Category Archives: Canaries to Cape Verde

The answer to life, the Universe and everything

Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Hurrah!

What a birthday present. Arrival at a new destination. Brilliant. We got here about 0330 this morning and once anchored we all had a good sleep and have just polished off a great brekkie too. We have provisioned for bacon and eggs every Sunday and it just so happens to be Sunday too, so home made bread, crispy bacon, beans and scrambled eggs. Lovely.

After which we did shuttle runs ashore, knowing that it being Sunday there’d be very little open.

The population are predominately Afro-Caribbean with a Portuguese/Latin mix. Really friendly but also really poor. There are signs of growth with lots of building work going on. Lots of approaches to offer us services and point us in the direction of specific eateries. We walk possibly for about 30min but not much more and have seen most of the town. It’s not very big. A likely watering hole catches our eye and we all elect to stop for a light refreshment. Its extremely hot with no breeze. Funnily enough in the bar there is a photograph on the wall of the Luxembourg royal family, when asked why they replied “someone brought it in so we hung it up”. In the end we have lunch here too. The boys all have a local dish and Bernice has a toasted sandwich (feels too hot to eat).

Back on the boat we did some light chores: Adam and Will cleaned the hull. We put together a shopping list of any necessary re-provisioning having done a quick stock check.
Then bubbles, beef stroganoff a’la Huw followed up by birthday cake. Paul opted for an early night and as it was my birthday we went back ashore for a few more beers. That said it had been a long day and we were all in bed by pumpkin time! (it was Sunday, not much going on)

Mindelo! Mindelo! Mindelo!


So land ahoy!

It’s 1606 as I write and Adam has just spotted land. It’ll be the island of “Santo Antao” the one just north of “Sao Vicente” (St Vincent) where we’re headed, to the port of “Mindelo”.

We are sitting relaxing having finished our watch during which we managed to increase the boat speed from 3-4knots to 6-6.5knots which now brings our arrival time in at around midnight. Possibly on our watch, we’re on 9-12 tonight.

Will is being creative again in the kitchen, there’s talk of a fruit crumble and custard following a fish curry, yum yum!

Disaster! We caught a bird in our fishing line! Technically it caught it’s wing in OUR fishing line, but oh my did we have a job getting it free. Poor thing. We think it’s alright just a bit frightened and worn out. It’s wing didn’t seem broken so hopefully it’ll be alright.

Dinner was great as usual and Huw even baked a cake for tomorrow :0)

The wind dies off again mid-late afternoon and we all resign ourselves to a Sunday morning arrival. Even putting the engine on again briefly. Probably best anyway as then we arrive in an unknown port in daylight. Always advisable, some would say compulsory.

Mad mad wind! It picks up again and by the time our watch comes round we’re trying to slow the boat down to stop her heeling too much!!! And our arrival time is now back to 0130.

Gas crisis

Bernice arrives on watch at 3am, the graveyard shift 3-6am, to find out from Paul we’ve ran out of gas! Not completely you understand, just the bottle we were using, and not a good idea to change till morning as they’re kept in a locker on the deck. It’s horrified Paul as Chris usually makes one can last 5 weeks. Oops!! Then again that’s with only the two of them, we’re nearly 3 times that, and she rarely uses the oven. So 1-1.5 weeks for us for a can is probably not too outrageous. Considering the bread and flapjack making going on.

The wind is still fluky and a banging starts which wakes Adam up, he comes up to investigate and manages to get it to stop but it starts again during Huw’s part of the watch and Adam gets up again just as the instruments all give up – batteries out of juice again. Paul attempting to retrieve his emails again. So the gennie and the watermaker go on in the early hours.

In the morning we chat about the gas briefly and agree to try see if (a) we can buy another canister (b) if there is any way if we did we’d be able to secure it in the gas locker. While 3 full cans (that we have altogether) are likely to get us across the pond, at our current rate of consumption it will be touch’n’go. And then if the big crossing is as slow as this short hop south has been due to the wind,we’ll probably run out. So a 4th bottle would be preferable. Otherwise we’ll need to reel back our usage.

