ATLANTIC LOG

of my first Atlantic crossing

(my personal log, as I recorded it daily, on a little Dictaphone and the laptop.)

Bambola Quatre is a 36ft Angus Primrose designed, MOODY 36ft, center cockpit sloop, built in 1979.

 Most people cross the Atlantic, East to West, in November or December to take full advantage of the ‘safe’ season in the Caribbean. This runs from late November to the end of May.

From June 1st to November 30th there is a danger of hurricanes.

 In a normal year there are about 10 in the area with the peak being August. The most frequently ‘hit’ area is between Antigua and Bermuda across to the Chesapeake and down to Miami and the Keys. (The Bermuda Triangle)

Because of work commitments in Amsterdam,  I could not return to Bambola until early April.  Gibraltar was  where I had left Bambola for the last 5 months, after 4 years of on and of cruising in the Mediterranean between Television directing jobs.

I had planned a 3500 mile passage from Gibraltar to Antigua via the Canaries followed, after a break to re-victual the boat of about 4 days,  by a 1500 mile passage from Antigua to the Chesapeake via Bermuda.

 The passage to the Canaries should be about 5 days and then 25-30 across the Atlantic then 10 days to Bermuda and 5 days from there to the Chesapeake….    That was the plan  

 

Friday 13th March !!!         I booked my plane ticket from Amsterdam to Gibraltar and telephoned the crew - John and Jim to let them the trip was definitely on and to book their own flights. Very privately I feel quite nervous and anticipatory about the whole thing. I have written a letter to ‘Herb’ mapping out my passage plans and my head is somewhere out in the Atlantic.

Note:      Herb was an amateur weather forecaster who lives in Canada and transmits by  HF (SSB) radio on 12359mhz @ 19.45 GMT daily. When you wer on his list (he handles up to 150 boats a day!) You log in and when he calls your boats name during the 19.45 to 20.00 period.  Later in the ‘sked’ he calls your boat by name. You then give him your position, wind force and direction, sea state and barometer reading. Sadly Herb has given up this wonderful service following very unwarranted criticism.

 BRAVELY GOING WHERE OTHERS HAVE BEEN BEFORE!

6th April           Flew into Gibraltar and moved Bambola to alongside. Started hectic preparations for departure.  Boat cleaning, bending on sails and shopping. £260 worth of food for 3 adults for 30 days…. No time to think about the passage. So much to do and so little time. Also running on autopilot as the planning takes over. Even sleep well.

  • if you are interested in how I Victual, find crew Crewing and Watch Keeping in my boat on ocean passages then please follow the links

 8th April 15.00         In order to get the tide and despite the wind being Westerly force 4 to 5 we wave goodbye to Cousin Bob and head out of the bay and start beating up the Straights with the intention of making one of the Canary Islands as a final departure point for the West Indies.

Running the motor to help make progress I looked up and saw that we had opened a seam in the genoa, of a foot long and decided that was no way to start an ocean passage.  With the over enthusiastic help of the crew getting the main down I caught a batten pocket on a spreader and tore that. At 18.00 Bambola was alongside Sheppard’s again and the sails were with the sail makers being repaired for the following day.  First faltering step across the Atlantic followed by a faltering step back.  What can you say?

The crew and I had a pleasant evening on board. Drank a couple of bottles of wine and ate some pasta and sauce. The guys went out for a meal ashore whilst I got into my bunk by 23.00.  The last two weeks have been very hectic with too many late nights and I am tired.  It was good to be sailing again and the decision to return was excellent as the wind blew a good six in Algersiras Bay all night and the rain fell heavily.  Lay in the bunk glad to be in port thinking ‘its really windy out there’. Recorded this log and went to sleep.

10thApril         Blowing gales out in Cape Vincent – good job we didn’t go. I think the Gods were looking after me when that seam went and we had to put back.  The sails are back after a £50 repair – cheap for a Good Friday – the sail maker’s advice is that I should buy a new suit.  (My intention when I get to the USA - now all we have to do is to wait for a window.)  Have spent some ‘happy hours’ taking apart my private ‘heads’ which stopped working today and put in a new service kit of gaskets etc. Going to drink coffee. Ignore the slight cold that seems to be approaching and read a book for an hour or so.  On with the game.

