AO-Xing Days 5 & 6: Finally Trade Winds

There we go with the trade winds. True wind speeds are above 20 knows at times. Sails are full and Yuana rushes down the winds and down the waves. Our 24-hour average traveling speed is now around or above 6 knots, as it is supposed to be. The sea is relatively flat and comfortable. Somewhat unexpectedly, we can even do our school program for the kids.

The boats which went for the Southern route make a fantastic progress these days. One catamaran even did more than 200 nautical miles within 24 hours. By its design and dimensions, Yuana cannot be that fast. We would have to reef the sails in the those winds and the sea state would certainly be not be better for us there. So we are still more than happy with the route we have chosen and glad that we passed some other boats in our vicinity.

Some who study our track might wonder why we zic-zac towards Barbados at times, whereas other ships go as the crow flies? With the sails available the boat makes best speed with a wind angle of 120-150 degrees. Heading straight downwind (which would be 180 degrees) makes the boat slower. The zic-zac however makes the route longer. So the trick is to understand how much extra speed the boat has to make so that the deviation still pays?

To find the trade-off between shorter distance and extra speed, we use the dimension ‘Velocity Made Good’ (VMG) on our displays. The VMG is the speed vector towards the destination. It decreases the farther we point away from the target waypoint, except if the boat speed increases more by doing the same. Yes, a bit complicated.

After a day without seeing any buddy boats, British ‘Krabat’ and Swedish ‘Rubicon’ appear on our screen. Our directions seem to cross. Finally we pass ‘Rubicon’ in a distance of just 0.2 nautical miles only, what a coincidence! Although if I like the idea of being alone very much, it is good to know that some buddies from the same Ralley around us. We chat for half an hour on the radio. One can find all kinds of topics to exchange. There are always news about well being, fixing things, weather or fishing. Fishing actually can be pretty expensive if the hooked fish would disappear with the expensive lures all the time.

Yes, we made the same experience: we are on one of the biggest fishing lakes in the world and run short of lures now, what a pity. So we started to create our own lures. It doesn’t require more that a hook, a couple of colorful woolen threads and a bit of fantasy to create own lures. We also found that the fish would bite better if some meat is attached to the hook.

Once we catch a fish of reasonable size, we bring it to deck and spray a little bit of alcohol into his gills. It is then quiet and can be ‚sent beyond’ and filleted quite easily. Joe tried the technique to fillet the fish without opening it and removing the intestines first. This goes much quicker and with less of a mess. By the way, the beautiful 75cm Wahoo we caught on day 6 gave a very nice lunch for all of us.

So here we are, doing well, feeling well, starting to discuss how we shall celebrate the next Half Way Party;-)! There is the big blue Atlantic Ocean all around us. We hear our own wake astern. Yuana gives us a safe and comfortable home.

Nautical miles during the crossing:
Day 6: 144nm
Day 5: 149nm

Atlantiküberquerung Tage 3&4: Immer noch flau.

Vom Passatwind ist nach wie vor nichts in Sicht. Schon seit vier Tagen läuft der Motor fast ununterbrochen. Mit niedertourig gehaltenem Motor und aufgezogenen Segeln kommen wir auf etwa 5 Knoten Fahrt. Die einzigen Stopps sind eine kurze Windstunde und zwei Badepausen im offenen Meer. Über Funk hören wir von den anderen Schiffen, was für Riesenfische diese schon gefangen oder gesichtet haben. Eine Crew ist sich sicher, dass sie Haie gesehen haben. Wir baden mittags wenn die meisten Fische nicht fressen, und lassen die Kinder nicht alleine ins Wasser. Wäre ein einzelnes Kind im Wasser für den Hai nicht ein einfacheres Ziel als eine Gruppe von Personen? Ebenso schwimmen wir nicht von Yuana weg.

