of my first Atlantic crossing
(my personal log, as I recorded it daily, on a little Dictaphone and the
Bambola Quatre is a 36ft Angus Primrose designed, MOODY 36ft, center cockpit sloop, built in 1979.
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.
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)
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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….
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.
Used the radar to find the entrance to Tangier harbour and now alongside
in the old berth. All tired… into
the bunks… sleep.
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.
April Waiting in Tangier Port. Dinner out.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
little dictaphone has stopped working - onto the laptop.
The final days
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.
S/Y Bambola Quatre