Everyone is just pottering about this morning. Will with the fishing gear and clothes washing. Huw helping Paul with some issue on the batteries and Adam’s on watch. If we continue at this speed it’s likely we will arrive in darkness. If we can claw an extra knot or so maybe we could get in in daylight tonight but that’s very slim. At best it’ll be midnight. So it’s looking like first day in Cape Verde for Bernice’s birthday.

It’s an overcast but v. hot and muggy day today with no fish so far. Jacket potatoes with left over chilli for lunch, cooked in the microwave – only available for use when the gennie is on. One step towards saving gas :0)

Thinking of things you might not realise but like to know:
– we can only make water when the gennie is on. (we bring in sea water and pump it through a membrane that extracts the salt and other nasties).
– we can’t go to the toilet or have a shower when the watermaker is on, as we might drag in our used water etc that we pump out further along the boat.
– we turn the gas on and off at the stove every time we use it (gas is the most dangerous thing on a boat as any leakage sinks into the bilges (the space beneath the floorboards and the hull of the boat) and can go undetected and cause explosions)
– if the boat was healing over we’d use lee-clothes in our bunks to stop us falling out, we haven’t needed them on this leg but used then nearly all the way on the UK-Canaries leg (a piece of material the length of your bunk (bed) with strings attached at either end that you then clip up onto a fixed point which turns your bunk into a cot)
– having a shower, or using any water we have to be careful not to waste it, so a boat showrr consists of – wet yourself down, turn the tap off, soap yourself all over, turn the tap back on and rinse. Then pump out all the water that is now under the duckboards
– on watch at night we always have our lifejackets on
– when we use any staples from our provisions we mark off a tally, so when we get into Cape Verde we have an idea of things we might not have enough of to get us all across the Atlantic. It saves us having to count it all
– windows and hatches we’ve had open in the day (normally you wouldn’t have them open at sea, especially in the UK) as the winds have been so light and the temperatures so high, but always close them at nightfall.

Under a mackerel sky

It’s 0020 and Bernice has decided to brave a solo night watch. Rather than change all the watch system right away we’ve elected to split our 3 hour watch up into two 1.5 hour stints. See how it goes we’re probably only two nights more away from our initial destination of Mindelo, in Cape Verde so a couple of tries at it, see how it goes.

This is the first night probably since leaving Baiona that, believe it or not, we haven’t had clear skies at night with a big moon shining down on us – that I can remember anyways. The moon is now high in the sky at about 70% according to our celestial navigational instrument but it’s only just broken through the clouds. So it’s been quite dark for most of Adam’s watch before me.

I view my surroundings with new eyes. In charge yet not sure what of. Am sure the weather knows of my naivety and is surely more in charge than I. All the same I know I need to be familiar with the speed we are doing (we’re averaging about 5.6knots) the wind direction, true and apparent (between you and me they still confuse me a little) and keep an eye on the sky – what is it up to? Are there dark squally patches? Is there wind and/or rain on its way?

I see no ships. There are (unlike every night till now) no other vessels around. No other yachts (the ARC boats will have turned right by now) and no cargo or tankers…. The AIS (a cross between RADAR and GPS that tracks the location, speed and direction of other vessels) is blank, the radar (sees vessels which have a radar reflector and also we have its sensitivity set so we can identify rain on it’s way too) is blank. I am alone…..

Save that is for the sounds and movement around me. The lapping of the water on our hull. The occasional gently breaking waves that you sometimes think are fish, hope are dolphins. The creaking of the main as the boat meanders through the water. It doesn’t feel like we’re moving hardly and yet all at the same time it feel like we’re flying. This is a great boat to sail in and we’ve been really lucky to find ourselves onboard. There’s the occasional squeal too from the wind generator as it whirs and whizzes and darts about moving this way and that as it chases the wind to power it’s paddles.

