12th - 16th February 2018, French Guiana to Tobago (550nm, 5 days)
On the 12th February we left Saint Laurent, French Guiana and motored down the Maroni River until we reached Crique Coswine, just a few miles from where the river meets the ocean. We anchored there for the night and waited for high tide early the next morning. The journey from French Guiana to Tobago was 550 miles and took us five days to sail.
We had more rain and squalls than we were expecting, and it ended up being much more exhausting than our previous sails. We had five days of back-to-back squalls, particularly during the night. By day five we were pretty shattered after being wet for most of the trip.
The best day was the last day as we sailed toward Scarborough, the capital city of Tobago. We had lovely hot sunshine and a steady breeze! It was Friday afternoon when we reached Scarborough, and we just about made it to the immigration and customs offices before they closed at 4pm for the weekend. After all the formalities were done, we got some delicious 'doubles' from a local food hut, had a cold beer at a nearby cafe and anchored for the night in Scarborough. The next morning, we sailed 12 miles to Store Bay and we happened to anchor just metres from our friends Audrey and Romain, a young French couple we met a few weeks before in Saint Laurent.
More time in Tobago.....
The name Tobago originates from the word 'tobacco', due to the cigar-like shape of the island. The food in Tobago was absolutely delicious! Lots of local creole and Indian food, they have different types of roti, a dish called “buss up shut” (meaning 'busted up shirt', as this is what a loosely chopped up roti looks like) and fry bakes. When you go abroad, it's common to see dogs or cats roaming the streets, but in Tobago it was chickens and many of them with their chicks following closely behind. 'Minding' animals, as the locals say, is the easiest way for people to make a living in Tobago. Chickens are good animals to keep as they always find their way home. Sheep in Trinidad and Tobago have very little hair! They could easily be mistaken for goats.
Exploring the Rainforest and Argyle Waterfall in Tobago
We went to Pigeon Beach, Argyle waterfall and the Gilpin trail, which is in the rainforest on the northeast side of the island.
Rainy Days in Tobago
It rained for almost a week when we were anchored in Store Bay, southwest of the island. There was a large swell that kept rolling in, over and over again. This was excellent for surfing! We could see surfers catching clean waves, less than a mile away from us, on the next beach. There were too many rocks to surf in Store Bay. Where we were, there were waves crashing over the breakwater in front of the hotel and we couldn't row to shore without our dinghy rolling over in the waves. When there were breaks from the swell, we tried a few times to see if we could row in, but for most of the week, we stayed in and waited it out. During that time we baked a lot of bread and pizzas, we read, watched Netflix and made a list of jobs to do for when we were ready to haul out in Chaguaramas, Trinidad. Chaguaramas is the yachtsman's paradise of the Caribbean for doing yearly maintenance checks and making any changes for future passages.
Sleeping at night was quite difficult with the constant rolling, waking up every 2-3 hours in the night, sometimes taking a look outside to make sure that we hadn't dragged our anchor. Our bodies always seemed to be somewhat alert. Rain was definitely refreshing when we were sitting in the hot sunshine day after day, but we were really glad when the rain and swell ceased. There are two seasons in Trinidad and Tobago, dry season and wet season. February is meant to be in the dry season, but as with most places now, the seasons are less predictable.
Chaguaramas, Trinidad. 6th March 2018
We left Store Bay at midnight on the 6th March, so that we would have plenty of time to reach immigration and customs the next day in Trinidad. We planned this 60nm passage to take around 12-14 hours. Around 0200 it started raining, which we were expecting. An electrical storm was predicted around 200 miles northwest of us. However, we soon started to hear thunder and see lightning on the southern horizon! It got louder and louder and closer and closer to us. I was down below at the time, and Mattis had come down to let me know what was happening. The lightning was getting so close to us that it was nearly on top of us. This was our first experience of sailing in thunder and lightning. We got all of the portable electronics we could get think of and put them in the oven. This was to act as a Faraday cage, to protect our electronics. Mattis had gone up on deck and grabbed as much anchor chain as he could, coiled it around the base of the mast and draped the rest of the chain over the side into the ocean. In the event that we were to be struck by lightning, the charge would hopefully travel down the mast, through the anchor chain and dissipate into the water. We then hove to and waited for an hour so we wouldn't be exposed in the cockpit. About 0500, it was all clear and we started sailing again towards Trinidad. The next day was clear and bright. We had a glorious sail through the first 'boca', the channel between the northwest corner of Trinidad and the small island of Monos. Sailing in the acceleration zone between the islands with flat waters was so much fun. With the wind blowing hard in our sails, we happily tacked the last few miles into Chaguaramas.
Once we arrived in Chaguaramas, we tied on to one of the mooring buoys for the night. The next morning we hauled out and our boat was placed on the hard. There wasn't too much fouling on the hull, which was a nice surprise considering that we'd been in warm waters over the past few months. It was a little strange seeing our boat back out of the water again, but we were excited to be working on Jingo and making modifications. We slept in for the first few days as we felt a little wiped out from rolling around in the anchorage and sailing through the thunder and lightning. In Tobago and French Guiana, we found it hard to sleep in the 25 degree heat at night and 80% humidity with no fans or cooling system onboard. This was something we were definitely going to change. It was never something we'd considered when we had our boat in Plymouth.
Working on Jingo in Trinidad
We emptied the boat and got rid of everything that we didn't need or weren't using. Jingo was particularly low in the water when we sailed across the Atlantic, with all of the fuel, water, food as well as our possessions, spares, tools... So in Trinidad we took the time to lighten the boat as much as possible. Other changes included moving two winches from the coachroof to the mast, so that we can hoist and reef the mainsail at the mast, instead of going back and forth from the cockpit. This way either of us can raise and reef the mainsail on our own.
Chaguaramas has a laid back atmosphere, people aren't stressed and it has been very welcoming. We enjoyed our seven week stay, it almost felt a little bit like we lived there, as we worked and lived at the boatyard. There were also other things to do in and around Chaguaramas. Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad, is a short taxi trip down the coast. Most people take 'maxi taxis', mini vans that pick up people anywhere along the road. Another way of getting around is what is known as 'pulling bull', simply hailing down a car, or most of the time when cars see people walking along the road, they will beep at you and see if you want a lift anywhere for a small fee. Everybody seems to do it, as it is the quickest and cheapest mode of transport.
Jobs we did in March 2018
Jobs on the Mast
Jobs we did in April 2018
We didn't quite manage the following:
The Cockpit Console
Varnished the Tiller, Hatchboards and Installed a New Depth Sounder
Below is a video of our Atlantic crossing and beyond back in January. And the other is the 7 weeks of work we did on Jingo in Chaguaramas, Trinidad...
French Guiana is one of France's overseas departments and is part of the European Union. France settled Hmong refugees from Laos in French Guiana in the 1950's after its withdrawal from Vietnam. A space centre was built near Kourou after France's withdrawal from Algeria to ensure a location near the equator for rocket launches. French Guiana is by far the most affluent of all of the countries in South America, where GDP per capita is $20,000. The French government directly and indirectly subsidises many aspects of the economy. Food shopping is expensive. For example, a small basket of basics cost over £40, at least twice the amount of anywhere else we've been. Just like in France, there's lots of high quality cheese, dairy products and charcuterie.
Cayenne, 21st - 24th January 2018 (3 days)
Most people in the country live in Cayenne. It is a vibrant city with French cafes, boutiques, restaurants and many colonial buildings. We rowed ashore once we had recovered from our crossing and there were vibrant festivities for carnival, which runs until February 13th (Shrove Tuesday). The temperature suddenly changed for us, it was very hot and humid day and night. It got a little oppressive at times on the boat, whether we were sitting inside or outside. It was much better going ashore for a walk or sitting in a cafe with a cold drink. We left Cayenne after a few days and sailed 30 miles northwest to Kourou, to meet our Dutch friends, Rowan and Karina. We met them back in November in Tenerife and stayed in touch. They sail a similar boat to ours, a Hustler 35 called 'Kaya'.
Kourou, 24th January - 27th January 2018 (3 days)
Kourou was an interesting town, much more modern and industrial than Cayenne. Everyone was really friendly, always saying hello as you passed. It took us by surprise a little bit as some of the previous places we'd been people ignored you on the street and avoided eye contact. Here, people look right at you with a friendly smile and say hello. We cleared in at Kourou; finding the customs office was tricky. So few people sail to French Guiana, that when we went to find the customs offices (there are three in French Guiana), we tracked our route and took a screenshot for any fellow sailors who wish to come here (see below). There is no clear address online or website to guide you. We walked the three miles from the marina. We noticed that everyone cycles in Kourou, it reminded me of Barcelona. We went to the beach on one of the days and saw many different types of animals. In the water there were 'bubble eye fish', fish with bulbous eyes that run along the surface of the water when they need to flee. There were also vultures eating catfish carcasses. Kourou has the Guiana Space Center, launch site of the European Space Agency. On 25th January we watched the Ariane 5 rocket launch from the beach with Rowan, Karina and their friend Sarah. Ariane 5 was carrying two communications satellites with payloads to serve commercial and scientific missions. We were maybe less than a mile from where the rocket launched and when it did, the view was stunning, lighting up the dark sky. Then about half a minute later the roar of the rocket taking off caught up with us on the beach. Everyone was cheering! Two days later, the four of us sailed to the Iles du Salut, three small volcanic islands seven miles offshore.
Iles du Salut, 27th January - 2nd February 2018 (6 days)
In English, these islands are known as the Salvation Islands. They were used as a penal colony for 80,000 French prisoners, from 1852 to 1949. Prisoners were sent there from the French mainland by Emperor Napolean III and subsequent French governments. The original roads and buildings were produced using prison labour. Two of the three islands, Iles Royale and Saint Joseph have prisoner-built swimming pools in the sea. The book and film, 'Papillon' is based on and has detailed descriptions of the Iles du Salut. On the islands, there are paths next to crashing waves, with huge overgrown coconut palms leaning over, swaying in the fresh breeze. It was a few degrees cooler here than on the mainland. There are no people living on these islands, so animals are free to eat as many coconuts as they please. On our 2.6km circuit around the island we saw wild chickens, agoutis (a species of rodent), iguanas, capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, leatherback turtles, mango trees, colonial style buildings and beautiful flower bushes. There is also a huge infrared camera at the Centre Spatial Guyanais on Ile Royale, which is used to evacuate the islands when there is an eastward launch from the Space Center in Kourou. Anchoring is not permitted during rocket launches for safety reasons.
Maroni River, 2nd - 5th February 2018 (3 days)
We set sail for the Maroni River, which is roughly 100nm northwest. We followed advice from the officers at customs that we should sail at least 10nm offshore before cruising anywhere along the coast of French Guiana, as much of the coast is uncharted. We sailed to windward, this was only our third time. We're growing to enjoy it very much, it's a completely different feeling. On this trip, we were sailing with the current and we were doing 10.0 knots at times!