Diesel ist Trumpf: wer mehr hat kann länger, und unser Schiff hat zwei sehr grosse Tanks. Das hilft uns gut, durch diese hartnäckige Flaute zu kommen. Die Wogen sind unglaublich lang. Von Wellen kann man hier nicht mehr sprechen. Es sing buchstäblich wandernde Wasserhügel, welche über das weite Meer reisen. Je nach Windhauch und Himmelsreflektionen hat jeder dieser Wasserberge einen anderen Blauton. Wir nehmen an, dass sich die fliegenden Fische erst wieder zeigen, wenn es wieder Wellen mit einem etwas steileren Winkel haben. Erstaunt sind wir über die vielen Vögel hier draussen. Teilweise sieht man mehrere Vögel pro Stunde. Meist fliegen sie dicht über dem Wasser. Wahrscheinlich fressen sie kleine Mücken.

Am Abend des dritten Tages beissen plötzlich wieder Goldmakrelen an. Die erste ist zu klein. Die zweite und dritte sind 45cm und 60cm lang und geben zusammen ein feines Abendessen ab. Einen grösseren Fisch verlieren wir leider wieder von der Angel. Unsere Tochter muss weinen, weil wir die Fische töten. Abends beschliessen wir gemeinsam, dass wir ab sofort nur noch jeden zweiten Tag Fischen werden. Das passt nun für alle.

Mittags erhalten wir jeweils per E-Mail die Positionen der anderen Schiffe. Vorläufig scheint es, als hätten wir uns eine gute Routenstrategie zurechtgelegt. Die Schiffe, welche anfänglich weit südlich den Wind gesucht haben, liegen mehrheitlich hinter uns. Sie haben in Hoffnung auf bessere Winde teilweise beträchtliche Umwege in Kauf genommen. Es wird sich weisen müssen, ob das lohnt. Wir selbst wollen segelnd eine Reisegeschwindigkeit von 6-7 Knoten erreichen, und brauchen daher gar nicht in den besten Windgürtel hinunterzufahren. Abends laden wir jeweils die neuesten Windprognosen herunter und studieren, ob unsere Strategie zukunftsfähig ist. Gespannt warten wir auf die nächsten Positionsdaten. Unseren aktuellen Kursverlauf kann man auf dem Link zu CornellSailing sehen, welcher auf der Homepage unter dem Menupunkt We abgelegt ist.

Die Nächte sind dunkel. Der Neumond bringt kaum Licht in die Nacht.
Etwa um Mitternacht verschwindet die dunkelgelbe Sichel dort, wo einige Stunden zuvor die Sonne untergegangen war. Orion steht wie immer. Sternschnuppen flirren durch die Sommernacht.

Etmal Tag 4: 125 Seemeilen
Etmal Tag 3: 127 Seemeilen

Atlantic Ocean Crossing Days 1&2

The first two days are over and we are still waiting for wind. There was some wind around the Cape Verde Islands, and later occasionally every here and there. We reached 7 knots of boat speed during last night. This is generally not overwhelming but still counts for progress if otherwise the engine is consuming limited diesel.

Diesel was really cheap in the Cape Verdes, costing something like 0.90 Euros per liter. We stocked 415 liters. That would keep us going for another 4.5 days in same conditions. But hey, we are here for sailing. Usually there should be plenty of trade winds in our latitude this time of the year, but a big storm system which passed far north of us has stopped every wind where we are. Yes, this might also be part of the climate change which very experienced sailors such as Jimmy Cornell have noticed during the last decade already. Luckily, our Hallberg-Rassy came with two big tanks and so we can carry more fuel than many others in our fleet.

Our fleet is 23 boats and most of the have left Mindelo on Thursday within two hours. The field stretched quite rapidly. Some went for the shortest way towards Barbados hoping that winds would pick up after two days. Others intended to go two hundred miles South first to get into stable trades. After doing our own weather considerations we opted for the Swiss way which is to choose a strategy which was finally in between the ‘extreme’ positions.

By doing so, we saw the lights of ten other yachts in the beginning of the first night, with three lights remaining at the end of same night. Now when being two days into the crossing, we have also lost the last boat which was so far displayed on our electronic plotter screen.

Unfortunately we deviated from our routing strategy already on the first evening. We were then convinced that the extra miles for going Southwest would not be worth the diesel we consume. 24 hours later and with the newest weather data available we re-adjusted our course from 270 to 240 degrees, since wind seems not to pick up here for the next three days.

Anyway, the distance to destination was 2030 nm when we started. Since then, we have seen 2000, 1900, 1800 nautical miles going by. Guess what? The common feeling is that these miles go down too quickly. Let’s see what we will say next week.