But most amazing of all is the total stillness and yet constant changing of the night sky. As it quietly alters before my eyes. Clouds parting and forming. Stars tiptoeing across the sky as the earth rotates, glinting and calling to me as they do. The occasional shooting star. Earie and serene, I feel I’m being watched. But not by my fellow sailors. I like to think it’s my mum. I feel close to her out here as I look up at the stars. That she’s there, enjoying the adventure with me. I can feel it as if she’s right by my side. I can close my eyes and feel her cuddling me. It’s a special place to be and until now I’ve held these thoughts all the way down, kept them to myself as if by voicing them I’ll burst the bubble. Every night watch I’ve shared with Huw I’ve been searching the night sky not for clouds but for her. Guiding my thoughts giving me confidence and strength of character to relax and enjoy the ride.

Thanks mum, please stay, I miss you dearly xxx

The fishing competition

Waking up around 730am again (becoming routine like) we get up and join Adam on his watch. He says he’s been not stop, trimming sails moving the genoa across to the goose-wing position etc… We have brekkie of toast as the gennie is running, some oj and the essential “cuppa” as Paul refers to it. Chatting about some more inventions passes the morning. Interestingly the subject of piracy came into the conversation last night, can’t remember how or by whom, but the couple recently released by the Somalian pirates, are friends of Paul and Chris’s.

With the wind still being a bit vague we kind of half stroll-half limp into lunchtime. It’s still hot out there. We’re probably doing just a couple of hours in direct sun daily, any more and we’d fry.

Lunch of freshly baked baguettes with ham, cheese and alioli, yum yum!

The afternoon consists of a bit of sunbathing on the aft deck (flat bit at the back of the boat), siesta time afterall.

We listen into the ARC radio net for a while – Sulana, the boat Fiona is on, is acting as a relay for everyone as their HF set seems to perform best – when one of the boats proposes a fishing competition. The scoring is 20 points per fish + 1 point per cm. Paul does a quick calculation and informs everyone listening in that we have 360 points already … this appears to be pace setting 😉 We manage to catch another medium sized dorada mid-afternoon to add to the tally.

After dinner – a lovely chilli and garlic bread produced by Adam – Will thinks he hears the fishing line run, but it’s only a bit so we are not sure. Paul jokingly suggests that it is the rubbish (biodegradable obviously!) that we have just put over board. Will reels in to find a marvellous collection of Lipton’s tea bags … and a really small tuna. No idea what the points for the tea bags are but we get 35 for the fish!!

As we are getting close to Cape Verde (120 Nm) we are also on the look out for suspicious boats as there have been reports of people trying to board yachts in the area!!

Can you guess Huw’s gone overboard?!

Early to bed, early to rise! Up at 7am we decide on toast for brekkie as the gennie is on. Then bread making and teatowel washing are the jobs for this morning, get them done before the day heats up. Gets pretty darn hot here by 9am (26 degrees!) Such a hardship really.

So you can imagine how worn out we were once we’d finished our chores. A cool shower was the order of the day. While all this was going on there was another false alarm with a fish. Doh!

Lunch today is Spanish omelette to put to good use the left over potatoes from last nights dinner. Hopefully with some fresh bread too, that’s if our experiment to make brown bread is successful!!

As I write this we catch another fish! Quite a biggie, another dorado, which we spend quite a while gutting and filleting, 8 good size pieces which means the dinner menu tonight is now fish!

Then on to preparing lunch, the bread wasn’t quite the success we hoped but still just about edible. Just as we’re serving up there’s a huge interruption! Another bite on the line and as it’s all action on deck. More than anyone bargained for – Huw is down on the bathing platform (back bit of boat lower than rest, for getting back on board easily via when you’ve gone for a swim) with the gaff (pointy hook for bringing big fish in) when with a slip and a shout of “oh bugger!!” he finds himself swimming in 2000 metres of water with the boat rapidly disappearing into the distance!! Doh! Doh! And double Doh!

