Rodney Bay arrival

The day dawned with sunshine for a change and the breeze holding up sufficiently to sail quite fast for most of the day. As the afternoon progressed, our timings suggested that we might be able to arrive in time to have a celebratory drink in the evening and this became a manic obsession but the loss of wind then plucked this prospect away. The decision to motor for a couple of hours was a ‘no brainer’ and we reverted to the sails for the ARC photos taken from a rib as we ghosted across the finishing line and through the tight entrance channel into Rodney Bay Marina. The tradition of being greeted on the dock by generous rum punches was maintained and I have to say, they were wonderful!

ARC+ Finish
ARC+ Finish
Atlantic crew Me, Barry, Bob & Stephen
Atlantic crew
Me, Barry, Bob & Stephen
Rum punch on arrival
Rum punch on arrival

This being the final blog before ‘blogging’ is suspended as we move into the ‘Bay Gardens Beach Hotel’ to await the arrival of our wives; I would like to make a few comments as a retrospect on the adventure to date.

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the fact the Barry is staying on board while Stephen, Bob and I decant to the luxury of the hotel to join our wives and amazingly, he has prepared a list of repair, maintenance and improvement jobs which he intends to tackle during this period. I am enormously grateful for all the help and support Barry has provided over more than two years while we have been preparing Hejira for the ‘Atlantic challenge’, we work well together and he has been a great sounding board for ideas. Barry treats Hejira as though she is his own and she greatly benefits from his care and attention, as do I.

Bob is the ‘original’ crew member, having joined Hejira in Dover on the 22nd of August 2012 when I completed the purchase having sailed her back from Holland. Bob has shared all my trials, tribulations and frustrations as she was stripped back to undertake the necessary fundamental repairs and improvements that have now left her in such good shape. Bob will remember the frosty early mornings driving down to Itchenor where we seemed to take one step forward and three backwards as the extent of the issues became evident. He was a support when the enormity of the necessary remedial work could have left me sobbing with my head in my hands. For Bob, I know that the Atlantic has been a Holy Grail which, now achieved, will allow him to pursue his own sailing ambitions and he will take a wealth of experience to this next phase, teaching his grandchildren to sail in his own yacht.

Better safe
Patch overdose

Stephen and his wife Mary have been family friends since our daughters were at the Marist Convent Junior School together. They have sailed with us as a family on two of my previous yachts, going back to my Parker 31 in the Solent. I distinctly remember a week’s supposedly sailing holiday in Barcelona in my Jeanneau 44 which was compromised waiting for a part for the engine. When it finally arrived just before the end, we went out in a bit of a blow and Stephen was sooooo sick. His vulnerability to sea sickness has dogged him ever since and I have to say that I was surprised when first mentioning my Atlantic aspirations at a restaurant meal, he lent over the table in deadly seriousness, holding his hand out for me to shake and promise that he would be in the crew. His sea sickness seems to be under control thanks to the use of ‘patches’ which he also recommended to Bob and seem to ‘do the trick’ for them both. Being a committed doctor, Stephen has equipped Hejira with a multitude of pills and potions and we will all remember him holding an impromptu ‘surgery’ in Arrecife, Lanzarote for fellow sailors who had missed the luxury of consulting a Doctor. Stephen’s enthusiasm and willingness to ‘take things on’ has been a revelation and justified his position in the crew beyond just being the Doc.

I think we can count our adventure a resounding success. We have exceeded our expectation in terms of position, finishing ahead of some yachts which we had no right to beat. The main achievement however has nothing to do with positions which matter not a jot. We have crossed the Atlantic under sail in a small yacht! We have done it all in good humour and accord, it has been a really great crew and we did it together!

Hejira has been a wonderful yacht and has inspired such confidence in her ability to take on all that has been thrown at her. She has never moaned and groaned (flimsy yachts do as they flex) and even in the towering, sometimes breaking swells, she never once ‘slammed’ and just shouldered aside all before her and ploughed on.

The easterly winds of F4-7 were ideal for a downwind crossing but I didn’t expect quite so many squalls or so much cloud, we only had sun for probably 25% of the time. Our sail plans were good with the twin poled out Yankee jibs proving very effective and the prevented main and poled out jib was an adequate ‘fall back’ after the problems with the bow sprit. The Parasailor, whilst a really powerful and stable sail, is not at its best dead downwind and prefers an angle. We didn’t fly it after the bow sprit problem and before that, we flew it only once through the night when the weather seemed sufficiently settled. Our charging regime worked well and a daily running of the generator for hot water topped the batteries up nicely. We finished with a spare full tank of diesel and water. Special mention must go to the auto steering system and the instruments. I had upgraded the whole instrument system earlier in the year to the latest Raymarine kit. The auto drive control is much praised in the yachting press and so it proved. The auto system steered for 90% of the time (I had bought a spare Lewmar Mamba drive unit just in case) and we used it steering to a course, to a track and to a wind angle, all of which it took in its stride, we only took over in the big swells and winds after we resorted to main and jib.

For any aspiring trans-Atlantic skippers, I would recommend maintaining a blog and including everyone in the process. We had great fun poking fun at each other and even if it is not read beyond our family, it was a very positive and morale boosting exercise.

The preparations for this adventure and the ‘shake down’ cruises have dominated the last 3 years. I am very conscious that Paula has been a star in accepting the situation and largely working around it. I think a ‘big holiday’ must be in the offing for the two of us once Hejira is repatriated next summer. I am also only too aware that there is a backlog of outstanding jobs at Thornleigh so, thank you Paula, I will get on with the house and make it all up to you.

 

Stephen writes:-

‘The time has come, the Master said to talk of many things

Of sheets and cleats and Parasails

Of TRUTH and of Goose wings’

(Apologies to Mr.Lear)

I would like to set the record straight about my shipmates and the privilege it has been to share this adventure with them, I could not have asked for better companions (sorry about the gushing boys). I can only hope I have raised my standing slightly above ballast by now.

