One thousand nautical miles to go! I’m delighted to report we’re finally on the home stretch. On realising what could’ve been a 2,600 nm passage had we been able to sail the rhumb line, was depressingly turning into a trip closer to 3,000 nm; we decided to postpone a halfway party and instead celebrate when the remaining distance was down to three figures. So what if we took the scenic route across the Atlantic…?
After sailing swift winds departing Cape Verde, we next played a frustrating game of cat and mouse chasing the forecast wind further south, ultimately adding more distance to our overall passage. Thankfully we found a solid 15 – 20 knots for several days, sailing at times under main and foresail and a few blissful days and nights cruising along under our brilliant Parasailor. Given the trade winds are still very much NE to ENE, we’ve managed to keep the Parasailor aloft with an apparent wind angle of 110 degrees. Meaning we’ve had the sail efficiently flying far diagonally off the port forward quarter, rather than just directly forward of the bow.
The Parasailor is fantastic for downwind trade wind sailing but it’s important to keep a close watch for chafing of sheets (ropes) where they cross shrouds, lifelines and stanchions or through blocks. We’ve attached garden hose, gaff tape, old towel – whatever works to protect the sheets from wearing.
There were a few days with a confused double swell. A short following swell and a longer side-on swell that’d likely travelled a great distance from a heavy low-pressure system off the American east coast. Whenever turning slightly upwind, a constant slamming of waves catching under the hull and movement from the converging swell made conditions uncomfortable and sleeping difficult.
Since then we’ve endured three solid days of motoring in 6 – 10 knots of wind and gentle seas. Our catamaran is already a heavy boat; add that we’re fully loaded with diesel, water, provisions, people and personal effects we need 12 or more knots of wind to make worthwhile forward progress. Who’d have thought we’d be out here motoring in the mid-Atlantic??
Fortunately there’s plenty of diesel on board. If we didn’t motor or motor sail, many days will have been wasted either becalmed or moving forward at a futile crawling pace, easily turning our passage into a month-long trip.
The benign conditions bring back memories of endless days motoring around the Mediterranean, except there’s not another boat, landmass or sign of life in sight; other than the flying fish. Currently the ocean is sedate and mesmerising. Fighting boredom is a daily test for some, so with true wind as low as 5.5 knots we stopped for a refreshing mid-Atlantic swim. Jumping in is intimidating knowing the seafloor is 4,000 metres below.
Oh the seaweed… it’s playing havoc with our fishing lines and catching on the keels and rudders creating an incredible amount of drag, often slowing the boat speed by 1 – 1.5 knots. Every now and then we’ve cut engines, reversed slowly and dropped off the weed. Yesterday we ran over a massive clump that instantly slowed the boat, catching on a rudder and turning us off to starboard. Seriously, where on earth has it travelled from?
Fish is back on the menu! We’ve been trolling two lines whenever conditions allow and finally got our first bites on day 12. Dad brought a mahi mahi (aka dorado, dolphin fish) to the stern only for the fish to flick free when pulled out of the water. Several heavy hits on the hand reel followed but turned out to be drag from pesky seaweed. The following morning, within minutes of putting a line out, it was off with a ZING. Given there’s not too much happening during the day the whir of a running line makes everyone jump to attention. “Fish on!” To the crew’s delight Mike reeled in a 4kg blue and yellow mahi mahi and Dad swiftly hooked the gaff before the fish had a chance to escape. Nothing beats lunch and dinner plucked fresh from the ocean.
Just over a week ago the wardrobe consisted of track pants and hoodies. Happily, in the balmy weather at latitude 14°, we’re now getting around in board shorts and bikinis, most time spent in shady spots or indoors to escape the searing sun.
We could find an extra few knots of wind a latitude degree or two further south, but the 60 – 120 nm we must travel to get there is simply not worth it. Our SailGrib weather forecasts (downloaded to tablet via our new technology satellite Iridium GO) have been remarkably accurate throughout the trip and are promising a lovely 15 – 20 knots of easterly breeze from early Friday through the rest of our trip. Fingers and toes are crossed for a Parasail all the way to the Martinique finish line.
I understand we were offline on the Cornell Sailing tracking map for a while, though we are back on the map for anyone interested in following our final week at sea (visit our Facebook page for the link).
Bye for now from all on board and we’ll be in touch again with an ETA in our sight!