Good job it’s a calmish day and very little swell. Well done Paul and the troops for your swift action at the helm and getting Huw back on board. Sorry everyone for the unnecessary adrenalin rush! Although, personally Huw was quite glad of the swim – sea was lovely :-). He even managed to keep hold of his sunnies and the gaff (which may have came in handy should a tiger shark have shown up) but sadly he lost his watch to davey jones’s locker.

It’s fair to say that all this excitement and we still managed to get the fish bagged ;0)

The one that got away

What a morning! About 730am we snap. The batteries are really low and some of the instruments have given up the ghost – Paul used a lot of power on his watch trying to get his sailmail (emails). We try to wake Paul up but he’s fast asleep so we turn the gennie on. The course we’re steering is taking us too far away from where we want to be, cause we have the autopilot set to sail the best course to the wind. So we wake up the boys and set about gybing the sails. As we do this Will sees a huge fish off our port quarter. It’s a huge dorado (also known as mui mui). Jokingly he let’s out the fishing line and within seconds the very same and obviously very stupid fish is hooked!!!

But alas after what seems like hours trying to reel it in, whiskey at the ready (a little drop of strong alcohol behind the gills kills without all the blood and splatter a knife would inflict, and very peaceful) and adrenaline pumping we manage to let him escape! And before you disbelievers out their question our call that it was at least a meter long we have photographic and video evidence!!

We get the sails sorted and then Will, still mother, cooks us omelette and toast for brekkie. After which we decide to finally put the engine on as we are pretty much dead in the water. We fly past the ARC racing boat that’s been stalking us all night and in and around that there’s lots of activity on the radio. Dan our previous skipper from Skyelark calls us up but we fail to find a free channel to chat to him on. We crack on with lunch – we’re now back on mother watch – feta salad we think is the order of day.

We manage to listen in again to the ARC daily radio chat and get some up to date weather info. There should be some wind tonight hopefully. Interestingly we’ve put the engine on reluctantly but through choice, the ARC guys can’t as they get penalty points for doing so. Ah well, decision made we all spend a leisurely afternoon watching turtles float past, lots of fun had by all until some turn in for a nap. zzzzzzz

Late afternoon and the sea is like glass. We see another yacht off our starboard side motoring. It can’t be an ARC boat we figure as it’s got it’s engine on and it is heading across our stern. With some bino action we see it’s about 60-65ft and german with a guy in red speedo’s on the deck. He’s watching us watching him. We wondered for a time if he was trying to signal to us but we realised that it was just the sun’s reflection. We thought if he wanted to contact us he would have called us on the radio until we notice he might have been but ours was switched off. Doh! We tried then to call him but failed miserably then he called us and said he knew our captain (paul was asleep) and boat from the trip down from Gib to Lanzarote. He said he was heading to east Cape Verde but headed more like directly to Mauritania.

Dinner was yet another feast (obviously as we were cooking it :0)) tuna, crushed philly potatoes and minted peas. Followed by chocolate angel delight cheese-cakey-thing.

By 1945 we all agree there’s enough wind to try and sail again so the engine goes off. Hurrah!

The wind takes a siesta

The morning arrives as we arise, around 9am having had a mere 3 hours sleep, to a cup of real coffee. Excellente! Freshly baked bread – toast and jam/peanut butter. What more could we ask for. The wind is good and all is well. Adam and Huw play with the navigation gadgets some more and manage to calibrate the SOG (speed over the ground) on three different screens to be the same. Then manage to get Paul’s remote controlled hand held GPS to also talk to all the other screens more efficiently.

When it’s our turn to go back on watch the wind decides to die off almost completely (around 1330, siesta time!) and we have to pull in the mainsail. It’s quite wallowy too as there’s a swell and without any speed we can’t avoid it. Boo hoo. Then would you credit it, as soon as we hand over watch to Adam the wind returns. Light it may be and taking us slightly off course again but wind it is and we’re able to get speeds back to a tolerable 4.5 knot average.

