|Location: Cyberlink, Philipsburg, St. Maarten|
|Local time: Tuesday, 11:30am|
Well, it's been almost a month since I arrived back in the Caribbean again. We spent 3 days in Antigua just sightseeing, wakeboarding and beaching etc, then flew to Sint Maarten, where I'm again doing the music full time. We have 3 regular weekly gigs set up already, and more to follow. The phonecalls come almost every day actually.
I figure that since I recorded what happened each day on the boat while sailing across, I'm gonna still put it in this diary, even though it's old news now. As for getting photos up, that's a bit of a problem over here - Internet access is not quite as easy and available in the Caribbean as it is in Europe. So for now, you just get text, but I'll try to get some photos up some time soon. Anyways....
Day 1 (11-11-04):
After spending a couple of days at anchor in the bay outside Las Palmas, we
finally left at about 3:30pm today. Nothing special to report on really. Just
plain sailing. No seasickness, no other boat traffic.
A very sleepless night. So many noises!... creaks and pops, groans, whines. I was thrown out of bed at one point, across the room, and hit my head on the
wall. Helluva way to wake up, let me tell you. Sat there feeling a little
dazed and confused for a bit. Then later today we spent an hour trying to get
the red 'kite' up (a genniker, which is essentially an assymetrical spinnaker
sail). The sail is kept inside a long tube-like 'sock' - one end of the sock is
hoisted to the top of the mast, and the other end is then pulled up to meet it -
the kite slides out the bottom of the tube, and furls itself in the breeze. The
bottom end of the sock has a large solid 'turtleneck' rim, which ended up
clobbering me in the head as it swung in the breeze. It was hard enough to
knock me off my feet, and left a nice big lump across my head. Ouch ouch ouch. Again, a little dazed and confused.
We were sailing along nicely for about 10 minutes, and then the whole genniker split horizontally near the top, tearing the sail completely in two. So that was a big effort for no reward - we ended up chucking the damn thing inside the boat, in the master cabin.
We put up the NEW (never been flown) blue genniker today. This one is even
bigger than the red one. 450m2 of sail, and only 2.2 ounces of material per
square foot. So a paper-thin monster. It added a couple of knots to our speed, and we flew along nicely for about an hour, before a line connecting it to the masthead halyard gave out - the entire kite dropped to the water and was dragged along beside us, only anchored at the front of the boat. All hands on deck!! With a huge effort (this thing has serious drag when in the water) we pulled it back on board and stowed it away in a sail locker as-is... a squall was approaching and we didn't want the sail to end up back in the water. Apparently the boat doesn't seem to like genniker sails that much.
Stayed windy for the rest of the day, and at about 4:30am we were getting
30knots (55kph) so decided to reef in the main sail (pull it down a bit). After
fixing a jammed main halyard line, I pulled in the second reef line okay, but
had some problems winching in the second back reef line. The sail was flogging in the wind for some minutes, and eventually just gave out - a mighty
splitting/tearing noise announcing the demise of our mainsail. Again, all hands on deck, and we eventually pulled the whole thing down and lashed it to the boom. Thus we're now left with two headsails only, and you can't use both at the same time. The mainsail was on its way out anyway - Opium is to receive a whole new set of (six-figure) sails, arriving in Antigua in December. We just need this sail to get us there!
Big seas, a lot of rolling, and one useable sail. We have a lot of sail repairs
to do! If it's too problematic, there's talk of heading to the Cape Verde
islands for repairs. Three sails in two days doesn't bode well for the rest of
We've covered 745 nautical miles, or about 1380 km, since leaving Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. We've been doing okay just using the Genoa headsail, making about 7-9 knots. The wind has luckily been sitting at 20+ knots, so we haven't really lost that much ground due to the debilitated mainsail. Still bearing about 260-degrees, direction Antigua. We've hauled the sail into the main saloon and it's now sprawled across the floor, undergoing some extensive reparation - taping, gluing and sewing. Hopefully we can re-attach and hoist it tomorrow night or the next morning, and take this puppy up to 10+ knots.
The weather hasn't been so great lately, and I got absolutely drenched in the
cold rain during my last watch. Thank God we have nice hot showers.
Still no other traffic out here on this lonely ocean. A few flying fish skitting across the water's surface, and two Dorado hauled in on the trailing fishing lines. Makes for great eating when fried in olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice.
And it never fails to amaze me seeing seagulls a thousand kilometers out to sea.
Today was spent in the saloon, stitching the mainsail. There were about 3
people working on it at any one time, and at about 10pm it was finally
completed, then dragged back outside and slowly connected to the mast. At 1am the sail was eventually hoisted, and it seems to have worked a treat. All the seams are holding, the sail is full, and we're making 8-9knots again.
I slept like the dead for 3 hours after the sail had been hoisted, only to have
to wake up at 3:50am for the dawn watch. The 3 of us on watch (skipper Duncan, Steve and I) were all dead-tired and napped between turns at the wheel, which was the only thing that could keep us awake. At one point during the watch, there had been no talking for about 20mins, Duncan and Steve were sprawled on the deck asleep, and I was a zombie standing at the wheel. It was pitch black (maybe 5:30am), boring as hell, and I was in la-la-land. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, WHAM! - something slams against my shoulder, hard, scaring the skin off me. My shouts of surprise woke the others (plus Katie and Corin in the cabin below), and on inspection, it turned out I'd been attacked by a frenzied, blood-lusting flying fish torpedo, obviously intent on avenging its fellow fishies who had ended up dead on our deck on previous occasions. It must've been 10ft in the air when it hit me, and, dying on impact, flopped at my feet. My jersey smells like fish.
