Monday, 24 December 2012

Nics Diary Part 9 Atlantic Crossing

Nics Diary – Part 9 – The Atlantic Crossing

Thought I would write a wee diary of the adventures of a 16 day ocean crossing. Something to amuse myself with, if nothing else!

Day 1 - 5.12 – 3pm – 2150 miles to go!
So finally we are off!! After weeks of preparing e.g. new crew, rotas and massive shopping lists, it feels like such a relief to finally be doing our crossing. We left the Cape Verdes approximately 1 ½ hrs ago and the sun is shining, and the swell is much calmer than we thought it may be. A lot of boats (at least 10 diverted from the ARC plus others), have been coming into the marina over the last few days. Some had no masts, and others had their sails torn to shreds. So as you can imagine, we were all a little anxious as to how it was out here. But fingers crossed, it appears to be fine. My first watch is 12-3am, so hopefully things will remain calm until then. I am about to settle into the 3rd 50 shades book, then a little rest, before James cooks us some homemade burgers for dinner. All good xx

Day 2 - 6.12 – 5pm
Well, so far (be careful what you wish for) we have been pretty disappointed with the trade winds. Last night we were totally becalmed for a little while, and we heard other yachts on the radio saying the same. We are hoping that as we progress further, the winds may pick up a little, if not we should have enough fuel to motor half of the way (cheats I know). My night watch was pretty uneventful, except for the same clunk noise reappearing (Nics Diary – Part 7). Our first worry was that the welded steering plate was broken again. It turned out to just be loose – so problem easily solved. Today I have amused myself preparing stewed steak (or is it Cape Verde dog meat?) for dinner, and making some banana (Cape Verde - 1 day old mushy ones) and white chocolate cookies – yummy! Then we will probably have a movie night. We often sit down together after dinner and watch a wee movie. It gives us all a chance to relax and think of something else, other than sailing.

I struggled to sleep last night (pretty normal for the first night), and thought I would fill you in on what it feels like when trying to sleep. You lie in the unconscious position to prevent yourself rolling over. You are aware of your skeleton and rib cage etc being quite rigid, but all of your muscles and organs swish swosh around and inside of you. I always tell myself ‘rock a bye baby, on the tree top’ and try not to think ‘damn rollercoaster’. Anyway, now that I should be getting a little more used to it, I should hopefully sleep tonight.

Has my nephew been born yet?? Today is the 6th and I am waiting a sat phone message to say all is well, and then I will have a wee glass of wine to celebrate.

My birthday is in 2 days, and my only wish is for Stevie to bake and decorate a cake for me. I think it will be a whole day of entertainment watching him juggle flour, scales etc (you need to be an octopus to cook on a boat). Apparently he has never baked a cake before. I am hoping I can persuade him to wear my apron so that I really can have a good giggle.

Day 3 - 7.12 – 5pm
I got up during the night last night, on Stevies watch, as I couldn't sleep. Still no wind, but we had the jib poled out with our new super dooper pole, that prevents the sail flogging on the swell and in light winds. One large swell came, and there was a thud. I assumed that something downstairs had fallen, but found nothing. A couple of mins later Stevie noticed that the jib had dropped a foot. Not good news. We rolled it away, as it was too dark to investigate. A whole night of worrying what had broken. Either the jib was torn, the shackle or rope had broken (we have spares of all 3), or the drum at the top of the jib had broken meaning we could bypass the furling and use it like a hanked on sail.

James posing with our new pole behind

 Stevie and I decided to unfurl the jib this morning to have a better look and the damn thing fell straight into the water – Emergency stop, and shout up all crew to help pull it back onto the deck before we got it mangled in the propeller. Iona then went up the mast to investigate, and luckily it was the shackle that had broken, and the noise I heard was it bouncing off the deck. Problem easily solved, and thanks Iona.

Iona up our 60ft mast mid-atlantic!

Still poor wind (8-12kts wind and 5kts speed), but James cheered us all up by catching another dorado – well done!! Dorados – colorful  tasty fish. When we catch them they are a turquoise-green colour. When we pull them onto the deck they change colour to white-yellow, and when they are killed, again they change to a navy blue-black colour. Magnificent to watch the colour changes, a little sad to kill them – but they are a delicious tender white meat!

Another dorado - where's all the tuna gone!
Another messy massacre!

Day 4 - 8.12 6am
Happy Birthday to me - thanks for my pressies mum xx and for all my sat phone messages everyone!! xx
Well I hope it is a happy birthday as we have major battery failure!! (Problem 3: and hopefully the last for a while). Stevie has been doing an unbelievable amount of calculations, as we are considering diverting to Brazil. The batteries for our housekeeping are failing (not the ones to start the engine – they are fine). They are no longer holding their charge for longer than a couple of hours. Also, still no wind!! From what I gather, if we motor too long then we are frying them more– and without any wind, what choice do we have. At the end of the day, they are pretty dead anyway.