More flapjack making, this time with the oven down really low and monitoring them carefully. They look spectacular, we will let you know later how they were received :0). Oh and we added some fresh Ginger too. Yummy!

Will in on mother watch duties today and is going all out to impress and raise the bar. Ham and cheese salad wraps for lunch followed by fruit pieces. He’s now preparing hors d´oeuvres and paella for dinner. What can we say but “bring it on!”. The dinner was great, we are certainly eating well on this trip. A slight mishap- Will cut his finger, maybe a rouse to get out of washing up chores its not clear :0)

We are monitoring water and milk rations see how our calculations hold up – in case we need to look for a re-supply at Cape Verde. We didn’t plan on this as it’s supposed to be more expensive down here and less availability.

There’s a flurry of activity after dinner – a fish. Has been caught but thrown back as it’s a barracuda and not very nice, we get an email from Fiona, she’s about 100miles north of us, and we start seeing ARC boats in our sights. When we do our 9-12 watch in the evening Lionessa is off our port side (left) she’s a big racing boat in the ARC possibly somewhere in the lead of the boats choosing this route. We’re surprised to see her inshore of us but then as we’ve found, the best wind has been in more Coastal waters. When we return for our 6-9 early morning shift she’s still in our sights having gybed (turning the back of the boat through the wind, as opposed to tack’d – putting the front of the boat through the wind) around us all night.

Dolphin tastic time had by all

Mid morning on our watch and the biggest shoal of dolphins we’ve seen yet turn up – accompanied by lots of whooping and strange clicky noises… weird crew right 😉 They’re with us for quite some time. We have some video we hope to share, as always: try to take a photo of them and you just get a splash.

The boys then spent the rest of the morning trying to free the spinnaker pole and success arrived just before lunch, hurrah!

So hurriedly we all ate lunch and got to work on setting up the goose-winged sails. Oh it looks good! And what a relief, going across the Atlantic without the ability to go dead down wind would be a disaster. The wind had come round early this morning which helped us get back on track. Now however we are rocking!!! The ARC can eat our dust!!!! :0)

The rest of the day was spent by most of us chatting and reading. Adam was on mother watch and elected to make more bread and pizza for dinner. What a winner :0)

Off to bed after dinner, 9pm! As we have the graveyard shift tonight – 3-6am! When we wake up (a little early) we feel the speed. It turns out they were doing a good 8knots (this is about 1.1 of your land-lubber miles) and considering our course and the fact we thought we’d have little or no wind this is great :0)

Typically it dies down a bit for our watch, but we still have a great sail.

Dolphins for breakfast

Hurray, we wake up about 7.40am and find lots of dolphins swimming around the boat. Top tastic :0)
– dolphin photo

We are still on mother watch till noon so a little cleaning and prep done and Huw manages to glue and fix the water filter hurrah!! Adam tries to get to the bottom of and sort out his squeaky bed but it proves a nightmare – all the panelling has to be removed and looked at….. by teatime he finds success hurrah!

The wind is pretty light today and not great in terms of direction which means we head further south (we really want a more south westerly course) than we’d like, getting close to the African coast. But we’re all hoping the forecast is right and we get more easterly winds soon. We did look at putting up the spinnaker pole (normally used to put the spinnaker out, the big colourful sail you see yachts flying) and setting the sails goose-winged but there’s an issue with the clasp on the pole, inevitable as its not used much, so we can’t use it for now. New Dawn is normally sailed short-handed (either just Paul or Paul and Chris his wife) so it figures as you wouldn’t bother with the complexity of a spinnaker, you really need at least 4/5 crew to do it safely, and then there’s no guarantee. We tough it out and after dinner the wind picks up.

Paul our skipper is the “mummy” (or as Adam has declared, the “daddy”) today but as a self-confessed non cook we lend a hand. His wife Chris pre-cooked some spaghetti bolognese dishes and as lasagne was on the menu for this week we helped him turn it into that and add garlic bread too.