We arrived at the Maroni River at lunchtime and sailed for a few more hours until we reached the first creek, Crique Coswine. Sailing down the jungle river was spectacular, with so many different types of trees and vegetation. After we anchored in Crique Coswine we had a drink with Rowan and Karina. We went to bed early because we hadn't slept much the night before when we were sailing. On longer passages it is much easier to settle into a routine, compared to one night and day's worth of sailing, you hardly sleep. There was a collection of small huts just beyond the riverbank. Mattis and I went to have a look up there the next morning, but they all seemed to be empty. It was a little eerie, but it was still great to see the wooden houses and outdoor spaces for cooking and eating. We headed back after a while and waited for the tide to turn.
Crique Coswine to Crique des Vaches, 3rd February 2018
It was half a day's wonderful cruising with no problems according to the pilot book, so we thought we'd be in Saint Laurent by nightfall. Exploring the creeks in the jungle is something we'll never forget. Keeping an eye on our depth, which ranged between 8 and 20 metres, we were taking every moment in as we slowly meandered around the bends. Then we ran aground half way through Crique Coswine. The depth suddenly dropped from 8 metres to 4 metres; I started calling for Mattis at this point. Then it dropped suddenly to less then 2 metres. We were only motoring between 2-3 knots. We quickly slowed the boat down and ran aground gently. We reversed out successfully and radioed 'Kaya' to let them know. We attempted to cross the bar in two other places across the width of the river, but again ran aground. With the tide turning in a couple of hours, we decided to anchor and continue to Saint Laurent then. 'Kaya' decided to turn back and head to Saint Laurent via the main river. Kaya draws 30cm more water than Jingo, so it was understandable as they didn't know what lay ahead in the narrowing creeks. In the meantime, Mattis and I watched Season 7 of Game of Thrones. It was so surreal watching it in the jungle with noises all around us. We never thought we'd ever be doing that in South America...
After two and a half hours we motored over the bar with plenty of water. We had a few hairy moments not long after. In the narrowing creek we began weaving though fallen logs and trees growing out of the water. It was incredibly exciting, but nerve wracking too. We wondered when we'd next be aground. Nightfall was fast approaching, and we knew we weren't going to make it to Saint Laurent before dark. We didn't want to attempt it in the dark as we had no idea what trees could be floating in the water. We anchored and admired the stars in the black skies once again. We woke at 0600 to catch the tide upriver. Mattis could hear a loud roaring noise coming from the jungle. It was almost sweeping right through the trees and then it suddenly stopped. Scenes from 'Lost' came to mind straight away. They were actually howler monkeys. We raised our anchor and motored the last 8 miles to Saint Laurent.
We arrived at 0800 and tied onto one of the twenty mooring buoys in the marina. We rowed ashore and as we were tying up our dinghy a man came to greet us. It was David, the owner of the marina. We've never had such a friendly welcome. David gave us hints and tips on Saint Laurent, Suriname, and sailing up to the Caribbean. He is a fellow sailor and has so much experience, gained over the years. He opened Saint Laurent Marina three years ago. Before that, in 2013, he started the Neireid's Rally from Trinidad to Saint Laurent.
Below are links to Dave's websites for Marina Saint Laurent du Maroni and Nereid's Rally:
Marina Saint Laurent du Maroni
The Nereid's Rally
I searched the internet to find out how many people sail to French Guiana each year and couldn't get an answer. We've seen so few boats during our time here, around 10 other yachts. French Guiana just isn't known as one of the cruising destinations, which is such a shame. With incredible jungles and rivers to explore, it is completely different from your typical white sand beaches and crystal clear blue waters.
Once all of our ships' papers were checked by Dave, we went to a 'carbet'. A carbet is a shelter without walls, typical of the Amerindian cultures. Carbets are found in French Guiana, Brasil, Suriname, Guyana and some of the Caribbean islands. They are usually designed to easily attach hammocks. The advantages of the carbet include: cheap to build, lower the temperature due to their large surface of shade and provide protection from rain.
Our plan was to pick up food from the supermarket to take with us and hike the 6 miles there. The instructions on the website were a little vague. With help from Dave on how to get there, we eventually figured out it was actually 15 miles into the forest or an 8 hour walk. Sweltering heat was on its way with the midday sun and there weren't going to be pavements for much of the way there, so Dave and his dog Scruffy kindly drove us into the forest.
Carbet, 4th-5th February 2018
The carbet looked like a retreat, a collection of wooden houses deep in the green, luscious forest. But it was actually a couple's home, Claudine and Arnaud from mainland France. All of the fruits and vegetables were grown in the surrounding area, with no chemicals or pesticides. Claudine and Arnaud walked us to the creek, only 2 minutes away and we quickly plunged into the fresh cool (clear!) water. We spent the rest of the afternoon going for walks around the forest, back into the creek for more dips and then had a barbecue in the evening. The next morning, Arnaud drove us back to Saint Laurent. We could have easily stayed at the carbet for a week or more. It seems like a perfect life, living within your means, looking after your environment and eating what you grow yourself. We hope to have something like this one day.
Here's a link to our carbet and other carbets:
Below is a map of our time in French Guiana...
Saint Laurent, 5th-6th February 2018
Socialising at the marina, Mattis and I were one of three young couples. Myself, Karina and another lady called Audrey were first time sailors who started sailing when we met our partners. It has been great talking to each other, learning from each others' experiences and how our partners have been able to teach or sometimes cope with teaching us :)
Paramaribo, Suriname, 6th-8th February 2018 (2 days)
Saint Laurent sits on the border between French Guiana and Suriname. Mattis and I wanted to save a little time by getting a 'pirogue', a small boat ferry, to Suriname and a taxi to the capital Paramaribo, one and half hours away. We were thinking about sailing there, but that would have meant sailing down the river, getting offshore and doing a loop back on ourselves to visit Paramaribo for a couple of days. Sadly, we don't have much time left before we need to be in the Caribbean. We stayed in Paramaribo for two nights. Suriname is so ethnically and religiously diverse. The major ethnic groups include East Indian (27%), Maroon (22%), Creole (16%), Javanese (14%), Mixed (13%) and Others (8%). The official language is Dutch.
The food in Suriname was divine. The cultural diversity and influences have truly made Surinamese cuisine varied. It is a mix of Amerindian, Dutch, East Indian, African, Chinese, Indonesian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu to name a few. People of all cultures and religions live together here peacefully. Synagogues, mosques and other religious temples sit next to each other.
Pom, a pie of Portuguese-Jewish origin, is one of the most famous and distinctive dishes in Suriname. While potatoes don't grow very well in Suriname, Pom makes good use of its own root vegetable, know as tayer or pomtayer. This is combined with chicken citrus juice and then backed in the oven. The tayer is an indigenous plant in Suriname, and the popularity of Pom means it has also become a dish that is common in many parts of the Netheralands too. Bojo is a Surinamese cake make from cassava flour with coconut milk, raisins, vanilla extraxt and cinnamon.
From the small snapshot we've seen of Suriname, it is well worth visiting. Only a few hundred boats venture here each year. And it is cheap here too, definitely much cheaper than French Guiana. You can easily buy large portions of food in a cafe or restaurant for £3-£4 and drinks for around £2. An expensive cocktail would be about £4.
On the third day in Paramaribo, we got our taxi back to Albina, where we took our pirogue to Saint Laurent. We'll spend two more days there, buy provisions, do our laundry and get ready to sail again. On our way back down the Maroni River, we hope to stop at an Amerindian village for a night before sailing to Trinidad and Tobago...
I write this from the Atlantic Ocean underway to French Guiana.
Days 1, 2 and 3
As usual, the first couple of days of sailing are a bit of a struggle as we settle into watches and I get seasick. At this stage it's a lot better, I just get through the motions of it. We had an eventful first three days at sea. It felt like we were spat out of Mindelo, through the acceleration zone between the islands of Sao Vicente and San Antao. That evening, we could hear a clacking noise coming from the mast base in the saloon. A new noise we hadn't heard before. The noise continued as we sailed 50 or so miles away from Mindelo. We slowed the boat down and discussed what our options were, as we didn't know if there was damage to our mast.
We could either go back to Mindelo (a hard beat to windward into a force 6 or 7, with steep seas and the current against us, with what might be a dodgy mast), and try to find somewhere to pull the mast so we could investigate, or we could continue to sail south and stop at the next island, which was Brava. There are no marinas or yard there, but we could at least stop the boat. The other option was to continue sailing and investigate/reinforce it whilst underway. We decided to continue sailing, but we reduced sail and were now sailing at 3 knots instead of 6.5 knots. Mattis thought it could be the join between the two sections of the mast. Or rather, the sleeve inside joining them, moving slightly as the boat rolled. Mattis decided to reinforce the mast below decks with an epoxy GRP sleeve. This took him at least a couple of hours. It was the first time working like this underway.
The last thing we could think of where the noise could be coming from was from the mast step (the step is usually a piece of wood sat on the keel, with a metal fitting fastened to it). Talking to other owners of Contessa 32s, we'd been told that the mast step is made of balsa wood (a soft wood) covered in fibreglass, and that it is prone to rot and compression issues. Mattis didn't think this sounded right. He wanted to investigate the mast step, but before drilling holes to see if it was waterlogged, Mattis wrote an email to Kit Rogers via our satellite communication device. Kit is the son of Jeremy Rogers, the original builder of the Contessa 32, and now runs the boatyard.
In the meantime, Mattis continued working and wrapped a jubilee clip around the base of the mast and tightened it as hard as he could. This alone stopped the clacking noise! Thank goodness, we were running out of ideas. Kit wrote back and let us know that all of their mast steps are made out of a solid grp laminate. Therefore, there should be no issues with compression. Kit was great and reassured us straight away. It was brilliant to know that even underway and at 2200 UK time, we were able to get advice.
On the second day of our passage, there was very little noise coming from the mast. And on the third day, once our strength was back up, I hoisted Mattis up the mast to check on a creak (from a halyard sheave), and to give the rigging a once-over.
Day 5: Thursday 11th January 2018
I'm currently on watch and Mattis is taking a rest, reading a book down below. I write this whilst listening to Herbie Hancock. A friend asked me a while ago if I've had any tricky moments since we've left. What scares me the most is when we're on our night watches. I worry that Mattis might not be there when I wake up. For example, if he falls off the deck when checking something. The more experience I get with each passage, the more I realise what can go wrong. Sadly, it can and has happened, where a partner has woken up and their other half wasn't there anymore. The person off watch would have no idea what time it happened or which direction they had gone. Luckily, we're always clipped on no matter where we are on the boat. Our number one rule is no going overboard.
Day 6: Start of Friday 12th January 2018 (0100)
We've started doing 6 hour watches, which are suiting us much better than the 4-5 hour watches we tried at the beginning of the passage. We get more rest, which is really important. I like going to bed early and Mattis tends to go to sleep later than I do, so we worked out the following:
Then the same every day after that.
On our off-watches, we didn't use all of that time for sleeping. We'd spend a lot of time together in the cockpit or on deck, or cooking, cleaning, reading, fishing...