Worst case scenario, we hand steer (no auto pilot, and no electronic GPS at night), however, we do have a hand help GPS, that runs on batteries, and we can charge it during the day with solar (unfortunately we may lose the fridge). Really it could be far worse. As I said to Stevie ‘If we had been struck by lightning we would be really in trouble so we are fine’. (conclusion -destination is still planned for Caribbean – solar will keep us going in day light and we will run the engine when required at night – until the batteries totally fail??).

Day 5 - 9.12 4pm
Yesterday turned out to be a fab birthday (after we got over the battery drama) and the sun finally came out! We had pink champagne and a dorado feast for lunch, followed by punch and TWO cakes (made by Stevie and Iona). (Between me and you, I think Stevie really enjoyed baking and hand decorating his first ever cake (although he denies it)).  He refused to wear the pinny though, as it was quite hot. Then we had a curry feast for dinner, and also decorated the boat for xmas.

The look of concentration!!

Wonderful job - it even tasted yummy too!

Santa surfed out back the whole way - he had a ball!

Dinner alfresco on my birthday
Iona made a sticky toffee cake which we had with custard - my favourite - yummy!

I bought everyone advent calendars, so we have been enjoying them too.

Hello to little Oscar, I look forward to seeing the photos when I reach civilization  and congrats to both Zoe and my big bro xx

Yesterday I asked my mum to text Steve, our weather man, and tell him we need wind - and today it came. Thanks Steve!! We are finally sailing the great Ocean. It feels a relief to be making some proper progress. The batteries are holding in there, and (touch wood) there have been no further dramas & of course, we have beautiful sunshine!! This is more like what I signed up for!!

Day 7 - 11.12 9pm – 1270 miles to go!
So last night at around 4am on my watch we started to see an average of 17 knots of wind, and we have been flying along since. Just now we are seeing an average of 20kts and we are a little anxious, as if it increases to 25kts during the night then we will all have to get up, and work in the dark, on a rolly deck to remove the pole from the jib and reduce the genoa (big sail at front). Let’s hope it doesn't increase anymore. We are seeing between 7-8kts of speed, and this is a bit of a problem, as we need to run the engine (with revs) every few hours during the night because of our crap batteries. This means that we will fly along even faster, and this can become a little dangerous. I don’t think Stevie will be sleeping tonight.

The swell got a little large!

Yesterday we caught a 3rd dorado. We tried to gently remove the hook and put it back as we are a little dorado’ed out, and would really like a tuna (also I am tired of cooking something different for Stevie, as he claims not to like dorado). Anyway, the poor big guy died, so once again it has been fish soup for lunch, probably another fish pie, paella, and anything else we can come up with. It’s quite funny as all we seem to do is eat food that needs to be eaten NOW. E.g. just now we are trying to ‘think bread’ (as well as fish) as it has expired and we still have 3 massive loafs. Also, more bananas and other fresh fruit have been past their best, so we have been making different desserts etc. It has been very adventurous with regards to food and what needs to be eaten.

We haven’t seen any boats for days. Occasionally we call over the radio ‘Is there anybody out there??’, and we have had no reply. We really are in the middle of nowhere!

Part of our daily routine now involves removing dead flying fish from the deck each morning. Obviously the wee things don’t have very good night vision. They are beautifully turquoise coloured fish, which fly about a foot above the ocean, and we guess, at around 20 mph. They vary from around 1-10 inches long. James has been hit twice in the chest by them, and I now lie down on a night shift, with my hood up, as I recon it would really hurt if one of these slapped you in the face, never mind the fright!

We have had a few starry, starry nights, which are made even more beautiful by the phosphorescence glowing in the wake of the boat. Unsure where the moon is these days though?

We are planning a half way pirate party. (Depends on the weather, as drinking punch is not recommended in rough seas!!). We have been collecting our biodegradable (over board) rubbish, and are planning to build a little sail boat out of empty beer cans, and paper plates etc, and to launch it for our big party! We have pirate hats, and are also planning on baking pirate cupcakes and decorate ginger bread men. Things you do to amuse yourself!

I had a ‘stitch and bitch’ session with Iona yesterday. A what? Basically I repaired 3 items of clothing, (it’s like having a whole new wardrobe again) and we sat and bitched. Mostly about the weather, but Stevies smelly feet were also mentioned!!