Nick (aka Skipper and the ‘Master’) whose meticulous attention to detail has ensured our safe passage in the magnificently prepared Hejira, whose demeanour in the face of incessant ribbing in our daily blogs has been an exemplar of gracious good humour.

Barry (aka ‘The Silver Fox’), whose presence on board has been akin to an insurance taken out with Lloyd’s of London, iron clad and copper bottomed.

Bob ‘I feel the need for speed’ Haywood my companion for the night watches whose gentle tutelage in the ways of wind and sail has been a revelation to this landlubber who if none the wiser is at least better informed.

Hejira…well what can I say? I have never felt safer in any vessel on the sea.

I would also like to give my heartfelt thanks to Mary, my wife, who has supported me all the way in this ‘Boys Own Adventure’. See you Friday.xx

I look forward to renewing my acquaintance with Hejira when she is back in British waters and wish all her crew past, present and future safe passage and fair winds.

 

Bob writes:-

How can I possibly add anything meaningful to the skipper’s entry?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Hejira and particularly with the crew. It seems trite to state that we have faced issues together and overcome problems together, but we have. We have taken the mickey out of each other constantly and the camaraderie that has evolved is very strong. It has been a wonderful experience and a dream that few people actually manage to fulfil. I would therefore like to thank Barry, Stephen and especially Nick for being part of my fulfilment. Finally, I would like to thank Alison who, as so many other times in the past, has provided the extremely stable home base from which I have launched several madcap schemes and to which I look forward to returning.

Barry is looking forward to some peace and quiet!

It may be interesting to note that the blog series (as posted on the World Cruising website)covering the Atlantic crossing have won the ‘best blog’ accolade and this has helped to come to terms with the colossal fee for the satellite data transmission !

 

 

 

A load of old……………….

Light winds persisted through the day which did nothing for our progress and when I turned in we were still struggling to make 5 knots. It was therefore a welcome surprise to rise to a fresh breeze and 8.4 knots on the log. This has brought our predicted arrival time forward, if not into daylight, at least to a time that the bars are likely to still be open!

Stephen scored another success with the rod, landing a Dorado which provided 4 very adequate steaks which were delicious, fried in butter with garlic and chilli.

m_DSC03019
Stephen’s fishing triumph

During the slow paced afternoon, I remembered a piece of kit I had made which enabled the mounting of a camera on the telescopic whisker pole. It resulted in an unusual picture of Hejira using this giant ‘selfie stick’.

Hejira's Atlantic selfie
Hejira ‘selfie’ using the whisker pole

I have noticed a significant change in the demeanour of Stephen and Bob as our arrival approaches, they have certainly become more animated as they count down the miles. For Barry and me the job is not completed and we still have another 3000 miles to go to bring Hejira home to the UK. However, I will allow myself a little glow of satisfaction at the completion of this, the longest leg on the Atlantic circuit.

Hejira's happy skipper
An unusually flattering picture

Stephen writes:-

Glad to report that Hejira had a 1-0 victory in the final fishing match and we enjoyed our last Dorado, pan fried in butter, garlic and chilli ,served on a bed of five spice two rice (pretentious …moi?). We then put away the fishing rod and tackle as we will be busy squeezing every last Nano knot out of Hejira in the dash for the line. We believe we were visited by a Wandering Albatross (Diomedia exulans) in the morning, a truly beautiful sight. The late afternoon saw us treated to a display of spectacular flying and diving by a Northern Gannet and then for the icing on the cake, dusk saw the appearance of a Magnificent Frigatebird .

The Master`s mood has improved so much that we were able to capture an image of him smiling (see above). A picture whose rarity will give it added value at auction. We also noted a significant decrease in the frequency of the ‘bellowing’ so expect the crew`s tinnitus to improve from now on.

Bob and I spent a companionable watch together (probably our last on this passage) putting the world to rights whilst being harassed by squalls, but Bob`s fine sailing skills allowed us to slide by without getting soaked and Hejira romped onwards at 7-8 knots. It was soon time to rouse the Master from the Royal Apartments so dispensing with the doorbell a loud `Ogy Ogy Ogy!` produced the desired effect and he shot out of bed like a breaching whale. Even that rude awakening did not dampen his mood so we were dismissed to our berths with only trivial use of the lash.

The crews various aliments are improving so hopefully they will be all fit enough to enjoy the delights of St. Lucia.

Bob writes:-

Last night’s sail during the night watch was superb! We were sailing Hejira to maximise position and speed, using the almost constant stream of squalls to spin us off into the next one. Really good fun and some significant speeds attained.

As this is the penultimate blog, I feel that it is time to acquaint the dear reader with some of the less savoury traditions that endure on Hejira. I feel that I need to do this as a form of catharsis. Besides, tomorrow’s blog may give me a chance to apologise, if I have to!

The dear reader may recognise that Stephen and I are probably the less reverend contributors to the blog. This is probably because we are the less competent members and at the receiving end of most the skipper’s handy hints and tips on how to sail, delivered at maximum volume with much invective, even to the point of split expletives!

The skipper maintains discipline much along the lines that Captain Bligh adopted in the past. (I think that the skipper secretly models himself on Antony Hopkins portrayal). Stephen and I have decided to include the photograph of a crew member’s back (name withheld to protect from further retribution). The miscreant was guilty of nothing more than catching insufficient fish!!!! This form of punishment continues on Hejira, as part of its rich tradition.

The lash

Past Hejira tradition also involved the skipper and his errant anatomy. The skipper’s favourite attire used to be a pair of shorts, Tilley Endurables. These were extraordinarily hard wearing items with the one significant failure…….they could not contain all of the skipper’s anatomy! As a consequence of this, it was an everyday occurrence for one or other of the skipper’s rollocks to make an appearance! Although the crew got used to this, it came as quite a shock to visiting females, or maybe that’s why they visited?

I had thought that this particular tradition had died a death when the Tilley Endurables finally departed. However, imagine my joy when the skipper sat on the aft deck in his new shorts, and, sure enough, there was the same offending rollock on show!

All of which indicates that tradition dies hard on Hejira!

Barry is looking forward to a night not spent on rinse cycle in the ‘washing machine’.