13th April         07.45. Slipped Gib for the 2nd time. – Forecast NE 4-5-6. We were just clearing the Straights when I picked up a Radio France Inter broadcast giving a NW gale 8 imminent. As we were only about 8 miles from Tangier we turned to port and headed in to Morocco where we parked up in the harbour about 16.00.

I took the crew on the short tour of Tangier souk and then spent a couple of hours trying to talk to Herb on the SSB radio.  Propagation was so bad in Gib I had been unable to raise him.  I couldn’t get him to acknowledge us.  He seemed so busy – a victim of his own success.  Radio France Inter is good but is based on forecasts for huge area’s and tends to be generalised.

14th April 06.00     Getting out of the bunk – There was no gale last night and it is flat calm. I am off to the Port office and customs to try to get our papers and passports back – be it takes a couple of hours. Feel really excited.  It is time to be off and the tide is right. We must get going – start sailing south.

Listening to the weather forecast there seems to be bad weather stretching from the UK to the Canaries across to the West Indies and up    to the East Coast of the USA. Bad weather everywhere.  Maybe because it’s a bit early in the year or maybe El Nino? Listening to the  forecasts, the undertaking seems harder than I imagined but then the weather must settle down.  It must?

12.0 0   Slipped Tangier and out round Cape Espartel. Wind on the nose so altered to a NW tack to get away from the African coast in light winds 12-15 knots. Wind Westerly 20-25 knots and sea state rough. Light rain and 2 more rolls in the genny.  Not doing well to windward at all.  Tacking away from Africa every two hours or so.

April 15th 15.00   Tacking every hour or so we have made about 30 miles to seaward and sailed 100 miles. On the making tack we seem to just be getting further into the African bay and not really off shore.  Partly because the sea state is very lumpy and with all these reefs our windward performance is poor. Radio France Inter has put out another Gale warning – wind up in the high 20s and I feel we are knocking ourselves out for not much – The crew are tired and shaken – John is very sick and it all seems a bit pointless in these conditions. I have decided to drop the main and run back into Tangier to wait for more favorable winds….

21.00               Off Tangier playing hide and seek with all the floating fishing nets in the water between the traffic zone and the coast.  Like a nightmare - a light marks some or the nets but it is hard to tell which end of the net it is on. Hard to see in the dark. Ran right over one net but got the engine out of gear and the folding prop folded in time so no harm done. All this in a lumpy old sea.

23.30           Used the radar to find the entrance to Tangier harbour and now alongside in the old berth.  All tired… into the bunks… sleep.

16th April         Walked up into the town with our washing as the wind howled round. Replaced a few stores and had a meal out. Telephoned Herb from a coin box and he said that the weather would stay un-favorable for the next few days and he suggested we should wait it out – he said he would ‘try’ to include us in his list of boats. 

17th April    Waiting in Tangier Port. Dinner out.

 18th April   Waiting in Tangier Port.     Purchased two more water carriers and filled and tied them on deck. Used a false Cyprus amateur call sign and spoke to the two ‘amateur radio nets’ that carry weather forecasts – ‘Trudy’ in Barbados and ‘Bruce’ in the UK and got weather updates.  Feeling very positive that we can crack this.  Just got to keep going.

The sun is shining – the wind is going north – the guys are playing chess I’m playing with GPS waypoints and we are off to a fish restaurant tonight. I have written to ‘HERB’ ready to fax him tomorrow – with luck we can slip about noon.  It will be great to get started with some fair winds instead of all this negative on the nose stuff.  Exciting!

 19th April           Slipped Tangier at 11.00 and at last at sea – almost no wind and motoring hard to clear the African coast.  Had our fill of Tangier and this is the first day of calms.

Spoke to ‘Trudy’ amateur radio net in Barbados this morning but she worked out that I do not have a ‘ham’ (amateur radio)  license –she was charming and delightful but did not want me to contact the net anymore but said she would fax ‘Herb’ and ask him to include Bambola on his net and list of boats.

 Low and behold at 21.00 local time Herb picked us up and ‘God bless him’ he gave us a waypoint not far from my planned waypoint to get us away from the African shore. There is a gale forecast in a couple of days time.  We will walk into a gale but we will be well out to sea and if we follow Herb’s advice we may even miss the worst of it.