The crew works very well together and we have had two lovely days. The calm weather even allowed to stop the boat once for one hour to go swimming and cooling down around the boat, followed by much appreciated shower. Air temperature is 30.4 degrees as water is 28.1 degrees.

Even fish get lazy with the calm and warm sea. Fishing success so far is limited to three small Mahi-Mahi’s, approximately 40 cm long. We made photos of each one to be documented for the fishing contest amongst the fleet, but let the fish go because each one was were not really big enough to give a good meal. So we started to create our own lures which look now bigger than the original ones, hoping that bigger fish would bite.

Jeanette and Joachim furled our genoa out again minutes ago. The 3.8 knots of true wind would give us another 0.5 knot of boat speed, now being back to 5 knots boat speed over ground. With this configuration we will continue motoring and look forward for finally reaching the trades on Sunday afternoon.

Nautical miles during the crossing:
Day 2: 125nm
Day 1: 115nm

Day 3 & 4: Partying and trouble shooting

Days 3 and 4 usually are more relaxed, compared to the first two days of the passage. The biorhythms get used to life at sea, which includes the continuous motion from the waves and the need for a day and night watch. With three adults on board, night watches get considerably shorter than for a couple only, what a luxury!

So we had more time for party: we celebrated the crossing of the 20st meridian which happened to be in the middle of the night. The boy set the alarm clock. At 4 a.m. sharp one pair of proudly looking kids eyes appeared at the cockpit. I welcomed him to the party and suggested to get properly dressed. The search for his clothes however made him so tired that he fell asleep again on the next bunk. So we’d better party during the day. To eat, kids choose popcorn and sour worms. Captain offered drinks and the ladies on board even made colorful paper decorations for it.

Later the same day Jeanette is the one who realizes that we are just about to pass the half way point to Mindelo. That calls for another great party, namely a Half Way Party (this is a thoroughly legendary term for some of my dear readers!). As we discuss to celebrate this one, we whiteness the fishing rod going all the way back. “Fish! Big Fish!” Our fishing line is really strong, the last meter even in steel so that fish can’t bite it off. The line is unfortunately not strong enough and snaps. You know what? Mr BigFish now carries a beautiful lip piercing. It is a bluish-silvery jelly octopus, contributed by Swiss blue water cruisers Carmen & Maurice. RIP, dear Jelly Octopus. You were the best lure we had. Dear Carmen, I believe to know that you really liked this particular octopus. When we will be back in Switzerland, we shall party for luckily pierced Mr BigFish. Apologies for the loss!

Noteworthy is also that we are back in Summer, on a day mid November. Day temperatures are like on a convenient beach day with water finally being up to 25 degrees C. It is hard not jumping into the deep blue. Problem is that the way back onto the boat could be troublesome (if not dangerous) with the boat rocking up and down in the seas. Anyway, no one on board misses typical November weather in our home places Switzerland and Sweden.

After we had a bird messing up to whole starboard deck last night we had his colleague sitting inside the boat on the galley this night. It must have come through the open hatch above the galley. Sure the galley gave a nice toilet for him. Markus was actually out on the watch when he heard some very uncommon noise inside. There was the bird, but the noise was like a cat which would continuously start to hiss. Chhhh. Chhhh. Chhhh. First I brought the bird out. It was weighing just nothing. Incredible how they can survive at sea. As expected the noise didn’t stop when the bird was away. Chhhh, Chhhh, Chhhh, … The engine room was ok, the water maker in the cockpit locker and the fridge as well. Finally we found that pressurized water hose underneath the galley board died after four month of use only, a manufacturing mistake. But why did hissing start and stop all the time? The puncture in the hose was relatively small, so small that the water pump was able to fill the pressure vessel for a few seconds each time. Good that we carry all kinds of spare parts, also water hoses. Issue fixed.

Another defect was that the position tracking for our boat failed shortly after we left. We could start tracking of the error only with a big delay. The cause of the error was that we had to re-configure the interface between our satellite communication system and the weather software. When doing that, the weather software has re-directed our tracking signal to the weather company. This remained undetected by myself since the setup for tracking is not in the same menu as the weather interface. Apologies to the ones who were frightened for some time. Please rest assured that everybody is fine and we have a great time together.