Putrefaction

We experienced a somewhat frustrating day under sail with the wind variable in strength and direction but at least the sea state was diminishing. We maintained our sailplan but resorted to the engine on two occasions, once for an hour and then for a quarter of an hour, it’s difficult to accept speeds of less than 4 knots when those rum punches beckon!

Bob has unfortunately been ‘hors de combat’ having suffered a bang on the knee which has swollen to painful proportions and confined him largely to his bunk. Stephen has written a sick note and is ministering pills and potions in an attempt to have him ambulant for our arrival.

The removal of the hydrogenerator revealed more teeth (?) marks on the unit and I wonder if any reader has experience of what a shark bite actually looks like, do they feature on the internet; can anyone positively identify the damage?

more teeth marks

We are beginning to pick up other vessels on the radar as we converge on the northern tip of St. Lucia with 230 miles to go but they seem to be out of AIS range so we are unable to identify them at present. We know we have been exchanging places with ‘Lea’, a Norwegian Bavaria crewed by ladies. They were moored alongside us in Mindelo but we fear that these lighter conditions will favour their more sporty yacht. Interestingly, Dave Cooke, crewmate from Portsmouth to Spain, met the ‘Lea ladies’ in Anglesey in the summer when sailing on a friend’s yacht.

We had another strange ‘happening’ in the evening, the crew were sat in the cockpit and experienced what they described as a ‘metallic clunk’, felt through the seats, which was accompanied by one of the keel lights flashing, had we hit something which kicked the swing keel up and dropped it back down with a clunk?

The only crisis has been an awful smell emanating from the fridge and thankfully, ‘the Doc’ volunteered to investigate the source. It turned out to be a putrid cucumber which must have been left from when Barry and Helen were on board in Lanzarote back in October because we have not purchased a cucumber since then, no wonder it was putrid!

Yesterday’s culinary offerings were driven by the need to use perishable items before we retire to the comforts of a hotel in Rodney Bay as Barry will only be able to eat so much on board on his own. Lunch therefore was a very generous omelette which rather diminished our appetite for the planned evening extravaganza so we reverted to something more basic, sausage, beans and spuds.

Staple

 

Stephen writes:-

Yesterday was a strange day with no visiting wildlife whatsoever, no takers for the lure so again a 0-0 draw in the fishing. When the Master says “volunteer!” it has a meaning not found in the Oxford English Dictionary which is why I ended up to my elbows in liquefied cucumber.It is a tribute to the patches that I felt not a trace of nausea and I justified the clean up on Public Health grounds. The day had settled into its normal rhythm when the Master insisted we listen to a recording of a radio reconstruction of the Titanic disaster. Dear reader can you think of anything less appropriate? Needless to say we were on iceberg watch for the rest of the day. The evening repast was a nostalgic reminder of home as we enter the home straight. Our proximity to the finishing line was further evidenced by the sighting of some navigation lights off our port beam and a radar `hit’ to starboard although both vessels were not showing on the AIS.

As Bob was invalided out of the night watch by his knee (the Master insisted I wrote him out a sick note!) I had to amuse myself for 4 hours, and squall watching can be quite fascinating. It was odd to note that the squalls that did appear followed our original track but as we had drifted south to follow the wind missed us. One can start to imagine all sorts in the wee hours of the morning but in the cold light of day I am sure they were not out to get us. To help us through the night Bob and I have taken to raiding the Master’s chocolate store of `fun sized bars’ (although the juxtaposition of `Fun sized’ and the Master in the same sentence seems totally incongruous to say the least) so in Bob’s absence I felt it was only right that I eat his share as well. When it was time to raise the Master from the Royal Suite he had insisted on the use of the ‘cable free’ doorbell so I gave it free reign until the bellowed shout of “Enough!” confirmed that the staff had dressed him for his watch.

One swollen knee (improving) and one tennis elbow.

 

 

Bob writes (from his bed):-

It is quite interesting to listen to the banter that goes on from the ‘safety’ of your bed.

Whilst the skipper’s accommodation has been cited as ‘apartments’, Barry’s has been identified as ‘the washing machine’! This because there is much agitating movement (of the yacht, not Barry, as far as we know!) accompanied by sounds of rushing water, much as we imagine the inside of a washing machine to be. My cabin has been christened ‘the tip’, since all plastic material that we need to save to get rid of in St. Lucia, as well as the Mines patented vacuum packed rubbish receptacles, finds its way into my cabin, for stowage in the bilge. What members of the crew have not identified with is the ‘stowed in the bilge’ bit and quite often the door is opened and some rubbish or other flung in to the darkest recesses of the tip! You may now see, dear reader, why I say ‘safety’ of my bed. Since last night, two large flattened water bottles have been flung in and I have to report that they made excellent skates as I gingerly descended from my bunk only to slide less than gracefully out of my cabin into Stephen’s bunk! I believe that the Doc thought that I was about to molest him and I have seldom seen him erupt from his pit with quite such speed…….Ussain Bolt, look to your laurels!

 

Barry is looking forward to some peace and quiet when we all ‘bugger off’.

Chafe

The high winds and big swells continued through the day and with the main and poled out jib, Hejira seemed to relish the conditions and continued to bowl along. The conditions cannot have been to the liking of our similarly handicapped fellow participants because we apparently gained ground on nearly all of them, albeit that some are already well beyond catching. When looking to ‘fine tune’ the auto steering, we failed to find any adjustment beyond 3 settings ‘Performance’, ‘Cruising’ and ‘Leisure’ with no explanation as to what exactly these settings mean. Experimentation selected ‘Leisure’ as the best suited to the conditions and to our current attitude.

Having been conscious about chafe, it took Barry to spot fraying of the jib sheet at the spinnaker pole end where the sail was being held into the wind. Gybing the jib into the shadow of the main and bringing the clew down with the barber hauler, we were able to re knot the sheet beyond the fray.

Quelling the clew

It was just as well that it was spotted in time as the sheet was already worn to half its original thickness.