We have been motoring at about 6 knots all day but all the weather forecasts (Bruce on the UK amateur Mobile Net and Radio France International) say the wind will go NE tomorrow and come up. Very, very good news.  We may be burning diesel but at least we are at last on our way.  I feel nervous, excited, and anticipatory at the commencement of the big trip. It is exciting if a little bit frightening.

 We are almost 2 weeks behind my planned schedule. I got the charts out to look at going direct from Antigua to the Chesapeake. I am concerned about sailing north from Antigua after the commencement of the official hurricane season. I would need to purchase three more American coast charts before leaving Antigua in case I needed to run into an East Coast harbour. I only have a passage chart from the Caribbean to north of New York.  I think if we go direct we can be in the Chesapeake by early June. Very possible.

The C.A.R.D. radar alarm (it warns me if we are being ‘pinged’ by a big ship radar so I can look out for them) is earning its keep by warning us of big ships around.

John cooked tonight and is on watch, Jim is asleep in the foc'sle and I am in my bunk in the aft cabin.  A bit of adrenalin pumping – even if we are under motor power at least we are on our way. Getting away from the Mediterranean, the Straights, Gibraltar, Tangier out into the Atlantic in the general direction of the Canaries, Madeira and the. Feel really good about it. Not mad about the forecast gale but we will just have to cope with it when it arrives.

 21st April 03.00.  We have now had warning from Herb that there will be severe gales in The Canaries for the next few days and we should avoid getting down there too fast.  (The low forecast to ‘hit’ us has moved south and deepened) I am trying to make some sort of Westing at the moment but that’s not working too well.  We are beating to windward in 20 knots of wind with one reef in the main.

    Made bread today, for the first time on this passage and the crew were impressed and amazed and found it delicious. We had real problems talking to Herb as the propagation was bad and then the news that we should not go where we want to go – the Canaries – is a bit of a downer. The important thing now is that I stop feeling depressed, get some sleep and wake up in the morning and try to make some sensible decisions. The boat is bouncing about and I am going to get some sleep, which is the important thing at this moment.

22nd April   Woke up to find the boat really slamming about. On checking our position I find we have made no Westerly progress at all and that we are still heading south towards the Canaries and the blow that is forecast.

The wind started clocking and we are now heading for slightly north of Funchal in Madeira. Excellent news. I confess I had made a prayer to my God and he has answered it and we are on our way. Last night I was rather depresses and concerned about the voyage and this morning all is well with my world. We have just put back the reef in the main and she is much more comfortable and we are now rolling down the road to Madeira.

23rd April         There is a gale in Gibraltar Straights – a gale in the Canaries forecast to last several days and we are in a ENE 5-6 on our way to Madeira which I will now use as a jumping off point for the main Atlantic crossing.

24th April         I am having doubts about heading for Antigua.  We are so behind my planned schedule. With a starting off point of Madeira which is at least two days sail north of the Canaries I am really doubting the possibility of making the Chesapeake before the middle of June and well into the official hurricane season. Looking at the pilot chart all the hurricanes early in the year go into the Bermuda triangle area and it seems to me silly to risk it knowing so little about those waters.  I have more or less made up my mind to head for Grenada and then perhaps Venezuela when we leave Funchal. Maybe  my wife, will come out and join me there instead of the USA.

25th April         In Madeira. Made a classic night approach. Found the lights and passed between the two islands and entered the harbour at dawn to be greeted by a rather aggressive marinaro who didn’t want us to stay at all! Apparently there is a touring race coming in and they want to keep the harbour free for these boats.

 I filled with £50 worth of diesel and persuaded them to let us berth for the night. We have been shopping to replenish the stores eaten in Tangier and this 5-day passage. I have sent Herb off  $50 US as this seems a fair ‘gift’ for the personal forecasts he is providing. I spoke to him on a telephone and he thought that heading up to the Chesapeake in late June might be risky as he thinks this will be a major hurricane year – what ever that means. I have decided that we are now definitely heading for Grenada.