For this passage, we replenished our food stocks with fruit, vegetables and eggs. We'd bought all of our dry goods from the Canaries, as apparently it gets harder and more expensive to buy dry goods once you leave there...
50 Granny Smith apples (last forever)
2 large squashes
2 bunches of green bananas
5 kilos of potatoes
1 kilo of sweet potatoes
4 trays of eggs
2 kilos of onions
1/2 kilo of garlic
2 large watermelons
A friend we'd met, Ally, told us that melons keep for a long time if you don't open them. They're nice to have especially when it gets really hot during the day. It's been getting warmer and warmer every day since we left Mindelo.
We were hoping to catch more fish this time and we have been fishing, but there's so much sargassum seaweed out here that the lures get caught in it. They drag the weed and eventually break off under the weight. We've lost two lures so far. We're going to leave fishing until there's no more sargassum. At times we see so much out there, it's like carpet floating on the water.
Yesterday, we saw our first whale. We were chatting away in the cockpit and I saw this huge black mass diving back in the water, making a mammoth splash. Out of nowhere. We stared to see if the whale was going to do it again and it did, twice, leaping clean out of the sea. It must have seen our hull under the water. Not sure what kind of whale it was, but it was definitely larger than our 10 metre boat. This was the first animal that we'd seen so far, apart from flocks of flying fish and birds. No dolphins yet.
0300: As I was writing for our next blogpost and keeping watch, I was looking up at a constellation, the Big Dipper, and I heard a 'BANG'! A 12" flying fish happily flying through the air had hit our boat. I was looking around thinking 'what's broken off?'. I turned on my headtorch and put him back in the water. 2 minutes later, another one needed saving. This seems to happen a lot more during the night than the day. I suppose they can't see out of the water very well (and in the dark).
Day 7: Saturday 13th January 2018
Watermelon Day! And half-way day! We opened our first watermelon and it was amazingly fresh. We checked the distance we covered yesterday at noon and we had sailed 152 miles in 24 hours. Our quickest yet and today, still steaming ahead, we were doing 9.5 knots surfing down the waves. Our top speed so far.
Day 9: Monday 15th January 2018
Since around Day 6, the days and nights have been flying by. We've gotten used to our watch system and have a routine. We're really enjoying being at sea!
Day 10: Tuesday 16th January 2018
30 flying fish landed on our deck overnight. This was many more than the 5 or so we'd normally get in a night. We'd save the ones we could hear flapping around in the dark. There was a new moon tonight (no moon), maybe that had something to do with it?
Day 11: Wednesday 17th January 2018
For the past few days we'd been sailing around 140-150 miles each day. Yesterday, we covered 90 miles. It felt like a lot more, but after checking the pilot atlas (a 1998 edition of "Monatskarten fuer den Nordatlantischen Ozean" that we found by the marina skip in Tenerife, it is full of useful information and amazingly detailed), we found that the Guyana Current has an eddy that reverses its direction in the region we were crossing. So we were stemming a 1.5 knot current. It looks as though we'll be in the eddy for the next day or so, but once we get nearer to the coast of South America, the current should sweep us along to French Guiana.
Day 12: Thursday 18th January 2018
We're currently 5 degrees north of the equator. As each day passes, we get more and more thirsty as it gets hotter out here. At the moment it's about 30 degrees celcius. I've been reading a new book every couple of days and I didn't realise how much I missed reading. With so many screens in front of us all the time at home, it's easy to stop picking up books. The last fiction novel I read happened to include a lot of astronomy and I gazed up a lot on my night watch, figuring out which constellation was which. On this passage, the Big Dipper has kept me company most of the time. I liked seeing how the angle of the 'handle' twisted slowly through night, circling round Polaris, the north star.
Last night on Mattis' watch, a seabird landed above him and made itself comfortable sitting on the boom. It was quite happy there, its head nestled into it's wing, sleeping. As we were swapping watches, we noticed another bird of the same species was also trying to land. It hadn't quite grasped that it couldn't land on the swinging Hydrovane. Eventually, it settled on the boom as well. Slowly through the night, the second, more vocal seabird decided to edge the other bird right off the end of the boom until it flew away. Lots of bird poo on our sprayhood by the next morning, but it was nice to see how sociable the animals are out here, even in the middle of the Atlantic.
Today was one of the more peaceful days on the water. Slowly gliding along at about 3 - 4 knots. Much calmer and quieter than our faster days.
It's Friday tomorrow, which means that our Atlantic crossing is coming to an end soon. Part of us feels as though we can't wait to get there and part of us feels as though we don't want this passage to end. We've gotten used to the life and routine on the water, that we'll definitely miss it when it ends.
Day 14: Saturday 20th January 2018
Well today is our last full day at sea. We hope to be in Cayenne, French Guiana tomorrow at around 0700 local time (+3hrs UTC). So far, we were under twin headsails all the way across the Atlantic. To increase our speed for the last 120 miles, we gybed the genoa and hoisted the mainsail. We're now in a wind-driven ocean current called the Guyana Current, which has been whisking us west along the coast of Brazil towards French Guiana, giving us a speed of 7-8 knots. We could see something flashing at the end of our fishing line once we changed sails. It was a bonita (tuna)! We let it go as it was too big for us. Shortly after, we were up on the foredeck admiring the view and we could see 3 birds of prey near our line. We'd caught a king mackerel. We kept this one and had it for lunch. This has by far been the best day. Gorgeous warm sunshine from morning, smooth, glassy waters, fast sailing (never below 7 knots) and catching fish. We couldn't have asked for a better day's sail. We've been lucky, sunshine all the way with very little rain or squalls.
Day 15: Sunday 21st January 2018
Sailing more quickly than expected we arrived in Cayenne 5 hours early, in the middle of the night. The glow from the city illuminated where we needed to go. We motored in as we got closer to the anchorage. We knew low water was at around 0200, and that we would struggle to find a way in that was deep enough, especially as the charts are not very reliable in this area. However, the charts say that the bottom is soft mud, so we weren't too afraid of running aground, especially on a rising tide. Our draft is 1.65 metres. By the time we'd motored as far in as the buoys for the entrance of the anchorage, the water depth was 1.7m, 1.6m then 1.5m... We thought do we chance it as the rising tide would float us off again if we got stuck. We braced ourselves for a sudden stop. I was at the tiller and was trying to go to port, but I had no steerage. No more movement. We'd gone aground. It was so subtle, we hadn't even noticed. Mind you, the depth sounder was saying 1.0m now. It was after 0400, so we anchored where we were, tidied up, got our bed together and slept a little, until 0700. We woke up close to high water and motored to our anchorage, only 5 minutes away. But we are here now!
We're looking forward to no-frills canteens and cafés, simple tables with paper tablecloths, random photos, food served in paper trays. Though from what we read in the pilot book, Cayenne, French Guiana, is just like France. Can't wait to see it.
Highlights of this passage
– Warm winds! Didn't mind being covered in dew during our night watches as the air and wind were warm. It didn't feel as though the dew was freezing on you this time
– During the day, we were just in swimwear and our lifejackets
– At night, we were wearing one layer instead of the seven we wore when we first set sail for Portugal back in August
– Having a cockpit bath and feeling fresh in the midday sun
– Lots of fresh fruit to keep us going
– Faster days, 150 mile days with the trade winds blowing us to South America
– Nothing else went wrong with the boat, apart from the first day
– Catching different types of fish
– Seeing a whale leap up into the air
– Having guidance from our good friend Grahame back home in England, giving us regular weather reports on wind and swell. Thank you Grahame for all your guidance!
We sailed 1800 miles, across 2 time zones, in 15 days. It has been the most enjoyable sail we've had out of our 7 passages so far. Trade wind sailing, warm winds, being the only ones out in the ocean for hundreds of miles around and letting our sails carry us to South America has been mind-blowing. You only get to cross the Atlantic for the first time once!
After Suriname and Trinidad, we hope to continue north. Explore more of the Caribbean and then... head through the Panama Canal and into the Pacific Ocean. We've been talking a lot about what to do, whether we just do the Atlantic Circuit and come home, or go through the Canal and explore the other side? The time is now and we've decided to do it. This passage was 1800 miles in 2 weeks. Once we go into the Pacific one of our first passages will be 3000 miles. We can do it!
We planned to leave Santa Cruz, Tenerife on 4th December and sail to Cape Verde. A few days before our planned departure, the forecast showed the Azores High strengthening in the north. The Azores High, also known as North Atlantic High/Anticyclone or the Bermuda-Azores High, is a large subtropical semi-permanent centre of high atmospheric pressure typically found south of the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean. There were 30 knots of wind (sustained), with higher gusts. In addition, leaving Santa Cruz for Cape Verde means sailing in the acceleration zone between Tenerife and Gran Canaria, as well as the acceleration zone typically found off the south-east coast of Tenerife. Add in two separate swells and it would have made for an uncomfortable start to our passage. These conditions continued for the next 10 days, so we waited it out until we had fairer winds. Below are snapshots of the forecast for when we wanted to leave on the 4th. This was also when there was a cold snap in the UK and there was lots of snowfall...
In the meantime, we needed to get malaria tablets for when we go to Suriname. We went to several 'centros de salud', which is the equivalent of going to see the GP. We finally found the 'Centro de Vacunacion Internacional' (Centre for International Medicine). We walked about a mile to get there. It was a huge old building with two ladies sitting behind the reception. In our best Spanish, we asked to see a doctor who could give us a prescription for malaria tablets. One of the ladies answered in Spanish and asked if we had an appointment. We didn't. She tutted a little under her breath and after a few moments, she told us to take a seat. A couple of minutes later, the same lady showed us the way to the doctor's office and we sat down. She started speaking in perfect English and asked us where we were travelling to, what vaccinations we had already etc. We started laughing to ourselves as this lady was the doctor. She was really helpful and sent us in the right direction to collect our medication. Mattis also got a tetanus booster at the centre.
On the other days, we re-bedded all of the portlights, took out the sliding door from the heads, painted the bilges and got the majority of our jobs done. We also visited a couple of places on the island, including Icod de los Vinos, where there is a famous dragon tree that is over 800 years old, and a black sandy beach in San Marcos.
When wind conditions were back down to 15-20 knots, we left Santa Cruz on the 14th December and set course for the island of Sao Vicente, Cape Verde. This was an 850 mile passage and we planned for it to take us about a week.
We averaged 120-130 miles a day and we had one day where we were becalmed, so we switched on the engine and motored. It was funny to see on our GPS tracker (InReach MapShare) how we were doing. When we used our wind steering system, the Hydrovane, our course was straight as an arrow. When we motored and hand steered, you could see our course curve in a banana shape, especially during our night watches. Below is our passage from Tenerife to Cape Verde.