I'm 'mum' today - on 'mother watch'. This means that instead of undertaking the usual 2 or 4 hour watch at the helm with my other two watch-mates when it's our turn, I stay inside and make lunch or dinner for the 9 of us. I've never ever prepared meals for this many people before (especially in a cramped boat galley, whilst rolling from side to side), and it takes a lot of sweating and muttering, let me tell you! I just made 48 (!!) grilled ham, cheese and tomato toastie thingies. Mission. Tonight I'm gonna make a killer green Thai chicken curry.
H-o-t. Very hot. My 12-4pm watch meant I saw a lot of sun, and consequently I'm now feeling somewhat toasted. There's been no wind to speak of lately, so we're motoring at about 8.2knots. I slept in the saloon last night, coz the cabin was just too hot. Beautiful night to watch the stars last night (I'm learning a few of the constellations and their names). And then it poured down for the last 30mins of our watch, drenching us, before clearing up nicely for the next watch. Typical.
Again, another sweltering day. During the 8am-noon watch I was already cowering under whatever shade I could find, reading. Still there's no wind, so the AutoPilot is doing it's thing and there's little else for us to do but read or
wait for the rod to whirr, signalling a fish on the line.
Tried sleeping this afternoon, after a cold shower, but the cabin was too hot,
as was the saloon. It feels like I'm about to burst into flames. Getting
We passed the halfway mark today, at 1432nm (2652km). Our ETA is currently the 27th of November.
Same as yesterday - hot and still. Rather unbearable really. Looking forward
to getting to Sint Maarten, where I can enjoy some well-deserved AC!
I went up the rig (mast) today. 36m (120ft) to the top. Amazing experience.
The curvature of the earth become obvious from up there, and I got some cool photos looking down at the boat. The side-to-side rolling motion of the boat is enhanced ten-fold from that height, and it can be hard to stay clinging to the mast, trying to avoid getting swung out into space.
35ºC. Still no wind forecast for another few days. We'll break the 1000-miles-to-go mark today. ETA in Antigua is now the afternoon of the 26th. I look forward to it. My 12-4pm watch is in 20mins - another baking-in-the-sun
experience. Very glass-flat ocean today. A biggish 5ft Mackerel was caught
We finally got some sailing done today. For a while, anyway. We were cruising along nicely at 9 knots until it died again.
I've been thinking about this crossing, and have come to realise that it's
really not my thing. It's been a great experience, but I'm bored as hell, and
really just sick of seeing nothing but water. Sure it's been nice 'getting away
from it all', communing with mother nature, and all that flowery stuff, but now
I just look forward to a full night's uninterrupted sleep in a cool room.
I've always wanted to do this, and I'm really glad that I can say that I have,
but I think it's a once-is-enough thing for me. Also, lately I've been getting
excited when we increase our speed from 7 to 9 knots, but when I think about it, it's a bit ridiculous really: 30-40 knots is much more my style - power-boating is in my blood.
Day 13 (17º42'N, 51º3'W, 2257nm, 4180km covered, speed 8.6 knots):
Again I'm 'mum' today. I just cooked a million hot dogs. Beef stirfry tonight.
I'm not into doing these mother-watches. Sure it means I can miss out on having to get up at midnight tonight to do a 4 hour watch, but I'd much prefer to be outside than stuck in the cramped, sweaty confines of the galley.
614 nautical miles to go as I type this. The Caribbean is almost upon us.
Just another day on the big blue, and then, all of a sudden, all hell breaks
loose - a boat! A bloody boat! A tiny speck of a billowing spinnaker was
spotted on the horizon. 4hrs later, we were side-by-side with a 50ft sailboat,
making about 6 knots (we were motoring at about 8.5). They'd been at it for 21 days, compared to our 14. There was still some 400nm to go. Thank God for long-range fuel tanks!
The boat was a bit of a spectacle for our crew - it's a lonely ocean and this
was the first sign of other human life, other than a few specks of light on the
horizon the previous night. Everybody was on deck to watch as we passed them within 500m. You'd think none of us had ever seen a sailboat before.
Almost there. Just over 150nm to go. We've been motor-sailing today, making 9-10 knots (we sailed throughout the night, but today the breeze has been a bit random, although still behind us). Should be hitting Antigua at 9 or 10am tomorrow. Everybody's happy to be finally close to land.
I've been playing a lot of Playstation 2 lately. Three of us guys are trying to
get the best lap time in Gran Turismo. It's a bit addictive for us now. It's
great to play on a 42" widescreen with Dolby surround!
Day 16 (17ºN, 61ºW, 2870nm):
Land ho! We have arrived in Antigua. 14 days 20 hrs. 2,870 nautical miles
(5,315km). Pulled into a rather hot Falmouth Harbour at noonish. We had lunch, then set to cleaning the boat up a bit. The girls took care of the interior, whilst the rest of us hosed down the outside, scrubbed the decks, polished the stainless, cleaned the windows, and all that fun stuff. Then we were finally able to get off the boat and set foot on land, and all went out for a (rather drunken) crew dinner. The next few days are for leisure time - exploring the island, beaching, wakeboarding, taking tonnes of photos etc.
On Monday at 10:40am we'll fly out to Sint Maarten - thus my Atlantic crossing
saga is over, and my musical career begins again. I can't wait.
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