As a brief divergence from the Vaila sailing blog I thought I would record my further sailing adventures on the Atlantic Ocean.
In February 2015 Petra encouraged me to go and organise sailing the Atlantic, crewing for another boat, so I did. I signed up with Alan Broadbridge and his wife Avryl, on their yacht Weohgi, who were planning on taking part in the ARC+ in November 2015. The route is from the Canaries to the Cape Verde Islands for a few days stopover then across to St Lucia, a total of nearly 3000 Nautical Miles.
We had a trial week sailing in the Mediterranean in May from Malta, via Gozo to Trapani on Sicily. The whole crew was on board for this trip, Alan and Avryl and Colin Hussell a ‘flying’ friend of theirs of many years. We had good weather and the opportunity to try out Alan’s modifications on their Jeanneau 45.2 to make it Atlantic seaworthy.
For the next stage we gathered at the end of October in Las Palmas, Grand Canaria to prepare for the crossing starting on 8 November, along with 60 odd other boats and crews. We had a few days of frantic boat prep, seminars on things as diverse as first ad and provisioning, a party every night and shopping for food
Fresh food Prep.
Then it was off, before either Colin or I could change our minds and join Judy’s yacht (they were struggling to find enough crew). We got an average start (remember it isn’t a race) and set off south at 7+ knots in a 20 Kt wind from behind
By that evening it was blowing over 30 Kts and we were starting to surf down large waves at up to 11.5 Kts – way past hull speed. My watch was in the dark that night – I guess it usually is! – and it was fairly interesting surfing down the waves at those speeds in the pitch dark. The hydrovane self steering helped, as you didn’t have to hand steer unless you wanted to.
The sun shone the next day, the wind had moderated to 15-20 Kts and it pretty much stayed like that for 6 days as we did just under 1000 Nms at an average speed of 7+ Kts. We had dolphins at dawn and dolphins at night with light shows of phosphorescence trails like underwater shooting stars and of course birdlife to liven up proceedings.
Cape Verde arrival
We arrived in Cape Verde at a very civilised 10 am or so and after a bit of fun, berthed in the Marina at Mindelo. The next few days were spent exploring the islands, meeting with other crews, fixing small items on Weohgi and the inevitable parties. The islands are ‘interesting’. Sao Vincente, where we were based, was pretty barren and not a lot going for it really, the next door island of Sao Antao was more verdant, with high mountains and a walking destination for many explorative tourists. We had had enough Grog for a lifetime by the time we set off again on 18 Nov heading for St Lucia some 2000 Nm distant
We had a slightly better start and set off with great enthusiasm heading due west, just the small matter of avoiding Sao Antao provided some amusement. Not that no wind in the wind shadow of the island in 2-3 m waves was overly amusing, seasickness set in for a few and we decided to motor for a few hours to get back in to the favourable winds that others were reporting on the vhf.
Waves off Cape Verde
We soon got into the trade winds, anywhere from 12-22 Kts of wind. The constant easterly wind gave us a very easy time with not much sail adjustment to do once we had the spinnaker pole out and the boom preventer fixed. So we basically sailed as near 270 degrees as we could for about 8 days whilst doing nothing but reefing a bit at night to avoid dramas in the dark. The sun shone, a full moon illuminated the nights, the wind blew and the boat rolled 15-20 degrees each way for 24 hours a day
A busy day in the trades Weohgi steering herself
Trade wind sailing at its best. We saw little wildlife, just a few birds, mostly shearwaters and a few storm petrels, loads of flying fish and that was it. No cetaceans of any sort, so we had to rely on doing small jobs on Weohgi to liven up the day shifts. The big excitement came on the 9th day when we put in a gybe, its amazing what can seem fun when running downwind in the Trades.
Careful on deck at 9 Kts
From this time on we had quite a few squalls to keep us on our toes with clouds, some sharp rain showers and occasionally a bit of stronger wind. Fortunately we could see them coming, either by eye during the day or on the radar at night if they were bad ones.
Spray and rain
We had a few interesting moments, but didn’t break anything – unlike quite a few who arrived in St Lucia with broken poles and damaged sails, and a few who didn’t arrive at all after turning back or diverting. We arrived on Nov 30th, just in time for Alan’s birthday and only 13 days from Cape Verde. We averaged 7.2 Kts over the whole voyage, faster than we normally sail at any time on Vaila, and we even had some food left!
Relaxed a thousand miles from land …………..or are we?
A relaxing 8 Kts into Rodney bay and the finish line
Petra flew out to the Caribbean to stay on Weohgi for 10 days or so on 7 Dec. So we had a lovely time staying in Rodney Bay marina for a few days then cruising down the west coast of St Lucia. We stopped off at Marigot bay, an idyllic small bay fringed with mangroves and palms with lovely walks and restaurants.
Then to Soufriere in the large bay at the Pitons where the snorkeling was great and we visited the volcano and botanical gardens on a trip organised by ‘Captain Bob’ then after a couple of nights there we headed down to Labourie so that we could head for the airport.
A fairly predictable taxi trip involving the inevitable hassle with a local fixer provided some last minute entertainment.
So – an adventure – fun, challenging and fulfillment of a lifelong ambition.
The final sunset as we approach St Lucia
Many thanks to Alan and Avryl for the invitation and Colin for being a great shipmate.