Ahoy from the 14th latitude of the mid-Northern Atlantic!
We’re now more than one week in and finally headed in a westerly direction toward our destination. When I last left you we were on a SSW track towards Cape Verde (an independent archipelago off the coast of Senegal, Africa), in search of suitable trade winds that promised to carry us to Martinique.
We’d been skirting the edge of an extensive area of high pressure covering much of the typical passage routes to the Caribbean. To avoid these light winds we were pushing in an almost direct southerly course toward Cape Verde. Yet wind eventually decreased to such a point that we spent the best part of two days motoring or motorsailing and using valuable diesel.
Instead of cutting the corner as planned, we opted for a precautionary detour to Cape Verde – the last Atlantic pit stop – to top up the diesel tanks and stretch our legs. On approach to the channel between Cape Verde’s Santo Antao and Sao Vincente islands the sea came to life as dozens of grey speckled dolphins leapt through the waves and approached from every direction. Welcoming us and frolicking on the bow pressure wave, it was if they hadn’t seen a boat in weeks. (surely there must be very few of us left out here now…) Doug and William agreed it was our best ever encounter with a massive dolphin pod; with two bows on the catamaran it was double the fun for the playful beauties!
Thankfully our mate Tim on Slick had given us a 12-year-old Atlantic Islands pilot guide in PDF so, given the geographical features don’t change, we made our way into Mindelo without a detailed Raymarine electronic chart. I’ve ultimate respect for the early explorers and tall ships that passed through these oceans; forced by the wind and waves whilst navigating only by their eyes and the stars. Interestingly in Mindelo Marina another Lagoon 44’ catamaran was stuck, having torn the head out of its mainsail due to UV damage (just as we had) and was awaiting repairs. Delayed a few hours playing the bureaucratic immigration game; then with a few fresh supplies, tipple at the floating marina bar, quick internet catch up and souvenir stamps in our passports, we departed again on dark. Similar to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde suffers from accelerated wind that funnels between and off the back of its islands. We sailed away in 20 – 25 knots and heaping seas with the occasional splash of whitewash finding its way up over the sugar scoops and into the cockpit.
The GRIB forecast for the coming days is not great in terms of swift trade wind sailing. Leaving Cape Verde we headed on a WSW course moving a latitude degree or two lower in hope of finding slightly stronger wind (currently we have 10 – 15 knots). With the wind angle and strength, for the most part we’ve been flying ‘big blue’ (Code 0 reaching sail; similar to a spinnaker).
We’ve already endured a three-week delay and with re-booked guests meeting us on the other side, spending days on end travelling at pitiful speeds of 3.5 and 4 nautical mile (nm) is not an option. It would easily add another week to our trip. So for now we’re motoring, motorsailing and when the wind permits, joyfully switching off the engines and sailing with a following sea rolling underneath the hull. Interested to see what week three’s forecast has in store for us as the time nears.
Yesterday we had another head-on scenario with a Japanese Long-liner fishing vessel tracking directly toward us on AIS. They did not respond to Dad’s VHF call, instead once clearly in sight about 6 nm out, they altered course slightly to port and passed down our starboard side less than a mile away. It’s incredible to not see another ship for days yet then, on this immense ocean, be plying the identical heading as another! I gave them an enthusiastic wave from the upper deck; it was not reciprocated.
Mechanically there’ve been regular checks on the autopilot hydraulic steering with a rudderpost bolt that was working itself loose and lubrication of the hydraulic ram. Another major consideration during a trip of this length is energy consumption. On a normal day sail, overnight anchorage or short passage; with our solar panels, new house batteries and 3,000-watt inventor, power usage is rarely an issue. But now we are running 24-7 with autopilot, two Raymarine chart plotters, radar scans, electric winches, two fridges and a deep freezer. When under sail only, to keep up we’ve been running the generator for an hour each morning and again after dinner to re-charge the batteries. At the same time making fresh water at 140 litres per hour, plus heating it allowing for the luxury of a mid-Atlantic hot shower every few days. Bliss!
Now that we’re moving west toward the setting sun, when conditions allow I sense a new favourite time of day will be sundowners on the bow nets; warmed by the afternoon rays and catching Mother Nature’s daily, ever-changing display.
As I write Mike, Doug and William are snoozing below deck and Dad has found another little project to keep himself occupied for a few hours – tidying up the messy Lagoon wiring behind the nav station.
Sadly, still no fish…
Just over 1,800 nm to go; catch you again in a few days time!