Chafe

Barry’s loaf was a tasty triumph, infused as it was with a cocktail of seeds. His evening offering of meat balls with spaghetti was also a success – he can come again !

I replaced Stephen and Bob at 4am in torrential rain with them both sheltering below. The wind had veered and with the poled out jib and prevented main rigged for a starboard run, there was no option but for them to track the wind around resulting in us heading north. I sent them to bed expecting the wind to back after the rain but it didn’t and our course was bad. With the wind expected to go further south there was no option but to reluctantly call Barry and gybe the main and pole out on the port side which we did with the deck light on in the dark – fully jacketed and harnessed of course. Unfortunately, the wind then died back to about 12 knots and we need more than that. Our reaching speeds are not good (without the Parasailor) so we will stick with our current sailplan and track the wind around hoping it will increase in strength although the forecast is for more rain and that will mean variable wind. When do we reach for the engine key……………..

I took the opportunity with Barry on deck to ‘deal’ with the Watt & Sea hydrogenerator. When we changed the propeller I received an electric shock when plugging it back in which suggests that water has found its way into the plug. It didn’t seem to be providing the charge that it had previously which is no doubt due to shorting. So, with plenty of diesel left, we can run the generator for charge top up (we still have the photo voltaic panels and the air breeze wind generator) and dispense with the drag of the hydrogenerator as we optimise our speed towards St.Lucia and those rum punches in Rodney Bay.

Stephen writes:-

An interesting day, all going swimmingly until eagle-eyed Barry uttered the fateful phrase “I think I can see chafe on that sheet”. Subsequent inspection with binoculars confirmed the issue so the Master demanded my presence on the foredeck and after a lot of “pull this” ,”Hold that” and generally prancing about doing the Foredeck Foxtrot (clipped on I hasten to add) the offending sheet was dealt with and we returned to the cockpit for parrot food. The remainder of the day was quiet with various members of the crew snatching sleep when possible. We were visited by a brace of White-tailed Tropic birds (Phaethon lepturus) and the Atlantic gained a 1-0 victory over Hejira in the fishing taking my new lure with ease. The night watch started and ended in squalls Barry retreating to his cabin like a drowned rat after manfully staying an extra half hour to bring us out of the tail end of one. From then on we were hunted down by squall after squall as if they had a purpose (the rest of the radar screen was clear of the purple menace except where Hejira was) and we handed over to the Master (whom I raised with a chorus of ‘Jerusalem’) just as we became the filling in a squall sandwich. I fell quickly asleep and awoke to the news that the Master and Barry had had to perform the Foredeck Foxtrot to prevent us ending up at the North Pole, what stars!

One swollen knee due to trauma, and one crew member delighted to have a normal blood pressure.

Bob writes:-

Little to add to the very accurate information above.

I have been granted special dispensation today…….I am on the shower schedule, so without further ado, I shall get in there and attempt to scrub up!

 

I sent Barry back to bed after his nocturnal manoeuvres.

Nick

Mystery solved – provisionally

Standing on the bathing platform yesterday, changing the hydrogenerator propeller, my feet were regularly swamped as the breaking swells swept through and I was struck by how warm the water was, 25.2 degrees. We all receive Emails from home and it is hard to imagine the cold weather and the shops full of Christmas tat.

The bilge water conundrum begins to crystallise after the early morning inspection showed a modest amount. We had not operated the generator so time to run it and check again. Perversely there were larger quantities of water despite having checked all the connections, sea cocks and pipes…….. While examining the area yet again, we discovered the culprit. I had installed a very high volume emergency bilge pump positioned next to the generator. I had run the pipework up to the highest level before exiting above the water line. Normally this is absolutely fine but when we plunge into the biggest troughs with the swell towering over us, healing with the sea up to the gunwales, the pressure forces water up and over the loop and therefore into the bilge through the pump.

Energency bilge pump emergency
Emergency bilge pump buried in the bilge but permanently wired and plumbed

Ironic that the kit designed to save us in the event of flooding, was causing the flooding. The solution was simple, just turn off the outlet sea cock, we just have to remember to open it in the event of an emergency!

Later in the afternoon, the seas built still further and the auto, although doing a sterling job, was struggling with the inevitable yawing as the swells picked up the stern and swept through, we were steering a series of ‘S’ bends. The advantage of the twin Yankee rig (we can’t use now because of the bent bow sprit bracket) is that both sails are pulling evenly from the bow. The main and poled out jib means that the main is pushing from the mast and trying to turn the yacht about its fulcrum. Feeling that we would have a slightly more even distribution of sail areas, port and starboard and to minimise the turning effect, we put a reef in the main and this eased the situation. We have tended to hand steer in the squalls, reacting more swiftly to the swells as they approach in the higher wind speeds but the better balance achieved with the reefed main reduced the threat of a backed sail and all the damage that could cause.

We have not seen any other vessels for over a week now, not even on AIS. We expect this to change as we approach St. Lucia and it would be good to know we are not alone in the World.

The last 24 hours have again broken the record with a mileage of 171, that’s an average speed of over 7 knots, pretty damn good for a fat old lady! I look back ruefully at the conservative first few days when we were rather cautious, reluctant to stress the yacht or crew with so far to go………….

 

Stephen writes:-

Hejira Enjoys Long Passages Under Sail. Sorry about the photograph but the Master was not to be denied, and as I was replying to an email from by brother-in-law, I was in no position to voice any objections. We have been making good time in these winds and that coupled with the solution to `The Great Bilge Water Mystery` seems to have put the Master in an unrecognisable mood, could it be contentment? The crew are now confused as we have never seen him like this so we have no strategies to cope. As yesterday was Saturday we were allowed a shower so all is fragrant. The seas were too lumpy for fishing so nothing to report on this front. We were visited by a Northern Gannett (Sulsa  bassana) in the late afternoon who seemed determined  to show off his/her flying skills and did a little wave dance across the surface of the sea, quite amazing. The Master rustled up a curry for supper and we celebrated with a beer. The night watch was spent under a bright waning moon and apart from the now obligatory raid on the Master`s chocolate stash, was uneventful. When the time arrived to raise the Master for his watch the electronic front door bell which he had brought up from his apartments proved inadequate, however a chorus of `Once a Jolly Swagman` gave him the necessary jolt and I retreated to my berth and was thrown around for a few hours but fortunately was saved a `face plant` on the deck below by the lee cloth.