We saw many extraordinary things on this passage; dolphins (these were much smaller than the previous pods we'd seen before), flying fish flying in groups of ten or twenty escaping from predatory fish. One morning when the sun had risen, we looked over our deck and ten flying fish had landed on it overnight. We sailed this passage on a new moon and the dark nights were lit up with stars. The shooting stars and light trails they left behind were astounding and we always looked forward to seeing the next one. I made many wishes :)
Most nights we saw phosphorescence glowing beneath us as we were gliding through the water. One night, Mattis was on watch and he called me to come and have a look at the dark water beneath us. You could see the sparkling from our boat, but then all of a sudden you could see green flashes further away from us. It was almost as if there were networks of sparks that shot out green fingers of light. They were dolphins triggering the phosphorescence .
We kept an eye on star constellations that we recognised. As they slowly moved from one side of the horizon to the other, we roughly knew what time it was. I loved looking at the constellation Orion and Mattis kept an eye on Polaris, the North Star, keeping it over our starboard quarter for the passage.
With two more days to go before we approached Cape Verde, we said to each other 'why haven't we been fishing yet?'. So we got out our fishing line and threw it over the stern. When we were in Portugal back in August/September time, we met Frank, an English fisherman. Frank is such an interesting guy who fished for a living for decades and was very generous with his knowledge. Frank has had programmes made about his fishing for the BBC and worked alongside the likes of Gordon Ramsey.
Word quickly got out and lots of people were asking Frank questions about fishing....what is the best kind of gear to use, which lures, how heavy should the line be, what is the best way to kill a fish?.... So, Frank held a 'fishing masterclass' on the pontoon one afternoon and everyone brought what gear they had. We had a fishing rod and a few lures, and that was about it. Following Frank's advice, we bought some skirted lures, a plastic yoyo, some monofilament line, and 15 feet of shock cord. Frank gave us some of his braided line to complete our outfit.
On our way to Cape Verde we threw the line over the stern, and within about twenty minutes I could see flicking in the water. We had a our first fish! By the time we got our bucket untied and started hauling in, the fish had got away. A few minutes later we tried again and same thing happened. Third time, I kept my steely eyes on the line and Mattis caught our first fish! A mahi mahi. We'd never seen one before and it was a beautiful looking thing, glistening in the sunshine, green and yellow. It was a fairly small one, but a perfect size for the two of us.
By day six, we were mostly eating apples, oranges, soup, boiled eggs, bran flakes, muesli and chocolate, so fish would be a welcome change. Just as Mattis was filleting the mahi mahi, I led the line back out, and a couple of minutes later we had another fish on the hook! I could see it was much bigger and it was shimmering bright blue. I hauled it in. Bringing it over the side was a challenge, but I managed it. We put it straight into the bucket and as soon as we saw it, we thought we'd release it. Firstly, neither of us wanted to kill such a magnificent creature, and secondly it was way too much for us to eat. We carefully released it and that was that, we didn't fish for the rest of the day. I was reading our fishing book and it explains that mahi mahi are naturally blue in the water, but when they get excited or stressed they turn a mixture of green, yellow and brown. I never would have thought that, as you always see green/yellow mahi mahi in photos.
On the morning of the seventh day, we raised Sao Vicente through the haze. About an hour from shore, I was at the tiller and Mattis was on the foredeck. All of a sudden there was a huge surge from underneath, which sent me to the other side of the cockpit (we're always clipped on). Mattis shouts from the foredeck, 'Did you see that whale fluke?'! It must have come very close to us, it had probably just come up for air, and the displaced water caused us to heel.
We arrived in Mindelo, Sao Vicente safe and sound and anchored in the area just south-east of the marina. Anchorages are wonderful floating communities and there were lots of boats from France and Scandinavia and the UK. We hopped in our dinghy and rowed to the floating bar at the marina, where you can park it and pay €4 for the day. Cape Verde to me is like Africa on an island. Having been to Zimbabwe and South Africa a few times, there's a distinct feeling of Africa, but so much of Portugal too. Portuguese is the native language here, so it was time to brush up on what we'd learnt a few months ago. We went to the customs and immigration offices just before they shut at 4pm and had our ships papers checked and passports stamped.
On our first day, we had glorious heat and sunshine but for about a week after that the skies were covered in a haze. This haze is called harmattan, and it is the sand and dust that is brought over from the Sahara, usually in December.
Christmas morning we were rowing to the floating bar. One of the other boats in the anchorage stopped us and told us to be careful as they had intruders on their boat at 0430 that morning. They said that they heard people boarding their boat, so they quickly got their torches out and started yelling as loud as they could. The intruders quickly scampered and the owners were not harmed.
We reached the floating bar at the marina and met our friends: people who we caught up with from other countries and people we'd spoken to on the VHF on passage here. We all brought a dish each and had Christmas lunch together. All of us are heading across the Atlantic from here, to different countries. Many to the Caribbean, but also lots to Brazil, French Guiana and Suriname.
Day out exploring the island of Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
Mattis and I hired a guide for the day with Anne and Stefan of S/Y Zanzibar, a German couple we'd met. We learned just a few of the interesting facts about this island and Cape Verde...
Our Time in Cape Verde
This trip was hard in terms of sleeping, or lack of. The past couple of passages, we had found a rhythm of letting each other sleep when we needed it, and it worked really well. On this passage we really struggled, both staying up too long when there was no need. We arrived in Cape Verde much more exhausted and grumpy than before, and it took us a good three days to catch up on sleep.
We've decided to work out a watch system for the next passage (the BIG one) and stick to it. Crossing the Atlantic will take us at least two weeks and we want it to be the best one yet - it's only once you get to cross an ocean for the first time. From books and conversations it seems if we both get too tired, the best thing to do is heave to and both have a good rest before continuing. Proper watches and getting decent rest every few hours seems like the way to go. The table below is the watch system we are going to stick to:
The plan is to leave Mindelo, Cape Verde on Saturday 6th January. We have our minds set now on going to French Guiana, which is approximately 1800 nautical miles from here.
Follow us on our GPS tracker across the Atlantic, it's nice to know people are keeping an eye on us...
So far, since we left Plymouth, UK on 16th July 2017, we have been:
The Canaries 12th September - 4th December 2017
Why are the Canaries Islands called the Canaries? They are not named after the bird, but they are named after the Latin word for dog, which is 'Canis'. When the first European settlers arrived they found dogs roaming the islands.
We spent nearly three months in the Canaries. The time has flown by, Christmas is already around the corner. Mattis had work on Wild Venture, a 70ft boat for what was about 6 weeks from mid-September. In the middle of October, Mattis' Mum flew out to visit us. We stayed in the north of Lanzarote, in a quiet town called La Santa. We had a hire car and explored most of the island, we went swimming to different beaches every day. There were so many different kinds of beaches, some with black sand, white sand and rocky beaches too. We also visited Timanfaya, the famous volcanic region in the middle of the island, Jameos del Agua and Lanzarote's unique vineyards.
After Mattis' Mum left and Mattis finished work, we departed the marina on the 23rd October and sailed 20 miles to the southwest to a place called Punta Papagayo, where we would anchor just off the beach for a couple of weeks. Initially, I wasn't looking forward to being at anchor as I knew how quickly I get seasick and was already anticipating the continual rolling, but after a couple of days, I was absolutely fine. I'd gotten used to the motion of the gentle bobbing and swaying from side to side and I've come to realise that being at anchor is my seasickness cure! Touch wood :)
Our friend Lewis from Arrecife joined us a few days later in the anchorage in Papagayo and we hung out with him on some of the days, in between swimming to and from the beach, going on hikes and fishing. Lewis cooked us fabulous meals before we left, vegetable curries, seafood paella... Here is a link to his blog www.suzerainydays.com
Whilst at anchor, we started learning how to astronavigate with our sextant, repaired our worn sprayhood, made ties to secure our lockers, reorganised our boat to make better use of all the lockers and spaces. In Papagayo, we've been enjoying the rest of our time, fishing and making ciabatta.
When we next went sailing after being at anchor for two weeks, I was much better at not feeling seasick, was able to think so much more clearly and move about more readily. It was a massive relief for us. From then on, it was a completely different experience, I was thinking more technically about sailing, thinking through different scenarios, making decisions about what could happen in various weather conditions etc. It really does change everything, how you feel about sailing and your experience as a whole and anchoring is truly the best thing we have done on our sailing trip so far. I'd recommend it to anyone.
We left Papagayo on 4th November at midnight and set sail 130 miles south west to Tenerife.
Cracks and loud bangs coming from down below whilst underway...
The sail took us 30 hours and it was initially great, after the first few hours we were in the acceleration zone, areas between the islands where wind speed increases as it is channeled between them. But, the last 12 hours were somewhat painful. Most people who own or sail boats will tell you, every sound you hear, you get used to and you know where it is coming from, most of the time. When it is a new noise, your ears instantly prick up and you have to figure out what it is.
In general, when we are underway, it can be somewhat creaky and clanky down below, for example bottles or jars moving in the food lockers or sails filling in again as the boat is rolling from side to side. But on this trip we heard new noises, which disconcerted the both of us. As we were rolling with the sea, there was a loud banging noise down below, almost like a loud cracking coming from either the mast or the bulkhead. The foot of the mast was definitely making creaking noises, but what was coming from the bulkhead were weren't sure about. It was getting to the point where it was getting so loud, that when I was sleeping down below I would keep on waking up every few minutes (even through the earplugs), that I didn't want to be down below anymore. We were both scared and we weren't sure whether we'd make it to Tenerife or not, even though we only had about 40 miles to go.
Mattis went down below and had a look underneath the compartments in the seating area closest to the bulkhead. Sadly, Mattis came back to report to me, that there was what looked like delamination of the portside bulkhead. Where the bulkhead has been attached to the floor of the boat with plywood and fibreglass, when the boat was manufactured, it had actually cracked through at this point where it should be solid and complete.
We decided that we would continue to sail to the anchorage as 1) our lives were not in danger and 2) we need to get somewhere safe so we can stop the boat. It was such a relief to get to Punta Antequera at 4am. We were exhausted from tiredness and stress, but we stayed up a little longer to have some downtime, to think what we need to do next, make sure Jingo was safe and secure in the anchorage and eventually get our heads down for some sleep. We talk about the stress sometimes of having a boat and the surprises it can spring on you, but we wouldn't have it any other way. The excitement, trepidation, ups and downs of emotions, an amazing journey all the same, it's what makes it and it's definitely teaching us how to deal with them in calm way and together.
Punta Antequera, Tenerife. 5th - 7th November 2017
Anchoring in Punta Antequera was absolutely stunning, a charming anchorage with dramatic geology and cliff faces. When we arrived, there were 3 other boats. The next day we met John from the States and Line from Denmark, who were on John's Jeanneau 54ft boat. They were riding past us in their dinghy, we popped up into our cockpit and said hello. It was fun sharing our experiences so far and meeting people of a similar age to us. During the day, the other two boats had left and later in the evening we joined John and Line for a movie night. The next day, John and Line sailed to the marina in Santa Cruz, just 7 miles away and it was just us left. Waking up seeing all of the different colours, layers in the rocks and looking out to the black sandy beach, took our breath away.
