Posted by: catamarantwooceans | February 27, 2014

Crossing the South Atlantic–part 1

Namibia to St. Helena

30.1.14 – Thursday – Crossing the South Atlantic, from Africa to Brazil is a lengthy matter; 1223 nautical miles from Walvis bay, Namibia to St. Helena, then 700 miles to Ascension island, 1107 miles to Fernando de Noronha archipelago, our first landfall in Brazil and another 366 miles to Fortaleza on the mainland. Altogether close to 3400 miles. We changed our clocks from Namibia daylight saving time to U.T.C plus 1. That would be more suitable for our night watches, which will be from 2200 to 0600. We went out at 0800; no wind to speak of. Gili has decided to join us in Brazil, so now we have a target date and any delay will not be good.

If the forecast of light, even contrary winds becomes true we will have to motor for a very long time, perhaps a full day! Luckily the wind did come from the southwest, 60 degrees from our port, in an area where the wind normally comes from the southeast. It went up and down but finally settled and blew from the south. In 12 hours from departure we covered 72 miles; not bad. Night fell and it was completely dark; zero moon and overcast sky.

31.1.14 – Friday – 0700 UTC – 141 miles in the last 24 hours.

Dany is the great Believer; he maintains that if you strongly believe something will happen – it will. He tries that all the time with interesting results. This morning he made three wishes, or rather stated that the following WILL happen: the wind will blow from the south at 17 knots, the sun will come out and we will catch a fish:”This big” measuring about 50 centimeters with his hands. Wish number one came true very quickly plus a bit of a current adding half a knot to our speed. Close to midday the cloud cover thinned and sunlight was coming through.

I was going to take the pizza I made out of the oven when I noticed the erratic movement of the rod. “Dany! a fish!” He started taking it in, not an easy job and brought a nice yellow-fin tuna to the stern. I caught it with the gaff and hoisted it, not without difficulty, into the cockpit. Observing its length, I estimated it to be about 8-10 kg. Imagine our surprise as the scale showed 16 kg!

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We quickly ate our lunch and then set to work on the tuna and on cleaning the cockpit from all the bloody stains it left all around. This took more than 90 minutes after which our freezer was overflowing with tuna meals in Ziplocs.

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Dinner was Seared Tuna with boiled potatoes and string beans, wasabi paste at the ready; you’d be happy with a dish like that in any top eatery!

You may ask whether Dany gets his wishes every time. Well, no… but at those occasions he knows who’s to blame. It is I, with my doubts and skepticism, spoiling the desired outcome.

2200 – my watch starts with a flying fish coming in through the roof’s hatch right into the sink and from there, following a quick cleanup, straight into the freezer. While all this is happening the boat goes between 7 and 8 knots in the right direction.

1.2.14 – Saturday – We did 159 miles in 24 hours. The day went on with no special events apart from the appearance of some sediment in the water from the starboard tank which we were using at the time. We decided to switch tanks and to put some bleach to purify the suspected tainted water. We called Gili on the sat-phone to Google the exact quantity needed; her first answer was:”two drops per liter”. Imagine dispensing 300 drops into a tank! The wind backed somewhat during the day and we played with putting the jib on the pole and jibing it when conditions were altered.

2.2.14 – Sunday – 150 miles in the last 24 hours. A ship,Trust Agility (AIS info) showed up in the afternoon, crossing 1.8 miles ahead.

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Good winds, 15-18 with the occasional 20 knots, flat sea – as you can see in the picture – made for a comfortable ride.

3.2.14 – Monday – 24 hours run was 155 n.m. During the day the wind became lighter, we even started an engine in the evening for the dual purpose of charging the batteries and advancing at a reasonable speed. The wind also shifted a few times and we had to jibe the poled out jib in what I call:”The Pole Dance”; maybe “Poleka” is a better name. We took videos of each other doing it and when I have good internet connection I will put them on YOUTUBE with a link. Here it is:

4.2.14 – Tuesday – At 0100 Dany woke me up for my watch (we do four hours each now, from 2100 to 0500) the wind went forward and we had to take off the pole. After a short episode of 20 knots wind it went down to 10 – 15 knots.

The afternoon was dedicated to MAINTENANCE, the main subject being the port hull bilge pump. I had installed new automatic bilge pumps in each hull; in the starboard hull it sits on the bottom under the shower in company with the float that energizes the shower discharge pump. This float sits in a sump, lower than the bilge pump so if any leak occurs, that pump will be the first to operate; that way the starboard hull has double protection.

In the port hull the shower arrangement is different and the bilge pump has a sump all by itself. Some small leaks from the water system revealed the fact that the bilge pump, although operating, does not always pump the water out. Half jokingly, the idea of using TWO bilge pumps came up. I rummaged through my spare parts and came up with an additional pump and a three way pipe fitting. Dany connected both pumps to the electrical supply lines, some water pipes were cut to size and we had a two pump system in place.

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All that was left to do was to bring two pails of water and check the system “under fire”. It passed the test beautifully and will stay there until I can find a stronger pump.

5.2.14 – Wednesday – I asked Dany to take a picture of the chart plotter as we pass the Greenwich longitude; we are now in the western hemisphere.

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It turned to be a very calm day, wind 8 knots and less; we motored on one engine, charging the batteries and keeping a reasonable speed. We replaced the temperamental sea water pump, which was giving trouble, leaking, at times refusing to work and changed oil in the port engine. After lunch we could sail without the engine but the speed was below 5. When we had 18 knots wind the ETA showed arrival on midday Friday; now late evening or even Saturday morning seemed more realistic. We didn’t mind, the ride was pleasant and relaxing.

6.2.14 – Thursday – Another calm day; 0700 showed a disappointing 126 miles in the last 24 hours. We tried flying the spinnaker but the wind was too feeble even for that light sail. The only reasonable thing to do was motoring and when we did that, achieving 6-6.5 knots, the plotter showed an ETA of Friday evening. Now there is a bit of ambivalence here; we want to do pure sailing but when the wind is 4-7 knots it doesn’t make sense! So, feeling a bit like criminals (you know you do something wrong but still enjoy the benefits) we went along with one engine at cruise power and the promise of a Friday night on a quiet mooring sweetening the pill.

At some point I noticed we were followed by a large shoal of fish that looked like bonitos. They were hunting all around us and some birds were circling overhead, diving for morsels. This continued almost until sunset.

7.2.14 – Friday – 149.5 miles, mainly motoring, closer to destination in the last 24 hours. At about 50 miles out I heard St. Helena radio talking to someone, tried calling them and surprisingly they heard me. 42 miles out the island became discernible on the horizon.

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As we approached the northeast corner of the island we were welcomed by a group of dolphins and at 1800 we tied to one of the newly installed mooring buoys, joining a few yachts, some of which we’ve already met along the way.

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Here’s Carlo, of S/V Ipanema, climbs back aboard after rearranging his mooring lines.

Check in procedures would be accomplished tomorrow.


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