A Day in the Life….Sailing Across the Atlantic

A Day in the Life….Sailing Across the Atlantic

“My day begins at 23:55 when the alarm wakes me for the midnight start of my shift. From 20:00 to 08:00, we split the night-watch into to 2 hour shifts amongst 3 of us. After a brief handover about any changes in wind direction, sails and speed I settle down at the navigation table, make a logbook entry and check the AIS. The AIS system identifies us and any other vessels within the vicinity and provides us with the other vessel’s course, speed and whether we are on a collision course. Nevertheless, there are still boats out there not fitted with it so we do a 360 degree visual check every 30 minutes. Now and then a tanker or fishing boat will appear on the AIS display at 20 miles out, but we never see them, have never needed to adjust our course and haven’t seen another boat for the past 5 days. If Mrs ST joins me and the weather is calm, we might watch an episode of the Vikings on DVD, otherwise I settle down with my book, check sails, and gaze at the moon and stars in the night sky. Suddenly I hear much squealing and commotion from one of the cabins, the door slides open and a waft of fish drifts out. A flying fish has flown into the cabin through the hatch and landed on Pauline’s face, flapping around on the bed, shedding scales and general fishiness before Edwin can grab it and toss it back to sea. The flying fish are up to 20 cm long, bigger than we’ve ever seen and nights are accompanied by regular bumps as they land and flap helplessly on deck before we rush out to nudge them back into the sea. At 02:00, I handover to the skipper and go back to bed for 4 hours of sleep till my next shift. I’m usually out within minutes.

06:00 follows the same routine and I also power up the Iridium GO to download the latest GRIB files and display the weather chart on our navigational map. At the moment we’re struggling with less wind than we need and there’s much discussion of what approach to take, whether to adjust our course for an optimal wind angle for speed or to stay on the direct route with a high chance of calm patches and slower progress. Today the sun rises at 07:34 – Quarterback local time. We’ve decided its 07:34 because it’s a unique liberty we can take: to adjust our watches whenever we feel it suits our rhythm although we may actually be in the next time zone. Every few days we have a 25 hour day and adjust the clocks; there’s no jetlag, we’re traveling 50 times slower than a plane would! Mrs ST and I take our tea out onto deck to enjoy the early light and continue to be amazed. We’ve been traveling for 14 days and have seen nothing but water and sky and changing clouds with daily visits from sea birds that circle us curiously before flying off to somewhere more important. It’s interesting how when your surroundings don’t vary too much you become much more aware of the nuances, the different shades of blue the sea takes on, the types of waves, the cloud formations. You begin to sense your surroundings much more, that wind has picked up, that we’re moving faster that crew are getting concerned/bored/hungry. Although the day seems uneventful and relaxed compared to our ‘real’ life, there are constant decisions to be made. Based on weather forecasts do we adjust our route, what course to take, which sails to set, can we afford to use the engine and for how long? What will we cook today, what will we cook tomorrow, now we’re delayed will we have enough food? Speaking of food reminds me to fish and out goes the trawling line. The Fishnor super, non-breakable, carbon fibre rod for weight up to 40 pounds we purchased especially for this trip? It broke in my hand on the first day. Cracked at the handle under the foam padding with just the weight of the lure on the line. So we’re using the skippers rod and reel. I wonder what explanation the fishing supplies dealer at home is going to come up with.

The morning is quiet until the rest of the crew start waking up, we discuss the course over breakfast and set the sails as we unfortunately can’t use the spinnaker today. It took a 10 meter rip along the seam yesterday and needs to be fixed. The 120m2 sail is bundled up and over the next 2 hours we set about opening the seam stitching along the rip. Repairing it will take 2 days. The only boats I’ve been on where nothing has broken have been exhibits in museums across the world. If you sail you’re always prepared that something will break. I usually make lunch for the crew, if I don’t, you’ll soon hear the rustling of crisp packets and biscuits because though the fridge is stocked with leftover pasta from last nights’ dinner, hard boiled eggs and various charcuterie, no-one else seems willing to prepare a halfway proper meal.