26th April         How do I feel? I was very tired when we got in yesterday morning but I felt I had to keep the crew going with re-fuelling, watering, shopping and preparing for the next big leg of the trip. The weather is bad for the next couple of days – gales further south. They want to throw us out of the harbour tonight, which means I shall have to clear customs and go on anchorage.  I guess the thing I am most frightened off at the moment, other than unexpected things going wrong, is the boredom of it. A month at sea. I am not certain how boring it will really be..? Watch this space!

 I have sent off postcards to the people that care and called my wife to warn that Grenada is now the destination and to try to find cheap flights.  Funny old life.  Not too sure about full time cruising. Not certain if I want to be single handed down in Venezuela and Grenada for all the summer.  Maybe I am still a bit tired? I will now go and read the books about Grenada and try to make a courtesy flag for that Island. Rather a complicated affair.

I have developed a very sensitive tooth.  I always have tooth problems when I get over stressed. The trouble with this is it really hurts and is so sensitive to hot and cold. I will not mention it to anyone and if it gets worse I will throw penicillin at it.  I feel that if I delay the departure any longer by going to a dentist the whole project may founder…. A dentist is not an option at this time and at worst I can pull the thing out.  It feels like an abscess again!

27th April         Departed Madeira having discovered that the crew did not know how to anchor a boat or pull it in and stow it! Just before we left the manual bilge pump died.  The rubber gland had ruptured and for a moment I thought I would have to wait for a new one to be sent out from the UK! Slightly to my surprise I found I had a service kit in the locker and made it all OK in a couple of hours!

Just feel pleased to be away.  The wind came up after one hour and the ‘iron sail’ was stopped and we started to go close-hauled south towards the Canaries and then the Cape Verde Islands both groups of which we planned to leave 60-100 miles to port. We have been making 5.2 to 5.5 knots.

               The crew has managed a series of small breakage’s and losses. A ventilator cowl from a Dorado vent has been kicked overboard, The screw that hold the plate over the mast gate that stops the sail slides falling out has been over tightened and broken, a fender has disappeared and the steaming light has stopped working. Oh well.

What am I feeling? Very glad to be on our way at last on the big leg of the voyage. Heading at long last south and west and en route for the West Indies at long last. Because the last part of the passage to Madeira was not beating to windward – was just normal sailing in about a F5. I feel much happier and confident about it all.

28th April         Feeling great having come off watch at 09.00 Bambola is really trucking along and things are going well.  This is sailing. We are doing all right and the guys are developing into an ‘all right’ crew.

29th April         Running under twin headsails boomed out and everyone feeling confident and enthusiastic. Down wind sailing…. Making around 6 knots and closing the first waypoint that Herb suggested to keep the wind. We will then head for the ‘classic’ 25N 25W waypoint that is about 400 miles away. It is the earliest classical turning point to stop going south and start heading West for the Windies.

               The tooth is feeling less sensitive! I have been taking lots of vitamin C, eating better and sleeping better… and the tooth is a lot better..  I must say that getting the boat away from Gibraltar was very stressful.  I tried everything I knew but seemed to be constantly frustrated by the winds and foul weather.  Very tiring. I found the decisions to return to port each time difficult to make and having made them not easy to live with. Hearing that Grenada was considered outside the hurricane zone and my insurance covered me there has made me feel better! (I had telephoned my  insurers from Madeira) The weather is getting warmer already and the sailing is great.

April 30th 08.00         Still going well. Good weather forecasts from Herb.  Reduced the size of down wind rig of two boomed out headsails and still making 6 knots comfortably. We are all getting into the groove and my tooth is a hell of a lot better. The engine is loosing water out of the heat exchanger and I am not sure where it is going – I need to run it for an hour once a day to keep the batteries up for lights and GPS and radio etc. I am having to put 4 cups into fill it again which is a slight worry as we must conserve water for a possible 30 day plus passage. The only other slight worry is major breakages after a spite of minor ones but that is me being over imaginative – all the rigging has been renewed and the Hydrovane self steering gear is working excellently. We are all becoming better at balancing the boat to make it easy for the Hydrovane to steer her with it’s own small auxiliary rudder. At the moment we are powering along under just the genoa and all is well with the world.