Crew getting a bit of a battering from colliding with Hejira but no broken bones.

The Doc
The Doctor in his Welsh enclave

Bob writes:-

Other more or less notable issues that spring to my mind:

  • The Doc decided not to challenge the Atlantic yesterday, so its stocks may breath a sigh of relief (is that a gill full?)
  • The massive hunt for the bilge water source has possibly concluded. Only today’s obligatory bilge inspection will actually confirm this.
  • The number of the skipper’s ‘happy moments’ is inversely proportional to the depth of water in the bilge.
  • The skipper confirmed that he is indeed a ‘Grand Master Anorak’ when he presented the night watch crew with a remote control bell!!!! Clearly he does not enjoy the Doc’s entreaties to get out of his pit, and hoped that the bell would do the trick. Come the time for the skipper’s watch, the Doc’s dirty digit depressed the dinger. Absolutely no response! Back to the singing!
  • The Doc and I have seen an opportunity regarding the bell. We have commissioned Bazzer to see if the unit can be modified with two electrical leads and crocodile clips to deliver a spectacularly high voltage to parts of the skipper’s body when the button is pressed. I have had to defer to the Doc’s advice on the exact location of application as he says that we don’t want excessive scarring (mental and physical).

 

Barry is wistfully gazing at the horizon.

A day in the life

With seemingly no squalls in the vicinity we maintained the balanced full main and poled out jib sailplan. The auto performed brilliantly, grateful no doubt, for the extra grip afforded by the additional third rudder. Although the wind gusted to 30+ knots at times, she stayed relatively straight despite the building seas and the dyneema preventer rigged to the end of the boom was a comfort.

m_Instruments
Cracking along through the night

Inspection of the hydrogenerator revealed plastic wrapped around and behind the propeller blades which will have prevented it charging. Plastic in the middle of the Atlantic! It also showed strange marks along the bottom of the unit and one of the blades.

Teeth marks
Strange marks on the Hydrogenerator.

I am no expert but, could these be from sharks teeth, we had seen a monster taking an interest!? In that we had to remove the propeller to clear the plastic, we fitted an alternative, pitched for faster speeds just to understand the difference. We will have to change back to the original because we are clearly not fast enough for the alternative as the charging is sporadic, only when we surf down the swells at approaching 10 knots does it make a significant input.

Barry made some rolls which we had for lunch with some Spanish sausages and brown sauce and he also made a loaf which we will try today, good on ya Barry!

Barry's bread
Proud Barry with his bread.

 

We discovered a surprising amount of water in the bilge and clearing this out and trying to find the cause consumed much of the afternoon. We had taken some water over and had the most torrential rainstorm with some windows open, notably the window over the cooker which flooded the burners so they had to be dried out before they would work again. This did not however, explain the quantity in the bilges. It was salt water so what had we done differently? We focussed on the generator as we had begun to run this to keep up with the charging requirement and it uses sea water for cooling. We could find no obvious leaks and tightened up the connections so, with dried bilges we will check again at dawn.

Creaming along !
Creaming along !

The bigger winds and stable sailplan produced our best 24 hour run so far of 167 miles. At this rate we will have time for a celebratory dirty beer, get over the hangover and smarten up before our wives arrive in Rodney Bay on Friday evening!

 

Stephen writes:_

An attempt at a voyage in a day:

Dawn rescues me from a recurring dream of riding a wild mustang on the Texas rodeo circuit. I head for the galley and tea. The rest of the crew gradually emerge and cautiously enter the saloon not sure which of us the Master will favour with the first slap of the day. Bob and I are summoned to the chart table with a curt “blog!” and set to work knowing that editorial power lies firmly elsewhere, and that the text will be scrutinised for any coded messages to the outside world. Hejira Enjoys Long Passages Under Sail. Once our contributions have been passed fit for consumption and Barry`s daily excuse is formalised we settle for Parrot food (muesli ) topped with nuts and berries and drizzled with long-life milk. Hejira Enjoys Long Passages Under Sail. We then consult the calendar to find out what day it is (easy to lose track out here) as the Master has issued another diktat that the crew can have a shower if the day contains a T, whilst he will limit himself to only having a shower if the day contains a Y (so there are some vestiges of humanity left in him after all). The Master then distributes the work schedule and today Barry is dispatched to the galley to make rolls and a loaf, I set to making a new lure and trace by cannibalising our remaining tackle and Bob is to `do what he is told`. The morning passes and soon the smell of baking bread and sizzling sausages permeates the cockpit. We enjoy a ‘Becky’ (shorthand for the refreshing orange flavoured vitamin drink (Emergen’C’)supplied to us by the Master’s daughter) made with slim-line tonic, delicious. This is soon followed by the sausages and brown sauce in the rolls that Barry has slaved over and we agree he should be a candidate for the `Great British Bake Off`.

Little did we know that that would be our last meal for the day as the shout went out “water in the bilges’. The Master paled and together with Barry gave Hejira the marine equivalent of a colonoscopy. All the floor panels were up and the food stores were disturbed from their decade’s long slumber, the Master was on a mission and would fall upon the offending leak as an avenging angel. Hejira Enjoys Long Passages Under Sail. However despite their best sweaty efforts, akin to nautical  Holmes and Watson in pursuit of Moriarty, ` The Great Bilge Water Mystery` remains unsolved, but the bilges have now been sponged out and for the moment are dry. The score in the Hejira versus the North Atlantic fishing contest was an honourable 0-0 draw so battle will be joined again tomorrow. On the wildlife front we were visited by both a Red Billed Tropicbird  (Phaethon aetherus) and a White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus) both beautiful and hinting of our final destination. Evening fell and omitting our usual ration of TV/Film we turned in early to be ready for the night’s watch. The moon was full and the seas full with the wind topping out at 30+ knots, time passed swiftly helped by a further raid  on the Master`s supply of `fun sized` chocolate bars and soon it was time to raise the Master and on this occasion I selected the 69th Psalm which did the job, and so to bed. Hejira Enjoys Long Passages Under Sail.