All in all, we are having a fab time. I am really surprised not to be bored yet, although some proper exercise would be good. I am also really happy to say that I appear to have gotten over my knock down fright. There were a few times after that incident, that I was really unsure that I would be able to continue. It really scared the crap out of me. Anyway, let’s not think about that just now- as I hear the wind pipe up outside!! Time for some rest xx

Day 9 – 13.12 – 1pm – 1075 miles to go – half way – yippee yippee yippee!!!
Stevie was wondering - did the world end yesterday? Will we be arriving in the Caribbean, for it not to be there anymore?

Today we have lots of wind (up to F8 38 knots) and we are surfing some big waves, at an average of 7.5 kts speed. We were hoping to have our half way party, but unfortunately it’s too rough to drink much, but we will be having one wee beer! I have spent my watch (9am-12) trying to take a good video to show you all the fun we are having in the big waves.

Unfortunately we haven’t seen the sun for a few days, and we have had the odd shower. No more starry starry nights! Also, movie nights have become a thing of the past.

Last night on my watch I saw another sailing boat. It is the first in around 7 days. I said ‘hi’ on the radio, and also I wanted to make sure they had seen us, as they were coming up from behind (sometimes you forget there are other boats out there, as you haven’t seen one for so long).

Day 11 - 15.12 – 850 miles to go!
Well since the wind came on day 7, it has done nothing but slowly increase, and cause some pretty crazy seas. Unfortunately it has been too wet outside to sit (rain and a lot of spray), and too hot and humid downstairs. We are covered in bruises from slipping all over the place. One pot meals were all I could manage, and the uncomfortable circumstances were beginning to take their toll on my patience!! The wind originally came from the west, but turned round almost 90 degrees to the south over time. Some of the swell was mountainous, the rest a little smaller. The 2 different wind directions produced some messy swell, that gave the boat a big knock on the back corner, and splashed all over the cockpit, and making it a pretty bumpy ride. Also, little creepies (as I called them) - breaking bits at the top of the mountainous swell that would spray over the back and helped to give the boat a good clean.

Last night the lightening started, and my knock down fear returned. A massive dark rain cloud passed behind us, and seemed to draw 20 knots of wind towards it (onto the nose of the boat, from the west). This is completely the opposite direction from where it had been coming from, so the swell turned really weird, producing small waves on the top, in completely the opposite direction. As a result, at 18,000 revs, we were hardly moving forward (usually we would get around 5-6 knots from these revs.) As the night went on, the swell completely calmed, the lightning storms stayed in the distance, and eventually the stars came out. Relief. Today we have sun, and are planning our half way party (although a little late!!). Everyone appears to be getting along fine, and we are all happy to be making gingerbread men today!

One of the things I really enjoy about sailing was that even though you are stuck on the same boat, in the same massive ocean, with the same people day after day – no 2 watches are the same!! Sometimes there are stars, dark clouds, big moon, no moon, rain (too cold), sun (too hot), big swells, becalmed, no wind, too much etc. Weird how it’s never the same, although everything else is!!

Day 12 – 16.12 – 4pm
Yesterday evening the wind and swell slowly started again. We made our ginger bread men, an army of pirate cupcakes, and by the time of pouring the filling into our quiche, the swell had become a little crazy, resulting in it pouring out everywhere. However, it still cooked well in the oven. We came to the conclusion that there should be a Baking Scale instead of a Beaufort scale – with 1 = Fine and calm, bake anything you like especially runny quiches! To 10 = Wild and swelly, not advised to attempt to juggle flour, sieves, and scales etc. High risk of scalding from oven. Guaranteed to make a big mess with the quiche filling!
We decided to abandon the build and launch of our little raft; however, today we are becalmed (again), so it looks good for our raft. Also, we are having a little punch again. We have come to the conclusion that Cape Verde Fanta is full of illegal (in the UK) E additives and preservatives. It is fluorescent in colour, and a lot of the locals seemed to prefer it to beer in the pub. We have been adding it to our punch, and I would definitely say it adds to the kick!

I don't ever remember making ginger bread men in my life - it was fun!

An army of pirate cup cakes!!

And of course we all dressed up for the occasion!
Captain Stevie building our wee raft

The big launch

James and Stevie both went for a mid atlantic swim

We did a stock take the other day, and I am really pleased to say that we are not going to run out of anything that I didn’t predict, and we still have quite a variety of meals to cook. We even still have some fresh food (potatoes, carrots etc). Also our tank and drinking water supply is doing well. The rod is out today though, and we are still hoping for yellow fin tuna! Failing that, it’s Morrisons ham roast – yummy (thanks again Has)!