We also have the gadgets to take care of. Mrs ST has her Delorme InReach Explorer which we use to send our position and track in 2 hour intervals so that friends and family can follow our progress. The Iridium GO has proven invaluable and reliable apart from all the gripes about the app. We’re down to one functioning iPad on board so all mails come through that and I make a ceremony of playing postmaster delivering the messages to the rest of the crew. We take great pleasure in getting an email and sharing bits of news. We hear that some acquaintances on a boat that left Las Palmas 2 days before us are 2 days behind us so we haven’t done too bad with our strategy.

When the sun starts to drop in front of us, we lie down in the trampoline and I light up a cigar, to enjoy with a piece of black chocolate and a glass of rum. Yesterday we spotted a family of small whales and today we marvel as a pod of dolphins swerve and leap in front of the boat.
Sunset is at 18:48 QT and we then start making dinner which tonight is the Dolfin fish I caught yesterday, baked in the oven with rice and a dukkous sauce. My strategy is to do all the cooking, that way I never have to do the washing up.
There isn’t much to do after dinner. I feel I’ve seized the day and done as much as I can in our sphere. I’m usually in bed by 21:30 to catch some sleep before the next midnight shift and another day begins.”

Waiting for Wind

Waiting for Wind

Week 1: Las Palmas-Martinique.
Rough seas with wind up to 30 knots, big gentle blue waves in sunshine, day long torrential rain, outside a mass of wet, dense greyness, hard to make out where sea ends and sky begins. We’ve had it all and slowly had enough. The big-picture weather data (GRIB file) is analysed daily and based on this we decide to adjust our course. Heading south to escape the unstable weather, we finally get our first sight of those fluffy, gentle, cotton-wool, trade wind, cumulus clouds  in blue skies that should accompany us to Martinique.

The sunshine is an incredible boost to morale as we now spend more time out on deck and soak up the sun. Mr ST promptly catches a 9.5 kg tuna on which we shall feast (sashimi, tartar, steaks) for the next days. Moving southwards we also hit a huge field of no wind (yayy, no movement for a change! But also oh dear, no movement…).

Nights are spent in 2 hour watch shifts, gazing in amazement at stars, the moonlight turning the calm sea mercury silver. Days are spent reading, checking wind data, eating, lulling in the sun. When a second fish is caught we take advantage of the brief stop and all plunge into the deep, warm water (26.4 degrees) splashing and laughing, joyous at the incredible sensation of swimming in 5000 meter deep water in the middle of the atlantic!

And yet no wind. The easterly tradewinds are still even further south of our position and we have to resort to the dreaded engine to make distance throughout the night. Today, 14:30 UTC finally there! The first gusts of 10 knots East wind, spinnaker is raised and we bear further westerly on course to Martinique. These are wonderful days.

Cruiser Post

image128.11.2014 – 16:10 “Here everything is ok after we hit a peak of 70.2 kn of wind last night. It was impressive and also a bit scary in the middle of night. Right now we have a bit of sunshine are listening to Pink Floyd and are watching 7-8 m waves. There will be two other peaks at 1500 and 0300 but not to be expected as last night. After this wind will slow down gradually to 20 kn. As you can see on the tracking we are approx. 230 miles away from Las Palmas, gives an ETA on Saturday.”

26.11.2014 – 18:56 “Also wir sind hier in schwerem Wetter und kommen nicht wie gewuenscht vorwärts. Die Wetterfront ist so gross, dass wir nicht ausweichen können wir versuchen den Weg mit dem besten Windwinkel und stärke zu finden. Die GRIBS bekommen wir zum Glück und die Modelle scheinen verlässlich zu sein. Es ist für die nächsten Tage keine Besserung in Sicht. Im Gegenteil es sin wieder Windstärken von 40 kn zu erwarten. Uns geht es aber gut und das Boot sucht sich seinen Weg in Richtung Las Palmas. Es liegt gut im Wasser und macht einen sehr stabilen Eindruck.”