1st May    A little bird joined us last night but I am afraid in spite of us all trying to feed and water it – is not looking healthy.  It should try and fly off to the Canaries but I think it is lost and tired. The wind is dropping a bit and in spite of more sail we are down to 4-5 knots. Everyone shares the cooking having to do it for the day once every 3 days – I have now insisted that we also share bread making as it takes about 1 1/2  hours to make two loaves and I am bored with doing it every other day.  John and Jim not too pleased at this as they feel it is not ‘macho’ or something.  I have told them it is very rewarding and that I will help with instructions and advice….

2nd May           Started day running under twin headsails but reduced to poled out genoa as the wind got up.  The wind generator is not putting many amps into the batteries as the apparent wind is only around 10 knots and the solar panel is not helped by the cloudy conditions.  The heat exchanger needed two bottles (litres) of water which is not good news for our precious fresh water supply.  Whilst running the engine to charge the batteries its temperature went to over 90 degrees after an hour and a half.

My little dictaphone has stopped working - onto the laptop.

3rd May Now at 22* north and the nights are becoming warmer – possible to have bare feet in the cockpit for the first time. Had a go at all the fresh water hoses around the heat exchanger and after one hours running it did not require further filling – couldn’t be such an easy solution – loose hose connections – could it?

4th May A thundery sky – a little light rain but not enough to catch any significant amount – very overcast but WARM… We are all now in the groove and sleeping and eating well. The ‘Herb’ show that we listen/talk to daily between 09.45 GMT and 23.30 depending on when he gets round to us, suggests that we can start heading further West than south so we have altered to 240. Engine retaining fresh water better – only needed one cup to fill. Had a further check and tighten round the hose connections. This morning we found flying fish on the deck for the first time. (The only other time I have seen them was cruising the Canaries)

5th May A hot day…. Herb warns that the ridge we are sliding down the side off to keep in the northerly winds is moving south with us and we must be careful not to go too far west or we will move into a South Easterly air stream.

Half Moon. Wind has gone very light this evening and we are flying my small cruising spinnaker and the genoa boomed out. Strange but true and it seems to work with the wind dead astern.

6th May Very warm last night. The wind has moved onto the beam and the main and genny are up. Wind speed is 8-10 knots maximum.

Saw a small whale or very large dolphin.

Wind has dropped. Ran the engine for an hour early this afternoon but the boat speed was way down. 5 knots @ 2100RPM so at the end of battery charging we were almost stationary so I had a quick dive under the boat to look at the prop shaft and hull – everything clean – we must be in a counter current as I was taking the boat speed off the GPS.

7th May Jim want to be allowed to use the SSB radio to talk to Herb and has been reading the instruction book and asking lots of questions about tuning and so on. Of course John also wants to use it so I have said we will take it in turns to speak to Herb. Jim tonight, John tomorrow and then me

8th May Yesterday the crew (rather more than I did) because of the weak winds and on the nose direction wanted to turn further West and North and I was persuaded that that was a better track than to go Southeast.... When I spoke to the famous Herb he said we had crossed the ridge to the north side and that we should head back south west to be ready for the northerly promised for tomorrow. I tacked due south as that was the only option.

Because of the total lack of wind by mid day we were able to swim and cleaned the bottom a bit on the port side leaving the starboard for another day. We had a long discussion about stores and water. My feeling is that in spite of all our care we have used a lot and if these light winds continue then even the food may get low so J and J did an inventory of comestibles and we are sort of OK for another 24/5 days.

Water usage is being measured by filling the empty 4 litre squash bottles and only taking water from them to see how much we are using for cooking coffee etc. we each are drawing our daily 1/2 litre bottles for teeth etc. but will now drink from them as well ... only coffee and meals drinks from the communal source.

The wind has now gone north at about five knots and we are sailing again making about 3.5 on a SW X S heading of 235 which is on course to track beside the ridge and find the latitude of Grenada so we can turn west.... only 1800 miles to go...

9th May Last night 'Herb' told us to expect 10 knots from the NE today and that will increase over the next few days to 15 knots and that the Trades are starting to re-establish themselves!!!! Great news...

NOON  We altered for the first time onto the rhumb line for Grenada. We have sailed to N17* 30’ W31* 20’ to achieve this and for the first time this morning we are less than 1800 miles from our destination.