Day 14 – 18.12 – 4pm
Well in the last 36 hours or so, the wind has completely turned 360 degrees (we think we must have been passing the centre of a high pressure area??). It has been good to change and use all points of sail, and for most of the day yesterday we were close hauled, gliding along at 7-8 knots all day. The boat cut beautifully through the water, like a hot knife cutting through butter. Speaking of which, it is actually true that you head south until the butter melts, then turn west to head for the Caribbean. Not just is the butter melting, but so are our advent calendars!!

Yesterday was by far the best day of sailing, also the first time for a long while that we had dolphins, and lots of them, cruising along beside the boat – beautiful!

Sleep still varies from day to day, with an average of 5 hrs a night – sometimes it is so hot that Stevie and I sleep in shifts in the bed. Apparently when people arrive, they have a good few beers, and then sleep for around 24 hours – sounds good to me!

We just caught another Dorado – the biggest yet! Fresh meat – yummy – I was dreading having to use tins of chicken curry etc (yuck). Instead it looks like fish curry tonight, fish chowder soup, and maybe fishcakes tomorrow night. Stevie is finally starting to accept that fresh fish is ok (so long as I try to disguise the flavour in curry etc).

It took both boys to land this monster!
Home made dorado fish fingers (for Stevie) and mushy peas!

Day 17 – 21.12 – 1pm – 78 miles to go!! 15 hours until we safely drop anchor and breathe a sigh of relief!!
Can’t believe it’s our last day! Although it has been a long time, it really has passed quite quickly – and I am really surprised I have not been bored! Today I have a busy day, updating and minimising this blog, painting my nails for xmas, and I have more stitching and bitching to do as the strap of my dress broke. Hectic life, this life at sea!! Unfortunately we will be arriving around 2-3am, and we have a severe lack of booze to celebrate (plenty of red wine, but the boys aren’t too keen on it). We are going to drop anchor in Falmouth harbour, Antigua. We plan to move to the marina in the morning, where we hope to find a supermarket for some supplies for xmas, then going for a late lunch, and some well-deserved drinks. The next plan is to sleep until we waken (hopefully we don’t miss xmas!!)

Yesterday we got a little bit carried away (drunk) with another punch. We are unsure why this one was so potent, as it contained the same alcohol as the rest of them. All we can assume is the cola mixer (cape verde), was full of hyper active E numbers – nothing to do with the alcohol. We started drinking around 1pm and all 3 of us passed out around 5pm. Luckily Iona doesn’t drink so she held the fort for a couple of hours (thanks Iona).

Last night I enjoyed my last 2 night shifts. I was lucky as I had the best shift (9pm-12 and 9am-12 UTC). We have now passed through 4 time zones, so sunrise is around 9.30am (UTC) = 5.30am ‘real time’. This morning the sunrise was beautiful. We have also been planet spotting, and have identified Mars and Jupiter. 3 boats have been spotted recently – more than we have seen all journey!

The day before yesterday I read about the weather and had a wee lesson from Stevie– different types of scary clouds etc. We also discussed the different weather fronts that we have witnesses on our journey:
Day 7-10 = strong wind, big swell, and a little rain – conclusion = we were passing the edge of an area of low pressure

Day 11-12 = Lightening and calmer seas – conclusion = we passed through an occlusion zone

Day 13-14 = Poor wind (turning 360 degrees over 24 hours), hot & humid – conclusion = we passed through the middle of a high pressure area.

This is what we think – we could be wrong – but I would like to believe that I have learnt something useful from my experience of an ocean crossing!

As it is our last day I would like to take the opportunity to say a few thanks:

Firstly, to our wonderful Crazy Diamond: You never fail us, you are tough as old boots, and I have so much faith in you. Thanks for keeping us all safe and coping with all conditions! Secondly, to Steve our weather man: Your updates were appreciated. Sorry it was such a busy time of year. My mum: for keeping everyone up to date on our progress. Our wonderful crew members, Iona and James. Iona I would like to thank for your motivation and creativity in cooking and baking. I would have struggled without you. And James, for being keen and eager to learn. I think you motivated us all to open the odd textbook, and I am sure Stevie has very much enjoyed your company.  You are both welcome back anytime! And of course, last but not least, my dearly beloved Captain Stevie. Well done on your first ocean crossing. You had some pretty difficult decisions to make, little sleep, and 3 big problems to solve in our first 3 days. Well done for keeping us all safe and coping so well!!