Crew well. The Master has a grazed knee….bless.

 

Bob writes:-

A superb 24 hours under full sail! Some exciting moments when the gusts reached 30+ knots.

The skipper must have felt that he could trust the Doc and me as we had no interventions from him at all during our night watch.

Alternatively, had his previous night’s exertions and broken sleep pattern caught up?

The Doc has described ‘a day in the life of’ above, but he did not mention the skipper’s ritual evening ablutions.

As soon as supper has been cleared and the crew given their duties the skipper repairs to his 5* suite aft. After a considerable length of time, heaven knows what requires such attention, the Skipper appears in a very plush dressing gown, pronouncing that he is now ready to be entertained. We have noticed that the dressing gown is being deployed more frequently of late and we question if this is not a less than subliminal message to the crew, declaring his alpha male status and symbol of control.

Noel Coward
Noel Coward ?

We have heard rumours that he has asked Paula to bring out epaulettes and gold braiding , these to be sewn on to the dressing gown in the appropriate shoulder and cuff locations to symbolise his rank and re-assert his degree of control. Should the crew spy just one bit of gold braiding, rest assured, dear reader, that the skipper will then be referred to as ‘the brass on the arse’!

 

Barry is preening after rising to the bread making challenge.

Chateau Hejira

After a rather downbeat missive yesterday, the new day brought a more positive outlook with sunshine, and no sign of squalls after some early scares. A full main (with preventer) and poled out Yankee proved to be an adequate sailplan and the auto steered to a steady wind angle with aplomb.

Prevented main and poled out jib

A notable milestone was reached passing the ‘1000 miles to go’ barrier at noon. We searched the stores for some champagne but could only find a cheap box of Don Simon white wine.

m_Chateau Hejira
Filling the Soda Stream bottle with ‘flat’ cheap white wine.

Ingenuity abounded as we used our ‘Soda Stream’ to transform it into a very much improved and acceptable sparkling wine.

Soda Stream Champagne….?

The Soda Stream has been something of a revelation enabling us to make diet coke and slimline tonic in vast quantities so the storage and disposal of plastic bottles has been completely unnecessary.

Stephen spent an inordinate amount of time in the preparation of our evening meal, partly apparently because the Mindelo chicken needed surgery to extract any meat but the effort was well worth it with the risotto, by general consensus, taking the accolade of ‘best meal so far’! I suggested that the creator of the ‘best meal on passage ‘ should reprise it when our wives arrive in Rodney Bay so I expect the standards to plummet from now on.

The ‘Bimbo’ bread bought in Spain seemed to last very well and it was claimed in our ‘provisioning’ seminar in Las Palmas that it was usable after more than a month. We tried to find it in Mindelo (it toasts very well) but could only find a local sliced loaf. Unfortunately it clearly does not contain the same cocktail of chemicals and preservatives as Bimbo as we have had to throw it all away so Barry has volunteered to do some baking today.

As we approached the commencement of our watch cycle, the usual checks showed that the Watt & Sea hydrogenerator had stopped charging and, indeed the whirring noise in my cabin had disappeared. We decided to trouble shoot in the morning once it gets light, could it be that a shark has taken the propeller? We had run the generator during the day as the batteries had taken a bit of a caning using the radar continually to monitor squalls so maybe this has something to do with it – let’s hope it’s not terminal!

Our improved speed over the last 24 hours has logged 148nm.

Stephen writes:-

The squalls seem to have given us some respite for the moment and an harmonious day was enjoyed by all. It was noted that even the master`s mouth was seen to twitch into smile once in a while. In the daily fishing competition the North Atlantic had a 1-0 victory again and yet again took the lure trace and swivel. We are now out of swivels so will have to improvise (I have every faith that Barry will come up with a solution) .The 1000 mile celebration was enhanced by Chateau Hejira 2015 and I suggest that you put you orders in early to avoid disappointment (see above). I believe I saw a Black Browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) but I admit it was a partial sighting so must remain provisional. The night`s watch saw Hejira sprinting along and outpacing a squall on the portside. The moon illuminating our way graciously and was still high in the sky when I roused the Master with an impromptu Gregorian Chant which raised him from his plush and voluminous quarters in semi-clothed magnificence.

Crew in great shape.

Bob writes:-

It was an excellent night watch with the boat speeding along under the influence of up to 25 knots of breeze.

There were two other notable facets of the night.

The first was that the skipper was in his usual position at the chart table when the night watch turned out, early, at 23:30, with the redoubtable Silver Fox caring for the boat on deck. These nocturnal ramblings of the skipper continued throughout the night watch with a further 2 visits, completely un-announced and absolutely unprecedented!

The second was that the yacht had seemingly found a new turn of speed! We had been bemoaning the rather sluggish responses to wind and changes of sail plan and wondering what had happened, but yesterday, under full main and poled out jib, she positively flew along. We conjectured that we had lost a load of weed from the keel and rudders, but whatever had been the cause of our previous poor performance had radically changed for the better. Hejira now seems to have assumed a much more jaunty air, full of purpose.

And so, it seems, has the skipper!

The crew has devoted much thought to this change of demeanour. It could be that the skipper, like the yacht, has lost unwanted weight. It could be that the crew is at last showing some signs of understanding of his bellowed commands. It could be many things, but we believe that it is most probably because he has faced nature in the raw, he has stood toe to toe with the worst that can be thrown at him and has recognised that he can honestly call himself Master and Commander of a yacht with a slightly bent bowsprit and that he can do this with the greatest impediment known to man, a night with less than 8 complete hours of deep sleep!

 

Barry is indisposed, not indisbag

Body bag
Barry restrained?