Let’s talk about sailing:
A sail change at three o’clock in the morning is quite a mind challenging task. Actually we took the Code Zero light wind sail down and changed to a poled out genoa. There were not less than eight different lines in the area. You don’t want to mess up with these ones, and one action which is not clearly thought to the end can easily trigger an unwanted event. Markus likes such tasks. The ladies however didn’t like seeing me on the foredeck at night with the waves rolling the boat.

To make it even nicer, we have reached a first sailing culmination for our entire trip so far. There were force 6 winds from astern and waves peaking up closely to 3 meters. For a couple of hours the boat was going really fast. We were often above 8 knots of speed, well competing which much faster boats. Another boat remarked their respect about our sailing performance over the VHF radio. We put it down to our nice Swedish Hallberg-Rassy design and the Swedish sail trimmer. Once Yuana was even doing 11.2 knots when surfing down a wave. The boat felt so stable and kind of unaffected by the waves. It was a big pleasure, and the weather gods may be kind enough to give us more of that!

Data log
Day 4: 150nm
Day 3: 148nm
Day 2: 126nm
Day 1: 134nm

Harboring the Canaries

The last 12 hours on our way from Madeira into the Canaries were quite exhausting. We made a decent progress, in rolling waves and against the wind. Some salty drizzles went over the cockpit every now and then. The outer deck however saw a lot of sea water. Somehow, approximately 50 liters of the salty liquid ended up in the bilge, which is the deepest point INSIDE the boat.

The 50 liters itself wasn’t too much of an issue, but the fact that salt water gets into the boat is definitely unwanted. Skip this section if you are not interested in technical terms. Our cockpit and part of the deck are drained via reinforced hoses through the interior of the boat and out underneath the water line. Shorty after buying the boat I checked and fastened all of the hose clamps which secure these hoses, each one going from a hose sleeve below deck down to a valve, before going into the sea. Somehow, I must have missed one of these hose clamps, certainly the one which came loose, draining some deck water into the bilge. Item solved.

Arriving in the Canaries, we anchored in famous Francesa Bay. As many places, it has unveiled their beauty to us only after a day or two: its underwater world. The first day in the anchorage was tough again: 35 degrees Celsius at 35 knots of wind and 1 meter swell in the anchorage. Not a good anchorage on that day indeed. Anyway, we wanted to be there because it is a nature reserve and we got a special permit to be there. The good news is that our anchor held rock solid, but two anchor retention lines (the lines taking the load off the anchor winch) broke due to the heavy rocking of the boat.

Two days later and in the port of totally dry island of Graciosa, we found ourselves in a very little village, all houses painted white, with sandy lanes in between. There were only two hands full of cars for the entire village. A horse wagon on a restaurant roof reminded of the old days. During the weekend, the place was looking like a neat hippy village, with dreadlocks men and women trying to make some bucks with selling nice hand craft. Customers however seemed to be not too many.

On Graciosa and a week later on Lanzarote, we got more of the volcano stuff all over the place. In the cactus gardens we learned that the saying ‘hard shell soft core’ really can also be the other way round: some of the huge cactus were cut back. There we spotted that those cactus have a core hard as wood, packed into a relatively soft shell. Then there was the camel ride. We not only rode these fantastic animals, we also took a deep look into their eyes: most of them seamed to be good-natured. But there was one really mean looking chap, perfectly prepared for the Horror Rocky Camel Show.

More animals? Yes. When kissing our friends from yacht Tomskii Kastan goodbye, Markus learned that his beard apparently felt like a hedgehog. Too much hair in the face… At least she didn’t call me a porcupine, haha. We enjoyed great times with the Tomskii’s, certainly enough wine, great beach barbecues, and our kids learned how to carve dragons out of cucumbers. Thank you, dear friends, and see you again!

From Lanzarote we did an overnight sail to Tenerife. A teenage Mahi-Mahi of 80cm was on our hook. The colors were beautifully green and gold, until it died. Then the color suddenly changed to grayish silver, as most fish would look like. Tenerife will be the place where we conclude our preparations for the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. A separate post about the preps will follow.