Well that’s about all from me, merry xmas to everyone and thanks for reading. All my love, second in command, Admiral Nic xx

Edit by steven , overall we covered 2300nm in 16.5 days, not the fastest crossing, but we arrived safe and well , we averaged 139.5 miles per day, An average of 5.8 kn.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Nics Diary - Part 8 Cape Verdes

Nics Diary – Part 8

Places Visited:

Cape verdes; Sal & Sao Vicente

Just a brief update before cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean:

We had quite a calm 6 day sail from the Canaries to the Cape Verdes. It has been great to have Iona and James to help out and once our rotas were put in place, everything ticked over nicely. James caught us a nice fish for dinner (possibly a derado??), and it was so nice to have the time to experiment with my cook books. I made a lovely steak, mushroom and red wine pie, a trifle, and Iona made a yummy banana cake. What a difference to my last 5 day sail when it was just Stevie and I.

Well done James  - It was yummy!!

I did get quite a fright on one of my night watches, when there was a bit thud on the deck, followed by a lot of fluttering noises. I jumped out of my skin! Sneaking around with the torch to investigate, I found a flying fish and a nice big puddle of blood on the deck. The poor thing had flown splat right into the boat, killing himself almost instantly. Apart from that, there hasn't been much wildlife around in the water.

We met up with my sailing instructor Steve, and his wife Chris in Tenerife and again in the Cape Verdes. They have sailed from Troon (in August), and are also headed for the Caribbean  It has been great so see familiar faces from home, and to catch up on their sailing stories and adventures. Hopefully we will meet up again on the other side.

James, Steve & Chris

After over 6 months of sailing in the med, the Cape Verde islands make me finally feel like I am abroad. We visited a beach which had beautiful turquoise water and white sandy beaches, and great surf. This place just misses the tropical green look. Unfortunately the town keeps loosing electricity which is a bit of a nuisance, as there is only one port in the whole place where you can plug in for internet (unless you pay a fortune at the marina).

Anyway, we have restocked with some interesting local produce for our Atlantic crossing, and we plan to leave tomorrow. I am really looking forward to reaching the other side, as I feel like I have been waiting and planning this trip for a long time now.  Lets go!! Stevie is baking me a cake on route for my birthday, and I have a small tipple to celebrate the birth of my first nephew – I hope all goes well Zoe x

Hopefully internet will be a little easier on the other side, and I look forward to Skypes when I get there. Merry Xmas to you all, will be thinking of you Nic xx

The 4 of us - still getting along great!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Nics Diary - Part 6

Nics Diary – Part 6 – 5.11.12

Places visited:
Majorca – Magaluf
Ibiza – Ibiza Town
Spain – Benidorm, Mar Menor, La Linea
Canaries – Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Teneriffe

This diary entry covers Magaluf until leaving La Linea (15/9/12- 5/11/12). Apologies for the delay in this entry, but at the end I will give you a brief update as to where we are, and what we are planning just now.

My mum was on the boat with us for 3 weeks, and we arrived in Magaluf on the 15th of September as my best friend Amanda and her boyfriend Steven were coming for a week’s holiday. We had a fab time. Amanda and Steven stayed in a hotel, but were welcomed on-board with a lovely bottle of champagne and some fabulous sunshine!

So nice to see you xxx

We had alot of fun going for early morning swims (so white Steven could avoid the sun), playing crazy golf, and even venturing out on a padelo. I enjoyed doing the different touristy things for the week. Poor Steven ended up in bed with food poisoning, so that was a little unfortunate. All in all though, we all had a fab week. It was so nice to catch up with Amanda and get all of the gossip for home.

crazy golfers

Steven and his tan!!

Poor Steven

amanda enjoying the pedalo

My mum left the same time as Steven and Amanda, and Stevie and I started to head towards La Linea to finally get our rudder bearings replaced. We arrived in La Linea on the 7th October, and began arranging our lift out and other boat repairs. (Stevie has talked already talked about the work done on a previous blog entry).

The lift out was quite cool, and it was good to meet the underwater parts of the boat that I had never seen before. Boy was it in need of a good clean. I spent 2 days polishing the hull, and stevie antifouled the rest of the hull, and she looked great when we had finished. Unfortunately, as Stevie previously said, we found that there was play in the rudder shaft, so our 2 day lift out ended up being 8 days. It got pretty exhausting moving from hotel room, to another boat, the back to the hotel, and I was really happy when we finally got back into the water.

Please be careful with our wee boat!!


and after!!

We really enjoyed our 4 week stay on pontoon 12, where we had a lovely little community, and some really nice neighbours. We met an Australian couple Carlin and Mark, who joined us for a night in Gibraltar at the bingo and casino. I was really happy to win £100 in bingo, and Stevie celebrated by drinking much whisky. Unfortunately he woke the next morning to discover his passport missing. (After much debate and research, Stevie has decided to get a temporary passport that allows him entry to 5 different countries and we will wait for 6 weeks somewhere in the Carribean for a new one to be issued).

Won £100 at bingo - with the Aussies!!