However, after a couple of days of wind, swell, tides coming in and out around the point and rolling quite a lot, we decided to leave the anchorage and sail to Marina Santa Cruz. We'd had very limited phone reception in the anchorage over the couple of days that we were there and we needed to get signal to be able to get in touch with our insurance company about the bulkhead.
A little video of our time in the Canaries...
Santa Cruz de Tenerife. 7th - 26th November 2017
We arrived at our berth with the courtesy of a marinero on a dinghy directing us on where to go and we sailed into our berth with ease this time, no hiccups, or slipped lines, no bumps or scratches. It's helping us build our confidence and feeling how Jingo moves in tight spaces. Santa Cruz de Tenerife itself is a vibrant, metropolitan city, has everything you need, tram system and can get to the countryside and hills in no time. Tenerife has a completely different feel to Lanzarote.
After we arrived at the marina and when we had phone signal again, Mattis called the boatyard who built the Contessa 32 in England and we were reassured that the delamination of the bulkhead was a common problem. Over 35+ years after these boats were built, it's common for the laminate or fibreglass to lose it's strength after years of sailing in rolling seas and continual movement within the body of the boat. A surveyor inspected the bulkhead and the damage was not as bad as it was first feared. The cracks did not go deeper than what we could see and there was no need for us to lift Jingo out and investigate further. We decided that we would strengthen the bulkhead by re-fibreglassing, basically rebuilding the whole portside of the bulkhead. Mattis has stripped away the furniture, teak veneers as well as removing the heads headlining and heads portlights, which need replacing anyway.
Our time in Tenerife, most of which was spent in Santa Cruz...
My sister Natalie, joined us in Tenerife for a week in the middle of November and we really enjoyed ourselves exploring more of the island. We went to the water park, which was just what we needed and so much fun!
Other jobs we did during our time in Tenerife included...
- Re-bedding all of the portlights, making sure they are completely watertight
- Fitting our spare water tank, which has a 100 litre capacity
- Installing clasps onto the cockpit lockers
- Fixing the broken VHF aerial
- Installing a new anode to the hull
- Buying spares for times when something should fail on our next passage
We toyed with the idea of going to Gambia and Senegal after the Canaries and then sailing to Cape Verde before crossing the Atlantic. In the end, we decided none of them were really for us and we'd much prefer to start making our way to Brazil. We've both never been to South America and have always wanted to go.
November to March are the best months for sailing conditions and crossing the Atlantic. Many people like to cross and get to the Caribbean before Christmas and many like to cross in late December – early February when the Trade Winds are more consistent and crossing takes less time.
Once we leave the Canaries, provisioning becomes a lot more limited and sparse, so we have done the bulk of it here in Tenerife. Below should last us about two months, until the end of January.
We bought all of our fresh fruit and vegetables from the local market a couple of days before leaving the marina, so we can keep them for as long as possible. Alcohol gets considerably more expensive further south, in Cape Verde if we choose to stop there, so we stocked up on everything that we could think of food-wise, drinks-wise and more.
We have an 80 litre water tank below the floor in the saloon and Mattis installed an extra water tank under the seating area, which has the capacity to hold roughly 100 litres. We also have three plastic jerry cans, which will hold 20 litres of water, so all in all, including the bottles of water, we should have just under 300 litres to last us about two months. We worked that out to be 2.5 litres of water each per day.
We topped up on fuel, just by chance we saw the mini fuel station come by the marina one day, so we ran up with a jerry can and filled that up, 87 cents a litre (see picture below). One jerry can was all we needed. All of the other times we've needed to fill our empty cans, we've put them in wheelie suitcases and walked a mile or so to the nearest petrol station. Here, the marina organises for the van to come as long as you let them know a day or so before. Some marinas have filling stations onsite, but so far we haven't been to one.
We are leaving the marina in Santa Cruz during the first week of December and sailing towards Cape Verde and see how we go. We may stop in Cape Verde for just a few days or we may just see how we're feeling and decide to continue sailing and head across the Atlantic without stopping.
Someone who we met here, Alex, told us a famous quote: "Sailor's plans are written in sand at low tide" ~ Unknown. Our plans are continuously changing, there are just so many places to visit. Some of our possible destinations are:
- Sail to Cape Verde (before crossing the Atlantic)
- Sail to Brazil
- Sail to French Guiana
- Sail to Suriname
- Sail to Trinidad and Tobago
Merry Christmas and see you on the other side!
Jingo in Marina Santa Cruz, Tenerife. Freshly scrubbed, stocked up with supplies and ready for our crossing.
Day 1. Wednesday 6th September
We left Povoa de Varzim, Portugal, as early as we could to get a good start. The tide was going out and the entrance can get a bit rolly at low tide, so we left at high tide. We'd been checking the weather every day for the last week and the day we chose was the windiest but safest for us to go. From the forecast, the first two days would give us a speedy start to our 800 mile passage and then it would settle for the remaining days.
We were headed for the Canaries. Originally, we were going to sail to Madeira after Portugal, which would have been 650 miles away and then we would sail down to the Canaries (if at all), before sailing further south to Cape Verde. Mattis was due to start two weeks of work in the Canaries, so we asked ourselves whether it was still worth sailing to Madeira or not. If we had sailed to Madeira, Mattis would have then needed to fly to Lanzarote for work, I would have stayed with Jingo until Mattis came back and then we would have sailed south from there. Our other thought was; do we bypass Madeira altogether and head straight for the Canaries instead? The latter made more sense to us.
To give you a general idea, for those who don't know, when we start talking about knots, nautical miles and Force....
What are knots? A knot is one nautical mile per hour ie 1.15 miles per hour. The term 'knot' comes from the 17th century, when sailors measured the speed of their ship with a device called a common log.
What is a nautical mile? A nautical mile is the unit used in measuring distances at sea. 1 nautical mile is approximately 1.15 miles.
What is the Beaufort Force scale? It is the measure for describing wind intensity based on observed sea conditions. This scale came from Sir Francis Beaufort (1774 – 1857), the English admiral and naval hydrographer who devised it.
With winds increasing up to Force 7, we were speeding along at 8 knots. It was the fastest we'd sailed Jingo so far. During the night, we were running before the wind and we were starting to nose dive through the waves. The waves seemed to be growing, getting higher and higher. There were rogue waves from time to time, which would throw our stern off to one side and the waves would start 'jumping in', half filling the cockpit. We were on port tack, rolling and nose diving. At one point, our genoa flipped inside out when it got caught in the wind and filled with water, making the boat heel considerably. As soon as the moment was possible, Mattis furled in the genoa to make it a more manageable size to sail with.
Our boat, a Contessa 32, has a low freeboard, which means that the height from the waterline to the top of the boat is short in comparison to other boats. This means that water is more likely to flow across the deck when we're heeling to one side and very likely to get a wet cockpit if the waves start 'pooping'. This is another sailing term that Mattis has explained to me along the way. Pooping is when the stern wave catches up with the boat, either propelling it forward or breaking over the stern, possibly causing swamping. To us, it would feel as though the stern waves would break and jump into the cockpit (or sometimes just at you), almost out of nowhere. Even when we're wearing heavy weather sailing gear, we'd still get soaked through. The term 'poop' comes from the French word 'la poupe', which means stern. Therefore technically, the poop deck is the stern deck.
After the first night passed, we looked at the chart to calculate the distance we had sailed so far....we sailed 150nm! This was our fastest yet in a day. Even though were weren't in a race to get to the Canaries, it was a great feeling to be sailing Jingo so well. When we left Ireland, on the couple of days when we had practically no wind, we didn't sail more than 70 miles in a day.
Our boat weighs 4 tonnes and half of that weight is in the encapsulated lead keel. Last year, before deciding on what boat to buy, we did lots of research and we learned that a Contessa is stable up to 155 degrees before rolling into the water. If there were any freak roller waves to get thrown at us, Jingo would always self right after a few seconds.
Day 2. Thursday 7th September
During the first night whilst Mattis was on night watch, he could hear someone talking on the VHF, Channel 16. When sailing and in the instance that you need to get someone's attention, you would contact them via the VHF radio on Channel 16. Primarily intended for distress, urgency and safety priority calls, the frequency may also carry routine calls used to establish communication before switching to another working channel, so you don't block up Channel 16. Mattis realised that the call was not intended for him and somebody else came onto Channel 16, who was clearly their friend. They started happily chatting away, about things that weren't related to their course, heading, position, weather conditions.... After a few minutes, somebody else jumped in on their conversation and started singing randomly. Not long after that, a fourth person had had enough and quite abruptly told them to 'stop talking so much!', in a European accent. Then all went quiet. I couldn't help but laugh when Mattis told me in the morning, it's just not what the VHF is meant to be used for or what you'd expect to happen.
Day 3. Friday 8th September
By the end of Friday and the start of Saturday, we'd sailed well over half way to the Canaries, 400nm! We had blue blue seas during the day, so unlike any blue we'd seen before.
Day 4. Saturday 9th September – 330 miles to go
We had much calmer winds, the conditions were about Force 4 and we were sailing between 4-5 knots. We had been sailing with just the genoa until now, so we hoisted up the mainsail aswell and we were now happily climbing up to 6 knots. Checking the chart, we were 100 miles away from Morocco. Africa! We were having much warmer days, sailing in shorts and t-shirts, the evenings were still cool, but they were definitely much warmer than when we left Ireland.
For me, Day 4 was the best day of sailing I've had so far. The first two days was mainly seasickness. I started taking seasickness tablets the night before we left Portugal, ate breakfast, kept fluids up etc. By the end of Day 1, I had had enough and decided to stop taking everything that was preventing me from feeling nauseous, because I was still vomiting anyway and I wanted to let my body handle it as best as I could. Surprisingly for me, after two days it worked. With no more sickness from Day 3, I was able to do more, think more clearly and make sail changes with Mattis.
The wind was coming from behind us and we were sailing on a broad reach, sailing at 6 knots. This was definitely the most comfortable for us and the boat. We had warm sunshine, blue skies and we were sailing happily on a broad reach. We could have stayed out there on the water forever. It was bliss. We talked about how sea and wind conditions can change rapidly, one minute you are sitting comfortably soaking up the sunshine on deck, next minute, you're rolling around, reefing in the mainsail and furling the genoa. You nor anybody else would have any idea what the sea state was like just a few moments ago. When perfect moments come, we definitely try to make the most of it, because out there, you don't always know when it's going to change next, even when you have a weather forecast. I'm learning that you can never be too careful out at sea and you always have to be prepared.
Talking about safety, there was an article in Practical Boat Owner magazine, which demonstrates what happens to the inside of a boat when it's completely rolled over and what happens to equipment and personal belongings when they aren't stowed properly. The test was done in a controlled manner, a belt wrapped around the boat was used and a crane slowly turned the boat the full 360 degrees. The effects of not stowing efficiently was profound. Batteries, cutlery, plates, books, equipment thrown across everywhere. If you were to be unfortunate enough to be rolled at sea, you'd stay inside your boat and batten down the hatches. Then of course the next danger is that a battery could come loose and go flying at you if it weren't secured properly. So, in PBO, what they did in their second test was show that doing simple things like securing lockers and cupboards with string made a huge difference. This will be one of our next jobs. It's just not worth not doing.