Compromised

The discovery today of bent brackets on the bow sprit has put a real dampener on the passage and our ability to make speed downwind. The assembly was definitely straight when replaced after the earlier repair, it must just have been excessive loads since then, probably with the second yankee in some squalls. The pictures are of how it was and how it is now:-

m_m_Bow sprit alignment
Straight bracket

 

m_Bent bow sprit bracket
Very bent bracket

 

 

The questions we have to consider are: is the bow sprit likely to break if we use it, could it cause any irreparable damage to the surrounding structure if it does break and, can we get the brackets straightened and strengthened in the Caribbean – if so where? The World Cruising rally handbook suggests that there are two welding / stainless fabrication shops in Rodney Bay so that at least is a positive. In the mean-time we are travelling at a sedate pace under just a reefed mainsail while we take stock and review our options. There is still squall activity (I wonder if the rest of the fleet further north are suffering as much) and, having experienced how rapidly the onslaught can descend, it is prudent to go through the night with a reef although we are compromising our speed. Our last 24 hour run was only 121 miles which is the worst yet. There is no reason why we can’t pole out the primary yankee and run downwind goose-winged – not great but ok. Remaining south of the rhumb line, it is likely, as we approach the Caribbean and the winds (as predicted) go light, that we will have the wind over the starboard quarter. I think that flying the Parasailor in that situation (assuming no squall activity) will be ok as the loads on the guy and therefore the bow sprit will be more vertical and any lateral loads will be trying to correct the bend and not exacerbate it.

Taking a more positive attitude, the watermaker is keeping up with the demand (including regular showers you will be pleased to hear), we have food on board to beyond Christmas, there is only just over 1000 miles to go and having only used the engine (we last filled in Las Palmas) for a short period, we could motor all the way if we had to.

m_Full tanks !
Tanks all full

Stephen writes:-

Yesterday’s fishing score was Hejira 0 North Atlantic 1, we only cast out once and almost immediately the rod bent to 75 degrees and the reel howled. However there were no vibrations on the line and it was impossible to reel in on maximum clutch .It seems likely that we snagged a raft of seaweed that has become increasingly visible. We tried double teaming with hand and reel but the line snapped. I have now opted for a much heavier weight on the line to try to keep below the seaweed, that and our more sedate pace (see above) may hopefully do the trick. Bob and Barry believe they spotted a Red-Billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus) but other new species of wildlife were keeping well hidden. The Master is lamenting his bent bowsprit despite the crew`s best efforts to reassure him that he is still as much of a man as he was before. Hopefully when he poles out the Yankee later his spirits will lift. The daily rhythm means we are living lives of repetition and we can hardly recall our past tribulations. We will have just 1000nm to go of the 2100nm passage sometime today so a little celebration would be in order and I have vowed to stop asking the Master “are we nearly there yet?”

Thankfully only one case of conjunctivitis and the usual sprains and strains including tennis elbow.

Bob writes:-

The skipper is usually totally immune to mickey-taking and the odd barbed comment. And I mean armoured, bullet and fire proof! It seems, however, that the comment regarding his luxuriating for an 8 hour unbroken sleep in a huge double bed managed, in a small way, to breach his previously unassailable defences. After a slow start, we were treated to an absolute stream of reasons identifying why the aft master suite was not necessarily the place that we, as crew, saw it as the retreat, the nirvana. So far we have been advised of the following deflective reasons: the noise of the hydrogenerator, the noise of the wind generator, the slap of the sea on the transom, the ingress of waves through the open aft ventilator, the hum of the bilge pump, and many more. We, as fully paid up members of the crews union, hereby advise the skipper that none of these reasons cuts any ice at all with us. Please do not confuse us with the facts, our collective mind is made up!

Having said that, the skipper has his own little ways of retribution, such as advising a crew member the moment he wakes up that he is due on the foredeck this instant to pole out the jib. Not an unreasonable request one would think, but please give a chap a chance to get his under-rods on first!

 

Barry is hiding from the Doc as he doesn’t like the eye drop treatment, bless him !

 

Nick

Purple Rain

What a day!

We became surrounded by black clouds and the radar confirmed that it was impossible to avoid a soaking at best so we dropped the twin Yankees in plenty of time and set a reefed main and waited.

m_Purple patch
The purple on the radar denotes rain clouds

The deluge was of absolutely biblical proportions and we could only put the washboards in, close all the hatches and watch as the rain ran off the windows like a fire hose. At least it should have dealt finally with the covering of Sahara dust which has smothered everything in a red brown coating since the Canaries. The wind fluctuated in strength and direction and at one stage blowing from the west, exactly opposite to the prevailing direction.

m_Another squall
Approaching squall

There was nothing for it but a reluctant reach for the key and we ran the engine until more stable conditions prevailed. I think that this very action may have broken the engine ‘taboo’ as now we have had to run it for an extended period (we logged zero hours on the run down to Mindelo) we may be prepared to use it again in similar circumstances. Our 24 hour run yesterday was down to 135 miles, mostly due to running the engine at low RPM to conserve fuel. Our wives arrive in Rodney Bay on the fourth and it would be rather nice to see them for at least some of their week in St. Lucia, so expect more engine if the wind dies!

The enforced confinement enabled us to watch the remainder of ‘The Bounty’ and then we watched ‘Personal Services’.  I‘m not sure that all that exposed flesh has been at all helpful!

We received an Email this morning from Odyssey which is owned by a friendly young Irish couple and crewed by a friend. They very kindly lent us their hose in Mindelo just before our departure as they were delayed waiting for a replacement engine mounting. On the way down to Mindelo, they kindly shepherded Moonshine who had broken her forestay. It seems that since leaving Mindelo they have suffered another engine problem and unable to tack back to Mindelo are pressing on with a compromised engine. They intend to carry on through the Panama Canal and around the World so we sincerely hope their luck changes.