We also met Aston, whose boat we rented for a little while when we were homeless, and who I practised some of my new hairdressing skills on!

thanks for being my guinea pig aston - I am getting good at this!!

Further along the pontoon were Eric and Sandra. Eric carried out some of the repairs to the boat, and we really appreciated his help and speed with dealing with Spanish welders. Sandra and I shared many bottles of red wine and enjoyed a great banter.

Eric & Sandra

Much of my time in La Linea was spent shopping for dry foods and many visits to Morrisons in Gibraltar in preparation for our Atlantic crossing. I would like to thank Has, the fridge man in Morrisons, who had seen me hovering around his ham department for a couple of weeks and helped me out alot. I was looking for the longest lasting dates on fresh ham, so that we could still eat some real meat on week 3 of our atlantic crossing.  Has said that he was happy to freeze all of the ham, gammon steaks and real bacon for me to take home frozen, and wedge in our tiny freezer for the long journey. So, our poor freezer is working overtime, but I am glad to not have to rely on too much tinned meat.

I carried around 20kg each trip, and must have done at least 10 trips, each one 4 miles each - was great fun - the border control was as crazy as I could imaging cycling in Bankok!!

At present we are in Teneriffe. We have 2 new crew members Iona and James. Both appear to be settling in well, and we are very happy for some extra help. 

Welcome aboard Iona and James - I hope you enjoy  the adventure as much as we do!!
Today we are all planning a big trip to Carrefour for all of our fresh products, fruit and veg etc. Tomorrow the plan is to leave for the Cape Verdes (approx. 6 days), then we will move on to our Atlantic crossing (hopefully around 18 days). We are all quite excited, and looking forward to Stage 2 of our adventure (The Atlantic and the Carribean).

Well, that’s about all for now, Love to all, miss you millions, and do not worry about us, we are now 4 sailors with plenty of experience between us!! xxx

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Nic's diary Part 7

Nics Diary – Part 7 – 10.11.12
(You may, or may not, notice that this is part 7 of my Diaries. Part 6 – Majorca to La Linea is still ‘in progress’ and will be posted soon)

La Linea to Canaries
I thought I would do a little diary of watches as we sail our first 5 day trip with just the two of us, from La Linea (next to Gibraltar) to the Canaries. This is the longest sail we have done yet on our own, so we expect it to be quite a challenge. Many yachts have been waiting for a decent weather window for the last 3 weeks, so, as you would expect, when the chance came, I counted around 50 boats, all heading the same way (to the canaries to either take part in the arc (Atlantic Rally Crossing) or to wait for another weather window to cross the Atlantic on their own, like us).

6.11.12 – 6.30am-10.30am
So, we have been sailing for around 24 hours now, and it is dull, wet, and I am feeling pretty exhausted. (I have a soggy bum!!). There is quite a swell behind us, so it’s a bit of a rolly ride. I am sure as the sun comes up, I will feel a little better. A massive cargo ship just passed, and I was feeling a little envious, as I wonder what it must be like to do a watch with an enclosed cabin, windscreen wipers, a comfy chair, and heating! It must be nice! Never mind, I bet his breakfast isn’t as yummy and appreciated as my delicious smoky bacon from Morrisons, and my Tetley tea.  I have a new crew member this morning to keep me company, Jack the sparrow (as I have called him). I told him that he is more than welcome to come along for the ride, and to have some rest and shelter, but not to poo on any of my clothes, and that Stevies jacket is much more comfy to sleep on (He, he!). 4 hour watches do get a little boring and lonely, as you may have guessed. Stevie and I just really see each other in the passing, and for dinner (the highlight of our day). Hence why I decided to write a wee diary of some of my watches.

Jack the Sparrow (or some sort of wee bird)

We have been very worried as the clunk noise that we used to hear, and we had put down to the rudder bearing needing replaced, is back, and it is worse. Stevie is pretty stressed about it, as he has just spent a small fortune having the bearings replaced, and it now seems that there is another problem with the steering.  Let’s just hope we make it in one piece and we don’t have to get the tiller out to hand steer the whole way. That would not be fun!

6.11.12 – 4pm-8pm
I am feeling a little better as it’s a day watch not a night watch. No matter how tired you are, you really notice the difference when it’s night. I was quite amused when I woke to find Stevie proudly introducing me to his new best friend – Ben (another bird of unknown species). The whole of the main cabin is scattered with little piles of bread crumbs, and of course poo. Stevie has told me that he has been talking to Ben all morning, and has discovered that little Ben got caught in a big wind, and couldn’t find his way back to shore, so he has been hopping from boat to boat  for some time, hoping to eventually see land again. OK Stevie, so I thought I was a little mad just naming my sparrow – never mind pretending a whole conversation – boredom eh!!
The rain has stopped, and the traffic has scattered out across the ocean, leaving a rather boring watch, with only 1 boat in 4 hours. Just as well I have started reading the next Fifty Shades of Grey book, to keep me amused.