We have sailed 1300 miles in the last 12 days - an average of 4.5 knots - in fact we have only sailed 1220 on the rhumb line but most of that 100 was wasted going north and west too soon in the doldrums of no wind and the anxiety of wanting to head west too soon..

My sleep pattern is now very good and am falling asleep and having strange deep dreams every night. The moral of the crew is much higher now that we are on a rhumb line for our destination as is mine.

Jim is very keen to learn how to master the magic arts of the SSB radio and the GPS and on the day John's plastic sextant came out quickly lost interested in the maths surrounding the sight reductions as he could see it was archaic unless disaster hit both GPS’s and then it would be a matter of some concentration to get that act together.

I feel happier that we are now down wind sailing towards our destination.....

Sunday 10th May The very good news is that the wind has come up constantly from the north east and we have been averaging 6 knots on the rhumb line. Sleeping was difficult as we had a bit of a cross sea and were rolling a lot but today I am going to reduce and sort the twin head sails so they can be easily reefed and then with reduced sail we should be all set for the next few days and the slight daily increase in wind that is forecast. If things continued like this we could be looking at as little as another 11 or 12 days.

The days go by quite quickly with bread making, reading, cooking and the watch keeping system of 3 on and six off which moves round the clock well. The Herb show is a great spacer along with Radio France International weather forecast at 11.40 Zulu each day. I am now going to look in the first aid kit for the emergency tooth outfit to see if there is glue to fix poor John's cap which he worked loose eating boiled sweets a few days ago...... French weather then my watch....

Monday 11th May At 09.22 this morning the distance to go and the distance already run from Funchal was 1550 miles suggesting that we are now half way there and counting,.. A bit of reality is that when we mistakenly tacked north we wasted 100 plus miles but as it should all be down wind sailing under the two boomed out head sails then progress should be better... if we can average 5 knots then it is 13 days to go. @ 4.5 = 14 days..... Yesterday boredom crept into my head for the first time.... The demands now are to be watchful and careful of Bambola and her equipment and to conserve water and to a lesser extent food but the sailing the last couple of days has been very uneventful (nothing wrong with that and I am not complaining!)

If the trade winds continue and Herb is suggesting that they will strengthen another 5 knots or so then another 13 days of down wind sailing - helm'd by the excellent Hydrovane self steering gear (Plain Jane) is with a little luck fairly straight forward. A long way to go yet and you can never trust the wet stuff.. As soon as you relax it gets you... How ever the crew is in the groove and I am looking forward to a trip ashore......

Wednesday 13th May The last two days we have been running on two boomed out head sails with about 15 knots of wind and averaging over a 24 hour period about 5.5 knots. - forecast for next four days is more of the same... I got really bored for the first time a couple of days ago - we were passed the half way mark but only just and there seemed (seems) such a long way to go. The passage is 3000 from Madeira and the best one could hope for is three and a half weeks - That is an awful long time at sea.

The days go by strangely quickly however and the feeling of tiredness even with a 3 hours on 6 hours off watch system still leaves one needing naps during the day and if called out in the middle of a sleep as I was last night to agree a sail shortening. All the sleep in the morning does not make up for the broken deep sleep.

Had a great deck bath/shower today and shaved for the first time since leaving Madeira and feel better now I no longer look (or smell) like a refugee from Parkhurst. Lots of flying fish but overcast sky and precipitation within sight on several occasions.

We passed the 40 degree line early this morning which feels like a sort of milestone and at 17.00 Zulu there are 1245 miles to go - a very long way and I am more or less out of books to read -- seem to average one a day.

We are keeping Zulu time on board so it does not get dark till around 21.00 or light till 09.00. Because all the weather forecasts are geared to this time I am loath to alter to local time but will have to remember this when we get close to land in order to sort out customs and entry officials with out having to pay overtime..

The crew talk of what it will be like this Caribbean island we are heading for and what they will do next but all I can see is the next TEN DAYS PLUS stretching ahead like an endless journey... My turn to cook so I will sleep a bit......

Thursday 14th May We have had about 20 knot easterly winds for the last 24 hours (as forecast) and are now running under boomed out genny between 5 and 6 knots. Jim feels we are now on the run in and the time is passing faster and that it will all be over, very soon. John mentioned that he would want to be paid to crew on a transatlantic crossing again which probably means he thinks it is a very long way and with 1125 miles still to go it probably is.