Today we saw a turtle! We were happily cruising along, enjoying the sunshine and I noticed something brown floated past. I just assumed it might have been rubbish or maybe seaweed (?) as it wasn't moving. Not long after that, Mattis and I were sitting on the foredeck and we saw a turtle right before our eyes. Where did it come from? Morocco? Where was it going to? So many questions. It felt like we just whizzed passed it and this turtle was just there, happily bobbing along, not moving very much, but seemed content. We'd never seen a turtle in the wild before.
The sun went down, the evening became darker and darker until all we could see was a blanket of stars in the sky. It just takes your breath away, the longer we stared at the night sky, the more stars we could see. And the shooting stars..... What was really astonishing was seeing the edge of the Milky Way, right across the sky, from north to south. We were both in the cockpit, admiring the view and being in general awe of everything, Mattis says to me to come and look over the side into the water. I go and look and it doesn't take long for me to see the bioluminescence sparkling away as the boat was gently cruising through the water. I didn't know what to say, sparkly sky, sparkly water, shooting stars, Milky Way.....
Later on that night we started our night watches and Mattis up on deck, when he noticed a vessel a few miles away shining their torch in our direction. They continued to do so and eventually, the vessel started coming towards us. Mattis shone his torch back at them as well as through the sails, to make it obvious that we were a sailing vessel. Mattis made contact with them as it seemed as though they were in distress and needed help of somekind. It turned out that they were trying to get through to us, to no avail, hence them shining their torch at us. After the initial miscommunication, they wanted to let us know that we needed to stay clear of them as they were towing another vessel behind them with seismic surveying equipment. The equipment was 8 miles long and 3 miles wide. The friendly man on the VHF was very helpful and he worked out our position on his chart and let us know how far we needed to go off course. In the end, we had to divert our course by 40 degrees for 14 miles in order to be clear of the two vessels and seismic surveying equipment. It was really interesting finding out all this new information. We'd never heard of such a thing before, let alone towing miles and miles of equipment behind you.
Day 5. Sunday 10th September 230 miles to go
The wind was coming directly behind us and conditions were perfect to 'goose wing'. When running dead downwind, you can set up your sails so that the mainsail is on one tack and the genoa is poled out on the other tack, looking like a two wings. This is so that the sails can catch maximum breeze without the sails collapsing. It took us a little bit of time to figure out the best way to do this and set it up. But for our first time, it was great trying to figure this out, setting up the genoa using one of our spinnaker poles. We could see in the distance that a squall coming through in the next few hours, so we had the mainsail triple reefed, reducing the size of the sail and we could furl in the genoa if the winds were getting too strong and then unfurl it again after the squall had passed.
Day 6. Monday 11th September 150 miles to go.
We had fair weather and were sailing 4 knots. The barometric pressure dropped by two bars in six hours during the day, so we had a bit of a gusty night, but no problems. We made radio contact with a nearby vessel around 2000 to get a weather report for the area as we'd not been receiving weather faxes due to our SSB radio not working properly. The weather report was good, north westerly winds, Force 3, sea state was slight. Now that we had a weather report, we could start our proper night watches again. Not having a report meant that we would stay up together for as long as we could during the night just in case the weather changed quickly and we needed to adjust sails. We had two vessels behind us, one after the other and both just happened to be on the same collision course with us. We contacted the first vessel to let them know where we were and they changed course and with the second vessel, a 1200 metre oil tanker, we just decided to change course. The wind had dropped considerably and our sails were starting to flog, so we put the engine on from 0400 until 1300 the next day. We had dolphins to keep us company, a clear nights sky and bioluminescence in the water, until the moon showed and it was too bright to see them anymore.
Day 7. Tuesday 12th September
The engine was on until 1300 and we started to see landfall. The Canaries. Just as we turned off the engine we saw a whole pod of dolphins. There must have been at least 100+ going in the opposite direction to us. It was as if the water was bubbling with dolphins. We kept the engine off until 1600, when there was truly no more wind and we stuck it back on again and motored past La Grasiosa, an island that's a National Park to the north of Lanzarote and continued south until we could anchor in the safety of the Old Harbour. The landscape looked truly stunning and we could not wait to go exploring over the next few days before Mattis started work. It was around 2200 before we finally anchored (and in the dark). It was something we'd not done before, but we were cautious and everything was fine. We turned off the engine once our anchor was secure and took a deep breath and relaxed. We made it.
We contemplated on how surreal all of this was for us. Down below in the saloon, we could hear a popping noise throughout boat. Had we left a valve open? Was a seacock open? Was the gas on? It wasn't any of those. The noise was coming from little creatures feeding on the algae on our hull. Quite normal here apparently. The popping of Rice Crispies noise continued through the night, but it was actually quite nice to listen to.
We sailed 800 miles in our 10 metre boat. Many exclamation marks! :) We're here, in the Canaries. We could even pop over to Africa if we wanted, it's only 60 nautical miles away...
But first, Mattis has two weeks of work on a 70ft boat that needs repairing and he is joined by another boatbuilder and friend called Richard. Mattis and Richard worked together for a couple of months in Plymouth last year and since then Richard and his girlfriend Trish left the UK last June to go sailing in their 39ft ferro-cement boat, 'Gwendoline'. So far they've been to Spain and further into the Mediterranean. Richard and Trish also sailed to Lanzarote for the job. It's been exciting meeting up with them, sharing our stories and experiences so far....
At the marina in Portugal, we were paying less than 5 euros a day, which was amazing as they had good facilities, security, fingerprint gates. Now, we have anchored for a few days, it is free and you can come and go as you please. We hope to do a lot more of this as we continue to sail and see more wonderful and secluded places.
On a particularly gusty evening when we were at anchor, we tracked the movements of our boat through the night.
During our first week here and having met lots of people from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, France, Portugal, Brazil, we met a couple from Baltimore, Ireland. Baltimore is only a 45 minute drive from where Mattis' family home is and it turned out they even went to the same school (though not in the same year). Just goes to show how small the world is.
We met a Norwegian couple, Guri who is a journalist and Oddvar, a pilot and they have three children who are 10, 8 and 3 years old. They are sailing the ARC+ (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) and beyond in their 45 foot catamaran. The ARC+ has 75 boats taking part in it this year and they are sailing from Cape Verde, across the Atlantic, finishing in Saint Lucia. Before they left Norway, Guri and Oddvar were approached by a Norwegian television station to document their journey sailing around the world. A project was set up to follow the family of five, documenting the home schooling of their children. They will observe whether home schooling with the use of iPads and Skype sessions with their classmates is as or more effective than being taught in a classroom setting. The children will be taught Monday to Friday with two and half hours of intensive teaching each day as well as having homework. What they will learn as a family such as how to sail, how to behave on a boat, what to do in different weather conditions, learn about different animals at sea, the different countries they will be travelling to, currencies etc and general life skills will be far more than what you can teach in a school. The social aspect will be different, but the children will still be able to keep in touch with their old classmates as well as of course meeting new people on their trip. It must be exciting for their old classmates back in Norway too, as they'll see what adventures the Oppegård's will be up to next. We will continue to follow them and maybe see them again. www.voyagingvega.com
We made friends with a Danish couple, Christina and Nicolaj and they were the first people we met when we arrived in Póvoa de Varzim. They saved up for five years to buy and set up their Sagitta 35 and have been sailing since May. Their plan was to sail to New Zealand, sell their boat, buy a campervan and continue travelling. Sadly, Chris gets very seasick, so much so that they can only sail for 2 days at a time, maximum. Any longer than that and they would need to have crew with them in order to get their boat safely across to where they need to be. They left Póvoa de Varzim about a week after we met them and they were sailing towards Lisbon. Unfortunately, due to seasickness, Chris and Nico decided to give up sailing, as the idea of sailing across the Atlantic over 3-4 weeks would not be feasible for them and probably not very enjoyable. They are now in Lisbon for the time being and selling their boat so that they can continue their dreams of travelling around the world.
Porto, 14th-15th August 2017
We explored a little more of Portugal and caught the metro to Porto, which was only 45 minutes away and stayed the night. We visited the River Douro, the Dom Luís I Bridge and ate lots!
History of Póvoa de Varzim.
Póvoa de Varzim is a maritime fishing town and is one of Portugal's best natural ports. In the 16th century, fishermen from Póvoa de Varzim fished as far out Newfoundland, due to their high nautical knowledge. After the 18th century, Póvoa de Varzim became a main fishing port in Portugal and its beaches attract many tourists.
On 27th February 1892, there was a strong gale which quickly whipped up into a storm. At least seven ships were completely wrecked, killing 105 people just a few metres outside the harbour entrance. The fishermen’s friends and families were stood on the breakwater helplessly watching whilst it took their lives.
When we arrived in Póvoa de Varzim, there was a week long festival called the “Assumption of Mary” (into Heaven) and this takes place every August. According to the beliefs of the Catholic Church, it celebrates the act of Mary's body going to Heaven at the end of her life.
Walking around the town, we noticed lots of different types of symbols on the pavement. After doing a little reading, we found out that they are called siglas poveiras. Also known as ‘marcas’, these symbols have been used by the local community of Póvoa de Varzim for many generations. The siglas were used as a family coat-of-arms in order to mark family belongings, such as outside their houses, barrels of fish, books of credit and tombstones. The siglas have been passed down the generations, from the father to the youngest son. The other children would receive a sigla with a trace (the pique), ie the eldest son would have one pique, the second would have two and so on and the youngest son would receive the original sigla, inheriting the same symbol as his father.
Since we arrived, at 6pm every evening, there would be fireworks set off from the breakwater. The traditional thinking behind it is that these loud bangs allow locals to communicate with the Gods, so that the Gods can protect the fisherman whilst they are at sea. Today, people continue to make their own fireworks and set them off at the breakwater in order to display that they can make the loudest noise.
Padhraic's and Victoria's wedding – Mallorca 18th – 20th August 2017
On the 18th August, before we flew to Mallorca for Mattis' friend's wedding, we had some lunch at a cafe opposite the metro station in Póvoa de Varzim. We thought we'd have some local tapas and try something we'd never eaten before. The waiter let us know which tapas was available that day and we chose to have 'moelas'. Moelas from the picture and from the sound of the word, we thought it could be mussels. The waiter said it was very good. When the food arrived, it didn't look quite like mussels, but more like small pieces of meat in brown gravy. After tucking in, the texture of the meat was quite soft, but we couldn't quite put our finger on what it was. We decided to wait until the end, after we'd eaten to Google it and find out what it was. It was chicken gizzard. Moelas isn't a dish we'd eat everyday, but it wasn't too bad! It was good to try something new.
We caught our flight to Mallorca and from there we caught two buses to Andratx, which was on the west side of the island. We arrived at our accommodation around 11:30pm and it was still so hot, we decided to get a refreshing beer and sangriaaa. Andtrax looked great and we explored more of the town the next morning before getting our taxi to the wedding venue. The wedding was set high up in a beautiful vineyard, where we had their local wines and produce.