The good news is that Stevie has managed to find where the terrible clunk noise is coming from. A loose plate that holds the steering mechanism in place (or something like that). He has managed to tighten it, and the clunk has stopped. Thank goodness all is well!

[steven edit: There is a snapped bolt which needs welded]

7.11.12 – Midnight – 4am
Pitch black outside and raining. In the distance there is a thunder storm, so we have hidden our back up GPS, and hand held radio in the microwave again (and yes we are sober, so we will remember they are there!).  No boats, and no wind, boring! I will just have to spend the watch enjoying some of the delicious UK munchies that I bought from Morrisons such as Cadbury Whole nut, and beef monster munch – yummy! (I have no idea how people claim to lose weight when sailing!)

7.11.12 – 2.30pm – 6.30pm
This morning I was a little bit of a shock – to say the least! I had been on watch for a couple of hours, and I was thinking of sitting down to write about the usual – Stevie was happy when I got up as Ben had returned – I had fun frying my egg, as it spun round in the frying pan and came out more scrambled than fried etc. But…………… we got hit by a mini tornado/ squall and all things changed from my calm morning to a hell of a fright!

When Stevie went to bed around 8.30am, he told me that all was well, the jib was out, and not to change the engine revs as if we kept up this speed, then we would arrive in daylight. So, I popped my head up and checked that all was well. The wind was behind us, and gusting up to 17 knots (apparently it was at 8 knots on the starboard forward quarter when he went to bed 20 mins earlier)– we were reaching 10 knots when surfing down the swell – we were flying! I did wonder why Stevie hadn’t left me instructions to reef the jib when we hit 20 knots of wind – like he usually would. I popped my head in to ask him, but he had passed out within 10 mins. About 30 mins later, when I noticed the wind reaching 26 knots, I decided to try to furl some of the jib away. I was having difficulty, so I decided to waken Stevie, who had just woken anyway (I think he has a sixth sense!).

 I asked him to get dressed and give me a hand, as a weather front was approaching and I was worried after seeing 26 knots of wind a few times. By the time he got dressed it started to pour – like bucket fulls of rain. We managed to furl away half of the jib, when monsterous hail stones started to fall. They were at least the size of marbles, and they really hurt so we both dived downstairs for cover. Within 30 seconds of being downstairs we were very confused, as the jib had backed (the wind had spun 180 degrees). There was a hell of a noise going on, so we ran back upstairs to put away the rest of the sail. I was winching like my life depended on it (which it did), and Stevie was doing his best to turn the boat into the wind to ease the strain off the sail. He soon realised that the wind was in a big swirl, and reaching up to 70 knots. One massive gust caught the sail (of which only 1/2 was still out, equating to only 1/3 of the full surface area) and pushed the boat right down onto her starboard side. This was the side that I was winching on. The water gushed up onto the deck, and the boat did not self-right. We were pinned there at 75-90 degrees for what felt like minutes - Stevie says about 10 seconds (apparently this is called being knocked down). Stevie released the jib sheet, and immediately we came back up, and again I started frantically winching in the jib – as I felt like my life really did depend on it this time! My sleeves were filled with water, but this was the least of my worries.

 It’s funny, the thoughts that passed through my mind when we were pinned down were ‘Ok we’re going under, we will self-right, hold on tight, and thank god I am wearing my life jacket’. I am so surprised that I was not afraid – I just seemed to accept it and brace myself! After it was over, we both looked at each other and said (excuse my French) ‘What the fuck!!’

The boat was a little trashed downstairs, but no major damage. I cleaned up, and we cracked open our first beer of the journey!  I then issued a broadcast warning on the radio (pan pan)  to advise other yachts in the area.

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Apparently something like this is responsible, although I don't think it was quite so dramatic as this picture. Pretty rare and pretty unlucky to land in the middle of one!

No real damage - just a bit of a mess - note the purple loaf of bread that shot from a surface on the opposite side of the boat, and neatly wedged itself on a shelf straight across the boat!

Clean dishes flew off the draining board, and a tray of 36 eggs landed in the sink with none broken!
Sun was shining 1 minute after knock down!

Well I guess the whole experience has prepared me for what to expect, and what to do if we ever hit another squall again. Brace, don’t panic, and release the sails if they pin us down! (remind me never to complain that I am bored on watch again!)

So anyway, things are back to normal now, and we are keeping a closer eye on the weather fronts coming in (some have fork lightening so it’s still a bit scary). The jib is having a break, and we have been motoring the rest of the day. Ben has been singing all afternoon – he probably has plenty of energy after eating so much bread. Anyway, time for some dinner, and I think I will treat myself to a glass of wine (just the one!!)

