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Sailmithril - ocean cruising adventures

Across the Ocean


Fun, fishing and not so fast sailing.

Gran Canaria hadn't changed a lot since we were last there in 1996. The timeshare near Arguineguin at the south end of the island had grown somewhat and the Tuesday market in the village was more touristy but otherwise much was unchanged. We were still able to buy cheap frozen meat and also Brazilian criovac beef which was one of our main reasons for provisioning there. We anchored off the timeshare for a few days and did some swimming as well as our provisioning. We spent the last couple of days in the marina at Puerto Rico and the crew joined us there. We were supposed to be 7 but one guy chickened out at the final hour reckoning a month at sea was too much for him so we were 6 - ourselves and 1 slovenian, 1 spaniard, 1 english and 1 american.
This was an interesting combination and provided many themes for conversation in the night watches. Ales (Slov) and Jose (Span) both spoke some English but with quaint phraseology which led to confusion at first. When Ales was asked if he wanted coffee and said thankyou this meant no and Jose often said wrote when he meant read. We thought at first that we had something of a scholar on our hands with the variety of books he had "wrote". Phil an English 18 year old who became 19 on the voyage explained the rules of cricket to Bob the American whose eyes rapidly glazed. Jose was our only smoker and he didn't buy enough despite warnings from the skipper. About halfway through the second week he was running out and started smoking half cigarettes cutting the burning end with nail scissors and stowing it away for later. He also had to ration himself and arrived in Barbadoes with 10 to spare.
We all took turns at cooking which was a superb idea as everyone was able to do their party piece and a certain amount of rivalry arose especially over the dessert offerings. I think Ales won with his apple strudel. These Mediterranean types don't half use the oil in cooking though. I reckon Ales and Jose used about 3 times what I would; consequently we were running short by the end. Another disappointment was that the bananas all ripened at once and went to puree inside their skins. Peter made some banana bread and cake but some had to be jettisoned unfortunately. The fish catch was excellent with our high tech lures of white plastic shopping bag and the outside of a biro to help it float. We had a few that got away and one that was eaten by something much bigger before we could haul it aboard.
Water conservation was important and we did all our dish washing in seawater which worked well with our new stainless steel dishes. For bodies we had a sea water wash and a fresh water rinsing shower every 5 days or so. For a couple of these we were able to go swimming it was so calm and for others we used the seawater deck-wash hose first.
The winds were a bit of a disappointment also throughout the trip with much lighter than expected conditions as you can see from the statistics at the start. We used the main and the full genoa to goose-wing until we bent the long pole then we used our storm pole and about half the genoa which slowed us down a bit. The big pole came unclipped from the mast in the middle of the night and ended up with a ninety degree bend in it. We still aren't certain of how this happened. With the wind astern it was quite rolly and the boat had to be hand steered to hold a straight course. Some of the crew were better at this than others and sometimes we lurched from gybe to gybe throughout a watch. Fortunately the main preventors never broke and the winds were always light enough that if the main backwinded turning the wheel hard over was always enough to bring it back. For a lot of the time though we were on a reach as the trades failed and the winds came from east or even south east. We motored if it was calm as in our experience paying crew do not like being becalmed. Peter and I would still be out there I think as the winds are still not good and once in a calm patch you might hold it for a week.
We did 4 hour watches with less formal ones during the day. On reflection this isn't a good idea as some of the crew were lazy and reluctant to take their turn at the wheel during the day preferring to be reading or using their computer below. Why you would want to do an ocean passage and sit below most of the time I don't know. Everyone got on well together though and to do the passage with people they didn't know had been a conscious choice. They reckoned that a passage like this with friends might mean no-longer-friends by the end of the trip.
We saw a couple of other yachts as we left the Canaries but nothing further out until we shared a day with one of the leading ARC boats. We had left a week before the rally but were caught up by the faster boats around day 16. We shared a day and a half in the same patch of ocean with an 85 footer with a crew of 10. The winds were very light at the time and we kept up well with them when reaching in very light airs. We couldn't understand this at the time and still don't. The wind failed completely overnight and we motored. Just before noon the next day they were in sight again now with the spinaker up and we were goose winged. We kept pace with them all afternoon until the wind rose to about a force 3 in the evening and they steamed ahead. We weren't disappointed with our performance but I reckon they won't have been best pleased looking at a big heavy, steel cruising boat for the best part of 2 days.
We sighted Barbadoes just before sunset on day 22 and motored into Carlisle bay in the middle of the night. The anchorage off Bridgetown is very rolly and not an ideal place to end a voyage as it can become untenable if the wind shifts to the south. We stayed there a couple of days to give the crew an opportunity to see another island more than anything and then we had an overnight sail to the French island of Martinique where we are now. We are in a marina along with various French ARC type rallies and the Mini Transat so there is plenty of colour and atmosphere. Tomorrow we are heading south for St Lucia where we will see the ARC activity. Nearly all the boats should be in by now so it will be interesting to see what type of winds they all had.
Jose has already left and Ales leaves tomorrow so we will be down to 4 on board. I must say we are looking forward to having the boat to ourselves again and doing nothing for a couple of weeks until our next crew arrive on New Year's Day for 2 weeks island hopping. It has been a good experience having crew for a longer passage but I don't know that we would repeat the trip mainly because the winds were so light. We are making a point of continuing to get the weather faxes to see if the winds pick up any over the later part of the season. Going to Brazil still seems a better option as it is a reach and the boat will go faster. The other thing to do would be to get some big twin downwind sails and 2 forestays. However that's all planning for another day.
Merry Christmas everyone - the shops in Barbadoes have snowflakes and santas in the windows to remind us what we are missing. We now have temperatures in the 30s with lots of humidity and the odd tropical downpour. The rum is 3 euro a litre and the local beer is crisp and cold. Life is good!
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Gran Canaria
anchored off anfi del mar

Some statistics.

Persons on board 6
Gran Canaria - Barbadoes 2,745
23 days.
Percentage of winds force 1 or less  45%.
Percentage of winds force 2-3
Percentage of winds force 4-5
Motored 140
Fish caught. 1, 10 kilo dorado. 3, 8 kilo tuna. numerous small tuna.
Use the links below to see photos and video of the crossing by the crew.

copyright Geraldine Foley.