About 70+ people from 11 countries flew to Mallorca for Mattis' friend's wedding in Finca son Bosch, Mallorca. The priest was funny, the atmosphere was relaxed, so many people got to catch up after many years of not seeing each other since school or university and there was lots of food and dancing. The night flew by! We wished we'd spent more than a couple of days in Mallorca, maybe next time...
We flew back to Porto the day after the wedding and from having 30 degrees of heat in Mallorca we thought it might be a little cooler in Porto. It had been around 25 degrees, but Póvoa de Varzim was just a hot when we got back. Normally at this time of year, there are what is known as the Portugese trade winds, or nortada. Winds which come from the north/north west, bringing a cool breeze with it. However, when we got back the winds had changed direction and there were southerly winds, hence the 36 degrees when we got off the plane! The weather stayed like that for a couple of days and then changed to north westerlies giving us a much cooler 23 degrees.
Barcelona Trip 25th – 28th August 2017
Mattis and I flew to Barcelona to see a few of our friends and we had a great time, sightseeing and exploring. We walked about 15km each day, we visited the Sagrada Familia, Montjuic, the Grec, Placa Espanya, Placa de Catalunya.... A flying visit, but we hope to see our friends again soon, maybe on the next leg of our journey....
Our Time Here in Portugal...
Food from the supermarkets and markets have been amazing. Just as a few examples, 1 and half litres of sangria is 1 euro, wine is about 1-2 euros and there is so much fresh fruit, vegetables and fish available everyday. We've been trying lots of local dishes and snacks, one of our favourites has to be the Portugese egg tart or pastel de nata. We've had a few!
We have been having a wonderful time, making dinner for our Swedish friends Sanna and Svante, having drinks in the evenings and watching the sunsets. We talk about how nice it is here to be able to take time with jobs on the boat, mainly because it is warm and sunny everyday. Before, when we were back in England, whenever it was sunny, we would do as much of the outdoor work as possible and the indoor work on the rainy days. Here, we only have a few jobs to do, so it has been nice to be able to take our time and enjoy visiting where we are staying and meeting new people. We're here until the first week of September, when we'll be heading out to sea again...
Jobs to do whilst in Portugal
- Clean shaft seal and test the engine by running it at high revs to make sure the engine is no longer leaking
- Reseal 4 leaking portlights
- Secure wooden compartment that houses the engine, so that it doesn't create loud banging/creaking noises whilst the boat is rolling at sea
- Get a longer jack to jack lead for the weather fax
- Get a longer aerial for the weather fax
- Organise power to the laptop
- Fix 2-speed winch on the portside. It stopped working just as we were sailing into Póvoa de Varzim
- We have a Tilley lamp that currently isn't in working order. We need to replace the mantle and a couple of other parts. The lamp will be our emergency light if all of our electrics fail whilst at sea
- Stock up on food supplies
- Fill up jerry cans (diesel)
- Gas refill for cooking
We had a great time spending time with Mattis' family and went on a few sails with them, in and around Crookhaven. West Cork is such a beautiful place. When we arrived, we could have been anywhere, Spain, Portugal... It's a paradise to be able to live here with everything you could wish for, stunning coastline and landscape, clean beaches and clear blue waters.
Passage from Crookhaven, Ireland to Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal.
Day 1. Friday 4th August
We set sail at 1100 from Crookhaven, Ireland. The weather forecast looked consistently good for 6 days, so it was a good time for us to make our way. Once we left the mouth of Crookhaven, the waves were moderate and was Force 5/6 (approximately 20 knots). I started vomiting within a couple of hours of setting sail and it carried on for the first day and a half. I slept for a lot of the first day due to being incapacitated. I felt much better in the evening and we were able to continue with our night watches, doing 4 hours at a time.
Day 2. Saturday 5th August
I was still being sick, but not as profusely as the day before and I was able to be on watch more. Over the first two days, I was only able to keep down an apple. I was drinking lots of water and we have sports drinks onboard to replenish ourselves if we got dehydrated. Before we left, I made sure I did all of the precautions well ahead of time, but I have come to accept that you just have to go with it until your body gets used to the motions, even though it's not nice going through it.
Day 3. Sunday 6th August
There was glorious sunshine, the Hydrovane was doing our steering and we were able to sit on deck, clipped on of course, watch and listen to the waves and dolphins. The water was very calm. We 'caught' our first fish, well it landed on the deck, probably dropped by a bird as it had a large rip through it. We were looking at it thinking hmm(?). But, we decided it probably wasn't the best idea to eat it. Over the course of the afternoon, the wind had dropped and there was no more wind in our sails, so we switched on the engine and began motoring. On Mattis' night watch, he was looking to see what was in the water and little silver fish started coming up to the surface. It didn't take long for seagulls to start arriving. Then, dolphins started appearing. Mattis quickly decided to turn off the torch, as he didn't know what might turn up next(!). By the time it was my night watch, we had gotten into the rhythm of doing 5 hour watches. We decided earlier on in the evening, that if there was no wind, we would manually steer with our tiller, instead of using the Hydrovane, as the vane would no longer be controlling the boat. This was the case from 0100 and we steered through the night. We shortly started having problems with our engine, in particular the stern tube, which above 1700 revs, the engine bilge started filling up with water quite rapidly. We decided to keep to a maximum of 1100 revs instead of our normal 1700-2000 revs and we were now only sailing about 3 knots instead of our previous 5-6 knots. In 10 hours, through the night, we had only sailed 30nm because we didn't want to push the engine too hard. Our predicted progress for this trip was at least 100nm a day. At this point, we were now a day behind schedule.
Day 4. Monday 7th August
There was a full moon and it felt like we had a spotlight on us and it didn't really get dark at all. Over the past few days, we'd both been having really vivid dreams at sea. I guess with the rocking motion of the boat, noises inside and outside of the boat, sleeping a few hours at a time and waking up suddenly are big changes to your normal sleeping pattern. This morning we were 100nm from north west Spain. Checking the charts and planning for the next 24 hours, we worked out that there was a possibility that we'd start seeing land from the next morning. There is so much time to think at sea, about life, about what you want to do... Looking at the waves and the ocean, it makes you realise how vast it is and makes you more reflective. Looking at our charts again, we decided that it would now be possible for us to arrive in Póvoa de Varzim on Wednesday as a result of our delay. During the day, we received our first weather fax via our SSB radio and laptop. We wanted to check the weather to see why it had changed. Later on in the afternoon, the wind picked up and we now had Force 4 (13 knots), perfect! The genoa was unfurled again and we shook out the reefs of our mainsail and we were happily going at 6 knots again.
Day 5. Tuesday 8th August 2017
I did the first night watch, there was lots of wind and we were flying by at 6.5 – 7 knots. A squall appeared at 0600 and then the weather calmed down again and we were sailing between 2-3 knots. So, we motored after that. The difference of 2 knots per day is huge. If we were sailing at 4 knots over a day, we could do 100nm in 24 hours and if we were sailing 6 knots, we'd be doing 145nm a day. We switched the engine off at 1500 and the sails went up as the winds as we had good winds. Glorious sunshine to go with it too! At 1800, we were sailing at 3.5-4 knots and were about 45nm from Finisterre, north west Spain. We could see landfall by the morning and then from there, it was another 130nm south to Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal. So the hope now was to be there by Thursday afternoon, but who knows...anything could happen.
Day 6. Wednesday 9th August
The moon was very bright in the night sky again. Quite a few squalls had come through and I started my night watch at 0300. We put the storm jib up just before as there was increasing wind and we wanted to keep the speed of the boat steady. By late morning, we had high metre waves and Force 7 (30 knots). We weren't sure what to do as there were high winds coming later, further south, which was where we wanted to be. We didn't know whether to wait it out by using our drogue or sea anchor to slow us right down until the worst of it had passed, or sail towards land, which meant going east, where it was calmer. We decided to sail east, which in the end worked out better for us. We thought it was better to keep moving rather than sit in high winds and with the boat rolling the way it was I was feeling quite seasick already. Mattis did the first night shift and we could start to see Finisterre.....land! We sailed through the night with ease. It was really nice to have land in sight, we could use it as a reference to see where we were and how fast and how far we were going. It was great to see different towns dotted along the coastline. Dolphins had kept me company through the night, one even jumped over the bow! You could see how much they really like surfing with the waves, even when the waves are rolling gently. Over this trip, Mattis and I both felt at times that we could here music or people talking, as if the radio was on, even though there was no music or people talking. Strange. wonder if this happens to other sailors...?
Day 7. Thursday 10th August 2017
We could now see Póvoa de Varzim! My seasickness had disappeared completely and I was feeling much brighter in myself. Maybe after sailing a good 3-4 days is what it takes for me to adjust. We'll see on our next big leg. 650nm, 7 days, 6 nights and we were now approaching Póvoa de Varzim. Getting in the harbour was a little tricky as the wind was blowing from the north, the harbour entrance was facing south and 26-30 knot winds were coming within the next 30 minutes. We had to move quickly. We got in contact with the harbour master and they mentioned that it was low tide. We checked the pilot guide and the information showed that there was always a minimum height of 4 metres (chart datum). The draft of our boat in 1.65 metres, so there was no problem of us going aground. We'd been reading the pilot guide on the way to Póvoa de Varzim, making sure we knew what to do when approaching the harbour. The harbour master asked us to come back in 2+ hours when it was high tide. We brought down our sails and at this point we were about 30 minutes away. We thought that maybe we should just drift towards the harbour for the time being and call them back shortly. Time was ticking. If there were 26-30 knot winds coming, we were worried about getting in the harbour, but also getting in our berth safely without damaging Jingo or other surrounding boats. The habour master initially said we could go in at low tide, but then said no, only at high tide, hence the 'maybe we should call them back'. When we called them back, they said it was fine to enter and they let us know that there would be someone waiting for us to show us our berth. We came in, there were 5 people waiting as it was windy and we'd need help and getting in. Hats off to Mattis, who when it came to manoveuring round the second finger pontoon to get into our berth, our boat swung past the berth with the wind and so we ended up reversing in. Everyone there was great helping us and within a few minutes we were tied on, engine was off, we were all laughing and shaking hands with each other. The harbour master explained to us later that there were new regulations that had been made by the police with regards to the harbour entrance. Last year, sand had built up in the entrance, therefore changing the height of the seabed, which was why they said to come back at high tide. Technically, you could go in at low tide, as the sand has now been dredged, but with the new regulations, you are doing so at your own risk. We arrived at 1530 and got invited to a BBQ at the marina. We cleared up the boat, took the rubbish out, showered, went for a walk into town, got a few bits from the supermarket and then headed to the BBQ. There were lots of Scandinavian people and a couple of Portugese and Brazilian people too. What a week and what a way to finish it off with like minded people, hearing where they had come from, how they have come to own their boat, what their plans are and where they are off to next.