Stephen writes:-

Squall sounds so harmless to those of us who are not hardened sailors it sounds like the noise a baby might make when hungry but easily dealt with. Believe me it was an eye opening experience, you can see it coming and then it hits….hard. I know now why “batten down the hatches” has such an urgent ring about it. However we were safe and dry in Hejira and pressed on whilst the radar screen showed us surrounded by the purple haze (thanks Jimmy). It was not fishing weather so we left the stocks undisturbed. During a brief lull in the proceedings a moth alighted in the cockpit and as Bob had not been near his wallet, it defies explanation, something I will have to investigate when we have access to the internet. Since we finished watching `The Bounty` the Master has been rather pensive, more so since Barry asked directions for Pitcairn Island. The night`s watch was undertaken in near daylight with the full moon illuminating a relatively quiet ocean and only an occasional purple hint of menace on the radar.

Still only one case of conjunctivitis and the usual sprains and strains.

Bob writes:-

A very different day and night for us all, when compared to previous time periods. As the skipper has described, the sail plan on the night watch was a main with one reef and optional jib. Previous night watch sail plans had either been twin poled yankees or Parasailor. I had forgotten just how ‘on the edge’ sailing with a main only can be! We chose to furl the jib after all attempts to fly it on the same tack as the main or goose-winged met with little success as the main was effectively blanketing the jib sail in all positions. Although the wind speed remained a steady 15 to 20 knots, its direction was anything but consistent, and we were left with a constant ‘twitching’ to maintain a direction that was not by the lee and would not end in a crash gybe. After 4 hours, this had become quite a task and we were both glad when the skipper took over.

At this point, it is germane to point out to the reader that our efforts were not entirely altruistic as we recognised that the skipper would NOT welcome a break in his sleep as he luxuriated in his double bed for an unbroken 8 hour kip, something that the remainder of his crew have not enjoyed since we cast off in Las Palmas! I believe that the skipper took an enormous risk allowing the screening of ‘The Bounty’ and is only just beginning to reap the benefits of his improvidence. Mutterings continue!

Barry is still trying to dry his bed – he insists this is because he left his hatch open, not incontinence.

Squally squally night

Today we mourn the departure of a trusty friend, taken in its prime, lost overboard after years of loyal service. No one saw the departure but a suicidal leap into the deep is the only explanation for the missing winch handle. It leaves behind a twin sister in the cockpit and a smaller brother at the mast, adoption attempts will be made for twins in a chandlery upon arrival in St. Lucia so the survivor can retire to back-up status.

m_DSC02886
The lone surviving winch handle

The winds became light around noon but by 15.30, the approach of squalls with big winds and shifts made it prudent to drop the Parasailor after 28 hours of great sailing and revert to the safe twin poled out Yankees. It is during this period with bundles of ‘string’ everywhere that we think the winch handle made its bid for freedom.

Our 24 hour run was 149 nautical miles but we have to remember that the 164 recorded yesterday was actually flattered by the additional hour gained through the time zone adjustment.

The conundrum of how the fleet ‘got away’ to such an extent continues to vex me and it will be interesting to quiz the other skippers as to what streams they experienced on passage. We seem to have suffered periods of adverse current which appears to be diminishing as we head north and west. It is probable that by heading south as we did, we suffered while those taking the rhumb line took advantage of more favourable conditions.

Anyway, onto more positive things and something that would benefit all Ocean sailors and may even be of interest to the ARC organisers as a part of their helpful briefings and guidance notes. During the course of an Ocean passage, all yachts generate a quantity of plastic waste, mostly from food packaging. Super-yachts have bulky compactor plants which are not practical on a family size yacht and I don’t know how they deal with the inevitable smell as time takes its course. My solution to the problem is to place the rubbish in a vacuum bag normally designed for clothing or bedding (cheap on Amazon) and suck the contents down using a simple adapter to a battery vacuum cleaner thus reducing the size and sealing the smelly contents – simple and very effective. The bag can then be placed in the bilge until suitable disposal facilities are found.

Vacuumed rubbish
Vacuum the rubbish in a sealed bag and stow in the bilge

We have suffered squalls through the night with great banks of rain showing on the radar. When they hit with the instant increase in wind speed and direction instability, the only option is to hand steer, reacting more quickly than the auto to maintain the course and prevent a broach or flogging sails.

Stephen writes:-

The day started well with our usual rhythm of activities. The Master was in a benign mood and the crew went about our business. We had the yellow fined tuna for lunch (20minutes at 200c in the oven) and very tasty it was too .

m_DSC02879
Stephen preparing his tuna steaks

We then decided that we would give the fishing a miss today to preserve the ocean stocks. Once the winds started to get up the Master announced that we were going to change the rig so he and I went forward to take on a stroppy Parasailor two poles and two yankees . I am glad to report a victory for the Brits in this engagement .We were visited by some Black Legged Kittiwakes (Risa Tridactyla) and an Artic Tern(Sterna paradisaea) but otherwise we were the only wildlife on view. After an early evening snack of cheese and  onion toasties we settled down to see `The Bounty’ (Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins version) and I can assure you that the idea of putting the Master in a dinghy and setting him adrift never crossed our minds. The night was very lively with squall after squall chasing us on the radar and I am now coming to dread those purple patches on the screen, and as I type this I can see a whole gang on an interception course for us. It is a relief for a landlubber like me to have experienced sailors as crew mates.

A few muscle sprains and one case of conjunctivitis.

 

Bob writes:-

All in all, a wretched night with little sleep due to very lumpy sea conditions.

Lumpy conditions
Lumpy conditions

It seems that flying fish have identified me as a target. Further to the incident of one disappearing up the leg of my shorts, on getting out of my bunk just before midnight last night, I noticed that another was lying on the floor of my cabin! Heaven knows how it got there as I had only the small overhead ventilator and side window open. Ho-hum.

Today we are braced for more rain showers and, I imagine, a severe interrogation by Captain Bligh with regard to the missing winch handle. The crew has noted a slight change in persona as far as the skipper is concerned, probably matching the change in his facial hair style. For some time he has sported a look that was entirely redolent of Captains Bligh or Pugwash, but his most recent style reminds us more of a shortish Austrian chap who upset quite few people in the mid-20th century. Blog entries may be curtailed tomorrow if the interrogation follows the line that we suspect it might!

Barry had a busy night and is still asleep.

 

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