I have just had the 'good' days watch system which is 21.00 to midnight then sleep to 06.00 and watch to 09.00 (only just getting light) then sleep for another 2 or three hours. I am feeling less bored and depressed. my wife on the SSB telling me that the air fare to Grenada is £450 did not help but that's life I guess.... Will work at the problem - wonder how much a cabin in the Geest banana boat to Barry in Wales is?? Could be a solution... Never been to Barry. Wonder where it is and if you can get a train to London from there??? worth thinking about.

Found in a Magazine that Pryde Sails (quite a large international sail makers) have a loft in Grenada so possibly I can get Bambola's new suit made there.. I hope it is not an arm and a leg but her sails are well on the way out.. Beginning to feel like a rather expensive decision to come to Grenada but the alternative of thrashing about towards Bermuda in the hurricane season was not attractive... anyway I have made the decision and there is no going back now….. Could always head for Antigua which is 300 miles north in a couple of days except that it is still the dodgy season... All this down wind sailing gives one too much time to think... silly huh?? It is an adventure but all the time one is praying to one's God for a really easy and safe passage and at the same time wanting it to be over.. nout so odd a folks...

Saturday 16th May For the last three or four days we have been running under boomed out head sail in about 20+ knots and making 6 plus.. On Thursday night watch I worked out that Antigua was equidistant with Grenada and that we could be there in just over a week and if we turned the boat round fast we could make the passage to the Chesapeake Bay in about 12 days and be in there around June 8-10th... Suggested this to the crew who for different reasons regarded the idea with shades of dismay!!!

Jim has emotional reasons for not wanting to spend longer in the boat than the end of May and commitments to friends in early June and John wants a bit of time to relax after a 3000 mile ocean passage before starting with a further 1500. I was slightly sad as it would be financially better to have Bambola in the USA but I must say a further 12 days beyond the 8 or so we still have to do is a bit exhausting,.... I have now had some sleep and do not think their attitude unreasonable...

At this moment (20.00 Zulu) the log says there is 819 miles to the way-point on the south east of Grenada and we are making between 5.5 and 6 knots and the wind is out of the south east.

We have just eaten and are all feeling more relaxed as we sail into the last leg of the voyage. I tend to worry about the boat and the gear just hoping that nothing fails at this late stage. The Genny sheets are taking a fair bashing where they sit in the spinnaker pole ends but I suppose that is to be expected. The weather is really warm and pleasant because of the following breeze and sleep is now delightful and relaxed. From Sunday the countdown will really be on.

Tuesday 19th May For the last three days we have only the Genoa up, boomed out, with SE trades blowing us towards Grenada. It has been strange having the distance to go under a thousand - then 600 - 500 and at this moment (16.00 Zulu) down to 430 which gives us an ETA of Friday or Saturday.

There is a very real feeling that the trip is almost done! I have been feeling nervous that we could start pushing Bambola too much in order to get 'in' a day or so earlier and... I keep reminding myself the 'the game isn't over till the fat woman sing'... a lot can and could happen in 400 plus miles.

For example my heads broke again yesterday - the old problem of a badly engineered screw on the end of the stainless shaft of the pump handle failing to retain it's self locking nut and tearing a plastic fitting. Trouble is I used the 'service kit' up doing the same repair in Gib just before we left and so I had to do a bodge this time and lots of 'Locktight'.

The crew were grateful that I baked bread before I took my heads to bits! After a really sweaty time I had a 'bath' on the foredeck - washed my hair and changed out of my sweaty and smelly clothes into a fresh clean set.

Been meaning to note that flying fish are every where and most mornings there are one or two on deck but mainly much to small to eat... and ... birds. Quite extraordinary. Every day of our passage we have encountered different types of seagull / sea bird. even when a couple of thousand miles from land.. They circuit us and are briefly interested then fly on about their business....

4417, the 'chat' frequency on the SSB, has been active the last couple of mornings with cruising boats already in the Caribbean. Don and Robyn in Stylopora has given me the names and fax numbers of three yards in Trinidad who will haul boats and keep them ashore safely. If another 'Dutch' directing job comes up then I now have somewhere to leave Bambola .... Don and Robyn are planning to leave Stylopora in one of the yards whilst they return to Australia for six months. Feels good to have a safety net there.

