet deep freezer and two fridges, the only canned meal planned to serve on board is baked beans on toast for breakfast. That is unless of course, we are still out here three weeks later, which at this rate…

I was concerned for Mike and William who both declared they were bored on day two. Oh dear! The sail and autopilot generally look after themselves, so to pass the time there’s reading, watching movies, card games, cooking, eating, snoozing, boat maintenance, writing, video editing and snoozing some more. I for one am a bit of an Internet addict, so it’s been incredibly refreshing to be completely disconnected.

Atlantic Ocean crossing-10 Atlantic Ocean crossing-11 Atlantic Ocean crossing-5 Atlantic Ocean crossing-4On watch just before midnight yesterday, Dad and William were kept on their toes after a close encounter with a commercial fishing boat that was travelling at speed, unlit, with no AIS and was undetected on an earlier 24-mile radar sweep. The vessel was only spotted when it flicked on a rotating orange strobe and back-deck working lights to warn of its presence. The ship did not respond to Dad’s call on the VHF and once we’d change course 20° to port, it steamed past only a nautical mile distance down our starboard side. Proof that we are not alone out here on this vast ocean and keeping a vigilant watch at night is imperative!

We’ve been visited by two pods of dolphins; a confused, low flying sea bird; one small squid has beached itself on deck; but no flying fish as yet and more disappointingly no fish caught! So far all is pretty low-key. Following sea conditions are comfortable, a full moon is on its way in and we’ll continue to slowly sail SSW to avoid the extensive area of high-pressure that would otherwise becalm us like a bobbing bathtub toy. Anticipate excitement will kick up a notch (and hopefully the boat speed along with it) when we turn west for Martinique in a day or twos time. That’s all for now, thanks for checking in!

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  1. Jan Rayner says

    All sounds great for you all, any chance of sighting whales do you think? We are enjoying watching your progress

  2. Bruce says

    Following your progress from Caloundra , Sunshine Coast. Enjoying your description and photos. Visited the Canaries and Cape Verde on a cruise ship before Xmas 2014 and have a good feel for your location. Thanks

  3. John and Tess Branch says

    Nothing wrong with slow and steady on a mild sea, better than humping it through rough ones. Just lay back and enjoy your life, the one that millions of people would love to have. Col, you have done a fantastic job to follow your dream and be able to take some family with you. Good sailing!! John and Tess.

  4. Julie and Warren says

    Fabulous to hear all is going great. We did a cruise to the Caribbean back in 2007, from the places we visited our favourite island was St Thomas. Can’t wait to see your photos. Safe sailing until your next update.

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