8.11.12 – midnight – 4am
When Stevie went to bed there was no wind. He left me the instruction that if wind came I had to put up the sail. I expressed my fear, but was kindly reminded that we most likely did not have enough fuel to motor all the way, so we must use the wind. By 2am there was a steady 11 knots of wind on the side, so after a little encouragement from myself, the sail is up. I have been petrified since. My legs have turned to jelly, there have been a couple of tears and I think the realisation of this morning’s events have finally kicked in, plus thorough exhaustion. On the plus side, there are beautiful stars in the sky and all signs of weather fronts and fork lightening have gone.  Needless to say, my wishes when I saw a shooting star have now changed. 70 hours down and only 36 hours to go. I have never so much looked forward to safely dropping the anchor, drinking a full bottle of wine, having lots of cuddles and sleeping forever!

9.11.12 – midnight – 4am
Today we were talking to some other boats on the radio who have been discussing our little event yesterday. They are friends of the Aussies we met in La Linea, and they want to meet up for a beer and hear our story tomorrow when we arrive. I am not allowing myself to consider or think about what actually happened until then, as it is not benefiting me just now.

So, I am keeping my thoughts positive throughout my watch – such as how many bars of chocolate can I eat in 4 hours? Today was a beautiful day, sun in the sky and nice smooth wind on our side. It has been nice to sail properly, and today is much more like what I signed up for. Little Ben hasn’t been around today. I think all of his chirping and tweeting yesterday was a big thank you and farewell to us. Good luck Ben, it was nice having you.

Much more like it weather wise

With only 10 hours to go, I think this may be my last watch of the adventure. All in all, I have really enjoyed myself. Obviously yesterday’s event has been a bit of a shock, but it hasn’t put me off sailing, if anything it has taught me a lot about what to expect, and more importantly what to do, and has also confirmed that we have a good solid boat. Exhaustion and trouble getting to sleep on my 4 hours off are taking their toll. I am really glad to be arriving tomorrow. We definitely are getting crew for the Atlantic crossing, so that we can get a proper rest.

Never lost our sense of humor as we pulled out our party hats when overtaking another yacht
Beautiful sunset as we passed by another yacht
9.11.12 – 6pm
We have decided to come to a marina at the south of Lanzarote, as other boats were reporting that the anchorages were really rolly. I was happy that we decided to go to land, and when I first stepped off the boat, I went down on my knees and kissed the ground (well the pontoon)!! Relief – time for some beers and a good sleep. Stevie has been told that if I don’t waken tomorrow – not to bother wakening me as I love and have missed a good sleep!

I hope my stories haven’t been too long winded, and please don’t worry too much about us – it’s all part of the adventure. Stevie was unsure that we should tell you all at home about the knock down in case it worried everyone, but apparently it only happens to all sailors once in a lifetime, so I am positive we will be fine from now on. Big hugs to you all, lots of love Nicola xx

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Lifting out!

I've not updated the blog for a while, we had a mad dash back from Mallorca to Gibraltar, stopping at Ibiza ,Torrivieja & Mar Menor on the way back, as per usual with the med it was almost all motoring.

We were hoping to change the rudder bearings, one backstay chainplate and a wheel bearing, while adding a spinnaker pole on a track and a rigid boom vang.

As usual with boats things have not went quite to plan, we have much of the work done and are in the process of addding a few extras, while patiently watching the weather for the trip to the canaries.

Many boats are in limbo at the moment due to unseasonably bad weather and winds from the wrong direction.

So we had the boat lifted out to do the rudder bearings and a coat of anti foul, while renewing the bearings we found some play in the rudder between the stock and the rudder itself, which involved cutting some holes in the rudder to repair. then the hot water tank decided to burst, I suppose better now than mid atlantic.

So far we have renewed the backstay chainplates, the rudder bearings, wheel bearing, jib furling line and a few other things, still on the to do list are davits for the dinghy, the spinnaker pole and a rigid boom vang , the last two are in transit and have been for silly amounts of time, could be an issue soon.

Some pics.
Boat in travellift

About to be cradeled

Now this would explain some loss in speed! A large bag like they use in builders.

New paint going on!

Wow a real - large bed, first in six months!

How many Socts, English and South Africans does it take to change a rudder bearing?

Filling in the rudder after the rods were welded.

Doing some pre Atlantic stocking up!

Nic gets her essentials, Chateau du cardboard, well at 1 Euro per liter it can't be bad.

Just when you thought you had enough work, along comes more!
The water ain't supposed to be coming out of this hole!