Friday 11th August
We saw 'Se', as in Jose, who works here at the marina and who helped us into our berth. He was dripping wet, as though he had been soaked. He was smiling, so we asked him what happened and he said a boat had come in today and they needed assistance. When it came to the point when the people arriving had to throw off their lines, Se was saying 'push' the line, but I think what he meant was pull the line, so he went straight in the water. He was laughing about it all the same. There was another 'incident' a few days before, where a 40ft brand new boat arrived, they tried to get into their berth, but with the winds here, how changeable it can be and how fast it can pick up, they somehow managed to scratch the side of their brand new hull. That's why I'm saying hats off to Mattis, to get us into our berth, in somewhere we've never been before, how much room we have etc, Jingo went in safe and sound :) It seems to us, that accidents happen frequently here and listening to the others who helped us, they've had similar experiences, which was definitely reassuring.
From what we have seen so far, Póvoa de Varzim is beautiful, a laid back fishing town. We've been to a couple of local places to eat and we love it here already. At one place when we walked into town, we had cockles, 3 bread rolls, 2 soft shell crabs, 1 sangria, 1 beer for 10 euros and at another place where we went to today, we had sea bass with rice, carrots, new potatoes and a couple of drinks for 11 euros. Our jaws were on the floor. Not sure if there is any need for us to go food shopping, cook, wash up etc if we can eat like that? We'll buy lots of fruit, snacks, water.... We want to eat where the locals go and want to start picking up Portugese.
We're here for a little while now. Time for us to explore, relax, continue with our jobs on Jingo, visit other places in Portugal like Porto, which is only a 45 minute train journey away as well as seeing friends.
Crookhaven, Ireland, July 2017. Photo credit: Tim Singleton
Sunday 16th July 2017
We'd been checking the weather for the past week and on Thursday, we could see that weather conditions were looking perfect for us to sail to Crookhaven, Ireland (250 nautical miles) between Sunday to late Tuesday. Mattis' family live just a few miles down the road from Crookhaven and also it was great place for us to anchor as it's sheltered.
We decided that we would go for it. If we had waited another day or so, it would have meant that we'd still be waiting around Plymouth for another week as there were north westerly winds approaching (Force 7). We were hoping to have a few shakedowns and get used to our new equipment, but we didn't have time.
We said our goodbyes to everyone at the marina and it has been an absolute pleasure getting to know people there. So many different types of people, everyone was so friendly and always there to help, whether you need a specific tool, offer advice or ask about the kind of work we are doing on our boat or different places to travel to, giving us insight into their experiences. Lots of people came down to our pontoon to see us and others were up on the hill ready to wave us off. We had some help getting out of our pontoon, by 'walking us out'.
1200: We slipped the lines and piloted from Southdown Marina using the engine. The excitement of sailing! This was our first time sailing Jingo since the beginning of April 2016.
1500: We'd been motoring for the first three hours having set a course for three miles south of the Lizard. Visibility was good and we got ready to hoist the mainsail.
1650: The weatherwas glorious and we switched off the engine. We were now sailing at 4.5 knots with our new sails.
There were points from the early evening and throughout the night when we needed to turn the engine back on and motor as the wind had dropped. At times, our speed would fluctuate between 4 and 2 knots. The evening was very calm and quiet.
0100: We were just south west of the Lizard and had our first sighting of dolphins.
0610: We were just about ready to cross the southern tail of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS), between Land's End and the Isles of Scilly. We managed to cross the 15nm with very little traffic in the shipping lanes. We only saw shipping vessel. This is was most nerve wracking part for us as we weren't really sure what to expect.
0840: Once we were through the shipping lanes, we set a course for the Fastnet Rock.
1200: We set up our Hydrovane. For friends and family who don't know or don't sail, the best way I could explain the Hydrovane was that it's like having cruise control for your boat.
1) You set your sails to the course that you want and then you set the vane of the Hydrovane to face the wind of that direction. 2) The Hydrovane then takes over your tiller by using it's own rudder as well as ours and away you go. Neither of us had every used one of these before and what a huge difference it makes! We had more freedom to do jobs and check various parts of the boat such as the bilges, the rigging, also write log entries, make food and drink without waking up the other person if they are asleep. Maybe even sit together on the foredeck and watch dolphins and whales. As long as one of us was still on watch and checking every few minutes or so for other vessels we were more free to keep up with other jobs that we needed to do. We had about 10 or so dolphins keeping us company from the Isles of Scilly to Ireland. We could hear them chatting away to each other when we were below decks and they were just on the other side of the hull, next to us. Unreal.
0900: We could see landfall and not long after we could start to see the Fastnet Rock.
1500: We were past the Fastnet Rock and piloted into Crookhaven. There were lots of dinghies sailing near the entrance of Crookhaven, very busy this time of year with visitors from all over Europe, but we had no problem manoeuvring through.
15:30: We tied onto a buoy in Crookhaven. We weren't entirely sure if we'd tied onto a private mooring, so we anchored instead a few metres south of where we were.
1710: Jingo was now anchored south west of Rock Island in Crookhaven.
We had such a great trip compared to our last sail in April 2016
- We'd driven three or so hours after work on Friday to get to Chichester and by the time we arrived it was quite late
- We didn't eat a proper dinner that night or have a decent breakfast the next morning when we were going to sail back with Jingo
- The morning when we were going to leave Chichester, we decided that we'd go as early as possible, 0700. However, when we were doing our pre-departure checks, we realised that the steaming light at the top of the mast wasn't working. The bulb had gone. We couldn't leave Chichester without having a functioning steaming light for our overnight sail. It would have been dangerous and irresponsible of us if we did as other vessels wouldn't see us. The nearest chandlery was open at 0900, so we waited until then and then we tried to work as fast as we could. I hoisted Mattis up the mast and we soon had new, working steaming light
- We were all set to go and headed off at 1030. We went through the lock without any problems. However, when the harbourmaster asked us for our boat's name, within a minute or two I got a 'ping' on my phone. We'd barely been through the lock. We received an email from the marina with an invoice for £430 visitors fees. When we bought Jingo in March 2016, the broker mentioned that the previous owner had paid the berthing fees until September 2016 and we'd have nothing to worry about, that it was 'all sorted'. We tried contacting the broker several times after that, to get confirmation from the previous owner, something in writing to say that all marina fees had been paid for upfront. Sadly, to no avail. So once we read the email from the marina, we forwarded it onto the broker straight away and they emailed us back to say that it was our own fault and we should have been paying from when we bought Jingo. We were shocked, didn't know what to say. As long as we, the new owners knew that we had to start a new contract for the berth, that would have been fine, but the fact that we had to pay a month's worth of visitors fees, as opposed to berthing fees in Chichester, which isn't cheap, completely threw us. We felt the brokers had done a number on us and the marina was absolutely right to say that we had to pay. At that point we couldn't wait to get out of Chichester.
- For the four weekends beforehand, in March 2016, we were driving back and forth from Plymouth to work on the recommendations suggested by the surveyor to make our boat seaworthy. Looking back now, we would wait until the marina cafe was open to be able to use their toilets, not have a wash all weekend, when actually if we'd known we should have been paying, we would have had full facilities, showers etc available to us. It definitely would have helped our morale, to be able to have a hot shower when it was less the 10 degrees in March working outside on our boat from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon when we'd drive back. Anyway, such a shame as it wasn't a very nice experience for both of us, for me this was my first time being anywhere near a boat, let alone owning one. We were out of there...onwards and upwards!
- Back to our trip from Chichester to Plymouth. At 1100, we'd been motoring for half an hour and we came across the sand bar, which is at Chichester's estuary. The tide was going out which was in our favour, but the winds were coming from the opposite direction, the south west. Jingo started rocking up and down across the waves and that was it for me. It was my first time sailing and having conversations before with others who sail as well as with Mattis, I knew a little bit about seasickness. The initial signs of seasickness includes yawning, not being to give eye contact and then the onset of nausea and eventually vomiting. I had everything and started vomiting as soon as we hit the bar and did so consistently for the next 18 hours. There were plenty of precautions that we should have taken before a trip like that, such as; have a good night's sleep, eat a decent breakfast, start taking seasickness tablets the night before and two hours before setting sail, keeping well hydrated at all times and maybe have something like ginger sweets to hand to offset the feeling of nausea. I didn't do any of those things, actually just one, I took a seasickness tablet but it was just that little bit too late.
- Mattis has had a lifetime's worth of sailing compared to me and he'd only once ever got a touch of the yawns, no seasickness. I thought well it can't be that bad, I'll be fine. I'd never felt so horrific like that before and will never ever want to again. Mattis could see that there was no coming back for me, so he pretty much sailed us non-stop for 30 hours back to Plymouth under engine, with practically no sleep. After we arrived in Plymouth, I was then land sick for the next two days, but all of this didn't put me off sailing. If anything, it had made me more determined, it couldn't get much worse than that? I've since done everything by the book and more. Touch wood, I have gotten better every time I've been out sailing, whether that was out on the dinghies, doing my day skipper practical or doing the yacht delivery from Brighton to Brixham. Our 250nm trip from Cornwall to Ireland was the best ever, I wasn't sick! I was barely even nauseous this time
- We had a few instruments that weren't working at the time. We had no working depth sounder so we used charts for depth and no working compass lights
- With no lightbulbs in the compasses, it made it extremely difficult for Mattis to navigate through the night. With the light from a mobile phone screen and flashing it onto the compass every 30 - 60 seconds to check our bearing, it became tiring very quickly, but he did it
- I was just about awake and with it enough in the morning to take over the tiller and let Mattis sleep for a while
- We were about 12nm from Plymouth and our engine ceased. We thought we ran out of fuel, so we poured more fuel in the tank, but that didn't seem to be the problem. We didn't figure out what the problem was until a couple of months later (we changed the different filters and we later discovered that there was some dirt in the housing inlet of the primary filter element). There was very little to no wind, so we did the best we could to sail the last few miles to Plymouth. It took us 4 hours to get to our mooring
- It was an exhausting 30 hours for both of us, but what a place to start! Since then, we've updated Jingo for our long distance sailing, bought all the equipment we think we need, done as many of the sailing courses as we could and gotten to know our boat inside out
Now all we have to do is sail.....
Having left Cornwall and we're now in Ireland, it feels as though we've been set free. Now is our time to go wherever we want, whenever we want. We still can't believe we're here and we're actually doing this. We hope to never ever take this feeling for granted and make sure we enjoy every moment, even when it's pouring with rain or when we have breakdowns.
Having the Hydrovane has really transformed the way we are going to sail. It's almost as if we have a third crew member, who relentlessly works with the wind. That and new sails are allowing us to slice through the water. There are no jerky movements and the way that Contessa 32s are built, we're not slamming back on top of the water every time we come up above a wave.
Jingo comes first in everything that we do, she is our home, our vessel. Ultimately, our boat will be the one taking care of us when we're at sea.
Whist we're in Ireland, we're going to explore the west coast a little and in two weeks time we plan to head south to somewhere near Porto, Portugal...