Something nice to close this season review? Yes of course: If Markus shall recommend a place in the Canaries, it will be the restaurant http://www.cantinateguise.com for an overwhelming burger with truffel sauce, and for the hot pants as well.

Kindergespräch

Auf der Passage in die Kanaren haben wir drei Thunfische von etwa 35cm Länge gefangen und wieder freigelassen, weil sie noch so klein waren. Etwas später unterhalten sich die Kindern darüber, wie alt ein Fisch sein soll, dass man ihn nehmen und essen darf:

Tochter:
“Baby-Fische müssen geschützt werden. Diese nehmen wir nicht. Alte Grosseltern müssen unterstützt werden. Die nehmen wir auch nicht. Sie wären sowieso zäh. Wir nehmen lieber die Teenager Fische, die haben eh nur Probleme.”

Sohn:
“Fische mit Problemen schmecken doch nicht!”

Tochter
“Die Probleme sind im Kopf. Den schneiden wir sowieso ab. Der Körper ist gut”.

Sohn:
“OK, wir nehmen die Teenager.”

Haha, zum Glück haben wir zwei so herzige Noch-Nicht-Teenies und dazu fitte Grosseltern 😉 !

[auf dem Foto sieht man den 65cm Thun von letzter Woche]

 

Madeira to Isla Graciosa – 2nd night

The day started wish some fishing. I wasn’t even through with securing the fishing gear as I heard an odd croaaak coming from the area where the hook was. Oh no, the only seagull in the area tried to eat our fishing lure which we pulled behind us. Now, the seagull is trapped somehow. Immediately we would slow down, turn back and spool in the fishing line, with no tension on the line for the bird. This gives it the time to free itself and we are bloody glad that it was like that.

Later on we catch a tuna kid, just about 35 centimeters long. We release it since we don’t want to kill it for the little flesh we would get. Another two tunas of same length follow, and all of them can go back into the blue. We discussed whether the fish would remember that at the end of the day, and learn something out of being caught. Does anybody know ;-)?

As all of the three tunas were of same length we conclude that our lure was to small. For this reason we change back to the bigger lure which was responsible for the big tuna we caught a week ago. However we wouldn’t catch anything for the rest of the day.

In the afternoon we were chattering over the radio with a solo sailor on his way from La Rochelle (F) to Gran Canaria. He would prepare there for a solo race across Atlantic Ocean to Martinique. He says that 81 single-handed boats are participating and expects to make the crossing within two weeks, on a boat of 6.5 meters length only. His biggest issue was the freeze-dried food which he apparently didn’t like so much. We wished good luck to him for the race.

Before dinner time we decide spontaneously to stop the boat and go swimming. Sea is flat and wind is down. One adult always stays aboard whilst the other three persons try not to get caught by a shark (they eat later, usually). We survive. The strangest thing about swimming out here are the 3000+ meters of water underneath. This is so incredibly deep, with an awful lot of strange animals down there.

Another day dusks and we get ready for the night. All the way from Madeira we have propelled as the winds were mostly not there, which matches with the predictions. As the evening develops, the forecasted light winds appear from starbord and slowly change to port side (from right to left). We set sails and can stop the engine as wind picks up further around 10p.m.. It will become quite a fast but bumpy ride. I reef a bit at 2a.m. to make everyone happier on board.

We do not have a particular watch scheme for the nights. We just agree on each other’s condition. The one who thinks can catch some sleep goes down to his bunk until woken up for a change. We try to let each other sleep for three to four hours in one go, at least. This night’s sleeping will be less because falling asleep is very difficult with so much motion in the boat. The kids luckily went to bed before the rocking started so they can sleep.

The magic of last night is not here today. Why would the water make this glittery shining one night, bit not the next one?

To kill time I download the latest pictures from Ophelia. Ophelia is a violent storm west of us, slowly moving north-east. Within a few days, it should pass in between Azores and Madeira, later entering bay of biscay. We are glad not to be there, because gusts of 85 knots (almost 160 km/h) is definitely not what a brave sea man want to experience out there. We start to feel uncomfy already at 25 to 30 knots of wind. We will however not get around the swell of Ophelia down in the Canaries. The waves carry on for a very far stretch, also if the storm has passes far off.

Anything else for that night? Again, no mermaid appeared ;-).