So the end is in sight. Two or three days more. It is a very long way and the boredom factor is great sometimes. There is the all present feeling of fatigue. All three of us are in the passage making groove I look forward to some different foods, a cold beer and to stopping.

Thursday 21st May How sad. The screen of my computer is broken. Having spent a few happy ours planning our land fall I got it out to do my log and found that it had got damaged - no longer gave a complete picture. I can still write in small areas but it will need a new screen or replacing - what a pity....

There is now 174 miles to go.

The only problem is that we will arrive near dusk - just too late to enter harbour in daylight. I have planned a waiting area and we may have to spend the last night on the West side of the Island of Grenada.

Apart from my broken computer, I am as delighted as are the two crew to be so close to landfall. There are some strong 2+ knot currents about so I will have to take care and the forecast is for squalls and thunderstorms - the game is never over till the fat woman sings.

The fact we are so close to our land fall makes us all feel good and there is a lightness about the crew. I just want to make sure I get enough sleep to make some good decisions over the next two day and nights as we approach the end of this very long voyage... 25/6 days and nights at sea are a very great deal of the wet stuff and in very confined conditions.

Now I have mixed feelings about the passage. I look forward to seeing how I still feel about long distance cruising in the future. The plans, as always, are very un-settled. I must return to the UK at the end of June to see the tenants out of one of my flats near tower bridge - my wife will fly out to Grenada in a few days if we make a reasonable land fall and then fly back with me to the UK. After that I do not know as IF the Dutch directing job comes up again I will take Bambola to Trinidad and haul her there for the six or seven months involved. If the job does not happen then I (we) will have to sit around Grenada/Trinidad/Grenadines etc from July to November until the end of the hurricane season.

Not sure about that.. good be wonderful or.... I suspect I am very tired at the moment and need to stop sailing for a while.

 

The final days

Very slow – sails banging 82 degrees – muggy 90% humidity. 185 miles to go. We will be off the Island on Saturday around 22.00 which is too late to enter by only a couple of hours. Forecast is for lighter winds, thunder storms and convection activity.

Friday May 22nd John saw a boat, Jim saw rain, Michael saw rain stop and light winds start. When I took the watch from Jim it was throwing it down – absolutely torrential. Jim had put on wet weather gear but it was so hot I just put on my swim suit and had a free warm shower during my watch.

NOON We have been flying the kite for a few hours but I decided to get it down as the sky was so dark and menacing that I didn’t want to risk being caught with it up in a sever squall. Anyway there is no way we can make enough speed to enter in daylight so we will have to wait around till dawn what ever we do.

Saturday May 23rd Motor needed 4 cups after battery charging and the hoses are all ok. Can see the occasional light off to starboard and smell the land.

We go South round the bottom of Grenada. I laid a 3 mile, offshore, course and I can see the lights of what must be St George’s off to starboard

Dawn We are motoring into St. George’s harbour. As always a little difficult to see exactly where the entrance is. Feels very romantic and I suspect this view has not changed greatly since the days of Nelson.

10.30 At anchor in the Lagoon with other cruising yachts and about to find customs and immigration. Q flag flying!

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A total passage of 4025 miles. The last leg Madeira to Grenada was 3152 miles in 25 days at an average of 5.25 knots – two days of flat calms. The most surprising thing was that every day in the Atlantic we saw at least one sea bird. – were they lost? The shoals of flying fish became commonplace.

After the Cape Verde Islands we did not see one ship until we were 50 miles off Barbados, in spite of keeping 24 hour watches. After about 15 days of passage I got bored.

Another time I would do it single handed or with one crew and not keep night watches. The weather guidance of HERB was invaluable and we heard another boat that talked to him who did not follow his routing advice and motored half way to Antigua.

We only ran the engine for an hour a day to keep up the batteries. The Hydrovane self steering gear, with it’s own little rudder, was excellent and did a better job for a centre cockpit boat like Bambola than an Aries or a Windpilot would have done both of which attach lines to the steering wheel by which they make course corrections and are therefore less sensitive to light winds from astern.

 

Michael Briant

S/Y Bambola Quatre

Grenada.