When I last published in English on this blog we were preparing to leave Quinta do Lorder and Madeira. Ten days have gone since and we have obviously moved ahead. From the position reports you have probably seen that we are in Mindelo on Sao Vincente one of the island forming the Cabo Verde Archipelago. But quite a lot has been happening in between let me try to sum it up for you.
The 250 miles crossing Madeira to La Palma (the most western of the Canary islands) was one of the smoothest ever, downwind in moderate northerly wind, mostly under spinaker or main plus jib in butterfly. No special encounter, few maneuvres mostly for switching from spinaker to white sails. We like it like that, we are very confortable at sea on our boat and we are enjoying ourselves very much with lot of time spent sleeping and reading. So, the crossing was very peacefull until we reached 40 miles from La Palma. We should have seen the high peak of the island already long ago but it was night and cloudy. The wind had picked up in the beginning of the night and we had replaced the spinaker by the jib. Now as the morning sun was trying to break the clouds, the wind was veering and we had to remove the jib pole. As we approached further the northern tip of the island we got in the so called accelaration zone the the wind speed started to go up quite fast from the steady 18 we had overnight to 23 knots then 27 to finally peak at 32. We took 2 reefs in the main but kept the jib (we were still at 100° TWA). The boat was surfing the short waves at 12 knots. This was fun. Then has we got to the lee of the island everything got much calmer. Based on the pilot book recommentation we had decided to make our stop at Tazacorte on the west coast of La Palma. This is definitely the right choice: very nice and cheap marina with friendly and helpful staff, well sheltered from all directions and no effect form the swell inside (which is reported as an issue in Santa Cruz). It was almost lunch time when the marinheros took our lines.
After the usual boat, crew and laundry washing, in the late afternoon, we rented a car and went to renew our food supplies to the nearby city of Los Llanos which is blessed with one Lidl and one HyperDino. Back to the boat we celebrated my first day of retirement (until now I was just on holidays :)) with a glass of a strong but decent local wine.
We used the next day to go to the caldeira and visit some part of the island. La Palma feels vey different from Tenerife that we know very well. It’s much greener, with still a lot of flowers including blooming chestnut trees. The landscape around the caldeira is breathtaking but we couldn’t enjoy it for very long as heavy clouds engulfed the mountain and obscured the view in the early afternoon. Below 1000 m it was raining. We went down to Santa Cruz. The old city centre (Centro historico) is very pleasant. We could also see that Santa Cruz marina, in spite of being located at theinner end of the large commercial harbor is rolly and further more in the middle of the city traffic.
Next day (August 3) we set sails in the late morning catching a very nice meckerel just on time for lunch. In the lee of the archipelago the condition were very mild which is always nice when starting a crossing. This time it will be 800 miles to Mindelo. Again a first time for us, our longest so far was 500. That may surprise you: both of us have been sailing intensively ever since the age of 14 and we went many places by but we never clocked more than 450 miles in one go even if we did it many times (that’s the distance between our home port and our favourite play ground in the south part of Galicia).
The 2 first days were slowish at around140 miles a day but the sea was flat and the cloud cover only 50%. Temp went up to around 30°C for a couple of hours but the average was more like 25. On the third day, the wind picked up finally. We dozed the spinaker and went for our “pensioneer rig” ie we took the main down and established the jib on the pole with the stay sail in butterfly configuration. We hardly slow down and we can sail dead downwind with a good margin on both side. It is also pulling the boat from the front making the job very easy for the pilot: it is almost self steering. The wind was oscilating from 20 to 23 knots all night going down to 15 to 18 in the morning (we put the main up again) We clocked our best day of the crossing at almost 200 miles in 24 hours. This was also our first flying fishes harvest (4 of them on the deck this morning and plenty flying around all day) which is a sure sign that we have reach the tropical area. Fried at lunch it’s delicious. Anne also catched a strange flatish fish. According to the cards we have on board it would be a small “greater amber jack” of less than 2 kg. We cooked it on a vegetable stew and it gave us two tasty dinners.
Fourth and fifth day were more complicated with unsettled sea and shifting wind blowing less and less. The 22 knots wind sea was still there while the wind was gone blowing now less than 8 knots making the sails flapping a lot inspite of the preventers which is causing a lot of wear and shafing. We couldn’t keep the spinaker up because it was to shaky unless we went at 140° TWA but the speed gain was not compensating for the longer distance . I spent a lot of time at the nav station to download and interpret the latest grib files (gribs are raw weather files issued by the US NOAA and freely available from their server, you can download them to your computer and visualize up to 14 days predictions for wind, waves, pressure and many other weather parameter). I am glad I have got a data unlimited Iridium subscription! The verdict is no wind toward the east and larger waves to the west but no stronger wind. The best option is to stay on the shorter route but that means a lot of jybing. But jybing is quite a task when you are only 2 on a 42 footer: removing the boom preventer, furling the gib, removing the pole from the gib, jybing the main and reinstalling everything on the other tack. No need to say that we get exhausted after a few of those in the afternoon. Consequently we adjust our unrully watch system (manoeuver when optimum, that is all the time, and sleep when nothing else can be done) to a more oderly pattern in order to allow a minimum of 2 times 3 consecutive hours of sleep for each of us and I can insure you that we are using every minute of it.
This means also trying as much as possible to plan the gybesand other manoeuvers to the watch change time when we are 2 on deck. Do we still see each other with such a system or is it just a short “Hi!” at the change. No in fact we spend still a lot of time together during the day and we talk a lot, exchanging views on a lot of topics most of the time totally unrealted to our navigation.
In the afternoon of the 5th day, we are only 70 miles from Sao Vincente. We are 7 knots under spinaker, wich gives an ETA in the middle of the night which we don’t like especially this is a very dark night, no moon, low clouds and this yellow desert dust which is in the air since our third day and making every thing farther than 2 miles desapearing in a kind of hazy fog. We are preparing to doze the spinaker but the wind drops and we slow down gently to 4 knots wich give us a perfect arrival timing
The arrival at Mindelo will be in the same saharian dust haze. The bay is clutterered with numerous ship wrecks getting us worried with what we are going to find ashore. But no Mindelo is a great place, a small but proud African city out there in the middle of the Atlantic. We dock at 10:00 local time the marina staff is very helpful. The clearance formalities are quickly and efficiently expedited (entrance and exit at the same time because we are leaving on Saturday). We then discover the old part of the city with it’s old Portugese colonial buildings. The fish market is fantastic. People are very nice and kind. The local language is Portugese which we don’t speak but most of the people we met prefer to speak with us in French rather than English.
We will spend 2 nights in Mindelo. Tomorrow we are heading to Brazil our first ocean crossing. The ultimate goal is Salvador de Bahia but given the routeing we have run based on the latest weather forecast, we will cross the dolldrums fairly west which means that we will probably stop at Fernando de Noronha and/or Joa Pessoa on the way.
The next article will be posted from Brazil (hopefully) Don’t expect it before 2 to 3 weeks. In the mean time stay tuned on our Twitter feed.